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Marissa Lingen

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Off the registry [Sep. 1st, 2014|12:40 pm]

One of my friends is getting married, and she asked (sounding exhausted, poor dear) whether it was lazy and irresponsible not to do a gift registry. I said not at all, that a registry is for your convenience and the convenience of your guests, and if it isn’t convenient for you, don’t do it. Symmetrically, I have also had at least three conversations in the last four months about what to get people who either haven’t registered or who have but whose registries have been picked clean by the time the person talking to me got there. So here we are! Wedding gift ideas for when the registry, in one way or another, fails you!

Money. Yes, I know that in some subcultures this is not the thing to do from the giving end. I don’t really know of any in which it’s not the thing to do from the receiving end, though. If you are the best friend/person of honor, odds are pretty good that they were thinking maybe something they could look at specifically, rather than money. Otherwise, hard to go wrong with money. I have never once heard a bride or groom say, “Darn that money; I did not want any money.” (I have occasionally heard, “Auntie so-and-so really didn’t have to do that!”, but that’s Auntie’s choice.) But if you don’t want to give money, don’t. (Among other things, money makes it very clear how much you spent on their wedding gift, because it’s right there on the line of the check. Some people feel uncomfortable with that. If so, read on.)

Art. Rule of thumb: this is a better idea the better you know the people getting married. Another rule of thumb: small things that you think are beautiful are a better idea than big things that you think are beautiful unless you REALLY REALLY NO REALLY know that the recipients of the gift want that specific seven-foot-tall welded nearly-abstract sculpture that turns out to clearly be a goat when you look at it for more than a minute. When Mark and I had to pick out a wedding gift last fall, we chose one of Tim’s prints. We did not pick one of the panoramas that is longer than I am tall, because the people who were getting married had never said to us, “You know what would be really great on the wall of our living room? That bridge panorama, that’s just gorgeous. If he could do a seven-foot long print of that, it would really be the best thing.” It is just gorgeous. It’s amazing. But he also had several other amazing things that had better odds of fitting in a home we’d never seen, just in physical terms. If you choose art, there’s some chance that the recipients are going to say, “Oh…that’s…really different…” because taste in art varies so much. You don’t want to compound that problem with, “That’s amazing! That’s so gorgeous!…where are we ever going to put it.”

Food. I know, they won’t be looking at it on their 20th wedding anniversary saying, “This is the ham that Jen gave us!” (Well. Unless they’re related to Klages; then all bets are off.) But honestly, a lot of people aren’t looking at their blender on their 20th anniversary with that thought anyway; either it breaks or they’ve forgotten who gave it to them. If you know that the people getting married cook or bake, stuff they might not buy themselves all the time–or might still appreciate if they do–is great. (I personally think that vanilla beans are always a great gift. ALWAYS. Nobody ever gets them for me. Literally. I have never once gotten them. But they would always be a good gift. I have actually gotten truffles and truffle oil and saffron, and they too are good gifts, even though I buy myself saffron every time we run out–this is how I can tell we are rich by global standards. And/or I am a spoiled cook.) If you don’t know that they cook/bake, treats like a wheel of good cheese, chocolates, a jam of the month club, bacon of the month club, fruit of the month club, etc. are things that they can eat without having to know a great deal about preparation. Labeling a basket of this sort “honeymoon snack attack” or “never too soon to spice up a good marriage” or “here is your cheesy themed present” is not necessary unless you have the sort of relatives who will look at each other and say, “Why did they give me cheese/spices/what the heck is this?” But some people do have that sort of relatives if they are given something that is not tea towels, so.

Strong drink. Might have a better chance of lasting to be opened on a large-numbered anniversary than the food. Then again might not. People in liquor stores are often quite good at helping you with “I want a ‘special bottle’ and my friends drink this sort of tipple.” Then if you blanch at the price you can say, “Not quite that special; they’re not that good of friends, I’m afraid,” and unless you’ve chosen a horrible liquor store, the clerk will laugh and get you something more like what you wanted. And if you’ve chosen a horrible liquor store and the clerk tries to pressure you into buying the expensive thing, you walk out and go somewhere else.

Obviously with both food and strong drink, you will have to remain sensitive to key questions like “do my friends have dietary needs.”

Towels and sheets. I know, I said your friends were not registered or the registry had been bought out. But linens wear out. They wear out. Seriously. They. Wear. Out. Spares are good. Put the receipt in the package in case everyone else thought so too, or in case the people who are getting married hated the colors or materials you picked, or in case you guessed wrong on the size. Sheets. Towels. In fact, if you have loads of extra cash, go buy some for people you know who are not in the “just getting married” demographic. Linens for everyone. Is there anybody who couldn’t use a few new linens, other than the person who just sighed, “OH FINE” and went and bought some? I just wore enough holes in one of our big lovely bath towels that it is now a big cruddy bath towel and had to get relegated to the rag towels, and another one is close on its heels. I rolled my eyes at the label “guest bath towels” in one of our wedding presents, because we did not have a guest bath and did not anticipate having one for some years. But I didn’t return those towels, because: towels. Useful, regardless of how they were labeled.

What about charitable donations? I am less keen on recommending this absent specific knowledge of your friends’/relations’ relation charitable inclinations for several reasons. First off is that if the people who are getting married want to donate the money you have given them to charity, they can! Hurrah! So write them the check and let them do it. Because you are giving them a gift, not trumpeting your own charitable inclinations. You need to be really careful that you are not making this happy occasion about you. We have a cultural perception that if we put the words “FOR CHARITY” on something, it cannot be selfish, but actually it can. It really, really can. Your friends and relations will prioritize charitable needs/causes differently than you do. They might know things you don’t about a charity you thought was innocuous, or have different opinions than you do about its policies. Be really, really careful about this one. The people getting married should feel absolutely sure that you were thinking of them on their special day, as well as of whoever else you wanted to help.

String, or nothing. This was Mark’s suggestion, but he’s actually right. Presents are always optional. They really, really are. The reason the traditional etiquette guides consider it rude to put, “No gifts, please,” on invitations is that gifts are always optional. They are always supposed to be something that your guests feel spontaneously moved to give you, not something that they are dragged into. If you truly can’t think of anything you want to give people, you don’t have to give them things. “The gift of your presence is enough” should really, literally always be true.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Don’t get me wrong, I like Eowyn kicking butt too. But really. [Aug. 30th, 2014|10:18 am]

“So here we are in Middle-Earth.”


“Where a great many people get killed by orcs, trolls, wargs, giant spiders–”

“Ooh, those are nasty, I had a cousin killed by a giant spider last week.”

“Quite. Elves. Dwarves. Balrogs. Particularly detetermined hobbits. Dragons. Ents, when they move themselves to it. Rock slides. Rivers in flood. Influenza.”

“Yes, I’m beginning to see your point.”


“Yes, yes.”

“Cholera, starvation.”

“You needn’t belabor it.”

“That fellow who turns into a bear.”

“I got it quite some time ago, thank you!”

“Not to mention shield-maidens of Rohan and their stubborn old aunties, thank you very much. Oh, and UNliving men, we seem to have no few of those wandering around on winged shadow horsies, no guarantees that they’ll stay my pals, our side are not known for that. And you want me to feel all cozy because I can be hindered by no living man? Thanks. Thanks ever so, dark lord, that’s just keen.”

She closed the book. “And that, my darlings, is how the word ‘angmar’ came to mean ‘panic room’ in the old tongues of men.”

“But not the old tongues of elves, Mummy?”

She kissed the little hobbitling brow. “Elves have four different words for panic rooms, my sweet, and if you are good, we will get one of your Took aunties to come over and teach them to you, and why it is that they need to complicate things with four when we and the dwarves don’t need any. But not tonight. Tonight is for sleeping.”

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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“We’ll only create a martyr!” [Aug. 29th, 2014|03:08 pm]
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I really liked some of the things Fred Clark said in this Slacktivist post about politics, martyrdom, and disgrace. I particularly wanted to highlight this part for my fellow fantasy writers:

There’s this mistaken idea in a lot of heroic stories that the oppressive evil villains can’t afford to kill the rebellious hero because they can’t risk turning them into a martyr. But that’s not how oppressive evil villains — or oppressive evil systems — work. They can kill without making martyrs because everyone they kill they also actively disgrace.

We–fantasy writers–are addicted to this trope. “We can’t kill him! We’ll only create a martyr!” says the villain. “Oh noes! Not a martyr! That’s way worse than, like, a live political operative wreaking havoc all over the land, and incidentally having crazy magical powers to boot! And also we are powerless against a martyr!”

Often what we mean when we do this is, “We can’t kill him! Our author would really like to write five more books if this one is successful!” And, y’know, I feel you, characters. I like having my favorite characters still around–both as a writer and as a reader. But we need a better reason to do that–like not walking characters into those traps in the first place. A reason that isn’t stupid. A reason that doesn’t make the real-life people who are killed look worse because they’ve been treated as real people always are: as people who can be disgraced by those in power, whose flaws can be played up or even manufactured, rather than as the mythical all-powerful martyrs.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Pretty tired, actually, but TINY PLUMS [Aug. 27th, 2014|06:13 pm]
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I was going to have a post here called “Beware of People” about generalities that give me hives, about generalizing what People Want and Readers Expect and Editors Demand and how this is really not a good reason to do things in a manuscript, like, ever. (“So-and-so wants this and it really works in this story” can be a great reason. That’s an important difference.)

I’m really tired, though, and it just wasn’t congealing. And so instead, hey, I went to the farmer’s market and came back with something like my body weight in produce. Every week I forget something on the list and get two or three more things that weren’t on the list because I didn’t know they’d come into season yet. This time I forgot the corn (oops–corn stand time maybe) and got golden raspberries, pears, and tiny plums (TINY PLUMS) that I didn’t know would be there. (TINY PLUMS YOU GUYS YOU GUYS YOU GUYS TINY PLUMS.)

So here is the thing about tiny plums: this year has been pretty rough for food for me, due to the vertigo and related meds. And tiny plums do not require a commitment. Four bites and you’re done, that’s all the plum there is. No preparation, and no feeling that, ugh, what if I start eating the plum and my body says HAHAHA NO NO MORE FOOD FOREVER? It will not matter. Because there is hardly any plum there to waste. It’s almost like deciding to eat a single strawberry. Except that it is an entire plum! It is a self-contained plum-based experience! What if it’s sour and not that great? You can have another one! Because they are tiny!

Boy, when they say sometimes it’s the little things, they really mean plums. I never knew that before.

I always think, “Maybe this time I will make the Hungarian plum dumplings out of them, with the potato dough and like that!” And then I laugh and say, “Maybe!” And then I eat another one and don’t. Because plenty of things take cooking. Long beans take cooking, and the round green eggplants, and you don’t have to cook the carrots but a lot of the things I put them in are cooking, and the salsa I make for Mark with his garden jalapenos and tomatoes takes cooking, and…yeah. There is no shortage of cooking. But the tiny plums can just be eaten, and that is really, really okay.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Adjective order and speculative writing [Aug. 19th, 2014|05:37 pm]
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I found this article about adjective order in English very interesting. It’s a topic that we mostly grasp intuitively–no teacher ever told me that saying “iron big skillet” was wrong because material is the type of adjective that belongs closest to the word and size goes further out, so we would say “big iron skillet.” But we would. I would never say or write “iron big skillet” unless I had realized after I’d already started to say “iron skillet” that there were two of them in there–and even then mostly I’d say “iron skillet–the big one” rather than “iron big skillet.”

(I wonder whether this gets taught in English as a Second Language classes or whether we just leave ESL learners to flounder and tell them that they sound “funny” and “foreign” and “wrong” because most of their teachers can’t articulate why they do, they just do.)

But the thing that occurred to me reading the article was that I use this to signal things like fictional species name when I’m writing speculative fiction. The example they used of “wondrous blue-green Hawaiian gecko” vs. “Hawaiian blue-green wondrous gecko”: in the latter case, I would incline towards “wondrous gecko” being the species name, and if I saw it later in the text as “Caroline advanced toward the wondrous gecko enclosure with the stun gun at ready,” I would take that as further data, not that the enclosure was wondrous, but that the species was called “wondrous gecko.” Because otherwise it’s an awkwardness I would assume that a) someone fluent enough to write in English would catch and b) someone fluent enough to edit in English would catch so that c) it would be there for a reason.

I don’t know if people who primarily read memetic fiction have that reading protocol, or if I’m giving other speculative writers (or speculative readers!) too much credit, but it was a tool in my toolkit I was not conscious of using until there was the adjective order laid out right there, so look: adjective order, it is a thing! If you mess with it, you can sometimes signal things like species name in a speculative context. This has been your afternoon’s SF science nerding with Mris.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Reading about reading, other things about reading [Aug. 19th, 2014|12:20 pm]
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Oursin has this post about a clueless article about books about reading–bibliomemoirs and “reading guides,” they mostly seem to be, rather than lit crit proper, although the line is almost certainly fuzzy. It looks like the original article’s author is having trouble with the concept that reading is another human activity that humans will like in varying amounts and with varying accoutrements. That’s…kind of weird, honestly. Aren’t we clear that some people want T-shirts that say “I’d rather be riding horses” and some people would just rather be riding horses regardless of their shirts? Some people want to ride horses and also read about the theory of riding horses and also read about famous riders of the past, whereas some people…just want to ride their horses. Why should reading itself be any different, as human activities go?

The ideal present for me has been the same throughout my life, and that is: the book I didn’t know I wanted. (Zalena nailed one of these recently: I had not been keeping close enough track to realize that Hilary McKay had a book out that I had not read, until poof! there it was. Hurrah!) A very close second place is a book I did know I wanted. I understand that there are people who change over the course of their lives, who have a different ideal present at age 6 than at age 36, but I understand this in an intellectual, not an emotional sense, because that is not my experience of life. For me the Best Present is a constant.

But. When I was younger, Book-Related Crap was far higher on my list of Good Presents than it is now. I have a mug reading “So Many Books, So Little Time,” and that was a good present at the time, and today it would be…not a great present, frankly. It would be a present I was polite about and would find a use for but would not be excited about, and at the time it made me happy. And I think I have figured out why.

When I was younger, it was a lot more important that people not try to put me in the wrong box. And giving me Book Crap or Fantasy Crap or SF Crap or Science Crap was a token that they had recognized my chosen boxes. The mug that said, “So Many Books, So Little Time” acknowledged that my Thing was books. They were not putting me in the Adolescent Girls Like Pop Music Box or the My Friend At Work Has A Daughter Your Age Who Likes This Box.

Now? Well, now I’m pretty comfortable with who I am, and the default adult question when you first meet someone is, “What do you do?”, not, “What grade are you in?” So it used to be that the default I Just Met You question solicited approximately zero information that was really important to me, and now it solicits information that is greatly important to me. “I write science fiction and fantasy for all ages.” People know that about me within thirty seconds of meeting me in nearly any context. So I can focus my clothing on having a flattering cut and color, feeling soft, washing well, being durable, that sort of thing. Because “I like books” will come across in other ways. Not everybody has that. Some people want it. I don’t see why the original poster should object to them having it on their shirt or on a totebag.

And I really don’t see why we shouldn’t have community in books about books as well as out of books about books, and I think that’s what bibliomemoir is aiming at. Bibliomemoir is the book version of when you’re sitting around drinking tea with a friend and you say, “So when I was 18 and I read Joanna Russ,” and she says, “ME TOO.” It’s okay when your friend writes this down and publishes it. It’s okay when you haven’t met your friend yet. It’s okay if you never will. You can still live in the same community of books. You can still be aware that you do. Being aware of it doesn’t spoil it.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Books read, early August [Aug. 16th, 2014|09:27 pm]

Kenneth Andrien, Andean Worlds: Indigenous History, Culture, and Consciousness Under Spanish Rule, 1532-1825. This title is a bit misleading: there is not nearly so much of the culture and consciousness as a person might want. And this period is mostly the post-mummy period. Still, moderately interesting stuff.

Maria Belozerskaya, The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power. This was pretty disjointed. It was basically “zany rich animal collectors in history: some cool stories about them.” Which is fine as long as you’re not looking for something more, more thesis, more throughput of narrative.

Chaz Brenchley, Being Small. Kindle. Discussed elsewhere.

A.S. Byatt, The Shadow of the Sun. This was just horrifying. It was Byatt’s first novel, and the introduction alone is enough to curl your hair, that weird period when women, women we actually know now and still have around like A.S. Byatt, had established the right to an education but God forbid they should use it for anything simultaneously with doing anything else in life. And this novel deals with the weirdness of that period, only it does it from the inside, so there’s all sorts of stuff that you look at and say, “Uh…Antonia dear…uh…did you mean that to be a terrible creep show for which everyone needs slapping?” And it’s really nice to have read the things she’s written since and know that she doesn’t still need to stay in the guest room and eat soup and detox from the 1950s and early 1960s because MY LAND OH HONEY.

Rae Carson, The Shattered Mountain. Kindle. Fun novella backstory for one of the characters in the trilogy that starts with The Girl of Fire and Thorns, which I recommend you start with instead of this; this is a good time but will be better when you have more of the context of the world.

Carrie Harris, Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate. A kids’ steampunk novel featuring racing tractors and a girl who can fix nearly anything except possibly her family dynamic. So that part spoke to me. It was rife with anachronisms, some of which seemed deliberate and others less well-considered, and that was less great. So…some hit and some miss here, depending on how much ill-considered anachronism sets your teeth on edge.

Jill Lepore, New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan. Jill Lepore is pretty much always good stuff. This time it’s about a supposed slave uprising in 1741 Manhattan, how a fire got deemed a slave conspiracy and dozens of people got executed for it. Oh, eighteenth century, I love you, but you are destructive and horrible and really awful sometimes. Lepore has a fascinating theory about the rise of conspiracy theories in the early eighteenth century to replace everything being Providence, because people remain really crap at “sometimes bad things really do just happen.” Lots of large and small things I did not know about colonial America per page here. (Possibly less revelatory to New Yorkers, who might be better educated about how their home state treated slaves and suspected crypto-papists in this period. Then again possibly not.)

H. C. Erik Midelfort, Mad Princes of Renaissance Germany. Mark looked at this and said, “I’m surprised it’s not a bigger book.” Yyyyyes. This is an overview. It’s an interesting overview, some fascinating case studies on who got the medical treatment of the time (and what that was) and who got treated theologically and why. But in fact there was enough “madness” (and Midelfort discusses his deliberate use of that very vague term pretty carefully) in that region and period that it could have been a bugcrusher instead of the slim volume it was.

Nicole Pope and Hugh Pope, Turkey Unveiled: A History of Modern Turkey. Very chatty, very light, and this is the “post-WWII” meaning of the word “modern.” (I may be a bit biased towards the “post-Renaissance” meaning of the word, or at least the “post-Romanticism” meaning.) If you don’t know anything about 20th century Turkish history, which hey, I don’t, it seems like it might give you some framework, but I feel like it’s only a start, not at all a stopping point, and once I keep going I have a feeling I may recoil and go, “urghhh, that was…not really it.” Because this was not a particularly well-organized book. It was trying to go chronologically and then kept remembering things that happened later that interested the authors. It was like…talking to me personally about the 20th century in Turkey. Which, y’know, I can’t judge per se? Except that when I’m writing something at book length I make more effort to organize my thoughts than if we’re having tea and I’m babbling at you about some cool things I know. And I feel that this might not be an unreasonable thing to ask of other people too.

Greg Rucka, Bravo. This is a pretty good thriller. The one that came before it in its series, Alpha, is one of my favorite thrillers ever, so it’s really hard to figure out how to write about one that’s pretty good when my expectations for it were that high. There is a folie a deux in it, and those…really hardly ever work for me. (It’s not that I find them unbelievable, it’s that I don’t enjoy them.) And one of the major plot points just flat out does not work for me in the sense of “find unbelievable,” so…yeah. I enjoyed it while reading it, it went fast, and I liked Alpha a lot. It’s easy to sound far more negative than I actually feel about this book. I don’t want to do that. It was fine.

Charles Stross, The Rhesus Chart. This far into the Laundry series, I think one of the best metrics for how much I will enjoy them is how much Stross is doing something beyond just sending up the trope he’s sending up. In this case it’s vampires, and I think he did a really good job of consistently thinking another step beyond the obvious. This is one of the better Laundry novels, and I like the Laundry novels very well in general.

Theresa Urbainczyk, Slave Revolts in Antiquity. This does a beautiful job of what it says on the tin. In the introduction, Ubrainczyk talks about the people who tried to discourage her from writing this book. I dislike these people. They don’t want me to have nice things. Urbainczyk is also beautifully snarky about people who are Just Sure of what helots could not possibly have thought or done or wanted, while being very careful about what she does not have evidence that they did think/do/want. Hurrah Urbainczyk go team.

Genevieve Valentine, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. This is an historical novel set in the Roaring Twenties, using the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale as a framework. The Roaring Twenties are one of my favorite eras, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses are one of my favorite fairy tales, and this was just beautiful. Just a lovely book. (Straight-up historical, not fantasy. Family. Dancing. Things! Things! This book!)

Django Wexler, The Forbidden Library. Middle-grade fantasy with Readers as sorcerers, and sorcery as fairly nasty. I’m interested in where the nastiness in tone goes for kids this age, where the boundaries are. So that was interesting. This is very much a “first in a series,” not a complete story.

Laurence Yep, Dragon of the Lost Sea. This first in a series, on the other hand, told a complete story. Shapeshifter dragon and tricksy human child team up to attempt to restore her home to its former glory, and things…get complicated. I’m looking forward to more in this series. The dragon is awesome.

Jane Yolen, Cards of Grief. Kindle. Science fiction of a very anthropological type I don’t get enough of, multiple perspectives on the same story. Good stuff.

Sarah Zettel, Bad Luck Girl. Fun conclusion to this trilogy in Dirty Thirties Chicago, although the new allies for the conclusion felt…a little too new, for as important as they turned out to be in the third volume of a trilogy. Would have liked a little more sense of their import going in. Ah well, can’t have everything.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Being Small, by Chaz Brenchley [Aug. 10th, 2014|06:11 am]

Review copy provided by author.

I don’t read horror, mostly. And this is horror-ish. And I read it anyway, and no, I don’t read everything that people send me to review, not even by authors whose stuff I’ve liked previously, not even by authors I’ve hung out with at cons and been online pals with. (Oh yeah. I should put that disclaimer in.)

I used to say things like “the stuff I like is dark fantasy, and the other stuff is horror,” but this is not, really, this is just horror. It’s the quiet psychological stuff. Michael had a dead fetal twin in his belly, cut out when he was tiny, and he’s had his dead fetal twin, Small, inhabiting his thoughts his whole life. Small is with him, shaping him, constraining him, losing to him at chess, complaining when he smokes pot, unable to read, unable to make friends, unable to forget.

Now Michael, isolated by his mother’s theories about how her twin sons–alive and dead–should think and learn, finally gets to meet his own oddly assorted set of friends–one of whom is dying. Michael feels that he knows something about this, having lived with a dead twin in his head for all of his sixteen years. The rest of his friends are kind and welcoming to him despite or because of that, but what role Small plays in Michael’s treatment of the dying is closely written and perfect for the 16-year-old they both are, living and dead. The spiraling ending is chilly and horrible and yet fits the warmer tones of the short book leading up to it perfectly.

Not my usual sort of thing, but if you’re not turned off by the description of what sort of internal/external ghost story this is, it may well be worth stepping outside your usual too.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Intellectual property and wills [Aug. 7th, 2014|05:20 pm]

Every once in awhile something brings this to mind again, so consider this your annual-or-so reminder:

Please, please, please make a will. Please, please, please make a medical decision-making/power-of-attorney document. Discuss these things with your near and dear so that they know what you want. If your lives aren’t terribly complicated, they don’t have to be expensive. In many states you can do legally binding ones for free if you do them in your own handwriting or other stipulations–I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on the internet, please look up the details for yourself and/or consult an actual attorney such as this nice man–but please, please get them done. They aren’t just for rich people. They aren’t just for “important” people. You are important people. Make a will. Make your health care wishes clear. Do it today, do it tomorrow, wait until next week if you must. But please do it.

And the thing that brought it to my mind was this:

If you do substantial creative work. If you are a writer with a substantial body of work–novels, several short stories or poems–if you are a visual artist, anything that is that type of copyrighted intellectual property, please, please take the time to do this so that you establish who will be your literary executor*. This person does not have to be an heir. Sometimes family members who have been very dear and supportive of your career, who would want your work to be protected and perpetuated, are not people who have the background or the time to navigate the business of publishing. This doesn’t have to require malice! You can say, “Oh, my next of kin would be my sister Alice, and she loves my books!” But Alice has five children and a thriving practice as a cardiologist; if you are killed in a tragic meteor shower tomorrow, in five years, learning what she needs to know to do well by your work may not be Alice’s top priority. Or it might be! Alice might be awesome that way. But at least think through the personalities and skill sets involved.

The other thing I would like to say about this is: if you’ve already done this, hurrah! I salute you! But if you’ve already done this twenty, twenty-five, thirty years ago, please consider whether the people you selected are still the right people. Right now, my godchildren and my nieces are not the right people, and right now I have no children and don’t know whether I ever will.** In twenty or thirty years, my parents and my godchildren and my nieces will be in very different places in their lives, and we will know about the child hypothesis for sure. So: reevaluation. We used to joke about how upsetting it would be if something happened to Tim’s parents, not only because of losing them themselves, but also because they hadn’t changed their will, and we would miss Tim when he had to go live with his aunt and uncle. Obviously the guardianship of minor children goes away when those children reach majority. But designating a sibling instead of a child or a younger friend to be the literary executor does not. Sometimes that’s still the right thing. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes putting an extra layer of conditional statements into place–”my friend Chris if still available, my cousin Pat if not”–can help make everybody more comfortable with the situation.

I know, I know, this is one of my hot buttons, and I keep harping on it. But I think one of the things that happens is that our work sneaks up on us. We don’t think of ourselves as major authors, because major authors are always going to be the next rungs up. Even if you’re regularly making the New York Times bestseller list, even if you’re regularly winning major awards in your genre of choice, you’re always going to be able to say to yourself, “Yes, but I’m no Octavia Butler, a major author is someone like Octavia Butler.” But the thing is–well, two things. One, Octavia Butler probably didn’t think she was a major author when she wrote the stories I just read in Unexpected Stories, and I’m still immensely glad that she had the procedures in place so that people could get those stories published after her death, so that the rest of us could have them and love them. And two, it doesn’t matter if you’re major. If you make things, please let the rest of us protect your things. Please let this be the lantern glass around your bright spark, even if it’s a tiny spark.

*I’m going to use the language of literature from this point forward, since that’s the terminology I know, but if you’re another kind of artist, please look into protecting your work post mortem in the way that suits your type of work also. It’s still important–it’s just not the language I’ve got immediately to hand.

**I would like one. If it becomes possible, I will tell you. Until then, please don’t ask questions about it. Thanks.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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pre-order gets you the same pretty cover [Aug. 6th, 2014|03:36 pm]
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Just a quick note that the pre-orders are available for the Futures 2 anthology, in which I have a story–and so do 99 other people. Hard to beat that with a stick. Especially since it’s an ebook.

I would like to say something more here, but the neighbors behind us have let their dog out to bark since 8:30 this morning without more than 15 minutes of pause, and it turns out that I am able to focus through that to do three of the four of the following: 1) wrangle my own dog into not barking constantly; 2) write some fiction; 3) handle necessary house chores; 4) write a long blog post. So: sorry, folks. Tomorrow, I hope.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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