25 years ago: I was starting preschool. I was either Princess Leia or a sorceress for Halloween -- can't remember which preschool year was which. I was always coming up with games and plans I couldn't explain to my classmates, but they tagged along pretty well.
20 years ago: I was in Mrs. Nelson's third grade class. My favorite game was "political refugees fleeing an oppressive government." For those of you who haven't heard this before, it involved a lot of skulking around in cloaks and making a run for it, interspersed with me giving stirring political speeches. The theme of "games I couldn't explain to my classmates" continued, but the the skulking and running appealed, so it worked all right.
I was already writing things I didn't want to show to anybody because they were Works In Progress. Plays, mostly, and some short stories.
15 years ago: Eighth grade. The best class of my eighth grade year was geography, because we learned to draw maps freehand. Still a useful skill. I was writing Robin McKinley fanfic for my eighth grade English teacher (she assigned a group of us to write sequels to favorite books, out of frustration in dealing with untracked classes -- we went to the library every day while she taught kids with reading difficulties), plus stuff of my own I wouldn't let anyone see. I had met scottjames the year before, and we talked on the phone every Friday after school. If there was going to be some reason we couldn't talk on the phone Friday after school, we would call Thursday to make sure the other person knew we hadn't just wandered off. This sort of thing is important when you're best friends who are totally unwilling to admit to crushes on each other.
10 years ago: 1996. Beginning of my sophomore year of college. I was dating scottjames long-distance. I had made friends with gaaldine and the_overqual (separately, at the time), and I was just starting to get to be friends with this guy in my Science Fiction Lit class, markgritter. In mid-October of '96, he handed me a stack of Iain M. Banks novels to read over fall break. One of them was Feersum Endjinn. Reader, I married him anyway. But not in '96. Also I had a spot in the sophomore physics office. I was TAing and tutoring, and I was finally accepted as a physics major -- no one ever believed freshmen who said they were going to be physics majors. They'd say, "We'll see." It infuriated me. Then I got to be a sophomore and started looking at the freshmen insisting they'd be physics majors and thinking, "We'll see."
I started keeping paper journals in February of '97.
October 8, 1997, St. Peter, MN: [Nobel Conference, Story Musgrave lecture] You can't see the pyramids from space, but you can see their shadows. So cool! He has pictures he took from space, and he says to us, "I'm going to give you the universe. He says, "I'm always looking for rainbows from space with the naked eye." This was the year Carl Sagan was supposed to lecture at Nobel Conference and he died, and then Gene Shoemaker, and he died, and I wanted to shout, no, Story! Don't take the job! But given the copious notes I took at his lecture, it looks like I was glad he did. I also noted that it was a fortnight until I would see markgritter again. That first fall was pretty hard. Actually, the whole thing was hard. Long-distance relationships, bleh.
October 8, 1998, St. Peter, MN: I dreamed I was riding in a little cart with Sarah [Andrew's girlfriend at the time]. Along with the, "Keep hands in cart," signs, there was one reading, "College: remember it as it actually is." (Hello, subconscious. Trying to tell me something?) A few days later, the passage of the Commercial Space Act, allowing private American companies to launch and return vehicles from space, drew a yeeehaw in my journal -- and, as I recall, it also made me charge up the stairs to tell timprov. I was trying to write something contemporary-mainstream for my fiction studio that year. It was not a resounding success: I was bored, and so I made my characters really bitchy to keep myself interested. Also, a bit of dialog between the Sass brothers followed a few days later:
Christopher, sharply: You did not go where I told you to go?
Phil, timidly: To hell?
Christopher: No, no, to Nobel Hall [chem building]! There's a difference!
And then I wondered in my journal whether Chris had remembered to warn Phil to leave the roses alone. I loved riding home with the Sass brothers. The way they talked to each other fascinated me. It was so different from the way Christopher talked to his friends.
Also in those days were the original opening lines for Reprogramming, my third novel, though I didn't start working on it seriously or have any idea where it was going for some years thereafter. The original opening lines were pretty terrible. But one has to start somewhere.
October 8, 1999, Concord, CA: I dreamed that humans were enslaved by really complex mold organisms and forced to do orbital labor. So I led a revolt in which we stuck something in their sun that flared at a wavelength they couldn't stand, and all the mold-people died, and then I made tuna casserole. Riiiiight. Okay then. Ten days later, I couldn't sleep because the entirety of Fortress of Thorns, my first novel, had fallen on my head. (Okay, okay, the first novel I'm willing to expose to daylight. Still and all.) I specifically intended not to write a novel, to focus on short stories for awhile, but then there it was. And I was already resenting grad school a lot.
October 8, 2000, Lahaina, Maui, HI: Strange dreams that hinge on knowing the people involved. Also diagrams of different ways time traveling might work with one universe vs. many. markgritter and I were in Hawaii with my grands and my folks for my grands' fiftieth anniversary. I note, I meant to get more work done, even though I'm told that I can take vacations like other people. I was still figuring out what it meant to be freelancing, not to be on someone else's schedule most of the time. (The details still sometimes elude me.)
Even as recently as 2000, I was still getting used to the idea that I would be able to pick up my own train of thought later -- times when I would write, "--?" now were written out as, "See if you can do something with this as a story idea" or the like.
I started keeping an online journal in February of 2001, but not when I was out of town. Apparently I was out of town a lot in early October.
October 8, 2001, Maple Grove, MN: Oh. I had forgotten this one. I had spent time with my great-grandmother the previous day. It was the last I saw her before she died, and she and my best-aunt and -uncle and my cousin (hi, coachcathy!) had been telling me family stories, mostly about my great-grandfather, whom I remember from my toddler years, and my grandmother, who died before I was born. So I wrote them down later, when I wasn't busy listening. They're not the kind of stories that translate easily to an audience outside the family -- stuff like "your grandmother used that same recipe for homemade caramels" -- but I'm glad to have the stories about my family written down. There was one I can share, though:
Great-Great-Uncle Harold didn't trust banks and kept his money around the house in paper bags, and if someone in the family needed a little help during the Depression, when work was short, apparently he would dip a Mason jar in and come up with some money and hand it to them. This used to terrify Great-Grandma [his sister] because she would have to take the streetcar home with a Mason jar of money in her handbag or a paper bag. "Harold," his big sister told me, "was kind of dumb." "Mother, he was eccentric," said Aunt Ellen. Well. Great-Grandma was maybe willing to go with that for the sake of conversation: "He certainly was eccentric," she agreed, and then whispered to me, "but he wasn't always very bright." [She was a little deaf by then, so] of course Aunt Ellen heard the whisper quite plainly. She chuckled and shook her head -- and made sure I knew about the interesting, smart things Uncle Harold had done, once Great-Grandma had gone home.
October 8, 2002, Hayward, CA: It's only a fortnight until we go home [for WFC and a visit], and I must stay focused without getting obsessive. I'm good at the former. The latter not so much, perhaps.
I'm also annoyed by the commercial broadcasters who say "fermiliar." "Familiar" is not a tribute word to Enrico Fermi. It only requires one r.
October 8, 2003, Albert Lea, MN: [The tire problem on the U-Haul] occupied much of our attention yesterday. Breakfast with Jen was good Creole food, dinner was at 9:30 with the entire family trying to talk at once and all of us ready to fall face-first into our hotdish. Wheatfield's this morning was good; Rob and Megan were fun; and now we're gassing up in Albert Lea. On the home stretch for sure. The closing, I am told, went fine. Whew. Wheee! That's the entire journal entry for that day -- I had other things to do once we got here. Like ya do.
October 8, 2004, Eagan, MN: Do you know how strange it is to wake up in the morning and not have more of this book to draft? Well, do you? I even printed it out. The office smells like rain and ink, which is a very, very good thing. A few days later, I note in my paper journal that we met fiddle_dragon, ladysea, songwind, and their kids.
October 8, 2005, Eagan, MN: was one of those days with too many tasks in it -- I noted that, It cannot possibly be only 1:00. I am ready for about 4:30. In my paper journal, I made a note for The Mark of the Sea Serpent and another for its sequel -- still a good idea, one I will get to when I'm writing the sequel. A few days later, I wrote, The ENT found nothing. We've hit a dead-end, and I'm trying desperately hard not to go down into the doldrums. But it's hard. I want to feel good again. I want to feel right again. I looked up Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and it has associated symptoms I don't have. So we don't know what next. And we're not particularly happy with not knowing. Oof, last year was rough. And it was eventually that same ENT who did go back and find what was wrong. I'm so glad we did, and so relieved.
Sometimes when people do these looks back, they speculate about N years from now. But I'm always on about how SF writers aren't in the business of predicting the future, so I don't feel any obligation to do that. Anyway -- I'm glad to be home, and I expect I'll continue to be glad to be here for the duration. Even last year when I was so sick, I was glad to be sick here instead of somewhere else. This is where I belong.