Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Busy Busy

Yea. That about sums up my life right now.


Dude, that's such a great headline.

VanderMeer's City of Saints & Madmen is finally out for wide public consumption.

Go forth and consume. It's good stuff.

Monday, February 27, 2006

My God

Octavia Butler died on Saturday.

I'm stunned into silence at the moment.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dorky Things Are Funny

ha ha

(thanks, b)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What I Owe

I've spent the last couple of nights getting my finances in order.

Counting credit card debt and student loan debt, I'm about $28,000 in the hole. I'll be 1K less when I cash my writing contract work check on Saturday.

About 3K of that is computer debt. No, more: about $3500 if you count all of the expense related to getting crap off both of my old hard drives. Maybe $500 in healthcare. The other $3000 I owe in credit cards is just fuck-off money. I had too much fun over the holidays, had to buy new clothes that actually fit as I dropped two sizes, and bought a *lot* of books and about $100 in CDs. Also, too many lunches.

I got it all organized using Quicken, and I'm trying to figure out how to have it all subtracted automatically when I pay my bills. I turned in my student loan consolidation paperwork today as well, so that should fix all the loans at a lower interest rate and bundle them into one payment, which I'd appreciate. I'm paying about $300 a month in student loans right now and $200 toward credit cards.

Seeing it all layed out calmed me down a little.

I've been having nightmares about work and bill collectors - the Citibank student loan people keep calling me because, though my parents graciously agreed to pay that loan for a couple of years, the payments were always late, and now that I've rolled all the bills over to my address (because I got sick of having the bill collectors call me), I'm trying to catch up on those payments so they're reasonable able (I owe $250 this month, which should then allow me to pay "only" $115 a month from then on, until the loans are consolidated).

I hated putting all that together, but I think that in the long run I'll have less nightmares and hopefully a better balanced checkbook. I knew things were dire when I bounced a rent check last month.

Oh yea. Time to put my house in order.

More Thoughts On Writing

The older I get, the more I write, the more I want to bash in the heads of those people who are like, "Yea, I'm going to write a novel soon, I just don't have the time." Or, "I think I'll take up writing."

I think I'll take up brain surgery.

Fall Down Seven Times. Get Up Eight: Or, Why I'm A Feminist

When I was eighteen years old, I spent a couple of nights a week standing in the bathroom at 3am thinking up ways to kill myself.

I had a few options. A bottle of sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet. The loaded gun my boyfriend kept under the front seat of his car. The apartment I shared with my boyfriend was on the third floor of the complex, and even though I knew that jumping off the balcony would probably result in nothing more than a broken leg, I still fantasized about that freefall, that excellent feeling of letting go, of making everything just stop.

Depression is one of those things that just sort of creeps up on you. You spend so much of your energy just trying to get through the basic tasks that keep you living that you don’t have time to reflect on why you feel like you’re looking at the world through a gray gauze. You stop noticing that nothing feels real.

I developed a number of crutches to get through my six months in Bellingham, Washington. I took up smoking and ate a lot. I hit somewhere close to 270 pounds and only had one pair of jeans that actually fit me. I could barely get up a flight of stairs or around the block without getting winded. My boyfriend was getting increasingly irate about my weight, but demands for sex didn’t lessen. I think a secret part of me was hoping that if I gained enough weight and dressed badly enough that he would break up with me for not being attractive, and I’d be free. When I did later get up the gumption to make the break, I realized my fears of doing the breaking were pretty well-founded – he kept calling me, waited around for me after classes, and threatened several of my friends that he would kill me and then drink bleach, or get plastic surgery so I wouldn’t know it was him. He started trying to date all of our mutual friends. He finally backed off when I threatened to get a restraining order.

But that was much later.

As for the sex, I started thinking about it as a chore – like doing the laundry, the dishes, cooking dinner. Close your eyes and think of England. A sorry state of affairs for somebody like me who does, in fact, really enjoy sex and has a pretty high sex drive (when it’s not pounded out into a passionless schedule. Some people confuse sex and masturbation). Sex was something I had to do because if I didn’t there was going to be a conflict, another angry night followed by a screaming fight, and when you’re really depressed, you don’t have the energy for much at all, let alone a screaming fight.

I got used to feeling stupid and unattractive. After all, I spent all of my time with somebody who patted me on the head and told me so. Spend all your time with an asshole who tells you you’re stupid and worthless, and you’ll start to believe it. Spend all your time in a house of screaming fights and broken dishes, and you’ll start to think it’s normal.

After a while, you’ll start to look for an easy way out. The only way out. When you paint yourself into a corner, suicide looks pretty rosy. I had no money. Kept a crappy job as a restaurant hostess that paid minimum wage (no health insurance, no benefits, etc. of course). Took a couple community college classes to try and finish up my AA degree.

I thought I should be happy. I’d gotten out of my parents’ house at eighteen. I was out there living with my boyfriend. I had an outside balcony where I grew plants.

I hadn’t written a word of fiction in nearly six months.

I’m now twenty-six years old. I’m sharing an apartment in Chicago with a buddy of mine from Clarion. I live in a houseful of books and plants. I work at a telecommunications company for about 42K a year (OK health insurance, 401(K), bonus, etc). I just got another couple of contract writing assignments that I’m using to pay off my credit cards. I just consolidated my student loans. I’m strong and back to a body size I’m comfortable in. I’m moving to NYC in July, a city I never in my weirdest dreams ever thought I’d live in. I’ve sold some stories. I’m rewriting a book for an agent. Finishing another book this summer. I have amazing friends. My parents love me. I’m working toward a number of personal goals. I read a lot of books. I have a Master’s Degree. I lived in South Africa and Alaska. I’ve traveled a lot overseas and intend to travel more (gotta live in London sometime!).

I have a good life.

When things get ugly around me, when I feel like I’m not moving forward as well or as quickly as I’d like, I remember this story. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “This isn’t the woman I want to be. “

I picked someone else, and decided to be her instead.

I’ve read about the stories of some feminists on other blogs who wrote about why they decided to be feminists. I didn’t become a feminist until I was 19. Until then, I was pretty much the biggest misogynist I knew. I didn’t think of myself as a woman, really. I was too smart to be a woman. Things that women did, the messes they “got themselves into” weren’t things I had to worry about: rape, abusive relationships, unplanned pregnancies, job discrimination - these things weren’t real threats to me. I was smarter than that.

But being smarter than that didn’t make me a man, and it didn’t take away those threats.

I learned that the hard way.

I’m a feminist because I woke up one day and realized that despite the fact that I was smart and strong and capable and believed men and women had equal rights and opportunities and were treated the same in the world, I was wrong. And I don’t want to live in a world where women not only get treated like dirt for being women, but take that abuse because they believe they’re dirt, too.

I have made a great, big, successful life for myself, and I did it with the help of some very supportive friends and family and through sheer, angry stubbornness.

I had a life I wanted to live and a woman I wanted to be - and that’s what gets me up every morning.

B says that I’m too hard on myself. This may be true, but it’s the only way I know how to go forward. I have to push, because I’m naturally lazy. I have to work harder than other people. I have to sleep at least 8-10 hours a night, hours that insomniacs are likely using to figure out their finances. I have to eat a certain amount to maintain all this muscle mass I’ve gained. I have to portion out workout times and writing times and work times and work overtime times and figure-out-my-finances times.

It’s called life, sure.

But there was a time where I went to work, ate, watched TV, and slept. And then I woke up and did it all over again, with no desire to do anything else at all because everything seemed so hard.

I don’t think any of it is any easier now, but I have something to push against. I have somebody I was, somebody I don’t want to be again.

And after two years of weight lifting and sporadic martial arts and boxing classes and jogging days and bike riding and figuring out how to eat outside the binge-and-purge cycle, I want to learn how to never go back. I want to learn how to maintain this.

I want to be better. I want to be smarter and stronger. I want to be a better writer. I want to stay in the same clothing size for more than two years at a time. I want to live forever. I want to fly.

There are women who’ve been through shit that’s a fuck of a lot worse than mine. There are women going through worse. There are women who’ve had it easier. What I hope about all those women, though, is that they know that if they want it, they can be better, too. They can close their eyes and decide who they want to be, and they can step away from all the bullshit. They know that they can be smart and strong and still make dumb decisions. And they know that making one dumb decision doesn’t mean they have to end it all. And it doesn’t mean their lives are screwed because of it.

When you do something dumb, you pick yourself up, you brush yourself off, and you start over.

You be who you want to be.

Fall down seven times. Get up eight.

Quote of the Day

"The fundamental intellectual level of humanity has and will always be low. New technological possibilities mean more experimental things can be forgotten in new ways. There are amazing filmmakers, like the Soviet Dziga Vertov. Who knows who this guy is and who cares? Who knows or cares who Joyce was? That means people who want to write at that level, and I include myself, are only doing so because we love it. In the end, what else is there? There is no prize, including the Nobel Prize, which can compensate you for the work you put in. If it's not a joy, you shouldn't do it. If you don't get published, that's unfortunate insofar as whatever else you must do to stay alive consumes and prevents you from doing what you really must do. When I wrote Rising Up and Rising Down, it took me 23 years, and my publishers all said if you want it to see the light of day, you have to cut it. And I said no. I fully expected that it would never appear. I was fortunate that McSweeney's agreed to publish it. Now it's out of print."

- William T. Vollmann

(thanks Jenn)

You Can Make It Up, Or You Could Just Read About the Real Thing

Wilfred Thesiger lived with and observed the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq. Here's a quote:

One afternoon, a few days after leaving Dibin, we arrived at a village on the mainland. The sheikh was away looking at his cultivations, but we were shown to his mudhif [guest house made of reeds] by a boy wearing a head-rope and cloak, with a dagger at his waist. He looked about fifteen and his beautiful face was made even more striking by two long braids of hair on either side. In the past all the Madan [Marsh Arabs] wore their hair like that, as the Bedu [Bedouin] still did. After the boy had made us coffee and withdrawn, Amara [one of Thesiger's boat boys] asked, 'Did you realize that was a mustarjil?' I had vaguely heard of them, but had not met one before.'A mustarjil is born a woman,' Amara explained. 'She cannot help that; but she has the heart of a man, so she lives like a man.'

'Do men accept her?'

'Certainly. We eat with her and she may sit in the mudhif. When she dies, we fire off our rifles to honour her. We never do that for a woman. In Majid's village there is one who fought bravely in the war against Haji Sulaiman.'

'Do they always wear their hair plaited?'

'Usually they shave it off like men.'

'Do mustarjils ever marry?'

'No, they sleep with women as we do.'

There's also mention of a biological man asking for his penis to be cut of so he can be a "real" woman, since in "every other way" he was "a woman."

I've read about the same gender issues in colonial New England and among the Pueblo Indians.

But, as everyone knows, marriage has always been between one man and one woman, women don't go to war, and the existence of male transvestites and transexuals are a uniquely 20th century invention.

(via David Moles)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

On Being an Afghani Warlord

Her eyesight has faded to the point where she can no longer shoot straight and her limbs have grown stiff, but Afghanistan's only female warlord is still unassailable in her remote eyrie high in the mountains of north-east Afghanistan.

Known as Kaftar, or "The Pigeon", 55-year-old Bibi Ayisha has fought off the Russians, the Taliban and a host of local rivals.

My favorite part:

"It makes no difference if you are a man or a woman when you have the heart of a fighter," she said. Kaftar claims to lead 150 men and her only concession to gender roles on the battlefield is that she requires a male relative to be present when she is fighting, in line with Afghan tradition for women outside the home.

Because one must keep up appearances...

And if there's another lame WisCon panel where everybody argues about whether or not women can fight and kill people, they really should discontinue them. It's like arguing about whether or not women can do math or plant vegetables. Not much of an argument if they're already doing it, huh?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What I've Been Doing:


At the day job.

A lot.

At least the overtime is nice.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


I'm in NYC this weekend for me and B's anniversary. Going out to see "The Producers" and actually look around the city a bit.

Yea, I've been commuting into this city for a year and.. haven't seen much of the city.

But hey, if you only saw your SO once a month, what do you think you'd be staying in and doing every weekend?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Broken Out & Busted Down

If I have to run one more report, I'll vomit.

Pretty exhausted. Left work early with the, "It's Valentine's Day," excuse. Got some food. Taking a nap.

Just too much going on over here to keep my head on straight.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Here's What's Happening

Survived my time in Indy - anybody know any good telecommunications CMs? We're hiring.

In other news, K moved out the rest of her stuff yesterday, and me and Jenn are hitting Ikea and Target today to re-stock the house with furniture (we have no couch, microwave, or kitchen island now). We've been trying to think of what to do with K's empty room, and I'm thinking I may make it a map room. I've been meaning to draw an updated wall map of the fantasy saga world for some time, but putting it in the middle of the house meant it got mud tracked in on it and got in everyone's way. So I may revive that project and make the extra room a drawing room.

The people at Best Buy managed to save the stuff on one of my computers, but not the other - which I anticipated, so I'm not too heartbroken, but it means I lost all of the music I stole from my buddy Julian in South Africa. That sucks, but is survivable. I should have a copy of one of the stories I need to get in the mail by March 1st, so I'm happy.

I'm spending my morning doing God's War edits, working on a writing contract passage, and copying all of my CDs to my new computer.

Things are getting better. Slowly but surely.

Knock on wood.

Monday, February 06, 2006

70,000 Dead Women

The International Planned Parenthood Federation estimates 19 million women worldwide will have an unsafe abortion in 2006; a similar number took this risky step last year - 70,000 died.

Off to Indy

I'll be in Indy from Tuesday-Thursday this week.

Oh, I can barely contain my enthusiasm.

Why is it I work at this job again?

Oh, yea, cause it pays me to screw off half the year. The rest of the year it's... Indianapolis.

Fantasy Novel Title Generator

It's not much better than the stuff I come up with myself...

Children's Mists
Heart of Darkness
Island Ruby of Trisilion
Secretِ Fireِ and Dream
Spell of Empire
Spirit of Pride
Stoneِ Rogueِ and Earth
The Isindaria Spirit
The Realm of Eltios
The Rune Herald


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Last night, I maxed out my credit card and bought one of these:

Dropped the other two computers off with The Geek Squad to see if they can do any data recovery.

Gateway told me that Blue Screen of Death + Clicking Sound + inability to restart past the "Gateway" symbol page meant my hard drive was truly fucked. The other computer has a dead screen and is perpetually restarting, and after dropping $317 useless dollars on "fixing" the Gateway only to have it explode two hours later, I wasn't dropping another $500 on the other computer only to see it, too, die in some horrible way as soon as it got back home.

For the same amount of money ($700 +), I could buy a whole new system (This was $999. I paid the extra $200 cause this had a more comfortable keyboard than the one for $749. Since I spend anywhere from 4-12 hours a day typing on my laptop, comfortable keyboard was priority 1, followed immediately by how good the screen was).

So now I've got a new baby and a 3-year warranty. And I'm getting myself a back-up data storage service or an external hard drive, because this ordeal has been massively ridiculous.

Sometimes I have to learn my lessons the hard way.

Back to work.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Dear Mr. Grande Latte Enema;

Fuck you.

For Those Who Haven't Seen or Heard it Yet:

Pink's "Stupid Girl."

Is Romance Really for Guys?

What exactly is the princess of archetypal hero myths? She’s not a real love interest, since the reasons the hero loves her are never explored. She’s a symbol, possibly like today’s real-life trophy wife. An object of status to impress other men. Maybe that explains why the whole idea of women characters as “love interests” is such a turn-off to women. After all, it’s not much more satisfying to be wanted as a trophy than to not be wanted at all. This could also explain why more than one man has expressed sympathy for Sam (Of Stargate SG-1) that she can’t have her man: they’re extrapolating the hero’s quest onto her, and like a man, part of her prize package for heroic deeds should include the prince of her choice.

(thanks, Jenn)

You Need to Make A Decision

I had lunch with this one editor, she took me to this fancy restaurant, and she told me I had to make a decision...whether or not I was writing for black people or white people." - Danyel Smith

If you're a white writer, would you expect to get asked a question like that?

February's Black History Month

But, then:

For this bitch, every month is Black History Month but my ass can see the value in setting aside one month for deeper exploration.

Luckily We Live in a Tolerant, Peaceful Society Where No One is Killed - er - Discriminated Against. What the Fuck is Up With Shit Like This?

NEW BEDFORD, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Police on Thursday are seeking a man in connection with a gun and hatchet attack at a gay bar in New Bedford, south of Boston. Three people were wounded in what authorities said they suspect were hate crimes.

They "suspect."


(via Angry Black Bitch)

Why I Love B

Because he sends me shit like this.

That is just frickin hilarious.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Oh, Nevermind

Two hours in, while working on a short story I was going to submit to an anthology, I got the Blue Screen of Death.

It told me to restart.

So I did. And got the Gateway logo and then... dark screen.

Nothing. And an odd clicking noise.

I restarted it again.

And again.

And again.

And it's dead again.

Once again, I have no computer. It's exploded.

I am so tired.

My Computer is Back! My Computer is Back!

Oh my sweet computer, how do I love you, let me count the ways!

Nice turnaround time from Gateway, of all places...

Get-Well Gifts

What my mom sent me to cheer me up:


My mom is awesome.

Colonizing Other Worlds

Had a story of mine make it past the first cut over at Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Card makes the final cut.

That would be so ironic on so many levels. But then, I thought this was ironic, too, when I sold it.

See, I do have some stories where there's very little violence and no swearing! Really, I do! I just don't write them very often. They aren't quite as fun.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Some Thoughts On Weight

No, no, the other kind.

NancyP asked a number of posts back about how to increase the weight in her free-weight routine without getting an injury or creaking joints and muscles. For the real deal from somebody more experienced than me, I refer everyone to Mistress Krista.

But here's what my experience has been:

When I came to Chicago, I'd been using 5-lb free weights for years and years. I think I first picked them up when I dropped all of my pill/depression weight when I was 18/19. What I realized, at 23, was that I was doing insane amounts of reps with these little weights and seeing absolutely no results. I felt better because I had a routine, but it wasn't doing me any good I could see as far as building muscle.

I did something I don't recommend - I went out and bought 20 lb weights. Anybody in their right mind would have gotten 10 or 15 lbers, but not me. I started doing one set of 3-5 reps with each exercise. It was cool because I cut down the time it took to do my routine, and when I combined this with my twice a week martial arts classes, I noticed a big difference in strength in two weeks. Every week or two I would add one more rep, until I was doing 1 set of 15 of each exercise.

Because I increased by so much weight, I did have some overtraining pain (felt a bit like carpal tunnel in my forearms, actually), and had to slow down in the increase in reps. It took a couple months before I was pain-free again. Which is why I don't recommend going up more than 10 lbs at a time unless it's just a free weight you use occasionally for a few exercises.

When it was relatively easy for me to do two sets of 15 with the 20 lbs weights, I switched to 30 lb weights and dropped my reps to 1 set of 5 again, increasing by 1 rep a week until I got to two sets of 15 for all of my exercises but my bicep curls, which I'll be switching over to 30 lb weights this week.

Going from the 1 set of 5 with 20 lbs to what I'm at now has taken me about... a year and a half, I think. Which seems like a hell of a long time, but there have been a lot of down periods in there: sickness, stress, etc. where I did some backsliding and had to retrain. My ideal is to get up to using 50 lb weights at some point, which I think is doable so long as I ease up into the next weight range slowly and continue to eat enough protein.

Ah, and there's that protein thing.

Eat a lot of protein. Make it a point to eat eggs and lean meat and fish. Jenn was working out with 10 lb weights for months and was trying to figure out why she wasn't able to get up to 15 lbers. When she mentioned this to a friend who lifted weights regularly, he asked how much protein she ate. As I recall, she just sort of stared at him blankly. When she upped her protein, she was able to move to 15 lbs no problem.

As for the weight machines, I try to set everything as close to 100 lbs (or my body weight, for the leg press) for my lower body, and 70-90 lbs for my upper body. I do about two or three sets of fifteen. I do the gym twice a week. My free weights I do every morning.

I have a feeling a lot of this "inexplicable" weight loss I'm experiencing actually has a lot to do with my weight-lifting routine. I eat more now and do less cardio than I did the last time I was at this weight (and I was a few years younger), and I feel like it's pretty effortless now that I have the routine down.

I also eat really frequently - at least five times a day. Lots of yogurt and soup and protein bars, oatmeal, eggs, bacon, fish, pork chops, salad, sometimes some potatoes, etc. During the weekends I'm less structured, and only eat three times a day probably, but since I don't work out on the weekends (not even free weights), it doesn't bug me.

A lot of my success at sticking with this was by deciding I was going to do this to be stronger and kick ass - not to be skinny and weak. As a result, I've lost weight, but I'm not weak.

The other part is that every time I fucked up and didn't go to the gym (cause I was sick, stressed, lazy), or didn't eat the "right" things, or missed my morning weights routine, I didn't guilt myself about it. If I guilted about it, I'd binge eat and avoid the gym like the plague (which is what happened with my MA classes).

There's been a lot of forgiveness instead of self-hate.

That makes a huge difference.

Post script:

Switched out my bicep curls weight from 20 to 30 lbs this morning. I went from 2 sets of 15 to 2 sets of.... 2.

So it goes. You just build it up one week at a time.

Bill O'Reilly Gets the Smackdown

Dude. Fucking awesome.

(thanks, Jenn)

The New Single Woman

Natalie over at Philobiblion answers the question: "Is it possible to be a single woman in one's fifties with a full life and a lot of joy?"

Her answer: "Well, of course..."

(via Alas)

Where Are All the New Feminist SF/F Writers?

I reserve comment.

My Art Is A Big Bag of Dope

I wonder, you know, if fantasy - big, chunky fantasy with the politics and beliefs of naive teenagers - is not just another form of sedation. Another form of over the counter sedation. Shit, maybe literature and film and music has just become it, in a general way. Do we read/watch/listen for escapism? Our art will never be outlawed, but is it now performing the same task as a big bag of dope?

Ben Peek's writing in response to VanderMeer's essay about "real-world" politics in fantasy fiction.

This got me to thinking about why I haven't been writing a lot of explicitly "political" posts about, say, Justice Alito, the lack of a true progressive party in America, abortion rights (well, not lately anyway), Katrina relief, or/and etc.

I mean, the post that got me the biggest hit count was, predictably, one on abortion. If I was looking for hit count numbers, I could make this the all-about-my-opinions-on-abortion blog. That always gets a rise out of people. Or I could make it a purely fat-acceptance blog. Or pure SF blog. Or "pure" whatever blog. I could write a really cool women-in-war blog (and in fact, I should write more about that here).

The reason I've steered clear of posts that have to do with "timely" political issues like Alito and Bush's "oh duh" moment (yea, we need alternative energy resources! We've known that since 1970 you fucktard!) is that I'm burned out on approaching them in non-fiction. I see this bullshit on CNN and read it in other blogs every day. And unless they really piss me off, I'm not going to waste space here when so many other people are talking about Old White Dudes. I'll write my letters through NARAL and PP and keep writing posts about feminism and science fiction and keep writing SF/F stories and mix up this blog with a diversity of posts.

I don't want it to be all white guys in politics, all the time.

In fact, later this year when I get back into boxing classes and recover from the wackiness that's been my life for the last few months, I'd like to get back to talking more about women, weightlifting, boxing, and martial arts. Recording my own successes and failures has, I know, helped and inspired at least a handful of people, and that's something.

Changing the world in some small, secret way...

The truth is, I write about politics, about the world, every day. That's how I process it. It may not show up here, but it'll show up in my fiction.

Yea. Fantasy Fiction. About the Real World. What, you think you're divorced from it?

Silly rabbit.

I've had at least one editor call a story of mine, "too didactic." Yea, it was a story about abortion - only the one being denied the abortion was a man. It all made sense in the story, mostly. Sorta. I had another story that touched on the issue with a bit more skill, and that one sold pretty easily. I tend to work out my beliefs and politics in my fiction.

My story, "Wonder Maul Doll" (Yea, WMD) just finally sold as well. It's about a bunch of women sent off to a foreign country in search of deadly organic weapons in order to boost a president's election campaign, and it pretty brutally shows how many people are killed and ruined for one woman's (false) accusations.

Most of my stories deal with war and feminism to one extent or another. Even tDW (The Dragon's Wall), the fantasy saga, is a story about the genocide of an entire race based entirely on fears and fictions of who those people are.

Oh, but wait.

tDW, being a "big, chunky fantasy," must just be another of those dull stories "with the politics and beliefs of naive teenagers" and therefore "just another form of sedation." Like "Ender's Game," or "The Forever War." Totally removed from the real world. Another form of escapism. Doesn't get you to think about The Real World at all.

I certainly think that some stories - not fantasies in particular, but ALL writing (including lit, mystery, horror, romance) - are indeed forms of escapism. There are bubble-gum stories where nobody suffers much and everything turns out OK and nobody's going through a political crises or performing illegal abortions or running a country on anarchy. And yea, sure, there's a place for those stories.

But you know what? Some of the shit you might think is the most awful of fluff can surprise you.

I've been re-reading Mike Moorcock's Elric stories recently, and I've been struck by the moral ambiguity of some of the tales. What is good and evil? Is wholesale slaughter or random killing ever justified? How much power does one have over the expectations of the people around them? Should humanity be "saved" if it's really Insane, Evil, Corrupt? Is humanity worth saving at all? Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for your beliefs? Does that legitimate those beliefs?

S&S stories are notorious for being badly written tales of escapism, but there's some great stuff out there that will challenge you to re-think your positions on "real life" ideas if you give it a chance.

I don't plan to write pure fluff. I'm not keen on bubblegum. Will some of it be read that way? Sure it will. It might even be something Baen would publish! But if I'm writing doorstoppers and pulling you out of this world, it's to take you somewhere different so you'll be able to read about the issues of the here-and-now in another context. And maybe, just maybe, I can get people thinking about things just a little differently.

Because what I don't want to be faced with when I come home is another blaring night of CNN and hysterical left and right-wing bloggers screaming about the same issues. I want somebody who'll show me another way of looking at it, somebody who reminds me that history churns on, that we've been here before; we'll be here again.

I love adventure stories. I can go somewhere else for an hour, a day, and wake up the next morning with a view of the world that's just a little bit different.

Same Old Story, Only It's A First World Army - Ours

In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior U.S. military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark....

Sanchez's attitude was: "The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory," Karpinski quoted him as saying. Karpinski told me that Sanchez, who was her boss, was very sensitive to the political ramifications of everything he did. She thinks it likely that when the information about the cause of these women's deaths was passed to the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld ordered that the details not be released. "That's how Rumsfeld works," she said.

That's certainly heartening. Shows real respect for your fellow comrade-in-arms.

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Agent Drops Frey

Sure, being given the smack-down by Oprah's pretty bad, but you know you're in trouble when even your agent (who should be happy with all the publicity) drops you.