Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Writing Life

75 pages of God's War to go, dammit.

Opened up the file, looked at the three chapters of revision I needed to do before I moved on, and closed it again.

ug ug ug

It'll get there.

Just waiting on responses from my second round of readers for tDW, then revisions, then I'm booting it back out the door.

Ordered the first research book for my next project, which will start in December.

Very exciting.

Oh, the Irony

My duties at The Day Job (TM) have been reduced to updating our client's database. I'm incredibly relieved about this. I keep hoping they'll just fire me. I would love to sit at home and collect unemployment checks for a couple of months.

But then, I better be careful what I wish for. The Day Job (TM) also keeps me in health insurance.

That's a bit more important these days.

I also seem to have either caught a cold at Wiscon or developed yet another allergy-related coughing/runny nose/sinus headache thing that tends to develop about this time of year. I'm leaning toward the latter, which means more doctors and drugs.


The good news is, I did 90% of my full free weights routine this morning.

I forgot how heavy those 30 lb weights are.

A few hours before, at 2:45 am, I woke up covered in sweat, my heart pounding, my body trembling. I waited a couple of minutes until I realized the room was actually cool, meaning my body's freakout was internal and not external.

I dragged myself out of bed and checked my blood: 50.

Too low.

Stumbled out to the kitchen, drank a glass of orange juice and ate three graham crackers.

I flopped back into bed and lay awake until the trembling and racing heart subsided. It only took a few minutes for my blood to stabilize, and lo, I was back to normal.

It's the strangest thing.

I used to think I was self-medicating during food binges, back in the day.

Now I'm quite literally self-medicating with food.

Oh, the irony.

Slash Fiction & the Venom Cock (Oh, You Knew This Was Coming!)

I happened to be comatose when this particular subject hit the blogs, but I caught up in the hotel at Wiscon when I got wind that a piece of mpreg slash fiction made the Tiptree Award longlist (and yet, my 2004 story, Genderbending at the Madhattered didn't make any 2004 list, long or short. I'm not bitter, really, but I'm trying to put this in perspective). Right next to the unfinished, badly written slash choice was our old favorite, the Venom Cock.

Every once in a while, somebody comes along who wants to be really controversial. Often, they're good at arguing and steeped in academia. Sometimes, they're just a little batty.

If I believed the cutting edge of genderbending/sex expanding/controversial/envelope pushing fiction was in the slash world, I'd be all for nominating those stories.

But grabbing the most slap-dash piece of fiction you can troll from the net and putting it onto an awards long-list to "make a point" strikes me as a little selfish and quite ill-thought-out. It embarasses oneself, may well embarass the author, the other judges, lessens the honor of the award, and perverts the purpose of the list - the list is for pointing out interesting fiction that explores sex and gender. Pointing out stories that are not only badly written but 1) merely consist of switching gender roles in the "Wheeee! Men will be pregnant and get sore nipples just like women!" sort or 2) merely restates the fact that being a woman Really Sucks and is Really Hard does nothing to expand anybody's thoughts on sex and gender.

In fact, reading such stories can enforce one's stereotypes of the sexes.

Before I go any further, I'd like to say that yes, I've met Liz Henry. Yes, she is very nice. I enjoy her effort at radicalism, because I get really tired of spouting off about misogynists like gabe, Trent, and David Brin. I enjoy disagreeing with somebody whose politics are far left. And I want to make that clear: Liz is great. I just disagree with her. That's very healthy. And before anyone recommends that she and I auction off a boxing match at next year's Tiptree auction, well, anybody who's seen us standing side-by-side knows who'll win that match, even in my weakened state.

heh heh.

In any case, VanderMeer and I are closer in weight class anyway (I need to put on about 10 lbs of muscle before it's a fair fight, tho).

It's up to each year's Tiptree jury to define what a Tipworthy story really is. As I'm not on a jury, my opinion doesn't officially count, but as a reader and writer, I have very strong opinions about what I'm looking for in my genderfucking fiction.

Egalia's Daughters bored the shit out of me. It wasn't the best-written book in the world. I didn't connect with any of the characters and it kept head-hopping. What it did do, however, was posit a world in which men took care of children and women birthed them. Not in an even-split gender-reversal way, but in a way that challenged ideas about what birth is, what it means to a woman, to society, and the ways we speak about biological destiny, virginity, and penetration-is-the-only-"real"-sex paradigm. I believe that the value of the book's ideas outweigh the shitacular writing and inane ending that made me want to throw it across the room (women are naturally nurturing and have an instrinsic understanding of nature and The Land, and because this is a matriarchy, nature is totally balanced. It's the same old "if only women were in charge society would be soooo peaceful!" cliche. I tend to think that any society that's socially unbalanced will also be unbalanced in regard to their treatment of the "natural" world around them). Because it fucked with my conceptions of biology-as-destiny and the ways our society treats birth and child rearing, I'd put it on any genderfuck-you-should-read list.

Several years ago, I wrote a story called, "The History of Anson U." I took Freud's account of Anna O., reversed the genders, plunked it on a foreign world, and ran with it. Problem was, all I really did was switch the genders. I even opened with a nearly identical opening to Egalia's Daughters in which mom's reading the paper at the breakfast table and dad's serving up the victuals (and no, I hadn't read ED at this point, which says a lot about social stereotypes and how ingrained they are). Needless to say, the story was rejected again and again and eventually retired.

If I tossed "The History of Anson U." up on my personal website and changed the names so I was writing a piece of Harry Potter/Buffy slash where Buffy played the Freud character and Harry was Anson U., and then cut it in half because I didn't like the ending, so it remained unfinished, would that story be Tiptree worthy?

I mean, the fact that it's self-published and slash fiction means it's "edgy" and "raw," right? And we need more of that sort of stuff in SF!


Just because it's self-published slash doesn't mean it's anything new or contains anything controversial. The controversy isn't springing from the story's ideas but from the fact that all it's doing is rehashing old ideas that have been better done elsewhere. There's even a name for that genre of slash: mpreg. This means that unless the story's saying something new or different or fucking with ideas relating to that already time-worn topic, it's not worthy for inclusion on a list of fiction that should be getting more mind-blowing and envelope-pushing every year. When people start saying that the most radical genderfuck is going on in real life and not in SF, there's a problem. It means writers are being lazy. If "genderfuck" means slapdashing off a piece of old hack (ohhhhhh wouldn't it be kewl if men got pregnant and had to deal with swollen ankles????), what's that say about the current state of Tipworthy fiction?

It makes me embarassed to be an SF/F writer. Particularly one who's interested in pushing the genderfuck envelope. I want a long list of what's out there that pushes me to think in new ways, not fiction that reinforces dominant patriarchal heteronormative ideas about what sex, reproduction, and gender mean.

Which brings me to the Cock.

As one of the few people who've actually managed to finish this book, I was appalled to see it on the long list almost as much as I was appalled to see a shitty piece of slash fiction.


At least Janine can put together a sentence.

I've heard it said that Cock's inclusion on the long list wasn't because it showed how crappy life is for women under patriarchy (yawn), but because of the "subversiveness" of the dragonfucking.

Here's the thing with dragonfucking: it's just bestiality. There's nothing new about bestiality, or having sex with animals as part of a religious or mind-altering experience.

But, you may protest, these dragons are sentient!!!!!!

Fucking a dolphin isn't any more subversive than a girl and donkey show.

The woman may believe she's edgy and subversive while she's fucking a donkey, but in the end, she's fucking a donkey.

I came away from Venom Cock thinking, "Is that it? Sucks to be a woman? Is that all the message you've got for me after this masochistic shit-fest?"

Because you know what? The Marquis de Sade was pretty edgy and raw, too. He believed women wouldn't be equal to men until they could do the same depraved, evil, terrible things men could do, but I wouldn't nominate Justine for a Tiptree either. It's a work that exists for another reason: to titillate. Sex sells books. Sexual freedom is certainly a tenet of feminism, but there's a fine line between sexual freedom and sexual exploitation. It's up to every woman to decide for herself where that line is (with the help of some great consciousness-raising sessions, I hope). If Cock - about the abuse and slavery of women - were written by a man, would anybody call it revolutionary and feminist? Something tells me Joe Cross would be seen as a little less thought-fucking.

I suppose this is the point where I come out of the closet as a power feminist. Are things shitty for women in most places? They sure are. Will they always be that way? Is showing worlds where it will always be that way forwarding feminism or challenging our thoughts about biological destiny?

I certainly agree with De Sade that before women are equal it must be acknowledged that we can do things that are just as shitty and depraved as what some men can do. If women were in charge, things wouldn't be much better. There are tools one uses to stay in power. Anytime you set up a power system, you're going to have to use certain methods to retain your power, and men have used those because they work. Those methods would likely be similiar in a matriarchy, though recast through the lens of woman-as-norm/template.

Reading yet another book about a feudal patriarchy makes me tired, even if it's set in the jungle with green women as protagonists.

I certainly want controversy around the Tiptree. But I want that controversy to spring from a story's ideas and the ways those ideas change the way we think. I don't want a controversy for the sake of controversy ("Should we include slash??" Of course we should, when and if anybody finds a piece that blows their head off. The one on the top of one's neck, preferably). I want somebody to recommend a book or story that changes my conceptions of sex and gender. That's a Tiptree.

There are plenty of works out there reinforcing patriarchal heteronormative ideas about sex, gender, and reproduction.

I don't want them recommended to me on my Tiptree list.

One More Reason to Vote for Stem Cell Research

And hey, I was all for it before (I have deep fears of developing Alzheimer's. Probably every writer's fear). Now I'm personally invested.

Juvenile-onset diabetes is caused by the immune system destroying the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. It can now be treated by transplanting beta cells taken from cadavers, using a technique called the Edmonton protocol. But many recipients suffer severe side effects because of the drugs they have to take to prevent their immune systems rejecting the foreign cells. Also, the supply of beta cells is limited – only 500 people have been treated so far.

Several teams around the world have now managed to derive insulin-producing cells from human embryonic stem cells (ESCs). While this might one day end the shortage of beta cells for transplantation, it is not a perfect solution.

My doctor mentioned this when we were chatting. He thinks it's about 10 years out. Knowing the FDA, however, I'd bet on 15-20. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'll post about some other stuff, I promise.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Used to Have Such Beautiful Feet

She wanted back her strength, her stamina, her place at the head of legions.

I used to have beautiful feet.

Long, strong toes. Big, narrow feet. Size 11 feet that I could never find shoes for but that could land a front kick to the groin with elegant ease.

The day before Wiscon, my feet started to get fat and pudgy looking. I frantically called my doctor, fearing I was developing one of those diabetes-related foot diseases that would result in my legs being chopped off.

He assured me the swollen feet were normal now that my body was getting back into balance, and should ease up and go away in a couple of weeks.

Nonetheless, I went to bed alone and cried. I needed some time to digest it all for myself, alone.

I don't want my feet chopped off.

By the end of day one of Wiscon, my ankles were so fat that it hurt to press the skin around them, and foot rubs were out of the question.

The swelling goes down at night, but puffs back up during the day as fluid starts settling in my lower extremeties.

I shuffled around Wiscon like an old woman.

I spent much of the weekend being "on," assuring everyone else - and myself - that I was all right.

"I'm fine," I said.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," the echo of a nearly comatose woman from the back of an ambulance.

There was much joking, good humor, and I blew through both my panels, including one that appeared to be a crash course in how to moderate a panel where pretty much everything goes wrong.

I met a ton of people. I even spent a night running the party rounds.

The most popular question, after, "OMG are you all right???" was "Have you met Liz Henry yet?"

Ah, venom cocks and mpreg. I'll save that for another post.

The thing is, I haven't had a lot of time to digest the fact that I don't have a working pancreas. I was in the hospital for four days, my mom was in town for a week, then my buddy Patrick and his family arrived (damn, I missed them!), then we drove up to Madison and it was Wiscon-burn time. Right up until Wiscon, I spent all my time making sure I was well enough to attend Wiscon. I didn't do a lot of thinking. I needed to be strong and competent because Jenn and my mom and Patrick were all so worried about me.

And... and...

I wanted to be strong for myself. I needed to know I could get up out of a hospital bed without a working pancreas and get my life back together.

Every night at Wiscon I shuffled back to the hotel and propped up my feet for the night so I could get in another 12 hours the next day. At which point my feet would once again feel like they were going to explode.

I realized that what bothered me so much about my feet was that I have no real external signs of being sick... except that one. All the weight loss is considered a *good* thing in this culture, so all I kept hearing from people (even my mom, who was well aware of why I'd lost so much weight) was how great I looked. I'm thinner but sicker than I've ever been.

I won't mind gaining 20 lbs or so if it means I'm going to be healthier, thanks.

Diabetes is great because, sure, you have to shoot up in the bathroom before meals, and those close to you will see you shoot up at home and see the bruises on your thighs, but to the rest of the world, you look healthy. You look normal. You can pass.

You can pretend you're not dependent.

But the truth is that when the apocalypse comes, I'm pretty fucked.

Now I need to write a story about a post-apocalyptic diabetic warrior woman who hordes insulin.


I let myself sink on Monday at lunch. I interrupted one of Jenn's negotiation sessions with the waiter about the price of a salad, and she snapped at me.

I teared up at the rebuke, and quietly cried and stared out the window.

Obviously, this isn't something I do often. It was totally out of character. Jenn was pretty stunned.

This kicked off two hours of silence in the car on the ride back. When I'm sad, I want people to leave me alone. I don't often interrogate my feelings, so if someone asks me what's wrong when I'm in the thick of it, I can't articulate myself and end up getting angry and tired. I feel pushed.

Me going quiet hasn't worked for any of my partners because, well, they love me and want to know what's going on. Jenn got pissed because I wouldn't tell her what I needed, and then I got pissed because Jenn was pissed, and when we stopped at a gas station, I went inside for snacks, came back out, and discovered Jenn had disappeared.

The car was locked and parked. I sat down to wait, thinking she'd gone for a short walk. I was a little worried because my insulin was in the car, and getting insulin over 88 degrees makes it go bad.

After a while, sitting there on the curb crying and feeling sorry for myself, I realized Jenn hadn't come back. That wasn't like her.

I went back inside the mini-mart, looked through the aisles.

No Jenn.

I checked the bathroom.

No Jenn.

I walked around either side of the building.

No Jenn.

I started getting increasingly worried. I circled the parking lot. I went back inside and checked the aisles. I asked the cashier if he'd seen a skinny brunette about yay tall.

He shook his head.

At this point, about a million things were running through my head. Jenn is little, but fiesty. I couldn't see her disappearing among so many people without an attention-drawing fight. But she also tends to believe everyone is good until proven otherwise, and I could see her trying to help somebody and getting nabbed.

I looked along either side of the building again. I stood out on the sidewalk. Went back to the car in case she'd doubled back.

The sooner I called the police, I knew, the better chance I had. I started thinking of all the terrible things that could be happening to her. I started thinking about what would happen after the police got there.

My insulin was in the car.

Sure, I had extra insulin at home, but not the long-lasting kind I take every morning, the Lantus.

Everything in the car would be ruined. My blood sugar would plummet in a couple of hours, but my glucose meter that tests my blood sugar was in the car.

Jenn was off somewhere being raped and mutilated, and I was going to collapse into a coma among strangers.

I went back into the mini-mart one last time. I'd give her two more minutes. Two minutes, and then I was calling the fucking cops.

I pushed out of the market for the fourth time, and there was Jenn walking toward me.

She'd been lying behind the building.

I grabbed hold of her and started crying again.

We spent over an hour sitting in the car with the doors open and talking. I'm terrible at expressing myself face-to-face. I can say, "I'm tired," or "I'm sad," but that's about the breadth of my emotional vocabulary until I've had enough time to work through what I'm feeling.

The thing is, since I learned about the diabetes, I haven't been angry. You can't be angry at an illness, and I'm not a believer in a God you can pray to and blame for things, so damning God wouldn't help. I can't blame my parents, because I'm the only type 1 diabetic in our entire family circle (my grandmother's sisters had children who are type 2 diabetics, in France, and my dad is apparently a type 2 diabetic, though he didn't realize that's what he was getting the pills for until I got sick). Type 1 isn't something I could have regulated with diet and exercise, so I couldn't blame myself (in fact, I was in really good shape, which is why it took me so long to crash. I've been getting increasingly sicker for the last 8 or 9 months as my body turned on itself and attacked its own pancreas). I'd like to be upset at Planned Parenthood for not catching it before I went into a coma - frequent yeast infections are one of the prime signs of diabetes. All that extra sugar in your blood encourages the growth of yeast (oh, I can't tell you how extraordinary it is to be yeast and irritation free after 8 months!). But when I'd go in there and they'd ask if I was tired, I'd say sure, I'm tired, but I'm stressed out because of X, Y, Z. Granted, all that weight loss should have clued them in. A follow-up question like, "How many times do you urinate at night?" would have gotten them to do a blood test. I was getting up 3-4 times a night, and water tasted sooooo good that I drank it like kool-aid on a summer day.

So I didn't feel a lot of anger. I still don't. What I sometimes feel is sadness. I've always taken great pride in my independence. I avoided forming relationships and partnerships that I thought were too close. Whenever I got too reliant on someone, I'd back off and work things through again to preserve my independence. I have a core group of fantastic friends, but I've never leaned on them. It creeps me out that if I would have been alone that Sunday night, I'd be dead. I was so out of it that I was incapable of taking care of myself. I realize that at some point, this happens to everyone.

But for fuck's sake, I'm 26.

"It's nice to see a different sort of face in here," one of the nurses told me as she wheeled me upstairs to one of the general hospital rooms. "We're used to dealing with people who are 86, not 26."

Oh, wheeee.

One of the most important things, for me, is to learn how to be as independent as possible while still accepting help from the amazing people in my life. When I came home from the hospital, I had trouble turning keys in doors and had to ask Jenn to cut asparagus for me because my wrists hurt so badly. My buddy Patrick did some Reiki on me while he was in town and bought me a stone whose qualities are supposed to be good for ailments such as mine (I love my granola-munching-hippie Clarion buddy). My mom took out the trash, did the laundry, paid for tons of meals, and offered moral support. Everybody wanted to help me.

But my fear, my huge fear, the fear that fuels the bouts of sadness, is that I'm going to turn into one of those enormous, swollen-ankled sick people who can't get out of bed. I'm afraid I'll turn into someone who gives up, someone who says, "I'm sick, I can't."

That's the scariest part of all.

I tested my blood sugar when I got up this morning, had a glass of orange juice to bring it above 70, and did my morning weights routine for the first time in two weeks. Obviously, I wasn't in prime form, and had to stop and rest more often. My three sets of fifty sit-ups turned into three sets of thirty, and I had to lower my 1 set of 15 for several exercises to 1 set of 10.

But I did it.

The stronger I get, the easier it will be.

I'm going to work out on the elliptical machine at home tonight after Jenn gets home (exercise can drop your blood sugar really fast if it's too intense) and do a lot of blood testing to see how my body responds to formal exercise, then pick back up at the gym next week once I figure it all out. I've been thinking more and more about picking up the boxing classes again as well. I miss it so much. It'll just be a little trickier this time around.

Because despite my bouts of occasional sadness, I realize I'm very lucky I got diabetes in 2006 and not 1906 when there was no such thing as insulin. I'm lucky to be alive. This is the second time I've died and had to re-evaluate my life. The first time, I rejected a life I didn't want, one that was taking me increasingly closer to ending my own life. This time around, my body nearly ended my life for me.

This is an opportunity. I feel a bit like a ghost, someone living on borrowed time.

The wonderful thing about borrowed time is that every second you get after you died is that much more beautiful because of how close you were to not seeing it.

That's an odd sentence, I realize.

It goes back to what I'd said all along about wanting to excel at things physical when I spent most of my childhood sedentary:

I'm just going to have to work harder than other people.

Really, that's the only difference. I have to work harder.

This isn't a stretch for me. I realized a long time ago that if I wanted to be a really great writer, I had to work harder than most people.

And I think I do, and will continue to do so.

I have such desire. I am so full of desire to do and be and see and taste and touch everything. I want everything. I want the big life. Still. Even now.

Especially now. Because losing it all is as simple as going to sleep and not waking up.

When Jenn and I got home, I started putting everything away, unpacked my books, set up my computer for work on God's War this week, started a load of laundry, watered my plants, and as I walked into the bathroom thinking of all the things I needed to do this week - gotta get back to the weights routine, a little at a time, don't push it, pace yourself, then the gym, don't push it, pace, go, be, do, finish God's War a page at a time - a sentence popped into my head:

She wanted back her strength, her stamina, her place at the head of legions.

In my book, The Dragon's Wall, there's a half-breed woman named Zezili, a legion commander who fails in her duty to the Queen and is viciously mauled by the Queen's giant cats. Zezili loses a thumb, the ends of her fingers, most of one eye, and acquires deep cat-scratches all over her body.

When she wakes up from her fever in her new, altered, nearly ruined body, her sisters are all staring down at her. They've gathered to watch her die. The Queen releases her from service, and tells her she can either choose to retire or renew her oath to the country.

Zezili's lying there in bed, her wounds swollen and oozing pus, looking out at her expectant sisters with her one good eye, and she rejects the Queen's offer to slink back to her estate and lick her wounds.

She wanted back her strength, her stamina, her place at the head of legions.

There are times when I don't realize how much of myself, of my deeper self, my core beliefs, I put into my writing. But when I thought of what I need to do now, of the way I have to approach the rest of my life, the stubborness I'd need, the desire, the passion, I thought of Zezili.

There's a piece of you in everything you write. You just may not see those peices that often.

I have no illusions. I'm going to be sad sometimes. I'm going to hate these needles. I'm going to wish for some other life outside a broken body.

But I'm going to get up every morning. I'm going to hike up to Machu Picchu. I will run around the world and back again (and again). I will be able to live on my own. And travel on my own, if need be. It's not impossible.

I'm just going to need to work a little harder.

Like Zezili.

Like me.

My Most Memorable Wiscon Moment

Hearing Joanna Russ say she'd discovered Buffy.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Anytime I Start Feeling Sorry For Myself...

Jenn sends me a link like this.

Home Again, Home Again Jiggety Jig

Made it back to Chicago after a really great con.

My ankles are a bit swollen, my feet look fat, I'm a little sleep deprived, but otherwise I'm doing well.

Lots to say. More later, when I've gotten some sleep.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Final Wiscon Schedule

Me, Jenn and Patrick are off to Wiscon tomorrow. Here's the final schedule for the panels I'll be on. My sugars are still settling out low, so little to no alcohol for me, sadly. Dammit, I wanted my Wiscon beer...

Hope to see you all there! Swing by after and say hello. We're all staying at the Best Western.

Feminist Fiction Is So Five Minutes Ago (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 p.m. Saturday, 2:30-3:45 p.m. in Capitol A

The word "feminist" has fallen out of fashion; for some of us middle-aged crones, calling a book or story feminist will attract us, but how do we approach young women and girls to get them to read the works that made a difference for us when we were young?

The Female Warrior in Science Fiction: Who Does It Right and Who Deserves a Soft Tomato? (Reading SF&F)
Saturday, 9:00-10:15 p.m. Saturday, 9:00-10:15 p.m. in Conference Room 5

Come share your favorite titles and hear the panelists' list. It's not like an IPod playlist, it's just good stories well-written.


...was my blood count this morning, which is dangerously low. Not enough rice last night.

This balancing act is a funny thing.

Drinking some OJ and scarfing toast to even me out before breakfast.

How strange, to have a body that's totally broken.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I haven't been 176 lbs since I was 14.

Until today, that is.

Everybody has a favorite horror novel, one that just cuts right to the bone.

Mine is Stephen King's, Thinner.

I had my first follow-up appointment today. My doctor, Dr. S, says my sugar levels look good. He's concerned about the numbness in my feet, but there's apparently not a lot I can do about it right now except take some vitamin B.

I'm taking 4 insulin shots a day right now, and he says that in a month or two when he's better able to see how the Lantus (a long-acting insulin) works with my body, I may be able to go down to two shots a day over the long haul.

That would be great. Shooting up four times a day is a neccessary thing, but if I could cut that in half, well, hey.

Oh, the irony: I was well on the road to learning how to eat right and exercise. Finally taking "good" care of myself. And now I *have* to or I'll keel over and die. Or, worse: just expire gradually from diabetes-related diseases like kidney failure, while my limbs are all chopped off.

The way to prevent a slow disintegration is four shots a day, three blood tests a day, and counting every carb that goes into my mouth (oh, thank the gods I was on the Atkins diet for a year and know how to gauge these!).

When I met with the dietician, she said, "I hear you've been losing a lot of weight recently. My job is to help that stop."

That's the first - and likely the last - time anyone's every said that to me.

Imagine a world where your dietician wants to stop you from losing weight.

I am stunned. And humbled.

Reading through a lot of literature so I can figure out how to go back to doing my workouts. My wrists are nearly better, so it's time to start free weights in the morning again next week. Walking really helps bring down my glucose; more intense activity may bring it down too low.

Like everything else, it's going to be a tight-rope walk.

WisCon Membership

I've got a free last-minute Wiscon Membership - a buddy of mine who was going to go can't make it.

First person to email kameron_hurley AT gets it (please only ask for this if you can make it last minute to Wiscon!).

I'll be in Madison around 1 or 2pm on Friday and can hand over the membership then.

Let me know.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"I Have Wrestled With Death"

"I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat."

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), Marlow, in Heart of Darkness (1902).

(thanks, Jenn)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Back to Work

Well, I managed to get out here and clock in... an hour.

I'm now tired and going home.

I have the rest of the week off - working from home on Thursday.

Gonna blow this popsicle stand.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hold the Line: Or, it's Called "Catastrophic Insurance" For A Reason

Last Friday night, I felt kind of down after work so stopped in the 7-eleven on the way home and picked up a couple of hot dogs, looking for an energy boost. The hot dogs gave me heartburn, and I ended up not being hungry for a proper dinner that night. Jenn ordered her own Thai food and we watched some Babylon 5.

The next morning, I made some pancakes, as we do on Saturdays, but wasn't hungry. I tried to drink a protein shake, but my body kept insisting I wasn't hungry. Instead, I continued to drink a lot of water...

I slept all day Saturday. I felt so tired. I figured I'd been stressed all week again, taken 3 days in Indy instead of 2, stressed about the job, the book, all the stuff I should be doing. I was just tired. I was stressed out.

And so, so, tired.

Sunday, the heartburn got worse and worse. I vomited up the protein shake from the day before and started stumbling around like a drunk person, making a beeline from my room to the bathroom. I was so tired and so thirsty.

Jenn went out and bought me some Gatorade, and suggested I slow down my fluid intake and just sip my water. I felt like I had some kind of stomach flu again. Getting to the bathroom was getting tougher.

The last thing I remember is leaning over in my bed and drinking some more juice.

I was just so tired.

I just wanted to sleep forever.

And when I came to, a team of concerned hospital staff were all surrounding me and I was in some kind of windowless room. I could remember my name, and Jenn was there, and I knew who she was, but had no idea what the day was. Apparently, knowing Jenn's name and knowing I was in a hospital was a big step. When they initially brought me in, about all I knew was my own name.

So I'm told.

I have no recollection of much of anything until Tuesday; I was in and out of consciousness Sunday/Monday.

Apparently, Jenn found me standing in the bathroom at around 11:30pm or so Sunday night. She heard me breathing heavily in the bathroom, and when she pushed open the door, found me standing - dead eyed - in the middle of the room facing the door, one pupil dilated more than the other.

She managed to get me to the couch where I apparently starting vomiting red bile.

When she yelled at me, I apparently made odd grunting sounds of acknowledgement, but not coherence. Jenn called 911, and when the paramedics got me into the open air and started yelling at me, they did get actual words from me (so I hear).

From her place in the front of the ambulance, Jenn heard me tell the paramedic, "I'm fine! I'm fine!"

I could barely remember my own name, but I could tell people I was totally, totally fine and nothing was wrong with me.

But I don't remember any of that, and I don't remember anything clearly until they hefted me out of the bed in the emergency room. I'm told they put me on a general floor and I got worse; so they put me back in the ICU. I have little to no memory of Monday, but at some point Jenn came in and asked if she should call my parents. At this point, I still had no idea what was wrong with me, and Jenn had no idea how bad things were.

When my mother talked to the docotr, she said, "How serious is this?"

The doctor said, "Ma'am, let's just say she was my highest priority case last night."

A normal person's blood sugar count should be about 50-100.

When they brought me into the ICU, my blood sugar count was 640-680.

I was pretty much dead.

If I would have gone to bed; if Jenn hadn't checked on me in the bathroom; if Jenn had just shrugged and went to be early; if I was in a hotel room in Indy; I'd be dead right now.

And all I wanted to do was go to sleep. I just wanted to sleep. I'm so tired. Death, for me, was just about being so, so, so, tired.

I have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This means that my pancreas has stopped producing insulin all together. Best it's been explained to me, I had the genetic propensity for diabetes, and 6-8 months ago, when I started losing all this weight and getting really thirsty and tired and stressed all the time, I got a virus. It was likely the stomach flu that took me down for a week last year. As with AIDS or cancer, my body turned not only on the virus, but on my pancreas as well.

Because I took good care of myself and was in such good shape, it's taken this long to basically break down my body. My body bled through every single defense it had, and was literally eating me alive, which is why I lost so much weight. Since I couldn't process the food I was eating, I could eat whatever I wanted, and my body burned all of my fat and muscle.

I spent three days in the ICU getting my blood taken every few hours and having my blood sugar taken every hour. They tried three times to dig into my right wrist to open up a line so they wouldn't have to tap me out every time they needed to draw blood. The third time they tried to do this to me, I was actually conscious, and thrashed on the bed while the doctor hunted for an artery with a huge needle and finally stopped - while blood rushed out all over the bed - because I was in too much pain. I'm having trouble using my right hand to turn keys in doors now.

When I was mostly conscious, one of the doctors - a cardiologist from Durban of all places - came in and explained what had happened.

My pancreas had stopped working and I was going to have to rely on insulin shots for the rest of my life.

It was like being hit on the back of the head with a shovel.

My feet started to get numb. My vision was blurry. There was pain and blood every few hours. My period started. My catheter leaked. I got thrush.

Jenn was able to sleep overnight in the room with me the first couple nights, and my mom arrived on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, I was moved from the ICU to the general ward; a cold, stark, lonely room with a big dirty window that looked out over the building site of a parking garage.

People in the ICU kept coming in and checking on me. I was the talk of Sunday night, apparently, and no one could quite believe I was alive. All the staff who talked to Jenn asked why I wasn't taking my shots or following my "diabetic diet."

Getting hit on the head with the diabetes type 1 shovel doesn't often happen to a 26 year old. If you have type 1, you generally get it early.

Mine pretty much brought me to death's door.

They got me off the catheter on Wednesday, but that night, my blood sugar spiked again, and they put me back on the insulin. One of my IVs came out, so when the night nurse came to check on me, she found that my arm had swelled up, and had to take out the IV from there and hook it up to the backup IV.

It was cold and dark and awful in that airless room, and when a nurse walked in at 12:30am telling me she was taking my blood again (not the finger prick but the actual digging with a needle, again), I lost it. I lost it just like a little kid and put one hand over my face and said, "No, no no."

"It's fine," she said, "you're going to be fine."

But my wrists and arms were covered in bruises and track marks. The nurses and doctors kept changing. No one knew when I was going to go home. I'd been told I was going home Wednesday, but that didn't happen. I was lucky to get the catheter out (I had to beg and beg). If you want to torture someone, put them in a dank, cold, whitewashed room and leave them alone there. Come in and randomly draw blood and confuse their eating schedules (I had one idiot nurse turn my food away because she was looking at the previous day's meal chart for me), give them a good case of thrush so by the time they're ready to eat solid food swallowing is painful, keep the lights coming on and off and having strange people come in and out and make them lie around in their own blood and urine for three days, and see how it goes.

Three days was my breaking point. I lay there in bed and sobbed and clutched at a bunched up blanket.

Then I was done.

They kept me until Thursday, after much debate among a number of doctors.

I picked up how to do the shots pretty easily, so I guess they felt it was best to send me home before my hospital bill reached 50K (we have a running bet about how much this will be. I have a $2500 deductible, then my insurance pays 80%, and I'll pay the other 20%. Guess where my money's going if I ever sell a book?).

I spent $400 out of pocket for medication, and tottered home with Jenn and my mom.

Jenn saved my life. I was and am lucky to have her. She made surviving the hospital possible. My mom's been invaluable here just for helping with basic things like taking out the trash and doing the laundry and getting us food. I'm so happy to have them both here. I love them so much.

I haven't had much time to process what all this means. I just got out of the hospital on Thursday, and right now I'm just struggling to get my blood sugar count to even out.

I'm focusing on trying not to die.

I picked up one of those bracelets that ID me as diabetic. I'm not a fool. I realize that not having a working pancreas means death's a lot closer than it used to be. Death is just so easy. It's such an easy thing - I was just going to go to sleep.

There are things I'm going to have to come to terms with - the fact that I could fall into a coma and die without anyone around is now a real, tangible concern.

I don't intend to be an invalid, of course - lot of people have diabetes- but it means that I'm going to have to work harder than other people to have the life I want.

Right now my wrists and arms hurt so badly I can't lift weights, and Jenn's giving me foot rubs to help my numb feet.

I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life, and I think I need to take some time and enjoy that.

However, if I seem a bit drawn and pale at Wiscon (yes, I'm still going!), well, I do have a pretty good story.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Oh, My Chicago Office, How I Have Missed You

Dilbert cartoon tacked above the copy machine this morning:

Dilbert is sitting eating a banana. Below is the caption:

"Doing it right is no excuse not to meet the schedule."

We have 36 sites to integrate in two weeks.


We're so all going to lose our jobs.

Oh well.

New "Anti Abortion Pill" Kills Mother, Leaves Fetus Alive!!

Sometimes, The Onion scares me.

(thanks, Patrick!)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Oh, the Joys of Antenna Radiation Exposure!

Today we are learning about the joys of antenna radiation over-exposure.

Keep throwing those cellphone antennas on top of your buildings, chiklits!

I Am Growing Soft in My Old Age

Our office is built on a huge swamp over here in Indy. So today we got to watch some of these cross the parking lot and hop up on the curb -

Way too cute. Perhaps the springtime is bringing out my affection for cuteness.

Do Women Deserve the Right To Vote?

Yes, she's seriously asking that question.

First abortion, then contraception, then the right to vote...

Most frightening of all?

These are women arguing to take away these rights from other women.

What a surreal world I live in. It's like being in Eastern Europe during the Russian occupation.

If I'm not stuck in some vile 1980s movie about Soviet oppression, I feel surreally stuck in V for Vendetta (you go, Colbert!).

(via pandagon)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"If I Can Dissuade You From Becoming a Writer, Then You Never Should Have Thought About Becoming a Writer"

"I'm of the perhaps unpopular opinion that anyone who can be dissuaded from writing, should be dissuaded from writing."


I had a dream last night that Yellow had converted to Islam.

I asked him, "What's the worst part about being a Muslim?"

And he said, "I keep hitting my head all the time."

That's what I get for working on God's War right before bed.

Why Dan Brown's Writing is Really Bad

Really, really bad.

(via mumpsimus)

Why is it I Still Get So Excited When I See That Someone's Going to Do a Radio Show "Aimed at Women?"

Because it's the same old story.

Whoopi Goldberg will be doing a radio show "for women", but:

Her voice will be "lighter" than the current crop of predominantly male morning DJs, she says. "I want to have fun."

It's almost like she's afraid of causing controversy.

Her topics will include:

banter on American Idol or Lost, she says. Or chatter on where to find the best hot dog in America. "Not just a good one," she says. But "Who has the best hot dog?"

Oh, come on! I can get that over at Nick's blog!

heh heh

If they really want "ratings" how about talking about Plan B, street harassment, women heroes and atheletes, abortion, how to run for Senate, and whether or not strong women really cause erectile dysfuction?

Now that's a radio show I'd tune into.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The One Good Thing About Spending Every Week In Indy...

Is that after awhile, you get into a routine. Stay at the same hotel. Walk the 1/3 of a mile to the little restaurant complex, choose the Mexican place, the Sports Bar, the Cafe, or the sandwich shop. Stop into Starbucks, perhaps. Walk to the grocery store to pick up bottled water and the next day's lunch.

Walk back to the hotel, get to the gym perhaps, play a little Neverwinter Nights, do some novel writing, take a bath, hop into bed and watch "Animal Rescue" on Animal Planet, sleep, get up at 7am, shower, head down to breakfast, walk across the street to work.

When you fly every week, it's nice to have a routine. I was really worried about all this traveling getting me really depressed and down, but the weather's good and every meal and Starbuck's coffee is on the company's tab.

It could be worse.


Another day, another dollar.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Writing Life

Kidnapping scene, trade off, cutting off Raine's ear, big boxing climax scene (you know I've been dying to use that phrase), wrap up.

And then I'll have a draft of God's War!!

More or less.

Spring is Arrived!

Jenn and I were lying in bed the other night, reading. The window was open, the room was cool; it was a lovely spring night. I'd gotten some writing done; she'd been working diligently all week on a bunch of psych studies for her doctoral thesis.

I turned to her and said, "It's nice to be happy. I don't think I ever really knew what a normal relationship was like."

For the first time in my life, I feel like I'm dating an adult. Our biggest arguments revolve around stuff like who gets to use the 30% off coupon at Borders and whether or not we'll watch another episode of Babylon 5.

I tended to end up with guys who had mother issues. I got to fill in as Mom; if they could convince themselves that I loved them, then maybe it would make up for the absent or abusive mothers they had in their past. It's nice to be wanted and loved, but all that wanting and love starts to suffocate when you realize that you've gotten emmeshed with someone who's an emotional black hole. No matter how much you love them, no matter how often you say it, no matter how much you try and change your behavior because they find it abhorrent, you'll always be the bad guy. You'll always be the terrible mother figure. You'll never do or be enough, no matter the contortions you engage in.

So to be in a relationship with someone who's emotionally stable, has a normal family life, and doesn't try and claw you into pieces so that they feel better is a new experience. It's strange to have long weeks of total happiness without emotional freak-outs or strange, sudden emotional reversals. I spent so long in relationships where somebody screaming or crying all the time was the norm that I had no idea that it was possible to have a relationship where you could just be happy... and have the luxery of engaging in arguments about Borders coupons.

If you date a crazy person, you eventually become a crazy person too.

I'd always wanted to date someone I thought was my equal, somebody who was my buddy, and that's exactly what this relationship is. And... we're getting things done. So much work is getting done in this house. There are no screaming fights, no sobbing fits, no work-tradeoffs so we can spend three or four hours calming the other one down from some perceived slight. We can tackle each other and harrass each other and read books and quote from things and write books and stay late working on various projects as needed without worrying about what the emotional fall out will be if our actions are misinterpreted. If I'm having a bad night and want to go to bed, I can say I'm having a bad night and want to go to bed, and Jenn doesn't accuse me of hating her (and vice versa).

Since we both came out of relationships with partners where one didn't take such things for granted, it's been a revelation to realize that that's *not* how relationships have to be. The problem was, Jenn and I had done so little dating that we weren't sure how "hard" a relationship should be. How much fighting and exhaustion and depression and counseling and hysteria should you put up with before you realize you and your partner aren't compatible?

Because it's not only Jenn and I who are doing much better since our breakups (we were both the ones who did the breaking). Our respective exes are doing a hell of a lot better as well. They hate us (mine especially hates me), but they're doing way, way better than they were when they were dating us.

I'm so happy I made the right decision. If my ex has to hate me and paint me into the Big Bad Monster from his childhood in order to deal with the breakup, that's OK, because that's how he has to get through it, and he's been doing a lot better since. I hope things continue to go well for him.

As for me, I'm loving life. I'm loving springtime. The tree outside my window has put on its leaves, I just bought some tomato plants, and my backstoop garden is looking lovely (particularly the morning glories). Wiscon is coming up, my buddy Patrick and his family will be here soon, God's War is clipping along nicely once again, I cleaned out my closet so I've now only got clothes that acutally *fit* me in there, I'm reading lots of books, and have I mentioned how lovely spring is?

What a terrible thing stress and depression are.

I really don't want to box myself in like that ever again. I don't want to live in a world covered over in the gray gauze of depression, or suffer long stress-induced illnesses.

I need to figure out the life I want and live that. I can't try to live the life I think will make someone else happy, or the life I think other people think will make me happy.

Deep breath.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

I Am Hungry

I need a cheeseburger.

So *That's* What That Thing Is

The Indianapolis Airport has one of those GE "puffer" machines. It's not neccessarily used in secondary security screenings as happened to this woman - I've been through it the last two times I headed back to Chicago. It was the shortest line, so I stepped into it.

Here's what it is:

GE Ion Track's revolutionary walk-through portal quickly screens people for contraband without physical contact. Thanks to our patented Ion Trap Mobility Spectrometer (ITMS®) technology, EntryScan3 detects a wider range of explosives and narcotics with unprecedented sensitivity. It is the ideal complement to X-ray and metal detectors.

For higher throughput, visible and audible commands streamline checkpoints by automatically directing passengers to enter or leave the portal. If traces of explosives or narcotics are detected-or a person leaves before being prompted-EntryScan3 instantly sounds an alarm to facilitate rapid containment.

"To facilitate rapid containment."

Oh, how I love techno-terror-babble.

Here's what it looks like:

The "puffs" of air are just like those puffs you have to get when they check your eyes for.. what is it? Cataracts or something. Not terribly pleasant.

It's an odd, science-fictional little machine. You have to stand there inside the machine and wait for it to blast you with air. Then wait some more for the voice to tell you you're "allowed" to step out.

Just one more fun contrapment to run us all through so we'll feel more safe and secure under the watchful eye of Big Brother.

Perhaps it's better than drug-sniffing dogs and AK-47s.



I had a first-generation Ukrainian cut my hair yesterday (I work with a ton of first-generation Ukrainians at work - Yellow is 2nd generation Ukrainian - so I'm pretty good at pegging the accent. Sadly, I don't know any Ukrainian words however), and I think there may have been a bit of a language barrier involved in me understanding what she thought I saying I wanted, and I ended up with a haircut that makes me look like one of the original 70s Charlie's Angels, only shorter (I told Jenn, "I have Farrah hair. Dear God.")

Hopefully it'll grow out a little before Wiscon. I look so dorky.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

God's War: Excerpt


Rhys wiped the grit from the windows inside the bus with the already dirty end of his burnous. The clasp mechanism at the top of his window was broken; hot air and red dust blew in from the road and covered Rhys is a fine mist. He pulled his burnous over his nose and mouth. Red ants crawled along the floor. He kept wiping them from his boots. A man in a blue turban sat next to him, clinging to a carpet bag with arthritis-knotted hands. Rhys wanted to take the man’s hands in his and sooth them, but healing without permission got Chenjan magicians killed. Black-clad women sat three to a seat in the back of the bus, juggling luggage and children in their laps. The front was nearly empty. A few old men with wisps of gray hair and a young man just old enough to enter combat training took up a few seats.

Rhys didn’t know why the man with the turban sat next to him when there were so many empty seats, not until the man started speaking.

“I don’t see many men on the roads,” the old man said. “Not whole men, anyway. I sit alone in the opium houses. Some of them are run by widows now, did you know? Have you come from the fighting?”

“No,” Rhys said. “I keep a family in Dadfar.” He supposed Nyx and her bloody crew were something like a family.

“Is that so? How many sons do you have?”

“Just the one,” Rhys said, and thought of his father.

“Just one? Just one? A great misfortune, many men would say. You must punish your wives, or take another.”

“It is not their fault alone,” Rhys said. Most rural men still believed that women had some control over the sex of their children, and bore girls for spite. Even the men who knew better still clung to the old superstitions. It gave them someone to blame for their misfortunes. Someone besides God.

The turbaned man tapped his head and pushed up the blue turban to reveal a bald head. One half of the visible bald skull was a pale green. His head must have been blown apart at the front. Organic fixes often replaced missing or shattered skull bones.

“You see this? Too many boys in my family. I was first to the front,” the man said.

“And the rest of your brothers?”

The man readjusted the turban, crinkled his face. “Twenty brothers in all. Gone now. All gone.”

“Yes,” Rhys said. He thought of all the men at the front. Thought of the genocide of an entire gender. He waved his hands over his boots again, and the ants obediently dropped off. But they would be back. Red ants were notoriously finicky bugs to work with.

Bahreha lay in a wide river valley about thirty-five kilometers east of Dadfar. The bus wound down a low rise of mountains and looked out over the wasted river plain. Rhys’s father had shown him pictures of Bahreha before the first wave of bombings. Bahreha had been a desert oasis, one of the big trade centers along the border. What little trade from Nasheen that came down the river now consisted of shipments of red and black goods. They came in under the cover of darkness and departed in the same manner. Bahreha sold more slaves and illegal organics than it did bread and corn and lapis. The great palms that once shaded the river had been cut or burned, and the tremendous tiled fountains of the market and government districts were broken and dry. The green parks where children once played were now sandy brown lots infested with small dogs and feral cats and refugees.

The bus pulled into a busy transit station packed with informal taxis, bakkies, and rickshaws. Vendors dressed in colorful but tattered clothing swarmed the bus when it arrived and pushed fried chicken, hunks of bread, hard candies, and more useless items at the passengers as they disembarked – shampoos, bath caps, costume jewelry, fake leather belts and cheap cloth for turbans. A couple of creepers lurked at the edges of the crowds carrying their big nets and collections of bugs in little wooden cages.

Rhys pushed through the heaving tide and started walking through the center of the ruined city toward the riverfront. Ten years before, he would not have dreamed of walking through this city. His mother would have wailed at the thought. The city was full of Chenjeens, Nasheenian refugees, and Chenjan draft-dodgers, a seething mass of the unemployed and the unemployable. The few businesses still open had security guards with muzzled cats on leashes posted out front. Those businesses retired from service entirely had heavy grates over the windows and wasp swarms humming just behind the barred doors. Rhys could feel them.

Rhys walked the two kilometers to the riverfront high rises. Two decades before, the buildings were the most sought-after property in Bahreha. Inside their now barred courtyards, overgrown thorn bushes hid the blasted patterns of old succulent gardens.

Rhys buzzed at the gate of a wind-scoured building that needed a new coat of paint and a long visit from an exterminator. Geckos skittered in and out of crevices along the outside of the building, shielded by thorn bushes, and colonies of red ants pooled out all along the foundation.

He buzzed twice more before a tinny voice answered, “Who’s there?”

Rhys hesitated. “Am I speaking to Abdul-Nasser?”

There was a long pause.

“You an order keeper?”

“No. Kin.”

Another pause. Then, “Come in quickly.”

The gate swung open.

Rhys crossed the dead courtyard and went up a set of wooden steps. Someone had applied new paint to the center of the steps, but neglected the edges. Under the awning at the corner of the building, down a short open corridor, was door number 316. Rhys raised his hand to the buzzer, but the door cracked open before he pressed it.

Rhys saw half a face, one dark, weeping eye peering out at him. The cloying, too-sweet stink of opium wafted out into the corridor, mixed with the old, heavy smell of tobacco.

“Rakhshan,” the old man said.

Rhys felt something stir at the name. No one had called him that in nearly a decade.

“Abdul-Nasser Arjoomand?”

“Hush. Come in.” Abdul opened the door just enough for Rhys to squeeze past him. The room was dim, and Rhys paused a moment in the door to wait for his pupils to dilate. Yellow gauze covered the windows.

He heard the door close behind him, and turned to see Abdul bolting it with three heavy bars. After, Abdul swept his hands over the bars, and a stir of red beetles swarmed the edges of the doorway.

“Now we can speak privately,” Abdul said, and offered his hands to Rhys. Rhys took them.

The sockets of Abdul’s black eyes seemed to sag in his lined face, like an old dog’s. The sleeves of his threadbare tunic were pushed up, so when Rhys took his hands he saw old and new bruises on the man’s wrists and forearms.

“You’re still taking venom,” Rhys said.

Abdul shrugged, but he pulled away his hands and pushed down the sleeves of his tunic. “You know what I need for my work,” Abdul said.

“I do,” Rhys said.

The little one-room flat was a ruckus of equipment; bits of old consoles and bug-pans, piles of disintegrating boxes and papers, worm-eaten books, tangles of leaking wires and cracked bottles of organic feed and roach fluid. Bug cages and aquariums took up one entire wall. Dead locusts littered the floor. The dim lighting was in part due to the strain on the room’s internal grid – most of the power was being re-routed to the water pumps that fed the frogs, cicadas, markflies, turtles, tadpoles, waterskimmers, and multitudes of fish in various states of living and dying that clogged the aquariums.

“How have you faired? Let me get you something,” Abdul said. “Tea, something.”

“Thank you,” Rhys said.

Abdul wended his way around the cluttered room to the wall of the kitchen. Dishes overflowed in the tiny sink. Flies circled the dirty plates. When Rhys followed after Abdul to help with the tea, he saw something crawling in the sink, and saw that the damp, filthy plates bred maggots.

“Maybe we can just sit and talk,” Rhys said.

Abdul shook his head. His hair was tucked under a turban, so Rhys did not have to look at the state of it, but he did stink, as if he did not wash even for the abulation.

“No,” Abdul said. “I am still civilized. We must have tea.”

He clattered around, rinsed out a dirty tea pot, and tried to get the fire bugs in his hot plate to stir.

In the end, the tea was lukewarm, in dirty cups, set on a tea table that had once been a com counter. There were no chairs. They sat on old cushions that stank of dogs.

“So you are a magician now,” Abdul said. “Those old women took you in?”

“They did.”

“No doubt they agreed with what you did.”

Rhys sighed. “It was some time ago.”

“Yes. I have not seen your father since.”

“Have you been to Chitra?”

“A time or two.

“You’ve seen my sisters?”

“Yes, all married now.”

“To whom?”

“Best I can recall, a local magistrate. The one who mooned over them.”

“Nikou Bahman. The one my father hated.”

“Yes, that man.”

Rhys stared at the tea. He could not bring himself to drink it. He kept thinking of the maggots in the sink.

“He already had three wives,” Rhys said.

“Did you expect it would go differently? Your sisters were disgraced when you did not burn Jarerah for her crimes. She had to set herself on fire just to save the others. Your father nearly burned them all. He thought no one would take them, not even as a fourth or fifth wife.”

Rhys took a deep breath. “But they married.”


“Good. Children?”

“All boys. You have four nephews.” Abdul picked up his tea, but did not drink it. His hands trembled. “But you did not come to me for that. Not after ten years.”

“No,” Rhys said. He pulled the transmission canisters from his tunic pocket and set them on the table. “I need to read these. Our com man may have died for them.”

Abdul set down his tea and took one of the rectangles into his hand. He rubbed it between thumb and forefinger, pressed it to his ear and shook it.

“Ah,” he said. “This is expensive.” He bit it. “This is government. Nasheenian.”

“Can you read it?”

“Yes.” Abdul stood and went to a tangle of equipment at the far end of the aquarium wall. He unpacked some material, uncovered a com console, and inserted the rectangle into the panel. He tapped out a signal to the chittering bugs in the console.

Rhys got up and stood next to him.

A strong female voice bled out from the speakers.

“Don’t tell anyone,” she said, “what I’m about to tell you…”

They listened to both canisters.

“Can you get me a transcription of this?” Rhys asked with a growing sense of dread as Nyx’s dead sister spun out her plan.

Abdul pressed a button on the console. “Put your hand here,” he told Rhys, and Rhys put his hand on the faceplate next to the printer button. He felt a soft prickling on his hand.

Blank organic paper began to roll out of the console.

“It will respond only to your touch,” Abdul said. “I’ve locked it as well, for forty-eight hours. It won’t open until then. Keep it close until you need it. I hope you have a trustworthy employer.”

Rhys stared at the paper as it came out of the machine, even as Kine’s voice continued to speak to him about how she would destroy his country.

“What sort of trouble have you gotten yourself into?” Abdul muttered, staring at the speakers as if the voice would take on human form and step from the machine so he could throttle her.

“More than I know,” Rhys said. “You’ll destroy these transmissions?”

“Oh yes. The moment it’s done transcribing. You best not stay long.”

“I’m sorry, uncle,” Rhys said.

“You were bound for trouble. Born under an inauspicious star, your mother said.”

“Have you seen my mother?”


“But she’s all right?”

“Why did you come back here now, after ten years, to ask such questions?”

The printer stopped. Abdul tucked the papers into a leather case and handed them to Rhys.

“This is important,” Rhys said. “You heard what this woman said. I need to get this back to my employer and decide what we’re going to do with it.”

“Your employer is Nasheenian,” Abdul said.

“Think what you will,” Rhys said. He tucked the leather case into his satchel. “I should go. I said I wouldn’t be long.”

“Said that to a woman? How old are you, Rakhshan?”

“You sound like my father.”

Abdul grunted. He rubbed at his arms. “Eh,” he said.

Rhys moved to the door. He waved the red roaches away and unbolted the doors.

Abdul stayed close behind. Rhys could smell him. Rhys turned, looked into his uncle’s weeping eyes.

“I did the right thing,” Rhys said.

Abdul said, “That is between you and God.”

Rhys gripped the old man’s arms. “Stay away from the venom,” he said.

“Be careful among the women,” Abdul said.

Rhys made to pull away, but Abdul held him.

“And know this,” Abdul said. “You are our last boy, the only one with our name. Whatever you do, whatever you need, you come to me. Ten hours or ten years from now.”

“I know, uncle,” Rhys said.

“Good.” Abdul released him and quickly shut the door.

Rhys pressed his hand to his satchel and the transcription, reassuring himself it was still there. He started back down the corridor and down the open stair.

He walked back to the taxi ranks. The call sounded for afternoon prayer, and he found the mosque nearest the ranks and knelt. He unrolled the prayer rug from his back. After, he went for lunch at a Mhorian restaurant that served kosher food. The afternoon heat kept the crowds away from the taxi ranks, and after lunch he sat out under the shade of the weather stalls at the ranks and waited.

He read from The Good Book. A bus pulled up ahead of him. When he looked at the sign in the window, he saw that it was headed for Chitra.

Rhys stared at the bus. He thought of what his mother would say if she saw him. Would she merely ignore him? Shriek? Turn away? He wanted to think that she would open her arms to him and invite him to her table. She would cook a heavy meal - eight dishes - and his father would come home and laugh and smoke and tell him how proud he was to have a magician for a son.

He enjoyed the fantasy.

“Rhys Dax?”

He stirred from his dream, then jerked himself awake. It was dangerous to fall asleep in public, even while sitting on your purse.

Rhys squinted up at the big figure in front of him. He did not recognize him. Two more dark figures stood off to the man’s right. Rhys saw very little. The sun was directly behind them.

“What do you want?” Rhys asked, raising his hand to his brow. “I think you have me mixed up with someone else.”

“No, I don’t think so,” the big man said.

Rhys’s fingers twitched. He prepared to call a swarm of wasps.

“Let’s not be hasty,” one of the other figures said, and something rolled toward him, blew smoke.

Rhys coughed and raised his hands.

The big man grabbed him by the burnous and dragged him to his feet. Rhys reached for his pistols, but the man twisted both Rhys's arm neatly behind him.
A magician stood with the man, one hand raised, a swarm of wasps already circling her head.

“So you’re her beautiful boy,” the big man said. “I don’t see you much at the Cage. Thought you were just a rumor.”

“You’re mistaken –“ Rhys began.

“No, I think not,” Raine said. “Let us see if she cares any more for you than she does her little half-breed boy.”

The Writing Life

Logged a couple of rejections this week, both for stories that are very good but hard to find a home for. I may need to start throwing one of them toward horror markets. May be a better fit there.

On the other side, I received my check and my contract from Strange Horizons (Oh, how I love SH, sending a check *with* the contract, and stamping the SAE! Near and dear to my heart). At least half of all my writing money from now on goes into savings, so there's another $70 toward the moving fund.

Working on God's War today while I format CDs for the day job.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Back @ Work

Written a chapter of God's War today, so far.

Looks like I might finish this book someday.

Oh yay.