Ruminations Part 6 – Professionalize this, Buddy

My first rumination can be found at Ruminations Part I – “Your eyes are completely healed”
My second at Ruminations Part 2 – Numbers lead to informed decisions
Rumination Part 3-1 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 1
Rumination Part 3-2 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 2
Rumination Part 3-3 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 3 – I Take a “Writing the Other” class
Rumination Part 3-4 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 4 – Is your character POC or POM?
Ruminations Part 4 is Ruminations Part 4 – I can’t talk to women anymore
Ruminations Part 5 is Ruminations Part 5 – Joseph Carrabis (was/could be/might have been) (Personal Pronouns in Fun and Earnest)


Long, long ago I read Robert Silverberg’s NightWings and loved it. I reread it in college, again in my thirties, in my fifties, and it’s on my shelf for yet another read as I type this.

 
My latest version has a new introduction by Silverberg and is the genesis of this rumination.

Personal Setbacks
Silverberg mentions some personal losses in his new introduction; his house caught fire and he lost many works in progress (this was in the 1960s. “Backup” was a carbon copy you kept in another room). He sent an editor a rough version of NightWings. Silverberg lived in New York City, the editor’s offices were in New York City, people knew each other in the NYC science fiction/fantasy writing community, and the editor, knowing Silverberg’s situation, offered him LOTS of money for the rough draft.

…it was the sort of favor that one professional would automatically grant another in a time of crisis.

 
Silverberg describes it as “…the sort of favor that one professional would automatically grant another in a time of crisis.”
Continue reading “Ruminations Part 6 – Professionalize this, Buddy”

The Last Drop

The following piece started life as an exericise in mood, atmosphere, and tone.

I’m waiting for some first readers to get back to me on it. One first reader offered, “I got a sickening chill when I got to the end.”

Hurray! I won!

Let me know what you think.


The Last Drop


People use to come from miles around to watch my father pour gas. He could pour gas through the eye of a needle into a siphon-tank without spilling a drop. They’d come, their near empty gas cans on the back of their buckboards, the cans braced all around so they wouldn’t fall over, spill, slosh around.

There were special gas pouring days back then and dad was the only one in our country who had a license to pour.

It was a wondrous thing to watch. He’d put one can on the ground in front of him, walk around it a few times, maybe put his hands on his hips or cross them over his chest and lift one hand to stroke the stubble on his chin, considering. Real difficult pours, he’d get down on his knees and hands, put his head down at ground level, looking around the can, checking for balance; would the can teeter as it filled? Would it slide as it neared full?

Then he’d start with a single, small, drop. A “test drop,” he’d call it. Everybody held their breath. He’d check the neck of the can after the test drop, make sure there was no spillage.

Warm days were the worst. Everybody’d have to stand back lest the fumes got inhaled. Couldn’t have that. Other pourers weren’t as careful as my dad. The fumes would escape and everybody’d have to go see the magistrate, explain what happened. Why weren’t proper precautions taken? My father never had to face that, never had to worry about asking the community to make a decision; make them decide what value would this person bring us? Is their contribution moving forward worth the gasoline fumes now resting in their lungs, in their blood? We can extract the fumes, reconstitute the gasoline, but the person would die.


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A MidWinter Herd

There are some blessings…that leave one wordless. Not quite speechless (that would truly be a blessing) but wordless.

The Wild finds ways to delight and amaze even when one’s delight and amaze buttons are exhausted.

Here, a herd of deer came to visit. They stayed quite a while.

We are blessed.

 

Ruminations Part 5 – Joseph Carrabis (was/could be/might have been) (Personal Pronouns in Fun and Earnest)

My first rumination can be found at Ruminations Part I – “Your eyes are completely healed”
My second at Ruminations Part 2 – Numbers lead to informed decisions
Rumination Part 3-1 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 1
Rumination Part 3-2 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 2
Rumination Part 3-3 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 3 – I Take a “Writing the Other” class
Rumination Part 3-4 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 4 – Is your character POC or POM?
Ruminations Part 4 is Ruminations Part 4 – I can’t talk to women anymore


A friend is writing a story with a host of LGBTQPOC (what am i missing? these things are so fluid i must be missing someone. i learned today about hobosexuals. those are people who enter relationships just to have a place to stay) characters. Several of these ruminations stem from my wanting to understand her work.

But I can’t tell one character from the other. Sometimes the name gives it away, sometimes not. One of the major problems for me is that the reader is told a character’s LGBTQPOCism, not shown, and I don’t mean shown via a love or sex scene. Identity markers can be revealed through dialogue, setting, by other characters’ responses and reactions, et cetera (as noted in Ruminations Part 4 – I can’t talk to women anymore).

But such character and story issues deal with craft. I’m not invested enough as a reader to care about the characters’ LGBTQPOCness. It hasn’t been demonstrated as a relevant story element so why is it in the story? Nothing I’ve read of my friend’s work so far directly requires LGBTQPOCishness, and as I wrote in Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 1, if something can be edited out of a story without affecting the story, get rid of it!

You need better readers
No, you need to write better.

A reader’s inability to care about some story element is a weakness in the writing. People who’d never pick up my The Augmented Man give it high marks and start their reviews with “Military thrillers are not my go-to genre, but…,” hence such weaknesses are in the writing, not the reader. An interesting story told well will capture a reader regardless of that reader’s genre tastes.

I’m X. I’m a gay male.
A fellow I knew introduced himself with “I’m (name). I’m a gay male.”

Stating he was gay was the second piece of information he offered about himself. To him (it seems), his sexual identity was a public identifier.

Somehow I can’t imagine myself saying something like “Go down the hall and look for X, he’s the gay guy.” I can imagine myself saying something like “Look for a guy, mid-thirties, blond beard, glasses, really close cropped hair.” More likely I’d say something ilke “Go down the hall and keep saying ‘Is X here?’ until you find him.” I’d choose the latter method because it’s more efficient.

I’ve heard others making similar statements about themselves; elevating some aspect of themselves to the single most important piece of their identity.

Such behavior fascinates me.

Imagine someone announcing to someone they’ve just met some aspect of themselves as being paramount, the core of their existence, to the exclusion of all other aspects of their being. It’s like some bizarre Twelve-Step meeting; “Hi, I’m Joseph. I love Bach.” “Hi, I’m Joseph. I love mathematics.” “Hi, I’m Joseph. I’m boring and dull.”

Which is why I never succeeded at Twelve-Step meetings except to research them; they make one single aspect of one’s self the thing you most want to be identified by or as. I appreciate the need to do it in specific situations (working Twelve-Step being one, with “working” being operative).
Continue reading “Ruminations Part 5 – Joseph Carrabis (was/could be/might have been) (Personal Pronouns in Fun and Earnest)”

The Grand Ture

The following piece has been in my unfinished pile since April 1991 (and probably predates that by a few months). It’s gone from 5,000 words to its present ~775. The core idea has remained throughout, it’s framing and presenting it properly that’s taken me years to figure out.

I’m waiting for some first readers to get back to me on it. Let me know what you think.


The Grand Ture


Mace stepped out of his tractor and into the early August heat of the Boston blast zone. He listened for the ocean. It shouldn’t be too far away. Much of Boston was landfill and the bombs – the big ones hidden for years in abandoned buildings – caused the sea to reclaim its own. The stench of The Charles entered him like swallowed bile and he watched the waves come up from the east, from the Atlantic, as if the ocean pushed The Charles’ filth back, refused it, said, “No thanks, those bodies and wrecks are yours, keep them to yourself. I don’t need them.”

The young girl’s voice called him from the bunker. “Hello? I’m not going to open the door until you tell me who you are.”

Mace lifted his service pack out of the tractor, strapped it on his back, and tightened its belt around his narrow waist.

“Hello? Can you hear me?”

Just inside the tractor’s door, on the right and only visible when the door’s pneumatics opened it fully, rested like a high-resolution mezuza; a photograph of a little girl, her arms raised and waiting to be lifted in someone’s arms, her eyes and smile open and wide, her blonde hair caught in some wind.

Mace’s fingers went from his lips to the photograph and he tapped the door to close.

“Hello? I know you’re out there. Who are you? Answer me!”


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