We’ve arrived in DC — where democracy is taking a beating, fingers crossed it will survive — and tomorrow the whole AWP shebang begins. Our books are still in transit due to the ice storm that hit the northeast. With luck I’ll be getting them today and by tomorrow there will be a lovely table (110-T, come on by and say hello) full of books all neatly set up and ready for dispersement into the world.
There are approximately four quadrillions readings and parties going on in the next few days. Here are a few Small Beer-related or -adjacent during the conference and then on Saturday at 6 pm we have a reading with Kelly Link & Juan Martinez at Politics and Prose.
Signing at the Small Beer Press table: 110-T (on the edge, near Tin House)
10:00am to 10:30am Juan Martinez
10:30am to 11:00am Sofia Samatar
11:00am to 11:30am Kelly Link
|Thursday, February 9, 2017|
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
Marquis Salon 7 & 8, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
R205. The Political Woman: Historical Novelists Reimagine and Reclaim Women’s Place in Politics. (Erin Lindsay McCabe, Gina Mulligan , Karen Joy Fowler, Alex Myers, Mary Volmer) While rarely central and often discounted, women have always played a role in politics. In this panel, historical novelists discuss how and why they chose to unearth and reimagine the lost and untold stories of women in politics. What are the risks and rewards of using fiction to place women at the center of political narratives? What liberties are novelists compelled, or unwilling, to take with the historical record?
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Ballroom A, Washington Convention Center, Level Three
R282. Jennifer Egan, Karen Joy Fowler, and Hannah Tinti: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. (Ron Charles, Jennifer Egan, Karen Joy Fowler, Hannah Tinti) This event will bring together three engaging contemporary female writers to read and discuss their craft. Jennifer Egan is the author of five books, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. Karen Joy Fowler is the author of nine books, including We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award. Hannah Tinti is the author of three books, including The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, which will be published in 2017.
|Saturday, February 11, 2017 View Full Schedule|
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
Liberty Salon N, O, & P, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
S181. Immigrants/Children of Immigrants: A Nontraditional Path to a Writing Career . (Ken Chen , Monica Youn, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Juan Martinez, Irina Reyn ) Not only do you not have an uncle in publishing or see people from the neighborhood get MFAs, immigrants and children of immigrants are inculcated to opt for “safe,” “secure,” often well-paying jobs; a writing career may seem like an unimaginable luxury or a fantasy. This panel of working writers looks at both psychic and structural issues that add a special challenge for writers from immigrant families.
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Marquis Salon 9 & 10, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
S271. The Short Story as Laboratory. (Lesley Nneka Arimah, Carmen Maria Machado, Kendra Fortmeyer, Sofia Samatar, Juan Martinez) What does short fiction allow? The form is beloved by science fiction writers, who use it to test out hypothetical futures; what does it offer writers who are doing other kinds of testing, related to emotional transitions, marginality, and migration? Is the short story an inherently border form? This panel considers these questions, the challenge of putting a set of experiments into a collection, and the tension between the laboratory and the completed book.
Kelly Link and Juan Martinez
Politics & Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008 Get Directions
Kelly Link will read with Juan Martinez (Best Worst American) at the most excellent Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse. This event is free to attend with no reservation required. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis. Click here for more information.
(Originally published in LCRW 20.)
Charlotta was asleep in the dining car when the train arrived in San Margais. It was tempting to just leave her behind, and I tried to tell myself this wasn’t a mean thought, but came to me because I, myself, might want to be left like that, just for the adventure of it. I might want to wake up hours later and miles away, bewildered and alone. I am always on the lookout for those parts of my life that could be the first scene in a movie. Of course, you could start a movie anywhere, but you wouldn’t; that’s my point. And so this impulse had nothing to do with the way Charlotta had begun to get on my last nerve. That’s my other point. If I thought being ditched would be sort of exciting, then so did Charlotta. We felt the same about everything. Read more
The Story Collection Storybundle is live May 11 through June 2. There are 8 DRM-free short story collection ebooks including three exclusive to this bundle. Check them out:
What I Didn’t See: Stories by Karen Joy Fowler
The collection won the World Fantasy Award and the title story won the Nebula. Fowler is the author of The Jane Austen Book Club, a New York Times Bestseller made into a film, and won the 2013 PEN/Faulkner for We are all completely beside ourselves.
The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories by Walter Jon Williams
Two stories in this collection won the Nebula Award. Williams was a Philip K Dick Award Finalist and placed numerous times for the Nebula and Hugo Awards.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories by Lisa Mason
The collection received five stars from the San Francisco Review of Books. Mason’s books have been finalists for the Philip K Dick Award Finalist and New York Times Notable Books. Her OMNI story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” sold outright to Universal Studios.
Collected Stories by Lewis Shiner
The collection is an ebook exclusive for Storybundle! It includes forty-one stories, and has an Introduction by Karen Joy Fowler. Shiner’s work has been a finalist for the Philip K Dick Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award.
Wild Things by C. C. Finlay
The collection is a second ebook exclusive for Storybundle and has a new Afterword. A multi-award-nominated author, Finlay is the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand
Hand has won the World Fantasy Award four times, the Nebula twice, the Shirley Jackson twice, and the Mythopoetic Award. Her books have been both New York Times and Washington Post Notable Books.
Women Up to No Good by Pat Murphy
Two stories in the collection were nominated for the Nebula. Murphy won the Nebula twice, the World Fantasy, and the Philip K Dick Award.
6 Stories by Kathe Koja
A third Storybundle exclusive collection! Koja, author of Skin and Under the Poppy, won the Bram Stoker Award and was a Philip K Dick Award Finalist.
Pay what you want for three books; pay more than $12 ($23? $42? $1,099?) and get all 8 — plus donate a percentage to the Science Fiction Writers of America.
The Story Collection Storybundle will run only from May 11 through June 2, 2016. When it’s gone, it’s gone!
Darn it, haven’t kept up with the Consortium Bookslinger app! Every week they post a new story from one of the Consortium publishers and since we publish a fair number of short story collections, a fair number of those stories are from our books. We’ve got new stories scheduled to go out just about monthly.
Checkkkk it out:
Ray Vukcevich, “Whisper“
Maureen F. McHugh, “The Naturalist”
Karen Joy Fowler, “The Pelican Bar”
Kelly Link, “The Faery Handbag”
Benjamin Rosenbaum, “Start the Clock”
Maureen F. McHugh, “Ancestor Money”
Download the app in the iTunes store.
And watch a video on it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySL1bvyuNUE
And, arriving now at all good indie bookstores near you . . . what is that I see? The paperback edition of Karen Joy Fowler’s fabulous third collection of stories, What I Didn’t See and Other Stories.
The cover art is by one of our fave artists, Kathleen Jennings, and it looks crazy great on paper. Here online, it’s, yes, blacker than black, Spinal Tap “none more black”-level black. It’s all in the lamination, embossing, and something else along those lines, peeps. I’ll post some more photos that show the cover off properly soon.
And, next month Karen’s new novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes out. Remember: read the book, not the jacket or reviews. Not because the book depends on a twist, but it is a different read if you don’t know something that you’re told on the jacket.
ETA: Ta da: a photo of the new book showing the shiny shininess of it all.
Bookscan says our bestsellers were:
1) Kathe Koja, Under the Poppy
2) Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others
3) Kelly Link, Stranger Things Happen
4) Maureen F. McHugh, After the Apocalypse
5) Karen Joy Fowler, What I Didn’t See and Other Stories
I know other things happened this year. We published one issue of LCRW with a lovely cover by Kathleen Jennings:
A. D. Jameson · Jessy Randall · K. M. Ferebee · Karen Heuler · M. K. Hobson · Carol Emshwiller · David Rowinski · Joan Aiken · Sarah Harris Wallman · Gwenda Bond · David Blair · Sarah Heller · Nicole Kimberling
And here are the books we published.
First Small Beer Press titles:
After the Apocalypse
Maureen F. McHugh
“Incisive, contemporary, and always surprising.”—Publishers WeeklyBest Books 2011: The Top 10
A Slepyng Hound to Wake
“Henry is a character cut from Raymond Chandler: a modern knight on a mission to save those, and what, he loves.”—Barbara Peters, The Poisoned Pen
* “Often contemplative and subtly ironic, the 16 stories in this outstanding collection work imaginative riffs on a variety of fantasy and SF themes”—Publishers Weekly (*Starred Review*)
The Child Garden
Winner of the John W. Cambell and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.
The Monkey’s Wedding and Other Stories
* “Wildly inventive, darkly lyrical, and always surprising . . . a literary treasure.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Solitaire: a novel
A New York Times Notable Book, Borders Original Voices selection, and Nebula, Endeavour, and Spectrum Award finalist.
And one Big Mouth House title:
The Freedom Maze
“Adroit, sympathetic, both clever and smart, The Freedom Maze will entrap young readers and deliver them, at the story’s end, that little bit older and wiser.”
—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Out of Oz
First: a new interview with Karen Joy Fowler! That is one smart person. (Two, since Charles Tan did the interview.)
This week we have a new book out. What? You didn’t know? It’s true that Geoff Ryman’s Paradise Tales was delayed a couple of times, but, Bam! Here it is. What a book. More on that later. Later this week, that is. Later this month, two series books (from me, who loves standalone titles!), Hound 2, as we call A Slepyng Hound to Wake and the first book in Lydia Millet’s new series for kids, The Fires Beneath the Sea.
Geoff’s one of the Guests of Honor at Readercon so we’re going to give him a beer and get him to sign a ton of books. If you would like them personalized, we;ll see what we can do.
Readercon begins for us on Friday when we take some books &c* in to the dealer’s room where we get to catch up with some friends—and buy some books from them. Should be a busy time as, yes, we are bringing our daughter Ursula, so we’ll see how well this works.
Here’s my tiny Readercon Schedule:
2:00 PM NH Three Messages and a Warning group reading. Chris N. Brown, Michael J. DeLuca, Gavin J. Grant. Gavin Grant (publisher), Chris N. Brown (editor) and Michael J. DeLuca (translator) read from the anthology Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic, forthcoming from Small Beer Press.
3:00 PM Vin. Kaffeeklatsch. Gavin J. Grant, Kelly Link.
And I will post Kelly’s when I’m more sure of it.
* What can the &c be? We’ve heard tell of t-shirts. Maybe. Water bottles? No. Drinkables? Surely not?
- Karen Lord’s debut novel Redemption in Indigo is a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award. That’s a really strong list of books—both the adult and children’s—lit lists making it a real honor to be nominated.
- Karen Joy Fowler’s What I Didn’t See and Other Stories gets a lovely review on Strange Horizons and both the book and the original story, “Booth’s Ghost” are finalists for the Locus Award. That book is piling up the awards!
- The third Karen moment today is that fabby Karen Russell who recommends Kelly’s Stranger Things Happen on NPR. Wow! There’s a link to
ETA: Want to go see Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield . . . sign a book? That’s what he’ll be doing at [some future day at] one of our beloved indie bookshops, the Brookline Booksmith. [Event postponed because the guy has to go pitch!] The guy is a great player (or so I’m told, still not really up on the whole baseball thing, give me time) but he’s also a great guy: at Franciscan Hospital for Children there’s a lovely all-weather playing field behind the main building called the Wakefield because guess who funded it? That makes him awesome.
And: we got emailed asking whether we’d publish a book by an author we love. Wow. Fingers crossed.
What I See, part 15 by Karen Joy Fowler
May 1, 2011
Happy International Workers Day! We pause here for a moment to remember that May Day is also the international distress signal. There’s probably a story there.
Yesterday MJ and I saw a bobcat up at Natural Bridges, hanging about the visitor’s center. Two years ago, while biking, I saw a cat in this same area, but he was much smaller. Possibly this then is the same cat, but all grown up. He was comparable in size to Mojito, looked at us briefly, and then took the ruined butterfly-viewing walkway to destinations unknown. MJ never noticed as MJ rarely takes in the big picture. Too busy nosing about for crusts of bread or discarded French fries to scan the horizon for predators. I’m curious as to how she would have reacted, but it is probably for the best. MJ doesn’t know and doesn’t need to know that the world contains cats of this size. I think it might shake her to the core.
A few weeks ago a friend described Mojito to me as a really smart dog. In fact, among those of us who know her best, MJ’s intelligence is a subject much discussed. She rarely does anything she’s asked to do, but it’s never clear whether she doesn’t understand what you want or whether your desires just carry very little weight with her. This latter possibility is the one I hold. It’s annoying to me, because I never ask her to do something without a good reason.
I’m reminded of an incident many years back concerning my daughter and this same issue. I’d promised the children that we’d stop at Dairy Queen for a special treat. I parked and my daughter got out while I was working the belts on her little brother’s car seat. As I was doing this, a truck pulled up next to us and man emerged. He was carrying a rifle. I told my daughter to get back in the car. I did this firmly, but quietly—I didn’t want to draw the attention of the man with the gun.
Instant outrage. You SAID we’d get ice cream, my daughter told me and followed the man inside. I believe he held the door open for her.
And although nothing untoward happened, the man with the rifle merely bought himself whatever they were calling blizzards back then and went back out to his truck, it’s still a memory I call on when I wish to feel misused and ignored. I don’t order people about just to hear myself talk. Mojito is not a dog asked to do tricks or even to come unless she’s genuinely needed. It would be nice if she factored this in.
It would be nice if people stopped carrying guns about.
We are in a period of extremely bright sunshine and extremely strong winds. Much hilarity this morning, trying to keep my hat on my head.
What I See, part 14 by Karen Joy Fowler
Some things happen fast here—the sun comes up and advances during my walk. The tide comes in or goes out. Spring arrives. This seemed to happen overnight. I got up one morning and the yard was filled with wrens, there were butterflies in the park, and the mustard is much taller than Mojito by now. It’s all in purple, white, and yellow bloom. On a warm day, I feel that I could sleep in it like Dorothy in the poppyfields. A man at the park recommended taking the greens home and cooking with them, but I’d have to know which ones no dog had pissed on first. MJ could tell me, but she can’t be bothered to.
Winter is still evident in the landscape. The park trees must be shallow-rooted because so many large ones were upended in the rains. There are vantage points in the park from which the trees all appear now to slant. Up at Natural Bridges, a fallen tree wrecked the butterfly-viewing suspension walkway. No dogs are allowed on it, so MJ and I have never been, but we can see the wreckage from the road.
Down in Lighthouse Field, some new paths have opened and some old ones closed. One trail I used to take is a pond now and other ponds also remain, attracting egrets and mallards, though most of the mud has dried out and tracks are passable again.
Yesterday was clean-up day. The Wallendas did a highwire act at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk that attracted crowds and helicopters; there were fireworks and it was all very tempting, but MJ and I went birding instead. Here is what we saw: pigeons, scoters, gulls, cormorants, blackbirds (red-winged and Brewers), a mallard duck pair, a few brown pelicans, a covey of California quail, two snowy egrets, one blue heron, one hummingbird, and many small brown sorts I can’t identify.
Today we happened on the rangers talking amiably to a man who’d slept in the park last night in a hammock. He was apparently on a long bike ride and I was taken with his high and not so-high-tech gear. I suddenly wished to take a long bike ride myself, a trip of many weeks, with hammocks and portable stoves. But then I thought that eventually I’d have to bike uphill, which I don’t care for much. And where would MJ sleep? Many bugs to be worked out of this mad nomadic plan. Including actual bugs, I’m guessing.
Karen Joy Fowler, Peter Straub, Richard Butner, Laird Barron (many times!), Caitlin R. Kiernan, all in one place?
The Shirley Jackson Awards have announced their
2010 Shirley Jackson Awards Nominees(!)
What I See, part 13 by Karen Joy Fowler
This from my buddy, Tim Sandlin in an email:
I don’t know the proper response to all the end of the world stuff. Sometimes I’m petrified into emotional catatonia. I’ve always tried to picture what the average citizen felt in 1938 Germany, how they could have let what was happening happen? Now I sort of see it. You get up and have coffee and get dressed and try to figure out what else you can be doing, other than loving and protecting your family. Then it all gets out of hand.
Here’s what I’m doing while it all gets out of hand: walking the dog. We’ve had a whole week of heavy wind and rain here. Huge trees upended. Small birds flung against the windows. The waves have been enormous and the beaches, while not closed, have been posted with warnings to stay out of the water. The dog beach is covered in crashing, roiling foam. I don’t know if this could still be caused by the tsunami, or just the winter storms, or possibly the super moon that we never saw, stuffed as the whole city was into a sock of clouds.
Yesterday was flying nun weather and MJ and I fought for every step. There was a kayak competition at Steamer Lane and it was sadder than it was inspiring to see the kayaks working so hard against the wind and water for so little headway.
Today we started in the rain, but walked into clear weather and a blue sky above. Natural Bridges State Park was closed due to weather, but we ducked the gate and went in only to find the road blocked by trees the storm had felled. By the time we turned around, the gate had been seriously augmented with tape; getting out was much harder than getting in.
On the way back I could see the dark sky ahead and we hit the rain again. There was something magical about the act of walking out of one weather system and into another. Like I was slipping through a door into a different dimension. It reminded me of an afternoon when I was small girl in Indiana. I was playing with some kids across the street from my house, and we saw a rainstorm coming toward us down the Ballantine hill. I made for home and, like some superhero, outran the rain, which hit just as I ducked under the porch overhang. I don’t have a lot of superhero moments in my life so I tend to remember them.
MJ ate some grass that she immediately threw up. It’s a thing she does. But today was the day she, usually so reserved and diffident, decided to extend the paw of friendship. She bounded up to everyone we passed, demented strands of vomitous grass poking out from her mouth, streaks of green dribbled down her chin. She got a mixed response. I blame the moon.
Karen is also moderating the Tiptree Book Club .
What I See, part 12 by Karen Joy Fowler
I’ve been reading about the staggering numbers of people missing in Minami Sanriku. Apparently the tsunami was channeled and focused by the walls of bay on which it sat. This helped me understand why, halfway across the world, Santa Cruz was also considered to be at risk.
I wasn’t here on the 12th. I was in Idaho at the Rocky Mountain Writers’ Festival and away from the news so I learned quite late about the Japanese earthquake. When I saw the magnitude listed on the television chyron, I thought it must have been a misprint. Today even that unbelievable number has been raised. But my husband says that locally it was a non-event. There were big waves, he says, but we’ve seen bigger. The beaches were closed, but surfers turned out in large numbers and people lined the cliffs with binoculars and cameras. A young man died in Crescent City trying to see the waves, but I’d have done the same thing if I’d been here. I would have wanted to see.
The media are breaking the news of nuclear meltdown in tiny increments—a slow drip of disaster. Like the aftermath of the gulf oil well, I suspect we will never completely comprehend the damage done here. It will be with us into another generation and beyond.
Meanwhile the waters in the bay here are calm. The mustard in the park has grown taller than my knees, which means Mojito can disappear into it. There is a crow building a nest in a leafless tree. Ponds have appeared where there were no ponds and many of the paths are muddy and impassible.
When we first moved here, the rock out past the lighthouse was covered in sea lions. Then they left it to the cormorants and pelicans, went to live noisily under the pier at the wharf. Last week I saw a single sea lion back on the rock, the first in nearly a year. I’m waiting to see if she’s a harbinger or an outlier. Sea lions are caniformia, or dog-shaped animals, but MJ admits to no fellow feeling.
Karen is also moderating the Tiptree Book Club discussion of Maureen F. McHugh’s story “Useless Things.”
Just sneaking this in before the end of . . .
Woot! And I am not even a player of said game but I sure am going to read that book.
Also: Carrie Frye is the new editor of The Awl! (Ok, so this is last week’s news, but the internets, they don’t always work around here.) Magnificent!
Go join Karen Joy Fowler and the Tiptree Bookclub talking about Maureen F. McHugh’s excellent story “Useless Things” from Eclipse 3 (edited by Jonathan Strahan).
Two nontraditional places to find our books (and we have a cool announcement about that very thing coming here soon, too): a fundraiser and an awareness raiser!
Con or Bust is expanding and they are having a huge fundraiser. We’re offering Small Beer Sixpacks (if you go up to $200, they come with your own engraved, wooden sixpack holder!), LCRW subscriptions (—Avec chocolat? —Mais oui!) and advanced reading copies of some sekrit yet-to-be-published books! Bid here please!
The Ranting Dragon is running a huge giveaway to encourage/challenge more readers (especially younger readers) to vote in the Locus poll. Seemed like a good idea to us (and to many other publishers!) so there are tons of books being given away including all of our included titles—including 5 copies of LCRW 26. Freebies! Tons of them!
What I Hear, by Karen Joy Fowler
I made a decision at the start of this blog to leave the iPod behind when I walked, but it doesn’t mean there’s no music. I spend most of my life with a song in my head. Not a song, really, so much as a bit of a song, a few lines that repeat. With great effort I can finish the song or substitute another in, but the original snatch returns as soon as the effort ceases. This is not usually unpleasant. It depends on the song. Sometimes I enjoy trying to track back how that particular song ended up in my head at that particular time. Sometimes I can’t. In any case, I’m used to it.
This morning’s was Acadian Driftwood.
Try’n’ to raise a family. End up the enemy
Over what went down on the Plains of Abraham
What did go down on the Plains of Abraham? You might be surprised to hear that Canadian history wasn’t covered much in school here. Read more
What I See, part 11, by Karen Joy Fowler
The weather here has been erratic. MJ and I have taken our walks in rain and in wind so strong I was knocked off my feet. Snow was predicted here at sea level one morning, but never materialized. Other days have been like spring. I meant to report on all of them. But I’ve been distracted by travel, work, and family. And mesmerized by the events in the Middle-East and the midwest. I’ve been so discouraged by the drumbeat of men with money (fresh off the windfall of the Bush tax-cut extensions) soberly insisting on the need for a shared sacrifice in which they’ll have no share. Put the people who are actually sacrificing on my television please instead of these buffoons. Let me look at the incredibly bravery of the people in Libya and be awed. Let me look at the crowds in my beloved Madison, Wisconsin, and be hopeful.
What I See, part 10, by Karen Joy Fowler
Recently our walks have been curtailed by Mojito’s surgery. Not abandoned, but shorter and slower. She’s sporting some Frankenstein’s monster stitchery and is only just recovering the bounce in her step. The vet described her as a relatively young dog, which surprised me as she’s ten, but according to the chart in his office, ten for a dog is comparable to fifty-six for a person, which does make her the youngest creature in the house, a mere sprig, and explains her youthful attitudes and behaviors.
Odd sightings today.
A singing tree: Just west of the dog beach, along the clifftop is a Monterey pine. There are many Monterey pines along the cliff and one tries not to have favorites, but this is a very appealing tree. Today it was making a tremendous racket as I approached and I had to get quite close to understand that a congress of blackbirds was hidden among the needles, each of them shouting as loudly as possible. There were so many that if they’d all flapped their wings at once, the tree would have taken flight.
A leaping cat: MJ and I were coming home along the north edge of the park when I saw a flash of white. It appeared briefly above the blackberry vines and then disappeared again. This repeated until I was close enough to see that it was a cat, bouncing straight up and down in the bramble as if it were on a pogo stick. Of course, MJ’s appearance put an end to all such joyous behaviors and I never did figure out what the what was there.
A drunken surfer: Or maybe not. He was headed back from the beach, still wet, still in his wet-suit, surfboard under one arm and carrying an enormous, almost empty bottle of Jack Daniels in the other hand. Though it’s entirely possible that he hadn’t been drinking—drinking while surfing certainly seems inadvisable in the extreme. It’s entirely possible that he was merely picking up someone else’s litter.
There was a monthly community clean-up underway. When I first walked through the park this morning, it looked fine, but later I had no trouble filling a pail with trash. I found many cigarette butts, wrappers from straws, beer bottles, and napkins. Empty bean cans and bits of tin foil. Condoms, which I’d rather not find, but at least suggest responsible sex. There are many things I’ve done in my life that it shames me to remember, but littering is not among them. Put it on my tombstone. She Didn’t Litter.
What I See
What I See, part 2
Interrupting our regular schedule . . .
What I See, part 3
What I See, part 4
What I See, part 5
What I See, part 6
What I See, part 7
What I See, part 8
What I See, part 9
What I See, part 9, by Karen Joy Fowler
According to today’s paper, sea otter deaths are increasing. The probable cause is various diseases carried in the water run-off. Kitty litter is particularly suspect. So that feeling I had that all was well in the bay has been short-lived.
This week Mojito is scheduled for some major surgery. She has to have a large, (benign!) fatty growth removed from her chest. What this surgery will cost us would, in the 1800s, have bought a comfortable house in San Diego or four sea otter pelts. I just wish we were spending it on something she’d enjoy.
So I’m thankful that today’s walk was so perfect. The big surprise was to find the dog beach completely free of seaweed. The beach has been adopted by both a hydroponics firm and a construction company, but I can’t imagine they would, or could, have managed such a clean-up. It must have been the tide and I noticed that while usually the curl of the waves are black with seaweed, today they were an empty, glassy green. We have apparently arrived at the dog beach’s no-seaweed season. I never noticed before that there was one.
We had that clean sand all to ourselves, which is the way MJ likes it. And she found a tennis ball. I don’t take tennis balls to the beach because they result in certain obsessive behaviors that spoil the rest of the walk. But finding a ball on the beach works for everyone. MJ chased it in the waves. She dug holes and buried it. She played a game of solitary catch, tossing it up and catching it again. She was one happy dog.
Afterward, she carried it carefully up the stairs and for another block or so before it got to be too much of a responsibility and she abandoned it in the ice plant.
What I See, part 8, by Karen Joy Fowler
I was up and on my walk early this morning, which is the way I like it, though I don’t set the alarm because what’s the point of being a writer if you get up with an alarm? The sun was rising; the sky was pink and the water was silver. And there was a wild tangle of contrails in the sky as if some jet had been buzzing about like a bee. I walked with my back to the sun and my face toward the full moon, which was still falling into the mountains. Incredibly beautiful, even the contrails.
I’ve been seeing the bay as an imperiled system, as it clearly is. But it’s also a system recovered and today I’m happily focused on that. Last night I went to the Capitola Book Café and heard Stephen R. Palumbi talk about his co-authored book, The Death and Life of Monterey Bay. As a result, I now know that the bay was nearly destroyed by pollution and over-fishing, but is currently in its best shape in some 200 years. I can’t tell you how much knowing this improves my walk.
I haven’t been mentioning the sea otters much, though I do usually see some. It turns out my silence concerning them is a local tradition. In the 1800’s the otters were hunted, people thought, to extinction. For many years, the few that survived were protected by residents around Monterey Bay by an informal agreement of secrecy.
Around 1937, the otter population began to rebound. As a direct result, the kelp forests returned. The canneries were idle. The bay began to recover from the period when they weren’t. I learned last night that this happened largely through activism. I learned that I have a great many people to thank for the beautiful bay I walk along and, it’s not important, but pleases me, that so many of them were writers. I’d already known some of their names: Ed Ricketts, John Steinbeck, Joseph Campbell. But I hadn’t heard of Julia Platt, arguably among the earliest and most effective of the activists, and she died without seeing the impact she’d eventually have, which saddens me.
I’ve been losing faith in activism—the money and power and greed of the opposition has just seemed so overwhelming—and our elected officials so unreliable. But today as I sit listening to the sea lions and the sea gulls, I’m thinking that really, we only have to be as good, we only have to try as hard and for as long, as the people who came before us. And not mind dying before anything is fixed.
A desalination plant has been proposed and is being tested in Santa Cruz. Meetings have been held regarding its potential impact on marine life. I guess I’m ready to go to some meetings.
PS – my daughter tells me that the bits of brain I saw on the beach earlier this week were probably parts of a sponge from the Monterey Bay canyon.
I am dancing about in an annoyingly childish way singing about the sekrits I am sekritly keeping. Mostly from myself (Irrational self to rational self: “I know your bank balance, I know your bank balance, ha ha ha! ha ha!“) but also from you! Aren’t I mean!
I am actually dancing around because it is cooooold in Boston: 11 degrees F (which = Damn Cold in celsius) right now and the automatic heat in our apartment thinks it is summer so it is on low. Ha ha. So how can I have any faith in artificial intelligence when I can’t trust the stupid heater to work when it is cold?
Later this week when it is warmer Karen Lord (“I dreamed of ebooks. . . .”) and Karen Joy Fowler (“I’ve been losing faith in activism . . .” !) will be back blogging and in the meantime Karen F’s collection has been making some pixels happy:
What I Didn’t See and Other Stories was included on a couple of great lists: the Story Prize‘s Long List of Notable Books and Gwenda Bond‘s Top Ten for 2010 (“every story shines like a rare gem”) on Locus—so that’s two great reading lists, yay!
and it was reviewed on newish site, Chamber Four:
For some authors, a short story collections is like a science lab. The stories in this collection, published over a span of nearly two decades, show Fowler experimenting with many different styles and forms distinct from her novels. But no matter the genre or subject, the author retains what makes her full-length books so successful: an attention to detail,an ear for language, and compassion for her characters. For those who have found Fowler through her novels, these stories offer a chance to encounter an imaginative storyteller as she moves from subject to subject.
And Con or Bust is running its auction where you can become a god! There will be some Small Beer goodies appearing there, too. Excellent prezzies are are available now!
What I See, part 7, by Karen Joy Fowler
Yesterday I resumed my cliff walk after a holiday pause. Christmas came to town much like the circus, complete with parties, guests, dreadful influenzas, and deadlines. It was either the circus or else the four horseman of the apocalypse. Those are hard to tell apart.
Mostly I enjoyed it, because my family is good, witty company and there was drinking and even, god help us, charades. But it was an indoor sort of fun, dampened by the fact that just about everyone but me got sick at some point. I gained some pounds, lost some fitness, and when I got back to my walk, I felt those things. The ocean, I’m happy to report, is still there.
My walk was a bit later in the day than usual, which yesterday meant sunshine and bluer water. But across the way, where Monterey should have been, I saw only fog, piled like snowdrift along the horizon. The dog beach was small, but there was beach so MJ and I went on down. The steps have become a mermaid stair, the railings along the bottom flight all garlanded in seaweed from time spent underwater.
And remember the four-foot wall I mentioned a few posts back? More like six feet yesterday. It occurs to me that I have yet to find the bottom of that wall, which when fully exposed may turn out to be something you could see from space.
It was a beautiful morning on which to resume my usual life. By the time the walk was over the fog had crossed the water and wrapped us up, but while we were on the dogbeach, the sun still shone. A dozen sandpipers dashed about on the wet sand like little wind-up toys. I find the leg action of sandpipers very pleasing. I can’t be the only one. Glassy blue water. The silhouettes of the sandpipers. MJ rolling in the rotted seaweed. And something washed up on the sand that my marine biologist daughter could no doubt easily identify but I could not. It appeared to be part of someone’s brain.
I touched it with the toe of my shoe and it seemed too solid to be sea-life and too soft to be shell. MJ came to see what I was looking at, took one sniff, and then backed quickly away. Twenty paces on I found a second piece of it, which MJ also gave wide berth to. MJ is good at not seeing what she doesn’t wish to see and yesterday she did not wish to see brain bits in the sand.
We got some lovely news about Poppy Brite’s Second Line: it was selected for the ALA’s Over the Rainbow committee’s inaugural list of LGBTIQ books for adults—along with Sandra McDonald, a Batwoman comic, James Magruder’s Sugarless, Queering the Text, Locas II (still haven’t got this, want!), and titles from the good folks at Midsummer Night’s Press, Chizine, Blind Eye Books. Overall the committee selected 108 titles, which should make for a good reading list (hope my local library adds them all!), and if you want even more reading, here are all the nominated titles.
On Weightless we just added After the Rain: After the Floods edited by Tehani Wessely, which is a fundraiser for the Queensland Flood Relief Appeal—100% of the proceeds go to the Flood Appeal. Queensland has been hit brutally hard and this is a great way to pitch in. Buy one for everyone you know! Anything you can do to help spread the word would be appreciated.
This week we have some of our writers back after the holidays and posting again—the good news is that some will continue throughout winter into spring. Enjoy!
Karen Joy Fowler is back walking the dog after:
Christmas came to town much like the circus, complete with parties, guests, dreadful influenzas, and deadlines. It was either the circus or else the four horseman of the apocalypse. Those are hard to tell apart.
Karen Lord on machines, ghosts, dependence, and what a writer needs:
I suffered (and I do not use the word lightly) two serious computer crashes in the weeks before Christmas. The first one was vexing, but ultimately I was complacent about my files due to my habit of backing up data at various levels and to various degrees in about five different places. The second crash, which killed my main and largest backup drive, destroyed my complacency at last.
Vincent McCaffrey reveals the secret of why writers write:
Having ‘something to say’ is just as silly a reason to write. Why should anyone care what you have to say? Are you rich? Are you famous? Are you wise? No. Well then. Case closed.
I have frequently encountered the ruse ‘I hate to write. I don’t know why I do it.’ Or some such unlikely statement. This is the equivalent of what Br’er Rabbit told Br’er Fox. “Please don’t throw me in that briar patch.”
And Edward Gauvin introduces two more writers from the Belgian school of the strange:
1) There once was a lawyer named Gérald Bertot, who worked all his life in the management of the same flour-milling factory. He held a doctorate in criminology, and a side career in art criticism under the pseudonym Stéphane Rey. Spared service in World War II, he turned to writing mysteries for money, with the encouragement of Stanislas-André Steeman, a celebrated craftsman of Belgian noir. In Tonight at Eight (1941), he introduced the police commissioner Thomas Owen—a character whose name he liked so much he later took it as his own when he embarked on what he has called his true calling, his career as a fantasist.
2) No survey of Belgian fiction can fail to mention Jean Ray, born Raymundus Joannes Maria de Kremer—but where to begin? . . . Ray had a particular fondness for nautical skullduggery, and actively encouraged the proliferation of rumors surrounding his person and past
What I See, part 6, by Karen Joy Fowler
It’s the day before Christmas and time and quiet are in short supply. So just a quick post here, to keep my hand in. On yesterday’s walk, the tide was higher than I’d ever seen it and the waves still stormy. The bottom step at the dog beach was completely underwater, but Mojito and I went down anyway, just for the excitement of standing so close, looking down on those crashing waves. One of us found it exciting anyway. One of us was quite unnerved.
It was as if we’d stepped into the beautiful Erica Harris cover on my own most recent book. There is something magical about a staircase ascending out of the water like that. The ocean was the right color. The pelicans obliged. No submarine, no gorilla, and we felt their absence, but we were on the back cover only.
Farther along the walk, the sunlight struck a stop sign behind me, lighting it up in a large ball of dazzle. This isn’t an image from my own work, but there is a moment in The Once and Future King when God arrives in the dazzle on Sir Bors’ shield, which stops his brother Lionel from killing him. It was just Exactly like that.
Yesterday’s walk was a literary one.
° ° °
A shout-out here to the man who juggles while he jogs. I have never seen him miss a step or drop a ball and even if I had I would still think he was awesome.
To the person who picks up breakfast every day at Taco Bell, eats it in the car while watching the sunrise, and then drops the bags, napkins, and leftover condiments out the car window and drives away, I also have a message. Lump of coal coming your way tomorrow, buster. No one likes you.
What I See, part 5, by Karen Joy Fowler
We have had a week of rain and stormy seas. The waves have been coming in huge sets, as if someone picked up the globe and shook it. Yesterday Mojito and I turned left instead of right and went to watch the surfers. There were about ten of them, performing feats of breathtaking balance and athleticism, with a sea lion in the water behind them, neither watching nor swimming, but bobbing quietly out past the breakers.
The ocean changes color when the sky changes color—green and gray and brown and red and blue, only so filled with or empty of light that they aren’t really green and gray and brown and red and blue after all. I like the fact that most of the colors I see I have no name for.
My father was a bit of an amateur naturalist. When I was a girl he seemed to know the names for everything. And more—he knew why the tides were sometimes high and sometimes low, how photosynthesis worked, the role top predators played in the food chain, how birds navigated their great migrations, why the sky was blue, etc. etc. He saw the wild world the way a scientist sees it.
This same wild world used to be a source of great comfort to me in times of need. I thought it was eternal, that my place in it (and therefore my troubles) was small and inconsequential. Now I walk along the ocean and I know that I’m looking at a system in peril. This, as much as my age and my growing sense of a finite amount of time left here, is why I’m trying to pay attention. I’m saying good-bye and I’m not sure which of us is leaving faster.
We live in a social order created by and for rich men. Nothing matters in it but money. Many on the right, and no few on the left, are, whenever it’s convenient, exorcised over the financial debt we’re passing on to our grandchildren. So unfair! Such a burden! Something must be done (by someone else)! Poisoned skies, waters, and food, mass extinctions, rising seas, and global droughts; these are things our grandchildren are just going to have to tough out.
While I was in the UK for Thanksgiving, the House Republicans disbanded the committee tasked with battling global climate change, saying it was a waste of money.
According to a NYTimes/CBSNews poll, the tea party, those media-crowned activists du jour, do not see climate change as a credible problem.
John Shimkus, who will probably chair the House energy committee come 2011 is not worried, because God told Noah He wouldn’t destroy the earth again.
All of which made Bill Maher say in an interview last week that people outside the US must be laughing at us ridiculous yokels. But I talked to a number of people in London (some of them Tories). There is no other world to go live in while this one is trashed. No one I talked to was laughing.