Thursday, September 29, 2005

When Geeks Collide

Time Magazine's interview with both Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon, which for me and like a million other people, is so fucking cool it's beyond description. Both "Serenity" and "Mirror Mask" open tomorrow, and they talk about that, the gradual, inevitable triumph of sci-fi/fantasy in mainstream culture, proto-Buffy's (I think Kitty Pride was proto-everything for most of us kids in the 80's) and a whole lot more. Check it out.

Give A Darn! Vote For Harn!

G at The Antigeist talks about how a short story of Twain's destroyed the faith of her husband's father, a man who had been to that point a missionary. I thought about similar experiences in my own life, where a story or a book or a movie made me make such a hard left that would have been impossible otherwise. I've been thinking a lot lately about family and kids and all that, and I was when I read Dorothy Alison's "River Of Names." When I put it down, I was decided: no kids for me. Like the main character of that story, I don't know if I'm willing to take the risk, passing on things I have no control over.

I had a similar experience when I read "The Hours" in Dublin. I didn't go "I want to be a long suffering lesbian!", but I had this epiphany where I realized it was ok for men to write these kinds of books; that they could be written, and I could write them. Not as well as Michael Cunningham, but I could give it a shot. And so amongst other things, I'm writing a book about long suffering lesbians. But they're dead. Kinda. It's complicated.

I'm taking the night off from writing since I feel like I'm just treading water. I put down the Angel Book (the long suffering, dead lesbians) to polish off the second book in the trilogy, and then I put all that down to prepare my submissions to the lit journals, which was a bit like readying a mass mailing for the campaign last year. At least I'm not calling anybody this time. Good lord, wouldn't that be something? "Hello, this is Darby Harn, a volunteer for Darby Harn For Literary Greatness, and I would like to know: who are you reading this November?"

It's just lots of enevelopes, stamps, paper cuts, and this glue taste in your mouth that just won't go away. It wasn't that many, really. I mailed out five today, in addition to some e-subs, and I'll probably do five more next week, since I've yet to send out the Aran Islands story. And then it's months of waiting.

Anyways, I need to get back into the head of the Angel Book, but I'm not going to rush it. I've been taking it real slow anyhow, since June, and that's helped a lot. The main thing this time around is just making sure it's a load bearing structure. There's a lot going on, and previous attempts have all collapsed under the weight of its own seriousness. Got to pass inspection this time.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ban This (I Dare Ya')

It's Banned Books Week, so do your part in keeping the Thought Police out of libraries and schools.

Space Invaders!

I've been on a Garbo binge lately, since TCM is playing all her old movies. The further you get away from her, the more impossible she seems, and yet the more you wish you were actually there. She had this effect on just about everyone.

Been revising more than writing the past week, prepping another round of submissions to magazines (a big one, since the university journals have opened now) and also the second book in the trilogy, which is now finished. 670 pages in the end. I need to get back to the Angel Book at some point (when was the last time I worked on that?) but I have a new idea for a short story. Actually, it's an old piece of writing that I found the other day, and like so many other writers, I dusted it off and said, "There's gold in them there hills!" Or something.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Exhibit I (WP)

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God's work, Irish style. I meant to put this up last night, but my aunt and uncle are in from KC. He seems to be doing better, but is having some backtrouble. Worked a lot in my brother's gallery putting together display stands and gluing carpet to the wall. Yeah, that's right.

Got the final rejection from a magazine I sent three stories too. A little disappointed since I thought the delay in hearing about this last story maybe meant something positive, but hey. Back on the horse.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

More Saugatuk Pics

From Amy & Conan, and I had to share here:

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Going to the lake:

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Friday & Ilona:

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Conan knows where the beer is:

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They call these constellations: (Whitney, Friday, Ilona, Mandy, and Amy)

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We found the beer: (my IC roommate Andrew, me, and Co)

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My Valve Is Malfunctioning

In a surprise move Mandy would surely appreciate, Ignatius J. Reilly writes a letter to President Bush.

When you sit down to write in the morning (or at night, like me), do not do these things.

The new Powell's Bookcast with Aimee Bender.

I helped my brother some more with the gallery today, which looks like this, by the way:

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He got his big Wizard computerized mat cutter today, and along with my cousin Mickey, we also moved in a couple large desks and a file cabinet. It's coming along nice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lisa's Wedding

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This past weekend I was in Sagautuk, Michigan for my friend Lisa’s wedding. Sadly she was not marrying me (I’ll find a way to go on, somehow…) but a great guy named Matt. It was really clear to see at the service how much they love each other, how happy they are and will be. It was a perfect day for a wedding. Everything was fantastic, from the weather, Lisa looking gorgeous in her dress, and oh yeah, the open bar.

I’m so glad I was able to go. For a while I didn’t think I could, money being what it is, but my friend Mandy just moved back to Des Moines from Alaska/Portland/Etc. (there’s only seventeen states she hasn’t been to; we counted) and let me tag along with her for the long drive to Michigan. We had a lot of fun and I feel like I got to know her a lot better. It’s great you can know someone for years and feel like you’re meeting them for the first time. And even though Mandy hid off to the side to avoid the bouquet, it zeroed in on her as if laser guided.

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We picked up fellow IWP member and my Girl Friday (aka Erika) at the Grand Rapids airport (after a two hour delay, but Mandy and I found a nice brew pub, and a ginormous moon, after turning our noses up at $6 pints of Guinness) and finally we made it to Sagautuk and the lovely, the thinly walled, Ship N’ Shore Botel. Conan, Amy, Andrew, and his girlfriend Whitney were waiting for us, and the next morning, Ilona flew in from Paris. I figured she’d be exhausted, but she had the time of her life. She was brighter than I’ve ever seen her. She danced like it was going out of style, and even danced with me outside the tent, where I had to retreat after I’d gone deaf.

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We endured kamikaze bees (two bullseyed Mandy’s beers), and later, the most lewd, horrific, beyond-words piano singer in the entire western world. In the basement of a nightclub playing Britney, no less. He sung of porno tapes and Cheeto’s, two things that should never go together, but he did it, and we’re scarred for life. We also avoided paying $3 cover charge just for pizza, played pitch, went to the beach, and made prelimnary plans for the 10th Anniversary Reunion back in Ireland.

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It was a great, fast, tiring two days, but like every other day I’ve spent with these friends, I never wanted them to end. We weren't all there, but we were in hearts and minds. I suppose Friday would call our group The Parenthetical 11.

Monday, September 19, 2005

De Luge

Ben has a new 80's nostalgia blog, Pop Rocks, Coca-Cola, & You.

The history of floods in fiction. This is from Laila Lalami, who is also interviewed for the piece. You might remember I linked to her last week when she talked about the unnerving coincidence of having written of a diastrous flood prior to Katrina. i bring it up again because of this new article's examination of the Flood in fiction and myth, its role not only as a destructive force, but a cleansing one as well.

I mentioned also the flood that takes place in the second book of my big, epic trilogy type thing. The flood - it's not really a flood but more like a dam break - is the result of an attack on a city that recalls 9/11, a kick-them-while-they're-down cherry on top of the diaster that eventually, and this is saying too much, allows for the opportunity for things to change. For the better. What bothers me, and maybe it won't down the road some, is the odd, bizaare conjunction in the story between these two baffling tragedies that I never intended, but readers will almost certainly suspect I intended, since it will be years from now when/if the novel is ever published. I meant this story to confront the issues I had with 9/11, not Katrina, but maybe the opportunity, for me, is in the waiting; maybe I have the chance now to examine what connections there are between the two, what they reflect about this country and our attitudes toward the different cultures within it.

Jay McInerney was writing a book before 9/11 that also mirroed, perceptively, what happened, and abandoned it. He talks about that, and Naipaul's recent statements about the death of the novel. Yeah. Turns out the reality TV craze has been going since the 60's - in literature. Novels can't cope with the real world as good as non-fiction? A hundred years from now, historians will look back on this kind of thing and wonder what the hell these people were smoking.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Exhibit H

The original red head (amongst other things), Greta Garbo. She would have been 100 this month, and I tell you, there's only thing I like more than red heads. It's red heads that for some reason, wear men's clothes. Wait...

Off to Lisa's wedding in Michigan for the weekend. Ciao.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Straight Outta' Bellona

A lot of people are running around saying New Orleans was unpredictable, but we all know that's not true. What's even weirder is that 1) Samuel R. Delaney described such a disaster in his landmark book Dhalgren, and 2) I should have known that already. Sugu bought me a copy of this and had it signed by Mr. Delaney a few years back when he was in L.A. I read it, slow; it's as difficult as Joyce can be, but rewarding in its pecularity. I recently found another ominous foretelling by Delaney at the Goodwill: a long out of print book called "The Fall of the Towers."

Speaking of Joyce, nothing lasts forever.

Kim Stanely Robinson is writing a trilogy about a flooded America. The Republican President in his book is 'in a state of war with Nature.' Honestly, I'm surprised Bush hasn't declared war on the southern Atlantic, where all these hurricanes are coming from. I mean, do we need to see the WMD first? Fuck no!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Best American Tragedies, 2005

Katrina has further injured the already wounded space program. "We're not panicking yet," he says. Yet.

I said it before, I'll say it again: I do not want this man in charge of my country's security.

I've been looking forward to this year's edition of Best American Short Stories, not just because Michael Chabon edited it, but because I've known for a while that one of the stories in it belongs to Kelly Link. It's a stupendous achievement for her, and actually, it's in keeping with Chabon's lobbying of genre-legitimacy. He's been doing it for a couple years in the McSweeney's Thrilling Tales volumes, where he argues the value of good old fashioned story telling. Apparently in Best American, he goes even further, championing not just storytelling, but that sinful, lowest of literary enterprises: entertaining.

(Lifted from Moorish Girl):

Yet entertainment--as I define it, pleasure and all--remains the only sure means we have of bridging, or at least of feeling as if we have bridged, the gulf of consciousness that separates each of us from everybody else. The best response to those who would cheapen and exploit it is not to disparage or repudiate but to reclaim entertainment as a job fit for artists and for audiences, a two-way exchange of attention, experience, and the universal hunger for connection.

In the non-tragedy department: My brother set up his shingle up today. The sign for his gallery went up. It won't be long now; he's still looking at 10/1 or so.

Darth Blog

Blog names can be a pain. I've been considering a new one for a while, because The Terminal Optimist just doesn't seem to fit with the tenor of the blog. So I've narrowed it down to choices:

A) I Like Big Books & I Cannot Lie

B) The Morpheme Drip

Vote for yours now!

Remember how I said it took artists a while to figure out if they could write about 9/11? Not so with Katrina.

I wrote around ten pages tonight in the Angel Book, finishing Chapter 11 and bringing the total up to 294 pages. Even though this is nowhere near the end, there was a lot of talk about endings in this last scene. The book exists in a place where things never end, and where things can't; I think we all know what that's like, whether it's a bad job we can't get out of, or a relationship, or even traffic. For these characters, it's their entire existence, and some of them are tired of there being no beginning or end, no form to life or reason behind it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Writing, 9/13

I just got a rejection letter for one of my other stories, so that one will go back into circulation, too. I'm looking at next week to do it, since I'm getting ready to leave for my friend Lisa's wedding on Friday.

(EPIC TRILOGY ALERT) I've been plugging away at the second book in the trilogy over the weekends, revising it, and after I talked with Sugu some about it the other night, I found more trouble spots. Cutting those and all the junk so far, I've cut 55 pages out of the monster. I feel like it's on a diet. So, I'm sure to Sugu's shock, since he's printed it out already, what was 740 is now 685, and dropping. Even if I cut a page out a chapter the rest of the way, that will be around 20 more pages, and 665, 660, that sounds like a perfect length for this book.

Mainly the cuts have to do with exposition. I know Ben said he had this problem too in his story, and even though I never really cared for much explaining in these types of stories, somehow there's a lot of it. I think it's partly due to me just figuiring out what's going on as I go. The most important thing for me is that the world I'm creating in these books feels like it has a history, as opposed to dictating it to the reader. Even if I know all the history, the dates and names, most of it doesn't belong in the book.

I wrote a lot in the Angel Book tonight, Chapter 11, bringing it to 288 pages. It gets even more trippy from here on out, like a good (bad?) acid trip.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


The Eleventh of Never.

It seems impossible that it's been four years already, especially since it feels you continue to live in that day, whenever you think on it. Which is less and less than before, when we lived inside the loop of continuous crashes and collapses, but more often than you probably should. After it happened, there was a lot of discussion over the artistic response to the attack, as in should there be one. You wanted to write about it, but you felt wrong somehow doing it. You did anyway, and it was healing in its own small way, but it was just for you. That debate seems to be over. Next year there will be many films; there have been many books since, and for myself I found my way to write about it, in the second book of the sci-fi trilogy I finished back in May. And obviously it's not about the attack literally, which I simply couldn't do. I don't know if anyone ever can, as vividly and horrifically as we actually lived it. It is about loss, and hope, and the idea that when there is tragedy, there is opportunity. A chance for something better.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Exhibit G

Bow before your lord. Rachel Weisz, here playing a little Eve in the Garden.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

What To Say

My dog Pepper died two days ago. She was 14. Best dog I ever had, and one of the best friends a person could ask for. And naturally, because this is my family, I'll have to live the rest of my life with that moment, which should have been private, marred by the greed and selfishness of my family. I had to put Pepper to sleep, and after it was over, my aunt came into the room. I told her I needed a moment alone with my dog. "Yeah." That's what she said, and barged in anyway. I had to tell her four times, forcefully at the end, to leave before she did.

There is no excuse for that. Selfish. Disrespectful. Wrong. And it's gone on for years. And I told her that, and now she's taking it out on my Mom and everyone else by severing contact, like she's been injured. You cannot hurt someone and then act hurt when they tell you to stop. It's dishonest. For starters.

And I won't be silent about it anymore. I will not be hung out to dry because no one else will stand up for what's right. You don't walk on people's grief and get away with it. You don't destroy relationships and lives because you've been called out. It only exposes you for the person you are.

Carpet Bombing

My friend Mike called from Omaha the other day, wanting me to go down to New Orleans with him. I only wish I could. He wants to volunteer for the devastated NOLA PD. You feel so helpless, you know, but not Mike. He's got his water and beef jerky and he's ready to go. It's fantastic and I wish him all the best.

Spent the day working at my brother's art gallery, tearing up the floor in the back, just layers and layers of floors going back to the turn of the century. Then we had to tear up the carpet in front, which was a challenge. Good lord. I called in Ben to help and between him, me, my brother, and two others, we eventually did get it all up. I never sweat so much in my entire life, let me tell you.

Books for displaced New Orleans children.

A great interview with George Saunders at Maud Newton's. Two great interviews with Aimee Bender, who like Kelly Link is just slightly out there (my favorite kinds of stories), one at Bookslut, and the other at Powell's. And last but not least, S.E. Hinton comes out of the dark.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Writing, 9/7

I got a rejection letter for one of my stories, the zombie one, the other day. They liked it, but it wasn't for them. I've got two other stories with this same magazine, and I expect to hear about them soon.

I haven't done a lot of writing since what, Thursday, but I have managed to finish Chapter 10 in the Angel Book. It now stands at 267 pages, after I wrote five pages tonight, and then added in a homeless bit from an early draft back into it. I'm at that point where I don't know exactly what the hell is going to happen next, and it's exciting and terrifying at the same time.

(EPIC TRILOGY ALERT) I've also been revising the second book in the trilogy, little by little, here and there. Just cutting junk out (mostly dialogue; in my first drafts, my characters seem to like to talk, a lot) I've already cut 20 pages. So 740 is now 720 and I hope to at least get it under 700.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Weak End

New Orleans has been left to the dead and dying. Because our government failed its people.

From Beatrice: UK sci-fi writer China Mieville spreads the blame, appropriately, to the local leaders of NOLA, who seem to have failed as miserably in pre-diaster planning as Washington did. Speaking of which, I do not want this man in charge of my country's security. Didn't they say no one ever imagined terorrists crashing planes into buildings, too? I find it hard to believe that an administration that traffics in as much fear as it does never considered a scenerio like Katrina. Oh, wait. They did.

Chief Justice Rehinquist has died. Fox News reported this first, as they ran tape of Geraldo Riveria trying to 'shh' a standed baby in NOLA. And then he told the baby's mother, "He's hungry, mom." Uh, no shit, Geraldo. That's some Pulizter caliber reporting there.

Friday, September 02, 2005

'It's Gone'

That's how a New Orleans police officer described his city, or what remains of it, this morning on CNN, as he defended his own police station from roving packs of armed men firing at the station at will. In the distance, a chemical plant exploded. Half the police force has deserted and when people talk about NOLA in the past tense - which if you notice, is what many are doing - you hear the reality of the situation very few people, especially in Washington, seem to appreciate.

I've been trying to find the words for my frustration, my disbelief, and my horror at the catastrophe in New Orleans. Ben seems to have found them for me. Today there were calls for hearings and task forces and a special 'coordinator' to run the show down there. We need to stop appointing more people to handle our challenges. We need to have our leaders lead, and if they can't, then we need new leaders.

From Beatrice: New Orleans has given so much to horror writers, and now horror writers give back.

R2-D2 one of a kind beanie for NOLA.

Here Is New Orleans.

Lots of Katrina links/stuff at Making Light.