Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Jury Duty, New Semester, Laundry


The year so far:

Jury Duty: I have jury duty. Here in Arkansas, that means I have jury duty for four months. Every week, I have to check a website and see if "my" case is going to court or not. (My case is the one my jury panel is serving that week.) If it is, I have to report in at nine a.m. the next day, me and about sixty other people. Then 24 of us are selected at random. If the 12 jurors are chosen from those 24, the rest of us get to go home. So far I've had to report one week and been sent home the other week.

Since the period of jury duty runs concurrent with my spring semester, I will almost certainly miss some classes, and there is almost no way to tell when or which. It's a little annoying. On the other hand, civic duty. On the other, I can't imagine why it's necessary for juries to serve for four months. Everywhere else I've lived, you serve for a day or two. Maybe it's because the population here is so small?

New Semester: I'm teaching grammar again this semester. You know how happy this makes me. Also fiction writing and a comp class. Because I taught an overload last semester, I get a course release this semester. That also pleases me. More time to write!

The Kid goes back for their new semester tomorrow. They're taking the second half of studio art, a world lit class, a music class, and something called university perspectives, which is supposed to teach them how to do college, I think.

Laundry: Our washing machine busted again. At some point, we'll have to buy a new one, but so far getting it repaired every year or two is our strategy. This time it was the pump.

While the machine was down, I spent time at the laundromat, which I always enjoy. I think I bonded with laundromats as a small child, since the one my mother took us to when I was little had a play room for toddler, and also she would always buy us candy from the machine there. Candy plus toys means the smell of steamy air and detergent always makes me happy.

Also, laundromats are prime places to observe humanity, drink coffee, and write things. If they had better tables, I'd hang out there all the time

Weather: It was fiercely cold here all through the end of December and early January. It's warming up a bit now. Our house has terrible insulation, so even with the heat on -- and I hate having the heat on, because of how it hurts my head -- even with the heat on, though, it never got much above 65 in here.

Cat: Here is an entirely gratuitous picture of my cat:

Jasper 2018





Sunday, December 31, 2017

Best posts of 2017


Or at least twelve posts from 2017:

January 2017:

January was a terrible month. Trump had just been sworn into office. Everything was awful, and we knew it was going to get worse. (Spoilers: it did!).

But here was one bright moment! On the OTHER hand....


February 2017:

Almost as grim as January. But this post was nice: A Fun Survey for These Dark Times


March 2017:

In March, TrumpCare was defeated for the first time, which cheered us up slightly. Also, I had this conversation with my cat: The Future the Liberals Want.


April 2017:

In April, I got the advanced copies of the F&SF issue with my story in it, which was pretty sweet. Also, I like the links I shared here.

May 2017:

In May, the kid finished high school -- go, kid! (Also some links in that post)

June 2017:

In June, I sold my novel (now called Fault Lines) to Candlemark & Gleam.


July 2017:

Trump went after trans people, to the shock of exactly no one: Trump's America

August 2017:

The kid goes off to college

September 2017:

The Kid has a health scare. Everything turned out okay, except for what it did to our debt load.

October 2017:

In October I had a good time running a sort of informal poll on FB, looking at English grammar among my friends group: Changing Standards in American English.  Part Two is here.

November 2017:

In November I got some Good News

December 2017:

Not much happened in December -- I was finishing the edits on Fault Lines. But I like this post on the income range of the middle class -- What's Middle-class? 

And that's my year!  How about your year?



Saturday, December 30, 2017

Links for Your Frozen Saturday


Here in Arkansas we have a projected high of 38 for today, and 30 for tomorrow. Still, we're warmer than many parts of North America! Keep warm, y'all!

Have some links.

In my classes and in the papers my students write for me, my conservative students insist that white men can't get jobs -- that it's easier for women (and of course black men) to get jobs than for your discriminated against white man to find any sort of work, that poor fella. Where do they get this idea? It's just another persecution narrative being pushed endlessly on the Right.

All y'all have all seen the Milo manuscript tweets, but I do like this thread, which points out the editor's complicity.

Here's another, which is funnier.

Are single mothers responsible for the rise in crime? Not so much.


Another excellent thread, this one on the post office

Here are 99 reasons this was a good year

Why, look at this!




Monday, December 25, 2017

What I'm Reading


Caroline Fraser, Prairie Fires

Long-time readers of the blog will remember that back in 2014 I taught a class on Laura Ingalls Wilder as a Major Author, after reading a number of critical books on her. I wish this book by Fraser had been written then. (Fraser had put out the two volume Library of America edition of Ingalls' books by then, and that's the edition I used for the class.)

I loved Anita Clair Fellman's Little House, Long Shadow, and I loved Ann Romines' Constructing the Little House. Wendy McClure's The Wilder Life was a delight.

Prairie Fires outpaces all of these. Starting her text with the Dakota War of 1862, and continuing on through the panic of 1898, the Dust Bowl, the Depression, and World War II, and finally Roger MacBride's 1972 faithless electoral vote, Fraser deftly reveals the complex historical, environmental, and political events that shaped the lives of the Ingalls and Wilder families. Through use of primary sources, she shows how Wilder and her daughter Lane worked to create a "truthy" version of Wilder's life in the Little House books, one that endorsed their political philosophy -- or rather, their desire for how the world should work.

This is an excellent, and very readable, book. If you're an Little House fan, you'll definitely want to read it. If you're interested in politics, you'll probably like it too. What was happening in the 1930s in America, while Wilder was writing her Little House books has much in common with what is happening in America today, and the xenophobia, racism, and contempt for the poor that Lane (and to some extent) Wilder expressed are the same xenophobia, racism, and contempt we hear today.

From Fraser's book:

[This hatred] was no mystery to Wilder. As she knew too well, people who are poor are ashamed. It's easier to blame the government than yourself. Wrestling with shame was one reason she wrote her books...but she also labored to lift that feeling out of her stories, and out of her past, setting aside her father's debts and her own grubby days working for the Masterses. She said she made the changes for the children, but she did it for herself too. (511).
An excellent book. 10/10 would read again.





MacKenzi Lee, A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

This is a sort of a YA novel, and sort of an historical novel, and sort of a regency romance. Also sort of a fantasy novel. The writing is brisk, though about halfway through what has started out to be a romance novel set on a Grand Tour through Europe -- kind of what I signed up for, and was looking forward to -- turns into this kind of bizarre quest-for-a-ensourcelled heart story, which I never really did buy into.

Though I did enjoy the pirates.

It was like we had three novels patches together, I guess is what I'm saying, and though I did like two of them -- the pirate novel, and the traveling through Europe with my boyfriend and my nerd younger sister novel -- I think I would have liked them better as separate novels.

Still, nice writing, and the three main characters -- which is to say Henry Montague, point of view character and the son of a Lord who does not approve of his proclivities; Percy, the neighbor boy, who is the African/English nephew of Henry's neighbor; and Felicity, Henry's sister, who wants to be a doctor, and is instead being sent off to a finishing school -- are all fully realized and people we want to spend more time with. (Henry is annoying at first, but he grows on you.)

A lovely romp, in other words.







Jo Walton, Among Others, Farthing

Apparently I am re-reading all the works of Jo Walton once again. What am I to say? Walton is wonderful. Who can blame me?

Among Others is one of my favorites. It's the story of Mor Phelps, who in a battle with her mother has lost her twin sister and her mobility -- one leg was badly damaged, so that now she can walk only with a cane, and lives in constant pain. The battle itself is not described, nor exactly what they battled over. Mor tells another character that if her mother wanted to control the world, hinting that the stakes were that high.

This book is fantasy -- Mor sees fairies (though not the usual fairies) and can do magic (though not the usual magic). But it is mostly neither about magic nor about fairies, though it is about those things.

What it is mostly about is Mor's relationship with books, and her relationship with the people in her life who love books as much as she does.

If, like Mor, you also live a life in which books are essentially all you care about*, you may well love this book as much as I do.

Otherwise, you'll likely be confused by it, just a bit. ("What is this book about? All this girl does is read.")

There's a lot to like in the book besides all the bits about reading and books, though. It's really good on what it's like to live with chronic pain, for instance. And there's a lovely bit where Mor is dismayed at finding her new school / town has no wilderness around it.

As someone who grew up with wilderness all around me, and had lived most of my life with wilderness near at hand, and who now lives in an area with no wilderness within walking distance, yes, yes, yes. Not being able to easily get to a place where I can walk and climb through trees and rocks is just soul-numbing. It's the worst part of living in this town. (I can drive to a number of parks, but that is not the same.)

The school is also well done, as is the grandfather. And, as always, Walton's writing is brilliant.

Farthing I have already written about, here.



*Once someone interviewed me, and asked what I did for fun. "I read books," I said. "Also I write them. That's what I do. That's all I do."


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Best SF 2017 Table of Contents


Gardner Dozois just released the Table of Contents for the Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection. Look at me with all these amazing people:


THE YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION, THIRTY-FIFTH ANNUAL COLLECTION,
Edited by
GARDNER DOZOIS

THE YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION, THIRTY-FIFTH ANNUAL COLLECTION,
Edited by
GARDNER DOZOIS
THE MOON IS NOT A BATTLEFIELD, Indrapramit Das
MY ENGLISH NAME, R.S. Benedict
AN EVENING WITH SEVERYN GRIMES, Rich Larson
VANGUARD 2.0, Carter Scholz
STARLIGHT EXPRESS, Michael Swanwick
THE MARTIAN OBELISK, Linda Nagata
WE WHO LIVE IN THE HEART, Kelly Robson
WINTER TIMESHARE, Ray Nayler
DEAR SARAH, Nancy Kress
NIGHT PASSAGE, Alastair Reynolds
THE DRAGON THAT FLEW OUT OF THE SUN, Aliette de Bodard
WAITING OUT THE END OF THE WORLD IN PATTY'S PLACE CAFE, Naomi Krtizer
THE HUNGER AFTER YOU'RE FED, James S.A. Corey
ASSASSINS, Jack Skillingstead and Burt Courtier
THE MARTIAN JOB, Jaine Fenn
THE ROAD TO THE SEA, Lavie Tidhar
UNCANNY VALLEY, Greg Egan
THE WORDLESS, Indrapramit Das
PAN HUMANISM: HOPE AND PRAGMATICS, Jessica Barber and Sara Saab
ZIGEUNER, Harry Turtledove
THE PROVING GROUND, Alec Nevala-Lee
ZEN AND THE ART OF SPACESHIP MAINTENANCE, Tobias Buckell
THE INFLUENCE MACHINE, Sean McMullen
CANOE, Nancy Kress

THE HISTORY OF THE INVASION TOLD IN FIVE DOGS, Kelly Jennings

PRIME MEREDIAN, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
TRICERATOPS, Ian McHugh
MINES, Eleanor Arnason
THERE USED TO BE OLIVE TREES, Rich Larson
WHENDING MY WAY BACK HOME, Bill Johnson
DEATH ON MARS, Madeline Ashby
ELEPHANT ON TABLE, Bruce Sterling
NUMBER 39 SKINK, Suzanne Palmer
A SERIES OF STEAKS, Vina Jie-Min Prased
THE LAST BOAT-BUILDER IN BALLYVOLOON, Finbarr O'Reilley
THE RESIDUE OF FIRE, Robert Reed
SIDEWALKS, Maureen F. McHugh
NEXUS, Michael F. Flynn


Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday Links and Stuart Davis


Pounding rain here today. Yesterday we drove up to Crystal Bridges to see the Stuart Davis exhibit before it closed. I didn't expect to like it, and only went because the Kid and Dr. Skull love abstract/expressionism.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

What I'm Reading


I have finished the edits for Fault Lines, which will be sent to my editor today. I've also finished grading (mostly -- I still have some fiction portfolios to read through and comment on). All of that has limited my reading time.

Though not stopped it! Here's what I've read (and finished) over the past week:


Katherine Heiny, Standard Deviation

This was one I thought I would not like, since from the blurb it's everything I hate in a book (white rich guy in NYC who might or might not have an affair, fap fap fap). But it kept showing up on ten-best-books of 2017 by people whose judgment I trust, and the library had a copy, so wth.

And they were right! This is really good. True, the "plot" is this guy in NYC who married to his second wife, and still half in love with his first wife, trying to decide whether he will have an affair with the first wife, or some other woman for that matter. But the book isn't the plot in this case. The book is these characters, and their lives.

Heiny's writing is wonderful. Her main character, Graham, is married to a woman, Audra, who is so incredibly annoying I would myself want to push her under a bus -- and Graham sees all her annoying habits clearly. But because he loves her so deeply, every irritating bit of her is transformed into something beautiful. I have no idea how Heiny manages this, but it is beautiful to read.

The same happens for their son, Matthew, who is a high-functioning Autistic child. Graham sees the flaws in his son, and yet.

And we see the flaws in Graham just as clearly, but because of his love, we come to love him, and he is transformed in this same way.

This is an amazing book. I really didn't want it to end. Highly recommended.



T. Kingfisher, The Raven and the Reindeer

T. Kingfisher, as long-time readers of the blog know, is a pen name for our incomparable Ursula Vernon. In this novella, she retells Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen."

Other writers, and other SF writers (including one of my favorite SF writers, Naomi Kritzer), have done this before, of course. But still, Kingfisher's version is not to be missed. Among other things, along the way her Gerta discovers just why kissing Kay was such an oddly disappointing experience. (This happens when she meets the bandit Janna, and kisses her. Why didn't anyone ever tell me falling in love with women was a thing that could happen? she thinks at one point.)

Along the way to rescue Kay, Gerta encounters a talking crow, Mousebones, who is one of my favorite characters ever, and talking otters, likewise, and Janna, same.

The Snow Queen is a lovely villain. And ending is perfect.

Highly recommended.




Fiona Barton, The Child

This is another book by the woman who wrote The Widow, which I read last week. As with that book, this one is readable -- I gulped it down in one evening -- but not much more than your standard mystery/thriller.

The main characters are still women, but this one has more men. For instance, the reoccurring character, Kate Waters, the reporter who solved the child-killing in The Widow, has taken on a young male apprentice; and we've added a second police officer, also male. Also, Kate's husband and two sons get a lot of page time.

But one of the main villains is a woman. And the big reveal was -- sort of -- interesting.

And, as I said, it's a page turner. So long as you don't want depth, this is worth reading.




Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Me at Hanukkah 2017


I am explaining everything


That is Dr. Skull listening attentively.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hanukkah 2017


We're going up to Fayetteville this afternoon to bring the kid home for Winter Break. We won't get home before sunset, sadly, since tonight is the first night of Hanukkah.

We're having the usual first night party tomorrow, on the second night. The kid's Uncle Charger is coming, as well as some of Dr. Skull's friends from work.  I'm making latkes, as well as bagels, which we'll have with lox, cream cheese, and onions. Dr. Skull is making a torte, because we're combining his birthday with the Hanukkah party this year.

Then Uncle Charger will come back for Christmas day as well.  We don't usually celebrate Christmas, but since he'll be all alone this year, we're going to celebrate it with him (a low-key celebration: Chinese food and Christmas lights and a movie).


Sunday, December 10, 2017

What I'm Reading


I am mostly grading final portfolios and exams, as well as working on the edits for Fault Lines. But I am reading, because I'm always reading.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Cover Art


The artist has sent thumbnails for the cover for Fault Lines -- the near-final version of the cover is due in mid-January.

I am ridiculously excited (and pleased) by the prospective covers.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Saturday Links


I have finished Blackboard training! Go me!

(I whined to my kid about having to do Blackboard training, and they were entirely unsympathetic. "Mom. I use Blackboard all the time."  These kids today, I swear.)

Friday, December 01, 2017

What's Middle-Class?


On another blog, I saw a naive blogger making the claim that $160,000/year was "middle-class," and that she didn't understand this claim that "people like her" weren't middle class. After all, her family only took a few "very modest" vacations* a year, and only ate out a few times a week. The claim, she said, that people making $40,000/year were middle class had to be nonsense. That was abject poverty! (For the record, up until a few years ago, I made just over $50,000/year. Since I became a full professor I make somewhat more than that.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Blackboard


I have succumbed, y'all.

I am finally allowing myself to be "trained" in the use of Blackboard.

I resisted this training for years, because I loathe online courses, think they are a terrible way to teach anything, think students do not and cannot learn well that way, and did not ever want to teach one.

But I have to teach what is called a "hybrid" class next spring, which is a class that meets one day a week in the classroom, and the rest of the time online; so I have to know how to use the system.

This is my Angry Face

Of course, this will leave me vulnerable to being assigned online courses in the future. Curses! I am foiled!

Monday, November 27, 2017

What I'm Reading


T. Kingfisher, Clockwork Boys

T. Kingfisher, as we all know, is the nom de plume of everyone's favorite, Ursula Vernon. This is the first installment of a serial adventure novel about a young forger/accountant, a demon-possessed knight, an assassin, and an even younger priest/scholar who are drafted into a suicide mission: they must stop the giant clockwork assault monsters that are coming to conquer their city.

Adventure ensues. This works because Vernon is such a wonderful writer. The characters are charming, the mileu is even better, and the dialogue is perfect.

The sole down check is that the next installment will not be out for at least two months. :(