August 2nd, 2008


The Whore's Daughter

So, here's the way I see it, and if I am wrong, someone can tell me so. You guys can either get an online journal wherein I occasionally say what I think on a diverse range of subjects not necessarily related to my writing (recently, and the cause of some strife, that Orson Scott Card is a raving homophobe, that I'll be voting for Barack Obama, and that Robert Jordan and Laurell K. Hamilton write "tripe"). OR, we have this other choice. I can keep my mouth shut, like I mostly used to do, and confine this blog to daily word counts and notices about our ongoing eBay auctions. Because you can't have it both ways. If I express my opinions —— which are often contentious, unpopular, unorthodox, whatever —— it is inevitable that I'll offend someone every few days. This morning I received a rather whiny email from someone claiming I'd hurt his feelings because of what I said about Jordan and Hamilton, and so he probably won't be buying any of my books. Night before last, one reader went ballistic in the journal comments over the fact that, while I condemn OSC's hate speech, I support the presidency of Barack Obama (seeing these two things as somehow inextricably linked). And it's true, I do not need to be alienating readers. But it's also true that when I do not give in to my tendency to be a mouthy bitch, this journal gets rather dull. So, which will it be? You want the somewhat unexpurgated me, or the utterly dull and inoffensive me? You can't say, we want you to be honest, then go off on me when you find something I say offensive. You are certainly entitled be be offended. But...this is my LJ, right? And the opinions expressed here are mine. Maybe I'll post a poll later —— reserved and inoffensive, or honest and often offensive. Let you guys decide. Right now, I'm just annoyed at the whiners who want me to know I've hurt their feelings...because, you know, I care.

I just got the news (thank you Doug Miller), via, that I am one of the thirty-one sf authors who will be discussed this month on the Science Fiction Message Board. Specifically, I have been assigned to August 23rd, or that day's been assigned to me, whichever. I'll post about this again nearer to the date, and here's the link to the announcement by Cory Doctorow. I was frankly amused at the person who complained about my inclusion on the list because I write "Vampire romance novels," when I've only written one vampire novel, sixteen years ago, and it wasn't very romantic.

Yesterday was an odd sort of day. A semi-day off, but at least I answered that mountain of email. Spooky baked some very yummy muffins for Lughnasadh (apple, cinnamon, walnuts, and dates). I loaded Sigur Rós' Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (2008) and Gordon Bok's Seal Djiril's Hymn (1972; my thanks to Sonya for this one) onto the iPod. I took a long, cool bath. That sort of rather aimless, laid-back sort of day. We get too few of those hereabouts. About 5:30, we headed to Beavertail for an informal Lughnasadh ceremony. And here things got a little derailed, and it was likely my fault.

I've always thought that the ruins of Fort Burnside (circa 1942, built to guard the minefield that was placed in Narragansett Bay during WWII) would be a wonderful place for ritual work, especially given that the two circular depressions that each once held a 3-inch gun have an odd and striking resemblance to a megalithic site, as does the old bunker. What I failed to take into account were the nosy people. Why I failed to take this into account is beyond me, as I know well enough that humans are pathologically incapable, in general, of minding their own damn business. As Spooky was beginning to cast the circle, some swamp-yankee goombah with a camera wandered up wanting to know what we were doing. As we worked, we attracted a smallish audience (a child's shrill and repeated scream, "Mommy! What are they doing?!"). And as we were heading back to the car, a woman approached (she was out walking her dog), and she said to Spooky, "I see you two are spiritual people." Spooky stopped to talk to her. I figured she was some harmless New Ager, so I busied myself putting things away. A few minutes later, Spooky shows up, grumbling, and tells me that the woman wanted to know if we'd "...ever thought about Jesus Christ, who created the sea?" It was all Spooky could do to keep me from going after the woman, I think. I was instantly livid. I swear to fuck, I considered making an impromptu human sacrifice to Panthalassa and all the hungry crabs and fishes.

I mean, what if I stood around outside some local Xtian church on Sunday, and when they exited, annoyed the congregation members with questions like, "Have you ever thought about the Morrigan, or Dionysus, or Brighid? What if someone who was Islamic, or Buddhist, or Hindu, or what-the-hell ever did such a rude, thoughtless, arrogant thing? Sure, I know why it's so, as I was raised Catholic and Methodist, but it is truly regrettable that so many Xtians are driven to evangelize, to witness, to annoy the shit out of the rest of us with their religion, when I'd never dare do such a thing. But I don't have to be happy about it. Afterwards, I was so angry I climbed down the cliffs to the sea, to a spot where the incoming tide was especially violent, slamming itself loudly against the rocks, slinging up spray ten or fifteen feet into the air. I sat there and watched the waves and tried not to hate that woman, who seemed to feel that we have so little conviction and so little right to privacy that she could approach us and ask such a goddamn, idiotic question. Spooky was much nicer to her than I'd have been, telling her "Many things made the sea." I'd have probably said, "Yeah, we did the Jesus thing, but, turns out, pagans get better sex. And, by the way, from that sour fucking look on your face, you could probably use some." We stayed with the sea until dark, then headed back to Providence, and got sandwiches from Eastside Market for dinner.

Oh, on the way down to Beavertail, we stopped at Newbury Comics in Warwick. I went in only meaning to get the new director's cut of Alex Proyas' Dark City (1998) and the newly released Doomsday (2008). But it is an evil, seductive place, and so we also picked up the hardback of Joss Whedon's Angel: After the Fall, Vol. 1 and a limited edition book/CD thingy Nick Cave has released to accompany Dig, Lazarus, Dig. Last night, we watched the new cut of Dark City, which runs 111 minutes, versus the theatrical release of 100 minutes. But, those restored eleven minutes make an already brilliant film far less choppy, more subtle, and give it quite a bit more depth. Also, the annoying opening voice-over that was forced on Proyas by the studio has been removed. At the time of the film's original release, I was a friend of a friend of the director's (well, technically, I still am), and knew that he was very displeased with the cut, especially with the voice-over, that gives away the film's fundamental mystery in the first minute. The restored footage concerning the whore's daughter (we don't even see that she has one in the 1998 cut) and Jennifer Connelly's character singing "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" (vocals performed by Anita Kelsey), were especially welcomed restorations. Anyway, I have always adored this film, and now I adore it even more.

Time to get back in the platypus saddle, back to work, and my thanks to Larry Roberts of Bloodletting Press for giving me a two-week extension on the introduction I agreed to write for S. T. Joshi's forthcoming Arthur Machen collection. Also, my thanks to Ernest Lilley (senior editor at SFRev) for sending me the following photos from my signing at Readercon 19. Spooky's even in most of them:

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Another "damned thing."

So, in my entry from July 22nd, in which I describe our visit to Newport and the Cliffwalk, I wrote:

Oh, and we encountered a rather Wrong Thing at the Forty Steps, and this time I have photographic evidence, but I'll save that for a later entry.

And then, what with one thing and another, I forgot about it. But I was looking through a file of images on the iMac's desktop this afternoon and came across the aforementioned photographs. On July 21st, after we'd walked some distance south down the Cliffwalk and then back to the Forty Steps, we happened to notice, lying up high near where the boulders met the underbursh, where the Pennsylvanian-aged bedrock met Holocene-aged soils, was what I first took to be some sort of eel. It was maybe 25 centimeters long, and at its greatest circumference, maybe 4-5 centimeters. As Spooky took a couple of photos, it suddenly occurred to me that it wasn't an eel, at all, or any oother sort of fish, but an animal I'd not seen since college, some twenty years ago, when I was taking herpetology and ecology classes. It was, I am quite certain, a sirenid salamander of the genus Siren. I thought it odd to encounter one near no evident body of freshwater, so near the sea, but figured perhaps a gull or crow had picked it up inland, then dropped in at the Forty Steps. It had begun to putrify, and was giving off quite an awful odor, so we left it and sat some distance away on the boulders as a fog rolled in across the bay.

Back home, I looked more closely at the photos we had, comparing them with various field guides. Though unable to be certain of the species, whether this was the Greater Siren (Siren lacertina) or Lesser Siren (Siren intermedia) —— though I lean towards the former —— my initial identification seemed entirely sound. Except. Turns out, sirens (at least of the salamander variety) are not native to Rhode Island. Indeed, if this truly were a specimen of Siren lacertina, we'd come across one far outside the species' known range. According to all the published and online sources I've consulted, this large amphibian can be found no farther northeast than Virginia, which placed our discovery several hundreds miles from any previous recorded occurrence (and the range of the Lesser Siren is even more restricted). We puzzled over it for days, and finally concluded that the most rational explanation was that the specimen was in the collection of some local herpetofile or maybe even a student or professor at nearby Salve Regina College, and that it must have died and been summarily discarded at the cliff face. On the one hand, it seems awfully ad hoc, this explanation, but on the other, well, I know what Mr. Fort would have said. The photos are behind the cut (and if you're squeamish about dead things, consider yourself warned):

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Oh, and I should post the link to the current eBay auctions, as I forgot to this morning, and Spooky relisted some stuff today.