June 17th, 2009


"The morning light shows water in the valley."

I got to sleep at a more respectable hour last night, probably by 2:30 a.m. So, the insomnia seems to be backing off again. But Spooky and I were both visited by Highly Peculiar Dreams. In mine, I was back in Leeds (Alabama; at the corner of Montevallo Rd. and Vivian St. SW, I think), living in a house I know from memory, but have never actually occupied. I'd just returned from some sort of trip, to discover that the trashy and somewhat psychotic redneck neighbors across the street had begun stealing trees from our yard, and soil, and large stones, with which to landscape their own yard. The police wouldn't believe me. Bizarre. Meanwhile, Spooky dreamed of a Caitlín stalker who, for some unfathomable reason, was being allowed to stay with us in a very large hotel room. The stalker woke me up, which pissed Spooky off so much she went for a walk. She came back to find the girl cutting herself, arms and legs, while I watched on in stupefied disbelief. I demanded to know what the hell was happening, and about that time, some friend of the cutter Caitlín stalker showed up to ferry the nuisance away. Usually, my dreams are nothing more exciting than apocalypse...

Yesterday, I did 1,041 words on "The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean." I'm liking this new piece, and that's a relief after the way "The Alchemist's Daughter" derailed on me. "The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean" will appear in Sirenia Digest #43, later this month. So far, it feels very faintly like "pas-en-arrìere" (from Tales of the Woeful Platypus), in that I think it will largely be a sort of character study. There are hints of Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard and Angela Carter's "The Merchant of Shadows."

About 5:00 p.m. or so, Spooky announced that I'd written enough for the day, and that what I needed was a trip to the sea, a heavy dose of sun and salt air, and I wasn't about to argue. We drove down to South County, to Moonstone Beach. The day was clear and bright, despite earlier forecasts calling for rain (see what I said yesterday about New England "meteorologists"). We passed fields where the corn was just beginning to sprout. When we reached the sandy bit of road where we usually park to walk to the beach, we discovered that the tide was spectacularly low, so much so that the muddy bottoms of both Trustom and Card ponds (which lie behind the beach, beyond barrier dunes) were exposed. We walked the sandy banks and gravel bars, which are usually submerged by the salt marsh's waters. We watched ducks and kingbirds, robins and crows and other birds. I made a tiny boat of a very large clam shell. There were deer tracks, and raccoon tracks, and possibly fox tracks.

After a little while, we crossed the dunes onto Moonstone Beach proper. The Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodius) and Least Terns (Sterna antillarum) are nesting, and the terns, in particular, were rowdy, trying to drive us away from nests we weren't approaching. A flock of cormorants passed by. The sea was very calm, and the air was crisp, but not cold. Not much wind. There were more fishing boats than usual near shore, and the visibility was very good. Block Island, ten miles to the south across the sound, was easy to see. I found a few pieces of beach glass. Spooky was mostly occupied with the snazzy new camera, an early birthday gift from her mom (Spooky's birthday is June 24th). It's a Canon Powershot A1100, which replaces our cranky old Canon Powershot A75, which we bought way back in April or May of 2004. I laid on the sand and listened to the sea. I tried to clear my head, and to recall the thoughts I should be thinking, rather than the petty worries that have lately been consuming my every day. We left the beach reluctantly, around 7:30 or 7:45 p.m., and drove east to Narragansett to have doughboys at Iggy's. So, yeah. Yesterday was really rather nice. There are photos behind the cut (below). I may post some video this evening.

If you've not yet had a look at the current round of eBay auctions, please do. At this point, we're probably about two-fifths of the way to covering the cost of my attending ReaderCon 20 next month, so my thanks to everyone who's bid so far. A few items that have sold will be relisted today, including a copy of Tales from the Woeful Platypus.

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Shells for Ships, Dead Horses, La Mer

Since I mentioned it this morning, here's the clip Spooky shot yesterday of me experimenting with the buoyancy of clam shells, filmed near Moonstone, on the stream connecting Trustom and Card ponds.

Clamshell Boat, Riding the Current from Kathryn Pollnac on Vimeo.

It's starting to look as though my shadow is destined to get a lot more screen time than I ever will. Which is probably for the best. If you listen, you can hear the foghorn at Pt. Judith, almost five miles southeast of Moonstone Beach.

I'm still mulling over the whole silly "Mary Sue" thing. And yes, I still find it a painfully silly and generally useless concept. Though, I think there's something more insidious here. The idea that characters must be mundane to be believable, and a sort of elevation of the ordinary, that I find undeniably repugnant. Great literature is most often about extraordinary people, even when it purports to concern itself primarily with the "common man" (consider Tom Joad in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, for example). The whole idea of this sort of character police, it makes my skin crawl. We are good writers, or we are not, whether we are professional or amateur, whether we write fantasy or sf or genre mysteries or what so many mistakenly refer to as "literary" fiction (a grand redundancy). There is no place for dismissive categories like "Mary Sue." I see why it's happened. I even see why it's being applied beyond fanfic. Sure, I can understand the appeal of dismissing Stephanie Meyer or Laurell K. Hailton's distasteful and absurd heroines by simply labeling them "Mary Sues." They are undoubtedly idealized avatars in the service of the authors. But if we do that, given the inherent subjectivity of the concept, we must, wholesale, also dismiss thousands of other characters who have the same relationship to their authors. People are trying to invent a very simple solution for a problem that has no simple solution. And it's just dumb. I keep coming back to that, and I can't fathom why I'm wasting so much energy on such a completely reprobate idea. That which irks me gets my attention, more than it usually deserves. And, for the record, I do not, necessarily, have any problem with fanfic. But I've said that lots of times before.


I'm currently obsessed with NIN's "La Mer," from The Fragile (1999). Here are the original French Creole lyrics, which are spoken on the album by Denise Milfort:

Et il est un jour arrivé
Marteler le ciel
Et marteler la mer

Et la mer avait embrassé moi
Et la délivré moi de ma cellule

Rien ne peut m'arrêter maintenant

Which may be translated into English as:

And when the day arrives
I'll become the sky
And I'll become the sea

And the sea will come to kiss me
For I am going

Nothing can stop me now

Or, somewhat more literally:

And the day has arrived
To thresh the sky
And to thresh the sea

And the sea has embraced me
And it has dispensed me from my cage

Nothing can stop me now