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an inordinate fondness for beetles

Here's something I wrote on this day in 2003 (from the Blogger, pre-LJ):

It is my job to write a book, not to concern myself with what people will think of that book. What they will think is neither relevant to the act of writing nor to the merit of the book. Public opinion cannot be a guide, ever. All it can tell me is that lots of people like X, which can mean anything and may mean nothing at all. John Grisham and Dean R. Koontz and Michael Crichton and Robert Jordan and James Patterson are not better writers than Thomas Ligotti or Kathe Koja or Ramsey Campbell or China Mieville, and the New York Times bestseller list and public opinion and market stats can all go fuck themselves. The world wants oatmeal. It is not my job to give the world oatmeal. It is my job not to be a hack. It is my job to try to make the world chew, lest its lazy jaw muscles atrophy and its collective mandible withers and all its teeth fall out. It is my job, as a writer, to give the world toffee and peanut brittle and tough steak and celery. I write peanut butter sandwiches, not oatmeal. And every time some dolt whines, "I'm confused" or "I don't understand" or "This doesn't make any sense," I should smile and know that I'm doing my job. Not because it is my job to be opaque, but because it is not my job to be transparent.

And I know when I am making sense, and whenever I allow the dolts to spin me round, blindfolded, until I've accepted the disorientation they spread like lice, I am to kick myself in the ass until I can find true north again.

This is not a pep talk. This is simply the truth that I forget, because publishing (more often than not, writing's moron pimp) seeks forever to confuse quality and quantity, accessibility and art. And now I am only remembering.


I do not spend much time here writing about the "craft" of writing, as I do not believe there is a "craft" of writing, sensu stricto. And that's not what this is. It's just something I came across earlier today and realized it was the sort something I needed to remind myself that I already know. And if anyone else out there needs to be reminded of it as well, then all the better. Three years is a long time in writer years. And it's also no time at all. Particles & waves. Tiddley-pom.

So much of yesterday was consumed by work on Sirenia Digest, and then the work of getting it e-mailed to all the subscribers, and then managing the mess that Yahoo made of the mailing...when it was finally all over, about three-thirty p.m., Spooky and I really weren't good for much else. We had tickets for the Serenity screening at LaFont Plaza and had planned to get dressed in our browncoat finery, because we really wanted to see the film on a big screen again. But after the digest, we were both too beat. At least the money went to a good cause, so I don't feel bad about having bought the tickets and not used them. I think more than anything else, I was not up for the company of so many people. My fanboy/fangirl/fanit tolerance was too low to risk such an excursion.

So we stayed at home. After dinner, we had a very nice twilight walk. There were clouds and a brief respite from the heat (which has returned today). We talked to cats and found this male stag beetle (Lucanus capreolus) on the sidewalk, ferociously brandishing his mandibles. He measured about 3.5-4 cm. Spooky took the photo:



Farther along, near the edge of Freedom Park, we passed a house, a house we like a lot. Three sets of wind chimes hang on the porch. Note: the air was very still. There was no wind. Spooky said she smelled paint, that someone had painted their house. I pointed to the house with the wind chimes and said I thought maybe the trim of that house's porch had been painted. And, while we were both looking at the porch, the largest of the three sets of wind chimes, and only the largest, moved and jangled rather dramatically. The other two sets were perfectly still. No one was on the porch, and, as I said, the air was quite still. A sudden gust surely would have moved the two smaller sets before the larger, but they made no sound at all and did not stir. We stood there a moment, staring at the porch, feeling that familiar strangeness, that feeling one gets from having had so many encounters with things which are, as Mr. Fort said, damned. Damned, and yet also entirely mundane. Wind chimes on a porch.

Back home, we watched Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events for the third or fourth time. It is a wonderful and brilliant film. This time, we watched all the deleted scenes and outtakes, as well. I wish to grow down to be Violet Baudelaire. A Nebari Violet Baudelaire.

I think I got to bed about two. I took an Ambien CR, which kept me asleep until about 9 a.m. Those things really ought to be good for more than seven hours. Though seven hours was plenty enough time for "nightmares" which, Tardis-like, unfolded over many months and months. They've faded away now. Increasingly, my dreams seem more like memories.

Okay. Gotta go. I have a birthday cake to bake. But here's the link to the eBay auctions. Please be so kind as to have a look. The Low Red Moon ARC set and the hardback of the subpress edition of Low Red Moon both end later today. Thanks.

Comments

( 22 comments — Have your say! )
desperance
Jun. 23rd, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
Not sure that tough steak is such a good thing - and what you do is better than peanut butter sandwiches - but I'm with you on the rest of this. And thanks for the reminder. And I love the beetle.
greygirlbeast
Jun. 23rd, 2006 07:04 pm (UTC)
Not sure that tough steak is such a good thing

It might not taste very good, but it's great for building jaw muscles.

and what you do is better than peanut butter sandwiches

If only it were as popular... ;-)
stsisyphus
Jun. 23rd, 2006 07:16 pm (UTC)
It might not taste very good, but it's great for building jaw muscles.

No, no. "The pages are tasty, but are thicker than taffy". Or some such stuff.
bosstweed
Jun. 23rd, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the excerpt! Apparently I should read your online journal from start to finish. It seems like so many writers take a very workmanlike "put the dinner on the table" approach to writing, both in terms of productivity and what they write, especially genre writers. It's really nice -- and useful for us not-yet-published writing sorts -- to read something uncompromising about the creation of fiction as art.

I may not like or "get" everything of yours that I've read, but I have greater respect for it because I never feel that you didn't lay yourself on the line completely. I would rather have one Murder of Angels than a hundred The Gerundings.
greygirlbeast
Jun. 23rd, 2006 07:07 pm (UTC)
Apparently I should read your online journal from start to finish.

You should. It goes back to late November 2001. The LJ part only started in April 2004.

It seems like so many writers take a very workmanlike "put the dinner on the table" approach to writing, both in terms of productivity and what they write, especially genre writers.

I think a lot of writers, especially genre writers, especially American genre writers, are scared to death of calling themselves artists. They think it makes them look "pretentious" or "lazy." And to most Americans, it probably would. Americans are afraid of artists. I blame the Puritans.
(Deleted comment)
greygirlbeast
Jun. 23rd, 2006 07:01 pm (UTC)
Cait, are beetles relations of trilobites?

Yes. Because beetles and trilobites are both arthopods, which means they both belong to the more inclusive clade Ecdysozoa (one of the four main lieages on animals). But, at the same time, they're no more closely related than, say, humans and fish (which are both chordates, and both belong within the Deuterostomia, another of those four lineages on animals). So, the answer is yes. But, then, remember that humans and beetles, and humans and trilobites, are relations, as all are members of the Animalia. You back far enough, and everyone on this planet is related to everyone else. Just like a small town in Alabama. ;-)
girfan
Jun. 23rd, 2006 06:50 pm (UTC)
I really loved Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events!
I'm not a huge fan of Jim Carey, but he was a perfect choice .
greygirlbeast
Jun. 23rd, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
but he was a perfect choice.

Agreed.
chris_walsh
Jun. 24th, 2006 11:17 am (UTC)
He can actually be a very good villain, and I'm glad filmmakers remember that. My friend Alicia usually doesn't like Carrey in his good-guy roles (except for Bruce Almighty, which she adored and which made her roar repeatedly) but Count Olaf and the Riddler really float her boat. (And y'know, he's not the goodest good guy in Bruce Almighty, come to think of it...)
seph_ski
Jun. 23rd, 2006 08:01 pm (UTC)
And, while we were both looking at the porch, the largest of the three sets of wind chimes, and only the largest, moved and jangled rather dramatically.

Sounds like the house fancies you too.

I hate oatmeal. Thanks for not making any!
mapultoid
Jun. 23rd, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC)
Article
Hey Caitlin,

Haven't said much in forever, but still reading you, as always.

Anyway, I thought of you when I was reading this article, not because I see you raising children, but because you actually have a rational mind and a good heart, and I want to keep believing that there are people who have those things and can read and understand these views.
greygirlbeast
Jun. 23rd, 2006 08:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Article
Haven't said much in forever, but still reading you, as always.

You should say more. But then, almost everyone should.

Thanks for the link.

not because I see you raising children,

Honestly, I would love to adopt, but we won't, because I don't think that I'll ever be able to provide sufficient finances to raise a child.
mapultoid
Jun. 24th, 2006 03:47 am (UTC)
Re: Article
I do want to clarify what I said, because the only reason I say that I don't see you raising children is because you've never indicated that you want to. I think you and Spooky would, of coure, be eccentric, perhaps mildly neurotic, very loving parents, if so inclined.

But yes, them there kids are expensive. And the upgrades? I mean. You know how much a new set of arms costs these days? At least with the way things are going around here, we can save some money on the Scientific Method and Rational Thought software packages...
greygirlbeast
Jun. 24th, 2006 04:19 am (UTC)
Re: Article
I do want to clarify what I said, because the only reason I say that I don't see you raising children is because you've never indicated that you want to.

Don't worry. I took no offence. I think that most people wouldn't think that I'd ever want a child. At any rate, it's extraordinarily unlikely to ever happen.

I think you and Spooky would, of coure, be eccentric, perhaps mildly neurotic, very loving parents

I should hope so, on all accounts. ;-)
wishlish
Jun. 23rd, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC)
Today's Diesel Sweeties should entertain you...
setsuled
Jun. 24th, 2006 12:32 am (UTC)
I spent last night and this morning catching up on the past two Sirenia Digests. I enjoyed them both quite a bit. Everything had beauty, and I was a little frightened at first, too, which doesn't usually happen to me, so I wonder if it had anything to do with me accidentally abstaining from dairy products for two days. Well, no, there is a continuous thread of unstoppable transmuting organisms that's sort of like watching a chimera that's constantly sprouting heads, most of them fairly shocking. Sometimes because the head's unexpected, sometimes because it's monstrous. But there's a sense of inevitability about the process, too.

"The Black Alphabet" was interesting for its format as well as its content. It could be just me, but I found it contained more distinct instances of comedy than other works of yours tend to. Especially in "Y" and "Z", though there was also something amusing about the colloquial tone of "S is for Spinneret" or the sort of Discovery Channel tone of "V is for Vermis". I was impressed in both cases by your ability to use the voices in a manner that was not obtrusively artificial, so that I felt I was truly seeing from the points of view of those characters. So while I was amused by the tone, it did not detract from the fascination and subtle horror of what they were describing; in fact the tones added an interesting, casual dimension of credibility.

I felt similarly about "G is for Gills." I was reading a lot of these out loud, and my voice was a little raw at that point, and I was suddenly able to imagine how it might sound read by Tom Waits, which seemed to suit the piece well.

I liked "Ode to Edvard Munch" quite a bit. I started noticing one thing (of many) you and sovay have in common, which is a real knack for describing very attractive people. Attractive not just for the physical description, but for the mannerisms and clothes. I feel there's a certain art, at which you're very adept, in assembling the little eccentricities, like the arrangement of lines in a poem. This Daughter of Lilith in "Ode to Edvard Munch" likes being barefoot, is Indian, has hair the colour "of pomegranates" . . . As you describe each item, it's like leaves, one by one, falling on a pond's surface or something. And it's often that way with your characters, and it really seems to add an aspect to their action in a way I don't often encounter in Fiction. Again, I noticed something similar in sovay's work, like in her "Shade and Shadow". There's the description of this girl who's quiet in coffee shops and obsessively goes to the library that's very cute. And then her name is Cairo Pritchard, which is somehow the perfect, most suiting name, also descriptive for how unusual it is, and the subtle associations the mind automatically draws. But of course, you're the one notorious for strangely named characters, and I find your names have a similar effect.

Continued . . .
setsuled
Jun. 24th, 2006 12:33 am (UTC)
Although I have a copy of Singing Innocence and Experience, I hadn't had opportunity to read "Constellations, Conjunctions" yet. It's a very good story, and an interesting contrast to your own, even as it sits naturally among them, for you both have a keen ability at putting words together to make atmosphere. In "Constellations, Conjunctions" however, sovay seems to explore the nature of love and relationships in a, perhaps sweeter, more abstract way then you. I want to say "contemporary" but I don't mean in doing so to set it beside contemporary romantic fiction. I've read too little of that to make comparisons, but what I'd mean by contemporary is that it's methods to explore the nature of love seem more involved with using the nature of people's relationships with and feelings towards the opposite sex. Well, at the same time it may as well be described as "old fashioned". She's good at it, anyway. I liked "Constellations, Conjunctions" a lot.

I haven't read any of Michael Moorcock's works, but I enjoyed "Giants of the Earth". I liked the juxtaposition of an alien environment with absurd references to Earth and ruminations on wild, organic life and the function of death for it. The idea of having an amusing surface makes the inevitability of some of the undertones all the more saddening and effective.

Anyway, it's all excellent stuff, as always.
setsuled
Jun. 24th, 2006 01:18 am (UTC)
but what I'd mean by contemporary is that it's methods to explore the nature of love seem more involved with using the nature of people's relationships with and feelings towards the opposite sex.

Er, that came out wrong. The object here was meant to be "nature of people's relationships with and feelings towards" and not "the opposite sex". Of course, I'm still not getting to what I was driving at. It seems perfectly simple in my head, but it just won't turn into words. Oh, well . . .
(Deleted comment)
setsuled
Jun. 24th, 2006 11:33 am (UTC)
Thanks, Leh', for all of that.

No problem; I enjoyed thinking about it.

You accidentally quoted mapultoid's comment in your reply to mine, but it is a comment I mostly agree with; you and Spooky could make wonderful parents. But on the other hand, you could also be glorious bad parents. It'd be an appreciable aesthetic from a distance, anyway . . . It reminds me of the dream I had of you two inhabiting the role of hermitic witches living in a medieval cottage deep in the woods. I can picture the child carrying buckets of water for you down from a big hill every morning, or catching toads and snakes for you.
greygirlbeast
Jun. 24th, 2006 04:42 pm (UTC)
It reminds me of the dream I had of you two inhabiting the role of hermitic witches living in a medieval cottage deep in the woods. I can picture the child carrying buckets of water for you down from a big hill every morning, or catching toads and snakes for you.

You just made my day. We would name the child Rose, regardless of its sex.
greygirlbeast
Jun. 24th, 2006 01:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Leh', for all of that. I think I know what you mean about the difference between the way I tend to portay/explore relationships and the way that Sonya does, though I doubt I could articulate it, either.

Well, I tried to fix it...
yvonnenavarro
Jun. 25th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC)
Beetles are cool. Yesterday during the day I heard this frantic buzzing and followed the sound to the driveway, where a beautiful blue-green beetle with a pearlescent surface was stuck on its back. My looming over it made it even more frightened, but after several tries I finally got it flipped onto its belly (where it didn't immediately spin onto its back again) and it flew away. Last night I found a different one trundling across the pool deck, and got that one into the bark before someone stepped on it.
( 22 comments — Have your say! )