Yesterday, I did 1,224 words on "The Z Word," which, despite the inherent absurdity of a zombie love story built upon ABBA songs, is coming out much grimmer and less whimsical than I'd expected. Someone asked if there would be a playlist, to which I reply, it comes built into the story itself. I should be able to finish the story today.
Not much else to yesterday. A lot of email that I need to answer. You'd think Sundays would have long since ceased to feel like Sundays. I don't have weekends, in any traditional sense. I don't take them off work. I'm not in school. I escaped the Xtian thing way back about 1982. So, yeah, I have no idea why Sundays continue to feel so...off. There was a little SL last night, an rp scene with Lina in Corvinus. Then Spooky and I watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), which I'd not seen in ages. It's still one of Speilberg's best films.
My thanks to Cliff Miller for giving me permission to post his letter regarding "The Ape's Wife" (I have reformatted this letter slightly, to condense paragraphs):
I have just read "The Ape's Wife", by Caitlín R. Kiernan, for the third time. I have misunderstood it, totally, for up until this reading, I really didn't care for it. I suspect, or rather, fear that is because I am male, or middle-aged, or just not 'artistic' enough by nature. But I'm positive that I didn't understand because I did not read it carefully.
There are stories that you read and enjoy, that provide a few minutes of escape, that capture your imagination and provide pleasure. There are stories, more serious, that you find satisfying and that you admire for the craftsmanship and the universality of experience that you can share. These stories win prizes and awards and accolades for their authors. You can mention their titles in public and some of your companions say, "Oh, yeah, I read that. What an excellent story." Glasses clink and the conversation moves on. "The Ape's Wife" is neither of these.
For there is a third type of story. In this type, if you read carefully, you realize the author threw away all the stops and created something that is the best that they can do. They believe it is a fine thing, but they know for damn sure that it is the best that they can do. You understand this, as a reader, in the third person, as an observer, for the story surpasses intimacy. The author has not bared themselves in the way of lovers as it were. That is the second type of story.
In the third type, the author has removed her skin. All that she has been, all that she is, all that she believes she will be, is exposed for examination. Examination by lesser beings in many cases, but that is not the intent. Intimacy lies far behind. You can be the author, should you decide to enter the body so mercilessly laid open. You can dine on her flesh, or make fun, or dance away, without caring. She knew this, and wrote it anyway.
But, and again, you must read carefully. You must approximate in your attention the ultimate skill and care with which the story was imagined, assembled, and created. The fingers bruised by the computer keys, the floor slippery with blood, the paper pages soaked with tears.
Your opinion? I don't think she cared. The great ones don't. They write for themselves, because to not write is unthinkable. Your enjoyment, or appreciation, or understanding is simply not the point. You don't open yourself this way for another being. Any clarity and universality is a byproduct of a master craftswoman.
The unimaginable case is that not all stories of this quality find a market. You might have to look widely, deeply, with exhausting effort. Deep in a genre somewhere, though these stories operate outside of any genre. You might have to read a lot of crap before you find this kind of story. The third kind. In the case of "The Ape's Wife", it's worth any effort. Read it carefully, slowly, savoring each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each image, each reference. Respect the fact that you've entered someone else's being, universe, perception of reality. Remember you don't have to understand where you are to respect it and to honor it with your attention.
I don't know who or what you are, but if you do read it, carefully, I offer this promise. I promise you'll want to read it again.
Note that "The Ape's Wife" was first published at Clarkesworld Magazine, and was voted best short story of 2007 by the magazine's readers. It has since been reprinted (as in, on paper) by Wyrm Publishing in Realms: The First Year of Clarkesworld Magazine and in Stephen Jones' The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (#19). At least as regards my intent as a writer, and especially as regards the "Your opinion? I don't think she cared." bit, I'd say it's quite accurate. I may care later, once a story is written, but I cannot allow thoughts of how a story might be received to interfere with my I intent to write. As I have said too many times, I write for me and no one else. Anyway, thank you, Cliff.
Also, a brief bit more about the Swan Point security situation. A reader writes:
I just came across your livejournal from the Weird Tales webpage and saw your posts about Swan Point Cemetery. I moved to the East Side of Providence three years ago for work and I was excited to finally have the chance see all things HPL: his house, the places he mentions in some of his stories, and his tombstone. My girlfriend and I first went to see his stone about two years ago. I left him a guitar pick and took some photos by his grave. I saw one other group of people my age there and my girlfriend and I left after a few minutes so they could say hi to HPL, too. We didn't have any problems with security and no one bothered us. Recently though, it seems like there is a new security force in place. We walk the boulevard a lot in the evenings and they're always there with the huge spotlights, checking out the walls and brush. We've just noticed it this past month or so. I don't remember them doing it last year or the year prior for HPL's birthday, so maybe it's some new policy or something. Anyway, I'm sorry to hear that they were rude to you two and to some of the other folks that have written you as well. If that's the sentiment there these days I would be afraid to leave a guitar pick now - probably get in trouble because there's toxins in the plastic and they might leach out into ground and contaminate the (already dead) people living (buried) there. Anyway, hope they chill out soon and you get a chance to go back to see the grave in peace.
Also, I'm including the following photograph, behind a cut, taken by a local acquaintance the day after our visit (my frog offering is visible on the stone, but most of the flowers have wilted). He also reports having encountered no trouble with security. So, maybe they're very particular about who they single out for harassment, or maybe some of us are luckier than others. Anyway, yeah, this photo, because I've not yet decided whether or not to post our two shots (I'm talking with a lawyer about the situation). It's interesting to see that nothing had been removed from the monument. Frankly, I think the guy just didn't like our looks.
Please have a look at the new round of eBay. Thanks. Also, I've heard that some bookshops now have the mass-market paperback of Daughter of Hounds on the shelves, a week ahead of time.