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Well, first the good news. Peter Straub has selected "The Long Hall on the Top Floor" for Fantastic Tales: American Stories of Terror and the Uncanny, which he's editing for the Library of America. The volume is due out in October 2009. I count this, with the reprint of "In the Water Works (1889)" in S. T. Joshi's American Supernatural Tales (Penguin Classics, 2007), as among my most notable accomplishments thus far. "The Long Hall on the Top Floor" first appeared in an issue of the now-defunct Carpe Noctem magazine, in 1999, and was thereafter collected in Tales of Pain and Wonder.

But, the bad news is that it looks like my plans for a March "vacation" are going to have to be scrapped, as I owe ellen_datlow a story, and somehow the deadline, and, indeed, the whole book, had slipped my mind, until she emailed me about it last night. So...I have until March 23rd to get that done, and when you figure in Sirenia Digest #40, the month is pretty much shot. I might be able to squeeze in a week between the story and the digest, maybe.

I spent all this morning figuring out fair-use and public-domain questions concerning three quotes used in The Red Tree. Specifically, a quote from Seneca the Younger's Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, one from Hesiod's Theogony, and another from The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe. All these were, of course, translations, and what is at question is when the copyright on the translations I used expired, or if they have not yet expired. Turns out, we're clear on Hesiod (Evelyn-White translation) and Goethe (Saunders translation), but not on Seneca (Gummere translation). Fortunately, sovay is very kindly providing me with a new translation of the Seneca passage in question, so I won't have to cut it from the book. That was my extra-tedious morning.

Here in Providence, the day is cold, and the sun blindingly bright off all the snow that isn't melting. Right now, it 29F, but 19F with wind chill factored in.

I'm still looking back over comments I've made regarding sf, and my science fiction, in particular, and there's this interesting bit from March 5th, 2006:

matociquala (Elizabeth Bear) and cpolk (Chelsea Polk) have coined a literary neologism for a certain sort of sf, a term which I'm finding extremely useful: eco-gothic*. I quote: "We look around at the world and we're fucking scared. There's this underlying idea of the implacability of the universe and the smallness of humanity. We know that there is no guiding, caring force. That life is amazing in its tenacity and persistence, but that ultimately, it's completely pitiless. And if you take it too far, if you unbalance it enough, it will crush you. This idea of the tenacity of life in a pitiless universe. And nobody else seems to fucking GET IT. Because life is tenacious, but humanity is disposable. It's not a tragedy that the passenger pigeon perished. And it won't be a tragedy when we go either...God doesn't care if we persist. We're not special. We're not essential. The universe doesn't love us bestest of all. Because you know, there's this critique that a Black Novel is not Relevant because it's about Blackness, not Humanity. Which upon I call bullshit. Because a human novel isn't relevant. Because it's about humanity. Six point five billion ugly bags of mostly water on a second-class planet in an arm of a barred spiral galaxy. Pretending like Hell that we signify." Click here for the transcript from which this quote was cobbled together.

Certainly, all of my sf would fall into this category of "eco-gothic." The Dry Salvages, "Riding the White Bull," "Faces in Revolving Souls," "The Pearl Diver," "Persephone," "Hoar Isis," "Between the Flatirons and the Deep Green Sea"...all of it. And I think one thing I found particularly intriguing was the suggestion that writers of "eco-gothic" sf may, perhaps, do so because "we were the second-class geeks who took life sciences instead of physics with the hard-line geeks." That's one of my dirty little secrets. Sure, I took chemistry and physics and mathematics in college, but I had no real aptitude for it. It was in the life and earth sciences that I excelled, particularly in paleontology, which is often disparagingly labeled by the math and physics types as a "soft science." Anyway, it's just something I wanted to note, because of the things I said about sf on Friday, and because it's something I want to think about. I have no problem with a neologism or a literary category so long as it is useful and needed and I suspect this one may be both. It is, of course, inherently Lovecraftian, and minor caveats and questions do arise. Perhaps I will come back to those later. Not only does this remind me why I shall never appeal to those sf readers who dislike "dystopian" sf, but also why I shall likely always find myself in a rather minuscule fraction of Wiccans. The gods do not care because, after all, they're only hopeful metaphors for needful humans. Anyway, thank you Bear and Chelsea.


So, it's not surprising that Elizabeth Bear ended up writing an afterword for A is for Alien, an afterword which, in part, explores the idea of the eco-gothic.

Also, it has been one year to the day that I announced in the journal that Spooky and I would be moving from Atlanta to Providence. What an eventful year it has been.

Yes, the Immaculate Order of the Falling Sky has duly noted the Earth's recent near-miss by a Tunguska-sized asteroid. Hope springs eternal.

Last night, I stumbled across some bloody frakking idiot, somewhere on the web, who'd referred to Echo (from The Dreaming) as a "Mary Sue" character, and I'm still laughing...

* matociquala later found a use of "eco-gothic" dating back to 1996, in a description of Stephen Palmer's novel, Memory Seed.

Comments

( 31 comments — Have your say! )
scarletboi
Mar. 4th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
Considering that Echo's eternally fucking everything up, (see, Gabe, Anton Arcane, Eve, ODing, Lucian, everyone ELSE in the Dreaming...) It's hard to see her as a Mary Sue character.

I mean, I love Echo. But I wouldn't want to be her, and I can't imagine you would, either.

greygirlbeast
Mar. 4th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)


I mean, I love Echo. But I wouldn't want to be her, and I can't imagine you would, either.


That was sort of my take on the whole thing. But it was a sort of snide, anti-transsexual comment. So, fuck the bastard.

Generally, I'm wary of the "Mary Sue" label, anyway, as I think it's, more often than not, a a lazy means of dismissing a character without actually having to resort to genuine criticism. It's also so subjective and broad, the term, as to be almost meaningless.
scarletboi
Mar. 4th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
Blah. I wish people weren't so hateful, but at the same time, it's kind of nice when people demonstrate so openly that they aren't worth my time.

Also, congratulations on "the Long Hall on the Top Floor." I still have that issue of Carpe Noctem somewhere.
scarletboi
Mar. 4th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
Also, it occurs to me that as far as I know, I'm the only one of us who has ever actually dressed up as Echo.
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Mar. 4th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - stsisyphus - Mar. 4th, 2009 09:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - scarletboi - Mar. 4th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
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sovay
Mar. 4th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
as I think it's, more often than not, a a lazy means of dismissing a character without actually having to resort to genuine criticism.

I think it's valid in its original context: discussing characters in fanfiction who look like unconscious, straight-to-the-page projections of their authors' fantasies (although that opens the entire question of what fanfiction is, if not projection of fantasies: maybe not if I were on the show, but certainly if I wrote the show) to the point that the levels of special make the reader want to scream. I do not think it can be applied to original fiction, because who determines what's an acceptable level of authorial stand-in or autobiographical detail or fill in the blank, really? Elizabeth Taylor had violet eyes. I very much doubt that makes her a Mary Sue. And when it becomes used as a term for any successful female protagonist? Pass the tire iron, please.
greygirlbeast
Mar. 4th, 2009 09:35 pm (UTC)

I think it's valid in its original context: discussing characters in fanfiction who look like unconscious, straight-to-the-page projections of their authors' fantasies (although that opens the entire question of what fanfiction is, if not projection of fantasies: maybe not if I were on the show, but certainly if I wrote the show) to the point that the levels of special make the reader want to scream. I do not think it can be applied to original fiction, because who determines what's an acceptable level of authorial stand-in or autobiographical detail or fill in the blank, really? Elizabeth Taylor had violet eyes. I very much doubt that makes her a Mary Sue. And when it becomes used as a term for any successful female protagonist? Pass the tire iron, please.

See, that's the thing. I will admit, up front, that, to varying degrees, almost all my characters are autobiographical, that they are all, in one way or another, projections.
(no subject) - sovay - Mar. 4th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Mar. 4th, 2009 11:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - sovay - Mar. 5th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC) - Expand
stsisyphus
Mar. 4th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
I do not think it can be applied to original fiction...

While I agree with you here in nearly all cases, I think there's one glaring example from contemporary popular fiction where I think it can be applied to original fiction.

IMO, there should be some kind of litmus test for original fiction what bears that particular character's name.
(no subject) - sovay - Mar. 4th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Mar. 5th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC) - Expand
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sovay
Mar. 4th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
Peter Straub has selected "The Long Hall on the Top Floor" for Fantastic Tales: American Stories of Terror and the Uncanny, which he's editing for the Library of America.

Awesome!

Don't explode.
greygirlbeast
Mar. 4th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)

Don't explode.

Oh, but it would feel so good.
kiaduran
Mar. 4th, 2009 11:59 pm (UTC)
Explode if you must, but try not to scare the cats.
humglum
Mar. 5th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)

Or make too much of a mess. I still haven't taught Smeagol what those thumbs are for and I'd hate to have to clean it up all by myself ;)
greygirlbeast
Mar. 5th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
Boom?
martianmooncrab
Mar. 4th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
who'd referred to Echo (from The Dreaming) as a "Mary Sue" character, and I'm still laughing...

more of a Mary Sioux...
greygirlbeast
Mar. 4th, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC)

more of a Mary Sioux...

*snork*

Cute.
suzie_n_sophie
Mar. 5th, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
Congrats on making the Peter Straub book. EXCITING!
( 31 comments — Have your say! )