Yesterday, post-"vacation mistake" epiphany, I wrote and answered emails. I signed the signature sheets I mentioned. We worked on the line edits for Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart and The Yellow Book (and we're not too far from being finished with that). Today, more. Of everything. I think Kathryn's going down to her mom and dad's place. Would that I were going with her.
Yesterday, I was looking back over my Blogger entries from December 2003, and I found this passage, written on the 25th:
I will not get smarmy this morning, because I will not be a hypocrite, but I will wish you all the finest things that I can for the long year to come. Peace and freedom from tyranny and fear and repression, in all ways. The realization of dreams, or at least the luxury of the dreams themselves. The dignity that comes with pain that may not be avoided, and the strength to bear all the unbearable moments in life. Beauty and the eyes to see it. And perspective. And joy, which is a far finer thing than any passing happiness...Spooky and I have had the finest Xmas of any I've enjoyed since the late '80s.
I know why I wrote that, why I found an Xmas I could endure. What I spent a considerable bit of the day trying to puzzle out was exactly how things backslid so much between 2003 and now, what happened in the intervening seven years. Oh, I know the answer: a lot of bad shit. A fall. The whole affair left me sort of sick and confused.
Not much else to yesterday. I did manage a decent bit of reading. Three stories: Charles Stross' "A Colder War," Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette's "Mongoose," and Don Webb's "The Great White Bed." I don't think I'm ever going to "get" Stross. I believe he and I must simply exist on different points along the dial. But, reading him yesterday, that old chestnut about SF being the literature of ideas came to mind. Who said that? Pamela Sargent? I think it was her. Anyway, sure, "A Colder War" is a great bundle of interesting ideas. But there's very little in the way of characterization, and without solid characters, a "literature of ideas" is pretty much a textbook. Characters first, and then science. All the technoporn in the world can't save a story from the vacuum created by an absence of solid, believable characters. Also, the Burgess Shale fauna isn't Precambrian, it's Middle Cambrian. Sorry. I know it's poor form, one author publicly grousing about another, but Stross' stories always leave me feeling like I'm missing something that everyone else plainly understands.
As for "Mongoose," it's a beautiful, brilliant, and delightful story. Each of those adjectives was chosen with care, by the way. I'm not just heaping hyperbole. I can also use it to illustrate a point I was trying to make yesterday. I very much dislike Lovecraftian fiction that is parody and/or attempts at literary irony. Almost without fail, they fail, those sorts of stories. The author/s, having decided they cannot possibly take Lovecraft seriously, and that no one else can, either – not in this day and age, and probably not in any day and age – turn/s to satire (usually dimwitted satire). "Mongoose," on the other hand, manages to have a lot of fun with a futuristic extrapolation of Lovecraft's universe, and never once does it feel as if the authors are mocking the source material. It is, I think, a story HPL himself probably would have loved. The difference, I believe, is that "Mongoose" never stoops to parody or derision, but chooses wit and whimsy, instead. Especially whimsy. And it just works. Brava.
It took me forever to get to sleep, but I can't blame Monsieur Insomnia. Not when I didn't get up until one p.m. the day before. I think I finally found sleep sometime after five ayem, after watching the first half hour or so of Clarence Brown's The Rains Came (1939).