When I was a child, growing up in Leeds, Alabama, the summer days – beginning part way through May, ending September – were frequently broiling. Nineties Fahrenheit were the norm, with occasional heat waves during which the mercury would climb above 100˚F. I'd say that days when the heat index was above 100˚F were not uncommon, excepting for the fact that the heat index wasn't developed until 1978 (and adopted the next year by the National Weather Service). I'd wake to the heat. My sister and I usually came inside in the mid afternoon to watch television and read, then went out again as the sun began to get low in the sky (or if a thunderstorm showed up to cool things down). We would often stay out past dark, when the temperature would dip into the high eighties. At bedtime, we'd toss and turn on bare sheets, turning the pillow over and over to find the cool side. We'd wake to sweat. It goes without saying, this being the Deep South, the humidity was normally very high. Then, when I was a teenager, we moved to Trussville (~6 miles NW), into a big new house with AC. After that – except when doing field work – I was rarely without AC, and I became spoiled, as are most Americans, I'd imagine.
In the South, houses – especially the old sort I lived in in Leeds – were built with heat in mind. In the North, the opposite is true. Houses are built to withstand the winters, as the summers are mild. They're built to retain heat, and in an old one, like this one, built in 1875, you're not likely to find AC beyond window units.
Currently, it's 90˚ (heat index 97˚) in Providence – not too bad for a summer's day in Leeds – and only 84˚ inside. But it feels much, much hotter. I want my childhood heat tolerance back, before all those decades of AC and before these drugs that dramatically lower my body's heat tolerance. Still, this beats the shit out of winter and Cold Spring.
Yesterday I finished up Sirenia Digest #89, and it went out to subscribers. Vince Locke turned in the final versions of his illustrations for The Ape's Wife and Other Stories and Black Helicopters* – and they are gorgeous – and I sent those off to Subterranean Press.
And now it's time that I begin work on a short story that's due at the end of July, and I also have to begin work on what is probably the final
My once stellar work ethic is sucking of late.
Yesterday, I read "New material of the choristodere Lazarussuchus (Diapsida, Choristodera) from the Paleocene of France," along with a review of Sébastien Steyer, Alain Bénéteau and Chris Spence's Earth Before the Dinosaurs (La Terre avant les dinosaurs; I read the book months ago) – both in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (33:2).
Sometimes, I feel bad about not reading more fiction. Actually, I frequently feel that way. But, the truth of the matter is that non-fiction, even very technical non-fiction, gives me a lot of story ideas, and I rarely get ideas from the fiction of other authors. And there are very few fiction authors I actually enjoy reading. I might find one novel a year that impresses me, if I'm lucky. Also, reading fiction usually feels like work, and, often, I find myself proofreading as I go or thinking of all the ways the novel could be better, how I could have done it better. And since my skill as a fiction writer only seems to be improving – if critical response means anything – my reading habits certainly aren't hurting my art. This means that it's high time I stop feeling weird about not reading a lot of fiction, and time I stop allowing the reading lists of other authors to make me feel crappy about reading so few novels and so little short fiction. Screw you, peer pressure.
Now, I'm off to sweat.
* The chapbook Black Helicopters is only available with the limited edition, which you have to order directly from subpress.