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Kaiulani Movie

PRINCESS KAIULANI–THE MOVIE

Ka'iulani's Eyes

I’ve seen the Ka’iulani movie now, and I think that it is terrible.  I don’t know if they managed to spin a good stand-alone fictional  yarn about some made-up princess from a made-up history, because at every point I was testing it against what I knew. 

The film showed Ka’iulani as being forcibly yanked from Hawaii against her will (o, the barbaric wildness of her as she fights her father, her new hosts, etc.) and then hunkering down at a school at which they treated her badly (since she was so barbaric and all).  This fictional character falls in love with her host’s son, and he proposes on the veritable eve of her hieing to New York, then Washington D.C., in order to  rescue her kingdom after the second-generation haole missionaries-turned-businessmen illegally overthrew the monarchy with force.  These businessmen did illegally overthrow the monarchy with force, but that’s just about the only thing I saw in this film that struck me as true, and even then the dates were manipulated.  Which is very odd–the true story is dramatic, gripping, and heartwrenching.  Why these weird spins? 

Ka’iulani traveled widely in Europe during her years there, and met, as a royal, many European royals.  She spoke several languages.  She turned down proposals from a Japanese princes, European royalty, and, in general, seems to have been a strong-minded young woman in addition to being blazingly intelligent and beautiful.  Perhaps “independent” translates into “barbaric” for the filmmakers?   She had money, and she had choices, which she excercised.  I’m not sure who was unhappy with her original school placement or why, but she did eventually move from her orignal school to another situation.  She wasn’t yanked away from home; her European education was well-planned.   Robert Louis Stevenson, a friend of hers, wrote a poem for her on the occasion of her journey, the purpose of which was to educate her to rule a country.  Her father wasn’t an uncaring jerk who didn’t communicate with her or respect her, as depicted in the movie–he was a doting father, as far as I could tell from his letters to her and her history of being the beloved child of himself and his beloved late wife, Governor Likelike.  She regularly fended off proposals, and not just from some lowly provincial Clivish person, whoever he might have been.  This is exceedingly well documented.  It’s not lost in the mists of time.  It’s all written down, and from many points of view, including her own. 

So, mostly the movie seems utter bosh.  I’m not sure what all the “voting” nonsense toward the end was about, either.  Certainly a nice dramatic scene, but I didn’t really understand the meaning of “the vote.”  Voting for what?  Officials for local office?  I guess.  And did this really happen, and in this fashion?  Given the rest of the fictions in the movie, who knows?

In truth, Kaiulani did go to New York City and did meet with President Cleveland over the years of his presidency to discuss, as heir to the Hawaiian throne (as her Aunt Liliokalanihad done during some of her many trips to Washington, among other trips to Europe and to England as an invited guest at Victoria’s Jubilee) her country’s future.  There was, perhaps, in the US, the populace of which has always had a very low level of education regarding international affairs,  a concept of Hawaiians being backward and barbaric.  Ka’iulani, cultured to the nth degree,  perhaps “dispelled”  this straw-women myth set up to sell papers?  I don’t know.  Mainlanders have always thought of Hawaii as being a foreign country, which it was.  In 1988, a friend of a friend visited, but first inquired whether or not US dollars were used there.  I was floored.  At any rate, after Ka’iulani’s visit (which in the movie was cast as a scene in which Ka’iulani, for some unknown reason, had to pretend that she was not heir to a throne but there in some other capacity), Cleveland brought the issue of annexation to Congress to try to thwart the process, but he failed. 

And, sigh, one big nit was the actress chosen to play the part.  She did well with what they gave her, yes.  However, she didn’t look anything like Ka”iulani.  I’d heard the pre-release criticism, which predisposed me to have an open mind because I don’t like to get my information second-hand, in which many complain about the fact that a Hawaiian was not chosen to play the part.  The film opened with a scene featuring a stunningly beautiful actress and a little girl.   I thought, “They were wrong!  This IS Kaiulani!”  But then . . . no.  That perfect match was actually Ka’iulani’smother in the movie, soon to die.  In fact, Ka’iulani was half-Scottish; her father, Archibald Cleghorn, was a Scot. 

As with all my novels, I researched THE BONES OF TIME, which is about Ka’iulani, assiduously and meticulously.  For several years.  At the Bishop Museum, I read her original letters from England to her father.  I am, however, a haole, and was quite worried about casting this admirable woman, and the tragedy of the theft of Hawai’i, in my own foreigner’s words.  The only part of her life that is not well-documented is her last few years, when she returned to Hawai’i and died.  I might as well throw this into the pot–perhaps she was poisoned.  Certainly this well-loved rightful monarch to an independent country was a threat to the interests of the American businessmen who illegally annexed Hawai’i. 

THE BONES OF TIME is out of print, though I sell it through my web site.  I hope to have a bit more time in the future to deal with my out of print novels–republish them as e-books, etc., since I have the rights to all of them save QUEEN CITY JAZZ, still in print via Tor.  At that time, I may change the title of the book to include Ka’iulani.  THE BONES OF TIME was actually the suggestion of my editor, as the original title, from the Asimov’s novella, was “Kamehameha’s Bones.”

Anyway, if you enjoyed the movie, or intend to, enjoy away.  Just understand that it is fiction. 

Here’s a web site that has a bit about that:  http://www.disappearednews.com/2010/05/princess-kaiulani.html

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December 20, 2010   3 Comments

Goonan to teach Writing Short Fiction at Georgia Tech January-May 2011

I’m going to be teaching a writing course at Georgia Tech next semester. Of course, you have to be enrolled at Tech in order to take the class, but people have been asking, so I thought I would post it here. It will be a lot of work, but if you are really interested in writing, I promise that it will be worthwhile.

Short fiction writing class taught by award-winning author offered next semester.

LCC 3234: Creative Writing, or, Writing the Short Story

Award-winning author Kathleen Ann Goonan (www.goonan.com) will teach the art of writing short fiction winter semester at Georgia Tech. Goonan has published six novels and over thirty-five short stories. She has taught writing in many venues, including the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop.

Class size is limited to 18 students. Admission is by permit only, based on evaluation of submitted material. Each class member will write several short stories over the course of the semester. Students will critique, in class, the work of other students, so it is a reading-heavy as well as a writing-heavy class. We will concentrate on character, plot, and language, which will engage the class in various aspects of theory and craft.

To apply, send 3-5 pages of double-spaced fiction in Word or .pdf to kathleen.goonan@lcc.gatech.edu or kathleen@goonan.com. Class admission will be determined by November 15th.

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November 2, 2010   No Comments

Georgia Tech

Today I’m getting ready to head down to Atlanta on Monday to begin my year as a Visiting Professor. 

Chief among these tasks is packing a nice-sized reference library of books about science, by scientists by Freeman Dyson, E.O. Wilson, Fynman, Oliver Sacks, Greene (THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE), Crick & Watson, etc.   And then there is the library of Books About Writing, as I will be teaching writing, and yet another library of science fiction and general literature, as I will be teaching SF Literature.  And criticism; those books are a sizeable presence here as well. 

So all in all I see a rather pleasurable afternoon shaping up, as sorting through books is one of my favorite pastimes.  Of course, it is a slow process, as one always needs to stop and read.

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August 14, 2010   7 Comments

Washington Post Book World

I began reading Book World when it was brand new and part of my hometown newspaper, The Washington Post.  Of course, we also subscribed to the Evening Star, but it vanished long ago. 

And now, Book World is gone, at least as a separate entity, a pull-out like the NY Times Book Review.  But it is not gone from my house. 

I have about a hundred unread copies.  When we moved to Knoxville in 1978, there were few bookstores.  I took to calling the bus station on Sunday around noon to find out whether the Post had made it onto the bus.   On some mornings, it didn’t, and forget daily issues; it only came in on Sundays.  If it was there, I would hustle downtown into desultory Sunday-afternoon Knoxville and get my dose.  When we moved to Honolulu (remember those pre-Internet days, anyone?) I could get a copy at a downtown bookstore, about three blocks from where I lived, on Wednesdays.  That was the earliest that the Sunday paper would get there. 

For years, my parents bought me an annual subscription to Book World, but at some point that option also vanished.  My father saved up his Book Worlds and sent them to me in batches.  It is from those batches that I now periodically draw. 

This is actually a good thing for me.  I am easily enthralled by a good review, and I have many bought-new hardcovers that still languish–oh, they *must* be languishing–unread on my shelves, waiting for the Infinite Free Time At The End Of The World (there are many movies I intend to watch then, too).  Now, when I read an enticing review, the double-edged sword of cheap books comes into play.  The books I want are only a dollar or less.  Sigh. 

It is, however,  a delight to read Michael Dirda’s old columns; he can *always* sell me a book. 

I think I closed out the Fantasy & Science Fiction column, which was monthly for some years, with a column of my own, published just a few weeks or months before Book World’s fadeout.   I used to review for the Tampa Tribune, the Orlando Sentinal, the SF Eye, and other publications, and I’m quite a fan of the Art of the Review.   A good review, in my opinion, should be a delicious piece of writing in and of itself. 

Of course, the Post still runs reviews; they are just folded into the Style section. 

Tom Lutz, one of my interviewers for the professorial post at UC Riverside and the author of the fine book DOING NOTHING, among others, is starting an online Los Angeles Review of Books.  Bravo, Tom!

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August 14, 2010   No Comments

Mt. LeConte Lodge: An Unexpected Jaunt

Seeing as how I just got my titanium hip in April, I did not plan to hike up to LeConte Lodge withmy husband last Wednesday.  I have a hard time climbing the stairs at home.  I’ve been considering having my other hip replaced asap, since it has little cartilege.  I’ve been going to physical therapy since the surgery, but the long aisles of Krogers are still daunting.   Maybe next summer, I thought.  Not now.

LeConte Lodge ( http://www.leconte-lodge.com/) is in the Smokies, and we’ve spent the night about ten times in the past thirty years.  You have to hike in and out.  We’ve tried all the trails, and I really prefer the Boulevard Trail, which is 8-1/2 miles long, but has the least up-and-down, about 1,000 feet.  It’s most easily accessed from Newfound Gap, on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, where Roosevelt dedicated the Park from an impressive stone podium built for that purpose. 

I drove my husband up to the trailhead to drop him off.  He’d been on a waiting list in case of a cancellation; you have to make reservations a year ahead of time.  The last time I went to the lodge was two years ago, when I didn’t know what was wrong with me.  I only knew that I was utterly exhausted (though I bounded up the trail, with a heavy pack, many times before) and that it took me eight grueling hours.  I was lucky to get there before dark.  I did beat one other woman, though! 

I just intended to walk a bit with him until I got tired, turn around, and come back home to get some work done.  But it was a perfect, beautiful summer day, much cooler than the heat-wave flats below.  I don’t think I’ve ever set out on a hike without a pack before, not even a short one, and felt curiously light and liberated with just half-a bottle of water and my car keys hooked onto the belt loop of my shorts. 

I just kept going, mainly propelled by the thought that I may not be able to do it again, or have another chance.  You never know.  A similar thought propelled me the second time we hiked the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, when I broke my leg but had to continue because there was no other way to go–no road, just a sheer drop to the ocean and sheer cliffs above and six miles back compared to five miles to the beach and campsite.  Nevertheless, I had a great time and wrote a piece about it (ommitting the bit about the broken leg) that I sold to the Washington Post.  I still think in Travel Article Format, having sold about twenty of them early on, but years ago the Post shortened its format, and there’s no fun in just writing roundup pieces about which restaurant to go to.  I like to write essays.  And I was right–I’ve never been back to Kalalau since.

“Atral Weeks” played over and over in my head like a record, which was handy, since it’s been one of my favorites since it came out, jazzy and completely Other and Original, in 1968.  Any offers for the original LP?  I thought not.  It hisses and pops, emitting a stunning river of images and emotions still fresh.  I’ve been listening to St. Dominick’s Preview all week, anyway, and mulling over Van Morrison’s preference for studio work vs. Jerry Garcia’s love of huge live concerts, where fans were free to tape everything and trade the results.  Very different business models.  Van Morrison’s tight control over his recordings resulted in some of the coolest cuts ever laid down, but he has always been enmired in negotiations and contracts, judging by the content of a lot of his work.  We saw him in San Francisco in 1972 in a small club in the shadow of the Bank of America obelisk, and he was a gruff, sturdy, somewhat bearish man (though not all that large, except in voice and spirit) who belted out his stuff with horns blaring behind him; he also picked up his sax a few times.  There were no seats, just a carpeted floor.  They packed us in, but we still had room to sit down, though by the end we all were dancing.   I hear he has little patience with live performances and just suffers them.  I had tickets to see the Grateful Dead at RFK Stadium in 1973, and took my sister with me.  They mostly performed, sometimes for eight hours at a stretch.  We were there on time, but the Dead were not.  Typical Deadhead debauchery ensued as the crowd swelled.  It was hot.  It was rumored that the Dead were going to parachute into the stadium wearing American flags.  My sister, who was with me, had little patience for such things, and surely not for hours on end.  I would have stayed as long as it took, but I really didn’t want to make her suffer, so I never did see the Dead.  They did not play in my head as I walked up the Boulevard Trail, but I pondered their business model and thought about my own work, and how I might publish in the future. 

The Boulevard, once it achieves the ridgetop, is an absolutely lovely trail, with sweeping views of the North Carolina Smokies from knife-edge cliffs.  The trail really is smack on the ridgetop, and it is narrow–sometimes both sides of it are sheer drops–and the pines smell sweet, and the wind, even in July, is cool.   We reached the spot where it would be possible for me to return to the car without going uphill, now three miles out.  I thought I may as well go eight miles as six. 

We hadn’t really brought enough water for two people.  I cadged water from a guy from Maine who passed me twice–once having already hiked about eight miles, from the Alum Cave parking lot, and on the way back, having gone to a place called the Jump-Off, to which I hiked on my 50th birthday.  He had then made a two-mile side trip to Icewater Springs to fill his water bottles.  He was on his way back to the parking lot, and once he got there, would have hiked about 22 miles that day, way up.  And way down. 

The longer I walked, the more thrilled I became that I was actually able to do it.  Had I planned to go, I would have loaded myself down with a notebook, camera, probably a book and a reading light, special things to eat, and many more clothes than I would need, even if it rained and snowed and we were somehow trapped for a week.  Oh, and maybe some painting supplies.  I travel heavy.  I know it’s wrong.  I can’t help it.

At the office, they sell t-shirts that you can only buy there, and other souveniers.  They have two pretty nice Yamahas (this year, anyway), a foot-pedal Singer sewing machine (the mind boggles) like the one I used for years (my grandmother’s, with which I once sewed through a fingernail), and lots of games and jigsaw puzzles.  The cabins have log bunks with Hudson Bay blankets, a washstand, a kerosene lamp, and now, propane heaters.  Highest recorded temperature there is 78 F.   They have postcards carried in by llamas and stamped as such, and we bought two.  They helicopter in major supplies in the spring.  I suspect that the llamas mainly bring in fresh food and supplies for the staff.  They supply dinner and breakfast and now, a sack lunch.  They even have wine, now, but the menu hasn’t otherwise varied in all the years that we’ve been going there.  What’s really fun about the lodge is meeting all the other people staying there. 

I recalled the time we’d hiked down from Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee, one April afternoon.  We stayed alone on an Appalacian Trail shelter while a storm dumped truckloads of hail on the tin roof.  The next day we woke to snow, and our next shelter, for which we had permits, was crammed with hikers from the previous night who didn’t want to move on, including a guy with a puppy.  Some rangers came, checked permits, the threw the people who didn’t have permits out, but they came back after the rangers moved on to put their bedrolls on the dirt floor, rather than the wire bunks we slept on, to be near the fire.  It’s really fairly rugged up there, with Weather.  We hiked the entire AT in the park when we first moved to Knoxville, and it was idyllic. 

Despite the hike, I barely slept; there can hardly be a more intractable form of insomnia than mine.  I clomped down the flagstone path in my untied boots with my walking stick many times that night, looking up at the stars and down on Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood, ablaze, about twenty-five miles away, at three a.m., thinking about how astonished and, perhaps, dismayed the guy who built the lodge in the early twentieth century would be to see civilization so very close at hand.

The climb down on Thursday was torturous.  It is a steep descent of over 3,000 feet in 5-1/2 miles, heavily travelled because of the lodge.  There are cables to hang onto along the cliffs, handy in rain or ice, or when you are unsure of your footing, and log and stone steps on the very steep parts.  I went very slowly because I am naturally clumsy anyway, and took care as to where I set my feet.  I had to plan out many of my moves.  I thought of rock-climbing Kij Johnson, and thought about how writing a short story might be like rock climbing, where one move locks you into your way forward and might wipe out your way back, a series of interlocking choices.  I wondered if rock climbing was a writing metaphor for her.  I am completely composed of metaphors.  I can’t think without committing metaphor, and of course every word we think or speak is one. 

At any rate, I made it down, since there was no other choice. 

The next day, I went to physical therapy and told them that it works.

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July 10, 2010   No Comments

An Excerpt from THIS SHARED DREAM about education, and a very good link

Rather long, and full of Opinion. 

Dr. Hadntz is a Viennese physicist/physician intent on creating a Device that will change humans from a war-loving to a peace-keeping species.  Bette Elegante (I noticed that in the Spanish edition of IN WAR TIMES, the translater rendered Bette’s last name as “Smart,” whereas, in my opinion, they ought to have kept Bette’s actual last name intact) works for the OSS.

I don’t know if this will be in the published edition, but here it is anyway. 

At the end is the link to a marvelous piece by John Taylor Gatto, “How Education Cripples our Kids, and Why.”  Gotto served on a Harpers Magazine forum on education.

Hadntz took her arm and steered her down a side street, staying half a block behind the harshly shouting rabble.  The leader pointed to a shop front, and those behind him rushed forward, smashed the window, and swarmed inside.  Books flew out the window.  One shadowed man sprinkled gasoline on them from a large can and tossed a match; the books caught fire with a vroomp!  The gang coughed in the smoke and jumped back, but their faces, lighted by the jumping blaze, were ugly with harsh glee, and their raucous shouts of Juden!  Juden! echoed in the narrow street.

      Bette thrust her right hand into her purse, where she kept a small pistol, but Hadntz caught her wrist.  “I also carry a gun.  If there was anything that one or two women could do at this point, I would have done it already.  But I’m afraid there is much worse to come.  Now, and later.” 

      Part of the crowd circled a man who reached into a flour sack and withdrew something that Bette strained to see.  The circle broke with applause, and the man with the bag threw a rope over the bookseller’s sign and hoisted a collection of rags so that it swung above the street.  It vaguely resembled a human being, as it had a rag-stuffed sphere where the head should be.  A large sign hung below the sphere:  MARIA MONTESSORI.  The effigy, once lit, flamed up and further illuminated the mob.    

      “Maria Montessori?” asked Bette.  “I don’t understand.”

      “You visited one of her many schools in Vienna, as I suggested?”

      “That note was from you?”

      “Yes.  Did you?”

      “I did.”

      “And what was your impression?”

      Bette had been completely puzzled by the visit and the directions to make the visit. 

      When she had entered the Children’s House, a woman smiled at her and said, “You are expected.  Please read these brief rules about your observation.”  She handed Bette a sheet of paper and left. 

      Bette saw that she was not to make eye contact with the children, not to speak to them if spoken to, and, in general, to act as if she were an inanimate object.  She was, though, allowed to take notes.  The list suggested that she choose one child to observe.  The list hoped that she would choose to send her child to this Children’s House, and announced the date of a lecture about the Montessori philosophy of how children learned. 

      The woman seated her in a tiny chair in one corner of the room filled with dim winter light falling through tall windows.  She had read that the children were “working,” which seemed an odd choice of terms.  She chose to watch a girl who seemed to be about three and a half years old.  The dark-haired girl sat on the floor near Bette, and before her was a small rug.  Next to her was a wooden box that contained all the letters of the alphabet, several of each in their own compartment, like a typesetter’s box.  She slowly, thoughtfully selected letters from the box, and soon had written “my cat is mad,” in German.

      Though it was against the rules on the list, Bette switched her attention to a girl of perhaps four, who was adding 432 and 798.  She used an array of gold-colored beads which she had laid out on one mat—single beads for units, bars of ten beads squares of a hundred beads, and a cube that sat next to a label reading 1,000.

      The entire room was filled with similar activity, low conversation from several children working together, and movement, as the children chose work, put their work away neatly, or decided to scrub a table or water some plants.  There was only one adult in the room, and almost thirty young children, and yet, although the teacher moved among them easily, sitting on the floor or at a table with one or another child for five or ten minutes at a time, the rest did not misbehave or seem to need her attention.

      Bette waited in vain for some sort of message.  Would the girl spell out her next assignation?  Would Fraeulein Vida, the directress, slip her a message?   Would the girl doing math problems give her an address?

      But nothing happened, for three hours, except the strangely soothing work of the children.

      As she watched the terrible blaze in the alley grow stronger, and devour the chairs and shelves shoved out of the shop through the broken window, Bette said to Hadntz, “I was surprised that such young children were reading, writing, and doing mathematics.  But who is Montessori?”

      Hadntz said, “An educator.  Her way of teaching young children is revolutionary.  She was lately burned in effigy in Rome when she refused to let Mussolini distort the method of her schools, which up until then had been state-sponsored.  A Montessori education produces highly literate, intelligent, independent adults.  Mussolini wanted to produce the opposite–soldiers.  When we have time, I want to know more about what you observed.  I know little about her actual method.”  Hadntz watched flames devour the cloth Montessori with a thoughtful gaze.  “However, I have met the woman.  She is extraordinary.  She was the first woman to get a medical degree in Italy.  That was in 1896.  She was the main speaker soon thereafter at a feminist conference in Berlin.”  Hadntz’s smile was ironic.  “Feminists in Germany!  Where have they all gone?”

      “Then what?”

      “She became interested in how children learn.  She earned more doctorates, one in psychology and another in anthropology, and took an anthropology chair at the University of Rome.  Through rigorous scientific experiments–her subjects were slum children in Rome–she showed that ordinary children from the worst possible background can learn how to write and to read by the time they are four.  Before that, she had developed methods by which retarded children were able to pass the City of Rome exams at a normal level.  It was a stunning revelation of human possibilities.”  She looked at Bette.  “Your President Wilson’s daughter ran a Montessori school in the White House.  And Alexander Graham Bell formed the first Montessori organization in the United States.  But America, and, as you can see, Europe, finds brilliant and independent children a bit threatening.  Best to rear them like tiny soldiers to always do as they’re told and not think.  Thinking is dangerous.  Thinking topples governments.  Thinking people do not want to work in factories for low wages.  Dr. Montessori is in Holland now.  I hope she does not remain there.  The Netherlands are not safe from German aggression.”

      Tendrils of Eliani Hadntz’s hair, black and curly and wild, had escaped from their barrette and surrounded her strong-featured face, half-shadowed by a streetlight.  Her eyes, too, were black, and Hadntz’s gaze was commanding, yet calm.  Her low tones had an impact that wakened something in Bette, showed her a tantalizing glimpse of a path both radical and revolutionary, one she had never before considered.  Still, she had no idea how much it would impact her life forever afterwards.

      “My other point,” said Hadntz, “and perhaps the most important one, is that we know very little about our own potential as humans.  What you saw the children doing should not seem amazing, because it is very normal.  What else could we be doing, if we were not wasting our time with the other nonsense, like wars, that being human seems to require?”

http://blacklistednews.com/news-9357-0-5-5–.html

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June 24, 2010   No Comments

! DEATH 40-FEET TALL ! by Pam Noles

! DEATH 40-FEET TALL ! by PAM NOLES

As of today, I see no reviews or photos of Pam’s Show, and perhaps its run is not yet concluded.  However.  I Know It Is Great.  I wish I could have been there! 

http://andweshallmarch.typepad.com/and_we_shall_march/2010/06/-death-40feet-tall-at-the-hollywood-fringe-festival-the-official-thank-you-list.html

And here is another link:

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/project/view/25

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June 24, 2010   No Comments

Princess Ka’iulani and THE BONES OF TIME

In 1996, I published my second novel, THE BONES OF TIME, in which Princess Ka’iulani, Hawaii’s last princess, was a character.  Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiu i Lunalilo Cleghorn was her full name.  The daughter of Queen Lili’uokalani’s sister, and Archibald Cleghorn, who was Scottish, she was sent to England to be educated when she was thirteen, and traveled throughout Europe during her teens.  Famously, when Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1893, she visited the United States and met with President Cleveland to maintain the independence of her country.  There are still many Hawaiians who dispute what they see as an illegal theft of their land.  Princess Ka’iulani died in 1898 at the age of 23. 

I just went to Wikipedia to check out some of the facts, and I see that THE BONES OF TIME is prominently mentioned at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ka’iulani , particularly in relation to the slant that I took in my novel concerning the possibility that Ka’iulani may have been pregnant and died in childbirth. 

I get a fair amount of email from people claiming to be descendents of Ka’iulani who think that I have difinitive information about this.  If you are one of those who have contacted me about this, I apologize for not answering personally, but the volume is too great to do so.  This is my response. 

I write fiction.  Kaiulani’s life, within the novel, is fully as my extensive research indicated–except that I’m positive that she did not interface with a young Hawaiian mathematician named Century, in the late 20th century, via an infusion of one time within another.   The idea of her having been pregnant is fiction, as far as I know; nothing more.  I have no proof, no papers, nothing that would make me think that this is absolutely true.  I have only an aside, a mention, from someone who worked in the Bishop Museum, and I don’t even have their name. 

Here is how the process of writing the novel unfolded.  I lived in Hawaii 1960-62.  My father, Thomas Goonan (whose memoirs are featured in IN WAR TIMES, which won the Campbell Award and was the American Library Association’s Best SF Novel of 2008), was working for the Navy at that time.  One of his projects was developing the fire protection for the Arizona Memorial. 

Those years were magical, intense, transcendantly.  During that time, I immersed myself in not only European fairy tales, but in Hawaiian history and legends. 

In 1987, my husband and I moved to Hawaii.  At that time, my interest in Hawaiian history and legend reawakened, and I wrote the novella “Kamehameha’s Bones,” which appeared in Asimov’s, and which was the basis for THE BONES OF TIME. 

I began working on the novel seriously in 1993, when I got a contract from Tor.  We returned to Hawaii to do research.  I visited the Bishop Museum, and read Kaiulani’s diary and letters in the original, wearing white gloves and turning pages with a ruler.   This is a marvelously intimate act:  I could see her actual handwriting, on the original paper. 

While I was there, one of the staff happened to mention the rumor that Ka’iulani may have been pregnant and died not of pneumonia, but in childbirth.  There is actually some medical evidence that she may have had Bright’s Disease, which compromises the kidneys; Theodore Roosevelt’s first wife had Bright’s Disease (a term which stood in for a spectrum of nephrological disorders) and died in childbirth.  As a writer of fiction, I used this possibility in my novel.  

After THE BONES OF TIME was published, with its theme of Hawaiian Sovereignty, I found kind and generous friends of Hawaiian descent who were pleased at my strong and sensitive portrayal of Ka’iulani.  However, none of them agree with the idea that Ka’iulani might have been pregnant.  

I’ve referred some of the people who have sent inquiries to my friends, but the recent movie PRINCESS KAIULANI has accelerated these inquiries.  This post is to reiterate that I know nothing more than the rumor I was told at the Bishop Museum. 

That said, THE BONES OF TIME is a very good book, or so I’ve been told.  It was a Locus Bestseller in paperback, and was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in its British edition. 

It is out of print, but I sell it via my web page, www.goonan.com.  A link for orders is at the very bottom of the front page.  If you want it personalized as well as signed, please email me via the contact link and let me know the exact wording you would like.

I’d like to thank not only those who have read THE BONES OF TIME, but the friends I’ve made through the book for their support, love, and forbearance.

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June 17, 2010   6 Comments

The Ban on Fun

I just read a great piece at salon.com about how un-fun playgrounds have become. 

I know about this firsthand.  When I had my preschool, I bought a house with a great big back yard.  It had three huge apple trees, a horse chestnut tree, and lots of grass.  We had our driveway paver add an asphalt pad in back, and eventually I ran across beautiful used steel preschool bikes, about eight different kinds, and bought them.  They last forever. 

We built a sandbox, cadged a monkeybar set that was about 12 x 12 x 12, with one of those little towers on the top, from a school that was getting rid of it, and built a wooden fort.  We had a great swingset, a teeter-totter, lots of balls large and small to kick around or balance on, and all manner of playground toys.  I can’t even remember all of the possibilities.  No one ever got hurt.  Kids (these were 18 months – 5 years) have a very tight grip.  At one point, my partner got a trampoline.  I must admit that the trampoline bothered me, but no one ever got hurt.  And it should go without saying that we had a great child-adult ratio at all times to make double-sure that no one got into a dangerous situation. 

Over the years, the fun of the playground vanished. 

Some things were obvious, for safety.  We had wood chips under structures, which were within the regulations at first, but then they had to be replaced with really expensive rubbery stuff.  That’s fine.  The sandbox had to go–I can’t begin to tell you how much time the kids spent there, and how much they learned about volume and designing cities and roads, or learning about viscocity, or geometric-solid shapes, but sand is a good transmitter of impetigo, a common staph infection, so that made sense.  I imagine that we were the only preschool in town that washed down all our shelves and equipment with bleach water once a week; that definitely was not required and a cheap and easy way to cut down on infections.   I suppose that, once we were aware of it, we could have wet down the sand box every evening with a weak bleach solution. 

But then, the swings were banned.  My goodness, a child might walk in front of a child who was swinging and get beaned.  Um, excuse me.  That might happen in an environment that slacked off in having enough adults around when no one was looking, but why not cite those preschools and let the kids in mine learn about motion and have fun at the same time?  Monkeybars–concussion material.  Teeter-totter?  You can imagine! 

I objected when the health department demanded that I cut down the horse chestnut tree.  Oh, and the apple trees too.  Raking up the burrs from the horse chestnut was something the kids enjoyed, and ditto the apples, the ones we didn’t use for applesauce in a crock pot, but we also had yard people to take care of it and I had not, in twenty years, encountered a horse chestnut burr injury/infection.   Sure, the fallen apples might attract wasps or bees, but we didn’t want the kids to get stung, so we took care of that.  And east Tennessee is hot in the summer.  The trees gave us some nice, cool shade.  Iused to stand out in my complex, intensely green, cool, shady playground of a summer morning while the kids shouted, ran, climbed, played, and quietly rejoice.

But then  it went.  And went, and went.  An interesting, challenging environment vanished, piece by piece. 

I rent my school to another preschool now, and when I visit, I am nonplussed.  The lovely steel bikes are stored under the house, and there aren’t even any substitute vehicles (hot wheel trikes were always easy to find, but the kids wore them down to the nub in about three weeks).  There are no climbing structures.  I may be wrong, but I think the children are discouraged from running very much.  Under the house, I found the beautifully designed toddler structure we had comissioned from a cabinetmaker, lying in pieces.  Why?  The railings were properly spaced so as not to catch heads, and it was only about four feet high.  Nevertheless, they might fall. 

When I was a kid, those big playgrounds were thrilling.  We’d take waxed paper to the highest, scariest slides in town–metal, of course–and sit on the paper to make the slide more slick and fast.  We’d take turns pulling the merry-go-round–that big flat round platform with metal handles bolted to it–and hop on when we got it going fast.   The most dangerous place, I suppose, was not even a playground.  It was a car junkyard near my grandfather’s ten acres on Bear Creek outside of Miamisburg, Ohio.  We weren’t allowed to go over there, so of course we did, at any opportunity.  Those old, smashed cars, from the fifties and late forties, fascinated me.  I’d wonder what happened.  Did the people die? What music had those old radios played?  How did they shift those gears?  We also had a huge pile of bricks–thousands–at the end of the apple orchard, left over from building the house, which was the kingdom of the kids.  We built castles and thrones.  You had to plan out the foundation, number of bricks to use, and so on.  Good thinking stuff.  Then another bunch of cousins would come and tear it down and build something else. 

All gone.

Here’s a link to the article:  http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2010/05/17/war_on_childrens_playgrounds?source=newsletter

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May 18, 2010   2 Comments

In Defense of Hoarding

“Hoarding” is presently a code word for “nutsy cuckoo,” or, “soon to be institutionalized for their own good.”  It’s a mental disorder.  I was in the hospital a few months back with a friend, and I heard her doctor tell her, in a kind but stern sotto-whisper, that she was a hoarder.  She needed help.  I thought, don’t come to my house with that checklist or society will be paying for my incarceration.  

I do save things.  However, I mastered the cardboard boxes a few years ago.  No need to nest them under the buffet!  Out with them.  Ow.  With that under my belt, I soon plan to conquer my inability to throw away rubber bands.  But why?  They are small as well as useful.  But saving them is an addiction.  One must master these things.  Get strong.  It’s either that or run away and roam the streets with a grocery cart full of similar items. 

Those boxes still come in the mail almost every day–lovely, perfect, cheap, useful boxes.  It really is a shame to throw them away.  Of course, you need one the very next day anyway.  Think about what went into the manufacture of these countless boxes!  This is my conundrum:  I cannot make my own cardboard boxes.  Instead, I am blessed to live in a world-time where others have thought out the process, built factories, contracted for  raw materials, stored, finished, and shipped containers that those in other or older cultures would deeply covet.  And don’t get me started on plastic deli take-out containers, the sturdy kind with lids. 

Here’s a quote from my story “Memory Dog,” which took second place in last year’s Sturgeon Awards:  

“We are in that heaven that all the saints so longed for and predicted, pens scritching across rough vellum in damp towers, heads bent beneath sputtering candles.  Heat, ample light, plenty, near-infinite knowing.  But man is still enemy to himself, and man still must find god within himself to go beyond the oppression; the killing.  And first, he must find killing wrong.  That seems to be a sticking point in some parts.  What if, suddenly, we all simply could not kill.  If it was impossible.  Memory drugs might do this.”

Okay, the second part of that went to the heart of what “Memory Dog” was all about.  But the first part is about how wondrous, technologically, our present surroundings are, each object with its provenance of thought and utility. 

In other words, it’s a damned shame to throw all this stuff away.   Sure, I recycle, but that removes the object’s utility.  Maybe we need a Craigslist category:  Hoarding Bounty.  It’s not that one necessesarily believes that he or she will suddenly open up a deli, or (more the way I think) that I will someday find a novel artistic use for a hundred sturdy airtight plastic containers, like melting them down with some bits of color and making them into iridescent earrings or–hmmm.  You see, this way lies madness.  But *someone* might have a need, a use. 

Let’s move on to that serious type of hoarding that even so-called rational folk might indulge in:  memory-hoarding. 

These memories might be in the form of mine, furniture that has been in the family for generations.  Some is probably valuable, but that’s not the point.  People had bigger houses in the Olden Days.  I remember our first tour of the model house in the Northern Virginia subdivision inwhich my father still lives.  It was 1962.  We moved past the tiny, carpeted bedrooms in a line, as if we were in a museum, for the rooms were protected by thick red velvet ropes with brass hooks on the ends.  The subdivision, on the Beltway (still unfinished at that time) was so popular that there truly was a line moving through the house.  I remember noticing that the bedrooms were tiny.  About the size of my grandparent’s closets.  Now, to others, perhaps the high-level military people who filled up a lot of the subdivision, this solved the problem of furnishing the damned house, because they were already tightly edited and hung on to nothing–not place, not stuff, nothing cept the job.  For my parents, buying this house meant an attic and a basement.  Too late for the basement, though, as the foundation for our house, on the lot my mother chose on an exhilarating day when she returned to our Falls Church apartment fairly lit up  her announcement to our father and us that she had finally found us a home, was already poured.   We had been in limbo for several years,  moving from Ohio to Hawaii to Virginia without buying a house.   And we.  Saved.  Stuff. 

So my father put down planks in the small attic of the house, which was instantly filled by things that had been in storage, along with antiques from my grandparent’s house, furniture from the nineteen-hundreds.

This is my true hoard.  Hands off!  (gripping a cutlass between my teeth) 

Ah.  More later.

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May 2, 2010   1 Comment