Writing, Books, Painting, Politics, Neuroplasticity

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This Shared Dream Entire Cover

I just recieved a .jpg of the front, back, and flap copy of IWT.  With blurbs by Connie Willis, Eileen Gunn, and Jack McDevitt, and, for IN WAR TIMES, Joe Haldeman and Kelly Link, it looks lovely.

 

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June 12, 2011   No Comments

Goonan Jazz Interview with Jeff Haas

Jazz  and Goonan! Link here to Jazz Connections interview:   PRHaasInterview

In early February, Jeff Haas of Interlochen Public Radio, WIAA, interviewed me for his marvelous Jazz Connections show. 

He began by interviewing Dr. Limb of Johns Hopkins, who devised an fMRI experience that showed that when jazz musicians improvise, the part of the brain that inhibits/edits, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, shuts down.  This apparently gives the more imaginative part of the brain an opportunity to “tell a story”–that is, leave the grid and soar. 

I’ve known this feeling as a singer, as a painter, and as a writer.  It’s the state that one longs for when writing–the place where the words that land on the page are not pre-edited, but come from the part of the brain that drives creative work. 

At the end of the hour, he interviewed me.  Against a skillfully woven background of background of Billie Holiday and Thelonious,  Monk, I talk about the connections between jazz and my writing. 

Earlier, I linked to the live show, but you can now listen  to a podcast of my interview by Jeff Haas via the link at the beginning of this post.

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June 8, 2011   No Comments

THIS SHARED DREAM Cover

 

I’m so pleased!  Is this Speculative Fiction or  Literature with a Speculative Twist?  I say:  Beyond genre.  A novel.  And finally.

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June 4, 2011   No Comments

Nature: Useful vs. Beautiful, or, Sunlight and Infinite Modulation

I’ve always loved weathers that others despise.  Cold, snow, ice, mist and fog thrill me deeply.  I don’t mind a bright, sunny day, but my heart lifts at the promise of a long stretch of a  luminous sky modulated by silvery shifting light,  sharp shadows that darken one narrow mountain ridge in a sea of lighter shades, or pelting rain and snow through which to slog.

This is nothing new, for me.  From time to time I try to understand its roots.  There are few people with whom I can share this enthusiasm–in fact, just mentioning how beautiful a rainy day is can bring on eye-rolling spasms that I can even hear over the phone, during those special pauses.  I know what you’re doing. 

I’ve decided that perhaps most people use the days, usethe weather recreationally.  They go out on boats, play sports, and at the very least get their kids out of the house without having to make sure they are dressed for the weather.   People are at a loss as to how to use a rainy day–especially one that is cold.  “Bad weather.”  “Miserable.”  “Dreary.”  These are some of the wrongheaded adjectives those insensitive to the fine nuances that emerge on gray days bandy about.  And then instead of reading, making big pots of soup, playing Scrabble, or going for a good old walk in the rain, they mope and whine.  A useless day. 

Pah, I say.  Some days start out beautifully overcast.  My heart lifts:  see above.  Wet leaves shine; if there are no leaves, then grey, brown, and black branches etch the sky.  If it is spring, and trees are blossoming, the pink and white blossom clouds are  intense, in rain, as a living, ancient Chinese painting through which I can walk.   Sometimes, if the weather seems to be clearing, if fitful sunlight breaks through, I am as disappointed, as perversely depressed, as I imagine those with SAD might be.  Perhaps I have reverse SAD. 

I was sent out to play in all kinds of weather.  My mother was from Michigan, and armed with total-zip snowsuits, rubber boots, layers of hats, earmuffs, gloves, and mittens.  We played outside no matter what the weather, and drove through it too, for that matter.  She said that she and her car pool often drove between Saginaw and Midland, to Dow headquarters, through weather so blinding that the passenger kept the door open and watched whatever was to be seen of the edge of the road in order to advise the driver. 

Perhaps I enjoyed gloomy weather for other reasons.  I was myopic from an early age; bright sunlight washes out details and makes everything dull and featureless.  For me, anyway.  If everything is a blur already, you are left with only slight definitional edges–for that reason, and for intense color, I love polarized lenses.  I definitely enjoyed staying inside to read from the age of five or so (harder to justify shooing me outside in gray weather, and I was quiet), but found I could enjoy reading outside in trees during “nice” days.  I was a normally active girl, with my six-shooter cap guns,  my rubber bowie knife, my two-wheeled Huffy that I could ride all over the neighborhood and to the drug store for comic books, my forts and treehouses, but I did love playing outside in the rain, hail, sleet and snow.  One day in Lockland when I was, probably, five or six, I walked home from school through new-falling unexpected snow.  In a spasm of ecstasy, I leapt and whirled in the back yard as soon as I got home.  My grandmother (from whom I inherited the deteriorating hip I’ve had replaced) emerged on the back porch and urged me to come inside and put on boots and a coat.  I was surprised to see her–she hadn’t been there in the morning, but she and my grandfather often came by train from Saginaw.  I laughed and played.  She could not chase me.  She implored “Please come in.  Your mother will be upset with me if I let you play outside without putting on your boots.”  I was hardhearted and ignored her and had a lovely time before my mother came home.   

Right now, we are enveloped in a heat wave.  It is somewhat humid, though it does not rain, so it is not a dry heat.  It is a wet, bright, sunny heat.  I like this weather too–perhaps because I am not expecting gloom.  I despise air conditioning (though I succumb to it when in Florida) because I am then cut off from the outdoors, and so I sweat, move slowly, and drink iced tea.   Many people find this weather useful, if they are not too oppressed by it.  These kinds of days cry out for a beach, a lake, a pool, laughing children, a dog swimming hard to fetch sticks, cutting a green furrow through a forest pool with her neck.  Leaves modulate shade; roses droop; but my hydrangeas glow, all shades of white, lilac, pink, in deep shade out back.

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June 4, 2011   No Comments

Sewing A Life

This title occurred to me today as I was contemplating whether or not to get out my seam ripper and remove a large exterior ad (i.e sewed-on label) on the back of a rather nice article of clothing I’d just bought. 

I looked at the loose running stitch.  The label is obviously a work of art as well as the shirt, and I think that either the artist herself or her employees, whom she has perhaps supplied with sewing machines, sewed it on herself.  I thought about providing my own label/ad.  My web page address?  A segment of watercolor, printed on cloth?  Tie-die, cut into a pleasingly proportioned rectangle?

But really, I was contemplating my grandmothers, and sewing.

All of my grandparents were born in 1888, and I knew them all.  My father’s father died just shy of a hundred years old, so I knew all of them as well as one can know an idealized Being, one who has Wisdom.  I’ve always adored seriously old people, and I wonder if anyone will similarly adore me.  I rather doubt it, but who knows. 

My maternal grandmother taught me several hand stitches when I was about five.  I think that, using them, I might be able to do a fair job of suturing if pressed.  The loose running stitch was  judged on its regularity.  She taught me a backstitch which I always use for strength.  Neat, invisible hemming stitches were the Pennsylvania/Chicago (where she was born)/equivalent of perfection:  something that no one else will see, but which is done with the light hand of a master, like good pie crust.    I use these stitches.  I know that using a double thread is, paradoxically, a sign of seamstress weakness, but I usually employ it.  I used her foot-pump Singer sewing machine when I was in high school to “run up,” as we used to say, my competitive dresses and skirts.  I say competitive because I was engaged in a competition with a classmate.  This was the age of the miniskirt, and apparently, from eyeing what remains of those efforts, I was Size Zero.  It took about a dollar’s worth of material to create a skirt or dress.  I was a rather lazy sewer, or a rather industrious sewer, depending on how you look at it.  I did not install zippers in a fancy way; I sewed them up one side and down the other and cut open the seam.  I did not use my nice stitches for hems; I used iron-on tape.  But on the other hand, I produced about one article of clothing per evening.  Sometimes, if I went for a fancy pattern (I had electric scissors, which were a godsend), it might take two.  Dirndl?  No problem!  Bell-bottoms? Ha!  I double-dare you.

Let me return, for just a moment, to my mother’s creations.  On that machine she “ran up” curtains for our Victorian Lady in Cincinnati, cool Fifties matching dresses with rick-rack trim for me and my three sisters, and holikus for us when we lived in Hawaii in 1960, as well as countless pretty things.  She flew small planes for the Civil Air Patrol in the Forties, and she took to the Fifties with that same verve. 

For my paternal grandmother, sewing was something she had mastered when a child.  She told me a story about when she was a girl in Arkansas.  Her mother had died, and she was saddled with the equivalent of the Evil Stepmother.  She had a blond-haired younger sister, called, in the Southern manner,  “Sister.”  My grandmother, when she was twelve or so, worked all summer on her own crop (she was also a formidable farmer) to earn enough money to clothe herself beautifully for school.  She and her sister went to school, at one time, using a handpump railroad car.  But I digress.

This young girl went to town with her hard-earned cash and bought many yards of material and some patent-leather shoes.  When blonde Sister saw them, she burst into tears, and the pressed parents went out and bought her those same things, leaving Grandma with the degree of resentment that is useful to novelists.  But I digress.

When I knew her, Grandma had a dressmaker’s dummy, and made all of her own clothes.  They were lovely.  They were Sunday-grade.  I looked at that headless figure, with its adustable segments, and longed for one.  I still do.  I don’t know anyone who wants to tediously measure for a hem while I stand on a stool and pin it up, iron it, and re-measure before sewing, with a flying hem-stitch.  Well, my husband might.  He probably would.  I’ve never asked him. 

So, as I look at this obviously hand-attached label, I wonder who sewed it on.  I don’t know, so I make up six lives for her.  Or him.   This is the fiction-writer’s sickness.  I make up stories. 

This is what I do instead of sew.

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April 18, 2011   2 Comments

Sleeping Air Traffic Controllers, Reagan, and Union-Busting

The fact that Reagan fired all of the air-traffic controllers in 1981 seems to have fallen out of our general memory, but he did, and those against it predicted that it would lead to accidents.  That was a while ago, but I would venture a guess that the problem of air traffic controllers falling asleep is not something that has just manifested.  It’s probably been going on for a long time. 

I’m going to bypass the complex legal reasons Reagan was able to do this and discuss instead some of the reasons workers strike. Keep in mind that I have no doctorate in this area; I’m just an interested citizen.  So in my mind, the reasons are simple.  Those who own mines, factories, etc. want to optimize their income by paying workers as little as possible for as long as possible with as few benefits and as small an investment in safety as possible.  Workers want to make as much money in as short a period of time as possible.  They don’t want their health temporarily or permanently impaired while working, and they don’t want to die while working.

Most people also take pride in a job well done.  

Unions and the ability to strike are one mechanism that helps keep this equation balanced.   Those in power do not like to share power. 

The air traffic controllers who did not report for work in 1981 were seasoned professionals, with backgrounds in aviation and engineering.  Those who were thrown into the void left by Reagans firing were not.  Although I imagine that, after all these years, those who do this job are professionals, they obviously have less power than the unionized workers did.  They have less choice about their hours–the length of their shifts, how their shifts are scheduled, etc.–and their pay.  Nowhere to go to complain; no mechanism for improving working conditions. 

Sleep deprivation and the biochemistry of shiftwork (working a few day shifts, then a few swing or night shifts, or double hours over the course of a month as many people do, including factory workers, emergency physicians, air traffic controllers) creates a breeding ground for impaired decision-making. 

Reagan, when he so proudly smashed PATCO in 1981, created a dangerous situation for all who fly. 

When workers have no way to improve their lot, we are pretty much back in the world of Dickens, except that we are moving at much higher speeds, through realms and using technologies that Victorians only dreamed of. 

Presently, the apparently legalized theft of Wall Street, which swiped much (maybe most) of the hard-earned wealth Americans had socked away in their homes or in retirement funds for decades has done away with the option of moving to a better job somewhere else for many in this country.  They are tied to homes they cannot sell, and, if they move, they lose what little they still have.  Workers are powerless in this economy.   They are right where those in power want to keep them.  Those in power–presently, large corporations, which now have the rights of individual people, according to the Supreme Court–have hornswoggled those who are living pretty much hand-to-mouth into thinking that big business is their natural ally.  There are one or two middlemen between the corporations and the public to make this unlikely mechanism work; a cohort of heartless liars and thieves dressed up as Everyman or Everywoman, or maybe even someone who has drunk the kool-aid and no longer knows how to think clearly.   This is a very neat sleight-of-hand.  Fancy-talking con artistry is a human art that is fun to watch from a distance; it is hard to watch when your friends and relatives are the victims. 

The United States, postwar, worked hard to put into place regulations that protect all of us from bad food, high-rises, situations in which we might die from fires, earthquakes, workplace accidents, contamination of our shared natural resources, and so on.  Believe it or not, there were many people who, after the conflagration of world war, were willing to work for the betterment of us all.  Now, there are many who have no idea what conditions were before these hard-thought and hard-won codes, regulations, and laws were enacted.   

Humans are notoriously local.  This is our biochemical and neurological nature.  Having or using less now for someone in the future or someone across town or on the other side of the world is simply not the way we think.  It takes serious ethical tools and thought to work out these complex networks, and these thoughts must enter our ethical toolkit through our own hard work.  The tools must be useful and concise enough for everyone to understand and use.  I don’t know what they are and I don’t know how to forge them except through conversation (including art) and example. 

Workers are not someone else.  We all work.  We all deserve fair treatment.

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April 16, 2011   2 Comments

New Photo by Bill Clemente

Publicity Photo

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April 6, 2011   2 Comments

It Flurbeth! Or, haste thee to Flurb

Flurb #11, guest-edited by Eileen Gunn, is out with contributions from:

Anders, Bef, Brown, Chimal, Minister Faust, Guffey, Gunn, Kek-W, Lain, Rojo, Rucker, Swanwick, What!

http://www.flurb.net/

All positive descriptors apply to Flurb.  It is always surprising and always has a stunning interplay of artwork mixed with text, courtesy of Rudy Rucker.  I know this issue is fabulous because I watched Eileen spend lots of time editing it when she ought to have been frolicking at ICFA, and heard a lot about every piece.  She is a gem.

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April 6, 2011   No Comments

Women Who Write Science Fiction at USF

Last week, myself, Nalo Hopkinson, and Julie Czerneda participated in a unique and wondrous (of course!) seminar at the University of South Florida.  We visited all kinds of classes–mass communication, media and gender, advertising, writing–just about any vector you could think of.  I enjoyed it tremendously.   Dr. Rick Wilber, a Professor of Mass Communications at USF,  put this together, with the help of many people.  Lots of excellent questions from students, good company, and good conversation.    

 Also a trip to Lettuce Lake, where I took this photo: 

At Lettuce Lake:  David Findlay, Ednie Garrison, Julie Czerndeda, Nalo Hopkinson

Endie is the professor of the Media and Sexuality class we attended.  A wonderful group of students, Professor Garrison is doing a marvelous job. 

Eventually, at the end of it all, Dr. Rick Wilber drove us to St. Pete Beach for dinner.  

I’ll add a few photos in another post.

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March 29, 2011   No Comments

How Cool Is This? TWO blurbs from Eileen Gunn for This Shared Dream

I love both of them!   Who wouldn’t? 

(1)

“What if you could travel through time to fix what is wrong with the world? The world would resist, and the very act of trying would create parallel worlds with their own problems. This wondrous book, the story of a handful of people who seek to alter the twentieth century to create a better future, acknowledges the inhumanity of war and yet celebrates the joys of music, art, friendship, and family. And it reminds us that the future is made by the children of the present. I loved this book, and I heartily recommend it.”

–Eileen Gunn

(2)
 
“A time-travel adventure novel with neurochemistry, quantum physics, and Maria Montessori at its heart. How cool is that? Pretty darn cool. This book is a compelling read for thinking people, and I totally recommend it.”  
 
–Eileen Gunn
 
I especially like “The world would resist.”  It rather reminds me  of Geoff Ryman’s “A country is like a child” in his stellar novel, WAS.  I read it Eileen’s words as meaning that a world, or a history, is like a child.  Which is very interesting.  I think that histories, being composed of and invented/interpreted by humans, are malleable and organic systems, and therefore fully capable of resisting on some level.   The same way that any system resists change. 
 
Thank you, Eileen!
 
Read more by and about Eileen Gunn at http://www.eileengunn.com/ [Read more →]
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March 22, 2011   No Comments