Pyramid Schemes

One thing I’ve been noticing is how much of the “writing life” is a pyramid scheme. I didn’t put that together until I was talking to S. about it one day at lunch, my irritation with not knowing whether I should pay for an editor or pay to take this or that workshop or…

You hear a lot of advice about how, in writing, the author gets paid. The author does not pay.

At the same time, everyone wants to sell you a book about how to write, or, if you know how to do that, how to market. Take a cruise! Go to a workshop! Hire an editor!

Like, how much money am I supposed to outlay before the “the author does not pay” rule kicks in?

Charles du Charleville

So, an early Nashville history might read something like “when the first white settlers arrived in the area, they encountered French fur trader, Timothy Demonbreun, who was not the first Frenchman in the area–that being Charles du Charleville.” You might get stuck scratching your head about how the “Virginians” could be the first white people in the area when Demonbreun was here when they got here.

But what of this Charles du Charleville?

I had been assuming he was a Frenchman from Kaskaskia. There are plenty of Charlevilles in Kaskaskia at the time that Demonbreun is there and one of them is named Charles Charleville, though he seems too young to be our man. But you could imagine a scenario in which Charles Charleville retires from fur trading at French Lick, comes home to Kaskaskia and his kids tell Timothy Demonbreun about the awesome trading spot he found.

But! I found something really interesting. A few family historians and Shawnee history buffs say that the great Shawnee leader, Peter Chartier, whose dad is also a delight, had two brothers–Charles Chartier and Jean Chartier–who were fur traders at French Lick where they were known as Charles du Charleville and Jean du Charleville.

This suggests that the area during their lives may have been known as Charleville.

Anyway, I’m trying to see what kinds of historical sources I can find for these guys being the du Charlevilles. Historians seem pretty united in the belief that Peter Chartier did come (back) to the Cumberland, so the area was known to him. But did he actually have brothers?

We have to see.

Why Did I Do This Again?

Why would I make another afghan of tiny squares again?! I thought, well, if I do two rounds, it won’t be so bad. And, I guess, it’s not so bad, but every task seems never-ending. I have all my inner rounds made, but I need to tuck everything before moving on to the outer round and it’s just on-going. ON-GOING!

But I think it has the potential to be really beautiful. I’m imagining a spectrum of sorts. I’m just not sure what to do about the browns. A brown is never just brown, you know. Usually, with yarn, for whatever reason, it’s actually a dark orange, but some of the browns I have are clearly dark reds. And I know, occasionally, you can get a brown that has green undertones. So I’m a little nervous about sorting them.

Plus, I have 600 squares. If I pick a definite pattern to put them together in–i.e. the spectrum, I’m going to have to sort those squares ahead of time and make sure they stay in order. I’m thinking, with 600 squares, I’ll have a 30×20 afghan so I could get 30 freezer bags and use them for sorting. This gives me the ability to see the mix of squares in each row and I can write which row in a Sharpie on the outside.

We shall see. It’s going to be an organizational something or other.

Through the First Week in July

I just need to keep my head down and my work good and get through this busy mess.

The other day, there was a big brouhaha because some fans on Tumblr were pretending to be the folks from The Black Tapes podcast. The Black Tapes is really cool with fans participating in the world, but it seems like this wasn’t clear that it was being done by fans. There was no disclaimer to say that the accounts weren’t run by the show and seemed to encourage confusion. So, the Black Tapes people had to try to walk this complicated line where they encouraged people to do all kinds of fan things–except thoroughly impersonating the show to the point of confusion.

There is something weird about the ways in which we feel like liking something gives us a right to it, some level of ownership over it. Like it’s ours to devour and consume, literally.

I finished Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock last night and it left me uneasy. Lake Mungo is one of my favorite movies. There probably aren’t that many people in the world who are going to read Disappearance who have also seen Lake Mungo so I don’t know how many people will notice it, but it’s the same story. Disappearance is what happens when you set Lake Mungo in the U.S. and give it a villain. Major plot points, which are genuinely surprising and upsetting the first time you encounter them, are present in both stories. Tremblay’s a really good writer so the parallels don’t ruin the book if you have seen the movie. But the movie is a delicate thing and it works hard at establishing a great aura of uncertainty. If you read the book before you see the movie, part of the movie’s delicate uncertainty will be absent for you.

So, that sucks. On the other hand, you’re probably not going to stumble across an obscure Australian horror movie. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

I guess I’m left feeling, too, like I wish there’d been a clear wink and a nod in the book or in the publicity around the book to Lake Mungo, something to say “Here are this story’s roots, so, if you like this story, check out this movie.”

Genre stories–well, all stories, but I’m focusing on genre now–get retold all the time. So, I guess it’s not the retelling that bothers me, especially when the retelling is this well done. But doesn’t a fan of a work owe it to the work to make sure that the work is known? That the influence is acknowledged?

What do fans who are also creators owe their inspirations? I don’t have a good answer for that. I’m not sure that, if I’ve had answers along the way, they’re sufficient or satisfactory.

But I feel like you have to leave breadcrumbs. You have to show the path you’ve taken. Whether it’s saying “This is a fan site because I love this thing so much, but please don’t mistake it for the thing itself” or “This is an homage to the movie I love, so, hey, if you like the book, show some love to the movie.” Otherwise, it feels like it’s not love, but theft.

Also, in other things that upset me, for the first time since I’ve owned this dog, he’s sleeping away from me at such an angle with his legs crossed at such an angle that the black scars on the back of his one leg line up with the black scars on the front of the other leg and it’s clear that they are not scars, plural, but one scar. At some point, a wire wrapped his back legs together and cut in to him deep enough to scar.

I want to cry for a million years.

And yet, what else about him would ever tell you anything bad had ever happened to him? He still has an open, joyful heart. He likes everyone.

I wish that I could say the same.

Today I am a “Minor Genre Writer!”

I got my contributor copies of Fantasy & Science Fiction in the mail yesterday. I am surprised at how nice it feels. There’s something about being published in a place your parents have heard of that makes a person feel legitimized.

I was also surprised at how, rereading the story, I cringed at every second of it. Every mistake, every rough edge, every thing I wished I’d handled kind of differently just stands out so much to me seeing that it’s too late to do anything about it. I still laughed, though, so I think that’s a good sign.

This year has been a bear so far and I have been basically keeping my head down and powering through it and I’ve not been doing as much writing as I’d like to be doing.

So, it’s weird, at the same time that I had this big success, I’m still sitting on this novel no agent wants to represent, unsure of how to proceed. I’ve got a couple of stories out on submission and they’ve been out long enough that I should hear back any day if they’re rejected. I need to gut up and send the Metallica story back out.

That was one nice thing that I will hold in my heart about Hypericon is hearing a guy who’s been in the business a long, long time talking about how he still doesn’t know if he’s doing it right and how he still feels jealousy and confusion. That’s good to know. It’s not me floundering–or not only me floundering–it’s just part of what it means to be a writer.

I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know how to do better. It’s a relief to just admit that. I am floundering. But, it’s okay. I’m not trying to earn a living from writing at this point. I’m trying to figure out what works and to improve my abilities.

Also, I think the October stories are done! There’s going to be a musical component this year but I have to figure out how to work it, especially since one of the songs does not yet appear to be up on YouTube.

But I’m genuinely not sure I could have done this even ten years ago. Not just because I didn’t feel this same feeling of urgency–like I have to do it now or miss my shot–but because I don’t think I’d have been able to take the rejection, which even now, I do better about taking in theory than in actual practice.

And I’m still left to marvel over the weird situation that puts us in as a culture. How many good stories are we missing out on because the process for getting those stories out there is more than they can handle?

I guess, too, doing this kind of work is why I’m less than impressed by arguments that we have to keep Football Player X on the team even though he beats his wife because he’s got a once-in-a-generation talent or that we shouldn’t judge Famous Director Y because of the terrible things he did because think of his great art.

There are so many talented people in the world who don’t navigate through the fucked-up system. Who just live their lives. The idea that there’s only one is just…there’s not only one talent. There may be only one talent who could stand to work the system, but there’s not only one.

I guess what I’m dwelling on today is that writing is hard but it’s rewarding and pleasurable and eventually, I hope, you get a feel for what works. But the other part–knowing if you’re ready to submit, knowing how to submit correctly, persevering through a lot of “no”s, believing in your work even in the face of those “no”s, etc.–it’s also really hard.

So, shout out to all of us floundering in it.

The Nations

This morning, while I was walking the dog, I thinking about The Nations some more and I was wondering if there were any things that it could mean–like could it be short for something? “The Nation’s Best Donuts” or “The Domination of Mankind?”

And then I remembered that there is a known thing that “Nation” has been shortened from–Donation. Robert Johnson sings about his woman’s “nation sack.”

The nation sack has been the source of a lot of controversy over the years, but it appears that Memphis prostitutes called their purses their donation sacks as a joke poking fun at the donation sacks of tent-revival preachers, which then got shortened to “nation sack” and sometimes conflated with the hoodoo nature sack.

So, that’s a somewhat nearby usage of the term. But I’m not sure what might have been happening in The Nations. But could it have been prostitution? “I’m going to make my donation to the girls.” becomes “I’m going to the Nations.” Or tent revivals?

Hypericon

The new venue is great. The weekend was long. I’m still feeling a little frazzled.

Our cats are kind of dog-like, having been raised around at least one dog. They’re friendly. They kind of go for walks. But at the end of the day, they’re cats. As dog-like as they can be, at some point, you can hit a wall where they’re like, “Yeah, that’s too far.”

Sometimes this weekend, I felt like a cat among dogs.

I was on Twitter when a guy came up to me, touched my hand to get my attention, and then told me to smile. Like a fucking asshole, I did. I’m so mad at myself. But some of the other authors were delighted when they went up to hug him and he gave them surprise kisses.

So, here’s the thing. If you’re cool with surprise kisses, congrats. This minor celebrity just laid one on you. But how does he know that everyone who approaches him would be open to a kiss? I include myself in this group, so I speak from self-knowledge–there are a lot of socially awkward people at conventions. It’s very likely that a hug might be all they’re game for. I can’t help but wonder if and how many women got kissed who didn’t want to be.

And why would you behave like that? That’s a rhetorical question.

I have been thinking a lot about why I froze and smiled instead of scowling and telling that dude to suck my butt and I have decided it’s because I refuse to believe, in this day and age, that guys don’t know that women don’t like it when you tell them to smile. They know. So, already when you’ve decided that your pleasure is more important than my comfort, we’re in a kind of hostile situation. I want the moment to end without the hostility levels rising. The cost of me acquiescing is only my pride, so I acquiesce and you leave me alone.

I don’t know. It’s not really a big thing. Just in a weekend where no one knew what panels they were on until the last minute and I had to do a lot of running around town as well as doing the convention and meeting a lot of strangers and being “on,” it just stands out as a “WTF?” moment. Like we’re all trying to do our best here, dude, except you.

Hard Heart

I’ve been writing about Orlando over at Pith this week in various forms and on Thursday, I had a post about gun liability insurance. I heard, then, yesterday, from quite a few of my friends who are gun enthusiasts who wanted to talk about my post, and who, yes, utterly disagree with me.

But they were being awesome. They wanted to talk and to be heard and to try to have some kind of understanding.

It’s me. Something has happened to me. In order to write publicly like I do for Pith, in order to open the emails from strangers and see the things they want to show me, in order to be able to reassure my mom or my friends that the things they’re reading about me aren’t going to translate into something bad happening to me, I have had to do something ugly to myself.

And I try not to think about that ugly thing too often, but I felt it yesterday, seeing these people I care about and who I know care about me trying to have a respectful conversation with me and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let the hardness recede enough to engage with them, to be their friend.

A thing I had not appreciated until I got into my 30s is that this is a truly unpleasant aspect of “fame.” I’m using the term very loosely here. If “being famous” is a universe, I’m “famous” at a small pebble in that universe level. What I mean by “fame” is that some group of people knows of you and has opinions about you that come to form some level of reality for you when they don’t actually know you. To use a very concrete illustration, it’d be like, if some guy, let’s call him Joe, Joe owns a restaurant and he reads my blog, He learns that I’m allergic to strawberries and so, when I go to his restaurant–even though I don’t know him or know he reads my blog–I’m never served strawberries. At that level, I guess it’s fine and kind of nice and fun. But what if Joe reads my blog and decides I don’t like men? I might not actually notice if I never get a male server, so maybe that doesn’t matter, but what if he’s back there spitting in my food?

Every one of us has a thin layer, a protective vernier, that is other people’s interpretations of our actions–the way they see us that is not necessarily how we see ourselves. One of the great delights in having dear friends is that you both simultaneously have someone you can trust who shows you the difference between how your perceive yourself and how the world perceives you and who will come close enough to you that they are inside that bubble–they see you for who you perceive yourself to be.

But being famous, for better or for worse, involves a thickening of that vernier. Some of it is intentional. I think I have hardened my heart intentionally so that I can do the work. But a lot of it is done by people who don’t know you to you. They develop these ideas about who you are and they interact with, or attempt to interact with, their ideas of you, not you.

It’s really disconcerting, unsettling.

It’s as if you enter a conversation with someone and come to realize that they’ve mistaken you for someone else. Possibly someone worthy of the hatred they feel toward them.

So, you build a thicker layer so that interacting with people who mistake you for a person they hate isn’t so fucking grueling.

Maybe you even begin to perform the layer so that you can feel like no one can touch your soft, vulnerable innards, because they won’t even suspect they’re there.

Maybe, at some point, you yourself forget that you are not the fake layer of misinterpretation that has been generated around you.

I don’t really have an ending to this post. I guess, just, at my level, way, way, way down here, this very tiny, inconsequential level of fame makes me feel like I’m losing my mind and my ability to interact like a normal human being with the people I love.

I genuinely don’t know how anybody with real fame does it.

(Also, there’s something terrible and funny about the fact that “fame” in this case just means I blog for an alt.weekly and people hate my opinions.)

When There’s Something Strange…

This morning, I stumbled across a story about the new Ghostbusters, because someone had retweeted someone else who was complaining that they didn’t hate it because of sexism, but because it’s going to be terrible.

Let me be upfront. I’m not planning on seeing the new Ghostbusters movie at the theater. I’ll catch it when it’s on cable or makes it to Netflix. Or maybe not. If you’re not planning to see the new Ghostbusters movie either, I truly don’t give a shit.

But man, do I not believe people who feel the need to announce to the world that they’re not seeing the new Ghostbusters, but not because of the all-female cast. Okay there, bucky, sure, sure. There has been no clearer signal since “it’s about ethics in gamer journalism” that a person does not have their shit together and in really tedious ways that could easily turn on anyone engaging with them.

Like, seriously, folks, if you’re not going to see a movie, but you’re spending a bunch of time trying to make the internet believe you that you’re not not going to see it because of the women in it, I have no choice but to believe that you’re lying. Possibly to yourself, even.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post Chuck Wendig wrote in the wake of Orlando, where he talks about the festering damaging stew we raise our boys in.

We force them to understand that they are MEN. They are MASCULINE. They are aggressive, dominant, alpha. They must be or they are weak. Big dick. Big muscles. Hot girlfriend. Prove your manhood. Wear it as an emblem. Just in case, we can make sure it’s driven home in the toy aisle, too. Make sure they play with guns and weapons of war (while at the same time limiting a young girl’s social ability to do so). Do not let them be nurturers. No dolls for the men. Men are soldiers, generals, builders, leaders. Trucks and cars. Guns and swords. But they also learn by limitation — the girls have their own aisles. They have not only dolls, but stuffed animals. They have little toy shopping carts and hair salons. They cook. They clean. They are soft like the stuffed animals. Not hard like guns. No Black Widow toys for the girls or for the boys. Even if the world gives us Ghostbusters who are women, let’s make sure that the packaging shows boys — lest they be made to believe they aren’t special, they aren’t the best, they aren’t chosen.

Not to jump tracks too much but I remember feeling really pissed off when I was getting ready to graduate from college and I couldn’t figure out how to get a job and all the help my university implied they would give didn’t really mean shit.

You do shit because you’re told these are the things you need to do to get the life you want and you do them and the life you want isn’t there, damn straight you’re pissed.

That’s a really common feeling. And really fucking hard.

The joy of the internet is that it can bring you into contact with people who are also going through what you’re going through and who can give you the strength to pick up and move forward.

But it feels like the Big Suck of this situation is that these guys band together to validate their feelings (fine) and then coordinate their resentment (not fine) rather than helping each other find healthy ways forward.

And one of the resentments seems to be that they can’t just do this shit without us figuring out that it tells us something about them. They want to dislike Ghostbusters because it stars women now, but they don’t want anyone to notice.

But I have to notice in order to keep floundering, stuck, angry folks out of my life.

Panic Attack Dream, Day Two

I dreamed I had just escaped from a prison and was hiding in a bank, but had to go up a fire escape and then drive at night in the snow to complete my escape.

I couldn’t drive.

I had a panic attack in a nearby diner. I woke up before I learned if that led to my recapture.

But this one wasn’t as bad. I think  it was a genuine dream and not also something that was happening to me physically.

Panic Attack Dream

I dreamed I had a panic attack. I was late for a flight that had been moved up on me without me realizing it and I couldn’t find the plane and then I had to get on top of the airport terminal and…ugh, I just curled up in a ball and cried.

And when I woke up, my body was clenched up.

So, you know when you see the dog running in his sleep and “mrph”-ing when he’d normally be barking? I genuinely think I had a panic attack in my sleep and dreamed about it.

That’s not even the worst part. I had a huge cup of coffee with S. today and ate peanut butter M&Ms for dinner.

So, my theory that they may be triggered or exacerbated by caffeine and sugar seems to have another data point in its favor.

Three

Y’all,  I want to write something about the Orlando shooting(s), but I just can’t. We choose this. This is our acceptable reality.

It makes me sick.

Anyway, I realized, I know of three instances where a fake document was passed off as real and it directly affects how we see Tennessee (or saw it)–that first book about the Mystic clan was not true. People died over it anyway. Ingram’s Bell Witch book. And John Cotten’s diary.

Isn’t that weird? I wonder how common it is for states to have an ongoing generation of an alternative history we must know is contrary to the facts, but we still accept parts of the false history as true facts?

I wonder if anyone studies this? I mean, it must happen in the West a lot, with dimestore novels about real people leaking into the factual understandings of their real lives, right?

Strange Hoax

I have a desire to map out exactly where the fort was downtown. It seems like it should be easy enough to find out, but I guess because it was, you know, the large wooden structure in the center of town, very few people were very specific about where it was.

So, I was going through old journal articles trying to find if someone had said where it was and I found an excerpt from the diary of John Cotten, who came to Nashville with the Donelsons, in which he recounted the Battle of the Bluffs, said some snarky things about dogs, and described the fort.

The diary entries I read were extraordinary. If you don’t feel sick to your stomach for the men lured out of the fort, alarmed at the violent ways people were killing each other, and then heartbroken for the dead child, I just don’t even know what to say to you.

I was tweeting some of the best passages and then wondering, why has no one published this diary? But there’s a kind of…not red flag…but light pink flag in the fact that he’s supposedly writing this diary in the midst of battle. Long, elegant passages describing the set-up of the fort that were written just hours after dude almost died.

I remember 9/11 and I remember people’s impulses to write about it. So, I talked myself into believing that it was possible.

But, for me, as a history buff, one of the hardest things about reading primary sources is that once you get back before 1850, the language is really weird and stilted. It’s hard to make sense of what’s going on both because the handwriting can be really hard to make sense of and, just, the idioms are weird. The sentence structure is weird. The word choices they make are weird.

It can be really hard, until you get used to a person’s writing style, to feel any emotional connection to what he’s writing.

Think of it this way. Let’s take Shakespeare. And it’s not quite the same thing, because he’s writing verse, but it’s a good enough illustration.

You read, “To be, or not to be–that is the question: / Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them.” for the first time and it’s a rare person among us who’s like “Damn, man, that’s heartbreaking.”

And trust me. In five hundred years, if someone reads “Should I just fucking kill myself? Is there any honor in suffering or should I refuse to suffer and die instead?” they’re also not going to immediately feel that connected to it, because the language, the idioms, aren’t going to make immediate sense to them.

There’s got to be a moment of…I guess translation…not quite translation, but something like that, where you look at these words you know put together in these strange ways and you try to understand the feeling behind them.

It’s doable. And worth your while. Somehow who reads a lot of Shakespeare, who has gotten used to how he writes, I’m sure, even now, when they read “to be or not to be” above there, they got a little hitch in their emotions, because, damn it’s really powerful.

But there was no real gap between what Mr. Cotten wrote and the emotions that I felt about it. I didn’t have to get used to his voice or figure out his stilted language. And my whole drive home that bugged me. (If you read up on jokes, this phenomenon is even more acute. Things that were funny to someone in 1820 are not only not funny to us, it often doesn’t occur to us that they’re supposed to be funny.)

And then I got home and did some research and everyone who knows much about the Cotten diary is convinced it’s fake. I agree. Their arguments are really, really convincing.

But it’s also a deeply moving piece of writing. And I wonder why you’d write it and then try to scam the 50 people in the nation who would give two shits about John Cotten into believing that it’s real instead of writing a novel.

I’m really curious about who might have written it. I wonder if it’s from the same era as Ingram’s Bell Witch book and, if so, I wonder what it means that Tennessee spits out these alternative histories?

The Gap, Again

I think it’s because I was at a meeting earlier this week where industry people were openly talking about the grave downside of capitalism, at least as we practice it here in the United States–any business that sells something to consumers which increases profits by finding ways to keep workers’ wages low ends up killing itself, but it usually takes so long that only the people in the business near the death of the business realize the problem and then it’s too late.

In other words, if consumers and workers are the same people, you have to pay your workers enough to consume your product or you’re committing slow-motion suicide. If consumers and workers aren’t the same people, you’d better hope there are enough consumers out there making more than your workers to make your business model work or you’re committing slow-motion suicide. Note that, if every business is trying to keep workers’ pay as low as possible, all businesses face the problem of not having a large enough pool of well-paid consumers who need their shit.

I keep thinking that we’re seeing this gap replicated over all parts of our society. You have something–in the case of what I care about, stories–and there’s a huge industry that takes those stories and sells them to consumers.

But you have a growing group of consumers who can’t or won’t afford the stories. They start looking for free or cheaper stories. I mean, as expensive as video games can be, what’s they’re per-hour cost? I bought the Butcher one of the Borderlands for $50 when it first came out. I don’t know how much he’s played it, but I bet I pretty easily have only spent $1 an hour on his entertainment with that game at this point. It’s roughly $7.50 an hour to see a movie. Depending on how fast or slow you read…

It’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about with the rise of fictional podcasts. That can’t be a money-making proposition by any stretch.

I guess I don’t have a fully formed idea about this except that it seems like the rise of the online magazine and the podcast and such are, in ways, people making art for people who can’t or won’t afford to consume it through traditional channels.

If a very few people will ever be lucky enough to make a living making their art and if audiences prefer not to pay for art (or to pay much less for it), I just…

I don’t know, really. I just know that it seems like a real gap between The Industry, as such, and what producers and consumers who can’t get access to The Industry are doing and I wonder what that means.

This Dog

The dog went on a friendly neighborhood rampage last night and while I was screaming his name and stumbling through backyards, he ate the neighbor’s cheese ball, some of their crackers, pooped in another neighbor’s yard, and commandeered another AT&T truck.

It’s dispiriting how well he listens when it interests him and how blissfully unaware he is of anyone hollering after him as he runs off to do what he wants.

I’m really, really glad my neighbors found it funny. They were shouting “I didn’t know you could even run that fast” at him and encouraging him to poop in other yards.

I am mortified, though.

Preacher

The Butcher and I have been watching AMC’s Preacher and really enjoying it. But man, the actual business of being a preacher on that show is so weird. Like, I can accept a vampire, but accepting that a place that does full immersion baptisms has communion wine? I can’t do it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and the other day Coble had a Facebook post about how there’s basically no market for Christian fantasy & science fiction and why that is. The gist of it is basically that Christian authors want to write grown-up fiction with Christian themes, but readers of Christian fiction don’t want to read a lot of gore or sex or the kinds of things that mark a book as grown-up.

And it strikes me that Preacher suffers from the inverse of this problem. The show would be tremendously better if it had behind the scenes someone who treated Christianity like something other than another kind of fantasy trope. If it had a sincere, knowledgeable Christian overseeing the depiction of Christians.

Which is not to say that I think Christians are in any way being disrespected by the show. I mean, that’s one of the nice things about it. It does take people’s faith and their doubts seriously. But it doesn’t seem to understand the kinds of fundamental church things that would make churched people recognize themselves in that story.

I guess it’s tough. I wouldn’t like Preacher–which, let me reiterate, I like a great deal–if it were trying to sell me on returning to the fold. So, maybe it wouldn’t be that interesting for a Christian creator to work on it if he or she couldn’t proselytize through it.

But if Hollywood struggles to reach a Christian audience with the products centered around Christianity, one of the main reasons has to be that the Hollywood projects that treat Christianity as something other than just another flavor of fantasy–oh, cool, you have fairies and trolls, I have angels and demons–are pretty rare.

Which is a shame because I think Preacher could only benefit from getting those details right.

WXNA

We have a new radio station in town that’s the renegades from Vanderbilt’s old community station–WXNA (that’s the new station, not Vandy’s old station). And I’m loving it, so far. It’s like listening to interesting people’s cool record collections.

It makes me really happy to hear people doing interesting, creative things.

But I have to tell you that I think we’re seeing more and more a real split between people who can make a living doing the creative thing they love and creative people who have to find some way to subsidize the cool thing they love. The quality of people stuck in the “I do this for free” is exploding and it’s getting harder and harder to make a living doing what you love.

But it can’t go on, I don’t think. If society stratifies like this, then a lot of us will be happy with the entertainment provided by the people we know, which leaves the upper tier entertainment without the audience they want.

Maybe.

Sleep for a Million Years

I feel I’m over this cold, but I have to tell you that I’m still sleeping, happily, a million years a night. Friday and Saturday night I went to bed at ten and got up at eight. Last night I went to bed at nine.

But I’m feeling so much better that it’s kind of a relief. I saw friends. I went cemetery wandering. I went looking for an old fort. I finished the vexing afghan. I babysat some kids. I did the interview I was supposed to do.

It was lovely.

Books, Books

I read The Ballad of Black Tom last night and when I finished it, I just said, “God damn.”

Whew, it’s…not just good. It’s…I don’t quite know how to say it. It’s perfectly realized. It’s like a beautiful egg of completeness and unwasted space. It’s the tragedy to Lovecraft Country‘s comedy, but reading them both so close together is really interesting.

I’m also a little way into The Geek Feminist Revolution and I just have to say that I spent some time earlier this week stumbling accidentally across opinions of this book–that the pieces in it weren’t real essays, not essays like this dude teaches his students to write; or that it’s filled with untruths about the history of genre fiction and women’s place in it; or whatever. The thing is that, as I’m reading, I find myself laughing at those opinions.

Like, you know, it’s one thing to not like a book. I can see why you might not like this book. Some people have been lumping it together with Shrill, but Shrill is a pitcher of lemonade and a sunny backyard where someone inducts you into a secret society of women who’ve run out of shits to give. The Geek Feminist Revolution is a dunk tank filled with ice-cold lemonade those same women have thrown you into. It’s bracing.

So, fine. It might not be for everyone. But lying about the contents of the book to mask your discomfort with it is just…I mean, when we read the book, we’re going to see you’re lying. The jig will be up. So, why was the jig so important in the first place?

I also have to laugh at the “I teach my students to write better essays” gambit. Like, dude, fine. We all see you positioning yourself over her in many ways. But who are you again?

 

The Nations

I’m doing some research into why the Nashville neighborhood called “The Nations” is called “The Nations” and it’s both really interesting–the research–and not very enlightening. The two main stories are just-so stories, I think, ways of justifying the name after the fact.

I think the truth is kind of racist and kind of harder to get at because of that. I mean, no one comes out and says, “We, who did not live there, called it The Nations, because it was poor and integrated because of its poverty and it’s a knock on that diversity” and I can’t yet find any evidence of anyone saying “We, who lived there, called it The Nations.” At least, not at first.

But that’s my guess. Not that “integrated” meant that integrated. You could still find mostly black people east of 51st and mostly white people west, but there were Hispanics and Asians thrown in there, too.

Women’s Work

Something came up recently that I don’t really want to talk about, but I’m mentioning obliquely here because it’s on my mind and troubling me.

I was reminded of it again this morning when I read this story about a Christian music star who is coming out as gay. The letter he wrote about it is extraordinary–not only because of his honesty about himself and the ways in which he really, really didn’t want to be gay and thought he could just act straight long enough that it would eventually come to him, but because of his honesty about what it did to his wife.

I was also reading recently that it’s very hard for women to get doctors to treat our pain, specifically if it’s related to our reproductive systems, because there’s still this cultural expectation that being a woman is being in pain.

It’s hard to read the story about the Christian music star and not get the sense that his wife is in a very painful spot and that, really, the music star seems to be the only one who is publicly acknowledging that their society has put her in this painful spot–that she’s just expected to mop up after the damage it does to insist gay men marry straight women.

There’s a lot of emotional work that women do that’s mostly invisible. Men get used to this emotional work just happening, I’ve discovered. Most of the most mind-bogglingly strange things that have happened to me in my life have happened because some man needed some emotional work done and didn’t have any idea how to do it himself so he just assumed he could dump it on me and walk away. (And I love processing things with people! So this isn’t “Help me talk this through so it makes sense to me” type stuff. This is something different.)

I don’t know. It’s just troubling. If you hold in your mind the idea that women are always upset, always complaining, then it seems to me it’s easier for you to say to yourself “Well, then, she can just be upset about this, too, so I don’t have to deal with it.”

But you can’t be a whole person if you don’t ever have to deal with your own shit.

Holy Crap. I’ve Been Really Sick

I really haven’t written anything here since Friday?! Damn. In my defense, I was really busy and then, also, really sick.

I am still kind of sick, but the kind of sick where you walk the dog and go to work, which is better than the sick of yesterday, where I watched a movie and then played Civilization on the easiest setting over and over again, just to have something for my brain to do while my body sat very still and tried to get over itself.

I am excited to report that the afghan is all pieced together. I’m just waiting on the rest of the yarn so I can do a border. Which will require math, which I’m a little bummed about, but I will get it!

And I have a longish short-story outlined, so we’ll see how that goes.

I just need to get well enough to do things.

A Woman with a Project

I went to see T.J. Jarrett read poetry last night. God, she’s good. And I came away feeling really inspired by how she thinks about her work and how she struggles with it. It’s good to see artists considering how their minds work.

I think it’s also good for prose writers to read poets. A poet, a good poet anyway, has a relationship with a reader like two people at either end of a jump rope, each also somehow also jumping. Each word must have the necessary weight and efficiency to get both the creator and the reader up in the air. Or maybe the poet is so far from the other end of the jump rope that she can only trust that, since it still goes up and around, someone out of sight jumps for her.

Prose writers get more rope, make nets instead of exercise equipment, but it’s good to see what someone can do with language, metaphor, at its most pared down.

Like a Bobber on the Water

I’m in the middle of an extraordinarily busy time. I’ve basically filled out my calendar, loaded up my car, and am heading from one thing to another to another. Like a bobber out on the water.

There’s the restaurant up in Ashland City, right on the river, and you can sit out on the deck and watch the boats go by. We never go there unless our parents are in town. I’m not sure why. It makes me happy.

Maybe I should schedule some time to go sit on the deck by myself and see what comes of it.