Love Is The Law: An appreciation

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So my iPad flips things….

I read Nick Mamatas’ LOVE IS THE LAW in one sitting, and have been mulling over what to say about it for months. This book– just like Mamatas’ other books BULLETTIME, MOVE UNDER GROUND, and all of his short stories–stick with you. I don’t think it is because of off-beat characters or novel mash-up concepts, all of which are very good, but it is the authenticity of the voice he uses.

Dawn (the LITL protag)’s voice is so authentic that what I have been preoccupied with since reading it is whether to believe her or not. Obviously, the unreliable narrator is a trope of confessional stories, but what makes Dawn interesting is her voice reminds me of a certain kind of conviction found in sociopaths, schizophrenics, and religious zealots. They believe what they perceive, and don’t even consider convincing anyone of the truth (usually) because they see it before them–the truth is already there. You don’t see it, but they sure do, and they develop a genius for describing and understanding it.

Have you ever spoken to someone convinced of their beliefs?  For example, someone who says they talk to God, and further more God responds.  When I ask people what this is actually like—do they really have JC or Yahweh on speed dial?–the explanations are always different, and are always found in the reading of the mundane. A sign can be two missionaries approaching a farmer on his land just as he prayed to God for some extra hands, or words that unfolded from the unconscious brain lobes like a fortune cookie. One woman I’ve met who claimed herself a medium told me you could invoke spirits of loved ones (even living ones) by imitating their mannerism until the mannerism became natural….

And I believe all of them. I don’t believe that circumstances are what they think they are, but I believe they believe it is so.

I don’t get this conviction from other dubious narrators I’ve read in the past. With characters like Bateman and Humbert, I feel like they are just screwing with the reader. I feel like Dawn sincerely wants you to know her tale, as delusional as it may seem to us on the outside.

And whether we recognize it or not, we all talk a little crazy. We all read the world formed by our own language. For example, Freedom is a concept like Magick—who is to say either or both exists or don’t—we make them exist by transmuting the abstract into the concrete—we believe.

So, the book made me think about that, and I thought that was pretty cool.

I also really liked the juxtaposition of socialism, punk, and Alistair Crowley not because it is novel, but because I think that is another truth to the character and about any individual belief system. We’re all mash-up characters. A person is composed of her own private belief system comprised of myriad ideas.  Having a complex and polyamorous marriage of ideas and beliefs is what makes us complex and hard-to-pin down creatures.  For some reason, it is almost impossible to write characters true to life because of this–it is believed readers want it short and simple. But Dawn has a very developed conviction and it makes her background and psychology quite complex among fast-paced plotting.

Backward Glances: January summation

January funtimesSome months are quiet, and others are very loud with announcements and such.  In the later case, those are often broadcasted reactively as they happen, and get lost in the shuffle of all the other news-bytes out there.  So, I thought an end of the month summation would be a nice way to compromise the fragmented with the soft and clamorous, of which, January definitely fell into the former.

First, I am writing this during the polar vortex attack on everywhere, including the South.  All day yesterday, people lost their cool as public building closures were gradually announced.  Hysterical hyperboles floated from mouth to mouth faster than the flu, and after Atlanta and the more northern Southern areas were dusted with the white stuff, suddenly, we were in for God knows what—a blizzard?

While it has been drizzling sleet, I am sad to say there is no snow. I’m disappointed. The last time it snowed here was in 1989, unless you count that time in college when I saw one solitary snow flake fall and melt on my hand. Both were rare and magical moments.  Today, just another cloudy and wet wintry day in North Florida. Even so, the gentle tapping of the sleet against the windows have been comforting, the cat wants to cuddle rather than play all day, and if I am good, I’ll get to have a hot toddy with a friend later on.

I know I am not the only one swathed in blankets and nursing hot tea. So what’s everyone else been up too in January? Does the cold have you down? Or does it have you deep in a book or project? What are you all doing to make the best of it?

As for me….

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2013: A Year of Some Stuff

2013 happened. I did some stuff.

I traveled to Denver, CO twice. First as a guest of Anomalycon, which was a really fun experience. I went to Providence, RI and New Bedford.  I went and visited friends in Vancouver, and drove the entire West coast (from Seattle to San Diego) in a week with my husband, and fell more in love with California more than ever.  I spent time with old friends and became acquainted with new ones.  I had a lot of rich experiences, including getting to sit for Henrietta’s Eye in Seattle, which I will post about more extensively soon.

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I wrote a lot more than I did in 2012, and most of it was fiction, which I also sold.  

I had reprints appear in Zombies: Shambling Through The Ages and Planes B.

I sold original stories to The New Gothic (the story there is a collaboration with Jesse Bullington), to the much anticipated Steampunk Worlds (the kickstarter is still monstrous and kicking!), and to the Spanish steampunk anthology Acronos II (I believe this will be Spanish and English, but will update if something changes).

I am an immensely slow writer, especially with the making up of things, so while this looks pithy, this is a huge deal for me, especially considering that, all the above awesomeness aside, 2013 was also a trying year. 

My non-fiction production has wound down a bit, and I’m not sure it will pick up much more this year.  We’ll see.  However, the pieces that were published in 2013 are among some of my favorite I’ve produced in the past ten years.

There was my “Wandering Spirits: Traveling Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” series that ran at WeirdFictionReview.com and “Touring Steampunk Paris” which I co-wrote with Arthur Morgan, and photos by Nicolas Meunier.  I also wrote the introduction to Morgan’s Le Guide Steampunk, which he wrote with Etienne Bariller.

And I think that is it for the writing front.

On the reading front, I didn’t keep the usual OCD list of books consumed during the year.  Off the top of my head, I think I read about 15-20 books, a few that stood out to me being (in no particular order):  To Have and Have Not: A Hemingway Drinking Companion by Phillip Greene, Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington, Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier, Short Stories of Mary Shelley, A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer, Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas, and Never Bet the Devil by Orrin Grey.

Looking at that list, immediately I notice it is more dudes than not.  I think that besides Patricia Highsmith, purchasing every damn Sylvia Plath book I could find at Goodwill bookstore Mondays, and my Mary Shelley readings, my overall male reading dominated my female reading last year by about roughly 3:1. 

I’ve never really kept a tally like that, but I watched that Facebook meme about 10 books that stuck with you, or something like that, circulate and became inspired by an awesome comment by author Sarah Hans who suggested that reading more female authors wouldn’t be a bad new year’s resolution for male and female friends alike.  As I align myself with the Bluestockings, believe that I write within a female tradition and about female issues (mostly), and worship the ground of many female authors and auteurs like Mina Loy and Frieda Khalo, my reading of said Bluestockings is actually kind of dismal. 

So, this brings me to the whole 2014 resolution schtick, which is three-fold:  

I want to read AT LEAST 50 books this year, but, the majority of those 50 titles (let’s say 40 out of 50) will be by not only female authors, but those that I have never read before. I also want to blog more (hence this sudden WordPress manifestation), so I will write about the work and the authoresses as a beginning of a series I have always wanted to do but never had the time/nerve/drive/clams/venue to do: The Bas Bleu Zombies (hey, that’s the name of my tumblr!).

Already, I am going to cheat a little with the aforementioned Sylvia Beach books (her Seventeen magazine articles, y’all!) and with Molly Tanzer’s new short story collection Rumbuillion, but I may also read several volumes by the same people if I am really feeling their oeuvre. Yeah, yeah, yeah—but warnings like that aside, I will try to go beyond my usual goddesses and post here about them as regularly as possible.

I also encourage everyone to join me.  While I can’t commit to a proper book club, I can try to anticipate what I will be reading next, and am also always open to recommendations and discussion.

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So, to start off, I will be reading THE DUD AVOCADO by Elaine Dundy.  I am picking this selection because I impulse bought it at a Goodwill book sale, and my friend (who has the best taste in books) is in love with it so much she ordered it a few days after borrowing it from me. So, that’s a pretty good endorsement…

 So I will see everyone in about 200 pages. Meanwhile, Happy New Year’s, may 2014 be filled with wonder and glory for you all.