Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout


Clarion Begins

Sunday began with a meeting of my fiction workshop where we discussed Chapter Three of Bryony's Needle. I'm seeing more and more the places where I flinched from my original intention, and how it hurt the novel and how to fix it, so that is great. But I did get really cranky with one of the critiquers who talked about the Celtic elements in the story, where there isn't anything Celtic in it--the closest is that there's a castle. There are certainly various fantasy tropes, but not Celtic ones. The critiquer simply wasn't using the right terms. Sigh.

Then that evening was the first official meeting of the new Clarion West class (they'd already collected themselves to go to dinner together the evening before as people arrived and had spent the day together getting to know each other). When Leslie and I were due to start to talk to them they still hadn't finished paying their tuition, and so everything was a little delayed. But we presented the format & rules and talked to them about conflict resolution, then Leslie introduced Octavia Butler, this first week's instructor, and we asked the students to briefly introduce themselves. Octavia spoke for a while and then we let the students free and took Octavia to dinner at the Gravity Bar (where I ran into my friend Annemarie very briefly whose half-birthday party I had missed because of Clarion). Talking to Octavia is fascinating. She's fun, but also quite serious at the same time. Flashes of humour and flashes of the shyness she has pretty much overcome. One of the best things this week has been being able to get to know her just a little.

The next morning I had to go to work, and it was difficult thinking of the students having their first workshop while I was at the office doing the usual things. Leslie phoned me later to give me an update but I still felt that I missed something not being there. And there are still all kinds of little things to do, errands to run, things to sort out.

Tuesday was my first day in the classroom, with Leslie for the day we overlap. So interesting to see the group in action, a little uncertainly but critiquing well and with care for each other. In the evening was Octavia's reading at Elliott Bay Bookstore, but as she doesn't really read and had a talk prepared that she'd given several times she heard Leslie say that Ellen Datlow was going to be interviewed, so she asked Leslie and Nisi to interview her. That was really a lot of fun as they asked both deep and fun questions and Octavia responded in kind.

Wednesday I was in the classroom with Nisi and then with Lyman, and the days were filled with other bits and pieces of errands and business. Friday I went to work in the morning and then the first Clarion party was in the evening. The students arrived in a bunch as always and mostly stayed in some form of bonded togetherness. Interesting to see from the inside/outside.

Overall it seems to have been a really good week for them.

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New disc by Annika Bentley, with leak, blink, & breath, that I've been quite enjoying. Especially the first dark mournful haunting song (but I do like the whole thing!)

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Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart is truly wonderful. Really. This is the story of a woman marked by the gods to find pleasure in pain and raised to be a spy. It's set in a world that is a different medieval France where the gods are pleasure-loving descendents of Christianity but give the world an utterly different flavour. The heroine is clever but young and not omniscient and so she makes mistakes, but she discovers a plot that will destroy her country and so she does everything possible to stop it. The novel has an utterly individual flavour and while I don't particularly find masochism inviting, the author makes the character Phèdre, believable and human and both damaged and made powerful by what the gods have done to her. This is one of the best fantasies I've read. It's original and captivating and well-written above the usual.

James P. Blaylock The Last Coin has one of my least favourite type of characters for a protagonist, an utter schmuck. But believe it or not, he grew on me. He's such a loser that he can't even lie well, and everyone sees through him but they also recognize his basic goodheartedness. The story revolves around the 30 pieces of silver that were paid to Judas Iscariot. They are magical, and Judas has lived on throughout the years working to keep them spread out over the earth so they don't come together and cause of cataclysm. but others have tried to gather them together to be able to use their power, and now a man arrives in town to stay in a half-open hotel to collect the rest of the coins and the hotel's owner (the schmuck) must stop him. Quite a fun novel.

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Alas. But I am thinking and putting ideas together so once I get a few minutes I will be able to work.

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Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

January 1980

1094. Friday to Sunday
Jan. 20th 1980

If I die tomorrow, I hope no one will read this; these are "dear diary" confessions that I wrote when I was in my Anaïs stage, wherein I try to fill you in on what has really been happening. Friday Randy dropped by to thank me for the birthday card I sent him. We went for a sunlit Buglet drive over Prospect Lake Road, to Munn's Road to Finlayson Arm Road, which finally leaves us in Goldstream Park (not to miss out Randy's cig breaks, where he, in typical Randy fashion, stuck ice down my blouse, in typical Nancy fashion I did not manage to retaliate, another stop where he did it again, but showed me some deer tracks in the snow. Once in Goldstream we decided to stop and climb a mountain. A very steep mountain, and I was, as usual, in a skirt and street boots but we made it up to a comfortable rock in the hot sun three-quarters of the way up, where we basked and cuddled and made love. Glorious on a mountain in January in the sun, but the sun began to set and we had to race down. My student winter legs weak with the strain of walking up. I find it hard to believe I made it down so easily. That afternoon will probably be my best memory of Randy. You see I speak in the past tense already. My time sense is out of joint. I will have to explain what has happened to it to you sometime.

1095. Still on Friday, but moving on

I spent the evening with Jon and Maureen, old Seed friends, doing what they normally do: talking, listening to music, smoking Columbian. First in a long time for me. I enjoyed it, but it's certainly not something I can do a lot, because it takes so much time for my brain to become unfogged. It takes all the fire out of me, breaks all my resolutions (doughnuts & pizza). Even the next day I have no ambition, which brings me to Saturday, which I spent trying to get awake again. I took Randy out for dinner because it was his birthday (I can't believe he's twenty-four!) We went to this grotty place, East Gate, that has ill-assorted furniture, but good Malaysian and Indonesian food. We had an enjoyable time I can appreciate Randy so much better now that I don't see him very often (as you may have guessed, he and Eve have broken up). I like to see him, because with me he is rarely judgemental, but I can see he's being twisted and is losing himself and his sight (he wouldn't eat his fortune cookie until I had taken the paper from it). He hadn't slept in thirty-six hours (he works 11 pm - 7 am) so I took him home and tucked him in (yes). Then went home where I have so carefully remained since, this being Sunday, and papers having been spread across my floor in an abortive clean up attempt begun Wednesday. I did some chores and tried to become myself again.

1096. My time
January 21st 1980

(..."All time is unredeemable.") My approach (daily) began with a high strung young child, the child that I was and am. I suffered continually from nerves and from dread. I used to wake up that way. Gradually I taught myself to make plans for the future, but not to count on things, not to dwell on possible failures, etc. I had to learn not to think about things at all. The problem being of course that gradually I began to be unable to think about the past, too. Something that happened yesterday may as well have happened a year ago--it makes no difference to me. A month is as indefinably long as an eternity--at least while I try to remember it. This intensifies moments, the present, but makes the past very hazy, and makes me fear that again I have no intellect, little intelligence. I have memory, but a memory which doesn't have degrees of "recentness," or degrees of "past," indeed no sense of time. I am learning presence of mind by this; for example, my reading went well because I didn't think about it, and had no time to think and fear while I was doing it. I fell into my own poems. So, I gain from this and lose from this and learn. I fall into each moment, headlong, and climb out to fall into the next. My awareness is not continuous, rather, continual. This gives me problems, and gives me hope and change. [1]


1. This is still the case, frustrating though it is.

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