Catching Up with the News

I don’t blog enough.  Come to think of it, there are a lot of things that I don’t do enough of: exercise, housework, sleep, kendo, studying, writing probably– but blogging is the one that’s been on my mind this week, so it’s the one I’m going to try and improve. I don’t often blog because I don’t have anything to say– Okay, not exactly. I have lots to say, but usually nothing intelligent or particularly well informed, and most of it flushes out of my head through Twitter or Facebook so my brain doesn’t think it needs to actually elaborate. Well, I’m going to elaborate, because I have nothing else to write about around here. Also, I’m looking for a way to procrastinate doing the housework.

Behold! the things that happened (in my head) this week:FSF may june cover

I don’t like science fiction; this is my confession. There have been a handful of sci-fi I’ve enjoyed (Ender’s Game and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series are pretty much the only books on that list) but for the most part, if it involves spaceships, aliens, robots, time travel or cyborgs, I’m out. I’ve never been able to explain why I don’t like sci-fi. I just shrug my shoulders and say ‘I don’t like the concepts’. This week I powered through the Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine’s May/June edition and I think I finally understand why I don’t like sci-fi: it’s so bloody depressing! Post apocalyptic wastelands, astronauts blown up on the moon, child suicides, people exploding via asteroid impact; I understand that there’s supposed to be a statement about human nature in these stories, but come on­– humanity isn’t all misery and greed and predation, is it? Can we have a few futuristic stories that don’t leave me staring hollowly at the wall in fear of what the next decade will bring?

Anyway, despite not liking sci-fi as a genre, I do still appreciate good writing, and there were some good stories in the May/June edition. The Bluehole by Dale Baily was a decent read. It has good pacing, though at times it felt like I was being beaten by the Hammer of Foreshadowing, which took the teeth out of the story. I also enjoyed By the Light of the Electric Moon by Angélica Gorodischer (translation by Amalia Gladhart) for its playful narrative and characters, and also for a first person perspective that didn’t make me cringe. Bruce McAllister’s Canticle of the Beasts took a bit of time to warm up to, but once I did, I was fully immersed. The pacing was a little strange (if it’s a small part of something bigger then I really want to read the whole thing) but I liked the way the language of the narration was as much a part of the story as the plot and characters themselves. Finally, Wormwood is Also a Star by Andy Stewart, despite being gray and rainy, is a very well written story with characters that I felt were both likable and sympathetic. I may have been a bit pouty at the ending.

My friends have been very quick to jump to the defense of sci-fi (apparently I haven’t been reading the ‘right’ science fiction) and havLord of Light covere supplied me with a laundry list of titles and authors to try. While I don’t have the money to buy them all at once, to show that I’m a good sport and that I’m earnest in my desire to find something to like about the genre that overlaps my own, I’ve put all of their suggestions on my wish list, and am open to further suggestions from anyone else. Some titles I’ve been told are must reads are: The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Caves of Steel, The Sparrow and Flowers for Algernon.

In any case, I’m not giving up until I’ve enjoyed enough sci-fi to not write off the entire genre as unlikeable. This week I started reading Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, thereby leaping out of my comfort zone into a book that’s got both sci-fi and religious elements. I’m only seventeen pages into it so far, so there’s not much I can say yet. The characters are interesting, and it’s another book with a unique style of writing that brings all the other elements of the story together neatly. I proceed with optimism.

* * *

I teach English to elementary school children because what the hell else am I going to do for money in Japan? (Don’t answer that). In general, I like my job. I like my job a whole lot more than I’ve liked any other job I’ve done. In particular, I love working where I am now. I have near full creative control over the curriculum, textbooks and organization of the elementary program, with four teachers working under me, and a raise every year. I like working with the kids more than I thought I would, and there are certainly a lot of harder ways to earn a living than teaching kids how to ask to go to the toilet in English.

However, there has been a thorn in my side recently. The Sunday class that we have available for kindergarten (age 3-6) level students has become impossible to staff. I used to teach this class as part of my regular schedule, but I had to drop it after I learned that working 7 days a week around small children is the easiest way to keep oneself in perpetual illness. Last year I could not go two weeks without having the flu, bronchitis or some sort of mystery bug that kept me quarantined on the toilet. Sometimes even unhappy combinations of all of the above. This was despite religiously scrubbing my hands before and after every class, meal, trip outside the plastic bubble I imagined around myself every time I left my house, and wearing a surgical mask, and taking immune boosting vitamin supplements. In short, I needed a day off, or my job was going to kill me. Ever since then, we cannot find a teacher who will take the class permanently.

The hardest thing about staffing that class is probably the day. No one wants to work on a Sunday, especially not when they’re in Japan for a year and working only for the money to go on exciting trips to exotic places. Secondly, most people don’t actually feel comfortable working around little kids. I can sympathize; 3-6 is not my ideal age range, but I do teach 3 other kindergarten classes, and being the oldest of three children has trained me in the ways of mind-trickery with little kids. And honestly, I wouldn’t have an issue with the 5 teachers who have breezed in and out of our school in the last 6 months, except that they knew exactly what they were getting when they signed on. Everything is explained to them in the interview: the age of the kids, the day, the length of the lesson, the pay etc. In my mind, if you feel as though the job you are applying for is not the perfect fit for you, the interview is the time to say so. Though hey, maybe you need a couple shots to actually see for yourself if you can’t do it. I get it, give the class a try, and let us know if you don’t think you can do it.

Which brings me to my big, blow out rage of the week: The teacher we hired last week to take over the class from the teacher who quit on her first day, didn’t show up to work on his first day. He didn’t show up, didn’t call, email or send a carrier pigeon to explain why, and still has not responded to any attempt to contact him. This left us in a mad scramble to find a substitute in the last 20 minutes before the class started, and has stuck me back at working 7 days a week for the foreseeable future. If his apartment wasn’t overrun by hoards of rampaging zombie rounin, giant exploding nuclear cockroaches or ass kicking psychic school girls, I reserve the right to wish upon him all of the above and/or more for his irresponsibility and cowardice.

* deep breath *

I know I shouldn’t complain; I’m making good money and my boss even offered to pay me extra (it’ll go to the medical fees, I’m sure) for working the Sunday class again. Also, I’ll likely never again in my life have a day job that gives me so much creative freedom and free time for my writing. Gotta takes the ups with the downs, I suppose.

* * *

July 1st was Canada Day!! Though, honestly, if it weren’t for Facebook, I probably would have forgotten about it. Being the completely boring person that I am, I never did anything really interesting on Canada Day. There are so many restrictions on fireworks where I used to live that it became too much of a hassle to figure out where we were legally allowed to both drink in public and set things on fire (pro-tip: nowhere). Still, living so far away from home does make me nostalgic for some of the things that I took for granted, including, but not limited to:

–       cheaper medical insuranceCanada

–       cheaper taxes

–       dentists that fix your teeth in one sitting

–       non-humid summers

–       lack of cockroaches

–       English cable TV

–       real cheese

–       sidewalks

This info-graphic appeared on my Facebook wall. From what I know of Canada (there is a LOT of Canada to know) it’s accurate. Especially the rain part around Vancouver. You can’t emphasize enough how much damn rain falls there.

* * *

The brain fired up for writing again this week. Alex is doing camp NaNo this month with a goal of 40,000 words. I honestly don’t see any value in NaNo for myself– if I’m going to write, I’ll write. I don’t need an internet community to help me do it. I wrote 50,000+ words in 15 days on my own last November when Alex did NaNoWriMo for the first time. They weren’t particularly spectacular, but I got it done.

Anyway, my goal this month is to have a nice first draft of The Docks finished and at least a puke-bucket-of-words first draft of Portals finished. The Docks is already at 5,600 and is roughly half finished. I have no idea how long Portals will be. I only have an outline so far, and Fortune and Noah keep having interesting conversations in my head, which means that I’ll probably have 50,000 words of nonsense written before I scrap it and rewrite it again. It seems to be how these things work.

* * *

The first week of July gave us two days of thunder storms and deluge after a month of drought, then promptly dumped us with heat and humidity, flipped up both middle fingers and left us to wonder, sweat-stuck to our chairs, what the hell happened. Apparently, that was the rainy season for the year. The suddenness of the spike in temperature and 70% humidity has left me (poor, Canadian west coast girl that I am) whimpering from one air conditioned room to another. I’ve had so much caffeine this week –all to no effect­– that I’m sure my heart thinks we’re back in college. I just can’t seem to wake up from this heat induced lethargy. It’s meant that pretty much all the inspiration I had for writing has bled away to nothing more that me sitting slack-jawed and dead-eyed in front of my computer pounding out the garble of words that fall from the random word generator that is my brain on auto-pilot. I wrote 1,500 words on Wednesday. Then I read them on Thursday and deleted all of them so no one ever need know how terrible my writing is.

* * *

I found this amusing little video this week and enjoyed it, despite that I sometimes feel like the police of strict and proper language (it comes from hearing “I like to play a soccer” way more than anyone should). That’s even more hilarious when I consider that I never had a proper grammar education, so I’m probably among the least qualified people to be nit-picking about how English is used. In writing, I like to think that there’s no such thing as a bad word, only bad usage. For this reason, the people who scream “DEATH TO THE ADVERB” kind of piss me off. Adverbs have a valid function in language. Keeping a strict rule of adverb genocide in one’s work seems self-limiting to me. Similarly, those who insist that dialogue tags should be limited to ‘said’, ‘asked’, ‘replied’ and very little else seriously need to pick up an old novel or short story where a character ‘ejaculates’ their dialogue. It’s called ‘creative writing’ for a reason.

* * *

2013-07-04-dearnsaJuly 4th was Independence Day!! Which no one ever needed explained to them, but I figure it deserves at least as much excitement as my Canada Day paragraph. So, how did we celebrate? We went to work, Alex wrote, and I played video games. Oh yeah, we’re exciting people. There was supposed to be a big internet protest against the NSA, but I didn’t really see much of it. Then again, I didn’t really look. As someone who never considered living in America to be a real possibility until very recently, it feels somewhat strange to give an opinion on American politics, policy and scandal, so I largely haven’t. However, I find the thought of any government secretly spying on its citizens to be appalling. In a country where teens are jailed for making jokes on the internet, the possibility of misuse or misinterpretation of the information collected is likely enough to be a cause for real concern –granted, those jokes were in poor taste and inflammatory. Considering the kinds of things I’ve dropped into Google Search in the name of research for my writing, even I’d be suspicious of me, based on my internet activity. Incidentally, does anyone know what it feels like to go through heroin withdrawal?

* * *

In other blood boiling news, Twitter made me angry again this week. Twitter is really good at that, it seems. Author Sarah Hoyt made a blog post urging the “screaming delicate flowers” to grow a pair, and if they couldn’t stand the heat, to stay out of the kitchen. This is in response to the recent allegations and subsequent discussion of harassment at SFF conventions –another arm of the sexism monster that has been plaguing the SFF community. The dismissive and accusatory tone of the post places the blame of harassment on the victims, stating that it is their choice whether or not to be upset by boys behaving badly. She further states that if women can’t handle the harassment, they just shouldn’t go to cons. She defines harassment as:give a compliment

… sexual, political or social has two necessary components – you can’t avoid it, and it’s being perpetrated by someone with power over someone without power who is either an underling or in some other way needs this person to continue working/doing what he/she must to survive.

and anything falling outside of her definition is a woman unable to take a compliment.

I hope Ms. Hoyt never has to actually feel what it’s like to be harassed, because despite how easily she dismisses it, for victims of harassment it’s a lot harder to shake off.

I live in a country where the way a woman dresses is still grounds for dismissing a harassment case. I’ve seen a man slide his hand under a woman’s purse in a crowded train to grope her lap, and she was so ashamed she hid behind her book. I’ve had men approach me and open conversation with “Nice big tits!” I’ve been followed for blocks by a guy asking for a feel; asking to take pictures; asking what my damn cup size is!

Women like Ms. Hoyt can scoff and dismiss us as ‘delicate flowers’ but this kind of behavior is not okay. What Ms. Hoyt doesn’t address even once in her blog post is the responsibility of men – and truly, all people– to have control over their own actions, to behave with civility and to curb the impulses that demand an uninvited slap be given to an ass. I take special issue with Ms. Hoyt’s final paragraph:

Now, let’s talk about what IS harassment.  Harassment is when people use shaming and innuendo and exploit other people’s harmless behavior.  Harassment is giving liars the ability – unexamined – to render someone a pariah…

 in which she asserts that true harassment comes from the people who dare to villanize those who would use harassment as a normal function of human behavior. Ms. Hoyt, to you I say it is not normal. It is debasing and disgusting and I find your accusatory attitude toward victims of harassment to be both troubling and wrong.

* * *

I recently learned that Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has written over 25 books! I read Hotel Transylvania when I was 13 and loved it! To this day, the only other vampire novel I like more is Lost Souls. Obviously I have a lot of catching up to do. This is what happens when you drop away from reading for nearly a decade.


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