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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in vschanoes' LiveJournal:

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    Monday, October 14th, 2013
    9:39 pm
    My work at has provided me with two awesome bits of news recently, about two pieces I'm particularly proud of, one each.  Without further ado:

    1) Burning Girls, the novella I wrote a Jewish witch in Poland and New York City is in's annual "Some of the Best" anthology!  I'm very pleased, of course.  The honor comes with a mini-review by Carl Engle-Laird in his post about the anthology.  He actually focuses on an aspect of the story I had not consciously considered, the fact that the magic employed by the main character is not systematized.  I'd never thought about that.  I just based it on what I'd read of Jewish magic, and erudition went hand in hand with invention.

    2) "Burning Girls" is not the only story of mine about Jewish women and the supernatural that will be publishing!  "Among the Thorns," an answer to "The Jew in the Thornbush," the Grimms' most anti-semitic fairy tale (it had been quite popular in anthologies up until, oh, around 1945, when suddenly stories about German gentiles torturing and murdering German Jews didn't seem quite so entertaining any more, go figure).  The story will be going up in April 2014, and the cover art has been recently released, and it is one of the most stunning works of art I have ever seen.  I want it.  I want to get it done on a huge canvas and hang it on my wall, except I would feel bound by all laws of art and morality to donate it to a museum.  Here it is:

    Here is the amazing thing: this was exactly what I had in mind for this story's art.  I was imagining the protagonist's face with her hair slowly turning into vines of thorns, and then, here it is!  Only more beautiful than in my mind's eye, because I am not a visually gifted person.  I've never even met these illustrators, Anna and Elena Balbusso (twins!), who also did the fabulous art for "Burning Girls," but I desperately want to because they are artistic geniuses, and we are clearly on the same wavelength.

    Sunday, October 13th, 2013
    12:14 am
    I'm watching the 2005 TV show <i>Surface</i>, about a bunch of different people dealing with sea monsters, and the government cover-up to prevent the general public knowing about the sea monsters.

    It's pretty good.  It taps into many of my fears--being eaten while in the water being a big one.  Don't worry; I keep a handle on this fear by never ever ever ever ever going in to the ocean over my waist, preferably over my knees.

    The main problem with it, plot-wise, is that I have to keep on rooting for people who make fundamentally stupid decisions.  The 14-year-old kid I can have some sympathy for.  He's fourteen, and the essence of adolescence is bad decision-making.  But the grown woman with the five-year-old kid who drags that kid into dangerous situations, doesn't bother to protect him when she knows the government is trying to shut her down and has destroyed her career and murdered people to do so, who drops that kid off with his dad and goes to the bottom of the ocean in a submersible she and her two friends created out of what looks like a giant rusty barrel, and then spots a leak in the seal around the window halfway down but decides to keep going anyway, and who then seems SURPRISED that she is going to die?  Well, yes, lady, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?

    And the dude who abandons his wife and two small daughters to GO WITH HER and keeps claiming that it's all happening for a reason?  That reason is that YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT.

    And the parents who AFTER they leave town find out that their older daughter throws a giant pool party while their younger son is raising a baby sea monster, and then leave town, leaving the two teenagers home alone AGAIN?  WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

    Here's what happens when big bad scary government men assassinate some of my colleagues and destroy my career and tell me to back off my research (presumably my work on Alice in Wonderland threatens the fabric of society as we know it): I look at my beloved godson, realize how much I would rather be dead than see something bad happen to him, and I BACK THE FUCK DOWN.  Here's what happens when somebody offers me the chance to continue that research and clear my name and restore my career by going to the bottom of the ocean to sea-monster breeding ground in a home-welded tin can while living off the grid and not telling anybody about it: I look at my beloved godson, think about how much I want to see him grow up, contemplate how much I enjoy being alive, and I ask them if they're OUT OF THEIR FUCKING MINDS.

    There's a point at which I look at two characters trapped on the bottom of the ocean floor in a leaking iron barrel, or adrift at sea in a leaking raft while being circled by a twenty-foot shark, or a few feet away from a 150-foot sea monster trying to protect its eggs while clinging to the deflated remains of their life raft, and while I am, of course, tense and anxious about their imminent deaths, I can think nothing other than "You have only yourselves to blame for this situation."

    Am I being too victim-blamey, here?
    Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
    4:35 pm
    'Cause you're just a So So Glo
    Friday night, I went downtown to see the So So Glos, the best band in NYC, play the Mercury Lounge.  This was nice for me, because usually they play their own place, Shea Stadium, which is what we New Yorkers call a royal pain in the ass to get to, as it's in Greenpoint on the G.  (Note for non-New Yorkers: the G train is the only subway in the city that runs between Brooklyn and Queens without going through Manhattan first.  This should make it very convenient, as Brooklyn and Queens are two halves of the same island, while Manhattan is an entirely different island.  However, the catch here is that the G train doesn't really exist.  You may see it, sometimes, once or twice a year, as you're waiting for the F at Carroll St., but that's just a ghost train.  It appears, it disappears, but as a mode of mass transit, it simply doesn't exist.  You can wait twenty, thirty, forty minutes.  I don't believe in it. (Further note: fifteen years ago, I was living in Brooklyn and trying to figure out whether or not I wanted to be a journalist by writing up articles for a Queens community newspaper.  This entailed going to Queens community board meetings, which were so dull I actually have no memory of them, and they went on for fucking ever, and then I'd try to take the G train home.  Usually at midnight.  This coincided with the activities of a man known as the "G-Train Rapist" for exactly the reasons you'd think, and I decided to give up the reporting and avoid the G train.  Now you know why I never pursued journalism.  Back to the So So Glos.))*

    I preferred their old place, Market Hotel, which was in Bushwick and easier to get to.  I tried to write a YA novel set around Market Hotel (it had vampires; this was my attempt to cash in),, I'm not a novelist; plotting does not come easy to me.  Or at all.  The whole thing was basically a flight of fancy around what my adolescence might have been like if there had been the internet and all-ages venues with punk rock instead of the Village Voice and numerous bars that wouldn't let me in and middle-aged married men playing Irish rock.  (I tweeted to my teenage self to get the fuck away from him and go find some cute punk boys her own age, but she didn't listen.  Sometimes I can't stand her.  Most of the time.  But the poor thing was so insecure about anybody liking or accepting her.  She took what she could get.)

    Anyway.  I got to Mercury Lounge half an hour after the show was supposed to begin, and when I got in, the other band they were playing with, Diarrhea Planet, was already onstage.  I figured they had gone on first and played a short set, and I had missed them completely (this has happened before).  So I was standing there, mentally composing this long post about how I know I'm middle-aged, because I missed my favorite punk band's set due to the fact that it took a long time to get the baby down to sleep, and I wished I'd brought ear plugs, and back in my day, bands never went on at the stated time anyway, and what was with these kids and their new-fangled punctuality and they could just get right the fuck off my lawn and--

    --and as it turned out, the Glos were going on second, and I hadn't missed a damn thing.

    It would have been a very cranky but funny post, I tell you what.

    But the Glos are way better.

    They were so good.  It was the kind of setting in which they're at their best, small room, low stage, crowded enough to have enough people to respond but not so crowded that you couldn't dance, and they looked like they were having so much fun, and I was having so much fun, and the music was clean and hard and awesome (Zach Staggers really is an amazing drummer). After the show I wanted to call up everybody I knew and gabble excitedly at them, but I am middle-aged now, so everyone I knew was asleep, so I didn't.  It was so exciting and electric--I always forget what that feels like, to be part of a good show, like little fizzy bubbles going off in your blood, and then when it's been a while I think it's probably not such a big deal, but it is, it's totally a big deal.  It was like the first time I saw them, when I was living in Queens and longing for a band that made me feel like the Clash did, and I took a flyer on a listing in Time Out New York and hauled my ass out to Bushwick and waited through three other bands who were all fine, you know, but not amazing, and as soon as they walked up onto the stage to set up, I couldn't take my eyes off them--something about they way they moved, I guess--and I just knew they were going to be amazing and they were, they totally were, and it was worth the two hours there and two hours back and the waiting and standing around not knowing anybody, and I didn't care, I didn't care, it was all worth it for that moment when, as Lester Bangs put it, you sup on lightning and nothing else in the realms of the living or the dead matters at all, not at all.

    They're older, now, than when I first started seeing them, and it shows.  I don't mean that in a bad way, God knows they're all much, much younger than me, but they look older and a little more hard-bitten, not the young, shiny, fresh-faced boys they were, what, four years ago?  Five?  Five, I think.  And man, do they rock and roll.  Ended the night by covering the Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right to Party" (I kind of thought that in the spirit of having just been on tour they would've done "No Sleep 'til Brooklyn," which is my favorite BB song, but they failed to consult me yet again.

    Bought the new CD and asked 'em to sign it, and can I just ask, what gives with me?  Am I going to be 80 years old and still tongue-tied in the presence of cute boys with electric guitars?  I mean, for serious, I am 37 years old.  Aren't I supposed to be jaded and sophisticated by this point in my life?  Weirdly, Alex Levine (vocalist, bassist)  remembered me (and not "Oh, you're that old woman who can't stammer out a full sentence," either) as the person who was writing a book with Market Hotel in it ("I remember people who are part of our tribe"--I didn't ask whether he meant Jewish or New Yorker or punk rock or some Venn diagram intersection of all three (which would include him and Nancy Spungen, Tommy Ramone, Lou Reed, Richard Hell, and Lenny Kaye; a person could do worse)), and I had to confess that that book didn't work out ("Lots of things don't work out," he said), though now, having seen them again, I want to go back to that novel and try again.

    I do get sad for the teenage girl I was, who would've given her eye teeth for this band and their all-ages shows and venues and their kindness in connecting with their audience.  That girl needed some way to find those shows and venues when nobody in her school liked enough to tell her about them.  That girl might've been too shy to talk to them, but maybe not, not if her best friend had been with her.  That girl needed a peer group who was passionate about the same things she was passionate about, and she needed friends, and she needed somebody to find her attractive who wasn't twice her age and skeeving on her.  And she needed a place to dance violently and sweat and smoke up.  Maybe not smoke up--pot makes me throw up--but she needed to be doing something illicit with people her own age.  Maybe she could have taken 'shrooms or X or something.  Maybe she could've gotten laid several years earlier than she actually did, and then she wouldn't have wasted her time falling hard for some geeky grad student who was totally not good enough.  Maybe she wouldn't have run as far from rock and roll as she could get once she realized how fucked up her scene was.  Maybe not.  Maybe things would've turned out just as suckily.  Maybe now I'd just have different regrets.  But...I kind of think I wouldn't.

    The past is the past and there's nothing to be done about it, except make the most of the present, I guess.  But you don't get another go-round at being a teenager.  So I also think it's OK to take some time an mourn what you never got.

    * I have been corrected by the gentlemen in question themselves--Shea Stadium is off the L, which is much, much easier to get to.  Which means I have missed numerous shows due to being completely and moronically misinformed.  Not that I am fucking pissed at myself or anything.  I totally am.  But the future has many, many gigs in it.
    Saturday, July 13th, 2013
    11:50 pm
    How many?
    "O when may it suffice?"
                    -- W. B. Yeats

    A very, very incomplete list.

    Henry Smith
    Jesse Washington
    Laura Nelson
    L. D. Nelson
    Will James
    Anthony Crawford
    Isaac McGhie
    Elmer Jackson
    Elias Clayton
    Emmett Till
    James Chaney
    Michael Donald
    James Byrd, Jr.
    Patrick Dorismond
    Amadou Diallo

    Trayvon Martin

    And yet when Jeremiah Wright wasn't supposed to say "God damn America."

    Well, I'm white.  I can say it.

    God damn America.
    Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
    11:52 pm
    Hey, I've got an idea for a dystopia:
    Only white people get to vote, and women don't even get to finish talking about abortions, let alone have them.

    Throw a teenage love triangle in there, and maybe we could get a movie deal out of this hellscape.
    10:03 pm
    Voting Rights Act, do NOT rest in peace
    Rise back up like a particularly pissed-off vampire.

    Four days ago, Representative John Lewis pointed out on Twitter that it was the 49th anniversary of the disappearance of Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner, and James Chaney, lynched for trying to register black people in Philadelphia, Mississippi to vote.  I was raised to revere these men.  When they disappeared, handed over by the Sheriff to the KKK, the Federal government dragged their feet about investigating for three days, claiming this was a "local matter."  The local authorities didn't see why they should get excited over the disappearance of "a n-----, a kike, and a n------lover" (they were mistaken; it was two kikes, thank you very much).  Nobody was ever convicted for their murder; 2004, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter.  Their families wanted them buried together, but Mississippi's cemeteries were all segregated, and forbade it.

    Forty-nine years.  Andrew Goodman was a New Yorker, a student at Queens College, where I am a professor (we have a clock tower dedicated to Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney on campus).  He was twenty-one.  So was James Chaney, who was taking considerable risks simply by being who he was--a young black man in Mississippi in 1964.  Schwerner was all of 25, and had been under surveillance by the KKK for his organizing work.  If not for the racist fuckheads of Mississippi they could all still be alive today, to see the VRA gutted.

    Fuck these motherfuckers.  Reagan kicked off his campaign in 1980 with a speech advocating "states' rights" in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and it was no secret what that meant.  He'd be fucking thrilled today.
    Sunday, June 23rd, 2013
    11:05 pm
    Shouting "fire" in NYC, 1906-1911
    I was away on a blessedly internet- and cell-phone-free vacation when my novella, "Burning Girls" went live at

    I love this novella.  I've worked on it for years.  It's about a Jewish witch who survives the Bialystok pogrom of 1906, and emigrates with her surviving sister to NYC.  But a demon has followed them, and is determined to destroy what remains of her family...

    Speaking of women working in factories and fire, my story "Phosphorus," about the 1888 strike of women working at the Bryant and May match factory in London.  It came out in March* in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's marvelous Queen Victoria's Book of Spells.  It's gotten great reviews, most of which name-check my story--not that I'm bragging, but I totally am--so you should run out and snag a copy ASAP, if you haven't already!

    * It was my birthday in March, and I got caught up in a bunch of stuff, and and and...basically I'm absent-minded.
    Monday, June 3rd, 2013
    11:15 pm
    "Ripley, she's just a piece of plastic."
    I'm sure that everybody who might read this LJ already knows about the way the recent run of SFWA Bulletins has apparently been watching too much Mad Men and decided the gender mores of 1962 were totally the way to represent women in its pages and on its cover.  If not, do read E. Catherine Tobler's piece, and take a look at Jim Hines's round-up.  I have few comments to make that have not already been made better and by others (see, for example, Kameron Hurley's essay).  But I do have some.

    1) Resnick and Malzberg seem to be getting most of the heat for this, and rightly so.  But let's not forget about C.J. Henderson's trenchant piece on how women should present themselves in the field, and his extended suggestion that we model ourselves on Barbie, because, among other reasons, she carries herself with "quiet dignity, as a woman should."

    First of all, go fuck yourself with an oscillating chainsaw, Henderson.  Is that quietly dignified enough for you?  No?  Amazingly, I don't give a flying fuck.  Telling me to be ladylike in order to get ahead, to deserve to get ahead, is vile bullshit, matched only by the gall to tell me to model myself on a piece of goddamn plastic.  Barbie is quiet because she can't talk, because she is a toy, not a person.  Can you name me three women who got ahead in SF/F as writers, editors, or publishers by acting like a plastic toy?  No?  That's because Barbie is not a model for professional success, asshole.  She's a patriarchal fantasy.  Talking about how she has "perfect measurements" is absurd; has Henderson read none of the reports about the anatomical impossibility of Barbie?  Has he read none of the essays or stories or novels about how using Barbie as a role model has fucked up little girls and grown women?  One of them was written by a certified Great American Novelist, for fuck's sake.  I had to read it in high school.  It's hardly unknown.  Waxing eloquent about how Barbie's looks aren't "the essence of who she is"?  Yes, yes they are, because Barbie is a plastic toy. Newt in Aliens, (also a fictional character, but one who talks, takes action, saves people, and isn't designed around masculine sex fantasies) understood that plastic dolls aren't real and don't have inner lives.  Why doesn't Henderson?

    I spoke to my best friend about this:

    Me: I'm trying to imagine a world where I write and publish an essay in which I urge, say, disabled people to take Tiny Tim as their model, but I'm running into some problems that are preventing me from understanding how a person would do something like this.

    Best Friend: I bet.

    Me: Like, one, why would I think something so stupid?  Two, if I did think something so stupid, why would I not realize how insulting it was?  Three, even if I did think something so stupid and didn't realize how insulting it was, why on earth would I think that my opinion had the slightest relevance to the way disabled people should live their lives, especially to the point of publishing an essay?

    BF: I think the problem you're running into here is that you're not an asshole.

    When I read Henderson's rhapsodies about Barbie to my mother, dwelling on how Barbie got a college degree but didn't act like she was entitled to one or that Ken had tried to deny her one (um, dude?  actually, men have made a great deal of effort to deny women access to power and achievement), she said "Oh, wait, I get it.  He was one of those boys who masturbated while thinking about Barbie.  This is the fantasy he built up about her," and a lot of what he wrote fell into place.

    Henderson, I have no desire to model myself on your jerk-off material.  If an inanimate object is what does it for you, fine.  But expecting real human beings to "aspire" to that?  No.  Get over yourself.

    2) I cannot imagine, literally cannot imagine what it must be like to think that my estimations of hotness or the lackthereof of my professional colleagues are so very important that they need to be published in a professional magazine.  I literally cannot imagine that level of privilege: "Everybody must know what makes my dick hard!  What could be more fascinating or important with respect to my colleagues!  This is totally appropriate for a professional publication!"  So I really can't imagine what Resnick and Malzberg must be thinking.

    What I find beyond amusing is that in their world, according to their absurd defense of their remarks, the most notable example of sexual objectification they can find is that of men on romance novel covers.  What an isolated world they must live in: they clearly have never turned on the television, or gone to a movie, or seen any advertisements at all, or looked at any magazines, because otherwise surely they would have noticed  the overwhelming surfeit of sexual objectifying representations of women everywhere you look, right?  They couldn't possibly just be so used to thinking of women as primarily existing as objects of male sexual desire that they take such representations as normal, as the default state, could they?  Oh, well, actually...I find it all too likely that they're soaking in privilege so deep that they're breathing it instead of air and can't tell the difference.

    I also find it bizarre that they can't tell the difference between an objectifying portrayal of a man in erotica directed at straight women and objectifying descriptions of actual professional women in the publication of a professional organization directed at those professionals supposedly to advance professional endeavors.   Because they really aren't the same.  Romances feature objectifying portrayals of eroticized male bodies. Guess what the corresponding publication directed at men is?  Is it the SFWA Bulletin?  No, sorry, you lose.  Is directed at straight men?  Yes, yes it is--you win!  Congratulations!  The question is not, "What's on the covers of romance novels."  The question is "How are male writers, editors, and publishers discussed in the RWA's monthly trade bulletin?"

    I always feel somewhat sorry for those men who seem not to be able to recognize differences in context.  I imagine them making small talk with cashiers at the grocery store and blurting out the physical attributes they look for in a woman, and then scratching their heads in perplexity when the cashiers suddenly withdraw.  I imagine them discussing their tax returns with their significant others over candlelit dinners for two, and wondering why their beloveds are so annoyed.  I imagine them suddenly turning to their agents during a contract negotiation and telling said agents all about which of the women in the room they'd like to bang.  These poor men!  They just can't tell the difference between a romantic interaction, a professional arena, and a locker room!  How difficult their lives must be.

    Or would be, if this was actually the case.  But of course, this all bullshit.  Men like this are perfectly capable of telling the difference between a professional context and a strip club.  What they can't wrap their minds around is a professional context, or any context, in which women matter, in which women exist as individuals in their own right, not as adjuncts to a man, familial or sexual, in which women's main concern or worth is not whether or not they appeal to the men in the room, in which the highest compliment that can be paid to a woman is not regarding her looks.

    Hard to believe, I know.  Sometimes, many times, even, we women just don't give a flying fuck what your dick thinks about us.  So try thinking with your brain in the future.

    3) Being criticized is not censorship, bullying, or persecution.  It is not comparable to the actions of Mao, Stalin, or Hitler.  Stalin, when annoyed, did not write feminist critiques of the way male writers wrote about their female colleagues.  Stalin had people murdered or disappeared into the gulag the system.  Try to grasp the difference: you are defending your position in the publication of a professional organization; Stalin's targets were sent to Siberia to do hard labor; Mao's enemies were raped, starved, denied medical attention, and worked to death; the objects of Hitler's loathing were murdered by the millions.

    In the immortal words of one of my favorite TV shows, three of these things belong together; three of these things are kind of the same; can you guess which thing just doesn't belong here?  Now it's time to play our game; it's time to play our game.

    Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong here?  That's right!  It's publishing a column in the monthly bulletin of a professional organization!  Good job!

    Sesame Street and Newt can offer excellent guidance in these troubled times.  Perhaps SFWA should go back to kindergarten.
    Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
    12:59 am
    Gas Leak 2: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Come Home
    Why is it always around midnight, that's what I want to know.  Why can't gas start pouring into my apartment at a decent hour of the day?

    Better yet, gas could decide not to pour into my apartment at all.  (Just kidding.  Gas can't make rational decisions; gas is all id.)

    I'm sitting here at midnight--and the only reason I'm not passed-out asleep--and hey, as it turns out, maybe it wouldn't have been an exaggeration--is that I'm up late doing laundry because it took a while for the machines to free up, and a familiar smell starts to curl into my nostrils.  My boyfriend, the young and handsome one, was downstairs futzing with the laundry.

    Was I crazy, I wondered?  Paranoid?  Had I gotten gas lodged in my nose somehow last week?

    When the young and handsome one came back in, I asked him if he smelled gas.

    "I smell something," he said.  "Could be gas."

    I sighed.  "Really?  Should I call Con Ed?"

    He sniffed again.  "It's getting stronger."

    I sighed again.  I called Con Ed.

    It was easier this time.  The came with their clicky device.  They ran their clicky magic wand around the vent and my stove.

    Which turned out to be leaking gas.

    "The good thing," I said "is that we don't have to deal with nutty lady next door this time."  I thought about it as they pulled out the stove, turned off my gas, and filled out the ticket to give to my landlord.  "And that I'm not crazy," I added.

    So now I need a new stove.

    My lease renewal arrived a couple days ago, and they want to raise my rent by $200.  I think, on the whole, that I'll be moving.
    Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
    2:15 am
    Gas leak
    So, I come home at 12:30 or thereabouts from working at circehelene's, and walk into my apartment.  Immediately upon opening the door I cannot help but notice an overpowering odor of gas.  Hmm.  I think, maybe my boyfriend, the strong and silent one, accidentally knocked the gas on.  I flick on the lights (I have since been informed that this was a bad move; if there's a gas leak, it seems that the electric connection caused by doing that could set off an explosion) and find the strong and silent one curled up in bed playing a video game on his phone.

    "You smell gas?" I asked.  "I smell gas.  I smell a serious amount of gas."

    "I thought I did earlier," he said.  "But then I fell asleep."

    I was not reassured by this.

    "Call it in," he said.

    I called it in.  Con Ed told us to open the windows, get out of the apartment, and wait outside for them.  When the guys came they scoped out my stove and said nothing was amiss.  Hmm, I thought.  From what they say, they're pretty much dismissing me as somebody who doesn't know the smell of pot when her boyfriend has smoked it in her apartment (he doesn't do that, because I'm allergic to pot; it makes me queasy to the point of vomiting).  But I do know that smell, and as we're chatting in the hallway, one of them remembers smelling something weird as he walked past the place next door.  He runs his gas detecting wand-machine along the door jamb of next door, and it clicks like crazy.  Meanwhile, I walk back into my place and smell the gas odor really sharply in one particular spot.  I called to the other guy to come in and he stands there for a moment and confirms yeah, he smells something strange.

    The guy with the machine comes back in my apartment, stands where I stood, and follows his machine's clicks to the air vent in the wall, which connects to the apartment next door.

    Where, it turns out, there's a huge-ass gas leak.  For real.  Before we found that out there's about 15 minutes of pounding hard on the door, me calling the Super, kicking her door, ringing her doorbell, etc., before she wakes up (but she's fully dressed and put together and there was a television on, so I don't know) and begins arguing about letting the Con Ed guys in.  Now, I would be as suspicious as any woman would be about opening my door at 1 AM to two guys I don't know, but if they were wearing Con Ed uniforms and carrying clicky machine devices and talking about a gas leak, I don't think I would utter the words "Can't it wait until tomorrow morning?"  My issue would be ascertaining that they were for real, not being annoyed that they were inconveniencing me.  I might call Con Ed to make sure they had sent some guys to my address.  But having done that, I wouldn't argue with them about whether or not they have to look at my gas connections right now.

    Once they insisted that indeed, they had to check the gas connections now (for which I was grateful, because I was not going to go to sleep with the smell of gas in my apartment), she said "OK.  Give me ten minutes.  I'll have to clear a path."

    I am a terrible housekeeper.  Simply dreadful.  I was embarrassed about the state of my apartment.  But here's the thing: these are small apartments.  I have no idea how she needed ten minutes (more like fifteen, actually), to "clear a path."  There's dirty clothing and clean laundry and books and papers and shit all over my place, can get to and from the stove quite easily.  Anyway, they go in and ascertain that indeed, there is a huge-ass gas leak in her apartment.  And since there aren't separate meters for the separate apartments, they need to shut off the gas to her apartment in her apartment.  They can't do it at a meter in the basement or anything.

    When they inform her of this, she gives them a hard time again.  ("Are you sure this can't wait until tomorrow?  I was sleeping!  You woke me up!"  "Look, lady," I didn't say, "it's thanks to me that you woke up at all,  so get it together.")  Finally she keeps them waiting for another fifteen minutes while she shovels enough debris aside (or whatever) to allow them to pull the stove out from the wall and shut off the gas.

    I'm typing this in my apartment with the window wide open, waiting for the air to clear before I go to sleep.

    All of this is on top of the fact that my godson, the light of my life, almost choked on an apple he was eating, terrifying himself, me, and his mother.  It's been an eventful day, full of rather prosaic danger.

    And tomorrow, I teach.
    Friday, March 29th, 2013
    11:47 pm
    Asked and answered
    Please file this in the drawer marked "Questions that answer themselves":

    Why Are Boomers Getting STDs?, asks a NYT headline.

    Really?  Really?

    I'm going to go ahead and guess that it's because...they're having sex.  Just like they did when they were younger, during the sexual revolution.

    Let's take a peek ahead at the article and find out if I'm right: yes, I got it right.  Baby boomers are developing sexually transmitted diseases because they're having a lot of sex, and they're not being terribly careful about the histories of their partners, and they're not always so great at using condoms.

    Gee.  Baby boomers.  It's like they're just like everybody else, or something.  Alert the media.
    Saturday, March 2nd, 2013
    12:43 pm
    Specfic Kickstarter

    I'm going to be working up a story for this excellent anthology forthcoming from Crossed Genres and edited by Rose Fox and Daniel
    José Older, an anthology of speculative historical fiction focusing on members of subjugated or marginalized groups.  I'm working on a fairy-tale related story, the latest in a consideration of how Jews figure in the classic fairy tales, specifically in the form of grumpy
    dwarves with bags of gold (hint: it almost never works out well for us).  I'm utterly thrilled to be among the group of authors
    submitting works for consideration (Nnedi Okorafor
    ! Andrea Hairston!) and I think this is going to be a great project.

    It's also a project that needs some financial backing. Check out the Kickstarter page!

    Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
    11:16 pm
    Another reading, this time with SHOES
    February 19, 6:30

    Steampunk is not just a genre: it's a fashion aesthetic. Join five writers in NYC's famous John Fluevog store as they discuss the place of clothes and shoes in their works and the fantasy genre as a whole.

    ZORAIDA CÓRDOVA, author of The Vicious Deep and the forthcoming The Savage Blue
    LEANNA RENEE HIEBER, author of Darker Still and The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart
    KATE LOCKE, author of God Save the Queen and the brand-new The Queen Is Dead, and (as Kady Cross) other books for young adults
    VERONICA SCHANOES, contributor to collections such as the forthcoming Queen Victoria's Book of Spells
    GENEVIEVE VALENTINE, author of Mechanique and contributor to collections such as After and the forthcoming Queen Victoria's Book of Spells

    WORD will be there selling books by the authors. PLUS! Attendees will receive a 15% discount on the store's fantastic Fluevog merchandise during the event with the code word "Munster."

    Do you know how awesome Fluevogs are?  Do you?

    FIRST, they actually make a 10.5 size for women.  For some freakish reason, shoe manufacturers seem to make half sizes for women up to ten, and then they skip straight to eleven (this one goes to 11), and speaking as somebody with a 10.5 foot, I HAVE NO IDEA WHY.  Why?  Why do they do this?  Why don't they want me to have their shoes? 

    Well, the hell with them.  FLUEVOG wants me to have THEIR shoes, and Fluevog designs the most excellent shoes EVER.
    Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
    1:13 am
    It has been so long since I've had a reading, I wouldn't be surprised if my voice had been lost completely.  But fortunately, I have kept it in practice with lots of talking, so I'm sure the way of it will come back to me easily, on Tuesday, January 8th, when I will taking part in NYRSF's Reading Series at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Art.  I'll be reading with Terry McGarry, and last we talked, we're both working up some pieces involving the sort of fantastic troubles that plagued New York City circa 1910-11.  Doors open at 6:30, and one of us will step up to the mike at around 7.  I'd love to see you all thre!
    Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
    10:32 am
    2012, looking back
    The lovely L. Timmel Duchamp asked me to contribute to Aqueduct Press's end-of-year artistic round-up, The Joys of Reading, Viewing, and Listening, in which many of us reflect on the cultural highlights of the past year.

    I mean to write up ten books/movies/plays (what we in the academic world call "texts")...but I got a little carried away, and hit 3000 words with only six items!  All I can say in my defense is that they were six very meaningful items indeed.  Here, then, is a link to my contribution.
    Sunday, October 28th, 2012
    5:53 pm
    Hair and cultural appropriation

    I'm doing a deep conditioning treatment right now (I have a very exciting and glamorous life), so of course my fancy turns to thoughts of hair.

    I have very, very curly hair.  For those of you who know from the general curly categorizations, it's 3B with some 3C thrown in and some 3A in the front.  But mostly 3B.  For the rest of humanity--i.e. normal people who do not obsess about gradations of curliness in hair--that means that I have spiral ringlets about the diameter of a Sharpy marker.  When I was a teenager, I had no idea how to treat my hair, none at all.  White people just didn't know how to do curly hair.  We didn't have the internet; none of the teen magazines for white girls offered any solutions besides blow-drying it straight, which I had no intention of doing, because I was proud of my curls and how they connected me to my ethnicity; I developed a habit of glancing at women's magazines that proclaimed that they offered "10 hot new styles for every type of hair" and sneering "I don't think so. 

    I had a sense that I should probably be using the products marketed to black women, but I had no idea which ones or how I should go about using them, and being the social and political genius that I am, I recognized that going over to a black schoolmate and asking her to teach my how to do my hair would be weird and rude and entitled.  Looking back, I'm not sure why I didn't begin buying
    Essence or something; probably a combination of not seeing it displayed in my neighborhood and general white blindness.

    Seven years ago or so, my mother found Lorraine Massey's Curly Girl book and I had an awakening, which was awesome.  I revamped my entire hair routine and everything hair-related got easier and better.  Last year, my sister pointed me toward the Naturally Curly website, which is even more awesome.  Its message boards feature participants of all races and ethnicities swapping tips and pointers (there is of course racial clustering, with the boards specifically for 4A-4C hair being mostly populated by black participants.  I am learning even more, and although my hair is 3B, as I say, I find the most helpful info on the 3C and 4A boards, mostly from black women (silk sleep bonnets, where have you been all my life?).

    I've been experimenting with different ways to put my hair up as well as protective hair styles (for those of you not in the know, again, curly hair is very dry by nature (many of us apply oil to our hair--these days I'm using coconut oil); that makes it very easily broken.  Protective styles are ways of styling the hair that minimizes that kind of damage), and I am thinking about trying twists. 

    But then I remembered how I felt about white people with dreadlocks.

    Ugh, is how I feel.

    And those little blonde white girls whose families take them on vacation to Jamaica and get their straight hair braided.  I see them in airports, and I cringe with contact embarrassment.

    Dreadlocks and braids/cornrows are traditional black hairstyles that go waaaaaay back; they represent community, history, family, and in some cases, religion.  They're not just a cool fashion choice for white people to use a political symbol or for a change of look.  When many members of one group, in this case, white people, has spent hundreds of years murdering, exploiting, enslaving, profiting from, demeaning and raping members of another group, in this case, black people, I find it morally repugnant for members of the first group to walk around all "Hey, we're all members of one race, the human race, so I totes get to use your cultural traditions, right, bro?"  Particularly in the case of hair, which is such an important topos for women in general and black women in particular, as I understand it.  It's certainly massively important to me, and it is tied up with my ethnic identity.  Curly/kinky hair has been mocked and denigrated by white people and described in inhuman terms for far too long for it to be OK now for white people, no matter how good their intentions, how genuinely admiring they are of black hairstyles, to walk in like they own the place and use those styles.

    Is the same true of twists?  In my excitement about learning new things about how to do my hair, am I overlooking my own potential for cultural appropriation?

    On the one hand, this stuff works for my hair, and what white people do with their straight hair does not.  Point blank does not.  I already use sleep caps on the recommendations of various black women posters on the Naturally Curly forums.  I use oils--argan, olive, coconut.  I use a cleanser specifically marketed to black women, as well as a shower cap, a deep-conditioning treatment cap, and various other tools.  If I feel comfortable doing that, what would make twists so different?  Why stop here?  Particularly if using twists does protect my hair from damage and I am using them for their function as much as for their look?  And if I don't use black hairstyles, what hairstyles will I be able to use?

    On the other hand...I'm white.  And this isn't about getting "permission," because it's not about what my friends think.  It's about what the black woman on the subway who doesn't know me, and therefore doesn't know that my strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure, or whatever, thinks when she sees me--am I one more white insult to her cultural traditions and people (any more than I already am) that she has to deal with on her way to work?  And would I be exploiting her culture by using twists, claiming membership and belonging that is not mine by right?  Or am I over thinking this, because she has 100 goddamn problems due to racism and couldn't give two shits about my hair?

    I'm not sure; I'm leaning toward not using twists at this point.  But I'm not ruling them out entirely just yet.

    Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
    8:20 pm
    Gypsy: Creepy as All Hell, or Just Kind of Creepy?
    So, I've never before seen Gypsy, but I have very recently seen and was almost traumatized by Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?.

    The first part of Gypsy is creepy as all hell in that context.  Is creepy if you haven't seen Bette Davis sing "A Letter to Daddy"?  What I mean is, is it creepy in and of itself, even if you haven't seen Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and even if you had, it wouldn't have caused any nightmares?
    Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
    8:20 pm
    Classic movies and basic safety precautions, part 2: laziness pays off
    I'm watching the original Dial M for Murder, and I realized that Grace Kelly's husband's cunning plot to lure his wife downstairs and thus get her into position to be murdered by his old schoolmate by calling home from the stag party would never work on me.

    When I am in bed and the telephone rings, I just let it ring, on the theory that very few things are worth getting out of bed for.
    Monday, October 1st, 2012
    12:01 pm
    Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong, farewell, farewell to ye
    When I was a girl, one of the bands I used to like to see played an awesome version of "MacPherson's Lament."  For reasons I'm not going to go into because life is short, I no longer have their album.  I'm wondering if anybody out there knows a good version on itunes or youtube or something, for I have a powerful desire to hear it again.
    Saturday, September 29th, 2012
    2:50 pm
    A week of escalatingly bad mishaps
    So, as you know if you've ever met me, I am rather scatter-brained.  In fact, I am a classic absent-minded professor, insofar as I can quote large passages of text verbatim, recreate off the top of my head a page of a paper if I'm delivering it at a conference and somehow my printer skipped a page, and remember all kinds of arcane and interesting information, but I have no idea what I did last Saturday and have no idea where I put the earrings I just took off, in fact, I wasn't even aware I took off my earrings, and where's my watch?

    I have been developing new strategies to deal with this nonsense, as it has started to take a toll on both my professional life and my personal life--I'd been hurting friends' feelings by double-booking and then having to cancel, or saying I'd call and then forgetting to, and I don't like to hurt my friends' feelings.  Things had been getting better.  And then...well, I'm now at the point of shouting "I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing!"

    First, I lost my ATM/debit card, which kind of sucked, but not in a material way, because I am once again in the red because a bunch of publishing companies and my college, which should know better, decided to cash checks I wrote a month ago.  Bad book-keeping on my part, certainly, but also...deposit the check when I write it!  Or within a week!  Why did you wait a month or more?

    Then, I lost my datebook.  Crisis.  Seriously.  I had no idea what I had been doing the past week (my nightmare is to be questioned by homicide cops: "Where were you last Saturday between the hours of 5 and 9 PM?"  "...I have no idea."  "What?"  "Your guess is as good as mine, Officer."  "Can anybody confirm that you were not the person who strangled Person X?"  "I...don't know."  "Did you strangle Person X?"  "I'm almost positive I would remember if I had."  "Almost?").  More importantly, I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing now, or next week, or what I've already missed this past week.  I only found out that I was taking my class on a field trip tomorrow because thank God, they mentioned it to me on Thursday.  God knows what else I've forgotten.

    Then, last night, I realized that I've lost my masterlist of Things I Must Do.  I've been keeping this list for months.  When I plan what I have to get done each day, I consult that list and transfer things to my now-missing datebook.  It is nowhere to be found.

    Also last night, I knocked over a glass of seltzer, which smashed itself on top of my modem/router, shorting out my internet (I'm not at home right now).  

    I do not even know why I bother to try, sometimes.
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