Bluejo's Journal

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29th March 2015

9:12am: Sleeper in Year's Best
My short story Sleeper will appear in the Rich Horton edited The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. Complete ToC at the link.

20th March 2015

3:58pm: Thud
Words: 3155
Total words: 33314
Files: 4
Music: No music, on train
Tea: Jasmine
Reason for stopping: train got to Boston

Fixed chapter 12 and wrote chapter 13. This was yesterday, the most productive day I've had for ages, on the train between Chicago and Boston. I started this book on a train. Maybe that's the problem with writing it, and it just wants to be written on trains? No, not really. But anyway. Words.

People sometimes ask me if I've been writing and not posting thuds, always with the tone of voice that assumes that of course this must be the case. I think they are raised on the doctrine that writers write every day, and if you write 100 words a day you'll have 36500 words a year, or something. But that isn't how it works for me at all. I can't write a hundred words a day to save my life, not fiction, I can't write little bits and stop, and sometimes I can't write at all. So the answer is no, I write as much at a time as I say here -- nothing for weeks, and 3000 words yesterday. Sometimes I conflate several sessions in a day, or very occasionally two days, into one thud post, but I am actually very honest about wordcount here. I may stare at the screen without telling you, and I may read through the whole file and tweak, but if I write an appreciable number of words, I post. A lot of my writing process consists of not writing. And then, you kmow, writing again. Bursts. It may not be the best way of doing it, but it's what I do, and I am honest about it, in the hope it might help other people who write like this feel better about their process.

18th March 2015

5:01pm: Vericon Auction -- Godzilla Vs Shakespeare
So, I mentioned the Vericon Auction here before. This year's theme is Godzilla Vs Shakespeare.

I wrote a sonnet to illustrate this:

Godzilla Vs Shakespeare

Up on the ramparts all await their time
Each heroine, the fools and knaves, each king,
Ready to catch our hearts, the play's the thing
A cockpit where they arm themselves with rhyme.

The monster tries to hide, but shows through plain,
Behind a frond ripped up with giant claws
We see his scaly hide and gaping jaws
As Birnam tropics come to Dunsinane.

All rally to defend now, each with each,
Juliet with dagger, Richard on a horse,
Dear Hamlet with his poisoned foil of course,
Harry with swords and longbows, at the breach.

Godzilla, shuffling closer, knows what's what.
Size matters. But then so do prose and plot.

If you like this and you'd like me to post the rest of this sonnet sequence, including Godzilla in Shakeapeare, Godzilla at Colonos, Godzilla Weeps for Baldur and Godzilla in Love, I suggest that you show your appreciation by donating Veribux to the auction at this link -- any amount helps , and it's a really awesome charity that I care a lot about. Donate money at the link, and I post to say you have (on the honour system) and maybe I will post more poems tomorrow night (going to be on a train in between) and Friday.

13th March 2015

6:06pm: Reading and signing in Chicago on Monday
I will be reading and signing, and Ada will be singing, in 57th Street Bookstore, Hyde Park, Chicago, on Monday at 6pm. Come if you can!

jo walton

8th March 2015

7:48pm: Tigers
"I have a tiger. Do you have a tiger?" elisem, sig.

I hear you have a tiger.
I'm sorry, I have not.
But all the same, I'd like to know
What sort of one you've got.

I'd guess it's large and orange
With hints of stripey black
But maybe it's Siberian,
White fur and great arched back.

Perhaps you are like Elinor
And loll on tiger fur?
(I think that seems unlikely
That's not your brand of err.)

It could be just a ginger cat
Who thinks he's tiger brave
But how about your allergies?
I hope they're not too grave.

Or maybe it's like Hobbes and turns
From tiger-fur to toy?
Whatever kind of tiger 'tis
I'm glad it brings you joy.

I wrote this ages ago and just found it while clearing out my drafts folder. I thought I'd share it here as it's kind of fun.

5th March 2015

11:30am: Books
The UK paperback of My Real Children is out today. I think the cover is a bit blah, it doesn't really say anything at all. I preferred the hardcover cover. Oh well. US paperback is due out in May.

The auction for the ARC of The Philosopher Kings has reached $150 with one day to go -- amazing.

1st March 2015

8:56pm: The most notable, longstanding friends
"If you, my reader, have enough freedom from other serious matters to attend to this, I ask that you read my essay through, harboring neither contempt nor lack of sympathy, and that you ponder whether anything is sweeter or more desirable than a friend, one with whom you may talk about anything just as freely and safely as with yourself, and one who equally rejoices with you in all good, happy times and warms you with consolation in adversities. Such a friend, I know, is not easily found, and once found, may be lost, causing great torment to your soul. The passing of Roscius was such a heavy loss to me that I feel compelled to express this eulogy in the hope that it may help perpetuate or even enhance his memory. When posterity names the three or four most notable, long-standing pairs of friends, I hope the friendship of Minus Roscius and Philippo Beroaldo will be among them."
Beroaldo, Filippo, 1500, Oratio Proverbiorum, Bologna.
Translated in Beroaldo, Filippo, 2009, “Appendix B: English Translation of Filippo Beroaldo’s Symbola Pythagorica (1503),” in Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier, Pythagoras and Renaissance Europe: Finding Heaven, Cambridge, 248-265.

If I could draw I'd draw Beroaldo
sitting, with pen in hand, and Roscius
behind him, hand on shoulder, bending low
to point a word to him, without a fuss.

Raphael could have caught them, full of light,
books on their desk, their hands with penman's grip,
their thirty years of work to get things right
full of the joys of friendship, scholarship.

This world holds nothing better for the soul
a friend who you can talk to, work beside,
rejoice in good times, and in bad console,
and trust with thoughts that come back magnified...

...and lose, and grieve, across five hundred years
so all who have such friends are moved to tears.
9:38am: And suddenly, it's March!
I sent rysmiel out a shopping list that said daffodils (or leeks), so we have leeks, which are more useful if not as delightful. Seemingly daffodils were not to be found. I can't get used to St David's Day happening in the depths of winter with snow everywhere and nobody thinking about flowers yet.

I am doing a thing in Ottawa on Friday. It's a reading and Q&A thing. It's open to the public, if anyone is in Ottawa and free on Friday afternoon and wants to come.

28th February 2015

7:54am: Proofs
I'm doing The Philosopher Kings page proofs.

It's one of those things that always feels as if it will be more of a chore than it is.

Bidding on the ARC has reached $80 -- amazing. If it passes $100, I will, if the winner wants, strike out the two sentences I have struck out on the proofs so far, and hand-insert the new sentence I have written.

I will also, whether anyone wants it or not, strike out the amazingly annoying insert of the word "capitalize". I mean, yes, I totally did write that in the margin of the copyedit, but funnily enough I did not mean "insert the word capitalize" I meant "Capitalize the word Worker"...

Saumel Delany talks in about hand-correcting paperback copies of Dhalgren in bookshops. I do not do this. I do not even want to start thinking about it. But I always do when I am correcting proofs.

Onwards and upwards. I've also been helping Ada transcribe and translate Renaissance Latin and Greek this week, so it's all very productive, even if not of actual words in chapters. It's wonderful what perspective looking at sixteenth century lives of Pythagoras can give, in terms of the time between and the layers. Also, I have a whole new appreciation for scribes. It's amazing anything was passed down anything like accurately. There they were copying obscure classical things without any knowledge or belief that civilization would come back and be grateful, when everyone wanted more psalters and more copies of St Augustine. "Is than an m or a ui?" they'd have wondered, without any way to make the text bigger, without artificial light, with an imperfect understanding of Latin, bless them.

Infuriating as it may sometimes be, modern proofreading is so smooth and simple in comparison.

26th February 2015

7:01pm: Auctioning an ARC of The Philosopher Kings
Vericon this year is March 20th-22nd, in Harvard. I'll be there, and it will be a lot of fun, a small con with enthusiastic young fans and a large percentage of guests for its size. This year's GoH is Ken Liu.

It also has an auction, which is arranged in a fun way. This year's theme is Godzilla vs Shakespeare, and I've written some sonnets for that theme, some of which I may be posting here in due course.

The austion this year is to benefir Cittadini del Mondo, an organization for refugees in Italy. We met some of these guys when we were in Italy in the summer. They've escaped from their war-torn countries, and they're safe in Italy, which is great -- except that as they're no longer in danger it's hard for them to get refugee status anywhere else, and Italy's economy isn't great so it's hard for them to work there. The organization helps them with bureaucracy, helps them learn Italian and become more employable, and runs a library. This is a tiny charity I really care about, and the Vericon auction can make a real difference to them.

(You can donate stuff if you want, using this annoying form where you have to fill everything in every time. You can also donate money there.)

But what I'm going right now is auctioning off one ARC of The Philosopher Kings, which I will sign and send to the winner, with the money raised to be donated to the Vericon auction and thus to Cittadini del Mondo. Bid in comments, and probably better if you follow up to the last person, so they can see they've been outbid. I'll keep this open for a week, until next Thursday, and whoever is ahead when I get up next Thursday morning will get it.

25th February 2015

7:57pm: WMTBSG out in paperback
For anyone who may have been wanting the book but waiting for a paperback, the US paperback of What Makes This Book So Great is now available, yay. It's been out in the UK for a little while already. Buy paperbacks while they still exist!

I have some ARCs of The Philosopher Kings, which arrived today. I may auction one here for the Vericon auction, when I've figured out a good way to do it.

17th February 2015

12:25pm: Large Print Among Others
I just got sent a large print Among Others, it's great that there is one for people whose eyes can't easily read regularly sized print, I am all in favour of large print editions, and it's also a sign of a successful book that it's worth doing a large print edition.

AOlargeHowever, I hate the cover. Hate it. Among Others has, with all the translations, had many many covers, and I've discussed many of them here and talked about them on my website. This is my least favourite. I may see a foreign cover and be baffled, and if so that's probably because it's speaking to a market that's educated to see different things in book covers, to have different expectations and be differently cued. This isn't the case here. This is an English language book, and I know exactly what it's saying, and I hate it.

Here, have a link to all the covers ever, for reference.

The original cover, and the UK cover, are both more in the direction of "girly" and "pastoral" than I'd ideally like. The Polish cover does the same thing in a direction I like much much better. This takes the same thing in a direction I like much less.

I can read the semiotics of that picture and those fonts and so on, and what they are saying is romantic and pastoral and edge-of-childhood innocence and magic in a very comventionally magical way -- everything from the bare feet to the trees and the dress and the angle of the girl's head is doing that trembling on the edge thing, and the light and the soft focus and the sylvan setting. There are books like this, and I have read them, and Among Others is so very not one of them.

Ick.

This is leaving aside the whole not showing disability issue, which everything except the Polish and the Japanese covers do, so I just expect it at this point.

There's a kind of contract between reader and writer about the kind of story something is and expectations, and getting the cover so wrong can violate that, and it's not the writer's's fault or the reader's fault but it leads to a mismatch where the reader feels ripped off, while people who would have liked the book have not read it because the cover repelled them.

9th February 2015

10:45am: Just City Spoiler Thread
It's been out long enough now for some of you to have had the chance to read it, and I'd rather keep spoilers in one place than have people post spoiler questions to me on random other threads. If you want to ask me anything, or roll your eyes at me about anything, this is the place. There was a spoiler thread on Making Light too, if anyone wants to see what was said there.

There's things I'll answer and things I won't answer, and there will be no spoilers for PK or Necessity -- well, beyond the degree to which if you choose to read this journal you get spoiled a tiny bit for my writing by reading my Thud posts anyway.

5th February 2015

7:17pm: New Userpic
I have a new userpic... not quite for the first time ever, but a new default userpic for the first time.

This is Kathryn Finter's illuminated J. I'm buying a copy of it, and I asked her if I could use it as a userpic and she kindly said yes, because she's just that nice.

My old scale pattern was made by Z when he was 12, and I think it looked like me, and has done well at that for a long time. But this is the J for Jo I've always wanted, and I think it looked even more like me, and I'll be using it now. I'm making this post to thank Kathryn and also so you'll be sure to recognise the new me.

I'll also be also using it for Gmail and Twitter.

4th February 2015

2:47pm: Thud: Necessity
Words: 4306
Total words: 30159
Files: 6
Tea: White Tea with Elderflower and Apricot
Music: No music
Reason for stopping: think that's the end of the chapter

I had to take out a bit yesterday and then I wrote another bit to replace it, and now this bit.

The characters keep talking instead of getting on with things, so actual progress is slower than I wanted, but we do have some actual time travel in this chapter, if not as much as I was expecting.
11:54am: Libr'a nous Award
Morwenna, the French translation of Among Others, has won a French booksellers award, the Libr'a Nous -- as best "Imaginaire", essentially fantasy. Not the best one in translation, the best one, which is pretty impressive, and shows the quality of the excellent translation by Luc Carissimo.

2nd February 2015

7:01am: Four cool things, plus what genre was that again?
1) My Real Children is on the Locus Recommended Reading list, as SF.

2) And What Makes This Book So Great is also on the list, as non-fiction. Yay!

Lots of great stuff there in all the categories. Congratulations to all my friends who are listed.

3) ALA, the American Library Association, have announced their Genre Reading list, and My Real Children is the winner of the category Women's Fiction. Now in fact, MRC is a crossover with women's fiction (as Farthing is a crossover with cosy mystery) and it's really cool to see that I managed the crossover such that that librarians think I did it well enough. People trying to put down SF/F sometimes say the writing can't compete with mainstream. I don't think that has ever been true and certainly isn't now, and MRC winning in a mainstream category is a really good vindication of that.

Special congratulations to truepenny whose Goblin Emperor is the winner of the Fantasy category.

4) ALA also give Stonewall Awards, for books with LGBT interest, and MRC is listed as an Honor Book in the Literature category.

As their categories are "literature" and "non-fiction", it's not so weird really. But it does mean that the same book has been recognised on the same day, by experts, as being SF, women's fiction, and literature. It has also, as previously been mentioned, been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, as fantasy. OK then!

Also, none of the people who said I was "moving away from genre" when they reviewed AO or MRC have said "I guess I was wrong about that" when talking about The Just City.

Genre. I like it and find it fascinating. ALL of it.

31st January 2015

8:49pm: Thud: Necessity
Words: 2345
Total words: 27171
Files: 6
Tea: Blue People this morning, elderflower & lemon now
Music: no music
Reason for stopping: end of chapter I think, and sleepy

Coming along.

Time travel is a snare and a delusion, it seems like it makes everything easy, but ha ha no.

But I think I know what I'm doing.

30th January 2015

10:57am: UK Just City
There has apparently been a delay with the UK e-book of The Just City and it is now scheduled for release on February 28th. Sorry about this. The physical UK book, which will be a B format paperback, will be out in July as scheduled, and as far as I know the UK The Philosopher Kings will still be out then as well.

And since I'm posting anyway, have a link to an awesome Canadian person who does actual illuminated manuscripts, now, with real techniques and materials.

29th January 2015

4:40pm: Everything alive and dead to weep as one
There's a family anecdote about me that I'm not sure whether I actually remember or whether I just remember being told about it lots and lots of times. I was four or five, and we went to St David's Cathedral, on the very tip of West Wales. When we were there, we were shown the tomb of Giraldus Cambrensis, Gerald of Wales (1146-1223) -- whereupon I burst into inconsolable tears. I'd read his book, and I hadn't known he was dead.

My family thought this was hilarious. My aunt still does. She told Ada this story in the summer when we were in Llandaff cathedral. Ada didn't think it was funny, or even strange. This is because I still do this, and she does too.

I almost always cry on reaching the end of a biography -- though at this point it's not like I didn't know Voltaire was dead. But yet, but yet... Emilie du Chatelet is dead too. It's not shock that brings tears to my eyes. But it is grief. And it is real, even though they've been dead for centuries and they were dead this morning too.

Sometimes it feels as if everyone is dead and I have to remind myself that there are many awesome people still alive right now.

But I keep on reading biographies, or worse, collections of letters. Oh my goodness, Petrarch. Petrarch lived through the Black Death, and he lost friend after friend, and then two of his best friends got killed by bandits just outside Florence, and he'd just been writing to them! And eventually I will reach the end of his letters, and I will cry. I'd cry if I saw his grave, too. I'm not crying for Petrarch right now, even though he's dead right now, because right now I have multiple volumes of his letters to go, so it is as if he's still alive and still writing them.

I think that's true in a way, our acts build the future and that's our legacy, and writers are still alive in their writing. When we went to Shakespeare's tomb when we were in Stratford in the summer (nineweaving really wanted to) it was strange, because in the church they were acting as if he was dead, but I knew he was still alive in the theatre. Sometimes the too too solid flesh is the least of it. Voltaire too.

But yet...

I don't know whether, when, as a little kid, I wept for Giraldus Cambrensis, I understood the distance between the twelfth century and the twentieth century. I did, I think, understand that Gerald was describing a Wales different from the one I lived in, and that times had changed. I think what I didn't understand was human mortality, that somebody who had been alive when castles and abbeys were new couldn't still be alive now. I am aware of that now. But I'm still sad about it, and also deeply irritated. Death is a bug. It's stupid. Why shouldn't people live eight hundred or a thousand years?

Also, when people talk abour genealogy and looking up their ancestors, although their ancestors always sound really cool, I am never even slightly moved to look up mine. I have enough relations already. Why would I want more? They'd only laugh at me. I'd rather have Giraldus Cambrensis.

Books obliquely recommended in this post:

Giraldus Cambrensis Journey Through Wales.
David Bodanis Passionate Minds.
Petrarch Familiar Letters (available in 3 volumes, of which I have just started the second).
Voltaire Philosophical Dictionary (Definitely the best place to start with Voltaire. It's funny and warm.)

25th January 2015

5:54pm: Thud: Necessity
Words: 4600 (not all today!)
Total words: 24811
Files: 7
Tea: Jin Die Bio
Music: No music, music hasn't been working for me recently
Reason for stopping: Finished chapter

Actually finished 2 chapters since I last posted an update. Forgot, sorry.

This one was a Crocus chapter. I love Crocus. He's so much easier to write than humans -- despite that this chapter caused me to look up sanitary issues in Athens and way more Thomas Aquinas than anyone should ever need.

Incidentally, if you need a facing page Summa Theologica, you won't have to spend twenty minutes Googling about. I hope you won't, though. He thought will was an appetite of the soul. I had to find it in the original to make sure that he actually meant that, but he did.

Things I like about Thomas Aquinas.

i) He was fat, but dead serious, and everyone took him seriously. He's instantly recognisable in art as a fat serious Dominican with a book.

ii) After he died, they boiled his bones in red wine because they didn't have enough vinegar, so all his relics are red.

iii) The picture where he's interrupting the Annunciation

iv) When they canonized him, they declared every book in the Summa a separate miracle.

Things I don't like about Thomas Aquinas.

His philosophy.

(...did I just say I liked the accidents but not the substance of Thomas Aquinas? I believe I may have.)

21st January 2015

12:46pm: Epicurean Death Sucks
Epicureans said we shouldn't fear
There's nothing after death, there'll be no pain,
If life is good, good; bad then there's no gain
Prolonging it, all die, we all end here.

Philodemus allowed we might want more
If we're pursuing goodness, unachieved,
And we might miss the dead, and might be grieved,
Prepare well, you'll die soon, if not before.

They're not wrong, but it's more than I can stand
Perhaps a better person stays serene
And doesn't rage at death, the final mean,
That cuts us off from all we hoped and planned.

When faced with endless abscence of dead friends
I can't forgive the way death forces ends.

15th January 2015

2:36pm: Allegory
The snake and mirror, cherubim who lean
Upon a sapling planted in a pot,
A scrawny Pisan wolf, a complex scene
Relying on preknowledge of what's what.

A lily, pomegranate, centaur, rose,
The instruments of martyrdom, a fish,
A unicorn, a scythe, a complex pose
That tangles meaning into what you wish.

But oh the joy to recognise that snake,
And seek out sisters elsewhere on the wall!
But careful with truth's lamp, lest Cupid wake
A snake might choose to represent a fall.

Decipher symbols, tease the meanings out,
And learn to love the lineaments of doubt.

13th January 2015

4:14pm: The Just City out today
So go and read it already! Anyone who beta-read it for me should know before talking about the published book that (unlike normally) I wrote six extra chapters and vastly expanded the end, so the published book is different and better.

While I am not touring for this book, I will be doing one reading and signing, at 57th St Co-Op Bookstore in Hyde Park, Chicago, on Monday March 16th at 6pm. I'll mention this again nearer the time.

And if anyone wants to ask anything about this book, or anything else for that matter, comments are open as always.
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