July 30, 2012

Gender, the Olympics, and my own shameful sexism

So, I'm weirdly obsessed with the Olympics this year. I've never watched so much of it before (or so much of what NBC deigns to show me, but that is another story), and a few things have struck me so far.

1) Some Olympic sports are weird. I mean, synchronized diving? Why is that a thing?

Besides the fact that it's awesome, of course.

2) Gender differences in sports are weird. Why isn't there women's Greco-Roman wrestling? Or men's synchronized swimming? Why do male gymnasts use one high bar and females use uneven bars? And for that matter, why are there separate men's and women's events in sports like shooting, archery, sailing, and dressage? Seriously, if someone can explain to me some physiological difference in the way men and women fire rifles, I'm willing to listen. But I'm willing to bet Kimberly Rhode's 99 out of 100 is as good as any man can do.

3) And yet . . . when I look at some of the events, this strange feeling comes over me. It first happened while watching men's gymnastics. Those guys look pretty amazing on the high bar and the rings, and I guess the pommel horse can stay, though I think it's kinda silly. But then the floor routine came on. And to my shame, it made me uncomfortable. As I watched a man tumble and jump and flip, I was impressed by his athleticism. But I was also squirming at the sight of his pointed toes.

I've been trying to unpack that reaction, and the closer I look the more upset it makes me. In thinking about other men in tights, I realized that I have no problem with male ballet dancers, even when they point their toes. I realized that if there was a combined floor event with male and female gymnasts together, none of it would bother me.

I cannot come up with a reason for my aversion to men's floor routine that isn't pure sexism.

Well . . . except for this. What it reminds me of more than anything is "posing like a woman," pictures of men imitating female poses on book covers and the like. So maybe I'm reaching here. But perhaps the reaction I (and, I'm guessing, others) have to men's floor routine is the normal one. Perhaps it's my acceptance of the same silly moves when women are performing them that should be examined.

You tell me. Why does this:

look weirder than this:

or even this:


July 24, 2012

Things that will eat us

1) Travel. Why is it taking me so long to get back into my regularly scheduled life? I don't know. I guess I can't complain about that.

2) Aliens?

Dear Mr. President, I work on a derrick far offshore, & I seen something you should know about. We’re not alone. Humans, I mean. At first we thought the things were dolphins, but their faces weren’t right. Bobby tried to make contact. I didn’t hear what he said, but I think he offended them. Their heads went underwater. Then it was quiet. Then in a huge puff of steam and whatnot, the aliens zoomed right into space. I tell you, it was impressive. I thought we were about to explode or sink or both. so, I don’t know if they’ll be back, but maybe you should prepare, just in case?  Sincerely, Buck p.s. I didn’t vote for you, but if you protect us from the aliens I will this time! p.p.s. Bobby says he’s sorry, whatever he said.

3) Injuries. This week has taught me that I am not cut out to be a caretaker. Get well soon, mom. For lots of reason, including that I miss my life. To the extent that I have a life right now it isn't my own: I'm living at her house and driving her car. I miss my cat and my husband and my bed. I've slept in it shockingly little this summer.

4) Bears. No kidding; they will eat you.

Dear human friends, You didn’t have to run away. I won’t eat you; I only eat seals & fish. I only wanted to hug your friend. Bear hugs are awesome; everyone says so. It’s not my fault he struggled. Please come back. I saved your friend’s wallet & camera for you. There are some really good shots in there. Love, Clyde the polar bear

In writing news, the Clarion West Write-a-thon is almost over. There's still time to sponsor me and get a postcard. And, you know, support a wonderful organization. I am still plugging away (slowly) at the novel re-writes, which will certainly not be finished by the end of the week. Sorry. See previous excuses about things that are eating my life.

Also, I sold a story! "The Final Testament of a Weapons Engineer" will appear in After Death anthology sometime next year. 

Also also. I will have a story as part of this project. Isn't it pretty? I will definitely have more updates on this.

July 14, 2012

Family, and a poisonous corpse

It seems troubled family is on my mind. I have no idea why that might be. :)

Dear Tyler, We’d hiked all day to get to the waterfall, like the guidebook said. It was supposed to be awesome. But we got there & there was no water. None. Like, the rocks were dry & there were dried-up fish bones in the riverbed. Then this lady in a bright red dress totally appeared out of nowhere. She looked creepy, man, right away. But Sam whistles at her. Her creepy eyes flash red & she spins around pointing at him & says, “Blood for water!” Then the waterfall starts back on like she opened a faucet. We all scrambled out of its path, but I don’t know what happened to Sam. We never found him. I think the witch got your brother. Sorry, dude. Robbie

Dear Dad, You’ll be happy to know that Susie is still a virgin—or at least she had this tribe fooled. After your last letter I tracked her halfway around the world, to a beautiful little island. She thought she had it made, because the natives were treating her like a princess (like you). She told me to get lost. But I stuck around long enough to decipher some stone carvings: virgin, volcano, sacrifice. Standard stuff really. I got to her just in time, swooping into the caldera in my little plane to pluck her from mid-air (who’s your favorite child now?). We’re on our way home now. To recap: The good news: Susie is a virgin. The bad news: there’s one less island in the ocean. Love,  Eric

Dear Gramma, I’m sorry you’re dead and won’t receive this card. But I want to thank you for a couple of things. 1) Your snickerdoodle recipe. Be cause of it I was in the kitchen pulling cookies out of the oven at your wake when uncle Dwight decided to open your casket. Moron. Which brings me to 2) whatever chemical or bacteria or voodoo curse you had yourself buried with. It actually melted them, the whole aggravating lot of them. I had just time to watch as they dissolved into ghostly wraiths before I ran for it. And now I am free. I love you, gramma. Rest in peace, Kelly

July 10, 2012

What postcards have taught me (so far)

1) I can write really small when I need to.

2) A picture really is worth 1,000 words. Most of my mini-stories are meaningless without the postcard image that inspired them. This is fun, leaning on those images and letting them fill in the gaps between the lines.

3) Sometimes fewer words are better. At first I tried to cram a whole story into these little spaces (hence the tiny writing), but as I go on I see that sometimes the suggestion of a story is far more interesting. One of my favorites is only 43 words. Again, I'm not sure this works without the images to do the heavy lifting. Maybe in some cases?

4) I'm not really sure at what point something becomes a story. Am I deluding myself that these qualify? Probably.

Anyway, more to come. I am home now and recovering from a month of travel. Next on the priority list is revising the novel. But I promise to keep postcarding, too. This silly idea, born of the Clarion West Write-a-thon and sleep deprivation, has the feel of a lasting obsession.

Dear humans, You think I’m pretty cute, huh? You think my fur is soft? Yeah, I’ve got cousins in the zoo, & they tell me about your squeals. But guess what? I lost a brother the other day to one of you squealing bipeds. Dude took a club & just beat him like Rodney King. We don’t have video cameras up here, but don’t think you’re getting off without a riot. We may look cuddly, but it’s only skin deep, & we won’t be your shoes anymore. I am a baby seal. And I will f*ck you up. You’ve been warned, Snuggles

July 05, 2012

Postcards: two fishy love stories

Because most of the postcards at the Munch Museum were prohibitively expensive:

Dear Sis, I should have known better, but he seemed so nice & charming when I met him at the bar. He drank aquavit, which is disgusting, but he was paying so I had a few. I really am a mess! Now my passport & money are gone, & all I have left is this sketch he made of us. And I’ll have to give that to the police. Oh, I should have known better; his pickup line was, “Anxiety devours the soul.” I just thought he was artistic! Please send money (& better taste in men!) And don’t tell mom and dad. Love, Salome

And, in case you ever wondered what happened after The Magic Fish ended:

Dear wife, Or ex-wife, I suppose. They say there are many fish in the sea. And there are, but the only woman I want to reel in is you. You were greedy, yes, but it was only the lure of fishy magic that left you restless. I am sorry that I could not provide what you wanted. Please return to me. Our shack feels like a castle when you’re in it with me. What are the odds of there being two magic fish in the sea? I don’t know. But for you, my love, I’ll fish until I find out. Love, Your humble fisherman

July 03, 2012

Return to sender?

Here's the low-down: 1) Clarion West is an amazing thing, a six-week education for SF writers. I went there. It changed me . . . y'know, in good ways. 2) Clarion West is having a Write-a-thon to raise money for itself, so it can keep being an amazing thing, and changing people . . . for the better. 3) If you give them money through my Write-a-thon page a) they get money and b) you get a postcard. An AWESOME postcard. It might not be one of these. It might be better!

Dear Mom, I’ll be home a bit later than planned. Another two months, maybe, with good behavior. Prison is pretty nice here, though. I can sum up Oslo in a few words: Opera House, Bowling ball, WORTH IT. See you (relatively) soon, Jeremy

What could be better? And yet, after two weeks I have few sponsors. I feel lonely. I am writing postcards to the void.

Dear Yahweh, I’ve been meaning to write for eternity. I’m well established now in my new home. Things get more interesting with each trainload of new residents. I confess I’m surprised by the variety of souls who end up here—musicians, dancers, & writers keep the place lively (why don’t you want them?). People seem basically good. Mostly they’re sorry for their mistakes.  How are things with you? Forgive me for saying it sounds awfully dull there, with only bible-thumpers around. If you get bored you can come visit me. I can barely remember what we used to fight about. Surely it no longer matters. Say “hi” to the other angels for me, Lucifer

Maybe it's the economy. $20 is a lot, right? I know. (Boy, do I know. You think things are expensive in the States? Try Norway!) So, okay. Forget $20. I have a lot of these postcard things, and they just keep coming. I'll send them to sponsors until I run out. And then I'll feel guilty and write more of them, and send those out.

Dear Professor, At first we thought it was just a rock. It glowed a little, but in the midnight sun no one noticed. The rock was odd, pointy & rough. So we studied it, & that’s when the suicides began. First Jones, who dug the thing out of the ice. He sliced his own throat. Then the doctor ODed. Then Caldwell. You don’t want to know. I know they’ll send you to investigate when we’re all gone, but don’t come! I have the thing now & I am finding my pistol hard to resist. I want to get rid of the rock, bu-- All is well. This is funny joke, HA HA. From your friend

Got it? Sponsor me; get postcard. Any amount will do (but maybe more than the cost of a postcard stamp, yeah? Just for karma?).

Dear sis, I told you sending Sammy on vacation with us was a bad idea. He basically wouldn’t stop screaming & throwing temper tantrums unless he was eating candy. So despite misgivings about feeding your son an all-sugar diet, we sent a steady stream of chocolate & lollypops his way. In a strange little shop we bought lollipops that sparkled. Actually, they were almost luminescent. Sammy sucked on one for a while, then threw it down & launched into another fit. Exasperated, I said, “If you don’t stop that, you’ll freeze that way.”  And damned if he didn’t.  We think Sammy looks good like this, & he’s certainly a lot quieter. We’re getting quotes today on shipping him home. Love, me

If you don't sponsor me, I might throw a tantrum. And then I might turn into a statue. And then how will you feel? 

July 01, 2012

Postcards! Again!

I am having a jolly time writing postcards to and from all manner of things.

Dear anyone: I don’t know why I’m writing this. There’s no postman here to carry this card, & he’s not coming. We can’t even get to the nearest “town”—if anyone’s alive there. The virus hit Nordkapp hard, & the world (if it’s out there? Are you?) has forgotten us. But let’s not dwell on that. We’re safe for now, hunkered in this odd chapel under the rock at the end of the world. We have plenty of candles, & enough food for a few hungry weeks, courtesy of the cafeteria & gift shop (& other sources, but let’s really not dwell on that). We also have plenty of souvenirs. Would you like a stuffed baby seal? A magnet? A keychain? Will these sweaters & animal skins keep us safe and warm? We miss you, other humans The Survivors (for now)

Dear Mother, It was a dark & spooky night, a full moon hanging above the Nidaros churchyard. Being a man of science, I knew the chill in the air had more to do with the northern latitude than with spirits walking the earth. But what of the other creatures? It was then I saw it: too large for a dog, too upright, too knowing in its malicious glare. Could it be, finally, a werewolf? The thing lunged at me, I drew my pistol, & after that I do not know what transpired. I woke in the morning, oddly full, but otherwise unharmed & totally myself. I’ve concluded that my sighting last night was a hallucination.   I’ll be home in a mere four weeks. Your son, Jeremy

Dearest Mama Bear, By the time you receive this note I’ll be gone. I know we always seemed like a perfect storybook family, but ever since that little blonde girl broke into our house, I’ve been thinking about things. Like, why do we live in a house? We’re bears! But you know I never wanted to be anyone’s Papa Bear. I’m not cut out for it. I’m still young, & there aren’t so very many of us polar bears left, & I’ve got wild oats to sow. Please tell Baby Bear that Papa loves him. And that I’m sorry we never gave him a real name. Yours with love, Clyde “Papa” Bear

This last might be my favorite. And it has no real life recipient yet! Would you like it? Sponsor me in the Clarion West Write-a-thon. (And I promise I'll stop asking soon)