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Archive for June, 2012

Sorry for the long silence here on Comedy and Tragedy.  I’m in Seattle right now, and one of the major reasons I came was to help babysit my nieces, aged 1 and 4, while my sister was on a safari in Africa.  So, the explanation for my silence is the same as the explanation for the title of this post.  I want to give props to all the parents I know.  Like big, huge, major, gargantuan props.

The last 72 hours were intense, fun, exhausting, and very eye-opening.

Admittedly, I came into my sister’s house with very little child care experience and kind of hit the ground running without much of a clue, but damn.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so utterly gutted–or the last time I didn’t have time to eat or pee or even realize there were strange, unidentifiable substances on my clothing let alone do something about it.  And that’s not even mentioning having time to write or do any sort of work for myself, because, of course, when there are kids in the picture they must (and should) come first.

The end of the day would roll around and bath time and story time and everything else would be over.  We’d stagger downstairs to face the disaster zone that had been created and recreated 43 times that day (bits of food all around the baby’s chair, toys strewn across the floor, cat vomit from the morning that we hadn’t had time to clean up, and cookie dough on every other unsoiled surface from an ill-planned baking adventure) and there was one and only one thing I wanted to do: drink while watching mindless shit on television.

What blows my mind even more is that I had help.  My brother-in-law was there and he was very hands on.  It wasn’t like I was dealing with the kids on my own.  I’m sure those of you who have children will be laughing at me and thinking, “yeah, what did you expect?”

My answer: I did expect it to be just like this.  But expecting something isn’t the same as experiencing it.  I guess I knew having small children meant it was really hard to squeeze in time for your own projects, housework, and personal hygiene but I didn’t understand what that really felt like until now.

So, I want to give props to everyone I know who has kids, and especially to my writer friends who not only have kids but also have jobs and still manage to get writing done.  I am in awe of you all.

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Whether it inspires a story or just serves to make your day more interesting, here’s an image to start the morning with:

Yes, this is a real place in Scotland.

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Whether it inspires a story or just serves to make your morning more interesting, here’s an image to start the day with:

Cibuaya, Indonesia ~ Wafi Aljamili. Image by A Thoughtful Eye

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The poor Neanderthal.  Maligned for decades as a dumb, violent brute, this hominin is now understood to have been much more similar to modern humans than previously realized.  In fact, there’s abundant evidence that Neanderthal genes live on today (and I’m not talking about heavy brow ridges or big-boned Conan the Barbarian types, but about parts of our immune system and analytical skills).

Even more interesting is evidence that Neanderthals would not only have been physically and mentally capable of speech and language, but that they might have sounded like a cross between Kermit the Frog and a really angry Miss Piggy.

Here’s a video from the BBC that recreates Neanderthal vocalizations, showing us just how f*ing scary these Ice Age neighbors of modern humans would have been.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about women lately, about the hands we’re dealt in society and they way we’re portrayed in media, and about the very strong (often violent) emotions that underlie most discussions about gender relations in the US.  It’s stirring up strong emotions in me, too–ones that aren’t entirely new or unfamiliar.

Most people who’ve met me in the last couple of years probably don’t know or wouldn’t guess that in a former life I was a rather vocal third wave feminist anthropologist.  I researched marginalized and alternative genders in prehistory and published books and articles on the ways that society (and feminism itself) needed to seriously reassess the way they were conducting business.  I launched myself out of a prestigious Ivy League university with a PhD, hell bent on becoming a tenured professor who would change the system and make a difference.

That was 7 years ago.  Today I’m happily married, teach part time, keep house, cook, and write fantasy and science fiction novels.  My life bears almost no resemblance to what I imagined it would.  All I need is a passel of well-behaved children, some cocktail onions, and a frilly apron and I’ll be a modern day June Cleaver.

This transformation could be viewed as a series of compromises and sacrifices made because of my gender.  Alternatively, it could be seen as choices I made based on the way my dreams for the future and ideas about what constitutes happiness were evolving.

The latter is a lot closer to the truth than the former.

No one forced me to abandon pursuit of a career in academia.  I chose to.  But one of the reasons was because the way forward seemed untenable.  To succeed, I’d have to made sacrifices that were personally unacceptable (e.g. take a job somewhere horrible, live apart from my husband, extend my field seasons past what I wanted, etc).  I know people who did choose to make those sacrifices and I leave it up to them to share whether they are glad or sorry.

I know I’m glad about the choices I made.  I’m happier now than I was then and the decision to throw all our eggs in one basket and support my husband’s career has paid off.  I am now afforded the space and time to pursue a new dream —  that of becoming an author — and my husband could not possibly be more supportive.  So it’s not as simple as it seems.

But just because my particular situation has come up roses doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t feel a tight, hard fist of rage in my heart at the unfairness of the world when it comes to gender.

Growing up, my dad always said that life isn’t fair.  It’s the truest thing anyone has ever told me.  Life is most assuredly not fair.  But it’s extra unfair for women and there’s no clear way to fix that, no evidence it can ever be fixed, or that enough people (including plenty of women) even want to fix it.  Though there are, of course, exceptions to this, many men, even very liberated and progressive ones, are reluctant or unwilling (when push comes to shove) to make career/ambition-related sacrifices when they have a women in their life who can make them instead.  And that pisses me off and makes me sad in equal measure.

A couple of things have got me thinking about this stuff lately.  A recent discussion about whether women can really “have it all” (which is a stupid phrase anyway because no one can ever have it all, male or female), some debates within the F/SF community about male privilege and the portrayal of heroines, and interaction with the young women in my life — in particular my nieces, aged 1 and 4, who I’m headed off today to spend some time with.

They are being raised in a loving and progressive household.  They will be taught, as I was, that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to and work hard for.  And they will discover, just as all women do, that there is an unspoken caveat attached to that, a set of invisible shackles that may not fetter them when they’re young but will appear and begin to pull harder and harder as they age and make decisions about career and family.  Those sacrifices and decisions their gender will force upon them aren’t always (or even ever) bad.  Sometimes they’re wonderful and lead to lasting happiness.

But they exist for women in a way they don’t for men, and that sucks, and to pretend otherwise is a lie.

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As regular readers know, I recently returned from a trip abroad (to Spain).  It was a wild ride, full of plenty of highlights, a few lows, and no small amount of ineffably delicious food and drink.  I’ll try to get some reviews, photos, and thoughts online soon.  In the meantime, I shall just say that Spain remains one of my favorite places to visit and the trip was relaxing and restorative enough to send me home with a major yen to get back to work on my writing projects.  So, mission accomplished.

Being a traveling fool, I’m actually heading out again on Friday.  This time?  A trip to Seattle to visit family.  I’ll be spending time with my little nieces, helping my mom with a tour she’s hosting in her amazing garden, going camping at Mount Rainier (if the weather holds), and doing a little research for my current novel project, which takes places in the Pacific NW.

Between now and then, I plan to write like a maniac.  I’ve got a new short story — the first I’ve written in some time, actually — that I’d like to put finishing touches on and send out, plus forward motion on the Urban Fantasy novel I’m drafting.  I owe a few crits, too.  So that’s on this week’s agenda as well.  Reader feedback on ABSENT has been trickling in, so by the time I return from Seattle, I hope to take some time to sit down and sort it all out, make a plan, and start revising.

Then, if I’m not sick of traveling, I’ll head up to Boston for Readercon.

That’s my forecast for late June/early July.  What does the next month hold for you?

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Whether it inspires a story or just serves to make your day more interesting, here’s an image to start the morning with:

Skeleton Coast, Namibia

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