Happy October!

Greetings, folks, and welcome to one of my favorite months. Please, make yourself comfortable and try not to drown in the pumpkin spice. (I think I tipped my husband’s tolerance scales when I bought pumpkin spice hot chocolate, doughnuts, and coffee syrup. I CARE NOT. BRING ON THE PUMPKINS)

But I wanted to do some housekeeping news:

  • My hard drive on my Mac is failing, and we’re getting that fixed. While I can still write/email/blog/etc (basically do anything Google lets me do via Chrome) on my Chromebook, this means audio and video editing is right out. No ISBW till next week at the earliest.
  • I’m heading out of town on business tomorrow, so emails may be long to respond to. I’m not going out of the country or anything so I will have all my electronic tethers, I’m just going to be really busy.
  • There’s an interview with me at the Genretainment podcast!
  • Did you see that Ghost Train to New Orleans is out via FREE podcast? It is! It’s out in podcast! Download now, then buy the book! Keep me flush in tea and glitter!
  • Aeropagitica re-read. It’s long and dense, as I expected. Censorship is bad, mmkay?
  • I’m on Ello now as mightymur – holding back from posting a lot. I’m not thrilled with the lack of a block button, so I’m waiting to see if it’s worth it.

Banned Books Week: A re-read of Aeropagitica

When I was in college in 19(mumblemumble), I became obsessed with John Milton. My Milton professor was passionate and willing to help our class wade through the thick poetry and essays, and I loved how the history of the time was reflected in his writing.

For example, Milton was one of Oliver Cromwell’s allies, the dude who kind of overthrew King Charles I, cutting off his head and inspiring a Monty Python song. Since many people of the time believed that light was directly connected to God’s favor, when Milton started to go blind, his rivals said it was God turning His face from Milton for crimes against the crown (which many believed was divinely appointed). Thus, book 3 of Paradise Lost begins by invoking light as a muse:

HAIL, holy Light, offspring of Heaven first-born!
Or of the Eternal coeternal beam
May I express thee unblamed? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity-dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate!
…and so on

But I’m not here to talk about Paradise Lost.

I’m sad that I haven’t read a lot of Milton since leaving college, and I no longer have Dr. Barbour to help me puzzle through the text. I feel that muscle has atrophied. But I think of his work often. And aside from Paradise Lost and L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, his pamphlet Aeropagitica was my favorite of his works because it was the most clever piece of verbal dancing that I had ever read.

Essentially, in 1643 English Parliament passed a law requiring all written works to be approved by the government before distribution. (Man. Imagine if self e-publishing had been around then. They would have died under the deluge of publications.) Milton didn’t like this, partly as the government weren’t in favor of his written arguments for divorce, so in 1644 he released Aeropagitica. It was an 18 page pamphlet against censorship, distributed without government approval.

He could have been beheaded for this. But remember the verbal dancing I mentioned? It is so cleverly written, so carefully written, that he survived the publication. It didn’t move the government to repeal the law, that didn’t happen until 1695 or so, but it’s still considered one of the most important works against censorship that exist.

So what is Aeropagitica about? I’m going to try to figure that out in future blog posts this week. But what I remember is that the basic, core argument is one cannot be virtuous if they are only offered virtuous texts. If I say to you, “Hey, today we can help the poor, or we can help the poor,” and then we go help the poor, can we really say you are an altruistic volunteer? You gave a lot of your time, but you didn’t know you had a choice to go ride roller coasters instead.

To break it down to food, if someone eats a cookie, and then later chooses a vegetable over a cookie because they know the cookie is bad for them and vegetables are healthy, says Milton*, then they are more virtuous than someone who didn’t even know cookies existed, since they made a choice between good and bad.

Cookies aren’t evil. This is just a metaphor.

Essentially you can’t understand good until you understand evil. There’s nothing to compare it to.

Now, in today’s censorship arguments, we argue that “good” and “bad” are relative. I hate censorship because I don’t want another person’s values deciding what I or my child read. I hate it because I believe that hiding things from people make it more likely that innocents will go seeking it out of curiosity. We argue that the law is too broad for the intricacies called for in deciding what to censor. These are all good arguments.

But this year, for Banned Books Week, I want to look at one of the original arguments, that you can’t tell me what is good and what is bad. I have to decide that for myself, or I will never understand it. It’s about choice, and when you take that away from me, you stifle me on an intellectual, spiritual, and deeply personal level.

So I’m going to try to read Aeropagitica again. Despite me calling it very cleverly written, I don’t mean it has Joss-Whedon-like dialogue. I mean it’s written to fool the government to thinking Milton was totally on their side, only had they maybe thought about this point, which is supported by the Greeks and the Bible, and please don’t cut his head off cause he’s just saying. It’s dense.

Wish me luck.

Want to read along with me?

* Pretty sure this quote isn’t in the pamphlet. This is extreme paraphrasing.

On Grieving

I wonder if we’ve lost the ability to grieve. Or maybe just me. Before August 2014, I’d lost only a few people, and those very spread apart.

The past two weeks, I lost three.

The first was Michael Swartz, last week. I didn’t know him well, but his wife, Emily, was one of my best friends through Stonecoast. She would talk about her Stonecoast friends to Michael, and he would call me her “creepy friend.” He loved creepy things and this was a high compliment, Emily assured me. I got to meet him at graduation last January, and he was so friendly and clearly a great husband and father. His family adored him. Emily texted me in July saying that he was in the hospital with abdominal pains. While I was in London, I heard that it was aggressive cancer, and that he had days to live. Then he was gone.

The GoFundMe campaign to help out with his medical costs and funeral costs is here. 

The second was my father-in-law on Tuesday. I wrote about him yesterday. He died a few hours after my husband Jim arrived to see him. He had a long battle with Parkinson’s and had been in the nursing home for a year or so. It wasn’t a surprise but we still grieve.

The third was my podcast author friend, PG Holyfield. Patrick was one of the first people to step forward to help out with the ISBW forums back in 2006, offering his moderation help. He then went on to write a compelling fantasy mystery called Murder at Avedon Hill, make several podcasts designed to help people (NanoMonkeys!) or talk pop-culture, created an SF website, and generally be a cool person to be around. I heard on Sunday that he, like Michael Swartz, had been suddenly diagnosed with very aggressive cancer, and had days to live. He died last night.

The GoFundMe campaign to support PG’s family is here. 

~~

Around 15 years ago I took a seminar on animal kung fu. I think we were studying crane, or perhaps mantis. I got into a grappling position with my partner, and we waited for further instructions. As Master Ward spoke, I noticed a specific pain shooting up my leg. My partner had been training in Iron Palm, a strict regimented program to toughen the hands and strengthen the grip. During training, you’re not allowed to touch injured people or babies, as you are unaware of the strength in your hands.

(By the way, this is not woo- you know how you can stand in a doorway and press your arms out for 30 seconds and then you step out and your arms rise up on their own? This is the same concept. Squeezing flesh is easier than squeezing sand, and when you squeeze or punch sand for days, it can mess with your perception about how much strength to use for things.)

So shooting pain. I looked down and my partner had my ankle in a very painful grip. We weren’t grappling at the moment, remember. We had gotten into position and were listening to our master talk. This was just him holding onto my leg, or so he thought. I pointed out what he was doing and he let go, horrified.

His thumb left a bruise on my ankle for over a week.

~

I’m not weeping. I’ve cried a little, but mostly I’m just walking around, numb, not sure what to do. Part of my brain says, “you’re not crying and you’re not mourning these people 100% of the day, so you’re obviously fine.” People ask me if I’m find and I say yes, clearly I’m not sobbing and I’m not dwelling on everything, so I must be fine, right?

I even feel weird writing this post. It wasn’t my husband, or my father, and while I liked and admired PG very much, others in our community were closer to him. Do I deserve to grieve?

I don’t know what one does while grieving. Sitting here feels wasteful. I don’t know what to do.

Instead of feeling punched, something that can definitely cause me to cry, I feel as though something has closed around me and left a thumbprint of a bruise.

~

A few months ago someone I know had a cancer scare, and we had a few tense days. I wasn’t crying, I wasn’t weeping, I wasn’t sitting around fretting. I went about my day and tried to be logical and practical, what can we do if the bad news comes? When the news came in that it wasn’t cancer, I expressed congratulations, got off the phone and lay on the couch and fell asleep for two solid hours. I didn’t know I was that stressed, but my body did.

I tried to learn something from that, that even if I’m not going OMG ANGRY or OMG SAD or OMG TEARS or OMG STRESS in the conscious brain, the subconscious is probably boiling merrily in the background and I should be kind to myself regardless.

Strange to think of grief as boiling merrily. Bad metaphor. Right now it feels like concrete hardening.

I think it’s bad that we lost the concept of mourning clothes. I was thinking about them today; they were a signal to the outside world that even if I’m not weeping and I’m not screaming in rage, I’m grieving. Yes, I’m able to go to the grocery store or do my job or take the kids to the park, but this black outfit is the signal to you that my soul is bruised, that my concrete is hardening. This is my “baby on board” sign, only it’s grief, and it’s letting you know that I’m hurting and maybe you can be a bit more kind to me today.

Times like this I wish I were religious. Not to search for god, but because many religions have mourning practices and rituals.

I miss my friend PG. I ache for my friend Emily, miss the opportunity to get to know her husband. I grieve with my husband and his family for his beloved father.

It’s been a tough two weeks. Hug your loved ones. Remember those who are gone.

My dear Father-in-law is at peace

I mentioned the past few days have been stressful, and they have been. I hadn’t wanted to mention specifics, as it’s not my story to tell. But yesterday my father-in-law passed, and here at the words my sweet husband posted on Facebook.

My father died today, after a long bout with Parkinson’s. I got the news that he was failing on our way back from Europe, and managed to get a flight in time to be with him, along with my mom and sister. It was a peaceful death. I will think of him whenever I watch an old movie, listen to a flute, or explain the difference between a covalent or ionic bond.

I don’t have a lot to add- my father in law was a kind, welcoming, brilliant man. He is at rest now, but we miss him.

Brief post- I’m home

We are home from a lovely and yet tiring vacation in England and Ireland. We had an absolutely amazing time, worldcon was a lot of fun, and we’re (mostly) all home safe.

There are a lot of things I want to blog about, but they’re all very different. It’s been an avalanche of awesome stuff and shit all at the same time. I could write a very long blog post about it, but that would be over 10k words, likely, and the many different things would likely lose people. So I’m going to sum up and blog later about more details. In short, here are the many different things that I will be blogging about soon, in no particular order:

  • During the trip I found out two (unassociated) friends are dead or in the process of dying.
  • I had good meetings at LonCon3. Met amazing fans, and many people I’d only known online. Spent quality time with several authors I admire. Reconnected with old friends.
  • I’m thrilled about the Hugo/Campbell Awards Winners.
  • Hubby had to turn around the day after we got home and take an emergency trip.
  • School starts tomorrow; no time for jetlag, Dr. Jones.
  • I broke my magic spreadsheet streak at 621 days.

So, yeah, lot of different moods there for one blog post. Things are very stressful right now. Hug your loved ones. I’ll be updating and stuff this week.

ISBW LonCon Meetup?

Some people had asked about a LonCon meetup, and I figured I’d pick a time and date. Let’s say 11am, Friday morning. We can meet in the main convention center, I can make a note here or on Twitter of the exact place once I get a sense of the space. If you’re interested in meeting up, leave a comment, that will help me plan!

(Comments are moderated but I will see them all)

TIME CHANGE- I have a meeting at 11 so I am changing the time to 10am, Friday. Hope this works for people. Will post location when I know the spot better. 

My LonCon Schedule

(You may note the regretable absence of a live reading- I had one, but it was scheduled for Monday, and we’re leaving on Monday, so I had to turn that one down and it was too late to get a new slot. Sad face.)

THURSDAY
Literary Beer
15:00 – 16:00, The Bar (ExCeL)

[Comments- My first literary beer! I'm so excited!]

FRIDAY
Autographing 3 – Mur Lafferty
16:30 – 18:00, Autographing Space (ExCeL)

Escape Pod podcast recording
19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 8 (ExCeL)
Mur Lafferty (M), Alasdair Stuart (M)

[Comments- They wanted a live Escape Pod, so Al Stuart is going to perform the intro and outtro, and I'll be narrating a story.]

SATURDAY
Setting Up Your Comic Book Press: New and Old Models Examined
15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

A discussion on how setting up a comic book press, or web comic, has never been easier – except for all drawbacks. An examination of the various ways to fund, create, and distribute comics books in the 21st century: including Patreon, Kickstarter, ComiXology, web comics, and good old-fashioned print comics.

Kaja Foglio (M), Mur Lafferty, CE Murphy, Debbie Lynn Smith, Ian Sharman

So You Want To Be a Podcaster
16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 8+11 (ExCeL)

Everything you need to know about podcasting in one panel! What sort of microphone do you need? Which editing software is best? How should you plan and structure your show? How do you develop an audience? What are the differences between reading and podcasting fiction and non-fiction? Come, listen, learn — and then create.

Alasdair Stuart (M), Gabrielle de Cuir, Mur Lafferty, Emma Newman, Miquel Codony Bodas

[Comments- Now I have "Do You Want to Build A Snowman" going through my head.]

SUNDAY
Making Old Tropes New: Vampires
11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 10 (ExCeL)

The vampire has been defined and redefined a thousand times over the centuries. Today’s vampires range from the sexy and sparkling to the dessicated and gothic. Does the evolution of the vampire speak to its enduring attraction? Why is it a continually recycled myth? How have you used the vampire in a new and interesting way, and why did you make that choice?

Alys Sterling (M), Keffy R. M. Kehrli, Mur Lafferty, Marianna Leikomaa, Kim Newman

So grim. Much serious. Wow.
15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 9 (ExCeL)

Science fiction and fantasy have a long history of both comic writing and essentially light-hearted adventures. However, more and more it seems authors want to take themselves seriously, focusing more on the darker elements of story telling. Is genre too po-faced outside the work of certain specifically ‘comedy’ writers? Why do so many writers steer clear of trying to be funny?

Ellen Klages (M), Tanya Huff, Mur Lafferty, Darren Nash, Connie Willis, Simon R Green

[Comments- Dear 30-year-old Mur: whatever it is, don't worry. You'll be on a humor panel with Connie Willis someday. O_O]

Appearance/signing at Barnes and Noble, Cary – Tomorrow!

I wish I were good at blogging while on the road like John Scalzi. While I’m wishing, I’d like a pony, too. But since I’m crazy with the travel this month, I am negligent with posting my appearances.

Tomorrow night, I will be at the Cary, NC Barnes and Noble to talk Ghost Train to New Orleans and sign books, or iphones, or bags, or small children, whatever. If it stays still, I will sign it.

More info at the store’s website.

(Coming soon – my LonCon schedule)

41

Hullo 41.

Shhh. Can’t talk. Busy.

Um, 41? I’m here. I mean, a few days late, but I was busy traveling, there were teens, and ants, it was a whole thing. I know I should have greeted you last Friday, but I’m here now!

Look, I’m busy. I know you’re chronically late, but if you can’t bother to show up for your own birthday, then I have to shoulder the burden. Do you know what I have been dealing with the past two days?

YOUR problems? My new car is infested with ants. ANTS. Little evil things that crawl ON YOU while you’re DRIVING. That really should give me a bye in any situation.

Psh. I’m juggling your trip prep, your FOUR projects you have in infancy, and trying to keep your monstrous self-esteem issues at bey. I’m standing here, clad in leather and blood, my dripping sword held at the ready, having just done battle with your insecurities, and you complain about ants?

Yes I complain about ants! They’re tiny and gross and there are a billion of them in my car. My new car. My brand new – not “new to me;” this car is so damn new it shouldn’t exist yet, it’s a 2015 – car.

…Are you done?

All right. Enough with the ants. I’m late and i’m sorry. Yes there are many projects in infancy and I love them all. I have to decide which ones to move forward on with my agent, which ones to self publish, and, horror of horrors, which ones to trunk because they just won’t work. And I have to decide this week because I’m traveling soon. Big decisions.

You have to grow the fuck up.

I have to grow the fuck up. Yes. I bought a Honda* (affordable! reliable! fun to drive!) instead of a MINI Cooper (AWESOMELY FUN TO DRIVE, and, um, unreliable. Expensive). I received disappointing news about a project (code name Epic Fantasy Baseball) and it didn’t destroy my world the way news like this usually does. I even have been exercising more often than not in the past month. I’m working on this growing up thing. I’m really trying.

Really? Bad project news for EFB? And you took it in stride?

adult2

Well. I’m proud of you.

Does that mean you’ll talk to me? Give me advice this year? Have my back?

Of course. I’m prime, aren’t I?

You are. So let’s try again. Hullo, 41.

Hullo, Mur.


*Which is now infested with ants. Did I mention the ants?