Friends

Tonight I’m thinking about the importance of friends.

(I talked to one of my oldest and bestest earlier which of course means that I’m thinking about friends.)

I’ve said this here and elsewhere but there’s something tremendous about being able to be completely yourself with other people. They know your warts but they also believe in the best parts of you.

That’s necessary. It’s so easy to get mired in what does not matter, to get far from your dreams, to feel lost.

Friends know how to light the lamps. They remind you of who you can be. Who you are.

Or if they don’t, they should.

To me, interpersonal relationships are best when they make us better. Not that we should surround ourselves with people who are never satisfied or who judge us unnecessarily. But people who simply want the best for us. Who aren’t tied up in jealousies or what they need from us or fear in themselves.

Friends should love you but they should also tell you when you’ve wandered away from yourself. Sometimes that requires an uncomfortable degree of honesty. But more I think it just requires listening.

There are obstacles. Despite our increased connectivity, I do think distance is one of these. I love my friends in other places. But if I’m in a really rough place or vice versa, how much can we do for each other?

I think this means that we have to build communities near us, too. It doesn’t matter where my best friends live–they will always be that to me. But I also need that local support system.

I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like some new friends. Not because I am at all unhappy with the people in my life but because it seems like a good and healthy thing. Typically I make friends through school but there are so many avenues. Through volunteering. Through shared interests. Through projects. 

And not everyone needs to be friends in the same way. Needs be said. The point is to have a core group of people who fulfill those needs in a variety of ways. And to do the same for them.

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Late night Post-pourri

Right now Donald Trump is giving his acceptance speech at the RNC. 

I really don’t want to blog about that. It’s frightening and awful and honestly you all know about it anyway.

(Please go vote. Please. And think about the real consequences of your choice. Talk to people. Ask them what it means for them, too.)

The DNC will hopefully be very tame by comparison.

I did not have a very productive day but everyone has one of those every once in a while. The problem is unproductive weeks. Those pile up.

If I get what I want to get done tomorrow, I think I will go see the new Star Trek movie.

Our theater is also showing a film called Hillary’s America. If you, like me, have never heard of it, it is not flattering. It’s basically Republican propaganda.

This shit is inescapable.

I’m going to apply for a local job here in town soon. I haven’t tried that in a while because honestly this isn’t the sort of place there are a lot of opportunities for younger people. But this one seems worth trying for. It wouldn’t require me to break with my overall project, which is cool.

Speaking of, I definitely have some things I want to put together for 2017 when we will hopefully not be under a new totalitarian regime (sorry). A couple of podcasts, maybe a revamp for Seven by Twenty, another publication even?

It’s always helpful, I think, to wonder: what can I bring to this? What can I do that’s a little different? It might not be that different but we can all make things ours.

I watched Babe tonight. It is a surprisingly solid movie still. Also when I told Twitter that a bunch of people started quoting it so clearly it’s lodged in the cultural consciousness.

I’ve heard Stranger Things is excellent but I’m not sure on the right mood to watch it. Which is why I still haven’t continued Hannibal. Someday. 

Class is over halfway over and then I don’t teach again until September. I am excited for a break.

What are you excited for?

Defense Prep

Latest blog post yet? Yes, indeed. Blame my friends because I just spent three hours talking to them.

We like to talk.

Got my exam date for my essay today (next week) which means not only do I get to stop thinking about it, but you all get to stop hearing about it. Yay for all of us!

I also spoke to my advisor today which went a long way towards allaying some of my fears about the event. Because nothing St. J’s does is traditional, the “defense” isn’t really a defense at all, but a conversation about your topic. Which means not only will I not have to come in with my dukes up, but also that I get to raise points of interest and pose questions myself.

It should actually be fun. I mean, essentially I get to talk about Frankenstein and Emile for an hour. Which, as anyone knows who’s asked me about it in the last eight months knows, isn’t really all that daunting.

I like my paper; I like engaging with these texts; there’s no reason this can’t be an enjoyable experience as well.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t bring my A-game. At the moment I’m doing some reviewing, thinking more about both authors’ intentions, and also reading Mary Wollstonecraft to get pumped.

Trust me, if you want to feel feisty, especially if you’re a lady, read some Wollstonecraft. She’s fucking fierce.

So, am I still a little nervous? Yes, of course. But it’s one hour of my life. There will be people there who support me and afterward we can all go drink some wine. And I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.

On reading: Book club edition

My love affair with books is well documented. And I’ve written before about my intention to read more deliberately. To read books that challenge me, to support underrepresented authors, and to occasionally burn through a Miss Fisher’s mystery like nobody’s business.

I am having a good reading year, you guys. It’s been balanced and engaging. I am especially proud of our #800splus books. Last year was good; we read seven books. Six by women, two of which were edited by and featured women of color. (We also learned that reading anthologies for a book club is kind of challenging, because you don’t get to take your time as much as you might. I like those books, but I will have to go back to them) We had fun revisiting old classics. We played in fantasy and horror and classic science fiction and YA.

Even so, for 2016, we wanted to step it up a notch and consequently this year has been even better. We’re on pace to read ten books: six by women, including three women of color. Only two by white guys. We sought out queer stories and international stories. We’ve expanded our list genre-wise, including nonfiction, novellas, and graphic novels. More than one book had incredible social relevance, tackling climate change, institutional racism, and academic sexism. Plus, they’ve been really fucking good books. It’s been really rewarding to have our selection process evolve, and I think we’re enjoying challenging ourselves and each other. (Last year, there was more than a bit of, “Ummm, that looks good, right?” This year, there has been much more, “I want to read that. Will you read that with me?”)

Honestly, it’s kind of a shame more people don’t read along with us, because they are missing out. If you’re ever in the mood, friends of my blog, check out our Tumblr for what we’re currently reading and tune in for a chat, either on Twitter or Google Hangouts Live (we’ll let you know).

And if all this sounds a bit self-congratulatory, well, that is because it is.

Finally, because book lists are fun:

2015

1.  Trigger Warnings by Neil Gaiman

2. Octavia’s Brood edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown

3.  I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

4. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

5. Animorphs #1: The Invasion by K.A. Applegate

6. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

7. She Walks in Shadows edited by  by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

 

2016

1. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

2. Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

3. Between the World and Me by Ta’Nehisi Coates

4. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

5. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

6. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (upcoming: July)

7. Monstress by Marjorie Liu (upcoming: August)

8. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (upcoming: September)

9. The Fall of the House of Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard (upcoming: October)

10. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (upcoming: November)

December individual reading challenge–K has read the Harry Potter series, while I’m tackling The Magicians. Which school of magic will annoy us more? Tune in and find out.

Workshops

As mentioned, I’m enrolled in one–with The Brainery, a very nifty program for writers of speculative fiction. It’s especially awesome for me to get to do a spec fit oriented program, because all of my workshops up until now have been for literary fiction.

Y’all know me. I’m not at all interested in the divisiveness between the genres. To me, those categories are to sell books to the people who want to read them. Beyond that, I don’t see them as that useful. I do write predominantly speculative fiction, either magical realism or straight up horror/sci-fi/fantasy. I also write realist stories when the mood strikes. I don’t like the idea of being precluded from doing either. Just like I wouldn’t want to write every story using the same stylistic choices and structure. That would be boring.

But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t occasionally felt the pinch of writing on the boundaries in the odd workshop or two before this. And I’d definitely be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes worry about what my teachers and mentors would think of my choices, writing-wise.

At the end of the day, though, we only get so much time to write stories and I have every intention of writing what I want to write, whatever it may be that day. What gets sold is largely out of my hands. The most I can do is to make any given piece the best it can be.

And that’s where workshops come in! It’s true, they can devolve into story by committee, but I’ve never actually been in that environment. I’ve always been lucky enough to have classmates and professors who wanted people to make their own choices. And at the end of the day, regardless of what you’ve been direct to do, it’s still always up to you to choose what to listen to or ignore.

It’s been four years since I’ve been in a workshop of any kind. I think I missed the community the most. It’s just fun to toss around ideas with people and see the different worlds everyone imagines. It reminds me that I should be doing that more with my other writer friends. (Sorry, writer friends.)

I’m also just excited to write. One of the big reasons I felt moved to take this workshop (aside from the rad topic), was I’ve been feeling stuck in a rut about producing content. And it’s been a week and I’ve already written a story.

Real talk: just that feels kind of amazing.

Ghostbusters!

I started to look at the news today and had a huge moment of noooooope.

Most days I am not a stick-my-head-in-the-sand sort of person. Most days I recognize how important is to be engaged.

I did not have it in me today. I will confront the awful realities of our world tomorrow. I know I will so I only feel moderately guilty.

Today I went to see the new Ghostbusters.

It was pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be. Plenty of loving allusions to the original but a new plot and new characters. Lady humor. Lady scientists. Over-the-top graphics and effects. Ridiculous tech.

I think the general objections to the way Patty was written are fair but it is impossible not love Leslie Jones unless you’re some kind of monster. So I adored Patty. It seemed by midway through the movie, they were breaking out of stereotype, too, so I hope if there’s ever more they continue that process. That she cared about her fellow Ghostbusters and vice versa seemed really crucial in that.

Like everyone else on the Internet, I am madly in love with Jillian Holtzmann. Kate McKinnon (along with Jones and Cecily Strong, who also had a part) has long been one of the few pleasures of watching the current Saturday Night Live cast. I am thrilled they let her own the brilliantly bizarre Holtzmann–she completely stole the movie.

Ditto to the hilarious Chris Hemsworth, who clearly embraced the opportunity to do something different for a change.

I’ve heard that it’s one of the rare movies that’s even better in 3D, so I might check it out while it’s still in theaters. Which is nothing against our absurdly affordable theater here. (I mean, guys, my movie ticket was $4.25. Yeah, be jealous.)

Anyway, it was great, exactly what I needed, and I recommend it. We’ll say nothing about the complaining happening in the annoying corners of the Internet because Safety lights are for dudes.

Progress

You know, this July experiment is going pretty well.

Blogging every day, writing most days, yoga most days. On top of work and volunteering. Reading plenty. Practicing Italian. Getting up pretty consistently around 9:30/10, with just a few slips.

It’s true, I haven’t been able to go on a Zombies, Run mission for a few days now because it’s been grotesquely hot. That isn’t likely to change any time soon either, so I may need to change my approach. I really wish siestas were a thing in the U.S. Then I could get up at 5 a.m., go outside for a bit, go through my morning routine, and grab a REM-cycle length nap around noon when it starts to get hot. And not have to go to bed at some absurdly early hour just to be functional.

I’m all for it. The problem is the rest of the world doesn’t at all work that way, so it seems pretty likely I’ll have appointments and commitments during those precious three hours of afternoon sleep. It might be worth trying anyway. I miss walking; I just have little interest in melting into a puddle.

There are definitely other things to catch up on. The point is definitely to make progress. I may always be behind on my Channillo series, but at least I’m updating it again. And I have little hope for ever being very good at the banjo, but it’s nice to play music, even if it is just badly and for myself.

When we think about progress, we think about the charge forward. But usually that progress is more of a series of incremental steps. Progressive, right? Gradual change. We’re impatient creatures, but whether we like it or not, most things do happen slowly. I’m not saying we should never accelerate those processes–sometimes that charge ahead is more important than anything else. We see that with social issues all the time. It’s worth it to push hard and even then someone’s been building a foundation for a long time.

So, too, with anything worth doing.