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Cat Stairs

So my beloved Little One is now fifteen years old. He's still incredibly active - more active than the Grey One, who at 13 has decided that the best way to handle life, really, is to sleep through it, preferably underneath something and far away from people since people are just not something she needs to deal with. The Little One is still dashing around the house, watching birds, running to the door, yowling, crawling into people's laps (he's in my lap now as I type.)

But a few years ago I noticed that he had stopped jumping to the top of bookcases, even from the TV stand. (He used to jump to the top of a high bookcase from the floor, and back; it was kind of his thing. Last year he started approaching the couch only from the front, instead of racing up and leaping to the top of the couch from the back. And in December, for the first time, I saw him clawing a bit when he jumped up to my bed.

So in order to save the comforter, I bought him a nice little set of suede covered cat steps, so he can run up to the bed without nearly falling off it.

He's leaping over them to land on the bed.

The Grey One, naturally, is using them as yet another hiding place.

I'm so glad I invested in this.

Tags:

Helen Rappaport, The Romanov Sisters

I'm still on a major biography kick.

The Romanov Sisters is a detailed look of the lives of Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, who had the initial luck and later massive misfortune, to be the daughters of Nicholas II, last tsar of Russia.

As the daughters of the tsar, they lived surprisingly simple, extremely sheltered lives until the outbreak of World War I – and even later. Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, were not fond of Russian aristocratic society (the dislike was mutual, and was a minor cause of the Russian Revolution), and were terrified, with reason, of assassination attempts. They therefore kept their children, for the most part, behind walls of guards, in palaces furnished largely in simple, middle class style.

Which is not to say that the girls were completely isolated: they had tutors and governesses, and their mother's attendants, and a few selected relatives and occasional playmates. They also interacted with the sailors on the family yacht – one decided exception to the more middle class lifestyle. The two older girls even ended up falling for a couple of the highly ineligible sailors, who, of course, couldn't possibly return the feelings. From the pictures, I'm pretty sure that this was mostly because the sailors in question were pretty hot, and Olga and Tatiana were, in that sense, perfectly normal teenagers, but Rappaport makes a convincing case that this was also because they simply didn't have the chance to meet that many men, eligible or not. There's several heartbreaking cases of the girls begging to hear about "normal" lives, or indeed anything outside their palaces. They read books, certainly; they talked to those they could, but it was not enough. The details of Olga's first real love are especially heartbreaking. On the one hand, I was glad that she at least had the chance to fall in love – something no other biography I've read of the Romanovs detailed. On the other hand, it went nowhere.

And, well, they also had Rasputin, the Russian mystic who, their mother believed, had miraculous healing powers. Rappaport doesn't dwell on him, probably because so many other books do, possibly because at the time, quite a few people were questioning his intimate access to the Grand Duchesses, especially since they had very limited access, intimate or not, to other people, and because Rasputin was known to sleep around a lot. People drew the obvious conclusions. Rappaport, who combed through diaries, memoirs and letters, does not, but also ignores the small issue that if something had happened there, the girls probably would not have said much. In any case, they did mourn his death, if only because by then it was obvious to the two oldest girls, at least, that something was badly, badly wrong in Russia, and the family was in danger. If Rasputin could be attacked and killed, they certainly could be.

By then, World War I had been raging for years. It had a profound effect on all four daughters, but mostly the oldest two: discussions of their potential marriages abruptly ended, and Olga and Tatiana went to work as nurses, in hospitals on palace grounds. Maria and Anastasia were too young, but visited the soldiers to entertain them. For the first time, the girls made real friends, and a bit of the protective bubble they lived in was shattered. Olga was apparently not all that well emotionally suited for this career, but Tatiana was: there's a hint here that had things gone differently, she could well have funded and managed hospitals, or pursued a successful career as a nurse. Among the most upsetting parts of the book are arguably those discussing the intelligent, capable, Tatiana: I kept thinking, every few pages, what a waste.

The most aggravating parts of the book, however, almost all have to do with their mother, Alexandra. Even the most sympathetic biographies of Alexandra – and this isn't one of them – struggle with her. It's odd, since on the surface, she should be sympathetic – an initially sweet, shy, deeply private girl who was terrified of her public responsibilities, who later found herself mother to a disabled son stricken with hemophilia – a disease she had passed down to him. She herself suffered from multiple chronic illnesses. It should be a deeply sympathetic story.

It isn't, because it's also a story of "Disabled mother keeps ignoring everyone and really screwing up." As someone who suffers from chronic fatigue, I completely understood Alexandra's inability to perform many of her public duties. I could also see part of the problem here – Alexandra refused to fall into the role of the disabled angel of the household, who never complains but continues to inspire others (this was a big Victorian thing) and I admire her for that. I also completely understand her wish for privacy. But the counter to this is simple: if you want to be a completely private person, you cannot marry the Emperor of Russia. And Alexandra went far beyond not performing many of her public duties: she ended up not performing any of them. She created unnecessary enemies. She ignored well meant advice from relatives and friends, eventually dropping all friends who were not essentially sycophants.

And of course, she continually took advice from Rasputin – except for the one time when it really counted. Rasputin advised Nicholas and Alexandra not to enter World War I. As wrong as he was about so many other things, he was completely correct about this. Russia was not ready for a war with Germany.

Fortunately, after the first few chapters, the book mostly focuses on the girls, sparing me some aggravation – while also making me grit my teeth occasionally over Alexandra's parenting. She had a gift for inspiring guilt trips in her daughters, and she also encouraged them to tell her all about their little crushes – which sounds lovely, except that these were also men that Alexandra would never have allowed the girls to marry. These sailors had no noble rank whatsoever, and Alexandra supported Nicholas, after all, when he exiled his brother just for marrying a woman who was only a countess. So this tends to come across as….I don't know, wrong.

But the rest of the stuff – the petty gossip, the clothes, the complaints from tutors and governesses, the first love affairs, the ongoing and growing sense of doom – is all surprisingly mesmerizing. Rappaport has a strong sense of narrative, and the illustrations just add to the pathos.

What struck me most about reading the book right now, however, is a small point not intended by the author: that is, the information that right after the first Russian Revolution (the February one) the Provisional Government offered to send the four Grand Duchesses into safety and exile. They might well have made it. Hostility focused on the tsar and his wife, not their children; Olga and Tatiana had arguably even gained some goodwill by working as nurses throughout the war. They had wealthy relatives throughout the world, who later took in other relatives and even some of the courtiers. (One of Alexandra's ladies-in-waiting, for example, ended up in a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court.) And although Nicholas apparently considered making changes, Russian law prior to the Revolution barred them as heirs to the throne, making them less of a political threat than other (male) Romanovs – for instance, Nicholas' brother, Michael, eventually shot by the Bolsheviks in June 1918, in part to prevent royalist forces from putting Michael on the throne. Many other Romanovs escaped.

But not the girls. Why?

Because when the offer of safety and exile came, they were too sick with measles to be moved.

By the time they recovered, it was too late. The four girls were forced to join their parents in what was, for all intents and purposes, prison in Siberia, if a prison that still had some servants. They were rarely able to leave their house, though they did write frequent letters complaining of boredom.

And a little over a year later, they were murdered along with their parents.

Rappaport, of course, wrote the book before the Disneyland measles outbreak, and none of it is meant as a cautionary tale about vaccinations. Still, reading it, I couldn't help but think of the alternatives, of what could have happened, but didn't.

Because measles.

The lessons of history.
William Moulston Marston was many things: a psychologist who took credit for inventing the lie detector machine, a failed academic who kept bouncing from school to school, a supporter of women's rights, a man who ended up in a happy triad, a man who insisted that his bondage activities were strictly scientific, and the creator of Wonder Woman.

Jill Lapore's recent book delves into a lot of this, and also into the history of the U.S. feminist and birth control movements. The third member of Marston's triad, Olive Byrne, happened to be a niece of birth control advocate Margaret Sanger. Byrne's mother went on hunger strikes to support the movement; this, and watching Marston write her books, made quite an impression on her. Much of the imagery of the early Wonder Woman comics - the breaking out of chains, the ropes, the lassos - came in part from early feminist cartoons, and in part from Olive Byrne. The bracelets Wonder Woman wears are hers.

That's all the nice scholarly part so that you can feel good about reading the book and that you learned something. The fun stuff is all of the gossipy stuff about Marston, his wife Elizabeth Holloway, his lover Olive Byrne, and the triad they set up and concealed. This includes great stuff about the way Marston used both of them to write little articles saying how amazing Marston was, the trials of running their household, since generally speaking only Holloway earned a reliable income, their kids, and oh yes, the bondage. Holloway, in many ways, took over the traditional role of the husband, Byrne functioned in the more traditional "wife" roles, while working as a freelance writer, and Marston continued to have issues. And Wonder Woman joined the Justice League as a secretary. (Reading that I became much more resigned to the current new 52 Wonder Woman/Superman relationship.)

It's a fascinating and lavishly illustrated read, if, somehow, a little sparse, especially once Marston died, and Wonder Woman was passed to other authors. Part of the problem is, as Lapore acknowledges, it's not really all that easy to figure out who wrote various issues of Wonder Woman - although the issues that featured a lot of chained up women tend to be Marston's. It's also fascinating to see the reactions of DC editors to all of this sort of stuff, and the way Marston left specific information in his scripts explaining just how long all of the chains had to be. (It was his thing.) Unfortunately, after Marston's death, we get a lot less of this behind the scenes creative stuff, which is a disappointment, but then again, Wonder Woman's later creators don't seem to have been as interesting, or as influential.
I started reading Death Comes to Pemberley a few years back, and stopped just a few pages in: P.D. James is the sort of author I tend to admire more than love, and her Jane Austen tone felt off to me. But I was kinda curious about what actually happened in it, so when the BBC series popped up on Netflix I gave it a try.

My response?

Uhh.....

There's some good stuff in Death Comes to Pemberley, almost all of it in the background. Which is to say, the sets, magnificent. The shots of various people running through the woods looking for ghosts and murdered people and things carved into trees, also magnificent. The carriages and the horses? Yay. The costumes, mostly yay.

And then there's the foreground.

The chief problem with Death Comes to Pemberley is that it has no idea what, exactly, it is. A murder mystery? Kinda - someone is murdered, and that's...sorta dreary, and then the show kinda wanders to other things, and then there's an inquest, and then a trial that repeats a lot of stuff about the inquest, and then a last minute rescue that has a decided feel of an old Wild West movie to it. It would probably help if the "previously on Death Comes to Pemberley" bits didn't manage to be a dead giveaway, pun intended, for the third episode.

Is it a Jane Austen/Gothic mashup? Well, kinda, except that this was done before, by Jane Austen herself, and in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice which suddenly decided that the best way to make P&P accessible to modern audiences was to make it a mashup of P&P and Wuthering Heights, and, to be more fair to that film than I usually am, actually managed more fidelity to the original plot and a tighter focus on the social/economic issues involved.

Speaking of those, is it a commentary on the social/economic issues? Well, kinda: there's a lot of stuff about trials and so on. There's some stuff about marrying for family and a few reminders of just how unsuitable Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage was and the fallout from that. Jane Austen lived on the edges of high society - one brother was a diplomat; a sister-in-law a countess, but she herself never had money, and her books display constant awareness of this, and multiple takedowns (especially in Emma and Persuasion) of the upper classes.

This show ends with a nice member of the working classes making the utmost sacrifice to make absolutely sure that the upper classes are going to be just ok.

Is it a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, letting us know what happened to Elizabeth and Darcy and other characters? Well, kinda, but here is where the show really starts falling into problems, especially with minor characters. Most of the P&P characters go entirely unmentioned, with Jane making only a few brief appearances and Bingley not speaking at all. His sisters never appear. An offhand reference assures us that Mary got married off, and ends there; no info about her husband or status; Kitty is never mentioned. And Lydia is just mindboggling. She starts off the film in hysterics - something the original character seemed too callous to ever do; retreats to her silly self, which is fine, and then, at the end, suddenly displays loyalty, wisdom, insight and intelligence like where did this come from? I tend to think that Lydia in P&P is slightly more intelligent than other characters give her credit for - she makes a couple of pointed and correct jabs in Elizabeth's direction - but only slightly, but in any case, by starting off by presenting this films completely fails to lead up to that moment, and just feels false in every direction.

And speaking of false - this may arguably be the greatest misreading of Colonel Fitzwilliam ever, changing him from the amiable if somewhat directionless military officer clueless about the very limited opportunities for women into a near villain. It's....awful. The entire point of Colonel Fitzwilliam in P&P is to be a relatively decent guy so that Elizabeth will find him credible, a point missed here.

Is it a comedy? Well, it has two funny scenes: one involving Mrs. Bennet, and one involving Lady Catherine. In three hours.

But although the film doesn't actually manage to be any of these things, it seems to want to be all of them - thus the awkward lurching between Gothic, attempted social commentary and sudden "Oh, wait! This is P&P fanfiction! Summon Lady Catherine!" Which in the end makes it a major mess. And, on a fairly cruel note, there's Anna Maxwell Martin, who is good, but for reasons of makeup/lighting whatever her age looks far too old. She might not be. But this seems to take place about six to at the most ten years after Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy have a son who seems to be about four or five, possibly younger, and although Elizabeth seems comfortable in the house and Lady Catherine is talking to her, she's still relying on Georgiana for some fairly basic info and hasn't learned most of the local legends, and expecting her second child. Georgiana and Lydia, 16 in Pride and Prejudice appear to be in their early twenties. Jane, 21 or 22, appears to be in her mid to late twenties. Elizabeth, who states in Pride and Prejudice that she is not one and twenty, looks to be in her mid-thirties, possibly her early 40s, aging decades to everyone else's few years. And she just doesn't sparkle that much - but I guess that's what happens when you thought you were in a social comedy but find out that you're actually in the middle of something that wants to be Gothic, but isn't.

Flash

I haven't talked much about The Flash here - partly because I haven't talked much about anything here, but mostly because there's just not that much to talk about: it's a fluffy popcorn show. Fun, but for the most part forgettable. But last night's episode, while one of the weakest so far, did something fairly interesting.

Cut for major spoilers for the show and last night"s episode, and a spoiler for the first episode of this season"s Arrow.Collapse )

Reign

Mostly to prove that I am capable of blogging about something besides recent publications, let's chat about the first season of that gloriously, unrepentantly terrible show Reign, which I just finished watching.

Oh, internet. You warned me, but you didn't prepare me.

For those who have missed the show so far (and I'm not blaming you), here's what you need to know:

1. One of the characters wanders around wearing a burlap sack on her head. Sometimes she hums things.

2. Anne of Green Gables – that is, Megan Follows – is in it, playing a character named Catherine d'Medici, who has to put up with a character called Mary Queen of Scots. And someone called Francis who has a lot of sex. Any resemblance to the actual historical personages with similar names is purely coincidental.

3. Also there is a character called, and I am not making this up, Lola.

4. Most of the acting, except for Megan Follows, who is surprisingly good (surprising mostly because finding anything good on this show is surprising) runs from serviceable to terrible, with Terrance Coombs, playing the completely made up for this show king's bastard son Bash who almost becomes king without anyone thinking "King Bash? Is that really the branding we should be going for?", mostly managing to avoid the "You want me to say this line? Really?" look but often failing and Celina Sinden, who plays the mostly made up for this show Greer, perfecting the "Look, we all have to earn a paycheck" look in most of her scenes, which I appreciate.

5. As far as I can tell, conversations in the writers' room go somewhat like this:

"Ok, in this episode, at least two people need to hook up. No need for a reason, just have them hook up. Also, someone has to be poisoned."

"We did that last week."

"Maybe trying burning someone this time? And then, back to the poison!"

"Got it!"

6. Speaking of which, in the first episode five girls – Mary and her four handmaidens – say very serious and nice things about the importance of keeping their virtue and finding husbands. By episode 10 four of them have had sexy times without the benefit of marriage, generally with more than one person.

The fifth one is dead.

I'm not making that up.

7. Naturally in episode 16 a marriage happens between two of the characters for no particular reason except "Hey, you are getting married" and by episode 17 they are friends and by episode 18 not so much and by episode 20 all happy again except that one of them IS FIGHTING THE DARKNESS which may complicate things.

8. For a show that takes the CW's love for love triangles to new extremes (every episode features at least two, more usually four) it manages to get through an entire season with only one threesome. I am impressed. Not in a good way, but I am impressed.

Two of the people in that threesome end up dead. The other one gets all involved with The Darkness.

I'm also not making that up.

9. As you might be gathering this show likes killing people off.

10. This is the sorta show that when it needs a forger, suddenly for no apparent reason a character with no reason to know how to forge anything, hi, Greer, is an expert forger. I appreciate this.

11. Also, this is the sort of show that happily divides everyone into three religions: Catholic, Protestant, and Pagan. This is how you can tell the difference:

Catholics live in castles and are Catholics and can easily be deceived by actors pretending to be priests who are very very against any type of BDSM play that might involve or refer to crosses. Some Catholics love Mary and want her to take over England. Some Catholics hate Mary and don't seem to be aware that England exists. Some Catholics speak in what the show would like you to think is an Italian accent, to show that they are from "Rome."

Protestants live in castles, are all YAY ELIZABETH OF ENGLAND (who so far hasn't shown up in this show, but I'm expecting it at any point, and before anyone points out that the historical Elizabeth and Mary never met, let me just note that this is not the sort of show that cares about that sort of thing at all) and hate Mary and want her dead.

Pagans do not live in castles. They have Evil Whistles (really); sometimes fall into frozen lakes (also really); believe in the Darkness (also really) and hunting things and hanging people up by their feet. Sometimes they say "gods" which is a total giveaway and they are into foot tattoos.

I hope I have now given you all a deeper appreciation of European religious conflicts in the 16th century.

12. Once this show mentioned Turks. We didn't see their feet (or them; just their wedding gifts) but they love Mary so I assume they are Catholic. At least in this show.

13. The Darkness I've been mentioning? Is very very helpful for a Darkness! It provides things for the side cast to do when the main cast is debating whether or not they should poison someone or attack England. Also, the Darkness helpfully predicts meteor showers and plagues. This is the sort of information I need from my Darkness.

14. Characters on this show are not nearly as excited about heading off to Trinidad for the duration of the show as they really, really should be. (I don't know why Trinidad, but that's where they went.)

2015 Convention Appearances

Quick list of where I'm so far scheduled to appear in 2015:

International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, Orlando, FL, March 18-March 22, 2015. As always, I will mostly be hanging out by the pool, although since I'm an invited author this year there's a small chance I might actually end up Doing Something. Stay tuned.

Megacon, April 11, 2015. Let's be frank: I'm just here for the Legos and the Star Wars robots, and, depending upon crowds, the chance to see if David Ramsey's arms are really as big in person as they seem to be on TV.

OASIS, May 1- May 3, 2015. The schedule for this isn't up yet, but I should be there for a couple of days, along with Usman Malik.

World Fantasy Con, November 5-8, 2015. I'll be at the bar.

There's also a chance I will be appearing at Dragon Con, but we'll see how things go.

The Knot

My flash story, The Knot, just went live at Pantheon Magazine.

A few quick points about this one: one, even though it's in a speculative zine, this is actually the first non-speculative story I've published in 15 years. Which is saying something. It actually felt a bit strange. Though, to be fair, it's not entirely non-speculative either - it's somewhat inspired by the myths of Persephone and Orpheus. Somewhat. Which I guess just goes to show that I can never quite rid myself of myth and fairy tale, not entirely, even when my words are wandering in the real world.

Second, this is one of many Persephone inspired stories in the issue - I'm delighted to be sharing a TOC with Megan Arkenberg again, and, for what I think is the first time, with Valya Dudycz Lupescu. Enjoy the issue!

After the Dance

The second issue of Uncanny Magazine just launched, featuring fiction from Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Liu), Sam J. Miller, Amal El-Mohtar, Richard Bowe, and Sunny Moraine, poems from Isabel Yap and Rose Lemberg, and a poem by me, After the Dance.

Enjoy!

Publication round-up, 2014

I originally planned to post this yesterday, as a nice Year End summary, and then Animal Kingdom happened, as such things do. Probably just as well, given that as it turned out, I ended up publishing something in the last 15 minutes of 2014.

Anyway, here it is, the annual list of everything I published last year:

Short Fiction

1. Ink, in Unlikely Story, which earned a Recommended from Locus.

2. Coffin, in Daily Science Fiction, very loosely based on a fairy tale and some memories of a certain village in the Alps.

3. Memories and Wire in Upgraded, edited by Neil Clarke.

4. Death and Death Again, in Nightmare, my one outright horror story of the year.

5. Offgrid, in Three-Lobed Burning Eye.

Flash Fiction:

1. Toads, Daily Science Fiction.

2. Undone, Apex Magazine.

3. Beans and Lies, Daily Science Fiction.

4. Survival, Goldfish Grimm.

5. The Store, Flapperhouse.

Poetry:

1. The Restoration of Youth, Strange Horizons.

2. Bone Song, inkscrawl.

3. The Silver Comb, Mythic Delirium.

4. Myrrha, Through the Gate.

5. Feather, Goblin Fruit.

6. And right under the wire for 2014, Demands, Goblin Fruit.


Fewer short stories than in 2013, but a few more flash pieces and poems. And now to see what 2015 brings.

Demands

Just as 2014 was about to explode into 2015, the poetry goblins over at Goblin Fruit released one last treat for the old year: their new issue, which includes my poem, Demands, and new poems from Rose Lemberg, Sonja Taaffe, Ada Hoffman and Neile Graham, among others.

"Demands" came about because of a previous poem, Snowmelt (also reprinted at Tor.com here) which somehow seemed to need more. By more, my muse apparently meant "two more chain poems," this one, and Feather. They don't need to be read in any particular order.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

Christmas gifts: the PetPetter

Understand this, before you read any further: my brother often says very very mean things about the two cats who have been gracious enough to agree to live with us, mere humans. One has even condescended to climb into my lap right now and curl up, watching me type, just to offer his comfort and love. (I myself am certain this has nothing to do with me wearing velvet or the plunging temperatures.) That same cat happily follows my brother around squeaking and squeaking not, as suspicious minds might think, because my brother might be a source of chicken or tuna, but to make sure my brother never has to feel lonely in the kitchen. And yet, my brother has accused them of doing nothing but sleep around and has even - I shudder to tell you this, but it is the absolute truth, and I have witnesses - said they are lazy and useless. Just because the Grey One was demonstrating how efficiently she naps to make sure that she has the energy to position herself into the right napping position later. I call this very clever. And sometimes he has - I shudder to tell you this as well - refused to go over to a cat and scratch the cat or cuddle the cat even when the cat is in CLEAR AND OBVIOUS NEED of such affection. And each Christmas I get a wrapped can of tuna fish that's labelled, in his writing, "from the cats" and various gag gifts for the cats.

So it was with this knowledge that I ripped off the Peanuts Christmas wrapping paper today to see a gift called the PetPetter, a machine that pets your pets so that you, and I quote the box, can "Never touch your pets again!" It is, the box assured me, designed with both pets and human immune systems in mind.

I was indignant. "THIS IS THE MEANEST GIFT EVER! WHO WOULD EVEN THINK OF SOMETHING LIKE THIS?"

fbhjr had another objection: "Rechargable for hotel use?" (That was also on the box.) "Why exactly would you be taking your pets to a hotel if you don't want to pet them?"

My brother fell over laughing.

It's his sense of humor, and he'd already given me a real gift - a coffee grinder. So, although I couldn't exactly say "Thank you" because it was mean, I did keep reading the box. "DO YOU SEE WHAT THIS GUY SAYS? 'All pets have one thing in common: they are dirty disease-carrying friends.'"

"Absolute truth."

"MEAN!"

"Yes, cats are filthy," said my father, unhelpfully.

"It'll be useful when you're gone for three weeks," someone said.

"That's true," I said, glaring. "Because SOMEONE DOESN'T HUG THE CATS WHEN I'M GONE. WAIT! WHAT IS THIS? 'SHOW YOUR LOVE FROM A DISTANCE WITH THESE OTHER GREAT PET PRODUCTS?' You don't deserve to live with cats!"

The Christmas peace was almost ruined. To restore the calm, my brother then handed my mother a gift in that Peanuts Christmas wrapping paper - a video game that keeps track of the household chores you do. Similar, I thought, to a game that tithenai and others have been chatting about over on Twitter - some sort of quest game that unlocks things the more you walk or something like that. Because she is nice my mother said "Thank you," and put the box aside saying she would open it later. I followed her example, thinking kindly thoughts of Goodwill figuring someone might want to give someone else a gag gift like this until my brother handed me another box.

This one was worse: a Petsweep, or an "Animal-Powered Debris Removal System": little pads that can be put on the feet of cats so they can sweep the floors as they walk. "THIS IS EVEN WORSE. WHO IS THIS GUY?"

"This will make the cats useful," my brother said cheerfully, handing a very large gift over to my father. Which turned out to contain a box, which turned out to contain another wrapped present, which turned out to contain a box, which turned out to....seven boxes later, contain a silver Roman coin featuring the head of Julius Caesar, c. 46 BC, in a very tightly sealed container. The entire thing was so small malterre was terrified of losing it, though we all passed it around carefully enough.

And then a real gift from my brother for the cats: a little cat bed. (The Little One is now 15, and slowing down, and we have wood laminate floors, so this is good. I'm also going to get a step for the bed in a few more months; he can still jump up, but I can see him looking for alternative routes to the couch, and my bed is pretty high.) So all was mostly forgiven.

My original plan was to follow this with Settlers of Catan, but I'd been getting increasingly dizzy, and food right after this made things worse, so I went back to my room and crashed for a few hours while the rest of them hung out and chatted. That is, my parents and fbhjr and malterre chatted; my brother went back to his usual quiet mode. And then I joined them for another hour before the four of them took off, leaving me with my brother.

"You know," he said. "You can't always trust the box."

In our family, unless the gifts come from my father, who has the store wrap them, this is true, since my mother has a notorious habit of reusing all of the boxes used for last year's Christmas gifts whether or not the box has anything to do with what's inside. My brother has occasionally followed her example - using the box that the squirrel baffle came in to wrap my birthday present just yesterday, for example.

The room was still spinning a bit. "What?"

"I think you should probably open the box." He paused. "Mom probably should too."

I'd already put the PetSweep back in my room. I looked at the PetPetter suspiciously. I opened the box.

As most alert readers have undoubtedly already guessed, it contained, not a PetPetter, but a note on the box flap visible only once the box is open: "Don't get too excited, your real gift is inside." True: a solar charger for mobile devices.

(The other box - the PetSweep - contained Darth Vader coffee beans - to go with the coffee grinder.)

My brother was almost doubled over. "Five people! Five people fell for it!"

"Because YOU'RE MEAN TO THE CATS."

"The one box had a DOG WEARING SHOVELS. I thought for SURE you'd guess it THEN, but no!"

"Because it was a clearly MEAN GIFT! I can't believe you didn't say anything UNTIL EVERYONE LEFT!"

"THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!"

(Amazon has it here, along with a few others. Also, Mom, if you are reading this, you should probably open your box.)

Oh Blogging Folks, oh Blogging Folks

Oh Livejournalers, livejournalers,
You blog so wittily,
Oh Dreamwidth folks, oh Dreamwidth folks,
...I don't actually read that feed.
But a merry day, to one and all,
May you all have a total ball,
And hear some songs better than this -
Or be filled with Cookie Bliss.


(The above entry was written prior to a full consumption of coffee. Author does not usually recommend attempting the danger of rhymes prior to full coffee consumption since rhymes are tricky enough as it is without adding auugh my brain doesn't work to it. The author is also not responsible for any damages that may come from excessive cookie consumption lightly inspired by this entry especially since she really doesn't believe that excessive cookie consumption causes any ill effects anyway. The author now has to stop typing because a cat has landed on her arm and from his expression intends to stay there.)

Happy holidays!

Shockwave Flash

Unlike most people, I don't mind internet ads. I know the ads pay for the stuff I'm reading/playing with. It's all good. With some sites, I even click through ads, or head to those sites before I make any Amazon purchases.

Yesterday I joined most of the rest of the planet and installed AdBlocker on Chrome and Explorer anyway. Not so much because I'd suddenly turned against internet advertising, but because pretty much every single one of those ads now comes loaded with Shockwave Flash, which means that Shockwave Flash is sometimes running four to six times per page; if I have two tabs open, and I often do, that doubles it. And kills my laptop computer, which can apparently handle Windows 8.1, or Shockwave Flash, but not both.

The computer is now running smoothly.

And advertisers? Your insistence on having ads that blink and move and dance around means that I'm not seeing them. Your loss. I'd advise you to at least wait until Windows 8.1 works through its issues....though, to be fair, that might take a long, long while.

The Store

As Flapperhouse notes, it's the holiday shopping season, the perfect time for a little story about a store.

Enjoy!

Offgrid

My short story Offgrid just popped up over at Three-Lobed Burning Eye today, along with short stories by writers like Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Keffy R. M. Kehrli, and J.M. McDermott.

Enjoy!

Was: Blue Line to Memorial Park

I interrupt this blog silence and general greyness of the morning to point you at this, which was still as awesome this morning as it was when I read it last night, pushing pretty much every one of my happy buttons. Seriously: click, read, click the little button, and then read again.

(Plus, although I can't take any credit for this, I can take credit for telling people to keep an eye out for Bogi Takacs. I love being right.)

Quick note

Still not up to recapping World Fantasy 2014, but I did want to make one important point:

Apart from two minor issues with my hotel room, both promptly addressed by Hyatt, I did not have any disability issues at this con.

(I did have issues outside the con while attempting to navigate Alexandria and DC, but that's on those two cities, not World Fantasy Con. I also did get sick more than once anyway, but...well, I think that's more or less my status quo now.)

As long time readers know, this is not something typical of World Fantasy, which for the last several years have featured Disability Fail after Disability Fail after Disability Fail. So it's a major relief to find that yes, this convention can get it right, and I want to thank the 2014 World Fantasy Committee for getting it right this time.

Feather

I have, on occasion, been accused of having a certain - what's the word? - obsession with structured poetry.

This will only add weight to the fire, I'm afraid.

#

In other news, I am back from WFC 2014, but very tired and more than a bit dizzy, conditions that do not do much for my control of commas and other punctuation, so any blogging on the event itself must wait a bit.

WFC 2014

A brief note to say that I am here; that my presence in DC, as expected, coincided with a minor riot, resisting arrest, tasering and confused tourists which blocked my access to the Metro; that to my shock, my WFC bag contained, among other items, a book including work by ME! (this never happens ever); and that an editor who we shall name Neil Clarke has already rejected my little zombie verus writers story before I even wrote it, which is kinda sad.

If you are here, I have been more or less hanging out in the bar/lobby area. I will be maknig some sort of appearance at the Tor party tonight, although if past history is any guide, I shall be fleeing the Tor party within minutes (love you, Tor, but your parties are very very loud. I am also signing things for people, so if you have the Daily Science Fictions, Upgraded, Mythic Delirium, or anything else that I'm in, you don't have to wait for the Friday signing; just wave at me.

And now off to find food.

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