The Floating World

In the Japanese print world of ukiyo-e, a picture of reality is made by the artist that is a representation of reality, not necessarily that all art isn’t. But in this case, often those portrayed are part of an unreal, floating world: prostitutes, geisha, samurai. The landscape of Japan figures in the floating world is drawn in such a way that there is no confusing it with more realistic art styles.

This print is an image of Mt. Fuji. It looks like an exaggeration, but if you see Fuji, you can see how the artist managed to gain this image of it. Never mind that it is a distorted, abstract of Fuji. Somewhere in this picture is a kernel of truth about Fuji.


Last week I sat down and thought about madness. My family’s dysfunction means that they see the world through a dirty sort of window. The reality of what they see and what the world looks like is abstracted to them, sent through a strange filter that sometimes means that they try to bend the world into a version that fits their hopes and dreams, as well as one that avoids their pain and suffering.

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This is going to sound like a weird thing to say, but I think ParaNorman might be the anti-bullying film that schools are looking for.

Norman is a kid who grows up in a town that is roughly parallel to Salem, Mass. The town tourist trades on a historical witch trial, and it turns out that the witch has cursed her sentencers to walk as living dead.

What you need to know about Norman is he can see the dead. People don’t believe him. If you see the previews, the movie looks like the zombie apocalypse, but it’s not. Norman is perceived by everyone in town, including his family, as trying to draw attention to himself, but truthfully Norman can see the dead. There’s a heartbreaking scene near the beginning where Norman walks down a seemingly empty street talking to ghosts and all the neighbors come out to stare. Then we see the street through Norman’s eyes, full of ghosts. My heart went out to this misunderstood little boy.

Yeah, Norman likes horror films, but Norman would also like to be more accepted. There’s another kid in town, Neil Downe, who is ostracized because he is fat. Neil is solid. He is Norman’s friend even when Norman doesn’t want a friend, and he believes Norman. He stands by Norman when no one else will. He threatens Norman’s crazy uncle with hummus!

Norman does have a crazy uncle. The uncle can also see the dead, and he has sacrificed his life in the service of placating the witch each spell cycle so she will not make the dead walk. Regrettably, the uncle dies, but since his ghost can talk to Norman, Norman tries to keep the dead from walking.

That doesn’t quite work out. Norman has to figure out a way to solve the problem, save the day, and make justice happen about two hundred and fifty years after it should have.

ParaNorman unflinchingly looks at how difference is treated, and how different children react to bullying. Norman and Neil are heroic. In the end, Norman’s family gets behind him.

As a point of interest, Neil’s older brother Mitch comes out of the closet at the end of the film. This is the first gay character I can remember in an animated film outside of Tokyo Godfathers.

See ParaNorman with your kids, and talk about Norman’s journey with them.

TT Profile #2: Chris East

Chris East? I can’t say enough positive things about a guy who likes comics and Spy Fy. Oh, he’s also a pretty good writer, and he’s lived in Iowa City. He’s pretty spiffy.

Tamago: Why do you write?

Chris: Ha, the answer to that question is a moving target! I’m pretty sure I started writing because I preferred fiction to reality. It gave me an escape, a chance to visit another world where I could bend reality to my whims. But now I write because I find it a healthy way to confront reality — argue with it, cope with it, put it into perspective. I guess the short answer is: for my mental health. Which is ironic, because writing is inherently crazy. But I’ve tried not writing, and it just doesn’t work for me.

Tamago: What is your favorite genre to write in?

Chris: I’ve always had kind of a “big tent” approach to speculative fiction: SF, fantasy, all the various subgenres. But I think all along, without quite realizing it, I’ve primarily been a writer of spy fiction — even before I truly knew it as a genre. So I guess you could say I’m a writer of speculative spy fiction.

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Inclusion–Yur Doin It Right

Jim Hines again, but this time his post is pre-cognitive, because I’ve been thinking about this one myself. Hunh. Who knew that winning a Hugo made you precognitive?

(Because yes, Jim did win the Hugo for Best Fan Writer. And you heard it first here, back when the nomination was a twinkle in this author’s eye. Not that I’m taking any credit or anything. Even though credit is mine and I AM A KING MAKER!!!

Ahem. Congrats to Jim C. Hines for winning the Hugo for Best Fan Writer.


Rather than pointing out stories of people blowing others off inappropriately, let’s study a couple of examples of gallant behavior that we can all model our interactions on.

Scenario the first: Hugh Howey

So there I was, waiting for…something, and I ran into Ann Leckie. Quite frankly, Ann is awesome. We met at a Codex breakfast at Wiscon two years back, and we share similar philosophies on writing. She’s a joy to talk to, and I had the opportunity to talk to her a few times this convention.

Well, we started talking about this and that, and I decided to tell her my Ursula Vernon story. Which is a great story when done with right inflections and exaggerations. The short version is that I love, love, love Digger, and I was very excited about it.

And then this tastefully dressed gentlemen sitting on the couch not far from Ann, who was reviewing what looked like a manuscript or law briefs, very politely said, “Excuse me?”

Ann and I looked up. He said, “I’ve never met a woman my age who was interested in comic books before.”

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I have 37 minutes to write a post before my day is over here. I spent this morning getting the first 100 pages of Abigail Rath into good shape, kicking out the too early information reveals, and now I must wade through the rest and do the same, with notable expansions and excitement bumps. Then, dear beta readers, it comes to you.

I am determined to be done by the end of December. I want this shippable by the Christmas season. I don’t think I shall have to rush or send out crap to do it.


Well. World Con was a slap, a glass of cold water in the face. I had a *great* time, but here are a few things:

1. Brad Aiken is a medical doctor. He puts out a book a year.
2. Jim Hines is a government computer guy. Since I’ve known of and known him (2005), he’s written 5 books.
3. Jay Lake has put out 2 books since I’ve known of him. He has cancer treatments intervening.
4. Seanan McGuire works, and she is a publishing machine.

You know, I *am* busy. I *do* have other things eating my time. So do these guys, in spades. This *isn’t* an exercise in comparing myself to them. This is me asking myself why I can’t do that.

Because I have before. I wrote my thesis as I began working at the college full time. I have undertaken huge projects and been a student at the same time.

This isn’t a paid advertisement for wearing yourself out, or working yourself dogged, but there have been times when I have been as efficient as the above four people. Why not now?

Upon reflection, a couple of things have been holding me back: skills and imposter syndrome. Specifically:

1. I am a pantser. I betcha I would write a lot more efficiently if I planned better and stopped writing myself into a corner. Thanks to Walter Jon Williams, I might have this one actually licked.

2. I STILL let other people’s agendas subsume my own. Hunh. I guess it takes time as well as inclination to write. I don’t want to hermit up, but I need to guard my writing time as sacred.

3. I worry about crap. I should just keep my head down and write my twelve hours a week and move forward.

And here are some things I learned at Worldcon.

1. I should stop wallowing in my inadequacies. I should do what I need to, each day, and not focus on what I haven’t done, or where I think I should be. That kind of mentality gets in the way of your writing.

2. There are people out there waiting for my stuff. In addition to interested readers, editors, agents, and professionals. They seem to think I am a writer and take me seriously in a way I myself do not.

3. Deep down, I still think I am a wannabe, and that’s really, really slowing me up. I am good enough, and I’ve taken a whole lot of steps in the last three years to get better. Goddamn imposter syndrome! I am not only a serious student of writing, but I am good at applying what I know. So, what’s with the image problem?

Everyone else believes I am a writer. They ask me for stuff, and they are willing to take a bet on me. I know that. I need to take myself that seriously.

This summer has been a time of rebuilding my writing, and a celebration of my life. What a great way to spend my summer! But this past year, overall, has been me sputtering at my writing, spending time in education and on the page, but not feeling like I have a lot of direction or umph.

I guess that’s umph, then.

We can only control so much. We can write the books and release them into the wild, and they will sell or not, be in box stores or not, win awards or not. It’s easy to feel at sea, isn’t it?

Well. The other thing I can control? How I perceive myself in this whole game. I am a writer. Not a writer who wants to be published, but a writer who will practice my craft until that inevitably happens.

Even now, I feel foolish saying that. True Midwesterner, me. But you know what? I am a writer. Not a writer who wants to be published, but a writer who will practice my craft until that inevitably happens.

I hereby vow to produce the best work I can each time, and send it out. I want to write a book a year. If other people can do it, I can too. I am gonna do this thing. I am gonna live up to the faith others have in me, until I believe it myself.

And I’m gonna do it in that classy way I do things…without competition. Because that’s the way I role. Pun intended.

Fingers on Keyboard

In addition to all those topics I listed before I left, I now have World Con stuff to talk about and an interview post. Expect some slow but steady reporting here.

But not tonight. Tonight I have to make a cake for a dessert thing tomorrow.

Also, I need to write. I have a new rule besides the one about sending out crap. Something about getting on with the writing career. You know, the WRITING career.