Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, November 28, 2011

[Free Fiction] Charybdis and Scylla

Monsters are made, not born. Transformation, like lost virginity, is a crossing that can’t be undone.


Neighbors all our lives and no one else looks after us since our husbands died so we take care of each other until we’re killed by this stranger. Who else will? There’s this thing that happens to women who live long enough. It’s like people only look at us to sell something. Used to be, when I was a pretty young thing, sunlight beaming at me from everywhere and everyone all the time enough to make me ashamed of myself, and then I got a certain age and it was like I was a whirlpool threatening to swallow everyone whole if they so much as looked at me in the face. I thought I looked like still water – a nice old lady – and I cultivated that look.

I have to tell you about me, that I’m not a nice lady. Neither is Scylla. Don’t you forget that about us. We know better than to let people push us around, and we don’t go gentle into that good night.

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Friday, November 25, 2011


The Fifty Menai were goddesses of the lunar months, daughters of moon goddess, Selene, and the mortal, Endymion, asleep for her love for all time. Some deities are echoes of older ones, supplanted by the Olympians and fading into the background of myths, quiet and mostly forgotten.

She stood in the doorway covered in flour from the moon, like a light layer of snow. First, though, she had been out in the backyard with my sister and me on a tire swing.

Her parents were divorced, too. She had told us that about herself when we met. My sister and I didn’t talk about more than that, because our parents were divorced and it was the greatest source of fear and loathing in our lives to that point and we didn’t want to talk about our own parents any more than she wanted to talk about hers.

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Monday, November 14, 2011


‘My children, gotten of a sinful father, if you will obey me, we should punish the vile outrage of your father; for he first thought of doing shameful things.’

-from Hesiod’s Theogony

I did nothing to deserve the way he treated me. All that nonsense my children talk about endlessly – a wedding, a war between titans and children of titans and all for our sake, him and me, heaven and earth – don’t believe a word. All that really happened between us was just the argument that broke out because we hadn’t quite invented marriage so we couldn’t quite divorce when he invented infidelity.

Here’s the true story. I was asleep in a field. Goodness, I was the field. He came by like a cloud over me. His shadow passed over me like nightfall. He looked down at my beauty, at how beautiful I was as a field, naked and asleep with nothing to cover me. He wept because I was so beautiful. Then he did more than weep tears. That’s what woke me up.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where I will be on the 17th

See you there, if you can make it!

Monday, November 7, 2011


So flew the god and the virgin – he on the wings of love, and she on those of fear. The pursuer is the more rapid, however, and gains upon her, and his panting breath blows upon her hair. Her strength begins to fail, and, ready to sink, she calls upon her father, the river god: “Help me, Peneus! Open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger!”

-from Bullfinch’s Mythology

The first time your car was stolen, you were sleeping in the backseat in a pile of all your belongings. The thief didn’t know. He didn’t bother to check the back seat. He popped the lock and hotwired the car. The thief drove your car to the 24-hour grocery. When he left, to go to the store, he left the engine on. You were quick to take back the front seat and steal your own car back. Driving away, you saw him in line, buying a quart of milk. It was 3 AM, and none of the buses were running. You imagined him, with a baby that needed milk at 3 AM, and you couldn’t bring yourself to call the police on him.

At least he had somewhere to go. You had walked out on someone, after two years. You wanted to stay in the city, even if it meant sleeping in your car a few nights. If you went anywhere else, he’d find you – at your mother’s house, or a friend’s. He’d never find you in your car, deep in the heart of the city. You had nowhere to go, at the time, and you couldn’t hate the man who stole your car while you were sleeping in it because he had somewhere to go, for milk, with milk.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Two Days No Writing

Friday and Saturday were lost days, so busy running around, with no time to sit still and work, think, do. Friday was all looking over places stripped and gutted by copper thieves to the dismay of the people showing the houses followed by cleaning and the betterment of living spaces with loved ones. Searching for houses in Atlanta is also searching for houses that haven't been destroyed by copper thieves, and won't be before we move in. Gotta love the drug war + the econopocalypse = unsustainable community-destroying activity. Hooray for the city.

Saturday, Angie and I went up north, into the mountains, to volunteer helping to build a water-catchment berms at the Cedar Hill Enrichment Center where they are developing permaculture farm techniques and educating folks in them. we learned about berms and sways. Hey, they have a labyrinth!

I've noticed when I'm working on a book (in part because my fiance has noticed it) that I get really, really spacy. I work for hours and come out dazed and confused, lost in a fog, like sleepwalking. I'm building a universe in my head, and have to take time to reintegrate with regular society. Even reading books, I can fall into this. All these years of reading and writing, I've probably knocked a few cogs and gears around up there. As such, I have found a day or two a week where I am out volunteering, working, or puttering around in the kitchen help me keep my balance and sanity while I work on a book.

Time will tell if the book that results is better for it.

Books, and the speaking of them. Scott Wolven's excellent book, CONTROLLED BURN, just went into paperback. If you have not picked it up, do so. I think this may be our book club selection for next month even though I have read it, already, because it would be a good book to read again and study a little closer. Lots of moving parts hiding under the surface.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Ann and Jeff VanderMeer and close friends and collaborators have started a website to honor the massive, huge, expansive anthology they just put out with Corvus, celebrating 100 years of Weird Fiction.

It also looks like it's going to become a major hub in surreal and speculative fictions for all things strange and odd and grotesque.

Check out for an interview with Neil Gaiman, some fabulous and horrific art, and an excellent short story, translated from the Belgian, "Kavar the Rat" that I quite enjoyed late at night, to unsettle my dreams with a dose of the strange. There's even a comic strip. I imagine there will probably be surreal videos, and performance arts, stilt-walkers and clowns and seamstresses that work only in the medium of octopus tentacles, perhaps some clocks and a series of ominous chimes that go off in the night, unexpectedly, when the city is trying to sleep, and no one really knows what's making all that noise.

Until such time as these many things appear on the site, there is a comic, art, an interview with Neil Gaiman, and an excellent short story.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

BOOK CLUB: Half the Day is Night by Maureen McHugh

So, grab your books and let's all get to reading 'em.

HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT by Maureen McHugh, her second novel after she won copious awardage for CHINA MOUNTAIN ZHANG is supposed to be another close, intimate portrayal of the people who live a few days or weeks ahead of the moment we live in, and I'm expecting great things.

As we go, feel free to leave comments and I'll pull up any interesting ones into this post.

Spiral sez:
I'm very much enjoying the story, particularly the not-overly-obtrusive-but-still-amazingly-well-done world-building. Mchugh's created a future that I doubt she could've known in 1994 would so eerily resemble the sort of thing we're actually headed toward or are already in (though perhaps corporations and banks were as mixed up then as now - I was but a wee lad in '94, naive, and not so world-weary...okay, I'm still naive, but...). The depth of the main characters - David and Mayla - is great. She really gets in their heads, from Mayla's nervousness over-analyzing on her "date" with Saad to David's desire to leave Caribe and his denial to come to grips with his violent past.

I've read enough SF that I don't think this is the kind of novel that'll be replete with explosions and high-octane action; maybe some, but to me, it feels more like a slow burn, kind of like the film Michael Clayton or an Elmore Leonard novel set a few years in the future.[/quote]

I'm getting close to the end, and I like the Elmore Leonard reference as things do pick up. I love the world-building, and the unobtrusiveness of it. The setting doesn't have the "OMG LOOK AT THAT COOL THING!" quality of a Rucker or Doctorow or Gibson or Stirling novel. Instead, it is a reflection/refraction of the character's lives and dramas. It is a way of enhancing the drama, not a distraction from it. Very well done.

I've also heard that she is in Publisher's Weekly Top Ten for her latest collection, and this is absolutely unsurprising to anyone who has encountered McHugh's work, anywhere, anywhen.

I'm loving the heck out of this book.