Poe is about done with this week.
As of yesterday we have had Poe, our little Yooper ginger kitten, for three weeks. In that time she has gone from this:
Out veterinarian say she is around five months old even though she is about as big as as three-month-old kitten. Or she was when we picked her up. Good diet, comfortable surroundings and lots of loving attention have turned her from a half-feral animal who hid in a bucket in our bathroom the first morning after her arrival, to the de facto ruler of the house, as all cat people will recognize.
I haven’t lived with cats in about fifteen years, and I have not “owned” a cat since the mid-1980s, and those were somewhat tame barn cats never allowed inside the house. So this is both a new experience and one with frequent spikes of nostalgia and deja vu.
She has adjusted well. She took to her litter box the first day and has had no accidents that we have found. She is wonderfully affectionate though still has the primal barn cat reaction to sudden loud noises or unexpected situations like my girlfriend or I changing our clothes. She is also still working on object permanence – a human being laying in a bed is fundamentally and ontologically different from that same human being walking around or sitting on the floor. And a human being sitting anywhere is an invitation to climb into a lap, which can be quite painful when the human in question is sitting on a cafe-height chair and the kitten in question has to climb the final bet because she can’t quite jump high enough to reach the lap in question in one motion.
So this experience has been absolutely wonderful so far, and we plan to keep Poe with us. We might even pick up a companion for her at some point.
Cats, I understand, do tend to accumulate.
Poe welcomes you to the new year.
ConFusion 2020 will take place from Thursday, January 16 through Sunday, January 19, 2020. I am participating in two panels this year:
Title: Collaborating With Your Publisher On Book Promotion
Day/time: Friday January 17, 5:00 pm
Panelists: Annalee Flower Horne (M), John Winkelman, Yanni Kuznia, Suzanne Church
Description: Most writers don’t know what book promotion is going to look like when they sign that first contract. What will the publisher do? What are they responsible for doing themselves? How do they best collaborate with their publisher on promotion to get the most out of their joint efforts? Is spending part of your advance on promo ever worth it? Do you need to worry about a publisher pulling back on promotion if they see you doing your own? And is it even possible for author promo to turn a book that’s not a lead title into a breakout success, or is that all just down to luck? Our panel of authors and publishing pros discuss the best ways for an author to drive sales of their trad pubbed book.
Title: Great Lakes and Inland Seas In Secondary Worlds
Day/time: Sunday January 19, 12:00 pm
Room: Isle Royale
Panelists: Anthony W. Eichenlaub (M), Marissa Lingen, Phoebe Barton, John Winkelman
Description: It’s hard to really get a sense of the scale of the American Great Lakes if you’ve never stood on one of their shores. Those of us used to thinking of lakes as more akin to very large ponds are often surprised by the dunes, the waves, the wind, the distant horizon. Writers who know the lakes offer advice on how to incorporate great lakes and inland seas into our fantasy worlds–as a narrative setting, what separates lakes from oceans? What unique or surprising storytelling opportunities do lakes provide?
Next week I head across the state to attend ConFusion 2019. This year I will be participating in three panels, all on Saturday, January 19. Here they are:
- AI for Better or Worse – There’s no doubt that Artificial Intelligence will play some part in our future, but is it good, bad, or both? Panelists will discuss the future of AI, some of its uses, and some of its dangers.
- Time: Saturday, 19 January, 2019 – 13:00
- Room: Warren
- Panelists: Anthony W. Eichenlaub (M), John Winkelman, Derek Kunsken
- Let’s Talk Season 2: Computer Science! – A lighthearted talk on a hard science topics with smart and funny people. Let’s Talk: Computer Science will chuckle through the collapse of society as we know it. Come hear how silicon makes better decisions than carbon, protons as data, why you don’t need to be Slytherin to study Python, and what we are going to do with the leisure time we will have in 2025.
- Time: Saturday, January 19, 2019 – 16:00
- Room: Warren
- Panelists: Daniel Dugan (M), John Winkelman, Anthony W. Eichenlaub
- If you liked that, try this! – Our well-read panel will give you personalized book recommendations based on things you’ve read and loved.
- Time: Saturday, January 19, 2019 – 18:00
- Room: Dearborn
- Panelists: Merrie Haskell (M), John Winkelman, Andrea Johnson, Karen Osborne, Sarah Hans
Between now and then I am spending my free moments gathering books I hope to have signed by other attendees, and getting everything around home squared away so I can focus on enjoying the experience. Hopefully one year I will be able to sign books of my own.
Recently I did a thing which I have planned for a long time, but never quite found the confluence of time, money and motivation to complete: I got a tattoo.
It’s a quote in a cursive Cyrillic typeface, reading “Рукописи не горят” (“Manuscripts don’t burn”) from the book The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. Nick, one of the artists at Mos Eisleys Tattoo Studio, did the inking.
“But John,” I can hear you say, “Why?”
Why, indeed. Here are my thoughts on the subject, framed as a conversation with an imaginary me, a technique which I steal, with attribution, from one of my favorite writers, John Scalzi:
Why get a tattoo?
Short answer: ‘cause.
Full answer: I’ve been meaning to get a tattoo for a long time, probably a decade. Of the many ideas and impulses, few felt right for more than a few months or a year, which is not a great basis for getting inked.
Earlier this summer my girlfriend Zyra got her first tattoo, a traditional Filipino pattern done in the traditional style by Lane Wilcken, one of the very few practicing traditional artists in the world. Lane and Zyra invited me to participate in the tattoo ceremony, and I help stretch Z’s skin while Lane inked her leg. This experience tipped me over from “might” to “will,” and now I have a tattoo.
Why in Russian?
I was a Russian Studies major in college, and spent a semester studying in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. In that time and since I have read many book by many Russian authors. For a time in the early 1990s, I was nearly fluent. I have in my house dozens of books of Russian literature, poetry, plays, philosophy and artwork. Russia, or at least the literary parts of Russia, have been quite influential in my life for decades.
I don’t remember if I first read The Master and Margarita when I was in college, or after I graduated. I do know that I was not at all ready to be in the real world when I did graduate, so I immediately went to work at a local bookstore. There I had my fill of Russian literature. So it was sometime in the early to mid- 1990s.
In early 1994 my former Russian Studies professor, Christine Rydel, hunted me down and
coerced convinced me to rejoin the RST program for a semester in Russia. During that trip I learned a great deal of Russian, drank an ungodly amount of vodka, and visited the studio of artist Andrei Kharshak (Андрей Александрович Харшак, see also), who had created a series of illustrations for an edition of The Master and Margarita published in Russia in 1994. I came home with two prints – one of Golgotha and one a sort of collage which includes a scattering of pages around a stove, echoing the scene where Satan, in the guise of Woland, tells the despondent Master “Manuscripts don’t burn.”
Over the intervening years Russian literature as an influence in my life has waxed and waned. With my (relatively) recent and (apparently) ongoing interest in literature in translation, Russian Lit is now ascendant. And with Russia influencing American politics, and thus the American zeitgeist, getting the tattoo in Russian just felt right.
Why that particular quote?
The quote, in context, appears at the beginning of the tenth line in the above photograph.
“Manuscripts don’t burn,” in the context of the book, carries the connotation that a work of art, once created, lasts forever. The Master’s book is censored by Soviet bureaucrats and he burns the manuscript. Later on, Woland and his entourage produce via sleight of hand the unharmed manuscript, stating “Manuscripts don’t burn.” The physical artifact may be destroyed, the artist may disown and disavow its existence, but for good or bad, a thing created cannot ever be un-created.
I find in this sentiment echoes of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, in these lines:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
Once an act is performed, the universe is now one in which the act was performed. Or as Buddhists would put it, only our actions are permanent.
In a larger sense, Bulgakov wrote his book at a time when official government censorship (and censureship) prevented the publication of many works of art and literature. The Master and Margarita, written between 1928 and 1940, wasn’t published in full until 1967, and even then first in France. Yet Bulgakov persisted, and now The Master and Margarita is counted among the most important works of Russian literature.
Aren’t you kind of overthinking this whole tattoo thing?
Well maybe, but it’s a tattoo. It’s kind of permanent.
In the context of my corporeal existence, or at least that of my left arm.
Are you going to get another tattoo?
I think so. This was a great experience. Assuming time, money, health, etc., I will probably get at least one more before the end of the year. I have a few more ideas, and I have thought about them long enough that having more words on my skin will be neither impulsive nor disruptive. At least one will be on more visible skin.
Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for listening!
I have just added a “Published Work” page to this blog. You can access it through the main menu. It’s kind of threadbare at the moment, but with a little luck I will have some publications to add by the end of the year.
Most of my published work at present consists of editorials written for The 3288 Review, and around three dozen interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.
I will be speaking on two panels at ConFusion 2018! Here is my schedule:
TITLE: Poetry in Novels
DESCRIPTION: Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass include lengthy poems, placing them in a long tradition of long-form fiction that incorporates poetry into the work. How does writing poems for prose fiction differ from writing poems that stand alone? What distinct techniques does it require? Where do poems within stories exist in the landscape of genre poetry today?
PANELISTS: Amal El-Mohtar, Clif Flynt, Jeff Pryor, Josef Matulich, John Winkelman, Mari Ness
ROOM: Isle Royale
DAY/TIME: Sunday, January 21, 10:00 – 10:50 am
TITLE: Analogue Media in the Digital Age
DESCRIPTION: Paper, vinyl, and film, oh my! What are the unique advantages to analogue media, and what’s just a deeply ingrained sense of how media “should” be? Is it not a book without the paper smell, or a song without the soft crackle of a needle on vinyl?
PANELISTS: David Klecha, Gail Cross, John Winkelman
DAY/TIME: Sunday, January 21, 1:00 – 1:50 pm
I will, of course, vastly over-think and over-research these topics over the next ten days, and will therefore post my notes.
In Sacramento for work for the week. In the spirit of John Scalzi, here is the view from my hotel window.
Before I dive into the mosh pit of American and worldwide events I feel it is important to state my starting position. This will provide context for my positions on topics like politics, religion, economics, environmentalism, and so on.
I am a straight Caucasian male. I was born in June of 1969, which makes me a member of Generation X. Politically, I am a hodge-podge of liberal, socialist, anarchist and Green. Religiously I am predominantly Buddhist, with a strong dash of Taoism and sprinklings of Eastern Orthodox mysticism. I have a college degree and a good job as a programmer. My life is stable enough for me to occasionally feel genuinely bored.
As a straight white dude I am overwhelmingly on the side of hegemony in the United States. Every benefit it is possible to accrue simply by being born white and straight and a dude, I have accrued. In the past twenty years and eight jobs I have only *really* had to fill out a resume once. The only way I could more closely hew to the current odious version of the American Dream would be for me to be conservative and Christian.
Those last two points? Never gonna happen.
I recognize how privileged my life is, and how little I have had to work, comparatively, to make it so. The system is set up specifically for people like me, and specifically against people who are not like me. And that fact nauseates me.
As a nerdy kid in a small farm town I was bullied regularly. Not badly, compared to the suicide-inducing standards of today, but consistently. That led directly to my lifelong practice of martial arts, and to my lifelong–and steadily increasing–hatred of bullies and bullying. For the purpose of any discussion along those lines, I will define bullying simply as punching down from a position of strength. And since this is my blog, I will be the sole determiner in these discussions as to what constitutes punching down.
To go along with that definition, I also have three general rules or guidelines or aphorisms that I try to keep front-and-center:
- There is no such thing as an over-reaction to being bullied.
- In any particular situation, if you take the side of hegemony, the only direction you can punch is down.
- When in doubt, err on the side of compassion.
I agree that the third point is incongruous with the first two. So be it. I contain multitudes. And sometimes pie.