I didn’t read Heinlein.

Not the edition I would have picked up in the bookshop.
Not the edition I would have picked up in that bookshop.

Okay, that’s a lie. I read a Heinlein novel during a university course on science fiction. It was Starship Troopers, and it was contrasted with Haldeman’s Forever War. And I may have read part of The Puppet Masters, but since I only remember a bit about how some clothing (hats? coats? tops?) was being outlawed, it is more probable that I just picked it up at the neighbourhood secondhand bookstore and read a few pages. I liked to hang around the SF section and do that sometimes, and it’s left me with an eclectic collection of snippets–that bit, something about a Doctor Who novelization in which a villain had attached a canister of horrible mutagen to Peri[1], and a rich tourist who went to the Savage Theme Park of New York and was stuck there after it was closed for the season.

(Those bits are rather vague, since I would have been between seven and eleven at the time–more than two decades ago.)

But when I was growing up, I didn’t read Heinlein.

I have been thinking, lately, about a line from Toni Weisskopf’s blog post, “The Problem of Engagement,” which runs:

Well, Heinlein is one of the few points of reference those fans who read have. Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?

I am a fan who reads; horror by first choice, yes, but I always read SF and fantasy when there wasn’t enough horror around. I have loved Worlds-That-Are-Not (or Worlds-That-Are-Not-Quite) for many many years, and I found them through books. I have been, I would have said, one of those “fans who read” for a very long time.

But I didn’t read Heinlein.

See, the first time I picked up Heinlein with a recognition of who the author was supposed to be (this name I’d heard about, seen on book spines, was told was incomparable), in the hope that I would enjoy it? I would have been about twelve; my family was in Algeria at the time, and the English fiction library we had access to was in a repurposed basement. The entirety of the genre section was a single bookshelf, and I made a heartfelt effort to go through all of it.

This, on the other hand, is the exact edition of Phantoms I read in that library.

I’m going to digress for a moment, and talk about Dean Koontz.

I discovered Dean Koontz and Stephen King on that same bookshelf (while I’d seen a secondhand hardcover of Cujo a few years earlier, I hadn’t been allowed to read it). Dean Koontz was easier to get a hold of, and often more snappily paced, and I would guess I read a good twenty or so of his books in the next few years. I probably overdid it, and I’d occasionally joke about how I could summarize the commonalities of plot of his novels in a single sentence. I got bored with him, and quit reading. (I’m drifting back, now, but that’s another story.)


When I was twelve, when I was bored and had basically no-one to talk to, when I was starving for something to read and I went through that bookcase, here is what I found in the first handful of pages:

  • The first Heinlein novel I picked up, I read about a guy watching his daughter strip her top off and being proud that she was checking with her husband instead of with him to be sure it was okay.
  • The first Koontz novel I picked up, I read about a doctor who was taking care of her little sister and who’d bluffed an evil biker gang leader[2] into believing that she was too damn scary to mess with.

Goddamn right I wasn’t interested in more Heinlein. And my take on his work is and remains “I don’t know it,” and I don’t think that’s informed or detailed enough to count as an opinion.

And when I was back in Canada… well, I met other people I could talk to about this genre thing, and we swapped recommendations, and I know some of them liked Heinlein but none of them ever made anything he’d written sound cool enough for me to bump him onto my must-read list. And then there were things like university and work and now, sad as it makes me, I don’t have the time to read that I used to. For a little while in eighth grade I was getting through five books a week. These days I’m lucky to clear eighty books a year.

It doesn’t make me happy, but I can live with that.

So when it comes to the question of

Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?

It’s not that hard. You just find other things that suit you better, and listen for things that people describe in such a way that they sound actually enjoyable, and you don’t have unlimited time.

And to that, Weisskopf wrote:

So the question arises—why bother to engage these people at all? They are not of us. They do not share our values, they do not share our culture.

I can live with that, too. And my reaction to that is much the same as my reaction when I put down Number of the Beast. I don’t have time for this, I have not seen enough to suggest I will enjoy this, and so I will leave this behind and go find something that will brighten or deepen or enrich my day.

And if that decision means I am not of your culture, that I do not share your values, I am sure we will both be much happier for it.

[1] Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. If I recall correctly, the mutagen canister was removed from where it was attached to Peri’s belt, and was ?thrown? at the villain, where it interacted with a wooden stake he was standing near. The mutagen then worked on the wooden stake, causing it to explode outwards into a spiky lattice of stake-y wood and skewer the villain to death.
[2] I am not saying Phantoms was particularly nuanced. (Jeter, the man in question, is further developed later in the novel. I would say the development was done to add horror, not subtlety or multi-faceted characterization.)

Juggling vegetables

If we ever get this in our biweekly basket, I am leaving.

We’re subscribing–I think that’s the word?–to a Community Shared Agriculture program this summer. We’ve decided to go with only once every two weeks, since last year we got a weekly box of produce, and it got a bit overwhelming.

(Kale. I had no idea there could be so much kale. And I pretty much gave up on hand-carrying things back from the pickup point after they started giving us watermelons.)

We got the box last week. Wednesday, I made a concerted effort to use up as much as possible, and made a dinner of garden salad, oil-citrus-garlic dressing, roasted asparagus with Parmesan cheese, and rhubarb crumble. This only used up half a cucumber, the mixed package of spring greens (five plants and seven herbs!), all the rhubarb, and some of the asparagus. (I mean, it used up more, but I’m strictly discussing things which came in the produce box.) There was enough salad for a second meal since then, and we’ve also used up the tomato.

This leaves us with

  • half a cucumber
  • Lebanese cucumbers
  • beets and radishes (I suspect I will make these into the backbone of a lunch at some point)
  • spinach
  • arugula
  • a yellow pepper
  • two more asparagus bundles
  • a squeezy-bear of fresh honey
  • some of a dozen eggs (we hardboiled some right away)
  • a beeswax tealight

Pretty sure we can get through that before the next box comes in. (Maybe not the honey, but honey keeps.) And having them around does make it a lot easier to eat well. It’s kind of like the fridge is gently nagging me to empty it, like a cute little inversion of “feed me, Seymour.”

Hugo helpfulness

I understand that there’s going to be an announcement about the Hugo voter packages very soon. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a coherent list of links to what’s available online, you could do a lot worse than check out John DeNardo’s roundup at SF Signal. It’s huge.

Myself, I’m keeping a list here, Continue reading “Hugo helpfulness”

Shiny, sharp, and green

The light of my life got me a Razer keyboard today–the BlackWidow. I saw one in… September or so, I think, wanted it very badly, and then it had sort of slowly slipped off my radar in the intervening months.


I may have made extremely undignified joyful squeeing noises upon unwrapping it. I am just saying.

This is a mechanical keyboard, which means (1) ultra-satisfying clicky noises–

clikclikclik tic tic takketa tap clik

–and tactile feedback, (2) lasts maybe ten times as long as your average keyboard, and (3) could probably serve as a blunt instrument in a (small) zombie emergency. It also has braided sleeves on all the cords, and when I say all the cords I mean that this thing has a power USB connection, a data USB connection, and runs speakers/headphones and mike out of the little port on its side. It comes with macro keys, and multiple settings, and software that backs all your custom settings up to the cloud so that when you get a new keyboard, you don’t need to fiddle around rebinding and re-entering all your custom setups, not that I am envisioning getting a new keyboard anytime soon because mine and it’s delightfully clicky.


The keys are slightly narrower than my old keyboard; they’re small squares, rather than subtle oblongs. I need to sit back a bit, instead of vulturing over my keys. Obviously, I will have to use this a whole lot in the coming days to practice.

Things I cannot believe.

I saw The Last Unicorn tonight. On the big screen, with Peter S. Beagle in attendance and answering questions, and signing books afterwards (and taking pictures with people! I have a picture of myself with Peter S. Beagle now). And before I get any further I will note that tour dates are here and it would be lovely if you could pass that along to anyone you know of who’s interested.

I thought I might not cry this time, which is foolish. I never forget that I cry when I hear the theme song. But I always forget how sure it is, the tears coming up as smooth and sure as a stone drops down through water, and I thought that since I listened to the music last night as well the effect might be somewhat muted, and so I was sitting down to watch and thinking maybe this time I wouldn’t cry, and…

Yep. Tears. 🙂

(Did you know that the composition of your tears differs based on the emotion that evokes them?)

But yes. Peter S. Beagle was answering questions before the movie, and Connor Cochran[1] was… was maître d-ing or toastmastering or whatever the term is, and interjecting little anecdotes. And one of them was that when he first met Peter thirteen years ago, Peter thought he was a failure.

I… just hearing that was like the split-second of freefall confusion when our dog once yanked me off our front steps. Not the moment where I landed on the edge of the step and bruised myself purple-black for weeks. But the sudden absence of ground where there’d been that solid unquestioned presence only a second before.

Peter S. Beagle ever thought he was a failure.

Peter S. Beagle.

I would expect that sentiment no more from him than I would expect it from Ursula K. LeGuin.

I came home with more books than I went out with, and they are signed. And I am happy, and teary, and a little giddy, and so very very glad I got to tell him thank you for everything he’d written. And I’m sitting here, doing a little reading and being glad that things seem to be going better for him, and trying to wrap my head around how he could ever have believed…

I hope things keep getting better for him. I truly do.

[1] I am 95% sure this is the man, but I checked with the light of my life, and he never gave his name, and I meant to ask. Actually I am 99.8% sure, and I would be surer except it takes me a while to learn people’s faces and I did not see him for long. But 99.8% sure is not bad, so I set it down.

Quick happy notes.

We went out to dinner tonight, and there was lovely happy fluffy conversation, ranging from Star Trek Online to the lives of various actors and former actors to BraveStarr (does anyone else remember that? I mean, without Googling?), and along the meandering way Mark Ruffalo came up.

He did not come up for long, but he is on my mind. Specifically his role as the Hulk.

(Okay, I hate having to do this, but: I am not speaking for all crazies. I am, in fact, speaking for myself, as a very lucky crazy, in terms of my privilege and support system.)

I love Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner.

I love the way he’s so careful. I love the way he measures his speech. I love the way you can see him holding his own hands, so cautious; I love the way that when he’s dealing with people who know about and might want to use the Hulk his speech and body language, over and over, codes as a human being who has learned to second-guess himself, and to be hesitant.

I love this scene. I love how at 0:25 Cap–a good guy! A decent, fairly perceptive guy!–says it might be a good time to get angry.

How he actually thinks he might need to speak up and tell Banner it’s a good time to get angry.

(Oh, Cap. I’m sure you mean well. I know you mean well. I know you’re speaking up because you’re nervous, because you don’t understand how someone who is so calm and quiet could possibly be anything close to as angry as they need to be. But… shhhh. We’ve got this.)

And Banner doesn’t even blink. He explains, like it’s an obvious thing (and it is!), and then he unfurls.

(The Hulk is fundamentally a good and well-intentioned creature. This makes the Hulk different from, say, depression. But this isn’t about the Hulk, except in terms of how the Hulk casts Bruce Banner’s accomplishment into proper relief.)

Banner lives with this all the time. This thing inside him. This thing that is always there, that means that even when he is angry he has to manage himself, he has to not show it, because if he starts indulging himself and turns into Mr Shouty the way all the others do, it will go badly. Because his anger, released, is so much worse. It is terrifying. It is an annihilating force that results in a level of destruction that is incomprehensible coming from a normal human.

This is not fair. Banner has been robbed of the catharsis of expressing small, normal amounts of a negative emotion, in safe ways.

Banner is angry all the time. But he cannot let himself indulge. And so he looks hesitant, and he acts weak. And sometimes he lets go, and he’s the Hulk. And that’s cool, because this is after all the Avengers movie.

But the rest of the time, that quiet hesitant man? That still figure in the corner speaking in soft tones?

He’s holding back the Hulk.

With all he’s been through, while he was frightened and hunted and alone, dealing with unimaginable pressure, he has learned to hold back the Hulk.

I love Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner.

Well, drat.

I slipped and not-fell down the stairs today (feet out from under me, sat down hard, slipped several steps, bruising, nothing worse), and while grabbing for the railing I managed to rip my left thumbnail loose from its bed along one side.

A bandage is taking care of it; it sprang back without creasing, so I figure the best thing to do is keep it in place and let the loose bit slowly grow out. And it’s not interfering with my typing.

But it has made it impossible to knit.

My right needle keeps catching on the bandage and punching through it, which gets adhesive on the needle and pulls the bandage loose. The bandage itself is slowly pulling free and collecting loose fibers from the fabric, too. It’s not so bad when I’m trying to finish my cotton T-shirt, but the silk-merino shawl I’m hoping to make myself is off the table for at least a few weeks.

I’m actually making it downtown tomorrow; I’m going to try picking up one of those rubber thimbles that you can get to help you turn pages. That should at least protect the bandage from the needles, and make it possible to get at least cotton knitting done.

Loss of time.

So I got home, and it was tired and quiet, and I had an idea for something to do.

Instead of doing it, I… er. Well. Sort of Pinterested for an hour.

…possibly a little more than an hour.

This was, I feel, less than strictly useful. (On the other hand, I have figured out that I can declutter my likes, which I often use as a “decide if I will pin this later” holding pen, by creating a board for fonts, posters, and bookcovers.)

I did discover that there’s an annual event called the Wasteland Weekend in Southern California, which involves… uhm, well, it looks like a four-day post-apocalyptic version of a Society for Creative Anachronism party. I am charmed[1] by the aesthetic, which is pretty heavily Mad Max. (Their site notes that it is a post-modern apocalypse: laser guns, powered exoskeletons, cyborgs, zombies, and high-tech robots need not apply. But Pip-Boys are okay.)

So it has not been a productive evening. But it has been a relaxing one, and I am at least going to go to bed managing to enjoy the fact I’ve looked at pretty things, if not done everything I wanted to do.

[1] I initially wrote “weirdly charmed” but… well, know thyself, and all that.