And the year rolls ’round again.

(In a weirdly light-hearted counterpoint, I have “Don’t Push That Button” by Duane Elms running through my head.)

I’d have said something about this earlier, but Saturday was for unwinding and Sunday involved poking my computer with sticks until it stopped giving me kernel errors.

September 26th was Stanislav Petrov Day, which is an entirely unofficial holiday. Short version: 28 years ago, Stanislav Petrov did not push The Button. The systems he was dealing with told him he should, because the Americans had very definitely fired missiles, and he didn’t.

(Twenty-eight years ago, it was 1983. If you were talking about The Button being pushed, you were talking about nuclear war.)

It’s a day I notice for several reasons, which are in no particular order

  • not being dead is awesome;
  • oh look, more post-apocalyptic references;
  • I wonder how often it nearly happened; and
  • I cannot imagine what it was like to live in that context, and I am curious.

I’ve rambled about the last a bit; as I’ve said before, I don’t think I can get it, although I think I can understand it.

Anyway. The weekend involved a slightly higher consumption of post-apocalyptic fiction than usual, and a general state of not being radioactive smithereens. It’s occasionally nice to pause and appreciate the little things.

Oh. Shucks.

It’s kind of interesting, how many times black canids show up associated with death, and specifically the transition/boundary of death.

Off the top of my head, you’ve got Anubis who embalmed the dead and guided souls to the afterlife. (He also ) You’ve also got Cerberus, guarding the gates of the land of the dead.[1] But my favourite image in this regard–where my brain goes quickest, and what makes me smile–is Black Shuck. Black Shuck is an East Anglian creature of folklore; he’s a harbinger of death, and seeing him means you’re probably going to die soon.

Surprisingly enough, despite the less-than-friendly demeanour depicted in the image above, the stories mostly don’t seem to mean “soon” as in “as soon as he chews your leg off”. More of a “as soon as you have time for the full horror to sink in and to tell a few people” thing.

(That picture, by the way, is one I ran across around age six. I think I promptly adopted Black Shuck as the most awesome imaginary friend ever. You can do that kind of thing, when you’re six.)

To tangent briefly: the term Black Dog to refer to depression–as in the Black Dog Institute, or the “I had a black dog” animated video–was drawn from Churchill’s references to his bad moods as “a black dog on my back” (something akin to “getting up on the wrong side of the bed”), a colloquialism that also refers back to the black dogs of folklore.

I suspect black dogs have mostly been on my mind, however, because I recently reread Bob Leman’s “Loob“–in which the Goster County dogs are not friendly, not approachable, but ultimately a signifier that things may return to an idealised order, and are described as follows:

…almost a distinct breed, huge rangy dogs with blunt muzzles and smooth black pelts, who stood baleful guard over the farms of the county and patrolled the streets of the town with a forbidding, proprietary air.

It kinda fits.

[1] As to Norse mythology: I’m honestly not sure if Fenrir fits this mould or not. Canid, yes; associated with death, yes if you count the end of the world as a death; black, I really could not tell you. Garmr is a blood-stained watchdog that guards the gates of Hel, but again: could be lilac for all I know.[2]
[2] Probably isn’t lilac.

Different kinds of inertia

I don’t generally talk about writing on here (on the general theory that (1) lots of people have already done that, (2) I’m not exactly in a position of particular thoughtfulness or authority, and (3) there is only so much that can be said about adjectives).

But I have noticed something recently. I haven’t been writing much over the last fortnight, due to some very bad sleep and some unrelated stress (not knitting for the immediate foreseeable; if you don’t knit or know knitters, you are unlikely to believe how much freakin’ yarn I have to find a place to store), and it feels bad in a rather distinctive way.

When I don’t do other things I ‘should’ do, I feel bad for not doing them, but I feel good about getting to do something else. (Cf.: housework Fallout.)

When I don’t write, I feel bad for not doing it.

So I’m probably doing something right. With this penscratch-keyboard thing. Probably. (And I’ve managed to get back into the words-on-paper habit, so there’s that.)

Ravelling

I went to knitting last night, and I cast on a new project, and I knit–slowly and carefully–until my elbow politely went ping and I decided I should stop.

It did that after a hundred stitches.

For the non-knitters among you: this is not a lot. I ended up producing a swatch of fabric about as long and slightly wider than my index finger.

This is after a month of treatment and a lot of not-knitting. So I think knitting needs to get put away again. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get back to it in two months, six months, or ever.

The “not ever” option makes me a little sad, but since there’s not much I can do beyond waiting and seeing if treatment and exercise make it better, oh well.

(The number of UFOs I have hanging around will irk me a bit, though.)

On a lighter note, I got the executed contract back for my story “The Gannet Girl”, so that has a home! Expecting it to be out 2016-ish.

The proof is this…

The complete collected works of Bob Leman.
The complete collected works of Bob Leman.

I have only ever read three Bob Leman stories.

I read “Instructions” long long ago; looking at ISFDB, it would either have been in the September ’84 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction or the ’85 Year’s Best Science Fiction, years after it was published.

I read “Window” in The Best Horror Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction collection. That was years after it was published, too. It stuck with me; I didn’t remember the author’s name at the time, though.

I read “Loob” in January of 2012. It was online at Weird Fiction Review, and I was sitting in an emergency room with a friend. It was very late and we were both zoney and tired, and I was reading the story on my phone. The language seemed like it could have felt stilted, but somehow it wasn’t, and the story pulled me along, and then I hit one of the lines and it chimed.

Weird Fiction Review had an article about Bob Leman, and I looked at that too. The description of “Window” pinged a memory, and I went to look at the Best Horror Stories collection and that was when I connected “Window” to Bob Leman.

I don’t remember when I connected “Instructions” to the story I’d read. I know it was before 2014, because when I was at the Tachyon Publications table at LonCon, I interrupted myself with “You have ‘Instructions‘ by Bob Leman? Wait, the Bob Leman?” and the gentleman manning the table very kindly told me that I was well-read, and then introduced me to The Boss in the Wall by Avram Davidson and Grania Davis, who I hadn’t heard of at that point.

(LonCon was a bit rough on my bookshelf space.)

Anyway! I have been sadly poking around the Internet to see if there’s a copy of Feesters in the Lake that by some minor miracle is going for less than $250, and it turns out that while there isn’t, his daughter is hoping to put his complete fanzine online. So that will be something to look at and read through, as it goes.

In the meantime, I will sleep well, and dream of Goster County dogs.