14 March 2013

Book review: Ein Gas Blut

Ein Glas Blut by Selim Özdogan

I've recently gotten a borrower's card at UNC libraries, which means I can check out any of the zillions of books in their stacks. This is exciting. So I checked out a book by Turkish German writer Selim Özdogan.

Ein Glas Blut (a glass of blood) is a collection of short prose and prose poetry, and a few spoken-word pieces. A lot of them are about love, the end of love, relationships, etc. There's one fairy tale and a biting social commentary piece, Vibrationshintergrund (Vibration Background), which you can read here in translation.

Literary fiction isn't my usual preference, but I enjoyed the pieces in this collection enough to order a copy for myself.

06 March 2013

On Saying No

Yesterday on twitter, I came across this article, which purports to be about the pros and cons of "being agreeable and saying yes." Except there's just one little paragraph about the perils (being overextended), and the rest of it is about why you should always say yes, even if you're already overextended.

If you will pardon my French, bullshit.

Saying no is a valid response. Looking at how many things you've already agreed to do and how many other things are going on in your life (like maintaining relationships, raising a child, working a 9-5 job to keep food on the table, illnesses, etc) and knowing that you just can't do everything is an important skill. You have to protect yourself.

I also wonder how much of the scutwork of housekeeping and childraising falls to Salesses' wife while he overextends himself, and who has, he believes, his best interests in mind when she tells him to say no, but does he consider her feelings? Does he consider that maybe she's overextended because of his foolish insistence on saying yes? Not in this particular text.

He generalizes his personal experiences to everyone. Because a few times he got some good opportunities by always saying yes, everyone should always say yes. First off, not everyone gets invitations to write things for people. Most of us just have to write our stuff and send it off to magazines or agents or editors and hope they like it enough to buy it. Once you've established yourself somewhat, that's when the invitations to write for anthologies come in.

Second off, not everyone has the privilege he does. Not everyone has a wife who is willing to pick up the slack when he can't do his share of the housework because he's too busy. (I assume; he doesn't go into detail, and I refuse to give the Good MRA Project any pageviews to read his other writing.) Women still perform the majority of household chores, even if they work outside the home and the male partner does "some" housework. (Here are some numbers.)

In our society, women are taught to always be agreeable, always say yes, and if we have to say no, to do it with a smile and as gently as possible. Women who say no are bitches, disagreeable, cold. Articles like Salesses' perpetuate this particular thread of misogyny. (Before you react, no, he's not addressing women specifically, but we do make up half the population.)

I had a job once where I could literally not say no to anything, because my (female) bosses would guilt trip me until I agreed, or tell me what a horrible, disagreeable person I was because I'd already made plans with someone else for Friday night and it's Thursday, and you can't just drop new work in someone's lap like that. Or because I had strep throat and was too sick to go to work, let alone drive two hours each way for a monthly conference, which made me disagreeable and not a team player. It was a seriously toxic situation, which was fortunately only a one-year contract position.

Saying no is valid. Saying no when you know you're too busy, too sick, or just don't have enough interest in it is valid. It is self-protection.

I don't talk much about my health in this forum, but I'm chronically ill. I have hypothyroidism and two kinds of migraines (typical and variant). If I don't get enough sleep over a period of time, I get a migraine and am not functional until it goes away. If I'm lucky, it's a typical migraine and a triptan makes it go away. If I'm unlucky, it's the abdominal variant, which I just have to ride out. Either way, I spend the rest of the day in post-migraine fog. Through experience, I've learned that I can be two hours low for three days before I get the early warning signs that I need to get to bed early. (Which is why I missed the post-Hugo fun at WorldCon last year. I'd hit that wall. Now I know that I should plan sleep accordingly, because post-Hugo fun looked awesome.) [And my migraines are also linked to minor perturbations in thyroid hormone balance. Fun!]

If I took Salesses' advice and always said yes, I wouldn't be getting enough sleep to function*, and I'd spend half my time sick. Which is counterproductive, don't you think? If I were Salesses, I would generalize my experience based on my health and say that people should always say no.

But I'm not him, so I'll say that every person gets to decide for him- or herself which new projects or tasks they want to say yes to and which they want to say no to. They get to base that on whatever criteria they feel are most important. Every writer gets to decide whether the invitation to write a story for an anthology is worth it, whether the call for submissions that just opened up and they have a great story that isn't more than a line on a card at the moment is worth dropping other things, potentially at the risk of missing a deadline. They know what's best for their careers and their personal lives.

No one else gets to decide for you. You can be disagreeable. You can do the things you need to do to maintain. Like they say, put your own air mask on before helping others. Tell the people who think you always have to say yes to take a hike.


*well, no one's beating down my door with anthology invitations and column proposals, but if they were and I were as overextended as Salesses.

05 March 2013

Hi again!

I didn't quite realize it had been since mid-January that I last posted. Oops.

I successfully wrote a 3500-word story from an outline, but I haven't heard back on its submission yet.

I started outlining a novel, using the same Mary Way as above, based on the events surrounding "Something There Is," and I've got 30-odd scenes notecarded (in Scrivener, not on real paper), plus a few backstory vignettes. There are things I still need to work out, like what happens with the characters who sort of disappear halfway through, but hey. Outlining and planning. I feel like I should add more detail into the scene cards. One benefit of Scrivener is that I'm not limited to a 3x4" piece of paper.

Which may mean I end up splitting some of the scenes into multiple scenes, but that's probably good?

I've been reading stuff, some in German, some in English, some fiction, some non. Planning means research! I may or may not end up writing up reviews for the blog. We'll see.

Ben and I have embarked on a housecleaning mission. We're spending one afternoon a month focusing on one room (or one part of a room) in the house. We *might* get through the whole house by the end of the year, and no, we don't have 12 rooms. We just have a lot of stuff accumulated in chaotic stacks. And half a dozen old computers. But I can actually reach my bookshelves again, and I rearranged them so they're no longer double-stacked, and I made the not-SF side somewhat more organized, though it's still fairly chaotic and not alphabetized. I shoved some books I still have from college together, because they were from the same class, for example. I can find things, anyway, and that's the important part.

The SF side is mostly alphabetized, and series are in chronological order. Except the oversize or hardback books that don't fit on the paperback shelf; they're separate. But I know where to look.

I have many boxes of old photos that I should really scan, but that will be a lot of effort. And the computer that supports the scanner I have (which only runs on OS 9) is 8 years old, and Photoshop Elements likes to crash because it eats up all the RAM. And also there are like thousands of pictures. And old family photos in albums. I should scan those, though, so they don't completely fade. It'll take months, probably.