Wednesday, March 29, 2006


OK, here we go again, only this time the rollercoaster is a little weirder....

Since the middle of last week, Lisa has been feeling, well, strange. She’s complained of increasing numbness in her left foot, weakness in her knees, and went in the course of three days from using a cane occasionally to needing a three-sided walker. Naturally, we went to her oncologist, and, equally naturally, he ordered an MRI to see what the remains of the tumor were doing.

The answer is, apparently, nothing. What has happened is that she has suffered radiation necrosis: part of the (formerly) healthy brain tissue has died, and its death is causing swelling that is affecting more healthy but endangered brain tissue, and could eventually cause that tissue to die as well. Right now, the problems are in the cerebellum and around the big nerves that allow the brain to perceive where the body actually is. In other words, her right brain no longer knows what her left foot is doing. If she looks at it, and concentrates, she can put it where she needs it to be, but not any other way.

We knew this could happen. We knew that the chances were greater the more times she did radiation, but it seemed to be a reasonable trade-off, given the location of the tumor and its inaccessibility to conventional surgery. But it sure ain’t fun.

Right now, her doctor has her on steroids again, to reduce the swelling and hopefully minimize any further damage. Since it’s not safe for her to go up and down our house’s stairs any more (and those who have visited will understand!), we are in the process of moving our bedroom downstairs into what used to be my office. My office will go upstairs into what used to be the bedroom - that’s about 2000 books, two filing cabinets stuffed with papers, the desk top, two chairs, several boxes of notes, etc. (you remember the boxes I pulled out of the attic? now I get to take them back upstairs again), two guitars, a (small!) amplifier, all my office supplies, my sewing machine and boxes of fabric, all of which have to be pried out of their niches in a 12 foot by 13 foot space and carried up a steep flight of stairs. Oh, yes, and two bookcases have to be chopped in half, because they won’t fit any other way.

In return, we bring down the two twin platforms, the king-sized mattress, the television, at least one dresser, and all Lisa’s clothes. Oh, yes, and the several hundred books that live in the bedroom. And the videos. And buy Lisa a laptop (and us a wifi hub) so she can work wherever she happens to be.

And at some point, we need to find time to paint at least the new bedroom, because we are not going to make this purely utilitarian. Yes, we have to do this, just as we had to install handholds on the toilet and buy a laptop so she can work where she feels most comfortable. But we are also going to make it as pleasant and positive as possible.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cat Darensbourg, or, Why I Hate (Love) Boskone

I think I mentioned, back when I was obsessing about the Knitting Olympics (and no, the sweater isn’t finished yet, thanks for asking...), that I’d had a rather good thing happen at the autographing at this year’s Boskone. (OK, two good things, because Ken MacLeod knew who I was. But I digress.)

The Big Good Thing came about in a totally unexpected way. As many of you may know, I wrote a trilogy back in the late ‘80s about a starship pilot named Silence Leigh, her two husbands, and their quest to find the lost planet, Earth. It was set in a universe where neoplatonic magic had turned out to be an accurate understanding of physical laws, and in which a profoundly patriarchal society controlled human space, the latter being a logical consequence of the assumptions behind traditional alchemy. (The books are Five-Twelfths of Heaven, Silence in Solitude, and The Empress of Earth, also collected by the Science Fiction Book Club as The Roads of Heaven; they are, however, out of print.) I’ve been asked many times if I was ever going to do anything more with Silence, and have had to say no. Understand, I’ve tried. I’d come up with an idea that looked promising, start sketching, and feel it fizzle out. Although I’m reluctant to grant too much autonomy to my characters, it really felt as though Silence, Denis, and Julie were living happily ever after and declined to be disturbed. (Or, alternatively, the most important problems in their lives had been met and resolved, and anything else would be an anticlimax.) However you defined it, though, I couldn’t seem to write about them.

So when Cat Darensbourg came up to me at the autograph table, and asked if there would be any more Silence books, I pretty much had the answer down pat. But then she said it.

“Have you considered doing any more books in that universe? Maybe about how the systems were developed, how the first keels were tuned, and the people who explored the new science?”

I’m still not quite sure what it was that clicked. I think it was mentioning the people who make the ships, and who developed the systems, and that somehow clicked into a very different idea that I’ve been mulling over for a while. (I wrote a short story called “The Sweet Not-Yet,” which you can find in Imagination Fully Dilated: Science Fiction, which is about a man who lost his memory in the adjacent possible, the sweet not-yet, and it’s been trying to become a novel....)

“Oh,” I said, with great intelligence. “Oh, wow. Please don’t take this wrong, but I think I hate you....”

Because I knew that I was condemned to spending several hours in the cold, dusty attic, digging my old box of Silence notes out from behind not one but two dead air conditioners (don’t ask), and I had another idea I’d been working on, and a short story I needed to finish, and the last thing I needed was a new story that was going to obsess me completely....

You get the idea.

But I got the notes (the air conditioners were exactly as heavy and unwieldy as I remembered), re-read them and some other material, and started sketching. I have a working title - The Queens of Glasstown - protagonists, several secondary characters, and the beginnings of a plot. I know what the world feels like, and where I want the story to end.

So, however belatedly, thank you, Cat - I think!w