Because it’s funny.
I just came THIS CLOSE to naming a character “Breast” in Greek! More like chicken breast than boob, but still! I wanted a Greek-y sounding name, and the word “Stithos” came to mind, and I thought it sounded awesome, but luckily it occurred to me to look it up. Do your research, kids!
Apparently I eat a lot of Greek food.
(It’s been a while since I wrote an Origins post! If you’re interested in the previous instalments, here’s the first one, or you can check out the “Roots” category under the “Preoccupations” heading on the sidebar.)
I sometimes hesitate to bring up my influences because it can create inaccurate expectations. If I list Tolkien as an influence, you might assume I’ve written a sword and sorcery quest book. If I mention Neil Gaiman, suddenly my book (in your imagination) turns into a Goth girl with black nails and an ankh necklace. Which would be awesome, but nothing like my book.
I guess my caveat here is that influence isn’t the same as resemblance. If you want to know who I write like, I would protest loudly that I’m probably the least qualified person to answer that question. If you won’t accept that answer, I might say, “John Green?” in a squeaky little voice. Which is nuts, right? Except that it’s not: we’re both preoccupied with epistemology and our books are full of nerds. I’d call that a resemblance. (I fully expect this to come back and bite me someday, when somebody sends me an irate letter saying, “Hey! Your book is fantasy! I was expecting John Green!” Allow me to say preemptively: Oh, were you? Oops.)
I can’t call Green an influence, though, because I never read any of his books until Seraphina was pretty much done, and my husband has not yet invented that time machine I keep asking for. (Confidential to my husband: DUDE. TIME MACHINE. I need it like, yesterday.)
I consider influences to be writers (or others) who have taught me something new and expanded my understanding of what is possible in art, people I technically owe a thank-you note or maybe even a fruit basket. Seraphina and I owe this debt of gratitude to Terry Pratchett, Lois McMaster Bujold, and George Eliot (TIME MACHINE, NEUTRINO MAN).
The site is beginning to see some traffic from people who haven’t known me for years. That’s wonderful!
It’s also slightly comical timing, since I just spent the last week and a half raving about YES. It’s a bit like answering the door in your underwear. Oops. Um, yes, I was just dancing to “Don’t Kill the Whale”, ha ha. I’ll just, um, get dressed now, shall I?
All right. Much better. Welcome, darlings.
I promised my editor that when we got to this point I’d be ready to serve tea and discuss Proust – and we can certainly do that. But I am a person of myriad enthusiasms and variable attention. I tend to go a lot of different directions, sometimes all at once. I’m not good at maintaining a decorous and dignified façade. Rather than pretending to be something I’m not (calm, aloof), it’s better to be up front about what I am.
I’m a laugher, first and foremost. If it makes me laugh, it wins. I love many kinds of music, but especially the nerdy kinds: prog rock, early and ancient music, classical music, bagpipe music. I am interested in psychology, neurology, and archaeology; I am a passionate amateur Medievalist. I am a dog person, not a cat person. I like trying strange foods just to try them. I find travelling to new places exciting and renewing. I love my family and friends more than anything, but require vast tracts of time alone. I am an Epicurean and an atheist who dabbles in meditation. I used to belly dance, and will again once I find a new teacher. I love plants, rain, reading, occasional TV, and baseball (go Cardinals!). I once spoke very good Spanish and passable Irish, and could read ancient Greek, but I haven’t kept up on any of them, I’m afraid.
Second only to laughing, I enjoy thinking. If you make me think, you win. Consider it a challenge. Hm. I like challenges too. That’s one reason I became a writer: because it’s HARD.
Please make yourselves at home. Sit anywhere. Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge (although knowing me it’s something strange). I’ll be in and out, puttering about.
I’m happy you’re here.
There are days this isn’t fun, the whole writing business. Days I say to myself, “You know what would be fun? ACCOUNTING. Numbers don’t break your heart. Nobody imbues them with an emotional significance above and beyond their face value. They are predictable and constant and simple. Awwww, numbers, my dearest friends!”
Then I begin to notice that I’m already imbuing them with emotional significance, and I haven’t even added a single digit yet. Apparently putting an emotional charge upon the world is what I DO.
There is nothing so simple I can’t make it complicated.
My mother once gave her French friend a can of Easy Cheese as a joke. “This is what passes for cheese in America,” she said, spraying it onto a cracker. Her French friend politely tried it, struggling not to gag, and then said in a tiny voice, “I believe I prefer… Difficult Cheese.”
That story really resonates with me. I, too, prefer Difficult Cheese, where “cheese” stands for just about anything you care to name. I am drawn to complexity; I consider it worth the struggle. I like the agon; I go looking for walls to kick down and challenges I can punch in the face. I’m a pugilist, by nature and by choice.
The life of the mind results in a shocking number of bruises, but they heal.
All right, I think I’ve refined my YES post so that it’s no longer full of crazy ranting (eg. “Cans and Brahms” – why did you do it, Rick Wakeman? WHYYY?) and is now more pertinent to where music intersects with my writing process.
Because that’s really why we’re here, right? For the writing process goodness? Sure we are.
(OMG, this ended up long and nerdy ANYWAY, despite all my best efforts. Proceed only if you really think you can handle it.)
Hello, all! I had a very nice Canadian Thanksgiving, right up until the part where I came down with an ugly cold. I’m still getting over it – and getting over travelling, which is its own special kind of headache.
I’m not up for much of anything today, which made for a frustrating writing day. I’ve been listening to Talk while I write, which is what got me obsessing about YES in the first place. Over the weekend I listened to Time and a Word, which Els’s comment reminded me existed. It had never been one of my favourites, frankly. It always struck me as kind of loopy, but this time I found it delightfully, exuberantly loopy and I don’t think it was the cold meds.
While I’m convalescing, here’s an exuberantly loopy Chris Squire concert solo called “Whitefish”, illustrating why he’s one of my favourite bass players.
Oh, all right, I always have a soft spot for bass; I was a cellist back in the day. But that’s one reason Squire stands out to me: his travelling, almost melodic bass lines remind me of Baroque music. It’s almost a basso ostinato; in some of his solo work, it absolutely is.
And now that I’ve been THAT NERDY, maybe it’s time to sign off.
It’s Thanksgiving this weekend, darlings. I know a number of my readers may have been unaware of this fact. I hope I’ve told you in enough time that you can still do something festive.
Here in Vancouver, it is traditional to drink coffee and pretend it isn’t raining. Some days that’s harder than others.
I’d meant to have a more interesting post up this week. I’ve been working on it in bits and pieces for days, and it is gruesomely nerdy. It’s about the band YES, which isn’t even my favourite band. It’s just the band that has the most trivia lodged in my head, along with a outrageous opinions about which album is their best (Drama), whether Tales from Topographic Oceans is even remotely listenable (it is), and who would win a Jon Anderson vs Chris Squire cage match to the death (Squire, no question).
Every time I was about to hit publish, one of two things would stop me. Either 1) I thought of something else I really needed to say about YES (Talk is my second favourite album! Take that, soulless minions of orthodoxy!), or 2) I remembered that most people have only ever heard “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, think it’s kind of stupid, and really won’t give a crap about the rest of it.
Which makes me sad, I admit, because “Owner of a Lonely Heart” really is kind of stupid.
I was going to just delete the whole damn thing, but then I was at White Spot with my son (note to non-Canadians: White Spot is like an upscale Denny’s [minus the all-day breakfast] where you can get wine with your chicken Caesar salad), and I suddenly noticed the background Muzak wasn’t Muzak at all. It was “Siberian Khatru” — not a bowdlerized version, no, but the real thing. And I said to myself: Look at all these old people grooving out over chicken pot pie and yam fries! YES is still relevant. Even Siberia goes through the motions!
I realize only the very meanest teachers give homework over Thanksgiving, so here’s an extra credit project, if you care to undertake it. Go listen to a Yes song that isn’t “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. If you are conversant in Classic Rock Radio and already know “Roundabout” and “I’ve Seen All Good People”, then challenge yourself to find something more obscure. “Starship Trooper” or “Onward” or “Don’t Kill the Whale*” (stop laughing!) or “Gates of Delirium”. Then I’ll come back next week and you’ll understand the lecture.
Or, y’know, you can sleep through class next week and borrow somebody’s notes. The midterm isn’t until the end of the month.
* “Don’t Kill the Whale” is also kinda stupid, but it has the distinction of also being kinda hilarious. It’s got this insane shrieking electronic hornpipe thing going on in the middle, I swear, bookended by ridiculously earnest lyrics and Chris Squire just about as loony as he’s ever been on bass. Funny, funny stuff. I think I’ll go listen to it right now!
(Catch you all next week! Happy Thanksgiving!)