December 31, 2013

Another day bites the dust


So I’m short of sleep (again).  The hellhounds weren’t eating (again) last night so I got to bed later than desirable.  And still had to get up in time to sprint down to the mews for the speech therapist coming at 9:30.*  Which meant that I spent the hours I did have for sleep waking up every half hour and looking anxiously at the clock (which necessitates turning the light on and focusing) in fear that I’d slept through the alarm.  IT’S STILL DARK OUT.  IT’S PROBABLY STILL NIGHT, ALTHOUGH I ADMIT THIS TIME OF YEAR THAT IS NOT GUARANTEED.  I finally got up about twenty minutes before the alarm would have gone off. . . .

AND THEN SHE DIDN’T COME.  THE SPEECH THERAPIST DIDN’T COME.  Between diabolical hospital car parks and the non-arrival of therapists—we haven’t had a new one yet, and at the moment they’re all new, who doesn’t get lost trying to find us.  Yes okay we are modestly tricky to find but don’t you guys TALK to each other???  So even when they arrive they’re always frelling late—THE NHS IS STARTING TO GET ON MY LAST REMAINING NERVE.


Speaking of experience informing writing, I occasionally wish I could grab a ‘High Forsoothly’ author and stick them on a horse for 5 days, see how far they could travel and whether they might start actually cleaning their horse’s hooves occasionally (not that I put Kes in this category.)

And take its tack on and off, and check it and clean it occasionally, and groom the wretched animal (including its feet) and FEED IT.  Good grief.  Horses take a lot of feeding because basic grazing is low-cal.  And you can only carry so much grain/concentrates/what-have-you on your epic journey before this gets counterproductive:  hence your horse needs hours of grazing.**  And, you know, rest.  Like it was a live animal or something.

It never ceases to confound me how clueless, erm, storytellers can be.  What’s their excuse for not having spent two minutes to realise that you don’t turn a live animal on and off like you do a computer or a car?  The other thing I always think of when I am faced with one of these horse-shaped vehicles is, hasn’t the author ever had a pet, to have some clue about the whole care-and-feeding issue?

Not that this is necessarily enough.  When I was a young writer and hadn’t yet realised there is a vast political/hierarchical labyrinth between writers and readers***, I did some falling in with the wrong crowd.  I was immediately made uneasy by the acolyte system† that a few of the big names had allowed to build itself around them.  I also became semi-friends with an acolyte of a writer who had a particularly extensive worshipper cult.  My semi-friend had written a story for her demiurge, and it had a horse in it.  So she asked me if I’d read it before she submitted it.  I said yes.

Erm.  Well, it was a story.  With a horse in it.  The problem that I thought I could address was that she was treating the horse like her pet cat.  She wasn’t quite opening tins of tuna for it but . . . close.  I made a couple of suggestions which she did not take in good part.††  And she made sure to tell me a month or two later that her Most High had rejected the story for her next fanfic anthology, listing weaknesses I had let her down by failing to mention and not alluding to the unchanged horse/cat at all.



. . .  I agree [with CateK], but have found that authors who don’t know diddly about horses and want to use horses will ask for help and then not use it. Because they’ve already decided that a) the horse care doesn’t really matter as it’s only fiction, b) they don’t want to spend words on it, c) they had what they wanted to do with a horse in the story all worked out and you’re just getting in the way. Then sometimes they mention the one who gave them the right information in the acknowledgments, with fulsome thanks, while doing exactly what they were told was impossible, thus making the one who gave them the advice looks really, really incompetent. You can drag a writer to the fount of information, but you cannot make him/her USE it.

YES.  THIS.  Moan, moan, moan.  There are still books out there—but I can hope they’re all OP—with my name on the acknowledgements page.  NOOOOOOOO.  I DIDN’T DO IT.  THAT’S NOT WHAT I SAID.  THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANTIT’S NOT MY FAULT.†††

(And saying that puts me on a very slippery knife-edge, because heaven knows I don’t know everything about everything I’ve ever put in a book. I try, but…fall short. . . .)

Yes.  This too.  When you’re already having a bad night, this is one of the ruts of conscience that will keep you awake indefinitely.  It’s the things you didn’t know you needed to look up that probably haunt me the worst.  I knew I was on shaky ground with Taks’ Japanese, but thought I could just about get away with it since it was only a few words and he’d spoken only English for years.  But . . . I’m sure I’ve told you this story . . . BEAUTY’s canary was originally female.  My copyeditor told me that only male canaries sing much.


* * *

* No, I don’t have to be there.  But while the therapists are still figuring out what Peter needs I don’t want to miss anything.  And the speech therapist is probably the most important.

** Wild horses spend their lives grazing, you know?  We’re interrupting the flow.

*** Some writers and some readers.  Some of my best non-writing friends read me.  Some of my best non-writing friends don’t.  But there is a large social element of weirdness in the corner of genre publishing I know anything about, and while I’ve met people at SF&F cons and book conventions who have gone on to become friends . . . the graphic weirdness that inevitably comes with being a writer at one of these extravaganzas is a major reason why I don’t mind not going to them any more.

† Caveats here too.  Some authors can’t help having groupies;  it’s the way their books are read, or the luck of the draw, or that the media found them in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person and made a groupie-attracting story out of it, or something.  And some authors do a genuine and generous job of mentoring.  But a few of them merely relish being adored, and behave accordingly.

†† The McKinley Learning Curve.  Sigh.

††† It was my evil twin.


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