February 13, 2015

The Quest for Pooka II

Pooka, my (relatively) loyal (as gizmos go) iPhone, is getting ready to check out permanently and go to that big Silicon Valley in the sky where she can play with all the Sinclairs and Altairs in the perfectly atmospherically controlled Elysian Fields equivalent geekily overseen by the demiurge of technology.*  I’m still hoping to get twenty years out of Wolfgang, I guess four or five years is pretty good for a mobile phone.   SIIIIIIIGH.  The first sign of trouble is that she began jumping lines while I was texting which is therefore my own fault for getting sucked into texting in the first place.  ARRRRRGH.  YOU KNOW THE WORLD WAS FULL OF INTEREST AND DELIGHT BEFORE THERE WAS TEXTING.**  But the real moment of shock, horror and brutal recognition of having arrived at the Point of No Return was when I discovered MY BELL RINGING APP WAS FRIED.***

I can no longer remember why I got flummoxed into an iPhone rather than some other mobile phone.  I’m sure there was a good† reason.††  However I want no more steep learning curves in my life††† so if I’m replacing Pooka I’m going to replace her with another iPhone, okay?  Meanwhile because EVERYTHING! has to be BIGGER!! And BRIGHTER!!! and WHIZZIER!!!! and FLASHIER!!!!!! . . . the frelling iPhone 6 has two models:  the just-larger-enough to not squash in the little pink bag that Pooka fits in and hangs around my neck‡ and the frelling ginormous sub-tablet sized. I decided I should actually see these critters before I asked Raphael to order one.  If the slightly-too-large one is TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE the earlier Pooka-sized edition is still available, it just doesn’t have all the upgradey bits that are probably mostly worth having, and I have a certain resistance to spending several hundred pounds on something that isn’t as good as something that is only slightly more insanely expensive and which latter is also less likely to go seriously passé and customer-support-free before it’s ready for the polished-aluminium Elysian Fields.  And with all this FRELLING TEXTING I’m now doing the tiny iPhone keyboard is driving me NUTS‡‡ and I thought it might just be worth having a look at the keyboard on the Ginormous Sub-Tablet.

Niall, ahem, texted me, asking if I was going ringing at Crabbiton tonight?   I guess, I replied, my fingers a blur of anguish and misspelling, but I’m thinking of going slightly the long way to have a look in at Doorknob and Beastly’s electronics department:  their web site says they have iPhone 6s and there’s a D and B on the Crabbiton side of Mauncester.  Since we’ve started carpooling I offered to pick him up:  he could look at cameras or longswords or something while I was muttering over iPhones.

We arrived at our local Doorknob and Beastly and a nice young man said, oh, we don’t have mobile phones here.‡‡‡  You have to go to the store in Drabness.  Drabness? I said, and laughed hollowly.  Drabness is Super Mall City:  it makes Disney World look like your small local county fair, with the lead-line pony class and the grapefruit-arranging contest.  Also you have to go on the motorway to go to Drabness.  I don’t drive on motorways.§  Never mind, I said.  But we’re going to be early at Crabbiton.

No, no, said Niall, Drabness is like ten minutes on the motorway from here.  We can do it easily.  NO WE CAN’T, I said.  He turned to the nice young man.  The Super Mall City end is this side, isn’t it?  Ten minutes from here?  Fifteen maybe?  Yes, said the nice young man.  It’s just straight down the motorway and you take the Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here exit and it’s right there, it’s dead simple.  NOOOOOOOO, I said, considering falling to my knees and begging for my life.  They discussed the particulars of where, exactly, weaving among Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain, we were going to find Doorknob and Beastly and then Niall shooed me out of the store saying loudly over my feverish quacking that it would be easy and he could tell me EXACTLY what to do.

We got on the motorway (under Niall’s strict direction).  With me still clucking and cheeping.

And two minutes later we ran into THE BIGGEST TRAFFIC JAM IN THE HISTORY OF BRITISH ROAD HAVOC.  Of course there were no available exits.  That would be so obvious.  Mind you it was almost worth it, sitting there breathing 1,000,000,000,000 internal combustion engines’ combined exhaust and watching all the SUVs play chicken with each other pointlessly swapping lanes, while listening to Niall apologising for getting me into this.  ALMOST.

We did get there.  Eventually.  And I’M the one found Doorknob and Beastly.§§  Just by the way.  And the Ginormous Sub-Tablet iPhone 6’s keyboard is not worth carrying—or figuring out how to carry—around something the size of a frelling DVD box.§§§  And the little one does fit into Pooka’s little pink bag . . . but it won’t, as soon as I get a cover for it.  I’ll worry about that LATER.

We even made it to Crabbiton half an hour before the end of practise.

* * *

* I’m fine with—no, I’m positively looking forward to—going down under a large many-legged wave of furry things when I finally make it through the pearly gates some moment when St Peter is looking the other way.  I’m not sure I’m joyously anticipating greeting all the technology that has gone before.  In which case I probably shouldn’t give it names and genders:  this behaviour probably leads it to believe we’re supposed to be friends.  WELL YES WE ARE.  SUPPOSED TO BE.  FRIENDS.  Arrrrrrrrrgh.

** Too frelling late now:  the genie is not only out of the bottle, she’s turned it into a flower-pot and is growing a fine healthy crop of deadly nightshade.

*** Life was going to be so much simpler if I was just going to kind of sidle away from bell ringing without ever quite giving it up officially.  Like maybe if Niall moved to Zurich and Wild Robert to Ottawa.    These people who have taught you to ring somehow seem to think, okay, you ring.  I know you ring.  SO RING.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN, KNITTING?  OR TIRED AND DEMORALISED?  I SAID RING.

†  ????????

†† Which is probably immortalised on the blog.  I DON’T WANT TO KNOW.

††† I may tell you about . . . um . . . well, maybe not tonight.

‡ I totally do not get the penchant for carrying your iPhone in your pocket.  The little fold-up non-iPhone mobiles, sure, if that’s how you want to frictionize holes in your pockets:  I tend to the Large Wodge of Keys method myself but to each his/her own.  But an iPhone—even a little old one like Pooka—is MUCH TOO LARGE.  I keep reading these reviews that report, bristling with multiple dudgeon from the highest possible of horses, that their iPhones have bent.  Usually I think that modern paraphernalia is criminally tacky and built to disintegrate on contact so you have to buy another one immediately, but in the case of people who keep their iPhones in their pockets I THINK THEY DESERVE BENT IPHONES.  If you have the thing lying next to you on the table or counter or the bookshelf by your bed^ you will not only be aware of it doing its little vibration tango^^ but even turned off it burrs at you.

^ or the back of the loo while you take your bath:  I know, for someone who is still at least 85% Luddite I’m a trifle neuromancer about my iPhone, but if I say if Peter ever actually DOES phone me when he’s had a fall rather than soldiering on alone and bleeding all over the carpet, I want to get that phone call.

^^ And on the top of the loo cistern it positively rattles like a small pink rectangular castanet

‡‡ WHY ARE THERE NO ARROW KEYS SO YOU CAN MOVE AROUND MORE PRECISELY THAN THE SCREEN WILL READ YOUR BIG FAT FINGERS?  ESPECIALLY WHEN THE PREDICTIVE FACILITY IS CORRECTING YOU IN A MORE THAN USUALLY INFURIATING WAY?  WHY ARE THERE NO ARROW KEYS?

‡‡‡ YOUR FRELLING WEB SITE SAYS YOU DO.  It’s a national chain, right?  So you look narrowly at the listings for both your shop and your desired item, looking for any warning about ‘not all outlets have all listed merchandise’ or similar . . . or a phone number for your local shop rather than the random national 800 number that will leave you on hold for half an hour while playing Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons on six kazoos and an eggbeater very loudly in your ear.  I used to like Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons.

§ Highways. The forty-eight lane kind where the slow lane is going 80 mph and the fast lane is in orbit.

§§ It wasn’t even that large. Two acres tops. Okay maybe three.

§§§ Anybody wanting to carry this sucker around in a pocket is going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe. With Kevlar pockets.

Nice Things*

HERO won the Newbery thirty years ago.  Thirty.  How scary is that.

Anyway some silly person thought it might be amusing to interview me on the subject.  Fortunately they sent me a list of questions which enabled me to choose questions I could, you know, answer.  The Tor list a few weeks ago was way too full of pop-culture questions I couldn’t answer;  this one was full of state-of-the-YA-book-world questions and I HAVE NO CLUE.  I read what I read when I read it, because I saw it on the library shelf, because another unsteady crag of books at the cottage overbalanced and cannoned across the room and I had an ‘oooh, shiny’ reaction, because someone recommended it/sent me a copy, because the Kindle ebook was too cheap to ignore.  At the moment I’m reading a Barbara Hambly I seem to have missed (cannoning crag), catching up on the Dana Stabenows that have come out since I wandered away from murder mysteries about a decade ago (you have to pass through the mystery section at the library to get to the F&SF section), OUTPOST which is a post-apocalyptic thriller by new writer Adam Baker (I DON’T READ POST-APOCALYPTIC THRILLERS but I picked it up off the library shelf and liked the first few pages—especially that a male thriller writer should start his first novel writing sympathetically about a fat woman) and QUIET by Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking** (cheap Kindle, but I was going to read it anyway)***.  I’ve just finished SCULPTOR by Scott McCloud (amazing graphic novel, an early copy arrived unsolicited in the post, THANK YOU First Second Books) and have started THE HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, BIPOLAR DISORDER AND OTHER MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS by two homeopaths I’ve been reading for years, and am about halfway through HOMEOPATHY FOR TODAY’S WORLD by another homeopath I’ve been reading for years.   Not a YA in sight.  Not this week.  Ask me next week.  I’m trying to remember the last YA I read—Jacqueline Wilson’s MY SISTER JODIE, possibly, but she’s not even YA:  she’s kids.  She’s real stuff, real life for kids, and I love her for it. †

Anyway.  Don’t ask me about any state of any book world, because I won’t know.  But here’s an interview with me on the subject of winning a Newbery and, you know, writing stories and stuff.

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2015/01/guest-interview-open-road-media-chats-with-robin-mckinley-about-her-career-and-winning-the-newbery-award-for-the-hero-and-the-crown †††

 * * *

* Alcestis’ funeral went off very well, I think.  The speakers knew what they were doing, and Alcestis had an interesting life and so no struggling for material was necessary.  There were even some good laughs.  There were photos of her all over the walls which I couldn’t bear to look at—Admetus has promised me a private showing some time—and the day was clear and lovely and not too cold, and the track down to the tree she’d chosen to be buried under was not too muddy.  She’d said she’d chosen it for the view, and it has a good view:  but I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that everything about the funeral was to her plans and instructions;  I could hear her saying that she’d chosen that tree and this view.

There was a Land Rover to take anyone who didn’t want to struggle with the footing—and the hill—and that included Peter.  The car followed us down to the gravesite, but preceded us going back up again, which meant I went frelling HARING up the blasted hill so Peter didn’t have to sit around in the empty café wondering if I’d fallen into a ravine or something.  I should have just gone in the car too.

** I ranked 18 out of 20 again on the standard introvert test:  the only questions I have to answer ‘no’ to are, do my friends find me self-effacing and laid back? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA and, would I rather die than do public speaking?  No.  It’s not that big a deal.  Which I’ve told you before always makes me feel like someone else is living in my body with me.  This personality should not be able to do public speaking but it/we can.

*** It’s even better than I’d hoped.  The problem with the current fashion in popular science is that certain of the tropes MAKE ME NUTS, like the way everyone the author interviews has to have their clothing and their twinkling eyes described.  Cut to the chase.  I usually object to the author writing him/herself into the story constantly too but in this case it works a treat because Cain is writing as an introvert in an extrovert-preferring world.  I was reading an article in TIME recently^ about the internet-fueled explosion of grass-roots sharing, bartering, selling.  One of the fastest growers in this market is car pooling and the author remarks blandly and cluelessly that of course commuting in company is preferable because driving by yourself is SO BORING.  There speaks the unthinking extrovert.  Driving is bad enough without having to make frelling conversation.

^ Mind you the magazine could be anything up to years old.  Speaking of unsteady crags of reading material.

† Um . . . actually I do remember the last YA I read.  It’s by a VERY FAMOUS WRITER and I HATED IT.  IT WAS BLISTERINGLY FRELLING TERRIBLE AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY IT WAS EVEN PUBLISHED AND I WILL NEVER READ ANOTHER BOOK BY THIS INCOMPETENT CREEP OF AN AUTHOR EVER AGAIN.

†† And there’s also this, which several more people have sent me links to since Open Road first pointed it out:

http://time.com/3650304/writers-favorite-ya-books/

And it’s lovely, and I know I’m being a black hole of negativity but . . . she read it when she was eight?  I know precocious preteens read it all over the map and that’s great, the sooner and oftener girls growing up get told that girls do things too^ the better, but EIGHT?  She was precocious even as precocious goes.  And this fills me with dread and trembling for a whole fresh onslaught of angry eight year olds and their teachers, parents and librarians telling me that HERO is too hard for children.  Well yes, it is.  It’s not for children.  I got entire classrooms of kids writing me letters of protest when HERO’s Newbery was new:  the Newbery does say children’s literature.  I hope maybe that people reading the TIME article will go, oh, wow, well, she grew up to be a writer, so she was probably a precocious reader, and the headline does say YA novels . . . Listen, everyone, it’s really depressing getting bashed for something you wrote for any reason^^, but it’s extra depressing when you think, guys, if you’d only waited a few years. . . .

^  I’ve said this a gazillion times on the blog, but when I was a Young Writer Starting Out I assumed my generation of writers would have totally solved the Active Protagonist Gender Bias.  This hasn’t happened.  There are still a lot of frelling wet girls out there, including in books written recently.  So we still need heroines that do their own dragon-whacking.  Aerin has plenty of company . . . but not enough company.  Okay, you following generations of writers.  Get with the programme.^

^ Although I’m preaching to the converted on this blog.  Fans of Elsie Dinsmore or Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa are not subscribers.

^^ Except sheer jerkitude.  ‘I didn’t finish your stupid book because I wanted to read endless mushy romance when they stand around staring into each other’s eyes for chapters and chapters and the dragon was REALLY BORING!’ +

+ You’d be surprised.  Except for the ‘mushy’ this is nearly word for word.

††† The bio is about forty years out of date.  I will ask them to let me bring it up to 2015.^  And I don’t put commas before ‘too’.  That’s a copyeditor following house style.

^ YAAAAY.  They did.  Thank you!