by MK Martin
You are born, and cannot choose to be so. And then, you begin.
You grow, kid, having been told here and there what a brilliant bit of potential you are. You look at your reflection and wonder what part of your expression shows it, before running off to scrape a knee. You wonder if this potential will kick in, or what? Your body is angles, or overflow, your dimples no longer cute, but something to squat away. Your intelligence needs to find a use, not just be there. Your head does most of the talking for you, before you can intervene. You begin to write things down, just to get the words out of your head. The world around you is thrilled: you have produced.
You wander, youth, looking for whatever parts of you that might have been scattered to the ends of the earth, when the star-stuff you were exploded upon impact. Being in one place with yourself all the time has become intolerable. Shiny bits of glistening gases, forlorn wishes and songs alight your path, but which is a shard of your golden heart, and which is the fool's gold strewn about to confuse you? A pack strapped to your back splits, the sky opens and halcyon hail pelts you in the head, knocking you to the sand. Heart, how can you do this to us? You did not choose this adventure, but then, you always did do things the hard way.
Cry, rattle, ruin, rail. React, reflect, release, wail.
You arrive, 'adult', at the time you are allowed to be respected. What choices you've brought along with you, in your bag, settle comfortably in the cobwebbed corner and repetition comes to call. At first, its notions are breathy, easy. Then louder, longer, sweeping sobs of echoing motion: the moaning ourobouros of maintaining life. Outside, the calming strum of nature mentions your name, and suddenly you take up walking. Each step pounds out a thought into the dirt, lightening your layered cranium; freeing it of sound and sinew and sorrow which were slowly burying the fossils of your motivation.
The days cease to scream for their lives, and a figure you never expected to see casts a slight shadow against your endless horizon. She is shorter, somewhat bent and frailer than you. But the steel of her eye catches the waning light, and its reflection sears its beam into your own retina: three more crow's feet to mark the occasion. She is smiling readily, and you wonder what it's like to do that. Her hands are busy At Work, and the deep creases in her forehead move with her, their geometric design belying her thoughts: which are at rest. At rest.
writes from the hip, the heart, the tree and the old fashioned pen. She resides somewhere on a hill in Canada, while belonging to three other humans, two cats and one thousand plants. As for the rest: who knows?
by Ofeibea Loveless
What was that?!?”
I’m jerked awake by the question, bleary-eyed confusion giving way to panic when I see the look on Mandisa’s face. Her round eyes are wide, her lip trembling, as she stares in the rearview mirror of Mirabella’s SUV.
I turn around to glance through the back window and see garment bags, strewn about I-75, being run over by small cars, SUVs and semi-trucks. OUR garment bags.
We’re six and a half hours into the trip to Atlanta for DragonCon...and some of the costumes we’d spent months planning and working on are getting demolished on a crowded Georgia highway.
“Pull over!” I screech.
Mandisa whips the SUV over to the side of the road and slams it into park. She immediately hops out of the vehicle and starts running along the median toward the busted garment bags. When she reaches them, she becomes Player 1 in a human game of Frogger, darting out into traffic and snagging pieces of clothing here and there, and then darting back to the median.
For a second, Mirabella and I are stunned into inaction before I go nearly apoplectic.
“OH MY GOD! GET OUT OF THE G*DD@MN ROAD!” I roar.
Semi-truck horns blare loud enough to burst eardrums and cars are whizzing by us and I’m stomping toward Mandisa to get her to stop running out into traffic. This is NOT worth anyone getting hurt. They’re just costumes…certainly not worth anyone’s life.
A fellow cosplayer was kind enough to come to a complete stop and block the far left lane so that we could collect most of what hadn’t been scattered to the wind.
“I’ve been there,” she says, smiling solemnly.
We eventually made it to our hotel, tired and sweaty from running and crying. But we ended up with plenty of photos and memories to show that the TREACHEROUS DRAGONCON GARMENT BAG INCIDENT of 2016 didn’t stop us from having a good time.
These days, we can laugh about what a disaster that trip down to DragonCon was. It was a test of our mettle, a story we recount to our friends and family, one that has come to define how much we care about cosplaying…and each other.
However, the idea of putting anything in a carrier strapped to the top of a vehicle will always make my eye twitch.
is the mechanic for Airship Ashanti, a steampunk group that focuses on multiculturalism and philanthropy in the steampunk community. She is also the co-founder of the Midwest Black Speculative Fiction Alliance. Ofeibea Loveless' airship laughs at borders.
Some time back, while working on a project with my dear friend, London-based author, musician and generally clever and witty individual Joe Craig, conversation turned to the spelling of "traveling." "Should we use the American or the British spelling?" he asked. Well as it turns out, there is a difference. And this, of course, started a somewhat tangential line of thought bringing me to the word "alot" or the two words "a" and "lot" when used together as another talented, beautiful and intelligent (if somewhat grammar obsessed) friend of mine would be quick to point out.
Millions of people have decided for whatever reason that "alot" is one word. I like it. This is what language is in fact about (or "infact," I mean why not?): a consensus of the masses, evolving, mutating, blending and changing in order to keep up with our evolving, mutating, blending and changing culture. Just look at how social media has changed the meaning of words like "friend," "like," "trend" or the ever precious "tweet," previously reserved for Mary Poppins types.
One of the many things that makes the English language and its dialects (and yes from Wales to Witchitaw, it has many) so sumptuous is its nimble nature. Unlike many languages where a simple intonation can change a word’s meaning or where the language has remained static for centuries, English is alive, adaptive and flexible. This allows for endless possibilities, particularly in the world of song and poetry.
My father once pointed out what he considered a fairly stretched rhyme in a Mick Jagger tune: "life is a-bitchin', just like a politician." I have no grievance with that rhyme itself, but am somewhat disappointed in the laziness of the lyric, the flaccid poetry. Poet, author and Virginia Tech Professor Nikki Giovanni once referred to songwriting as "dumbed-down poetry." And while my knee-jerk reaction was defensive, this is the type of lyric that proves that point. If a song is melody and poetry, then there are plenty of examples of laziness on both sides.
However when Bob Dylan says:
“in another lifetime, one of toil and blood,
when blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud,
I came in from the wilderness a creature void of form,
come in she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
There is no denying the poetry. Another friend asked me if I had a favorite lyric. While I have many, the one that immediately leapt into my head was from Joe Henry's "You Can't Fail Me Now":
“We’re taught to love the worst of us,
and mercy more than life
but trust me mercy's just a warning shot across the bow"
So much said in so few words. And that is my point, to return to it. Language is about communication. Yes, learn the "rules" but do not be muted by them. In a world of endless phonetic possibilities, nothing is sadder than finding oneself at a loss for words. Do not fear grammatical retribution, challenge it. As any etymologist worth his salt will tell you, the meaning of words changes.
Words can be beautiful. Whether on the page or on the air, their shapes and sounds can entice, entrance, repel, regress, stimulate or be-still. But verbosity and eloquence are often out-matched by simplicity and honesty. When my youngest son was three he could express himself better than many educated adults with the simple inflection of the word "papa." After all, it is about communication and expression.
If I write "alot," you, dear reader, understand what I am saying. I once read a blog that specifically dealt with these types of grammatical issues and fancied itself rather clever. It was however, also BORING. I am much more interested in communication than correctness. If you want to be a scientist or mathematician, then do so. But even those at the top of those fields will tell you the more you know, the more you don't know. The world is your oyster or some such platitude.
It's the same in music. John Lee Hooker, whom I refer to on every possible occasion, can convey an endless variety of emotion with a few simple words. Sometimes his words are almost indiscernible, yet their intent is clear. Is there that much difference between Chuck Brown and Charles Baudelaire?
It is easily argued that irony and slang are some of the highest forms of expression. To say one thing and mean another and be understood without explanation could be considered the equivalent of rubbing your head and patting your stomach at the same time. If someone sings "the girl is bad" we know what they mean. A simple change of inflection to the word "fine" can alter its meaning. We live in context. We think and listen in context.
On a related note, I much prefer opera in something other than my native tongue. As a rule I find English opera to be dry in comparison with Italian, French or Spanish. I am not one to be blinded by an accent and I find nothing particularly more romantic in the romantic languages. There are few things more painful to experience, for example, than French Rap. It is merely the freedom of hearing opera in those traditional forms to fully experience or interpret the heart of the story, unencumbered by our associative linguistic preoccupations.
So breathe deep, drop a comma, add an "e" where it isn't needed (or better yet remove one), but live and let live. Speak and let speak, "a lot." Let's spend more time trying to REALLY understand each other and stop fighting grammatical boarder wars.
is the Creative Director of Hayes Design Studios.
He also appreciates funky beats. The two are connected.
by Martha Wells
One thing I've been thinking about lately is how so many writers don't have time to read. We presumably got into writing because we were readers, but the older you get, the more you work, the more you have to do, and it starts to get hard to find time for reading. I hate that.
I've been trying to make a big effort to not just budget time for reading, but to read new authors. I know how easy it is to get into a rut, to not make time for anything but old favorites. I had a long period like that sometime after my late 20s/early 30s when I sold my first novel. I somehow just became convinced there weren't a lot of books out there I wanted to read, and my reading focus narrowed pretty dramatically. A lot of it was probably due to stressful events, and my reading brain was trying to close up like a turtle. It wasn't particularly consistent, as I did try a few new writers now and then. I could remember myself in grade school and high school and college, when I'd come home from the library with a stack of SF/F written by authors all new to me, read through it, and go back for the next like I needed to keep reading to get oxygen. But I wanted to read for comfort now and had lost that willingness to take a chance on new writers.
Then in the library one day I ran across The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon. I didn't think I'd like it, because I didn't think I liked literary mainstream-ish SF. (Had I actually read any books labeled literary SF? I don't know, probably not.) But I'd convinced myself I only wanted fun familiar reads and for some reason avoided books everyone said were great. But that day I picked it up and read it, and it was just as great as everyone said. I loved mysteries, for one thing, and while lauding its literariness nobody had said it was also a detective story. That broke the block, and I started making a more conscious effort to expand my reading comfort zone. Continuing to find books by new authors that everybody said were great who happened to actually be great helped a lot.
As I'm getting older, I think this is more and more important. If you only find time to read your old favorites and books by friends, it narrows your focus and your knowledge of the SF/F field. Writing is my job, and I feel like I need to keep up with how SF/F is expanding and the directions it's going in. Plus I'm really tired of seeing recommendation lists with the same three bestsellers on them. The wider I read, the more connected I feel to my original love of reading. And my brain is being stoked by new ideas and new viewpoints, and most importantly, it's fun.
Life, the universe, and everything creative
Towel Photo credit: EvelynGiggles via Foter.com / CC BY