Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for June, 2012

Fire, Rain, Computers

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Despite power failures, fire, and dying tech, it’s been a pretty decent week.

The power has gone out three times this week, which I suspect is a record. None of the incidents lasted very long — probably not more than an hour — but in this modern age, it’s very frustrating. The electrical system in our district still uses transformers — those cylindrical containers at the top of utility poles. I’m told these are old tech, but honestly I don’t know anything about it. At any rate, they blow up frequently, and it’s possible that one caused a small forest fire not very far from where I live, along a road where we often go walking. On Monday, a day of crazily gusting winds, one of the residents reported hearing a transformer blow, and not long after noticed the fire, which occurred in a heavily wooded area among homes. Maui Fire Department responded in force, with multiple engines and helicopter water drops that went on all afternoon. It was an impressive effort and only three homes suffered damage, all of it minor.

Fire in upper Kula on June 18, 2012

Not a sight you like to see in the neighborhood.

A Windward Aviation helicopter dips water from a ranch tank.

A Windward Aviation helicopter dips water from a ranch tank. Note the transformers on the utility pole…

The next day it rained. It’s actually rained several days in mid-June, which is rare and for which we are grateful. This past winter was extremely dry, so no one here is complaining about rainy summer days.

And the reason I was in town on Monday? I finally decided to replace my old Mac desktop with a shiny new one. It took me a few days to “move in” to the new computer and there were definitely frustrating moments. It became obvious that I should have upgraded my old operating system long ago, because the version I had was too primitive to take advantage of the migration features. But it’s done, and at this point I’m asking myself why I waited so long.

Oh, and the writing? That’s been going surprisingly well. The word count on novel-in-progress #2 is building faster than I’m used to — and come to think of it, I should probably get started on today’s writing session.

Father’s Day Redux

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Last year I wrote a Father’s Day post about my own dad and I’ll let that stand for this year too. Find it here.

The Second Life of a Maui Bookstore

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Borders had a superstore in a our little northshore town of Kahului. Whether this store sold a lot of books or not, I don’t know, but it was a very popular place, always full of people. It stayed open until fairly late in the Borders death cycle, but ultimately it was closed and emptied.

At the time, there were no other bookstores on this side of the island and so far as I know, there are still no other bookstores. The only bookstore I’m aware of on the island is a smallish Barnes & Noble way off in West Maui.

But the space that Borders occupied in the Maui Marketplace mall has finally been taken over. Sports Authority, which long occupied the storefront next door, has knocked down the intervening wall and doubled its floor space.

Don’t get me wrong–Sports Authority is a great store, and I shop there all the time. But it’s ironic that a sports equipment and clothing store should replace the last bookstore on the northshore. I suppose if there were much community demand, an entrepreneur would have already started an independent brick & mortar store here. But so far as I know, it isn’t happening.

Heavy Lifting

Friday, June 15th, 2012

There’s a theory out in the writing world that if you just keep writing, your subconscious will do all the heavy lifting, and out of the chaos a story will coalesce. Personally, I’m skeptical. Brainstorming sessions involving non-stop writing are great for generating ideas out-of-nowhere, and it’s not uncommon that I’ll get useful and spontaneous dialogs going between my characters this way. This is all very valuable stuff.


I’ve spent several days now coaxing into existence characters, plot, scenes, and general ideas for the new novel-in-progress. I’ve got several thousand words in “brainstorming” files and, much to my surprise, over 6,000 words of actual story. The catch is, the story so far is neither continuous nor coherent. I’m envisioning a book in four parts. So far, I’ve got the opening scene and closing scene of part 1, a tiny bit of part 2, some in-between stuff, and lots of ideas for what else needs to be going on in the first 15,000 words or so. But the ideas that I have are not organized. The conflicts aren’t clear. The groundwork on which the remainder of the novel will rest is not at all well-established.

So it’s time for some heavy lifting, which unfortunately for me is a conscious process. I would love it if my subconscious would take over plotting, but it hasn’t happened yet. For me, this is the fallacy of words-per-day writing goals. If I’m unsure of the details of the plot, or if I don’t have a real vision of the next scene, knowing what to write about is problematical.

So I’m off to try to hammer disparate ideas together into a coherent opening plot, in the hope that I can get to the point where writing the scenes is like taking dictation. That happened last night when I wrote the closing scene of part 1. Usually, writing is hard. When it’s not – when a scene just flows – that’s a rare reward, and one of my favorite moments of the writing process.

Geek versus Girl

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

There have been several fascinating essays posted recently by female science fiction and fantasy writers reflecting on their experience as girls and the disadvantage they felt from an early age. There’s a nice summary of these posts along with further reflections at a blog called Culturally Disoriented (hat tip to Kate Elliott for the link). The post is titled “I Never Wanted To Be A Boy.”

And you know what? I never wanted to be a boy, either.

Reading these reflections, I have finally — I’m fifty-one years old — begun to realize that I must have grown up blithely ignorant of the true nature of the world. Apparently I was living in my own geek bubble because, growing up in the seventies, I don’t remember feeling put-down or denied because I was a girl. I’m thinking specifically of those treacherous years between the age of ten and the hallelujah-thank-you-God salvation that was college at seventeen. As you may surmise from that statement, this wasn’t a great time for me — you will never catch me reminiscing fondly about high school — but my issues had to do with geeky things, not with the fact of my gender.

Like most of us who are into things SF-nal, I grew up reading adventure books, science fiction and fantasy among them, and I suppose that the protagonists were most often male, but I can’t remember that it bothered me. I used my favorite stories as a jumping-off point for my own imagined adventures. It was nothing for me to put myself into the plot, creating a female character I could happily inhabit, who had as much agency as anyone.

My ability to deny being denied probably has a couple of sources. First, I had no brothers, so even if my parents had been inclined to deal in boy privilege, they had no chance to do it. As it was, I don’t think they were inclined.

Mine was an odd, geeky, rather unsociable family. We did lots of fun and amazing things, but for the most part we kept to ourselves, which may be a second reason I wasn’t conscious of boy privilege — I wasn’t in close touch with more “traditional” families. And of course this was the northshore of Oahu in the 1970s. Caucasian families who had moved there from California were not expected to be conventional.

Mostly though, I have to credit my parents for my blissful ignorance. As I passed through my preteen and teen years, my ambitions ranged from being a primatologist in Africa (thank you, Jane Goodall, my hero!), to attending the Air Force Academy, to being an aerospace engineer, to being a field biologist. (The writer-thing didn’t occur to me until I was almost out of college.) I think my poor mother never knew quite what to make of her geeky, intellectual, overachieving daughter, but she never discouraged me from my interests. My dad actively encouraged me in many things. He was the one who put me on the back of a motorcycle at a tender age, took me camping and fishing, and let me take scuba lessons when I was thirteen.

If I was denied things because I was a girl, I frankly didn’t notice.

I even remember asking my dad once if things would have been different if he’d had sons, and he denied it, assuring me it didn’t make any difference to him.

So I grew up an athlete, swimming, hiking, snorkeling, taking on surfing for a brief time, and even running track one year—but I wasn’t reacting against traditional “girl stuff,” because I liked that too. I experimented with makeup. I wore dresses and high heels to school. These were the days when “Aloha Friday” was still observed in Hawaii, and I wore a mu`u mu`u to school. I even went to “charm school.” Seriously. Me. (What? You can’t tell?) I felt kind of weird about it, but I didn’t mind it. I was hoping it would help turn me into a competent woman. Even then, I could see how that could be valuable. Being a girl was not a problem for me.

Being a geek — different story.

I lived on the outskirts of a small plantation town. There was nothing wrong with the people there. They were nice. I never got in fights and I wasn’t harassed, but like so many quirky teens, I never fit in either. And the school wasn’t exactly a challenging intellectual environment. A large portion of the students had English as a second language, and at the time we had the lowest, or nearly the lowest academic rating in the state.

So it wasn’t my girl-self that was denied in my teenage years, it was my geek-self. I was a social misfit and yes, I had issues, but if I’d been a skinny, introverted, intellectual boy trapped behind glasses, interested in science, with my nose always in a weird novel, with a family that basically kept to itself — I don’t think my youth would have felt a whole lot different, or more satisfying.

So, to all the young geeks and misfits of any gender who are trapped in schools where they don’t fit in, there really is a lot to look forward to. Keep working on it. Keep working on yourself. There’s no need to be conventional. Find the people you fit with. Write your own story.

The Page 77 Meme

Monday, June 11th, 2012

This one goes around and comes around. I’ve never participated before. This time it comes via Patricia Burroughs and Pati Nagle. The sample is from the rough draft of a novel roughly completed a few weeks ago, which I’ll call WIP #1. I’m supposed to be revising and augmenting this now, but I’ve started another novel instead. 🙂

The Meme:
1. Go to page 77 (or 7th) of your current ms
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating.

Here’s mine:

“What languages were spoken there?”
“Is that like Chinese?”
“I don’t think so.”
“The cult that held you, did they stockpile weapons?”
“There was no cult. I wasn’t held. No one stockpiled weapons.”
“How did you get back to the US?”

Recent Reading

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Thumbing back through my Kindle to review what I’ve been reading, or contemplating reading, lately reveals an odd mix. I’ve been interested in shorter work, so I’ve enjoyed Lawrence Block’s collection The Night and the Music, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s The Retrieval Artist, some of Book View Café’s anthology Beyond Grimm, and some online stories, especially at Lightspeed Magazine (check out Tim Pratt’s Cup and Table).

I’ve sampled several novels, and have a lot more lined up. I was really intrigued by Brian Evenson’s Immobility, and I went to buy it, but was put off by the price, which I think was $13 at the time. It’s not that I think an ebook can’t be worth $13, but I charge only five or six dollars for my own books. So in one of those twisted psychological moves, it feels like I’m implying my books are rubbish if I’m willing to pay more than twice their cost for a book I know little about, by an author unfamiliar to me. I think this leaves Richard Kadrey’s Aloha From Hell as the most expensive e-novel I’ve ever bought, at eleven or twelve dollars—but that was the third book in a series that I’ve really enjoyed.

The two novels I’ve finished most recently are Greg Egan’s Incandescence, and Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns, both of which engaged in galaxy-spanning cultures, and technologies existing across vast spans of time. Both are fascinating, and recommended.

Do you have a book to recommend? I’d love to hear about it. All genres welcome.

Book Rewards

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

The Bohr Maker-cover art by Bruce Jensen

So…have you read my novel The Bohr Maker? I know that over the past year-and-a-half since the ebook has been available, a fair number of people have bought it. It’s consistently my best selling book, and you all know how much I appreciate that, right? But right now at Amazon, The Bohr Maker has 7 reviews total, and only three of those are from this past year. (Thank you, Eddie!) (more…)

Computer Woes

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Yesterday was one of those very-interesting-computer-days. First, I have to confess that I have a stable of computers, though none qualifies as impressive. There is the iMac desktop, about 6 1/2 years old, the 5-year-old PC laptop which I use for all my writing, the Netbook which is maybe two years old, and my newest little addition, my Droid Razr phone. Which is a long way of saying, no need to feel sorry for me. I’m not suffering or anything.

But anyway… my iMac still runs an old OS–whatever the OS was before SnowLeopard–and it’s reached the point where it doesn’t get software updates, Firefox no longer supports it, and Chrome won’t deal with it. So yesterday I clicked on a twitter link, to someone’s blog as I recall, and Safari crashed. Okay, well, this happens, and I really wanted to read that blog post, so I pasted the link into Firefox and crashed that browser too. Ever since then, both browsers refuse to work. Even worse, when I try to use the browsers the entire computer goes non-responsive and I have to restart by holding down the power button. Everything else on the computer works fine, including email and tweetdeck.

So while all this was going on I booted up the Netbook and discovered it needed twenty-six updates. So I let it update–only it failed to start after that. It did go through a repair/restore and booted up. It seems to work fine again, except there are error messages. And I need to try to do those updates again.

So today I talked to the Mac store, and I may well take my machine down there on Monday and have a pro clean it up and maybe upgrade it and try to get it to work for another year or two.

But if I seem extra confused or disorganized — over and above my usual level — for the next few days, please blame it on the computer woes!

Writing Horses by Judith Tarr

Friday, June 8th, 2012

For those who are curious, this is the book Paul selected to receive as a prize in Book View Café’s grand opening giveaway.

Judith Tarr is not just a writer. She also breeds, raises, and trains Lipizzan horses on her farm near Tucson, Arizona. How cool is that?

Writing Horses was written to help writers get horses right in their fiction:

How fast can a horse run? What happens when a foal is born? How have humans and horses evolved together over the millennia? And above all, what mistakes do writers most often make when writing about horses, and how can the educated writer avoid them?

Oh, and besides being a respected writer and mistress of horses, Judith Tarr is also a very skilled freelance editor, so if you’re ever in need of some professional feedback on a manuscript, look her up.

Update: Oh, I am so uncreative. To pick a winner I wrote names on slips of paper and had my husband pull one from the pile. Judy Tarr let her horse pick!