Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Friday, April 27, 2007


On Tuesday I noticed that it had been three weeks since the new issue of Locus was purported to have mailed, and I had not yet received my copy. On Wednesday I called their offices (after the mail came) and they confirmed my address and then agreed to send me a new copy. On Thursday? My issue arrived. Barring some amazing advances at the post office, I anticpate receiving a second copy in the next couple weeks. Of course.

I mention this because, while I've only had time to flip through the magazine, there is something that I read and enjoyed. In his editor's notes, Charles Brown rails at great length against the state of the awards in the industry. He describes it as "Fewer and fewer people voting, and all of them voting for each other." While he doesn't get completely specific, he does say that several of the nomiated pieces (for the Nebula) are unreadable, and points out works that made the long list, but not the final cut. He concludes by suggesting that SFWA just terminates the awards all together.

Charles Brown is a man after my own heart. It gladdens me to see such clear-sighted rage at what is basically an inbred process. Huzzah. I posted about this earlier, but I'd like to reiterate my position. Awards are pointless. Let's focus on growing the industry in ways that the public (the people who buy books, read books or may potentially buy books in the future) understands, rather than gathering in banquet halls and patting each other on the back. The systems that are in place do not work. Shutdown.

Work problems. I don't think it's any secret that I'm less than enthusiastic about my job. I've been here almost ten years (ick) and in that time I've seen a lot of incompetence tolerated and a lot of mistakes covered up. People have been advanced or hired in spite of their skills, rather than because of their skills. We have a lot of "processes" in place to ensure quality, and they keep failing. About two months ago we had a job that was done wrong. The wrong piece was inserted and the customer was livid. There were three checks on this job, three different people who had looked over the job and signed off on what was being done. There was a checksheet, for god's sake. And it still went out wrong. What was our solution? We added a fourth check. Yeah.

In that meeting, where it was decided that we're adding this additional set of eyes, I was just disgusted. Checksheets aren't going to solve anything if the people who are signing off have no personal responsibility. And I said "Okay, so we're going to implement this extra check. I only have one question. Does anyone here think that's going to solve anything? Do any of us think this is going to cause this to not happen again?"

One of the results, here, is that I've had extra stuff laid on me. Responsibilities beyond the scope of my original job. And nobody checks the things I do. Natch.

So last month, we had this job. Pretty big client, a local homebuilder who develops huge communities. They're doing this promotion, where if you buy a house from them in May you get a free $1000 tv. They wanted to make sure the people who had *just* bought a house didn't get the mailing, though, so we were supposed to purge out the recent buyers from the database.

I totally didn't do it. Just forgot. Usually someone else writes my workorders, I process them, then someone else checks them before they go to inkjet. This time I wrote the job, processed the job, and tore the job apart for the shop. And it was wrong.

So now people are calling this homebuilder, saying that they just bought a house, gosh it'd be nice to have that tv. And since it's a huge company, they're saying "Sure, it's the right thing to do!" which I understand. But you see where this is going.

If everyone who got the mailing but shouldn't have tries to get a tv, it's half a million dollars. That's not going to happen. But if 1 in 10 of them does it, we're still looking at $40k. That's money we don't have. Not by a lot. Years and years of perfect complacency and minimal effort have left us in a tight way, and this may push us over. It's bad, because it's my fault, but it's worse because it's the corporate culture of this place that let it happen, and made it something we couldn't survive. Maybe nothing will come of it. Maybe they'll just fire us and find a new mailhouse. Maybe.

But the worst part? I let it happen. I used to be really hardcore about personal responsibility. I still am, but I wouldn't have made this mistake five years ago, or even two. But this place is eroding me. I'm better than this.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Literature as smoke screen, literature as activation energy

The night before last, my poor dog came upstairs at around 4am and got in the tub. This, as illustrated earlier, is what she does when she's scared of something. So I got up, robed up, and wandered the house trying to determine was scared my dog. Nothing. With the lights on I got her to come downstairs, then I got dressed and took her outside, in case she had to go really badly and was *scared* by that. Then I pulled on my hoodie and went to sleep on the couch, next to her bed, so she'd feel okay. Then when I got up I remembered it was election day, so I crusaded my ass over to my polling station and voted. I'm pleased to say that the crazy person is not my mayor, as I was afraid might happen.

I've been reading a lot of short stories, lately, and I'm running up hard against something that bothers me. I don't understand a lot of them. I find myself struggling to make sense of the narrative, expending all my energy on determining the parameters of the world and picking up clever clues left behind by the author as to what the hell's going on. Then I get to the end and...uh...it just ends. Nothing happens. Or worse! Something happens but I don't know what the hell it is. So. Thank you, authors. I don't understand your work. I'm not dumb. I am, however, tired of paying in to your system and not getting much in return. Be well, and good bye. You must be this enigmatic to be my friend. You have failed the threshold, pass on.

Monday, April 09, 2007

An update without any real content

It's just a hairpic, folks. Look! Hippie!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Two bits for reality

I got my copy of Interzone 209 today. It's the 25th anniversary edition, so lots of big names, fanfare, what have you. It's also where the results from the annual readers poll are announced. I had no expectations of "winning" or anything, but there was some stuff I didn't realize. I didn't know how deep into the catalogue the poll went, mainly. There were 36 stories eligible for voting, and they listed the top 20. Neither of my stories made that cut. So not only did I not "win," I didn't even make the top 2/3rds. That's...discouraging? I don't know if that's the word for it. I can't even call it frustrating or disappointing. I've become very comfortable with the idea that writing is a very subjective thing, but this is kind of baffling.

Bad confluence of influence, too. This week I pretty much gave up at my job. I got so frustrated I beat my pen against my desk until it shattered. Then I played with a paperclip for about 45 minutes because it was really the only thing I could do other than just walk out and never come back. I mean, I was super busy, but I just stopped caring. I used to put some value in what I did at work, not because the work had value but because I was doing it, and I try to care about the things I do. But that hasn't been working out, so now I'm going with the whole Not Giving a Fuck thing. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I've been to Philadelphia

Holidays are all about candy, for me. Sometimes it's about candy that you can only get at that time of the year. For examply: Christmas Nougat. Those soft white candies by Brachs with green stripes along the outside, and a green and brown xmas tree inlay. I love those. Though oddly, one of my most distinct taste memories involves eating one of those right after I'd brushed my teeth, as a child. Horrible taste. But, through rote exercise and constant conditioning, I have overcome that memory and triumphed.

Examply number two: Mellowcreme pumpkins. I loves mellowcreme pumpkins. Though one almost killed me once. Quite nearly choked on one, and my wife (then girlfriend) did the heimlich thing and then I didn't die. It was awesome, and the first of the two times she's had to keep me from killing myself with food. So now I don't talk when I eat, which is a mighty strain.

For other holidays, it is simply the candy that I eat around that holiday. Jellybeans at Easter, for examply. You can get jellybeans all the live long year, but I only eat them at Easter. I think that's how the baby Jesus would want it.

Another thing about holidays: I don't care for them. There are expectations. My parents are eternally trying to get us to visit them at xmas, or for the July 4th thing, or whatever. I won't do it. I don't travel on or near holidays, because every other spawning trout is slouching his or her way home. I'm just not a family person. Don't care. I was dragged to every family event, every reunion, shuttled from house to house and handshake to handshake. Holidays became a time when I was uncomfortable, either on a plane or in some strange bed or in a rented car in traffic in an unfamiliar city. And the only thing I wanted to do on these family excursions is find someplace quiet where no one would bother me so I could read my damn book. Inevitably I'd be tucked into some corner of some strange family room, with my book, and Aunt Whoever would limp in and start interrogating me about me. And I don't want to know about you, and I don't really care if you know about me, so why are we talking old lady? I'm reading. Go away. Go talk to the dog or a stack of magazines, or watch TV.

This has probably made me into a bad, unempathetic person, but really I don't care. Really, I just want to read my book. But that's probably too much to expect, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Like the arches of heaven

We had some pretty spectacular stormage here this morning. I took the dog out and the horizon was a heavy black mountain rolling forward, while the sun was up in the east. Pretty dramatic. Driving to work was all about heavy rain and beautiful lightning, the kind of lightning that stretches from one horizon to the other. Pretty.

Of course, my dog is terrified of thunder. Whenever it starts to rumble, she gets into the tub and stays there until everything calms down. Ahem. Call of the Wild, indeed.

Monday, April 02, 2007

What you do when nothing else works out

I guess you get desperate? So this is what I'm doing, and it may take time, or it may happen overnight. I'm transitioning into freelance writer-dom. I've always hesitated at the possibility of this, because I kept a very clear demarkation between my day job and my fiction. If I start freelancing, that line won't be so clear. I've dabbled in this stuff before, written some brochures and a little web-copy. I've started putting out feelers to people I know who use freelancers, to see if they have some scratch to throw my way. Keep the dayjob, for now, write when I can. Just to build a portfolio. And then, maybe, the next thing? We'll see. But it's a start. It's something to look forward to, other than dull misery and strife.