My grandfather, Allan Linder, age 94, passed away on Tuesday. Not Covid-19 related, and that’s only one of the things that’s been very surreal about the last few weeks. Telling people, “My grandpa is sick – it’s not covid,” as a kind of verbal footnote. He went into hospice care in early February after a cancer diagnosis. (I haven’t posted about it before now out of respect for my family’s privacy…and I just didn’t want to talk about it.)

His decline has mirrored the unfolding coronavirus pandemic. As he grew more ill, the pandemic grew worse, every day, so I feel like I’ve been dealing with stressful unfolding tragedies in two directions. In both cases, it’s been like watching someone fall off a cliff in slow motion. I can see the ground under their feet crumble, I can see them tip over, I can see exactly what’s going to happen and how this will play out. And there hasn’t been a single thing I can do to stop it.

Like I said, it’s been a surreal few weeks. I was able to visit him in Pueblo on Monday, to say goodbye, and I’m vastly grateful for that opportunity. Times being what they are, that moment might not have been possible, but it was. I’m grateful.

Now let me tell you about my Grandpa. Son of a Swedish immigrant, youngest of four sons, a family of Nebraska farm boys. He turned 18 smack in the middle of World War II and joined the Navy, serving aboard the U.S.S. Matanikau in the South Pacific. After the war, he earned a Ph.D. in biology and taught at Idaho State University for twenty-five years. He spent a few summers as a ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park and was the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant. His research focused on reptiles and fish. He and Grandma celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last year.

Grandpa taught me to fly fish, and I don’t know when I’m going to be able to watch “A River Runs Through It” again without breaking down. He’s also the one who got me into birdwatching. I still use the binoculars and spotting scope he gave me.

Yesterday, I almost stepped on a beautiful little garter snake in my yard, and it flicked its tongue at me before slithering off, and I laughed and cried because it felt like Grandpa saying hello. I will miss him.

 

comfort viewing

April 1, 2020

I’m back to watching Babylon 5 because it turns out Captain Sheridan is very soothing. Part of why he’s very soothing is that most of the time he’s this “Gosh, gee, well, that’s really great!” kind of guy, like the nice principal archetype. But then he gets pushed, and then he goes straight to taking no shit and he will hurt you. If he does, you definitely deserved it.

A good guy to have in your corner, you know?

But Marcus gets all the best lines, and here’s the one from last night’s episode:

“You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

 

It’s all about the distractions around here… I just put some library e-books on hold. I’ll have to wait a few weeks, but at regular intervals I should get a new book popping up on my e-reader and that sounds pretty cool.

Tachyon Publications is having a sale! They’ve put together “care packages” of many of their books, on sale for 50% off. The Immortal Conquistador is part of the “novellas” package. Check it out!

And now, since all my in-person events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, I made a video. It’s a Facebook link which may not work, so let me know if you can see it.

In which I read from The Immortal Conquistador.

 

Reddit: Ask Me Anything!

March 25, 2020

Today I’m over at the r/Fantasy subreddit answering questions. Ask me anything!

Here’s the link.

I’m trying to keep my chin up for the next couple of days, but the New Zealand Worldcon has just announced that they’re shifting to a virtual convention, and I’m really disappointed. I had booked plane tickets and was ogling horseback tours and birdwatching sites and… I totally understand and it’s likely the right decision, but I have a big sad. I have a busy week so I don’t really want to get lost in the sad right now.

But next week I may need to take a day or two off.

 

So, I should be watching a lot of TV right about now? Not so much. Although I did catch the Markab plague episode of Babylon 5 just a couple of days ago and that was actually traumatic.  Babylon 5 in 1999:  Well, this is great but kind of heavy handed.  Babylon 5 in 2019/2020: Oh god. Oh…god.

I think I mentioned I loved Russian Doll. What We Do in the Shadows: pretty good, I’ll keep watching to see what happens to Guillermo.

I watched Self Made, the Netflix series about Madame C.J. Walker starring Octavia Spencer. The credits say “inspired by” rather than “based on” so I imagine it’s not as historically accurate as one might wish. Spencer is wonderful, the music is sharp. The dialog sometimes sounds like it comes from a textbook on race and gender relations, but if someone has never really encountered some of these issues, it makes it all clear. I adored the scene when Walker meets W.E.B. Du Bois. I like how it deals with body image and Walker’s approach to it. This may be the first time I wished a Netflix series was an episode or two longer — I wanted a lot more with Harlem and the early years of the Harlem Renaissance. But still, glad I watched it.

Legion season 3, and that’s a wrap I think. Love love love this show, and loved the ending. I see a lot of people grappling with not really being able to talk about what this show is about. It’s surreal, it’s weird, — each season has a really distinct feel and focus. But I think the whole thing has a core ethos that holds it together. Here we go.

It’s about superpowers and mental illness. Specifically, it’s pushing back against the line we’ve been fed for thirty years about how “people who dress up in masks to fight crime must be crazy.” Except that line never went any deeper and was an excuse to go dark rather than actually grapple with mental illness in any kind of honest fashion. So, here’s a superpower show that starts out in an institution with a protagonist who has an actual, diagnosed mental illness. Several of the characters have real, diagnosed mental illnesses. And it’s just part of who they are. For the entire first season David is told, “You’re not schizophrenic, you have superpowers!” and David finally resolves this with the correct response, which is, “Why not both?”  His illness doesn’t excuse anything he does. His powers don’t excuse his illness.

Second season is all about trust. Division 3 decides they can’t trust David. He’s too powerful, too unstable. But as these things always go, their lack of trust in him exacerbates the problem they were most afraid of:  that he would go rogue.  Again, I think the issue of trust goes back to David’s mental state:  Should he be trusted, or should he be controlled? Should he be allowed agency? If not, is it because of his powers or his illness? There are no good answers.

Season three. Well. I love that this doesn’t start with David but with Switch, another ultra-powerful character with her own set of hangups. The big question here is, Can David be redeemed? He’s done terrible, terrible things. He’s killed a lot of people by this point, and very nearly destroyed the world. And I love that the show’s answer is, No, David can’t be redeemed. This subverts the usual narrative direction these things go. Through the whole season David keeps saying, “I’m a good person, I’m a good person.” He has to say it because he knows he isn’t. Him wanting to be good doesn’t excuse what he’s done. But here’s the kicker… David can be saved.  That is, there are two Davids: adult David and child David. Syd’s own journey is realizing where she needs to put her energy:  saving the child. At the same time, and unexpectedly, the villain Farouk has his own similar journey:  living in David’s head for thirty years has given him empathy he didn’t have before, so he also needs to go back in time and save his younger self. It’s a  wonderful climactic moment involving hugging and empathy and saving babies rather than killing.

The third season is a profound argument in favor of childhood interventions. (It also gets a bit facile — all David really wants is his father’s love. But I will forgive it for the fantastic image of David’s mental space with all those doors and all those Davids coming out of them.)

So that’s what I think Legion is about.

Bonus comments:  The time eaters are about the scariest thing I’ve seen on TV in ages. And ********BIG FAT SPOILER ALERT******** are Switch’s people the Watchers? Is that what I’m getting there at the end, that she becomes a Watcher?  Oh, please, I hope so….

 

pandemic sitrep 2

March 18, 2020

I had two white breasted nuthatches at my feeder this morning. I was out with the dog and they flew within just a few feet of me. Close enough that I could ID them without my glasses, heh. My feeder has been really rocking it this spring — I have to refill it every couple of days. All those house finches out building nests and stuff and needing food. It’s great.

Marcon, the convention where I was scheduled to be Guest of Honor in May, has cancelled, but it looks like we’re rolling my GoH spot over into next year. Maybe I’ll see you there!

This afternoon, I’m going to pick up a growler from my local cidery, get a coffee from my favorite drive-through coffee place, and generally see what else I can do to support local businesses while maintaining social distancing.

I have a post I want to write about what it’s like being the author of an award-winning post-apocalyptic novel actually watching what I imagined as the opening stages of my story’s apocalypse play out in real time. (Not quite — in my scenario, economic collapse happened before the pandemic struck.) It’s really freaking surreal. Do not like, don’t recommend. I don’t think this is going to tip into a full-scale apocalypse on the order of the Coast Road. But I do believe we’re just at the start of this. Hold on tight. Be smart. Check in with folks. We’re all in this together and we’ll only get through it by working together.

 

pandemic sitrep

March 16, 2020

How are we all doing out there?

Things have gotten kind of surreal. Everyone’s just a little bit scared and angry. Like — it’s not about the toilet paper. It’s about fear, control, herd mentality — even if you can’t see the wolf, if all the other caribou are running, you run too. People want to feel like they’re doing something when there’s not a whole lot they can do, so they buy toilet paper. Yeah, it was never about the toilet paper.

I’ve been working from home since 2007 so in some respects this is business-as-usual. There have been whole weeks when I didn’t leave the house. I’m lucky in that I can lock-down pretty easily. (I bought an extra pack of toilet paper three weeks ago because I saw this coming.)

But I’m not going to the yoga studio. I haven’t been the store since last Monday and I’m making some calculations now — do I really need to go to the store today? Can it wait a few days? I have a couple of birthday presents I need to go shopping for. Except need is suddenly a strong word for anything but milk and bread. I have a new cross-stitch project I really want to get supplies for. Except I’ve also got five knitting projects I can work on instead.

So no, I don’t actually need to go out. And I really don’t want to be the person who gets this and spreads this when I could have just stayed home.

Stay safe out there. Like lots of people have been saying:  We want to look back on this six months from now and feel like we overreacted. If we overreacted, we did it right.