Monthly Archives: October 2012

Seeking the Dark Side of Halloween

Chapel near Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Ireland | Copyright Siri Paulson, 2004

Happy Halloween!

I’ve never been into Halloween that much, and I’m not one for ghost stories (unless they’re by Neil Gaiman). Sure, I’ve dressed up and gone trick-or-treating. This year I got to hand out candy from my very own front porch for the first time. And I’ve carved pumpkins and decorated lightly and read kids’ books about witches. But it’s never been my favourite holiday.

And yet.

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Things We’ve Forgotten: Make-Believe

Did you have a vivid fantasy life as a child?

I just finished reading Jo Walton’s Hugo-winning novel Among Others, and one of the (many) things that struck me about it was how real make-believe can be for kids. I’m not talking about the fairies in the book — those are meant to be read as real — but about the names Mori and her twin use in their playing. Osgiliath, Glorfindel…of course on one level they know they’re conflating stories with reality, but on another level, those names are true in their heads.

When my sister and I were children playing explorers or servant girls or pirates, we had much the same experience. We knew our snowy backyard wasn’t the Arctic, but it didn’t matter. We knew the playground near our house wasn’t a sailing ship surrounded by sharks, but at the same time, it absolutely was. (Or a robber fort, or a medieval castle, depending on what we needed it to be.) We hadn’t yet learned to fear cognitive dissonance.

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Friday Link: Ghosts in the Machines by Neil Gaiman

Happy Friday-before-Halloween!

I have mixed feelings about Neil Gaiman’s writing. I like it, enough that I’ve read all of his novels and many of his short stories, but I don’t love everything about it. One thing I do love, though, is that he writes like an oral storyteller. If you’ve heard him read (which he does beautifully — see end of post!), then go and find something else he’s written, you can hear his literal voice behind the words. The language, the rhythms…well, here:

We are gathered here at the final end of what Bradbury called the October Country: a state of mind as much as it is a time. All the harvests are in, the frost is on the ground, there’s mist in the crisp night air and it’s time to tell ghost stories.

When I was growing up in England, Halloween was no time for celebration. It was the night when, we were assured, the dead walked, when all the things of night were loosed, and, sensibly, believing this, we children stayed at home, closed our windows, barred our doors, listened to the twigs rake and patter at the window-glass, shivered, and were content.

That’s from an article of his, recently posted at Read the rest.

If you haven’t heard him read, that’s easily remedied. You can listen to him read his Newbery Award-winning novel The Graveyard Book, chapter by chapter, here.

Okay, I’m out for the weekend. See you back here on Monday!


6 More Things I’ve Learned from My New House

Back in July, I blogged about 6 lessons I learned from my first month as a new homeowner. That was three months ago, so it’s high time to give you an update on my adventures. Now that I’ve been through one full season, here’s what I’ve learned…

1. Opening your house to other people rocks. In our little one-bedroom apartment, we didn’t have enough room to throw parties, so we’re completely inexperienced hosts. But now our linked living room and dining room fit 15 or 20 people. So far we’ve had two parties and played host to both our families, and let me tell you, even though we’re both introverts, it feels great! (Though we might not have hung our dining room chandelier so low if we’d anticipated moving the dining table off to the side during parties….)

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Movie Discussion: Looper

Poster for LooperHave you all seen Looper, the new Bruce Willis movie? (Also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of Inception and The Dark Knight Rises…a rather high percentage of the movies I’ve seen lately.) Let’s talk about it!

Before I get to the spoilers, here’s a capsule review: Smart SF action/drama, much better than it looks from the trailer. Makes a thorough exploration of its SFnal premise (time travel with very specific parameters). Best watched when you’re in the mood to be made to think. Don’t expect it to pass the Bechdel Test, though. If you liked 12 Monkeys, you’ll probably like Looper.

Here be spoilers…

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Friday Link: Astronomer Maria Mitchell

Happy Friday!

This week was Ada Lovelace Day, dedicated to celebrating women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Even though I’m a bit late, I’d still like to share…

Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) is one of those intrepid American women who deserves to be better known today. Not only was she the first American woman to work as a professional astronomer, the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the first professor at Vassar College, but she also discovered the first “telescopic” comet (a comet too distant to be visible to the naked eye.)

And yes, she did all that in the nineteenth century. Read more about Maria Mitchell over at the excellent historical blog Two Nerdy History Girls.

I’m out for this week. See you back here on Monday!

Seeking Productivity Tips

Okay, blog readers. I need your best tips.

I recently finished a major project (not a writing project, alas) that was sucking up all my time and energy. That was over two weeks ago. I’ve been reading and relaxing and recovering, which is all fine and good, but I’ve been having a heck of a time getting anything done. It’s sort of like post-NaNo slump, except I don’t feel drained, just unmotivated.

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Embassytown by China Miéville

cover art for Embassytown by China MievilleWhat can I say about China Miéville’s Embassytown?

Miéville is not an easy author to read. His fantasy novels tend to be chock-full of really whacked-out worldbuilding, Lovecraftian monsters, and plots that don’t go the way they’re supposed to. (I’ve read several; my favourite of them is Perdido Street Station.) But with Embassytown he turns that sensibility to science fiction, and the result is something truly special.

(Note: No spoilers in the review, but there may be spoilers in comments.)

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Weekly Link: Beware of Eggs, Bowls, Toothpaste, and Life

Happy Friday! Here’s a snippet from my favourite thing on the web this week, a recitation of a very bad day by Alice Bradley of Finslippy:

Toothpaste in the eye, it turns out, is surprisingly painful. How did it get into his eye? What device did he use to spray it? Never mind that. I didn’t ask. It didn’t seem important.

This was a different eye from the one he had injured earlier, when he performed a dramatic hair-flip and slammed his eye socket into the bowl he was eating from. I did ask about that.

Go read the rest. I hope it makes you laugh as hard as it did me.

That’s all for this week. See you back here on Monday!

Autumn Love

I love autumn.

maple leaf

Copyright Siri Paulson, 2011

After a long, hot summer, I love the novelty of actually needing coziness and warmth, whether it’s my favourite chunky sweater, a warm latte or hot chocolate, or a hot soup. I love warm blankets on cool mornings (less so getting out of them!).

I love the sense of new things starting, kids heading back to school, energy building for NaNoWriMo. Often I feel as if the new year begins in September, Jewish-style.

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