Monday, Briefly.

Feeling: Sick, tired, and tired of being sick. I’ve officially been unwell for an entire month now, between having strep, surgery (which caused a throat injury), throat infection, vertigo, steroid-induced insomnia, and now — because I wasn’t given antibiotics for long enough — acute bronchitis. Ironically, the “invasive head surgery” part seems to have gone perfectly, and if I hadn’t had the complications, I’d have been back on my feet weeks ago.

Doing: Very little. Anyone wondering if I’ve been lazy and/or procrastinating lately should reread the above. I am doing what I can every minute that I can — which is why this blog post was written at 3 am — and a few more things powered by sheer force of will, but I’m behind on a lot. If you’re waiting on me for something, I will get to it. Probably right after I get a full night’s sleep. Or at least, on a day that I can actually breathe.

Listening to: “Uptown Funk”, still, especially because I found out the glorious Dap Kings provided the horns for this song. Video here. It’s fun, it hearkens back to hate-era disco (as in “everyone hates disco”), it features Bruno Mars — who’s starting to impress me with his interest in reviving older musical styles within his largely pop playlist — and did I mention the horn section?

Watching: I saw

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (the first 45 minutes could have been 20, but otherwise, a better film than I expected, and cements Ben Stiller on my very short list of Hollywood celebrities I’d actually want to have a conversation with).

Gremlins, because my son had never seen it. A lot of the dark, campy humor was lost on him — and more noticeable to me than I’d remembered — but he liked Gizmo enough to want a T-shirt with him on it.

Big Hero Six, because my son actually asked if we could watch this, and he rarely likes age-appropriate stuff. (He’s all Blues Clues and Walking Dead. No, I don’t let him watch Walking Dead, outside of the zombie scenes.) It was fun, touching, and while it was limited to a very tight PoV and almost no one did anything important except the MC, all of that focus was on a bright, awkward, Asian kid who wasn’t treated like a minority, just a person, living in a multi ethnic world.

I’m still watching iZombie, Jane the Virgin, and Grimm, whenever there’s a new episode. Other stuff too, if someone else is or I’m really, really, bored, but those are the only three shows on TV that I’m not burnt out on or tired of hoping will improve.

Reading: started Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation.

Writing: Revising last week’s 1700 word SF story into about 2500, when I figured out there would be no character arc unless I added to the beginning. Also trying to finish a 750 word story for this (deadline 4/26/15).

What are you into lately?

Quick update: Post Surgery, Recovery Day 1, And a Publication

Yesterday I had the stapedectomy on my right ear, which I hope will repair some of my recent hearing loss. l am recovering at home now, and have a week off of work before my post-op follow-up appointment.

Getting strep a few days before I was due to go in for surgery was, so far, the worst part of this experience. I’m so lucky that I realized what it was in time to take antibiotics and be healed enough to actually get the surgery done… But I wasn’t sure they were going to let me do it until a few minutes before they wheeled me into the operating room. Not only did I have that stress, but since I wasn’t allowed to take aspirin, ibuprofen, or any cold medicine that contained either of those, I basically suffered through several days of feeling like I’d swallowed crushed glass, just hoping that it would be worth it.

The surgery seems to have gone as well as can be expected; the anesthesiologist did cut up my throat inserting the breathing tube, and I’ve been coughing up blood since yesterday morning. It’s not a lot, but it hurts, and worse — it shakes my head so hard that I get vertigo, can’t stand up.

But the vertigo passes. I have some tinnitus, but not more than usual. I’m exhausted, but considering the one-two punch of illness+surgery, it’s not a surprise. I didn’t wake up with any of the serious potential side effects: no facial paralysis, I’m not dead. My post-op care instructions include that I can’t lift anything, bend over, or even blew my nose, so me and my couch will be spending a lot of quality time together this week.

I am keeping a more detailed log off the experience, with lots of bits that will likely end up in some story, somewhere. Would you be interested in reading more in-depth about this process, or do you prefer the highlights only? Let me know in the comments.

Because a couple people have asked: yes, I do have medical expenses. Co-pay to the audiologist and ENT surgeon. Hospital fees. Medication. 8 days off of work. (Fortunately all of the doctor costs, including the big surgical fees, are covered by my insurance, once my $1000 deductible is met, but I still have to pay that.) If you’d like to contribute, click here, or use my PayPal address — same as my email: carriecuinn at the gmail. And, thank you. Big or small, anything helps, even if it’s just enough to buy my son a pizza so he is fed even if I can’t stand up to cook him dinner.

I’m planning to use this week to rest, and get caught up on Lakeside Circus (have you been reading us? You should!). I’m also doing some freelance editing, prepping for my next workshop offering, and hopefully some writing. Whatever I can get done while being basically immobile. I’ll let you know how that goes :)

In case you missed it, my poem “Myth of the Mother Snake” came out at Liminality Magazine this week! I’m so thrilled to be included in their Spring issue. Please do let me know what you think. Thanks go to Bryan Thao Worra and Don for being my first-readers on that poem, and to editors Shira Lipkin and Mat Joiner for buying it.

I appreciate that they kept the stepped formatting that I submitted it with. I rarely care about that sort of thing, but in this case I felt it enhanced the work a little more. I let them know that in my submission cover letter, and though of course I would have accepted it if they didn’t, it was a happy surprise to find they agreed.

Writing this has used up my energy, so it’s back to sleep time. I give it a couple of days before I completely hate this forced resting, by the way. Luckily, I have so many good books to read in the meantime. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments, too!


What I’ve Been Reading: Rickert, Burstein, Sharma, Tobler

This week’s reading was a collection of stories I randomly discovered online, either because someone recommended it, or because I stumbled it across it while looking for something else.

The Mothers of Voorhisvill”  by Mary Rickert, (novella)

5 out of 5 stars

There is a grandeur to Rickert’s work which is almost immediately obvious but not overwhelming. You begin to read the tale she’s written, sentences unfolding simply, with hints of strangeness, until a few paragraphs in you start to see the edges of the world she’s created — and it hits you. It’s never “let me tell you about every aspect of this setting for three pages before anything happens”. It’s not “this happened and then this happened and then this happened”. She understands her characters, where they live and how they move about in that place, so well that when she writes the story, it’s just you (the reader) and them (the fictional characters), having a dialogue.

Reading Rickert is like listening to the chatty neighbors you’d never noticed until they happened to be the most fascinating people you’ve ever met. You’ll find everything you’re looking for by the time it’s done.

The shape of this story is as a series of interviews conducted with various women who’ve, they admit at the beginning, done something terrible, or wonderful, and now they’re explaining why. There’s contrast between the things they’re admitting, the events they’re saying didn’t happen quite that way, and and the moments of “well, sure, it did happen, but she’s completely wrong about the way she describes it”. We read how the women see not only the events of the story but their own worlds so differently from one another. All the pieces of “Mothers”, not disparate but simply not the same, weave together until what you finally have is so large, so monstrous and beautiful and greater than you’d imagined, that “grandeur” is the best word to describe it.

There are definite hints of Witches of Eastwick, and Nightvale, but there are sensual details — the hundred scents, the beauty of light, of women, of creative arts — which swell as the women do, breaking free from other influences. Those details carry on as the story changes, gets darker and more desperate, breathing life into individual moments with the names of board games, the color of jam. It’s real without being weighted down; terrible in the way that it makes perfect sense. I continue to be in awe of Rickert’s ability to tell a complete story, full without going on for too long, like a ripe peach on the last day before it’s plucked and eaten.

Kaddish for the Last Survivor” by Michael A. Burstein, Apex Magazine.

2 out of 5 stars

A SF tale about Holocaust deniers? You might think it would be preachy, pointed, too invested in its message, and Burstein’s story is all of those things. It was also nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 2001, and it’s worth figuring out why. Continue reading

What I’ve Been Reading: Essays

So far in January, I have read:

Am I Black Enough For You? Rumpus, Retha Powers, January 2014:

“I was black. I wasn’t black enough. I was too black. Sometimes I was so upset there was nothing to do but sit down and eat a pack of Oreos—alone, of course. But for years I wouldn’t feel comfortable eating the crème-filled sandwich cooking without pausing for the fleeting impulse to turn and see if anyone was looking. Oh look, an Oreo eating an Oreo! (It’s still not my cookie of choice). I was being pigeonholed; and as Jessye Norman said, pigeonholing is interesting only for pigeons.

Not-Knowing, by Donald Barthelme.  Not Knowing: The Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme. Ed. Kim Herzinger. New York: Random House, 1997. Barthelme says, “Writing is a process of dealing with not-knowing; a forcing of what and how.” It is, at least in part, definitely that.

Ethnography and Speculative FictionEthnography Matters, Claire Anzoleaga – explores speculative fiction from a communications studies and ethnography angle:

“For those of us who write ethnography, it is widely known that the truths we encounter and write about will never have a capital “t” in its purest, most-reducible sense. Ethnography written as speculative fiction fits smoothly into this understanding of interpreted truth-painting. It is an analytic approach which interprets data collected from the field and reimagines that data through narratives of fantasy, horror, and utopian/dystopian adventures with academic theory.”

Read it as part of the discussion on inclusion, diversity, and how/whether to write the “Other”. The rest of the site has a lot more to say about ethnography, which I studied as part of my History of Art degree, and keep in mind when I write fiction myself.

Biotechnology and Speculative Fiction, Brian Stableford – argues that writers have a moral obligation to write optimistic futures. Well, I disagree, but I think this essay gives a nice overview of biotech in SF pre-2000.

Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, Esquire, Gay Talese, April 1966 – this classic profile of a hostile subject is considered one of the best pieces of creative non-fiction ever published. Recommended because of the way Talese uses language, bringing color back into journalism to liven up a field of writing that had gone from sensationalist gossip to “just the facts” and was now edging into something reminiscent of literature:

“He wore an oxford-grey suit with a vest, a suit conservatively cut on the outside but trimmed with flamboyant silk within; his shoes, British, seemed to be shined even on the bottom of the soles. He also wore, as everybody seemed to know, a remarkably convincing black hairpiece, one of sixty that he owns, most of them under the care of an inconspicuous little grey-haired lady who, holding his hair in a tiny satchel, follows him around whenever he performs. She earns $400 a week.”

It also famously recalls an incident between Sinatra and Harlan Ellison; of note to SFF fans and historians. Continue reading

May 2013 Stats

In May, I:


  • The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler (for the third time)
  • More of Howard Waldrop’s Other Worlds, Better Lives and Charles Tan’s anthology Lauriat, though I didn’t finish either.
  • the current issue of the SFWA Bulletin



  • short stories for individual clients


  • did a written interview with Charles Tan, where he asked about Fish for SF Signal (1400 words). Read it here.
  • set up a Free Fiction page where you can find PDFs of my stories.
  • got involved, again, in a controversy concerning the SFWA. I’m now assisting with (not on) an advisory committee on solutions. I can’t say more yet, but I do think they’re headed in the right direction.
  • quit an editing job that wasn’t a good fit for me (they wanted me to do a lot of work for what amounted to less than $5 an hour, and no matter how much I need the money, I don’t have time for that).

Overall, I

Wrote 2,700 words of fiction, and about 8,000 of non-fiction. Edited and read much less than I would have liked. Spent most of my time this month on dealing with life stuff: financial, medical, child care, job hunting. Important, and ultimately getting better, but time-consuming. I don’t feel I’ve accomplished much during the last 4+ weeks, which is disappointing.

June will be better, though. I can feel it.

Advice for June:

Get out of the house. Write somewhere new. Library, coffee shop, park bench–as long as it isn’t where you normally write, give it a try. Changing our circumstances changes how we think, and putting yourself into a new place often puts you into a new mindset. I left the house a lot this past month. I walked several miles a week, spent time at a lake and at parks, wandered through our annual summer festival, and you know what? By the end of the month, I’d figured out what I wish I’d known at the beginning.

Looking for past stats? Read January, February, March, and April here.