May 24th, 2010


[links] Link salad flies into another Monday

Alien Languages: Not Human — A nice squib from Science in My Fiction. I don't quite agree with all of it, but a good read. As Wittgenstein said, "If a lion could talk, we could not understand him."

Electro-magnetic brakes stop aeroplaes — Ah, days of future past.

Weird clock in Shibuya, Tokyo — It's like a music box from The Matrix or something. (Thanks to willyumtx.)

Republicans See Big Chance, but Are Worried, Too — GOP discovers "Party of No" is not a good electoral agenda. Also, this just in: sun sets in west.

Scandals in the House Republican Class of 1994But the House Republicans of '94 stand out: No fewer than 15 of the 73 elected in the landslide that year have entertained the nation with flaps that include messy divorces and a suspicious car accident. This is why people vote Republican. Because of their high moral stance and principled family values.

?otD: How wide are your wings?

Writing time yesterday: none (chemo exhaustion)
Body movement: Stationary bike later
Hours slept: 9.5 (reasonable) plus extensive napping
This morning's weigh-in: 231.4
Yesterday's chemo stress index: 9/10 (fatigue)
Currently (re)reading: Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold


[cancer] Sleeping my way through chemo

Yesterday was day three of infusion session ten of twelve. Came off the needle a bit after 2 pm. A lot of emotional distress around Nuevo Rancho Lake, and I developed a tendency to fall asleep randomly all day long. I didn't count it up, but I am guessing at least three hours of random, unplanned napping across at least half a dozen episodes. Weird. Then I slept 9.5 hours last night, thanks to the Lorazepam tango.

Almost done here. I come off the needle for the last time four weeks from yesterday. It will take me several weeks to see my energy curve begin to trend up. Likewise for the cytotoxins to metabolize out, both of which will materially ameliorate some aspects of my chemo-challenged sexuality. My immune system has held surprisingly strong, per the biweekly bloodwork, so hopefully I'll come off the immunosuppressed restrictions in a framework of a few weeks as well. I've been told to expect some side effects to last into September, and the peripheral neuropathy may persist for up to two years, or possibly permanently.

But still, the tunnel, she has light. Lots more to do. This summer I'll be having a CT scan, possibly a PET scan, a colonoscopy and day surgery to remove the chemo infusion port in my right chest. But those are all acute events, so to speak, not the pseudochronic journey chemo has been.

People have asked me how we'll know if this was successful. The only answer is we'll know when and if the treatment fails. The point of this course of chemotherapy was that we could reliably infer from my metastatic colon cancer of the lung that the original cancer had found a pathway through my body, via my bloodstream or my lymphatic system. Cancer has been present in undetectably small amounts the whole time, and that's how the lung tumor became established. So with chemotherapy, we're shooting at a target that's undetectably small. We'll never know if we succeeded, we can only keep looking for failure in the form of further tumor formation.

In other words, cancer in abeyance, not cure. Still, I'll take a few more years of health and a life raft of tests. But I have to say, I dread the possibility of another round of this.


[process] Some notes on dialog

Had a constructive conversation the other day with the delightful maclark2005 about the uses of flash fiction as a personal development tool. I've commented on this before at length, how flash serves as a laboratory for focusing on specific aspects of craft. Character in a setting with a problem: "The cop stumbled over the body in the apartment door." What cop? Whose body? Whose apartment? But also, focusing on characterization, blocking, action, background detail, dialog, etc. Any one of those things, in the framework of a very short story. Might be salable, might not, but good practice nonetheless with the cardinal virtue of being closed-ended and therefore a rewarding activity that can be concluded over a single writing session.

maclark2005 and I got on to flash as dialog. I pointed out we all have a tendency to write who we are. I write lots of middle aged, over-educated heteronormative white guy dialog when I'm defaulting. And one thing that drives me bats in fiction is overuse of dialog tags.

Which are necessary if you have two middle aged, over-educated heteronormative white guys talking to one another. On the other hand, if you have a stuffy old closeted professor of Classics talking to a newly-immigrated Somali cab driver, you could get away with almost no tags whatsoever, other than a little blocking assistance. These two characters will have very different speech registers, and very different assumptions about the world.

One of my more extensive experiments in flash was working on integrating dialog with characterization, blocking, setting and other story elements so I could get away from "Jane said"/"Aaron said" tennis matches. Finding ways to signal the speaker through their actions or context or placement in the scene allowed words to do double, treble or quadruple duty, all while cleaning up the text. This makes the story world both economical and interesting.

What's a favorite example from your own work, or others, of how to embed dialog like this?