Rejection, Part Two: Rage in Private

Now you’ve just survived a discouraging rejection, and you want to vent. Of course you do, and of course you should. You have writing friends who understand that providing support is part of the process. To them, you can say that the editor is obviously an ignoramus; anyone with the sophistication of a ten-year-old could see how elegantly your plot flows from the characters’ motivtions; that anybody with a brain can see what you did there; that editors just aren’t ready for strong women characters with flaws.

Just be careful where and how you say these things. An e-mail circle is a great place to vent; so is a restaurant, a bar, a coffee place, a walking path. (Probably not at a table in the ConSuite at a convention.)

You know what isn’t private?

Social media.

I will bet $100 that if you tweet about how ignorant, arrogant and myopic an editor is, they will see that tweet within a day. If you use their name (even if it’s not their twitter handle) they’ll probably see it about an hour. A whole bunch of other editors will see it too, and they’ll see your name, and they will assume that working with you, even if your writing is good and you have some interesting ideas, is going to be problematic.

Every editor has had at least one experience of taking a chance on a work that had good qualities and an interesting idea. Every editor has had at least one experience of discovering, hours (and no story) later, that the writer is more interested in being the protagonist of their own personal drama than in telling a good story. Every editor has wasted hours, and suffered hurt feelings, stress and possibly even mild threats (eg, lawsuits), because of that person.

By tweeting about a mean, nasty, stupid editor who rejected you, you are placing yourself in that category of person, not just for the editor who rejected you (if they remember you or your story) but every other editor reading your comment as well.  So don’t to it.

Cultivate writing friends who are going to provide the emotional support you need via e-mail or via a private FB circle. It’s fine to put on Twitter that you’re sad because a story got rejected. You probably don’t need to do more than that.  I think if you’re going to vent on Facebook you might want to mark the post to be limited to Friends, for much the same reason; if it’s public, you have no control over where it goes.

Count on your writing friends, and be sure you have also cultivated ones who will be honest with you and who will say, “Well, events do get confusing in the middle of the story,” when you’re ready to hear it.

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Rejection, Part One: Some Thoughts

I’ve gotten plenty of rejections, so I think I can speak with some authority on this subject, and I plan to.

This post was inspired by yet another story about a writer who confronted an editor. I’m going to call the writer Blue and the editor Lonesome.

“Why’d you reject my story?” Blue demanded.

“Well because [reasons],” Lonesome replied.

“Oh, fine! So you think that [long set of reasons that had nothing to do with the editor’s comments.]”

Lonesome, “[SIGH.]”

I’m sure there is a lot of angst and backstory to this that we’ll never know, and on Twitter I only read the editor’s side. But I came away with a certain conclusion.

I must never do this.

There are times to follow up with an editor. For example, if the rejection says, “Your story ‘Lonesome Blues’ is just not right for us,” and you never sent them a story called “Lonesome Blues,” you should probably follow up.

You might be thinking that the editor is an idiot for rejecting your story. You read the magazine they work for and you’ve seen stories in there that are nowhere near as good as yours; or, you can tell from the letter that the editor just doesn’t get your story, and once you explain it, they’ll understand and want to publish it.

Well, this is hard to absorb, but it’s true; no, they won’t.

Let’s take a look at things that drive the impulse to respond.

They print stories that are nowhere near as good as yours.

Think for a moment. Basically, you are championing your work by saying, “You’ve published way worse stuff that this!” Is that really the approach you want to take?

Yes, maybe they have published stories that you found silly, shallow, poorly written, over-written or whatever. The terribly written story you read in last month’s issue may have been purchased ten months previously. You are always competing against the pool, and for all you know, your story was in the running with a half-dozen future Pulitzer Prize winners. You just can’t tell.

Maybe a published story sucks, and it was an invitational story, or a story submitted by an established writer to meet a contractual requirement. Money’s been paid, the writer has a name, and the publication is probably going to print the story for business purposes, even if it isn’t that good.

Maybe the editor thinks the stories are great and yours are not, in which case this might not be a market for you.

Send your story to the next market on your list.

If they just understood your story, they’d buy it.

If they didn’t understand the story, one of two things is going on. The first thing might be that the story is flawed.

It’s unimaginable, I know, but as a thought exercise, let’s just pretend that your story does not explain itself; that it really needs more work. Explaining it to the editor is not going to fix the problem. Consider revising the story. Look back on the notes from your first reader or your writers group, perhaps especially from the folks whose comment you dismissed because they just “didn’t get it.” There might be something of value for you there. Once you revise it, send it to the next market on your list.

Console yourself when this thought: in the future, when you are accepting an award for that revised story that you sold to another market, editor number one will be sitting at home thinking, “Curses! I let that one get away.”

The second possibility is that the story’s fine and the editor truly just doesn’t get it. You explaining the story isn’t going to help. That editor’s opinion is still that the story doesn’t work (the proof is that you had to explain it). This editor is not a match for that story. Send the story to the next market on your list.

The editor is obviously racist/sexist/homophobic/whatever and is reacting to my work from that place.

Sadly, that may be true, and again, writing back to them isn’t going to change that. If you believe this, they aren’t the market for you. I happen to think this is a problem; editors who are unconsciously racist/sexist, and don’t understand stories that come out of different cultures, use language differently or have a different sensibility. Participating in discussions about this, raising the profile of this issue, and using resources like Facebook, SFWA and Codex to find markets that are consciously working to broaden their own horizons seems to be the solution. And, send your story to the next market on your list.

Rejection is hard. Sending out work is hard. It helps to develop some kind of a coping mechanism; friends are one. Depersonalizing the rejection is another. Someone on Twitter (of all places) tweeted about “collecting rejection tokens,” and I’ve appropriated that one. It’s just another token. It’s like a game and when I collect enough tokens I can trade them for something… maybe an acceptance. The facts are, the way you get published is by sending out your work, so keep doing it. And a by-product of sending out your work is rejection. So, collect the whole set. Rage in private. Mock the editor with your friends in private, and send the story to the next market on your list.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

We woke up about six-forty-five Monday morning, because the rookery of crows about a mile away was raising its usual ruckus. They all start, cawing and squawking, for about fifteen minutes, before they fly off in various groups to their various territories. I’m used to them.

I’m not used to it being dark this time of year though.

Spouse got up and twitched aside the curtain. “Huh. Overcast,” he said. He opened the slider a bit. “Looks like fog.” He pulled on his jeans and walked out of the room, and I thought, smoke.

There was a layer of nearly white powder on the deck, punctuated with slender black lines and arcs. I got my robe and went out to the front, where the sun was a fire opal in a rust-colored sky. Near my foot was a slug-shaped object, glossy black. I nudged it with my slipper and it pulverized into dust; a burnt leaf.

Smoke everywhere.

During the night, we’d heard sirens once. I’d known about a Calistoga fire and a small fire in Kenwood, twenty-seven miles away from where I live. The wind had rattled the house with sharp gusts all night. I had expected more sirens. I hadn’t expected this.

And I didn’t even know that much, yet.

On the news; the Tubbs Road fire was getting a lot of attention. Tubbs Road was in Calistoga, nearly fifty miles away. Why so much attention? Then I started hearing names like Larkfield. Mark West Springs Road. Fountaingrove.

I e-mailed my friends who live in Larkfield. I knew they were fine, it was just a formality, a “you guys okay?” thing, like you do. Karen e-mailed me that they and the pets had evacuated at about 1:30 and had stayed at her office; everyone was fine.

I thought, “Mark West Springs Road. That’s like 1964.” I knew Karen and Brian would have an inconvenient night or two and then go home. Later, there would be funny stories about getting up and leaving in the tiny hours of the morning.

“Do you need anything?” I sent.

She said they were fine. Half-jokingly, I replied, “Not even kitty litter/dog toys?”

I looked around on Facebook to make sure friends had marked themselves “Safe.” A couple of friends were without power but were in no danger. I realized Nixle, the law enforcement notification system the county uses, had notified me 14 times during the night. All of them were about fires. I started swiping through them not really reading them, when Karen e-mailed me back.

“I just heard the house is gone. Pet toys would be appreciated.”

I looked at it. I could tell I was reading it wrong, because that first sentence looked like it said the house was gone. (My memory suddenly flashed up a perfect image of their house, at Halloween, Brian’s spooky special effects in the front yard, sunlight through the peach-pink dogwood leaves, the pitch of the roof… like I was standing in front of it. Why do our minds do that?)

I read it again. I think I replied “What?” but I could decipher the words. I just didn’t understand what they meant. Only I did.

*

In September, 1964, a cigarette tossed away by a hunter started a brush fire near St Helena. The Hanley fire, as it was called, would spread, and embers carried from it would start fires in Boyes Hot Springs and Nun’s Canyon Road. The winter in 1963/64 had been a wet one, and the fire found lots of fuel. Strong gusting winds drove the fire forward in fits and starts. The fire would “hang back,” as one firefighter put it, “hang back and hang back and then you’d be dead.” Bursting with fuel, pushed by the winds and generating its own weather, flame roared through the narrow canyons of Mark West Road and Chanate Road, coming within a mile of what was then the county hospital. It burned north, up toward Windsor and Chalk Hill. I remember walking home from school under a leaden sky and watching a black leaf twirl down out of the sky to land on my hand. It was still warm as it broke into ash.

*

No one died in the 1964 fire, mainly because there weren’t a lot of homes or businesses along the fire paths. Not like fifty years later, when the city’s boundaries have grown, and houses have gone up onto ridges that used to be grass, and into canyons that used to be trees and meadows.

*

I did what a friend would do; I brought pet toys.

Karen is the Director of Human Services; with no sleep, knowing her house was gone, she was hard at work maintaining her department and getting ready to deploy staff to the EOC, to shelters, to staff the phone lines at 211. Brian, a writer and artist, was trying to reach all family, friends, neighbors, to let them know his status and Karen’s, and also find out how they were; where they were (in the case of some neighbors) and did they know.

The entire neighborhood is demolished. People are alive. People are okay.

Brian said that there are days in your life that divide your life into Before and After. “Until today,” he said, “The birth of the twins was that day.”

*

Nearly everyone I’ve talked to in the last three days knows someone this has happened to.

This fire followed the path of the 1964 fire. Supercharged by fuel, 65-mph winds and its own energy, it jumped the freeway at Fountaingrove Parkway, and burned a housing tract on the east side of town. That was new. That was probably the scariest thing; the moment we all knew that we could not predict this event.

The other thing that’s new, good and bad; how quickly we get given input. Some of the input is fact. Some is assumed fact. Some is wrong. Most of it is good; all of it is terrible. I hope that makes sense.

*

My town is filled with evacuees. I’m glad they’re here. I’m glad they had family or friends they can stay with, or came to one of the shelters. I’m glad they are safe. Karen and Brien are safe too, staying with grown daughters far from the fires. The other people I know who lost their homes have a place to stay, food, safety.

I don’t know about those who were in homeless encampments in the Fountaingrove hills, or people who were renting. We won’t know for a while. The fires are still uncontained; they have spread to Windsor and Geyserville, and there are fires in Napa County, Solano County and Mendocino.

I was just a kid in 1964. I wonder if this what the grownups felt like; knowing nothing, waiting, hoping a time would come when they would be able to help.

 

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Killjoys; A Pleasure

Killjoy character D'avin, Dutch and Johnnie

Basic Black and Projectile Weapons, it’s how we roll

You may have gathered that I like the Syfy show Killjoys. I wrote about hackmods; I wore a Feminist Killjoy T-shirt at HawaiiCon. (A guy said, “It’s nice to see the RAC represented.”) Killjoys is a space opera conceived by Michelle Lovretta, the inventor of the quirky fantasy show Lost Girl. It shares some philosophy with Lost Girl, and some sensibility. And it’s fun.

I called it “space opera.” Killjoys is set in a planetary system in the “J star-cluster.” There are rocket ships and pulse weapons, AI ships, and colonized moons. No one really talks about how fast the ships go or where they go (there may be one or two hand-waving mentions of FTL travel). None of that matters because this isn’t “hard” science fiction. That’s what “space opera” is; the term grew out of an old TV phrase, “horse opera” (which might have even come from the much-older expression soap opera, still in use today)… horse operas were westerns. Space operas have space ships and fancy weapons, usually take place on other planets, and are not at all worried about the “how” of being there. They are usually military, often capers, and basically provide action adventure in space. Killjoys honors that lineage and uses a little bit of each subgenre.

It’s fun, it’s actiony, and it’s popcorn-worthy, but it isn’t shallow. Killjoys asks a lot of questions about inequality and privilege. Capitalism comes in for a thorough critique in this show, and that critique is a large part of the plot and the story.

The main character of Killjoys is Dutch, a Reclamation Agent (bounty hunter) and part of the Reclamation Apprehension Coalition (the RAC). Dutch is a bit of a mystery. She says she was raised in a harem, and is the daughter of an impoverished aristocrat in a remote system at the “end of the J,” and to our surprise, this turns out to be true. Dutch, who was born Yalena Yardeen, is also an assassin. Dutch has two partners, brothers Johnnie and D’avin Jacobuis. They berth their smart ship Lucy on the moon of Westerly in a planetary system called The Quad; a large planet with three habitable moons. Leathe is a garden planet; Westerly has been strip-mined and is definitely the Bad Part of Town, and Arken, although technically inhabitable is (wink, nudge,) empty. The host planet is called Creche, inhabited by the Nine Families, who together form a corporation called… The Corporation. Creche’s ice caps are melting at a fast rate and land on Creche is disappearing; and the Nine plan to do something about that, mostly by ignoring contracts and deals they made generations earlier. Because they’re the Nine, who says they have to honor their own treaties?

Killjoys at the Royal bar

“Did I mention we killjoys drink? A lot?”

Like Lost Girl, the center of the on-moon action in Killjoys is a bar, the Royal, owned by Pree, elegantly played by Thom Allison. Dutch has befriended a Scarback monk who is also a revolutionary, named Alvis Akari, and Season One concentrates on unrest on Westerly and an attempted miners uprising. There is a deeper, multi-season story at play that involves Dutch’s scary tutor, Khylen, a rank of RAC agent called a Level Six (RAC ranks only go to Level 5); Red 17, and a neon-green goo.

Apart from a complicated, interesting story, Killjoys has a lot going for it.

Characters:

Characters are well-drawn, and rather quickly drawn. In the pilot, the original pairing is techno-boy Johnnie and Dutch, but Johnnie darts out into metaphorical traffic to go after a mystery warrant, which is his long-lost brother D’avin. D’avin and his own secrets join the partnership. I didn’t like D’avin that much at first; he seemed like a stereotypical character, but then I realized they were writing him funny. Johnnie (Aaron Ashmore) is the quippy, snarky one-liner brother, Luke McFarlane, who plays D’av, is master of the deadpan delivery. In Season Three, when talking about baby names (long story) he says to his nemesis/baby-mama, “How do you feel about apostrophes?”

After a nasty fight with a green-goo-laden Level Six who explodes (eeuw) D’av says to Dutch, “Remember when we just used to catch badguys? Yeah, that was fun.”

Johnnie loses some of his idealism as the story progresses. He is still the “good” brother, but he’s made some choices; he’s done some things. And I don’t think he’s done yet. Dutch has tried to leave her assassin past behind her, but she is realizing that she may need to draw on those skill if humanity in the J system is going to survive.

Characters like Pree, Pawter, Turin and Delle Seyah Kendry are all well-developed, complicated people who don’t always fall into line when Dutch wants them too. Even Dutch’s smart ship, Lucy, has an AI of her own and chooses to exercise it.

Humor/Anachronisms and Pop Culture:

The show gleefully plays in anachronistic pop-culture references and makes them work. In the apostrophe conversation I referenced above, D’av says a moment later, “Fathers have rights too.” Dutch and D’av call each other “special snowflakes.” It’s all done knowingly, and it works. The show also uses the word “joy” for “money” which goes a way to explaining the title.

Costuming:

Delle Seyah

“Why yes, I am evil. Your point?”

Generally, Syfy does not seem to have invested a boatload of cash into the production values of Killjoys, but the production makes that work. Westerly is grimy; most “other planets” are the same desert-like location. (They clearly used a quarry for one exterior and that was simply awesome.) Where the show chooses to spend money is on costuming is mostly for Dutch and the evil Niner Delle Sayah. This choice completely pays off. Usually, Dutch is running around in standard woman-warrior black, flipping badguys, doing spin-kicks, taking the one-in-a-million shot, but several times a season she “goes undercover” in some glamorous slinky affair. And it all works. With the introduction in Season Two of another female adversary, Aneela, we get a whole different wardrobe look. They all work. They’re all fun.

Autonomy, Corruption and Revolution:

The Corporation is corrupt and has been for generations. The RAC has held itself as “neutral.” “We take no bribes, we take no sides, the warrant is all” is their motto; and this is a complete lie. The RAC is as deeply compromised as the Corporation, and our Killjoys discover that pretty quickly. The multi-season story is about memory, about being co-opted, and about fighting for personal freedom. This may be Dutch’s personal story, as she struggles reconcile her current life with her past identity. This may be the struggle of the miners on Westerly; or the hackmods who have been enslaved and had their bodies and brains modified without their consent. It’s the struggle of anyone who has ever questioned the idea that something is right just because it’s been that way for a long time.  The show is all about these questions, but it doesn’t sledge-hammer you.

Music:

I thought the incidental music in the first season was intrusive, but by Season Two I was loving how they used song, both instrumental and voice, to enhance the story. A real treat (they’ve done it twice now) is letting Thom Allison’s character Pree sing. He has a gorgeous voice and the character of Pree melds perfectly with these choices. The “bar music” we’ve heard in the Royal has mostly had a folk-music vibe, which fits impoverished miners and taps into a cultural theme (Scottish music making the journey to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and the Appalachian mountains). Allison can sing pop or he can sing folk and he does both. Beautifully.

Killjoys has been renewed for Season Four and Season Five. Right now it’s on hiatus, so it’s a great time to watch it On Demand. Usually it is on Friday nights. Check it out.

Dutch:  Hannah John-Kamen

Johnnie Jacobius:  Aaron Ashmore

D’avin Jacobius:  Luck McFarland
Lucy: Tamsen McDonough
Pree:  Thom Allison
Alvis Akari:  Morgan Kelly
Turin: Patrick Garrow
Khylen: Rob Stewart
Delle Sayah Kendry:  Mayko Nguyen

Here’s the imdb page, and here’s the wiki.

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Orphan Black; Which Sestra Had the Greatest Growth?

Five Ledas

Five Ledas

Orphan Black completed its run with the Season Five finale. The showrunners and the astonishingly versatile Tatiana Maslany managed to complete the story, wrap up loose ends and bring us out on a note of hope and female autonomy. Along with The Expanse, Orphan Black is the best science fiction show on television. Now that it’s over, I find myself ruminating on just which of the five women whose lives we followed – five “genetic identicals,” clones – grew the most over the course of the show.

To write this column I am going to talk about everything that happens right up to the final few minutes of the final episode. Spoilers abound so if you haven’t seen the fifth season yet, you may want to hold off on reading this.

Orphan Black started us off with Sarah, British-Canadian; a grifter, a scrapper, one step up from a street kid. Tough, savvy Sarah is returning to the home of her foster mother, Mrs S, with half a brick of cocaine she stole from her boyfriend. Her goal is to sell it, snatch her daughter Kira who is in Mrs. S’s custody, and make a run for it, setting up a new life for herself and her daughter. In the first two minutes of the show, we get the feeling that “making a run for it” is what Sarah does best.

Sarah Manning

Sarah Manning

On the train platform in Toronto, Sarah comes face to face with a woman who looks exactly like her, seconds before the woman throws herself in front of a train. Stunned but still opportunistic, Sarah snatches the look-alike’s purse and bolts. Soon she has roped her foster-brother Felix into a scheme to impersonate the dead woman and clear out her savings account. She has reckoned without a couple of facts; Beth Childs, the dead woman with her face, is a homicide detective, and one in trouble with Internal Affairs for a bad shooting. And, Beth has a live-in boyfriend named Paul.

There is more of a mystery with Beth; specifically, the women who keep calling her, and in short order Sarah discovers that there are several women who look like her. She –and we—meet the sisterhood of the Leda clones; the main characters of this twisty, crazy, suspenseful show.

In addition to Sarah, the primary Ledas are:

Alison Hendrix, a rigid, controlling suburban housewife and soccer mom; a woman who is perfectly turned out at every moment, who has a frighteningly well-organized crafts room; the mother of two adopted children; a secret boozer and pill popper who seethes with rage at never having been good enough.

Alison Hendrix

Alison Hendrix

Cosima Niehaus, a gifted scientist from the U.S. with a degree in biology, getting her doctorate in evolutionary development (evo-devo); a lesbian with an open heart and a compassionate, non-judgmental nature. Cosima is sick, with a persistent cough that is getting worse.

Cosima Niehaus

Cosima Niehaus

Helena Black ; a Ukrainian woman who was raised as an assassin. Helena is feral; there are only two things she does well; kill people, and interact with children.

Helena. Yes, that is a bloodstained wedding gown.

Helena. Yes, that is a bloodstained wedding gown.

Very soon another Leda appears on the horizon; Rachel Duncan, a Leda clone raised in the bureaucratic bosom of the Dyad Corporation, the business-mask of the secret group who created the Ledas and another line of clones, the male Castors. Rachel is not and will never be part of the sisterhood. Her early childhood was idyllic, raised by two scientists, Ethan and Susan Duncan. When they were killed in a fire, she was “adopted” by DyadCorp, with Dr. Aldous Leeky as a proxy parent. Rachel was a “self-aware” clone; she knew what she was and that she was part of an experiment. She has been groomed to be a manager and a CEO and has risen to prominence in Dyad in the first season of the show.

Rachel Duncan

Rachel Duncan

As this group of Canadian Ledas struggle to figure out what they are, Dyad rushes to contain them, or, if that isn’t possible, eliminate them. Dyad is fascinated that Sarah has a child, because the Ledas were developed to be sterile. Then they discover that Kira has some unusual abilities, and she becomes the prize the factions fight over for the next four seasons. The “sestras,” the Ukrainian word for “sister” will fight Dyad; a fringe group called Neolution; the religious Prolethians; the Castors and each other for their freedom and Kira’s.

Each sestra has to grow and change, or risk failure. Who grew the most? In Hawaii, I discussed this briefly with Marilyn Hedtke, who felt that Rachel did the most growing. I certainly saw how Rachel had grown, but I disagreed at the time, because I was measuring her growth in terms of how much farther Rachel has to go in terms of redemption. Rachel did a lot of damage, and when the show ends, she has a lot to make up for.

I thought the sestra who had grown the most was Helena, who changes from a savage killer to a loving sister and mother who is still a… well, still a savage killer. Helena will always be a savage killer, but she has learned to trust. Helena is happy at the end of the show, a thing we could not imagine her being in Season One when we first meet her.

In the final act of the final episode, it seemed like Sarah had changed the least. The Ledas have won; they are free of all their enemies. Kira is free to live her life, and she has cousins now, including the young Leda Charlotte. Sarah, planning to take her GED and become a productive member of society, instead blows off the test. She has put a For Sale sign on the lawn of Siobhan’s (Mrs. S’s) house which she’s inherited. All the signals point to Sarah doing what she does most easily; making a run for it.

At Helena’s baby shower, though, Sarah comes clean with her sisters. She admits she ditched the test and lied to Kira about it. “I’m still a shit mom,” she says, echoing a very important line that Helena uses not once, but twice, with the psychopathic scientist Virginia Coaty. Now that there is no one left to fight, Sarah doesn’t know what to do. She hasn’t let herself mourn the loss of Siobhan. In that moment, however, Sarah is doing the thing she has never done before; she is reaching out to her family, being vulnerable.

Cosima is a vital player to the plot of Orphan Black because she is the scientist who has come the closest to curing the disease that kills both the Leda clones and the Castor clones. As a character, Cosima demonstrates nearly zero character-growth. It sounds paradoxical, but what Cosima has to do in the show is stay alive until she can save her life. In terms of emotional growth, Cosima is a plot engine more than a character.

Within Cosima’s story arc, though, the Neolutionist scientist Delphine faces challenges on nearly every front; from her sexuality to her own autonomy. When we first meet Delphine, she is prostituting both her body and her intellect to Leeky and Neolution. At one point, she ousts Rachel from the CEO chair of Dyad; and shortly after that she betrays Cosima. And shortly after that she is shot. Delphine’s resurrection and growth happen mostly in the last two seasons and she credits Siobhan with her growth, telling Sarah, “[Siobhan] taught me how to not be afraid.”

And then there is soccer-mom-from-Hell Alison, and her husband Donnie. I was often frustrated with the Alison storylines, even while I was doubled over gasping with laughter. Alison’s marriage to Donnie is flat and insincere until circumstances force them to get authentic. It’s sad that those circumstances involve killing Dr. Leeky and burying him under the floor in their garage, but sometimes that’s how things go. This magical moment over a jackhammer bonds Donnie and Alison, and Donnie’s connection to a pregnant Helena later in the show helps him emerge as a real, nuanced person and a loving husband. I did wonder if the showrunners did so much with Alison because Tatiana Maslany and Kristian Bruun, who played Donnie, had such great chemistry. Alison bottoms out, has revenge sex with another husband on the street, lets a rival wife on the street die in front of her, goes into rehab, relapses, becomes a drug dealer and a member of the school board (those two in the same season); and at the end is oddly at peace with herself, coloring her hair purple and getting rid of her crafts room so she can write music and “live deep.” Perhaps this is the greatest growth, but somehow, I never quite believed it. With Donnie and Alison, the next catastrophe is only a breath away.

It seems like detective Beth’s growth arc ended in the first five minutes of the series, but in Season Four, the story circles back around to the police detective, and we find out that her fatal act is not bred of despair, but of a desperate self-sacrifice, one that Sarah unintentionally ruins with her impersonation.

Beth Childs

Beth Childs

I should mention that there are several other Leda clones who make an appearance. Maslany, in addition to being an actress capable of deep emotion, and startlingly versatile, lent herself to stunt casting and there was a time when it felt like the show runners were saying, “How many clones can we add?” The majority of them were on for one or two episodes. The character of Krystal showed character growth, definitely.

Which leads me back to the essential five; Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena and Rachel. By now, looking at where they started to where they ended up, I see the argument for Rachel. Rachel will never be part of the sestras. The wounds she has caused, and her own wounds (literally, a lost eye and brain damage) are too deep. Rachel, raised up to be the token corporate clone, had the farthest to fall. In Season Five, from the exalted expression of ecstasy on her face when she hears the words, “Mr. Westmorland will see you now,” to the moment in her office with the stem of a martini glass, Rachel’s plunge is the deepest, but it isn’t a fall, it’s a dive. Rachel finally, literally, sees the truth of Neolution, of the men who have lied to her, shaped her and controlled her. A captive Kira asks her, “Who hurt you?” Rachel answers, “All of them.” When she acts, it isn’t a fall. She chooses her own actions to be free of them.

Rachel still has the farthest to go. Did she come the farthest? Cosima lives, Helena, Alison and Donnie have twin boys to raise, and Sarah is letting herself, slowly, put down roots. Rachel drives off in an Uber, but not before making a gesture of redemption to Felix, one that will save lives. So, it is Rachel? I think maybe it is.

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Breathe In; SF, Science and the Sacred

Breathe in. Pay attention to how your chest, your shoulders, your lungs feel. Breathe out. Feel the air move against the sides of your throat, your nostrils.

In your mind, do you separate those two actions, breathing in and breathing out? I usually don’t. It’s all breathing. (If I do consciously separate them, it’s usually a sign I’m in some distress; like I can’t do one of them and I need to.) I don’t say things like, “I came from a family of inhalers, but at school I converted to exhaling because it just makes more sense.”

For some people, in some cultures, there is no divide between science and the sacred; no split between the scientific method or advanced technology and reverence. There is no continuum with “science” at one end and “the sacred” at the other.

I am not one of those people. I want to be.

Lava rocks and leaves

Lava rocks and leaves

The HawaiiCon panel “SF, Science and the Sacred took a look at this very debate. SF, they said, is a “safe space” (and they used that term deliberately) in which to play with questions about the ways science and the sacred intersect.

Tim Slater is, in his own words, “An astronomer and a Christian. Depending on what group I’m with, one of those two always elicits surprise.”

SF, Science and the Sacred panel. Lto R, Keao NeSmith, Lou Myer, Kalah Perkins, Tim Slater

SF, Science and the Sacred panel. Lto R, Keao NeSmith, Lou Mayo, Kalah Perkins, Tim Slater

Kalah Perkins has a Masters in Divinity and is a non-denominational chaplain who has spent time with monks in Nepal, and at large telescope arrays in several parts of the world. Her primary interest is social justice issues. Like Tim, she said, she is considered “the artistic one with the telescope guys, and the scientific one with my artistic friends.”

Lou Mayo is an astronomer with a specialty in helio-physics, who teaches at Marymount California University. He also reaches aikido and other martial arts.

Keao NeSmith is a native Hawaiian who teaches at the University of Hawaii Manoa. He translates works into Hawaiian (he is working on the Harry Potter series now) and is part of a group who restored and maintains a heiau – a sacred ritual platform—on Kauai. I never did get what his degree is in.

This was a wide ranging discussion that set off connections in my head like tiny super-novas. I could have listened to them for another hour—maybe two. I could listen to them now.

Back, though, to this distinction between spiritual and scientific. Slater said that modern geology shows us (in this case literally shows us, because we have underwater photography of the “hot spot”) that the northern part of the Hawaiian Archipelago was formed first, and that the Big Island, the largest island, is in fact the youngest of the chain. Hawaiian cosmology states that the Big Island is the oldest island in the chain. Hawaiians can hold both of these ideas in their heads at the same time. “It’s quite silly to think you can’t understand a thing from both your spirit and your mind.”

Perkins recounted the experience of seeing a distant galaxy through a telescope. A friend said, “Well, where is God in all of this?”

“Where isn’t God in all of this?” Perkins said.

Lou Mayo said, “We’re not comfortable with the unknown. It’s an existential problem. As a race, we are voyagers, explorers, scientists.” He does not see science and faith as in opposition, he said, rather, “At right angles to each other. Science says, ‘show me the money,’ and faith says, ‘I am here.’”

I loved that image even if I don’t quite see how the “graph” of science/faith quite works.

Slater riffed on the “existential problem.” It’s a big universe, he said, and, with a nod to Fermi’s paradox, an advanced civilization would not destroy itself (Assumption One); so where are they all? “Either there is other life in the universe, or we’re alone, we’re it. Either one is equally terrifying.”

North Kohala Rainbow

North Kohala Rainbow

It was when Keao started talking about translating that the conversation got trippy. He wanted to translate H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, but hit a snag right away. He didn’t know which word to use for “time.” Hawaiian has a word for seconds/minutes and an agreed-upon units of measure (clock-time). There is another word for time, and it means longer intervals, like an epoch. That word is “wa” and it also means a rift or a gap. (Amusingly for Doctor Who fans, my Handy Hawaiian Dictionary defines “wa” as “space, in time or place.”)

An audience member asked if he could put the two words together with a hyphen. “We could, but it wouldn’t make any sense,” he said.

Slater piped up, “It would be like saying north-squirrel.”

A ritual platform on Kauai

A ritual platform on Kauai

I completely understood about the clock-time thing, because many of us from the mainland had been saying we were keeping “California time.” This was because we would bound out of bed at 6:00 am according to the clock in our room or the time on our phone. This wasn’t California time. These were California hours. If you normally get up at six-thirty in CA and you want to keep California time, you’d get up at 3:30 am in Hawaii during Daylight Saving Time. We were actually keeping Hawaiian time, reacting to when the sun came up, and when it got dark.

Nothing to do with the sacred? Maybe not, but Keao went on to talk about the idea of “history.” Hawaiians have a word, mo’olelo, which comes close to meaning, “what we’ve done before.” This can be in the sense of tradition, but, if I understood it right, can also mean something like a “what-the-folks-and-I-did-last-summer” kind of thing. It does not mean an abstract, textbook list of dates and events, a knotted string that starts from things only a bunch of people in parts of Europe a long time ago would be interested in. So, Hawaiians don’t care much about the past, I guess, then, right? Well, no, because “what they have done before” is introduce themselves to strangers, via chant, by providing a list of their family and ancestors. Hawaiians don’t experience what happened before as a knotted string, it’s more like a net, a web that includes extended family, foster family and ancestors. Native Hawaiians, from birth, are part of something.

To me, a large part of the spiritual experience is a desire to be part of something. Usually, it’s a drive to be part of something beyond our quotidian existence. This can lead to great movements like early Christianity and social justice movements… and great works of art. The same yearning leads some of us into Nazism, corporatism and (maybe I’m reaching here) social media addiction. Does a sense of community that reaches through the gap of time, in some way, meet that need?

Hibiscus

Hibiscus

If you live in Hawaii, you are in a geologically active part of the world. You cannot ignore the fact that the earth, the ground beneath your feet, is not inert. It is dynamic.

Where is God in all of this?

Where isn’t God in all of this?

Lou Mayo seemed to create a category of “things we just don’t know yet,” and he put God in that category. Or maybe he called that category “God.”

Keoa used the word “akua” and defined it first as “unknown.” A moment later he defined it as “a god.”

The idea of God as the Unanswered Question works fine for me. When I experience God, and I do, it is in moments of awe. It might come from seeing the vastness of distant galaxies, or from studying the Milky Way as I walk on a beach in North Kohala. It might come from watching molten rock the color of the setting sun pouring into the ocean, or seeing colonies of coral under a microscope. It might come from reading that a variety of plant that lives in the tropics blooms all over the world at the same time… even the plants that are in hothouses or botanical gardens thousands of miles from their original environment. It might come when I hear that a 400 year old ti plant on Kauai shares DNA with a plant that lives in a valley on Tahititi, a valley named Pele’s Place. The whys and the hows of those things are unknown to me. God as the Unanswered Question.

But enough about me.

The panel did not spend much time talking about SF as the safe space, the bridge between science and the sacred, other than to say it was, and that stories allow us to explore both. For me, the panel was that bridge. I wanted more, and nearly a week later, I still do.

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Starting 61

One way to celebrate your 61st birthday is to be in Hawaii when it occurs. My birthday fell during HawaiiCon, so I was in Hawaii anyway. A few things made this year’s birthday exceptionable beyond being in a subtropical paradise.

Most of our writing group planned to meet at the Mauna Lani Hotel and Bungalows during or after the Con, so we could have our writing group face to face. Three of us were there for the Con, and Margaret and Terry decided to take me out to dinner for my birthday. Margaret lined up a reservation and kept adding people to it that she thought would be around. A few of them weren’t in yet, though. After Writers with Drinks on Thursday, it turned out we had a reservation for seven people, and only four lined up. Fred White, scholar, writer and Terry’s husband, made up the fourth. Marta decided to stay as host of Writers with Drinks. On impulse, I invited Marta’s longtime friend John Hedtke and his wife Marilyn, and they accepted.

Margaret had made a reservation at Tommy Bahama’s. I didn’t know Tommy Bahama’s was a restaurant. I thought they sold board shorts and Hawaiian shirts for men. They do that too; but upstairs from the clothing store was one of their several restaurants. It had a bit of a 1960’s guys’ hangout vibe; maybe “Hawaiian steakhouse” even though that isn’t a thing. I think for instance that about fifty percent of the space was in the bar. We had a table on the terrace and, even though we were in an area filled with artificial light, we could see stars.

The food was good, the conversation great, the ambiance delightful, but what makes my 61st birthday truly memorable was the musical performer at Tommy Bahama’s.

The musical performer that Thursday night was… well, there are two possibilities. Option A is that he was an excellent performer in a school of music so small, obscure and arcane that none of knew it, and we couldn’t recognize the virtuoso in our midst. Option B is that is he wasn’t good. Since two of our party sing in choruses and one plays and writes music, I’m leaning heavily toward Option B.

When we entered Tommy Bahama’s  we encountered low lighting and a strange music; sort of electric guitar with a steady thumping beat behind it, that somehow still sounded like elevator music. Terry and I looked at each other. “What song is that?” We couldn’t make it out. Then a male voice joined the instruments. The host came up to lead us to our table.

“I heard the word ‘world’,” Marilyn said. We all had that scrunched-brow, head-tipped posture of someone trying to make out something they could hear but not understand.

“Is that…? No,” I said. “Wait! It’s… No.”

We walked past the performer who had one of those electric things that’s like a guitar neck with no sound box. I want to say it’s a stick but I may be wrong. (It’s possible it was a travel guitar.) At his feet was an electronic percussion box.

As we stepped out onto the terrace Terry said, “Color My World! It’s Color My World.” She nearly shouted it, she was so excited.

And it was, with a tempo that was nothing like the Chicago hit, and a slightly flat warbling vocal delivery.

And just like that, the rest of meal became “Name That Tune,” because, frankly, we often couldn’t. He changed the tempo of every song. Sometimes, a tempo change allows for a different interpretation of a song, and it’s successful. I would say these were not.

We did not spend the evening obsessing over the musical choices… okay, well, yes we did, but we had other conversations too. John loves puns and wordplays. He writes nonfiction, and a large part of his income comes from writing recovery plans for large corporations. He had a goodly share of stories that were hilarious, if horrifying. Marilyn is an administrative law judge for a very large government agency you would have heard of; she, Margaret and I bonded over silly government office stories. Marilyn’s life is pretty interesting. We all talked about books, movies and TV – I irritated Margaret by wanting to talk about Orphan Black with Marilyn. (“You always talk about Orphan Black!” Margaret said. I can’t argue with that.)

And then… “Wait… is that? Is it…?” Marilyn tilted her head.

John did too. “No. No, that’s not.”

“Yes,” Margaret said. “That’s ‘Benny and the Jets.’”

“Benny and the Jets” set to some tempo that… I don’t even know. A march, a salsa? As if I could tell at that point.

I’ve included a video of Benny and the Jets by the original artist below. Note that this is not a fast song. Please note, though, that there is one fast part, a place in the chorus where Elton John sings, “Buh-buh buh-buh Benny and the Jets.”  The “buhs” are actually plosives with almost no vowel sound behind them; I could have typed that as, “B-B-B-B Benny and the Jets,” to depict it.

The live-at-Tommy-Bahamas version went something like, “Buh (tick-tick), Buh (tick) Buh(tick) (tick) (tick) Bennnieee and the Jeeeetttttttts.”

We were like, what? The cognitive dissonance was killing us!

You might be thinking, well, was it Hawaiian music? Like, open tuning and so on? No. It was not. I’m familiar with Hawaiian music and this was not it.

A few minutes later Marilyn said, “Did he just get good?” We listened. The music had gotten good. It wasn’t him. He was on a break and it was Sirius Radio.

I want to stress that the company was wonderful, the conversation great and the food delicious, and our server added to the delights of the night. John made a couple of puns at her, and when she got to me I said, “You know the whole night’s going to be like this.”

“I have teenaged boys,” she said. “You can’t scare me.”

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We Interrupt Scandinavia to Bring You– HawaiiCon!

2017 is the year I travel to islands that have active volcanoes.

Honu and Hibiscus. The hotel raises sea turtles and releases them into the ocean when they reach maturity.

Honu and Hibiscus. The hotel raises sea turtles and releases them into the ocean when they reach maturity.

Last week I went to the big island in Hawaii for HawaiiCon. This year’s writer guest of honor was Nnedi Okorafor; basically that’s worth the price of admission right there. Okorafor wrote Who Fears Death, the Binti series, the Akata series and Lagoon, along with many other works.

The media guests (and HawaiiCon’s roots are in media cons) included four —four!– actors from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. Nicholas Brendon (Xander) hosted the ziplining for them one entire day, then kicked of the Buffy “Once More With Feeling: singalong.

[Screechy brake noise] Ziplining? Wait… what?

Oh, yeah, did I mention that HawaiiCon is held at an Hawaiian resort? The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows is like those places you see on TV or in that movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, with Kirsten Bell. The grounds– I want to say complex– includes ziplining, a golf course, kayak and snorkle rental, shuttle, shops including a grocery store, in-pool and in ocean swimming… plus a lengthy walking path around some old Hawaiian fish ponds. Normally, nearly a week at this place would be out of my reach, or at least wildly unrealistic, but the Con rate this year was $175/night. It won’t be that good next year, but it will still be great compared to the hotel’s regular rates of about $400/night.
Included in the room rate are a couple of discounts for snorkling and kayak-rental.

The pool area

Swimming pools.

Back to the media track… besides Brendon, Emma Caulfield (Anya), Amber Benson (Tara) and Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) showed up. I only ever saw Brendon as he was walking around the atrium or meeting folks to guide them to the zip-lining. We nodded and said “Hi” twice; he seems exuberantly friendly. Patricia Tellman, who played a telepath on Babylon Five, is a loyal regular (she lives on the island).  G.K. Bowes, an amazing actress who is making a name for herself in voice-work, and her son actor Kannon Kurowski, attended as well as New Zealand transplant Daniel Logan, who plays young Boba Fett.

A couple of cosplayers pose on a balcony

Coupla Cosplayers

I’m sorry I missed Amber Benson since she is both a both a writer and a reader, literally, a voice actor for audiobooks, but otherwise, the media track doesn’t interest me a lot. I saw Daniel on two panels and talked briefly with him at the food trucks one afternoon and he impressed me. I will definitely seek out the anime films G.K. Bowes has voiced.

Second to the media and cosplay track is the science track. I come to HawaiiCon for the writers track because I’m part of it, but I love the science track, which has expanded to include some serious and insightful discussions of what our popular culture feasts like Star Wars have to say about culture.

Here’s a sampling of science track topics:

Volcanoes of Hawaii.
Volcanoes in Film… what Hollywood gets right and what it gets wrong.
Squid farming.
Build a pasta tower (using uncooked pasta).
SF, science and the sacred.
Hawaiian heiaus (ritual platforms), and what they tell us about the Polynesian migration.
The cultures of Star Wars.

The writing track is small at HawaiiCon, but it is growing. Last year there were five writers and three were self-published. This year there were nine writers, and in addition to Nnedi Okorafor we had Wen Spencer, a fan favorite who publishes with Baen, Cynthia Felice who is considering reissuing her well-known work from the David Hartwell Timescape line, Marta Randall and John Hedkte, who has published nearly thirty non-fiction works. There were many more writing panels than last year, and the writers workshop was packed,the audience begged us to go another hour. I think things are coming along on that front.

Marqueeda LaStar and Leonardo Faierman of the lifestyle site Black Girl Nerds were in attendance, and Marqueeda provided a lively interview with Nnedi.

Rod Roddenberry (Eugene Roddenberry Jr) is a fixture at the con, and he provided a relaxed Q&A poolside. One of the hallmarks of the Con is that things are… relaxed. You may end up sipping an umbrella drink in the poolside bar with the celebrity or writer you just heard on a panel, or wading in the ocean next to a Star Wars player or a fantasy writer.

In my case, I had drinks with the two geologists who did the volcano panels, and a friend of theirs from Hilo, who is a biologist and who talked about endangered species on the big island. Another time Nnedi and I caught the shuttle back from the shops, and talked about HBO, the swordfish from her book Lagoon, and the koi in the pond under the portico.

And there is cosplay, notably a contest Saturday night. Cosplay is now big enough that there are panels about it.

I might provide some more in-depth columns later. As I am writing this, I glance at the clock in my hotel room and realize I need to be packing, because I fly home tomorrow. Here are some links. Next year promises to be every bit as fun and beautiful. Check it out.

Here’s the home page. And here is the blog.

Here is information on the venue, which will be the venue for 2018 as well (they’re already signed a contract).

More pictures will follow!

Sunset with the catamaran than provides the sunset cruise.

Sunset with the catamaran than provides the sunset cruise.

 

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Time for Some Product Evaluation

I bought two items new, solely to take to Finland and Iceland, and I’m taking a break from travelogue to discuss them.

I bought this Osgoode Murphy purse at Silk Moon. It’s leather, with a long strap so it can be worn messenger-style, which is how I prefer to wear purses. My purse before this one, which I used every day for four years, was also an Osgoode Murphy bag. The new bag is slightly more saddlebag shaped, with two zippered exterior pockets and a long zippered exterior compartment near the top of the purse.

Purse. Osgoode Murphy came through again.

Osgoode Murphy came through again.

I also succumbed to paranoia (and some gifted up-selling) and bought another, smaller purse,  with RFID blocking and fancy clasps on each zipper head. I never took that purse out of the suitcase.

I was going to say, “Starting in Finland, I systematically abused the purse,” but in fact I started earlier, on the plane, when I shoved my travel lanyard into it on top of the wallet, the checkbook, the address book, the business-card holder, the three energy bars, the tissues, the little metal-covered notebook, three pens, several varieties of lip balm, Advil, Airborne, a Tide stain remover stick and the last of a roll of cough drops. My phone fit perfectly in one of the zippered outer pockets, and my little Canon camera fit perfectly in the other pocket. I shoved my car and house keys into the zippered interior pocket, and my phone charger and electric converter in the long outer compartment. Over the course of the trip, I tugged that out and shoved it back in about seventeen times.

At WorldCon I folded up brochures and stuffed them in on top of everything else. I did have a tote bag, and I used it, but more and more smaller items, gift items mostly, went into the purse.

In Iceland, the purse got drenched by salt spray twice (boat trips). It got jammed down next to my feet or shoved against my side. I caught the strap on things at least twice. I did catch the fabric lining of the purse in the teeth of the zipper once when I was shoving my charging apparatus back into the purse for about the fifteenth time. Once I worked loose the fabric, the zipper was fine.

The purse is shiny as ever, and holding up as well as ever. No scuffs, no gaps.  Tonight, it gets a leather-balm spa treatment.

Lightweight cashmere poncho.

Lightweight cashmere poncho.

 

While I was at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference I bought this cashmere mini-poncho at Rainsong. It was expensive for something that is basically a sweater ($149).

It’s very light, and quite warm. The color is blue-gray. I brought a fleece jacket and a water-resistant jacket on the trip, I mainly used the poncho for evenings and a couple of morning walks. It was perfect. Since it’s so light, it could be easily stuffed into my tote bag for day trips.

Poncho folded with a dollar bill for size comparison.

This is neatly folded. I could actually scrunch it down smaller than this if I had to.

At Rainsong, the sales rep said she had women who “bought one in every color” (and I’m sure that’s true), or “one for the car and one for the house. They’re a little pricey by my lights, so I’ll settle for the blue, but one was worth the price.

 

 

 

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Iceland; Fun Facts

Our Gray Line tour guide asked us to call him G, because his full name was difficult for tourists to pronounce. On our ride back to Reykjavik, he shared a few fun facts about this northern island nation.

Wake and city from water. I did not grayscale this photo.

I did not grayscale this photo.

–Historically, Iceland was part of Denmark until 1918, although, as G put it, “Denmark paid no attention to us.” (Hurt feelings a little, G?) In the 19-teens, Icelandic students at university in Copenhagen got radicalized, came home and started a movement for independence, which was successful and basically peaceful. Iceland became an independent nation in 1918. Apparently Denmark really was just not that into them. Denmark’s loss, I’d say.

–In Iceland’s schools, all children learn Icelandic and English. Beginning in the fourth grade, they must learn a third language, either Swedish or Danish. Nearly everyone in Iceland is bilingual and many are trilingual. (We met a server at a restaurant who admitted with some chagrin that her Swedish wasn’t very good. She explained that to us in perfect English.)

–Icelandic is the oldest of the Scandinavian languages and the closest to Old Norse.

Whale tail, attached to a whale off the coast of Keflavik

Whale tail, attached to a whale off the coast of Keflavik

–Every town and village has a public swimming pool complex and the pools are for more than exercise. Townsfolk gather there for social get-togethers, catching up, social events and meetings. The pools are naturally heated with water from geothermal fields.

–Iceland’s one indigenous predator is the arctic fox. I’m sure before settlers moved in, the fox lived mostly on eggs and chicks of the arctic terns and skua who nest there. When human settlers came, they brought sheep… and with the sheep, they brought mice. Mice breed prolifically, which from a mouse perspective is good because most mice don’t survive a season. As G put it, “Life is not easy for Icelandic mice.”

–There is an indigenous Icelandic falcon, and Icelandic ravens. (SEE: “Life is not easy for Icelandic mice,” above.)

Harpa is Reykjavik's concert hall.

Harpa is Reykjavik’s concert hall.

–Tourism is Iceland’s second largest industry. Fishing is its largest. Fishing, G says, will not grow, because the nation “must keep it sustainable.”

–Iceland is a NATO country, even though it has no army. It has a Coast Guard that has a military arm, and a ground-to-air monitoring system. Iceland did send military personnel to Iraq during George W. Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing.” They sent one person, and she was not a combat soldier (since they have no army); she was in signaling or navigation.

–Reykjavik gets its hot water from geothermal fields, which is why the water often smells like sulfur. It is mixed with glacial water so it is drinkable. Reykjavik also uses radiant heating, which mean hot water pipes under the floorboard of many of its homes and apartments… and uses a form of radiant heating underneath central roads in Rejkjavik, to keep them clear of ice and snow in the winter.

–G pointed out a snow-capped mountain on the horizon and introduced us to the active volcano, Eyjafjallajokul, which erupted in 2010, spewing a huge ash cloud into the air. Because of the prevailing winds, the ash shut down several European “hub” airports. Keflavik Airport wasn’t one of them. “American and European newsreaders could not say ‘Eyjaffjallajokul,’” he said, “so instead they called it E-15; E for the first letter and 15 for the number of remaining letters.”

–G talked a little, not much, about the great recession and Iceland’s banking crisis in 2008. It’s interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, the bank shenanigans in Iceland devastated that nation financially. Secondly, people in Iceland actually went to jail for what they had done, including the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance. The banks were nationalized. When the government came up with an austerity plan that would reduce Iceland’s global indebtedness, the people of Iceland rejected the plan, because it wasn’t austere enough. They told the government to come up with a more stringent plan, and Iceland has paid off its global debts in ten years.

Swan on Lake Tjornin, AKA The Pond.

Swan on Lake Tjornin, AKA The Pond.

G’s job is tour guide, and of course he is working off a script or talking points, but I came away with the impression that he likes his job and loves his beautiful country.

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