wherein patrick rothfuss is witty and charming and epic (wfc 2013 part 3)
Waterstones. The name has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I had imagined a small, intimate indie book store like so many others I had seen in Brighton both online and off since that morning. Well, now you have proof that I am not British. If I was, I would have known that Waterstones is a big bookstore chain like Barnes and Noble and (RIP) Borders. But even those are a rare treat in the age of amazon.
Patrick Rothfuss had announced the reading on his blog the previous week. He would be reading at the World Fantasy Convention too, but the WFC has three panel discussions and two readings happening at any given moment. If I saw him Thursday night off-site, I wouldn’t have to decide between seeing him or Terry Prachett on Friday afternoon. As if that is even a choice.
Still, I almost didn’t go. I almost choose a long wait in the rain in front of an empty apartment (see Wherein My Couchsurfing Host Fucks Me Over). I had called Waterstones the week before to reserve a seat at the reading and been told that I was number twenty-something on the waiting list. I couldn’t imagine who would miss an event with Patrick Rothfuss, who would even consider ditching and leaving a seat free for me and the twenty people waiting in front of me. I secretly hoped they would let us all in out of the goodness of their papery hearts. I hoped and hoped and hoped, and then I got on a bus. Who wants to sit outside of an empty apartment in the rain?
There were two others waiting outside. Are you on the waiting list too? I asked. Nope. We just hoped they would let us in anyway. They did. They did! Because not only did almost ten people with reserved seats not show up, the twenty-something people before me on the waiting list didn’t show up. It turns out that Brighton is one of those cities where people talk a lot of cool and dress a lot of cool but never ever show up for events. (Said some locals who I met later.) And for once I was really really glad.
We climbed three flights of stairs to find Rothfuss standing in front of about thirty people mid-sentence. The walls were lined with dark-wood shelving and panels and books. A coffee bar lay in shadow on the far side of the store, beyond tables stacked with more books. Waterstones employees in Halloween costumes leaned against the sales counter at the back of the room, listening, and copies of Rothfuss’ first two books lined the walls, waiting. I pushed my luggage beneath a table and found a seat in the middle of the audience.
Now listen, I really like Patrick Rothfuss. His first novel, The Name of the Wind, came highly recommended by the same people who had told me I would love Perdido Street Station and The Lies of Locke Lamora. The Name of the Wind really impressed me. Not only was it beautifully written, the story expertly woven into a multi-dimensional wonder, it had feminist elements that the fantasy genre at large is starved for. Here were dudes in a fantasy book discussing the existence of male privilege. It is the kind of thing you might not even notice is missing in a book until it shows up right in front of you, loud and waving its hands and shouting.
Despite the very feminist- and woman-friendly impression I got from The Name of the Wind (I have yet to read the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear), despite the fact that Rothfuss identifies as a feminist loudly, enthusiastically, and intelligently, there has been some controversy about him actually being, well, the opposite of all that. I have read some of the analysis, and now I have heard him talk about it. What I gather is this: Rothfuss may have said some stupid shit and that shit may have in turn been interpreted pessimistically. Mind you, I say this without having read more than two blog posts on the subject. At the same time, I am ready to forgive what I understand to be his slip ups because of the way he presents himself, the way he actively addresses these issues. It makes me happy to see white dudes, ie the people with the most power in this shit system of ours, questioning their own place of privilege and using it as a platform to talk to a lot of people about feminist issues. He is trying to do and say things that I think are important, and he is doing it well. If he fucks up once in a while, I’m ok with that. It is often people’s imperfections and mistakes that endear them to me. Cod knows I’ve made and have enough of my own.
The “reading” was an hour and a half of questions and answers and a few quick minutes of reading to punctuate the ten minutes between questions and book signing. Rothfuss was witty and charming. I don’t remember a lot of the details of the evening, and considering his concern for a bit of mum on more than a few subjects, it is probably better that I don’t. What he read needed a preface besides: It was a story about a woman, a mother, but a woman who is not defined by her motherhood. Her kids are not the end of her story, but punctuation in the sentence that is her life. The kids go off into the world, and she goes on to have more adventures. I can’t wait until it is finished. The world needs more stories like that one. Mothers need more stories like that one. I need more stories like that one.*
When he was finished talking, he retired to the signing table, and the audience moved from chair to line, books clutched to chests, eyes sparkling. Rothfuss signed every book put in front of him, took a picture with everyone who had a camera. One woman had flown in from Germany just for this event. Another turned out to be a talented singer who I chatted with about lyric and song writing. (Thanks for taking my favorite pictures of the entire weekend, Moina!)
Rothfuss dedicated my copy of The Name of the Wind to the Beard and I, and I was able to tell him—no stuttering—that he had written the best fiddle-based insult of all time (because The Name of the Wind not only has fantasy and really interesting science-based magic and gritty cities and a wizard’s university and jesus just fucking everything, it has musicians and performances and did I mention that it is fucking wonderful?) I tucked my signed book back into my bag and pulled my suitcase back out into the rainy night. Yeah, so what if I didn’t have a place to sleep? It was only 10 o’clock, it was Halloween, and the city was full of people obsessed with the same books I love, with the authors of those books. I pulled up my hood and set off into the night, suitcase trailing behind me.
*I want to note that what we need MOST of all is voices from what are now “the margins” telling these stories, but I am glad of anyone and everyone who is telling these stories. I want people of every stripe telling these stories. I want feminism to become a thing of the past because we have so thoroughly acheived equality for every person of every gender that no one can even believe it was once an issue that had to be fought over and for nail and tooth. But in order to make that happen, we need everyone. End note.
wherein i see s.m. stirling read and my couchsurfing host disappears into the mist (wfc 2013 part 2)
At the beginning it is hard to imagine the end. You’ve been looking forward to something for months. You can barely believe it has begun. How could you possibly even start to understand that it is going to end?
If I could have wrapped my head around it, I would have had a picture taken with S.M. Stirling, sitting on the plush Iron Throne on which he perched to read the first two chapters from the as-yet unpublished Emberverse book. All the same, it is the enjoyment of the moment that really matters, the memory of seeing him rush past the table where I was having a snack before his reading to get set up, of sitting in the front row and listening to him do all the accents of the characters who I have followed through 11 books.
He is a really good reader.
The next book brings in Japan.
He doesn’t seem to have any idea if or when the series if ever going to end. (I asked.) What he does know is that he is contracted for three more. What I know is that, despite having read 11 of the 12 published books in the series, the first thirty seconds of his reading contained a massive spoiler. It isn’t that I didn’t see it coming. It’s just that I didn’t know when it was going to happen. Whoops. I still wouldn’t change a thing. I am still going to read the next trilogy. Even though I am starting to get a bit frustrated with the scope of the story, with the weird chronology, with the cartoon-ishness of several characters and their relationships. I still wouldn’t change a thing.
It is hard to remember what else I did on that first day. (Read about day one at the World Fantasy Convention here.) I have notes, but to hell with notes. I attended a panel discussion about e-books, I dropped by the newbie table at the bar, and I scouted out the dealer’s room, purchasing the hard cover copy of Dies the Fire that I would have S.M. Stirling sign. I wandered and read the program and felt generally awed at how many fucking awesome things were about to happen. But first I had to meet up with my couchsurfing host. Because what is an epic adventure without a little drama, a little anxiety, a little waiting out in the rain?
The walk to her apartment took thirty minutes. My luggage was annoying–we had all been given about 15 books at registration and I had already bought several more in the dealers’ room and during my used book store tour of Brighton–but I was giddy. I was going to drop off my luggage, meet the awesome person I had been emailing for the past few weeks, and then go to a Patrick Rothfuss reading at the local Waterstones. I had just heard S.M. Stirling read! I had just sat next to Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear on the train! The world! My oyster! I arrived at the apartment. I rang the bell. And no one answered.
I sent text messages. I called. I sent an email. I left a facebook note. I rang the bell some more. When a neighbor showed up and let me into the building, I banged directly on the door, behind which lay only darkness and silence. I left a note. I knocked shyly, then desperately, then resignedly. I contemplated my options. How long should I wait? I knew I had her number right because I had received a text from her earlier, asking “Is this Nikki?” Were my texts getting through? And if they weren’t, why wasn’t she home when we’d agreed to meet? Worst couchsurfing nightmare. Worst couchsurfing sin. I imagined her saying “ah fuck it,” and skipping off to get drunk with the rest of the costumed hordes roaming the city streets (Happy Halloween!). I despaired. I contemplated sleeping in the hallway. She would have to come back eventually, wouldn’t she? Was this even the right place? The mail in the hallway with her name on it said it was. I waited for an hour. She did not appear. I took a deep breath, thought, “well then, punk rock it is,” and I dragged my suitcase to the bus. I could figure out my sleeping situation later. I had a reading to attend.
wherein i fly to brighton and sit on a train with scott lynch (wfc2013 part 1)
There are so many words. There are no words. This weekend. This weekend! Epic. Inspiring. Madly fun. Fact: You can actually become used to seeing Neil Gaiman and Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch, you know, around. The more you know.
I left the house at 4 am. Nothing at the airport was open, withholding coffee from me until I was in the belly of the metal bird. The flight was uneventful. Reading was impossible. I was so excited. I was so tired. I wanted to finish Red Seas Under Red Skies, I really did. Instead I stared into space, accumulating excited little sparks between my ears. Then I was in England with luggage to pick up and a train system to figure out and e-tickets to print.
As I stood fumbling with my ticket in front of the gates to the tracks at London Victoria, Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear walked past me, pulling suitcases and shouldering bags. I had never seen a picture of Elizabeth Bear, but I recognized Scott from youtube interviews, and I extrapolated. Then, feeling kind of creepy but not really because THERE IS SCOTT LYNCH & YOU DON’T GET THIS CHANCE TWICE, I sat across from them in the train, where I became too agitated to speak. Turns out that eavesdropping and sort-of staring are almost as satisfying. Turns out the false intimacy of twitter and the realities of celebrities make strange bedfellows.
I had had an hour’s wait at the London Victoria train station before my train to Brighton. I had spent some of it figuring out the twitter. (If you want to hear me tweeting about speculative fiction, you can find me @bookpunks. Tell your friends.) I had spent some of it reading Scott Lynch’s tweets. He was tired. He had been on a long flight. And then suddenly there he fucking was standing right in front of me. What could I say? I knew he was tired. I knew too much. Jet-lagged people don’t need any extra hassles. Do they? But I like it when people tell me they like my work. Did he? When is it too much? When is it inappropriate? How do you walk the line between creepy and considerate with a celebrity? How famous was he exactly? Did people come up to him on the street all the time? Was it still novel? And the twitter! He offers information freely on twitter, but having read it just before seeing the real person, I couldn’t get the creepy off. I didn’t say a word.
In retrospect, this was probably a regrettable move.
And yet, even without talking to them, it was exciting. There they were, two famous authors, sitting next to me on a train. They looked out the windows, they played with their phones, they held hands, they fell asleep, they drank coffee, they chatted. A man two rows behind them was reading Republic of Thieves. I tried to signal him. The author of the book you’re reading is sitting two rows away from you, you fool! I considered passing him a note. I assumed he was going to the World Fantasy Convention too. He wasn’t. How’s that for a coincidence?
Off of the train, I rolled my suitcase behind me and, leaving Lynch and Bear somewhere on the platform, began my walking tour of Brighton’s used book stores. It was raining, it was grey, it was chilly, but the city was full of magic, real and imagined and extrapolated.
huzzah huzzah, and off she flew
Tomorrow I will wake up at 4 am, and I will be happy about it. It will be different from the 4 am wake-ups I’ve been getting for the past three and a half weeks. No. This 4 am wake up will be taking me away from Pickles and interrupted sleep and responsibility and chores and doing anything except what I want to do exactly when I want to do it. It is incredible how exciting that is. Parenthood gives a whole new level of meaning to the phrase “it’s the little things.” Wake up in Frankfurt, go to sleep in Brighton.
Tomorrow at this time I will be listening to S.M. Stirling reading. Then I will go meet my couch surfing host, put on a fancy dress and either get let into the Patrick Rothfuss reading at Waterstones (I’m on the waiting list) or go watch the David Gemmell Legend Awards (thus the fancy dress). Parties will follow. Like-minded readers will be met. I will have a beer, or maybe several, and I will not be woken up at 5 am, 6 am, 7 am the next day BY ANYONE AT ALL. I will have spent the morning leisurely walking from one used book store to another, all on their way to the brick hotel on the fucking seaside in which I am going to spend most of the weekend.
My suitcase is already laden with books—pretty pretty copies of books I love and want to have fondled by their respective authors—and it is bound to be even heavier by Monday, when another airplane will whisk me back to Germany.
I’ve been trying to finish the first three books in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series in preparation, but alas, have only made it halfway into Red Seas Under Red Skies (and if you were wondering, the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, is fucking awesome. It’s Oceans 11 meets fantasy epic). I would have liked to have read a lot of things. But for now I will be content, no, ecstatic, to mingle with other book lovers and attend panels with names like “Has Elvish left the building?” and “The End Is Now.” It is going to be a great fucking weekend.
tiny houses for tiny people (aka bauwagen toys, squeeee)
Oh my cod. Thank you thank you thank you to Mama Anders for pointing out another too-fucking-cute Bauwagen toy for the toddler in your small-housed life. I know what Pickles is getting for her birthday next year. Though of course the one we’re going to build her is going to be at least 13 times cooler. I love that there are people out there designing, making, and selling this shit. Huzzah.
My shoes are always full of toys. You know, that sounds like the beginning of a fantastical story about eternal Christmas, doesn’t it? The thought certainly puts a positive spin on Pickles’ rather annoying habit of filling my rubber boots aka my outdoor slippers with cars and otherwise sharp and pointy pieces of metal, wood, and plastic.
The weather has grown cold and lighting the wood stove is still fun, the way it can only be before it is so cold that your hands turn to dust while you are trying to make kindling. We didn’t even light the woodstove before we went to sleep last night. I need to appreciate this while it lasts. I am.
Pickles fell asleep on the floor last night trying to suck toothpaste out of the tube (don’t worry, it was empty). We were so happy to have her out of her bed that we left her there, bundled up beneath a blanket, for several hours. Could this be the beginning of the end of the night terrors that have been the weaning process? Oh dear cod please say it is so.
I am so excited about going to the World Fantasy Convention next week that I think about almost nothing else. Maybe I’ll fall into a time warp beforehand and manage to finish The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch beforehand. Oh and, you know, fifteen other books by authors who are going to be there who I’d like to know more about before I commence to fanish drooling. When I can’t think another book-ish thought I start thinking about things like allowed luggage weight and what my couchsurfing host will be like. (Dude, she has been to Privet Drive. PRIVET DRIVE. *People who don’t like Harry Potter can just leave this parenthetical right now.* Us getting along is pretty much a given. PRIVET DRIVE.)
Pickles has invented a word. “Balla.” It means banana and belly button. Yesterday she went from calling books “boo” to saying “book.” My work here is done.
I proudly present to you: Our new shed.
We have been meaning to build this damn thing for over a year. Strike that. I have been meaning to build it (promising to build it) for over a year. And the Beard has been patiently waiting. But then he got tired of waiting, I accepted some help, and we built our firewood’s new house in a few days time. Almost entirely scavenged materials! For the win!
And, yes, those are candles hanging on the front. Because chopping wood by candlelight is pretty awesome, not to mention romantic (ummm, or something) and doesn’t involve running pesky power lines or remembering to put the solar lamp’s cell out in the sun during the day.
Some of those boards I scavenged in Mainz, with the intention of building a sweet shed out of them one day. (Frankenshed was nice, but this is a lot easier on the eye.) They’ve been sitting outside sort of under a tarp ever since. It’s a wonder that they weren’t all rotten. Other boards came from our red trailer’s ceiling, which we redid because the person who had put it in was apparently drunk—I can’t think of any other reason to just screw tongue and groove boards on top of each other like that without fitting them together. It certainly made the boards look like they were drunk. And now they are a shed wall.
We found the bigger beams we needed laying on the bonfire pile at the front of the property. There were a lot of nails in them, nails that I tried to rip out with a crowbar. When that barely worked, we hammered them all flat and got on with it. I put it together, and the Beard did all the sawing. At the time we only had a hand circle saw, which I—for no actual reason whatsoever—don’t like to use. (I’ve since bought myself a jigsaw. Love those things. Also love my “Japan” saws, as they are called in German. Fucking best saws ever.)
The roof is made of someone’s old terrace (we saved it from the bonfire pile as well) as well as some old flooring we found. We covered the roof boards with tarps made to create faux ponds in people’s backyards, which I got from freecycle. We did buy the paint, a second bit of tarp (my free bit wasn’t quite big enouhg), and a few three-meter boards to finish off the back wall when the firewood came before the scavenger gods had offered up any other solutions.
Having built this, I feel pretty confident that I could build a little house. I would do a number of things differently, more exactly, and with better materials, but it isn’t as hard as it looks. It never is.
Hey, look! There’s my Wagen!
Since the shed, our yard just makes me happy. (Of course, the weather has turned for the worse, which means things are getting rather straggley, but before that.) I wish I had done this months ago so that I could have spent all summer sitting outside and admiring our work, and our neat, tidey yard. Maybe then I would have been inspired to finally plant the herb garden or the forsythia that I’ve had planted in my head for months. But there’s always next year. Winter is coming, but so is spring.
whine whine whine, weaning is fucking hard and i miss cofffee
Dear cod has this been a bad time to give up coffee. (Is there ever a good time to give up coffee? No.) Not that I had a choice. Acid reflux forced my hand. Bah! Bah I say!
Meanwhile, back in the Wagen…Pickles sucks at sleep. I mean, she always has. As a very little Little she couldn’t sleep without being held. You wanted to put her down?! Ha! Go ahead. Put her down. If you want her to wake up instantly and berate you with cries and probably start sucking on you again.
She has always slept decently nights, but I can only call it decently because we co-sleep, because I barely had to wake up to get her what she wanted (boob). I still don’t understand why anyone would choose to put their kid in a separate room to sleep, a place they have to actually move their bodies to get to when the baby inevitably wakes up in the wee hours. No, no, NO. I can handle being woken up briefly in the night, several times, for two years straight. I’ve passed that test. I can’t handle being woken up and asked to get out of bed. Fuck that.
And now here we are, in weaning land. Two of my closest parent friends, whose kids aren’t much older than Pickles, got tired of nursing and night weaned back in the day. They both reported four or five hellish nights. But their kids have slept through the night ever since. Sounds annoying, but doable. Sounds like fucking heaven, actually.
I decided to wean because I had developed a pretty harsh nursing aversion. I could cuddle Pickles all she wanted, but as soon as she started nursing I felt horrible–trapped and chlostrophobic and irritated and annoyed. I particularly hated the nights, how she would fall asleep nursing, but wake up as soon as I pried her mouth off of me, forcing me to start the process from the beginning, and how I would be stuck laying in bed while the Beard skipped around the Wagen doing whatever the fuck he wanted. (Yes, when trapped on a bed by a nursing baby, even seeing someone sweeping the floor can cause jealousy.) It was obviously time. Though we had planned to wean when I went to England for four days at the end of the month, I decided to start while the Beard was away for five days. Get that shit over with. Give her time to adjust before our epic journey to the U.S.ofA.
The first three nights were stressful, but not nearly as bad as I had imagined. On the fourth night she slept through the night. On the fifth night, the Beard came home, and she didn’t repeat the performance. Now she just wakes up two or three times a night screaming and rolling and gnashing her teeth. We’re fifteen fucking days in. She slept through the night again on day nine (once again when the Beard was away), and otherwise: welcome to hell.
The only way to get her back to sleep is to give her milk (which I generally refuse because the fucking point of this exercise is getting her used to NOT eating during the night) or to play First Aid Kit’s album The Big Black and the Blue on my phone, loud. The first is like shooting myself in the foot, and the second doesn’t help any of the rest of us get to sleep any faster. And if you want to know how to make yourself hate an album you previously enjoyed, this is the way to do it, tell you what. Oh and sometimes she just wakes up at 5 am and can’t get back to sleep. Because it isn’t depressing enough that it doesn’t get light here this time of year until almost 8 o’clock.
And oh, do people have advice! So much advice! If I have to listen to another person talk about how “they couldn’t survive” if their kid didn’t go to bed at 7 pm! Listen, I’ve tried it. In our house, a 7 pm bedtime means a 4 am wake up time. Pick your poison, because it’s all going to suck. Everyone has a theory about how to get Pickles to sleep. The problem is that kids aren’t Kids, they are just people, individuals, as weird and random as the rest of us. There are about ten trillion things we could try, but the truth is we’ll have probably just bludgened each other to death before we get around to trying everything that is supposed solve our problems. Blah blah blah, complain complain complain, my life is so hard, who cares, there are people being imprisoned for life for crimes they didn’t committ so shut the fuck up Stewart.
Did I mention I built Pickles her own bed? *Laughs maniacally.* I’m going to be finishing it tomorrow. (Then, pictures! It looks like a treehouse! It is so fucking awesome holy shit.) Putting her in there is the next experiment. Pray we live long enough to find out if it works.
holy shit, it’s a bauwagen dollhouse
Why didn’t we think of that?!?! We had even talked about getting Pickles a dollhouse. (Well, someone had offered to give us one, and we said yes.) But a house? Why the hell would we get her a dollhouse? Pickles’ dolls would obviously live in a Bauwagen. Just like us.
The Beard was on tour for five days last week. In Freiberg this dollhouse was at the venue where they played. When he told me about it on the phone I begged for photos. Next summer we are so building one of these. Miniature things have always excited me. I can’t explain why. Just…little things!…squeal! That is basically how it happens in my head. If you see an explanation in there somewhere, let me know.
There is so much to do. Don’t people usually start cleaning in spring? That’s all wrong. As soon as fall’s chilly little tendrils start to work their way into the air I start rearranging things, decluttering, nesting. Bunkering down for winter. When spring arrives I’m too busy sitting in the sun to care about what it looks like inside.
I have a list. We are leaving on an epic journey in one month. The things on the list are supposed to happen before we leave. It is a short list, but involved. Item one: build Pickles’ bed. Which, once I got started ripping out the bench that used to dominate that side of the trailer, turned into “finish Pickles’ room.” Once our kitchen trailer arrives our red trailer will be half our bedroom, half Pickles’ bedroom. (Putting her in a separate trailer would just mean maintaining another wood stove, being paranoid about the wood stove with her alone at night, and, even more likely, her refusing to sleep off alone in a separate trailer anyway.)
I have been planning this space in my head for months. Longer maybe. Had the colors picked out. Made sure all the little bits and bobs that are always rolling around on the floor would all have a place. It took four days to make it happen. Though to be fair, the bed isn’t quite finished.
Consider these pictures a preview of the finished product. The bed is lofted, and still needs all the “don’t fall out and die” fixtures.” Maybe this weekend. But so far Pickles loves it. I love it. The Beard loves it. The trailer suddenly feels bigger, more practical, more homey. It is almost magical, the way a little change can completely renew the feel of a space.
And the space isn’t the only thing that is changing. We are on day seven of operation no more breastfeeding. It is going well. The nights are hard, but all in all, not any harder than they always have been. They are harder for the Beard though because now instead of her waking me up and me quieting her with some boob, she wakes up and makes noise and wakes everybody up and only goes back to sleep if you play First Aid Kit really loud on my telephone right next to her head.
And we built a shed.
And the firewood came.
And I stopped drinking coffee.
And Pickles slept through the night. (Once.)
I’ll be back with more pictures and words tomorrow then, huh?