The poet speaks of Love

A little while ago I wrote an essay-review of the movie “The Shape of Water”, which incorporated the poem quoted at the story’s end, attributed to the poet Rumi:

“Unable to perceive the shape of You, I find You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love, It humbles my heart, for You are everywhere.”

The essay became the most widely read in the entire history of my website, and that quote was one of the things that people searched for and led them to that post.

When I was 17, my father gave me two books of poetry, one by Omar Khayyam and the other by, yes, Rumi, the 13th century mystic poet who was one of the most passionate and profound in history.

I can see both books in my mind’s eye perfectly, but I can’t seem to lay my hand on them. They’re somewhere among the 5,000-plus books in my house, but their exact location is not precisely known at this moment. It is of no matter, these poets are well enough known that quotes from them are everywhere – and I was moved by the response to that quote from the movie to go and dig out more Rumi.

A Rumi quote illustration

Which turned out to be quite the springboard for further thoughts and, well yes, Rumi-nations.

There’s all kinds of threads to be followed in these quotes but we’ll start with the same one that infused the “Shape of Water” quote – love.

Love in the RUMIverse

It is timely enough, because the moment we shook off the glitter of Christmas, we woke up to entire aisles in our local stores and supermarkets filled with pink and scarlet heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and racks and racks of cards which speak (with a greater or lesser degrees of schmaltz) of the undying devotion that lovers profess for one another.

Valentine’s Day. When all that is love is apparently for sale.

But if you go back to Rumi, the whole thing suddenly takes on a whole new layer. For all we know, these quotes belong to verses which were the Valentine card equivalents, back in the day – but oh, how different they are. 

“The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.

They’re in each other all along.”

Is this an answer about whether or not soulmates literally exist? That when you meet the “right” person”, something already inside of you wakes and trembles and seeks life and release? That “love at first sight” isn’t so much that as “love at first recognition”?

Someone recently said to me, finding someone to share your life with is hard. The “being in love” feeling, that first flutter of something huge and unbearably beautiful, something whose name you can only barely begin to comprehend and cannot quite say out loud for fear that the thing it names might vanish with the utterance – that is wonderful, and amazing, but it doesn’t (as and off itself) last.

Even couples who swear they’re still “in love” after fifty years of marriage… aren’t. Not like that. It’s never like that first flush. In the words of another poet, Robert Browning, “you never can recapture… that first fine careless rapture”.   But while it’s young and living and powerful that feeling is heady, it makes you dizzy and brave and unwise, and nothing matters except the beloved

“I want to see you.
Know your voice.
Recognize you when you
first come ’round the corner.
Sense your scent when I come
into a room you’ve just left.
Know the lift of your heel,
the glide of your foot.
Become familiar with the way
you purse your lips
then let them part,
just the slightest bit,
when I lean in to your space
and kiss you.
I want to know the joy
of how you whisper
‘more’ ”

More”. This is the stage of “more”. This is the stage of where your thirst is too big to quench and you gulp down great mouthfuls of this state of being because it intoxicates you. Because – as Rumi describes above – the air itself is alive with recognition of the Beloved, of the mere presence of the Beloved, of the scent and the whisper of a footfall and the close-focused glimpse of parted lips of the Beloved. You eat, drink, breathe, dream the Beloved. The world shrinks to the Beloved. You know when your other is in the same city, never mind the same street, the same house, the same room… the same bed. You feel their heartbeats as your own. You swear that you would know the moment something happened to them because you literally breathe the same molecules of air at the same time and you would know – you would KNOW – if they stopped breathing those molecules.

But that more isn’t quite the same mindless state of bewildered joy that the initial encounter brings. Because love unleavened with friendship is not true love – if all you ever share is a physical intoxication that simply isn’t enough to make an elixir that would last a lifetime. There is, indeed, “more”.

“When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.
Praise God for those two insomnias!
And the difference between them.”

The first time a good friend of mine returned from meeting the man she would eventually marry, I asked what happened on the date.

“We talked,” she said. “All night.”

That’s when I knew that she had found someone she could be happy with.  That loving insomnia that Rumi speaks of in his quatrain. The ability to spend time with someone else – to actively spend time with them – doing nothing but exchanging shining thoughts that take form between the two of you like some sort of magical cloud – the ability to do so constantly, consistently, and to consider that time as well spent and never in any way shape or form the kind of hours that you would want back to spend in what could be considered a more “constructive” way – that is a priceless gift, and when the person is discovered with whom you can share this ability that is the person you hold on to because this is the moment when life stops being lonely. It isn’t crowded – but there is ALWAYS someone there if you need them.

This is a far greater thing than just that first breathless and intoxicating infatuation of the physical because this is a meeting of minds and souls and this bond, once forged, lasts, and outlasts. The outer packaging might change but the inner beings, if they change, now change together and that means that they perceive the rest of the world as changing and themselves – their relationship – as the single immutable pivot point of the universe. You give up sleep for that. It’s worth it. Because there is always something there to talk about all night.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Barriers are always there. Barriers can include all the “you shouldn’t” caveats born of things that are, in the end, probably irrelevant. You shouldn’t love this man or that woman because they’re wrong class, the wrong color, the wrong faith, the wrong age, sometimes the wrong gender. But love is what you carry within you – and when you find a person to rest it on, the “you shouldn’t” warnings become unimportant.

If you marry someone much older than you, you might do it in the full knowledge that that person had a life before you were born and that you are going to have a life after they die – because your chronological streams are not properly aligned. But you do it anyway, knowing all this, because the trade-off are the years in between – the shared years – which you get to spend together, and which are all the more shining and precious because they may not be as many as you might have wished.

If you marry someone of a different color or culture than yourself, that means you become part of a greater world than you might otherwise have known. You learn things you might never have believed possible; you take part in rituals and ceremonies which may not be the ones that you grew up with, you meet different gods, you learn to understand different points of view and different beliefs, and it opens you up and makes you greater than you believed you could be. More fully human, perhaps, because you are integrating other human beings within you and making it all work. Through love, you become wise. Through sharing, you become generous, and you become humble. Through learning, you become capable of a greater understanding.

If you love someone who is not like you – in any way – you learn about what it means to be them, and it deepens and broadens both of you. And that love bears fruit – be it progeny to carry on this shared understanding and enrich the human race with it, or simply new ideas to carry forward into the future. Love is worthy, for the sake of love, and for what love brings as the gifts that it carries.

For some of us – like Rumi, like the poets – that becomes an inspiration.

“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”

And so we paint. Or sculpt. Or make music. Or write.

Love is great. Love is good. May love live forever in your heart.

Dreaming to Publication

A couple of weeks ago I posted my awestruck reactions to the movie ‘Shape of Water’, writing “It’s savage. It’s beautiful. It’s funny. It’s spellbinding.”  I wrote about the moment where the mute female protagonist who cannot speak, has never been able to speak, is driven through the power of an unspeakable, impossible, forbidden love to try and whisper not just words but  a song, and added:

“It was like watching someone’s soul singing.”

I had rather hoped the film might win ‘Best Movie’ at the Golden Globes. It didn’t, but it did garner a win for Guillermo del Toro as best director.


Dreaming Stories illustration

by Lacie Slezak at Unsplash photos

I dream (some) of my stories

A favorite anecdote about the way the creative mind works concerns an artist who was happily asleep next to her husband when she suddenly sat up in bed sharply, still asleep, jolting him awake, and declared,

I got it! If storks bring babies, then vultures bring zombie babies!

Then she fell back down into bed and continued sleeping leaving him owl-eyed and awake and completely unable to banish the image from his brain and go back to sleep himself. In the morning, confronted with this, she flatly refused to believe that she had done anything of the sort.

But we do escape into our dreams, we who dabble in creating worlds, whether we do our painting on canvas or on a page.

I dream. Oh boy, do I dream. There have been times that I serial-dreamed . I’d wake from a storyline in the morning, and then simply pick up where I left off when I fell back asleep that night. And there have been multiple times when I woke with entire stories in my brain, and sometimes I had to get up in the middle of the night to write them. Sometimes they make me smile; most times they scare me silly.

The level of detail is indescribable I know people say they don’t dream in color, or they don’t dream anything at all except purely visual – but that is so not the case with me. My dreams are in color and surround sound. My dreams are vivid. I dream all the noises and the smells and the textures that go with the visual images.

And yes, I’ve dreamt whole stories.

There was the one that got published in Time and Space as “To  Remember Riobarre” I dreamed the dialogue for that one. And in my dream I felt the winds of the high skies, where forbidden memories of wings lived, touch and tangle my hair.

There was “The Butterfly Collection of Letitia Willoughby-Smythe”, and yes, I have cyberpunk vampire butterflies flitting around inside my head, apparently. In my defense I wrote that one after a night of flu fever and it might have literally been a fever dream. Please forgive me.

There was “Vision”, the story which appears in the anthology “Athena’s Daughters”, which I woke up terrified from in the dark and whose images haunted me so much that I could not even begin to go back to sleep.

There was “Princess of Ashes”, the first story in what became either a story-in-four-parts or a mini-collection of four tales that was published as “Ever After” – a story my husband caught me writing furiously at HIS computer (because it was closer than mine) at five in the morning, cold and bleary eyed, my bare feet curled up against each other for warmth and my fingers clawed at the keyboard.

There was the image of the flowering tree which grew into “To Leave Via Callia”.

And there was, just the other night, a single vision from which a trail of ghostly footsteps led back into an enormous and magnificent idea – the image was that of two lovers frozen in a moment just before a shared kiss, and the idea was that there were these frozen moments in the world and in them lived the world and if they were ever nudged into completion, into the next inevitable moment, they would lead inexorably to the end of the world. The end of a world, anyway. Things like this get fuzzy as I am just waking up – and then I start talking about them to my husband, and lo, there’s the vultures flying in bearing the zombie babies and the story basically falls into place. The story is written but so far unpublished.

There are dreams that don’t make it into stories, of course – some are just too incomplete, or too weird, or too SOMETHING that disqualifies them. But you know, that question, the eternal question always asked of writers, the “where do you get your ideas” question – for me, at least, at least part of the answer is simply, “Well, I go to sleep”.

I know. I am not being helpful. But there you have it. It is close to midnight as I write these words and I am about to drift towards my bed – and I honestly don’t know if I’ll wake up tomorrow morning with another story nibbling at my brain and the completely inadequate response, when asked about it…

“I must have dreamed  it.”

Random Werewolf

Excerpt from1st chapter of Random, Book 1 of The Were Chronicles

In ‘The Were Chronicles’, shapeshifting Weres and normal humans live in an uneasy alliance. The Weres are officially tolerated but face constant discrimination, must carry dehumanizing paw-print ID cards, and are forced to live in isolation or imprisonment during their 3-day Turns. With increasing tensions between shapeshifters and normals, three young Weres walk a dangerous path with open war suddenly becoming a frightening possibility.

In Random, the first book in the trilogy, we meet Jazz Marsh, a Random Were, capable of becoming whatever warm-blooded creature that she last saw just before she changed shape at the full moon. When her First Turn came, the results were stunningly unexpected. And the world of the Weres and the normals would never be the same again.Transformation illustrationPhoto by Darkness on Unsplash

The Boy in The Basement

Vivian Ingram, the family caretaker and my babysitter, arrived just before the ascent of the full Moon, as usual – locking everybody except me into their Turning rooms in the basement and making sure everything was secure.

Charlie was with her. The first time she’d brought him, he had been thirteen and I was only eleven. You’d think that a newly-teenaged boy would have disdained the company of a kid like me, but we somehow bucked the odds – we missed out on the standard boy-from-girl-from-boy recoil in response to unnamed cooties, and we had become buddies instead. Of course, he was going on sixteen now, and he’d Turned – at his proper New-Moon trigger, only a few months before – into a vampire bat, like the rest of his family.

My brother Mal had glared at Charlie thunderously as he was escorted yet again into his Turning room in the hope that this time would finally prove the charm. Mal, almost eighteen, still un-Turned, having to be marched off into yet another attempt at becoming an official adult in the Were community, being watched by a boy two years his junior who had already passed him on that road.

Charlie knew better than to offer any commentary while Mal was still in hearing range – but once my brother and his temper were safely locked away behind secured doors, he gave me one of his crooked smiles, half sympathy, half mischief.

“Still no joy for him?”

“Nope. And he’s kind of running out of time. They’re not sure what they’re going to do if he passes his eighteenth birthday and is still… like this. Is it even possible for someone to un-Were?”

“What’s he trying for this time?”

“Still a weasel. It’s been quite a come-down, really. He started out all gung-ho, with the wolverine, but after my folks had to keep hiring the wolverine for months it got…a little expensive. So he’s had to bring his sights down some. He wanted something with teeth, though, so – well – weasel.”

“And if that doesn’t work, what, a rat?” Charlie asked.

“Don’t be mean,” I said sanctimoniously.

“Shall we stay and see how he and the weasel are getting on? The Moon ought to be up by now – or is about to be, anyway. It should be fun.”

I smacked him on the shoulder. “You know how he hated seeing us peering in the last time.”

“We’ll be careful,” Charlie said. “Come on.”

Vivian was busy – one of her other sons fortuitously picked a perfect moment to call her on the phone, and while she was talking to him she had momentarily lost track of Charlie and me. We hadn’t really bothered to check on the Moon’s status in the sky – it was close enough for our purposes. We stood jostling outside the door of Mal’s room, and I stood on tiptoe to peer inside through the glass in the door.

“What’s he doing?” Charlie asked, crowding in beside me, careful to keep to the edges so he could duck away if Mal showed signs of looking up and seeing us there.

“Nothing,” I said. “As usual.”

Mal was in fact sitting in the middle of the room, cross-legged and wrapped in his Turning cloak, staring with smoldering eyes at the weasel which stood with its back to the wall staring back at him. Other than the staring contest, which was a sadly familiar outcome of locking Mal into the Turning room at the advent of full Moon, there was nothing of any interest going on inside that room – and it looked like Vivian would soon have to let him out, as she had done every Turn so far since he was fifteen, and he’d still be… Mal. The full Moon was in up the sky; if he hadn’t Turned by now, he probably (yet again) wasn’t going to.

I had already lost interest – but for Charlie, this was a train wreck he couldn’t stay away from. He was still staring into the room by the time I had turned away – from Mal and his continued failure, from the annoyed weasel in the corner – and I was actually looking at Charlie’s fascinated face when something began to impinge itself on my consciousness.

There was nothing going on inside the room. But out here in the corridor, outside… I was starting to feel distinctly strange. Ill, even. There was something deep in the back of my throat, an odd sort of nausea, but it didn’t feel as though I wanted to throw up – it was just… there… as though I had tried to swallow something, either too big or too disgusting, that I shouldn’t have even considered putting into my mouth, and now it was stuck halfway down my gullet and Continue reading

“For you are everywhere.”

Shape of Water phoyoFrom Official Trailer | FOX Searchlight

A few years ago, on the lam from a convention which was utterly failing to hold our interest, my husband and I and a good friend found ourselves snatching at other possibilities of entertainment, which ended up being an afternoon at the movies.

The movie we saw, which left an indelible impression, was Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

I have had a wide exposure to things fairytale-ish and fantastic. I had never seen anything quite like this movie before. It haunted me. All of it, from its incredible fantastic imagery, to that plaintive lullaby theme tune, to the uncompromising attention to detail, to the way it was set in a cruel “reality” and did not shy away from violence and viciousness to underline some luminous idea, to the punch to the heart when the whole thing unspooled and played out.

This was no pretty happily ever after fairytale. This was a fairytale filled with pain and with sorrow… and then with transcendence. It was astonishing. It was etched into memory. It was transforming. It was something that I had simply never quite experienced before.

Shape of Water

When the first whispers of “The Shape of Water”, the director’s new movie, drifted into my focus, I sat up and started paying attention. I tripped on the trailer almost accidentally, and watched it, spellbound. This was a movie I knew I was going to have to go and see.

I did, at last, on Christmas Day of 2017. And… oh. It’s savage. It’s beautiful. It’s funny. It’s spellbinding.

It’s no “Pan’s Labyrinth”. That stands alone. But this… is its own thing, and it is powerful in all the unexpected ways that Guillermo del Toro has apparently made his trademark.

There’s a moment where the mute female protagonist, who cannot speak, has never been able to speak, is driven through the power of an unspeakable, impossible, forbidden love to try and whisper not just words but  a song.

It’s like watching someone’s soul singing.

You want to look away because it’s so shiningly vulnerable, so private, so obviously not meant for YOU to see, but you can’t look away, you’re mesmerized, and the song stays with you, after, drifting through your mind, carrying love.

Visually magnificent, full of wounded human beings who respond to their hurts as best they know how and are either healed by that courage or stabbed even deeper through the attempt to succor themselves, visceral, unexpectedly funny, tragic in that way that apparently only Guillermo del Toro knows how to make shine with a dark and beautiful light.

This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but oh, if it is yours, you’ll drink it dry, you’ll taste the poison at the bottom of the cup, and you’ll treasure the bitter aftertaste of it because it is a hope and a truth and a vision. This director doesn’t  fob you off with anything that’s less than whole. He doesn’t give you half-truths, or white lies, or in any way gloss over the harshness that is part of life and living.

And yet… and yet… there is a fairytale hidden in it all, and when you open yourself to that, you open yourself to understanding life, and the universe, and EVERYTHING.

There’s a poem quoted at the end – not entirely sure of the provenance, but it might (some say) be either directly translated from or inspired by a poem by Rumi:

“Unable to perceive the shape of You, I find You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love, It humbles my heart, for You are everywhere.”

You’ll remember this story. Because it will be everywhere. And if you tell me that you won’t have at least the ghost of this tale peer at you from the shadows of your mind every time you hear that song play again, the one she sang to him, I’ll tell you that you’re wrong.

You may not even remember what you are remembering – it might take all sorts of different forms – but… well… that’s just the shape of water.


A new treat for my Patrons

I have written a new short story set in a world I may revisit some day: Val Hall, the Bruce Wayne Foundation-funded Home for Retired Superherors (Third Class). It’s all about…well, you’ll just have to read it.

A note about Patreon: as publishing changes, most authors need new sources of income. If you would like to help me continue writing about wizards and Weres, Jin-shei sisters, and girls who rise from the gutter to Empress, consider pitching in with a small monthly pledge. For the cost of a latte or two you too can become a patron of the arts.

Details HERE

The Last Jedi and Me

Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi photoI was there. Oh yes, I was there. I was one of the original “virgins” who walked into a movie theatre in 1977 – in my case, between to life-size cardboard cutouts of white-armored Stormtroopers, I remember them well – and heard for the first time that iconic music, watched the scroll unfold across the stars, gasped as that starship came and kept coming and coming and coming.

I was there when Carrie Fisher first put up those unforgettable hair buns to frame a face still round with youth – she was 19, only a handful of years older than me – and turned into the princess who would change my life.

I was there when Luke Skywalker, God help his sweet naïve wet-behind-the-ears whiny teenage “but I was just going to go get the power converters!” ass, tried to become the action hero, only to be totally eclipsed when Han Solo first strutted onto the silver screen (and shot first). I was there. I was there.

I was there when they destroyed the first Death Star. I was there when they destroyed the second. I was there to laugh at Yoda’s first grammar-bollixed sentences, to watch him lift a drowned X-wing out of the swamp and tell the young Luke when he said that he “didn’t believe it” that this was the reason that he failed, to hear him utter “No! Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.”

I was there when Luke (bless Hamill’s soul, he still managed to sound young and naïve, even when he was the young Jedi hope saving the galaxy (and his father) in the darkest hour…) began to turn into the legend. I was there when the Ewoks yub-yubbed their way into everyone’s world, love them or hate them. I was there for it all.

I was also there when they flubbed the next three movies – with a story like “how does a man become Darth Vader” it might have been hard to imagine how they could mess that up, but they did it, and how. I was there. Let’s not talk about that.

When “The Force Awakens” burst onto our screens a couple of years ago, I was there for that, too, and I was now the ageing grey-haired elder in the audience. I went there to see what happened to the characters who had once so comprehensively built themselves into the foundations of the world I had built for myself to live in. Continue reading

Which door would you pick?

Doors (archways) photo
Photo by Michael Lomza at Ubsplash: Marianne's Palace, Kamieniec Ząbkowicki, Poland

There was a question posted in LiveJournal a few years back: You find yourself in front of seven identical doors. A voice from above tells you, “These doors lead to seven different places: Narnia, Neverland, Wonderland, Hogwarts, Camelot, Middle Earth, and Westeros. Which door do you go through?”

Well, first of all I would add two more doors that lead into my own worlds:

Syai, the China-that-never-was-but-might-have-been, either in “The Secrets of Jin-shei” or the book set in the same world hundred of years later, “Embers of Heaven.”

Worldweavers, the home of Thea Winthrop and Elemental Magic, where you could walk and talk with Nilola Tesla and Corey the Trickster.

Okay. My answers on the original seven because asking an author which of her own worlds  she would choose to live in is like asking her which of her children she loves best:

First off, the obvious NO: Westeros. I’ve never read the whole entire series but what I’ve seen of the TV show basically tells me that unless I step out of that door on the far side as ALREADY a queen (and even THEY often don’t fare all that well), my life would tend to be short sharp and brutal and thank you very much. I’ll pass. Besides, for some reason, what I HAVE seen of George R R Martin’s epic I’ve enjoyed on the level that it’s a punchy story that rolls you forward but on some deep and fundamental level it just never did satisfy me.

Narnia – if you has asked me this question when I was 14 I would probably have run, not walked, to Narnia. Particularly if I could meet Aslan (who was not, after all a TAME lion). There was just… something. Something magical.

But then I fatally read, or was educated about, the stuff between the lines, and Narnia lost its gloss. I can still love it, and enjoy it, but there is a tight wary part of me that wants nothing to do with the allegorical layering within it and I do NOT want to end up where I think I would end up if I went there, with Aslan magically transforming into one of those religious-postcard blue-eyed Jesuses with an expression of inexpressible beatitude and an attitude of “you will be just fine if you do what I say you do and think only what I say you think”. I’m sorry, but I’m way beyond that. I have my own ideas. If I could be guaranteed Aslan and ONLY Aslan, I might consider it. Otherwise…

Neverland and Wonderland share a particular characteristic which means I’d love to visit but not stay there long term – an overwhelming preponderance of the twee and the whimsical. In the case of Alice – particularly in the Looking Glass books – you might say that it all means an entirely different thing and that if you pay attention you might actually understand this and have an experience that is vastly different from what you think you are seeing. And while I do ADORE Lewis Carroll’s obvious and irrepressible love of language – if I had to LIVE with that I’d be insane in short order. I’d probably TURN into a Jabberwock and start eating people.

Hogwarts – oh, I don’t know. There are wonderful things in that world. There are also things that make me roll my eyes mightily and go, oh, REALLY?!? And learning pig latin to do spells… would lose its charm fast.

Which leaves us with Camelot, and Middle Earth.

Camelot was an enduring love affair, for me. I LOVE the Arthurian cycle (well, the parts of it before it turns into a Christian tract and the only thing that matters is finding the metaphysical equivalent of salvation in the shape of the Holy Grail. But it had a power to it that I responded to, the power of PEOPLE living a MYTH.

When I was 19 I even wrote an entire novel from the POV of Guinevere (and discovered that it was a damnably difficult thing to do because she could not POSSIBLY know half the things that I needed her to know in order to carry the plot forward, without resorting to silly little-girl tricks like listening at doors…) Given a chance to go through that door and find myself in Camelot… ah, well, the rub here is WHICH Camelot, and what I will find there. But this one would tempt me. Tempt me hard.

In the end there is only one door for me, though, and I am sure those of you who know me picked this one for me right from the start.

I am a Tolkien girl.

For a very long time I have lived and breathed Middle Earth. I may not know Quenya, but my heart speaks that, and Entish, and knows how to sing “Misty Mountains” in the original tongue of the Dwarves who wrote it. I understand this world, and I treasure it. In fact, I hardly need to open that door and step through… because I am already there.

I’ve been there for as long as I know.

A new treat for my Patrons

I have written a new short story set in a world I may revisit some day: Val Hall, the Bruce Wayne Foundation-funded Home for Retired Superherors (Third Class). It’s all about…well, you’ll just have to read it.

A note about Patreon: as publishing changes, most authors need new sources of income. If you would like to help me continue writing about wizards and Weres, Jin-shei sisters, and girls who rise from the gutter to Empress, consider pitching in with a small monthly pledge. For the cost of a latte or two you too can become a patron of the arts.

Details HERE

Wired asked writers to create 6-word SF stories

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so. – Joss Whedon

More from Wired HERE

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The secret lives of books

My grandfather's book photo

My grandfather’s well-loved book that he read nearly every day

You trip over many listicles and other interesting things on the web while browsing – like the strictures at Mental Floss about how to keep your books looking good.

I stopped dead at #4: AVOID WRITING IN YOUR BOOKS : Don’t even think about writing your name on the first page. Modern ownership inscriptions are considered unsightly flaws in the current collectible market. But if you cannot resist the compulsion, use pencil. Even better: Keep a notebook … where you record quotes and thoughts from the books you’re reading.”

Yes. In theory, yes. But then I look up on the shelf above my desk where a bunch of my own books live – they, and one other – a very precious one.

It’s a tattered ancient dull gray old-fashioned hardcover, falling apart at the seams, stray threads poking out from the ageing spine. A workaday edition, nothing special, printed in 1940 (wartime Europe) and put out as a part of a series (#294, to be precise) by a literary endowment. It’s a book of personal essays and short prose pieces by one of my grandfather’s favorite poets.

It is in fact my grandfather’s book, perhaps his favorite. It used to live on the cabinet next to the couch where he took his daily afternoon naps, and usually before or after the nap he’d pick up the book – which he had read many times – and peruse its familiar pages again.

Inside, the book has many passages underlined in pencil by his hand, with particular bits annotated (in handwriting I can no longer read) in the margins.

It may be a sin to write in a book. But oh, am I glad he did so here.

Framed photo of my grandfatherBecause his spirit lives in this book, in his notes, in his faded chickenscratch handwriting, in the carefully cut out and pasted in (another no-no from the original list) newspaper cuttings about the poet who wrote the book, in the ratty pair of bookmarks (ANOTHER no-no from the list!) which have now lived in the places where he last left them for decades – one of them is a really worn old leather one which I gave him once a long time ago and the other is an incomplete bus punch ticket – incomplete, because the last date on it is shortly before he died.

Every time I pick up the book I see his gnarled brown hands folded around it. Every time I bring it to my face I catch a whiff of his pencils. Every time I look at it I see him, I remember him, and every underline, every scribble, every annotation reminds me of the man who woke my own love for poetry and for language, who made me what I am today.

I treasure that ratty old written-all-over book. No, it isn’t in “great shape”. But what it is – all of it, every sacred page, every blessed line of it – is a beloved reminder of somebody I loved, a memory I would HATE not to have.

So write in your books. Someday your grandchildren may remember and love you by those penciled thoughts you left behind.

Books don’t have to be pristine. They just have to be loved.

Mental Floss tips to keep your books looking great HERE

Wired asked writers to create 6-word SF stories – e.g.

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time – Alan Moore

More from Wired HERE

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