August 2016 Summer @AlinaMeridon

old man willow singing
a web by the water’s edge

a vision of gold
breathing light into the dark
the old worm slumbers

At the end of July I was in Veliko Gradište in Serbia, entirely without internet access for over a week. Instead of writing for my blog, I was chasing mosquitoes around the house, or enjoying beans cooked over an open fire (they even had a competition for this in Veliko Gradište, dozens of groups clustered about barbecue fires by the side of the Danube), or drinking beer (every visitor to Serbia quickly learns the word ‘pivo’), or reading Lord of the Rings for the nth time (I got all the way to Shelob’s lair)…

Silver Lake near Veliko Gradiste in Serbia

Until 1971, Silver Lake (a popular holiday destination near Veliko Gradište in Serbia) was an arm of the Danube.

I have done a fair bit of writing these past two months, but not for my blog and not for publication – although I have also been writing a second part for my ill-fated Alexis 5-1-8. Maybe I can extend it from a novelette to novella. On a related note, here’s an interesting article about sexbot prostitutes: Robot Brothels Could Soon Become A Reality.

Joo Yeon Sir and Irina Andrievsky playing the Porgy and Bess fantasy by Igor Frolov Joo Yeon Sir and Irina Andrievsky playing the Kreutzer sonata

In July I had the great fortune to attend a concert in Buxton where violinist Joo Yeon Sir and pianist Irina Andrievsky played Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata (image/link on right) and Igor Frolov’s Porgy & Bess fantasy (image/link on left). I had often heard of the Kreutzer sonata, but it wasn’t a piece I was familiar with. Joo Yeon Sir played it beautifully and passionately, and I was delighted to find the same pieces and performers on YouTube.

Silk Over Razor Blades by Ileandra Young

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June 2016 Britain Likes It Hard @AlinaMeridon

I Like It Hard – and Cinderella

My novelette I Like It Hard, a satire on Reality TV talent contests, with a bisexual aromantic woman as main character, was published on 8th June, almost exactly eleven months after submission. Less Than Three Press has been excellent all the way through the process, and I hope my novelette sells well as much for their sake as for my own. My editor, V.E. Duncan, with whom I corresponded only through comments in the margin of the manuscript, so to speak, forced me to revise the story significantly and for the better, and for that I am hugely grateful.

The one downside to choosing a romance publisher is that, although the story is explicitly not a romance, it keeps getting tagged as one. Amazon.co.uk lists it as ‘lesbian romance’ (wrong on both counts), while Amazon.com lists it also as ‘bisexual romance’ (half-wrong). Smashwords has it under ‘Gay & lesbian fiction’ (which at least doesn’t claim to be romance). At least one reviewer has complained that it wasn’t what they expected because of the labelling.

I do not intend this as a complaint about the publisher – LT3 are one of the very few publishers that have an aromantic category. This is simply a consequence of publishing categories that barely recognise the existence of ‘bisexual’ and are oblivious to ‘aromantic’. It’s also a world where the LGBTQIA community views the ‘B’ with suspicion and the ‘A’ often with outright hostility.

For the release of I Like It Hard, I wrote a guest post for Elaine White’s Vampires, Crime and Angels blog, where I deconstruct Cinderella and also propose an allo-aro interpretation of the fairytale: Aromancing Cinderella. Later this month I stumbled across an aro-ace interpretation at The Fairytale Project.

Britain and the EU Referendum

Those squabblers and separatists fight
And wail of their terrible plight
In a big pond they’re small
On an island they’re tall
And power they feel is their right

they built a new stairway to hell
so slippery that everyone fell
on a mountain of cash
they dropped with a crash
for the pound had not fared very well

Britain’s referendum on whether to ‘leave’ the EU has preoccupied me (and indeed the whole country) for the past month. Most people agree that there are problems with the EU, but there will always be problems with any kind of government. The EU’s main problem in Britain is in the way the British government has always used the EU as a scapegoat (‘We’re sorry. We can’t help you – our hands are tied!’) and the way the media have always given racist egotists like Nigel Farage so much coverage while the positive aspects of the EU (being complex and subtle) get almost none.

In the past it has led to the insane logic of: ‘We’re angry with Westminster, so we’re going to vote for the aggressively anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the European elections, just to teach Westminster a lesson.’ Hmm. Yes, let’s waste tax-payers’ money and damage our potential for influencing the EU by sending a [beep] to the European Parliament. The awful irony of the EU Referendum is that its intention was to weaken the influence of UKIP.

Just over half of British voters chose ‘Leave’. Their reasons were various. Many believe that our trading position with the world will be stronger. Many believe that we can control immigration better if we’re not in the EU – many communities have suffered as a result of immigration. Many believe that what we get out of being in the EU is less than what we put in. Many believe that voting ‘Leave’ was the best way to express their distrust of and disgust with the British government (i.e., a bunch of posh rich kids who couldn’t give a damn about anyone) and that it would be good to ‘shake things up’ and ‘make history’ [ugh!].

Unfortunately, the only clear campaign message has been UKIP’s outrageous xenophobia. Both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ campaigners were parading ‘facts’ and ‘statistics’ that were wrong, and were busy shouting at each other to conceal the ugly truth that no one had any idea what the hell was going on. Boris Johnson’s statement following the result amounted to: ‘Maybe we can sort-of half-leave the EU?’ To which the EU promptly replied (in much the same way that an exasperated parent might respond to a troublesome child’s request for a third helping of chocolate ice cream): ‘No.’

So now the whole country is confronted with the reality that no one knows what ‘Leave’ actually means, and both of the major political parties have gone into melt down. To make things worse, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar are desperately trying to escape from England’s insanity. In the recent Scottish referendum – in which I didn’t vote, not living in Scotland anymore – I was very much against Scottish independence. Now, though, I have a great deal of sympathy for the idea of an independent Scotland.

I, along with half the country, am feeling broken by the result. All my life I have been Scottish (mostly), British and European. Now Britain is trying very hard to shatter that unity, and I feel a profound loss of identity. I really like Vasilina Orlova’s comment on it:

I wonder, do some strata of the British peoples feel like they are expelled from their own country right now, like they are in exile without moving beyond the borders? That’s the position many people found themselves in with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Borders trembled and shifted beyond your feet. Maybe you didn’t move but they did.

Some of my frustration is worked through in the following posts:

Helen & Paris

cassandra was cursed
with attention of a god
what pleasure she took
in telling agamemnon
of the fate awaiting him

This month I wrote a little haiku sequence about Helen and Paris. My usual obsession with the Trojan War centres on Iphigenia (in December I had a little haiku sequence about Helen & Iphigenia, and in April a sequence with Iphigenia, Cassandra and others: a father’s love) but the story of Helen is central to the Trojan War and is pervasive throughout European culture.

Sometimes she is framed as villain, sometimes as victim. But I have to ask: what could make Helen leave homeland, birthright, divine responsibilities and even her child? Could it really have been a romantic impulse to be with a young, foreign prince? More likely she was abducted against her will, or was escaping a life made wretched by an abusive husband, or was driven to an irrational passion by Aphrodite – and if it was any of these we can hardly blame Helen for leaving.

Cover of Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier

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May 2016 Science and Fiction @AlinaMeridon

Two giveaways, a guest post, poetry, music, reviews and cosmological musings… but first a big ‘Thank You’ to Freya Pickard for featuring two of my haiku (5-26 and 5-30) in her series on cancer.

Cover of Yanty's Butterfly, an international anthology of haiku in its many forms.Yanty’s Butterfly – Goodreads Giveaway May 24 – Jun 19, 2016

This one’s an actual paperback and there’s only one copy being given away

Yanty’s Butterfly consists of over 600 poems, spanning the variety of haiku forms: three-line haiku, two-line haiku, one-line haiku, four-line haiku, traditional haiku (5-7-5), concrete haiku, tanka, and haibun.

Cover of I Like It Hard by Francis James FranklinI Like It Hard – Publisher Giveaway May 18 – June 20, 2016

My new novelette, I Like It Hard, has an official release date (8th June) – I received the final publication-ready versions a few days ago – and the publisher Less Than Three Press is running a giveaway on goodreads.

The reviews so far are mixed, but I’d like to share part of this review:

You may expect it to come across as crass or cheap. Maybe even dirty. But it doesn’t. The writing was flawless; the setting, the story and the main character – it was refreshing, different and an excellent portrayal of an independent, sexual woman who isn’t ashamed of how she feels or what she wants.

And also part of this review:

Sure, this story is about sex, but it’s about so much more than that. The shameless slut shaming that we, as a world, do, just because a person freely and wholly enjoys uncomplicated, no strings sex. The lack of acceptance of bisexuality and the prejudice linked to both. The story also offered a really great and accurate exposure of an aromantic.

Guest Post by Aidee Ladnier

Cover of Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier

Aidee Ladnier has a guest post over on Alina Meridon this month: Why I Love Science Fiction Romance.

Unlike our present day where the daily news is still inundated with stories about LGBTQ people being denied basic rights such as to love and marry a person of the gender of their choice, science fiction often occurs in a world where these restrictions have already been overcome.

Elusive Radiance is due out on 7th June.

Physics from the Edge

The 20th Century brought us two major advances in our understanding of reality. Quantum Physics revealed that the universe is built out of waves of probability, and that there are strict limits to what can be measured. The Uncertainty Principle tells us, for example, that we can measure a particle’s position precisely, but we can’t tell if or how it’s moving. Alternatively, if we know how it is moving, or not moving, then we can’t be sure where it is. Particles are amazing things. If you lock one in a box, sooner or later it will escape. If you demand that it makes an either-or choice while you aren’t looking, it will quite happily choose both.

Relativity was the other huge advance in physics. Einstein gave us two theories: Special Relativity (in 1905), and General Relativity (in 1915), and it was Special Relativity that fundamentally changed our understanding of time and space. How amazing it is that how fast you are going can affect how fast your pocket watch is ticking. The internal clocks in the GPS satellites that guide our movements about the planet need to take into account the effect of relativity. The speed of light is an absolute, the one thing everyone must agree on, no matter how they are moving about.

General Relativity is something of a problem. It is a brilliant theory that tells us how gravity bends time and space, and makes some specific predictions that have been verified subsequently, but it doesn’t play well with Quantum Mechanics, and not all its predictions have been verified, and it certainly doesn’t explain why galaxies rotate the way they do. For years, physicists have been studying the stars at the edges of galaxies and wondering why, given their speed, they don’t go whizzing off into intergalactic space.

physics in the dark
galaxy rotation curves
defy all logic

Clearly, they say, galaxies must be a lot heavier than they look. There must be matter that we can’t actually see, matter that has significant mass but which doesn’t seem to interact with electromagnetic radiation in any significant way. Vast amounts have been spent in the search for this mysterious ‘dark matter’, and in the absence of any solid data, hundreds of wild hypotheses have been spun and published in reputable research journals.

And every so often, someone dares to suggest that maybe there is no dark matter. Maybe General Relativity is wrong. Maybe Sir Isaac Newton was wrong. Maybe, just maybe, gravitational mass and inertial mass are not the same thing…

Cover of Physics from the Edge: A New Cosmological Model for Inertia, by Michael Edward McCulloch

Not that anyone understands why they’re the same thing, assuming they are. Certainly they seem to be, and physics makes a lot more sense to everyone when they are. But… what if they’re not? In Physics from the Edge, Mike McCulloch presents one such new theory. It’s an elegant theory and fits the data well, and regardless of whether or not you find his arguments convincing, the book is well written and provides a nice introduction to the subject of mass, inertia, and the many anomalies of modern physics.

space travel
emdrive shifting text
without reaction

Ah, yes, the EmDrive. A prototype spaceship drive mechanism that appears to provide significant thrust without the requirement for ejecting matter out of the back of the spaceship. Dismissed as ridiculous by all serious scientists, nevertheless it has aroused much curiosity, and even a team at NASA has been experimenting with it. It’s very exciting, and McCulloch’s theory makes predictions of the amount of thrust that agree roughly with observations.

But the basic problem is that if the drive is truly able to sustain the measured thrust level, the law of conservation of momentum and energy – and there are few laws as absolute and sacrosanct as that – is violated. Incontrovertible proof of this violation will be necessary before physicists abandon this cornerstone of their beliefs.

Julia Fischer – Hindemith Sonata

Julia Fischer plays the violin so beautifully and with flawless technique. I have been in love with her playing ever since she played the Four Seasons at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, but what ensures my affection is her Mendelssohn. I adore Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, but for decades I have felt only disappointment at each new virtuoso’s rendering of it, because not one of them has matched the recording I know and love by Arthur Grumiaux – until Julia Fischer.

Julia Fischer at the BBC Proms, plays Hindemith for an encore.

julia leaves the audience fishing for an encore

Music is such a subjective thing, and perhaps we love most the performances that are familiar to us, or perhaps certain soloists capture something about the music that resonates with us, or perhaps the music has meanings that are not always apparent and it takes a synergy of mentality and technique to draw it out. In my limited experience of playing in orchestras, I’ve certainly seen what a huge difference an inspired conductor can make to a piece you thought you knew. Whatever combinations of these things it is, the way that Julia Fischer and Arthur Grumiaux play the Mendelssohn really speaks to me. And perhaps it’s because they’re both well known for their interpretations of Bach…

Anyway, click on the picture and listen to her playing the Hindemith sonata – my favourite video this past month.

And now for something completely different:

Comedy sketch about the government's position on the European Convention of Human Rights, based on Monty Python's Life of Brian's What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

Comedy sketch about the government’s position on the European Convention of Human Rights, based on Monty Python’s Life of Brian’s What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

This is one of the funniest videos I’ve seen in ages, a brilliant satire of Europhobia in the run-up to history’s stupidest referendum.

Cover of Open Skies by Yolande Kleinn

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Aidee Ladnier talks SciFi Romance; and an aromantic giveaway

Two very different topics in one brief blog post:

Cover of Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier
  1. Aidee Ladnier has a guest post over on Alina Meridon this week: Why I Love Science Fiction Romance.
    “By consensus, most readers agree that the modern genre of science fiction was created by Mary Shelley. She wrote her oeuvre Frankenstein about a scientist creating life in his lab… and the world changed. Writers became dreamers, looking to the future, and inspiring real-life scientists to create it. But what I love most about science fiction is what it says about us, its creators.”
  2. Less Than Three Press is running a giveaway on goodreads for my new novelette, I Like It Hard. As ever with my writing, the reviews are mixed, but I’d like to share part of this review:
    “You may expect it to come across as crass or cheap. Maybe even dirty. But it doesn’t. The writing was flawless; the setting, the story and the main character – it was refreshing, different and an excellent portrayal of an independent, sexual woman who isn’t ashamed of how she feels or what she wants.”

April 2016 Iphigenia @AlinaMeridon

Iphigenia

The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, by François Perrier

The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, by François Perrier (1594–1649)

Artemis, having been deeply offended by the arrogance of Agamemnon, demonstrated just why you should never risk the wrath of the gods. At the moment of Agamemnon’s greatest triumph, the assembled armies of Greece under his command, ready to set sail across the wine-dark sea to sack and loot their great rival Troy, and incidentally ‘liberate’ the beautiful Helen, Artemis calmed the winds. The greatest army ever raised, including in its ranks such incomparable heroes as Achilles and Odysseus, was forced to wait in increasing desperation for favourable weather, precious supplies eaten up amidst growing certainty that the gods would not bless their grand venture.

to a hero wed
but not at Hymen’s altar
blood of innocence

golden-haired princess
born of an ignoble king
Iphigenia!

discord in brooklyn
this classical sacrifice
brings tears to the eyes

And it was all Agamemnon’s fault. The seer, Calchas, said so. Indeed, so furious was Artemis that she demanded the impossible from the Mycenaean king: the sacrifice of his first-born, Iphigenia. But Agamemnon’s ambition as leader of the Greek armies was greater than his compassion as a father. Following the advice of Odysseus, ever the trickster, he lured the girl from her home under the pretense that she was to be married to Achilles – no less! – but when she was led to the altar it was not marriage that awaited her there but death.

But a deal is a deal. The winds blew, the armies sailed, and we all know the rest of the story. Achilles sat around sulking for nine years, Odysseus’s passion for wooden toys got a little out of proportion, and Helen eventually got married for the fourth time.

Iphigenia in Brooklyn by P. D. Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) - performed by Ensemble Monterey

A musical joke: Iphigenia in Brooklyn by P. D. Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) – performed by Ensemble Monterey

I have long had a fascination with the story of Iphigenia, and this month I was inspired to write some poems, but also I learned that Iphigenia appears in Dante’s Paradise, and discovered the fantastically funny cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn – that’s not a great recording, but the performance is excellent.

For more about Iphigenia and also my personal quest for her, see these earlier posts:

Finally, I wrote this science fiction poem a long time ago:

Latest News

Title page of failed haiku Vol. 1 No. 4

April has been a busy month, and an exciting one. To start with, literally, my first ever acceptance of haiku/senryu submitted to a journal: Issue No. 4 of Failed Haiku features three of my senryu, along with 100 pages of senryu from other, very talented poets.

My novelette I Like It Hard is now available for pre-order from the excellent Less Than Three Press. I’m currently proofing the galley (making the ship’s kitchen impervious to water? seems logical…) and the expected release date is June 8th.

A couple of poems this month on the theme of I Like It Hard:

And some with an aromantic theme:

Also an aromantic drabble:

Starship Pegasus designed for Alexis 5-1-8

Alexis 5-1-8: Starship Pegasus

The ill-fated Alexis 5-1-8 returned from Publisher No. 3 with its tale between its leather-booted legs: “the story does not fit our current list needs”, which translates roughly as, “Your synopsis sucks.” Maybe it does. I’m thinking it’s a mistake to target LGBTQ+ publishers and next time I’ll try a SciFi publisher.

On a brighter note: How do you like the Starship Pegasus?

Three poems this month on the theme of A.I., sexbots and Alexis 5-1-8:

National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo)

This is the third year that I’ve attempted NaPoWriMo. In 2014, NaPoWriMo was the birth of my Supergirl obsession, and in 2015 I attempted to do it with a steampunk theme but faltered halfway through. This year I didn’t have a theme, and didn’t quite manage to blog a poem every day, but it has been fun and varied:

Other Posts

I Like It Hard

My new novelette now has an official cover (very cool – many thanks to Natasha Snow), an official release date (8th June), and an official blurb:

After her brother Dan loses in the final of the XXX-rated Reality TV show I Like It Hard, Helen Arnold finds new purpose in life: enter the show herself—and win.

But no amount of training, or advice from Dan and his lovers, can fully prepare her for naked interviews, two weeks in a porn-studio villa, and weeks of nerve-wracking live sex show—all while dealing with the capricious nature of the judges, who wield absolute power over the show and its contestants.

Being both bisexual and aromantic, Helen is used to dealing with people who don’t like or approve of her—and she’s never been the type to back down when life gets hard.

~ ~ ~ ooh! ~ ~ ~

This is not erotica. It is certainly explicit in places, and hopefully erotic in places, but the essence of I Like It Hard is two-fold:

  1. Television these days is full of reality TV of one sort or another, with lots of X Factor and other talent shows that have celebrity judges and audience voting; couple that with the easy availability of porn on the internet and the ever more unclear line between romance and erotica in all media, and is it such a stretch to imagine that one day contestants will be having sex on stage for public entertainment? It’s a completely daft idea, and by itself would not make for a terribly interesting story, but…
  2. I have for the past few years been writing stories and poetry with aromantic themes. The idea of romantic attraction is so thoroughly ingrained in cultural norms that the idea that someone does not experience it is baffling, even threatening. Falling in love makes us so vulnerable that of course we’re terrified by the idea that the person we love cannot reciprocate. People who seek sexual intimacy but reject romantic intimacy are seen as predators – and unfortunately there all too many sexual predators out there. But there are also allosexual aromantics who may desire sex as part of an emotionally intimate friendship.

These two ideas combine very nicely to provide a setting where sex without romance is the norm, and where therefore an allosexual aromantic person might thrive. It’s interesting to look back at my originally proposed blurb, which finished with:

Helen’s bisexuality makes her a slightly unusual contestant in a show that divides itself into the binaries of male-female and gay-straight, but for the first time in her life she is able to form relationships based on sex and friendship, without the minefield of romance that has so often made her life as an aromantic difficult.

Caveat: Of course, this should not be taken to imply that allosexual aromantic people are porn stars, or vice versa. People are not all the same. Allosexual aromantics are not all the same. Helen Arnold does not represent all allosexual aromantic people, any more than James Bond represents all men.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

Innocent she seemed at first, her blushes red as wine
Fans adored her guileless ways and judged her quite divine
Once each week upon the stage, on TV too, she starred
Asked just what she thought of it, she said, “I like it hard!”

March 2016 Yanty’s Butterfly @AlinaMeridon

March has been a good month, not least because of an excuse to eat dark chocolate and Easter eggs…

Haiku Nook Anthology Yanty's Butterfly

Major news this month is the official release of Yanty’s Butterfly: “Yanty’s Butterfly consists of over 600 poems, spanning the variety of haiku forms: three-line haiku, two-line haiku, one-line haiku, four-line haiku, traditional haiku (5-7-5), concrete haiku, tanka, and haibun. Featuring haiku from Yanty Tjiam, George Klacsanzky, Fei Zhan, and award-winning poet, Alan Summers, Yanty’s Butterfly is an essential addition to the haiku literature of the 21st century.”

Yanty’s Butterfly is an anthology put together by members of the Haiku Nook Google community to commemorate Yanty Tjiam, who passed away last year. Yanty wrote beautiful haiku and her death affected us deeply. The anthology includes some of her poems, and is dedicated to her. Proceeds will be donated to Yanty’s family and to the charities ActionAid and The Hunger Project.

My upcoming novelette, I Like It Hard, continues its creeping progress through the publication engine. Still no sign of a cover, but this month I received the line editor’s comments. Most were minor, such as disagreements over the need for a comma here or there – I suspect no two editors will agree completely over commas – but there was one interesting point. During the story, there is mention in several places of a ‘man in a headset’. Now, while writing originally, I was thinking of this ‘person’ as being generic, anonymous, probably even several people defined by a specific role. But the reader doesn’t quite get that impression, and that has bothered me a little for a few months. The editor picked up on this point too, so I have amalgamated these ‘men in headsets’ into a single named character.

alexis in heels
walking into the future
from a thoughtless past

imagine a thought
where no thought has ever passed
and be reverent

the first face we see
is the face that teaches us
the truth of beauty

As for my science fiction novelette Alexis 5-1-8, which has been rejected now by one publisher and simply ignored by another, I have finally found the enthusiasm to try again. (‘Third time lucky,’ he mutters, blood from the sacrificial goat pouring into a clay vessel as the smell of burning barley fills the air of the temple. ‘Third time lucky…’) For now, here is a trio of haiku inspired by Alexis.

In connection with this, Discover Magazine’s Jeremy Hsu reports in What Women and Men Want from Sex Robots that “both women and men generally agreed that using sex robots was more appropriate than hiring a human prostitute.” Also, take a look at this fantastic video:

Dark side of the Moon with the Earth behind, both in crescent form

See the dark side of the Moon, looking towards the Earth…

Supergirl

A few more Supergirl poems this month, including one that’s really just about Mistress X.

even in disguise
her feet never touch the earth
memory holds her

Kara eats Baci
‘Can I have a kiss?’ Cat asks
and gets more than one

For two of these I was experimenting with a new structure in which every line has nine syllables and sequential pairs of lines rhyme. It resists any rhythm, but also reads comfortably in four-line stanzas, and the resulting mood is a little unsettling – which works well for poems with a darker theme, such as horror or despair.

Cover of Codename Night Witch in The Girls from Alcyone by Cary Caffrey

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