Winter 2016-17 Day is Done @AlinaMeridon

I haven’t been writing much lately. In part, my day job has been keeping me too busy of late, but mostly I’m weary about the state of the world.

  • Brexit left me feeling wounded and confused, and the determination of Britain’s politicians to follow that path to our doom, like lemmings off a cliff, is… well, understandable, but deeply saddening. And especially worrying, since:
  • Trump. Oh. Dear. God. Damn, America, I get that you weren’t overly fond of Hilary, but why would you vote for an immature, entitled, egotistical, bigotted, woman-hating white supremacist? All I can say is, thank God for:
  • Supergirl? Oh, dear. I mean, I know I bitched a little about the pseudo-feminism in Season 1, but Season 2 is a mess! It’s even more illogical than Season 1, and while it’s great to have Alex finding true love with Maggie, it feels a little excessive when Kara barely gets any character development. The truth is that Cat Grant was a necessary balance, a good and powerful human female influence, in a series otherwise dominated by aliens, soldiers and cyborgs. (“After losing Cat Grant, the world of Supergirl feels completely imbalanced. It’s almost as if the fictional Cat Grant kept all the very real writers in place. Because let’s face it: Cat Grant would stand up for Supergirl.” – How The CW gave Supergirl a second season, then ruined it) The closest we get in Season 2 is Lena Luthor, and she’s sadly under-used; instead we have to endure an inexplicable relationship between Kara and Mon-El. But it’s increasingly clear that the writers don’t really care about the characters or the artistic integrity of Supergirl.
  • [On the plus side, I’ve watched some great series on Netflix: 3% (Brazilian post-apocalyptic), The Expanse (space opera), Luke Cage (Marvel), Jessica Jones (Marvel), Cyborg 009 (anime), and others also, but these are all definitely worth a shot.]
  • Oh, and also, my computer broke. The Apple Store has pronounced it “beyond repair”. One silver lining here, though: I extracted an old MacBook Pro from a cupboard and have managed to get Ubuntu Linux working smoothly – I’m continually astonished by how well Linux works these days. I remember installing it onto my 486 off a handful of floppy disks, and having to spend days fiddling with X Server parameters to get the monitor to work. These days the only thing I fight with is EFI, but I won’t go into that…
  • And last, but not least, I made an intelligent (I thought) and innocuous (I thought) comment on a blog article that kicked off an entirely too stressful discussion/argument, which left me feeling emotionally battered. It has been three weeks now since I baled, and I haven’t found the strength – or given in to the weakness – to see how much worse it got.

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September 2016 Veiled Haiku @AlinaMeridon

The Veil

Henry David Thoreau, a poet and philosopher whose writings I wish I were better acquainted with, once said, “It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes.” It certainly conjures up some interesting images, but I suspect the point he was making was that if clothing were simple, primarily functional and generally stripped of its layers of meaning, then we would necessarily have to judge people by who they are rather than what they wear.

Clothing is full of meaning. Clothing is seldom ‘just clothing’. Clothing is a cultural statement indicating power, wealth, identity and intention. It is a language, one of many spoken across the world and throughout recorded history, each with its local dialects. Cultural misunderstandings are easy and all too frequent: someone might make the statement, “I am a confident, independent woman and open – perhaps – to sexual advances from the right someone,” only for someone else to see them and understand instead, “I am a woman of no intrinsic worth and may be treated entirely without respect.”

Defenders of the veil (in its many forms) often argue that it’s ‘just clothing’ and people should be allowed to wear what they like. If people genuinely were allowed to wear whatever they liked, then there wouldn’t be such an outcry at public nudity. In truth there are rules upon rules of what is permissible. Some are enshrined in law, some are simply convention and fashion, some are tokens of cultural identity.

Arguments in support of the veil are so often presented in the guise of feminism (‘the liberation is in the choice’) or religious freedom that to speak out against the veil is perilous indeed. Intelligent people with legitimate concerns are reluctant to speak out for fear of an organised backlash from a religious mafia.

I am a feminist and I find the sight of a woman concealed head-to-foot, save perhaps for a glimpse of eyes, highly distressing. Does, I wonder, the woman have any real choice? Is she happy to be isolated from the outside world, or utterly miserable? Is she content to be the property of a man? Added to that is the offensive implication that men are unable to control their desires, or that it is the responsibility of a woman to conceal herself from the uncontrollable desires of men.

If you genuinely believe people should be allowed to wear what they want, then you should fight for the right for all people to wear what they like, and to be safe and treated with respect no matter what. In communities where the veil is the norm, a woman who chooses not to wear the veil cannot be assured of either safety or respect. Sadly, neither can a woman who does choose to wear the veil be assured of either.

Refusing the Veil by Yasmin-Alibhai-Brown

I have been thinking much about the veil this past month, and stumbled across Refusing the Veil by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who writes with the clarity and the passion of one who sees a hard-won freedom slipping away.

Alexis 5-1-8

In August I started writing a sequel to Alexis 5-1-8 without a real sense of where to take it, but it occurred to me eventually that it would be far better to rewrite much of the new material and thread it into the original story. Alexis 5-1-8 is now sitting at 24,000 words, edging into novella territory.

I sent the new version off to yet-another-independent-publisher – three weeks ago, and have heard absolutely nothing so far. Not even a receipt. Sigh… Getting very tempted to just publish it myself.

Failed Again!

On a happier note, four of my haiku were accepted for the October edition of Failed Haiku.

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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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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:

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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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