Friday, May 25, 2018

[personal] Hope for Our Kids

Renoir, Maternite, 1887

On Mother’s Day, May 13 2018, I attended the graduation of my youngest daughter from medical school. While this is surely an occasion of joy and pride for all families, in this case it is especially so. Rose had a long, hard struggle through her adolescence and teen years. As her (single, working) mother, I couldn’t wave a magic wand and make her problems go away; what she needed was patience and love, especially my unwavering belief that she was resourceful enough to cope her challenges. One of the things that helped me during those difficult years was hearing from another mother about the rough time her son had gone through, but that he had come through those times, rebuilt his life, and was now a successful emergency room physician. (Both our kids becoming doctors is an interesting coincidence.)

For quite a while, I blamed myself for Rose’s difficulties. She’d been an intense, fiery toddler, than an easy-going child. When my mother was murdered, Rose was only 3 months old, so she grew up with me struggling through initial PTSD recovery. It was sheer awful luck that her puberty and my crisis (after the first parole hearing of the man who did it) and subsequent breakup of the family happened about the same time. She and I ended up moving to a different part of the state, both of us trying to restart our lives. Marion Zimmer Bradley had invited me to collaborate with her on Darkover, so my writing career was getting started again. I was dating the man I eventually married, so many aspects of our lives were happier and more stable. Except, of course, for adolescent hormones.

After doing well in middle school, Rose starting having difficulty, including self-harm. It was clear to me that if I got on her case about it, the only result would be that she would stop talking to me and I could not help her. So I took my worries elsewhere, including to the friend who told me about how her son had overcome drug addition and other serious problems, then finished college and went on to medical school. Another story I heard involved a kid who was living at home and not doing much. When his parents issued an ultimatum to either go to school or get a job. the kid moved out, became a drug dealer, and ended up in prison. The friend who told me this story was at a loss to do with her own son, who had dropped out of college and moved back home. Her thought was that at least she knew where her son was, and he was in a safe place until he could figure things out.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Crossroads of Darkover Author Interview: Rebecca Fox

Now available, an all-new Darkover anthology featuring tales of decisions, turning points, love lost and found, all in the beloved world of the Bloody Sun. Stories by Jenna Rhodes, Pat MacEwen, Gabrielle Harbowy, Evey Brett, Rosemary and India Edghill, Diana L. Paxson, and more!

Order yours today at: iBookKindleKoboNook

Table of Contents is here.

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us about your introduction to Darkover.
Rebecca Fox: As a moody teenage girl with SFnal leanings in the early/mid-1990s, I really had three main reading choices: Pern, Valdemar, or Darkover. Pern I’d found on my own, in a sixth grade language arts reader of all places. My discovery of Valdemar and Darkover (simultaneously) at the age of 14 or 15 and the subsequent loss of at least a week’s worth of sleep while I devoured several books as fast as I could possibly read them I owe to a camp roommate.
 My introduction to writing Darkover came via Rosemary Edghill - who is, incidentally, a brilliant human being, a terrific writer, and a truly stellar teacher - who mentored me through my angst-filled and far less than graceful move from Darkest Fanficcia to the Land of Paid Professional Writers and somehow managed not to murder me in the process (it would have been entirely justified, trust me). At any rate, Rosemary invited me to collaborate with her on a story for Stars of Darkover (“Second Contact,” of which I’m still terribly fond) and the rest is history. I remain more grateful than I can really express for the invitation, as well as for patient lessoning in things like how to pace a story and how to edit my own work and more than a few good stiff doses of humility. I wouldn't be here without her, and I hope one of these days I’ll at least get the chance to pay it forward.

DJR: What inspired your story in Crossroads of Darkover?
RF: Well, the glib (and not in the least untrue) answer here is: my complete inability to let anything go, ever. I get so attached to some worlds or characters that it’s hard to simply bid them adieu after a bare six thousand words or so. And I just couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye to Jamie MacRorie and Miralys after nothing more than a few paragraphs in “Where You’re Planted” (never you mind that I’d originally produced them simply because Cat needed to get her parents from somewhere).

The less glib answer is that at the time I sat down to think about my next Darkover story, I’d been wallowing happily in the very earliest Darkover books, and in one of them – I think it was The Bloody Sun but I wouldn’t swear to it in a court of law – there’s this really brief mention of the Terranan and the Darkovans having fought a war over “resources,” with the implication that the Terrans lost or were somehow humiliated. Since that one paragraph was the only time I’d ever seen that “war” mentioned, it couldn’t have been much of a war, could it? Between the fact that I found myself kind of obsessing over what might have happened (because that’s what I do) and the fact that I’ve never met a spy story I didn’t like, “The Short, Inglorious War” was born.

Friday, May 18, 2018

In Troubled Times: The Challenge of Compassion

Nov. 10, 2009

"All real living is meeting." -- Martin Buber

At World Fantasy Convention, three friends and I ventured forth from the hotel in search of un-conditioned air and reasonably-priced food. Our path took us into a pedestrian mall with a lively street scene. Two encounters stand out in my mind. The first was with a homeless man. As he asked us for money, his voice was low and dispirited, as if he had no expectation of a response. He seemed on the edge of giving up hope. Usually I feel uncomfortable giving cash, although if I have the time, I may offer to buy the person a meal. I didn't have the time, but something in this man spoke to me. Without questioning that inner prompting, I turned back, dug in my purse for a dollar, and offered it to him. It seemed to me that a kind word and the recognition of our common humanity was as important as that small amount of money. As I spoke to him and met his eyes, I saw them fill with tears. In broken tones, he told me of how he had lost his job and left his home, rather than be evicted. I don't know if he was telling the truth or if he later used the money to buy drugs or booze. I'm not sure it matters. The moment between us, his response to being treated with kindness, was real. For all I know, it might have been the tiny nudge that kept hope alive.

Further up the street, a group of young adults in uniform-like black sweats was holding forth in loud voices, lecturing all within earshot, preaching their religious beliefs. Their voices echoed against the buildings and their eyes were hard and angry. As we passed, I tried to imagine what I might say to them -- "Live and let live"? A few people on the street shouted back at them. My friends and I thought of all sorts of snappy retorts, none of which would have amounted to any real communication. I realized this was a way of diffusing the discomfort caused by the abrasive behavior of these young people.

How can speech that is combative to the point of hostility be answered? It seemed to me impossible to have even a token conversation with someone who is browbeating me at the top of his lungs. Isn't it necessary for both parties to be willing to take turns, to listen to one another? It did occur to me that these young people, berating all within earshot for their sinful ways, were not at all interested in hearing anyone else's point of view. I wonder what would have satisfied them.

Afterwards, I was struck by the contrast in the two encounters. Certainly, the evangelists were more intent on pounding home the evils of this world and terror of the next than in giving to the poor. But there is this: reaching out to the homeless man was easy. His manner was gentle and humble. He spoke out of need and then gratitude. The angry young people, on the other hand, presented a much greater challenge, one I was not equal to. I still do not know how I might be present with them without getting drawn in to acrimony and name-hurling.

Charity is easy. Seeing the common humanity in people who are screaming hatred at you -- that's hard.

The drawing is by Isidre Nonell (1872–1911)