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Another five words - Zer Netmouse
July 6th, 2009
10:08 pm

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Another five words
Two people gave me five words with the Five words meme. The other one was shsilver. Here are his words and what they mean to me:

1) Neil Gaiman
2) Apples to Apples
3) Midfanzine
4) Dayton
5) Ann Arbor

  1. Neil Gaiman is a friend of mine. I first met him at Torcon when Cheryl Morgan (who knew him) and I borrowed his Hugo to pose with as we imagined winning one for Emerald City (which in fact we did, later, but that's another story). But I didn't really speak to him at the time, so I really truly met Neil as his Guest of Honor liaison at Penguicon 2.0. I was not previous to that a big fan of Neil's, and I'm not exactly a rabid fan of his work now - though I find much of it delightful, other of it is not to my taste or goes over my head much in the manner of the writing of Gene Wolfe, of whom Neil is, in turn, a big fan.

    I had heard of The Sandman comics but hadn't read them until my honeymoon in 2001, when Laura Hewitt sent them with us to Cozumel and they became a critical factor in the lying-around-recovering-from-the-sunburn-we-got-while-snorkeling phase of the week. Previous to that, I'd read Good Omens when the wolfpack loaned it around enthusiastically, which I think was shortly after it came out. But when I became Neil's liaison, like a good liaison, I went to read his work. Turned out there was too much of it to read between then and that Penguicon, but it also turned out Neil was a delight, and we got along really well, so by happenstance and inclination I helped him out at three more events that year, (and at the Nebulas the next spring thanks to shsilver himself, actually). I have kept picking up his books and stories, many of which I have read before they were published, because sometimes he honors me with beta reader duty, or asks me to favor him with a quick proof of something, so in this way and also through working for Subterranean Press I have beta read, copyedited or proofed drafts or editions of Sunbird, Anansi Boys, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, The newspaper/poster version of A Study in Emerald, some of Fragile Things (that was during Balticon; Neil almost never stops working on his writing, even during a con), Odd and The Frost Giants, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and his story in Songs of the Dying Earth, plus little things like the Halloween piece he published a couple years ago and showed a few of us the weekend of Mike Ford's funeral, which was just before it went to press.

    In the meantime, Neil and I have become friends, and I have also gotten a little slice of fame through an essay I wrote that first year, called Notes on Neil-Handling. It has been convenient for Neil to refer other conrunners to that essay, and he has delightedly related to me how people in distant countries I've never been to say things like, "We're not sure we have exactly followed the instructions of Anne Murphy, but we have tried." Sometimes I meet people and find out they are fans of Neil, and mention the essay, and find out they have read it already. I also had fun and privilege of introducing him at the banquet at Mythcon.

    As a friend and assistant to Neil, I am sometimes privy to information about his private life that is not public, but I don't share it with other people any more than he does, so if you are looking for gossip I will likely disappoint you. But I have very much enjoyed meeting all of the people I have been lucky to meet through my association with him, including of course his other assistants, the Fabulous Lorraine and Cat Mihos -- they are both of them fabulous in truth. It will be good to see him at the upcoming Worldcon, Anticipation, where he is a Guest of Honor and I am his liaison to the con. It will also be a lot of work - Neil is currently a rock star in fandom, so assisting him involves crowd management, phrases like "and we're moving," press conferences, skill at procuring dinner reservations for suddenly larger groups of people or acquiring clothing accessories like cuff links and bow ties on short notice, and etc. But it's good work, and rewarding work, and I'm happy to do it. Because he's also a very nice person who works very, very hard, and he's also, well, Neil. Whose smile when he shares something that truly tickles him still manages to be shy, after all these years of all of us loving him.

  2. Apples to Apples

    Nothing compares to my first game of Apples to Apples, which was also the first time I met shsilver, and though we did not know each other found we were sufficiently on the same wavelength that I took every one of Steven's adjective cards, to the point where he drew one and turned to me to ask, "should I just give it to you now?"

    In some ways it is sad how few times since then Steven and I have met in person, but since he was and is happily married to a very nice person, I had to conclude a long time ago that that legendary Apples to Apples game was not in fact the Universe saying we were fated to be together romantically. Then again we have collaborated on a number of endeavors, and I dare say we shall again, so fate has at least thrown us together in the same bag. (of apples...? And made pie? Keith, I'm blaming you for this turn of mind.)

    Other memorable games include playing Apples to Apples with Carl Sagan's niece over at Mary's apartment and learning how much it bugged her when people misquoted her uncle as saying "billions and billions..."

    I believe the game is best played in smaller groups of people. Say, fewer than 8. Which is probably part of why my crate version of the game has gotten very little use.

  3. Midfanzine was and perhaps is the fanzine produced by Midwest Conventions, Inc, or MidFan. The group and the fanzine are about smoffing in the midwest, as was MidWest Construction, the con where I met Steven and Apples to Apples. I edited three editions of MidFanzine, which I will get up on eFanzines any year now. One includes an essay by Steven on "Fannish Apples to Apples" and some awesome illustrations of that by Kurt Erichsen. I'm trying to revive the group; we have a discussion list. Check it out.

    Through MidFanzine I had fun publishing artwork and articles and also one of my favorite poems by Laura Hewitt:

    Recurrance

    You know that dream?

    You know, the science-fiction one. Where you have been given a bi-cornate uterus, and your ovaries stuffed with millions of redundant-data engineered unicellular genotypes, and eventually you will allow yourself to give birth, every month, to the hermaphroditic parents of two more species to colonize a terraformed planet, becoming the Supreme Justice of Clarke's law, a living ark of a new covenant, the Isis throne to the Osiris cycles of a new earth, Moses' cradle among the bulrushes? Where every cell your skin sheds will grow to be a new plant, a colony of microorganisms? You should be a little grossed out, but it all feels perfectly natural — perfectly wonderful, perfectly blissful. And you smile benignly, fat with life, floating among millions of spilled-salt, throbbing stars, and press your forehead against the viewport, reaching tender fingertips to that blue-white saltwater opal that calls you to your mutual destiny? And you know that, whenever you have that other dream from now on, that other dream where you haven't really graduated and can't find the final exam for the course you'd never been to even once that semester, you'll smile serenely at the principal and say, "I'm sorry I didn't learn what I came here to learn, but it's not what I need to know. Excuse me, I have a world to populate." And you look...


    You know that dream?


    The dream of anticipating cats?


    How do you have it again?


    How do you have it again?


  4. Dayton

    I haven't seen much of Dayton yet. I live half an hour away, in Yellow Springs. I've been downtown in Dayton four times for a) dinner in the Oregon District, b) dinner and a drag show, c) the gay pride parade, and d) dinner in the Oregon District (same place as a. The oregon district is not actually that big).

    There are good people in the area, though, and an amazing network of Rails to Trails biking trails. Soon I intend to check out the museums and the art institute.

  5. Ann Arbor

    I can speak at great length about how Ann Arbor is no longer the hippie down-to-earth small town with all the resources of a big city where I was privileged to be born and grow up attending alternative, student-centered schools and thus become one of that rare breed of person who can say "I liked high school" without having her nose grow metaphorically longer. It is yippified so that art galleries are more common than art and dance studios, the music scene is not what it was and Zingerman's is not what it was and Drakes Candy shop and restaurant is gone and downtown is gutted of many of the wonderful things like, well, drugstores and camera stores and department stores and a downtown McDonalds with stained glass windows and the Pan Tree restaurant (and then Denny's downtown, briefly) and Fantasy Attic Costumes and Ryder's Hobby Shop, and Borders died and came back in Zombie form (shudder) and Kerrytown is Upscale and no longer a place to make your own candles on the lower level, but Dawn Treader books still exists (now above ground!) as does the Michigan Theater and the Hands-on Museum and many things but not the Graceful Arches stage at the Art Fair nor Discount records, nor our once-proud record of having the most used book stores per capita of any town in the US.

    For the last 7 years of living there I drove around with my head half in a ghost shell of the city that was no longer there, and it hurt.

    So it was time to leave.

    But it's still a nice place to visit.

(13 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:jebra
Date:July 7th, 2009 04:10 am (UTC)
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Your feeling about Ann Arbor echo the way I feel about the Hyde Park area of Chicago. It's changed a lot since I've been gone, and not in many ways that appeal to me, but I still go back and visit.
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From:kyril
Date:July 7th, 2009 06:10 am (UTC)
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Not sure if I was the Keith who gave you that turn of mind, but I'll happily take credit anyway. Warping minds isn't a hobby of mine, so much as a side effect. But then you're probably around a lot of people like that, and you likely have a similar side effect except nobody in their right mind would call it "warping".
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:July 9th, 2009 01:37 am (UTC)
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you were! you fiend!

:P
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From:theferrett
Date:July 7th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
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Hmm. I'd never read the Neil-handling essay before! Interesting to get that perspective on him. (I had no idea he was allergic to wheat, but he did spur a lovely interest in sushi within me by taking me to a sushi restaurant and suggesting bits for me.)
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:July 9th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)
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Yes! I think introducing people to sushi experiences is one of his Favorite Things.
(Deleted comment)
From:tlatoani
Date:July 7th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
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I think people have probably been bemoaning the fact that Ann Arbor used to be cooler since about 20 years after its founding. It's kind of like complaints about how kids these days have no work ethic and don't respect their elders: every generation says that, all the way back to Babylonia.
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From:netmouse
Date:July 9th, 2009 01:47 am (UTC)
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eh, I think it has categorically changed. I mean, people have bemoaning the fact that Rome is not what is was for centuries. That doesn't mean it's not a vibrant, wonderful city. But it's also not what it _was_ (probably for the better, in that case). Ann Arbor is really something. It's just not the town I grew up in. (and neither is my high school much like it used to be, from what I hear).

Re: Ann Arbor, as mistrtoad said below, "The hip vibe which drew thousands of countercultural wannabees seems to have prompted them to commodify the lifestyle. Now the authentic homegrown counterculture can't afford to live there. Fortunately, it's still beautiful."

That's exactly what I see.
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:July 9th, 2009 01:43 am (UTC)
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It definitely has a vibrant downtown, which too many cities do not. There are restaurants with tables outside, and people walking around. And there are many wonderful parks. People do not hang around campus as much as they did back before the U of M started fretting about liability issues and chased away all street performers, especially during the art fairs, but they still hang about campus, and though they truly warped The Top of The Park from what it once was, the city still has a great summer festival compared to, well, most of the country...

Many of the culturally productive (rather than purely consumptive) people do come there, and be creative, they just often live outside city limits these days, in the ever-increasing sprawl, or in Ypsi. It's nice to see a resurgence in Ypsi, actually. I hope it continues.
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From:apostle_of_eris
Date:July 7th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
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(I hadn't known you were a native of Ann Arbor.)
Both my introductions to Neil were in Minneapolis.
I was sitting in a con suite at a fallcon, and somebody came up and said, Hey Neil[me, not him!], there's a comic book with Emperor Norton in it! It was the Emperor Norton story in Sandman . . . Which I now have almost all the issues of, though I haven't counted lately.
So not many years later, I'm at a party at Minicon, and there's some guy doing The Coal Miner routine, an ancient Dudley Moore monologue which is even funnier to you if you're British. I can't do any accent in the world except Midwestern, but I've heard the routine often enough on the Midnight Special, so I sort of joined in.
It was Neil. So the Midnight Special helped me get off on a very good foot with him.
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From:netmouse
Date:July 9th, 2009 01:49 am (UTC)
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Cool story! Neil singing lines from the Jerry Springer Musical in the green room was one of the singular moments of Penguicon, as well.
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From:ontology101
Date:July 7th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
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I feel exactly the way you do about Ann Arbor and East Lansing. Nostalgia. I try and find the things in Ann Arbor right now that 20 years from now the fourty-somethings will be lamenting.

Still, I am happy to live here.

Anne
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From:mistrtoad
Date:July 7th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
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Re: Ann Arbor--All unique places change because of their very uniqueness. Hip is so evanescent. My hometown, Asheville NC, is unrecognizable to me now. The hip vibe which drew thousands of countercultural wannabees seems to have prompted them to commodify the lifestyle. Now the authentic homegrown counterculture can't afford to live there. Fortunately, it's still beautiful.

Yellow Springs, even, is not at all as I remember it from ten years ago. Fortunately, though, Dayton is improving.
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:July 9th, 2009 01:47 am (UTC)
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This.

Thank you for understanding, and putting it so well!
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