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Archive for May, 2011

A few random things of import:

  • Historical Lovecraft doesn’t yet have any reviews up on Amazon, and I haven’t seen any reviews around the intarwebs except for a nice one in Italian. If you’ve read it and have things to say about it (good things, I hope!) please consider taking the time to write something, somewhere, please! The Kindle edition is only $3.99, which is a ridiculously low price for as much as the anthology contains.
  • My friend, and co-worker at Fantasy, T.J. McIntyre, put together a charity anthology to help  support the Red Cross’s efforts to aid tornado-ravaged Alabama. You can purchase Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction for $2.99 at SmashWords, or for the Kindle. It has 46 stories by writers such as An Owomoyela, Mari Ness, Darby Harn, and T.J. himself, so this is a good deal and an easy way of helping out.
  • Speaking of the VanderMeer, he interviewed my ace dawgg Jesse over at Omnivoracious about his latest, The Enterprise of Death. If you’re sitting on the fence about getting a copy, check it out, and then go and read the actual novel!

Anyways, in personal news, I’m still doing Sandra’s Virtual Boot Camp. Going to the gym was totally kicking my ass this week, but I still did everything. I’m sore and tired, and ready for a rest-day! More on such things as sweating next week.

In personal news, I’ve been. . . kind of maybe a little burned out on my novel lately. But, in the way of things, I took a little time off to write a short story this week, and I feel inspired again! Woo! So once I power through some things on my to-do list, I’m back to it. I’m actually excited to get to open the document, which is an improvement. We (the novel and I) have been fighting, and thus avoiding each other. I dunno why—I’m totally in the home stretch—but hey, it happens. I’m energized to get back to it, and all it took was writing a little bit of awfulness. It might even be good! I’m not sure yet.

How you doin?

x-posted to my LJ

I’ve decided, as a “motivational practice,” to blog once a week during Virtual Boot Camp. Last week, I talked mostly about my initial efforts to be more fit, as well as the sorts of things I’d been doing for myself before starting the boot camp. This week, having now completed a full week and then some of VBC, I’m going to talk about the awareness of and appreciation for certain things which working out has recently given me.

First: Food. I will always love to cook, bake, and eat. I’m good at preparing delicious meals, and I enjoy it. It’s rarely a chore for me. But, having discovered over the past week and a half what it really feels like to be “body-hungry” (needing to eat to nourish one’s body—used in contrast to being “mouth-hungry,” which is one’s desire to eat tasty things regardless of need), I can say that eating when you’re super-hungry from exercise makes food more delicious, which is awesome. To wit: I went on a hike last Sunday, up at Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a gorgeous hike, as it takes you to three different lakes, and it’s more than decent exercise for the likes of me, as it’s 3.5 miles round trip, with a 600 ft. elevation gain. My husband and I did the whole thing in about 2 hours, including a lunch break. We ate at the terminus, and let me tell you, the sandwich I made us was the most wonderful thing I’d ever put in my mouth. Sure, this was in part because it was a freshly baked, hollowed-out rosemary loaf smeared with homemade olive relish and then stuffed with spinach and a bunch of vegan salami and bologna, but it was also because I had goddamn earned that sandwich. This is how I’ve been feeling at every meal. Even my usual wrap come lunchtime tastes divine.

Second: Sleep. I usually have quite a bit of trouble falling asleep and then staying asleep. Not since starting boot camp! I’m sure I’ll eventually adjust, but recently I simply cannot stay awake past maaaaaybe 11 PM, and when I fall asleep, I sleep well. Deep snoozin, big dreamin. I am also now all of a sudden now waking up around 6:30 AM naturally, which is let’s just say. . . atypical for me. True, my normal wake-up o’clock is a mere half-hour later, but the thing is, recently when I arise I’m all like RAWR! IT’S A NEW DAY! And I’m just not that sort of girl. That may be changing.

Third: Hot Water. I’ve always liked showering. I enjoy being clean and the process by which that is achieved. These days, though, I enjoy it ever so much more, and it’s not just because of my Lush collection. There is nothing, I have found, so wonderful as a hot, hot shower when you still have that “Whew! I did it! And am slightly sore!” feeling after working out. Especially, for me, post-weights. It’s just so delightful, feeling gym-gross sluicing away down the drain as your body relaxes. I know by working out with weights I’m gaining all sorts of health benefits and stuff, but seriously, it’s worth it purely for the aahhhhhh feeling of hot water beating on my shoulders while Lush Sea Vegetable or A Ring of Roses perfumes the whole bathroom.

And that, friends, is what I’mma go do right now. Woo!

x-posted to my LJ

First, I’d like to thank Molly Tanzer for hosting my guest-blogging effort on behalf of Historical Lovecraft: Tales of Horror Through Time, and editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia for arranging the guest-blogging exchange. And a more general thank-you to all the wonderful authors with whose works my story is sharing space in the pages of Historical Lovecraft for making it such a wonderfully frightening anthology.

When I think about discussing my short story “Red Star, Yellow Sign,” the first thing that comes to mind is how it wouldn’t even have been possible for me to write it a few years ago. In fact, it might be better to say it wouldn’t even have been thinkable to write it as I did, with Nikolai Yezhov as the protagonist and principal point-of-view character.

I originally studied Russian in the late 1980’s, when our knowledge of that period of the history of the Soviet Union was still fragmentary, and largely the product of either Soviet propaganda or the accounts of defectors. As a result, I got the standard view of the time, which portrayed Yezhov as a psychopathic monster who gleefully fabricated cases against people he knew to be innocent, motivated entirely by bloodlust reflective of a lifelong moral emptiness. After all, nothing much was known about him prior to his sudden appearance as the head of the NKVD (the Soviet secret police), so it was easy to assume the worst.

After the fall of the USSR, more information began to come out, including first-person accounts by people who knew him before the Terror, including Anna Larina, widow of Nikolai Bukharin. In spite of having suffered terribly as a result of her husband’s destruction in the Terror, and thus having every reason to hate Yezhov, in her autobiography This I Cannot Forget, Larina recalls him warmly, telling stories of how Yezhov and her late husband joked about having the same forename and patronymic, Nikolai Ivanovich, in the years prior to the Terror, when neither of them had any reason to expect they’d end up on opposite sides in a social cataclysm.

Then there was the story of Yezhov’s daughter, who after his fall from grace was sent to a hellish orphanage and subsequently has endured a lifetime of poverty and social rejection (she is as of this writing still alive, elderly, ailing, and crushingly poor). Generally the children of brutal killers recall their childhoods as being full of abuse, but she recalls Yezhov as a loving father, quite possibly the only person in her life who truly loved her. In the only English-language interview with Natalya, her steadfast love for him shines through the writer’s use of slanted language to portray her as a contemptible person (perhaps to justify his humiliation of her in her own home) and Yezhov’s ability to inspire such love in the face of overwhelming pressure to disavow him suggests that we need to take another look at the standard view of Yezhov as bloodthirsty killer devoid of any human qualities.

This was when I encountered two very significant scholarly works that changed my whole view of the Great Terror: The Road to Terror by J. Arch Getty and Oleg Naumov, and Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941 by Robert Thurston. Suddenly I get an image of the Terror not as a systematic operation of mass murder directed from the top by Stalin (as frequent comparisons to Nazi Germany’s genocides suggest), but of a moral panic affecting all levels of society, more akin to the Salem witch trials, or what the McCarthy Era might have become if the US didn’t have due process protections to slow down the wheels of (in)justice long enough that Ed Murrow could get the truth out and people could calm down. Instead of the pathological mastermind of mass murder, Stalin’s role becomes more that of throwing gasoline on a fire that would have burned no matter who was at the top (so much for all those alternate histories in which Sergei Kirov outmaneuvers Stalin and the Terror is averted). Thus it became possible to see Yezhov not as a psychopathic monster, or as Stalin’s witless tool, but a sincere Soviet patriot in over his head, not realizing that his entire society has gone mad around him because it can’t name the Elephant in the Middle of the Living Room that is the abject failure of Communist theory in the disaster of forced collectivization.

However, the final link came not from history, scholarly or popular, but from science fiction: namely a story from Larry Niven’s Man-Kzin Wars anthology series. In Jerry Pournelle and S. M. Stirling’s “The Children’s Hour,” (which is reprinted in The Houses of the Kzinti), one of the characters claims that Communism was created as a self-limiting tyranny to control humanity’s self-destructive impulses. The idea of the tragedies of Communism being the result of a shadowy Illuminati-style conspiracy foisting Communism onto unsuspecting dupes who sincerely believed they were creating a better world really bothered me.

Thus, when I saw the call for submissions to Historical Lovecraft, I immediately saw a possibility in substituting Cthulhu’s minions for Pournelle and Stirling’s shadowy Illuminati-style conspirators. My original idea was to have a modern researcher discover evidence of the tampering, and come under fire for appearing to be exculpating Yezhov — but then the editors add a line in the guidelines that they do not want to see frame stories set in the present day. So now I’ve got a story written from Yezhov’s point of view — but how can I convey the manipulations of history by Cthulhu’s minions when Yezhov’s supposed to have only the most glancing idea of what he’s discovering?

Thus I developed the idea of a series of memos back and forth between R’lyeh and Cthulhu’s agents in Leningrad, interspersed through the narrative. This technique also had the benefit of rejecting any grandiose portrayal of Cthulhu and his minions, instead portraying their evil as utterly banal and bureaucratic. It’s rather appropriate when one considers that one of the failure modes of bureaucracy is a loss of the sense of personal responsibility for actions, such that people carry out terrible orders fully believing that they’re not just doing the right thing, but fulfilling a positive duty, and that failure mode has been such a major part of several of the worst horrors of the 20th century.

After that it was just a matter of actually pulling everything together into a finished story. I got some wonderful suggestions for that from some of my friends who are also writers, and some help from my husband on the final edits right when his computer had major problems and he needed me to get it working again.

I’m participating in the Blog Buddies contest for Historical Lovecraft, which means if you go here for the guidelines, read a few blog posts on how the stories in the anthology came to be, you could win cool stuff like an Innsmouth Free Press mug!

Today, you can find my post on what-all I poured into my novelette, “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” over in Leigh Kimmel’s blog. Tomorrow, you can read her guest post right here!

Fun times—hope you participate! And, if you have Historical Lovecraft, and liked it, please think about leaving a review on Goodreads or Amazon or on your blog.

For a few months now I’ve been more fitness-concious. I haven’t talked about it here because (1) I apparently, like, never blog anymore, (2) I am typically quite self-conscious about matters body-related, and (3) generally, with stuff about diet and exercise. . . what is there to talk about that’s interesting to others? But then I got to thinking about it. I’m doing some fun things, utilizing some neat tools, and seriously: losing weight and exercising every day has honestly done every single thing fitness folks claim. My general mood has improved, my energy level and self-confidence have increased, and after an initial “unnnngh this suuuuuucks” period of adjustment, I really look forward to exercising, cooking healthy stuff, and eating reasonable portions of said “healthy stuff.” Plus it has been pretty important to me of late, and this is my friggin blog. Nobody reads it anyways! Hilarious. Anyways, here goes. . .

The Story so Far!


I’ve been counting calories via SparkPeople and cooking out of low-fat/low-cal cookbooks such as Appetite for Reduction.

I resisted counting calories for a looooong time, for a number of reasons. When I finally decided to give it a try, I went into it with the expectation of finding it annoying, boring, or obsession-making. Thankfully, it’s actually been quite interesting, fun, and helpful! Since starting this practice, I’ve traveled twice and not been able to track as vigilantly, and I’ve actually missed tracking, because it’s a, I dunno, “centering practice” or some such yoga-sounding thing. It makes me mindful of what I put into my body, and that in and of itself is helpful. It’s so easy for me to mindlessly snack, especially at night, so holding myself accountable has been very important.

I’ve talked here and elsewhere about Appetite for Reduction, so I won’t go on too much about it. I know this sounds ridiculous and impossible, but. . . I lost 8-9 lbs before I even started this whole endeavor just cooking dinner out of this book every night—not tracking my whole day, not putting in the time exercising, just using the book. It’s great: the recipes are tasty and varied, and now that I’m tracking calories, it’s so helpful to have the calorie count, like, there so I don’t have to bother with calculating it myself. And though I’ve been a longtime “fuck you, salad” sort of vegan, there are salads in there that don’t annoy me.


Yoga, walking, and occasionally hiking helped me lose a ton of weight, and without much fuss at all. I’ve now (more below) added in more intense exercise and some weight training, but I did that because I wanted to, not because I plateaued or anything. I’ve steadily dropped pounds simply making sure to just be more active every single day, and yeah, it’s awesome for my mood and my general mental health.

Moving Forward!

The next eight weeks I’ll be doing Sandra Wickham‘s Virtual Boot Camp. Basically, she’s designed a personalized cardiovascular and strength-training series for me (and the other participants!) based around what I’m interested in doing for health. It includes some weight lifting and a whole lotta of cardio, since I’m still interested in losing weight. I’ll be eating the same way—high nutrient-density, low calorie—but the boot camp thing means I’ll be doing intense activity 6 out of 7 days of the week. Whew! The first day I went for a long hike, then today, I did my first strength-training: shoulders and chest, and man I already feel it. Jesus. I think tomorrow, for x-training purposes (the x makes it seem more fitness-related, doesn’t it?), I’ll be biking after an early-morning airport run (Jesse and Raech are Florida-bound!).

More later as I have more to talk about, but if this is at all interesting, I’ll be Tweeting about things more frequently than I blog, I’m sure. Yes, I’m now on Twitter due to peer pressure, and my “handle” or “moniker” or whatever it’s called on Twitter is @molly_the_tanz, and I’ll be “hashtagging” the whole thing as #vbc. Huzzah!

x-posted to my LJ