Earlier, I'd dropped by the Harvard rally, which had some rousing speakers, and an acapella protest choir called Vocal Opposition. They did a fine old job with "Big Yellow Taxi," and sang the Aristotelian elements ("There's earth and air and fire and water—") before launching on Lehrer. They ended with "If I had a theory, I'd test it in the morning..." (Followed by "data ..run" and "paper ... publish.") I didn't follow them to MIT for the gathering of the awesome, as I was meeting folks here.
Double helices cabling in the knit. The designer is ChemKnits.Cool signs:
[The resistance zigzag.]
A lovely earth in the heavens saying "WTF?"
Eppur si muove.
Protest Our Planet, It's the Only One* with Chocolate. (*we know for sure)
Beautiful chalk portrait of earth with arrow: I'm With Her
There Is No Planet B.
What do we want? Science funding and functional pockets in women's clothes!
Alternative facts are [square root of -1].
Got polio/smallpox? Me neither. Thanks, science.
Revolution! [with old-style graphic of the ascent of man getting to Trump and turning back in disgust]
[Gorgeous bee-patterned design]: Science gives me quite a buzz!
Less invasions, more equations.
I was told to bring a sine.
[Disapproving white bear]: Science shouldn't be polarizing.
Saw some awesome mad scientist outfits, and a treeful of people in white labcoats.
ETA: A longer clip is now up at the Antiques Roadshow site. More page views. The notebook is bound in a page of an old music manuscript.
The OED, thank heavens, is accessible to holders of a British library card number, which I've borrowed from kind friends. But the lack of EEBO when I want it has been a perennial frustration.
Fortunately, I've just learned that a subscription to the excellent Renaissance Society of America (thoughtfully scaled to income) buys access to some fabulous online resources, EEBO and all. Many of these are freely available to all (it's well worth clicking, just in case); but others are not. And who could resist such temptations as The First Book of Fashion? the Proceedings of Old Bailey, 1674-1913? the English Broadside Ballad Archive? the Database of Early English Playbooks? I've been running around gleefully jingling my keys.
It's raining little shards of ice out there. And I can sit at my own desk with a nice cup of tea, and read this stuff. Bliss.
On the up side, I don't think this will blight the fruit trees. Last year, there were no peaches in New England—no stone fruit at all—and the apples were stunted. Frost-kill.
I loved those small apples though—the perfect size, like pippins
What isn't in the aether?
“Its gilt key turned reluctantly. All three shelves and the space beneath were stuffed with disparate objects: a palette with the dregs of many sunsets; a cupful of counters; an ivory backscratcher; a thirty-twomo edition of Timon of Athens translated into Zemblan by his uncle Conmal, the Queen’s brother; a seaside situla (toy pail); a sixty-five-carat blue diamond accidentally added in his childhood, from his late father’s knickknackatory, to the pebbles and shells in that pail; a finger of chalk; and a square board with a design of interlaced figures for some long-forgotten game.”
Yet somehow Greer and I made it fly. Part of it is that we work well together. Part of it is that we respect each other. Part of it is that we're both deeply read in genre fiction. And part of it is that at least one of us (but I suspect two) has the gift of bullshit. People told us we were brilliant...
Make that a pair of jacks.
I like the snapsnot taken at my reading, an epitome of what the...?
"...nothing up my sleeve..."
It has an excellent con suite, which is also the green room, providing:
75 dozen hard-boiled eggs, with condiments;
a golden Alps of bread, with all sorts of butters and jams;
endless, always hot coffee, tea, cocoa.
I brought my own tea (black Yunnan); I brought chocolate. I can live on that for a weekend; though I wish clementines were still in season.
And thank heavens for the largesse, because this con’s in the Westin Way-Beyond, and there’s nowhere else around to eat, and usually a howling Siberia between the hotel and Chinatown.
Boskone has always had a most excellent art show, leaning toward large pieces by established artists—great oaks—but with a good mix of the up-and-coming in the underwood. It’s noted for its access to collections—this year’s special exhibition was a century (at least) of illustrations in black-and-white: Hannes Bok, Walt Kelly (Pogo), Charles Addams, the Dillons....
The dealer’s room is not quite the bibliophile’s delirium it is at Readercon, but it has many more bookstalls than at Arisia, which tends toward chotchkes: plushies and bondage gear, plushies in bondage gear, steampunk goggles, clockwork oranges...
I bought a stunning scholarly folio, lavishly illustrated, at rather less than half price: Here Be Dragons: A Fantastic Bestiary, by Ariane & Christian Delacampagne (Princeton University Press, 2003). Haven’t yet read it, but it holds an unusual and thoughtful gallery of images, many quite new to me, from many cultures: ancient and contemporary, sacred and vernacular, all gorgeous.
Ruth Sanderson was there with her stunningly beautiful edition of George MacDonald’s odd numinous fairytale, The Golden Key.
The programming was solid and engaging this year. There were one or two things every hour that I wanted to hear, and (fortified with strong tea and egg sandwiches), I thoroughly enjoyed some good conversations on (among other things): Pros on Prose; Non-Linear Narrative, an excellent history panel; one straight from the heart on the importance of libraries (now more than ever); My Gateway Book; Great Ghost Stories, &c., &c..
I heard only three readings, all excellent: Theodora Goss, with her memoirs of the daughters of the great mad scientists (the piece she read was by Justine Frankenstein); Margaret Ronald, with a good, thoughtful, sciencey story; Jo Walton, doing Mansfield Park on Mars.
And I managed to keep my end up on my own events, thank heavens.
Achilles Needs a Heel: The Problem With Power
I’m rooting for the grass, I said, to break through the pavement.
Poetry and Performance
Moderated by Bob (“Spoken Like a Gentleman”) Kuhn, who asked for a brief verse bio; I supplied:
Tiptree, World Fantasy,
Greer, of the Gilman kind,
Writes—and has written of
Jonson and Cloud;
Gives airy nothing a
Life and a larynx, in
Ink, and aloud.
Panelists were each to do a brief piece; and as it fell out, I was to follow three showstoppers: C. S. E. Cooney, being vibrant and gypsyish; Ada Palmer and Lauren Schiller, singing deep myth in complex harmonies; Linda Addison, rocking out in dreads. All I had were words. I gave them a brief bit of “A Crowd of Bone” where narrative changes to performative ritual: Whin telling a death. I couldn’t say how well it went over—there was at any rate, applause—but afterwards Bob (who knows whereof) said it was well-spoken, with good control, and good timbre. That made me very happy.
Design Your Own Mythology
Lively and hilarious. (Doyle, Bear, Friesner, Sarah Beth Durst.) My takeaway: When building a mythology, you need to ask “What do my people fear? What do they desire?” Belief must not be decorative: if you yourself can't sense the numinous, if you can't imagine a cult enwoven in the daily lives of your characters (Doyle: "the Spiderian altar guild"), then your world will be flat.
Reading by Greer Gilman
I had just three listeners: but they were Michael Swanwick and Marianne Porter, and my old friend Sarah Thompson who curated that fabulous Hokusai show at the MFA, and they were marvellous.
How Stories End
In the penultimate hour of the con, this turned out to be a dialogue between me and Swanwick, three others having fallen off: a very nice thing, if only we’d known beforehand. Still, we managed to tap dance. I found myself babbling about favorite styles of ending: “The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo. You that way: we this way” and how Bertie surrenders his purple socks. We talked about how the endlessness of Discworld is so much more satisfying than your endless (n-1)-logy, unfolding like a bolt of a fabric, whump whump whump. Prachett’s work builds in space-time: it fits together like a puzzle map. We talked about arrowy SF; we talked about fantasy and infinite regret; about how LOTR closes door after door: from the great gates, down to the Sam’s round wooden one, with the fire within; “Well, I’m home.” We talked, of course, about further in, about Narnia and its discontents, and Little, Big. It was a lovely ending to the con.
Can anyone remember what novel I called “a bildungsroman for the planet”?
Me: On what business, please?
Voice: (portentously) To speak to Nineweaving. Are you his spouse? (in the voice of Ozymandias) This is Alice Lloyd.
Me: I'm afraid you have the wrong number.
Voice: (business-like) I'm sorry. Please confirm this number, and I'll remove it from the list.
What the hell was that? Was she hunting down her daughter's seducer, crossing off names as she went? As far as I know, I am the only Nineweaving in this country.
And why did she introduce herself as if she were Nemesis? From her intonation, she was expecting me to fall flat in the dust, whimpering.
There's an Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky, but I didn't go there. I don't think I owe them back tuition.
Or maybe this Lloyd had glad tidings of great joy? I'm reminded of Octavia Butler's story of being called by the MacArthur Foundation and thinking they were trying to sell her something.
So who do you think Alice Lloyd is? Any scenarios?
Achilles Needs a Heel: The Problem With Power
Friday 19:00 - 20:00
Michael Swanwick, Greer Gilman, Paul Di Filippo, Vincent O'Neil (M), Brendan DuBois
Would Achilles be as valiant if he were truly invulnerable? (Or, instead of dying a tragic hero, would he still be acting like a psychopathic adolescent 30 years after Troy?) Can power without vulnerability keep your interest? Do some stories turn into mere puzzle pieces about searching for the chink in the protagonist's armor? What sorts of weakness make the most engaging heroes or heroines?
Poetry and Performance
Saturday 11:00 - 12:00
Linda Addison, C. S. E. Cooney, Ada Palmer, Bob Kuhn (M) , Greer Gilman
Reading a story aloud and reading a poem aloud take different skills. Or do they? Our panel of poets proffers tips and advice on performing poetry. They will also share some of their own poetry for your listening pleasure.
Design Your Own Mythology
Saturday 15:00 - 16:00
Esther Friesner, Greer Gilman, Elizabeth Bear, Debra Doyle (M) , Sarah Beth Durst
What goes into mythmaking? Panelists share their experiences in creating mythologies and pantheons — offering up dos and don’ts, tips on resources, and things to think about as you try creating a coherent mythology of your own.
Reading by Greer Gilman
Sunday 13:00 - 13:30
How Stories End
Sunday 14:00 - 15:00
Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Michael Swanwick (M), Greer Gilman, J. M. McDermott
Heinlein often rushed his finales. Planet of the Apes ends with a truly monumental twist. Rowling took seven books to set up the boss fight with Mr. Slitsnout. What’s your favorite finish? How do writers finesse the final strokes of their stories? How do readers respond? (Warning: by definition, this panel is Spoiler Central.)
Why on earth am I not on Words Have More Than Meaning? Not to blow my own ophicleide, but I'm rather a recognized expert on such.
She turned out to be a short ashes-of-roses bundle of a woman, with a cart full of other bundles, and one of her hats turned upward for the coins. “Lousy day, innit?” she said. I agreed, and fed the hat paper. Stepping away as she went on, I caught a clearer word or two, and suddenly realized what she’d been singing all this while: “You Are My Sunshine.”
I turned round, and as if encouraged by the recognition, she began “Over the Rainbow,” in a haze of feeling, a light-dividing mist. Again, not a note fell where it ought to—she didn’t even follow the contours of the tune—but every scattered note was pretty-ish. They had a sort of smutched purity, like raindrops on a drooping clothesline. I applauded. And as if she’d conjured them, down the platform came two young bearded fellows from the Outdoor Church pulling a neatly-made, well-laden wagon. They offered her (and a sudden small cluster of other homeless folks) a choice of sandwiches (I liked that) and no sententiae. I hope there was coffee.
Then the train arrived.
“What are you always nagging at Toad for?” inquired the Badger, rather peevishly. “What’s the matter with his English? It's the same what I use myself, and if it's good enough for me, it ought to be good enough for you!”
“I’m very sorry,” said the Rat humbly. “Only I THINK it ought to be ‘teach ‘em,’ not ‘learn ‘em.’”
“But we don't WANT to teach ‘em,” replied the Badger. “We want to LEARN 'em—learn 'em, learn 'em! And what's more, we're going to DO it, too!”
Jane wrote a letter.
God smote a sinner.
A letter was written.
A sinner was smitten.
In contemporary English, smitten is the only correct past participle form of smite—and that’s that. Nowadays, it’s all but inseparably linked with love—Oooh, he’s smitten—and it just sounds foolish when we speak of righteousness. Yet smitten has an ancient and resounding history:
And the fourth Angel sounded, and the thirde part of the Sunne was smitten, & the third part of the Moone, and the third part of the starres, so as the third part of them was darkened: and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise —Revelation 8:12.
There’s good secular stuff as well (all OED):
1610: His head smitten off, and the truncke of his body throwen into the fire.
c1650: For when his leggs were smitten of, he fought vpon his stumpes.
1668: A Dog Barketh, & Baugheth, being smitten Yelpeth.
1820 (Shelley): Six the thunder has smitten, And they lie black as mummies.
In his Dictionarium Linguae Latinae et Anglicanae (1587), Thomas Thomas defines percussus as “Striken, smitten, beaten, hit, wounded, murdered, blasted, striken with lightning.”
In John Florio’s A World of Words (1598), he glosses the Italian Battuto as “beaten, smitten, striken, knockt, thumpt, bumbasted, threshd.” Bumbasted! Now that’s more like it. Cupid was rougher in those days.
Nonetheless, to some discerning modern ears, smitten is flimsy.
The LORD GOD “Who smote the first borne of Egypt: both of man and beast.”
All the fourth form were simply smitten with Miss Baxter, who smote the ball for six.
Smitten is giggly and coy. It’s kittenish.
Whereas smote hath gravitas. It has authority and weight. It nails it:
That beat out life; he fell, and deadly pale
Groan'd out his soul with gushing blood effus'd.
He rode a-tilt and smote the scaly Dragon.
I smote you with heate, blastinge & hale stones.
Kyng Arthur..smote hym ageyne with Excalibur that it clefte his hede.
Thenne Geffray smote hym the giant with his swerd.
He hurled vnto sir Tristram, & smote hym clene from his sadel.
I caught him by his beard, and smote him.
Now look at smitten. In 170 citations in the OED, beings and things are smitten with admiration, amazement, various diseases, charms, an absurd patriotism, love, giddiness, death, the blonde beauty, sorrow, Lavinia Orthodox, some withering and irreparable curse, muteness, mussel-poisoning, the Eternal Mind, an aria.
What happened? The inflected word was taken over by the figurative. One can be struck with something impalpable—an idea, an infatuation. If swords and hammers smite, then so does lightning. So does love. Pepys was among the first to use it of lust. By now, smitten has migrated to the metaphorical, all but entirely; smote remains archaic and physical.
What’s to be done? I fear that smitten cannot be restored to its ancient vigour: languages don’t work that way. One could of course avoid the passive, not say,”the government was smitten by the people,” but “the people smote the government.” But that’s restrictive as a work-around. Why not embrace what people want to say? “He was smote” was perfectly good English from the 15th through the 18th centuries. I suggest that it be revived—and that smite be divided in two. There’s some vanishing distinction made in English between struck and stricken (struck with a hammer; stricken with guilt). Why not distinguish between smitten and smote, between besotted with her charms and clobbered by her handbag?
Young Corydon, with Phyllis smitten,
Woo’d with flow’rs—got the mitten.
Bold Hobbinol on her did dote,
Tried kissing her—was soundly smote.
By widespread, active, thoughtful usage, English-speakers everywhere could forge a new distinction between smitten and smote. They will of course be corrected by pedantic grammarians; they will be edited; they will be mocked. But if thousands do this? “Friends, they may think it's a movement.” And if precisians object, we can always cite Melville: “The ship's forecastle bell, smote by one of the grizzled oakum-pickers, proclaimed ten o'clock, through the leaden calm.”