Cross-posted from my tumblr, with gifs, because that’s how I roll over there, because I think it’s important enough to say twice.

I gotta be honest, my relationship with technology has gotten a little toxic lately. I stare at the Internet and I can’t make myself not do that, but the advance of microblogging and slow decline of the kind of thoughtful long-form blogging that brought me to the Internet Wurld in the first place. The robots in my house, they grab me and hold me to their cold metal breasts and I can’t get away.

Part of it is that it makes a really good procrastination tool. And that I am a tool. But most of the time I feel like my attention span and my ability to feel connected to the world physically and emotionally has taken a load of buckshot to the face.

This is a common existential problem, I believe. The all-net giveth and the all-net taketh. And knowing it’s dimpling your soul with spiritually radioactive debris doesn’t actually stop any of us from drinking from the cyber firehose.

Believe it or not, I have a fix for this.

I have had a lot of ideas in my life. Some stupid, some great, some workable, some very impractical indeed. What follows has to go down as one of my best.

Once a week, and we might even bump it up to twice, we have what we call an Abbey Night in our house. We turn off all but the most necessary power. We build a fire and light candles and hurricane lamps. And for the evening, we engage only in 19th century activities.

No music unless you make it yourself. No screens. All phones turned completely off. No writing unless it’s longhand. Tea means a kettle on the stove.

We still cook because we have a gas stove, but if it were electric I’d have dinner ready before the sun went down. We knit, we read to each other, we talk. We play with the dogs. We play cards and cuddle.

And a funny thing happens: when you turn all this stuff off, time dilates. There is SO MUCH TIME in an evening without the stuff that sucks it down: TV, Internet, phone calls and texting. There is attention to spare, and a sudden ebullience of discovering what we can do with all these hours.

Now, I now the 19th century was actually a shitty time to be an intellectual chick. Downton Abbey is a TV show about rich people, not a model for life. It’s the choice to turn it off that makes this powerful. We use the 19th century as an easy yardstick for what to turn on and off. We’re not super strict about it. It’s the idea of stepping back and indulging in what Kim Stanley Robinson once called paleolithic pleasures: other people, voices, fire, things you can do with your hands.

I’m not saying humans weren’t meant to have our shiny toys — we made them, they are ours, and very human, too. But there is something profound about going to ground this way, just once in awhile. It resets you, it brings deep calm. It’s like techno-meditation or the deep conditioning treatments you don’t use on your hair every day, but as a luxury every few weeks to keep things bright and strong.

When we’ve shared this with other people, they, like we, have been nervous at first, when the lights go off. They don’t know what to do. But in a few minutes it switches over to excitement and laughing and intense connection, delight, joy. Whispers in the dark.

Sunday was an Abbey Night. We roasted a chicken and read Lorca by candlelight and one of our guests played her cello while the other played guitar, we told stories aloud and sang, and we invited strangers we met on the island roads to our table where we fed them and gave them whiskey and read Stanislaw Lem to them until the ferry came to take them back to the real world.

And we all knew without the Rules, we’d have spent that night fixing websites or answering email and not talking much. It’s not that we’re bad people. It happens. It’s a technological world. But instead we had this precious evening by soft light that we’ll remember for a long time.

And that’s a point too: I remember each Abbey Night with strong clarity — most evenings melt into one long strain of work and vegging out and whatever. But these nights — I remember every moment.

So I’m posting this as a gift: I encourage you to try it, for it is magic. Of course, I’m sure YOU don’t have any TV at all and spend every day in a rapture of intentionality and mindfulness and you’re only even reading this on a computer you made out of coconut shells and superiority.

But for those of you who have issues with how you interact with time and tech like I do, this is an amazing thing. It is like a spell cast.

Interpret our rules however you like. I mean, the fridge stays on in our house and everything. But this is the single biggest tool I have for unfucking my tech-addled heart and reminding myself that I have a body, I have an interior life that needs more than the frayed ropes of energy and attention and connection and spoons that I’ve been working with. When I feel like a floating brain connected to nothing, which is more than I’d like, this brings me back.

It is good to be reminded that I have the ability to be grounded and full, that the world is not slipping away quite as fast as I think.

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Am done with my month of guest blogging for Charles Stross, so I’ll be back here, hopefully starting tomorrow with HARDCORE TITS TO THE WALL CONTENT.

In the meantime, in case you missed them over the weekend, here’s my last couple of Big Thinky Posts from the antipope side of the Internet:

Work Is Never Over: On Publishing and Its Many Faces

Life With and Without Animated Ducks: The Future Is Gender Distributed

I’ll be in NYC all next week (and doing the NYRSF reading on the 6th) so if anybody wants to hang out or have dinner, ping me!

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I’ll be finishing my run at Charlie Stross’s blog this week, so I should be back with big thought-chunk essays here in my own bed next week. I miss you guys! You are kind of the best commentariat on the internet. You hardly ever skin each other alive!

Elsewhere on the webs, I started a tumblr, (a new one, I could never figure out how to get WordPress to cross post to the T) because my life is a little fucked right now, and I need to unfuck it, ala Unfuck Your Habitat. It’s not really important that you follow it unless you want to hear about my struggles to get a normal sleep schedule on, clean the house, change my basic writing habits, healthify my relationship with my technology, etc. It’s to make myself stick to a plan of reformatting my existence on Planet Earth so that don’t lose my fool mind running on the same programming that I did when I was 19. If I document it, and say I’m Embarking on a Scheme, then I’m much more likely to actually make changes and those changes are more likely to stick. It’s gonna be slow and I’ll never be perfect, but I needed a separate, dedicated space to learn, at age 32, how to be a goddamned grown up.

Plus, the pleasure of posting triumphant gifs is a siren song.

It’s called Girl Unlocked, it is full of gifs because I secretly love them and have tried to keep this space reasonably free of what a total doofus I am. But tumblr, she loves the giffery, so I have cut loose there. Today is Day 1, so of course it’s working great–we’ll see if I can keep up after the newness has worn off.

For those of you in New England, this Saturday is s00j’s show at my house! All are welcome, let me know if you need the address!

Now I go to make hay of the remainder of my day.


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I was at Boskone all weekend, which was crazy and wonderful by turns. It’s been about eight months since I’ve been to a con and it was amazing to not be burned out on cons while at one. I really needed the rest, and I was so happy to see my friends.


I heard the news right before Boskone and couldn’t tell anyone while I was there! Even at the Clarkesworld reading where I read form Silently and Very Fast! Which is what was nominated! In the novella category! EEEEEEEE!

Seriously, this is insane. I wrote Silently for WSFA because I was the GOH at Capclave. Normal people give them short story reprints or a trunk novel. But I got it into my head that I should write an original AI story because then I could commit SF without anyone being all PLZ STAPLE YOUR DEGREE IN COMPUTER SCIENCE TO ALL SUBMISSIONS. From scratch, digging up an idea I’d been nesting on since I first moved to Ohio a million years ago but didn’t know enough about AI to write, a long, long story that was not long enough to be a novel but too long to be a short story. And then of course the deadline came as I was so exhausted from touring I was nearly catatonic.

It is what you call an unlikely contender. This is, in fact, my first Nebula nomination. The Andre Norton Award is Not a Nebula, as stated by large and bolded print in the rules. If I manage to get nominated for a Stoker some year, I’ll have the royal flush of nominations (Hugo, Nebula, WFA, and Stoker). No wins, but I’ve been nominated. I’ve been invited to the game. It’s a big deal to me, personally, and especially because SAVF is my first major work of SF as opposed to fantasy. It’s a work that I’d been planning for five years, learning and researching so I could get smart enough to write it. It means maybe there’s room for me in the science fiction club, after all.

Speaking of, my other big news is that a lovely gentleman waited in my signing line (I had a signing line! It was long! Wow!) so that he could ask me in person to be the Principal Speaker/GOH at Philcon 2012 this fall. Philcon is the oldest SF convention in the country, and I am floored to be asked. So I will see you all in Jersey just north of Thanksgiving, right?

It has been a long weekend of silent, repressed squeeing. Now I squee from the rooftops.

Yawp, too.

It is for times like this I made this icon.

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So! A couple of things and then one more.

One, the Locus Poll is up. I, er, showed rather well. I have something in all the fiction categories, and sometimes more than one thing which is BANANAS because I’m usually over the moon to get one mention. It’s probably to do with having published a thousand things last year but I’m super thrilled. Silently and Very Fast is on there, Deathless, The Bread We Eat in Dreams, White Lines on a Green Field, The Folded World, and Fairyland. Welcome to Bordertown is up for best anthology, too! You can also write-in titles you think should have made it.

The Poll is connected to the Award–so you can go over there and vote for your favorites, no fee, just click. There’s a lot of amazing stuff, not just mine, and the more people vote the more vitality the Award has and Locus is kind of the Variety for our field. So vote! Clicking is fun.

I’m going to point this out only because I’ve been waving my hands saying don’t waste your votes on Fairyland for other awards–I don’t want to put my foot in the current debate about whether it’s ok to even make a post saying you’re eligible for an award. (I think it’s fine, obviously.) But Fairyland IS eligible for the Locus Award, despite its online publication. So this is probably your only chance to vote for Fairyland for anything in 2012, if you were itching to, as I don’t think it’s eligible for anything else.

Thing Two!

The Nebula nominations close tomorrow. So if you are a SFWA member and you haven’t voted, it is time to vote! All of the things I mentioned up there EXCEPT Fairyland are eligible, but the point is voting full stop, no matter who you vote for–be active, use those fees you paid to have a say in the slant of the genre.

I have thus discharged by vote-announcing duty.

Finally, the Deathless paperback is out today! So you can give your loved one a dark as night D/s Soviet fairy tale for Valentine’s Day for not very much money. I mean, it IS a love story. Romantic Times said so.(I am the WORST for Valentine’s Day this year. I’ve been sick so long that I haven’t planned anything. Ugh.)

This is the first time I’ve gone to paperback from hardback–I am happy. (Fairyland paperback, along with all the online fiction, bestiary, and The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland, is out May 8.)

Back to hacking my guts out, reading student stories, and blogging over at the Stross house. Hopefully I’ll see some of you guys in Boskone over the weekend! If any of you want to volunteer for SFWA and help me set up the business meeting, it’s at 12 on Saturday. Ping me in any of the various ways to sign up.

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