Tuesday, April 15, 2014

But How Do I Know I'm A Jew?

Yesterday, as all y'all know, was the first night of Passover.

As we do here as chez delegar, we invited all our non-Jewish friends down to be afflicted with us, though as it developed only Uncle Charger could actually attend this year, and we had a fine Seder*, remembering we had been slaves in Egypt.

The kid has, though, over the past year or two, been getting fidgetty, not to say rebellious, over the whole Jew thing.  "What if I'm not Jewish?" she keeps demanding.  "Maybe I'm not even Jewish!"

"You are Jewish," I tell her.  "That's not something you get to choose."

"You're not Jewish!"

"Right.  Also not something I get to choose."

"But --"

"Your dad is Jewish, so you're Jewish.  That's how it works."

"But it goes by the mother."

"Only among the Orthodox.  We're not Orthodox."

"We're atheists!  And --"

"Most Jews are atheists.  I bet there's more atheists Jews than any other kind."

"But what makes me Jewish then, if I don't even believe in God?" she demanded.

I rolled my eyes.  "This entire argument makes you Jewish.  Two Jews, three opinions."

"I hate that saying," the kid said.  "Why isn't it one Jew, two opinions?"

I laughed.

"You're not funny," she informed me.

"Plus," I said, "every other part of you is Jewish. What do you like to do with your time?  Read.  Study.  Work.  Who do you respect?  People who are smart and educated.  What do you like to do for fun?  What do you like to eat?"

"I like Christian food too," she objected.

"Oh, come on.  Name a Christian food you like."

She pondered.  "Is there any Christian food?"

Which -- you know --- excellent question.

But frankly, only a 15 year old Jewish child would argue about whether she was actually a Jew.

*The menu:  roasted chicken, asparagus, sweet potato tzimmes, gefilte fish, and KFP matzo which we had to have shipped all the way from NYC, since while you can buy matzo in the Fort, you cannot by KFP matzo.  Also, matzo ball soup.  Dr. Skull makes the best matzo ball soup.

New Grounded Parents Post

In which I talk about teaching your kid to talk back.

Raising the Young Skeptic.

Monday, April 14, 2014


So the problem with the car was exactly what I thought it was: the timing belt blew, and wrecked the engine totally.

The cost to replace the engine would be around $4,500, more than we have (obviously -- we've got about $40.00), and more than the car was worth.

So for now my parents are going to lend us their second car.  We're going to save money until July, when I start getting paid the salary increase (as a full professor).

At that point, let's hope, we'll be able to afford to buy a new-used car.

That's our plan, anyway.

And we're sticking to it.

God, being poor sucks.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Good News, Bad News

So...yesterday was the good news.

And on its heels, we're on our way home from the Harp's yesterday evening, about two miles from home on the interstate, when the car engine makes this utterly horrible noise, and then just quits.

All the lights come on -- the oil light, the battery light, the check engine light.

I managed to get us to the shoulder without getting hit (a miracle itself the way people drive in the Fort), and we called AAA.  It was about 7:30, and the sun was on its way down.  We only have one phone, of course, so we couldn't call the kid and tell her where we were -- she worries, any time we're ten minutes late, that we have been killed on the highway.  We sat discussing what to do, whether I should walk home (very dangerous on the interstate) or just let her fret.

It takes 30 to 45 minutes for AAA to show up, as all y'all who use the service know.  Then you have to call a cab to get home from the auto repair shop.


As we're waiting for the tow truck, a Fort Smith Police pulled up behind us.  I was kind of expecting this, since when you're stopped too long on an interstate shoulder, this tends to happen.

Kindly, though, when the police officer heard what was up, she offered to drive me home.  Though she did ask for my license, and (upon finding it had expired almost three weeks ago) gently reproved me and issued me a warning.  Still!

That was the good news.

The bad news, we're now carless, and I expect whatever is wrong with the car is very wrong.  And of course we are (as always) very broke.

It's not like having the washing machine break.  You can do without a washing machine.

You can't do without a car -- not in Fort Smith.

It's kind of grim.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Guess Who Is Now a SFWA Qualifying Member?

Why, that would be...


My third professional sale, "Life On Mars," comes on with Daily Science Fiction, via email on Monday, and on their site about a week after that.

I joined up this morning.

Hot-diggity, y'all.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Kickstart Crossed Genres

So, this magazine I edit for.  Crossed Genres.  How much have I told you about it?

Maybe I've mentioned it's the Future of Science Fiction.  (Though, to be fair, we have also been accused of trying to destroy the genre).

Maybe I've mentioned we published original fiction every month, much of it by new writers.

Maybe I've mentioned how many great writers we've had in our pages -- Sabrina Vourvoulias, Sandra McDonald, Nisi Shawl, Cat Rambo, Daniel Jose Holder , Alex Dally MacFarlane, and many others.

But what do I love most about our magazine?

Our progressive fiction.  Our commitment to increasing the representation of women, of PoC, of Queer characters and non-binary characters, disabled characters and non-American characters.  (Our future isn't filled with WASPy American males, and we like it that way.)

Plus, we have just become a SFWA qualifying market.

Now you too can be a part of Crossed Genres.

We're running a Kickstarter.  See here for details, but the tl;dr: contribute money, from as little as a buck to as much as you like, and get fabulous prizes!

Chip in now.  Be the future you want to see!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Crossed Genres Issue # 16 Runaway

We've got some lovely stories this month.

"Heart-Beat Escapement" is a steampunkish story about a foundling child whose long-lost father shows up.

"Forge and Fledge" takes to the moons of Saturn, and the troubled life of a corporate orphan.

And our Spotlight Author, Angela Rega, brings us into the world of were-dingoes in Australia.

Oh -- and don't miss this!  A story from our previous issue, David Stevens' "My Life as a Lizard," just got a very nice review at Apex.


The Heart-Beat Escapement
by Rachael Acks
Forge and Fledge
by Lauren C. Teffeau
Shedding Skin
by Angela Rega
Spotlight interview:
Angela Rega
- See more at: http://crossedgenres.com/magazine/#sthash.KEDW8cMB.dpuf

Sunday, March 30, 2014

But That Tree! Lookit That Tree! And This Cathedral! Plus Stars!

Over at Rod Dreher's blogs he speaks highly of some bit of twaddle by our favorite faux intellectual, Charles Murray, in which Murray opines earnestly that y'all kid today should get off his lawn give religion another spin.

See, cause Murray was an atheist too, back when he was a youngster at Harvard.  Then he grew up and got married and 40 and starting thinking deep thoughts.  And doing intellectual work.  And that intellectual work led him to realize that by jeezly these religions had some deep stuff in them.

Taking religion seriously means work. If you're waiting for a road-to-Damascus experience, you're kidding yourself. Getting inside the wisdom of the great religions doesn't happen by sitting on beaches, watching sunsets and waiting for enlightenment. It can easily require as much intellectual effort as a law degree.

Even dabbling at the edges has demonstrated to me the depths of Judaism, Buddhism and Taoism. I assume that I would find similar depths in Islam and Hinduism as well. I certainly have developed a far greater appreciation for Christianity, the tradition with which I'm most familiar. The Sunday school stories I learned as a child bear no resemblance to Christianity taken seriously. You've got to grapple with the real thing.

Start by jarring yourself out of unreflective atheism or agnosticism. A good way to do that is to read about contemporary cosmology. The universe isn't only stranger than we knew; it is stranger and vastly more unlikely than we could have imagined…

Rod backs this sophomoric drivel up with earnest drivel of his own.  He too when he was a young jackanape, see, he too thought he knew all about this here world. But then there he was in Chartres Cathedral one time!

See, here's the thing.  When I was a young professor just starting out, at my first TT job, my students discovered I was an atheist.

"But what does that mean, dr. delagar?" they demanded.  (It was a Southern school, and they were all deeply religious.)

 "But how can you believe that?  That tree out there--"  They pointed at the oak tree in the yard. "Where do you think it came from, if there's no God?"

And that's the thing, see.

To me, the real story of how that oak tree got in the yard, and the real story of how Chartres Cathedral arrived in France as well, is far more interesting than "God put it there," or even "Faith makes wonders!"

Trees are indeed a wonder.  So are social movements that create Cathedrals.  I'm interested in science, because I want to know the real story of how that tree got in the yard.  I'm interested in history, including the history of religion, and of social history, because that's really how that cathedral got in Chartres.

I'm also interested in religion as one of the things that humans do, and because of the wisdom literature it produces.

Why this would mean I have to pretend to believe in supernatural beings, much less supernatural beings that enforce various strictures to punish those who don't (odd how it works this way) support the dominant hegemonic class of the moment, I cannot fathom.

Rod and Charles Murray, though, belonging as they do to the dominant hegemonic class of our time, gulp down this camel with no trouble at all.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ancillary Justice: Review

Or, well, not exactly a review.

I have just finished Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, and was going to review it, but Alix over at The Other Side of the Rain said everything I wanted to say, very brilliantly.

My favorite graphs from her review hit on some of my favorite bits from the novel:

Leckie also has a gift for clarity. She’s writing in first person for a being that is simultaneously a single individual in the present, a ship’s AI in the past, and hundreds to thousands of additional human-like bodies called ancillaries. In an individual scene, from one sentence to the next, the action might move from an ancillary serving tea on the deck to an ancillary listening to treason on another floor to the ship’s knowledge of each human’s medical status and back to the ancillary serving the tea. And it’s not confusing.Writing like this has none of the lyricism or juicy embellishment of a Valente or a K.J. Bishop, but the clean, elegant bones of it are just as gorgeous to read.

And the other has to do with what's probably been the most talked about aspect of the novel, Leckie's use of pronouns (the Radchaai don't distinguish between genders, at least linguistically; in the text, Leckie demonstrates this by having all those who are Radchaai use only the pronouns "she" and "her" and "hers"; everyone is referred to as "woman" or "daughters" or "girls," regardless of gender).

First and most obviously, the confusion of character gender challenges the reader by making them abruptly self-aware of their near-obsessive need to know a character’s gender. That, I assume, is what makes people react so strongly to Ancillary Justice—realizing their own dualistic social constructions makes them feel tricked, irritatingly uncertain. If a character is crying, for instance, do we interpret it as a man showing himself to be emotionally vulnerable? Or a woman in hysterics? Or, god helps us all, a human experiencing a powerful emotion? It also, of course, neatly combats the baseline assumption of masculinity that has plagued science fiction (and the rest of fiction, and real life) for so long.
But it also does that thing so fundamental to good science fiction: It plucks us out of our constructed culture, and plops us down uncomfortably into someone else’s. It makes the Radchaai feel alien and inscrutable, and the process of getting to know them—through their gods and philosophies, their uniforms and client-based romances—is the process of immigrating to a foreign world.

Read the whole review: it's excellent.  And read Ancillary Justice.  It's probably the best new SF novel I've read in a long time.

See this review as well, by Liz Bourke over at Tor.


Writing for me is like sneaking up on a butterfly.

Or maybe a sleeping kitten?

I have to get everything just right.

The room has to be right.  My music has to be right.  (Gangstagrass has been my favorite for some time.) The level of caffeine in my blood has to be perfect.  And then...and then...and then....I open the file of my current story and...maybe --

But this is an insane way to function and I know it.  I don't do anything else this way.  This is not how I prep to teach, this is not how I do committee work, this is not how I write new courses, or blog posts, or anything else.  Every other kind of work I have to do, I just get to it, and work until it is done.

Surely writing should be the same?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's Official!

Just got this via email:

I am pleased to inform you that your promotion from Associate Professor to Professor was approved by the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees on March 22, 2014.  This promotion will be reflected in your 2014-2015 contract.  Congratulations! 

Yippee-Ki-Yay, Y'all!

New Post at Grounded Parents

My new post is up at Grounded Parents.


On Being The Grown-Up.

Artwork by our own illustrious Kid.