Archive for March, 2021

Super Wandery Wandering

March 31, 2021
Wandering On High

Some of you may have seen an “out of stock” notice for Wolf’s Search on my website bookshop.  I’m happy to announce that my new supply arrived last Saturday night, and it’s now back in stock.

What?  Website bookshop?  What’s that?  You can find it here.  Shipping via Media Mail is included in the price for orders within the U.S..  At least for now the prices remain the same, although if some of the dreaded changes predicted for the U.S. do happen, I may be forced to charge more because I’ll be paying more for shipping.  Signing and personalization is free, which is a good deal, when you consider that you pay extra for signed items from sports and media stars.

The shop includes a large number of my older works, and will for as long as I have copies.  Then they will go out of print, possibly forever.  Since not all my older works are available as e-books (I’m working on these, but I only have so much energy, time, and money), this may be the best way to find some of my older works.

Wandering off on another point…  As I recover from a long extended course of writing, I’ve been catching up on chores: shredding, filing, sorting.  Shredding is proving to be a lot like time travel, bringing up memories of trips gone by, even older technologies.  In one file I’d missed, I actually found a physical plane ticket as issued by a travel agent.  (Remember those?)

I’ve also been going through magazines and tearing out pages with interesting pictures.

It’s very odd, but while I’m a visual enough writer that I could sit with one of those artists the police use to create sketches of suspects and work toward perfect portraits of my characters, I often have trouble without a visual to start from.  I know what they look like, but since I don’t cast media personalities as my characters, I can’t say: “Just like the guy who plays X in Y, but only blond with blue eyes.”

But I love visual images, and browsing through them often stimulates my imagination, thus the file.

I’ve been mulling over a lot of things lately.   Most of these are either not coherent enough for me to discuss or would take a lot of research for me to write about here, because I tend to specifics, not generalizations.  I guess you could say they’d make better panel topics than essays or blog posts.

Right now my thoughts are a tumbling kaleidoscope of images, and I’m waiting to see what story they will shape.

FF: Seem To Be

March 26, 2021
Mei-Ling Often Sees Duppies

This week, I seem to be slipping back into non-fiction territory.  Even my fiction choice is historical. Folklore, for me, always walks a line, because it’s a different reality.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

Kojiki translated and extensively annotated by Donald L. Philippi.  The title means “Record of Ancient Things” and the text was completed in 712.  A mixture of mythology, folklore, history, and legend­­—with a healthy dose of genealogy—this was created for political reasons, to explain the descent of the Yamato, but also from a desire to preserve older traditions.  I’m really happy to have the extensive footnotes and appendixes, all of which are well-written. 

Duppy Talk: West Indian Tales of Mystery and Magic by Gerald Hausman.  Jamaican folklore.  Great notes from the storyteller provide cultural context, and a sense of a magical realist world view.

In Progress:

The Renaissance by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Moving into the end of the Italian Renaissance.  A balanced look at how many of the wonders (both of art and of thought) we remember were purchased in a fashion that led to the fall.  Some of Durant’s terminology is dated (he genders qualities as “male” and “female” for example), but if you can get around that, there’s a lot to enjoy.

Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser.  Victorian imperialism told from the point of view of an anti-hero.  Not PC.  Great prose, and liberally footnoted both in text and with appendices.  I enjoy Flashman, but he’s not to everyone’s taste.

Also:

Still reading Archeology, but will probably switch over to Vogue for a different world view.

Secret Writerly Wisdom

March 24, 2021
Amaryllis Budding Forth

Life has been quieter than usual, even, and that’s saying something.  Although we’re working on getting parts of the yard ready for spring, we won’t be doing  much planting for several more weeks.  Heck, the majority of the garden won’t go in until early May.

I’m not writing anything I’m ready to talk about.

So, here’s my secret writerly wisdom: Writers who are writing are usually pretty boring people.

If they’re telling you about trips or cons or lecture tours or the cake they baked or their daredevil hobbies, they’re not writing.  What you’re soaking up is the Not Writing.

The realized writerly life is about as fascinating for the outside observer as watching paint dry.  There’s change and transformation, but even watching an amaryllis grow (they can grow several inches in a day) is probably more enthralling.

Oh…  Why is our amaryllis caged?  To keep Roary from biting it, of course!  He still tries, and we’re going to need to uncage it soon, but at least the buds are getting to form.

FF: For Those Who Asked

March 19, 2021
Persephone Wonders About Flying

I’m doing a bit better than I was on Wednesday.  Still a bit achy, though.  While slowed down, I finished then novel I was reading and have almost finished Kojiki.  I am not sure what will be next.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

Someplace To Be Flying by Charles de Lint.  Still a good story.  I’m glad.

In Progress:

The Renaissance by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Still in the papal states.  Rafael is dead, young.  Michelangelo is alive and grumpy.

Kojiki translated and extensively annotated by Donald L. Philippi.  The title means “Record of Ancient Things” and the text was completed in 712.  A mixture of mythology, folklore, history, and legend­­—with a healthy dose of genealogy—this was created for political reasons, to explain the descent of the Yamato, but also from a desire to preserve older traditions.  I’m really happy to have the extensive footnotes and appendixes, all of which are well-written.  Almost done.

Also:

Finished back issues of Smithsonian.  Now back to Archeology.  Why are archeologists so surprised when the facts show that women have always done a lot more hunting than previously believed?

Sparrow Time

March 17, 2021
Buddy, Can You Sparrow Time?

This past week was one of reorganization of thoughts and activities. This current week began with me being a bit under the weather. Therefore, I offer you a sparrow with attitude to spare.

I’ll catch you Friday with an update on what I’ve been reading. Meanwhile, remember, I’m always open to questions.

Now for a dose of sunlight and another cup of coffee.

FF: One Thing Leads To Another

March 12, 2021
Roary, Now Eleven Month Old

Last week, I finished Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, and found myself thinking about how I’d like to read some of his source materials, many of which serve as Japanese cultural underpinnings.  So I am doing so…  I come by my scholar nerd impulses honestly!

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon by John Stevenson.  Years ago, Jim and I attended a show at the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe that featured this series of Yoshitoshi’s later prints.  Very intellectually and creatively stimulating.

In Progress:

The Renaissance by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Having spent a lot of time on the papal states, including looking at which popes may not have been as bad as often represented (including Alexander Borgia), we’ve moved to art and architecture.  Current focus: Raphael.

Kojiki translated and extensively annotated by Donald L. Philippi.  The title means “Record of Ancient Things” and the text was completed in 712.  A mixture of mythology, folklore, history, and legend­­—with a healthy dose of genealogy—this was created for political reasons, to explain the descent of the Yamato, but also from a desire to preserve older traditions.  I’m really happy to have the extensive footnotes and appendixes, all of which are well-written.

Someplace To Be Flying by Charles de Lint.  I’ve deliberately put off re-reading this until I could read fresh. 

Also:

Back issues of Smithsonian.  Now reading about dogs. 

This Is Probably a Metaphor

March 10, 2021
Sometimes It Takes Time

Many years ago, I planted daffodil bulbs.  They did okay for the first few years but, after a time, the particular combination of heat, dryness, and just plain weirdness of our New Mexico climate caused them to get weaker.

In a final attempt to save them, I transplanted the remaining bulbs to close by one of our downspout catch basins, where they’d get regular water.  (And, yes, I gave them bulb fertilizer, too, but I had been all along, so that doesn’t apply to this situation.)  The next year, when little green tips poked up in late February, I was very pleased.  However, no flowers formed.

Green tips, no flowers became the pattern for so long that Jim and I started thinking of our flowerless daffodils as a foliage plant, like hostas or coleus.  We decided to simply appreciate how those little green tips, which eventually became longer green foliage, indicated that below ground level plants were indeed coming back after the winter.

Imagine our surprise when this year we saw that in addition to the leaves, there was a flower stalk.  We watched, expecting it to wither, expecting it to get eaten or stepped on or otherwise damaged.  However, eventually, it bloomed!

We were so delighted that when a bout of high winds bent the stem, we cut that single blossom and brought it inside so we could enjoy it.  That one little flower may not seem like much, but it made us disproportionately happy.

A few weeks ago, I wandered on about the value of adaptability for a writer.  Persistence and patience have their place, too.  If you feel tempted to give up on a story, don’t trash it.  Put it on side.  Move on to another project.  Let that particular field lie fallow.

You may find, as with our daffodil, someday the right combination of (metaphorical) sun and water and fertilizer will cause it to blossom.

FF: Focus

March 5, 2021
Plump and Rounded, Coco Contemplates the Moon

This week, I find myself back in mostly non-fiction territory.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart.  Good but more anxious, less ironic, thus less fun.

In Progress:

The Renaissance by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Touring some of the smaller cities in Italy.  (The Italian Renaissance is the focus of the book.)

Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon by John Stevenson.  Years ago, Jim and I attended a show at the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe that featured this series of Yoshitoshi’s later prints.  We were so fascinated, we bought the book.  I read the parts focused on each print pretty much immediately, but only skimmed the introduction.  This time I started there.  Fascinating mixture of history and biography.  Now I’m reading the text that goes with the individual prints.

Also:

Back issues of Smithsonian.  The article on Yellowstone was fascinating, even if the writer should have had an archeologist check some terminology, especially since the article was focused around archeology!

Translator of the Rings

March 3, 2021
The Original Ladies of the Rings and Frenemy

Have you ever known someone in one context, only to discover that they have a secret identity?  That’s what happened to me with Rick Walter.  I met Rick as one of the librarians at my local library.  Quite a few years went by before I learned that he was also a translator, at that time working on new translations of Jules Verne novels.

Only recently did I learn Rick had another secret identity: as an authority on Wagner, classical music, and opera.  As Frederick Paul Walter, Rick is responsible for a new translation of Wagner’s The Rhine Gold (Das Rheingold).  Even better, this translation is lovingly annotated and includes the original German text side by side.  An added bonuses are the lavish illustrations, taken from a wide variety of sources, up to and including new graphic novel style illustrations by Cliff Mott, commissioned for this project.

This week, I’m interviewing Rick both about his new project and about what goes into the art of translation.

JANE: So, Rick, what drew you to translation?  Have you done translations from other than French (for the works of Jules Verne) and German?

RICK: It all started with my first job after grad school. I got hired as a college theater director, then ended up collaborating with the Music Department in their operatic programs—which they felt would benefit from being sung in English. They had me do the Toreador Song, which was great fun, and everywhere I taught, this would happen—I’d stage their operatic evenings for them and supply English lyrics for material originally issued in Italian, French, and German.

I have to admit, translating opera for live performance is the toughest type of translating I’ve ever done: my words would have to rhyme, convey the sense, and fit the composer’s notes. Yikes!  

JANE: As your introduction and annotations make clear, you have a long time and intense interest in The Ring Cycle.

RICK: I grew up in the 1960s, when complete commercial recordings didn’t exist. So the appearances of rival versions conducted by Georg Solti and Herbert von Karajan were big news—and I purchased both.

JANE: From our conversations over the years, I know you’re an avid reader of SF and Fantasy.  Jules Verne has an obvious connection to SF, but what I found fascinating about your annotations is how they showed the many ways that The Ring Cycle might be considered “background music” to a lot of Fantasy fiction.  Could you share some of your thoughts on these influences?

RICK: Don’t forget, the 1960s were the era of those Ace reprints of Tolkien’s trilogy, which I promptly gobbled up. Well, another 1960s development was the publication of a 1-volume edition of Margaret Armour’s translation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle—it was worded in Shakespearean English and was tough sledding, but I could read it like a fantasy novel and was fascinated by it.

However, I felt that a much more readable modern translation was called for, and I actually attempted one back then.  I didn’t complete it, yet always wanted to. Five years ago I returned to this project and finished it at last. 

JANE: Despite your deep love for the material in The Rhine Gold, as your “One Minute Ring” summary of the entire four opera Ring Cycle, you also have a sense of humor about the material.  Do you think that helps you as a translator?

RICK:  My target audience is the general public, fans of Tolkien, Rowling, George Lucas, George R.R. Martin, et al. So I want my work to be enjoyed by that audience. Humor helps and Wagner himself infused the Ring Cycle with plenty.

JANE: Translation is a complex art, very far from the awkward, fill in the blank, process that computer programs can provide.  Is there anywhere my readers can get a peek behind the scenes at your process?

RICK:  Absolutely!  Pages ix-xi of my introduction deal with both the substantive priorities and the verbal issues of my translating, especially developing equivalents for Wagner’s alliteration.

JANE: One of the great things about your annotated Rhine Gold is that the annotations are visual, as well as verbal.  There are the original illustrations by Cliff Mott that were created for this edition, of course.  However, you also provide many from older productions.  Are these from your collection or did the publisher find them?

RICK: :  No, I tracked them all down myself. A huge amount of public domain artwork is available on the Ring.  Thank God I’ve been acquainted with it for several decades.

JANE: Are you going to be continuing translating the rest of the Ring Cycle?  I believe there are three more operas to go.

RICK: That’s right, and they’re all done. After querying many publishers, I sold them as a package to Rowman and Littlefield, and they’re committed to the whole thing. The Valkyrie is due out this coming August, Siegfried and Twilight for the Gods during the summer of 2022.

JANE: I look forward to them!  Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, and sharing some of what went into this landmark edition of Wagner’s most famous work.