Saturday, October 25, 2008

Inside Scoop


Explanation: Last Friday I was off at the 2008 Asteroid Deflection Symposium, and discovered what prices the Hyatt wanted for simple access. So I called my son and asked him to post an explanation for why I wasn't blogging myself. "You can add something snarky of your own afterwards," I said.

Late Saturday, I came wearily home and said, "You posted to the blog, right?"

No. He'd written a post and saved it because he thought it was too negative.

I told him if it's honest, he should post it. Here's what he wrote:

So! Michael Swanwick is off at some convention or other, learning about how asteroids are going to destroy the planet, or the importance of planet destroying asteroids, or how violence between asteroid gangs often leads to asteroid slaughter. Because he's too cheap to shell out for the hotel's Internet access, you get his son, Sean Swanwick, instead.

So, he talks a lot about writing and being a writer, right? Not quite as glamorous as I'm sure he paints it. For one thing, this chair at his desk I'm sitting in right now seems to be a thick plastic bag wrapped around a bunch of metal bars. There are a few knobs that ostensibly adjust the thing, but they don't seem to do anything. The chair seems to drain the energy out of me, filling me with the urge to bunk off and eat a burrito.

Maybe this explains why I come home so often to find him reclined on his much nicer couch, a small towel draped gracefully over his eyes. "Hey, Dad," I'll say, "You asleep?"

"No," comes the muffled reply, "I'm writing." Well, awesome, good luck with that. Of course, this raises the question of why he chooses to discourage me from following his career by waking me up every time I try to 'write' past noon, but that's neither here no there.

And his desk? The keyboard is resting loosely on top of roughly two inches of manuscripts, paperbacks, and bits of wiring that goes to digital cameras. At the very bottom of the pile is a small hotplate, so when he grows tired of his workload he can simply switch it on and wait five minutes for the resulting fire to clear everything away again. Convenient, but when he does the monitor suffers smoke damage

The books, though, the books dominate the house. Every room save the kitchen has at least two bookshelves, and most of the shelves have two layers of books, one concealing the other. While this is an excellent way to hide your illicit gains from a diamond heist, mostly they're just huge piles of aging Science Fiction books. Not too long ago, one of the shelves in his office collapsed completely from the strain, covering the floor ankle deep in old, yellowing paperbacks. My (quite reasonable) suggestion to simply run a wood chipper through the affected area was rebuffed without even a second thought! Sometimes I wonder if he's taking my suggestions seriously at all.

I think the most telling little artifact within spitting distance is this bright pink Post-It note on the monitor. It reads, simply, "NO" in big, black letters. Apparently this is a reminder to my father to stop accepting new assignments--not to agree to write more features for magazines, not to agree to do more interviews, not to write news paper articles for recently deceased authors so they'll be honored a little more than, "Hack Star Trek Novelization Author Dies Embarrassingly." And I agree wholeheartedly, he should be taking on fewer responsibilities. They're cutting into his time writing on the couch.



Oz said...

And he thought this was too negative? Sounds like he was being kind, imo. Sounds much like my life...maybe a few less sessions writing on the couch, but then you're far more prolific a writer than I am.


Farah said...

What does he mean, you have no books in the kitchen??? You mean you still have space???

JJM said...

No books in kitchen is a good sign that someone in the household actually COOKS -- at which point the only books you want in there are the ones you hate enough to want a film of grease to settle slowly all over them ... I learned the hard way with my cookbooks.

Got books everywhere else, though. Including the bathrooms, naturally.


mcp said...

Marianne here.

Well, actually there is one bookshelf in the kitchen, kind of tucked back in the pantry. Full of, well, yes, cookbooks, mostly. Also some anthropology and those 1950's assembled cookbooks where the ladies of St. Ignatz the Impaler contributed dueling versions of piergogi and stuffed cabbage and maple syrup pie. Which I argue are anthropology.