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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Footnotes for Amal

It's always so nice to find a new friend in a nearby time zone with similar instant-messaging habits; three or four days a week I am, like many postindustrial workers of 2011, rigidly in front of a monitor for most of the day (of course for most of those workers it's five or six days; not for nothing has the zombie become our principal monster), and, as an extrovert, I depend on a steady stream of occasional remarks to keep my spirits up. IM'ing while coding is the early twenty-first century equivalent of all those conversations in Jane Austen in which (it is sometimes startling to realize) the characters are, while navigating the various economic and emotional issues critical to the plot, also producing copious amounts of needlework, darning, mending, and knitting.

So I've been chatting with Amal El-Mohtar, the gifted SF writer and poet (author of the splendid -- and Nebula-nominated -- "The Green Book", editor of Goblin Fruit, and Rhysling award winner), who is in the UK, and thus awake at a keyboard when most of my IM correspondents are still snoozing.

A few weeks ago I peeked into Amal's LJ. I am not a LiveJournaler -- I detest its user interface, and the length of entries and comment threads makes it a timesink in a way which answer-an-IM-while-the-unit-tests-run is not -- a fact which separates me to a distressing extent from many friends for whom LJ, as opposed to IM or Facebook (which latter I find annoying but, alarmingly, increasingly essential; and yes, I know I would love Twitter, which is part of why I am avoiding it), is their primary mode of online interaction. (There is a new geography emerging here, a topography of user modalities just as tyrannical as the old one of physical distance was in the era of paper-and-ink...)

So I just occasionally dip into LJ in an attempt to catch up on the details of the lives and productions of various friends, and often I am skimming. I followed a link from there to the journal of one Shweta Narayan, where I misunderstood what was going on.

Shweta and Amal, you see, auctioned off the writing a set of poems, in support of the worthy cause Con or Bust; Shweta wrote one, and Amal is writing another. But, as I was reading quickly (for at my back I always Hear / my next Release-Date hurrying Near), I misunderstood the nature of the collaboration. I thought that Shweta had just written footnotes to an imaginary, not-yet-written poem, and Amal was expected to write the poem to fit the footnotes. I thought this was a brilliant literary game, and immediately congratulated Amal on it.

Amal clarified my error.

But I think the game is clever enough that -- since it does not exist -- we are forced to invent it.

Thus, Amal -- foolhardy adventurous poet that she is -- has agreed to write a poem to fit footnotes that I compose (you see that I have the much easier part of this endeavor!)

We briefly discussed genre, and came to the conclusion that just to up the ante even further, it should be science fiction proper -- in outer space, with robots and rockets, that kind of thing -- as opposed to Amal's usual environs (postmodern postcolonial steampunk, or menacing faeries, or caravans threading through sandswept abandoned ruins, or harpists with troubled pasts in deceptively peaceful-looking sun-dappled glens...).

Other than that, Amal has no idea what she is getting into. On Tuesday, I will post the footnotes here; you, dear readers, will see them when Amal first does.

Posted by benrosen at April 10, 2011 01:31 PM | Up to blog

Oh, this sounds so cool! Looking forward to it! :D

Posted by: Emily Gilman at April 10, 2011 04:20 PM

For all that you are not wrong about LJ's interface and etc, your pop-up comment interface is arghngarghrnegea*gnashgnash*

And with that out of my system, this is a fantastic idea and I look forward to reading the results.

Posted by: Peter Hollo at April 11, 2011 02:41 PM

Well, that is a fair cop, Peter, I grant you. We are not at the summit of user-interface glory here on my antiquated self-hacked Movable Type installation in the backwaters of an increasingly moribund blogosphere...

Posted by: Ben Rosenbaum at April 11, 2011 03:56 PM

*squees so much at this*

Posted by: Shweta Narayan at April 11, 2011 07:47 PM

What the interface lacks in non-teeth-gnashingness, it makes up for with anti-spam radio buttons which are basically pure love.


Posted by: Amal El-Mohtar at April 11, 2011 08:03 PM

Oh yes, the anti-spam radio buttons are to not-ever-have-been-alive for :)
The footnotes rock. I am commenting on the wrong post because I'm sentient like that.

Posted by: Peter Hollo at April 12, 2011 02:55 PM
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