Potlatch 9 Program Notes


Edited/Compiled by:

Lenny Bailes and Tom Whitmore


Lenny Bailes, Stef Maruch, David Bratman, Matt Austern, Tom Whitmore


20/20 Hindsight: 20 Years, 20 essential books

Participants: Jerry Kaufman (ringleader), Tom Whitmore, Kate Schaefer, Paul Kincaid, Ron Drummond

Notes by David Bratman and Lenny Bailes


Have you been out of touch with the field, recently, reading mysteries or software manuals instead of science fiction? Or are you just a typical fan: full of opinions? Panelists will try to come up with the aforementioned (they could be novels, anthologies, single-author collections or critical works) with help from the audience. Bring your own lists. We'll print them and the choices of the panelists for the membership, afterward.

The Panel:

JK: Our qualifications for this panel are that we all have opinions.

TW: We're loudmouths.

JK: First, we must decide what we mean by essential. Everyone has a slightly different idea.

TW: As a bookstore partner, I see what excites people. "Where can I get another Neuromancer. "Is there anything like Mists of Avalon." Where can I find more X?" X is what's essential. Kindred by Octavia Butler brought black women into the store [Other Change of Hobbit, in Berkeley, CA]. These books [the ones on his 20 essentials list] have changed people's perceptions, made a difference in how they feel.

KS: "I won't change my selections." Kate's list isn't in order of preference. The selections are "books that made my head whip around." When I read these books [on her 20 essentials list] they changed my view of the world and affected me. Perhaps you've noticed -- I'm female. My list has more books by women. Science fiction books in the '70s are strongly influenced by what women are writing-- perhaps will be again in the future. I've been a Tiptree judge and several Tiptree winners are on my list."

JK: His list is in chronologtical order. He's also been a Tiptree juror. " My definition is like Tom's except more personal. These are books that changed the field.They made the field more like them. Not all the books are perfect." Jerry was excited by Mother of Storms but found the death scenes in the book excessive.

PK: His definition of 'essential' is "If they didn't exist, we'd have to infvent them. His reading, but not his selection is colored by being an administrator of the Arthur C. Clarke award. "These books keep coming up when I write about science fiction. Paul's bias is that he's British. Writers like Chris Priest and Rob Holdstock affect his image of s-f.
"It's criminal to leave writers like Christopher Priest off the list."

RD: His list contains 20 essential books, not the 20 essential books. This allowed him to deliberately leave some of his favorites off the list. His definition of essential is "Things that change how I think about relationships and words. Books that changed my image of life through their writing. It's an eclectic list. Cross-pollination is rife. We could have movies and comics, too.

JK: Tell us about the more unusual items on your list.

RD: [James Agee's ] A Fury of Symbols is a novella-length memoir that was published in Harper's.

KS: What does it have to do with science fiction?

RD: It's an evocation of the spirit of the '60s. It describes altered states of consciousness, and is thus relevant to s-f. Software for People is a collection of drawings, dream journals, and music scores. It's concerned with theories of attention.

JK: You added [Kim Stanley Robinson's] Mars trilogy. All three other panelists picked only Red Mars.

KS: Book of the New Sun is omitted from my list. I find it impenetrable. Too dense, I thought. (And I say this having reread Dhalgren 50 times.) None of us have Stephen King, despite his importance.

TW: But the best Stephen King is from before 1980.

KS: King would have made my top 35. He redefined the horror field. It's interesting how many good books there are. In every period, there are exciting books.

TW: Circlet Press is changing the way people look at the field. Its importance is what it's done, not so much the individual books.

PK: No one mentioned Terry Pratchett. I didn't because I don't enjoy him that much. But he's had a huge effect. Sub-Pratchett clones abound in Britain.

Maureen Kincaid: Tom Holt is the only one who rises above that.

Debbie Notkin: There's no Lois Bujold on any of the lists and little Card.

JK: I haven't read them.

Lenny Bailes: There's only one Vernor Vinge. The lists seem to place an emphasis on human transformation and spiritual issues.

Debbie Notkin: That's our new slogan for Potlatch.

John ?: What about Hyperion?

RD: Loved Hyperion and Phases of Gravity (by Dan Simmons).

KS: Hyperion is a really important book that I hated.

Mary Kay Kare: Why did Jerry pick Starlight 1 and not 2?

JK: Hasn't read 2, yet.

KS: #1 was, perhaps, more influential, but #2 is even better. Raphael Carter. Ted Chiang's The Story of Your Life, examining grammar in a transformational way.

PK: My fave in S.2 was Carter Scholz's.

Alan Bostick: Two books on my list: Dave Langford's The Space Eater. (You may laugh, but it's a great super-science novel.) And Iain Banks' Player of Games -- marvelous superscience.

Janet Laffler: "I hate lists. They're too contingent. You're always going to miss things." She prefers personal lists, not pseudo-definitive. "My list would have Le Guin's Always Coming Home.

TW: I did include things I haven't read, from bookstore patrons. I will recommend books I didn't like -- with caveats.

PK: Wants to change his list. "Cross off Greg Bear. Aded Northern Lights (by Philip Pullman from Golden COmpass).

Vicki Rosenszweig: The Sky Road by Ken McLeod. It contrasts socialism and libertarianism.

PK: Ken McLeod is often chosen, but not always the same books. His ideas are good, but he needs to learn about writing about people. Rather like Iain Banks. Each uses a different type of socialism as a kickoff.

?: Greg Egan has great ideas.

PK: I love his ideas, but no people.

LB: Misses Bruce Sterling from everyone's lists. Holy Fire and Distraction.

?: He, She and It. [By Marge Piercy].

?: What do you think is the most overrated book?

RD: Neuromancer.

TW: In terms of sales.

Debbie Notkin: Ender's Game. No contest.

TW: Robert Jordan.

Debbie Notkin: Maybe there's a contest.

JK: The Last Dangerous Visions.

PK: The Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson.

RD: I loved it.

KS: I dropped Babel Tower by A.S. Byatt, my only mainstream selection.

Andi Schechter: What was the Dunnet novel with the dyslexic narrator -- Polly & Bird of Paradise.

Tom Becker: Why did Kate omit Sarah Canary (his alltime favorite). Also The Furies by Charnas.

KS: Hasn't read Sarah Canaery.

Morris (? Keesan): Most of you have only 2 to 3 Hugo winners on your lists.

JK: They're not my type of books.

?: Why no Martin Amis?

PK: He's a terrible writer. I'd pick several others first, including Julian Barnes and Peter Ackroyd.

Victoria ?: Second recommendation for Byatt.

?: What about Graham Joyce, Julian Barnes?

Debbie Notkin: Although I hated Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead would be in my top 20 list.

David Levine. It was less influential than it could have been, but what about The Difference Engine?

Karen ?: Mirrorshades was more influential than Neuromancer. Likes William Kotzwinkle. Misses Terri Windling's adult fantasy stories, Pamela Dean, Steve Brust.

John ?: There's not a lot of humor on these lists. What about Douglas Addams?

?: Harry Potter is overrated.

RD: My favorite women writers are from the '70s. I'd love to see a list of essential science books.

PK: Would be interested in seeing a list of the 20 essential mainstream books.

JK: Moon & the Sun by McIntyre.

KS: Rebecca Ore has a dinstinctive style.

TW: We should do a list of 20 essential children's fantasy books.

KS: Likes Ellen Kushner. "Go out and read more books!"


Carapace Rippers

Participants: Nisi Shawl (ringleader), Octavia Butler, Sabrina Chase, Anita Rowland, Holly Wade Matter

Notes by Lenny Bailes

Prolog: The panel will discuss the concerns and attractions of the two genres, and where, if at all, their territories overlap. They'll discuss romantic relationships in s-f, how they're handled, and differences as to how they're handled in Romances-with-a-capital-R. Andss-f themes in Romances, ditto.

NS: Wants more women to reade s-f. "You can't read s-f if you read romances" is an aphorism that contradicts her experience.

OB: I'm not known for writing romance. Although I've caused all sorts of problems between humans and non-humans.

HM: Writes stories filled with the redemptive power of love.

SC: Likes Georgette Heyer.

AR: is a longtime reader of s-f and romance.

NS: What is Romance?

OB: I have no idea. You could sit all day and talk about it, just like s-f. I'm interested in sexiness. What turns people on isn't necessarily descriptions of people having sex. [Octavia finds descriptions of symbiosis to be sexy. Also "good conflicts between evenly-matched people.] Writing where strange things are made to seem normal -- [Ted Sturgeon's] Bianca's Hand.

NS: You're thinking more of love than romance.

OB: Symbiosis doesn't have to be sexual. Like Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones -- enforced symbiosis.

HM: Likes Hitchcock's The 39 Steps -- the character handcuffed toa total stranger. Antagonism turns to romance. Doesn't like depictions of sex -- "strange nomenclature for body parts." "Maybe I'm just one of the unlucky people who doesn't have my head explode. Romance is a courtship state. I find that more interesting to read about. Not many stories seem to be about lasting, solid relationships. Slash is always about first contact.

OB: I agree. That's what we learn to do when we become writers -- because we've seen the rest of it. The problem in Parable of the Talents was what to do about two peop;le who established their relationship in the previous book. "Happily Ever After" is a common literary experience.

SC: What is Romance? Stories focus on the chase, but that's not all that happens. [Sabrina likes Lois McMaster Bujold's books.] People must dynamically change their relationships. We can get away from the "last page, first kiss" mentality. You still have the rest of the book. Romance can be ongoing.

AR: What is romance writing: the relationship between two main characters is the point of the story. [Anita is on a romance readers anonymous mailing list. There are complaints that secondary relationships in some books overshadow the primary relationship.] A Mystery ends with solving the mystery. A Romance ends with people getting toghether.

Richard Garfinkle: Romances are 1,000 years old. They parallel sci-fi's [issue of] how you get to God. In older stories, you die. In later stories you get culmination.

NS: The writing style changes from being very metaphorical to "take off your shirt, I'm cold."

AR: Avoids historical periods in romance fiction that turn her off, like the American Civil War. Dislikes historical inaccuracies.

NS: Is that for romance or science fiction?

AR: I read books by people I know. I grew up on s-f. You could draw a Venn diagram. Some books are romance. Some are s-f. Some fall in between.

SC: Dislikes stupid characters. S-f needs intelligent channels. In romance, novelty should be played down.

HM: Likes Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice and Le Guin's Forgiveness Day. "The way the characters transform through the miracle of love. The Silver Metal Lover is a wonderful coming of age book for girls. Silver (the guy!) is her agent for self discovery. Pride and Prejudice has beautiful, sexy repartee.

AR: Romances take place in a separate world.

OB: I read a lot of non-fiction. What attracts me to fiction is its intimacy. Reading brings a feeling of closeness. Horror annoys me because horror falls out of the sky. Horror is innately illogical. But romance shouldn't be the whole focus of a story. The test of romance is: "is it going to last after the book is closed."

NS: Sarah Zeittels (an s-f writer) told me she'd written a romance. The novel wasn't published because it wasn't really a romance novel. She had contempt for the reader. A Distant Star overlays romance and s-f. "Futuristic Romance" is a spin off genre -- but the main problem must be the resolution of a relationship -- otherwise it's s-f. [The difference is about different kinds of power. Riding a jet pack versus having someone adore you.]

OB: Obsession is sexy. In Perfume you couldn't help but become one with the character. You're rooting for a monster to do something monstrous.

SC: Aliens must really be alien -- not humans in furry suits.

OB: In Xenogenesis [aliens] have different drives from humans, but they are xenophilic.

AR: Negotiation romance is balance of power, not in s-f.

OB: [Disagrees.] It's always about power. In the end somebody wins.

HM: Celestis [by Paul Parkes] is the story of a relatrionship between human men and alien women. It's not an easy book to read. The alien woman reverts without her medication. The man learns nothing of her true nature. He wants for her to be human.

NS: To me, that falls in the category of anti-romance. One person changes, the other is left behind. In Parkesd' book the woman is a Chimera. [Arranges a set of books she brought into a Venn Diagram -- Romance and S-F are two circles with an overlapping sector.



Top Ten Ways to Sabotage Your Writing

Participants: Melissa Shaw (ringleader), Amy Thompson, Greg Bear
Notes by Lenny Bailes and Stef Maruch
Melissa Shaw wants to know how writers get in their own way, either keeping themselves from writing at their best, or perhaps even keeping themselves from writing at all. So she's ringleading this light-hearted, yet serious look at the matter.
The Panel:

MS: Melissa Shaw began the panel by listing all the ways she knows to sabotage her writing:

1. Install computer games
2. Compare yourself to successful writers you admire
3. Set unrealistic goals for yourself
4. Beat yourself up for not achieving your unrealist goals
5. Set realistic goals for yourself -- then don't achieve them.
6. Allow depression to drive you crazy
7. Blame your writing blocks on your cat, dog, or spouse
8. Take critiques of your work too seriously
9. Focus on your flaws
10. Blame sitff feelings when you have a setback.

(Melissa is the author of
AT: Amy Thompson is the author of Virtual Girl and The Color of Distance. She says that "Windows Solitaire is the bane of her existence. Amy fell into some of Melissa's pitfalls, comparing herself to Terry Carr at the start of her career. "I would feel guilty that I couldn't write at Terry's pro pace of 1,000 words per day. Instead, I could only write 750 words a day. She added a sabotage category: "Make lists of why you sabotage your writing."
GB: Greg Bear declared himself as the author of "too many books." (Greg's recent books include ). His additions to the list are:

1. Take yourself too seriously
2. Edit yourself while talking.
3. Assign yourself to an elite literary group.
4. Write Star Wars novels and enter the Hollywood bind of paying a mortgage.
5. Compare yourself to more successful people. (At convention panels say "I'm not as successful as Ursula Le Guin on a literary level or Michael Crichton on a financial level.

To survive, a writer should ignore all of these traps.

MS: Disagrees with this. "A writer must see the obstacles. You have to recognize what's happening." She compares herself with other writers.

GB: Another great one is "Pay attention to powerful writers who are telling you what to do."

AT: "I can't understand why other writers refuse to read while they work." She reads everything clustered around what she's writing to find empty spots on the map.

GB: He doesn't like to mix genres. Writing drama and reading comedy doesn't work. "Don't watch Futurama while writing sf. Don't read something worse than what you can do or it will start to pull it down."

AT: "What works for one person may not work for another. I can't listen to music with words in it when I'm writing. It interferes with the soundtrack in my head. But I do read literary junk food. I can read Modesty Blaise."

GB: "Don't pay attention to what the Powers That Be tell you read. Your subconscious knows what to read, even if it's a bottom-feeder."

AT: "I felt really guilty in the mid-80's, trying to understand deconstructionism. I thought that Chip Delany was God. I finally made myself understand it on my own. Joanna Russ told me 'Read what you want.' Eventually, I could understand stuff with lots of subtext."

MS: "Copying someone else is another form sabotage. Drown out those other voices."

AT: "Read Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott. [a series of writerly confessions]. She''s really funny."

MS: Laughing at her neuroses, you feel better about your own.

GB: Liked "The Muse," an Albert Brooks movie. "The conscious mind doesn't do most of the writing. This goes back to Carl Jung. So many [demon?] brains back there. You have to take care of the children inside of your head. If you beat them up, they'll get hurt and go away. This is known as writer's block." His model is Ray Bradbury -- not for style or success, but how he behaves in public. There's a lot of serendipity in a writer's career.

AT: "There's a guy in your head who says your work is shit. Send him out for pizza to Nome, Alaska. Don't read the 'organize your life' books written for Suits. You can work in your bathrobe."

GB: "You wear a bathrobe?"

AT: "Read Time Management for the Creative Person by Lee Silver. It's a non-judgmental book that can be helfpul in organizing your office."

MS: "The Artist's Way put me in touch with the creative kids in my head." Another way to sabotage your writing is to have contempt for your readers.

GB: "Here's another way to do it: don't search for your name on the Internet. You may find reviews of your work, but it's usually totally unreasoning, unfiltered stuff.

MS: I was amazed how many Melissa Shaws weren't me.

AT: I ran an apa. What I was doing was changing people's lives. Lots of women divorced their husbands. Doing something like that can keep you from jumping off a bridge."

[Audience RD]: Another potential failure is assuming that you have to do more research.

AT: "Research is like legos. There's no such thing as enough research. You can't have enough legos, either. Sometimes you have to murder your babies. [Put scenes on the cutting room floor.] One way I sabotage my writing is to say 'I've finished my novel, I think I'll get caught up with things. Mr. Wastebasket is your friend. Sometimes you should just let things slide.

GB: Look at a week or two week's work. Don't judge yourself on a day's output. Heinlein said 'Don't edit to an editorial requirement before an editor gives it to you.' But he did go back and edit himself at the end of the day.

AT: "Virtual Girl was like water-skiing behind the Loch Ness monster. I couldn't let go. The Color of Distance was more like crocheting. My husband bought me Dramatica, a piece of screen-writing software. It hgelped me to organize my characters and sped up the outline process.

GB: "Dramatica works for screenwriters because they have to have things very clarified.

AT: "After that, the outline took 2 weeks, then I had a kid.

[Audience ?] "I borrowed Dramatica. Did you read through everything."

AT: "Just the tutorial. It has a long learning curve.

[Audience ?] What about writing theory?

AT: That's why I went to Clarion.

GB: "Do you know the story of A.E. Van Vogt? He was a prolific writer in the field up until he cleared himself with Dianetics. Don't iron out your wrinkles!"

[Audience ?]: Writing and editing are different thought processes.

AT: "That's letting the pizza guy back in.

GB: "Don't teach creative writing and write at the same time."

AT: "Lamott says sometimes the ink well just runs dry and you have to take a break."

[Audience ?]: Writing and editing

Lenny Bailes: Do you go through different processes for novels versus short stories?

GB: "My internal states aren't yours. The people in my head are in collaboration. They can make your life miserable or give your fiction flavor. Your flaws are where the flavor comes from. Some brilliant stylists leave no impact on the world. Write about what you love or fear! I learned this from Ray Bradbury. If you don't do this, you're cheating. You can't be a stripper without taking your clothes off."

MS: "If something interests you, you should learn about it and write about it."

AT: "I feel like I always need to be writing at the edge of my envelope -- or else I get bored. One of the writers I use as my pole star is Octavia [Butler]. You never pull your punches.."

Octavia Butler: "Yes I do.

AT: "When a character needs it, you put him through hell."

GB: "Some writers hurt their characters gratuitously. Splatterpunk is a pornography of violence and it turns me off.

Octavia Butler: Avoid self-censorship. You do fall in love with yuour characters. Some writers hurt their characters for no good reason."

AT: If you make the road smooth for hyour real children, they're not going to be very effective adults. And the same thing is true for the kids in your head.

Aahz Maruch: "Lois Bujold plots by asking 'what's the worst that could happen to this character?"

GB: Different writers have different relationships with their characters. Lois; fans pass messages on to her for her characters. TV series pitch: "I plotted 10 hours of TFV. I'm liostening to my subconscious. Eight episodes in, I woke up anxious. (Plotting is hard work.) Then it all melted away - they were finished. And my voices said "Don't do this again!"

MS: I had good friends critique a story. They topld me it was trash and that I needed to start over. It made sense to me, but I sent the story out anyway. And it sold.

AT: Criticism has to go hum or you have to ignore it.

MS: It has to be something you didn't know you know.

AT:For example, when I wrote Virtual Girl, people said this one character was a drag queen and it worked. In Virtual Girl, new boxes within boxes were constantly opening up. I wish that happened with my other books. Maybe I've just learned to talk to the voices in my head.

Octavia Butler: One of the problems writers need to live with is finding that the trunk is empty. Getting friendly with the new stuff can't be rushed."

GB: All writers have had trauma in their lives. Dick's novels were a quest to find out what was wrong with him and whether he was, in fact, sane. Writing that is a debate works. To kill this, assign yourself a point of view -- Marxist, Feminist....

AT: That's not funny!

MS: Some writers try to make their characters live up to their high moral standards. That doesn't always make a good story.

AT: I write with a moral and political point of view. But my characters didn't just mouth it, they did -- it is like walking a tightrope. You'll get bashed.

[Audience ?]: I like reading about writers and writing -- "Fail even better, fail even more" -- Samuel Beckett.

GB: Paris Review. Other writers are just as confused as you.

AT: Anthony Trollope turned a rejected manuscript over and began writing a new story on the other side.

Nisi ?: Sydney Harris said that when he goes back over a story he crosses out every other word.




Participants: Jeanne Gomoll (ringleader), Suzy McKee Charnas, Timmi Duchamps

Notes by Matt Austern


Melissa Shaw wants to know how writers get in their own way, either keeping themselves from writing at their best, or perhaps even keeping themselves from writing at all. So she's ringleading this light-hearted, yet serious look at the matter.

The Panel:

JG: The Holdfast books are the most important books in feminist SF. The series paralled my understanding of the women's movement and the development of the field. They are more than the individual story of Aldera---they are the story of a whole community, or rather many communities, some of which are descended from others. In the first book we see a culture that's already coming apart: we see the revolt of the juniors, and the realization of the women that the society is not sustainable.

SMC Began _Walk to the End of the World_ in 1972, finished _The Conquerer's Child_ in 1998. I originally intended to put a note at the end of _Walk_: "This is not the first volume in a trilogy."

JEANNE In _Motherlines_ we get the realization that escape alone isn't enough; it just recreates the old behavior. What gives hope in that book is the Riding Women. They're important because they give the free fems a new model and new energy. A comparison from our own society: the women's movement turning to (real or made-up) anthropology.

SUZY Motherlines began as satire of great matriarchies or amazons of the past. What if there really was such a society.

JEANNE In _The Furies_ we revisit the Holdfast; it's a book about violent confrontation. _Child_ is about an attempt to create a just society. Easier in some ways than in our own world.

SUZY I was trying to avoid the violence. Roughly, was trying to write _Child_ without having written _Furies_.

TIMMI I reread all of the Holdfast books in October. The rereading experience was very different from the original reading. In the 70s I identified wholely with the fems in _Walk_ and _Motherlines_. When reading _Motherlines_ I felt excluded and hurt by the Riding Women--- they were a symbol of what I couldn't be. Rereading, identified more with Riding Women.

>From rereading of _Walk_: Very different from other three books, except as background. It is explicitly satire. Several different stories, and the title (Aldera's story) really only comes from the last of them. It's 60s satire and anger, and it focuses on topical concerns of the time (freaks and drugs). It's absurdist, not realistic, and some of it (e.g. the rendery) could have come from a Warhol movie. The crazy childrearing practice (kit packs) would have destroyed the society in a generation.

The other books are realist. The absurdist elements, and the flat characters, are gone. It's Daya who tells the story of _Walk_, as if it were true.

SUZY _Walk_ originally began as a satire of Nixonites: their descendents live by the antithesis of all of their values. They're all homosexual, they eat seaweed. There were originally no women in the story. It's when I wondered where the women were, and put them in (in the corners, doing all the work) that the satire stopped being funny.

_Motherlines_ came later. I wanted an amazon story, and already had a character, Aldera, ready.

At the end of _Motherlines_, realized I should bring the three cultures into contact. But that would have to be a war story, and it was difficult to write.

TIMMI _Motherlines_ is as relevant as it was when it was written, but for different reasons. It could be read as standalone. It can be read as a refutation of cultural feminism, which was the dominant perspective of 70s feminism. (Roughly, cultural feminism is the belief that women have essential feminine characteristics in all cultures---nurturing, nonviolent. All women share the same nature.)

_Walk_ already struggles against cultural feminism to some extent. The fems in the holdfast have three strategies. All are basically cultural feminist strategies, and all are useless: moon worship, the matris' gradualism, and the pledged who dream of revolution. The only useful strategy is flight.

In _Motherlines_ we have two groups of women, and they're more different from each other than the free fems are from their former masters. We see women (e.g. in Elnoa's Tea Camp) oppressing each other---in the 70s, this seemed very upsetting.

SUZY This was a discovery, not a position. I realized _Motherlines_ would be a book with no men. I only knew about three kinds of female characters, so I had to look at real women---what are different kinds of women like, and how could I write about them? Discovery: women are people. Without men all niches of society were open, so all of those niches were filled by women.

The problem of _Furies_: the old regime was gone. For reader to understand the characters' anger, had to show what it was like. As resource, read books about slave revolts and escapes. (e.g. escaped slaves in Jamaica who started their own society in the hills.)

JEANNE Another theme in _Furies_ is the constant danger of former slaves becoming oppressors.

DEBBIE - My mother went to an all-girl high school. As above, a girl was president of the student council, a girl was leader of the band. - I had the exact opposite reaction to _Motherlines_ in the 70s: the riding women were so cool. If I'd been raised like that, I could be like them. But now, I was also able to sympathize with the free fems.

IAN The Riding Women seemed fictional to me, within the context of the story.

The conflict in the story seemed to be more about race than sex: intractible problems, two societies that never meet. The accommodations in _Furies_ and _Child_ look like what happened in Rhodesia, Israel/Palestine.

SUZY Yes, it's very much like race and colonialism. How is it possible to work this out so someone isn't colonizing someone else?

JEANNE Rereading all of the books, Grace O'Mally, in _Motherlines_, one of the crazy people, said she felt unreal, like someone walking through fems' dreams.

TIMMI The Riding Women all vanish at the end of _Child_, when they're no longer needed.

DEBBIE They're the elves!

JEANNE One of the other recurring themes in the Holdfast books is the importance of storytelling.

SUZY Melissa Scott didn't like _Furies_ because it's the storyteller who's the villain. (But Daya isn't really a villain, just weak.) Yes, storytelling is important in these books---lots about he importance of the self-story.

JEANNE Riding Women have self-stories. Daya tells stories to the Free of what the Holdfast was like. Invents stories about going back---they turn out to be true. After the return there are stories about the past, but different women tell different stories. Lots of lies. It also gets complicated by writing.

SUZY One of the problems is how to find truth when there are lots of lies out there. The men's stories are lies, the Free's storyteller is a liar.

_Child_ was dedicated to my grandchildren---I wanted to capture that energy. Wanted a refreshing feeling---something other than what came before.

JEANNE Problem in _Child_: do we hand down anger to children and hope they carry on, or tell them nothing, or accept that they've learned something new?

Sorel is angry: never experienced Holdfast, doesn't accept that the only choices are to be a master or a slave.

Central dilemma: what to do about the boys?

TIMMI What are the alternatives for Veree: killed, enslaved, or castrated? Sorel considers taking him away and raising him herself. Eykar makes her realize it's a broader social issue.

Understanding of gender: Aldera told Sorel not to feel bad about failing to kill Servan, it was Eykar's job, not women's job. Men have to create normative standards for being male.

SUZY Question for our world: how should men change as part of the new world? Men can't just stay the same and expect women to do all the work of changing. By and large, the contemporary men's movement is about resisting change. It's men's job to make men into human beings.

DEBBIE Quoting Audre Lorde: It's easier to raise daughters than sons because it's easier to teach a child to fight oppression than to resist privilege.

TOM The world in _Child_ felt real. You don't just go to the edge and fall off.

SUZY Yes, for example there are many different religions. There's even a bit of magic realism.

TIMMI The cairn/horse in _Child_ is an important symbol. Sorel builds it to express her feelings; it's not like the memorial cairns. It's a creative act. Nobody else knows how to interpret it because it doesn't fit into any of the preexisting political categories.

JEANNE It's the symbol of a third choice.