What I'm Watching, Queering Shakespeare Edition

I was down and in need of catharsis, so I picked  up Private Romeo on Hal Duncan’s recommendation, and it was exactly right.  (And the ending is not quite what you’re used to.)  This is everything Shakespeare should be, naturalistic and raw, forcing you to listen to the meaning as much as to the words.  Seriously, go read what Mr. Duncan has to say, then watch this.

I really want to show it to my boyfriend once he gets back from his family vacation.

Sally Ride, 1951-2012

From the Associated Press via Yahoo! News:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Space used to be a man’s world. Then came Sally Ride, who blazed a cosmic trail into orbit for U.S. women. With a pitch perfect name out of a pop song refrain, she joined the select club of American space heroes the public knew by heart: Shepard, Glenn, Armstrong and Aldrin.

Ride, the first American woman in orbit, died Monday at her home in the San Diego community of La Jolla at age 61 of pancreatic cancer, according to her company, Sally Ride Science.

Ride flew into space on the space shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, when she was 32. Since then, 42 other American women followed her into space.

“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

And not just young women.

Sally Ride was my first hero.

When I played Space Shuttle, one of the figures was always her.

When I dreamed of being an astronaut, I wanted to be her.

And I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.

I was three or four at the time, I suppose.  No one told me I couldn’t.

I understood that she was in some way Very Special for being the first US woman in space, but it would be many years before I fully understood the ugly implications of that specialness, and of course there are many ways in which I still don’t.

I started reading science fiction, and discovered computers (through my mom), and dreamed of spaceships and far-off worlds.

Over time being an astronaut seemed like a less practical pursuit, and I found other pursuits and other role models.  Still, when Columbia went down, I remember hearing Sally Ride’s testimony and being glad she was still around, still inspiring people, still patiently showing them sense, and still pushing out the boundaries of human knowledge.

Today she’s no longer around.

Sic itur ad astra.

May we carry forward your work, Sally Ride.

Both the quest for human equality and the quest to more fully understand and explore the cosmos.

Per ardua ad astra.

(I’m amused to discover, along with the rest of the world, that Sally Ride’s partner of twenty-seven years is a woman.  My four-year-old self chose better than he knew.  Sally Ride: still my hero.)

Further coverage:

What I'm Reading, Bedtime Reading Edition

It took me a good year (or so; I didn’t keep close track) of having this on my bed and reading a story before bed when I felt like it to finish Catherynne M. Valente’s first collection of her published short stories, Ventriloquism.  (I had the same issue — if one can call it that — with her Palimpsest, a book like a cassoulet — rich, decadent, filling prose, the kind you can’t eat too much of in one sitting.)

I found it slower going and less satisfying than her This Is My Letter To The World, the first collection of her Omikuji Project stories.  Those stories are more consistent in length, to fit the epistolary form factor; more often make use of the fairy-tale motifs Valente is well-known for; maybe a little more pat (or maybe not).  Many of the Ventriloquism stories I had already read, in their original publication.

It is a more literary, less emotional, collection than This Is My Letter…, I think, which works for me sometimes and not others.  If these stories are harder to read than the Omikuji stories, though, they are also maybe more likely to live jangling in the back of your head long after the book is closed.

Some standouts, for me: “Urchins, While Swimming” left me cold, meaning chilled; “Bones Like Black Sugar” and “A Delicate Architecture” make an interesting Handsel and Gretel diptych; “Mother is a Machine” for its texture and flow; “Days of Flaming Motorcycles” for a zombie post-apocalypse; “Palimpsest”, the story which inspired the novel, always one I come back to; “Secretario” for its essentialization of the noir detective genre.

The book contains every one of Valente’s published stories up to its publication date, without any exceptions that I’m aware of, and although some judicious editing might have produced a more coherent whole it’s very interesting to watch her explore and grow as a writer, interesting to watch themes and images and even individual words flow through her body of work.

Always Valente’s language is marvelous and lush.  Sometimes the words do feel chosen for their weight and meter more than their meaning, and I am finding, to my disappointment, that some of those repeated images lose their luster with overuse, and I begin to wonder how these insects can be inlaid with such precious materials, and what the economics of their production are, and who mines them.  Surely some of Valente’s writing comes from the same place; the curse, such as it is, of the science fiction writer.

Definitely recommended, and brilliant to come back to repeatedly for as long as it lasted me.