What’s in a Word?

I have a poem coming out in the near future at Strange Horizons (pause for congratulations – thank you, thank you) and because they also do a podcast, I read it aloud to my writers group so they could point out any snags in the way I read before I record it.

One of the lines references a grand-jeté, a ballet move. When I read it, I was thinking of both pronouncing it well in French — difficult, because despite years of studying French, my accent is poor — and making it understandable. I suspect I failed at both, because almost everyone mentioned it.

And it was also clear that some in my group didn’t know what a grand-jeté was. It appears that not everyone was forced into ballet classes as a small child.

I first took up ballet because the doctor recommended it due to my weak ankles. It was not a successful form of exercise, since the ballet teacher put me in toe shoes even though I was six, which probably did even more damage to my ankles.

I took ballet again when my sister did, for reasons that are no longer clear to me, though I eschewed the toe shoes and recitals. In truth, even had I been more physically talented — and while I am a person who needs a lot of physical activity, I am not especially talented at it — I had absolutely the wrong body type for ballet.

I am too tall, too large-boned, and at what is a good weight for my body type, far too fat. My height is in my torso, so my legs are relatively short. I’m not very flexible.

Ballet is rigid in many respects, despite the need for dancers to be flexible. Only certain body types need apply, especially when it comes to women. It is certainly unforgiving. And it tears up bodies, particularly women’s bodies, at about the same pace as American football does men’s.

While I have enjoyed watching ballet, I prefer modern dance, which has more respect for the human body in all its diversity. Modern dancers continue dancing into old age; ballet dancers quit in their 30s.

All that said, I have always wanted to be able to do a grand-jeté, which is a great leap in the air with the legs in a split. It looks like flying. It is a glorious move. And landing, particularly in toe shoes, requires great balance.

But none of that is what dawned on me when people commented on the reading. What dawned on me is that I assumed everyone knew what a grand-jeté was.

And they don’t. Continue reading “What’s in a Word?”

Nancy Jane Reads at Story Hour

Treehouse resident Nancy Jane Moore will be reading online at Story Hour this Wednesday September 6 at 7 pm PDT with Kathleen Jennings. You can catch the show via Zoom or Facebook Live.

Story Hour is hosted by Daniel Marcus and Laura Blackwell. Every Wednesday two authors each read a complete story. Past shows can be viewed on Facebook.

The Somewhat Updated Guide to Prevent Perplexity: How to avoid Gillian at Chicon8

Normal life is slowly (maybe) returning, for quite different grades of normal to those any of us expected. I may never be able to attend a big crowded event again. Fortunately, this means that it’s very easy to avoid me at events. You can go where I cannot. You can get a cuppa while attending virtually. You can train your computer system to obliterate me while listening and enjoying all other panellists, speakers. I admit, I have not worked out how to do this latter, but there must be an app for it, somewhere.

Worldcon is coming. In Chicago, where I cannot go, due to COVID. Also on our computers, where I am definitely going and where I am on the program and… you need to know how to avoid me.

I would like to return to warning people of my incipient presence somewhere. How can you know how to avoid me if you don’t know where I am?

This is all of my program a week prior to the convention. I’ve left out times and days because you’ll need to find the location for each event and the program guide itself will contain all this critical information. I think avoiding me will be fun this time round, a computer-assisted minuet.

The Middle Ages Weren’t Actually Bad
I agree with the title, but not with the reason for it. Of course you should avoid me. I will make waves. Grumpy waves. I’m a middle-aged Medievalist, so any waves I make are grumpy and my time to make that joke is almost over, which makes me grumpier. In the context, I might even make my toilet joke. I want to say “my notorious toilet joke” but that would be giving it too much credit. Find a gizmo that hides my face and reduces my voice to nothing, and enjoy the panel. The other panellists are definitely worth hearing.
Virtual Jewish Fan Gathering
I’m co-hosting a fan gathering. I don’t know if I’m the non-American Jew in this, or the Orthodox, or…
I’m Modern Australian Orthodox, for those who wonder why I don’t act like a Chassid. I am not Chassidic, my childhood was religious, but also full of science.
If you want to come to this gathering and make me invisible without even letting me know who you are, find someone who has read The Green Children Help Out or The Wizardry of Jewish Women or The Time of the Ghosts (the novels with the highest Jewish content). Ask them to chat with me (chat function FTW!) about my writing. I will immerse myself in the world of Jewish superheroes or the world of Jewish fairies and everyone else will have a fine time.
Virtual Table Talk – Gillian Polack
This is a simple “Avoid Gillian” one. Don’t come. I can talk to myself about fairy tale retellings, the Middle Ages (France and England especially), enthohistory, my fiction, Jewishness in fiction, my research, cultural brickwork, my fiction-to-appear-in-print-soon, my world developing, Australia, new kitchens and more.
Reclaiming History Through Alternate Yesterdays
My suggestion for this panel is that you reclaim it through Alternate Gillians. It’s too good to miss, otherwise. How does one create an Alternate Gillian? Whenever I say something, you, twist what I say until it makes you laugh aloud. For instance, if I say, “My background for this panel lies in historiography adulterated with ethnohistory” you replace the ‘historiography’; with ‘haemophilia’ and in your mind make that part of an explanation for our world where vampires died out through developing haemophilia more acutely than any human can.
Your reward is the other panellists, and I become your fiction for the day.
Australian Speculative Fiction
Two perfectly excellent Australian writers (both award-winning, I believe)… and me. The approach I suggested for Reclaiming History would also work for this. Replace ‘Australian’ with ‘Aslanian’ and turn my comments into analysis of Narnia. If I talk about lost civilisations (I am prone to this) then invent your own. If I talk about German academics and their interest in Australian SFF, then take yourself to a university website and read the blog about Australian SFF whenever I speak.
Virtual Reading – Gillian Polack
This is another skip-by-not-attending one. I’m tossing up between reading from my Other Covenants story and my next novel. If you skip it, you don’t have to find out if my coin landed on heads, tails, or spun so strangely I had to read a bit from each.
Fairy Tales and Folklore in Urban Fantasy
You don’t want to miss this panel. One reason (just one, of the several) is Frances Hardinge. She’s one of the best fairytale/folklore using writers around, worldwide. I should know – this is one of my academic interests. And the other two panelists are also worth many detours to hear. Many. You’ll have to be creative then, in avoiding me. Stick a picture of a malevolent fairy over my bit of your computer screen. Hear my voice as the garbled sound heard through a mound, with no fairy door to provide clarity. You’ll be fine.
The Culinary Delights of Speculative Fiction
Use your avoidance of me in this panel to create the perfect dinner party. Invite all the best people (the remainder of the panel, for instance, because they’re worth meeting as well as listening to) and use all the foodstuffs I can’t eat. Fish and pork, seafood and nuts. If you feel vindictive, let me know the menu and invite me to enjoy it. That’ll help you get even with me for being on this otherwise-wonderful panel and making you miss some of it.
Or you could ask me to describe the making of portable soup and use those minutes to take a refreshing nap.

          The Metaverse and SF
The academic panel is two papers and a discussion. It’s worth coming for the section on the Metaverse (Ben Root “The Metaverse, from Science-Fiction to Reality.” )
My paper is on “Dangerous borders: the importance of edges and edginess in Ó Guilín’s The Call and The Invasion.” Skipping stuff about Peadar (even by me) is a sadness and should not be done. Pretend I’m someone else for twenty minutes, perhaps?

FOGcon Virtual Event: Authors Read!

Nisi Shawl and Karen Joy Fowler

FOGcon, a science fiction convention usually held in the California Bay Area in March, is putting on virtual events. On Saturday April 30, at 5 pm PDT they are doing the next in their Authors Read! series. Nisi Shawl and Karen Joy Fowler are the featured readers.

This event always includes a group of additional readers doing five-minute segments. As someone who has been a huge fan of Karen’s work since I stumbled across a small short story collection in a science fiction bookstore in New York City some time in the 1980s and an equally huge fan of Nisi’s work since I met her when she was assisting my Clarion West class in 1997, I could not resist the chance to read with them.

So I’ll be one of the rapid readers along with Cliff Winnig, Karen Brenchley, Frank Coffman, Carol Dorf, Joshua Wilson, Heather Rose Jones, Don Simpson, and Monique Collins.

See bios of all the readers here. Register for this free event here.

A Virtual Reading: Promo With a Few Thoughts

Strong Women/Strange Worlds Third Thursday Quick Reads

As you can see from the picture above, I’m reading on St. Patrick’s Day (Thursday, March 17) with five other authors as part of the Strong Women/Strange Worlds online reading series. The reading runs an hour, starting at 7 pm US EDT, which is 4 pm out here on the U.S. West Coast, late morning on the 18th in Australia, and the middle of the night in the U.K.

You can register for this free event here. Each author is doing some form of giveaway as part of the reading. I’m offering a print copy of For the Good of the Realm to one person in the US and an e-copy for a person living in other places. (The cost of shipping books these days is beyond the means of most writers, especially when the shipping costs more than the book.)

The people behind this reading series started it after some of them did a Zoom reading at a virtual convention and realized they could do such things without the convention. They’ve put together an organized system, with a set of tips for readers, and they solicit applications from people who’d like to participate.

Virtual readings are one of the good things that have come from the complicated times of the pandemic. Many conventions were cancelled or held virtually and most bookstores and libraries stopped holding events.

I suspect virtual readings are going to stick around. They can draw a worldwide audience — though the time of day may be less convenient in some locales — which is a lot better than the crowd a writer can get at the local bookstore. And the audience can listen while doing other things. (I like to listen to readings while cooking or eating dinner.)

I did several last year. FOGcon, our local convention here in the San Francisco Bay Area, has been doing a series of both readings and panels to make up for not holding a convention. Laura Blackwell and Daniel Marcus do Story Hour each Wednesday, with two authors each reading a short story. I enjoyed reading both places.

The only drawback to the virtual reading is that you can’t see your audience while you’re reading. When I’m reading in person, I’m always attuned to audience reaction. I miss that in the virtual events.

I’m also a big fan of group readings, both online and in-person. For an author, it’s great because it expands the audience beyond the people who’ve heard of you. And when you listen to such readings, you often find a writer you want to check out.

And if you don’t like someone’s work, well, they’re only reading for a short period of time! In this case, we’re reading for 8 minutes each.

The main difference between the rules for doing virtual readings and the rules for doing in-person ones is that you focus on where your camera is, not on a sea of faces, and that you have to make sure your tech is working. Otherwise, it’s basically the same: be on time, don’t run over your time slot, make sure you can be heard and understood, and listen politely while the others read. (For online readings, listening politely includes making enthusiastic comments in the chat since no one will see your reactions otherwise.)

I’m hoping to go to a convention or two this year and read in person there. I’m also hoping bookstores around here will start holding more events and that the several Bay Area reading series will start back up on a permanent basis. However, I’m also one of those people who thinks we need to be stay vigilant about the pandemic, so I’m not going to push too hard for a return to indoor un-distanced socializing.

The good news remains that we’ve learned to do some things very effectively online. Readings are one of them.

Hope to “see” some of you at this one.


Nancy Jane Moore Is Reading This Week

I’m doing two readings online this week.

The first is on Wednesday, April 21, at Story Hour, at 7 PM PDT on Zoom or Facebook Live.

I’ll be reading “Thank God for the Road,” which appears in the new anthology edited by Shannon Page Black-Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day: An Anthology of Hope.

I’ll also be reading “The Founding of New Crockett, Texas,” which appeared as part of the Uneven Earth website’s Not Afraid of the Ruins series and will be included in a print anthology of those stories coming out later this year.

On Sunday, April 25, I’ll be part of the FOGcon Authors Read! It runs from 5-7 PM PDT and is headlined by Marie Brennan and Effie Seiberg. I’ll be doing a five-minute selection from For the Good of the Realm, my novel coming out June 1 from Aqueduct Press. To attend, sign up here.