Janni Lee Simner
27 June 2014 @ 10:51 am

Annita Harlan was one of the first people I met when I moved to Tucson. A writer, botanist, lover of the desert, and fellow Icelandophile, among many other things.

Also, she loved music.

She will, needless to say, be missed.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
16 June 2014 @ 02:34 pm

Dear Book,

So there I was, just about ready to give up on you, when you offer me … that. A reason to write you, and a glimmer of what you’re really all about.

Was it the threat of being trunked that made you give in?

Or did you actually choose to wait until the most frustrating possible moment to give up the first of your secrets?

Just wondering,

Me

P.S. Unless it’s all a lie. We’ll have words if it’s all a lie. And I don’t mean the words on your pages.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
13 June 2014 @ 06:11 pm

As many of you know, my first sale was to one of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover anthologies, and that sale gave me my first glimmer of hope that I could build a professional writing career. I recently had a story appear in a second Darkover anthology, produced by MZB’s estate, and I tremendously enjoyed returning to one of the places where my career began.

As some you also know, this week Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter revealed in public that her mother abused her.

I read and reread her daughter’s words this week. I read, too, portions of MZB’s own court deposition (from her husband’s trial, also for child abuse) that I hadn’t read before. Then yesterday I took a deep breath, and I added up the advances from my two Darkover sales, my Darkover royalties, and (at his request) my husband Larry Hammer’s payment for his sale to MZB’s magazine.

And then we made a donation to the anti-abuse charity RAINN for that amount. I’ll donate any future Darkover royalties, as well.

I remain proud of the Darkover stories I’ve written, and I respect the many fellow writers who also got their start on the pages of MZB’s anthologies and in her magazine. MZB played a huge role in many of our careers, and it’s not my intention to deny that, or to deny how deeply many readers were touched–and in some cases saved–by MZB’s work.

But I also can’t deny the harm caused by the flawed creator of that work. What I can do is see to it that my having written in her worlds goes towards fighting those same hurts and abuses in the places they’re happening now.

So that’s what I’m doing.

And I’m posting about it here–though this feels more like a personal decision than a public one–because silence about abuse creates the illusion of acceptance, and illusions gain power over time, and so sometimes, speaking aloud is more important than staying comfortable.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner

So on the livejournal version of last week’s post about the hard-to-define magic-y mythic-y lyrical fantasy genre, the subject of books that have this feeling without being fantastical came up.

Dacuteturtle talked about how some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories have this feeling for her. Rachelmanija talked about how “secret garden” books do.

I realized that for me, this is a huge part of the appeal of, say, the Icelandic family sagas, which are often light on the magic (and vague about its nature), and which for lack of better terminology I’ve been describing as having the feel of Tolkien, with less magic and more lawsuits. Rymenhild talked about medieval myths and allegories on the livejournal post, which one could argue are either fantasy or a genre of their own. I’d add Beowulf to her list, once one adds the poetry of the Seamus Heaney translation. (Or, I’m guessing, the original old English.)

The contemporary examples that most readily come to mind for me are Deborah Noyes’ Plague in the Mirror (whose the timeslip is the only magical element) and Francesca Forrest’s Pen Pal (which feels magical yet doesn’t have anything that’s inarguable magic, though it does have things that arguably are).

Anyway, this all got me to thinking. Lots of folks talk about whether fantasy can achieve the same things realism can, with the spoken or unspoken assumption that a fantasy work is somehow more worthy or literary if it does.

But we don’t talk nearly so much about whether realism can achieve the things fantasy does, and reach for those heights. And whether it might be more worthy on some level if it does so, too.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
16 May 2014 @ 06:12 pm

So, there’s a certain kind of book I’m always on the lookout for. It’s not the only kind of book I’m on the lookout for, but it is the kind of book I adore when I find it.

I think of the genre as lyrical mythic fantasy. Books that can be spare, but not so spare as to lose that lyricism–this isn’t the genre of transparent prose. Books that can be dense, but not so dense that they lose a certain lightness and flow. Books that are deeply, richly immersive. Liminal perhaps. Transporting, but not only transporting. Books that make you believe the mythic is just through that veil over there, and that make you believe this as much or more through sheer language as through cleverness of worldbuilding.

You can see how this might be hard to describe. I’m not sure I’ve ever fully succeeded. When I mention what I’m looking for, I often get recs for straight up fantasy-adventure with a dash of interesting world-building. That’s not what I’m looking for (or not what I’m looking for when I talk about this kind of book–of course I like other kinds of books, too, and many books I adore don’t fit into this at all). I know what I do want when I see it, which of course is not very useful if one is looking for recommendations.

Examples include The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, The Changeling Sea, The Underneath, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Last Unicorn, maybe Moonheart and Mythago Wood (it’s been years since I read those last two, so they could have changed in memory). It almost, but not quite, includes The Blue Sword, but if I mention the Blue Sword, I get all the wrong sort of recommendations again. I just started Sorrow’s Knot, which looks like it might fit though I’m not far enough in to that yet to be sure. If Miyazaki wrote novels, it would include some but not all of his work.

Of course, all of this is highly subjective, and a book that fits this description in one reader’s mind won’t in another’s. That’s how reading works, after all.

But I thought I’d go ahead and ask, and see what I might discover. If any of the above resonates for you, and you think you might know the sort of book I’m talking about … any recommendations?

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

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Janni Lee Simner
14 May 2014 @ 11:48 am

Bones of Faerie is five years old this spring! I’d get all sentimental, only Liza isn’t really the sentimental sort, so instead here’s a Book Smugglers’ “Old School Wednesday” review.

“Bones of Faerie is an unexpectedly lyrical and beautifully written book – I am an immediate fan of Janni Lee Simner’s haunting prose, which captured me from the first eerie chapter. It’s a poignant, elegiac novel about a world ravaged by magic and the children who have grown up in its ruins. It is Liza’s world that is so captivating, that draws you in and defines Bones of Faerie …”

Also, the Zombies, Run! episode I wrote is now live! Specifically, it’s Season 3, Mission 6: Career Day: “Mysterious giant footprints have been spotted–could this be related to the Phantom of Abel?” I had a blast writing this, and of course, I jumped ahead and ran the mission out of order just so I could hear it. It was a blast, running to my own words–but of course, the real blast is thinking of other people running to my words.

Because, after all, we are all Runner 5.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
04 May 2014 @ 02:15 pm

The birdbath is frozen,
There’s snow on the ground,
Anything worth saving
Will survive on its own.

Water flows along curbs and down drains,
Seeking anything that craved sunshine–
The flowers sagged with bees,
The pithy dead stems,
Wintering insects.

For the butterflies’ sake I can adapt,
But it’s going to take a lot of work.

Gardening for Climate Change

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner

I talk to Naomi Alderman about writing for Zombies, Run.

The Zombies, Run! app chooses songs from whatever playlist you feed it, and in that post, I talk about how my favorite moments are the ones when something comes up that’s wildly inappropriate for the narrative.

Today’s episode was filled with those awesome moments.

First, just as a friend has gone gray (turned into a zombie) and I’m fleeing from them, my playlist urged me to “Let It Go.”

Then, just another character was revealed to have secret zombie blood inside them, I was told “Something has changed within me. Something is not the same.”

And then a traitor was unmasked to strains of, “Don’t bring me bad news, no bad news, I don’t need none of your bad news today.”

And this is why I run from zombies.

Along the way, I’m pondering the fact that said traitor’s unmasking was utterly expected, and yet nonetheless satisfying. The discovery isn’t the only thing that makes a reveal satisfying–this is a craft thing worth thinking about some more.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
09 April 2014 @ 05:27 pm

So, you all know by now that I’m a huge fan of Zombies, Run! right? That app that’s been keeping me running (or, this month, getting me back to running) by (in theory) giving me something to run from while (actually) making me want to know what happens next so badly I have no choice but to run? That app that I first downloaded because I thought it was had clever gimmick but kept playing because it’s really well written and has all sorts of cool and compelling story things going on? That app I geek out about to pretty much anyone who will stand still long enough to listen?

Yeah, that app.

Well, season 3 starts up this month, and I can finally tell you that …

… I wrote a guest episode!

I had so much fun writing this, you have no idea. It turns out writing about running from zombies is as much fun as actually running from zombies. Who knew? And the thought of other Runner 5s getting to run to it just fills me with glee.

I won’t say anything else now, except that I was a Girl Scout for 12 years and a Girl Scout leader for 8 years and these things just might have had a … teeny tiny bit of influence on the episode.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
31 March 2014 @ 11:22 am

“Some people find this hard,” the rabbi warned us, as my brother and sister and I stood by my father’s grave.

He didn’t tell us, as he had at the funeral home, that this meant we didn’t have to do it. Not directly.

He’d told us a lot about the things we didn’t have to do. We didn’t have to follow the casket from the car to the grave. We didn’t have to watch that casket be lowered into the earth. And, yes, didn’t have to put the ritual shovelful of earth onto the casket once it lowered. All things, he explained, that many people found hard.

Through it all, my siblings and I stared at him dumbfounded. We were supposed to avoid doing things because they were hard? As if following, lowering, and shoveling were any harder than burying one’s father in the first place—a father who had never seen his children truly, who confused giving gifts with giving love, who I’d spent years trying to please and trying to reach until finally, in self-defense, I’d given up to protect myself?

As if we got to skip feeling the hard things if we skipped doing the hard things? Even then, we all knew better. We would have helped carry the casket, too, had we not been told that wasn’t allowed for liability reasons.

So after we assured the rabbi, yet again, that of course we wanted to perform this final ritual act, he went on to explain that putting dirt on a grave fell under its own special category of lovingkindness, because it was one of the few favors that could never be repaid.

Or even, I would think later, that we could hope might be repaid, because with my father, issues of reciprocity between parent and child, of the gap between how he thought he acted toward us and how he did act, had always been complicated.

But just then I waited, while my brother threw one shovelful into the grave, and then a second. I took the shovel in my hands in turn. The dirt was surprisingly light, and the tactile act of throwing it in, of hearing it thunk onto the wooden casket, was satisfying, necessary. I sent a second shovelful after the first. I could have kept going, could have lost myself in this deeply physical task and seen it through, but instead I stepped back, letting my sister take a turn as well.

And then I spent some time standing silent by that open grave, by that lowered casket, by all the things we were told we didn’t need to do, thinking about how while the rabbi had been right about other things that day, he’d been wrong about this, because I did need it. These rituals are here for a reason, after all.

I rode back to my father’s house in silence, too, but unlike the days before the burial, it wasn’t a turbulent sort of silence. It was a peaceful, grounded sort of silence, a transitional sort of silence, the sort of silence that let me know I was passing through something, into someplace new.

And now, a few days and a second plane ride later, I’m home.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.