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Suzy McKee Charnas
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Essays & Reviews

High up on the Hill . . .

and still walking, but more slowly than before Y2K (remember Y2K?). The air up here is thinner, and the knees creak a bit.

In other words, no matter what your email tells you (over and over) about rejuvenating powers of asparagus or sudoku puzzles, we’re still all getting older. Aging is real for everybody (never mind the face or the figure; check the hands -- hands are true).
Your energy levels start to fluctuate more widely than they used to, and to diminish overall. This means more naps, more unfinished tasks, more stuff you don’t even get around to starting or have started but may never finish.

Books. Stories. Plays.

At the same time, your other obligations increase inexorably, sometimes exponentially in quite a short time.

I mean, specifically, obligations to “physical body, maintenance of”. For me, this is not just about going to the gym, studying insanely precise Tibetan Tai Chi, and taking my vitamins. It’s also about my husband of more than 40 years, who was diagnosed a few years ago with some combination of dementias that includes Alzheimer’s Disease, still in early stages.

All this means that my creative time (time that is uninterrupted by the necessity to answer questions, nail down schedules, untangle confusions, and go-with to the doctor) is at a premium.

Moreover, when time is available, I don’t always choose to make fiction-writing use of it, and not just because of medical matters. I need more time for loafing, reading, talking with family, snoozing with one of the cats, and, sometimes, just sitting like a lump watching TV.

I take this rest time where I can find it. So it’s the writing that has to be squeezed in somewhere.

Not that my bookshelf is empty; far from it. My first novel was published in 1974 and since then, lots of my books and stories have been published [bibliography link], but more slowly lately. Here in the new century, I’m writing primarily short fiction. My major literary project is wrangling my older, out of print work back into availability on paper, electronically, or both.

It’s all good stuff, worth the effort of getting it out there again, from YA urban fantasy to a feminist, futuristic epic, to shorter stories of dark conjecture and non-fiction of several sorts -- but I cannot tell a lie: the great bulk of it was published in the last quarter of the 20th century.

And there’s something else.

One of the things you may feel move to do in your later middle age is to start looking back to assess your course: where have you come, compared to where you set out for (and just where was that, anyway)? How does the life as lived measure up against your perpetually evolving goals, and what does it signify that X was done, but Y wasn’t and may never be?

I’m definitely in that place — a little early, maybe, but as I’m a writer, there’s a lot of stuff to pull out of file drawers and folders to read.

I’ve been looking over my old day-books to get events properly placed in my memory; browsing decades’ worth of dream-journals and travel photographs; and transcribing my Peace Corps journals of the early sixties onto my computer. I love this work (although I sometimes cringe at the callow dopeyness and pomposity of my younger self).

None of this is the writing of fantasy and science fiction.
Still, it feels necessary to me to do it. So I do.
Not coincidentally, you won’t often find me trumpeting excitedly on this site about my new novel coming out next year, or a book tour, or research travels to the Galapagos Islands (though any of these things might yet happen). My news (at least for the forseeable future) will be smaller in scale and closer to home.

But it is news — sometimes news of stories, old or new. Wild ideas still come zig-zagging down the pike, and I’m not shy about taking those on. That’s the other thing: where the effortlessly renewable energy of youth used to be, I find instead a certain reckless bravado: so I make a fool of myself, so what? The sky won’t fall — at least, not on my account.

So come in, look around, see what you can find that pleases you. You’re always welcome, and you shouldn’t be troubled by too many cobwebs. To para-phrase Councillor Lindorf, a bad guy in that very F/SF opera “Les Contes d’Hoffmann*”, “Je suis vielle, mais je suis vif!”

*If you don’t know this work, I recommend that you read a synpsis of the story, and listen to one of the many fine recordings of it. There’s a character named “Schlemil”, honest (he dies). Offenbach wrote French-style “light” opera, but as a Jew living in 19th century Paris, he knew a thing or two about the Dark Side.

Discover other books by Suzy:
  The Ruby Tear My Father's Ghost Strange Seas The Kingdom of Kevin Malone The Furies Stagestruck Vampires    
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