Snuffy Larue's Spy Files


May 25th, 2015

to mark a day

My father, David Reisman, passed on Saturday evening, May 23, in the nursing home where he's been for the last few years in Machias, Maine. My brother and his wife, who live up there, were with him. He'd been declining sharply in the last few weeks, nonresponsive, not interested in food.

My brother wrote a thoughtful obituary. Things I've been remembering: he taught me to make eggs scrambled with peppers and onions when I was around 10; he loved photography and the quality of light. Quite a few of the older pictures I've posted were ones he took. As my brother's obituary mentions, he loved poetry and language. He was, for a good portion of his life, very well read. I'm sure his love of language is in part responsible for my own.

When I was small, he called me pookie and sometimes carried me on his shoulders. One summer in Maine, on Long Lake in Naples, when I was four or five, I remember asking him what made the diamonds on the water when the sun was coming up. He gave me the scientific explanation.

He took me to two plays in Philadelphia that I remember well, Fiddler on the Roof and Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. He loved movies and I have very early memories of seeing movies, too. When he and my mother were in the process of getting divorced, when I was six and half or seven, they for some reason thought it was a good idea to take me to see The Andromeda Strain. Then we went for pie. I haven't much liked virus stories since. Intellectual, liberal east coast Jews, my parents.

He also loved eating out and took us to both Chinese and Japanese restuarants in downtown Philadelphia when I was small (my siblings are six and seven years older), in the late 1960s. I remember these experiences, little visual details of them, vividly. Memory being what it is, who knows, but I still appreciate these bits and pictures of experience.

My Dad was never too thrilled with what I wrote; the refrain, which I know quite a few others have heard from a father, concerned when I was going to write something serious, i.e., literary realism. He did once compliment my writing by saying I would have made a good lawyer (his own profession, which was not really the thing he had wanted to do, but the thing he was required and expected to do as a son of an immigrant father and second generation immigrant (I think) mother.)

His own mother, for whom I was named, died when he was 16, of leukemia. He once told me that life was suffering; in retrospect, he was perhaps being darkly humorous, but I was a teenager and it made me very sad for him. There were a couple of years when I lived alone with my Dad, between his second and third marriages. I always felt like we were two people who didn't understand how, and couldn't manage, to have the relationship we were supposed to have, some sort of father-daughter thing that eluded us, that we were both too damaged to engage properly. We were like strangers, trying, always trying.

But I loved him, and I know he loved me, and he honestly tried, and did as many good things for me and my sister and brother as he could.

Here he is in 2007, in Buffalo.

And a couple from a trip my brother, sister, and I took him on, to Philadelphia, to visit our old house and Fairmount Park, the places of my childhood.

May 22nd, 2015


Flashback Friday, instead of TbT. Mom (pretty hep outfit), me, and Lisa. Fairmount Park, probably. (Philadelphia) I'm probably five or six. So it was around 1968-9. This has been your historical moment.


May 7th, 2015

Ephemera of ephemera, a 2009 spiderweb, 2006 sand tracks, & me in the first year of grad school, 1990.

no titlewhat made these?

April 9th, 2015

or, growing lotuses

Throwback Thursday, special edition.

Me, as a young science fiction and fantasy lover. Or, portrait of the speculative fiction writer as a kid.

I've been a science fiction and fantasy fan since I was a toddler soaking in Star Trek, the original series, and believing tribbles were real at four years old. As most avid readers do, I sought out what I wanted and it was, by and large from a very young age, speculative stories (with a leavening of mystery), that hodge podge, cephaloid-armed armageddon of work that spills out messily from under the science ficton, fantasy, horror, and literary, umbrella(s). I loved language, I loved wonder, I loved possibility, and I loved a well told story--page turner married to a drunken spirit of poetry was and is my ideal.

I also loved and sought out movies and television shows with any whiff of the skiff about them. But while I was a 'fan' in that sense of the word, I had no notion of fandom and did not actually encounter it until I went to Clarion West--after grad school, writing fellowships, and a masters in creative writing (a degree of questionable use). Here were people, finally, who loved a lot of the things I'd spent my life thus far loving. I was more formally introduced to fandom as a phenomenon when I went to my first convention after Clarion West.

It was an odd experience, not entirely enjoyable at all, those first few conventions. It was all so familiar, but I was kind of an outsider, because most of these people knew one another and had for years. Being suddenly an outsider with respect to the enthusiasms and loves that had, for much of life, constituted my safest, happiest place, was disorienting.

And the thing is, with respect to my reading and other media loves and enthusiams, I have pretty much always gone my own way. Awards are cool; they can be helpful in clueing one in to good stuff one may not have otherwise known about. Often, however and also, award lists have left me kind of scratching my head, because I check out the work and it's, nope, not for me. That said, as a SFWA member, I have nominated for the Nebulas, and voted, and have, in general, been glad to see more works I find interesting and worthwhile on the lists in the last handfuls of years. I can almost never afford to go to World Con and so have only participated in the Hugos twice.

I wish...well; I feel bad for everyone in fandom, because there are a lot of lovely people of good will and their award has been hijacked by asshats. (if you have no clue what I'm talking about and you care at all, just search on Hugo award and you'll find it)

The only award I ever really dreamed of getting is the Mythopoeic, because the writers I most love seem to get that one. But my parameters and measures of the thing called a writing career, of success, expectations, and awards, have been much squished and squashed by life and its viscissitudes. (The SNL lowered expectations ditty plays in my mind.) I will have a dayjob until I retire (or get disability, given current health stuff), so a lot of the concerns of writers who have to make a living off their books are not ones I feel like taking on board. Since the big SFF awards only seldom seem to love what I love and strive for, they have never loomed with great relevance. Yes, like any writer, I wish my work was more recognized, taken up, published and enjoyed, and awards are one way to support that. But I would, ultimately, rather keep writing what I most want to write, eke out my little career, and enjoy my little byways and side roads away from the madding crowd.

I keep thinking, for perhaps obvious reasons, of Katherine Dunn, who I was lucky to have as one of my Clarion teachers, reading from a work in process at the weekly Clarion reading series. The scene she read was one of the most powerful, gripping, depth charge in the mind creating bits of a novel I have ever heard. I have wanted to read the book from which she was reading many times since then (and this was 20 years ago, now) and it has never yet appeared. I remember commiserating about it with Lucius Shepard a couple years later.

We're here, and then we go. I would rather think about that amazing passage, work on my own twisty stories, celebrate, wherever I find them, beauty, kindness, and wonder wrestled from pain, loss, and ugliness--would rather do that than give any internal real estate to the asshats. 

April 3rd, 2015


Speaking of guilty pleasures, or not terribly literary or art-filmic pleasures for which I don't really feel any guilt, I give you the Fast and Furious movies. This little paean addresses some of what it is about these movies that gets me. Though I'm not young and didn't "grow up with them," I took the Fast and Furious movies to heart right from the first. Nope, don't love cars or car culture, either. But diverse, found family, adrenaline-fueled capers, crazy stupid adventure (and let's not leave out the lovely lovely potential subtextual slash of Dom/Brian), yeah, it's a sweet spot. I'm so there for that, that I already have a ticket for the seventh movie on this, its opening weekend.

My enthusiasm for these movies generally surprises my friends when they come upon it.

I'm complicated.


Between these hubs of human life, there was only sea and the web of float tracks on an endless beading of amber bladder bubbles, stretching in all directions. The sectors—they had names, but I generally couldn’t remember one from another—were strung like gaudy baubles on the lace ribbon of tracks around the world. Except where there was no sea at all, just dust and the empty; they say there’s towns there, too, and nomad bands, but it’s just what they say.

-- from "The Chambered Eye" in Rayguns Over Texas

Come hear me read from this story, E. J. Fischer read from his recent Asimovs cover novella, "The New Mother," and Janalyn Guo read from her work tomorrow, Saturday April 4, 7-8pm, A Speculative Evening at Malvern Books, 613 West 29th Street.

Here's a flyer!

March 25th, 2015


Two items:

Coming up next week, Saturday, April 4, A Speculative Evening of readings at Malvern Books, with Eugene Fischer reading from his cover story in the current Asimov's, "The New Mother;" Janalyn Guo reading from her work, which she calls "little markers in time and space;" and me, reading...something good, I promise. 7-8 pm, at 613 West 29th Street here in Austin. Come and be transported! Buy books! Socialize!

And, today's post from Terri Windling, which is a little bit of perfect, Among the Pines

March 8th, 2015

a little essay in tweets

from Maria Dahvana Headley. My favorite bit: "Nor do we have to have a world where women's intellect & worldview is treated as something for only other women to be impacted by."

February 19th, 2015

(no subject)

For TBT, seestra and mother in 2008, reflected in my mom's glasses, something scary. I don't remember what it was, so our memories were probably wiped by some terrifying supernatural visitation.

On the recommendation of this same seestra, I recently watched the film LUCY, directed by Luc Besson and starring Scarlett Johansson. Another movie that was previewed and sold misleadingly, and wrongly. I liked it a lot. Thanks, seestra!

February 5th, 2015

(no subject)

Mesmerizing. Also, one world, one planet, yo.

Article about it: 

January 23rd, 2015

for why we write...

From Terri Windling's blog entry for today, Stories that Matter, a LeGuin quote:

"A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper." Ursula K LeGuin

And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper. -- Yes, this is one of the things that made me want to write novels as a kid--to do for others some of what stories and language deployed as art did for me.

January 22nd, 2015

not just the spar

You know that hoary old bit of writing advice, write what you know? This is about the ship from which that spar is cut and so unusefully bashed about.

Here is a quote from an e-mail an acquaintance sent me from Antarctica, where she is working in a lab:

Jessica: I read your book, "The Z Radiant," on the plane. It was fantastic. ... I wanted to tell you that your description of Ingress is pretty much exactly what it's like when the first planes start flying into Antarctica after the winter, except it's only been 6 months instead of 26 years.  Did you already know that?  It's an event that people either look forward to or dread, and although there's no tracking the planes on screens unless you're at the ice runway, most people are outdoors or at windows watching for the plane lights (they start flying in before the sun's really up, so it's always dark).  When the planes land there's a time delay before the effects are felt on base - the effects being new people and fresh food - but everyone on base is waiting for it.  Exactly the same.

This, of course, made me super happy. Because it meant I did part of my job really well. Have I ever been to Antarctica for this event--or any event like it? No. And certainly I've never been to Ingress, the opening of the wormhole that lets the rest of the inhabited universe visit the planet Nentesh once a generation or so, because I made it up. What made it real?

Henry James talks about precisely that in this excerpt from his The Art of Fiction --

It is equally excellent and inconclusive to say that one must write from experience; to our supposititious aspirant such a declaration might savour of mockery. What kind of experience is intended, and where does it begin and end? Experience is never limited and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web, of the finest silken threads, suspended in the chamber of consciousness and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind; and when the mind is imaginative--much more when it happens to be that of a man of genius--it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations. The young lady living in a village has only to be a damsel upon whom nothing is lost to make it quite unfair (as it seems to me) to declare to her that she shall have nothing to say about the military. Greater miracles have been seen than that, imagination assisting, she should speak the truth about some of these gentlemen. I remember an English novelist, a woman of genius, telling me that she was much commended for the impression she had managed to give in one of her tales of the nature and way of life of the French Protestant youth. She had been asked where she learned so much about this recondite being, she had been congratulated on her peculiar opportunities. These opportunities consisted in her having once, in Paris, as she ascended a staircase, passed an open door where, in the household of a pasteur, some of the young Protestants were seated at table round a finished meal. The glimpse made a picture; it lasted only a moment, but that moment was experience. She had got her impression, and she evolved her type. She knew what youth was, and what Protestantism; she also had the advantage of having seen what it was to be French; so that she converted these ideas into a concrete image and produced a reality. Above all, however, she was blessed with the faculty which when you give it an inch takes an ell, and which for the artist is a much greater source of strength than any accident of residence or of place in the social scale. The power to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implication of things, to judge the whole piece by the pattern, the condition of feeling life, in general, so completely that you are well on your way to knowing any particular corner of it--this cluster of gifts may almost be said to constitute experience, and they occur in country and in town, and in the most differing stages of education. If experience consists of impressions, it may be said that impressions are experience, just as (have we not seen it?) they are the very air we breathe. Therefore, if I should certainly say to a novice, "Write from experience, and experience only," I should feel that this was a rather tantalising monition if I were not careful immediately to add, "Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!"


Imagining into things, and bringing to that endeavor everything you know, have glimpsed, felt, sensed, that's one of the writer's main (and for me, most excellently fun) jobs.

January 15th, 2015

(no subject)

Another throwback Thursday, another little story: I remember telling everyone else to go on ahead on this hike--I wanted to be alone in the woods for a little while. Clearly, my instructions were not followed.


January 8th, 2015

Throwback Thursday - my first cat, Ladyjane, brought to me as a kitten by my mother when she came to visit. (We named him before his balls dropped.) I was seven or eight. My father was not particularly pleased. Ladyjane looked very much like my current oldest cat Aristotle, or Aristotle like Ladyjane, I suppose, with the same cuddly, affectionate nature.

December 31st, 2014

(no subject)

And my only wish, be kind, only be kind.

nye 2014

December 18th, 2014

TBT, jews at xmas edition

I have a fond, compound memory of moments like this one, watching the fire with an almost autistic fascination, especially when it got down to embers (so sure there was something alive in them), with my mother at my back; all of those moments would have taken place before I was seven. The dog's name was Lisa.

November 20th, 2014

When I am having a hard time, I tend not to engage social media much; I have been having a very hard time lately. The physical depredations and ills associated with scleroderma are very much kicking my ass. While none of them taken separately are life-threatening--though my lungs are kind of fucked, and, you know, breathing is nice--all of them together: seriously diminishing my quality of life. I am so angry at my body, angry, exhausted trying to deal with it all while working full time and living alone, defeated because there's very little energy, time, or focus left over for writing and I start to feel very pointless when I don't write. Tired of pain, just, tired.

I've had some planned blog posts, on writing-related topics, but right now, this is all there is. I cannot huddle up with a partner or physically-present family member to deal with this stuff, so I guess I'd better write about it, because huddling up alone with it is making me want to die. Last night's thought: move to Oregon, live until all three of my current cats have finished happy, well-cared for lives, and then check myself out of this increasingly icky and unhappy mortal coil. (I wouldn't check out without honoring my responsibilities, and I wouldn't leave my beloved kitties to suffer--really, I wrote a story about this stuff, "Brilliance.")

What I pictured at nine, ten, eleven, my first years of writing fiction: a life writing novels and seeing them published and out in the world, being read and disappeared into the way I loved to disappear into books, giving back some of what books and their authors gave me. Despite having some talent with words, voice, and yes, novel-writing, it hasn't played out that way. Only one of my books has so far seen the light of publication, I can't seem to get traction or hit it right in the publishing world, I am so far from being a publicist or public persona that I am just not able to compete in the current reality. So, perhaps the life I envisioned, though I've worked diligently for it and at it for a major portion of my 51 years, just isn't going to happen. I don't have the support, the chops, the luck, and now, the energy. I'm not saying I give up, I will keep writing and sending shit out, but I have seriously lost faith in it ever coming to anything even remotely resembling a satisfying career--like say, more than one novel published, a readership, some reward and recognition to buoy me up now and then...

I keep thinking of that Beckett quote, "I can't go on, I'll go on." But, lord, I'm ready to be uploaded to my robot body. This one SUCKS.

October 30th, 2014

Throwback Thursday, Halloween edition, six, I think. I remember really liking this costume. I also remember how much fun it was being out on the loose into the twilight and evening with no parents about--just older siblings and a gang of other kids. Not something kids get to do now. (Also, this polaroid is remarkably unfaded; I think it's magic.)


October 9th, 2014

the wild grace within

Gleaned from today's post at Terri Windling's blog:

We need to be able to taste grace and know again that we desire it.  - Barbara Kingsolver

The rest of the quote is quite worthwhile as well, on wild places.

We need to be able to taste grace and know again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours...

I really do intend to post more here...but the quick & dirty posting that takes place onTwitter & FB & Instagram is so easy. In the news of me, writing, of course, working on a new novel, one that I am alternately excited about and completely sure is utter muck; but it keeps coming, so I keep at it. Very little news on the publishing front. Things eventually coming out, a story I cowrote with the lovely Steven Utley not long before he died will appear in some future issue of PS Publishing's Postscripts, and I have a flash piece in an Australian anthology evocatively titled 100 Lightnings. Will I ever sell another novel, one of the several going begging for love right now? Who knows.

Current reading is rereading, Martha Wells' Raksura novels, which are a happy place for me.

August 7th, 2014

A throw-back Thursday pic for the day before my 51st bday, me, excited about the opportunity to have baby animals slobber on my hands:

August 2nd, 2014

Alyx tagged me in the Writing Process Blog Tour/Writer Process Blog Tour (go read hers), an explanation of which I am snurching from Peter Watts: “It’s kind of an authorial chain letter. An author receives a series of questions… answers them on their blog; passes them on in turn to three other authors downstream.”

What Am I Working On?
A novel I’ve been circling for many years, which I’ve made several starts at, some of them getting quite lengthy before abandonment; I always knew I’d have to get a bit older before I was ready for this one, as it’s rooted deeply in autobiographical stuff of childhood—though it’s fantasy and not actual autobiography. Now, having attained half a century, it seems maybe I’ve got the right amount of distance and experience. It feels, anyway, like I’ve found the right voice and angle of incidence for the book, which I never had before.

How Does My Work Differ From Others In Its Genre?
My knee-jerk reaction to that question is ‘I don’t know.’ My slightly more thoughtful answer is that perhaps the voice of my fiction has a little more love of language and poetry than some; perhaps it’s painterly and highly visual—these things have been said. Landscape, world building, and imagery come first to me, and grappling with the amazingness inherent in our human senses being able to apprehend the universe, from the intimate to the cosmic is, I think, one of the strongest muscles in my writing.

On the other hand, my first novel has also been described as a page-turner, which was gratifying, since I aim for a melding of page-turner and art. Here’s what some other people have had to say.

Why Do I Write What I Do?
For joy, for solace, for exploration, for expansion of possibility and understanding, out of necessity, for love, to keep the lights on inside the house of me—and to give to others something of what fiction by beloved authors has been giving to me since I was young and found all of the above in books.

How Does My Writing Process Work?
With novels, I write a lot of notes, asking myself questions and answering them at length, about everything from the world and characters to the theme and what’s important in the work—why it should exist. Bits of prose begin to collect, too, moments between characters, breaths of landscape and the air of the world. I outline only loosely, and though I generally know where the story and characters will be by the end, the middle has a lot of room for twists and turns informed by the characters and the world. My first drafts are solid in places, more like scaffolding and framework in others.

Recently I’ve gone back, after years of first-drafting into the computer, to writing the first draft longhand and second drafting it into the computer. Once I have a whole draft, I go back into the rough parts, then over the whole beast once or twice more before getting a couple of first readers.

It is now my profane duty to tag more hapless writers for this three-hour tour, and so, I tag Patrice Sarath and Martha Wells (if either of you have already been tagged, forgive me). I’m tagging only two.
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