The reading I’m doing for my writing.

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We are all cautiously optimistic that the weather will improve: the forecast is calling for temperatures above freezing. The sun came out yesterday afternoon after several days of cloud, and I swear, we all wanted to rip off our cardigans and go outside and expose our bare arms to the sky.

I’ve put the fantasy story to one side (it was not accepted for Women Destroy Fantasy, alas, so it’ll get another round of revising before I submit it anywhere else) and I’m poking around with the continuation of my cyborg story. I think it’s developing into a book…I have a plan, an idea, and I’m working on it.

And I’m reading David Harvey’s The New Imperialism on the bus in the morning as part of that poking around (no bus stop reading yet, as it’s still too dark). It’s a book I picked up a while ago, and I’ve finally plucked it off the shelf and settled myself down to read through it – looks like it’ll be an interesting one. His ideas about the molecular processes of capital accumulation have caught my eye. He says:

The geographical processes of capital accumulation, on the other hand, are much more diffuse and less amenable to explicit political decision-making.. Individual (usually business, financial, and corporate) agency is everywhere at work and the molecular form makes for multiple forces that bump into each other, sometimes counteracting and at other times reinforcing certain aggregate trends. It is hard to manage these processes except indirectly, and then often only after the fact of these established trends…

But even in authoritarian states or those states dubbed ‘developmental’ by virtue of their strong inner connections between state policies, finance, and industrial development, we find the molecular processes often escape control. If I decide to buy a Toyota rather than a Ford, or see a Hollywood as opposed to a Bollywood movie, what does this do the US balance of payments? If I transfer money from New York to needy relatives in Lebanon or Mexico what does this do to the financial balance between nations. It seems impossible to anticipate, and difficult even to keep track of the flows of capital and of money through the vagaries of the credit system. All sorts of psychological intangibles, such as investor or consumer confidence, enter in to the picture as determinant forces… The best we can do is to anxiously monitor the data after the event, in the hope we can spot trends, second-guess what the market will do next, and apply some corrective to keep the system in a reasonably stable condition.

In an interview about the book, he says:

One of the things I would point out here is that for a long time I’ve been talking about the special or geographical dynamics of capital accumulation, and what I call uneven geographical development, how these molecular processes of capital flow, moving from one part of the country to another, build new spaces and geographical concentrations even within countries.

The crux of the story has to do with technology that tries to see the trends in molecular accumulation of capital before and as they are happening – it does not always go well. But the more I’m reading about things like imperialism, the more the story is growing to be about corporate imperialism – governance by economics, rather than states. It’s an undercurrent, I think, but it’s pulling itself together as something that will be tied up with the science fiction in the story. I’m beginning to see that you can’t write SF that’s just about future tech and whatnot…you’ve got to expand out, to see the systems of people and culture that are part of it, too.

And so, as is often the case, reading one book means that I’ve suddenly realized that I have quite a few more to read as background for the story.


The sounds of the Banff Centre.

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Here are some of the sounds and sights of the Banff Centre.



There was an art project. The artists came by our tables at lunch and asked us to come and help make noise for their piece; they gave us mallets and asked us to bang on their glass sculptures. One of the musicians brought a violin, and the rest of us made a strange, eerie concert.


There are the ravens and the chickadees, and the sound of the snow under your feet when you go for a walk.


And the little bonfire we had after a night hike (which I’ll write more about soon).


Monday.

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Banff

Well. I had a lovely sleep last night in the hotel, which was unexpected. The night was quite silent and the pillow comfortable, but isn’t it always a shock when you wake up in a hotel room in the morning and realize that you’ve had a good sleep?

Me and ice sculpture.

I went out for a walk in the morning, and happened across another lone tourist trying to take a photo by an ice sculpture, we swapped cameras. It’s the code of single female travellers: when we see one of our number taking a photo, offer to do a picture.

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I also bought myself an agate necklace and some earrings. Because when in Banff, buy something to remind you of Banff months later, when you need it the most. I asked the hotel if I might have a half hour extension on the check out, and they kindly agreed, so it gave me time to have that last bit of wander around. Then up the hill to the Banff Centre!

The room is lovely and spacious, and though there is a large desk against the wall, I have settled into a table by the window. I called a florist in town and ordered myself flowers (something alpine, please, I told them, and no lilies) and they arrived later in the afternoon. It’s a lovely big arrangement with pussy willows and pine sprigs, so I get a whiff of pine from time to time as I work.

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It took a chunk of the afternoon to get unpacked and settled and then to set up my desk for work. I’ve got a plan for the week. Thursday is ‘starry night walk and bonfire’ night, according to Community Services, so I’ve signed up for that, too. Bonfire in the mountains? Oh, yes, please!

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Hopefully this is the start of a really productive week. Now – to dinner!


Sunday morning.

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Sunrise.

A particularly lovely sunrise this morning. I put myself to bed early last night, and woke up just after seven this morning. Which, frankly, feels very wrong for a Sunday morning. I came out in the dark to start the coffee and found both cats sitting nervously by a window. Looking outside, looking at each other, looking back outside again.

Boy, that is a creepy way to start the morning. I suspect they saw one of the resident owls, which always makes them especially concerned. There’s no point in telling them that the owl can’t get inside. These are animals who are outsmarted by the red dot from a laser pointer every single time. So I looked out the window, made appropriate noises, and made the coffee.

I’m working on finishing my cyborg story today. I’m hoping to submit it to that Women Destroy SF call at Lightspeed. If the cats are to be believed, I should be checking over my shoulder for the owl as I write.


Monday.

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A lovely, quiet few days on holiday. I really like my job, but oh, I have not missed my cubicle at all. We had our cold weather, and yes, it was very cold. Yesterday brought a chinook, so it reversed almost right away. Today? Cold and misty, snowy and rather dark outside. I’ve been tucked into a Criminal Minds marathon that I stumbled across on tv; the PVR is recording episodes faster than I can watch them.

I’ve enjoyed being home. I’ve been reading a bit, eating too many chocolates and shortbread, and sleeping in. Heavenly. I’ve also been doing some research and writing notes for a story I’m planning for the Women Ruin SF call for submissions, and I’ll start writing it soon (if I can peel myself away from the tv marathon, of course!). My paperwork for the first two Banff Centre residencies arrived, and so I’ve got that for motivation.

Hard to believe that it’s almost the end of the year, isn’t it?


A lovely day at the museum.

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Another lovely day in Banff. I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn…well, quite a bit before it, actually. For some reason, I keep waking up around 3:30 or 3:45 and thinking that it’s time to get up. I’m not sure why. Maybe there are security staff doing rounds then? I go back to sleep, and then I’m up around 7:15ish. Which is fine, because the ginormous breakfast buffet starts at 7:30.

Same thing today. I had a very nice breakfast and sat and talked with two other writers. Then back to the studio to sit and work on revisions. It’s been quite incredible to see things clicking into place with this novel – I’m quite surprised at how nicely it’s coming together. Then to lunch (I am starving hungry while I am here, and not for lack of food. I think it’s the altitude…).

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After lunch, I went down to the town to the Whyte Museum. There’s an exhibition of landscape and wildlife painting and sculpture spanning Yellowstone to the Yukon, and it closes after Thursday. It was lovely! Pictures were allowed – no flash, but it was a pleasant surprise to discover that I could take pictures at all. There were a lot of different artists represented, but I found myself drawn to paintings done by Carl Runguis again and again:

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

I think what I like best about Rungius’ paintings is that he uses bold, vibrant colour. There were a number of paintings by Dwayne Harty, but they tended to be too pastel for my liking…too soft, I think, and when they were near or next to the Rungius paintings, they seemed washed out by them. There’s something that feels very vital and alive about the Rungius pictures. I spent quite a lot of time looking at them. Rungius kept a studio in Banff and painted here every year until he died, and apparently his ashes were scattered on Tunnel Mountain (which is where the Banff Centre is now) because he so liked the view.

I can definitely understand that. I really love the view here, too.

After that? I went for a walk around the town. I stopped into the Christmas store (there is one) and spotted a really nice tree skirt. And on sale, too! Then wandered around, and as I was heading back, stopped – on impulse – into the Atmosphere store. I’ve been trying to keep an eye out for decent snow pants. They’re awfully hard to find. There are a great many pairs of snow pants available for purchase in Banff, but quite a lot of them are for skiing, and they’re not meant to be worn over work pants (as I plan to). And they are really, really expensive. Imagine my surprise and delight to find real, honest-to-goodness snow pants that are meant to be worn over something at the Atmosphere store! Frankly, I’m surprised that I didn’t start jumping up and down. They were on sale, too, which just made the find that much better. I am so, so pleased. Really pleased. So pleased that I’ve already tried them on twice this evening, just to admire them.

And that was the day. Lamb shoulder for dinner with a bacon au jus (it was incredible) and garlic mashed potatoes. And the Banff Centre chef made me a special bowl of zucchini, as the buffet dish had been cooked with onion in it. I’m quite grateful to them – this is the second time I’ve has to ask for special vegetable at dinner, on account of a food intolerance. Both times, I expected to be given plain, steamed zucchini, and both times, I’ve been quite surprised: tonight was zucchini that had been sauteed and then grilled, and the other time, zucchini with lemon pepper seasoning and a little bit of oil. And both times, they’ve been very cheerful and pleased to help and haven’t treated the request like a bother. It’s quite a relief for me.

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Tomorrow? A writing day. I’m near the end of this residency, so I will spend the next couple of days working on the novel manuscript. Taking it easy for a few days, though, and having a break for the wildlife safari tour yesterday and the museum today was a very good idea.


Wildlife safari.

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With the revisions I’d planned to do while I was here done, I opted for a light work day. As in a mostly non working day. As in a ‘I purchased a ticket on the ‘wildlife safari’ tour day.’ I did. I totally did.

Discover Banff Tours runs these. The tour bus comes to pick you up, and then you drive around the back roads of Banff for two hours, hoping to spot wildlife. The tour guide also gives you a talk about wildlife management in Banff, the history of Parks Canada, and things like predator control and the wacky things bears get up to (sometimes bad things, just so we’re clear).

It’s quite nice, actually. We drove around and saw an elk:

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He was very busy eating and did not look at us.

Some very photogenic deer:

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Then we drove up Mount Norquay (the road up there is kind of scary, so I tried not to look down or imagine the tour bus plunging off the side of the mountain). The view was totally worth it. So pretty! The whole town of Banff is laid out in front of you, and there is a long, long view of the valley.

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And there were bighorn sheep. Lots of them:

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The talk given by the guide was great. Apparently bears are very persistent: if they find human food (garbage or sandwiches or what have you), they will keep coming back to the same spot for up to thirty days just to see if they can find more. And if they do, they will forget their regular foraging habits and decide to just keep on looking for food where they’ve found it before…which is quite a problem, as it brings them into contact with people and can create a dangerous situation for them. I had no idea bears were so determined, but apparently so.




I had a very nice time today!

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