Back in the States for 7 days today; such a relief. Things I’ll never take for granted again: being understood anywhere I go. Being able to read street signs/food labels/menus/drink labels/grocery store lane descriptions/absolutely anything in writing. REAL SIT-DOWN TOILETS. Publicly-provided toilet paper (that you can FLUSH; in China you were expected to deposit it — USED — in little baskets in the stall where you squat over a foul-smelling urine-splattered hole in the often sticky floor. You can smell the bathrooms from down the hall). Proper sanitation. Drinkable water. NOT having sugar in everything edible (this was puzzling to me; nearly all types of regular food were sweetened, but proper Chinese “desserts” were not especially sweet. ? Not happy about that one, as I do not have a sweet-tooth) Regular transportation on college campuses. WHY NO BUS? The campus was sprawling. NORMAL sun. Also normal temperatures; every day was close to 100F. NO UBIQUITOUS CAMERAS. God, there were FOUR in my classroom alone: One behind me up in the corner, one facing me from the opposite wall as I taught, and two inside darkened glass domes on the ceiling. Seriously, the video surveillance was of ridiculous proportions.
Add to this list: Not being literally pushed out of the way and/or stared at (people are openly rude this way & I got sick of it fast. Keep your distance and mind your business, k? The American is not likely to be friendly about it if you don’t.) Regular American food. PROPER REFRIGERATION — why is nothing actually kept cold in China? Almost never could I get a cold glass of anything; public sources of drinkable water were BOILING HOT. For real. When it was a hundred damn degrees, we sit down inside the unairconditioned restaurant and someone hands me a glass of something at a rolling boil? My most improper sweat-dripping American instinct was to throw it at them. Everything they call “cold” is actually room-temperature, and because no site is properly air-conditioned (which means, China, at an ambient temp of *less* than 78.8, the universal “A/C setting” there–though I think this one might have to do with energy consumption, which was a very real and ever-present issue everywhere I went ah AH, that reminds me: CENTRAL AIR. Also normal hot-water heaters not kept in the room where you shower oh God THE SHOWER… BATHTUBS and/or FLOOR RIDGES TO KEEP THE REST OF THE ROOM FROM BECOMING A STANDING-WATERLOGGED barely-draining saturated mess that leaked out of the bathroom in the direction of my bedroom–WHY no shower curtains or proper drainage? I grew to dread showering because of the standing-water filling the bathroom thing. I should have gotten a picture of the mess it made.
Also high on the list: Removing the heads from things from the sea you expect to eat so as not to have to have them watch you do it; and not witnessing others’ consumption of all parts of crustaceans, including the shells (and heads and legs and antennae and eyes and even internal organs). TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT, OMG–never again will I begrudge a traffic cop his duty. Proper traffic laws. It’s a life-threatening hazard in a very real way, the lawlessness on the road in China. People just ride anything–bikes, mopeds, 3-wheel electric tricycles, hoverboards, sequeways, some kind of single-person electric car things, all of it in any and all states of disrepair, in both directions, right in the lanes with the real traffic. There is almost no discernible flow at the margins and people just don’t care who’s in their way. You just pull out wherever you please anytime, pretty much. You really don’t want to be a pedestrian in Beijing.
SO. It’s good to be home, where I can just drive down the street. And don’t have to scan my faculty ID or face at every entrance and exit.
Which brings me to the real purpose of this entry–back to writing, and to discuss things I’d really like to discuss, my real inspiration and the things all of my fiction ideas are born from… which are of non-existent interest to absolutely anyone else.
I have also determined that such content is important enough to*me*, even if it’s me alone, to keep track of it in a journal like this. Anyone else may skip such entries. Many years ago I abandoned the practice of keeping a mostly-daily journal because I found myself wasting so much time repeating myself in ways that were completely inconsequential. It was such a waste of time and attention, and I’ve never regretted pulling the plug on that practice… but with the “extranea” entries, I’ll be sort of venturing back into that region some in that though the nature of the entries themselves will be thoroughly self-indulgent to a degree that will likely be coma-inducing for any other readers.
But it’s such a prevalent source of inspiration to me, the source of virtually all of my ideas. Science; specifically math and biochemistry though primarily neurochemistry & neuroscience questions. I think it’s a particular weakness in my own work that I’m forever trying to work out the detailed mechanisms of all the parts of my plot in advance of making decisions about courses of events… a very scientific mindset that really has nearly no business in a work of fiction. It can be stultifying to progress. Nevertheless, it’s how I work.
I’ve set about revising the end of the novel in a significant way, big changes that shouldn’t take too long to finish, as they mostly involve removing some scenes and replacing them with mostly already-written stuff. I also need to rebegin the querying in earnest. I look at my Excel spreadsheet of submissions, and the embarrassing truth is that I’ve barely begun. I’ve sent a total of 12 or 13 queries in the past 16 months or so… barely a first step. I have an expanding list.
Therefore… back to work.