The Editor is Retired, Long Live the Editor

the_olympic_cauldron_in_vancouverYou know Ciro, right?  The deep, rumbly voice that periodically graces the Strange Horizons poetry podcast, and filled in for me when I was moving?  The one who gets more fan mail than I do?  That Ciro? I’ve got good news.  You get more of him!

The December poetry podcast was my last as host, and Ciro has taken over for me.  This is awesome!  I had literally not changed a thing about how the final product worked since I hit a rhythm, and there was, frankly, room for improvement.  It just wasn’t going to happen with me.  Ciro, on the other hand, has already mixed up the format to make it more user-friendly (and producer-hard. Simple things on the listener end are super finicky on the back end) and I’m pretty sure it’s going to all be ass-kicking glory from here on.

I’m glad the poetry podcast is in the hands of somebody who has the time to treat it well, and I’m extremely glad that somebody is Ciro, because he’s great.  Give him a listen.

Even if you think you’re not into poetry, do it.  It’s short, so it’s a low-cost gamble that you’ll find something you like.  If you’re into flash fiction you should especially be looking at speculative poetry – the two forms have a lot going on that can inform each other.

I am still the Fiction Podcast Editor at Strange Horizons.  As of now I have no intention of ever not being the Podcast Editor at Strange Horizons.  That doesn’t actually mean I’ll never move on, just that right now I can’t foresee when/why that would be.  After three years, that’s a pretty cozy position to be in with a job.

Things Upcoming and Upcome

Want to read a story by me featuring romance, cannibalism, and Dr. Who jokes?  Then you’d probably be doing yourself a favor if you checked out the fourth volume of Unidentified Funny Objects, which came out earlier this month.

Let me tell you a funny story about this funny story.  The first volume of UFO was announced as upcoming relatively closely to when I started submitting for publication.  I sort of second-hand knew the editor, Alex Shvartsman, and he’s good folks.  Also, I like writing stories about bad things happening to good people or bad people having a good time and other light-hearted, cheerful things like that.  I can do amusing.  I am a master of sardonic.  But funny?  Not so much my thing.

At the same time, I have a raging ego the size of some continents you could mention and am more or less convinced I should be the master of all things.  So I wrote a funny story and I sent it to UFO1.  “I don’t think anybody will get your jokes,” the rejection said, which is a nice way of saying, “It wasn’t funny.”

Undaunted, lesson not learned, I did it again for UFO2.  With similar effect.  I would have done it again for UFO3, but last year was a rather full one and there just wasn’t time to write a third not funny story.  That was okay, though, because then Alex announced that UFO4 would have a theme, and it would be dark humor.  I think the word “sardonic” may even have been in one of the submission calls.  So, as all professional writers do when practicing their most finely honed craft, I cackled uproariously and began a deep study of the human condition in order to craft the most perfect, hilariously dark story I could.

That last line is a lie.  What I actually did was carry out a threat I’d made to Dr. Unicorn about immortalizing certain in-jokes in fiction, made a couple Dr. Who jokes, then got very, very stuck.  I knew how the story needed to end, there was only one acceptable ending, but I couldn’t really find a funny way to get there.  This is the problem with being a pantsing, special snowflake of a writer trying to write for a specific theme.  My muse, she’s a fickle beast.

Betrayed by my own creativity, I went for the second set of tools I have, stealing from other writers.  I stared at the story’s middle, said, “What would Charlie Jane Anders Do?” and typed my way to a finish.  A finish that was not the ending the story had to have because I’d intended my funny story to have a happy ending, but if you think about it for a minute, the actual ending is actually really, really not good.  But it was the ending I felt like writing, and the submission window had about four hours left open before it closed and gosh darnit, I’m going to get an editor to declare that I Have Written A Funny Story.

Reader, the story sold. (Obviously)

Hurray!  It only took four years, but mission accomplished, I am the master of all things, I have written a funny story!  The ending definitely isn’t a happy ending, but it’s funny!  Alex Shvartsman said so, by implication, when he bought it.  Or did he?  Here’s what he says in his foreward:

Among the twenty-three stories collected within there are horror tales with a touch of humor, such as “The Monkey Treatment” by George R. R. Martin and “Armed for You” by Anaea Lay.

Oh.  Well.  A horror tale with a touch of humor.  Nevermind then.  Not funny after all, apparently.  I guess I’ll go sulk in the…

I’m in the same sentence as GRRM?  VICTORY!

* * *

While I’m bragging, Beneath Ceaseless Skies just bought a story from me.  They’re an awesome market I’ve been trying to sneak my way into even longer than I’ve been trying to be funny.  This story has the distinction of being my first rhyming title, “The Right Bright Courier.”  It also provoked the very first time I’ve argued with an editor about a comma.  It wasn’t really an argument, actually, but still.  Me and commas.  They’re slippery little critters, aren’t they?  I usually leave their care and maintenance entirely in the editor’s hand.  Here, have a teaser to tide you over until it comes out.

The sensor feeds of our approach washed over me as I sat in Shalott‘s cocoon, guiding her with my breath and thought and anticipation. The ether roads between worlds were long and we both bore the scars of our journeys. She furled her sails and pulled them tight to her hull, then turned on her side and beached herself upon the shores. Trails of nebula dust scattered in our wake, rippling out in a cascade of color and radiation that sparkled in the depths of our shared vision. We had arrived. But she did not withdraw the cocoon. Her warm, humid breath encased me, clutching me tight.

“You will not come back to me,” she whispered in my ear.

Find me at WorldCon!

In a couple weeks I’ll be wending my way out to Spokane for Sasquan.  I’m the only one from Strange Horizons who’s going to be there, so I get to have all the Hugo nominee glory to myself. (Muahahahahaha!)  For those of you who want to stalk either me or Strange Horizons, here’s a handy schedule to help you do that thing. Please don’t be creepier than I am.

Kaffee Klatche – Anaea Lay

Thursday 10:00 – 10:45, 202B-KK4 (CC)

This is a small discussion where you get to hang out with me and around 7 other people who want to hang out with me and ask me all sorts of things.  This early, on the first day of the con, I’ll probably be in hilarious “Feels persecuted by the entire universe” mode.  You should come, or I’ll be bitter about getting up early for it.

Violence in Speculative Fiction

Thursday 16:00 – 16:45, 401C (CC)

War, torture, combat, cruelty – are physically violent conflicts necessary for good fiction What purpose does it serve? Is it getting worse? How much is too much? Do authors set personal limits?

Carol Berg, Rory Miller, Anaea Lay, Jack Campbell

Reading – Anaea Lay

Friday 10:30 – 11:00, 301 (CC)

I’m going to do it the way I usually do my readings, i.e. let the audience choose their fate and have baked goods on hand as an apology in case they choose a bad fate. You should come for the baked goods.

The Future of Short Fiction: Online Magazines Today

Saturday 14:00 – 14:45, Bays 111B (CC)

10 years ago reading original fiction online was limited to the occasional author’s web site. Now, online magazines are a major force — maybe THE major force — in publishing short fiction. The panel looks at what and why?

Scott H. Andrews, Anaea Lay, Mike Resnick, John Joseph Adams, Neil Clarke

Demigods, Chosen Ones & Rightful Heirs: Can Progress, Merit & Citizens Ever Matter in Fantasy?

Saturday 15:00 – 15:45, 300C (CC)

Science fiction often centers around meritocracies (or at least “knowledgetocracies”) but fantasy? Not so much. Or, as Dennis famously said in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “…Strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.” Has fantasy ever overcome this classic trope? Can it?

Darlene Marshall (M), Anaea Lay, Mary Soon Lee, Setsu Uzume, Katherine Addison

Autographing – Anaea Lay, Ann Leckie, Bud Sparhawk

Sunday 10:00 – 10:45, Exhibit Hall B (CC)

I’M GOING TO SPEND 45 MINUTES STANDING NEXT TO ANN LECKIE!!!! Nobody come talk to me, I will be preoccupied with being creepy.

Writers Workshop section 20

Sunday 13:00 – 16:00, 201A (CC)

You can’t get into this.  I’m just listing it here so you can see the next line.

Lori White (M), Anaea Lay, Ann Leckie, Gillian Redfearn

For the record, I totally understand if Ann shows up to the con with a pre-filled restraining order.

UFO and the Overcast, Parsecs

I’ve been bad about doing updates on things.  I’d feel bad about it, but I’m too busy doing all the things that have been keeping me from updating to indulge in human emotion, so I’ll just pile a bunch of it here.

First, I have overcome my hatred of joy, happiness, and comedy and snagged a place in Alex Shvartsman’s fourth Unidentified Funny Objects anthology.  This year’s iteration had a dark humor theme and in the forward he says what I actually did was right a horror story, but I think it’s actually a very sweet tale about dating a cannibal.  I’ll say something somewhere about this again when the anthology comes out so you can snag yourself a copy.

Also, should you feel you don’t get enough of my dulcet tones at the Strange Horizons podcast, you can listen to me slaughter so Russian like a James Bond villain over at the Overcast.  I narrated Anatoly Bellilovsky’s Of Mat and Math for them. This process included a continuation of the trend where my voice disappears right when I have a podcast obligation.  I think possibly the Podcast Editor position at Strange Horizons is cursed and if you try to do anything else your throat swells up and starts to grow things. Or I’m only foolish enough to volunteer for extra work when I’m on the verge of becoming ill.  I think the curse is more likely.

Finally, the Strange Horizons podcast was nominated for a Parsec award this year.  That was so awesome that I quietly freaked out about it for months rather than saying anything.  Woops.  The initial nominations come from fans, so I basically already won.  I mean, seriously now, I have no idea who the judges are and so I don’t really care what they think of my podcast.  But Strange Horizons fans like it enough to tell people to give us an award!  That pretty much means I’m the best thing ever, you can’t touch this, victory laps for everybody.  Or, you know, that I’m going to chew off all my finger nails between now and when the winners are announced at Dragon*Con in September.  ONE OF THESE THINGS IS TRUE.  Maybe two.

I’m going to be at WorldCon, too, and I’m all over the programming there, but I’ll post my schedule tomorrow so you can bask in…pixels.

Today I am 30

You can no longer trust me. Though I’m not entirely convinced you could before. I’ve been trying to sell out to adulthood since I was six.

I have not had a change of heart and decided that I’m desperate for marriage after all.  The extent to which my stance on marriage, as applied to me, has shifted from, “Fuck you, no,” is to acknowledge the ability to construct an elaborate hypothetical where my pragmatism would override my principals and the creep-factor.

My uterus has not staged a rebellion, taken over my brain, and left me desperate for babies. This despite me having met my sister’s offspring, an event I’ve been assured would crack my self-delusion about not wanting children. Yes, I am aware that I’m actually pretty good with kids. I’m also pretty good with strangers who ask me impertinent questions, make presumptive demands on my time, or hug me without asking. That doesn’t mean I want to be responsible for one 24/7 for 18+ years.

I have not taken over the world.  10-year-old Anaea is mildly disappointed. 12-year-old Anaea is not surprised. 15-year-old Anaea is relieved.

I have not yet decided where I want to die. Not in a literal, “I’d like to be on the steps of the White House announcing the implementation of a bright future where we are ruled by elegant spreadsheets and socialized bubble tea when the assassin’s bullet strikes,” but in the “Where is the physical community I’m going to take permanent ownership of,” sense.  I know many places it will not be.  I’m also pretty complacent with the idea that I’ll still be looking when the assassin’s bullet gets me.

I have figured out how to get paid to do whatever I want and not have a job. This was a big deal in terms of teenaged life goals. I did not expect the answer would be, “You’ll have seven jobs, some of which don’t pay particularly well, and you’ll start to feel insecure if you take more than two days off in a row.”  But hey, it works, and I didn’t expect it to.

I don’t own any pet birds. This is both astonishing and utterly obvious to me.

I am not independently wealthy. Still. This is becoming irksome. This has only been life goal number 1 since I was four.  Toddler-me is extremely disappointed.

It has been years since I was routinely the smartest person in the room.  This is awesome.  I can happily go the rest of my life without that ever being the case again. (I am, frequently, the most informed person in the room – being the informed person is usually my job – but that’s altogether different.)

I still don’t believe in unconditional love, happy endings, or that if you want it enough you can have it.  I’m making a decent writing career out of that.

I don’t think we’re in the end times. Or even close to the end times. I think the people who do are self-indulgent optimists of the worst sort.  There is so much more down to go before the bottom, folks. Use your imagination just a little.

I’m petty and spiteful, hold grudges, play favorites, and am utterly comfortable with being polite to someone I intend to dismember. I don’t think this makes me a good person, but I don’t want to be a good person. I think it makes me the right kind of person.

I have looked at my life and realized that I have everything I want and been happy with that. I’ve looked at my life and realized that’s no longer true and acted accordingly.

I’ve watched people I care about build lives without me, or grow frail, or refuse to care for themselves the way I think they deserve. I’ve been selfish and petty and immature about it and I’m not sorry.

I have gray hairs. A few. They tend to fall out but they come back. I think this is cool. I think my hair can go back to being the long, thick, straight hair I grew up with any day now and that would be even cooler. I am getting better at the curly hair thing. Slowly.

Twenty-one years ago today, I woke up, and that was the last time I felt “older.” Midnight came and went, the calendar turned, and that meant something. I was surprised, since I’d expected it to happen when I turned 10 and hit double-digits. But I made a note of it to myself, because it felt important.  “I feel like I’m a grown-up now,” I told my mom.  “Oh great. You’re starting early on the teen years,” she said.

Maybe I did.  But if I did, I’m not done with them. I pretty much knew who I was then, and everything since then has just been figuring out how to do that, and negotiating with the world to make it easier.  Thirty was the magical number where people would stop telling me I was still experimenting, still going through phases, still didn’t know enough or have enough experience or credibility to be sure. Honestly? I’m nine years old with decades of experience, and I’m really okay with that. Happy Birthday, me.

Also, I got the best birthday loot:oil painting of a gryphon that is part jaguar and macaw or parrot by Christine Mitzuk

My Pronouns/Titles Etc.

I recently ran across a reminder that it’s helpful even when straight/cis people identify their preferences because it normalizes the practice which then makes it easier for people who have a harder time with expressing their own preferences.  Then it occurred to me that while I’m not quiet about my preferences, if you don’t know me in person there’s not really any way to know what my preferences are.  So, here they are.

My preferred pronouns are she/her.  Also acceptable: She/Her, they, They.

Miss is my preferred title. I’m not married or permanently committed, have no intention of becoming so, and I like that English lets me signal that.  Ms is acceptable.  Mrs. is slightly vexing when directed at me.

That’s for English.  I vastly prefer Señora to Señorita, possibly because I was Señorita for the first time when I was 13 and knew nothing more than how to say “blue” and count to ten.  I am significantly older/more mature than that person, and her title doesn’t feel right.  That said, I’m not married, so Señorita is technically correct and I’m not going to be upset if that’s what gets used. (Also, I have a policy of not getting upset with the native speakers of languages I’m not a native speaker of over how they use their language at me)

Ma’am and Miss are interchangeable to me.

I will be Queen of the world, not King.  I will be God of the universe, not Goddess.  I am sometimes a civilized creature, but never a lady. Or a gentleman.  When I grow up and become Anander Miaanai, I will be Lord of the Radch.  I’m the Emperor, or the Imperatrix.

I am never, ever a girl.  Or a boy. I was a child, but have thankfully escaped that state.

I am female. Also, scary, spiteful, tired, organized, smug, stubborn, reasonable, and pedantic. The second list is significantly more important.

I am a woman, but only if we must make that salient and, really, I’d rather identify as God-Emperor of the Universe and change the conversation to something interesting, like books.

I’m also straight and polyamorous.  I don’t have boyfriends. Or a husband. I’m un-fond of “significant others.”  I have acquaintances, buddies, pals, friends, good friends, very good friends, best friends, family, and my sister.  You should feel free to refer to any of these people as “Anaea’s [fill in term from previous list]” should you need to define a person based on my relationship with them.  That list is not as hierarchical as it looks and categories are not exclusive.  I will tell you whether I’m sleeping with somebody if you ask. It’s also none of your business unless you’re a person I’m sleeping with.

Also, don’t assume that just because I’m straight that anyone I’m sleeping with identifies as male.  My relationship with an individual does not constrain that individual’s presentation to the rest of the world.

I think that covers everything. Let me know if I missed something and I’ll clarify.

My Dulcet Tones and The Litigatrix

The Short: I read Ken Liu’s The Litigatrix for PodCastle, and it’s up for you to listen to today.

The Long:

I mentioned last week how I’ve gone through a bit of a transition in how I perceive the value of my podcasting work to other people as time has passed.  I’m not going to lie – one of the big things that assured me I wasn’t just chatting to the ether was when other people started asking me for audio work.  There are roughly eleventy bajillion people who want to do voice work, so if I’m getting solicited, somebody likes what I’m doing.

And when I’m getting solicited to read for an author I really like?

Also, murder mystery?

Also, PodCastle.

It was super awesome the first time they asked me to narrate a Ken Liu story.  It was so awesome I went and got my first ever sinus infection and lost my voice, consequently blowing their deadline in a major, major way.  I hate blowing deadlines, but I was physically incapable of doing anything else.  Alas, I said to myself, they’ll never want anything to do with me again, feckless, voiceless wretch that I am.

Once in a while, on very rare occasions, when the fate of the world is a little bit in jeopardy, I am wrong.

As a cynical pessimist, I usually quite enjoy being wrong.


Also, of squee note, the story was originally purchased by Ann Leckie and published in GigaNotoSaurus.  I woke up this morning to a notification that a tweet I was mentioned in was favorited by Ann Leckie.  My level of fangirling here is not at all creepy.

FogCon 2015 Schedule

This weekend I shall be at FogCon and, as is my tradition, I shall be on many panels.  Not quite all the panels, but all the best panels, certainly.  I know this, because I got teamed up with all the best panelists.  Take a look at the schedule and you’ll see what I mean.

And Then My Underwear Went OverboardFri, 9:30–10:45 pm Salon C 

Tales of traveling drama! What are some of the crazy adventures you’ve had while traveling around the world? Our panelists will tell their best stories, and talk about how to handle travel adventures that may not be what they intended.

M: Sunil Patel. Marty Halpern, Anaea Lay, Effie Seiberg

How to Intervene The Right Way: The Culture, the Federation, and the Future – Sat, 3:00–4:15 pm Salon C

If there’s intelligent life out there, and if we humans ever end up more advanced than others, we will probably need to figure out our morals and ethics for intervention in alien cultures. Our history provides us many examples of how not to do it, and our fiction presents us with many other examples, both good, and bad, and also brings up the question, “can this be done ethically at all?

M: Steven Schwartz. Darrin Barnett, Jed Hartman, Anaea Lay, Nancy Jane Moore

Embracing “The Other” – Sat, 4:30–5:45 pm Salon A/B 

Fantasy and Science Fiction have a long history of asking us to empathize with the Other — the alien, the fae, the one who Isn’t Like Us. Sometimes that “not like us”ness is done really well, and other times it’s easy to see the human culture under the rubber “alien” suit. How can we present cultures we are not part of with depth and respect? How can we avoid writing yet another *Fill In The Blank Human Culture Not the Author’s* With Purple Scales story?

M: Debbie Notkin. Nabil Hijazi, Anaea Lay, Bradford Lyau, Juliette Wade

Conventional 2015

It probably would have been better to post this a couple weeks ago, but oh well.  Here’s my convention schedule for this year.  It’s conceivable there will be additions, but as of now I think this is it.

Potlatch – Seattle WA, Feb 6-8

Or, you know, this weekend.  I’m not on any programming because, as it turns out, I continue to be rubbish at planning ahead for cons that happen in my backyard, even with the change in back yard.

Fogcon – Walnut Creek CA, March 6-8

I am on programming here.  I’ll post my programming schedule later.  I’ll also be going out a couple days early, so it’s conceivable that I might be up for some sort of shenanigans in advance of the con. I already have many shenanigans planned, though, so no promises.

Sasquan – Spokane WA, August 19-23

I will probably be on programming.  The last WorldCon I attended was very generous about putting me on programming, and that was before I was on the masthead for a (utterly fabulous, multi-Hugo nominated) magazine.  Then again, with the way WorldCons work, previous performance is no guarantee of future result in a major way.

I will not be at WisCon this year.  It’s a “maybe” for 2016.

On How Unqualified I am for Being an Aunt

Dear readers, I’ve purchased a crib mobile.

The concept was simple.  I am not my ne-creature*’s only aunt, but I am determined to be his favorite aunt.  Actually, I’m determined to be his favorite adult relative, if not his favorite adult.  I need somebody I can rely on to gently kill me in my sleep when I get old and frail, and this kid is it.  You’ve got to start on that sort of relationship early, and since the other aunts are local while I’m about as far away as I can get without leaving the contiguous 48, I have to make everything count.  Naturally, this made my choice of baby shower gift complicated.  I want something that my sister will appreciate getting and which will improve her life with baby, but which will also be loved by the kid and cherished enough to be remembered when he’s old enough to have awareness of emotional attachments.  Being the person to give the “blankie” or “teddy” object would be ideal.  But there’s no way to predict which of the blanket and stuffed animal gifts given to the kid will get the position as prime-favorite, and the locals will be better able to observe interests and target those positions more accurately.  I need a lingering adored object where there’s no competition.  I need to give the crib mobile.

This should be simple, right?  I thought so.  My first two thoughts for themes were dinosaurs and pirates.  And since I wanted to make sure my ne-creature had a mobile none of the other parasitic progeny-devices in his cohort had, I started my search on Etsy.  Very quickly I was overwhelmed by my options.  I am not the only person who thinks pirates and dinosaurs make great mobiles.  Tragically, only a subset of those people have a concept of “gender-neutral” so a number of the mobiles were out for being targeted to boys.  This needs to be a multi-use mobile, to increase the opportunities for, “Yeah, isn’t that awesome? Your super cool Aunt gave that to you,” when/if my sister decides to go in for a repeat performance.

I didn’t get this one because it’s perfect for *me* but I was very tempted

We’re all familiar with the concept of analysis paralysis, right?  Look it up if you aren’t.  I don’t usually find myself suffering crippling bouts of it outside of board games, but the mobile decision was so weighty, so important, so very vital to the success of my existence, that I was burdened by an unspeakably massive case of it.  I couldn’t even decide between my two original concepts, pirates or dinosaurs, let alone pick a specific iteration.  Then, insight!  None of the dinosaur mobiles had accurate depictions of dinosaurs.  We’ve known for years now that the visual renderings popular when I was a kid are wrong (feathers!) but the images in the mobiles didn’t reflect that.  I am not willing to win affection and adoration from the next generation on the backs of inaccurate biology training.  Dinosaurs are out, pirates win!

Relieved, I then proceeded to narrow down the pirate mobile options, settling on a custom version of this one.

I just needed to check on the colors my sister was using in the nursery so I could select card stock that would coordinate well and then….

Card. Stock.

Baby. Mobile.

Houston, we have an incompetent.

You can’t give a baby a dangling art object made of paper!  Who the hell put me in charge of this item?  Oh. Right. That’d be me.  Go me.

<Pause here for flashback>

It’s early July.  I’m in North Carolina with my entire family and Dr. Unicorn.  We’re discussing my sister’s status of “distressingly pregnant.”  I share my plot to be the favorite aunt and my burgeoning anxiety about her baby shower present created by this plot.  An unrelated conversation tangent reveals that there’s disagreement in her household about whether they should get a new deep fryer to replace one they had but which broke beyond repair.  “He says we don’t need one because we have a dutch oven, but it splatters grease everywhere and is hard to clean up,” she tells me.  “Maybe I should just get you a deep fryer for the shower,” I say.

<Back to current timeline>

I have, after an embarrassing amount of time spent mobile shopping, just now come to the realization that I should be looking for baby mobiles, not generic mobiles the likes of which might be delicate, fragile, or full of small parts ready to choke individuals with poorly developed motor control and optimistic expectations of their digestive tract.  Etsy’s not so useful for this, so I turn to Amazon.  There aren’t great hits for pirate mobiles there.  I start searching more broadly.  There are some cool star and planets ones.  Not really baby proof, though.  After a while I get fed up because while Amazon has a lot of mobiles, they’re all tacky, clunky, or cheap.  At one point I emerged from my office, shaking my fist with righteous indignation and declared, “I can’t give any of these to my ne-creature!  They all look like they’re designed for children.”  However much disgust you’re picturing in my inflection on children, ramp it up another notch.  Nope, one more notch over that.  There you go.

Then I listened to what I said.  I went back to one of the mobiles with stars.  I can’t tell whether or not it’s made of paper, but it’s so much classier than everything else, maybe I should just get it.

Exhaustion and shame at how hard this very simple task has been convince me that yes, this is what I should do.  I just need to pick out a color scheme.  I am, astonishingly, clever enough to realize that I can find out what the color scheme is by checking the registry to see what colors the things she registered for are.

What do I see on the registry, even though she’d said she didn’t plan to register for a mobile and I’d said, “Good, don’t, I’m getting it for you,” when we were talking things over?  A mobile.  A really boring, drab, clearly made for babies, mobile.  The sight of this mobile made me sad, and not just because if I’d started with this step I could have saved myself hours of idiotic internet shopping.  Nobody is going to think I’m cool or awesome or worth risking homicide charges for over this mobile.  But I’ve committed to a mobile, and this is the one my sister wants.  I am not going to be the person who decides I know what she wants better than she does.  I order the boring mobile.  I am sad about this, but there’s time.  I start plotting baby’s best Christmas present as a recovery.

Several days later, in phone conversation with my sister, she says something like, “I know you don’t like children, but it’s nice you’re being supportive of me and stuff.”  When my hysterical laughter dies down, I come clean about the rabbit hole I fell down while shopping, in part because the same is weighing heavily on me, and in part because it took me so long to get through she might not even have the mobile in time for the shower.

“Oh,” she says when I get to the bit about her being registered for a mobile.  “I forgot you’d told me not to register.  We didn’t actually want that mobile, it’s just the one that was made to go with the other bedding.  The one we want was too expensive to register for.”

I am alert.  I am attentive.  I am, dare I say it, hopeful?  But she won’t tell me which one they did want, because it’s too expensive.  “But show me the neat ones you were thinking about,” she says, since I had waxed at length about some of the cool mobiles I’d found.  I showed her inaccurate dinosaur mobiles, and the neat bird mobile that I could order with specific song birds, and the cool chandelier pirate mobile.  “Wait a minute,” she says.  “Those are expensive.  If you’re willing to spend that much, you can get me the mobile we want.”


Baby shower came.  I was there.  I ran the logistics and made some of the food.  The mobile wasn’t, but anybody who gave something meant to dangle over the baby’s head got a death glare and threats of violence from me.  This included my 93 year old grandmother who’s never threatened anything other than a garden snake in her life.  I’m pretty sure I continued my running streak of accidentally slighting my sister’s sisters-in-law. I kept the list of who gave what to facilitate ease of gift card giving.

“I half expected the mobile thing was a ruse, and I was getting a deep fryer,” my sister said when it was all over.

I’d actually meant to do that, too, but between the analysis paralysis, remodeling a bathroom, and spending a week in Seattle getting a job and a place to live, it sorta slipped through the cracks.  But now I have a new plan.

You see, being my ne-creature’s favorite adult is super important, but it’s marginally less important than being my sister’s favorite person.  I mean, if I can’t Stockholm Syndrome somebody into adoring me when I had fifteen of their most impressionable years to work with, what kind of manipulative evil person am I?  My reputation is on the line.  So I wait, somewhat patiently, as her due date comes and goes and her first kid is showing all possible signs of turning out like his maternal Aunt, i.e. three weeks late and belligerent.  (Who was a C-section after 36 hours of labor? That’d be me!)  I start pointing out that if she crosses her legs and holds her breath, we can have a Halloween baby.  She points out that “We’re” not having anything, and they’re going to induce on the 21st.

And then I spend a day obsessing over harassing her via text because she’s in labor and I’d really like reports every five minutes of, “I’m still alive and fine,” but I know that’s unreasonable so instead I try to make an actual conversation and not come off as an obsessive paranoid person.  Followed by a day of not pointing out that while everybody keeps talking about how healthy the newborn baby is, how much he weighs, how long he is, etc. etc., and this is definitely a situation where saying nothing implies there’s nothing to say, nobody has actually said that my sister’s fine and healthy and not bleeding out or dying of infection or soaked in a morass of postpartum depression.  As soon as I hear that mom and baby have clear bills of health and will be going home from the hospital, I betake myself to the internet and enact Operation Supportive Sister.

“I just found an interesting package on my doorstep,” says a text message I receive from my sister.  “You wouldn’t know anything about it, would you?”

I wasn’t 100% sure, post birthing, she’d find it funny.  It appears she did.  She even took the hint.

NeilFryerMmmm, deep fried baby.  It was hard, to give up on my dreams of having a young relative who will do right by me in my future decrepitude, but my sister’s happiness is just more important.  Also, if I had that much trouble making decisions about gifts before he was even born, I don’t want to think about what Christmases and birthdays will do to me.

And I can attest that my brother-in-law knows his way around a deep fryer.

EatingNeilThat is one tasty baby.

*The official term for niece/nephew, coined by me before then-Erasmus had genitalia. Also note, Erasmus was the name of the ne-creature in fetal form. He’s got a new name now.  Future fetuses will also be Erasmus.