“Myself and my circumstance”

José Ortega y Gasset, from The New York Review of Books

My novel Immunity Index opens with a quote from the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset: “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo.” I am myself and my circumstance, and if I do not save it, I do not save myself.

If you know nothing else about José Ortega y Gasset, remember that sentence, his most famous, written in 1914. The Spanish philosopher died in Madrid on October 18, 1955, at age 72. He was active in the Second Republic and went into self-exile at the outbreak of the Civil War, although after 1945 he returned frequently to Spain.

For him, “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia” expressed the constant conflict between every person and the time and place where they are born: the drama and tragedy between necessity and freedom, of living with a reality that “forms the other half of myself.”

For him, freedom meant “being free inside of a given fate,” with a necessity to act: “if I do not save it, I do not save myself.”

 “Life is what we do and what happens to us.” Within fate, we can choose our destiny and create “a project of life.”

Some may find their philosophy of life in religion, existentialism, or nihilism. He created a philosophy based on pragmatism:

“Living is a constant process of deciding what we are going to do.”

What are you going to do?

José Ortega y Gasset, from The New York Review of Books

My plans for 2023

Grid from Scrabalize: https://wordsmith.org/scrabble/

I have a book coming out in 2023: Dual Memory, on sale May 16 (and you can pre-order it now). What’s it about?

Antonio Moro stops running from the people who killed his family and friends, and he starts fighting — but he has no home, no job, no money, and no clothes. He doesn’t even know much about where he is. But when he gets an ally as powerful as it is naive, they find an efficient strategy: lies and deceit. If they can avoid arrest, they can create a fighting force of unbeatable strength that no one must ever detect.

 I’ll have a lot more to say about the novel in the coming months.

Meanwhile, I’m writing the third book in the trilogy that began with Semiosis and Interference. This book, Usurpation, tells what happens to the rainbow bamboo on Earth — or rather, what happens to the Earth because rainbow bamboo is growing there. It should be published in May 2024. I’ll have more to say about that, too.

(Just a reminder, my novel Immunity Index is still available.)

A book I helped translate is coming out soon — Canyonlands: The Ballad of a Quarantine. It is a fictional and deeply lyrical account of the Covid-19 quarantine in Madrid, Spain, by JB Rodríguez Aguilar. It will be published in the first quarter of 2023 by Olympia Publisher, and I’ll keep you posted.

A short story, “The Virgin Who Rescued Dragons,” will be published this fall in the Best of NewMyths Anthologies Volume 4, The Cosmic Muse. When I have more details, I’ll let you know. Yes, there are fire-breathing dragons! It was fun to write.

As always, I’m working on other short pieces, and as there’s news, you’ll find it here. I love to write, and I’m not good at New Year’s Resolutions, but I’ll try to write even more in 2023.

I also enjoy going to science fiction conventions.

From February 3 to 5, I’ll be at Capricon, one of two major Chicago-area science fiction conventions. It will be held downtown, and I’ll be on some panels. At one of them, you’ll be able to watch me write! Tammy Coxen is the panel’s moderator, so it may not sound like fun, but she’ll make it fun for all of us.

I also plan to virtually attend SFWA’s Nebula Awards weekend conference, which will be held from May 12 to 14. Details are coming.

The World Science Fiction Convention will be held this year in Chengdu, China, from August 16 to 20. I love Worldcons, but I don’t expect to attend in person this year due to scheduling conflicts. Because I voted in the 2023 Worldcon site selection, though, I’ve been granted automatic virtual membership, so I might visit online.

I’m likely to attend Pemmi-Con in person, July 20 to 23, in Winnepeg, Canada. This is the North American Science Fiction Convention, which is held whenever the Worldcon takes place outside of North America.

Windycon, Chicago’s other major science fiction convention, will be held in Lombard, a western suburb, on November 10 to 12. I hope to be there.

Finally, I plan to be on the staff of the Speculative Fiction Novel-in-Progress Bootcamp August 13 to 19 at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin. It’s a supportive but rigorous week-long retreat to help early-career novelists improve their craft and their business savvy.

By the way, all these events are open to everyone, although there may be registration requirements. Check the websites for more information. I’d love to meet you there.

Words of the Year 2022

Wikipedia photo

What single word encompasses the suspense, dismay, and surprises of 2022?

Merriam-Webster makes its choice based in part on what people look up the most. This year it’s gaslighting: “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one’s own advantage.” The runners-up are oligarch, omicron, codify, LGBTQIA, sentient, loamy, raid, and queen consort. There’s a story behind each word, especially loamy.

For Collins dictionaries in Great Britain, it’s permacrisis: “one of several words Collins highlights that relate to ongoing crises the UK and the world have faced and continue to face, including political instability, the war in Ukraine, climate change, and the cost-of-living crisis.” Colins also considered Kyiv, Partygate, splooting, warm bank, Carolean, lawfare, quiet quitting, sportswashing, and vibe state. Not all the words, though, refer to crises.

Also in Great Britain, goblin mode is the Oxford University Press 2022 word of the year, chosen by a popular vote. It means “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” Apparently, that’s a popular response in the UK to its permacrisis. In the running were metaverse and #IstandWith (as in #IstandWithUkraine).

Because I speak Spanish, I’m interested in the palabra del año declared by FundéuRAE, an arm of the Spanish Royal Academy. This year it’s inteligencia artificial (artificial intelligence) because of the ethical implications in the development of machine intelligence. “Questions about when and how this technology might be able to replace certain kinds of professional work has been one of the great debates of the year 2022.”

The other choices were apocalipsis (apocalypse), criptomoneda (cryptocurrency), diversidad (diversity), ecocidio (ecocide), gasoducto (gas pipeline), gigafactoría (gigafactory), gripalizar (to treat like the flu, referring to covid-19), inflación (inflation), sexdopaje (chemsex), topar (to create an upper price limit, such as for gasoline), and Ucraniano (Ukranian). It’s been a tough year in Spain, too.

But there’s more year-end excitement! Time’s Person of the Year is Volodymyr Zelensky. I think he earned it simply by surviving.

Publishers Weekly has its People of the Year: The Defenders. These are “the librarians, booksellers, authors, publishers, and allies standing tall in the face of an unprecedented attack on the freedom to read.” As a writer, I second that nomination.

Finally, Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2023 will be Viva Magenta, which I would call very dark pink, but they call “brave and fearless, and a pulsating color whose exuberance promotes a joyous and optimistic celebration, writing a new narrative.” Indeed, Viva Magenta “galvanizes our spirit, helping us to build our inner strength.” That’s extraordinary power.

A few aphorisms

An aphorism, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment.” I don’t promise that any of the following express true or worthy sentiments, but they are terse. Let’s prepare for the year 2023 with these nuggets of wisdom:

• It is easier to forgive an enemy than forgive a friend.

• Life sends endless gifts of love to Death, who keeps them forever.

• According to the rain, floods are good and just.

• It is easier to fool someone than convince them that they have been fooled.        

• A liar should have an outstanding memory.

• You cannot wake someone pretending to be asleep.

• Stupidity is a terrible opponent to wrestle.

When Santa forgot

I was ten years old when Santa forgot me. I got up on Christmas morning and rushed down to the tree to see what he had left.

Of course I knew that Santa didn’t exist — or rather, I knew that Mom and Dad were Santa. But since I had a little brother and sister, the magical Santa still came to our house.

I found only one box for me under the tree, which meant it would be especially good. Instead, it was just a hat and scarf set, and not a very good hat and scarf set, or even a color I liked. I felt disappointed and most of all bewildered. For the benefit of the little ones, I acted happy, but I wasn’t.

Soon my mother called me aside and apologized. In the confusion of the holiday, she and Dad had miscounted gifts and realized late the night before that they had nothing for me from Santa, so Dad ran out and got something quick. She hoped I understood, and I did, I really did. Those two little ones sowed constant confusion. I imagined Dad going to the only place open on late Christmas Eve night, which in those days was probably a gas station, and given the limited merchandise, he had made a good choice.

And yet I had to hide tears. I wasn’t unhappy with my parents. I genuinely appreciated the effort. I wore the hat and scarf, and they were warm.

What hurt me was the proof of something I had already suspected but hadn’t wanted to believe: the world had no magic, no guarantees. It was full of human beings who made mistakes. An innocently botched Christmas gift was trifling, but devastating mistakes were possible, too. Given time — and a ten-year-old has lots of time ahead of her — devastating mistakes would happen. I got my proof that Christmas morning.

Sometimes Santa simply forgets.