Baaaaack in London. Washing knickers. Considering a writing post about the editorial process, since I see fandom’s been talking about it. Anyone want? It’s kind of a big topic.

Ponder has buggered off to Coventry to tie people up. Reunion tomorrow!

Goodbye, Piter (statue of Akhmatova in the twilight)

Goodbye, Piter (statue of Akhmatova in the twilight)


Final night

Ack, I seem to have elected to spend my last evening in Russia having what we’ll call significant anxiety. I don’t want to call it significant anxiety because I don’t want another bloody Symptom, but it’s definitely been the dominant theme of the evening as I have scurried about, convinced in spite of having checked a couple of dozen times, that my keys, wallet and other vital objects will somehow have teleported out of my zipped handbag. Which, my brain informs me, is in imminent danger of being stolen at any moment by terrifying street criminals such as the portly babushka who just came out of a nearby gate holding a small dog.

Grr. I guess this was fuelled by my Russian-of-the-day not turning up - the only time that’s happened. I tried to make use of the evening anyway. Now it’s 10.30 and I’m in a restaurant about to eat a Sensible Meal with Vegetables In It; tomorrow at 1pm I fly home.

Having had, overall, a fantastic and productive time.



We need to talk about the fandom gift economy. We need to talk about what it’s like to have a fic written just for you. To get a birthday present wrapped in an AO3 notice, or a Tumblr header, or an email, a gift that someone thought about, and worked at, and created from…

Just occasionally, in an exchange, someone will create something for you that you don’t like. It only happened to me once, on another platform. You have to be polite anyway; that’s life. It won’t kill you. Particularly if the “don’t like” is about you not being into that thing rather than it being sloppily done.

And 95% of the time it’s just pure squee! There’s a special kind of personalised squee to be had out of fanart/podfics/etc of one’s own writing; a combination of the tailored and the shared.


mild-lunacy said: As a Russian immigrant and child of persecuted Jewish intellectuals, I just wanted to say thank you; I found this very touching. To be understood and valued is not to be appropriated: it is the greatest honor.

Thanks; that’s what I’m aiming for and hopefully it will come out in the final book. Jewish intellectuals! No matter what Russia was doing to itself in the Soviet period, it always managed to reserve some special extra repression for the Jews. I am trying to get into Mandelstam lately; Nadezhda’s memoirs shot straight into my heart and lodged there, though Osip’s poetry continues mostly opaque.


What’s with the Russia obsession, anyway?

(Sorry I can’t do a read more, or a link, on my tablet.)

One more day to go, but… I seem to have done the thing. I came, I saw, and nothing got in the way, even me *small confetti shower*. I’ve had some intense and challenging experiences, ranging from interviewing people in Russian about family trauma to visiting vividly tragic exhibitions to just trying to contend with drunk people who want to harangue the foreigner in Inglesh. But my perception of them was always proportionate; they weren’t intense in a disordered way.

Some people have of course asked me why I’m trying to speak their language and study, even write about, them. I haven’t answered in full because it’s too involved for my language skills and too personal, if explicable at all.

Russia as a society has had to learn how to endure and absorb repeated outbursts of the unbearable. To survive bipolar one has to learn to do the same thing on an individual level.

That’s the kind of analogy that could degenerate very easily into cultural appropriation, but I want to make a more disciplined use of it than that. Acute bipolar episodes leave in their wake an excess of unfounded feeling which you have to rationalise and incorporate into your sense of self: by contemplating external horrors I’m filling the hollow with borrowed meaning and it’s blatantly displacement activity but also, hopefully, a creative act. I want to do something useful with all that emotional excess, and with the insight into the psychology of extremity which bipolar brings.

So. I write book. Book which is absolutely not about me and my problems but might make something useful out of them.

And the Russians themselves are the primary exponents of what I aspire to. By coincidence, while I was here I came across the best summation I’ve ever found of what I admire in Russian literature, in a book review by a random blogger: “When I read Russian authors, hear Russian music and see Russian art I see a tenacious, almost ruthless intellectual veracity. If something passionate can be dispassionately analysed and then expressed upon [sic], the Russians will find a way to do it definitively, the first time and in such a way as to set an example to the rest of the world.”

Yup. This is what has me sitting at the feet of Russian literature holding a candle, with little stars in my eyes. It’s simplistic to equate Western material comfort with intellectual flabbiness, but there is a difference that can maybe be summarised by pointing out that in Russia the phrase ‘death of the author’ is more likely to be followed by the addition of ‘in a labour camp’ than a discussion of post-modernism. Of course the post-Soviet landscape is changing, but for most of the 20th century no-one could afford irony, and I can’t see that they missed out on much there. Russians are, in general, not afraid to feel and to believe, and to acknowledge the fact that shit does not make sense but is none the less real for all that.

Their national literature and collective worldview is founded on that reality; my life has to incorporate it at a more visceral level than most Western lives maybe do. And I want very much to express what I learn, and understand how it connects me to the wider world, and pay the understanding forwards.


Penultimate day in St Petersburg

It’s my penultimate day in St Petersburg and the sun is shining and it’s gorgeous. I’ve learnt a lot and had experiences ranging from immersing myself in the city’s tragic history to watching ageing rock stars arguing in a kitchen at midnight.

I thought that I would gather lots of experiences in my first week, then start putting them in order in the second week. That has worked to some extent, but in fact I find that my brain is baulking at the idea of sorting and ordering them, and (hopefully) starting to turn them into original fiction until I get home. So I feel kind of in limbo until I go home (on Sunday). Then I’ll have to go back to work on Tuesday. Oh well.

It’s probably true that I need to do a bit of more regular Pennying to reestablish my normal parameters before completely incorporating the new stuff and using it in my writing. That’s a way of saying that I find myself compulsively making notes for a massive writing process post (traditional ground for me), which I will put up on tumblr if it gets completed and I don’t decide I just need to shut up.

Have new experiences; do something more familiar for a short while; then use experiences in writing. It probably makes sense, for all that I feel I should be rushing around the city on my last days.



Happiest of birthdays to professorfangirl!!!! :D :D

Oh, I didn’t know or I might have tried to prepare some brainporn or something… Happy birthday! Try not to spend all of it despairing at tumblr :)


Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad (which was besieged by the Nazis September 1941 to April 1944). The statues are part of a larger complex, and one of the most emotive pieces of Soviet history I’ve seen. The figures are archetypes - the elderly mother, the brave pilot, the determined Komsomol - but unlike much Soviet statuary representing idealised uberpeople, they are also entirely individuated. The overall effect is one of individuals ennobled by collective effort rather than subsumed in it.