Alexander Jablokov

 

I'm a writer, mostly of science fiction, with a new novel, Brain Thief.

The name is pronounced Yablokov, and the legal name is Jablokow.  My best friends can't spell or pronounce it, so you shouldn't worry about it either.

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Write me at alexjablokow [at] comcast.net

I'd love to hear from you.

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"How Sere Picked Up Her Laundry", Asimov's Science Fiction July/August 2017(out now)

"The Forgotten Taste of Honey", Asimov's Science Fiction, October/November 2016

"The Return of Black Murray", Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May 2016

"The Instructive Tale of the Archeologist and His Wife", Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2014

"Bad Day on Boscobel", The Other Half of the Sky.

"Feral Moon", novella, Asimov's Science Fiction, March 2013

"Since You Seem to Need a Certain Amount of Guidance", Daily Science Fiction, November 6, 2012

"The Comfort of Strangers", short story, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January/February 2012

"Blind Cat Dance" reprinted in Gardner Dozois's Best Science Fiction of the Year 28

"The Day the Wires Came Down", novelette, Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May 2011

"Plinth Without Figure", short story, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November/December 2010

"Warning Label", short story, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine August 2010

"Blind Cat Dance", short story, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine March 2010

Brain Thief, a novel, Tor Books, January 2010

 

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Reboot blog

 

Monday
Jun262017

The passions of Chalcedonians and Monophysites

Every commentator notes how partisan the American public has become. Positions seem continually more extreme, blue is bluer, red is redder, and no one is interested in what the other side has to say.

This may well be true. I live in a genteel blue area, and do know a lot of people with predictable doctrines (and many women I encounter specify adherence to these doctrines as a prerequisite for dating them), but no one seems particularly enraged at their opponents or uncomprehending of their positions.

So that leads to the natural question: what would the period after the Council of Chalcedon have been like if someone in Late Antiquity had invented Twitter?

Chalcedon, in 451, established the Orthodox definition of the nature of Christ, the same definition used by modern Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants. But some found this an unwelcome compromise. Their position was known (I gather pejoratively) as Monophysitism. Their descendants are Coptic and Oriental Orthodox churches, including the Ethiopian, Armenian, and Syriac churches.

Christological wrangling seems to have fallen out of fashion (I gather it really requires Greek to be clear enough to fight about), and I won't go into the details they were squabbling about here. But they really did take it seriously, and the more heavily Monophysite areas of Egypt and Syria were always in conflict with Chacedonian Constantinople, Asia Minor, and Balkans. They would denounce each other, riot against each other, depose each other's bishops, and write endless screeds against each other.

Periodically, an Emperor would try to do something about it. Zeno came up with the Henoticon, which tried, unsuccessfully to paper over the differences by being unclear about what they were. Anastasius, a pious Monophysite, had no patience with extremists and exiled both overzealous Monophysites and Chalcedonians, finding them both tiresome. Justinian, who knew everything, tried to persuade everyone to an elaborate compromise position involving the Three Chapters (something else probably not worth the effort to understand), but even this late antique Woodrow Wilson was unable to achieve his goal. Justinian's Empress, Theodora, was a fervent Monophysite, and never compromised either.

Anastasius, by the way is one of my favorite Emperors. He took office at age 60, ruled for over a quarter of a century (491-518), and left the Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire by this point) prosperous and with a huge cash surplus, which unfortunately enabled his overactive successor Justinian to finance his endless wars. History tends to overvalue the flashy Justinians and undervalue the "how about we focus on reestablishing coinage with consistent value and stay away from overheated rhetoric" Anastasiuses.

When the Arabs invaded in the early 7th century, they conquered the Monophysite areas, which has been atributed to the inhabitants' hatred of Orthodoxy, but I think this is mostly a matter of geographical chance. It's just that they failed to conquer the Orthodox heartland.

The conflict between Chalcedonian and Monophysite wasn't all in good fun, but it wasn't a civilizational fissure either. Both inhabited a unified empire, honored the same Emperor. and got on with things. If they had spent their days tweeting about consubstantiality, they might have ended up hating each other enough to break up the Empire long before it finally fell to overwhelming force.

So, yeah. I'm with Anastasius. Sure, think those people are clueless idiots, and their doctrines are abhorrent. But we have a nation to run, jobs to do, food to cook, and beaches to lie on with our dates or our families.  Dammit, did that seagull just steal my sandwich? That's what I really need to worry about.

 

Monday
Jun192017

My new favorite ingredient: fermented bean curd

A few months ago I listened to Tyler Cowen's conversation with Fuchsia Dunlop on his podcast, Conversations with Tyler. The conversation takes place over dinner and includes one of my favorite economics/food bloggers, Megan McArdle as well as Ezra Klein and several other interesting people.

Well worth a listen. It makes me realize how often I'm just not paying attention to my food.

The podcast led me to purchase Dunlop's book Every Grain of Rice, subtitled Simple Chinese Home Cooking, also recommended. I don't usually read cookbooks, but this one has interesting information about Chinese food, its history--and its ingredients.

Here I discovered fermented bean curd. It comes in at least two varieties: red and white. Her main recipe is for spinach, but I went online and found one for cauliflower.

I popped down down to H-Mart in Central Square and grabbed some Laoganma brand (people seem to love The Godmother, and the somewhat mournful lady on the logo was allegedly a real person).

I bought a lot of other stuff too. It's a great market, though the one out in Burlington is way bigger, almost intimidatingly so.

I think I prefer the red to the white, but both are good. Salty and full of umami, the cubes are kind of cheese-like, and melt into the vegetables, giving them a distinct tang. I've never even been a huge fan of cauliflower, but the simple dish above is now in regular rotation, because it's so damn fast, easy to make, and delicious.

Anyway, its now a staple here. Give it a try.

 

Tuesday
Apr182017

Am I too lazy to get outraged?

Reply All is one of my favorite podcasts because it entertainingly explains all sorts of internet memetic activity in a way that even someone my age can appreciate. They've long had a segment called Yes Yes No where the boss comes to the two hosts (Alex Goldman and P J Vogt) with a mysterious tweet that he con't figure out, and that always turns out to be a deeply multi-referential deep dive into what the soul of the internet looks like that week.

Now, they've added "Why Is Everybody So Mad And Do I Have To Be Mad Also", about figuring out what everyone else is so outraged about online, and then whether that outrage makes sense. Using "also" instead of "too" is a stroke of genius, giving it slight fillip of dorky formality.

For me, no, it never makes sense. I don't actually think I'm particularly busy during my day. I do have work to do, things to accomplish, something even something fun to do. But the amount of work is certainly not overwhelming. But no matter how uneventful the day, I don't have enough time in it to generate outrage over something I see online, forward it to others, post it on Facebook, and comment on it.

It's not that I don't get exasperated at some of the bits of flotsam that the internet floats into my mind. I have one kid in college and another heading there, so what happened at Middlebury College really did disturb me. So when I have beer or coffee with a friend, I will discuss some of the issues on my mind. Don't worry, I can view with alarm with the best of them, and speak fluent harrumphish. It's just that I prefer to express my outrage in person. And with an good IPA or dark roast.

I guess that's it. If I am not consuming a hot or cold beverage with someone else, opinions are just meaningless.

 

Monday
Apr032017

Behind on everything, but...catching up?

I am the mercy of my internal astrology. I have some decent organizational structures, essential for a basically disorganized person who has a lot of things to get done.

But sometimes they work a lot better than other times. For instance, recently, I've been catching up with stuff. I am doing nothing different, making no particular effort, but big chunks of stuff that were hanging around, punks with cigarettes dangling from their lower lips, ominously refusing to leave, have suddenly realized they had somewhere else they needed to be, and have cleared out.

I really wish I knew what conjunction or trine or whatever of my interior solar system led to a sudden burst of work.

But what then? Some people track things about their lives, like how much they sleep, how many hours they spend in REM, etc. To me, unless that information enables you to make a decision, it's just data, like counting the number of birds that land on a phone line outside your window.

I guess if the metaphor of internal planets is accurate, I could plan major life tasks for when they are in the right positions, and invest more effort in my external organizational systems when the planets tell me I'm going to be a useless load.

Because I sure don't see any correlation with anything else in my life. These moods of productivity come and go. I figure successful people feel productive a higher percentage of the time than I do. I envy them. I really do feel good when I'm writing well, producing for my clients, paying bills on time, and meeting my personal obligations, all without have to strain and torment myself. I wish I felt that way more.

But I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with feeling that way sometimes.

Monday
Mar272017

Works and days

Most of us writers need to make money, since few of us make enough from fiction to buy lunch, much less support ourselves (much less support ex-wives, college-attending children, expensive tastes in alcohol, etc.) So we have day jobs.

Mine is freelance marketing writing. I really like it, and regularly recommend this line of work to fellow writers with an inclination for it. It involves a lot of the same skills, in addition to the writing part: understanding motivation, creating suspense, leaving things to the imagination.

It's also got the feature that your clients can suddenly need what you're working on more than anything. One of my clients suddenly got a lot of pressure to generate a huge amount of marketing content, all at once, and with ridiculously short timelines. So she wrote me an email with lots of caps in it, got me a purchase order, had me invoice, and put me to work.

I have no idea why my client's higher ups only figured out they needed this stuff two weeks before it had to be in the hands of the sales team, but if you've ever worked at a large company, particularly one that has recently acquired large numbers of other companies, you know that everyone is barely keeping their heads above water, much less calmly looking ahead a few quarters to see what they'll be needing to get things over the line and make their numbers.

On the other hand, if I write fiction, someone will read it, but no one is really breaking my door down for it. So I won't lie: it's nice to be wanted.

And, as always, doing high quality work on deadline is the only thing anyone will pay for. Mediocre crap turned in late is somehow not a hot commodity.

But the fiction is still the first thing I do in the morning. I just have to give it a bit less time when deadlines loom. And the book is going pretty well. I should write about that at some point.