Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Actually it's called a Permanent Resident Card these days....

There's sometimes a faintly Kafkaesque quality to dealing with some branches of American government -- for example, the immigration division of the department of homeland security. A year ago my Green Card expired, so I went to the INS (as it was then) in Minneapolis, and they took my Green Card away and stamped my passport, and told me that a new Green Card would arrive in a couple of months, and the stamp on my passport was all I needed. The stamp on the passport was valid for a year, and expires in a couple of weeks.

I called a helpline number a few days ago. Someone helpful answered. I explained that I didn't have a new Green Card yet. "That's because the average wait time for a new Green Card from the Nebraska Centre, who are processing your case, is fifteen months," I was told. "But they only stamped my passport for twelve months,"I said. "That's right," she said. "They only do twelve month stamps. You'll have to get another stamp. It's very routine."

I checked the Minneapolis Immigration offices website, which explained that the St Paul office was open to customers from 8.00am until 2:30 pm. I figured that, as a very routine thing, turning up around midday would be fine. (It was fine when I did it a year ago.) We strive to provide quality service to our customers, they proclaim on their website, which seemed pretty reassuring.

So I drove the hour's drive to the centre, and I walked in at midday. There was a new waiting room, with guideropes snaking around to guide the crowds, who weren't there. There were just a few doleful looking people sitting in chairs who were outnumbered by the armed security guards protecting the X-Ray machine and metal detector while striving to provide quality service to their customers. "You!" barked a security guard, at me. "What do you want?"

"Er, I've come about my Green Card," I said.

"We're closed," she said, bluntly. "Be here at 6.00am. Only the first 300 people in the line are seen each day. If you aren't here at 6.00am you won't be seen."

All the security guards seemed to think this was very funny, some English guy turning up at midday, six hours late and Mister Three Hundred and One, and actually expecting to be seen.

"Er, my Green Card expired and they put a stamp in my passport..." I said, hoping they'd say something about, oh in that case come on in, but another guard said "Card hasn't come. Stamp's expired. Right?" Obviously this was something that happens a lot.

"Right," I said.

"You better be here at 6.00 am," he said flatly. "We only see the first 300 people."

I've just spent about half an hour looking at the various official immigration websites, and am puzzled that they all state explicitly that I was meant to hang on to my original Green Card, the one that expired, although it was taken, and I was told the stamp in the passport was all I needed. And nothing I can find seems very clear on whether or not I'll soon be committing a crime by waiting hopefully for the Green Card to arrive, seeing all the forms and so forth were filled out, money was paid, two copies were attached of a really terrible photo of me looking faintly like a sheepdog (but displaying my right ear. Or possibly my left ear. Whatever the legal ear is, I was proudly displaying it in that photograph), all that...

(By the way, if anyone out there reading this happens to work at the Nebraska Service Centre, can you nudge my application along? It'll be under G, with any luck. Check the photos and you'll spot my form immediately: I'm the one that looks sort of like a sheepdog.)


What do you do if you find you can't write the stories you want to write? I mean say you can write REALLY good detective novels but you've always wanted to write that science Fiction story but you're just..well. Rubbish?

A Sad & Desperate Aspiritor

As a boy and as a teen and as someone in my early twenties I thought I'd be an SF writer wren I grew up, probably a hard SF writer at that. I didn't actually notice that I wasn't writing SF for some years. Probably the best thing is to write what you enjoy and worry about what box it goes in later.

On the other hand if what you enjoy writing or need to write really is SF, and you aren't writing good SF, I'd suggest going to a good SF oriented writer's workshop -- Clarion (which is, perhaps, and shamefully, going to be no more) or Viable Paradise or Milford or similar. You could read some of the better books about writing SF -- my two favourite texts would be the Reginald Bretnor edited book of essays by every SF great there ever was, pretty much, The Craft of Science Fiction and Samuel R. Delany's book of essays The Jewel-Hinged Jaw. (Both out of print, but bookfinder lists a fair number of second-hand copies of both books, many at fairly cheap prices.)

Mr. Gaiman
I read an interview of yours where you talked about your interest in theater, Do you have any thing in mind? Does theater still interest you? Would you ever direct a production or would you only write? I love your work and I feel that your writing would translate so well into theater form...the technical side maybe not so well but...I still think it would be fantastic.I am involved in the Design/tech aspect of theater and have used your stories as portfolieo projects simply because your characters are so rich and full the scream what they will look like...well to me anyway.
thank you for your time
Jennie Jefferson

Actually after years of wanting to write for the theatre, but not having a theatre-only idea, I've had a theatre-only idea that makes me really happy, that I'm excited about, that has to be live theatre by definition, and that I really want to write. With luck I'll get time to write it in the next three or four years.


Forgot to mention that Coraline won best children's book in the Locus awards, which was very gratifying but did not amaze me, just because Coraline's already been nominated for, and in several cases already won, awards (some of which I've remembered to list here and some of which I may well have missed) and I know that a lot of people like it.

On the other hand, the news that "October in the Chair" had won the Locus best short story award nearly made me fall off my chair.

I wrote speeches for Lisa Snellings to read out when accepting the awards, and had much too much fun writing them. I hope she didn't mind.

Full list of Locus Award winners is here. (The Locus Awards are voted on by the readers of Locus Magazine -- and as Charles N. Brown delights in pointing out, they have the largest voting turnout of any award in the field.)