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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

19 December 2011

The Weird Questionnaire

I found this questionnaire at the blog Weird Fiction Review and thought it would be interesting to do as a post here.

Translator Edward Gauvin produced this version based on Éric Poindron's French-language Étrange Questionnaire, which was inspired by the Proust Questionnaire.

1 – Write the first sentence of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
Hetta awoke to discover that not only had she birthed two cubs during her winter hibernation but also the larger cub had already discovered the cache of educational materials Hetta had prepared the previous fall and stood, nose to screen, watching and smelling an instructional video on salmon.

2 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?
10:05 p.m.

3 – Look at your watch. What time is it?
10:02 p.m.

4 – How do you explain this — or these — discrepancy(ies) in time?
I usually have no idea what time or even what day it is, so I am surprised that I have no discrepancy to explain.

5 – Do you believe in meteorological predictions?

6 – Do you believe in astrological predictions?

7 – Do you gaze at the sky and stars by night?
Rarely. Light pollution where I live makes most stars invisible.

8 – What do you think of the sky and stars by night?
In the country, where it truly gets dark, the sky is huge and magnificent and awe-inspiring at night. Being in such a place reminds me of my childhood, when I could hear the angels sing in the silence.

9 – What were you looking at before starting this questionnaire?
The editing work I should be doing instead of answering this questionnaire.

10 – What do cathedrals, churches, mosques, shrines, synagogues, and other religious monuments inspire in you?
The music makes me believe in the divine. Costly furnishings usually inspire anger that some of the purchase price wasn’t given to the poor instead.

11 – What would you have “seen” if you’d been blind?
If I’d been blind, I would have seen nothing. Whether I would have “seen” anything, I do not know; I am unfamiliar with the notion.

12 – What would you want to see if you were blind?

13 – Are you afraid?
Every so often.

14 – What of?
Rubber bands. Homeland Security checkpoints at airports. Helplessness.

15 – What is the last weird film you’ve seen?
I don’t remember. I rarely see films.

16 – Whom are you afraid of?
No one that I can think of.

17 – Have you ever been lost?
I get lost several times a month.

18 – Do you believe in ghosts?

19 – What is a ghost?
I don’t know.

20 – At this very moment, what sound(s) can you here, apart from the computer?
The faint sound of a houseguest watching TV in another room.

21 – What is the most terrifying sound you’ve ever heard – for example, “the night was like the cry of a wolf”?’’
The sound of a dog screaming in pain while I searched for it and could not find it.

22 – Have you done something weird today or in the last few days?

23 – Have you ever been to confession?

24 – You’re at confession, so confess the unspeakable.
You wish.

25 –Without cheating: what is a “cabinet of curiosities”?
A curio cabinet that contains oddities instead of the usual china, glassware, knickknacks brought home from trips, and odd gifts from relatives that one has to display. Cabinets of curiosities were popular in the 19th century.

26 –Do you believe in redemption?
Very much so.

27 – Have you dreamed tonight?
No; I haven’t gone to bed yet.

28 – Do you remember your dreams?

29 – What was your last dream?
I don’t remember.

30 – What does fog make you think of?
Happiness, mystery, clouds. How lovely New Orleans is in the early morning.

31 – Do you believe in animals that don’t exist?
Definitely. During my lifetime, several creatures that were thought to be mythical or extinct have been found. It seems likely that other "nonexistent" creatures in fact are still around somewhere.

32 – What do you see on the walls of the room where you are?
Lots and lots of books and Zuni fetish carvings in the built-in bookcases; a framed ceramic tile decorated with a reproduction of a Hittite design; paintings by (a) Australian aborigines, (b) the ex-husband of a friend, and (c) New Mexico artist Jim Alford; and art from sf/f cons.

33 – If you became a magician, what would be the first thing you’d do?
Be extremely careful what I wish for.

34 – What is a madman?
Someone who has lost touch with reality; sometimes, someone who sees reality when those around them see an illusion.

35 – Are you mad?
Rarely by my first definition; fairly often by my second definition.

36 – Do you believe in the existence of secret societies?
Of course.

37 – What was the last weird book you read?
I can't think of any because weirdness is defined relative to normalcy. I live a life so statistically unlikely that it's rare I read a book more bizarre than my life.

38 – Would you like to live in a castle?

39 – Have you seen something weird today?
Yes—a beautiful photograph that made me catch my breath.

40 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever seen?
“Don’t Look Now” with Donald Sutherland.

41 – Would you like to live in an abandoned train station?

42 – Can you see the future?

43 – Have you considered living abroad?

44 – Where?
Wales, Italy, Istanbul.

45 – Why?
Because I want a deeper, richer experience of some places than a visit provides.

46 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever owned?
My husband owns lots of strange, violent Asian movies. We live in a community-property state, so I assume they belong to me as well.

47 – Would you liked to have lived in a vicarage?

48 – What is the weirdest book you’ve ever read?
I don’t remember its name. I read it perhaps twenty years ago. It was a poorly written humorous fantasy romance with many gruesome sections. I think of it often when I write as a reminder to match my tone to my material.

49 – Which do you like better, globes or hourglasses?

50 – Which do you like better, antique magnifying glasses or bladed weapons?
That’s a hard one, but I’ll say bladed weapons.

51 – What, in all likelihood, lies in the depths of Loch Ness?
Warm-blooded, medium-sized hadrosaurs. Also, mud.

52 – Do you like taxidermied animals?
Very much so, although I feel guilty about it.

53 – Do you like walking in the rain?
Not usually.

54 – What goes on in tunnels?
Subways run and sometimes get stuck, and the passengers scream when the lights go out. Cars drive and sometimes explode in terrible fireballs. Spelunkers squeeze through looking for new caverns.

55 – What do you look at when you look away from this questionnaire?
Books, knickknacks, a snow globe my grandfather got in New York City in the 1960s.

56 – What does this famous line inspire in you: “And when he had crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him.”?
A desire to write the story that accompanies that line.

57 – Without cheating: where is that famous line from?
It’s famous? Huh. Are you sure? I never heard of it. I will pretend it isn’t famous so that I can write its story anyway.

58 – Do you like walking in graveyards or the woods by night?
Yes; I like the solitude and the silence and the soft, swishy noises that occasionally interrupt the stillness. Also, it brings back pleasant memories—of how as a child I often played at the edge of a woods at night, catching fireflies, looking at stars, and daydreaming; of how I played in graveyards as a child and teen, wondering about the people who were buried there.

58 – Write the last line of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
The girl stood on the dirt road and sucked her thumb, watching the last of the wraiths depart.

59 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?
11:00 p.m.

60 – Look at your watch. What time is it?
11:06 p.m.

If you decide to do this questionnaire at your blog, Jeff VanderMeer invites you to let Weird Fiction Review know:
Neddal Ayad just told me peeps can send him their answers as a .doc or .docx or links to their replies on their blogs to wingandclaw (at) gmail DOT com. He’ll compile them and format them and we’ll have a nice feature for for January.