Every year, the Clarion workshop at UCSD has a fundraiser where they encourage alumni (and, well, anyone) to participate in the annual write-a-thon as a fundraiser. The dates of the write-a-thon overlap the workshop itself, reminding us how crazy we were to do nothing but write, edit, and critique for six weeks.
I’ll be participating, thought it’s going to be interesting to see how much writing I’ll actually get done given that I’ll have an epic case of jetlag most of the time the workshop is running. In other words, it’ll be just like 2002 all over again!
Because the write-a-thon formally ends before my return, it won’t literally be an around-the-world write-a-thon trip.
Of this year’s faculty, I went to grad school with Nalo Hopkinson, and she taught a couple of workshops I was in. Karen Joy Fowler was one of my Clarion instructors.
Some years ago, Rick and I sat listening to a panel of some TV writers talking about their experiences in Hollywood. Neither of us remember the writer in question or the name of the proposed show, but we both remembered the punch line, and I think it’s an important one.
It’s one of those that’ll stick with you.
Before Buffy, the proposed TV show (never produced) about vampires was going to feature a major character who was a Moor, centuries old, educated at Oxford. Or maybe Cambridge.
One of the network execs giving notes said, “He doesn’t sound black.”
Writer explains character’s background and education.
Network exec says, “How will they know he’s black?”
Once upon a time, when I was talking casually with a guy about bringing me in for an interview, he asked, me, “So how do you feel about working in a group that’s almost all men?”
Until that point, I hadn’t really thought about it. The reality of my job as a software engineer has been that I’ve been surrounded by men in my professional life. Fortunately, I like men. Bunches.
What I very rarely say, though, is how male dominated it has been. For the first sixteen years I worked as a software engineer, I worked with no female software engineer peers.
Just imagine what it would be like to work in your field, whatever it happens to be, with every one of your same-sex peers erased. For sixteen years.
What’s perhaps odder in retrospect was that it didn’t seem the least bit strange until this guy lampshaded it quite a few years later. I wrote down everyone I’d worked with at every company and what they did. Surely I’d missed some woman somewhere.
Part of this was the type of programming I was doing: I started out in scientific programming. I didn’t work (as I do now) for a large company in a large team that has a large percentage of women (less than half, but the highest percentage of women I’ve ever worked with). Even when I previously worked as a consultant for a large company on a team of almost 40 people, there were two other women, but neither were software engineers. Thirty-odd of us software engineers, and I was the odd.
So I guess part of how I feel in the whole SF/F thing is: I feel no less welcome than I have in my day job career. Which is: it basically hasn’t been an issue for me.
Oh sure, there was the one boss who was trying to overthrow all women of power. He, uh, Got Resigned. And there was his replacement, who was worse. I could tell you stories, but they’re frankly the kind of thing you wouldn’t believe in a novel, much less in reality. But I can say that he didn’t act sexist toward me. Flying his “admin” back and forth every week, though, that was another story. That’s two bad apples, and there were many good ones.
I was never treated as though I was there simply because I was female. Nor was I treated like I was unique because I was female. I was just another person, there to do a job.
I’ve worked with quite a few non-white software engineers (and managers) over the years, but in my entire career, I’ve only worked with two who were black: one was an African immigrant, and the other was an African-American man who was just beginning the transition from support staff to engineering. I’ve also worked with a number of LGBT* folks, too, though I suspect I’ve worked with more than I’ve known about.
So, coming from my professional background, the field of SF/F has felt to me like it’s stuffed to the rafters with talented and diverse people, except for the relative paucity of Indian SF/F writers relative to the numbers I’ve known professionally.
No one ever called me a “lady software engineer,” nor would they have been able to do so twice. So I sure as hell am not a “lady writer ”or “lady editor,” either.
I was hoping to make some salient points on the whole SFWA matter, especially given that (as with many of us) Resnick’s been one of my editors.
However, I’ve spent the last few days in the Second World, and I’m rather overwhelmed by some of the following:
1. Crossing the battlefields of Balaclava, Ukraine (of The Thin Red Line and Charge of the Light Brigade fame).
2. Visiting Novorossiysk, a city with a population of 24,000, bombed so severely that the only surviving residents were a mother, her two children, and their grandmother.
3. Seeing the famed Potemkin steps in Odessa.
4. Spending time in Romania, where Rick last was during the time of Ceausescu (he visited many of the same sites in 1978), and hearing about then vs. now.
5. What may have hit me the hardest: going to a long-secret Soviet submarine base in Balaclava and walking behind several layers of super-thick blast doors where 1000 people regularly lived — all developed because they were afraid of us. (The USA)
Additionally, we just landed in Istanbul (where there’s been a lot of rioting), a person I know has been raped and another person I respect has died, and I just can’t work up the energy on an issue that doesn’t involve issues as severe as any of the above.
However, I can insert my generic short form internet blow-up thoughts here:
1. There’s a reason my license plate is XKCD 386.
2. People are complex, and too often on this issue, I see parties from both/several sides reducing the other to one dimension that is unjust. This doesn’t mean there aren’t real issues, mind, just that I’m tired of rhetorical bullshit.
3. People feel obligated to be on the “right” side when the cards land, sometimes pressuring other people to shun someone. This is evil. I’ve been in a cult with shunning and I don’t do that. Sure, I may choose not to speak to someone, but it may just be I’m tired of completely different shit. Maybe they talk too much about Ohio. Or Cancun.
4. I’m not the kind of person who holds a grudge. I do think people need to be called on their bullshit, and if you call me on mine respectfully, I will appreciate you more for doing so. Some people will refuse to learn, and some will try to learn but fail. What matters more to me than one blow-up is how people deal with issues in the longer term.
5. I love the Internet and all the weird places it has, even the ones that make me shudder. Maybe even especially those. See #1.
As a side note to the whole SFWA bulletin issue, I wanted to specifically comment on the assertions that romance novel covers are all about beefcake covers. (I’m traveling, so really can’t get into the larger issue without context I currently lack due to poor Internet at sea.)
Here are the covers of the last 25 erotic romance novels I’ve read, in order (most recent to least). As an interesting point, the Maya Banks series has been re-covered since I read the first book in the series 3 or 4 years ago. Then, they had a woman in lingerie on the cover, but now have a black cover with inoffensive fruit. Which, really, is a WTF? for me, but I’m guessing it sells better. Yay for e-readers not showing the cover on the back of the device.
When I was in college, I took a memoir writing class, and one of the in-class writing exercises we were to do was to write about “our mother’s cooking.” Or, if not our mother, who did the substantive cooking (which turned out to be a non-mother for a couple of people in the class).
There was a sameness to the stories: long, white kitchens, large meals of poultry, rather a blandness of cuisine that my family never shared.
Me? I wrote about the trimaran we built when I was a kid and the smell of the butane stove, the fun when people would go diving and bring back abalone. Then I got into an extended description of cutting abalone into pieces and having it still crawl across the cutting board, even while I was whaling on it with a meat tenderizer.
Abalone’s tough, you know. Really have to pound the everloving crap out of it for it to be tender enough.
Oh, and the island we were at (San Clemente) was being shelled by the military in training exercises at the time. From five miles out. Whoosh, boom!
Naturally, we had to read our little pieces aloud. As I read mine, I pounded the conference room table at the appropriate points.
At the end, everyone was a bit stunned, and the teacher said, “Okay then.”
It was not until that moment that I realized there was anything the least bit unusual about my upbringing. Truly.
A letter I have to send far too often….
Dear people who add folks to email lists without confirmation.
Someone thinks it’s hilarious to use my email address to sign me up for things I am far from interested in. This was not requested by me. You should, as a best practice, require confirmation for ANY subscribe request for this kind of reason. Please ensure my address is removed from all your databases promptly.
If any reservations have been made in my name, cancel those as well.
So, there’s a whole bunch of changes at Flickr. I’ve been with Flickr since 2005 and been a pro member since those memberships were available.
Essentially, pro accounts are going away except for those of us grandfathered in, and that means Flickr’s going to be a serious ad platform.
So here’s how I feel about that: A lot of my photos on Flickr are, like my Twitter photos, incidental photos. Like this one.
Those that are more seriously nice photos and the big galleries, along with the photos I’ve had in gallery shows (like this one)? Well, let’s put it this way: when nice photos are used in an ad , the photographer gets paid. Yahoo! hasn’t offered to pay me; in fact, I’ve been paying them.
Those photos and sets will be going away. I may move them to one of my own sites or another ad-free platform, but they will not remain on Flickr.
They can use my crap to sell their ads, but I won’t be paying them for the privilege.
 To clarify, they are not re-using my photos in a new context but intend to show ads with photos.
They are selling an ad-free experience for double what the old Pro accounts cost, which — seems high.
Also, it’s not clear if things like statistics are going away, but I’m guessing they won’t be putting energy into it, either.
We’ve accumulated a ton of books through various conventions and have run out of shelf space. So here’s what a quick read of page 1 and page 119 helped cull.
For books with prologues, I use the first page of the first chapter as my page 1. If page 119 isn’t a full page, I use the closest full page.
You shouldn’t assume that a book is bad or good because of my answers. This was merely a “do I think I’d enjoy spending the time with this book?” test. I read almost exclusively in e-book these days anyway, so I’d probably get the samples of the e-books to see if I wanted to finish reading the book.
Yes to both
Gabaldon, Diana: Outlander, but print’s too small, so I’d read it in an e-book
Scholes, Ken: Lamentation
Lima, Maria: Matters of the Blood
Hanover, M.L.N: Unclean Spirits
Lindskold, Jane: The Buried Pyramid (good thing since my copy is signed)
Gross, Dave: Prince of Wolves. However, the title implies wolves, and I don’t like wolves, so I’m passing anyway.
Evans, Chris: A Darkness Forged in Fire
Marquardt, Michelle: Blue Silence
Cadnum, Michael: Can’t Catch Me
Higgins, Peter: Wolfhound Century
Knight, Francis: Fade to Black
Kadrey, Richard: Sandman Slim (Her voice is like honey and heroin.)
Devoti, Lori: Amazon Ink
Habel, Lia: Dearly, Departed (but: it’s a zombie novel, and I don’t like it enough to overcome my dislike of zombie novels)
Shea, Michael: The Extra
Lackey, Mercedes and Mallory, James: The Phoenix Endangered
Cooper, Brenda: Mayan December
McKinley, Robin: The Door in the Hedge
Williams, Sean: Cenotaxis
Kimberling, Nicole: Turnskin
Ogawa, Issui: The Lord of the Sands of Time
Yes to page 1 but not 119
Abraham, Daniel: A Betrayal in Winter
Goodman, Alison: Eon
Myklusch, Matt: The Accidental Hero (lots of leading, but why not larger type and less leading?)
Parker, K.J.: The Hammer
Bennett, Robert Jackson: Mr. Shivers
Greenwood, Ed: Falconfar
Tryon, Thomas: The Other
Hill, Laurel Ann: Heroes Arise
No to page 1
Cunningham, Elaine: Winter Witch. Paragraph 1 was a non-starter for me
Abraham, Daniel: An Autumn War
Teppo, Mark: Lightbreaker
Sutter, James L: Death’s Heretic
Adrian, Lara: Kiss of Midnight
Downum, Amanda: The Drowning City
Weis & Hickman: Secret of the Dragon
Farland, David: Chaosbound
Williams, Tad: Shadowmarch
Pierce, Meredith Ann: Birth of the Firebringer
Langan, Sarah: Audrey’s Door (partly the annoying typography)
Destefano, Merrie: Feast
China, Cinda Williams: The Gray Wolf Throne
Duncan, Hal: Escape from Hell! (annoying layout doesn’t help)
Saunders, Charles: Imaro
Anderson, James G. and Sebanc, Mark: The Stoneholding
Keck, David: In the Eye of Heaven
Hodgell, P.C.: The God Stalker Chronicles
My dad was a physicist. He’s retired now, but when I was a kid, we’d go out to a pizza place, he’d bring a lab notebook, a slide rule and a calculator, and he’d write equations and notes in it. Sometimes, he’d write jokes.
His entire work life is in those notebooks: everything from Synchrotron experiments to the work he did on the Viking Lander’s GCMS project to the TOMS project (for which he won a NASA prize) to the Hubble Space Telescope, just to name a few projects he’s worked on.
The notebooks were a good chunk of his work product, but they’re not that comprehensible to the uninitiated. It’s not like the next-door neighbor back in Vermont, a farmer, who used to take his kid out on a tractor with him. That kind of work is far more comprehensible to outsiders.
So I suppose it’s no surprise that writing as a career doesn’t seem odd to me. After all, it’s not that dissimilar to the scribbles my dad did in his notebooks way back when. It just has a different audience and result.
There’s a funny thing, though, about both acting and writing. It can be really difficult for others to know where the work ends and reality begins because we get so used to fluid movements in and out of artistic headspace. With actors in particular, that can include whole mannerisms and ways of being. (Maybe some writers are like that, too, but I’m not. I don’t think.)
I was in the shower one morning thinking about how a male character I was writing would approach women, and a thought came out fully formed.
My first reaction thought was, “Well, I’d never think that.” Quite aside from my being straight, I found his thought process compelling but repugnant.
Followed by the mental double-take because: I. Just. Had. Thought. That.
Once I got over my initial reaction, I found that it was comforting: I’d been able to distance the character in a way that made him easier to write now that I had a point of significant difference (from myself) to hang other actions on. I had bounced out of the art and bounced back in.
Sometimes, when others see us, they don’t know what part of us they’re seeing, and that can be disconcerting. It’s also easy to confuse the artist and the art.
With other art forms, the process and result is so much more concrete. My friend James (NSFW link), well, you never know where he is. “Where are you?” I ask. “On a hilltop on Maui chasing nude women on horseback.” Now, see, that’s a far more concrete thing than “I’m laughing my ass off in front of my monitor at two a.m. because I’m writing a funny scene that 61 people will ever read and two of them are in Malaysia.”
Confession: back in the day when I had custom-made suits, I wore men’s ties because they had better range and materials than the women’s offerings, plus they didn’t make one looked gift wrapped. I also, to this day, still covet one particular Italian silk man’s tie that a colleague used to wear.
As I’m getting up from the United club Sunday morning, a guy passes me and heads for the info desk, asking where his gate is. He’s dressed in a black wool newsboy cap, neatly trimmed brown hair, a grey seed stitch sweater that appears to be merino wool, nice jeans that are just a little too loose, and black short boots. He looks like he should be English, so I’m surprised by the American accent.
I’ve left the club (he was still talking) and he breezes by me on the way to my gate, parting the crowd of no-status passengers to veer through to the elite line. As I’m also qualified to use that line, I follow him. He scans his boarding pass, and I see his first name’s Matthew. He’s also carrying a navy pea coat under his left arm, and in the right, he’s got a black Tumi bag with a copy of Esquire hanging out. As we walk to the plane, I have time to study his shoulders, which are awesome and broad. He probably wears an XL in shirts, but he has more of the build of a swimmer than a bicyclist. When we get to the plane, he turns left into first class, and I turn right into coach. (No upgrade for me.)
I wonder where he’s been traveling from that he needed both the sweater and the coat, because LA was cold, but not that cold. That a traveler like him had a paper ticket printed by a gate agent suggests that he’s been rerouted today.
As I’m standing in the third row of coach to get out, I see him leaving the plane. Really nice tone-on-tone white jacquard shirt.
But that tie! Matthew, dear, you can do far far better than that tie. I don’t know what prompted you to wear a tie on a Sunday morning. You don’t strike me as a regular wearer of ties, which may be the problem. This one has the look of the “best a poor boy could afford for the high school prom” kind of tie, except that it at least looked like it was silk, not polyester. So it wasn’t a grade 1 fashion emergency, but it was a solid 2.
Dude, you read Esquire, how could you possibly wear a red-and-grey striped awful tie like that? C’mon.
Look, this tie is like carrying around that picture of the girl who dumped you after three dates in high school. At some point, you just need to move on. This is one of those times.
(There are nice red-and-grey striped ties, but this didn’t happen to be one of them.)
Even though he got off the plane before me, I’m standing on the slidewalk on my way out of the airport. He breezes past me, brushing my hand with his as he passes. Definitely a merino sweater.
There are a number of examples of creeping in “romantic” films, and by creeping, I mean men who do not listen to what women say, taking no to mean yes.
It’s the Schrodinger’s Rapist problem. In a nutshell, a man who doesn’t listen to what you communicate, verbally or otherwise, is unlikely to listen in intimate situations where your consent is more important.
Ever since I read that essay, I hadn’t seen a clear film representation of it until last year, when I saw the 2011 film Rockstar on a flight. Thankfully, I was able to turn it off and watch something else.
In short, there are several times Heer, the female lead, gives JJ, the male lead, very very clear “no” responses and he keeps treating them as “yes.” When he shows up in her classroom to declare his love for her despite that, I just couldn’t watch any more.
I wouldn’t recommend the movie (obviously), but that’s a pretty clear-cut creeper example if anyone happened to need one.
Like: what are the top five cities you want to go to, and why?
And: where do you vacation in the summer?
The latter is worse than the former because it gets into illegal question area pretty quickly, like the prospective parent who wants to use the time as a part of parental leave.
But even the former is tricky, because there are people who do religious tourism, and there are people who, like me, love to visit religious places where people might overinterpret our interest.
For example, I absolutely love Islamic art because I love anything complicated and geometric. Likewise, I like Celtic art, there’s just so much less of it in the world on big structures. But people can and will misinterpret my desire to visit Istanbul, you know? Or my visit to Morocco’s Hassan II Mosque in 2011.
That’s not even getting into issues about going around the world last year, specifically my trip to Dubai. I’d been wanting to go for years, I had gobs of frequent flyer miles, and I went because the trip organizer, eightblack, sounded funny when he wrote up a trip report. Specifically, it was this post about a visit to the Ferrari factory in Maranello.
So yeah, because Rick didn’t want to go (and we didn’t have enough miles for both of us to go anyway), and because I wanted to do it and Rick didn’t, I went. So here I am trying to imagine how people in a job interview might interpret the fact that there I was, sitting in a restaurant the last night in Dubai, talking with lovely people (almost all men) I’d never met bet before halfway around the world from home, and wondering WTF anyone would think about cultural fit from that.
Especially if it involved the conversation with Khalid where he said, “You could drive the gulf states in 19 or 20 hours,” and I pointed out, “Well, you could. I could not.” (Saudi Arabia and women driving, y’know.)
Also, as a point, I generally don’t vacation in summer because it’s high season and I’m a shoulder- or low-season tourist by preference. The assumption that one is vacationing in summer implies kids and school schedules, which also implies an illegal interview question.
Someone who knew I visited Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico in 2012 might think I actually spoke Spanish rather than made half-hearted attempts at it.
Funny story time. A couple of years ago, I friended an ex of mine on Facebook. We’d dated on and off for 11 years — really, when we weren’t involved with other people. So, somewhere between “friends with benefits” and a real relationship. We hadn’t seen each other in quite a few years.
So he proposes to take me to Cancun (as an affair), rapidly succeeded by blocking him on Facebook.
My first reaction was, “Wow, that’s the best you’ve got? No wonder I didn’t marry you.”
This is not to diss Cancun. Okay, well, maybe it is. But Cancun is really not a Deirdre kind of place. Not at all. It’s not that I couldn’t have fun there, I could. It’s just that it ranks so low on my list of places I’d like to go, it doesn’t even make the top 250.
I’d far rather stay married to the guy who took me into the exclusion zone on Montserrat for Christmas, you know?
I started writing fiction around 1988. My best friend, Joyce, started a writing group out of our circle of friends. If I wanted to play, I had to write. All of us (who are still living) are still writing, too.
The first piece I wrote Joyce said was like “waltzing with Frankenstein” — it’s clumsy, but I got there. It was science fiction. In that future, people had beepers. Just goes to show you about failures of imagination, doesn’t it?
While waiting for a response, Gilbert’s beeper made a raspberry sound. He calmly moved his hand to silence it, and, in his haste, knocked it to the ground. It shattered with a last mournful wail. Gilbert’s faced turned raspberry, no doubt to match the sound.
And so, my literary (non-) career began.
I remember spending an inordinate amount of time looking stupid shit up. Like punctuating dialogue.
My next novel I wrote on a typewriter. Way. I started it — and given much of the slush I’ve read, this is not an uncommon place to begin — by having the character wake up. I wrote three novels of it in first person. It bit. I wrote a short story on the site. It also bit. Marion Zimmer Bradley said it had “no sense of wonder” back when she used to send personal rejection letters. I have always wondered if that was more her problem or mine. (I’m not an idiot: at least part of it was indeed my problem.)
Somewhere in there, I tried to write some Trek fanfic, but I really wasn’t inspired. That’s because it was before Riker grew a beard, I think, and before I dated the guy who kinda sorta looked like Riker.
Then I fell into a rough crowd, so to speak, and wound up with contracts for twelve adult (read: porn) westerns in four different series. Yippie-ki-yay. Wound up being half my income for that 18-month stretch, mostly written when I lived in Fort Lauderdale in a studio apartment with a roach problem, dating a guy who had a magic ability to rescue and repair televisions. I know that not all twelve wound up being published; I know at least one was, and no, I’m not telling you the names. Move along.
Oh, and my late husband, not realizing what the stash of books was all about, burned them one evening. Just. Great.
I started writing technical books and chapters after that, including a book about (Macintosh) System 7 for Que. They came with prompt checks and contracts (and really prompt deadlines; I had three weeks to write my first book), but eventually I realized it was coming at the expense of writing fiction. Fiction writing makes me happy; technical writing does not.
I got turned down for Clarion a couple of times and realized I needed to try harder. I went to Odyssey one year, but our year is sort of a lost year, unfortunately. Some of us are really only just now starting to get some success.
In 2001, I started my MA in Writing Popular Fiction (now an MFA program), and learned a lot. I was accepted for Clarion in 2002 (don’t ever do that mid-MA/MFA, it was a stupid idea), and then went on to do Viable Paradise in 2002 (see previous comment) and again in 2004.
Then I got into the doldrums, where I was lost for years. I’m not usually a fast writer and I am fairly easily discouraged when I hit a wall. Nanowrimo has been really a successful endeavor when I’ve been able to commit to it.
Last time I wrote a whole novel draft (2009), it was only in a few weeks, but I wrote it out of order and it is an unholy mess. Let’s just say that, like E.L. James, it is an erotica riff that launched from Twilight in its own way, but the resemblance ends there.
She strolled by, smelling like a hot Texas night where lovers cling under the magnolia tree wrapped in dense humid mists, fireflies twinkling with excitement. Only she was two thousand miles from Texas and blocks from even a single magnolia.
It’s not that I wasn’t writing, but I wasn’t doing enough of it. There are reasons, and some of them are good reasons. Let’s just say it’s part of the past.
In 2010, I decided to go for my F (MA->MFA upgrade), but decided quickly that it really wasn’t for me. For the first time, I felt like I knew what I was doing as an author, and what I needed was more story seeds, not more education. Instead, I set out and fixed some long-standing obstacles in my past, including mending a long-broken relationship with a good friend.
So I had an idea for Nano last fall, and I decided on a project I’d been wanting to for a few months, so I started on it on Nov 1 dutifully. In a few days, I fell over.
Why? Because my writer brain had been waking up every day for months, without fail, working on fanfic. So I said, well, what the fuck, we’ll write some fanfic then. I started doing that on the 6th or so.
I got the 50k done in November. The piece is somewhere around 70k now, but I haven’t yet taken the machete to some places that need it, and I cut 10k out of it one day.
I started posting it. Any of my Clarion classmates can tell you this: I’m really really not a one-draft writer. So seriously not. I under-write. I leave out important stuff. My first draft is really more like making clay for the final pot without any pot-like shape to it.
But this is fanfic. You can make it as polished as you want — or not. I’ve decided to mostly post first drafts, flaws and all. However, my first drafts are far cleaner than they were in my Clarion days. First, I’m not as tired. Second, I’ve grown as a writer. However, I’m aware of my limitations, but I decided I wanted to play now, not six months from now.
I’m glad I did.
I got fan mail. (As of today, I’ve gotten fan mail ten days in a row.) Fan mail is incredibly addictive, folks. It will keep almost anything going.
But that’s not what’s most valuable about it to me.
I’ve discovered a lot of things about how I write. I’ve always known I’m a plot writer, and characters don’t really talk to me except when we’re in media res together. I can’t do those character sheets ahead of time and have it mean anything. But fanfic comes with complete characters (hopefully not so complete that you don’t have room to grow them somehow), so that wasn’t a problem for me this time. Because of that, it was easier to keep going because I felt like I had a feel of what the characters would say and do that I don’t get when I’m writing the early parts of my first drafts.
So I can start characters first. I just never have been able to with original stuff.
There are spaces in between scenes where things can happen, and those interstitial moments can be very cool.
Other people are writing the same characters and using them in different ways with different moments, memories, and lines. You get to look at those choices and figure out if you agree more with them or your own interpretation — or if you want to write another piece that takes advantage of what you’ve learned from someone else’s interpretations. It’s interesting how much even four people can diverge on interpretations yet agree in the main.
Fanfiction.net also offers some very nifty traffic stats. I have a reader in Kazakstan. How cool is that?
But mostly, the other people writing in that same world will amuse you and you will learn from them — and they from you.
Here are some series I have loved in Season 1 or 2 that have died an early death, in approximate reverse order. These are all series where I became a fan within the first two seasons in real time and was religious about not missing an episode.
The Agency (CIA show with Jason O’Mara and Paige Turco), brilliant in Season 2, never on DVD.
The Lone Gunman
Space: Above and Beyond
oh, and Twin Peaks
Notice anything about the show longevity?
Ever since I posted my “The Show Killer. Me. post, people have been accusing me of getting shows canceled that they liked.
I was not responsible for the following:
The 4400: had a longer run. I only consider it a show I killed if it didn’t last three full seasons and I became a serious fan in seasons 1 or 2 and loved the show. I liked 4400, didn’t love it.
Heroes: see The 4400.
V: liked the new incarnation, didn’t love it.
Dollhouse: died an early death, true, and I liked the show, but I never truly warmed to it.
Strange World: one of my favorites, but I never saw it until SyFy reran th show after it had been canceled from network television.
Dead Like Me: another of my favorites, another I didn’t see until after it was already dead.
Six Feet Under: I’d probably love it, but never seen the show.
666 Park Avenue: Except for Terry O’Quinn, who could read the dictionary and I’d be fascinated, the show didn’t work for me. I watched an episode and a half.
First up, Now You See Me, which can be described as a mashup between The Prestige and The Bank Job with Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg as Robin Hood. Seriously, if they nail this, it has the potential to go on my top 10 favorite movies of all time.
Second, a Zombie romcom, Warm Bodies. The trailer’s really funny. Even if you don’t like zombie movies, I recommend watching this trailer.
I’ve never written up the specific incident that made gay marriage so important to me, but I think it’s time. I’ve mentioned some of the benefits I got from being married in my post How I Got Married and Donated a Liver, and allude to this story, but I thought it would be off-point for me to put it into that post. It’s true that I’m one of those socially liberal types and had no problem with gays having equal rights before, but I wasn’t really aboard with marriage (as a civil, legal institution) for anyone until after all this happened.
After Richard died from a stroke, I joined a mailing list with a common interest in strokes: medical professionals, survivors, loved ones of people who’d both survived and perished from strokes.
One man on the list had been living with his sweetie, who’d had a stroke. His sweetie’s family was very homophobic, so they got the paperwork the couple had signed overruled and banned the man from his sweetie’s hospital and recovery.
Catch is, the sweetie had had long-term memory loss. He couldn’t, for example, remember that he needed to use a walker. So he kept asking his family over and over where his loved one was. Day after day after day, unable to remember the answer he’d gotten. One heartbreak after another.
That? Sounds like hell to me. It’s also incredibly evil on the part of the family.
It made me realize that we really did need a legal relationship for gay couples that was legally stronger than blood. Like marriage is.
So I’m incredibly happy with the four states and their ballot initiatives on gay marriage, and that the tide is really starting to turn in groundshaking ways. Thanks to all of you who support gay rights. May there be fewer situations like the sweetie’s going forward, and, one day, may there be none.
Rick and I were discussing my favorite kinds of shows as I was whining about Fairly Legal being canceled. He pointed out I liked smart shows with good dialogue, complicated plots, and layers to them — and that most people simply couldn’t relate to them. I also really like a good sense of humor in a dramatic piece, but it’s not something that’s absolutely necessary for me.
My three favorite movies, in order, are: The Player, Duplicity, and Inception: all but the last have a great sense of humor; Inception probably would be my favorite movie if it were warmer and funnier.
So let’s go over those doomed series. This will be the first of a one-post-per-show format.
For this show, I really loved the writing. There were lots of places where things were left far more open than in a typical series, and I just love that kind of pointilist dialogue.
There were, unfortunately, a lot of fans of the soon-to-be-ex-husband on the show, aka #TeamJustin. Having built that up for a year, introducing Ben was bound to cause some of the fans to become disaffected, though many of us who liked Justin in the first season switched to #TeamBen. For me, I liked Ben from his first episode, though I saw his flaws, but for others, it didn’t happen until around episode 8 (“Ripple of Hope”) of 13 episodes, which was, imho, way too late to get people on board. Some people stopped caring about the show as a consequence. Side note: iTunes claims I’ve watched Ripple of Hope 192 times. Ahem.
The other aspect is that Justin comes off as a stronger male character (in the classic romance novel sense) than Ben does. For me, Ben comes off as a more modern character: he makes the fundamental assumption that women know what they want and are generally able to communicate it. There are a lot of layers in the dialogue, such as this opening scene where Kate and Ben meet.
K: (plays with rim of glass)
B: Plymouth and tonic.
K; Check, please.
B: Do you always come in the door leaving?
K: Umm, it is Not My Scene.
B: But, here you are, so you were either born on that bar stool or you came in here disguised as a woman who wants attention.
K: And you’re wearing a $3000 suit with a pocket square.
B: I believe my motives are clear.
K: Sorry. It has been a while since anyone’s offered to buy me a drink.
B: Really? Did the world go blind?
K: (Laughs) I’m married. Was married. Now I’m not. Anyway, the ex is on his way to sign the (waves hand) whatever, but it looks like he has blown me off.
B: Well, it’s just as well, or he would have changed his mind.
K: (Laughs) Nice try. Maybe it’ll feel normal some day.
B: Do you believe in fate?
K: Wow, was that a line?
B: It’s a question. Takes the edge off picking up strangers in bars.
K: I’m 29. I’m, uh, nearly divorced, recently orphaned, more recently out of a job. My life is kind of at this unexpected turning point, so yeah. I do believe in fate. And I believe she is a fickle, fickle bitch. [nice recap for people who didn't watch Season 1]
B: You seem broken.
B: I like that.
K: And you’re a fixer.
B: No, I tend to make things much worse, and then I disappear.
K: Well, at least you’re decent enough to be honest about it, you don’t see that much.
B: Oh, you must be a lawyer.
K: (lying) Schoolteacher.
B: Right. You’re a schoolteacher and I’m a decent guy, so (raises glass) cheers to honesty.
K: Hey, cheers. Yeah. (laughs) And good night. (gets up, starts leaving)
B: Is truth the way to your heart?
B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart.
K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me.
K: (whispers) Too late.
B: (stares after her as she leaves)
Justin winds up telling Kate what she wants (and is wrong) and keeps trying to assert his dominance, like in this scene from the Finale.
K: Oh, Justin.
J: Here we go.
K: Oh, God, what?
J: Nothing. I just know you, that’s all.
K: Look, this is the, uh … , right needle, wrong haystack. I’ve been fighting this feeling–
J: Oh, my, Kate–
K: …and I keep hoping–
J: Don’t do this!
K: …that this is going to feel right–
J: It does feel right. We’re not who we used to be, don’t do this.
K: I know you think that I’m running away.
J: Yeah, because you are. I knew you were gonna get scared.
K: I’m not scared.
J: (nods his head)
It also doesn’t help that Kate is the patron saint of lost causes, and while Justin has given up on her, she hasn’t given up on him. Then, to make matters worse, when she starts getting scared at Ben’s advances, she runs back to Justin, who then becomes fully engaged again. That all works as far as the plot goes, but some of the ways it plays out make Kate less sympathetic and Ben seem less strong a character as far as many women might see him, and that loses audience.
Justin tries to manipulate Kate directly, but he’s bad at it. Ben’s a far better manipulator, but he’s discovered that manipulating people doesn’t make for good long-term relationships, so he’s the kind of guy who manipulates the underlying situation and let the people cards fall where they will. As an example: knowing it’s complicated and it’ll take her days to decide, they fly to Lake Tahoe “for the day” for a case for which he’s gotten her appointed as a Special Magistrate. Naturally, with Kate, it becomes a multi-day affair, with the two of them spending two nights in Tahoe. The second night, there’s a hot tub scene where Ben’s out there and Kate comes to give him some news about the case, then a different conversation follows. I see Ben’s strategy: he’s made an advance, she’s run to someone else, and if Ben makes the next move and closes the gap between them, he will never know if he manipulated her into it or if she truly picked him. On the other hand, if he gets her close by, within inches, and she closes that last mile, that’s something else. Thus, the hot tub scene, which parallels the season’s opening scene.
K: What’s that?
B: It’s a rock. Found it up there today, it’s sort of shaped like a heart.
K: Do you think it’s ever possible to feel that way again?
B: Like what?
K: The way it feels when you fall in love for the first time. Do you remember that? It just feels like this wave just washes over you, but you’re not afraid to drown. Wow. It’s just so easy the first time.
B: Love is never easy. You don’t have to be 17, you just have to be brave. I knew you couldn’t just pick a side and then fly home. I wanted to stay the night, because I do care that much.
K: (looks up at him)
B: So do you. (crosses over to her) That’s why you went back to Justin, because he’s safe. And this you can’t control and it scares the hell out of you. You want that wave. (reaches for her hand and pulls her into the water) No strategy. No foreplay. No negotiation. You just have to have the guts to dive in. (beat) Do you?
B: Too late. (walks off)
One of my other favorite bits is when Ben’s ex Lydia is the opposing counsel in episode Shine a Light.
B: She’ll have another Tanqueray and tonic.
L: You trying to get me drunk, Ben?
B: Don’t need to get women drunk.
L: Ah, so they just fall at your feet without lubrication.
B: My cross to bear.
L: He’ll have a Plymouth and tonic.
B: You remember. I’m touched.
L: I didn’t need any help, either.
B: Except for that one time in Sausalito.
L: We were both pretty sauced up then.
B: And Alcatraz.
L: That was work related.
B: Oh. (incredulous) That was work.
(Ben crosses behind Lydia as she’s laughing)
B. I thought about your offer.
L: The $125,000?
B: Yeah, it doesn’t really work for me.
L: I could knock it down to 75 if you’d like.
B: How about a million. See, here’s the thing. Karl was so peeved about that settlement that I failed to bring him that I started to wonder: who did tell him about it? Do you know?
L: Search me.
B: It’s perplexing, isn’t it? Because whoever did would have communicated with my client without me being there — which is an even bigger ethics violation than failing to mention a settlement agreement in the first place.
L: (says nothing)
B: You spoke to my client without me being there. The bar association will be so crushed. See, it’s not fair that you’re the only one who gets to be satisfied here, Lydia. Do you know what I mean?
B: Exactly. (Pause) So. Bring me a cashier’s check for a million dollars by the end of the day and I’ll see if he’ll bite.
L: You’re bluffing. And I should have left you handcuffed to that cell.
B: Is that a yes or a no?
L: (turns and leaves)
They know each other well enough to have secret metaphors that are never explained, but you can almost read between the lines.
Why Voting Matters
I’ve heard a bunch of people say that their vote doesn’t matter, usually followed by some rationalization about why it doesn’t matter. It’s true, any individual vote isn’t likely to decide an election, but it’s the collection of votes that does, much like the collection of acts of kindness keep a society together.
Let me give you an example. Rick and I went to Egypt in 2007, and we kind of had a rough tourist day in Cairo: plenty of super-aggressive people wanting to be bribed (I had to photoshop out a guy from a pic with Rick because we weren’t going to give money just for that). I was thoroughly prepared to continue to hate Egypt for several reasons, not the least of which was the threatened migraine from all the screaming in Arabic from the tourist police.
The next day, we went to the catacombs in Alexandria. It was brutally hot, and there were kitties all over the place. They purred awesomely, and one woman went across the street to get them some milk and cat food. Unfortunately, none of us had Egyptian currency, the store didn’t take any currency we did have (US and Euros, mostly). So the woman asked the Egyptian woman at the catacombs if she could change any money. She said she couldn’t, but she went across the street and bought cat supplies on her own dime, then refused payment of any sort.
We loved the woman for this, and the kitties, and the kitties had so much fun.
It’s a small gesture, but it completely reframed how I felt about Egypt.
Voting, however, is more anonymous. It’s more like going into a Catholic church when no one’s around, lighting a candle, and sticking $2 in the box marked “Widows and Orphans Fund.”
You see, voting for one guy this time around will be stuffing, on average, a lot more than $2 in the widows and orphans fund, where voting for the other guy will be taking more than $2 from the widows and orphans fund.
As a (remarried) widow who once got a whopping $255 when my first husband died (and had food stamps and medical coverage for 2 months when I couldn’t work after his death), I thank all of you who voted over the years to help keep people in need from starving. I have repaid that in taxes many times over in the years since.
If you can’t vote, for whatever reason, please just do some small kindness when the opportunity presents itself.