Archive for November, 2001

Flannel and Berries

Wednesday, November 28th, 2001

I’ve been waiting for my new, high-priced Massachusetts license ever since the RMV rant four weeks ago. Today I called the RMV and found out what the problem was. First, let’s recap: I went to the RMV in Boston, twice, and filled out all the paperwork, which prominently featured my address in Boston. I proved I was a Massachusetts resident by showing the bills I got at that very same address in Boston. I handed in my Connecticut license, demonstrating that my previous residence was in, duh, Connecticut (where licenses are a heck of a lot cheaper, by the way).

Despite these obvious clues that, hey, maybe this girl lives in Boston, my license has been mailed to a town in Western Massachusetts, about as far from Boston as you can get without donning flannel and living off venison and berries.

Why? Well, ten years ago I was in college in that town and I got a learner’s permit, on which I drove around one parking lot in a truck in first gear, once. Twice, tops. I never even got the license, and I’ve lived in three other states since then. Still, the RMV never forgets.

Do the Snakey-Snakey

Wednesday, November 28th, 2001

Dr. Deb is weakening on the Buffy front - I got to see the episode tonight instead of on tape-delay. I’ve just wasted the rest of the evening putting up an existent Buffy page, as well as doing a lot of web site tidying that you won’t even notice so why do I bother? For example, the filk is in html and technicolor now, but the latest scenes of my upcoming fic (working title: The Silent Movie of the Soul) are still stranded in my notebook.

And The Snake that Ate Sunnydale High isn’t even bouncing like he should. I hope that’s just Opera being fussy as usual. I’ll put it here to see if it will do the snakey-snakey when it’s not in the background:

Good snake! And yes, I know the snake didn’t really eat the high school - Giles blew it up. I miss Giles already.

Gone Vampy

Monday, November 26th, 2001

A few hours after I said that B’Elanna had nothing to worry about I was already done with my first Buffy filk. Now I’m writing a real live fic, which started out as a vignette but acquired a plot this morning and is now…run, run - it’s growing!

The filk (of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause) is up on my nonexistent Buffy page.

Someone has to say it…

Sunday, November 25th, 2001

Someone has to say it…necrophilia.

Long, long ago when the Internet was young, we didn’t have exclamation points and question marks and faux XML. Way back when we walked five miles barefoot through the snow to the VAX lab (uphill both ways) we had to make due with periods - so when someone was addicted to the net, we said she had a net-dot-problem.

My sister has a Buffy.problem, and after surprisingly little effort she’s dragged me down to the kitsch grave with her. I watched some of the early seasons, but Dr. Deb (my Trek Provider and Consulting Physicist) and I didn’t stick with BtVS. My renewed acquainance with Buffy started with a Late Season Five Revue at my sister’s, including the romantic Spike/Buffybot episode. In an hour I left out of my description of last weekend’s Harry Potter Fest, I saw Buffy! The Musical the first time.

Then the nefarious sibling unit brought the tape home for Thanksgiving. I don’t think there’s a Voyager episode I’ve seen three times, never mind three times in one week. I saw “Muse” twice, and that was my all-time favorite episode. B’Elanna, forgive me. It was all over in the first number (spoiler alert, Aussies), when Buffy spiked a redshirt vamp in the sternum while singing “nothing seems to penetrate my heart”. And I thought TOS was campy…

B’Elanna the Canon-Correcting Muse needn’t worry about the Buffybot moving in on her territory, because as far as I can tell, BtVS is already fic. Am I supposed to pit my paltry unfinished filk musical against “Once More With Feeling”? Can my year of gnawing on the corpse of J/C compare to a show that ’ships with real corpses, Buffy’s not the least among them? If I wrote smut, could I ever hope to top “Smashed”? (Somebody tell me they didn’t just broadcast that on prime-time television in my beloved Puritan country, and without any of the TV-NC17 warnings Seema has led me to expect.) And this dragging your friend out of heaven for her own good is just so…J&7.

And so it goes… Dr. Deb has no intention to provide Buffy, but maybe I can change her mind. After all, we’ve been enjoying Special Unit 2, the monster-show so bad it’s–well, it’s bad–more than Enterprise lately, and I skipped the rerun of last week’s Enterprise (which I still haven’t seen), not to mention a Voyager repeat and some midnight DS9, in order to watch that Buffy tape. Trek is still camp, but intentional camp is so much more entertaining…

So I’ve been downloading some mp3’s of the musical, and then I suppose I’ll have to read some fic. But I am not going to buy a DVD player to watch Season 1 like my sister plans to, and I’m not going to watch “Once More With Feeling” three more times to catch up with her. I am not an addict.

I am merely an aspiring addict.

Evil Mirrors

Tuesday, November 20th, 2001

You may be wondering how it took me an entire weekend to see one Harry Potter movie. Well, it involved a turkey dinner, leaving for the theater two hours early to get the good seats, reading the book the next day to see what they’d left out (not much), plenty of sleeping in in the mornings, and a side trip to Sears for tension rods to hold up my new curtains.

Today, however, I have managed to do something more productive. I sent out my first story to a magazine - I’m expecting my first rejection letter in two to eight weeks. I also managed to put up Jade’s new story, England Swings, as well as a sitemap for my not-so-fast-growing web site. Right now I’m negotiating with the mirrors about uploading the files. They’re not in the mood. Maybe I’ll just pay for the good service on freeshell rather than go on fighting my evil mirror sites. seems to be blocking all files with hyphens in their names, and Crosswinds cut off my email a while back. (That was actually a blessing, because it was all spam, all the time.) The days of the free web are so, so over. Even freeshell wants that buck to fully activate the zendom backup site. I think I’ll mail smj the check tomorrow…

An answer for Liz

Monday, November 19th, 2001

An answer for Liz: mostly it’s my job, but my weekend was also wiped out by a pilgrimage to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with my sister and her fellow devotees.

Just for the sake of content, here’s my top five list of sci-fi/fantasy books, as posted to zendom:

  • The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
  • The Napoleon of Notting Hill (G. K. Chesterton)
  • Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  • Memory (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • Till We Have Faces (C. S. Lewis)

Go forth and read…

Zen Banners

Tuesday, November 13th, 2001

The review is now up at zendom, and Liz has made some cool banners for linking us:

zendom banner

zendom button 1 zendom button 2

Today I am a real blogger - I just encountered the Mystery of the Disappearing Archives. First October disappeared, and when I got it back, November disappeared. I hope they’re together again now.

The Romantic Manifesto

Monday, November 12th, 2001

  Puppy:  off
  Word of the day:  Romantic

I bought The Romantic Manifesto the other day and read it on the T. I found it even more helpful than the how-to books I’ve read: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card and The Science of Science-Fiction Writing by James Gunn. The former is the industry standard, featuring the secret MICE system of writing sf/f. I’d hoped the latter was about science in sci-fi, but it wasn’t. It was barely about writing sf at all - it was more interesting as a biography of Asimov.

Anyway, back to Ayn Rand - she’s a wonderful read, if only to hear someone refer to famous works of literature as “vile” and their authors as “evil”. Technically, The Romantic Manifesto is not about the mechanics of writing but about the philosophy of art, but it still manages to cover most of the MICE mechanics, explain what the problem is with sci-fi and touch on Rand’s own motivation for writing - all on the side, as it were, of her aesthetic philosophy. She also discusses the difference between moral and aesthetic judgment of novels, and includes a fun short story at the end.

I read The Romantic Manifesto a decade ago, so it’s the most likely source of my own ideas about plot. Ayn Rand insists that the novel be plot-driven - every point of character and theme must proceed from the plot. You could think of it as a book-wide version of “show, don’t tell”. She insists that the heroes, at least, have as much personal volition as the plot has action (and the plot must have action), and she gives contrasting examples of both characterization and style.

To Ayn Rand, a novel is its own justification - it is not a gravy-train, or a morality play, or a disposable piece of entertainment. The function it serves for the reader is escapism - the reader escapes into the ideal world, the one that matches his own ideas and feelings about life, for the duration of his time between the covers. That makes it doubly strange that Rand dislikes sci-fi. (Atlas Shrugged is, arguably, sci-fi.)

Science fiction, she claims, is a mixture of the good (Romantic) and the bad (Naturalistic) tendencies of the novel. An sf plot is always Romantic (idealized, with plenty of action, a notion of good and evil, and heroes working towards the good) but the characters tend to be Naturalistic Everymen swept along by external events, sketchily drawn with little psychological consideration. No one will argue that character has always been the great weakness of sci-fi, so that when someone like LMB comes along the difference is shocking. (I had to get her in here somewhere.)

I highly recommend The Romantic Manifesto to writers; even if you disagree with Ayn Rand, she’s always a good example of what it means to have a reason for doing what you do - in this case, writing. The goal of her novels was to exhibit the ideal man. In the process she made a kind of bible out of them, which she readily refers back to to make her points. Literature is a means of conveying ideas, she mentions, that it would take reams of philosophy to explain - but you have to have something to say.

A Fresh Splash of Vinegar in the Eye

Monday, November 12th, 2001

I’m reviewing the classic work of fan fantasy, The Eye of Argon here in my blog because it’s the best notepad I have around at the moment. This review is for zendom, and may be reproduced by the listmembers anywhere, anytime, for any purpose. I hope Liz will review my review…

Well, here goes… (ahem)

A Fresh Splash of Vinegar in the Eye

Imagine a terrible transporter accident - not a merciful death that leaves its victims as quivering chunks of flesh (Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture), nor a romantic one that brings together two kindred spirits like Tuvok and Neelix (VOY: “Tuvix”), but one which unites the interminable pulp adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs with the exploding thesaurus of horror which was known as H. P. Lovecraft. Add a little brain damage (ok, a lot of brain damage), and you have Jim Theis, alleged author of The Eye of Argon.

I think I’ve rubbernecked at too many fan fiction accidents, because I enjoyed The Eye of Argon. Its lovingly-preserved typos and grammatical errors aren’t up to the standards of one of our own (e.g., Analyiah), but in all other categories Jim Theis is an author Bad Fanfic! No Biscuit! could be proud of. He has a firm grasp on the pulp fiction concept of plot (plenty of swordfights, secret passages and confrontations with fat, evil princes) and characterization (none to speak of). The style boasts a superfluity of adjectives (almost all of them misused) that would make Lovecraft blush. And to top it all off, The Eye of Argon is unfinished. Perhaps the author is still waiting for fanmail before he turns it into a trilogy.

To save my adjective-averse readers from the pain of reading The Eye of Argon, I’ll summarize this milestone of fantasy:

As the story opens, we find the hero of the unpronounceable name, Grignr, pursuing his vocation of murder and mayhem in his charmingly bloody way, but his thoughts quickly turn to pillage and whoring instead. It doesn’t take him long to find the whore of his dreams. Unfortunately, another drunk attempts to separate Grignr from his lady-love. Grignr wins the battle, but loses the war, being dragged away to the city lockup by an overwhelming force of swordsmen.

This is where the Evil Prince™ gets involved. Grignr is brought before him to be judged, and he condemns Our Barbarian™ to torture and death. Death means little to Grignr, so a conniving aide recommends a life sentence in the Evil Prince’s mines. Desperate, Grignr makes a bid for freedom, but is again overwhelmed by numbers and placed in a cell to await his grim future as a miner.

And thus we come to Chapter 3 1/2 [sic], in which the author shows his mastery of the genre of bad fantasy. (Liz points out that that’s a tautology.) The scene shifts from BarbarianCam™ to a frightful pagan ritual in which lewd and lascivious priests harass a frightened woman, huddled beneath the jade statue of…you guessed it, Argon. And the idol’s single eye is a pearl beyond price: the rare, the elusive, the unheard-of scarlet emerald. Keep your eye on the eye of Argon, as we return to Our Hero’s plight.

Grignr is lost in philosophic contemplation of the concept of Time. It’s dark and dreary in his dark and dreary cell, and although he’s counted five meals, he’s not sure whether he’s been locked up for ten minutes or ten years. Fortunately for philosophers everywhere, Grignr is distracted from his weary thoughts by a new enemy - a giant rat leaps on his chest, seeking out his “juicy jugular”. Of course, Our Hero triumphs over his hairy foe, and from the corpse he fashions a secret weapon…

Meanwhile, under the eye of Argon, one of the priests forces his attentions on the Damsel In Distress™. In a scene worthy of The Exorcist, the heroine is overcome by the priest’s bad breath; she “wrench[es] her head backwards and regurgitate[s] a slimy, orange-white stream of swelling gore over the richly woven purple robe of the enthused acolyte.” It’s these little technicolor details that make The Eye of Argon the exemplary work that it is. Needless to say, a little vomit can’t keep an evil priest down, and Our Heroine? is soon in even direr straights.

All the rules of literature demand that the author retrieve Our Hero and deliver him to the scene. So back to the cell we go. Soldiers come to escort Grignr to the mines, but he seizes the opportunity and slits a one soldier’s throat with his sharpened rat bone (the pelvis, if you’re curious). He makes quick work of the remaining soldier and begins wandering the catacombs. Barely escaping death from an antique catapult trap (which is somehow part of the floor), he climbs down into the crypt revealed beneath it. From there he hears the screams of Our Heroine, and follows them through the secret trap door inside the sarcophagus.

In a move that is never adequately explained, Grignr appears amidst the menacing priests and makes quick work of them with his sword. And thus we see the happy reunion of Grignr and the wench from whom he was so abruptly parted at the outset of the story. Carthena tells him her life story (not to mention her name): she had escaped from the Evil Prince, but Grignr’s arrest in the tavern brought her to the attention of his soldiers again and thus she ended up in the nauseating clutches of the priests of Argon. Fortunately, Carthena can guide Grignr out of the catacombs. He pries the eye of Argon, that incomparable scarlet emerald, out of the face of Argon, and the happy pair prance happily out of the dreary room towards freedom.

Behind them, a priest awakes from the epileptic swoon Grignr had mistaken for death and follows Our Heroes?. Yet as his unstoppable blade is descending towards Grignr’s hollow head, the trap Our Hero escaped in the previous chapter catches the epileptic evil priest. Grignr and his lady-love continue their escape, chatting about local politics and stumbling across the corpse of Carthena’s ex along the way. As Our Heroes approach the secret exit, Grignr has the opportunity to strike a blow for democracy. The Evil Prince and Oppressor Of Our Heroine and Of Her Boyfriends™ is making a secret entrance with his nefarious advisor; it will be his last.

As Grignr lays about with his sword in his usual way, Carthena uses her torch to cook the Evil Prince to death. (The moral being, don’t mess with this girl’s boyfriends.) And now Grignr and Carthena emerge into the long-awaited “feral red” light of the sun, where the late Evil Prince™ has conveniently left them horses. At this point, a lesser author would have wrapped up the tale, but Our Author gives the tale a Lovecraftian twist. Grignr pulls the eye of Argon out of his pouch to admire it and dream of the wine and women it will buy him. It seems Carthena missed the scene where Grignr pried the eye off of Argon; now she cries out in fear, “The eye of Argon, Oh! Kalla!”

“Kalla” is apparently the native term for “that was a really, really, really, really bad idea, Grignr, you stupid barbarian!” (I knew there was no such thing as a scarlet emerald.) The Eye turns into the Blob in Grignr’s hand, except this blob has a mouth. (For those following the technicolor, the blob is still red, but it leaves yellow-green slime behind it wherever it goes.) Swords are no use against the blob, unfortunately for Our Hero. It attaches itself to Grignr like a leech and soon swells with barbarian blood. Carthena faints. Grignr, blacking out from loss of blood, tries her trick, plunging a torch into the gelatinous enemy. It bubbles and quavers and…

…the story ends abruptly. Apparently there was not enough room in the mimeograph margin to fit Grignr’s final fate. Did this aboriginal evil, this nefarious Eye, grow to consume the entire world? Did Carthena come to and save the day? Did Grignr have roast blob for dinner? The world will never know.

Besides the Technicolor theme, The Eye of Argon is notable for its stunning creativity in the tired old field of swordplay. Where else can you see a grown man done in by a rat’s pelvis? Could Lovecraft himself have transformed a scarlet emerald into an eerie misbegotten leech-blob? Highly unusual for pulp is the feminist angle, in which Carthena (clearly a proponent of free love) strikes out against the male oppressor with sandals, torches and orange-white bile. Overall, The Eye of Argon is a refreshing splash of vinegar in this jaundiced fic-reader’s eye.

Liz, you know you want to review it…

Your Lady of the AU

Sunday, November 11th, 2001

I forgot to mention the nice award Liz gave me last week:

Our Lady of the AU