Archive for March, 2002

Divine Intervention

Monday, March 25th, 2002

   Word of the day:  insurrection

I made my way through Divine Intervention (I don’t think it was capitalized on the cover) by Ken Wharton. My sister was bored enough with it that she lent it to me before she’d even finished. Reading it was like watching a movie - the cute kid, the loving yet slightly distanced parents who pull together to save the cute kid, the nasty government officials who will stop at nothing to hide what the cute kid has found, i.e., the cute alien, the heroic bumpkins who are more than they seem, the heroic military guy, etc. There were other bits, too, that wouldn’t have fit into a real movie - the history of the previous space expedition, told in epigraphs, the religion, which was too interesting an idea to come across on the big screen, and the frozen colonists endangered by the nasty government sorts. It was a good movie, but I wanted to read a book.

Ben’s Dream

Friday, March 22nd, 2002

Ben’s Dream

(a filk for Veronica)

I dreamed I met a Californian,
A most amazing girl.
She had that look you very rarely find,
The haunted, hunting kind.

I asked her to say what had happened,
How it all began
I asked again - she never said a word,
As if she hadn’t heard.

And next, the streets were full of wild and undead men.
They seemed to hate this girl.
They fell on her, and then,
They disappeared again.

Then I saw all of the Scoobies
Crying for this girl
And then I heard then mentioning my name,
And leaving me the blame.

Borrowed Tides, Borders of Infinity, The Eyre Affair

Wednesday, March 20th, 2002

   Word of the day:  inscription

I was going to catch up, really I was. I was going to say how I’d enjoyed Paul Levinson’s second novel, Borrowed Tides, although on the science side it left out a lot of explanation, or at least verisimiltudinous technobabble. But like good Star Trek technobabble, it was a lack that somehow managed to leave just the right amount to the imagination.

I also took a whack at Vernor Vinge’s new short story collection. I didn’t read them all, and I didn’t care for something I couldn’t quite pin down in the general style of them, but some stood out. The pixel-picture of the purple-blossomed valley was a bit of description that redeemed the entire story around it, for example. Then again, maybe I just got used to his style after the first bunch. I gave up on The Star Road by Gordon R. Dickson. It was a classic of everything sci-fi is getting over now, I suppose, and while I enjoyed it once upon a time, I’m not up for it now. I also tried a collection of what passes for short stories by C.J. Cherryh - Realities. I read two out of three novellas, but skipped the third because, though the ideas were good, the plots tended to go around in frustrating circles. She writes too much for me, though I suspect a fantasy fan could digest her quantities easily.

I picked up a year’s-end Locus, and found out that everyone else on the planet liked Gaiman’s American Gods more than I did. Fortunately, a few reviewers agreed with me about Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction, a book that thought far too highly of itself. Locus is a very depressing read - do you have any idea how much the subscription rates to sf magazines have dropped over the last twenty years? You don’t want to know. I wonder if sf is still a good field for short fiction, considering the magazine shutdowns and audience.

What can I say about a second go at The Martian Chronicles? I’d like to try it myself - it’s a very nice format for short stories. I’m not even going to praise the LMB books I’ve been catching up on (Borders of Infinity, Brothers in Arms). Consider them the standard by which I’m judging everything else, if you need an opinion of them. I’d put the former in my Best of LMB category along with Memory, Komarr and Shards of Honor. One of my LMB converts has a copy of The Spirit Ring for me - I think I’ll give it a shot before moving up to Curse of Chalion, if only to avoid the (rumored) disappointment afterwards.

I almost forgot: The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde is a nice, nice bit of speculative fiction. I was rooting for the sidekick and lost on that one, but Edward got his Jane - it’s always good to end a book the way it’s supposed to end. It’s a standard sort of British fantasy, but without the overt humor that tends to leave me cold. I’d still prefer something a little more serious, but I know better than to expect that from overseas. “Where is the sharpness and precipitousness…?”

Mockery and Meta-sharks

Thursday, March 14th, 2002

Mockery and Meta-sharks

You get old, you get bitter, you start writing…metafic. Metafic is fic about fic, something that looks like a normal piece of fanfiction, but is actually a reflection upon fandom and the show. Pardon me for illustrating with examples taken from my Voyager stories - there will be Buffy content (and spoilers) at the end.

Metafic can deal with the fan’s thoughts about writing (e.g., The Author), her end-of series sentimentality (A Light Beyond), the anti-canonical traditions of fanon (The Efficiency Expert), or the foibles of TPTB (DQ Babes in the Mirror-Mirror Universe). Of course, any decent AU fic is an opportunity for frequent digs at TPTB (The Museum), but it requires an effort to take years of abuse from TPTB and twist it around after the fact into the story you wanted them to tell (Lurking).

It may sound like all fic is metafic, and all fic queens are bitter, but I don’t believe so. Sometimes a story is just a story (Taboo). Some fanfic, it has been alleged, could go pro if you just swapped out the trademarked names and airbrushed the galactic map (Colony). Other times, the act of writing is itself the protest, while the fic, in order to be a proper slap in the face of TPTB, must be as tame and believable as possible (Take it on the Run) - “C/7?” says the fan meta-metafictionally, “I’ll show you C/7!”

If not all fic is metafic, surely all humorous fic is parody. Sometimes the mockery is overt (Seven of Borg), sometimes it’s borderline (The Bottle of Bajoran Blue Wine), but all our shows are dramas - funny how no one writes sitcomfic - so all our humor clashes with the genre, making parody. It is not our place to write “The Trouble with Tribbles” - the fan takes the show too seriously. It is the producers who tend to take the show too lightly, to our unending bitterness.

This post is not about Trek. (Pardon the meta-contradiction.) This post is about “Normal Again”, the most recent BtVS episode. Once again, we find The Jossy One doing it better than the fans. I blogged once that I would never write Buffy because it was already fanfic. First it was The Musical to End All Filk, and now, now my personal territory, the exclusive BOFQ genre of metafic, has been Jossed. They warned me about getting Jossed, but I always thought it was a plot thing. If I’d known he had this little respect for the division of labor, I’d have gone back to writing J/C (and that’s saying a lot).

Let’s review it for him: The producer produces the show. The fans mock the show. The producer produces the plot holes. The fans mock the plot holes. The producer produces first-order stories. The fans write meta-fic. It’s a simple system that has worked for thirty-five years now in Trekdom. Undermining the system because you’re some sort of artistic genius who’s caught on to the secret meta-heart of fanfic and is now sucking it dry, leaving us fans nothing to write…well, that’s just not acceptable. Why can’t you write mediocre time-travel episodes like Brannon Braga, eh? Is that asking so much?

What did he do? the unvamped reader may ask. Think of it as “The Six Years of Hell” - a reverse dream-sequence in which Buffy’s superheroic feats are merely a symptom of her pesky catatonic schizophrenia for which she’s been institutionalized all these years. Which is the dream state and which the reality is an open question at the end of the episode, and perhaps will still be at the end of the season. On one level, this is just more Cruelty to Buffy, but if you think Joss drew the line there, refraining from fan-level mockery of his own show, you must come from a happier fandom than BtVS.

It was lovely, it was cutting - the best bit being when the doctor in the institution told Catatonia Buffy that she used to hallucinate much more impressive enemies than this season’s batch of a few evil geeks she went to high school with. Second only to that was Buffy’s own realization that her slayer-fantasy was ludicrous - she told Dawn so while she was stalking her in order to bring a premature and violent end to her Sunnydale delusions. In the midst of an episode full of self-mockery, Joss dares a poignant fannish double-reverse (I did one at the end of A Maquis Holiday, but of course it can’t compare), when Joyce is trying to convince Buffy to return to the land of the sane and instead convinces her to go back to vampire-slaying.

Joss jumped the meta-shark, he confessed his sins of the season - and I do believe that they were sins rather than an intentional setup for a final Catatonia Buffy arc - but he did it so well that we are forced to forgive him. There is a law in literature, there is a social contract of fandom, that was, strangely enough, coined by Freud: “I promise to believe anything that can be made to look reasonable.”

Still, he should have made it look reasonable from the start, or left it to the fans to make it look reasonable after the fact - that’s our job.

Jumping the Shark

Tuesday, March 12th, 2002

An explanation by Lori:

A reference to the Happy Days episode in which Fonzie water-skied up a ramp over a tank of sharks. That point at which a tv show stops being Fun and Original and becomes a series of sensationalistic attempts to regain falling ratings. It’s different things for different people. In Cornwell’s books, it’s often the point at which she killed off the love interest for the main character.

I believe Buffy jumped the shark when Riley parachuted in with wife in tow and Spike’s career as an arms smuggler was Suddenly and Dramatically Revealed. Armageddon may be a minor plot twist for BtVS, but some things…some things are still over the top.

Or is that “over the shark”?

Buffy’s Law

Wednesday, March 6th, 2002

Buffy’s Law

Half a season from newbie to bitter old fic queen - it must be a new fandom record…

I think it’s time to rename Murphy’s Law, and while I’m at it, I’ll rewrite it, too: If anything can happen to make Buffy more miserable, it will. (If you don’t sense spoilers coming with this one, you don’t deserve to be warned.) For a season in which Buffy started out dead, things sure have been going downhill fast for her. Silly me, I thought six feet under was the lowest you could go. I respect Joss Whedon for the dialogue, but his characterization, now that I look at it more carefully, reminds me of the unremitting character-torture of which certain teen fanfic writers are all too fond.

The Mayor was right - that entire Buffy/Angel thing was doomed from the start, and while Buffy had the excuse of being a minor, Angel and Joss had no such excuse. Pardon me for harking back to Midnight Buffy reruns, but I was an unhappy witness to the graduation arc recently - Angel breaks up with Buffy, Buffy can’t really enjoy her prom, Buffy can’t really enjoy her graduation, Buffy had, I was surprised to see, an even worse time when she started college than when she went back for Warren’s time-warped version this season. Buffy can’t really enjoy anything, and it’s not just a lingering aftereffect of death. It is the show. I haven’t seen five minutes of Buffy happiness yet, and I’ve watched this entire season and large chunks of the others. The gypsy curse wasn’t on Angel, after all.

Maybe I just sound newbie, saying I didn’t know the show was even more depressing than real life. I thought the whole kill Buffy thing was a heroic exit and the subsequent resurrection an ironic last-minute fanfix. I thought Giles leaving Buffy in the half-dead lurch was some sort of obscure character development; we had none of that in Trek so I didn’t feel I could criticize. Tara was no great loss for me when she left Willow - the show was ship-heavy then, anyway. Little did I know that the character massacre would extend from Semi-Evil Willow to Random Spike and Neanderthal Xander. Those of you keeping up know that BtVS is down to no ships, unless you count Spike and his out-of-the-blue tart. He must have picked her up along with the out-of-the-blue career as a weapons dealer. Right. And thank you Joss for a half a season of wedding buildup, only to destroy Xander at the altar. I’m rooting for Anya to go back to the demon realm. I would, in her place.

“What this show needs is a big fat reset button,” I told Dr. Deb, fellow refugee from Trek. Two minutes later, I saw the preview. That’s one mother of a reset button, and the worst part is, I think Buffy would be better off institutionalized. I’m half-hoping that it doesn’t turn out to be another one of Warren’s tricks - more than half-hoping. At least the bloody field of corpses that once were Scoobies leaves plenty of room for fanfic first aid.

Where did I put my reset button?

Run for the Roses

Sunday, March 3rd, 2002

Run for the Roses

As mentioned in an earlier blog, I entered the Awesome Author Awards again this year. Jade has also entered, and the stories are now up for reading and voting. Of course there’s no hope for us little people, since EJ and Monkee are in the mix. Nevertheless, if you can spare some time from the much larger ASC Awards, there’s an endless supply of nearly fresh J/C fic waiting for you:


Just to prove I’m not bitter, I wrote a filk about AAA: Vote for the Roses. AAA actually gets me all sappy and maudlin about Voyager, though I’m not sure why. In fact, one of my AAA entries, A Light Beyond, was written, not out of the sappy J/C sentiment on its surface, but the sappy end-of-VOY sentiment underneath.

But the ending always comes at last
Endings always come too fast
They come too fast, but they pass too slow…

Seven seasons of the voyage was not enough; one season of writing fic could never be enough…