Archive for April, 2002

Movin’ On Up

Monday, April 29th, 2002

Will wonders never cease? I got an honorable mention in AAA this year:

AAA 2002

Many congratulations to Penny, who won. That’s yet another contest she’s now disqualified from entering, and as for me, it’s my muse, not my talent, that will keep me out of AAA next year. B’Elanna the Canon-Correcting Muse is just too tired to work her way to the top of the fanfic mountain.

Seema isn’t talking, but it looks like I won a little award in the ASC awards, too. The Newsgroup Recommends only three stories in the VOY Holiday category, one of which was mine, and there are three prizes per category. Ergo, one for me! Time to get working on that acceptance speech - a bird in the hand and all that…

Die Popups Die

Monday, April 29th, 2002

I’ve been wanting to get freeshell into my hosts file for a long time, so I wouldn’t have to type out the full dns name every time I wanted to telnet or ftp over there. Sometimes Mac isn’t quite Unix, and in this case, there was more to getting my mac to read a hosts file than I felt like figuring out until this morning. My mac came to work with me this morning (how about a Bring Your Macs To Work Day, to show the benighted WinWorld what they’re missing?), and I wanted to put the local fileserver in there too.

I found a likely looking link: Mac OS X Hosts Revisited, which taught me not only how to get the hosts file read, but also how to kill ads with it. Basically, it redirects all requests for ads to localhost. There are a lot of ad servers out there, so I’m still waiting for them all to be processed before I can test out my new ad-free mac.

The Fanfic Potlatch

Sunday, April 28th, 2002

Thanks to a link from Lori, I stumbled into The Fannish Potlatch, a sociological take on all those famous fan follies and the definitive answer to the question, Why is so-and-so so popular when she can’t write her way out of a paper bag?

On a completely different subject, Jade has a new story up: Carpet of Blossoms.

What does The Newsgroup Recommend, Seema? Inquiring minds want to know…

Forever Peace, Aristoi

Sunday, April 28th, 2002

Second word of the day: circadian

Make Room! Make Room! was a cross between a hard-bitten detective novel and a Malthusian jeremiad. I was spoiled for it by Soylent Green; when it turned out they weren’t eating people, I lost interest. Despite a few nods to technology, it was more dystopian fantasy than science fiction.

I wasn’t as disappointed by The Spirit Ring as I’d expected to be after the warnings I’d heard. The plot was fun; my only real objection was to the characters themselves. They were young and nebulous, an LMB-style Romeo and Juliet stumbling through the story in a daze. I can’t say that’s not acceptible in fantasy, but I think you need a different style to carry it off properly - something remote, something archetypal and Tolkienesque.

The truth is, I was looking for Forever War, but all I found was Forever Peace. It was a good book, with an interesting deus ex machina at the end, but again, hard-bitten, and at points it toed the wrong side of the line between showing and telling. To be fair, Haldeman did a good job describing being jacked, but the transcendent experience upon which the novel rides is…transcendent. Should one write about what cannot be described? My usual answer is no, but if someone else can make a good novel out of dancing around the point, I’m willing to read it.

The premise was a bit off as well - we’re long past the point where Haldeman’s necessary peace was necessary, and yet we’re still alive. His cure is no cure either - the issue of keeping the sane people from blowing up the world is, as recent events have shown, far less intractable than the problem of keeping the zanies out of the cockpit.

Nothing in the book was too much of a stretch, though, not even the sad ending for the protagonist, which is, I suppose, how this novel won the matching Hugo and Nebula to go with the ones for Forever War.

She proves that sci-fi and fantasy are both new genres, whatever history they may have in the pulps and proto-pulp adventures like this one. I read She after seeing an essay on it in a collection on sci-fi. I’m not sure it said much about women in Victorian times, and as proto-scifi it had little to recommend it beyond the simple question of immortality, treated with little more depth than a medieval morality tale might have provided.

The hero of She is the least interesting character of the novel. Though perfect in figure and aspect (as opposed to the narrator), neither he nor his ancestral race has ever actually done anything of note. In fact, he spends most of the novel unconscious and evades even immortality, but only accidentally. Pulp has never been known for characterization, but this blond, gaping void lurching through the novel is a bit much, even for H. Rider Haggard.

So, on to the sleeper of the month. I bought Aristoi in a odd-lot store and put it down a few chapters in, annoyed with all the background detail, the two-column split-personality sections, and the general alienness of it all. I gave it a second chance, though, and warmed up to it, ending up staying up too late reading it more than one night. I don’t know much about Walter Jon Williams, but I’ve picked up another book of his from Buck-A-Book, I enjoyed this one so much. It takes real talent to get me to stomach open scifi misanthropy, never mind side with the protagonist when he says, at the end, that he doesn’t want to be human. Theme aside, it was a lovely mystery/adventure. The only thing I’d criticize it for is the dearth of central characters, relative to the length of the novel - but with five or six personalities popping in and out of the protagonist himself, perhaps this was a necessary economy.

The Curse of Chalion

Sunday, April 28th, 2002

   Word of the day:  resolution

I am, of course, quite behind. The moment I get published, this blog goes off-line. I don’t need to be making enemies - I’m only here to muse about writing, to ask, for instance, why all but one of the stories in the latest Analog were in the first person. Some were good, some were so-so, but all were confusing. I couldn’t even keep track of the protagonist’s gender in a couple of them, never mind more relevant details, and it’s a trying POV for an entire magazine to be in.

Outstanding novels for recap are: The Curse of Chalion, The Spirit Ring, Aristoi, Forever Peace, She and Make Room! Make Room! I just finished The Curse of Chalion, so perhaps I should get that one in while it’s fresh in my mind.

First off, it was an amazing book, and it was very satisfying to have an LMB book that was so long - a life, and not a chapter of a life. Yet Miles was still in this purported fantasy - his little “oh”’s and “and yet”’s disturbed me at first, coming out of the mouth of a medieval character, until I decided that Miles was LMB’s ideal man, as Rand would put it. Of course he has to show up everywhere, and his absence from The Spirit Ring was that novel’s greatest flaw.

Usually Miles has a better supporting cast, but usually he has a bigger supporting universe as well. She did manage to fool me with them for most of the story, but near the end I realized that Betriz and Iselle were rather sketchy for their large role in the novel, and in fact, all the non-Miles characters were, just like those of her previous fantasy. A whole world came to her, LMB says in the acknowledgements, but it was a peninsular one. Spain was clearly painted, and the language craftily subverted, but all the variety and conflict I think of, when I think of medieval Iberia, was brushed out. The Curse of Chalion was a lot like The Spirit Ring in its attempt at historical fantasy, and I’m still not sure that LMB’s minimalist approach to fantasy works - or it is a religious approach to fantasy? The theology was certainly the best part of the novel; in fact there was too much of it. It wouldn’t have hurt to spread it through a couple of novels, or, say, ten. Why hasn’t it been in Miles’? Certainly there’s more religion in the Vorkosigan saga than one expects in space opera, but it is religion without gods - raw existential honor.

LMB waxed Chestertonian at the end of the book - I knew she had it in her. Her plot devices, both the worn old ones and the impressive weaving of threads in and out of the story, were top-notch. The climax went by a bit too quick, for such a large and slow book, yet it was a hard thing to swing and it worked rather well for all that. She drew me in, she fooled me into believing in her characters, but she didn’t top Memory, or Komarr, or Shards of Honor. In theory, she could have - what was there in Spain but honor? But in Spain religion was a horror story men are still telling today.

Strange, strange choices, but a good book nonetheless.

Though the muse be gone away

Sunday, April 28th, 2002

Persistency of Poetry
Matthew Arnold, 1867

Though the Muse be gone away,
Though she move not earth today,
Souls, erewhile who caught her word,
Ah! still harp on what they heard.

Someone inscribed that to me once, when we were young and we wrote other people’s words, sang other people’s songs, believed other people’s beliefs. It seems a long, long time ago, but I’m in the mood for saudades tonight - that doesn’t translate, so let us say, I’m in a melancholy mood.

I’m not sure why. It could still be the let-down after ASC and AAA voting, or it could be the fandom-goes-on feeling I get when people close down glass onion and unsubscribe from zendom and wander off into fandoms where I cannot follow, or it could just be some existential fallout from reading The Curse of Chalion.

Everyone burns out eventually (except possibly Seema). Fandom is a revolving door through which pass many self-proclaimed whores. Maybe we’re fated to be this way, because of the fundamental illegitimacy of fan writing in the eyes of the world. Real writers don’t burn out after a fanonical three years; they’re barely getting started. There are what, fourteen books listed in the front of Curse of Chalion? And LMB was just a housewife with a hobby when she started.

Maybe the problem is that we can never turn this hobby of ours into a cottage-industry. Not only will we never get paid, we’ll never get respect. I showed my lovely sister Veronica some feedback I got in the ASC awards, but she didn’t seem to understand. Look, I’ve done something! The muse was with me, and I touched the sky.

Ok, I’ve done other things, and I have the sheepskins to prove it, but education is a terribly narrow, specialized thing these days - one people don’t understand, but they respect you for it anyway. They don’t respect you for fanfiction, no matter how big your big name. No one will ever know.

Maybe I’m sad because I’m more likely to be published in the Journal of Symbolic Logic than in Analog. You’ll have to take my word for it that I’m not full of myself or obsessed with awards; I’m just a spectator here, the alien/Borg/INTP come down to observe and meta-comment. I understand that people look to fandom for fun - I certainly had nothing else in mind two years ago, reading through the J/C Index during a slow week at work. I had no ambitions of becoming a BNF when the muse came to me and forced me to write Marriage is Irrelevant, and I still don’t.

I want to be a Real Writer, but I know that real sci-fi writers get about as much respect as fanfic writers do. I could grow up to be LMB and people still wouldn’t know my name; they don’t know hers. The race, as the man said, is not to the swift. The Pulitzer is not to the strong. Lori calls it a game, one Yvonne is also tired of, one that burns out its writers almost as efficiently as fandom does - almost. And yet, and yet, there is something more solid about print, something slow and considered and restful, something more serious and less esoteric than the FFF’s of fandom.

I started out in a jetc list that hid the big bad world of fandom from the happy fish of snack-fic, but eventually I found my way around. I met some cool people, and before I knew it, I’d met all the cool people (not to mention the not-so-cool people). And that was it, that was the whole shebang. Some people keep on looking for more shebang, though - either in new shows, or in slash, or in carrying the torch virtually, or in little clubs that exist solely to show the world that so-and-so is cooler than the average fan.

Maybe it’s the final evidence that fanfic is not an art: we end up looking for more and not finding it, and leaving. Oh, we talk about getting better, about improving our writing, but in practice, we wander off to other fandoms, exotica or erotica. Fandom is social, but writing is individual - maybe that conflict is what tears us apart from our muses and our shows and one another.

So they can call me Queen of the Filk (Penny) or Jemima Austen (Lori) or Our Lady of the AU (Liz), but my show is over and gone, and with it went B’Elanna the Canon-Correcting Muse. In the blizzard of blogs and lists flying apart and virtual seasons and revolving-door newsgroups, she caught her death of cold. Here I am, for reasons I hardly understand, wondering if I should just let her rest in peace.

Fandom is us, tooting our own horns, paying our own fic taxes, reading our own fic. We cannot go up and in here, we can only fly round and round, because we are the whole shebang. Why isn’t that enough?


Saturday, April 27th, 2002

Too cool for words: The Mini-Mizer (link compliments of Liz) where you can picture yourself in Lego. The image can only be saved with a screen shot, so I learned how to do screen shots in OSX - with the Grab application, those little scissors I’ve seen occasionally. Now I have to convert it from .tiff to .gif (with GraphicsConverter) to put it up here - I guess I could also test MT’s image uploader, but I prefer to have all my images in the same directory so I’ll just do it the old-fashioned way.

Minimize Me!

P.S. I see from Jerie’s blog that CYBORG is giving out images now. Here’s mine:

Journeying Electronic Machine Intended for Mathematics and Assassination

Fun with Apache

Friday, April 26th, 2002

I was up too late last night trying to figure out why my hits had gone down to about seven a day for the past two weeks. It couldn’t be that my hit counter wasn’t working at all, because I was getting that trickle of hits. So I thought, maybe those are the noscript hits, and the javascript referrer bit is broken - but I did get some referrers in my few hits - that wasn’t quite it. I tried the perl script directly; that was working fine. I tried the javascript alone and it wasn’t working, but I hadn’t edited it in months - certainly not on April 9th.

I tried moving the javascript to another directory and presto! I could see it again. The problem was clearly my cgi-bin directory. It must have cropped up when I added the .htaccess file for TWiki authentication. Trying to undo that without breaking twiki took me a while, but eventually I got it. Jemima is watching again…

I didn’t mention while blogging back to Lori that I did enjoy what I skimmed of the article by David Brin she’d linked - much more than I liked his Star Wars article she mentioned a while back. I find the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek is more space opera vs. hard scifi than the political differences he saw - not that he didn’t have a point there, but what’s unacceptable in real life is often exactly what we want out of literature.

Strange New Blog

Thursday, April 25th, 2002

I’ve been tweaking the blog again. If you’re using Netscape 4.x and you want to see what I fixed, compare this now-legible blog to the Moveable Type default template at I did with a sneaky trick that imports the style Netscape breaks - Netscape 4.x doesn’t understand @import, so it doesn’t import the things it doesn’t like. I don’t like the fixed font sizes, myself. All remaining minor style problems remain.

On the html side, the recent entries list doesn’t seem to be linked - I’ll have to look into that when I do the list for the category archives, and see if I lost something important when I edited the default templates.

Ok, all set. You didn’t see me off doing that because this entry was still in draft mode. MT is too cool for words. Now that the blog is sufficiently yellow, I’ve been trying to find a good definition of particularism for Lori.

Very roughly, Ethical particularism is the view that existing moral reasons are particular in kind. In other words, what is valuable or how one should act is determined by particular factors in the particular situation and only by such factors, according to particularism. There are no universal moral principles, and we need, moreover, no such principles to reason correctly in moral issues. Particularism conflicts at this point with universalism; the idea that if there are true or valid answers to moral problems, then there are universal moral principles that directly or indirectly determines [sic] these answers.
Ulrik Kihlbom,

There are also historical and political versions of particularism. As a term, it’s similar to intuitionism or constructivism, which is to say, it gets around.

That quote just doesn’t look right, now, does it? I need to fix the fonts. The serif font is going to be the first thing on the chopping block.

Yellow Again

Wednesday, April 24th, 2002

(The category of this post is geekspeak.)

My eyes were starting to bleed from all that blue, but the blog is now properly khaki and in with the site theme.

Lori reports success with the F11 button - if you’re using IE6 for Windows and you can’t scroll down, hit F11 twice and that should clear things up. There’s another fix I could apply, but it looks like it would slow down the page download. Microsoft ruins the web yet again, with its bad shoes. (You remember in the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, how a civilization collapsed from an oversupply of bad shoes? Everyone had to keep buying new shoes, until the entire GDP was going into footware. Bad shoes drive out good.)

Speaking of Microsoft’s long-term plan to eradicate human civilization, IE5-point-whatever for the Mac isn’t displaying the background of the sidebar properly, so the cute dotted (well, probably not dotted in IE) divider looks like it’s a quarter-inch too far to the left. Of course my standards-compliant browsers are doing just fine.

I think I’ll just leave a note down the bottom where the scrolling stops - “If this page looks like crap, then your browser is crap. Hit F11, or better yet, hit” Strangely enough, and despite rumors to the contrary at the MT site, Netscape, the World’s Most Incompetent Browser, is displaying the pages moderately well. It eats the outside margin, but that’s nothing compared to IE nuking my borders.

In honor of the end of ASC voting, I posted my new filk to the newsgroup. AAA ends Friday. Vote now or forever hold your peace.