Archive for July, 2002

Rain Woman

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2002

Magnolia Symbolism: Raining Frogs

what movie symbolism are you? find out!

It’s only deep if you don’t know what it means. It’s only angsty if you don’t
know why they’re so unhappy. And it’s only burnout if you’ve lost track of the
number of stories you’ve written…

There and Back Again

Monday, July 22nd, 2002

So I’m back…

Like Lizzy, I didn’t have enough time to reach the Lake District, nor did
I make it to the Hogwarts train station or the Dracula-inspiring park
bench. I did visit Haworth, former home and perpetual shrine to the
Brontë sisters. I saw cathedrals everywhere I went, but there was more
of a feeling of reverence in one room of the Brontë parsonage than in the
York Minster. I’ve seen (alleged) bits of the True Cross treated with less respect
than the Original Furniture. There is something supernatural about the
Brontës, I suppose.

People don’t build cathedrals anymore, but they still write novels. As I was
writing in the rain at Vindolanda for the Hadrian’s Wall bus, I passed the time by
reading Rob Roy. Most of it was good, but it had that sudden,
unexplained and unforeshadowed ending problem that I’d thought was unique to
sci-fi. Several major plot points were knocked off in the course of a few pages,
and not in a believable way. I guess if you’re Scott, you can get away with
all sorts of things.


Tuesday, July 16th, 2002

In England, cheers means thank you, among other things. I’d say that’s the oddest linguistic variation I’ve come across.

My accidental business trip to England is turning into a literary tour. All the places I want to see are ones I heard of from literature. I took the Jane Austen tour of Bath and hiked around the White Horse of Uffington. (The Ballad of the White Horse is by G. K. Chesterton.) Now I hear there’s a bench were Bram Stoker got all his Dracula ideas. Maybe if I sit on it I’ll be inspired to write more Spike.

Anyway, I’m heading north. I think I have a better grip on what a down is, and my next goal is to see a real live moor. (I’ve seen real live Moors - there’s a word that gets around.) Then maybe some heath and peat, if those are different things. Oh, and maybe the train station from the Harry Potter movie - that’s up there on one of the scenic railways. I’m not promising to get out of the train, though.

This blog entry was made possible by clare009.

Fish and Chips

Sunday, July 14th, 2002

I’m alive and well and in England, trying to learn some English. It reminds me of back when I was in school studying Portuguese and our books would always have a set of Continental Portuguese words and a list on the side of Brazilian Portuguese words. For example, train was comboio or trem, depending on country.

Here, the word for one way is single, round trip is return and subway (T in Boston) is tube. It’s also a bit weird seeing the exits all labelled way out, like the U.K. is some sixties drug fantasy world. Now a lorry may sound like a wussy thing, but when it’s rushing at you at 80 miles an hour (yes, they use miles here, too) in the wrong direction, it’s just as impressive as a real live truck.

And they put vinegar on the chips (as in fish and chips, not wood chips) here, just like back in Rhode Island. It’s hard to believe this is another country and not just an especially expensive version of New England. But it’s a crazy hour of the night here and I should get to bed.

This blog entry was made possible by clare009 and her new laptop.


Thursday, July 4th, 2002

My neighbors are trying to deafen me with their patriotic vigor. This is what
I get for staying home instead of joining the crowds at the Esplanade for the
traditional Fourth of July celebration. It wasn’t the terrorists that scared me
away but the heat. I could go up on the roof and see the fireworks in miniature,
but they weren’t too impressive the last time I watched them that way.

About the hiatus…I’m taking a sudden and unexpected trip to England for
work. This has, among other things, meant inventing a training program from
scratch over the past few days, so if I’ve been less than normally belligerent
lately, that’s why. Also it’s been 90 degrees for far too long here in Boston,
so most of my free time has been spent sweating.

The places I want to see in England aren’t in the tour books - that’s not
why I want to see them, that’s just my luck. Am I the only person who
thinks of the White Horse at Uffington or of Bevis Marks when she thinks of the
original Old Country? I’m afraid my chances of seeing Pemberley are even

I’ll try to blog, but I’m hoping not to have a laptop with me. Don’t
send out search parties for at least two weeks.

Men in Black II, The Fountains of Paradise

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2002

I didn’t expect much from Men in Black II, so I enjoyed it. It’s a bit short, like a plot twist has been left out, and it’s the little things that make the movie. If a string of jokes, cute aliens, inhabited lockers, ugly aliens and touching moments a movie makes, it’s a movie.

If a string of thousand-year flashbacks, alien flybys, feeble digs at religion, pointless childhood flashbacks and spontaneous technical setbacks a novel makes, then The Fountains of Paradise deserves its Hugo and Nebula awards.

Plotlessness and lack of characterization can be excused if the technology is flashy enough, but I found Kim Stanley Robinson did the space elevator thing better. Whatever his flaws (including rehashing material from older novels like this one), at least KSR put in the word count. The Fountains of Paradise, on the other hand, read more like excerpts from a novel than a novel.

The Silk Code, Komarr yet again

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2002

I enjoyed Borrowed Tides enough to try again, but The Silk Code left me cold. I think it was a genre problem: I liked the detective, Phil D’Amato, but I got the feeling that he was a series I’d walked in upon (Paul Levinson has written short stories about him) rather than the main character of someone’s first novel.

And what sort of a novel was it, anyway? Sure, the binding had the Tor crest and the words “Science Fiction” in tiny print, but there was no other indication that this was a sci-fi novel. Set in the present time, it seemed more like a disaster novel with a bit of mystery thrown in. Yet if a mystery, the eighty-page flashback to the Dark Ages was a curveball that threw the whole thing off. If a disaster, the culprit was too small-time for the dark conspiracy of the ages built up over the past and present timeframes.

That may sound like there was something for all comers, but I’ll call the glass half-empty and say there was something to disappoint any reader — medical-thriller science instead of sci-fi science, flailing timeframe instead of a tight mystery plot, and an anticlimax instead of salvation from imminent disaster. I’m a glass-half-empty kind of reader.

Much more enjoyable was rereading Komarr again, in order to do my plot-book homework. I hereby declare LMB rereadable - I kept getting into the story, despite having just reread it two weeks ago, instead of taking my homework notes. (I would have used Shards of Honor for my homework instead, but I gave my copy to Veronica.) The plot outline impressed me with just how much was going on in the novel, especially on the science side. It’s easy to fall into the sci-fi mistake of overlooking whatever science is well-written as not hard enough. The only thing that bothered me after so much rehashing was the Barrayar-bashing from the ladies. At least Miles treated the Time of Isolation as more than just a feminist straw-man.

Charybdis III

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2002

Yet more demands of poor fanfic writers - Bjorn wants less tunnel-vision:

I think that even when we’re discussing the future
of our own technology, we seem to have a big case of tunnel vision. We
won’t be able to predict everything, mind, you, but we also have to be
mindful that any technology that is produced will undoubtedly have all sorts
of side uses.

An unnamed SG-1 fan wants scientific accuracy. Others want more style,
or less style, more plot or less plot, a sprinkle of this and a dash of that.
Lori responds to some of these demands with her diplomatic
version of my favorite saying, Have you ever seen TOS?
For Bjorn I’ll translate it, Do you read sci-fi?

Yes, it would be nice if we
could all plot perfectly, write like the poets, display a perfect understanding of
human nature, know every last factoid about our subject matter, and predict
the cultural impact of science down to painting the moon blue. There’s just
one little problem - it’s impossible.

No one omits plot because of a personal prejudice against it. Writers write
bad plots because that’s the best they can do. No one says, today I’ll
make my prose dull and leaden
- they do the best they can. If a writer
seems to get by on just plot (as many genre novelists do), that means they’re
being read despite their disabilities, not because of
them. If a fanfic writer does the Mary Sue, it’s not because she’s decided that
being reviled by fandom would be a nice change of pace - she merely lacks
the skill to conceal herself.

Bjorn takes the failure of fanfic writers at what is arguably the hardest
challenge in
fiction today, that is, inventing and conveying future cultural changes caused by
scientific innovation, and equates it with tunnel vision. It’s these
outright demands for genius that are the real tunnel vision of the genre
discussion. Bjorn is far from the first to demand it; he was just the
most recent with his roundabout way of asking,
Why aren’t you Ursula LeGuin?

There need be no deeper reason for the deficiencies of genre and fanfic
than the simple one that writing is hard. No psychoanalysis or classification is
necessary. If you want it done better, you’re going to have to do it yourself.