Archive for September, 2002

Tuesday, September 17th, 2002

How did it get this late at night? It must have been the bad Pierce Brosnan
volcano movie…

So people are going on about Thanks to Seema for this
to a classic LiveJournal comment-in on the issue.

I have only a couple of stories up at ffn, as an experiment. I had an
especially bad experience with the first one, in which ffn went down for a month
about an hour after I posted it. has always seemed like the AOL
of the fandom world - so easy to use that it channels a newbies into situations
they’re not ready
for. AOL users are famous for breaches of netiquette; ffn users for literary and
grammatical offenses. Yes, I know competent, professional people who use
AOL. I know good writers who use ffn. That doesn’t alter the fact that ffn lowers
the bar in a realm in which the bars are already too low. As we say in
mathematics, it fills a much needed gap in the literature.

It’s too late at night to explain how flooding the market with bad fanfic
drives out the good, and even the notion of good. Go reread the section of the
Hitchhiker’s Trilogy about bad shoes destroying the economy of an entire planet.
No, the point that interests me in the recent ffn debacle is the idea some people
have gotten into their heads that giving someone money makes the recipient a

Far from it. Consider another link from Seema:
Save Karyn. Is Karyn a business?
Does everyone recall the classic rec.humor.funny joke about
There are certain requirements to being a business. It isn’t
enough to go around destroying the book distribution infrastructure by selling
books at a loss in hopes that
someday, when there are no independent booksellers left standing, your
monopoly will finally
net you a profit. At least, that shouldn’t be enough to make you a
business. (Refer back to the Hitchhiker’s section on bad shoes.)

Likewise, giving away web services, and upgrading them for people who
make monetary contributions, is not a business. I’m well acquainted with this
popular non-business through my web host,
freeshell, a.k.a. SDF. Freeshell
is run by a guy named Stephen Jones, out of his own pocket, with some help
from contributions from members like me. It’s free to all, but you get perks
in exchange for donations. After a year of the free membership, I gave $36
as a one-time contribution and got ftp and a few hundred megabytes extra
space. In return, I have nothing but Stephen’s word for it that he’ll go on
hosting the service and and letting me
. I average 11MB a day, and the limit for my level of
membership is 50MB.
(I don’t know where it all goes - it’s not people reading my fic, that’s for sure.)
If SDF ran out of funds to pay for the uplink, I would have to move elsewhere.
If Stephen decided fanfiction was a legal liability, I’d have to move elsewhere.
That’s just the way of the free world.

SDF has been giving unix junkies like me a free shell to play in since 1987,
so I’m not worried about it going away. I think it’s a great service, and if I
weren’t so lazy I’d give Stephen even more money. But I’m sure there are
freeshell users who feel that SDF’s anti-hacking regulations violate the true
freedom of the shell. Don’t Windows machines deserve to be hacked? How can
any self-respecting unix user stand in the way of the Darwinian forces of
hacking? Wouldn’t that be communism or something?

When you’re running a community service, you have to bow to certain
community standards. It’s the people with the money who can afford to put up
porn or send out spam, and pay the legal consequences out of their ample
profits. I’ve checked out a lot of free web hosts, between my mirrors
and Trek sites I’ve set up, and it’s the rare TOS that allows adult content. Why
should they? Why should anyone go up against community or
legal standards, however benighted those standards might be, for
free, for a bunch of strangers? Strangers, by the way, who turn
on you and call you a communist when the chips are down?

I can’t think of a reason, myself.


Monday, September 16th, 2002

Having been way too busy lately, between my current job and a sudden
reappearance of work from three years ago that’s been consuming my free time,
I have a big backlog of blog ideas, plus recent disturbing thoughts from Lori
and Seema. If you squint while you read this, you may even spot a
coherent theme.

From the November 2002 Analog, Niven’s First Law for Writers:
Writers who write for other writers should write letters.

The first thing I thought of when I saw that was, of course,
the fanfic potlatch, but maybe
LiveJournal is a better example. I’ve never cared for LiveJournal, not even
when I thought it was just another diaryland; I prefer blogs.

A blog is not a journal or a diary. It is not evidence of membership
in a particular clique. It is not a longwinded, scattered metafic forum. A blog is
just a weblog - links and thoughts of interest at least to the writer, possibly to
passing readers. A blog is asynchronous.

Blogging shouldn’t be work. Fandom is too much work already - why take
on yet another job? Blogging shouldn’t be a misplaced mailing list, forum, or
newsgroup, if only because clicking around the net after the next comment is
far more inconvenient than reading mail or news, and slightly more
inconvenient than a forum or bulletin board.

I’ve always been against work in fandom, all the little and big ways we
make this all so much harder than it should be. I’ve railed against
fic taxes from the
beginning, and I bring my tax evasion with me when I blog. I don’t do the
blog rounds. I read a few blogs that I find interesting (see right column
or the main page if you’re coming from the
archives), and if those known interesting people mention something intriguing,
I’ll follow the link. Otherwise, I just surf around when I have the time.

The latest addition to my blog list is Alara Rogers; I added her not because
I know her, or am fishing for a blog potlatch return link, but because on the
rare occasions I get sucked into reading a LiveJournal-based metafic thread,
I seem to end up on her site, like her points, and think, “oh, yeah, Alara
Rogers has a blog.” It’s not a social thing. If I want a social thing, I can open
my inbox, which my list full of chatty C/7 fans seems determined to keep

So it’s impossible for me to get tired of blogging. It’s just me thinking
aloud here, and how could I get tired of thinking? Blogging is asynchronous, so
I can blog as little or as much as I want. I do it nearly daily because I enjoy
certain kinds of writing. One kind is writing fic, but the other kind is writing
letters. Email isn’t really like pen-and-paper letter-writing - it’s not
asynchronous enough. Emails are too full of quoted material and background
context to stand on their
own. They’re too instantaneous to require the style of writing that re as it
goes, that makes its own freestanding argument. Emails have no ink.

Blogger was kind enough to give me back the pen-and-paper approach
to writing, but with a larger potential audience. So I blog like I used to write
letters in the days before most people had email - to amuse, at a distance,
in a coherent and freestanding way.

The more communal and comment-centric LiveJournal gets, the further it
drifts from asynchronous writing and into dialogue. Dialogue, in fandom, turns
to meta, or at least show-chat. Dialogue means if no one comments,
no one cares.
Letter-writing, on the other hand, is prone to long silences which do not
reflect badly on the writer. You post a blog entry, and you get a few
other people’s blog entries that day, asynchronously, on random topics they
thought might interest you. Comments are beside the point in letter-blogging.

It’s all a matter of perspective. Fandom can only chew you up and spit
you out if you let it. If you’re careful not to pay unnecessary, self-defeating,
time-stealing and fic-quenching taxes, you may survive to write again. If you
do, write me a letter and tell me about it.

The Rift

Saturday, September 14th, 2002

All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. … [I]t’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since. –Ernest Hemingway

The River gives the book its form. But for the River, the book might be only a sequence of adventures with a happy ending. A river, a very big and powerful river, is the only natural force that can wholly determine the course of human peregrination. –T. S. Elliot

The truly profound meanings of the novel are generated by the impingement of the actual world of slavery, feuds, lynching, murder, and a spurious Christianity upon the ideal of the raft. –Leo Marx

(Quotes about Huckleberry Finn courtesy of English 311 at Gonzaga University.)

The Rift by Walter Jon Williams (writing as Walter J. Williams for reasons one can only wonder at), is the Huckleberry Finn of disaster novels. It begins by flashing back a thousand years to an earthquake that ravaged Mississippi Indian society. Each scene is headed with an extract of original documents from the 1811/1812 New Madrid earthquake, so you know exactly what’s going to happen by the time the novel is over. I didn’t pick up on a real pattern or progress to the captions, but they were interesting in and of themselves, for their language as well as the sharp cultural contrasts. For instance, in 1811 when people felt the earth move, they tended to assume they were having a fit or hallucinating until someone else confirmed that it was really happening. I wondered why they were so slow
to trust their own senses.

Disaster novels follow a certain format. All the random characters must be introduced in their pre-disaster settings before fate, S-waves and the River toss them together. There’s the displaced Californian teenager, the laid-off black defense worker, the ambitious stockbroker, the fire-and-brimstone preacher, the Klan sheriff on his way up in the world, the Army Corps of Engineers general in charge of keeping the Lower Mississippi between its banks, the man refueling his nuclear power plant (why is there always a nuclear power plant?), and the President of the United States, party affiliation unspecified. Those are just the main characters; the supporting characters, such as the Klansman’s wife, the defense worker’s ex-wife, the teenager’s divorced parents, the preacher’s wife with the odd craft project, the general’s banjo-playing husband, and many more, are also wonderfully drawn.

The inscriptions fueled my eagerness for earthshaking mayhem and destruction - if I didn’t want disaster, I wouldn’t have picked up a novel that promised to ravage everything near the Mississippi River from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico - but the characters themselves were so well-done that I began to get into them for their own sakes, and not just to keep track later once they were stumbling into each other through the rubble. Of course, that was when disaster struck.

The rubble, in this case, is floating down the Mississippi. The teenager survives the initial shock by luck and takes to the floodwaters in his neighbor’s fishing boat. He rescues the black man from a tree, beginning the main, Huckleberry Finnesqe plot of the novel. The preacher and the Klan Kleagle start out as sympathetic, if not particularly endearing, characters, and do a slow slide into evil that is far scarier than the earthquake itself (and it’s the worst of all possible earthquakes). The lady general and her husband are the most entertaining of all the characters, but my favorite was the President, who does his own slow slide into an indifference he insists makes no difference.

I picked this novel up intentionally to compare to Lucifer’s Hammer - one endangered nuclear power plant against another, no holds barred - but there’s no comparison. The Rift beats it on all scores besides death count, and verges on being a work of literature, besides. Someday people are going to wake up and realize that Walter Jon Williams can write circles around everyone else in SF. That he has to support himself by writing Star Wars novels is nothing short of… disastrous.

Pabulum and Protocol

Thursday, September 12th, 2002

The following was inspired by Austen-tatious by Liz Barr. Copyright has lapsed on the original.

Pabulum and Protocol, Chapter 1, by Jemima Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a mid-sized starship must be in want of a husband.

However little known the feelings or views of such a woman may be on her first entering the quadrant, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the starship’s crew, that she is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their officers.

“My dear B’Elanna,” said her flyboy to her one day, “have you heard that Turbolift Two is broken again?”

Lieutenant Torres replied that she had not.

“But it is,” returned he; “for Ensign Lang has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Lieutenant Torres made no answer.

“Do not you want to know who is in it?” cried her husband impatiently.

“*You* want to tell me, and I have nothing better to do for the next fifty years.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Ensign Lang says that the turbolift was taken by a burly Maquis of grim aspect from the senior staff; that he left the messhall at 1300 hours bound for the holodeck, and was so fortunate as to share it with the Captain, who was on her way to the bridge; that they are now both trapped in the malfunctioning ‘lift until at least gamma shift.”

“Which Maquis might that be?”


“Isn’t he with Seven of Nine?”

“Oh, no, my dear; perish the thought! A lonely Maquis of grim aspect; what a fine thing for our Captain!”

“How so? How can it affect her?”

“My dear B’Elanna,” replied her husband, “how can you be so pessimistic! You must know that I am thinking of her marrying him.”

“Is that her design in taking the turbolift?”

“Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that she *may* fall in love with him, and therefore you must join the repair team and slow them down.”

“I see no occasion for that. You, Tuvok and Harry may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better; for, as you are as handsome as any of the crew, Captain Janeway might like you the best of the party.”

“My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have my share of charm, but I do not spread it around now. When a man has a Klingon for a wife, he is wise to give over thinking of other women.”

“In such cases, a Klingon woman does not hesitate to elimate her rivals.”

“But, my dear, you must indeed go and stop Captain Janeway before she climbs out of the turbolift shaft.”

“She would rip my head off, I assure you.”

“But consider your old friend Chakotay. Only think what an establishment it would be for him. The Doctor and Seven of Nine are determined to help, merely on that account, for in general, you know they brook no sabotage of Starfleet equipment. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to pull this off, if you do not.”

“You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Captain Janeway will be entirely convinced; and I will send a data PADD with you to assure her of my hearty consent to her marrying which ever she chooses of the Maquis; though I must throw in a good word for Ken Dalby.”

“I desire you will do no such thing. Dalby is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure he is not half so handsome as Ayala, nor half so good humoured as Chell. But you are always giving *him* the preference.”

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied she; “they are all gloomy and idealistic like other Maquis; but Dalby has something more of quickness than the others.”

“B’Elanna, how can you abuse your former crewmates in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no consideration of my betting pool exposure.”

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your pool. I have heard you mention it with consideration these seven years already.”

“Ah! you do not know what I suffer.”

“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many Starfleet officers of childbearing age get trapped in the Delta Quadrant.”

“It will be no use to us if twenty such should come, since you will not strand them in turbolifts.”

“Depend upon it, flyboy, that when there are twenty I will strand them all.”

B’Elanna was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and temper, that the experience of seven long years had been insufficient to make her husband understand her character. *His* mind was less difficult to develop. He was a pilot of low tastes, juvenile idealism, and restless spirit. When he was bored, he fancied himself a matchmaker. The business of his life was hotshot piloting; its solace was holosuites and betting pools.

Just Say No

Thursday, September 12th, 2002

An answer to the famous ASC Die Seven Die challenge:

Say No to J/C

This contest is in no way my fault, though I have entered The Efficiency Expert already. The idea isn’t to kill off J or C literally, but to pair them off with someone else. I thought I would have more fic to enter (up to 3 stories allowed), but it turns out that many of my non-J/C pairing stories didn’t imply any J/C history (a contest requirement).

My C/7 episode addition series did have plenty of REO Speedwagon post-J/C bitterness, but that’s incomplete. Maybe I’ll complete it before the December contest deadline and enter it.


Tuesday, September 10th, 2002

Inspired by both Seema and general exhaustion, I’m joining in the day of
blog silence tomorrow. It’s not because I need more time to watch the media
frenzy, or that I approve of media frenzy. I don’t have an anniversary blog
entry to cite, since I started blogging later in the month last September, and
only about sci-fi at first.

There just isn’t anything you can say about evil. No matter how much
media frenzy Americans whip up in our unique edutainment approach to coping,
and no matter how hard certain
non-Americans try to pin the whole thing on the victim, evil is an irreducible
thing. Neither ribbons nor excuses can make it disappear. Calling it boring is
not a deep statement on the banality of evil - saying they’ve been repeated too
often is just another attempt to evade the facts.

Evil doesn’t fade, though
it may be surpassed by fresh evils. Evil gains you, not a spot in heaven with
seventy-odd virgins, but a permanent place in the memory of man. Ignomy
is eternal. The
Spanish Inquisition didn’t kill all that many people (as a percentage of the
potential victim pool), but you recognized the term immediately, didn’t you? Five
hundred years haven’t been enough to rub that one out, so don’t bother
looking to forget evil just one year after the event.

(Yes, I know the Spanish Inquisition didn’t end formally until
1834, but that was
long after the heretic-roasting heyday upon which its reputation in Anglophone
countries rests.)

Return of Thoth

Monday, September 9th, 2002

You may not have noticed that I was gone. People just disappear into
Connecticut and nobody asks any questions. Kind of like the Mafia and the Charles
River, but I digress. So I’m late, again, in announcing the update at
zendom in which Liz reviews and
interviews a famous HP fic and author.

You are Thoth, the most intellectual of the Egyptian gods.
You savor the muses in all their forms, and you’d rather observe than take
You are considered peerlessly just, and so you are often considered
the arbiter of the gods.
Egyptian Deity are you?

Show Don’t Tell

Thursday, September 5th, 2002

I’ve always been unduly fond of editing, so I’m enjoying revising Colony.
I’m not sure I’ll be quite as excited when I get to those twenty or thirty missing
scenes, but so far, so good. I revised the first section (out of a former six
and current seven), and though the additions were a great improvement, I keep
having ambitious ideas about theme and supporting characters that will someday
mean working back through the beginning again.

I confess, I had one of those Really Bad Structural Ideas, which was to drop
every single name in Roll Call somewhere along the way. I’d only have to drop
an average of one name a scene. So far I’m breaking even, I think.
I’m also keeping close
track of the sexes of all my characters - when your first name is Crewman or,
alternately, Tazise, it’s hard to remember after a while.

Things will be simpler once I pair a few characters off. Then, if you know
one, you know the other one is the opposite gender. It’s not so much that
they’re heterosexual as that they’re only interested in reproduction. Babies!
Everywhere! But it’s not babyfic - babyfic doesn’t involve anything like the
massive daycare organization I’m planning.

It’s not all about the Original Aliens, either - I’m enjoying writing the
Voyager characters again, as well. I’m especially looking forward to making
trouble for Tuvok, both on the “Resolutions”/”Galileo 7″ level of logical
Vulcan trying to command illogical Humans, and on the “UMZ” level of…some
kind of life-threatening of Tuvok. That subplot is to be filled in later.

I’m taking things one scene at a time. I find that I can write from a plan -
most of my plans for Colony involve taking a few sentences of
tell, moving them the appropriate spot (usually earlier in the
story), and turning them into a full scene of show. I had my
doubts when I started, but it’s working pretty well so far.

I’m hoping to lure the muse back in time to threaten Tuvok’s life. Maybe
she’ll kill Harry while she’s at it - Kimicide is all the rage. At the very least,
I need to pair him off with an OC and get him in trouble, a la…well,
every K/f episode. Maybe I’ll let him have the first baby.
I’m branching off from “Shattered”, so he could even beat P/T to the Lamaze
class if he tries hard enough.

I didn’t realize, when VS7.5 did it that “Shattered” was such a natural
break-point. I was going to go all the way back to “Drive”, but nothing of the
real Season 7 weirdness happened until “Lineage”. I may be stocking up on the
babies, but there will be no Klingon messiah child.
Not again. The line must be drawn *here*. This far, *no*

Lucifer’s Hammer

Wednesday, September 4th, 2002

Well, it was a thriller, all right. Lucifer’s Hammer earns the title of sci-fi for being by a couple of famous sci-fi writers, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Otherwise, it’s an exercise in 70’s nihilism with a side of sci-fi tirades about how, if we’d only gotten off the Earth, this comet smashing into it, killing almost everybody and starting a whole new ice age wouldn’t matter so much.

In the fine tradition of Foundation, civilization hinges on preserving a nuclear power plant, even though the other Sign of Intelligent Life, the space program, used chemical fuel rather than nuclear power. If things weren’t black-and-white enough already, the environmentalists go cannibal and try to blow up the Last Nuclear Power Plant. The good guys fight them off with…mustard gas.

Now I’m all for bringing on an ice age, and for the disaster tradition in general, but the rather spiritless seventies characters - especially Maureen, the depressed and depressing socialite - didn’t leave me rooting for mankind. I was more interested in glaciation rates than in whether the dual male leads (corresponding to the dual male authors?) survived the winter. I found the boy scouts pairing off with girl scouts in the woods more interesting than Maureen cycling through the lead characters’ beds.

I’m not much of an anti-hero person, so I found it disappointing that the moments of true heroism happened off-screen, to be reported to the other characters as inspirational examples. Why they couldn’t be POV characters is beyond me, unless the authors just didn’t want their whiny, self-doubting POV characters to be shown up. It is important, when wiping out humanity, to make mankind sympathetic enough in the that the reader mourns his species in the large. Otherwise, it’s just an exercise in pushing tsunamis around the globe.


Tuesday, September 3rd, 2002

I always say that if you’re not part of the solution, then you must be
part of the precipitate. Paul Totman, rec.humor.funny

If the Eskimos have a thousand different words for “snow,” does this
mean the French have a thousand different words for “surrender?” K.
Banerjee, rec.humor.funny