Archive for April, 2003

What Man is This?

Tuesday, April 29th, 2003

I’m going through a Khan phase.

Khan awakes

Filk:       What Man is This?
Original:  What Child is This? by William Chatterton Dix (1865)
Tune:  Greensleeves

What Man is this, who laid to rest,
In cryofreeze is sleeping?
Whom Marla eyes with anxious sighs
While redshirts watch are keeping? 

This is Khan Noonien Singh
Whom redshirts guard unwavering.
James Kirk will strand him in
The Ceti Alpha system.

Why wakes he from his cold repose,
Two hundred years a-drifting?
Doth Starfleet fear this pioneer,
One-handed McCoy lifting?

So bring him manuals technical,
Your vessel wants his scrutiny.
Eugenic men will rule again,
If Marla aids his mutiny.

This is Khan Noonien Singh,
Whom redshirts guard unwavering.
James Kirk will strand him in
The Ceti Alpha system,
  The Ceti Alpha system.

Title Meme

Monday, April 28th, 2003

Lori told me about the title meme, though her own response was lost in the ether. I did see Liz and Rocky’s answers. I’ve never had much trouble assigning titles, but most of them fall into a few large, uninteresting categories:

Abstract Nouns: Assimilation, Ambassador, Colony, Hiatus, Lethe, Lurking, Taboo; Ship in a Bottle, Preliminary Debriefings, Home Front, Holodeck Safety Protocols

Concrete Nouns: The Author, The Dance, The Museum; The Bottle of Bajoran Blue Wine: A PADD Story, The Efficiency Expert, A Maquis Holiday; Jade’s Drabble, Mushroom Soup, Beta Energy, Haiku for Anne

Other Fragments: Choose Life, Like This, Logic Dictates, Thrive, Tertiary

Now those are all servicable titles, right up there with real-life titles like The Hobbit and Memory. You don’t find too many artsy, obscure titles on the bookshelves - publishers tend to go with short, strong and memorable. On the other hand, a Trek writer has the example of Shakespearean quotes used for TOS titles and the temptation to reuse good titles from Trek past:

Literary Quotations: To Perish in that Howling Infinite (Moby Dick), Once More Unto the Breach (Henry V), Honey-Dew (Kubla Khan), Video Meliora Proboque (Ovid: “Video meliora proboque; Deteriora sequor” - I see the better way and I approve of it; I follow the worse.), Sans Ailes (Byron: “L’Amitie’ est L’Amour Sans Ailes” - Friendship is Love without his wings!)

Song Quotations: Take it on the Run (REO Speedwagon), The Wrong Emotion (REO Speedwagon), Every Word I Said (REO Speedwagon), A Light Beyond (Art Garfunkle), Than Fade Away (Neil Young), and about 70 filked filk titles which I won’t include here

Episode Names: Mirror, Mirror; Borg Error (a coda to Human Error), Au Naturel (a coda to Natural Law)

The Borg title classification above leaves only a few titles creative (or uncreative) enough to need explaining:

The Dance (Tunkai), one of a ream of Voyager stories called “The Dance.” The title was one of the requirements of the “The Dance” J/C contest for which this story was written. I gave my “The Dance” a subtitle from the story’s linguistic history of Tsunkatse to distinguish it from the other hundred stories of the same title.

The ChetSev Series is a nickname that eventually made it onto the website. JetC stands for Janeway et Chakotay, so I coined “ChetSev” as a joke to stand for Chakotay and Seven. Since it took too long to say “my series of episode additions to C/7 episodes” every time, I ended up making it the official series title.

One Line, Two Dimples was a short response to a challenge to write the same scene two ways, from the producers’ and fans’ perspectives. To TPTB, Robert Beltran has one line and he can’t get it right. To the fans he has…two dimples.

The Lamne’rau is Romulan for “the Borg.”

What’s Left of Her is a relevant Janeway quote from Unimatrix Zero. The story itself is an AU coda to UMZ.

If Ayn Rand Wrote ST:VOY is a response to the If My Aunt from Minnesota wrote Star Trek challenge.

The Unity of the Multiverse is a quote from near the end of the story, but I believe the title came before that section of dialogue. This one is my favorite title, for its techno-poetry.

Marriage is Irrelevant is one of Seven of Nine’s lines in the story. Otherwise, she was not a major character.

DQ Babes in the Mirror-Mirror Universe was intended to be as campy as the title implies, but the muse undermined it in production. I loved the title so I kept it.

Janeway: The Musical! (Filk of La Mancha) was inspired (as a title) by Jim Wright’s review of the episode “Muse,” which he nicknamed, “B’Elanna: The Musical!” The subtitle makes it clearer which musical is being filked.

Seven of Borg is analogous to Locutus of Borg. Seven of Nine is already Borgy, but I needed a title that said “over the top with Borg.”

148 is the number of days that Buffy was dead (the second time). At least one other fic uses that number in the title.

The Silent Movie of the Soul is another Buffy title. I’m pretty sure the story involves an actual silent movie, but the ponderous title style seems more appropriate for Buffy fic than Trek.

The Ballad of Penny Proctor

Sunday, April 27th, 2003

I just finished voting in the ASC Awards. The following filk was written in two parts as feedback votes for Penny.

The Ballad of Penny Proctor
(was: The Ballad of Davey Crockett)

Came out of nowhere back in Season Six,
Finest writer of a J/C fix
Wrote up a storm ’cause she knew ev’ry trick,
Wolf and the Otter was an easy pick:
       Penny, Penny Proctor - Queen of the Trekiverse!

Staked out a story of a court martial -
To her dark XO had she been partial?
And while she was making it judicial,
Made herself a legend auspicial.
       Penny, Penny Proctor - Queen of the Trekiverse!

When she saw Endgame and a Human Err’
In her heart she swore to that season repair,
In her VS there would be no affair,
Except J/C’s - that’s her favorite pair.
       Penny, Penny Proctor - Queen of the Trekiverse!

They rewrote the season from Shattered on,
Makin’ sure the Borg wouldn’t get her don,
Fought off Cardassians - now they’re gone;
Who’s leadin’ the VS like a fandom Khan?
       Penny, Penny Proctor - Queen of the Trekiverse!

Janeway came home, her voyagin’ done,
And found that her trials had just begun;
Saw her XO beside her in the desert sun,
But at the Oasis they found only one.
       Penny, Penny Proctor - Queen of the Trekiverse!

Her fic is longest, and her fic is best
From the days of ENT to the DQ quest
She’s ahead of us all in writing with zest
Comin’ out on top of every contest
        Penny, Penny Proctor - Queen of the Trekiverse!
        Queen of the Trekiverse!

The World of Null-A

Saturday, April 26th, 2003

I reread the ancient A. E. van Vogt classic The World of Null-A because I’d come across his name more than once recently. He’s famous for the frenetic pace of his writing - apparently, he liked to insert a major plot twist every 800 words (the standard length of a scene).

For those of you who keep count, there were two female characters in this story, the hero’s false wife and a villain’s good wife. There was one sentient machine, and everyone else was male. As usual, that didn’t bother me. What did bother me was the alleged use of non-Aristotelian logic (null-A). Not once did any of the null-A positive characters actually use non-Aristotelian logic. Van Vogt based the novel on General Semantics, yet another wacky pseudo-science from the Golden Age of sci-fi that brought us Dianetics, among other things. I suppose this sort of superman (as opposed to superhero) myth has been going on since Vril, The Power of the Coming Race.

It never ceases to amaze me what people could get away with writing fifty years ago, all gender issues aside.

Still Neutral

Friday, April 25th, 2003

Well, this is getting out of hand. If literary gender politics are your thing, check out the latest entries from RJ, Alara Rogers, and A. J. Hall (with two subsequent entries so far).

The biggest misunderstanding of my Gender Neutral entry and associated comments seems to be the assumption that I have difficulty writing original female characters. I don’t. The majority (though not an overwhelming one) of my lead characters are female. I don’t find them easier or harder to write than males; what I imagine would be hard to do is to write women as gender-neutral characters - that is, as though it didn’t matter in the story, plotwise or symbolically, that the character was a woman.

Of course, that’s just me, and it’s not an aspect of my writing that I’d thought about before writing the blog entry in question. My characters come to me full-grown, so I had to line them up and think about them to see why the women were women and the men were neuter. When I wrote about assigning gender according to the plot, I didn’t mean that the plot came before or after the gender. It’s difficult to talk about the muse, even without people jumping down your throat when you do so. Any analysis of my writing is going to be an after-the-fact reconstruction based on speculations about the realm of the unconscious muse. Looking back on my writing, the pattern is that neuter characters are male.

Alara said, I don’t quite get how any woman could think of the male gender as neutral. Part of it may be that I think of men as the weaker sex, with the broken chromosome and the poor social skills and no womb. For me, they don’t even have their statistical advantage of being more intelligent and more rational. Yes, they still have Tab A and the desire to climb to the top of any hierarchy in sight, and there’s nothing wrong with that - I’m just not impressed. If the story doesn’t involve sex or primate pecking orders, then Frodo is neuter in my book. Genocide, while masculine in that it’s a crime, has more to do with bureaucracy and totalitarianism when my characters do it. Fortunately I don’t need to distinguish very carefully between my many neuter and my few masculine characters, since they all end up male in the end.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I suppose if I don’t emphasize it, my point will go on being unclear. Literature, for me, does not represent reality, it symbolizes reality. A dialogue in a novel is not a real dialogue, it is the essence of such a dialogue. (This was noted in Worlds of Wonder; it’s a standard bit of writing advice.) A real life dialogue is meandering and dull; a dialogue in literature is pithy and artificial. In the same way, a character in literature is not a real person but a carefully constructed abstraction. The gender of that character should not be decided according to notions of fair gender representation or even of the writer’s preference for a particular gender (usually her own, and I’m no exception). The gender is symbolic, not representational, and contributes symbolically to the illusion of a real human being.

Of course if to me man means a neuter human, and to you he means the Other, you’ll create different characters and be more bothered by the gender imbalance in The Lord of the Rings than I will. I didn’t even notice. I didn’t notice it in Foundation or any of the other old sci-fi classics. Even if you point it out to me, I don’t see it as male dominance - I see it as a lack of female symbols and plots. Most sci-fi isn’t Shards of Honor and Barrayar, and I don’t expect it to be.

A Dime a Dozen

Thursday, April 24th, 2003

The other day, for the umpteenth time, I came across the writing truism that ideas are a dime a dozen and the real action is in slogging through the writing-up of said ideas. This last time I stopped and thought, no!

I have a closet full of ideas, just like the next writer, but they’re not all of equal merit. They’re not all waiting their turn through the text editor. Some ideas are so overwhelming that they write themselves (like “The Dance” did for me) or they hold up otherwise execrable prose (for example, Ringworld). Some have launched entire genres (Lord of the Rings) or given birth to new social phenomena (as Star Trek created media fandom).

So to be brief (because I have one more category of AAA to finish) the idea is the thing. The writing-up is just legwork. You may have a thousand ideas stuffed away in your closet, but when the right one hits you, it’s love at first sight.

Other Interests

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2003

My lovely sister Veronica and I share a passion for epidemiology. She emailed me the following information yesterday:

we’re all going to die, we’re all going to die

1918 Flu: 2.5% mortality

SARS: 5.6% mortality

Today’s SARS numbers are up, clocking in at 5.8% mortality. Yes, I’m a ghoul. If you’re a fellow pox or plague fan, I’d love to chat.

We all have other interests, like those college presidents and CEO’s who leave their lucrative positions to “pursue other interests.” Sometimes it seems that the praise, fame, and reams of fanmail just don’t outweigh the hassle anymore. Seema has been feeling the fandom annoyance, and Robert Beltran went so far as to name names after the controversial shutdown of the ORB.

Is there a point when fandom becomes just too inbred and you have to walk away? A time when all the joy has been sucked out of your show by vampire fans who dwell in the dark ages of Season 3? I’m voting in AAA now, and I have to wonder, is there a Last J/C Fic or will this fandom still be going on in 2103?

I’ve been tired of fandom for a while now, but I’ve learned to ignore the tiresome bits. Coming up with a new J/C plot is harder, though - I think they’ve all been done. At least I have the revisions to Colony to keep me occupied.

Gender Neutral

Monday, April 21st, 2003

I’m behind on the blogs; somehow I completely missed RJ on gender politics, or more specifically on the lack of strong female characters in Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

I was about twenty-four years old the first time this fiction gap was pointed out to me. I had just watched “Lawrence of Arabia” with a guy, and during the credits he pointed out that there were no women in the entire movie, except for one non-speaking figure seen from a distance.

I hadn’t noticed.

In the case of “Lawrence of Arabia,” there are historical reasons for the omission (about which, as far as I could recall, my friend was right). You could say the same of Tolkien because he’s depicting a medieval culture, but that’s not the source of my not noticing.

Male characters are the neuter pronoun of fiction. Frodo, Legolas and Gimli aren’t male in any way that alienates me as a female reader - they’re generic hobbit, elf and dwarf. Aragorn is an exception if you know about Arwen, but if you don’t (and Tolkien, unlike Peter Jackson, was kind enough to hide her in an appendix), even he’s relatively neuter.

Female characters can also be neuter, like Galadriel, or completely subsumed by their gender role, like Arwen, or struggling in-between the two, like Eowyn. It’s an easier thing to do with men, though - Everyman characters are always men like Tom Paris, despite B’Elanna Torres’ very similar background.

This is where the feminists chime in and say that I’m merely describing the dominance of men in society, not explaining it away in literature. I’m always interested in reading about new societies that differ on such basic points of human nature, but you have to make it believable. Show me the technobabble. Until you do, I’ll assume I’m reading about human society as it has been in all documented cases - patriarchal, with man as the neuter character.

In fanfiction I’m restricted to the genders as given, but in original stories I assign gender according to a specific and, until now, unconscious process. If the destiny of the character is to fall in love, reproduce, leave home for love like Ruth, or otherwise be noticably gendered, I make her female. If their destiny is to commit genocide, immolate themselves in a folding singularity, disappear over the horizon, discover a new world like an old-time Everyman pulp adventurer, or otherwise be gender-neutral, I make him male.

Yes, I could write neuter females, but I’m not a feminist writer. I am not revolted by the neuter pronoun he, even though I prefer they for clarity. I have no stake in balancing gender representation in my writing. Literature is not about literal representation, but about symbolism. Male and female have symbolic meanings, even for those who don’t believe they are biologically based. The male as neuter is only one of those symbols, and I see no point in criticizing or abandoning it.

The First Million Words

Sunday, April 20th, 2003

Overall, I’d say Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by David Gerrold was good advice in the form of fortune cookies. For example: “Your first million words are for practice.” That was the theme of a one-page chapter (including the chapter heading). You should think of those first million words as throw-aways. You may as well write fanfic, for all their publishing potential.

I don’t know if word 1,000,001 is supposed to be special, but that’s when you can take yourself seriously. Just estimating in my head, I figured I wasn’t past 500,000 yet, so I used wc to count them all, fanfic and original fic, and came up with exactly 369,025 words. About 120,000 of those are original fiction, finished or not, 1000 words of which have been published in non-professional markets. Another 20,000 or so is unfinished fanfic, leaving about 230,000 words of fanfic and filk here on-site.

I’ve been writing since July of 2000, but most of the words are from 2001, before I started working for crazy people. Were I keeping to my New Year’s resolution to write 1,000 words a day, I could be done practicing two years from now. That’s not exactly an encouraging thought.

I’ve been blogging since September, 2001, and the word count here, for comparison, is 180,326 - but then there’s no question that I’ve written a million words of non-fiction in my life. Maybe I can pro-rate them and count them, too.

The Literature of Imagination

Wednesday, April 16th, 2003

It’s gorgeous out again today. Yesterday it was around 80 degrees, though it got windy in the afternoon. I’m having trouble adjusting, since I’m still in sudden snow mode from last week.

I’m blogging some exercises from Worlds of Wonder by David Gerrold because this is my most convenient scratch paper at the moment. The first two exercises in the book are to list your favorite sf/f movies and books, with a particular emphasis on being drawn into the fantasy world:

Favorite sci-fi/fantasy movies:

  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • GalaxyQuest
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Metropolis
  • Soylent Green
  • Young Frankenstein

Favorite sci-fi/fantasy books:

  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Watership Down
  • Metropolitan (Walter Jon Williams)
  • Memory (LMB)
  • Ringworld
  • The Dispossessed
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Napoleon of Notting Hill (G. K. Chesterton)
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Distress (Greg Egan)

If I think of more books, I’ll add them. I had much more trouble coming up with the movies, and most of them don’t really fit the “new engrossing world” idea.