Archive for December, 2003

Two Masters

Saturday, December 20th, 2003

Writing link of the day: Tell ‘em You’re A Writer!
Trek obituary of the day: the actress who played Marla McGivers in “Space Seed”

I wasn’t going to mention this, but I was a semifinalist in the Writers of the Future this year. I get a nice certificate (it’s in the mail) and also a critique of my entry. The critique said my main character just observed everything and didn’t have much of a stake in the outcome - though the science was good. I just have to abuse the main character more next time.

The reason I mention it is that I’m taking it as a sign I should stop futzing around with fanfic and get serious about my writing. Like the man says, No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Thus, I’m retiring from writing Trek. I won’t take down the site, stop working on FicML, or otherwise flake out on my few fandom commitments. I can understand people thinking that I would, but I’ve never been the social butterfly fandom type so I don’t think a complete flounce is called for. But no new fic for you!

The truth is, my fanfic output started declining when I first started writing original fiction back in 2001. The end of Voyager and the failure of Enterprise to impress were only contributing factors. Stargate is fair game since it’s still on the air and it rarely takes up more than 100 words of my time, but I don’t expect to ever get back to the fic output I had when it was just me and VOY.

And I don’t want to. Fanfic hasn’t been the same fun since I started serving the other master. There’s always that feeling that I’m wasting time and ideas that would be better spent on my own universe. There’s a fic-stopping perfectionism that I didn’t have back in my J/C fluff days. And finally, there’s the fact that writing is no longer just a hobby. I don’t want to work at writing and then turn around and play at fanfic - that’s just too much typing. I want a hobby that’s just a hobby, like needlework, so I can rest my weary muse.

Early Retirement

Friday, December 19th, 2003

Klingon of the day: Omar

Seema and I have been discussing retirement from writing Trek for a while now. Last night we made a joint resolution to retire on January 1st. I know she’ll never keep it, but let me be the first one to back out - I’m too busy at the moment to retire on the 1st. Retirement involves wrapping up or tossing out a bunch of ufo’s (unfinished objects), most notably Colony, so I’m going to have to retire sometime between mid-January and mid-February.

In fact, I’m too busy to blog why I’m retiring or to chat. I’ll try to explain tomorrow.

Gratuitous Wrench Post

Thursday, December 18th, 2003

Border fence of the day: brought to you by Backspin

For reasons no one else can determine, Jerie has a thing for Sparky. She sent me some wrench caps, so I just had to make icons:
Just the wrench, ma'am. Your Handyman Sgt. Siler

Sparky has a cameo in my latest drabble, The Equipment (a coda to the season 2 episode “Holiday” - I’m slowly working through my drabble backlog). I also have a new one for “Pretense:” With Friends Like These….

There’s also a new TOS fic about Marla McGivers on the TOS page. I don’t consider it successful, but I also don’t expect any more improvement in its condition. It will doubtless remain one of those embarrassing crazy-wife-in-the-attic fics - or experimental ones, if you prefer. Read at your own risk.

Gimme a Y…

Wednesday, December 17th, 2003

Silly mac program of the day: Fish Bowl

Seema and I were discussing retirement from fandom. She’s tired of the meta and I’m tired of the women. Yes, there are a handful of men out there writing fanfiction, but think of the numbers of men who have been driven away by the overwhelming femaleness of the place.

Women are, statistically speaking, more illogical and emotional than men, and that alone increases the annoyance factor of fandom for those of us on the logical end of the scale. But the thing that struck me was how few men have read my fanfic. I have an audience that’s restricted almost entirely to women purely by the demographics of online fandom. How many of my stories have flopped that might have suceeded among a more normal science-fiction audience? How many of my masterpieces would have been berated by a more Y-endowed crowd? Might someone even dare to say that a fic was bad or that an aspiring writer might want to consider a different hobby, one for which they have a modicum of talent?

But enough about how the lack of men affects my fic - how does it affect me? I rarely get to read fanfic written by men. I don’t think the execution of a story is noticably different between the chromosomes, but I have noticed that men and women tend to write about different subjects, and I like the ones that attract male authors. For example, I can’t think of a single male Voyager writer who does J/C, but there have been several who’ve written K/7 and Borg stories in general, or been involved in J/P fandom. There were also a few men writing Khan stories over the past year, after just a couple by women the year before and none to speak of for years before them.

The equation is simple: more men = more Khan stories.

As long as I’m here, I may as well do the meme. Initials are for VOY pairings, full names for SG-1, TOS, and crossovers:

One True Pairing ‘Ship: J/P, Sam/Narim

Canon ‘Ship: C/7, Daniel/Sha’re

“If this happens I’ll stab my eyes out with a spork” ‘Ship: Tu/T, Sam/Maybourne
“You are one sick bastard” ‘Ship: Tu/N, Jack/Daniel

“I dabble a little” ‘Ship: K/7, Chakotay/Crusher, Sam/boyfriend
“It’s like a car crash” ‘Ship: EMH/7, Teal’c/Drey’auc
“Tickles my fancy but not sold quite yet” ‘Ship: C/T, Sam/Jack

“Makes no canon sense but why the hell not” ‘Ship: J/C, Sam/Daniel

“Everyone else loves it but I just don’t feel it” ‘Ship: P/T, Sam/Janet

“When all is said and done” ‘Ship: T/K, Khan/Marla, Apophis/Amaunet

Hussy Ho!

Tuesday, December 16th, 2003

Cool link of the day: Make-a-Flake, thanks to folks at TheGenGate.

The Season of the Hussy has started up again in the U.K. Those of us on the wrong side of the Atlantic have weeks to go before we see Our Hussy in action. Luckily, we have spoiler pics from which to make hussy icons for Jerie:
Sam/Daniel C/7 Go hussy!

Chinatown Bus II

Monday, December 15th, 2003

In my quest to return to this lovely third-world city from the less lovely third-world city of New York, I decided to take the local third-world method of transportation - the famous Chinatown Bus. You can’t go wrong for $10. Today’s Chinatown Bus was provided by the folks at Travel Pack, whose business plan seems to consist of gathering the overflow from Fung Wah (who were sold out when I got there). At least, the Travel Pack people said Fung Wah quite a bit - fung wah is the only Chinese I know.

My last entry bothered a third world native. Certainly Boston has some first-world qualities - the excellent health care system, for example, has not yet succumbed to the HMO bureaucracy. And since we’d all die if a certain amount of fuel oil, natural gas, and electricity wasn’t flowing all winter in the Northeast, there’s a certain level of decrepitude which we can never achieve (though someday we may die trying).

But my allegation that we have a third-world transit system stands; it has only been confirmed by the events of my trip to NYC and return to Boston. You take a ride through New Britain, Connecticut, Bridgeport, Connecticut, or Poughkeepsie, NY, and then try to convince me that I live in the first world. It’s been a week since the 20 inch snowstorm ended, and a week and a half since it started, but I was walking on ice-coated streets and sidewalks from Chinatown to my front door in Boston.

More impressive than sidewalks no one bothered to shovel in eight days was the rainfall inside the Boylston T station. I don’t know how it was even physically possible for water to be flowing from the ceiling of the T station when it was 30°F outside with a windchill of 15°, but it was. That subway stop was built over a hundred years ago and to all appearances has not been painted or cleaned since. I must admit that they repair the metal stairwell whenever it rusts clean through, but even the MBTA could get away with boarding it up with plywood for only so long. They’re not the Big Dig, you know.

Speaking of the Big Dig, what other evidence do I need that this is a third-world country? It’s been going on for eighteen years, and it’s still not over. It’s not a public works project; it’s a way of life. I rest my case.

The Big Snowball

Friday, December 12th, 2003

I’m alive and well and in NYC. My trip here wasn’t unusually horrific - the most impressive third world transit incident was the way they make you pay extra for your Metro North ticket aboard the train because they don’t have enough ticket agents to sell you one before it leaves the station. And then there’s the endearing sight of snowplows prowling Central Park with their plows up when there’s still snow on the paths. Such is life in the third world.

Sorry I haven’t had time to blog. Your regularly scheduled blog will return no later than Monday. The management apologizes for the inconvenience, and has a couple of funny links for you to bide your time:
Holiday Snowglobe

Snow Everywhere

Monday, December 8th, 2003

Quote of the day: We live in Zimbabwe here as far as transportation is concerned. –Bill O’Reilly

We have big street plows here in Boston, and also little sidewalk plows. It sounds like an ideal plowing situation; unfortunately there is no treaty between the large and small plows. Any place the sidewalk meets the street is a slushy disaster area. It’s easier for pedestrians to walk in the street.

I’m going to put the transit system to the test tomorrow. The T is just the beginning of the trip. If I make it to New York by midnight, I may blog. Otherwise, this is Jemima, signing off from the third world country of the Northeast…

Snow Warnings

Sunday, December 7th, 2003

Lego link of the day: The Brick Apple
Cool link of the day: Do it yourself weather on Slashdot

There’s a winter storm warning this afternoon for Boston - just in case anyone hadn’t noticed that it’s been snowing for two days now. Besides the white stuff falling out of the sky, there’s another clue - fifteen inches of snow on the ground (unless you’re in one of those 30 inch pockets). Although it has to be relatively warm in order to snow (although, obviously, still below freezing), the 14° windchill makes up for the toasty 28° air temperature. For those of you playing the home game on the metric system, 14°F is -10°C in dog years. It’s not 0° yet, but it’s working on it.

The Death Star

Saturday, December 6th, 2003

Cool RSS feed of the day: MarsNews - the XML version didn’t work for me, but the RDF was fine

I stumbled over The Nemesis Affair while looking for The Case for Mars in the library. The former tells the tale of the 26-million-year cyclic theory of extinctions proposed by David Raup and Jack Sepkoski in the early 80’s. The statistics themselves have never been convincingly disproven; the dinosaurs had an appointment with death and ours is coming up in 15 million years.

Even without Nemesis, the theory was already controversial. It seems that paleo paleontologists preferred a steady-state theory of extinction - the dinosaurs were on their way out anyway. It’s hard for outsiders like us to believe that in a field (paleontology) in which the eons have always been separated by massive extinctions that there would be so much disbelief in mass extinction per se. Setting it to a bouncy 26 m.y. beat did not go over well in the scientific community. Likewise, no one believed in Deep Impact-style meteor impacts twenty years ago; today we take the sky falling for granted.

Despite being largely about that sort of scientific infighting and malingering, The Nemesis Affair was a good, quick read. Given the pretty pictures of extinction cycles (you can see one partway down this science beat page), the question immediately arises, who’s tossing meteors at us?

Three answers were suggested: Nemesis, Planet X, and the galactic plane. The mechanism was more or less the same in each case - every 26 to 30 million years, the menace passes through the Oort Cloud and disturbs the comets, many of which come screeching in towards the sun. On their new orbits, a comet or two may slam into the Earth (or any other innocent bystander planet), punching holes on the order of the 200-km wide Chicxulub crater, blocking out the sun with aerosolized bits of the Yucatan, and killing off the dinosaurs. The stray meteors don’t have to do us on their first pass - the cycle is measured in millions of years. Two out of the last twelve cataclysmic cycles resulted in no appreciable extinctions - ergo, the strays may even miss us all together.

So about the culprits… Our sun passes up and down through the plane of the galaxy like a yo-yo every 30 million years or so (65 million years round-trip), presumably encountering more dust and stuff while in the denser plane than when above or below it. It’s not clear how the dust does its damage or where those space dust bunnies are located. Planet X is the long-lost tenth planet that was supposed to balance the wobbles in the orbits of the outer planets. It’s no longer so clear that those orbits wobble at all. Nemesis is a postulated dim companion star that travels halfway to Alpha Centauri when it’s not busy wiping out Terran life. The failure of the IRAS survey to find a suitable star nearby has put a dent in the Nemesis theory, but at least one scientist still believes.

The Death Star may still be out there…and if it’s not, then who’s tossing those meteors at us?