Archive for February, 2004

State of Jemima

Sunday, February 29th, 2004

Free software of the day: GNU typist

Late last week I figured out that tomorrow, and not today, was the first of March, meaning that I had the whole weekend to finish a couple of sci-fi contest entries due then. The stories are more or less done, though my revisions were interrupted when I re-read the rules and realized that I needed to get my name off the submission. That little technical hurdle has now been jumped.

NaNoEdMo starts tomorrow, and I’m not ready to face my November Disaster yet. It’s only an hour a day, though, so maybe I’ll do it this year. Last NaNoEdMo was a complete wash for me.

On the Stargate side, I finally saw “Chimera” and enjoyed it, though, again, there wasn’t nearly enough Jack. I don’t know why everyone was upset about Sam telling all to Pete - obviously she wouldn’t give out classified information without clearance right in the infirmary under the security cameras. Pete was cuter than the screenshots led me to believe, although still kind of chubby in the suit. Was it just me, or did Sam look guilty when he said “It’s nice to know that people still stay together no matter what, isn’t it?” I certainly felt guilty on her hussy behalf, although otherwise they were just too happy together for me to feel the typical Ex-JetCer In The Hands Of The Cruel PTB anger. I almost feel guilty plotting to break them up in fanfic…almost.

I’ve decided to go back to the Dvorak keyboard, since my typing is only getting worse in my old age. I need a keyboard that was designed to help people type fast, not impede them. Most sites about it are too old to cover MacOS X, for which there are two Dvorak keyboard options available from the International System Preferences pane under the Input Menu tab. Be sure to check the box for “Show input menu in menu bar” so you can switch back and forth easily. For a typing tutor, I downloaded and built gtypist (link above) without any difficulty, though it’s possible you might have to grab ncurses with fink if you don’t have it installed already. I’ll make a note of it when the first Dvorak-typed blog entry appears.

Jade was having IE problems, so I downloaded FireFox in solidarity with her. I noticed it colors my XML links as html links, wiping out the pretty colors from my XML CSS stylesheet. I hope the new Camino, coming soon, doesn’t do the same. I really wish Safari could handle XML links, no matter how it colored them.

Jade also complained about my dark salmon background, so I added a style shutoff at the top of the sidebar: Turn Style Off. It’s a javascript link that I’d like to include on all my pages, but I’m not sure where I’d put it. At the moment it isn’t persistent, either - you’ll have to turn the style off whenever you visit, if you want it off. The function itself (OffCSS) is simple; you can get the code by viewing the source for this page.

Incestuous Marriage

Saturday, February 28th, 2004

I was just answering a comment on my last post, to the effect that polygamy is the next item down the slippery slope of gay marriage. My answer was that I don’t believe it is. The natural extention of a right for any two unrelated people to get married, regardless of gender, is not the right of any three, four, five people to marry, nor even the right to marry one’s livestock, but the right of any two related people to get married.

So having nothing more controversial to talk about, and not wanting such an entertaining observation to be lost forever in comments, I figured I’d go on in this vein. Despite its status as one of the world’s oldest taboos, incest doesn’t really arouse any passions in the average person. And that’s odd. If I had to guess, I’d say that there are more incestuous desires out there in the world than homosexual ones.

For example, Veronica once had her eye on a male first cousin of ours - a relationship considered incestuous in over 30 of the 50 states. Not ours, fortunately, but he was about 20 years older than her so twue luv was unlikely to conquer all in their case. Many entirely non-consanguinous relationships have traditionally been considered incestuous, and not just in the law but in the court of common opinion - for example, Woody Allen’s relationship with Soon Yi, which was doubly non-consanguinous. (That is, Soon Yi wasn’t related by blood to either Woody Allen or Mia Farrow.)

Woody Allen notwithstanding, people do go to jail over incest, even without consanguinity. Consider the case of a woman and her teenage foster child, with issue, the Alabama love story of a father who claims his wife isn’t his daughter, and the case a while back of two siblings separated at a young age by the foster care system who claimed not to have known they were related at the time of their marriage, and continued to have children with medical problems after being found out and ordered to separate. I think the brother ended up in jail. (If you have a link for that one, I’d love to see it - I don’t remember if they were full or half-siblings.)

Someday the woman’s foster son will reach majority, and the woman will get out of jail. He wants to live with her and raise their two children. As in other incidents of non-consanguinous incest, it’s hard to see how the state can split these people up in light of the sweet-mystery clause. How can any non-consanguinous incest statute stand up to that?

Now, consider the six states where first cousins may marry if they’re infertile. That’s an open admission that incest laws are about not just consanguinity, but the likelihood of producing defective offspring. What then should be the policy in cases where reproduction is not just personally unfeasible, but biologically impossible? That is to say, what of gay incestuous marriage? What if a homosexual man wants to marry his brother, his son, a nephew, or a first cousin? Presumably, he can marry his male first cousin in those six states that permit infertile cousins to wed (AZ, ME, IL, IN, UT, WI).

That is, however, an artifact of the English language, in which cousin is a neutral term. For all other homosexual incestuous couples, the legality of their incest will depend entirely on how the incest law of the particular state is phrased. In Maryland, for example, the law specifies that a man cannot marry his daughter nor a woman her son, but no mention is made of a man marrying his son. A minority of states phrase their incest laws not as a catalogue of forbidden relationships but as a formula, such as Louisiana’s: Incest is the marriage to, or sexual intercourse with, any ascendant or descendant, brother or sister, uncle or niece, aunt or nephew, with knowledge of their relationship.

So the legality of gay incestuous marriage would depend on the exact phrasing of the law in any particular state. I find this sort of thing fascinating in and of itself, but thinking about it has shown me how homosexual marriage makes nonsense of the current marriage laws - in the sense that it brings new laws into being (regarding gay incestuous marriage) which no one intended by their original phrasing of their incest statutes.

Lex Rex

Friday, February 27th, 2004

In the latest gay marriage news, the mayor of New Paltz is getting in on the act that started in San Francisco. Compare these upstart cities with peaceful Cambridge across the river, still waiting patiently for D-Day. Whatever else you can say about the state of marriage in Massachusetts, at least we’re following our own laws.

It’s easy to dismiss the actions of these rogue mayors as frustration that they don’t reign in Massachusetts, and more specificially in the Massachusetts of a few months from now. It’s even easier to call it civil disobedience, as if the term meant the disobedience of entire cities. But that’s not what’s going on here. You have to be a civilian to practice civil disobedience, or if you happen to be an official of the state, you have to civilly disobey in your free time. When a mayor flouts the law, what we have is rex lex, our rulers making our laws, rather than lex rex, obeying our laws.

If a couple of mayors out in the heartland somewhere took it upon themselves to, say, close abortion clinics because in their personal opinions their state constitutions (or the federal one) gave all citizens the right to life, etc., etc., people would be shouting lex rex left and right. Right now, millions of people who personally believe abortion is murder are letting it go on purely out of respect for the rule of law.

We can only live together for so long when the law applies to some people but not to others - probably only until the other people realize that they signed a social contract for lex rex and instead got rex lex.

Phoning it in, too

Thursday, February 26th, 2004

I forgot to mention the first time I phoned it in that my phoning in inspiration was Richard Dean Anderson. In TV, as in parenting, there’s just no substitute for being there. What I’ve seen of seaon 7 so far has disturbed me with its lack of RDA. When he is on screen, he seems out of it, like an Ascended Daniel who can’t quite figure out whether he’s still in the cast or not. I strenuously object to the de-Mulderization of the show. I hate being strung along with crumbs of Jack. I want Jack back full-time.

And then there’s “Grace.” I have to agree with KC on this one - the episode dragged like a paralyzed spice worm in Great-great-great-great-granchildren of Dune. I meant to check the credits to see who the writer was because the writing was so bad, especially when Sam was dictating her logs. Dangling modifiers, poor word choice, and a stunningly obvious mistaken use of “nebulae” for “nebula” might be excused by the concussion, but it didn’t feel that way while I was watching.

Speaking of which, nebulae are the kiss of death in science fiction. They make insultingly stupid movie physics look good. Real nebulae are, surprising as it may seem, nebulous. Even if you call them “gas clouds,” there are still certain physical properties they cannot have in the vacuum of space. They won’t hide you from Khan. They won’t form an entire new planet when you set off a genesis device in one. They most certainly will not glow like a neon sign, leak through your shields, stall your engines, or corrode your hull.

And by the way, what’s up with that hull and those shields and the impulse/warp drive (sorry, sublight/hyperdrive) and that ship full of people in blue pajamas? Did I miss the Frankenstein episode in which the fresh brain of Stargate was implanted into the stitched-together corpse of Enterprise? And the only things on this show that should be glowing are those beady Goa’uld eyes. It hurt me to have to listen to Sam, my Mulderless Scully who’d always been so rational and believable back in season 4, stand there and spout technobabble that was tired and old when Spock first said it.

So, as an episode, “Grace” was a wash for me because of the technical flaws. Yes, Sam works through a puzzle and a lot could be read into the clues, but I was too distracted by the problems. Why is Sam counting her rations? How the heck does she find the alien ship? Why does this feel like a bad episode of Voyager? And what about the alleged deep insight into Sam that I was promised? Where’s the Real Sam?

Well, I despaired of her for quite a while there. Sam’s interaction with Teal’c, Daniel, and Grace didn’t reveal anything about hidden Sams. All the shadow characters were completely in character, rather than showing us the Teal’c side to Sam, etc. For me there was only one redeeming element to “Grace,” and that was the shippy element, starting with Jacob’s appearance.

I wasn’t particularly pleased by Jacob’s without love you may as well toss yourself out an airlock attitude. I don’t think Sam really believes that - it’s the near occasion of death speaking. Sam’s beliefs correspond to what Jack says; it’s not Grace who’s Sam, it’s Jack. He openly admits to being a figment of her imagination. They have an obscure conversation that I at first put down to more bad writing, but the truth this episode is a lot like “Divide and Conquer” - a lot of silly tech nonsense surrounding a kernel of intentionally ambiguous ship. Jerie is definitely right about the Sam/Jack scene. They’re not saying what it sounds like they’re saying.

For one thing, Jack asks her what’s stopping you if you really wanna know? Even though for the rest of us this scene is about Sam finally admitting how she feels about Jack, after having her side of the story cut in both “Divide and Conquer” and “Beneath the Surface,” that’s not what it is for Sam. Sam knows how she feels and she only incidentally shows it by admitting that leaving the Air Force is an option and with her fantasy kiss. What Sam is forced to confront here is how Jack feels. She says I’d let you go right now if I knew. But honestly, even stumbling around hallucinating with a concussion, how can she not know? Everyone who’s ever watched the show knows how Jack feels about Sam. He admits he’s not that complex. So Sam’s subconscious is more than enough to get her to face the fact that Jack loves her, to inform her that he’s not going to provide the easy out of letting her give up her career, and to assure her of his undying devotion. Even though she’s just psychobabbled herself into going after someone else, because she wants something more and she doesn’t know what else to do.

And so Our Hussy is born, though she’s not happy about it. That leaves me one last question: who is Grace? Some have associated Grace with the Christian notion of unmerited favor, but this is Stargate, not The Passion of the Christ. For me, Grace represents the Graces of Greek mythology, who personified splendor, mirth, feasting, joy, peace, and most importantly, happiness. They are also the attendants of Aphrodite. Grace brings food, sings songs, blows bubbles, and says we need to talk - but when it comes down to talking, Grace turns into Jacob and talks about love.

So Grace isn’t the cloud - the cloud is just another badly-written sci-fi nebula. Like the other hallucinations, she’s Sam, but while Teal’c, Daniel, and Jacob are Sam giving herself grief, and Jack is Sam trapped in her impossible emotional circumstances, Grace is a happy Sam. Grace is Sam’s inner hussy.

Fan Plot

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

Writing link of the day: Turkey City

Fanfic is, generally speaking, easier to write than original fiction. The main problem of writing fanfic is keeping in character. You don’t have to create the characters or the setting, and in many cases you don’t even need to describe the characters or the setting. Blah, blah, blah, Ginger - we call it meta because we’ve heard it all before. The fanfic shortcut to character and setting are so familiar that they obscure another fanfic shortcut - the low road to plot.

I was meditating in the bathtub over my folders full of unfinished original stories, most especially the one I need to finish by Friday, and how sad they seem by comparison to my slim selection of abandoned fanfic. In almost all cases, I abandoned the original stories because I couldn’t figure out what happened next, and I abandoned the fanfics because I didn’t want to take the time to write what happened next. Why did I never have plotter’s block with fanfic?

The majority of my fanfics involve getting X and Y together, so I always know what the story is working towards. Everything in the story functions toward that end. Shippiness isn’t the only easy fanfic plot out there, though - my drabble motivation, write 100 words about the episode, is also sufficiently restrictive to squeeze a plot out almost every time. Episodes can always use fixing, and challenges are a dime a dozen if you can’t think of a shippy plot on your own. The show provides its own plot-inspiring restrictions - we’re low on replicator rations, we need to get back to Earth, have you fought the Goa’uld today? It would be hard not to find plot material in seven seasons of details major and minor. Fanfic is an orgy of cheap and easy plotting.

The majority of my original stories start with an idea in a setting. I get as far as tossing one major character in there, and there he sits, holding the idea and looking original. He may stroll around the setting for a few scenes before I realize that I don’t know where he’s going. With absolutely no restrictions, I don’t know where to start. The simple solution is to make some restrictions, but that’s just as hard as the plotting itself.

By comparison, setting is easy and even character is doable - you can always plagiarize real people’s personalities or keep the story short and undemanding on the characters. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and if you don’t think so you can recycle those from other people’s stories. The trouble is plot.

The muse finally came up with a plot for my poor wandering character - I just had to trap her in the bath where she couldn’t surf or otherwise amuse herself - and of course couldn’t write it all down. I’ve found that relaxation is the only way to get work out of her. She has the bed/bath/bus problem of creativity, and I wonder if it means something deep about the human mind.

But that’s just an idea, and what I need are plots.

Doomsday Book, Passage

Tuesday, February 24th, 2004

For some reason I thought that Doomsday Book was a recent novel, but it was published in 1992. Connie Willis is one of those authors that go on racking up the Hugos and Nebulas (Doomsday Book won both) without anyone figuring out who she is. That’s the way of the genre, I suppose - people are still fixated on Heinlein (whose writing was inconsistent at best) and Clarke (who at least deserves his fame), or if you’re lucky they’ve heard of Ursula LeGuin, but the last couple of decades of science fiction go unnoticed.

Why? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because sci-fi and fantasy are the literature of childhood - in a good way, of course. Children have plenty of time to read it, and plenty of classics in the genre to read. Everyone knows fantasy classics like the Narnia books, but sci-fi also has a large body of juveniles, as well as pulps that may as well be juveniles and adult sci-fi that children read anyway. (They can bear the writing in, say, Foundation better than more mature readers.)

You can force a child to read Ethan Frome but you can’t force him to like it. Mainstream literature is an acquired taste, and other genres (mysteries, medical thrillers, etc.) have no particular association with childhood. (I’m leaving out Westerns, which do have that association, because the genre seems to have faded away.) It’s only in fantasy and sci-fi that we find an audience who’s been reading this stuff since see spot run. But not consistently. So sci-fi fans are more familiar with the works of twenty or forty years ago than with recent releases.

But I digress. Doomsday Book is a comedy of time travel, like To Say Nothing of the Dog, but in this case an undergraduate is visiting the Middle Ages during Christmas vacation. The acting head of the history faculty is on vacation in Scotland and his replacement is stunningly unqualified to oversee a foray into the century that burned Joan of Arc at the stake.

One of my other misconceptions about Doomsday Book was that it involved Joan of Arc. Though there are plenty of similarities between Joan and Our Heroine Kivrin, she spends her time travel time in a small village in medieval England. Meanwhile, back in the future, a series of farcical accidents prevent the incompetent Head and his more competent colleagues from getting the fix on Kivrin.

At first the farce bugged me - the annoying/stupid/incompetent characters just kept multiplying and making the situation worse. Then I realized that life is really that way. It’s not quite as well-plotted, but the stupid people you will always have with you, and anyone who’s ever ridden the T knows that humanity has a boundless capacity for sheer idiocy. Even back in the Middle Ages we see stupidity at work, though it’s nowhere near as comic.

I really admire Connie Willis’ technobabble. There’s no hard science in her time-travel stories at all, yet she gives her black box to the past the look and feel of real technology - so much so that the rest of her future seems technologically backward in comparison. Time travel and slight medical advances aside, 2050 Oxford could just as easily be 2000 Oxford. Fortunately, she makes much finer distinctions in 1320 Oxfordshire, and those are the ones that count for this novel.

Back in the Middle Ages, Kivrin meets some typical “contemps” and becomes attached to them. But she’s lost track of her landing site, and her new friends have their own worries. Back in the future, the comedy continues apace, with unexpected twists, turns, and medical complications before the final resolution. Beware of spoilers - if you haven’t read Doomsday Book just pick it up and skip the blurbs.

Passage is also an easy story to spoil; I’ve read some reviews that give away too much. One also suggested that the book could have used a good editor. Passage is certainly more ramified than the analogous Bellwether, but I never found the redundancies troublesome. The humor is pleasantly low-key and the setting typifies the theme. (I can’t explain the latter statement; you just have to read the novel to see it.) They’re both set in the present and could be considered mainstream novels - in fact Passage was published under Bantam Books rather than the Bantam Spectra sf line that put out Doomsday Book.

Bellwether was about scientists studying bellwethers; Passage has Joanna Lander and Dr. Richard Wright investigating near death experiences - you know, the tunnel, the light, the relatives telling you it’s not your time. Their comic nemesis Mr. Mandrake has made a career out of spiritual interpretations of the NDE’s; Joanna and Richard are looking for a scientific explanation.

I’m a big fan of pathos (as opposed to angst), and Passage, being set in a hospital, has more than its share of the dead, dying, and hopelessly ill. I can’t think of any other book that addresses death quite so thoroughly and lyrically. In the end, though, if you write a book about dying you’re pretty much doomed to take the middle road between heaven and annihilation. Connie Willis was almost brave enough to give the question of what happens after death a definite answer. In fact she does give a powerful answer, but then pulls the punch in the final couple of scenes. As Ian McEwan said, one has to have the courage of one’s pessimism. Greg Egan has it; Connie Willis does not.

I’ve seen in interviews that she wanted to give the answer she gave, though she knew that readers on both sides would be put off by the obvious ambiguity. My criticism is that she could have done it more subtly - with fewer anvils - and gotten a Hugo or Nebula out of it. (Passage was nominated for both.) Maybe that’s an issue of editing - maybe she’s so famous that she’s beyond editing now.

Whatever its faults, Passage is an engrossing novel. Both it and Doomsday Book will keep you up all night if you’re not careful. Open them with caution.

Phoning it in

Monday, February 23rd, 2004

Dictionary of the day: the OED’s sci-fi citations - it’s a great way to trace concepts like cyborg and corpsicle.

I’m in a Connie Willis phase at the moment, due to a lucky find of two used novels at Brookline Booksmith. (The used books are in the basement.) Reviews to follow, but at the moment I’m feeling detached and retired. I know I should go check those ASC checkballots one last time, but real sci-fi (as opposed to fanfic grey market) has been taking up my time lately. Maybe I’ll drabble for old times’ sake.

After all, how wrong can you go in 100 words?

The Craft of Art

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

Conspiracy theory of the day: There is no Moon!

I found another worthwhile writing book, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner (the author of Grendel). Though the book starts out appropriately artsy for something written by a Real Serious Writer, he does get down to useful advice eventually, and without ever wallowing in the mud of commas and contractions.

Early on he mentions that Real Artists don’t do things just for practice: Everything’s for keeps, nothing’s just for exercise. Even Robert Frost agrees: “I never write exercises, but sometimes I write poems which fail and then I call them exercises.” But then the last chapter is filled with exercises - consistency being the hobgoblin of small minds, I suppose.

Gardner has some interesting things to say about literature beyond his writing advice - for example, that great literature comes about mainly through genre-busting (as we call it these days), or in his words, the crossing of literary conventions. To give a genre example (not his), The Lord of the Rings came about through, say, the crossing of the English fantastical novel and the Norse epic tradition. Tolkien’s imitators don’t rise to his level because you need to cross a new pair (or group) of genres to get a new masterpiece.

He also talks about the primacy of plot - that you cannot write a great story unless you write a story, and an enjoyable one at that. Though he makes allowances for allegory and other metafiction, his heart doesn’t seem to be in it, and he’s back to plotting in no time.

Gardner also spends some time on prose rhythm and the dangers of unintentional rhyme. I suppose that advice might come in handy, though you’re far better off if you can play it by ear. He also warns against frigidity in fiction, when:

…the author reveals by some slip or self-regarding intrusion that he is less concerned about his characters than he ought to be - less concerned, that is, than any decent human being observing the situation would naturally be. […] The writer lacks the kind of passion all true artists possess. He lacks the nobility of spirit that enables a real writer to enter deeply into the feelings of imaginary characters (as he enters deeply into the feelings of real people). In a word, the writer is frigid.
Strictly speaking, frigidity characterizes the writer who presents serious material, then fails to carry through - fails to treat it with the attention and seriousness it deserves. I would extend the term to mean a further cold-heartedness as well, the given writer’s inability to recognize the seriousness of things in the first place, the writer who turns away from real feeling, or sees only the superficialities in a conflict of wills, or knows no more about love, beauty, or sorrow than one might learn from a Hallmark card. With the meaning thus extended, frigidity seems one of the salient faults in contemporary literature and art.

That’s also a good sample of Gardner’s tone, which can get in the way of the underlying message unless you enjoy that sort of thing. But it’s a good book nonetheless.


Saturday, February 21st, 2004

You’re Siddhartha!
by Hermann Hesse
You simply don’t know what to believe, but you’re willing to try
anything once. Western values, Eastern values, hedonism and minimalism, you’ve spent
some time in every camp. But you still don’t have any idea what camp you belong in.
This makes you an individualist of the highest order, but also really lonely. It’s
time to chill out under a tree. And realize that at least you believe in

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Speaking of individualism, I found an interesting article on working mothers through the individualist feminism site.

Flash Fiction

Friday, February 20th, 2004

Harangue of the day: (from Writers Who Don’t)
If you’re not writing (for whatever reason), you’re not a writer. If you’re not selling work professionally, you’re not a writer.

Get over it.
Don’t get caught up in the details, folks. I’m talking profession here, not rudimentary activity. I play basketball every fall, yet I am not a basketball player. Michael Jordan is a basketball player.

First, let me start with a horror story that mathematicians tell. These airy masters of infinity say that no student should be taught category theory because it’s too hard. Because it’s too hard, it will break a student’s mind and scar him for life; he will drop out of university and become a computer programmer or night watchman or technical writer. Category theory, they say, should be reserved for professors of mathematics, who are the only people mature enough to handle it. Category theory is the smut of the mathematical world.

Now it would be a whole other blog entry to explain why I don’t believe in protecting the children from smut or the math students from category theory. To be brief, I don’t think that anything is good for one set of people and bad for another. Besides which, children have the same natural defenses against cooties that students have against category theory: disinterest and disgust.

Some writers, for their part, have an analogous defense against flash fiction (stories up to 1,000 or 1,500 words in length). They’re welcome to their disgust, but that doesn’t make flash fiction bad, or impossibly difficult, or a danger to the minds of young writers. It just means some people don’t like drabbles.

I’ve written 56 drabbles (100-word stories) in the past year, 50 of them in the last six months. Before that, I’d written two drabbles and one 25-word challenge in three years, but one of those two drabbles was the first story I finished. I admit that until the drabble bug bit me hard, I disliked drabbles as much as the next BOFQ. The most I’d gotten out of them was a few painful puns.

So why did I do it? Well, there was this Empty Shell challenge on ASC, but I didn’t have the time or energy for a serious response. What’s the shortest possible story you can write? Yes, a drabble. When in doubt, drabble. So I wrote a drabble series. A couple of months later when I started watching Stargate, I wanted to write something that would help me remember what had struck me about a particular episode. People write long, melodramatic episode additions if they watch an episode a week, but I couldn’t do that on an episode-a-day schedule. When in doubt, drabble. So now I have a series of drabble episode codas for several seasons of Stargate.

I’m a filker, so I’m used to not only fitting a story into a fixed size, but also getting it to rhyme and scan. Counting up to 100 words is simple by comparison. Drabbles, like filk, are harder than they look, but they’re not orders of magnitude harder than writing a normal story. In fact I find both filking and drabbling easier than most other kinds of writing, but then I wrote some poetry before I started writing fiction. I like fitting words in.

Seema doesn’t like drabbles, and she got Minisinoo going against flash fiction, but I haven’t heard an argument against them that doesn’t apply to all other fanfiction or all other genres. So drabbles are usually bad and incoherent - so is fanfic. So they’re often lazy and annoying - so is fanfic. So they’re frequently short and low on content - so is fanfic.

So writing flash fiction isn’t easy - neither are novels. Neither are novellas, or novelettes, or short stories. So they require skills the new writer may not have - so do novels, novellas, etc., etc. So most people can’t cram a beginning, middle, and end into 1,000 words - most people can’t do it in 10,000 or 100,000 words, either.

If a brand spanking new writer wants to write a flash story, it won’t kill her. You don’t have to save the newbies from themselves - any kind of writing is good practice, and nobody’s forcing you to read it. Writing flash fiction isn’t any more dangerous than writing schmoop and getting into bad schmoop habits. If the writer wants to get over that someday, she can. Take my word for it - I wrote a drabble three and half years ago, and I’m still here.