Your Premise was Outdated 10 Years Ago

I cannot believe Lucy is a movie actually being made today.

Now, maybe, if it had been made some ten or fifteen years ago I might have found it a thoughtful idea and been willing to accept the idea as a metaphor. But right now, today, after we’ve finally been able to study the brain this is ridiculous.

You already use 100 percent of your brain. OK? You do, I promise. It’s just that the parts of the brain have different functions. You don’t want them all trying to work at once because that is a seizure.

Why couldn’t they just blame it all on some magic system that over-revved brain activity? I’d rather like a plot that relied on young the brain power and the protagonist became able to influence others. Maybe even give other people heart attacks from the next room or something.

Tellingly, you’ll notice I’m not mentioning either throwing people around or stopping time.

Every time I see that movie’s trailer, I want to run screaming from the room or throw something. Or jump off the roof. Unless the Black Window is just trolling the mad scientist. That would be OK too.

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Meanwhile, I was reading the intro to Sweater Quest this weekend, and the author could remember nothing that year she would put on her obituary. Well, I thought, there’s nothing in particular I can think of that would make my obituary interesting, but at least I’ve done stuff this year.

1: I finally got a job—Hooray for passive networking! Because that is one thing not on my skill list.

2: I wrote approximately 1.3 novels. Even if, for November’s National Novel Writing Month, finishing the 50,000 word goal meant typing about a third of that in six hours just before the deadline. Which is an accomplishment alone.

3: I read 132 books, seven more than my goal. Mostly they were not of the enlightening type of books and more entertainment, but that’s what I needed this year. Unfortunately, reviewing fell by the wayside.

4: I completed some knitting?

5: I at least didn’t gain any weight.

Eh, enough about the little things I’ve managed. I wasn’t completely oblivious to the outside world. Then again I’m still only going to talk about what interests me.

For example, while I linked to GoodReads before, I haven’t been using the site since it was purchased by Amazon in…March, I believe it was, and when the first major policy change lead to many user reviews being deleted, I’ve hardly visited. Even so, it is already clear that the site is transitioning from reader oriented to an author/sales focus. And a lot of the active users I followed really did leave, either deleting accounts or only posting links to reviews on other sites.

I made an accounts on BookLikes, and if I ever manage to get it up and running, I will link here.

Haven’t been to the movies much this year, but mid-summer realized that only two of ten trailers had speaking female characters, and of those one says evil and the other was eaten. When I watched Catching Fire, practically the same thing happened, only there was one more trailer with lots of women! And that, Divergence, sounded absurd. Apparently girls only get to watch other girls act out nonsensical plots. Once you’ve noticed, you’ll never be able to ignore it.

What else…the library’s book group is still hanging on, if only just. A few of the remaining members started a writing group as well. Speaking of, if I don’t bring a story to Thursday’s meeting, I’ll have to read my high school fan fiction. I have four stories in-progress because that will. Not. Happen.

And there will never be links to that.

Other book-related news, not too long ago, all the major online ebook retailers removed all “explicit” content books from their stores. Because no one wants to read erotica. All this in response to a vocal group in the UK. That’s not insane or anything. Look, I don’t read it (mostly because it’s not a genre known for high quality literature) but I refuse to accept censorship as the answer.

When you go from that to the NSA*, well. What else can I say? Isn’t that a note on which to end the year.

Let’s declare 2014 the year of intellectual freedom! Positive energy can’t hurt.

*My tablet tried to force me to blame the NBA which I know nothing about. Creepy.

Casually Watching The Glades

I may be somewhere in the … fourth season? I don’t know, it’s some marathon on A&E.

Main characters parents are getting a divorce after 42 years. He wants to continue working, meaning travelling to Brazil. Now that she’s on her own, she plans to move somewhere warm—Florida, to be near family—and also start travelling.

WHY doesn’t she just travel to Brazil with him now that she’s retired?

I don’t mind the effects of a broken marriage so many years on, but give me a reason other than MISSING the OBVIOUS resolution, please?

Great American Balderdash

Aside

Long day today: not just work, but the writer’s group and book discussion group meetings. Not to mention the approximately four thousand words I’m still behind for NaNo. But I have tomorrow and next week off, so I’d better use that time to catch up. It’s just so…stuck…at the moment. In the meantime, I’ve stumbled across a Huffington Post article all about the death of the novel. Well, when I say “I” stumbled across it, that’s something of a lie. I followed the link from Goodreads, because it’s safer for me for other people to do the online stumbling of things, because they seem to have better sources than I do, and I get little enough work done now as it is.

Anyway, back to the article. The author complains two major releases for the holiday season are both not that great and therefore our culture is no longer producing good novels. In fact, we should all just give up and go watch television, because what with technology and all, words aren’t important. Because “novel means new.”

Oh where to start with that argument. Well, first, the author made it for me with the referenced examples by Tom Wolfe and of all people John Grisham as “two of America’s greatest living novelists.” And that’s the crack in the foundation of his argument that takes it all down. All of the authors he names as ones who will be forgotten are the bestsellers: Rowling, Dan Brown. Even Wolfe, I’d say, falls more into the category of ‘good seller’ for the literary fiction side than actually fantastic fiction. Look, personally I have nothing against genre fiction, and in fact will argue passionately for its literary value. That doesn’t mean it’s a widely held critical opinion, by the people who actually get to make these decisions.

In other words, bestseller lists rarely coincide with literary value. If ever?

Just a few months ago, I read Literary Feuds, and in the chapter about Wolfe and Updike, the author made it clear  he wasn’t as impressed with Wolfe as Wolfe was with himself. There will always be differing opinions.

The article’s second thrust of the argument for turning to Twitter complained that only two books written after 1980 made it onto Modern Library’s list of 100 greatest novels of the twentieth century. This is, of course, because out of the say 50,000 novels published every year in those two decades, we know for sure what will be read by future generations.

Maybe you don’t realize this, but they’ve always published books that won’t last. Austen herself responded almost directly to the gothic fiction of her day with Northanger Abbey. Ann Radcliff could probably be called the female Stephen King of gothic novels back in the day. How many have you read her today? And she’s mostly remembered for starting the movement, there were plenty of other writers catering to the more lurid tastes of young reads. If you don’t believe me, it’s much easier to find all the newspaper articles of the time lamenting the terrible tastes of the masses. Elitist  Sure. But we still do it today. There is no reason marks on paper should be any less entertaining and more educational than any television show or movie. In fact, given the much larger budgets and intellectual contributions, screen media should require much more from its audience.

So if it’s not required for Hollywood, why ask the poor, lone author starving in her garret to do so much more work, when maybe she just wants to tell you a fun story? Because of English teachers and Harold Bloom, mostly.

I’m not ready to switch to Twitter yet. Mostly because so few people actually tell stories there—they just want to link you to real ones. Poor Levin, who clearly isn’t reading for his own sake, although I’m not sure for whose sake he is reading. If he is. While he seems to despise genre fiction (despite called Grisham a great author) as much as any other literary critic, he never references some of the great work going on in the literary arena. An acknowledgement of genre bestsellers hardly convinces when he never mentions names like Ursula K. Le Guin, who I’ll read for fifty years at least, or Margaret Atwood. Not even Updike, Wolfe’s old rival. No non-American authors either. Of course, he explicitly asks for the Great American Novel, which is not a thing I believe actually exists…

But I haven’t written that post yet.

In the meantime, if you are waiting for the Great American Novel of the last few decades of the twentieth century, find about, oh, twenty more years worth of books to read while the critics duke it out, and by then the readers will be reading what is still worth reading. And you’ll be ready, because while you were waiting, you’ll have been reading all the Great Novels for the next couple decades before the critics have recognized them!

Enjoy, and I look forward to your reviews on GR (I’ll take a hint, sure).

Mini Update

NaNoWriMo isn’t going all that well. Just up to a little over 19000 words today, which is still a couple thousand under. And then there’s tomorrow. I’d like to catch up, but it’s so much easier writing somewhere else, where distractions don’t feel as acceptable.

Also, I’m back to obsessing over White Collar, the television show, and then the fan fiction of it, mostly because I have some great fan fiction ideas for White Collar which would be so much easier than trying to figure out this original novel thing I am at this moment attempting to work on. Like, White Collar, it has a genre, and I know the characters—as much as one can know a character as depicted by an actor, because at that point the character exists for so many people: the writer, the director and only then the actor. It makes for a fascinating (to me) philosophical discussion, but not really one useful otherwise. Maybe if I go into the philosophy of theater I can use it as a thesis. If that is already your goal, I may allow you to steal it so I don’t have to do the work.

But still, given my understanding and familiar with television show characterization and all attending issues, I can make do. Writing a new plot turns out to be the easy part, though I’ve always said it’s what I have the most trouble with. I suppose that’s because knowing the characters (however possible) and the setting and the genre. There’s already even a style there to build from.

This novel thing? At best the genre is a fantasy/dystopia*/magical realism and unfortunately even I don’t know exactly what that means, which is no good, given I’m the one writing it. In theory, I should have control over this sort of thing. And most of my characters don’t have names: even those who do only have place holder titles. One has just been dubbed O until I can think of something better. Also plot is hard. I have the beginning fairly down, and last week it seemed brilliant. This week, while I still have hope for the beginning I’m not convinced it’s possible to make it go anywhere.

Oh well, if I do ever manage to make it until the end of the month, I can go from there. At least I’ll have somewhere to start. It’s like discovering a new genus. I don’t have the full shape yet, so I can’t even start thinking of the connections to everything else.

*and google wants me to correct that to ‘topiary,’ which wouldn’t not fit either.

 

P.S. Can I add this to my word count?

Talking Politics is a Dead End Game, but I Want People to Not Hate Each Other

Ever since choosing to only write two posts a week, it’s been much harder to post.

And this week—well, it’s much harder than most. The election finished but no one won. The viciousness and personal hatred of this election is unlike anything in my experience, and the ugliest part of our culture. How much do you hate the other party, strictly from the judgement of one word? That’s how much I hate every single one of you all the time, says the misanthrope. In other words, we all lost.

And yet, despite the rhetoric on television and online, where people genuinely refuse to recognize any humanity in the ‘other’ side (when they’re exactly the same, really, just differently labeled), when I’m actually interacting with people, in real life: conversations face to face, we all passionately agree that politics has become irreparable.

Guess what. We didn’t blame the politicians. Who lets them get away with this? Every single voter, who make it personal on the micro level without holding the ones actually making decisions accountable.

Well, I don’t really blame myself. Despite how often I hear ‘every vote counts’, mine really doesn’t. I live in northern California, the only choices are made by the great metropolises of Los Angeles and Bay Area. But I have voted on every single ballot since I registered, which I did at eighteen. It is what you do in my family. The only reason my mom registered at nineteen was because that was the year they amended the constitution and brought the age down. I will accept no reason for not voting…at least in part because in this election you must have known something about the presidents. Likely nothing true, and probably nothing truly relevant. But something.

Now see, if I were in charge, you’d have to prove you could think before voting. and you couldn’t be generally stupid in other ways. Also, education on the issues would be mandatory. You wouldn’t have to agree on issues, but voting on anything other than the issues or only based on media coverage. Or else. (This is why I’m not in charge of anything.)

Of course, this also relates to the positions I hold theoretically, but could never espouse for real people, real situations: the whole, “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

So yes, I had a delightful conversation in a coffee shop with my friend on politics—though we hardly agree on everything—but then we were joined by two other women who were also actively engaged and interested and passionate. And we had great fun talking about politics when we clearly all fell on different political axes* but we never never never tried to tell each other we were wrong about the little things, because we realized there were far more important problems than who belonged to what party. There used to be a phrase, something like ‘vote policy, not party,’ only it sounds better. It’s not advice anyone is supposed to follow anymore. Wonder why nothing works?

*”Axes (/ˈæksiːz/), the plural of axis, is pronounced differently from axes (/ˈæksɨz/), the plural of ax(e).” Wikipedia

I’ve yet to catch up on Elementary, which I saw the pilot of and didn’t like, but wanted to give another chance. By chance, I’m watching the sixth episode. For a moment, I thought they’d brought back a Holmes who genuinely cared about people, which the original did, and I was impressed. Spoilers: they haven’t. Well, not really, but that’s mostly due to the actor. (Aw, he has daddy issues! Do people really think this is original still? I hope not.)

Good Luck!

Because it’s time to start writing if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo. And I know from experience staring late causes all sorts of problems.

I started last night, right at midnight. Stopped at an even 1000 words, because it’s a nice even number. Instead of continuing, of course, I’m writing this post, both as it has been scheduled and also because I was introduced to an author today.

Sigh.

Apparently this guy is some kind of big deal, or at least an  author with influence, though fortunately I’ve never heard from him and don’t need to worry about having it color my reading of his work. Someone feels threatened.

Because that’s what happens. Published authors, are, of course, the only ‘real’ authors, and god forbid the dirty common people get their mucky hands over their white towers.

Do I sound a little bitter? I suppose I am. When I first found NaNoWriMo, I was thrilled by the almost innocent thrill of the organizers. It wasn’t some way to convince people anything they wrote would be worthy of publishing, but to show people writing, and by extension, authors, aren’t worthy of blind devotion simply because they’ve managed to get a few tens of thousands of words onto paper. Great authors deserve recognition for their work, their word play skill, their insight into the human condition. Challenging amateur writers to make a similar effort in no way threatens the respect we pay to dedicated authors who can change the way we see the world.

If you haven’t noticed, our culture has lately failed to honor the humanities it depends on to be culture. People have recognized that modern ‘literary’ authors and critics are out of touch, that they don’t relate to humanity at all—that modern literature can be little more than a circle jerk of mutual appreciation from student to teacher to student, and hardly anyone new enters the picture.

NaNoWriMo brings hundreds of thousands of literature lovers together actively in a way I don’t recognize. Not like universities, where you have a limited list of acceptable reading material: what my professor called ‘serious’ literature. As much as I liked him, that’s such an artificial and unnatural limiting of everything literature is and can be. For example, I recently read a non-professional critical article* on the qualities of the best science fiction versus what science fiction has become. Science fiction, especially is dismissed by ‘serious’ authors because it doesn’t realize with real stuff. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. And the article points out that the best part of Science Fiction speculates about how our world today will affect the world tomorrow. What could be more profound than that? The best science fiction provokes wonder from the reader, changes the reader, offers the world possibilities. Everything the best literature has always done. Do read the article, it’s a thought-provoking read with a great discussion afterwards. But somehow science fiction is just not good enough for real authors.

Back to NaNiWriMo, why do professional authors object to others knowing how difficult it is to truly craft a novel?  I’ve long heard complaints from authors about people pointing out they just get to ‘stay at home all day’ or that they ‘have a great idea for a novel’ that they just haven’t gotten around to writing yet. Even after NaNoWriMo, people will still say these things. But some of them will actually try. And maybe they’ll appreciate how hard their favorite authors, or even least favorite authors, have to work at their profession.

No, somehow it’s a challenge. It assaults their delicate sensibilities. Maybe it even makes it harder for them to be published…because if you’ve been published once, it’s your right to be published again.

The creators of NaNoWriMo have never, in my experience presented the challenge as the path to publishing. It’s always been nothing more than permission. Permission to write a truly terrible novel that maybe no one will ever see, that will never be graded, but that maybe, just maybe, could be made into something worthwhile. With work. Every year, successful NaNo winners—which really includes everyone who attempted any writing at all—to continue to improve, to edit what they have, to expand anything missed in the rush, to close up the plot holes. And unlike everyone trying to sell their self-publishing services, the NaNo crew has always advocated editing, once the work is to that point. As an editor myself, and a discriminating reader, I greatly appreciate that attitude.

So, Mr. Bertschy, I may well read your work in the future. I probably won’t even be reminded of this post. Heck, everyone’s allowed to say stupid things; it happens. Generally, I prefer to avoid attacking others on Twitter, because it sounds so much more cruel in fewer than 140 characters. I’m sure you’re not a terrible person. But I’m blogging about it instead of replying there because I’m not sure I want to engage directly with that kind of perceived elitism. If you do stumble across this post? It’s not personal, but I hope you understand why I disagree.**

Unfortunately, while you did back off a little when the ‘tongue-in-cheek’ part was pointed out, the tone of your first tweet hit a number of my berserk buttons when it comes to literature. I truely think the literary scene suffers from the artificial split between ‘literature’ and ‘genre’ and in insulated nature of the the big prizes. These thousand words are not a direct response to you. However, if you—or others of that kind of mindset—are willing to engage in a sincere discussion on the relative worthiness of fiction, I would love you forever. Seriously.

*”The Issue with Science Fiction Nowadays: Where Has All the Wonder Gone?” by Kyllorac (August 17, 2011)

**It is exceedingly unlikely, as I’m not going to tag the name, but as the entire post was in response to that Tweet, I thought I should clarify why I felt it necessary. Should he visit, I’d hate for him to feel attacked, but it’s very difficult to have a true discussion online.

P.S. Oh look at that! Back to the tl;dr posts—looks like the limited schedule helps. And I didn’t even start to talk about my own NaNo first day, which I must get back to, or the fantastic writer’s group I found. I know you’re all devastated to miss my over-sharing.