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.

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The Strange 50s

History of modern literature

Image via Wikipedia

As in, the decade last century, not the period of life of which I have no experience.

It didn’t really occur to me but recently that I hadn’t read much literature from the 50s. Not like my literature classes covered modern works at all—or at least not those written after the thirties (because those are technically modern). And I haven’t exactly gone out of my way to look for novels or other works written in the 50s, mostly because I rarely go out of my way to look for any reading material, I just happen to be exceptionally good at picking anything/everything up.

Specifically I read a lot, and unlike many more disciplined readers, I don’t even have a favorite genre or subject. That’s a different issue.

Anyway, recently I’ve been introduced to two different works produced in the decade of the 1950s. The first is the play in which I ended up with a fairly significant role by some mysterious twist of face (re: they didn’t have enough people audition), and the second is the novel Thirty Days Hath September, by an author who may have lacked some longevity in history because her last name is Disney, and I’m pretty sure she’s not related to The Disney. But that’s the conspiracy theory; the truth may just be that there are lots and lots and lots of authors out there who produce a great many more books, and most have not had any kind of staying power—particularly those from the 50s. Now I’m just getting factitious.

And as soon as I typed Disney, the recommendations filter went “yay! a word used as tags!” or something, and showed me The Disney.

To find Thirty Days Hath September on amazon.com I actually had to use both author names, who I don’t feel like looking up right now, because it’s just a 50s genre novel. Much like asking how easy it will be to find one of those random paperbacks in a dime store in fifty years. Yeah, not so much, even with the internet.

But back to The Curious Savage. In it, an old woman who is committed to an asylum by her three stepchildren, who are evil and crazy. And then we find out that she essentially stole all their inheritance, which was her money anyway. But she only kept the money to start a fund that would support “people with a desperate need to be foolish.” So that she could commemorate her husband. In the end, evil husbands lock their wives away after driving them crazy in the first place, but husbands who don’t (or are crazy themselves) earn the undying love of said helpmeets. As happens to Mrs. Savage, devoting your entire self, including desires and dreams, is completely fine until the husband dies, after which you devote everything to make sure he is remembered.

At least she did go out and act, since she couldn’t dye her hair blue when he was alive. (What can I say, the play is a little odd. As is the playwrite, but that’s another subject.)

Thirty Days Hath September has a great title and a moderately interesting and reasonably well-told plot. Genre-wise, it’s a mystery, and isn’t too bad—it’s full of gun shots in the night and fainting, screaming women and twins and dumping butter in the garden. Not to mention the crazy people (yes, more of them: were there just more crazy people in the 50s?) and the body under the seashells. But the narrator is a man who consistently refers to his wife as a girl (which you’d think would be disturbing) and though she has her own agency for the most part, she is still the good little woman. However, as part of this is from the narrator (who really is rather stupid) and both he and his wife come across as rather child-like, especially in comparison to the sheriff, who is very competent. They’re the summer people on a vacation island/resort area.

So both were rather problematic on several levels: you should have seen Tom’s (in Thirty Days) description of Jenny the murder victim and former career woman. But like I said, Disney’s work had a first-person narrator who wasn’t particularly clever in the first place, and for the most part all characters were given a chance to be developed. Yes, most of the women ended up weak or crazy (again) but Sally (Tom’s wife) ended up not too bad and had her own resolve, and the men weren’t any better off.

Sort of all rich people are stupid theme, come to think of it.

The Curious Savage is a little more problematic to me, mostly because of the beyond death devotion, and expectation of complete sublimation to the man. Of course, this is only what the characters say, and I really haven’t gone through and analyzed the text. In fact, I actually feel much better about my role when talking to two of the other actors who in real life serve counselor-type functions work-wise. But from all the notes left by the author, John Patrick just sounds rather pretentious anyway, so I’m probably right.

Isn’t that sound reasoning?

Still Killing Time, Actually Part 3

My schedule got pushed back a day, which seems appropriate for triviality like this. Also, I prefer posting on even days anyway.


Here in chapter five, we’ve fully moved to the alternate universe, where Christine Chapel holds the same function as in the original timeline, we have an awkward sparring scene between Chapel and the obligatory original character (OC) alien. We’ve not heard from Chapel before so it’s time for her POV and to hearken back to Thursday’s complaint about the twu-luv overcoming all other relationships, the alien S’Parva is physically sort-of canine (more on that later), but the awkwardness is that the encounter reads like fem-slash.

Poor S’Parva, by the way, whose alienness is completely random, gratuitous, token and makes no sense, who is introduced with this gem:

“A body like a goddess…and a face like an Irish setter.”

So it can be clarified that he’s not just being mean! she really is dog-like. Yeah. Uhura objects, laughingly, and says she knows the guy, Richardson, isn’t “a bigot or a xenophobiac” but doesn’t mention or object to the misogyny. She does put him down a few sentences later by calling McCoy to neuter the tomcat on the bridge. Which makes me feel a little better, however forced the banter.

The worst part of S’Parva’s ‘characterization’ is that she’s effectively human and doesn’t have any outsider perspective or observations on her situation or the rest of the crew—other than to bemoan how different she is, to let Richardson to flirt with her. Except Richardson is apparently the only guy to speak to her so she calls him her little brother or teacher or companion because this is a word that has more than one meaning and more than one interpretation! Of course. But still, one made-up word does not an alien make. A true TOS tradition regarding aliens, I suppose.

S’Parva is also described in canine terms, specifically as a quadruped. Which makes her different, you see. Except she really isn’t.

Already she had mastered walking upright—which, she realized, was actually quite convenient….She looked at her hands, at the fork she had learned to hold with some amount of practice. Three longer fingers and a thumb distinguishable from its human counterpart only by the soft fur. Yes, the rest would follow.

So I guess she’s really just a furry human with canine habits and a doglike face—so like TOS! Only she has one fewer finger…I guess that would make it harder to film.

It just really bothers me. Because apparently, with her arrive, the entire Enterprise, or at least her lab, is being retrofitted for quadrupeds. As another character says, this is a good thing and overdue if this made-up species isn’t the only four-legged intelligent creature* allowed to space travel with the Federation, but she isn’t a quadruped? And why didn’t she learn how to walk upright before if it’s so convenient, though her species has worked with Starfleet for years?

The easiest way to read this is through a laundry list of questions that as far as I can tell are never answered. Hence the need for a spork.

Oh, and because she’s OC she’s horribly self-conscious, even though she’s apparently physic enough to determine all the different species in a room just by their thoughts, but not enough to tell what they think of her—which, if she could, would naturally all be good (other than Richardson’s comments earlier)—because by golly, she was assigned a place on the Enterprise and is even the first of her species on a starship. Actually, though, I don’t think I’ll call her a Mary Sue though. This book jumps character’s heads so often we aren’t with her enough to make her that important. Now in Demons

Anyway.

Further on in the AU, S’Parva and Chapel are in exactly the same positions, with the same characters they had before. Other than to acknowledge Spock as captain, the situation may as well occur before. In fact, when I was looking it up again, I thought it did.

The scene, not even seven pages long, occurs because Chapel is out of shape, and so McCoy has told her that she needs to spar with S’Parva (of a much stronger race, from a planet with higher gravity) for S’Parva’s workout. Chapel does not do her research and so doesn’t know until the alien points it out to her. (She’s a nurse, how’d she plan on getting away with it if S’Parva were injured?) However, it’s the talk after the workout that bothers me (because this isn’t too bad until the characters are ‘reflecting’ on their emotions).

S’Parva’s whiskered brow rose onto a high canine forehead. “Oh?” she wondered, absently reaching out to massage the other woman’s tense neck muscles.

Christine nodded, meeting the Katellan’s confused expression, enjoying the warmth of the hands which were experts in the art of massage.

That’s not the full passage, but I had to quote it because it reminded me of why I thought fem-slash. Then I had to stop myself quoting because we jump right into Chapel’s crush on Spock, which was transported whole-cloth from the old universe.  And it’s also used so that we can confirm the One True Pairing (OTP) of Spock and Kirk in the original universe as with this one. Hence why I know it’s the same “relationship”. So I feel perfectly comfortable dragging it into my discussion of why that storyline bothered me in TOS.

Back in conversation, Chapel says that if McCoy had being trying to “get” her, he would have made her spar with Spock, who would have gone along for the benefit of a random nurse, why? But “Chris” says McCoy wouldn’t have done so anyway (maybe because Captain Spock wouldn’t have?).  And the doctor wouldn’t have done so because…shocker…Chapel admits she had a crush on the Captain!

The only difference in this universe is that Spock is Captain, and Chapel’s shown to get over it. I would say good for her, but…

At least it didn’t hurt anymore. If she’d once felt something for the Vulcan which she’d labeled as love, that misplaced emotion had been replaced with respect—and the knowledge that whatever fantasies she hand once entertained were not only illogical, but also impossible.

The last whole post was about how much I hate this much emphasis on this trope, and I think some of this will be too, because the entire point of the conversation is to make clear no one will be sad when Kirk and Spock are finally united into their OTP. But I really want to quote the whole thing, because it is soooo stilted, and so entirely geared towards that point.

So yes, the entire point of the conversation is to show how Christine Chapel can acknowledge that she had ‘feelings’ for Spock that weren’t returned. She naturally sensed the “loneliness” in him, but all along knew in her heart that he was looking for that Special Someone and she sincerely hopes he will be happy.

  1. I never liked the ‘Chapel crushes on Spock’ storylines in TOS in the first place because she came across like a stalker—why is it supposed to be funny and why didn’t anyone do anything? The situation makes them both uncomfortable and she’s pathetic.** I hate saying it, because as a nurse on the flagship of Starfleet she ought to be a strong, competent character. But instead, as a recurring female character she is forced into a ‘comedic’ role of the lovesick girl. I know I’m supposed to wholeheartedly support and justify my gender no matter what they do, but why couldn’t Uhura pull her aside and tell her to get some self respect!?
  2. Isn’t there such a thing as friendship anymore?

No, no there isn’t. This seems to be a fanon idea—or ideal?—

“I thought I sensed a loneliness in Spock.” She laughed wistfully. “And maybe I was naïve enough to believe I was the cure.” She shrugged, not looking at the other woman. “But when I finally understood what it means to be a Vulcan…that’s when I understood that Spock can’t allow himself to become too close to anyone.”

But she wondered if that was really the answer. There had been moments when the Vulcan had been tender, even warm with her. But she consigned those times back into the past as the barely readable smile returned.

So even though she recognizes Spock’s affection for her, he still can’t be too close to anyone. Ever. Even though he’s been wandering across the galaxy hoping to find his One True Love and his father’s disowned him, and she doesn’t have feel ‘that way’ for him anymore she sure isn’t going to lend him a shoulder to cry on. If it isn’t romantic than you don’t have a true relationship, so there’s just no point.

Somewhat justified as in this universe he’s captain, and there’s lots of theories that the captain can’t socialize with the crew, but Jim still had Bones (as well as Spock) in TOS, so why, in this AU, can’t Spock talk to anyone? Because for an example of a captain who doesn’t seem to have had any true confidants? Like Pike, who had a Vulcan to drag him off to a forbidden planet to act out pure fantasies never contacting reality again—because once the Enterprise left, he’s still effectively broken and alone. Wait! There’s a pretty lady there too, even though he doesn’t actually know her. I’m sorry, romantic love does not heal all wounds, it really doesn’t. It reduces the complexity that original works (and sometimes great fanfic) allow.

Effectively the entire seven pages is devoted to nothing more than Chapel blessing this union.

Also? She’s entirely selfish. Dragging the scene back into the plot, Chapel swoons to an echo of the original universe. Which most of the characters have. And S’Parva recognizes it as such. She reminds Chapel that this could be a bad thing. It’s happening to others in the crew, maybe we can figure it out!

And despite the fact that S’Parva was right, the though of four medical department heads—and the captain—psychoanalyzing her subconscious images caused her skin to crawl. Nothing incriminating, she thought. Just damned embarrassing! Images, yes. But…of what? First Officer Spock? She shivered. Easily enough explained—at least in her own case. Straight out of the textbooks. Knock him down in rank a few points. Make him easier to attain. The red heat crawled higher into her cheeks. No point dredging up restless—and unreachable—spirits. And the dizziness came again, refusing to leave her alone. She smiled to herself. It would be her secret…no matter what.

But instead: We could save the ship! but I’ve had embarrassing thoughts that are already totally obvious to the rest of the ship! No—let the ship burn!

Urg.

*Should this be creäture? ‘Cause this is English, I’m pretty sure, and English has used creature for a good long time.

**I have this problem with most of the canon characters fan fiction writers use as pairings for Spock, and for that matter, canon parings. During the original series almost all of his “love interests” occurred when he was somehow impaired. Spores=date rape drugs? This is disturbing subtext.