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.

This Time I’ll Use Quotes

I should trust my instincts.

I passed over this book twice in the library: taking note, but not making the commitment. It caught my eye when I pulled it from the new collection first, and then again when I was shifting the fiction section.

When I finally went back and checked it out, I had high hopes. Romance can work, and magic is almost always fun, right? And, hey, knitting!

This book isn’t even powerful enough to make it a wall banger. I still couldn’t finish, but more out of exasperation than any passionate hatred. But it was bad enough that even though the whole experience was more than a couple of months ago at this point, I simply can’t let it go without at least talking it out.

Casting Spells is a book about blonde (don’t forget) Chloe Hobbs and her magical knitting shop in her magical town with her magical friends, where nothing bad, especially crime, ever happens. But when a voluptuous (remember–voluptuousness=wantonness) blonde is murdered, handsome cop (remember good-looking and crime-fighter) Luke MacKenzie must come to town and mediate on how odd everyone is…you might they’re magical but of course they’re totally not because I know better. And then together they will fall in love and solve the mystery. (Or is it the other way around? I didn’t get that far.)

Well, first I have to introduce the main character’s knitting shop with a quote from the book:

Blog posts about the magical store in northern Vermont where your yarn never tangles, your sleeves always come out the same length, and you always, always get gauge were popping up on a daily basis, raising both my profile and my bottom line.

What a way to make me resent your character. Knitting is perfectly easy if you have magic! I don’t have magic thank you very much, and dangnabbit, that’s just not fair. So why am I supposed to think that she actually works at this, that she ever actually had to learn knitting? I’m not sure I am.  So know I can only think Mary Sue alert! And this supposedly has a side of murder-mystery to its romance, so of course the male lead is an out-of-town cop who also has to comment on the heroine’s shop:

Her shop was a top link on websites and blogs from neighboring New Hampshire to Malaysia with all stops in between. Okay, so maybe it was like reading Sanskrit (apparently knitters had their own language), but I was able to translate enough to know Chloe’s shop was something special…
…According to the posts I read online, Chloe was Elvis and Sticks & Strings was Graceland, which I would probably chalk up to being a suburban legend if it weren’t for the fact that the noise level at the front of the store could cause hearing loss.

Which quite fortuitously leads me to point number two (especially since, well seriously, “hearing loss”???).

Yes, the story is told in alternating first person. I’ve found I’m a little iffy on first person in the best of times (positive example: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison), but alternating first person should be forbidden on pain of death. Okay, so I think many things should be forbidden on pain of death, but fortunately I’m not in charge of these things, nor will I ever be. Anyway, alternating first person=bad. Yes?

Because when it’s used, especially in romance you get gems like these:

They were all vying for the attention of a tall, skinny blonde, one of the disheveled types who always seemed on the verge of a meltdown.

That’s how Luke first observes Chloe—by they way, she’s actually mayor, which is why he has to opportunity to give this description—as he thinks ‘that’s totally not my type’. Totally. Like, never would I be attracted to a lady like that in a million, zillion years. Ever. Sure, I believe him. Seriously, Ms. Bretton, talk to your publishers. This is marketed as a romance, so as soon as we get Luke’s point of view, we know that he’s going to fall in love with her. If she’s observing that he doesn’t act attracted to her on a physical level, that’s fine. But when he does it? It’s just…just…ugh.

And not even fifteen pages later he finds Chloe asleep and snoring and doesn’t even try to wake her (as we also learned in Twilight, that’s not creepy at all) and tells himself this little gem:

Cops notice things. It’s an occupational hazard. Noticing details about a woman’s appearance was part of a detective’s job description. It didn’t mean anything.
Not even if the cop in question found himself standing there with a stupid grin on his face.

These two characters switch viewpoints several times a chapter (but only after the first fifty pages or something) so it’s only a matter of hours from “totally not my type” to “omg hawtness”.

Actually, if the alternating first person were between Chloe and her “best friend” whatshisname (call him Elf, because he is, naturally) it might have worked. Because Chloe’s been stringing him along since forever—because all male, non-gay best friends must be in love with the main character—and I would like to have seen him get with some nice girl of his own in a real relationship based on something more than lust. Maybe that happened later in the book? But not from his point of view. No, we get Luke’s, so we can see everything twice.

Wait, I haven’t gotten to the squicky yet.

That poor Chloe, from a long line of witches, has no magic herself but was raised by the village. Sweet right? Chloe thinks so. Except her family line (at least the women—WOMAN POWAH!!!) are in charge of this ancient spell that protects the town from exposure to the pedestrians. And she has to give birth to a girl by thirty-five or something to keep the spell going. Or get magic herself, idk. But the locals totally raised her out of the goodness of their hearts and just love her so much.

At that point, I really did feel badly for Chloe. In that whole setup she’s definitely the victim, and her so-called saviors are only exploiting her. But was this explored? Well, not in the part I read. She never questioned anything they’d done.

But she does tell Luke about her parent’s death, and of course this changes him. See, he’s a cop (in case you forgot—didn’t I tell you that it was important?!) and often hears sad stories, but hers touches his heart. As does she. Because she’s just so stoic:

She told her parents’ story without embellishment or self pity.

I’d rather hope so. She was, what? a few years old at most? Firstly, she shouldn’t know any embellishments, and at this point in her live, self-pity would be rather pathetic (now, if she ever seemed like a rounded character or even thought about her parents). We’ve had her first person. We know that she doesn’t have any reason for self-pity.

But this is Twu Wuv.

My hand touched his, and we both jumped back as silver-white sparks crackled through the space between us.

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Don’t Tell Me You Started That Today

….well, yeah.

“That” was actually one of those Star Trek books, can’t remember which, and my brother asked yesterday because he caught me about 3/4 through. And I did not answer “well, yeah” even though I wanted to.

Because that was actually the third such book I’d started that day. Over the past week or so, when my fandom mind switched back to Star Trek from, I think, Sherlock Holmes, I have reread about eight Star Trek: TOS novels. And my reply to my brother when he asked was not sarcastic because, though I read them quickly, I’ve read them all before. Yes I read fast, but I admit in this case I’ve been skimming some…especially in Demons, which has a monstrous Mary Sue character–McCoy’s in love with her and Spock mind-melds with her, AND she has wild red hair and is a super genius. Yeah, I think I only picked it up again because, well, because I’d forgotten how bad she was. There were a few acceptable peril situations however…

Where was I going with this again?

Ah yes. I used to read lots. And then I got trapped by fan fiction, and probably read much less–this was, believe it or not, me be geeky, and more being burned out with college classes and assigned readings. While not as much, such reading is much more exhausting, and I think I was simply burned out for a while, even following graduation.

After graduation comes no job, and me volunteering at the library. So there are lots of books for me to read–including a rather large pile from a buying ‘spree’ a few months back when I did have a little extra money: some, well, now as I try to count them there are almost twenty. Plus the eight books I have yet to finish from the library (I’ve started three).  I do pretty well in keeping up though, at least until my fandom brain takes over–hence the Star Trek. But fandom, at least, is fast reading. When you’re talking series books that don’t have to build characterizations or mostly even worlds, they can go much more quickly. Well. That doesn’t actually count if they don’t get the characterizations right, which is very much a subjective thing now that I think about it. Let’s just go with: they read faster.

In seventh grade, I had a teacher, Mr. Prim, who had some one-page project to measure our reading speeds. I tested at 1200 wpm. The text, I distinctly remember, was from Huckleberry Finn. And I’d read it before. Even then, I remembered that passage. The other passage was from The Prince and the Pauper. I’d read that too. So, I’m not sure how accurate a measure that was.

Although I suppose I can use it to argue that even then I could be called fairly well read (though I couldn’t say that now). Even in fourth grade I’d tested with an ability to parse sentences and paragraphs at above a 12th grade reading level. See, our school had a program called “AR” reading (Accelerated Reader), and after you read a book, you would take a test, and that test would tell you how well you comprehended the test. I scored badly on Les Miserable only because I though, ooh, it’s a hard book, I should make sure I internalize it, and forgot the specific eye colors involved. Also, 1984 changes entirely from middle school to college. That’s a simple example, but you have to realize a program is flawed when it classifies Hemingway at a 4th grade reading level. Whatever “interest level” you give it.

Sans second digression, though I don’t know my “true” reading speed, although one interest test called it 700 wpm, I do read faster than the general population. Which is something like 200 wpm and really, really slow. To me. Poor general population, no wonder you can only read seven books a year. I can’t keep up.

Reading quickly of course has much more to do with general reading habits. And in my case especially, interest in the material. Because novels I can power through in, oh, four hours on average. Or three maybe? Time flies, anyway, so I start reading and them I’m done and depressed because it was over all-too-quickly. When I was rereading the first two Rogue Agent books before reading the third when it came out, I finished all three in one day, two? because I kept putting them down. Stopping takes up plenty of time, no matter how engaging the story.

Non-fiction books take longer.

Which is really hard for me to accept because I love them. I love checking them out. I love buying them. But they just take so long to read. And unlike fiction books, for me, harder to give up. There’s always the chance I will grow out of my fiction books, especially since I love those in series: like Rogue Agent, or Robert Asprin’s Myth books. Actually, those are still going strong, and you’ll pry my Terry Pratchett paperbacks from my cold dead hands (I’m taking the hardcovers with me), but I just managed to give up my Dorothy Cannells and Aunt Dimitys from middle school. But though nonfiction books may become outdated, they never lose information. Even if it’s just historical value.

Like my weird attraction to science books. The Fly in the Cathedral, books like that. I rarely, rarely read them, but I love to have them for when I want to read them. And I will eventually. I really will.

So between reading too quickly, and having an active fandom attraction, I both gather too many books, and don’t read enough. Fortunately, books last. Maybe not hundreds of years, but long enough for me to get around to them. Or maybe my theoretical kids, that I’m not sure I want, but at least I have an excuse for those Hardy Boys and John Bellairs (<–he’s awesome, look him up!).