strange_aeons says, "I rule."
brooksmoses says, "Not that non-sequitors are odd here, but why are you commenting that you produce straight even lines?"
strange_aeons says, "Brooks. Punning is a sin."
strange_aeons says, "Also, I'll choke you."
brooksmoses says, "Oh, dear."
brooksmoses says, "You do know I'm not into that, yes?"
strange_aeons says, "That's why it's a threat and not a reassurance."
brooksmoses says, "Right. I was afraid of that."
strange_aeons says, "Note to self: get into situation in which it is appropriate to say in soothing tones, 'Relax, I'll choke you'. Award self points."
brooksmoses says, "I'm also not into chocolate cake. A delicious chocolate cake delivered to my door would terrify and distress me greatly, and I would be very upset about it. --Hah!"
strange_aeons says, "I don't really bake, so we're going to have to go with asphyxia, which I am quite good at."
brooksmoses says, "Darn."
brooksmoses says, "Also, now I want cake. Double darn."
strange_aeons says, "You see where punning gets you."
Phone Drone: May I have a number where you can be reached?
Squid: Sure. Five five five....
Squid: ... got that?
Phone Drone: I'm sorry, what?
Squid: Five five five.
Phone Drone: All I'm hearing is 'five five five'.
Squid: Sorry, I was waiting for you to acknowledge that you had that before I continued.
Squid: ... the rest is five five five, five five five five.¹
Phone Drone: Okay!
Initially I thought this must be some kind of weird culture clash thing, but on further consideration, fuck that. I have been reciting long numbers and other, frequently arbitrary lists of things to an enormous roster of professional phone-answerers every day of my work week for two years now, and nothing like this has ever happened to me. This person is either new and stupid, or experienced and extraordinarily stupid, and deserves to be mocked via the internet, forever.
¹ Don't interpret this as permission to phone me.
(I have removed the digressions for the sake of clarity and length, though I left in the one with lstone because it contributes to the atmosphere; I also moved a couple of lines around for the same reason.)
oneironaut says, "FINALLY someone is here to FIX THE FUCKING WASHING MACHINE."
lilairen looks for the obvious agitation joke but fails to find it with good timing.
oneironaut laughs anyway.
brooksmoses says, "There's the other obvious joke, about how if it's fucking, it probably is a good idea to get it fixed before you've got a litter of baby washing machines on your hands."
oneironaut says, "Then I'd never have to share. ... breed faster, home appliance!"
lilairen says, "Depends on whether it's fucking in a procreative fashion, too."
oneironaut says, "Well, the only other appliance convenient to it is the dryer. Does it belong to a different species, or are they members of the same extremely sexually dimorphic species?"
lilairen says, "That's a good question, really. I can see arguments made either way."
oneironaut says, "If it's the latter, that raises questions about toilets and bidets."
lilairen says, "And then there are those washer-dryer-single-unit-closet-things, which suggest either a speciation point, a mule-type hybrid, or, uh, a third thing that fell out of my head when I got this far into the sentence."
brooksmoses says, "Hermaphrodite."
oneironaut says, "Or a hermaphrodite, or something like the supermales you get in some species of fish."
lilairen says, "Thank you."
brooksmoses says, "tiger_spot says that she thinks they're probably cooperative species, like humans and wolves, or whatnot. The fact that they are often seen in washer-dryer pairs but don't appear to breed argues against sexually-dimorphic members of the same species."
brooksmoses says, "I am wondering if maybe they're symbiotes of a sort where occasionally one gets a parasitic form where the dryer gets fused into the washer."
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What do I see, in the very next episode?
A grey alien, slow-dancing with an Archetypal Frat Boy twice its size, under a disco ball, to Chris de Burg's Lady in Red.
FUCK YOU, ERIC KRIPKE. FUCK YOU RIGHT IN THE EAR.
I keep worrying about how much more trouble the beginning of this thing is giving me than the beginning of Life did, and having to remind myself that -- well, (a) I think I had to rewrite the first scene of Life at least once; it was just so long ago I don't remember. (b) Even if I didn't have to blank-screen Life itself at any point, the first scene was originally an isolated vignette, and even the characters who weren't in that vignette had been around in some form for a while. Of course I'm having trouble hearing these people's voices: I've never met any of them before. Also, almost everyone in this scene is a nonverbal tentacle monster.
There's a vibrancy I'm missing, and it took me a while to figure out what it is: Wakefield is not as fun a perspective character as Rook was, because Wakefield is not cranky. Rook was a cranky, cranky man, and his crankiness manifested itself as narration that crackled with jokes and sarcastic observations; Wakefield, on the other hand, has numbed himself to almost everything but his job, so what I get is mostly 'neutral speculation'. I suspect that the problem is not that the resulting narration is actually boring, but that I'm not comfortable when I'm not cracking jokes. Between that and the fact that the early stages of the plot are driven mostly by the actions of Nishimura and Taste of Copper, I spent some time recently in nail-biting anxiety about Wakefield having no opinions and no agency. I've been thinking about passive protagonists a lot lately, between devoting entirely too much of my brainpower to analysis of Twilight and then reading this; I get paranoid. Then I remembered that basically the first thing Wakefield does is save someone who just nearly shot him from death by falling while he's in the process of bleeding to death because he has strong opinions about whether it is appropriate to leave people to die. And then he goes to her husband's funeral because that's what you do, you honor the motherfucking dead. Okay, point taken. You have a personality.
Also, I have word of a scene much later in which Nishimura is going to accuse Wakefield of taking sexual advantage of a pair of innocent tentacle monsters. So there's that to look forward to. Actually, some of the shit that Wakefield is going to do later is so weird that I wonder if it will become difficult to keep him sympathetic. He never actually has sex with a tentacle monster, though, as far as I know. He still seems quite asexual.
I have come to the end of the last ball of yarn, but, as I have suspected for the last twenty rows would be the case, I'm still four to six admittedly fairly narrow inches away from the end of the pattern. Should I ...
lstone says, "...I can't believe I'm only halfway through this book."
oneironaut says, "This is the greatest thing ever."
lstone says, "You suck."
oneironaut says, "I'm too entertained to care."
lstone says, "I'm not even giving you details about my saga and you're enjoying it."
oneironaut says, "I know just enough about the book to build in my mind an elaborate fantasy of your suffering."
lstone says, "Here, let me type out an example for you."
oneironaut says, "How will you get through it without your keyboard shorting out from your quiet but continuous weeping?"
lstone says, "'He turned then, with a mocking smile, and I stifled a gasp. His white shirt was sleeveless, and he wore it unbuttoned, so that the smooth white skin of his throat flowed uninterrupted over the marble contours of his chest, his perfect musculature no longer merely hinted at behind concealing clothes. He was too perfect, I realized with a piercing stab of despair. There was no way this godlike creature could be meant for me.' If that's less objectionable than you expected, realize that this is page 250 of basically nothing but this."
Vinci the Magnificent says, "That's...amazing."
oneironaut says, "Either I've seen that passage before, or I've seen another passage just like it. These possibilities seem equally likely."
oneironaut says, "This is going on my livejournal so hard."
lstone says, "You suck so hard."
oneironaut says, "Your point?"
lstone says, "I'm going to mail you this book. I'm certain that having it in your home will cause you to read at least some of it."
oneironaut says, "I'm strong!"
Vinci the Magnificent says, "The book's patient."
I ignored Twilight for a long time because I'm not interested in vampire fiction. Twilight is actually great for me to use as a prop when I discuss why, because it is every vampire romance trope, turned to eleven. For those of you coming in late, it is the story of an unabashed Mary Sue with a random quality that makes her arbitrarily irresistable to vampires, who of course acquires an overbearing, stalkery vampire boyfriend who spends a lot of time fighting, and talking about fighting, his visceral desire to kill and eat her. Along the way there's some business with a more boy-next-door type werewolf who oscillates from friend to boyfriend, a tiny amount of plot, and a half-vampire chestburster baby that may be the single funniest thing in all of Western literature.
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Anyway, into my life of blissful indifference to the whole Twilight phenomenon comes cleolinda with Twilight in Fifteen Minutes, which is of unusually high quality even for a Movie in Fifteen Minutes, and contains a bunch of links to cleolinda's recaps of the Twilight books. And I find myself shoving these things through my eye-holes as fast as I can, and something changes in my brain. Through cleolinda I have realized that, while this is not the most fantastically horrible fiction ever written by any means, it is certainly the most fantastically horrible to ever become this kind of enormous media phenomenon, and I have become some kind of freakish, shambling fanboy fanboy.
I still have no interest in reading the Twilight books, because I'm obviously not going to enjoy them. There's a good chance I'll never bother to see the movie. But I cannot get enough of secondary media about them. Parodies, commentaries, lolpires,³ anything I can get my hands on. When I saw Roger Ebert's review of the film was up, it was like Christmas in my brain. I hardly recognize myself. Oh my god, I can't wait for the fourth movie. How are they going to do the chestburster scene? Can't wait. To tide myself over I have this frame from the trailer, which is good for an unsuppressable spasm of laughter every time I think about it. Perhaps the greatest things to come out of this phenomenon are a couple of interviews with Robert Pattinson4 (on the left there, playing Edward) in which he apparently forgets he's talking to the press, suddenly becomes extremely focused and begins to talk about his hatred for his character and his horror and bemusement at the source material.
So ... in related news, I just pulled a True Blood marathon. Wait! It's not as ironic as it sounds!
This is cleolinda's fault also. She is ruining my life. After I finished the Twilight recaps I wandered over to the True Blood ones. Unlike Twilight, True Blood comes off very well in her recaps, and I have two scarves to finish before Christmas, which means consuming a lot of audiovisual media. There are things about it that are not as good as the recaps made me hope they would be, but it's still a pretty damn good show. While I was reading the Twilight recaps I kept thinking that the world needed some fiction in which the woman in that stupid love triangle with the distant, mysterious vampire and nice-guy werewolf refuses to play along with their bullshit, because my creative impulse is fuelled mostly by resentment and spite. This is that fiction. Which is great, because it means I don't have to do it.
True Blood was created by Alan Ball, based on some books I've never heard of and don't intend to read, though if the show represents them accurately they may have been conceived as a direct poke in the eyes of Stephanie Mayer, Laurell K. Hamilton et al. Ball's other show of note is Six Feet Under, which was well-written, well-acted, beautifully shot and totally fucking unwatchable: I cannot tolerate shows that are about nothing but loathsome people being horrible to each other under the guise of affection. True Blood is less of a visual feast, unless you really, really like Anna Paquin's legs, but the first- and second-tier characters all range from acceptable to show-stoppingly awesome.5
I think I am not entirely the intended demographic here either, because every time Bill the Vampire goes all Sinister Vampire I begin laughing and cannot stop until he desists. Some of the vampire stuff seems so self-parodic -- like the protagonist, Sookie, running barefoot in a filmy empire-waisted nightgown to Bill the Vampire's house to bang him in front of the fire in summer in Louisiana: are you shitting me? -- that I wonder if it's not the correct reaction after all, if probably still the minority reaction. In the context of this genre the actor who plays him reads strongly as a werewolf to me -- I don't know, maybe it's the stubble -- which just makes everything weirder.
I had intended to analyze Sookie's refusal to go in the damsel box no matter how hard half the other characters on the show are trying to shove her in there, but on further consideration, I'm going to let the season one finale speak for me. ( Collapse ) Fuck, yes.
I leave you with one last observation. Halfway through the season, Stephen Root shows up as a nebbishy gay vampire. Jimmy James. The man so nice they named him twice. Gay vampire. I just ... okay. Sure. He's a good actor and he sells the role, but ... Jimmy James.
¹ It took me ages to understand this dynamic, because I don't grok blood families at all. Mommy/daddy play is apparently commonest among people who had poor or nonexistent relationships with their parents because it fills a need that was never satisfied; I had poor-to-nonexistent relationships with both of my parents, and what it did to me was cauterize the need so entirely that I can't understand it except in the most distant, intellectual way. (I have good relationships with my father and sister now, but my familial relation to them is a weird complication of my affection, not a foundation.) You can see this in my writing. I think of families as machines for creating children with conflicting combinations of traits. Biracial much? I am so transparent sometimes it embarrasses me.
² Not that I wouldn't advise actual men in the audience against having sex with Bella also. Her last name is Swan. Keep an eye out, and don't go there.
³ To my knowledge, I just made this word up. Which is why I should not be in charge of making up fandom jargon.
4 Who, like a lot of male actors that age, started off kind of unearthly but, now that he's matured a bit, is just starting to look really peculiar. My obsession means I've seen a lot of images of him recently and I have the same 'what, really?' reaction every time.
5 He takes off his earrings. Oh, Lafayette. Please don't be dead.
Okay, so you and your Y chromosome are in space. You rescue an alien creature that looks amazingly like a human being aside from being a funny color and having tentacles in one, maybe two places. It has all the secondary sexual characteristics of a male human, specifically an athletically built male human a little over six feet tall (for some reason, every guy you know is built like that and has the same body language), but so does every member of its species; they reproduce by budding or something. Everyone else calls it 'he' and you find yourself doing this too, because the resemblance is so strong.
He spends some time poking around in your nervous system for reasons having to do with the mission you're on. He is keenly interested in you and tells you this often, compliments you frequently on your willpower, and after he fiddles with your brain the first time begins to talk about a powerful but confusing sense of connection he feels with you.
Eventually you and he and the rest of your posse go somewhere hugely dangerous to do something cataclysmically important. While you're in transit, your friend the tentacle alien approaches you in your cabin to talk about the fact that you might both die soon, and proposes to do something with you called melding. This is going to involve your nervous system again, and turns out to also entail kissing, taking off your clothes, and rubbing your naked male body against his nearly identical naked male body while purple sparks float around you and throbby romantic music plays. Afterwards, naked, on your bed, he praises your performance.
Does this seem Very Not Gay to you? Or is it oddly different when I put it these terms? Why do you think that might be, you asses?
For those of you just tuning in, of which I am pretty sure there are none, this conceit is that periodically stuff falls from the sky that any untrained sophont¹ can cause to turn into more or less any noun -- objects, creatures, and abstract things like 'my ability to fly' or 'the fourth primary color' or 'Beethoven's Fifth'. Most of this stuff is not around any more because some idiot made a type of creature that can replicate itself (given access to more stuff from the sky) and, once it's replicated enough, has both the ability and the inclination to establish a hegemony over all or most of humanity, whittle down the numbers of or outright exterminate other sorts of creatures, and track down most of the objects and the more annoying abstract concepts and destroy or repurpose them.
Aside from the rings of the gas giant it orbits being partly made out of magic stuff, the physics of this world are mostly as you'd expect, and the only ways to break the laws of physics are to be made of magic stuff or have the assistance of it (q.v. 'my ability to fly'). However, that leaves a tremendous amount of room for things that could not come about without supernatural assistance but which are not themselves supernatural, and the tone of the setting demands that these things be fairly bizarre. The second type of weird creature introduced in the first five hundred words of the WIP is a kind of semi-sentient biological aerostat that looks roughly like a ctenophore, which is a category so diverse that this comparison is actually, technically, accurate. I had assumed initially that they were magic, but outside of my prejudices about creatures that no sensible evolutionary process would give rise to, there's no reason for them to be. It's quite possible to turn magic stuff into creatures that can produce mundane offspring, or to turn it into a factory for producing such things -- I've mentioned cornucopia machines before.
This becomes a problem because there's no reason for the setting not to be seething with weird shit of varieties that I don't want to deal with. What's the first thing you'd do if you had a machine you could configure to produce any one thing? I'd start making sex toys, because that's where the money is and, well, because my interests are fairly narrow. But I don't want to have to deal with a self-reproducing race of robot girlfriends. There's a whole book in that, for one thing, and for another thing, a dozen people have already written that book.² More importantly, I want to write this book, which does not have room in it for me to deal with the implications of robot girlfriends; yet I can't ignore those implications if I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror.
Some of it I can handwave. Robot girlfriends that you can breed in your backyard are ... extraordinarily disgusting, I realize now that I've written that phrase, but they're also bad for business. Things that can reproduce are probably more along the lines of weird A Wizard Did It-style biological experiments. The cultures that had robot girlfriends, and I'm sure some cultures did, have been dead or subjugated for between twenty and a hundred years; most of those things are probably out of commission now, because planned obsolescence. I can deal with one or two robot girlfriends, just not one in every driveway.
Hmm. I may have just talked myself into feeling better about this.
Now that I'm thinking about it, this raises questions about Nishimura's friend the revolting monster. He is designed to have some specifically conditioned magic stuff plugged into himself; he can function without it, but it's as basic a drive for him as eating. It's also fantastically illegal, and he could care less about that, but it makes it damn difficult to get ahold of the magic stuff he needs. He is probably my primary villain, though there is another contender for the job. I had assumed he belonged to some race of magic-stuff creature that is given just enough stuff not to go extinct³, of which there are several, but he may actully be some kind of weird android. I'm not sure I like that, though. It makes his appalling physical appearance seem improbable somehow -- which is an arbitrary, irrational judgement, but, well, it's my party.
On the other side of the coin from all this I have the problem of making sure there's enough weird shit in the world for the conceit of the setting to feel sufficiently explored. Nothing drives me crazier than an interesting premise that the author never goes anywhere with. I don't have enough thoughts about this to make a full paragraph, it turns out. There it is. This irritates me, because my brain usually spits this stuff out in something very close to essay format; I feel like I've tried to step up onto a stair that isn't there. Good thing I'm not getting paid for this.
Nor do I have any closing remarks!
¹ But training helps, if you want consistent or precise results.
² I'm sure a couple of people have already written this one, but I have yet to encounter their versions of it, and until such time as I do, I don't care.
³ He needs more stuff plugged into him because he is supposed to be, more or less, a human being with magic powers of some kind I haven't devised yet, and it's impossible to make anything that complex from a single unit of magic stuff. You can make a full-featured human being (or other sophont with a biology), but as soon as you start adding supernatural abilities you have to compensate by taking away other types of complexity, like the personality, or the fingers. And that's if you have a really good unit; it would actually take about one and a half of an average one to make a human being. This is all relevant to the plot.
4 Who I don't even like. I was so disappointed. I was halfway into Perdido Street Station before I felt like the plot had started, and to get there I had to wade through piles of dialogue that is frequently horrible. Aspects of the setting are delicious, but none of them are central enough to Perdido Street Station to keep me reading. Are his later books better? Did he ever, say, figure out that nobody fucking talks like that?