Worlds & Time

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Problem With Publishing

So, I decided to check in at Making Light, the Nielsen Hayden blog I mentioned a few months back. I noticed that their link for Steven Brust (my current favorite writer) went to his Live Journal that I didn't notice when I was researching for my interview with him (I can't believe I missed it).

I skipped back, and he actually mentioned my interview with him, but right near it was this post, in which someone mentioned this post back at Making Light which had a link here.

All of this has to do with not giving up and not taking it personally. That's great advice, and if I could see through my tears, I'm sure I'd be totally psyched to try again.

I don't get it. Really the only thing that keeps me alive is my writing. So why haven't I finished my book since I broke my neck? Why does submitting drive me to such irrational pain. I understand that it wasn't personal. I know that I have trouble with the tease and beginning.

I also know that I have a fairly compelling story that could play fairly well off of a recent upsurge in character driven science fiction.

Yet, here I am. Absolutely crushed by the utter hopelessness of ever getting published. Why should I even bother?

And, can I bother? Can I force myself to actually even try to achieve my dream? I want to try, but with severe depression that isn't enough. I have the Writer's Market, and I've marked all the publishers and agents that accept sci-fi. I just can't put a stamp on the postage.

My neck, my teeth, and my stomach are killing me. I'm going to bed.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

A Response to a Good Essay

Normally you don't criticize an essay that you agree with, but I guess I'm just in that mood. Besides, I spent way too long on this. I'm responding to this post by Atheist in a mini van and her daughter Possum #1.

Hi Possum #1. I'm an atheist, and I think that your essay was quite good, and I agreed with the points that you made about being sensitive to the cultural differences of other students.

However, I am one of the people that doubt that you wrote it. I have a couple of reasons (I describe them below) but first I have to agree with what kazim said in the first post. You shouldn't be insulted, you should be flattered.

You shouldn't care what I think if I'm not right, you should know that people don't believe you precisely because of how impressive it is.

I did say that I didn't believe an eleven year old wrote the essay. Please realize that I'm not attacking you, but this is the basis for my though process:

First, if an eleven year old wrote the essay, that eleven year old is in the 99.99th percentile in writing. People like that do exist, and #1 could be one of them, but the odds are against that.

Second, I have a passing familiarity with 5th and 6th grade writing. My mother taught 5th/6th in a Charter school for years, and I would occasionally tutor her students or grade the work of kids in her class with her. Once again, #1 could just be a prodigy, but I've seen the work of prodigies and this is significantly better than the best that I've ever seen from kids at this age.

Third, and this is most convincing to me, the cultural references in the essay are dated. You reference "A Christmas Story" instead of a more modern Christmas movie or book. The reference makes sense in context, but it also illustrates a deep knowledge of Christmas movies gleaned from years of experience.

The movie is used as a springboard into the cultural significance of Christmas as it relates to the separation of Church and State. You state that "[your] public school teacher" should be more cognizant of the fact that there are non-Christians in the class. It's obvious that you understand the debate, and you have a well thought out position on it.

You also don't bother to explain why "Mahmeed" doesn't celebrate Christmas. You are implying that he's Muslim because of his name, but I find that implication odd. Most people aren't taught that names correspond to religion (or region). That's an acquired stereotype.

Your reference to all three other students is also strange because you specifically point out that the other three aren't doing their work. Perhaps you are very empathic, but if you are, you apparently care nothing about pointing out that your friends aren't doing their work to a teacher that you find incompetent for her lack of empathy.

The entire last paragraph of the essay is very bitter. It's moving, thoughtful, and attacks your teacher convincingly on a personal level. She should have known better than to offer you a "standard" essay on the subject of gifts on Christmas. Yet I'm surprised that you recognize that this is a standard essay.

All of these cultural markers are not ones that I expect from an eleven year old. They're cultural makers that I expect from someone that: 1) Has seen "A Christmas Story" every year since 1981; 2) Has had years to understand and think about their position on the separation of Church and State as it has to do with public education; 3) Has an understanding that names can carry a cultural bias; 4) Doesn't have a personal connection to the people that she illustrates as not doing their work; and 5) understands how "standard" an essay on what you want for Christmas is.

These are all references that I would expect from college graduates due to their age and experience, not from elementary school children.

Fourth, in this long list of what convinces me that an eleven year old did not write this, is the language. I've written ten minute essays before in class, and this is about the right length, but strikes me as suspiciously polished. If this was a "pop" essay, it appears much too clean. There doesn't appear to be any evolving thought process through the essay as if it was come up with on the fly. It appears that it was visualized in its entirety before the writer started. Even if I got this essay as a TA for a college class, I would doubt that it was written in ten minutes. Perhaps in a half hour with a rewrite, but not in ten minutes.

Fifth, the vocabulary is exceedingly large for someone in her age group. This could also theoretically be explained by being a prodigy.

None of these would automatically raise my suspicion on their own, but together they lead me to think that this isn't an eleven year old's ten minute "pop" essay.

Once again, good essay. I do agree that the teacher should be more sensitive to students that are not going to celebrate Christmas.

Good luck on your future endeavors.

-Spherical Time

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hygeine & Worry

If you're a family member you shouldn't read this if you want to hold onto your sanity.

Crap, I'm falling apart. Between the emergency dental appointment, the latest round of teeth problems, and my neck hurting I want to ask for more pain meds.

If I'd actually waited until March for my dentist's first open Thursday appointment, I think I would have died. I mean, my teeth hurt if I just blow air on them. That sucks.

I think I know why my neck hurts. I've put on some weight recently, so I feel pretty horrible about myself. It's not like I should be up and around, so most exercising is forbidden to me. With my neck hurting again, I shouldn't even be walking too much again.

I'm not supposed to look up and down, but when I woke up today I knew I had to feel better so I decided that I needed to feel good about myself. I took a long shower, shaved, and then gave myself a trim, down there.

I'm typically pretty hairy. I'm not a bear by any stretch of the imagination and the hair on my chest is sparse. But I've always been a bush down there. I've shaved a couple of times, enough to learn some of the tricks (siscors down to a certain level, trimmers for a couple of places but not the underside, and an actual razor for the underside).

I have to admit, I don't always take as good care of the hair as I should. I suppose if I actually dated I would think about it more often, but these days it's just usually just for me.

Here's a funny thing, I used to think that hair was pretty universal. You know the covers of Men's Health & Fitness? I always thought they were shaved. And Porn Stars too. And I'm sure a lot of them do. \_/ is not a natural formation, as far as I know. The idea that some guys were just mostly naturally hairless hadn't occured to me.

I remember when I saw J. with his shirt off for the first time, and with less than that later, and I realized that he was just naturally hairless. He certainly wasn't the kind of guy that would take the time to shave his chest (and everything else) and I even asked him about it. Genetics can be a miserable thing if you get the hairy end of the stick.

So I trimmed today. I didn't take too much time, and I didn't do a great job, but it makes me feel better. And I hurt my neck from all that craning and looking down. Between the shower, the shave, the trim, and the Murano underwear I feel pretty good.

I did get a cool new toy. An external hard drive that's about 6 times larger than my laptop. I got it because . . . uh . . . I've been doing a lot of writing recently. Yeah, that's the ticket. Anyway, it's a beautiful thing. I can't remember if I mentioned this, but about a week ago I tried to back up my writing to my flash drive and accidentally backed up from my flash drive to my hard drive, erasing all of the work that I've done for the last three months.

I haven't done a lot of work in the last three months, thankfully, but I did loose a couple of things. Twenty pages on one of my book specs. About five pages over various chapters. A huge trunk of the file where I keep some of the dreams that I can remember when I wake up. I had some great ones back when I was still on Oxycodone, but obviously those are all gone.

So, I'm keeping multiple copies of everything now.

What else is gong on . . . . Hmmm.

I'm worried about Mike and Alex. I haven't heard from Mike in a couple of months now. I know I missed him right as he was going to South America or Central America or somewhere but I since I don't know when he's coming back I get to be worried until I hear from him.

The last time I saw him, he still wasn't doing great. Crap, I hope he's okay.

You know, it's odd about Alex. I've met him a grand total of once, but he's a great guy. If you know Alex, and I know at least two of the people that read this blog do (one of them is Alex), you must know what an amazing individual he is. I mean, read his blogs some time. He's definitely a thinker, and we need more of him. Good thing he's a breeder, eh?

Still, he's been having some crises of late. I think it's okay if I mention them because he mentions them. He's going Jew (or back to Jew, I guess). That doesn't bother me, as long as he doesn't become Hassidic and start telling me that we can't talk. After all, between Elliot and Jeff and A. and J. and etc., etc., etc. I seem to spend an awful lot of time with them. The Jews tend to be a great people to hang out with, and nearly all the ones that I know can hold down their end of a deep conversation.

He's going to Israel though, and will probably join the army there. He was being recruited by the Navy Intelligence, so he'll probably do really well over there.

That scares me. There are a couple of reasons that I can think of (that I'm willing to admit to). The first is that I'd worry about him. I'm not neutral on Middle East Issues after living with Elliot, but I can't deny that it's dangerous.

The other big one is that sometimes I think that the military is what finally tore me and Matt apart. We never really got along when we were kids. He was outgoing, funny, and straight, and I was the opposite. I say that we made each other's lives hell, but mostly because I was so jealous of him.

And then he went to the military. There aren't many places that he can go where I can't follow, but that's one of them. Which sucks because I seriously considered the military. It was supposed to be my irrational outlet. My way to finally find some drive. It was a surprise to me when I found out that he joined the Marines, but there was also some jealousy because I thought it was my plan.

In the end, it finally was just impossible because I'm gay. I can't lie about it, and I would rather have not been thrown out.

Now I don't even know him. He came home from basic, and it hit me that even though we grew up in the same house, we don't even share the same history. I remember he finally told me that our phone number was (505) ***-DUDE. In all the years that our phone number has been the same, I'd never known that. All his friends knew, and somehow I didn't. It's just a phone number, but to me it illustrates how totally disconnected I am from him.

So I think that I worry that when Alex goes away, I won't be able to connect with him any more. That he'll be as distant as Matt is.

I know how crazy that sounds. I mean, I don't even know him, but since I've been confined to my little room here, he's one of the few people that I seem connected to. I suppose I'm latching on because I don't have anyone else, and that doesn't bother me as much as I hope it bothers him.

Finally, I guess I'm worried that I'll never play D&D again. Why I connect Alex with D&D and not Jeff and Mike is inexplicable. If I had to guess it's because Alex was there at the game right as everything started to fall apart. R. moved away (I didn't know you for very long either but I still love you, R.). The main group had already fractured apart. Then I lost my job, and had to move home.

So Alex is a symbol of my problems with D&D. How that relates to him moving away I'm not quite sure, but somewhere in my twisted psyche it does. Crap. I need to move to New York. Somewhere in a city of 8 million people there must be enough people that play D&D for me to find some players. I bet even Miami Beach has people that play D&D, somewhere among the models and plastic surgeons.

It's too much to think about at the moment. I don't want to be worried. Aparently my last post spilled over into a rant in front of my Mom, so she went out and rented me so "gay movies" like The Kathy & Mo Show and Another Gay Movie, and I'm going to go watch them now.

And, just in case someone from New York is reading, I haven't figured out what I'm doing with this wedding present yet. I'll figure it out soon.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

End of the Gay World

So I was watching Dance Life on MTV, and I've decided that gay culture is doomed.

I have to say that I don't belong to gay culture very well anyway. I don't like going to clubs, my fashion sense is nearly nonexistent, and most of the time I'd rather hang out with geeks.

Still, dancing is something that we're supposed to dominate in. Blake must be gay, or at least I want him to be gay (then again, I am attracted to him so that should warn me that he's straight). The other two guys are pretty arrow straight (but not narrow or anything like that).

I don't know if it's just me, but that isn't enough gay on a show about professional dancers. It seems to be a trend too. There still doesn't seem to be representational amounts of gay people on the television that I have access too. I don't have Showtime (and Logo) but we're gay. Why aren't we marketing ourselves better than that?

I mean, shouldn't we have every male slot on Project Runway? Are we still only putting a gay person on the cover of OUT once in a blue moon?

We're such a commercially successful minority, which is why I don't understand this recent dearth of pretty gay boys on television. Don't we control all the marketing companies?

I was in Borders today, and I guess I was yearning for a little bit more gay inclusiveness, and I was looking for a gay romance section. I guess I just wanted something light and fluffy with cute male characters that I could fantasize about. I couldn't find anything, but if anyone has a recommendation, let me know.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fictional Weapons

Weapons are a problem for my science fiction universe.

Most of the science fiction that I can think of, especially on television, use energy weapons primarily. It’s easy enough to draw a red line into a shot, much more so than a spray of bullets.

The problem involves spaceship battles. To make my drive systems fit into the story I have to postulate that they can shield themselves from energy and radiation by redirecting it away. If lasers and impellers just bounce off of the ship you’re shooting at, then they’re not much use.

So, do I have energy weapons in my universe? Yes. Do they bounce off other ships? No, they cause some damage. How do I explain the discrepancy?

I don’t.

I could always just say that they’ve made some spectacular technical advancement, or that the shields work in some unexplainable way, but I haven’t. Instead, I just point to it as a point where convenience of the story outweighs my universe’s physical laws. I need the ease and familiarity of energy weapons, even if I shouldn’t have access to them. So, I’ll include them in my books, and consciously avoid explaining how they work.

There are three other categories of ship to ship weapons in my universe. Kinetic weapons (i.e. bullets) would have a similar problem as energy weapons when passing through shields. They’re also excessively destructive. I know that sounds odd when talking about weapons, but I don’t want every hit to destroy a ship, and even small tears in the skin of a spaceship can cause very severe problems.

They’re also very, very difficult to aim over large distances. Space is vast, and projectiles are relatively slow and can’t change course. If you’re far enough away when someone attacks you, the easiest way to avoid the bullet is to move out of the way and let it pass you.

The most realistic weapons are missiles. With independent propulsion they’re faster than projectiles and can compensate for minor course corrections. If they’re energy missiles, like photon torpedoes from Star Trek, then they can also be shaken off. Battlestar Galactica uses a lot of missiles, so people are more used to them, but I still like the visual of either a burst or lance of fire searching through the void. So I’ll work with both.

I also have some new unrealistic weapons in my universe. The most interesting ones are the “claws.” If you’ll remember, my version of an FTL drive involves the manipulation of space. Gravity claws focus the spatial distortion of the drives into another ship, and then create an imbalance. The ship is literally ripped apart at the seams.

The claws are absolutely vicious, but they’re relatively short range. After all, the drives are supposed to create a small bubble around a ship, and extending that into a weapon requires a lot of energy.

Despite my problems with them, all of these kinds of weapons exist in my universe. At the moment, I doubt you’ll see them very often.

When I do discuss them, I’ll have to use better terms than “energy weapon” or “missiles.” Matt taught me how much specifics mean to professional fighters. So, I’ll have to know a set of brand names, especially with the slew of energy weapons that will exist. The DI Tech SX with a full range rotating mount. The Kobayin MP Ionizing Heavy Blaster. A set of 4 XR Brightline nukes with independent K guidance and Brightpoint™ maneuvering.

And this doesn’t even include the hand weapons.

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Monday, January 15, 2007


Backdated a day to reflect when I started it.

I got a CAT scan last Thursday, and I had a visit with my orthopedic surgeon today. There’s good news and bad news.

First, the good news: I probably won’t need surgery at all. I should recover to the point where I’m statistically as good as new.

Now, if you’re wondering about that statistically, let me move on to the bad news: It will probably be another three months in the neck brace during which I get to sit around and be bored out of my mind.

What’s happening is that my neck broke in two places, and while my left side is healing just fine, my right side isn’t knitting together the way that it’s supposed to. It might not mend at all.

As long as the one side heals, it should function normally, even though it won’t be quite normal. So, while it’s statistically possible that this will somehow weaken the structure of my neck, chances are that it won’t ever actually have any deleterious effect on me.

So, statistically I’ll be as good as new.

In three more months.

Yarg. Three more months of this.

Another bit on statistics.

I had a problem with lesbian professors in college. There was some fundamental disconnect in my mind between what I perceived in reality and what I was reading in the feminist textbooks we were reading and discussing in class. Everything I said was an attack on them (i.e. lesbian college professors), and after a while I got tired of it.

Then there was this not-a-lesbian who was also a bit of a rides-a-motorcycle, wore-leather-jacket-to-class, very-butch, brought-in-her-dog-occasionally and I-was-talking-with-another-professor-who-thought-she-was-lesbian-and-told me-that-she-was-one who kicked me out of her class, but that’s an entirely different story.

Back on topic, I was sitting around before class with one of my lesbian professors and we were talking. Somehow I suggested that I wanted to teach a class. The woman next to me asked what I would teach, and I outlined a class about exploring the way that humans form and keep stereotypes.

Have you ever watched the television show House, and he looks around and figures out exactly what is going on with everyone around him? He does that using a set of carefully crafted stereotypes.

I had this idea for the first day of class, where students would come in. I’d call a couple of people up to the front of the room, and I’d ask the class to answer a series of questions about what our stereotypes informed us about them based on their appearance.

While I was talking about this, the lesbian professor was looking at me. I don’t remember what she said exactly, but I still remember the look. Basically the upshot was that it was a stupid idea for a class, that she didn’t think I was capable of being an instructor, and that stereotypes were bad because of racism/sexism/homophobia.

Obviously I’d need to do more reading on the subject, but considering the slapstick nature of the class (Queer Flims . . . which turned into Lesbian Films starring relatively attractive women plus a couple of old Jack Lemmon movies), I was really surprised by the vehemence of the negative reaction. If you teach fluff, perhaps you shouldn’t be so critical of other people’s class ideas.

I acknowledge that I couldn’t do it off the top of my head. I’d definitely do some reading before hand, but the general shape of the class is fairly clear to me.

You start out with an examination of what stereotypes are, and how they relate to topics such as racism, sexism, and prejudice. Talk about how we automatically create a personal “us-centrism” that informs how we react to interpersonal stimuli.

You examine negative stereotypes more in depth, and then the stereotype that stereotypes are negative. Take a couple of classes to talk about various groups in depth.

After that, I’d want to talk about how stereotypes can be useful, and harmless. I’d start with a day or so examining the way we subconsciously form stereotypes all the time, from infancy onward. I’d move onto branding.

Branding is actually a fairly deep subject by itself. I could make a week or even two weeks out of marketing products, politics, and ideas. It’s amazing how we ignore the fact that there is a multibillion dollar industry of creating stereotypes and selling them to people.

My worst topic (and therefore what I would end with), would be the actual statistics of stereotyping. Generalizing without understanding the probabilities of your assumptions is stupid. It’s what makes House such as amazing character. He examines all situations in terms of causality and understands the statistical basis for what he does.

That’s my other story about statistics.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007


Slightly stronger than usual language warning. No family members, please.

What do I like?

I do have a thing for blondes. Not the white blonde, but the sandy blonde that’s closer to light brown than to yellow.

I’ve never liked long hair either. Even if it’s over the ears, that’s too long for me. Someone once said told me that they like long hair on guys because it gives them something to grab onto during sex. What? If you’re planning to pull on my hair while we’re fucking, you’re crazy.

Fabio became super famous selling romance novel covers. I’ve never seen the attraction, personally. The hair is long, limp, and much too feminine. I once told Elliot that I was gay because I prefer men, not because I prefer women with penises.

I am attracted to muscles though. I’ve always wanted to be in shape, but I can’t just do it. So, when I look at someone that looks like they stepped out of a Calvin Klein ad (and got a haircut) I respect the part of them that is significantly better than I am.

Body builder big is usually too big for me though. There are always extremes that turn me off, but John Cena is still hot, and that’s about as far as it goes. Arnold Schwarzenegger is his glory days was disturbing, not attractive.

Everyone is self-centric. We all are, to some extent. It makes us human. One of the principles of feminism, racial tolerance and even gay rights is that we should recognize when people are assuming that they represent anything.

Someone (straight) once told me that hey, he didn’t mind if I liked guys, but that everyone pretty much acknowledged that womens’ bodies are more aesthetically pleasing than mens’. What? I don’t agree at all.

Starting with the perfect legs, strong and curved along back to create this statuesque limb, up to the dimpled ass. The lines around a six pack are absolutely unmatchable on a female, especially the V running over the hips on a very athletic man. Then there’s the back. Curls of muscle running taunt under flawless skin creating an incomparable canvas.

Some gay guys like a woman’s breasts. I don’t. They’re sacks of flesh to me, and I think they’re about as attractive as rolls of fat. On the other side, men with muscled chests have the most amazing block of pectorals. The curves there are solid and strong, not bouncy, and I have no idea why straight guys don’t see it the way I do.

Obviously, from the comment about Cena earlier, I like broad necks, especially if you can see the clean lines that connect to the shoulders. No Cardassians allowed.

There are certain faces that I like, and some that I don’t like. Strong chins, great brows, and phenomenal skin are all great, but there isn’t a magic formula on faces for me. It’s rarely a deal breaker, or the clincher.

Altogether, when a guy moves, it flows like a perfect flowing line along a blank canvas. It’s a practiced and pitch-perfect sonata. When Michael Phelps swims, that’s poetry. When Jake from college jogged outside my building, that’s a Picasso.

I was going to point to a specific person that I really think is perfect . . . but I actually can’t think of one. Maybe Jeremy Penn the porn star five years ago. Mason Wyler four years older than he is now. Dan Wells, if he was my age. They’re about as close to physical perfection as I can think of, but there are different kinds of perfection.

Yes, I realize that all this makes me shallow. Haven’t you realized that by now?

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What do I like?

Religion and politics very much interest me. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have strong views on the matter, because I obviously do. I think that it is more important to be earnest in your choices than to completely agree with me.

We need to be able to talk about that stuff though, and that’s a lot easier to do if you agree with someone. If we’re going to date, I need to be able to talk to you about things that interest me. Can you defend your religious beliefs without attacking mine? Do you understand the implications of military actions in the Mid East? Great, let’s sit around sometimes and just talk.

That’s part of my ideal, someone that I can curl up next to and talk with.

Another thing, I’m a geek and I’m proud of it. I play D&D, and read and write science fiction. You don’t have to love it as much as I do, but it would help if you’ve watched a couple of Star Treks before. Oh, and you’ll have to give me a night off once a week so that I can run my D&D campaign. You know how hard it is to schedule those things? It would be awesome if you actually played with me. DM’s boyfriend is a really great feat to have.

I have a really twisted sense of humor, too. You have to understand that sometimes I’ll say something to try to make a joke, and it doesn’t come out right. If I tell you that I was trying to make a joke, you have to believe me, even if you didn’t get the joke. Trust me, that’s not your problem, it’s mine.

I love guys that can mix smart humor with sex humor. That’s a trait I picked up on MIF. We used to switch between music and sex talk line to line, and I’d love to find someone else that keep up with a mixed conversation with a good sense of humor.

Right, occasionally I need some time alone. On the computer, or drawing. I understand if you need that too, but I don’t always recognize the need, so you have to tell me. I won’t be angry if you at least tell me.

Having a guy that would hold my hand in the street would be nice too, but not required. I don’t mind getting kicked off American Airline flights from time to time.

Finally, I don’t mind if you drink . . . but I don’t know if I can deal with the drunk accusing phone calls on date nights. I don’t think that I’m quite as drama oriented as my blog makes me out to be, and I just don’t like people that are bitchy and insecure when they drink. Oh, and since it’s come up before, I’m not that fond of people that do cocaine, usually.

The only deal breaker is that, at least occasionally, you have to be nice to me without feeling sorry for me. Maybe because I can’t always be nice to myself.

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Friday, January 12, 2007


Jonathan is my Tyler Durden. All the ways that I wish I could be, that’s him. He looks like I want to look, he fucks like I want to fuck, he is smart, capable, and most importantly is unimaginably more powerful than I am.

So, what does it say about me that mentally he’s screwed up beyond recognition.

I want to say that it’s the writer in me, that even my Mary Sue characters have deep-seated emotional problems. After all, I have enough psychological problems as it is on my own. Why was Jonathan’s childhood so horrible? Why was a good chunk of his adolescence a living hell?

True, true, he finds some semblance happiness later, but it doesn’t last long. There’s no happy ending for him, no perfect love waiting in the last chapter.

There’s this odd mirror happening between the end of my series of books and my own life. Jonathan and Real Life Guy are so hurt and in such a bad place, alone, and all I want to do is hug them and tell them that it will be okay.

I can’t hug either one of them though. And I created Jonathan myself years ago. Do I get some perverse pleasure from creating a guy that needs a hug that ends up all alone?

Am I creating Real Life Guy in the same way? Huh.

I met Jonathan first. The name came first, on a list that I still have a version of. I never really liked John, but Jon and Jonathan are okay. Like most of the cast, he was originally based on an actor that gave him a bit of looks and personality. Most of the cast based on actors still have a few of those traits left.

Jonathan doesn’t. Jon is now of medium height, built like a professional water polo player. I think he has black hair, which he usually keeps short in a military cut but would look better long. The actor he’s based on is sandy blonde and is lucky if he’s taller than 5’5”.

A long time ago, I started writing character sketches. I have a stereotype problem with bad fathers, but since Jon started it, he’s merely symptomatic and not problematic. His dead mother is a saint, and she died when he was young enough that he’ll always think of her that way.

His sister though, has become much more interesting in the last few months. She went from being another angel to an escapist drug addict that became part of the longest term and most important characters in the series. It’s odd, how you think you know a character and all of the sudden something changes, and another piece has snapped into place.

Of course she’s part of that vital character. That’s why Jon is important, not because of something intrinsic to himself but because of her. That explains everything.

Jon still thinks about her. She did define the first half of his life, and she’ll always be the person closest to him. It’s what he thinks about in the gym and when he’s alone sometimes, and I have to wonder how many times he’s replayed every moment that he spent with her.

Her name is unsure at the moment. Right now it’s something that sounds a little off, so if I run into something better, I’ll grab it.

Still, her characterization has helped with building up Jon. I know his pain when she dies, and I know why he reacts with anger later. I know why he tortures himself even though he’s everything that I want to be.

Now, is he still a Mary Sue if he’s so sad and alone?

Update: I ran Jon through a Mary Sue Litmus test for fun. This one, actually. He got a 110, and the Mary Sue limit is 50. Ouch.

Update 2: I also ran Rand Al’Thor from the Wheel of Time through the Mary Sue test and got about 131, so maybe that’s not so bad after all.

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Let’s say that suddenly we had both available worlds that support human life, and the ability to travel to them.

The UN would probably start accepting applications from groups to settle on these new planets. If there are enough planets, I’d guess more than three or four, you’d probably find that each petitioner would be applying for a whole planet to colonize.

If there are four to ten planets, you’re probably going to find that the petitioning groups are countries, and the ones that are going to get the planets are going to be the most powerful ones. Guessing, I’d say the seven permanent members of the U.N. security council in order of GNP plus India, a predominantly Islamic country (Indonesia, perhaps) and one planet that the U.N. will never be able to come to a decision on.

If you have more than ten, the U.N. will probably consider the requests of groups of people instead of nations. Instead of just an Islamic planet, you’d have separate Shiite and Sunni planets with co-op governments formed by smaller independent groups. You’d have different ethnic groups as well that would be vying for new land, and you’d probably see a couple of really bizarre choices in the first few decisions, like an Inuit planet or a Sub-Saharan African culture planet. Still, the U.N. would tend toward establishing constitutional democracies.

My universe postulates a dozen early terraformed planets, and then forty more planets that eventually support human life.

Even if nations controlled these planets, they’d treat them like America treats Puerto Rico. As a territory. They’d have some decent benefits at first, but eventually I think it will be inevitable that the planets are going to declare their sovereignty. Eventually.

Once they’re sovereign, all of these planets are also going to have singular planetary governments, which are going to be very different than what you see on Earth.

Here’s a momentary tangent. I belong to, and one of the things that they get the most disagreement about is what “Christian” means. After that, some of the most vicious arguments come from people that belong to the same denomination as each other. Catholics will bitterly attack each other over minor theological points, and so will Baptists and just about any other Christian group. Individual Christians are often less concerned with the fine points of theology, but look at the split within the Anglican Church. People are vicious even when the stakes are small.

That same effect is going to create problems as planets try to define exactly who they cater to. You’ll get many serious confrontations about minor things, but one thing I’ve noticed is that outsiders are more reviled the more strictly you define your group. With the necessity of groups applying for planets in larger groups, you’re going to end up with lots of infighting among some of the planets, even though they’ll claim to speak with one voice.

And, humorously, I still expect them to be more peaceful than Earth. Earth is going to be conflicted and having internal conflicts for thousands of years yet.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the planets that have the broadest possible diversity are going to do the best. If you have a singular cultural focus, you’re not going to make the most of your resources, at least at first. It takes some time for desert or temperate or cold cultures to adapt, but if you land with those cultures ready to fill their niches, you’ll have a broader base of support for a population that is going to be struggling to establish themselves.

One of the most interesting things to me about establishing new planets is about what kind of economy they’re going to produce. Industry is going to be important, so most of the planets are going to focus on metal and chemical processing. Today, many places (like where I live) depend on tourism, and with new alien landscapes you’ll have a new frontier for people to explore. Another huge industry is going to be media, and media production. I do agree with Time magazine that our culture is trending toward personal media content, and so I expect to see many “local” planetary channels, with the occasional interstellar hit.

I’ve always talked about one kind of industry, finding materials for building and simple objects, but the more high tech industry, such as computers and spaceships are going concentrate on certain planets that are willing to spend the billions required to create the specialized infrastructure that are required to produce them.

If a planet fails, it probably will be an economic failure and not a political failure. After all, our current situation has proven that political systems can be painfully forgiving in certain respects. Economies though, can be fragile, especially when they’re starting out. It’s going to take money to start up all these colonies, and so they’ll be in debt in the beginning.

Still, once a planet is settled, they’re not going to unsettle it. Unless some disaster happens to wipe out life there, people are still going to live there even if the government and the economy both collapse. You’ll see a lot more hermits on the frontier because it will take centuries to explore all those planets to their fullest.

There’s an interesting environmental point to having more worlds. Earth is going to be destroyed by people that no longer see any reason to preserve Earth. So are other planets, actually. Once something isn’t unique, people aren’t going to see the need to protect it. Environmentalism is still going to be an issue, but it’s going to be an uphill battle.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Divine Right of Kings

I was actually trying to read Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie. I’ve had it checked out of the library for a while, and I haven’t managed to get through it because I simply am not well enough studied to understand the cultural references that he makes without looking up every other sentence online.

There’s a section though, that reminded me of a good blog topic having to do with a joke that I made in yesterday’s entry.

The section appears on page 37 (yeah, yeah, not all that far in, I know) and it reads:

“Everywhere was now a part of everywhere else. Russia, America, London, Kashmir. Our lives, our stories, flowed into one another’s, were no longer our own, individual, discrete.”

This is an idea that I had years ago, but Rushdie’s character hasn’t made it personal like I made it.

That’s what I think that the American experiment has partially accomplished, although not very well. I know that I’m not black or Jewish or Asian, but our country is part black and Jewish and Asian. Everything has all flowed together and our stories are all a part of everyone else’s story.

I have no idea exactly what I am. I say this and that, and I’m pretty sure that I’m at least a fourth Irish, but anything else is just an assumption on my part. Whoopi Goldberg once said that she’s not “African-American.” She’s never lived in Africa. She’s an American, and so am I. The history of anyone who is an American is my history.

I may not have a drop of African blood in me, but the slaves that were brought over from Africa are my ancestors. I did projects on Harriet Tubman back in Elementary, and I remember reading about how she didn’t know how to dust a room when she was first sold. I also remember how she eventually had to run the Underground Railroad all the way to Canada because they passed a federal law allowing slave catchers to bring slaves back from the Northern States. I’ve also read fantasy short stories from an African-American perspective, including about escapes from slavery.

You might have noticed that I use the term black instead of African-American, usually. In an American Studies class in college, and one of the black women there didn’t like the term African-American because it automatically “othered” the people that it described. That dash implies that the people that it describes are not fully American. However, if you’re black, you can still be fully American at the same time.

She told me that she would rather that I use “black” and so I do.

The history of Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America are all parts of my history, and so their current cultures are all peripheral to my own. You know what’s cool about that? Anything good that has ever happened in the world is part of my past. The foundation of the law in Babylonia; the Grecian democracies; the power of the Roman Empire, the Imperial Chinese Empire, the Incan Empire, and even the British Empire; the invention of zero and the preservation of culture by the Arabs during the dark ages; the Italian Enlightenment; the rise of Humanism and the abolishment of slavery.

Unfortunately, when you accept all the good stuff, you accept all the bad stuff as well. My history also includes the Inquisition, slavery, forcing Native Americans onto reservations and just about any persecution of one people by another. I live with the guilt of the Holocaust, but also with the sadness of the survivors.

From the perspective that every history is your history, war is hard to justify. I might as well be the product of both sides of every war, because I often find myself on both sides of conflicts, at least a little bit.

This whole perspective is a bit postmodern, although the scope is a little larger than normal. Modernism was about being objective so that you could analyze things piece by piece, and now we’re getting back to looking at the specific connections between things. I’m not looking at just my connections though. My reality bores me when there is so much more reality that I can claim.

In a way, it’s because I have no past that I can be past of all pasts. There are so many people that have strong historic connections that in America it’s become a plot: finding your roots. But when I watch Everything Is Illuminated, the character of a collector is searching through a past that could be mine just as easily as not. I can make that history of Trachtinbrod my history.

I will say that this brings to mind the divine right of kings. Blood determined who you were and how you lived. In several societies, it still does. To me, all blood is my blood, but when so many people look at me they don’t see what I see. As a white man, I can’t have a black history.

There is this trait of blood that is so odd to me. We all have a broken vitamin C gene, what difference are they looking for in that divine right? To me, the differences aren’t great enough in the past. It’s the present that I know I can’t identify with. I’m not subject to the kind of racism that is still prevalent today in America.

Still, their stories should become everyone’s stories.

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Monday, January 08, 2007


As I start this, I’m several thousand feet above West Texas, on my way back from New York. I had a blissful time at the wedding, but it convinced me that some part of me must be a Jewish girl.

On Saturday, I spend some time with M. and her friends S. and A. in their apartment in a very, very Jewish section of the city. We basically just sat around and traded stories while M. tried on a few of the dresses that she’d picked up for the wedding and did a fashion show for us.

Actually, I thought she looked good in all of them, and I didn’t hesitate to tell her so, even though I had no idea how really attractive M. was until I saw her with her hair done for the wedding. Then, at the wedding proper, I spent most of my time with M. and Amy. As a fegala goyim, I felt like I had about as much place as M. and Amy in the men’s room, but it doesn’t change the fact that I seem to get along great with the tribal girls.

Like I said: some part of me is a Jewish girl.

This was my first orthodox wedding, but I haven’t been to many weddings so I don’t exactly know how much comparison I can bring to it. I went to one in Oregon when I stayed with my Grandmother on my father’s side. A cousin’s wedding in upstate NY, and another in central California. Oh, and Mike’s wedding in Albuquerque. So maybe five total, although I’ll parlay knowledge of various customs into knowledgeable sounding pronouncements whenever I have something to say.

The entire thing was very interesting, from the limo ride to the wedding in the morning, to the signing of the tsuba in the men’s room, and relative silence of the actual ceremony. Maybe I’m sensitive, but the lack of preaching was odd to me. Both of the religious Christian weddings used their time to evangelize to the gathered disciples. If it happened at this wedding, it must have been directly to the bride and groom when the microphones were turned off. I may not have felt out of place in the men’s room, and I certainly didn’t know the tunes or where I was supposed to go, but the ceremony itself didn’t make me feel bad to be a non-Jew. I spent more time thinking about Elliot and A.’s wedding than thinking through the theological justifications of twisting Pauline Christianity to fit a wedding, and that’s a good thing.

So, wow. I’d never been to a 500+ person wedding before. I’ve been to a big wedding before, but this was like being involved in something presidential. Some of the other groomsmen and I couldn’t help but to speculate what it cost to put it on, but I have no point of reference.

Oh, right, that’s another thing, I got to see Mark, Benjy and Julian again. I still don’t know if Julian was mad about the whole “You’re not my friend thing” from Miami (and if he is, I’m so sorry about it that I still remember it), but I was happy to see Mark and Benjy again, and meet the rest of Elliot’s inner circle. I had heard stories about them for years, and even now when I talk to Elliot, it helps me understand who he is to meet them. That and Bender is really cute, followed closely by Uri. Sorry Mark, I gotta love you, but you’re just not my type.

(Not that I would ever do anything along those lines. It would be like fooling around with an extended family member that I only see every couple of years.)

Incidentally, there do seem to be a lot of Jewish guys that are my type, without actually being, you know, “my type.” I’m sure one of the cute, successful Jewish boys at the wedding was (cough) my type of guy. Then again, there were some cute waiters too. Maybe that’s the whole “I’m not getting any” itch talking and not any kind of gaydar. Actually, Elliot’s always been more perceptive on that than I am, which drives me nuts. He doesn’t even need it.

On a slightly less shallow and creepy note, I don’t think that my toast sucked. I skipped this entire beginning section about how my Hebrew wasn’t that good (wink, wink) so please bear with me, but I also don’t think my weak kneed performance sounded careless either. And, no, I was never planning to actually tell any Miami stories. What could I say in front of all those distinguished guests (and Elliot’s rabbi)? That I was more worried about people thinking that you were gay than you were so I used to make sure to say we weren’t a couple? Or maybe about your favorite thing to do when running on the beach (“How many today?” “Fifty-four unique pairs.”)?

The only story that I could think of that would have been even vaguely appropriate would have been a slightly edited version of the Britney Spears story. Let’s see, it would have gone something like: You went to visit your Mom, Britney was a few beach chairs down. Your mom suggested asked why you didn’t go for you, and you say something to the effect of “She’s not nearly good enough for me.”

There’s be a laugh, and I’d get to create one of those great rejoinders about how you were right, and that I’m happy that you did finally find someone special enough in A.

At the time though, I couldn’t justify comparing A. to Britney. A. is simply to beautiful, respectable, and cultured (and that’s not exaggerated because she might be reading this). Drawing any comparison would have left a bad taste in my mouth, even with the quip at the end. Still, if you ever have a question, A., remember, this is the guy that refused to even pursue Britney Spears back when she was actually vaguely attractive. Elliot has always had impeccable taste.

Anyway, I wanted you to know that I put at least some actual thought into the toast. I just couldn’t get it out, and still manage the l’chaims. I think the reason I forgot the mental section was that I was saying “l’chaim, l’chaim, l’chaim” over and over to myself so I could pronounce it correctly. Or, at least that’s the story that I’ll stick to in the future if someone asks.

I overdid it dancing. I have some tests for my neck injury tomorrow, otherwise I would spend the next day (and probably week) in bed. But with hits like Dancing Queen and It’s Raining Men, how could I refuse?

Actually, I did get some nice slow dances with M. and A. With the broken neck, there we my speed, although I would have loved to try a few more of the faster dances. No one expects you to dance very well at weddings, and it’s a great time for me to make a total flailing idiot of myself without anyone being able to say anything.

I said something about getting up off my death bed to be there, and now after the fact, that still holds true. It was so nice to be doing something fun with real friends. It was by far the best thing that’s happened to me in the last three months.

So, the official wedding kitup is in my bag, and when I get home I plan on keeping it with the garter I caught at Mike’s wedding. I figure it’s a good way to keep my memories of good weddings all in one place.

Ah, right, one final point: flying sucks. You get there on time and they change the flights around on you. I’m not supposed to be doing wind sprints through secure areas with a broken neck.

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