Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo Excerpt - Ryan makes an incoherent metaphor

Yesterday my lack of progress on NaNoWriMo ended. That doesn't mean much because tonight NaNoWriMo ending and getting less than a days worth of words written yesterday doesn't exactly cancel out 15 days with no progress. That said... words. Words were produced. Words that don't necessarily make a lot of sense, but I've talked enough about not making words, so here are some words that I made, picking up near the end of a conversation:


"[...] The villain shouldn't have to save the day.”

So you think he shouldn't have to take responsibility for his own actions.”

No. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that he shouldn't have to clean up the hero's mess. I'm saying that any superpowered guy in a cape who wants to call himself a hero shouldn't be endangering innocents in the first place.”

He has a job to do, he's upholding the law.”

The laws exist to serve the people. Not the other way around. Anyone who sees people as meaningless collateral to be endangered or sacrificed in the service of some abstract love of the law isn't a hero. People matter, and any law that threatens the people is a law that needs to be broken. And I don't remember when duly elected officials voted to make, 'we should throw vehicles around to stop art thieves a law in the fist place.” Two things stood out to me. The first is that I had raised my voice and things had changed from a friendly debate to something more hostile, so I said, “Sorry, sorry,” and tried to make my posture much less... combative? Threatening? Unpleasant? Not sure what exactly, just tried to be less of whatever it is that marks one as an opponent rather than a friend.

The second thing that struck me was that I just defended the people. I never defend the people. I don't like the people. An individual person I may like, but the people are an annoying mindless organism that never stops getting in the way and requires constant care. It's like a hamster that isn't cute and would throw you in jail for the rest of your life if given half a chance.

You have to constantly make sure you're not doing anything to hurt it, you have to consider your comings and goings in how they'll affect the hamster's regular feedings. You have to decide on your own budget in light of the cost of feeding the hamster, because in this analogy the place you take your money from is the economy you rob and if you take too much, or take it from the wrong place, or create an inefficiency in the system, well then there might not be enough money left in the household budget to feed the hamster.

But it's not like you can pet the hamster, it bites. It's a scary hamster and whenever you're in the same room as it you're worried that it's looking at you, evaluating your every move, plotting, and possibly considering reporting you the House Un-American Activities Committee. Yes I know that was disbanded years ago, before I was born even, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a damned scary hamster.

Everything you do has to be thought of in light of the hamster. Do I want to do a renovation? Well maybe the wall I want to knock down, by which I mean building (explaining the analogy too much defeats the whole purpose of analogy, I know, but really sometimes you have to for risk of being confusing), isn't exactly made out of hamster safe materials, and the fracking hamster couldn't be bothered to get itself a gas mask so no, I can't have my renovation.

Anything I might want to do requires thinking about the hamster. Not because I like the hamster, but instead because I'd feel really bad if I somehow harmed the hamster. Stupid hamster. Why couldn't you invest in well insured retirement accounts like a sane rodent would have? Do you have any idea how annoying that squeaky wheel that you inexplicably like is?

Or for that matter, do you have any idea how annoying it is cleaning up your waste? The gerbil in the next city over built a perfectly good sewer system all on its own with no prodding from anybody, but the hamster I'm stuck with, no. No, no, no. Oh, good God in Heaven -and the chthonic deities as well- does the hamster have any idea what I had to go through to make it so its waste wouldn't get everywhere every time I had to do a minor remodeling job?

That's one of the things that's so awesome about Erin, she understands -really truly groks- the importance of a sewer system. But the hamster, the hamster has no idea. And it's financial planning is for shit.

So anyway, that's how I feel about the hamster, by which I mean the people. Which brings up the question: when did I start caring about them as something other than a source of potential guilt to be avoided? Because when I got all whatever the word is for something two steps down from shouty, it wasn't because I was sick of having to pick up the Becaon's many and varied messes, it was because I was indignant on behalf of the people. How dare he put them at risk?

It wasn't about me, it was about them. And that was very weird. Most of my career I had cared for their well-being only insofar as it effected me. Hurting them made me feel bad so I worked not to hurt them. Now all of a sudden I was angry that they weren't being treated like human beings.

The fact that the Beacon endangered them wasn't making be angry because it meant more work for me, though it did. It wasn't making me angry because if that danger ever turned to injury or death I'd feel bad, though I would. It was something else. Something different. He was endangering the people, how dare he? And somehow I was being left out of the equation.

It was weird, and I realized this would require more thought.

Meanwhile, back in the conversation, Erin said that it was ok, she'd gotten worked up too. I'd been so caught up in how I was feeling that I really hadn't noticed whether she had been, but I trust her.

We did what we've done before when we disagree, we talked about a lighter topic.

If interdimensional dolphins had inadvertently started a countdown to world war three, who would have saved the day? Someone would have to save the day because, as I said, this was a lighter topic. The natural first assumption is the dolphins themselves, but I think that that's too obvious. My feeling is that the day would have been saved by the computer from War Games, for if he is not the savior of humanity I don't know who is.

Erin could not disagree more. She thinks Loki would do it and that it would somehow involve getting Thor to crossdress. She thinks that Loki started to get a bad reputation after Christianity began to have an influence and he has been waiting for the opportune moment to demonstrate that he is not evil but instead awesome.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

“What have you been up to?”

Or even, “How have you been?” “What's going on in your life?” This isn't a question to you, though if you have an answer you'd like to give by all means share it in the comments. No, this is another thread on living with depression. My third? Maybe my fourth.

I've mentioned elsewhere (not on Stealing Commas so don't go looking) that I don't have experience with the negative voice some other people with depression have. This is a good thing because I don't know if I could cope with what they describe, what I've got already is hard enough. The thing is, sometimes I don't always need a negative voice to make everything seem hopeless and terrible, sometimes the facts of the situation, clearly stated in complete neutrality, are bad enough.

One of the times that that comes up is if I have cause to think about what I've accomplished. That comes up when you haven't seen someone in ages which can really put a damper on a reunion, that comes up in the course of ordinary conversation which means it has the potential to happen a lot, that's just what you ask people. “How have things been with you?” “What's up?” “It's been a while since I saw you, what've you been up to?”

There's nothing wrong with the question. It's what I ask people knowing full well that it can hurt. It's sort of what you have to do. If when you see someone you express exactly no interest in their life or the contents of it that's quite rude and sort of kills conversation. You have to ask if you want to talk about something other than the weather. (It's cold. Conversation over.)

But the problem is that it can lead to unpleasant realizations.

I am reminded of a comic strip* in which various characters are talking about what they've been doing lately. Some of it is plot related but for the most part it's all pretty ordinary stuff and the important part is that there is stuff. They're doing stuff, out in the world, with friends. And then it comes to one character who hasn't said anything yet, and he says, “I've been sitting alone in my basement and inadvertently distancing myself from everyone I care about.”

Except... he's sitting alone in his basement because he has a lab in his basement. He's doing science that should theoretically help his friends and potentially might help the world at large. He's still accomplishing stuff.

I don't even have that excuse. Though on the plus side, unlike him what I have been doing (which is being on the internet) is actually keeping me in contact with people instead of pushing people away. Without the people I know on line I'd have no human contact outside of school and my immediate family, so I don't want to diminish the importance of being online in my life.

One could argue that I've been on vacation for ten days now, though in the absence of vacation only three of those days would have been spent at school. Over vacation I had hoped to accomplish three things. I wanted to get caught up on NaNoWriMo. I have done none of it. I wanted to get caught up on Greek. I have done none of it. I wanted to get caught up on Latin. I have done none of it.

It's hard to put a positive spin on that.

I could even add things to the, “I hoped to accomplish this,” list. I had hoped to write more of skewed slightly to the left on this vacation. I hoped to do it by last Monday. I have done none of it.

(You'll note that none what I had my sights set on was doing stuff out in the world with friends, that's mostly because at this point I'm not even sure of how to go about doing that, and setting it up would be, for me, way more effort than writing a novel. I'm guessing most people's experience is not like that. But for me between, "Write a novel," and, "Try to contact a friend to hang out some time," writing a novel is the small step, contacting a friend is the giant leap.)

Over a longer time period things are much the same. I've been on the internet, I've attended classes but (at least this semester) done very in the way of actual schoolwork. Other than that, nothing. I don't want to lessen either of the things I have done, this blog exists because what I've written on the internet meant enough to certain people for them to ask me to put it in one place so it would be easier to find. I'm accomplishing something here. Similarly showing up for classes is better than not showing up for classes and should not be dismissed.

But the fact that there is nothing else changes things. It chances them enough to justify beginning a paragraph with the word “but”. It makes it very hard to be positive when most of my life is empty space. It makes it hard to be positive when my answer to the question of what I've been doing is, for the most part, nothing.

People don't even have to ask. I'll think, “What if someone says [whatever]?” and start composing a response in my head.** Sometimes that [whatever] is, “What have you been doing lately?” or something to that effect.

I just got distracted by staring out into space. That seems to be a lot of what I've been doing lately. Also a lot of time is spent refreshing web pages hoping someone said something new*** because anything that takes more effort than that is too much for me to do at times.

Say those things with every hint of negativity removed. Report them simply as objective fact, for they are true, and I think you'll find that the truth of them is negative enough in itself.

Of course, I can add one thing to my list of accomplishments. I wrote this post.


* The reason I don't have a link in the above is that the comic, El Goonish Shive, squicks some people out quite a bit. It's never beyond PG-13 in its content, but I gather that actually makes it worse for some people. Anyway, the thing in question is just four people sitting around a table talking about their lives, I don't think it should be a problem if you just stick with original page but your mileage may vary and since I've already described it anyway there's no reason to go if you think it might bother you.

It is here.

** Sometimes the [whatever] involves the evolutionary plausibility of sparkly vampires. That's nice.

*** This doesn't always work out for the best, mind you, even if something did say something new. In a thread about sending Jesus to a modern day high school in which I wrote the resurrection with Jesus as a transgirl. I got two responses at Slacktivist****. Actually, for full accuracy, I wrote two things.

I started talking about my take on the prodigal son parable, got maybe three posts in before I realized that I was not enjoying this topic at all. I've gotten 11 responses so far. The thing that I've now realized I don't really want to talk about got 550% the response of the the thing I do. Even if we adjust for the difference in the number of posts I made, still at least 275% on the one I'm dreading.

Once I post this I'm going to have to start looking through those 11 responses. Right now I only know they exist because of a combination of email notifications and the fact that if you load or refresh any page that uses disqus, a little red notification thing will show up to tell you if you've had anyone respond to anything you've written. So refresh Ana Mardoll's Ramblings to see if anyone said anything interesting about Ana's twittering of Breaking Dawn, and you'll find out that over at Slacktivist you've got all of these people responding to you.

I'm stalling. Can you tell I'm stalling? This is me stalling.

**** And one here. Wooo!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Jesse in the Garden

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 4).]
[I did look at John 20, I just ignored it in its entirety after reading it.]
[A follow up to this.]

Jesse left the hospital intent on finding clothes and glasses, but was soon distracted. The garden in front of the hospital was a mess. The geraniums needed tending and several things had been planted too shallow and were no falling over for lack of support. She muttered, "For the love of..." and turned her attention to tending the garden, being careful to make sure she didn't end up exposing herself.

Replanting the various things wasn't the easiest thing to do by hand but the soil was loose enough.

She heard someone crying behind her and and realized it was Maggie. "What are you crying about?" she asked. But Maggie didn't recognize her and didn't respond. She stood up approached Maggie who had turned around, said, "Maggie," apologetically and touched her shoulder.

Maggie spun around and hugged her. "Easy there necrophiliac," Jesse said. Maggie didn't listen and they shared a long kiss.

"How is this possible?" Maggie asked.

"I was dead, now I'm not. These things happen."

"I must be losing my mind."

"Possible though that may be, I'm really here," Jesse wasn't quite sure how to approach the next topic. "And ... and I'm naked under this coat."

"That's fine with me."

"And I can't see," she tapped her temple, where her glasses should have been.* "I was hoping to grab the spare glasses I left at your house, and maybe steal some of your clothes."

"So you're really here."


"And you were really dead?"

"Seems that way."

"What happened?"

"It's complicated. And fuzzy."

"Are you back for good?"

"I don't think so. I think I'm back for a month. Or a month and a week. Or a month and a week and a day. Or a month and a week and a weekend."


* You know what the part of an eyeglass that's at your temple is called? A temple. "She touched her temple where her glasses' temple should have been," doesn't sound right at all.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NaNoWriMo Excerpt - Ryan on Stalling

I was reading through what I've written in hopes of ending my ten day long no writing streak and this jumped out as topical:


When I finally got home, garb of villainy retrieved, I returned to my normal routine, by which I mean I had dinner.

So, what does a villain eat for dinner? Sandwiches. Ham and Swiss on rye. With mustard. Heinz mustard. The bog standard bright yellow stuff, nothing fancy. For a drink I have water. There's also orange juice in the fridge but at the moment I'm in a water kind of mood. Then I bring it with me to the couch and watch an old movie. Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, that kind of thing.

After that, who knows? Maybe I'll play a videogame. Oh the wondrous life that villainy has brought me. Actually it's a good life, but most of my time is spent planning or otherwise preparing for jobs. Down time I've never really known what to do with. I can't stop. I can't ever stop. If I stop then I might never get started again.

Time unfilled will end up with me doing nothing and that is not good because nothing is a hard thing to stop doing. I've been told that there's a standard joke used by comedians. When they ask what someone does for a living sometimes someone will say, “Nothing,” and the comedians will respond, “How do you know when you're done?” The answer is you don't, because you're never done. It will expand and take over your life. Once you start it is incredibly difficult to stop.

It just grows and grows and all the time it happens it sucks the life and energy out of you. If I allow myself to stop, even for a day, then I stall. I cease to function. It is not a good thing. It's like sinking into quicksand, efforts to escape all seem to be counterproductive and you just get more and more stuck.

It helps, I've found, to have a friend. If I didn't have to feed Benjamin I have no idea what would break me out of those slumps, maybe nothing would. Maybe I'd still be stuck now. Maybe my life would be constantly being stuck. But the thought of a rat starving to death is too horrible to consider, and so, eventually, I was forced to act. I had to feed the rat. Somehow I've been able to use that as a crutch to get me out of slumps before.

It's not easy, it's like hopping along trying to keep your weight off a sprained ankle. I've had, I would say, more than my share of sprained ankles and I have to say it's not fun. But you can move on one, and sometimes you have to, and you just make yourself go because you know that if you stop you might never start again. That's what it's like. And then, generally speaking, I rob a bank.

Because why not rob a bank?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Depression and NaNoWriMo

For starters, there was something I wanted to say in this post, something that seemed important enough to justify making the post, and I've forgotten what it was. We'll see if it comes out in the writing of this post.

This is about the intersection of depression and NaNoWriMo, though I suppose I could add more. It could also be about how I lose contact with people and communities I care about, that came up in conversation recently and is clearly related.

We'll start with National Novel Writing month. This will be my ninth day with no progress meaning that I've had almost, but not quite, as many days with no progress as I had with progress. My first day without progress was the second day. My next was the eighth. All of the others are bunched together. It's been a week since I've made progress.

That seems to be too large of a gap for me to handle. It started simply enough. I had school work to do. I was tired, I was somewhat sick (I seem to have been sick fairly frequently lately) and I didn't get the words in. School's on vacation right now. (Technically it's somewhat more complicated than that, but for me the take away is that I'm free until a week from tomorrow.) I should have plenty of time to write, there's nothing standing in my way.

Except I can't seem to. I was stumbling a bit before I stopped, stalling even. But now I'm completely stopped. The engine is off, inertia has long since stopped helping, and nothing seems to be changing.

I sit down and I get nothing.

I don't think I can really describe what it is that lets me write. When it works, it works. When it doesn't I can either stare at an empty screen or find something else to do. The thing is, I can still connect to that. I can still write about Left Behind, or Nick Andes, or Twilight, or transgender high school Jesus on the day of the Resurrection.

What I can't do is write about Ryan and Erin. I've lost my feel for them. I've lost my drive, I've lost my ability to motivate myself or my ability to care. This is where the something important that I forgot would have gone. Still don't remember what it was.

The thing is, I still want to write it. I still know that if I were writing it I would likely enjoy it. It like the characters. They got to know each other in part by dueling with foam swords on one outing and squirt guns the next (Erin is stabby, you see, where Ryan is shooty) how could I not like them? But there's something that allows me to connect to characters and stories that has somehow lapsed with them. The writing just isn't happening.

In Twilight, Stephanie Meyer uses the beautiful phrase, “Finally breaking through my abstraction”. It is, unfortunately wasted because there's nothing abstract going on. Bella had no abstraction for Jessica to break through. I'm tempted to try to adapt the phrase to a story where someone in a very theoretical field, say a branch of pure math or obscure string theory or something like that, was called upon to save the world. They'd be faced with a problem and get so deep into abstractly looking at it that they completely lost contact with the actual thing they were faced with. Then someone would hit them with visceral down to earth real world details thus breaking through their abstraction and rerailing them.

Anyway, that's not why I brought up the example. I think I'm facing a problem of abstraction. I like the characters and the story in the abstract, but when it comes to actually doing the physical and mental work of typing the story that connection doesn't seem to be real anymore. The abstract desire to write doesn't translate into the feeling necessary to actually do the work. I need that feeling to become less abstract and more practical because otherwise it will not help me.

So, communities and people. I have a habit of drifting away from people and places that I like. I probably can't write a better description of this than what I already wrote, so here is that:

I have a tendency to drift away from places and end up alone for no reason whatsoever. They don't change, I don't change, everything should be wonderful, but I drift away and am all alone. And then the separation just sort of builds where the fond memories get more distant and I start feeling like I can't go back or I don't deserve to go back. And often times the result is that I never go back. And over time the memory fades.

I think that this experience is mirrored, at least some what, in what I'm now experiencing with NaNoWriMo. There is no way that I changed so much in seven days that I should have stopped liking the story. The story certainly hasn't changed. (That's the problem. It was supposed to be longer by now.) I know, intellectually, that if I could get to writing it I would enjoy the process. But somehow, in a single week, I've lost the ability to feel it.

Without that feeling I can't write. Which means that I'll drift sill further away from it. Which means that I won't write. Which means...

And so on.

I've lost friends like this, I've lost communities like this, God know's I've lost a lot of projects like this. (Which is why this, came out something like two years after people stopped paying that much money for puzzles. The miracle is that I ever got back to it at all.)

It seems like the solution should be simple: Don't stop doing something you like. Keep in touch with people you like.

For some reason it doesn't work that way. I couldn't tell you why.


I'm just going to write random stuff about the NaNoWriMo thing now. Maybe something will be helpul to me, consider it a sort of Status update.

I've noticed that the story skews female. I've noticed that in several of my stories actually. I seem to have some difficulty in writing males who are not the viewpoint character. Perhaps it isn't a difficulty exactly, but a tendency not to. Not sure what's up with that.

Anyway, on the male side we have Ryan, the Beacon, and a male city council member who shows up for one scene and has not much in the way of dialog. Of them Ryan is the Hero, the Beacon is the Antagonist, and the male city council member is a jerk who Ryan would prefer hadn't been elected to represent him.

On the Female side we have Erin, a female city council member who initially is pretty quiet and a nameless background character but that's because she knew enough not to get in the way where male city council member was pompous. Then later on she makes a principled stand against the Beacon appointing himself the final word in Justice, gets thrown in jail for it, is broken out, and after that I'm not sure but I think she acts in ways that are non-action awesome.

Then there's the human shield. She's only around for one scene but it's a long scene and she's got character. She's planning on opening up a shop that sells steampunk and clockwork gadgets, she's already worked out the gearing for her clockwork four function 8 digit calculator (integer division only.) She's figured everything out, she just needs start up capital, and if that means letting Ryan hide behind her so that the police won't shoot him, well she volunteered, didn't she?

And that's basically it. Ryan actively avoids getting to know people, everyone else remains in the periphery.

Ryan is the only male who isn't presented in a negative light. None of the females are presented in a negative light.

Of course the numbers are equal, which is probably an improvement over some of my other works. In a story I started writing in high school which was to be my magnum opus (or something like that) almost everyone was female other than the narrator. There was his girlfriend (the angel) his two best friends (who were in a relationship with each other) the witch the found in their high school (who was single) two separate mother figures (a Greek goddess and one of the best friend's biological mother) and that was it for the main cast. The periphery did include some males, but I think it included at least as many females.

Back to NaNo, it'll probably fail the Bechdel test. Ryan is the narrator which means the only conversations included are one's he's a part of or that he overhears. To pass the test we'd want the second on, the only place I can see that happening is when Erin meets the city council woman for the second time, at which point there would only be two topics of conversation that would make sense, both of them are about men. One is that the Beacon has gone overboard, the Beacon is a man. The other is that as a result anyone who wants to stop him has to side with the villain, the villain is a man.

Though maybe Erin could work something about the need to upgrade the sewer system into it, because she is Erin after all.

I'm also thinking that I need a new crime, I'm not sure what it would be. It opens with Ryan pretending to steal art when he's really just trying to do enough property damage to make the questionable accounting damages at an insurance company show for all the world (especially stock holders and potential stock holders) to see.

After the breakup he's going to rob a bank, targeting a specific individual's accounts, to get back to his roots as someone who actually stole things instead of his more recent work involving stock manipulations. I have him reminiscing about a kidnapping he once preformed (the kids didn't even know they'd been kidnapped [they thought it was a security drill, which being children of the rich and powerful, was not an unheard of thing for them], the ransom was never collected, the point was to boost a news channel's ratings) but I'm not sure if I should keep that because, even if the experience is not traumatic for the children it would be for the parents and Ryan tries to avoid causing trauma the way Edward Cullen avoids being nice.

Sometime between the insurance company and the bank, while Erin and Ryan are dating, I think I want Ryan to pull a job. I have no idea what that job should be.

I think part of my problem with the way the book seems to be incorrectly subdivided (he seems to stop being a supervillain the moment he meets Erin which makes no sense ) is that I've got a gap in what he's working on that's too long. So when he should be preparing for as yet undetermined job I've got him doing nothing supervillainy related, which makes it look the the supervillainy is confined to the time before he met Erin.

I'm also unsure exactly what awesomeness city council woman can do. It was only when I realized that of course Erin and Ryan would break them out that I realized she and those with her should have some part in dealing with the situation.

I don't know if I have enough ideas to finish, but I'm pretty sure I have enough ideas to at least take a stab at writing. If I could write. Which, at the moment, I can't.

Random note:
Another song that does a good job of describing depression is Desperado:
You're losin' all your highs and lows, ain't if funny how the feeling goes away?

Jesse in the Morgue

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 4).]
[This probably requires some explanation. The basic idea is that the story of Jesus is set in a present day high school. Some people were saying that maybe the character in the role of Jesus shouldn't be female. Perhaps someone bullied for being gay might be more appropriate. Also there was a question about the manner of death, a hurtful prank gone wrong (say by bullies who underestimated an allergy) was suggested.]

She opened her eyes, and then worried that she was blind. She saw nothing. She was lying on her back, on a hard surface. She couldn't see, and neither did she hear anything. She tried to sit up, and hit her head.

She wanted to swear, but none came to mind. She settled on, “Ow...” She sighed then said, “Ok, Jesse, what now?” Panicking wouldn't help. So she should just... she laughed.

When she had been younger, at boys' camp, and learning to kayak an instructor had tried to explain what to do when one found themselves upside down. He had started by saying, “The important thing is to keep calm so just take a deep-” and then he realized that that was extremely bad advice. One should never take a deep breath underwater. He amended to, “Just take a moment to clear your head,” but the bad advice had always stuck with Jesse.

Thinking of it never failed to amuse her.

She took a deep breath, and felt her soundings. She was in a box, rectangular. She hoped it wasn't a coffin. Coffins were placed in concrete burial vaults and one of those would be impossible to get out of. Then again every coffin she'd ever seen had something more inviting than the cold metal she felt around her, and no one would bury her naked. Right?

She pressed on each of the sides. The one her feet were at was the only one to give at all, though it didn't give much. She kicked. Nothing much happened. She kicked again, and again. And again. Finally something gave. The side opened and there was light, though not much.

Jesse awkwardly slid herself out of the chamber and found herself in what she assumed was the morgue. It made sense. If she'd taken more time to think about it she thought she would have worked it out without seeing it. The lights were off and her glasses were nowhere to be found. Nor was any kind of clothing. She took the tag off her toe and read up on herself.

Soon she said, “For fuck's sake.” She was listed as Jesse Joseph Davidson, Male. Apparently, even after they killed her they still had to be a jerk about gender. She looked at herself and noted that her breasts were coming along nicely, if slowly. They weren't any different from the last time she'd seen them, but they gave her some hope for the future. Maybe when they were bigger people would stop insisting she was male.

As she tried to figure out what to do about her situation an answer presented itself. A door opened, lights turned on, and before Jesse's eyes adjusted the coroner screamed, “Oh my God!”

“Yes?” Jesse asked. She was acutely aware that she was naked, and tried to cover herself with her arms.

“You're ... it's … I ...” the coroner stammered while backing up against the wall.

For some reason the coroner's fear made Jesse less self conscious. “Please don't faint.”

“What happened to you?”

“A bunch of jerks beat me up, rubbed peanut butter all over me and left me to die. It happens,” she felt guilty about the annoyed edge in her voice. The corner hadn't had anything to do with what had been done.

“You were dead.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I know you were dead, I checked.”

“Well you can't tell the difference between a boy and a girl, what makes you think you can tell the difference between a live person and a dead one?” Jesse hadn't meant to raise her voice or be confrontational, but she'd had a bad week.

The coroner's fear was replaced with confusion, “What?”

“I'm female. Fe. The chemical symbol for iron, the first two letters in FEMA, the Danish word for Fairy, the Spanish word for faith. Fe-fucking-male. Not male!” Ok, the peace, love and understanding thing was not going well at the moment, Jesse had to admit. Instead she was in a mood more like when she'd scared off the recruiters. With a whip.

“But you have a-” the coroner started to point towards Jesse's crotch.

“If you finish with that line of reasoning I swear by all that is holy that I will eat your brain.” She'd run completely out of patience for the obtuse, insulting, and annoyingly out of focus coroner, who had now returned to cowering. “Now, where are my glasses?”

“At the police station ... as evidence ... they took all of your ...”

In theory that means the police were taking her case seriously, that was the best news she'd heard all day. Of course it still left naked and with poor vision. Jesse figured that she should deal with one problem at a time. “I'm stealing your coat,” she announced.

“My coat?”

“Braiiiins,” Jesse said.

Soon she had a nice long coat, enough to cover her up until she found more clothing.


[There is a short follow up here.]

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Snarky Twilight - Lunch with Edward

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

Jessica: I'm talking, I'm talking, I'm talking.
Bella: I'm ignoring you, I'm ignoring you, I'm ignoring you.
Jessica: Edward isn't at his table.
Bella: I know, I'm just going to have lemonade and sulk.
Jessica: You do that a lot, do you ever actually eat?
Bella: I don't know, I'm pretty damned hungry because I skip so many meals. I'm thinking that when the author isn't looking I'm going to have a steak or two.
Jessica: Edward is staring at you again. He does that a lot.
Bella: I thought he wasn't at his table.
Jessica: He isn't. He's at someone else's table.
Bella: How could there be an empty table for him to move to?
Jessica: I think that table belonged to freshmen, he probably scared them all away.
Bella: How?
Jessica: Death threats would be my guess. Why is he beckoning to you?
Bella: I have no idea, earlier today he insulted me and my truck-
Jessica: But you love that truck.
Bella: I do love that truck.
Jessica: That would be like when the Klingons insulted the Enterprise in front of Scotty.
Bella: Good episode.
Jessica: One of the best.
Bella: Anyway, after the initial volley, and during the main sequence of the insult fest he convinced me to let him take me on my trip to Seattle.
Jessica: Are you sure that's a good idea?
Bella: I'm pretty sure it's not, but do what the plot demands.
Jessica: I'm glad I'm not a main character.
Bella: I'd better go. If anyone asks, and that includes you, I'm officially speculating that he needs help with biology homework.
Jessica: Because that makes so much sense.
Bella: I didn't write the line, I just recited it.
Jessica: I'm definitely glad I'm not a main character.

[Bella walks over to Edward's table]
Edward: Why don't you sit with me today?
Bella: Would you prefer this be alphabetic or chronological?
Edward: Sit.
Bella: I'm thinking about making an annotated bound copy of my dissertation of why I shouldn't sit with you.
Edward: Sit damn it!
Bella: What if I say, "No"?
Edward: You have to sit. I beckoned, you came, I said sit, you have to sit. That's how it works.
Bella: You're forgetting your place. You don't control me, the narrative does. I may have to do what the book says I do, but I sure as hell don't have to do it on your schedule.
Bella: [sits] and I'm not convinced that the narrative has total control. I'm looking into possibilities.
Bella: Rail spike. [Edward flinched.] Now then, what did you want?
Edward: Well . . . I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly.
Bella: First, you're well on your way. If you're worried about not making the cut, let me lay any fears to rest. You've definitely proven that you have the qualifications to be accepted into that prestigious institution. Second, I have no idea what you mean by that in this particular context.
Edward: I know.
Bella: So it's not that you suck at communication, it's that you're being an ass. Good to know.
Edward: I think your friends are angry with me for stealing you.
Bella: Livestock gets stolen. I'm not a pet goat. They're probably worried for me because I'm sitting with the biggest jerk in all of school. Anyway, they'll survive. Get on with it.
Edward: I may not give you back.
Bella: There's your mistake: thinking you have a choice in the matter. I'm not property. Now, like I said, get on with it. Why did you want me here?
Edward: I told you -- I got tired of trying to stay away from you. So I'm giving up.
Bella: Giving up? Giving up what? And for how long? Is this Lent? I thought it was-
Edward: I'm serious.
Bella: I'm not. I don't think I could stand to be serious. This story would be soul crushing if I took it seriously, and you're a big part of that you bastard. Now then, what are you giving up?
Edward: Giving up trying to be good.
Bella: You been trying to [breaks down laughing]
Edward: Yes, I've been trying.
Bella: You've been doing a really crappy job of it.
Edward: This is serious.
Bella: Yes it is. You seriously suck at being good. A mediocre villain I could understand, but this is you trying to be good? You suck, and I'm not referring to your fangs or any other of the vampirey things you do a ludicrously bad job of hiding.
Edward: We're perfectly good at hiding what we are [Bella laughs] and I did not suck at being good. I was doing a great job.
Bella: Please, you sucked like a Dyson.

And so on.


Friday, November 18, 2011

The Time Traveler's Guide to English Grammar - Some thoughts

I initially wasn't sure if I should post this. Most of what I put here is stories, some stuff is summary, some stuff is just random thoughts on a given topic (though I forgot that tag existed for a while so, like the silly tag, it's probably not on everything it should be on.) Some stuff is more along the lines of an ordinary blog than the repository of stories posted elsewhere that this place mostly is.

Where, exactly does this fit in? Definitely not a story, not an ordinary blog post. Is it a summary? Maybe... if we allow that a summary can be for style rather than substance, format instead of content. Is it musings? Not really.

It's almost more of a note to myself so I don't forget what I've written here* so anyway, some random stuff:

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
In the back of my mind has long been the idea for a grammar textbook called, "The Time Traveler's Guide to English Grammar," with an adventure story being played out in the example sentences. Is it a textbook or is it an attempt to give heroes their due kleos? Yes.


[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[In response to "Please write the grammar book! I so want to read it!" which is an incredibly nice thing for someone to say.]

It's something that I have been meaning to do, no doubt, but it's also something that would be difficult in the extreme.

First i have to come up with a coherent theory of time travel. I think several months ago I was considering bouncing ideas off of Will Wildman, not sure why I never got to that. Then I have to figure out how it interacts with grammar. For example if I say something like, "Tense is always that of the subject," doesn't that make things too simple?

He will have killed the overlord by this time yesterday.
The overlord was killed by him by this time yesterday.

Same event, but it's in his future and the overlord's past. For him it's future (future perfect because we're talking about what it will have been done before) for the overlord it's simple past.

Over, done with, nothing to see here.

If I try to complicate things enough for a grammar textbook to be work it, then the theory of time travel becomes too convoluted to be understood. And theories of time travel have a tendency to eat themselves.


I do know that I wanted to introduce the negated articles. As in, "This is how you preface something that has been erased from history." It doesn't exist in the past, present or future, no amount of time travel can get you there, but in the personal timelines of some people it did exist. I was thinking something simple and silly, and having the text book look down on it ("unfortunately, it caught on and is now standard" or something to that effect) so ne for the, na for a (nan for an?) the problem is that the and a can both be pronounced with a shwa in certain contexts which might lead to confusion because in those contexts ne and na would sound the same.

"Ne North American Federation was the first nation to erase itself from history. The large number of refugees created found they had a need to describe things that, in the new timeline, had never existed but were very real in the original timeline."

Or something like that. It lets you distinguish between Ne city of Cincinnati and the city of Cincinnati without saying, "No, not that Cincinnati, the other Cincinnati. That's because it never existed. No, it's not hypothetical. It was real, now it isn't and never was. I grew up there."

Though that does bring up that there might be a need for other tenses. Past timelines are different from past times, and that might need entirely different forms of the verb to be.

There's also a question of whether there's space for another mood which does for negated actions what the negated article does negated things. (Though that would overlap with the alternate past tense mentioned above.*)

Ok, so maybe it isn't over and done with just by saying tense sticks with the subject.

It does seem to be a lot of things that I haven't figured out yet and all of the difficulty of figuring out a coherent theory of time travel that allows paradoxes to exist.


*Oh good god, there needs to a tense matrix. Maybe. If I can get away with a negated mood I might be able to avoid going too far into that, but think about it, something can be in the past, present or future, and it can be in a past, present or future timeline. The good news is that timelines would lack aspect (no difference between perfect and imperfect) but you'd want to be able to have a sequence of past timelines so at the very least you want to put things in a pluperfect timeline. Probably future perfect as well, so that's five timeline tenses being multiplied by all normal tenses and ... oh good god.


[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[Ana quoted the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's a good quote, by the way.]

I don't think it need to be quite as complex as Adams makes it out to be.

Something that was going to happen until you skipped forward in time to avoid it. Did it actually happen in a past timeline? Describe it using the previously mentioned language of negation. (Or past timeline tense.) Was it always avoided because you skipped it in the original timeline? Then it's just how we describe avoided things now, "It would have have happened."

One also wonders if there should be tense based imperatives. If you order someone to do something it will always be in their future, so you'd think you only need the existing imperative, but if the thing you're ordering them to do is in the past, should there be a past imperative? I'm thinking no. You just say, "Do it yesterday," or whatnot.


*Speaking of which, Ben will pick up the word "whence" from Edith but he will use it incorrectly, specifically he will say "from whence," even though... well:
Edith "That's redundant."
Ben: "Yeah, but it sounds better."

Of course it doesn't sound better to Edith, but this is probably the only place they differ where he doesn't eventually adopt her style of speaking. And the disagreement is entirely playful.

The Next Out Of Left Field Mass Market Boom - Additional thoughts

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[A follow up to this.]
[Ana Mardoll wrote:
It's worth noting that HP and Twilight both featured supernatural/magic elements and a "normal" YA protagonist that stumbled into same. And also turned out to be super-secret magical special. And angsted a lot about the opposite sex. Can someone knit all that into the Indy plot above?]

The reason that the teenager was chosen as apprentice is actually that he is the chosen one, as demonstrated by him fulfilling the prophecy of the frying pan.

Or maybe it occurred to mentor and then he shook his head, decided there was no way, and then took on the teen as apprentice anyway. But it turns out that teen really is the chosen one and he can... yeah no idea. I'd like it if he could see the world in a different way, something that seems normal until you realize OMG awesome magic.

I've got it, (it's nothing like what I just said) he can see magic but never knew it before because his glasses are opaque to magic and so he only found out when his glasses were knocked off while there was magic going on. (Before that it happened with him seeing things out of the corner of his eye but then when he looked his glasses got in the way and everything seemed normal.) When he gets special lenses that aren't opaque to magic he's able to use this power all the time.

As for the opposite sex, in addition to normal problems he's never in one place for very long, which makes things very difficult, and he doesn't have much to talk about because you can't really open up with, "Well I'm just in town to fight some Eldritch abominations. Once that's done I'm planning on going a few countries south to see if I can find the actual Spear of Destiny."

So he's completely unsuccessful when it comes to dating and has serious angst. To top it all off the only member of the opposite sex he does see regularly is a water nymph who may or may not be evil. (I have a temptation to add something about an ancient feud because either he or his mentor is descended from Odysseus and for whatever reason the children of Poseidon still hold a grudge.)


The Next Out Of Left Field Mass Market Boom - Initial thoughts

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings]
[Will Wildman Wrote:
I'm calling 'globetrotting adventurer' for the next out-of-left-field mass market boom. Sort of a Young Indiana Jones type of thing. And it's not easy to justify a teenage archaeologist, so I'm predicting a very wealthy family (with archaeologist parents) and, thus, the series' major fail will focus on class issues rather than gender.
My response was to extend the prediction into absurdly specific, certain to be wrong, detail.]

I say that the series will be overly male centric and feature not a rich family but a rich looter and his teenage protege.

A young man left home the moment he was 18* and thus a legal adult. He was hoping to strike it rich by finding a long lost treasure briefly rediscovered by a German immigrant to the US sometime in the 17[high numbers]. Almost everyone who knows enough obscure history to have even heard of said guy dismisses him as a fraud**. Young future globe trotter found out about him on the internet.

On the night of the first full moon after the [whatever] he shows up to a quarry with notes in hand and somehow gets injured. He wakes up in a mansion. His benefactor was in the quarry for the same reason he was. He's told to get a good night's sleep, the kitchen is open to him, and they'll talk in the morning.

That night bad guys break into the house and young future globetrotter stops one of them with a frying pan. Rich looter is impressed and, since they have a common interest in the German riddle leaver, takes him on as apprentice.

They trot the globe dealing with Indiana Jones type things, teenager always keeping a frying pan handy.

Areas of fail include that class, gender, and american exceptionalism, a preponderance of mighty whitey plots, and a total failure to even remotely respect archaeological sites. At all. Though occasionally a lampshade is hung on the last one, as it was in Indiana Jones ("I'm sure everything you do for the museum conforms to the International Treaty for the Protection of Antiquities.")


*Though part of me wants to claim that that's what he says but he's actually younger. No one bothered to check so they only found out he was younger when he announced that it was his birthday and he just turned 18 for real.

** An annoyingly hard to interpret fraud at that. His marginalia is in German, of course, but his primary writing is in Latin and, as a tribute to his new home to truly understand the Latin writing you have to sometimes translate it into English because he hides meanings in plays on words in the English translation. Of course since any Latin writing can have multiple English translations it's a massive headache where you have to try to make a comprehensive list of every single English word that could be used to translated a given Latin one, and the only hints you'll ever get are occasional notes to himself written in German. It is generally agreed in the academic community that even speaking his name is a waste of time.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nick Andes - Demon Resources

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 2) and The Slacktiverse.]
[Not entirely sure how canonical this is as I picture Nick Ande's organization as being almost entirely human, but it's what came to mind while Fred was talking about the difficulties of one world government. Hell: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.]

Nick shuffled through the paperwork on his desk, recruiting people proved easy. He was a good speaker and had a simple message: We've been attacked, we've been hurt, the world's children have been kidnapped, we have to work together if we want to do anything about it. Actually forming them into an organization was not so easy. Also, humans and demons didn't always work together well, but he was grateful for the additional help.

He was struggling to keep up and he wasn't even sure what day it was anymore. The next person walked into the room and he didn't even know what job they were after. He gave up on find the documentation and asked, “So what are you here fo-?” when his eyes met her his brain stopped. She was, simply, the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Not just the most beautiful person. She was also more beautiful than any sunset or painting or waterfall.

Her clothing was modest, loose jeans, a dark shirt and a light jacket, but dressed that way she was more sexy than any swimsuit model Nick had ever laid eyes on.

When he came to his senses he apologized for staring and then said, “You are stunningly beautiful.”

“That's my job.”

“Your job?”

“A few centuries ago God thought Lucifer was making demons wrong, so he made a bunch of Succubi and Incubi to show her how it's done right. I was one of them.”

“So your job is just to be pretty?” Nick asked, it didn't seem like a very fulfilling job to him.

“Yes. That's what I was created to do.”

“And what can I do for you?”

“I want an administrative post in Afghanistan.”

“You want to be assigned to Afghanistan?”

“I'm good at making order out of chaos. I was once told I was the best logistician in Dis.”

That sounded like a fulfilling line of work to Nick, he just wished he were capable of it. “I'll have to check your references,” he looked at his desk, “once I find them,” on second thought, Nick decided he'd just ask Lucifer for her impression, “so I'm not saying anything definite, but I'm thinking if you want you can have the whole country.

Skewed Slightly to the Left - Fighting Fate

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 2) and The Slacktiverse.]

Cameron picked up the phone and said, “Hello.”

He recognized President Fitzhugh's voice immediately, “Your phone may be bugged.”

“It wouldn't surprise me. What do you recommend?”

“There's a cell phone in your mailbox.”

“Okay...” was Cameron's surprised and confused response. He heard Fitzhugh hang up and then headed for the mailbox.

Chloe asked, “Who was that?” Cameron signed that it was the president. The mailbox started to ring.

When Cameron picked up the phone he said, “They probably monitor cell traffic.”

“Which is why this is encrypted and I'm going to be very vauge,” Fitzhugh said. “I just called to say that if you're going to make a stand do it now. If you wait it will be too late.”

“I...” He wanted to say so much, but he'd already said it all. He already told the president that this was destined to fail. He already tried to convince him the resources would be better saved for the future and the lives would all be wasted. He'd tried to stop it. Nothing came of it. Cameron finished his sentence, “understand.”

“Good luck.”

“To you as well,” Cameron said, knowing it wouldn't be enough. The call ended. Cameron signed to Chloe that World War III had come and that he was going to the office.


He'd called ahead and asked Alice to contact everyone and tell them to come in. Most people arrived ahead of him. There was a chance that the offices were also being monitored, but he didn't have much choice, all of the resources were there. He hoped that the Chicago offices had escaped scrutiny since he moved to New York.

He opened up with, “The third world war is about to start and we have to figure out what we're going to do about it. Anyone who likes our employer can leave now.” No one did, there was a possibility that some were staying around so they could report back to the government, but Cameron preferred to think that it was simply the case that none of them liked to bury stories and after 18 months of being told to do that they were ready for a little rebellion.

He explained that what was happening had been foretold, that the rebellion was prophesied to fail. That if they convinced people to take up arms the might be sending them to certain, and meaningless death. He also shared Fitzhugh's argument, that if things couldn't be changed then they couldn't make it worse, but if change was possible perhaps victory was as well.

Everyone leaned in the same direction. When Cameron said the rebellion was destined to fail, someone from the literary desk offered, “We defy augury.”

When he pointed out that Nicolae's forces had an overwhelming advantage Verna said, “ὑπὸ σκιῇ ἔσοιτο πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἡ μάχη” and then had to explain that it meant, “then we will have our battle in the shade,” and was originally said by Dienekes at the battle of Thermopylae after it was discovered that the Persians had enough bowmen that their arrows would blot out the sun.

When he said that they might be defying the divine plan, Alice said, “Then we'll go to Hell.”

In the end someone said, “I don't have a neat line prepared, but I say we fight the bastards.” Everyone else agreed with the sentiment except for one intern who proved that there were still references left to make, he said, “I'm all out of bubblegum.”

Cameron looked at the group, prayed that he wasn't going to get them all killed, and said, “Then it's decided. Send the word out to everyone, this is the moment they've been waiting for. Every story you've been forced to bury, dig it up. By the end of the day I want the whole world to know that siding with Nicolae is selling your soul. I want them to know that if they're going to take a stand they should stand against him.”

Realistically there was no way they could avoid detection in this effort. But if those in power in the government were too busy preparing for war than paying attention to the media machine they had created, perhaps some word would get out somewhere.

Cameron hoped to get at least one newspaper printed before goosesteeping thugs shut him down. Though he knew that the real hope was in television, radio, and the internet. The message could go out immediately there.

The message was simple: The revolution starts now.