Wordcounts.

I really don’t use this blog as much as I intend to.

 

Anyway, just a note to self here, for accountability:

 

2014 Total Wordcount:  22,931

2015 Total Wordcount: 5681 (what THE HELL happened that year?)

2016 Total Wordcount: 23,024

2017 so far: 7,880.

 

It’s looking like a good year, creatively speaking.

Star Trek Beyond & Philosophy (Spoilers)

Every good Star Trek movie asks one or more philosophical questions.  These questions are the heart of what separates Star Trek with other franchises, and ultimately, the quality of the questions and the film’s engagement with them is what determines the legacy of the movie.  It’s why Wrath of Khan, which is about mortality, age,& no-win scenarios, is the best of the Trek movies, and Undiscovered Country, grappling again with age, entrenched attitudes, and the end of the Cold War, is likewise fertile ground.

This is the first of the new Trek movies to embrace philosophy.  The reboot had a little, but it was incoherent.  Into Darkness pretended to ask questions about the modern security state, but cared more for action sequences than answers – it didn’t meaningfully engage.  Star Trek Beyond, while it’s not Wrath of Khan or Undiscovered Country, has one question for every character who gets an arc – that is, Kirk, Spock, Jayla, & Krall.  Kirk’s question is “If I’ve lived up to my father’s dreams, who should I be now?” and that IF is a big one, making him uncertain throughout the first act.  Spock’s is “Is this the best course for my life and the good of my people?” which is really just Kirk’s question asked from the position of the superego, not the ego, as befits the Spock-Kirk partnership (and if the new movies have an ongoing structural weakness, it’s that they make Kirk too much the Id of the trio, leaving McCoy inadequately to pluck at Ego, and Spock too distant and disconnected because he has to counterbalance the other two all on his own)

Jayla’s question is the more urgent “Can I find a better home?” or perhaps “How can I get to a better home?” an aspirational question we all immediately relate to, which is part of why we like her so much.  I hope she sticks around next movie.  And Krall’s question is “Is growth in peace a betrayal of the suffering of war?” and what makes him a villain, you see, is that he is not asking himself that question, but insisting on an answer.  Every moment we spend during the climax of the third act seeing humanity in his eyes is us seeing his wary acknowledgment that he does not have the answer, and his tragedy, his loss, is that he is unable to let go of the answer and return to a state of uncertainty.  (I learned this stuff about the question and the answer, phrased a little differently, at 4th Street).

And what makes the movie gel is that all four of those questions hover around, at the center, one other question.  “Is the Federation the greater good we want it to be?”  For Kirk, Spock, and Jayla, the answer is yes, and the affirmation of purpose is what gives them the resolve they need to continue to work together, to be a crew, a family, a bundle of sticks that cannot be broken.  Krall believes the answer to be no, and his refusal to honestly engage with the question dooms him, as the symbolic unity represented by his swarm of ships, following his singular, violent vision proves less potent than the unity of spirit found and indeed created by Jayla, Scott, Kirk, & Spock (with a little help from their friends.  And the Beastie Boys.)

To the audience, of course, the question is not the purpose or good of the Federation, but we are given a question of our own to join with the whole.  “Is Star Trek the good we want in our lives?”  And to the extent that this movie was philosophically superior to the other two reboot films, readers, I say thee YES.

I would love it if you would engage with the philosophical questions discussed here in the comments below, and fulfill therefore the dreams of the franchise.

Much to Say, Nothing Left to Say It With.

I suffer from an anxiety disorder, and when that disorder is not in control, it spills over to dysthymia or depression.   This week, the headlines have me torn between grief and rage, with much bitter laughter in between.  My fingernails are firmly dug into the soil to keep despair at bay, and there is no energy left after that battle to select and polish the correct words to create blog posts or fiction worth reading.

I hope to be back next week.  I hope the world will allow me, and all of us, the surcease necessary to marshal our forces and take right action.

Blessings and empathy for you all, gentle readers.

The Bark of the Cynic & The Lamp of Diogenes!

Crossposted from my political blog, because it’s relevant to writing, too.

I was having a discussion last week, about how the privileged don’t get to decide what is or is not oppression.  I shared a meme on facebook, and it started one of the most thought-provoking arguments I’ve had.  Only, it wasn’t our discussion of the meme itself that provoked thought.

MEME

The reader (my friend Aly) and I simply could not agree on the literal definition of the word ‘decide’ as used in the meme, even after referring to the dictionary.  Now, Aly is someone who keeps me honest.  She fact-checks, she analyzes my writing for political bias, she is forever infuriating me in ways I find absolutely invaluable, because my every disagreement with her hones my rational and rhetorical faculties and my ability to stay on target in a discussion.  So the idea that we still couldn’t get together on what a word as straightforward as ‘decide’ meant really threw me for a loop.  It was wild and unforeseen, and I was having a really bad day, so my overwhelming impulse was to throw the conversational equivalent of a kidney punch at her and storm out, clothed in righteousness and mighty in victory.

Thankfully, I instead managed to step back, wait, and compose myself.  And I’m really grateful I did, because, well, my righteousness was one of those new imperial garments. Not much there.

Aly and I were literally not speaking the same language, pulled apart by lived experience, a force more powerful than anything Merriam & Webster have in their arsenal.  When we got into it again, acknowledging each other’s honest confusion and good will, exploring as a team the source of our trouble, we found that the phrase “you don’t get to decide” was one that had been weaponized against Aly, used to shut her out of conversations.  The definition was still the same, but the deployment was way different.  To me, decide still lives down the block from its dictionary cousins ‘resolve’ and ‘conclude.’  The power of decision is the power of authority – “you don’t get to decide” didn’t mean “shut up and sit down,” it meant “you’re not the boss of me.”  It meant, “you are not in control of this conversation.  You do not get to set the terms.”  It meant not, “the conversation is done,” but “the conversation is NOT done.”

So of course, when I hear “you don’t get to decide,” I cheer, hearing assertive defiance of unfair power.  And I do believe that’s what the meme meant.  But Aly heard “you are forbidden from speech,” and naturally, Aly’s just as tired of people shutting her up as I am of people shutting me up (maybe more).

We don’t get to decide what decide means.  The definition is written in the dictionary of our lives.  So let’s not shut each other up.  Let’s keep talking, keep listening, keep defying authority, keep surrendering our authority, because the discussion we have becomes more powerful for every argument that becomes, instead, two people together raising a lantern to look for the truth.

Raspberry Mine

My patron has graciously allowed me to share the commissioned poem I mentioned. Without further ado:

 

Raspberry Mine

A raspberry in a thicket danced a merry bobbing dance

I, with two fingers thus, plucked it quick, that I might have

The red pleasure upon my lips, the taste sweeter as it bruised

And rolled it upturned on my palm until its hollow welled with juice.

 

Sweet berry, soft jewel there among the prickly, tattered brakes

Not green to hide, but crimson bright, too honest far to fake

To camouflage and disaffect and pretend at being sour

Even though a green berry would much longer survive its flower

 

Raspberry mine, to my delight, you showed yourself to me

Your purpose sure to please my mouth, to draw me near to thee

Berry, I may crush you, break you, pull you slow apart

But every appetite you feed brings you closer to my heart.

Endless giggling.

Today I got paid six dollars and eighty-five cents (that is to say, five cents a word) to write a poem.  Part of a larger commission and a bigger paycheck, but special, because this poem was, as it happens, an erotic poem – one of those that you glance over on a page, find perfectly innocent, and begin to read out loud to a friend, and only when you hear it read out loud do you begin to slowly turn red and realize that yes, indeed, THAT is what you just said.

Or anyyway, that’s the idea.  Dirty double entendre has fascinated me in verse since my class read “Romeo and Juliet” aloud in class.  Everyone but me laughed at “bring me my long sword, ho!”  I was the only one who laughed at “the bawdy hand of the clock is on the prick of noon.”  My teacher, saying nothing while the rest of the class stared at me funny, gave me the most immensely grateful look I have ever seen on a human face.

Anyway, speaking of poetry, I don’t yet have permission to share my commission pieces, but I can share an old poem I wrote for my college poetry seminar.  I explained to them with a straight face that it was about the places inspiration comes from – like the Greek Muses.

Appeals To Mount Helicon

It rises imagined in my mind
Green slopes and never grey
Rich with mazy grasses and foothills orchard-laden
Blossoming with lilies and columbine in spring
Their scent, present in the air
So thick you even think to see the pollen dancing
Heady
Between the rustling trees and over cool waters
It is a place for prayer.

I meditate at a cleft between hills
Thinking of the taste of honeysuckle, gazing up
Wondering which Muse might be looking down
Favoring some pilgrim or another,
A supplicant after images and words
And of the spiralings of stars
The pink of blossoms and the floating petals
Underneath the dancers’ feet
An aspirant to art, and to mountain-climbing
The ascent-
To climb these cloud-drenched heights!

But I cannot, I think, climb alone
Even through the grass the sharp stones cut my hands
Portrait-perfect edges, knifelike ridges
Scaling this apotheosis of a mountain from a painter’s mind
A metaphor for effort
So I sit, face upraised, and braid the stems of flowers
Waiting for the valley to become high ground.

Reflections on Time Travel & 4th Street Notes.

So, Megan (my wife) is transcribing some of my notes from 4th Street this year.  I intend to blog about the panel notes, once they’re typed, but for now I’m dealing with my marginalia – all the little memorandums I wrote to myself so I could do something later.

There’s a theory about time travel that says if you meet yourself, Past You will be an idiot and Future You will be an asshole.  This is because your Future Self will be annoyed by all the mistakes Past Self made that cannot be corrected, causing Future Self to dwell on those errors, and likely be rude about them.

I can confirm half of this theory. I’ve never knowingly met Future Me, but Past Me is definitely an idiot.

NOTES

Paarfi asks the reader to wait while he explains

Calamancy Juice

Amy’s Pizza Rolls

Red Boat Fish Sauce

CL DOWNLOAD

RIHV reframe flashbacks

Fargo Cons – talk to libraries

Don’t sleep, there are snakes

 

The last note caused my wife to ask me just how much I had to drink that night, and if I was doing okay.  As it happens, it’s the name of a book.  Also as it happens, I remember all but one of the above notes.  Two brands of food to try, a writing note on my novel in revisions, a note about organizing local conventions, the name of a book… I have a theory that in first person narratives involving strong voice and reader confusion, the hook is often in the form of the narrator directly asking the audience forgiveness or permission, and that permission causes a stronger suspension of disbelief and deeper reader engagement – a sense of dialogue between narrator and reader, however illusory, that builds trust in the text.  Steven Brust read the first few pages of his new Paarfi history, and Paarfi asks permission or forgiveness three times in the opening pages – if not confirming my theory, at least implying that Paarfi believes in it (possibly Steve, too, as he did the same thing in the opening lines of Jhereg “There is a similarity, if I may be permitted an excursion into tenuous metaphor…”

I have no idea what CL is, except that I want to download it.  This was in all caps, underlined, and circled.  It is clearly the most important of my notes.  4th Street folks – can you help me out here?

My past self is an idiot.