An older version of this meme asked for a song lyric, or a life lesson, or some such good place to end. In lieu of both, here is something I have been listening to a lot just recently: from Lin-Manuel Miranda's first musical, In The Heights, "Alabanza".
An older version of this meme asked for a song lyric, or a life lesson, or some such good place to end. In lieu of both, here is something I have been listening to a lot just recently: from Lin-Manuel Miranda's first musical, In The Heights, "Alabanza".
-Clothes! Whatever you feel like saying about them.
Clothes! I love clothes and I think I pretty much always have. As a teenager, I was super-awkward and convinced I was hideous - and, in retrospect, fighting some kind of internal war against my own queerness - and it took me quite a long time to actually start dressing in ways that made me happy and suited me. Part of it's been growing up, and partly it's been the privilege of disposable income, of course. (Something that's nice: here in my late twenties, I've actually started seeing myself in the mirror. It's funny how that works. I never could see myself in my reflection, and now I can: the girl in the mirror with the hipster glasses is definitely the same person who lives inside. It's nice.)
So, anyway, things I like! I like dresses, usually short ones with tights and boots (in winter) or sandals (in summer). I really like natural fabrics; I love brushed cotton, real leather, and wool. I like everything cut femme - lace necklines; frock coats; A-line skirts - except sometimes I like really chunky, military-ish boots to go with them. I don't wear trousers, except for jeans. I wear a lot of red and black and deep colours in general; I'm brown and I dress accordingly, mostly. I have some wardrobe staples that I really love, like my winter coat, which is out of the cupboard again - it's a black frock coat with a copper lining (though the autumn-spring coat is a brightly coloured flower-print on black confection from Desigual, and I like it a lot too); and my handbag is this gorgeous brown soft leather satchel (from Rowallan, I think?) that holds a tablet, a book and all the rest of my crap, and cheers me up every time I pick it up.
And, you know, I do think clothes are important as armour. it's very easy to think you're a bad queer or a bad feminist for loving clothes, but that's such nonsense, I'm finding. I used to hate dressing for work when I was a trainee, because I hate "traditional" office clothes - I hate suits and and I hate synthetic fabrics and I hate the way women's shirts are always tailored for women who a) are significantly taller and b) have rather more up top than me - and rather cathartically gave all my old work outfits to Oxfam when I qualified. I now work somewhere with no real dress code and have enjoyed watching my clothes and aesthetic settle into something that makes me happy, and makes me feel like myself and like I can really take on my life and everything in it every day. That's worth having.
Also: what are your favorite character types and/or story tropes? I.e. tell me about sad robots and other things.
Aha, you know me well! I love sad robots (and I was very much in a sad robot place when frayadjacent visited) - because... well. I suppose, the character and story trope I love is the story of almost, but not quite. Characters who look like they ought to be part of their communities, but for one reason or another, are balanced on some sort of edge (see Commander Data; Breq from Ancillary Justice; Simon Illyan; Remus Lupin, oh my god) between belonging and not.
(Actually, I'm not sure if my love for this trope or Remus came first. Oh, Remus! I love him so, so much, and still.)
Other things! I love characters who act as human moral compasses (see: Daniel Jackson; Toby Ziegler; Spock, who is not human but whatever). I think off that list of characters I imprinted on it at an early age, but I love it like burning. Both the fact of it - all those characters have their counterparts, Jack and Bartlett and Kirk, who love them and trust them so much that they're willing to be guided like this - and the narrative weight of flipping the trope over. (Take Stargate SG-1, a show I adore but has no shortage of wacky plots and cheesy tropes and just general ridiculousness, that turns around and gives you an otherwise unremarkable episode, "Serpent's Song", in which Daniel tries to commit a murder and is stopped by Jack. It's completely devastating and it's because of this trope.)
Unsurprisingly, I also love friendship tropes and everything that comes with them, often more than I like romantic tropes. I love best-friends-since-childhood (Marauders!); I love friends in adversity; I especially love adversaries-becoming friends (Hawkeye Pierce and Margaret Houlihan are my favourite example of this! So perfect).
The thing that’s my number one thing, though: characters who have to do a thing, because, ultimately, there are no good choices left. The ones who fight to the bitter end; who die gracefully; who jump off the roof in each other’s arms (oh, Amy and Rory!). And relatedly, characters who sacrifice part of themselves, for something greater than themselves. Witness Benjamin Sisko, standing up at the end of "In The Pale Moonlight", telling the camera that if that's all it took - just that he lied; that he cheated; that all it took was the self-respect of one Starfleet officer, well: "I can live with it. I can live with it." And Tuvok, compromising his own (Vulcan!) ethics so Janeway, whom he loves, won't have to (“Someone had to spare you the ethical dilemma. I was the logical choice.") And Rupert Giles (“She’s a hero. She’s not like us.”) And Aral Vorkosigan ("You don't remember the first time.") There's also Leonard McCoy, who carries his friend's soul around in his head; Hawkeye again, who will not touch a gun ("Why are they bombing us? We're already bombed!"); and ( spoiler for Death At The Dionysus Club, which I know some of you are reading ) No good choices, and they still choose.
I just – moral courage is the thing that destroys me. What I want, actually, is to see this trope much much more in women. Leslie Knope is as good as an example as she can be, from a sitcom (e.g., that episode where she's on rollerskates filibustering to save the votes of the people who are out to destroy her!) and Hermione Granger putting a memory charm on her own parents comes to mind, but, urgh, needs more ladies.
(Actually, the very best example I can think of a lady fitting this trope - Code Name Verity. And now I'm sad.)
The Light Always Burning (6749 words) by Raven
Fandom: Nation - Terry Pratchett
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Daphne, Mau (Nation)
Additional Tags: Epistolary
We, the People: a thirty-year retrospective and an examination of the role of the Nation in world history, for Earth Atlantic, 7 December 2035, excerpt.
This story is – well, when it was still anonymous, it was recommended by a friend of mine with the note “the author of this has spray-painted her name on it in ten-feet sparkly letters”. I admit, it’s definitely a story heavily preoccupied with my preoccupations. It’s a story about first contact with aliens! It’s a story about history, and brown people. There is a romance in it, but it's quite subdued; it happens in and around two people busily having the most invigorating professional slanging match of their careers.
It’s one of my favourites because – well, I am afraid, a little, of becoming samey or typecast. But if this is sometimes the only story I write, then I want to write it as well as I can.
when you lay me down you'll bury only bones (6724 words) by Raven
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Carlos/Cecil (Welcome to Night Vale)
Characters: Carlos (Welcome to Night Vale), Cecil (Welcome to Night Vale), Dana (Welcome to Night Vale), Vithya (Welcome to Night Vale)
Additional Tags: Race Bechdel, Navajo Cecil, Canon Character of Color, Federal government shutdown, is probably never going to be a canonical tag
Dana's back. Intern Vithya is new. Cecil and Carlos are just the same, but different. Today, Night Vale is the safest place on earth.
This story is one that I come back to rather a lot; I wrote it last year in conjunction with a discussion I had with thingswithwings on the subject - it's about race, and queerness, and Night Vale. It’s a story that was hard to write, because unlike many of my stories, it is not hopeful: but then, it is about the one subject on which I am not hopeful. I'm proud of having written it, and unhappy it’s a story that has to be written.
the winter here is cold, and bitter (17185 words) by Raven
Fandom: Vorkosigan Saga - Lois McMaster Bujold
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Simon Illyan & Aral Vorkosigan, Aral Vorkosigan/Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan
Characters: Simon Illyan, Aral Vorkosigan, Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, Alys Vorpatril, Gregor Vorbarra
Additional Tags: Spies & Secret Agents, Espionage, Winter
Simon Illyan is loyal, loved and a perfect spy. One of these things is a lie.
I am super-proud of this one because when I wrote it, I had no idea I could write a story like this: one that’s full of relationship stuff, one that works out the lines of a friendship/romance/exercise in misplaced feudalism (between Aral Vorkosigan and Simon Illyan, hi, yes, all my kinks), but is also an unrepentant espionage caper. There are plots and plotters and sub-plots and fake-outs and meetings in dark alleys galore! It began life as a remix of philomytha's story, Aptitude, which definitely is a caper - and is a much happier, cheerier, more delightful story to boot! - but I think that fact is what give me a push to write something completely unlike myself. I'm working on getting better at plot, these days - I'd like to write something better and even longer and twistier than this one, but in the meantime, here it is, and I'm still pleased with it.
Still happy to take prompts, by the way!
I have a lot of favourite books! But limiting the list to ones I actually do re-read regularly made narrowing it down easier. Here they are, and I've probably forgotten a half-dozen:
A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
I’ve written at length about this elsewhere, but in brief: it’s Seth’s monster 1400-page novel that’s sort of about Lata Mehra, and her mother’s struggle to find her a suitable boy for a husband, and sort of about the 1950 general election, India’s first, and about India: India the unreachable idea, the enormous concept, so shown to us through the lens of fifty or sixty Indian people leading their lives. It is engaging and funny and warm and vast and infinitely human and humane; I re-read it every few years and I adore it.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
I’ve written about this one elsewhere as well! It’s 1806, England is in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, and bit by bit, magic is returning to England. It's a novel about magic and wartime and the way white, and male, power works; it's also silly and funny and happy and delightful and replete with worldbuilding and footnotes. And it's also about England: about places, and placeness. There's a line in it I come back to and come back to: The land is all too shallow / It is painted on the sky. The book is more than a thousand pages but I have read it thrice in three years. I love it very much.
Kalpa Imperial, Angelica Gorodischer (trans. Ursula Le Guin)
I love this book so, so much I kind of want to learn Spanish just to read it in the original (this, and Borges). But given I don’t speak Spanish, the Le Guin translation is a blessing. This is a a collection of short stories that are connected, in that together they form a history of an empire that never existed – and they are beautiful, interesting, witty and grounded, and they speak to me on a very basic level. It's hard to say what they're about, but mostly, about history: about education, about humanity, about kindness and the way on. hathy_col gave me a Christmas present – I mean Christmas this year, because she's the most organised person I know – of Lord Dunsany’s collected stories, and the resemblance is quite noticeable, actually; Dunsany also writes like this, with a clear-eyed sparse style that nevertheless suggests the great history of empires.
This is Kalpa Imperial:
( The storyteller said: )
Isn't that perfect? That's how it starts. I guess what it is, is this: I have never liked fairy tales, and they are not fairy tales. They’re not stories about the private sphere – not about evil stepmothers or princesses spinning or even subversions of that – but about the public sphere, about great cities and governments and republics and wars, but with the humanity of the small and the precious. I’ve read them many, many times and I’ve never got sick of them. And although I’m reading Dunsany mostly for the first time right now, I think his stories are going to be like Kalpa Imperial, that I come back to and come back to.
(Actually, let's give Dunsany a minute, even though he's not quite in the spirit of the question being asked. He writes exactly the sort of myffic fantasy I can't stand, except in his hands the great beauty is in the details: he tells you, for example, of swords and sorcery and great quests and battles, along the banks of the River Yann in the Land of Dreams; and he also tells you that among the river sailors, it's the custom to pray one at a time, so the gods don't get confused. All this, and shatteringly crystalline prose. (e.g., "It is vey difficult to draw away from the face of God—it is like a warm fire, it is like dear sleep, it is like a great anthem, yet there is a stillness all about it, a stillness full of lights.” (!!)) He seems to have been this huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ type, living in mildly aristocratic Anglo-Irish splendour in the early twentieth century; he’s the last person in the world you would have expected to write like this. I suppose we all do contain multitudes. I talk too much.)
Voices, Ursula K. Le Guin
This is one of Le Guin’s later books, nominally YA and kind of overlooked generally, I think – the series is the Annals of the Western Shore, and there are two others, Powers and Gifts, but they each stand alone – and it’s… well. It’s the story of Ansul, which was a university city full of libraries and books. When it was invaded and taken over, the books were destroyed as sinful, and the city’s Waylord – its elected leader – kidnapped and tortured. All of this happens before the story begins. It’s actually the story of a girl called Memer, born during the siege, who is taught by the Waylord in secret to read. And that’s it, in a way – it’s a coming-of-age story set against a revolution, but it’s also small, and human and meaningful. That’s why I love Le Guin (and why I think she was such a good choice to translate Kalpa Imperial): because she writes things like this:
( housekeeping and cooking )
Reading over this, I’m noticing that word “human” a lot. I don’t really do epics or grimdarkness or sword and sorcery or middle-class alienation or anything like that. I think I return to books that are about people, doing what they can, doing small things that matter, in worlds that are politically and fantastically complex. So, like real life, in fact.
Now, last year I wrote quite a bit about languages in the abstract, which ones I speak and learn, and what they all mean to me, so this year, my friends, we shall address the technicalities. We shall address GRAMMAR. (I love grammar. Okay, maybe not when actually learning it in the trenches? But I love the idea of grammar – how it encodes meaning, particularly, and what it presupposes as necessary for meaning. I am a giant language nerd news at eleven.)
For no particular reason other than the fact I’m proud I finally got it straight, let’s deal with the past perfect tense in Hindi. This is a tense used about as commonly as the equivalent English tense, and it’s always translated straightforwardly into the English past perfect – “I ran”, “They fell”, “We listened patiently to Iona explain Hindi grammar to us for no particular reason”, etc.
Okay! So taken first of all, it’s quite simple. “To be” is very irregular, of course; Hindi doesn’t have “to have”; but “to go”, while irregular, does follow the usual pattern in the past tense. So!
I went – मेँ गयी, mein gayin. (I say this, because I identify as female; if I identified as male it would be मेँ गया, mein gaya.) I believe, but do not know for sure, that non-binary people often use the plural first person)
You went (formal, plural) – आप गए, aap gaye.
He, she, it went – वह गयी or गए, woh gayin or gaya.
We went – हम गए, hum gaye.
…etc. There are only three forms for each verb – fem singular, masc singular, and plural.
However, this is the hard part. The verb “to go” is intransitive. I tend to understand this with the thought that I can just go (or sleep, or take a shower, or fall, or laugh, or dance), without involving any other object or person. But करना (kurna - to do_, खरीदना (karidhna - to buy) पढ़ना (parna - to read) – require you to do, buy, read, things. They’re transitive.
You say, therefore: मैं ने किताब पढ़ी, mai ne kitab parhi. पढ़ी, parhi, is taking the feminine singular form, but not because of me, because of the book. “किताब" (kitab) is a feminine noun, in the singular. If I read lots of books today, I would say: मैं ने किताबे पढ़ीं, mai ne kitabe parhiin, again taking the verb form from the object, not from me. ("ने" doesn’t mean anything: it’s just something you throw in to show this is a transitive verb.)
Similarly, if it were you (lots of you) who read a book today – let’s assume you all loved it and passed it around like a relay baton - it would be, आप ने किताब पढ़ी, ap ne kitab parhi. If you all read a book each, so books should be in the plural, आप ने किताबे पढ़ीं, ap ne kitabe parhin.
If you all read today, but I don’t know what you read – maybe you read a book, किताब, kitab, but maybe you read a magazine, or maybe you read fanfic, or maybe you walked up and down the street reading roadsigns – then it’s आप ने पढ़ा, ap ne parha. “पढ़ा” there takes the masculine form as the default, because it ought to agree with something but we actually don’t know what.
(Interestingly, that’s idiomatic. आप ने पढ़ा, without anything specified, usually means not that you read, but that you studied. I’ve always wondered if this is why you read for your degree at Oxford and Cambridge, rather than study for it. पढ़ना means to read and लेखन means to write – someone who is पढ़ा-लिखा, which is an adjective, is literate in both senses of the English word. It can mean someone who can read and write, or someone who is well-educated and learned.)
There are some verbs – not many! – which have irregular participles. There’s “to be” and “to go” and “to do”, of course. There’s a handful of others which have irregular participles because the regular ones would be very difficult to pronounce. (शराब, alcohol, is feminine, and पीने, pina, is to drink. But it isn’t, मैं ने शराब पीयीं, main ne sharaabi piyin – it’s plain old, मैं ने शराब पी, mai ne sharaabi pi, so you can actually say it.) And there are three more verbs, मिलना (milna, to meet), लेना (lena, to bring) and भूलना (bhulna, to forget) which should be transitive but aren’t, so instead of मैं ने कुछ भुला, main ne kuch bhula, it’s मैं कुछ भूली, mai kuch buli – I forgot something, and I am female so भूलना (bhulna) agrees with me rather than the something I forgot. Otherwise, that's it - and surprisingly regular and logical it is, too.
I suspect this was possibly not utterly scintillating for people who don't like grammar? But there we go.
Ten years ahead!
Here's the scary part - ten years ago, I was at about the beginning of my writing life. I was seventeen, and I'd been writing since I was twelve, so perhaps not the very beginning, but I wrote a story around that time - Walking Barefoot to Palestine - which apart from making me some friends who have stayed with me for years (hi, Sal!), has the dubious honour of being one of the first stories I ever wrote that I can still bear to look at. I've always thought that year marked a turning point: the year my writing became less about ALL MY FEELINGS and more about a craft I worked at, though one with enough feelings to keep me going for another decade and half-million words. I have no formal training as a writer beyond, er, A-level English and Legal Draftswomanship 101, but that ten years has been an education: I've written and edited and been edited and practised and played and tried things and written a few things I'm proud of and a few that were terrible but enormous fun and generally had the time of my life.
I've also written a novel and published some short stories, but - I did both of those this year. At the beginning of 2014, I resolved to get some original publication credits, and I did that, and finally finished the novel last month to boot, though it's out being looked at right now - so here's what I hope for ten years' time. To be able to look back at me-at-twenty-seven as I do now at me-at-seventeen, and say: that was a great time in my life, a time of transformation. Not quite so much transformation, perhaps - I think there's probably more change in a life, writing or otherwise, between seventeen and twenty-seven than there is at other times - but certainly change, and trying and learning new things. And one thing I have very recently started doing is thinking of myself as a writer. Not just a fanfic writer or just as someone who has a hobby to fit around my day job or just, anything - but a writer, someone who writes, a lot, every day. I look forward to meeting the version of myself who's been sustained by that thought for such a length of time.
We shall see.
Possible things: fandom, life, law, legal taxidermy, infrastructure, clothes, bodies, heartbreak Americana, music generally, writing, vidding, creating art generally, languages, TV, books, places, people, things! (I think that about covers my interests.) If it's something I don't know much about or would rather not talk about, I'll say, but feel free with whatever.
Anyway, so, I have just been alerted to the existence of Deep Dish Nine, a fluffy all-human Deep Space Nine AU where Sisko & co run a pizzeria. It is just as adorable as it sounds. And, totally delightfully, there is also Chez Entreprise, which the TNG crew run down the street, and over the road, the coffee shop run by Janeway and Seven called (what else?) Nebula Coffee.
So I wrote this piece of total fluff.
The Flaw In The Plan (571 words) by Raven
Fandom: Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: The Next Generation
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Kathryn Janeway/Seven of Nine, Data/Geordi La Forge
Characters: Kathryn Janeway, Seven of Nine, Data, Geordi La Forge
Additional Tags: Deep Dish Nine, Alternate Universe, Fluff
"Huh. Next you're gonna tell me Swedish Fish aren't made of fish."
I am also writing another, longer, more serious story about Janeway and Seven, which is super fun, and contemplating whether anyone would read fic for The Oversight. (Probably not, is the answer to that.)
And finally! So there's a meme going round where you post your ten most important, most indentity-constitutive films, and I - well, I just. I am so bad at films, I don't have the attention span for them. So I had dinner with happydork quite recently and we spent a couple of hours playing the same game, for TV episodes. And here is my list, for completion, with a line of dialogue from each because I thought it would be fun:
"Sometimes You Hear The Bullet", M*A*S*H ("Rule number one: young men die.")
"The Measure of a Man", Star Trek: TNG ("Consider that in the history of many worlds, there have always been disposable people.")
"In The Cards", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ("It's not my fault that your species decided to abandon currency-based economics in favour of some philosophy of self-enhancement.")
"The Fifth Race", Stargate SG-1 ("Right now I'm possibly his only hope for communicating on any kind of serious level. I can't leave him like this, and I won't.")
"Are You Being Served", Frasier ("My reasoning? My reasoning was based on my mother's obsession with VERMIN!")
"Win, Lose, or Draw", Parks and Recreation ("I never wrote it.")
"Mary Pat Shelby", Sports Night ("How much do you love me?")
"Take This Sabbath Day", The West Wing ("Shalom, Toby.")
"The Body", Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("I don't understand how this all happens!")
..and season 1 of Slings and Arrows. ("Why did you fuck me over?")
(Shh, I know that's not a single episode, but happydork's chosen episode of The Wire was... The Wire.)
That's my list! I should go to bed.
gamesiplay asked: You have a tag called "FIAWOL"; it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what that was an acronym for. What does fandom as A Way Of Life mean to you?
So "fandom is a way of life" is certainly a set phrase that's older than I am, and I don't suppose I use it in the same way as those who coined it did, or possibly many other people, but, anyway, here goes.
There’s a quotation sourced to Lev Grossman that does the rounds periodically about how what fandom is, basically, is, punk. Here it is:
( really aggressive towards the source text )
That's exactly it, to my mind. I guess, what I mean by fandom as a way of life is that fandom is important to me in the abstract sense as well as the day-to-day specifics. I think fandom is, both in substance and function, transformative. I’ve written before about how I believe that it was fandom, in conjunction with other things that mostly were also brought into my life by fandom, that transformed me from a shy and awkward thirteen-year-old to a shy and awkward, but settled-in-herself, adult. Fandom gave me community and the confidence to take my place in that community, and a cheerful cognisance that my community was really a global community: that I belonged to something greater than myself. But in some sense that transformation is over – I’m grown up now! Twenty-seven next month! What even happened? – and now I’m sort of getting ready to push off into that long haul of adulthood and I suppose, yes, it is the time to think about what fandom is to me now.
I guess, to be in fandom for me, regardless of whether I’m currently writing a 20,000-word epic story about Parks & Rec and alien invasions, or not; or whether I’m super-excited about a TV show about spaceships, or not; or if I went to four cons this year or none or wanted to but couldn’t afford to or saw fangirls last weekend or haven’t in months; regardless of any of those things: fandom is to make a choice, every day, to be part of a transformative world. To think, I can tell that story better, or differently, or just, with more cock jokes. To make people in power angry. To be such a threatening force in the world that we must needs take our place in the grand litany of women’s writing and art, and the writing and art of other subaltern groups, and be trivialised, demeaned and category-errored out of existence. Fandom is what teenage girls do (because, of course, to be young and a woman at the same time is the worst crime society can conceive of). Fandom is derivative and unoriginal (which is bad, unless it’s Margaret Attwood or Shakespeare doing it, in which case it’s innovative and literary). Fandom is theft (because to create a means of production of culture for no material gain is worryingly anti-capitalist). Fandom is nothing but badly-written porn (because mainstream porn is, of course, so suffused in quality, and young girls and women mustn’t be allowed to think for a moment that they can claim ownership of their own sexuality). I’m over all of that bullshit and people who peddle it. Those people are scared of fandom and they ought to be. Fandom teaches, you can retell the story your way. Consider how powerful an idea that is. Today it'll be the stories we tell ourselves about spaceships. Tomorrow, it'll be the stories we tell ourselves about justice. The day after it will be both of those at once.
(Relatedly, I loathe this pseudo-cute fannish thing right now of white fans saying things like, “Fandom loves [pretty white boys]”, or “I love [X], but of course fandom doesn’t, fandom only likes [Y] [because he's a cute boy] etc”. I am fandom. I have been fandom every day for thirteen years. It’s super-precious that you want to erase me for the sake of making a rhetorical point, except, actually, it’s not.)
And as well as that, fandom is love. Fandom is, well, fandom is how to be open to that – to look at the world and think, wow, there’s so much there to be excited about. Some people kissed on TV and it was awesome and it made me so happy and I want to go tell all my friends about it! Some other people successfully hit a small round object through a standing structure in front of thousands of spectators (and it was awesome and it made me so happy and I want to go tell all my friends about it!) There was a movie about giant robots! There was a book about spaceships for great justice! There was a story retelling another story that was itself a retelling of a story written 5,000 years ago by human beings just like us! (And it was awesome! And it made me so happy! And… you get it.)
So I guess the rumours are true and that fandom does skew young - in mind, I suppose, rather than body; because it demands of you the capacity to remain angry, to remain punk, to reject cynicism, to love them all and their faces so damn much. I think, at this stage of slightly unwilling adulthood, that's okay.
I feel like there's a version of my life written by Jhumpa Lahiri, with an intense and cinematic visual style, all bleak anomic cityscapes and wide open spaces, trying to pull out themes of shape and sharp space and alienation from the tiny details of quotidan life.
I mean. Like. If I had no friends, and no one loved me. And if I were three times as pretty and better at applying eyeliner and at least seven inches taller.
...yeah. My life is a sitcom with the same visual style as Parks and Recreation. (I'm actually amazed I can't think of a sitcom set in the office of a general commercial and property litigator, with plots-of-the-week centering on whoever marches in and starts throwing things that day. I mean. In my two years training in practice, I dealt with people arguing over pigs, people claiming other people had stolen their fishing boats, people bringing actions in the name of dead people, people burning their own houses down for the insurance money, people threatening to come into my office and kill me, and the court usher urinating, while in court, into a jug, inter many alia) I would like to be played by Archie Panjabi, please. (She is both prettier, and taller, than me - although the resemblance is occasionally marked.) You'd need someone cute and Scottish to play Shim. There would be litigation plots, and brown-people-are-hilarious plots, and get-married-yay-have-all-the-weddings plots, and what with boundary disputes, first registrations, culture clashes and a multiracial happy marriage, I guess the theme of the thing would be, you can't go home again, except sometimes, when you can. I'd call it, mmm, Locus Standi, and the upbeat sitcom theme tune would go a little like this.
Well, this one is personal (and I'm honestly so touched by your sensitivity in picking that up - it's not immediately obvious as a personal question!), but I am trying to talk - and let myself think - about it more, so here we go.
Languages! Okay. I am good with, and love languages. (I have to remind myself of this a lot, for reasons which will become clear in a moment.) Not in the sense that I'm a super-effective communicator or whatever as the job apps would have it; I mean languages in themselves, their grammars and structures and interesting twiddly bits. (I write stories and I draft things for a living. I figure all of this goes together.)
So the first language I ever spoke was Hindi, and Hindi more than any other is the language of home - both for me, and for everyone; if any one language could be, Hindi would be India's national language, and that makes sense in a way because Hindi is an acquisitive workhorse of a language, anecdotal and crude and beautiful and weird. Hindi speakers, more than any other, drift into English and Urdu and all the other languages of India when they talk; there is this push towards Sanskritisation in India, using new coinages and back-formations, trying to make a purer tongue of it, but I don't think it's terribly successful. For me, Hindi is the language of making tea, getting the milk in, can you chop a couple of onions, and stay tuned, we'll be back after this.
There's more to it, of course. But I lost it. I had it, and I lost it. If I could have any wish granted, it would be to go back in time, to my parents who were so scared - justifiably scared! - that I would never fit in, and we would never go home. I lost Hindi as my language of choice by the time I was six; by the time I was sixteen, it had gone almost entirely; now, I'm twenty-six, and it's back, in moods and lights, and I work at it and I get by, but sometimes there's no there there, like, just, some awful howling loss where an identity-constitutive grammar should live. (This is what I mean when I talk about the decolonisation of the mind - how to rid yourself, both of internalised colonialism, and also guilt: that because you were on the wrong side of a system that didn't want you, it's not you that's made wrong. I dumped a Hindi teacher I had once for not understanding this.) What comforts me at this stage is that it is there, somewhere. I was in India for six days in October and by the sixth day I was reaching for it without thinking; my grandfather once said, live with me for six months and I know you'd be reading me the newspaper. Which was kind, and maybe even true. I hope it was, and is.
(I can read Devanagari script, something of which I am inordinately proud. I read at the grade school level, slowly, sounding everything out, and I annoy everyone by stopping in the middle of the street to do this. Mostly, people observing this come to the conclusion that I have a learning disability.)
I also speak French. Kind of. I had no choice about French - I had a polyglot primary school teacher who loved teaching it, and it's the one I kept on with through secondary school - and although I wish very much that I had more of it, and had kept up with what I had, I think I'm actually at the stage with French where the only thing that will convert me to easy fluency is moving to France for six months and getting unstuck trying to order soup. As a language, I never used to like it very much, but I'm coming around to it now as I get the feel of it as well as just learning it - I like its softness and its elegance of expression. On ne puisse pas rentrer. Yes. Since I left school I've had friends who spoke French from francophone Africa, and oddly, that helped: I thought it was beautiful and grounding to hear it from non-white people.
The only other language I speak anything worth mentioning of is Gaelic, and Gaelic is wonderful - it's so beautiful and fascinating and replete with a kind of musicality, I adore it, and given all my capital-I Issues detailed above, it's a gift. Why learn to speak Gaelic? Not because it's my mother tongue. Not because it would be particularly useful for anything. Not because I'm likely to meet another speaker I didn't already know about! But just because it's a beautiful language, and I love it and I'm pleased to be a statistically significant addition to its body of speakers.
There are some others: I can understand some conversational Bengali because my mother's family are all Bengali, and I have two years of Spanish I can't remember, and have been taught Welsh, though I couldn't say a single meaningful thing about it at this remove of time. Oh, and I have four years of Latin - which I remember the shape of, rather than the substance; I absolutely love Latin grammar and how regular and interesting it is, amo amas amat amamus, etc; and in conjunction with that I was taught some Greek (I'm English-public-school-educated, shut up) - and my father taught me the very beginnings of Sanskrit grammar. He loves Urdu poetry and has tried teaching me the basics of that, to no avail; I believe if my father's father had lived longer, he would have had more success teaching me. Something else that comforts me: my grandfather had never had Hindi, either. He learned it in his thirties and was deeply distrustful of it all his life.
(Oh, English! I forgot about English. Despite everything, I love English: though it isn't home, and has never been designed to be a language for living in, it has been a good place all these years. I love writing in English, I love its wacky spelling and ridiculous plethora of synonyms for everything and shameless biffing up of other languages for vocabulary and cheerful lack of grammatical gender. English is just, it's wonderful and ridiculous and amazing. Did I mention I love languages? Because I really, really do.)
(The job. The job is... wow. Wow, the job.)
A short meme question today, because I am so tired. thingswithwings and such_heights both asked me about vidding: how it differs from writing, for me, and about those times when it's not a terrible awful no-good hobby!
Okay, so. Shim said something nice about my writing the other day, which was this: it's laconic. Like, it can be fancy, but mostly it's not: it sounds like someone leaning against a door and saying, well, like, some stuff happened. Which I think is great, and also congruent with how it feels from the inside: mostly, it comes easy. (Well, it doesn't, writing is hard.) But mostly I think I know what I'm doing. I mean, if you asked me, right now, to write about that time X and Y did Thing A and then B happened, I could probably do it straight into the comment box, and it wouldn't be great literature, but it probably would be competent.
Vidding... is not like that. Obviously part of that is just the nature of the form - you rip, you clip, you realise that wonderful scene in your head is, well, in your head, you stick it together, the rhythm is wrong, the light is bad, everything is awful, it's the worst hobby ever - and part of it is my inexperience. I'm only on vid number four so far and it's all about the process, very much so - I'm still refining my workflow and eavesdropping when other vidders talk about how they do it and figuring out what all the damn buttons do in Final Cut. I am definitely capable of vidding major disaster, I mean, there is no basic competence level here.
The thing is, that makes it sound as though one day I will be a grown-up vidder who can turn out beautiful vids on demand, which is not at all true. I have no visual artistic ability. As long as I've known myself, that's been true - I can picture beautiful things in my head but I can't show them to you. Sadly, my small forays into manipulating vid footage for artistic rather than practical purposes have confirmed this. I can a flip a clip because it looks better mirror-imaged. I'll never be the sort of person who can create, I don't know, comic book panels or amazing manips. But that's okay! I can do stories. And I love music. For me, that's more than enough. And vidding is a great hobby - an awesome hobby, the best of hobbies - when you stick clips on a timeline and work on getting the rhythm right if nothing else, and render and then press play and you've sort of been doing it mindlessly and you don't know what it's gonna look like - and it looks, well, like music ought to look like. It's great. I feel like my vids are not - fandom-typical? I don't know, maybe I just haven't watched enough of other people's vids. But, anyway, that tiny chance I've got, possibly for the first time ever, into really being able to show, not tell - yes! Worth all that wailing about aspect ratio.
(I'm exhausted. It was nothing like what I was used to. I have a three-stage epic commute in either direction, I was so tired I just slipped down the wall at KX and hid behind a newspaper rack while waiting for the train (having missed the 5.45 - I touched it, dammit). But - they were kind. They wanted me there. They made me pick my menu choices for the Christmas party. And the work can be done by hand, on paper, on the floor, everything bright and clear and perfect. More on this when I am not half-dead.)
thingswithwings asked me many interesting things, and I might just answer all of them at some point, but today, all i can do is feelings, so: Leslie Knope feelings! Or any other ParksnRec feelings really.
Leslie Knope. Leslie Knope is just, she is my hero. I haven't ever sat down and made this post before because, ah, well, I'm supposed to be writing something for The F-Word on the same topic (shhhhh), and writing that has been a problem, because it degenerates into flkgldkfgldxfg so quickly. LESLIE KNOPE. Please excuse everything that comes next for its basic total incoherency.
Okay. Leslie Knope. Here is why I love Leslie Knope. Leslie is a committed feminist, socialist and public servant. She's ambitious, she's civic-minded, she works harder than any ten people you know. (I love the sequence of episodes where for whatever reason, she can't work, and Ron, April, Andy, Mark and Tom are all required, all at once, to do her job.) She's loving, she's dedicated to her friendships and her relationships in the same way that she's dedicated to her job, and Leslie is, straight-up, brave as all hell. She'll do a filibuster on rollerskates, dying of thirst, dying for the bathroom, making an idiot of herself and missing her partner's birthday party, to keep the vote for a bunch of citizens who are out to destroy her, because enfranchisement is more important than any of those things.
She's also totally ridiculous. She falls over a lot. She fills people's offices with balloons, she has a devoted crush on Joe Biden, and she eats more waffles than anyone else in Pawnee and possibly the world. And sometimes, she isn't cute: she's involved with not one, but two government bribery incidents; she uses Ann to get at Ben and Chris; she tries to destroy April's political ambitions; she can be, as Ann puts it, a human steamroller. But - she's Leslie Knope. She apologises, she calls a hearing, she serves out a suspension, she apologises some more, she gets up and tries again. It's like women can have terrible first dates, failed work projects, bizarre food cravings, be nasty to their friends and then redeem themselves with grace, and then get up and make truly beautiful, powerful, moving speeches in front of hundreds of people, all in the same week, because it's almost as though women are human, my god.
Other things about Parks and Recreation that I love beyond the telling:
-April. I adore April. I love that in the show, she is so weird and awkward and malevolent and basically every apathetic-goth teenage stereotype - and yet. And yet, April has character development and a clear emotional arc. April learns to love Andy and she learns to respect Leslie (and don't even get me started on how Leslie looks after April: Leslie mentors a younger woman in her field because for Leslie, that's the only right thing to do) and she's respectful of (and kind to!) Ron and she and Ben are constantly at war but when she goes too far she apologises to him by threatening his interns, oh my god, and it's amazing. (I would so so happily watch the Ben-and-April-take-on-the-world show.) And what I love about that incident is that it's part of April's whole thing where she's learning that yeah, Leslie can be a role model for her but there are all sorts of forms of power: she can be April and be awesome. I adore her. (In "Both Hands", I had a lot of fun writing her taking responsibility for Ben - not that she'll ever admit she's doing it because she likes him even a little, but because Ben is running a rebel alliance but he's doing it wrong, urgh, Ben, shut up.)
-Ben Wyatt, congratulations on your face. (I relate to Ben - adorable socially-awkward slash-fic-writing Ben - faaaar more than I ought.) And that whole bit where Ben is crying over Leslie through a Batman mask, omg. Firstly it's absurd and it's hilarious and it's kind of heartbreaking too; I sort of feel like there's something there about kink and anonymity and vulnerability, and fannishness, too, which I can't unpack right now but just want to admire, from a distance, as a beautiful thing; secondly there's something kind of beautiful about how kind Donna and Tom are to Ben crying through a Batman mask, and also just idfjgdfkjgldkg. I mean. Parks and Rec is so, so often just about people being kind to one another, and I am just fine with that.
-Oh, and. And. April, Tom, Donna and Ann. All brown people. I mean. I never knew how happy that could make me on television until I saw it.
-Also, Ben and Leslie. Urgh. Okay. I adore them, they are adorable together, I ship them a LOT. Which is weird? Because, okay, remember Buffy and Angel and Janeway and Chakotay and Ross and Rachel and all the other TV couples I didn't give a damn about? Yeah. Even Niles and Daphne out of Frasier - that was the build-up, more than anything, it wasn't so much about the substance of it.
But Ben and Leslie - urrgh. They are the closest thing I've ever seen to my own marriage on television, seriously, though - and quite apart from the fact I am also married to a calzone-fixated trivia nerd - because... okay, you know how het romance on television is so often so deadly dull? And I feel that that's because TV likes patriarchy. It thinks it's super. Take a woman, and a man, and slip them into the groove of every heteronormative narrative ever. Boy meets girl. Flowers. Candy. Something. (And it's meant to be aspirational? One day, you too can grow up to have a relationship just like this! Blergh.) And Leslie and Ben eat a lot of waffles, and have stupid jokes and secret handshakes, and giggle and have sex in government buildings and do Eleanor Roosevelt roleplay and giggle some more, and they're adorable and quietly super-kinky, it's ridiculous and it's believably the real thing, the kind of love that sustains over a lifetime, and it's also ice-cream and Game of Thrones and domesticity. And - this is adulthood. Leslie runs for City Council and Ben runs a congressional campaign. Sometimes ambition and vocation are greater than love, sometimes sacrifice is necessary, sometimes long-distance sucks. I have this weird feeling that their lovely, cracky, kinky, silly relationship is more grown-up, and more about what matters, than TV ever seems to give me.
(Oh and. The episodes where Ben and Leslie are doing the long-distance thing and, it's okay but it's also really not, and I... well. Back in 2010, I remember I was doing pretty badly; just before I left the UK, I sat down and wrote here one night: "All I am not doing is sitting down and explaining, this is what is more important than you."
And of course I went home after a year, and in the end Shim and I got married, and everything turned out fine, because what was more important to me than my partner was more important for a reason, and sometimes you make those sorts of horrible decisions, but I didn't know any of that back then and I wish this show had been made then. I really do. One of my favourite memories of that whole time is when Shim came to visit and Tobermory asked, casually, "What are you guys going to do this weekend?"
The Siren gave her this withering glare and said, "She hasn't seen him in four months, what do you think they're doing this weekend" - and, to me - "honey, try not to do it in your carrel.")
-I feel like I've got distracted. Er, Parks and Recreation. Er, municipal land use and planning! I love that I love land use and planning and so does Leslie! I love they've got these running plots about what to do with Lot 48 and zoning errors and city budgets. Because, you know what? Those things matter. Parks and Recreation isn't The West Wing, but it makes those things matter. And it makes me chew over all the basic notions of political science in my head - all that first-year institutional politics stuff, but also the define-your-terms stuff which is basic but also not basic at all, things like, what is a government? If it's how you organise resources and a collective rule of recognition for, like, twelve people, is it still a government? Can there be ideologically-neutral government even at that level? Should we privatise pothole repair? Should we do so because our form of government is constitutive of our metaethics? When Ron yells at Leslie, that's what he's yelling about! I love that. I love this show. (Again, I had a lot of fun dealing with that for "Both Hands", but what I want to know is why this 22-minute sitcom has more to say on this topic than, you know. Serious political drama.)
Wow that was a lot of feelings. Okay! Clear eyes, full hearts, on to day two!
In the meantime, here are two things I was asked to talk about!
highfantastical asked: I would LOVE you to talk about Geoffrey and Ellen! Have your thoughts/sympathies changed with time?
Geoffrey Tennant and Ellen Fanshaw are two of the main characters of the Canadian show Slings & Arrows, which is wonderful and is one of my favourite television shows of all time. It's about Shakespeare! And small town theatre! And true love! it's beautiful. Anyway, here they are, with Oliver, the third member of their triumvirate:
Their relationship is - oh, it's terrible. It's all crying and screaming and yelling. They are both actors, they both have an operatic tendency towards melodrama, their relationship is terrible for both of their mental health but particularly Geoffrey's - in the clip above, Geoffrey is literally one day away from the psychotic break that's going to destroy his career - and when everything finally falls apart it's probably for the best.
But, here's the thing, and this is a trope I love: they're miserable without each other. Calmer, but miserable. Seven years go by and Geoffrey makes a full recovery; Ellen keeps on acting, worries about being asked to play the nurse rather than Juliet, and they're miserable. When they come back together, it takes time - it takes time, and therapy, and lots more yelling, and ridiculous fights about skulls and impotence and After Eight mints! - but oh, goodness, when they make it, they're beautiful together, they set everything alight. I love them. (And, I mean, it helps that Slings & Arrows is wonderfully written, but it also helps that Paul Gross and Martha Burns are actually married. To say they have chemistry is a lovely understatement.)
At this remove of time I worry about Oliver - I think there's some queer erasure going on there, both for him and for Geoffrey, which bothers me a lot in a show I love so much - and I say this a lot, I'm all for queering the text, I think that's a thing you should do, I came to fandom through slash and slash is part of why I remain, but Geoffrey and Ellen were the first het couple I ever saw on television whose story made me want to sit up and listen.
Er. In answer to your question. No, I do not believe my feelings about them have changed! I think I still have a lot of feelings about them! Er. Yes.
yiskah asked: What do you think is the common factor that draws you to the things you are fannish about?
See, I've been trying to figure this one out for years and even wrote about it quite recently, elsewhere; according to the AO3, I've written nearly two hundred stories in forty-eight different fandoms, so presumably there's got to be something there other than a continual attraction towards the new and shiny. I think what it is, is this. I've described my fandoms before as "politics and spaceships" - and what that really means is that I like stories about found families, about communities and homes.
I mean, now I come to think about it, the original SG-1 (my first fandom!) was a totally serious business show about serious business galactic exploration! Remember? They sat on Jack's roof and ordered pizza and got drunk a lot and bought Teal'c a Stetson and sang "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and never, in the end, went fishing, and I loved that; I love how the 4077th M*A*S*H was foetid and rat-infested and frightening, but they had movie nights and practical joke wars and Christmas parties, because they were a community; I love how Deep Space Nine had bars and Klingon restaurants and cocktail specials, that Garak and Bashir had lunch together every day and Odo secretly looked forward to his morning meetings with Kira and Sisko kept a baseball in his office; I love that the primary school on the Enterprise-D celebrated Captain Picard Day every year, and I love that there's a Babylon 5 gift shop. I love that Simon Illyan, at the end of everything, when he's broken and his mind is gone, can remember nothing but this: that the family Vorkosigan will carry him home. I love that Leslie Knope is running, not for president, but for city councilwoman for a town of 50,000 people, on a platform of accessibility and public service provision (and that Ben figures it out because "you've been making campaign speeches in your sleep"); I love how, in the Doctor Who universe, you ward off vampires with anything in which you have faith - so the Doctor stands his ground and holds up his head and recites the names of all his companions, one by one. I love that it's Night Vale community radio, that Sports Night was pretty much through with soccer; and that Hogwarts will always be your home.
Okay, I'm done. If you want me to talk about other things, say so!
You post a topic, list, category, whatever, in comments. (examples: "Five Dates X Regretted Going On," or "Five Fannish Gatherings that Y Attended"). I'll answer with a list of five things.
Fandoms: Welcome To Night Vale (quelle surprise), M*A*S*H, Cabin Pressure, Vorkosigan, Sports Night, etc., but the whole list is here and I'm usually happy to write most of them.
Anyway, meme. I currently have 148 works archived at the AO3. Pick a number from 1 (the most recent) to 148 (the first thing I posted there), and I’ll tell you three things I currently like about it.
I have done that. In 2013 there are two things I will do, in the same week in mid-September: I will be admitted to the roll in England and Wales, and I will marry Shim. These are the solid things. Otherwise - if hard work and faith will do it, this is the year I will put my life back on track towards what I want it to be.
Shim and I have blown through a season and a half of Babylon 5 over the last few days. We are just beginning season 4, and we would've stuck on the season finale and begun again the following night if I hadn't wanted to hear the new opening credits. (Look, I am a total sucker for a portentous opening narration, okay. I even tolerated Enterprise.)
(There is an old story told about a man who believed as he had been taught that there is divinity in all things. He was walking down the street one day when he heard a great commotion and lots of people running the other way screaming. He held his ground for a moment and then a musth elephant lumbered into sight with a mahout desperately clinging on. "Get out of the way, you idiot!" he shouted as they thundered down the street.
"No!" said our hero, standing his ground. "God is in this elephant! He will not hurt me!"
Of course the elephant went straight into him with a squelch. When he came round his guru was at his bedside and he said, "Panditji, you taught me that God was in everything. Is that not so?"
"No, no, beta," said his guru, "God was in the elephant, certainly that was so. But God was also in the mahout, telling you to get out of the way. You should have listened!")
In other words, there are truthful things to be found everywhere, even in the portentous opening narration of fifteen-year-old TV shows. It was the year of rebirth. It was the year everything changed.
( meme )
I read 53 books in 2012 - 54 if I finish Is That A Fish In Your Ear? this afternoon - so not as much as previous years, but enough. I wrote approximately 65,000 words of fanfiction, and a further approx 20,000 words of the novel. I took a term of French classes, I took up swimming regularly, I advanced another year towards qualification. Not a write-off year, but. Can do better. Will do better.