Monthly Archive: August 2008

Handsome, Ruthless and Stupid

Some random thoughts:

Over at SF Signal, one of the commenters on the Mind Meld I participated in yesterday noted that most of the people giving examples were white men, and most of the examples they gave were the works of white men. Putting aside the fact that we don’t know how many women or other ethnicities were invited to participate and perhaps did not respond, I always find these kinds of examinations interesting. In the same way, I sometimes notice halfway through a movie that every single character in the film is white, or black, and from that moment on I’m more obsessed by the monochrome nature of the film than anything else.

Personally I don’t think I’m a sexist, but perhaps I am and don’t realize it. We all think we’re wonderful people, when in fact most of us are complete kneebiters. But that’s beside the point.

The question was to give an example of SF/F worldbuilding that I thought was genius, and I used Pohl’s Heechee books as my choice. I could have used Julian May’s Pliocene/Milieu books as my example; it’s just that as I scanned my bookshelf I happened to notice Pohl’s books first and thought damn, Pohl’s worldbuilding was fantastic and I fired off my response. If I’d glanced at a different shelf, I might have added one more woman to the list.

This makes me think about women writers I would give a limb to be in the same writing class as. Aside from May, there are plenty of female writers from various genres who have rocked my socks off, and continue to do so – like Barbara Tuchman, Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith (perhaps my favorite non SF/F writer currently), or Dorothy Sayers. Of course, anyone who reads should be able to produce a lengthy list of authors of various genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religious affiliations, without trying too hard. If you can’t, you’re probably just not reading enough.

I’ve been trying to learn how to play guitar and speak French. For several years now. I don’t learn easy. Part of this is a stubborn determination to regard human interaction as undesirable, meaning I disdain teachers and tutors and try to do these things by myself, with fairly predictable results. A year ago The Duchess, my suffering wife, bought me some guitar lessons at a local place and marched me over there so she wouldn’t have to listen to my self-invented “chords” and I have to admit I like the teacher and have made astounding progress. I’m no Clapton or Van Halen, but at least I can play something identifiable as a “song”. And I now know what a Power Chord is! and why everyone lurves power chords.

French: Not so much. I’ve been striving to learn merely to speak broken, pidgen French using various audio recording-typ lessons, and while I think I might be able to painfully mumble something a generous and helpful Parisian might be able to understand, I don’t feel very masterful. We’ll see how it goes.

Aside from all that, revisions on The Eternal Prison continue apace, with some surprisingly hefty changes. This happens to me a lot; a minor suggestion or criticism inspires a lot of writing, because I suddenly see how things could be oh so much better, and I’m off to the races. I like what I’m doing, ripping and tearing things apart and pasting them back together. Hopefully my editor will, too.