I probably shouldn't be writing this because I have a killer headache and I have just tried to take a nap with no success, which means I am Crankypants. However, I think the point stands regardless of my frame of mind:

Fictional romances which involve two people being so absorbed in each other that they end up being indifferent, insensitive or downright cruel to the other people around them are, IMO, not romantic at all. They are obsessive, unhealthy, co-dependent relationships and make me want to smack both the lovers upside the head.

This is why I started getting very unsettled by Nine/Rose after "The Long Game". It's also why I found the behaviour of Ten/Rose in episodes like "Tooth and Claw" deeply problematic and upsetting, and why Ten's pillow talk to Martha in "The Shakespeare Code" made me grind my teeth.

Similarly, there are a number of popular "oh-so-romantic!" novels I've read where the love interests are all gropey and kissy in front of friends who are single and/or suffering from unrequited feelings and/or going through tough times in their own relationships, and I couldn't buy into the romance or sympathize with those characters at all.

(And IMO Wuthering Heights takes the absolute cake for non-romances, because not only are Heathcliff and Cathy cruel to everybody around them, they're also cruel to each other. As a novel about massively dysfunctional characters involved in a gothic tragedy it's superb; but anybody who interprets WH as a great romance has, to my mind, a highly suspect idea of love.)

Full disclosure: I'm not even going to pretend that this view of mine isn't rooted in personal experience. When I was young and single I had a friend who constantly macked on her boyfriends in front of me, making me feel completely unwanted and intrusive. After one particularly cringeworthy display in the middle of a shopping center I took her aside and quietly asked if she and her boyfriend could reserve the passionate kisses and lingering embraces for times when I was not present, and her response was a plaintive "But we love each other!"

I'm sure she felt very strongly about her feelings of passion for her boyfriend being bigger and more important than anyone else's feelings, and how this demonstrated the Epic Quality of Their Love. But I'm also sure, to this day, that she was wrong. (Not least because she and that boyfriend broke up a few weeks later.)

Or to use a non-physical example, in my single days I once got a letter from a recently-married cousin saying, "Marriage is fantastic! I highly recommend it, you should try it sometime!" Which made me want to HULK SMASH because at that point I'd never even been on a date, and not for lack of wanting or trying either. But I swallowed my bitterness and wrote her a polite response saying that I would dearly love to meet a wonderful person and get married, but this was really not in my control, and that I was happy for her contentment in her marriage, but perhaps she might consider not saying such things to other single people in future because they could be quite painful and upsetting.

(Perhaps not surprisingly, she never wrote to me again.)

Anyway, I have now been happily married for fourteen years and have three children, but my feelings about this matter have not changed a whit, and I'm certain that I'm not alone. So to my fellow writers in the process of trying to create truly swoonworthy romances, may I suggest that before your characters rush into a clinch or share a sly in-joke or otherwise engage in exclusionary behaviour in front of others, you and they should stop and think a little about how those other people might feel.
Okay, I have just come across the second book review in as many days which describes how, in the course of the story, a young person involved in an evangelical Christian church is struggling with doubts and goes to their pastor, a parent, or other trusted authority figure for advice. And what they are told, in both these books, is "Don't question, don't think, just pray and believe."

To which I say, what?

Now, to be fair, I'm sure this does actually happen in real life at times. I'm sure there are places where people are that ignorant, or that lacking in confidence about the integrity of their beliefs, that honest questions and doubts frighten them and they try to silence the questioner as soon as possible. So I'm not saying this scenario is implausible, as such.

That being said, I have spent my whole life attending conservative evangelical Christian churches, and I have NEVER heard anyone say anything like this. Not from the pulpit, not in small Bible studies, not in personal conversation. What I've always heard instead is that the Christian faith is reasonable and that there is good evidence for believing it, and that people who are struggling with doubts and questions need more information, not less.

Usually this is what happens... )

When John the Baptist was in prison and began to doubt that Jesus was the Messiah (and the gospels tell us quite clearly that he did), Jesus didn't say, "Tell John I'm disappointed in him for his lack of faith." He didn't even say, "Tell John to remember what he saw with his own eyes when he baptized Me -- how the Spirit of God came down from heaven like a dove and the Father Himself declared that He was well pleased with Me." Instead, He performed a number of new miracles in the sight of John's disciples, and he said, "Go back and tell John what you have just seen -- how I have healed these people before your eyes. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

And then, instead of launching into a sermon on the evils of doubt using John as an example, Jesus turned to the crowds and began to talk about how great a prophet John was. He did not say one word of reproach against John for struggling with doubt. Instead, He gave John the encouragement -- and evidence -- that he needed to regain his confidence and hope.

That is a Biblical, Christian response to doubt.

Of course, if your whole point is to write a book about how Christianity is weak and unsatisfying and poisonous to the intellect, and how much happier you will be if you abandon it in favor of some other belief (because goodness knows people of other religions and philosophies never ever struggle with doubt or dissatisfaction about those beliefs, and it's not like self-questioning and uncertainty is endemic to mankind or anything) then I guess there's not going to be much room in the book to include things like counseling and apologetics, or any Christian characters who actually possess some degree of intellect, education and integrity.

But if you write a book like that, then I reserve the right to roll my eyes at your bigotry and walk away.
Yesterday, thanks to the kind offices of Twitter, I followed a link to an opinion piece about the recent controversy in the Montgomery County school system, where a teacher is being challenged and accused of corrupting young minds because of the inclusion of certain books in her classroom reading list.

No, that isn't what I'm going to rant about. Actually, the article made some quite good points about the dangers of judging these things hastily or leaping to wrong conclusions about the people or books involved, so there's not much to complain of there.

The column was nevertheless responsible for triggering this rant, however. Because halfway down the page I came across the following statement:

"I believe consenting adults should be able to write, publish, read or surf almost any loony material they please (with the exceptions of child pornography and nuclear secrets), just as I believe they ought to be free to worship anything from the fire-spewing God of the Old Testament to pet rocks."

Think you know what I'm going to rant about now? You're probably wrong. Actually, it was the "fire-spewing God of the Old Testament" part that got my dander up, and not much else.

Is the author of this piece (a pastor no less) actually saying that the God of the OT is completely different from the God of the NT, and one whom only "loony" people would worship? I would hope that I am misunderstanding him on that point, not least for the sake of my Jewish friends. But whether the author means what he appears to be saying or not, he's far from being the first to claim that the God of the Old Testament is somehow significantly different in temperament from the God described in the New. I've been hearing similar assertions from people -- not just skeptics trying to disparage the Bible, but professing believers as well -- all my life.

And quite frankly, it drives me crazy. Because I've been reading and studying the Bible since I was a child -- I've read it cover to cover several times and studied the major books of the Old and New Testament more times than I can count -- and based on everything I can see about God's character as revealed throughout the Bible, the idea that the Old Testament God is a big meanie and the New Testament God is jolly old Santa Claus is just not true.

First, let's have a look at God's character in the Old Testament... )

Not to mention the New Testament… )

You may or may not agree with any of this: you may not think the Bible historically accurate or even in some vague sense "spiritually true". It may be that as far as you've seen, you find both the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New to be unappealing and as such, the idea that they are one and the same hardly matters.

But I do hope this rant of mine makes it at least somewhat evident that the much-touted dividing line between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New is really no wider than a single thin, rustling page... and that the God of the Bible is -- to use a New Testament phrase -- "the same yesterday, and today, and forever," whether you choose to love and trust and worship Him for it or not.


First, I have a cold and feel kind of achy and tired and stuffy-headed and generally crappy. But wait! That is as NOTHING compared to what I have just found out.

The flight to New York I booked through Air Miles last week, with the nice helpful lady on the phone? The return flight is booked FOR THE WRONG DAY. Instead of returning on the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 10th as I requested, she has me returning on the MONDAY afternoon, the 11th. What's really scary is that I just assumed she had it right -- I wouldn't even have noticed the mistake if I hadn't been sorting out plans to meet my roommate and decided to look at my flight schedule.


I've put in a panicked e-mail to Air Miles, and will call them tomorrow, but I am woefully non-optimistic about the whole thing, what with my tickets being non-refundable and all. In which case, what on earth am I going to do? I can't afford to stay at the same hotel another night (it's expensive enough even with a roommate). And I don't know my way around New York AT ALL.

*meebles in a panicked fashion*

Then my husband brought in some very soggy mail from our overstuffed mailbox, and in the midst of it I found a note from the courier who had visited our house on Friday, bringing with him a large parcel CONTAINING MY REVISIONS, which I have been DYING to look at, but apparently this courier either didn't ring the doorbell or decided to ring my parents' bell (which doesn't work) instead of ours, so I never heard him and he went away again.


I know, I know, I'm overreacting. At least with the package, I know they will try again tomorrow, and if I can get the notice to stick to our ice-covered front door, they will even leave the package without me signing for it. But still. Wah!

And now I will take my tired, overwrought, sickly self to bed.

ETA: I just got this response from the Air Miles folks:

"Thanks for your e-mail. A personalized reply will be on its way within 7-8 business days. Have a nice day!"

7-8 DAYS?!

Oh, I am SO calling them tomorrow.
I must be the most naive person in the world. Seriously, here I am asking these questions about whether it would be better to use a real town with fictional elements or a wholly fictionalized one, and not once did it occur to me to worry about whether people living in that town might think I am writing about them. And yet this appears to be the first thing that most of the writers on the Verla Kay board thought of when deciding on the setting for their books.

And even now that it's occurred to me, the idea of someone from my past suing me because they think I'm writing about them seems so ridiculous that I just don't care. See? Naive. Or just pig-headed. You decide.

In other news, I thought The Giver and Gathering Blue were pretty good, but Messenger seemed to me dull, preachy and obvious, and I found Lois Lowry's writing style boring. Actually, I'm finding most of the books I've read lately quite lacking style-wise. I know Patricia A. McKillip's books have become next thing to incomprehensible, but my word, her style is gorgeous. Robin McKinley is probably a better balance -- lovely sentence structure and imagery and a recognizable plot. Reading Lloyd Alexander out loud to my six-year-old son has given me a new appreciation for his descriptive abilities. And I can think of many others whose writing style I enjoyed when I was in my teens and enjoy reading still (bows to [livejournal.com profile] pameladean). But where are the stylists in YA fantasy these days? Has everybody been brainwashed into thinking they have to write with a limited vocabulary and short sentences so the illiterate teenage masses can keep up?

Of the books I've read over the past year I've encountered only one author who tried her hand at the kind of lyrical, vivid style I associate with great fantasy, and even there it seemed to me that the really good bits of her writing came in flashes with a lot of merely average stuff in between, while at other times I itched to line-edit her prose.

Or maybe I'm just hypercritical of everybody's style at the moment because I'm unhappy with my own. Again, you decide. But I do think I have a point about the lack of lyricism in modern YA fantasy writing. Though I'm certainly open to correction if anybody has good counter-examples to recommend.
I've just read today's FBOFW and it made me want to scream. How disgustingly obvious is it that Warren McPlotContrivancePants is going to fly Liz up to Mtigwaki in his helicopter a day early so that she can stumble upon Suds and Chipper in all their faithless glory, and flee tearfully back to southern Ontario to throw herself into Granthony's wimpy arms?


I hope I'm totally wrong about this, but I have very little hope. Curse you, Lynnions!

On a positive note, I have library books. Lois Lowry's Messenger, Wendy Mass's A Mango Shaped Space (thank you for the rec, [livejournal.com profile] variella) and Jeffrey Moore's The Memory Artists. The latter two books are about synaesthesia, so I can tear my hair out over things like Wendy's heroine being named Mia and mine being named Thea, and sink into bleak despair at the realization that everything I wanted to say in Touching Indigo has been said before and better by somebody else.

Kind of like I'm currently tearing my hair out over the fact that I cannot write a 250-word hook for Knife that doesn't confuse the heck out of people who haven't read it and give them a totally wrong impression about the story.

I can't not write, but sometimes I think I ought to take up an easier and more soothing occupation, like carving the 23rd Psalm in medieval script onto individual grains of rice.



Mar. 29th, 2006 10:40 pm
rj_anderson: (House Cameron What)
Why, why, WHY is it that just when I come up with what I think is a great idea for a diagnosis, and spend half the day researching it and the other half writing it into my Housefic, do I come across a story (and in this case a canonical story) that's going to make all my hard-won and carefully developed ideas seem derivative and old hat?

*curses the writers of "Clueless" bitterly*

It's not that the diagnosis in that episode is the same as the one in my fic, it's just that in one conversation Foreman and House mentioned practically all the tests and all the treatments I'd come up with over the past 24 hours. Gnarr!

Also, why was this episode so dark and moody-looking compared to the entire rest of the season? Did they hire the lighting staff from The X-Files or what?


No. Just NO.

Jul. 7th, 2005 03:14 pm
rj_anderson: (Ninth Doctor Hulk Smash!)
I don't usually get into things like this, but I'm too appalled and, frankly, angry to keep silent. And those who know me best will know that I don't get angry easily, or often.

Nevertheless, I feel the need to state my utter, utter disgust with the attitude of the LJ commenter (not anyone I know personally) who expressed regret in a third party's journal that a certain other person on LJ was "not among the dead or injured" in the London attacks.

I don't know anything about the party being wished ill in this case -- never talked to them, never even seen their LJ name before today that I can recall. But I don't care how much you disagree with someone or how obnoxious you think they are in the way they present their views -- making jokes, in a public forum no less, about what a shame it is that your LJ nemesis didn't get blown up by a terrorist bomb is just plain sick.

On a day when people in the UK are grieving the horror of lost and injured loved ones, I can think of few things more disgusting and inappropriate than to make capital of that tragedy to express your petty resentment of another human being. That kind of comment says a lot more ugly things about you and your attitude toward other people than it does about the person you've just declared, however jokingly, as unworthy to live.

And no, I am not linking to the comment in question or naming any of the parties involved, because that isn't the point here and I don't want this to turn into a circus. I just felt that I had to say something or I'd explode.

ETA: I see that the comment in question has been deleted. Well, at least someone thought better of letting it stand, but frankly, it shouldn't have been said in the first place.
And O, this essay by Tara LJC O'Shea on receiving and giving criticism is a fine, fine thing that ought to be read and cuddled and taken to heart by every writer and reader I know. Not that I have an opinion about this, or anything.

This is not to say I have always been the best at receiving criticism graciously, especially right off the bat. Criticism stings, especially when it comes from an angle you weren't expecting (or worse, were secretly dreading but hoping nobody would notice). It's hard not to bristle and be defensive when someone points out, however gently, that you've messed up somewhere. And I have sometimes been guilty of arguing with my critics, when I should have just said "Thanks for your comments," and moved on.

Of course, even criticism which is intelligently voiced and meant to be helpful isn't necessarily valid. Sometimes the critic has read carelessly and missed the point; sometimes the critic simply dislikes or is ignorant of the genre in which the story is written. Every criticism has to be weighed by the author in his or her own mind, and either used or discarded according to its perceived worth. But the point I think O'Shea makes most cogently is that criticism is necessary and important to every author's development, and that if we are unwilling to hear anything but praise or the very gentlest suggestions for improvement, we are never going to be authors in any meaningful sense of the word at all.

My primary reason for not liking criticism -- I confess -- is that I am lazy. I don't like having to revise things that I've revised umpty times already. It's frustrating enough when I realize on my own that a chapter or a story I thought was finished still needs work; it's twice as frustrating when somebody else points out a flaw or inconsistency or weakness I hadn't noticed and I realize that it needs to be changed too. But laziness is my problem, not the critic's, and I haven't any right to take my frustration out on someone else who is simply pointing out the truth. Particularly if I asked for their honest opinion, and they did me the courtesy of taking me at my word.

And that's the last point I'd like to make. If you don't really want criticism, or if you only want a certain select kind of criticism, don't ask people to give you their honest opinion. If you don't really trust a particular person's judgment or think they have a bias that would make them unfit to judge a certain story, don't ask them to be your beta-reader on that story. But if you have asked for honest opinions and you have asked a certain person to tell you what they think, don't be surprised if some of the comments aren't phrased exactly the way you'd like or if they tell you things you're not particularly happy to hear.

If you privately decide that the critic is an idiot or a bigot and their criticism isn't worth squat, that's your business. But it's pretty unfair to tell them to their face that they're an idiot or a bigot and their criticism isn't worth squat after you asked for their opinion and they gave you what you asked for. As a beta-reader I've been stung by this kind of response a few times now, in spite of making every effort to be tactful in my criticism and to give the author a fair chance, and it really makes me not want to read or comment on other people's work at all.

Rant over.
I have mad love for this fic. Do you hear me? Mad. Love.

[livejournal.com profile] cesario has written the first part of an absolutely brilliant Snape/Luna (yes, you heard that correctly) fic called Pretty Good Year. It's lyrical and suspenseful and beautifully characterized, with a wonderful surprise twist at the end of Part One, and I truly cannot wait for the next bit. It reminds me, in the best possible way, of [livejournal.com profile] lizbee's fic Girl Most Likely, which is hardly anything like PGY in style or content, but pushes all the same shiny red buttons and makes the same pretty lights go on in my brain.

Which leads me into a ramble, or possibly even a rant, about the kind of writing I like... No, I'm going to bite the bullet and just call it plain good writing.

A lot of stories I've seen -- not just fanfic, either, although fan authors are much more frequent offenders in this area -- spill their expository guts all over the place. The heroes alternate between private, angsty soul-searching and Deep Meaningful Conversations with the other characters. By continually revisiting the characters' thought processes and motivations, the author hopes to win the reader's sympathy and interest; but for me as a reader, this just makes me bored and annoyed with all the characters involved. It's like being cornered at a party by someone who wants to spend the whole evening telling you their life story and all the bad things that have happened to them and the way they felt about every. single. one. No matter how polite, attentive and compassionate you might try to be at first, eventually the litany just wears you down and you start longing for a chance to escape.

On the other hand, some stories are so terse and cryptic they leave me scratching my head and wondering what just happened. Presumably the story made sense to the author, but so many details have been stripped away that I'd pretty much need to grab the author and quiz him or her to find out what they really had in mind. Or else the plot is so incredibly convoluted and the dialogue so self-consciously clever that I have to read at half speed -- or else read the story several times -- just to begin to figure out what's going on. I don't have time for that, myself. I'm all for stories that reward re-reading, but I do want to be able to at least grasp the main points the first time around. Otherwise it's more like reading for duty than pleasure.

I love writing that has subtle hints and touches of character development I can pick up on for myself; I love putting the emotional pieces together and getting excited when I find that my suspicions about a character's intentions or state of mind are correct. Although I've never been one to try and guess whodunnit before a murder mystery's over, and I don't tend to get invested in an intricate plot for its own sake, I do pay close attention to characterization and dialogue, and I love picking up on non-verbal cues and nuances of the narration that reveal a character's true state of mind.

I don't want a lot of long expository passages telling me exactly what the characters are thinking and doing and why; I don't want the characters to sit down and put all their emotional cards on the table at once. I want them to do something, to show me how they're feeling by the way they act. If that's done well enough, then exposition can be kept to a minimum; and conversations, instead of rambling all over the place, have maximum economy and impact.

This, to me, is quality writing. Both [livejournal.com profile] lizbee and [livejournal.com profile] cesario are fantastic at it, and I wish I knew of more fan authors like them.*

So. Pretty Good Year. Girl Most Likely. Go. Read. Adore. Review.

* Why, yes, I certainly will take recs if you've got 'em -- just het or gen, though, please.
Just came up from watching the last ep of this season's 24.


No specifics, just general reaction stuff )

Which brings me to the thing I haven't commented on, the season finale of Alias:

Yahtzee, you might want to skip this )


ETA: Very minor 24 spoiler )
Sometimes cover versions are as good as the original (i.e. Jesse Cook's lovely, Spanish-guitar version of "Fall At Your Feet", or george's remake of "Under The Milky Way"). Sometimes they are better (Aztec Camera's brilliant acoustic take on Van Halen's "Jump", ). And sometimes they make you want to pound your fists on the floor and cry "No! No! Why did you have to ruin that song?"

I don't have anything against No Doubt, honestly. I mean, I know nothing about them. None of their past singles have succeeded in annoying me (mind you, they didn't thrill me either). And I figure, if they like Talk Talk they must have some sort of musical taste. I wasn't even against the idea of them doing a cover version of "It's My Life". I was quite curious about it, in fact, so I listened to it today.

Unfortunately, all I can say right now is "agggggggggggggghhhhhhhhh!!!" I feel like I need to listen to the original Talk Talk version again, preferably multiple times, to wash Gwen Stefani's screechy voice and that horribly flat instrumentation out of my ears. The best thing about it was the bass line -- and that was basically the same as the original version. Oh, please, please, people who like this song and have not heard the original, go listen to Talk Talk instead, and do yourself a very great favour. The real version has bird cries! And trumpeting elephants! But best of all, it has Mark Hollis, whose voice is by no means conventional, but who knows how to put actual emotion into a song instead of just whining it.

*sticks pinky fingers in ears and twists them around*

*deletes MP3 from playlist*

*feels better*
Do not bother posting any more Syd/Weiss-friendly speculations or suggestions on the Alias forums at TWoP. Because apparently, nobody appreciates them.


*goes off in a huff*

ETA: I mean the people who say nasty things about Sweiss are Philistines, not everybody on the TWoP forums. Anyway, I'm joking. Really. It's kind of fun to be part of a fandom minority for a change...
...who keeps writing comments on LJ posts and being told that they've been saved, only to find them missing when I reload the page? And worse, two of my comments showed up once and then seemed to disappear. Grrr.


Apr. 1st, 2003 09:52 pm
rj_anderson: (Soy fandom)
24 is, on the whole, a very well-written and acted show, and seems to have a never-failing capacity to surprise me, but --

Was there ever a more useless and annoying character than Kim Bauer? Gah! It makes me glad I didn't watch the show at all last year, because two years of idiocy from her would be more than I could take.
Just FTR, if I see one more post* where Lucius Malfoy's first name is misspelled as "Luscious" (and not as a joke either -- not that the joke was funny after the first 1,000,000 times anyway), I am going to go bughouse.

I mean, it's not even as though it's the easier and more natural spelling. You have to shoehorn two extra letters in there and change the pronunciation. What's up with that?
*I say "post" because if I saw this in a fic, I would hit the back button so fast there would not even be time for me to get annoyed about it. I have a very, very low tolerance for badly spelled fic, especially when character names are involved...


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