Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve Random Reflections

I wrote earlier and I meant it that I'm deeply relieved that I'm making progress on the ms. Its been mired in facts, like boulders in a muddy road; there's been  no flow to it, and I was truly worried that it would just stay that way: a list of facts. A really, really interesting list, but...

And then last night, I thought of a first line for the fanfic chapter, and this morning I sat down and more or less rewrote that entire chapter off the top of my head.

 It was like leaping along stepping stones in a stream--nice, dry ones: Homer & Virgil, Jane Austen's juvenalia, the introduction of copyright laws, Ronald Knox's spoof scholarship on Sherlock Holmes, Hugo Gernsback's letter column in Amazing Stories (with addresses!), Anne Rice's famous cease-and-desist letters to fanfic writers, Harry Potter coinciding with the rise of the Internet, etc.
A surfeit of pleasures.
I want someone to invite me to be on a panel or something!

In fact, if you'd sat me down anytime in this, my Year of Living Fannishly, and asked me anything about fandom, I would have talked your head off. But writing is another thing, and writing in the tight quarters required by this publisher has been like trying to raise giraffes in a hen house.
(Nothing wrong with the publisher! But their market is school libraries, and that's a low ceiling.) 

When I walked the Camino for the second time in 2011, on the night before entering Santiago I wrote in my notebook:
"DO NOT DO THIS AGAIN", and had bink & Marz sign it as witnesses.

So I'm going to do that here.
Dear Fresca of the Future,
Do not write for this publisher again. You do not like it, and you are not suited to it. Also, price per pound, you can't afford it.
Remember, you have [just today, New Year's Eve, 2016] told people it's like getting dental implants:
the pulling of old teeth, the scraping of jaw bone, the drilling to insert screw, the long waiting time for everything to set, and then the excruciating futzing to get the right fit.

Yours truly, Fresca of Today, looking out for you
It's NOT just the constraints of the form---it's all the monsters under the bed who pop up when I'm writing for work. They are quite darling, not scary, but they are fans of pudding and naptime, and so am I. They think blogging is milky and warm, however, and I wish I had nothing to do but that.

I absolutely marvel that some of my fellow writers whip these books out in a matter of weeks. Three weeks, some of them!
Perfectly adequate books too, you know. Though it's tempting to think so, I can't claim I'm in any way superior for being a thousand times slower. (Though I have more to say about my topic, having sat with it longer.)

OK. So, now I trust I will be able to finish this book (might need a little extension), and it will be a pretty fun read, not just an annotated glossary.
And trusting that, I am able again to feel grateful I gave myself this year to immerse myself in fandom. 

I spent most of June on Tumblr, for instance, and I will never see the world same. I don't know if I can say exactly how... I'm not sure, it's still so close up, I'm mostly seeing pixels. 

Taking a shot...

I would say that while I knew intellectualy that we are living in a science-fiction world we are co-creating, as Kim Stanley Robinson says, I now know it viscerally, and it's weirder and more wonderful than I thought.

There is an entire world on the Internet, deep and wide and complete. It's like a mushroom---90 percent of the living organism is thread-fine fibers, running interconnected, invisible, underground. 

I think a lot of people my age miss how complex it is down there. I did. I think I, we, may be in the position of old people looking at the kids of the 1960s and loving and approving of them, but knowing they are... separate.

The children on Tumblr are in no way aliens, they are entirely indentifiably and relatably human, not mushrooms! but they are also very much not me.

They're also not necessarily children.  
I'm aware calling them "children" could sound sort of condescending or sentimental, and I regret if I sound that way. I don't feel that way. I remember well being a teenager, but under twenty is like childhood to me now and elicits a kind of tenderness--toward my younger self too. (I practically gasp to think my father encouraged my plan to move to Denver on the train by myself when I was sixteen years old.)
Also, "under twenty" means you were born after 1996, ... maybe you were just a little baby on 9/11.
They are a new tribe. I like them, a lot, but I'm not in their tribe, just naturally.

I was shocked and put off at first by how Tumblrites sometimes disparage old people (meaning, like, over thirty). 
I felt defensive, but as I listened, I realized the older people started it, with their mocking and dismissing. "Young people never read, never go outside, never blah blah blah." (I hear this all the time.)
Yes, there are huge problems with Internet culture. As I've said before, my high school was a cesspool too.

And here's this network of living tendrils humming right under our feet, connecting around the world. Someone in Australia is taking fanart commissions to raise money to move out because their parents don't accept their gender; a young Muslim woman in Indonesia talks about how she dresses every day like a kawaii ("cute") anime character matching the bow on her hijab to her dress; someone offers a tutorial in 3D printing... 
And they're talking to each other, Who are Rey's parents? What's your government like?

Sometimes one will defend the olds:
My grandmother wrote Star Trek slash fic!

Someone else claims to be an old-school fan themselves, by which they mean they were involved back in '90s.
Oh, and they're fierce and intolerant, the way you are when you're young and haven't yet become (or recognized yourself as) part of the problem yourself. Fierce in defending the innocent, still only finding innocence within themselves.

 Go, the children! I say. Start out really hard and strong, and you might plow into life for a good while before you get bogged down.
What is this weight I am dragging?
Why, it is my own self.

So they come on strong on the one hand, but on the other, I was shocked at the amount of anxiety they live with. The underground fibers vibrate with each step on the Earth, and they are jangling all the time.
Some of this is being young. 
When I was a teenager, I dreamed of nuclear annihilation. Now I think, well, that'd be a shame, but if I cease to exist, personally, it wouldn't be a tragedy. I wrote a list of "50 things to do before 50" and I've done most or enough of them, and the ones I haven't, I either don't want to do or don't care that much about doing. Did I ever really want to drive to South America?
God, that'd be so uncomfortable.

You go do it and come back and tell me.

What I do want to do, I discovered through fandom this year, is to write some bits of fiction. 
That was a surprise. I wrote five fanfic this past year, my first fiction writing since high school I think, and I was surprised that 
1. I liked doing it, a lot
2. most were not half-bad; a couple were good

Is it the case that one kind of writing is related to another, and the skills of blogging and writing geography facts--and also a bit of film making-- are transferable?  
Or have I just read so much fiction in the past forty years that I absorbed the form? It certainly helped a lot that fanfic is a literary genre, like westerns or ghost stories, with helpful scaffolding--you are not inventing a form from scratch. 
Still, like all genres, you can do it brilliantly or you can do it badly.
Shakespeare stole most of his plots, but that doesn't mean you can replicate his results if you do too.

Two things I've seen recently inspire me.
(Nothing to do with fandom---a funny thing is,
aside from Star Trek, I'm not really a fan, I'm more an admirer of fandom itself.)

The first is a filmed version from 1968 of an old M R James ghost story, Whistle and I'll Come to You. [on youtube, 42 min.]
It's so simple and elegant! And oh, so deliciously evil it is how much I (we) enjoyed watching this pedant get his comeuppance from a malevolent spirit. (James said he thought ghosts should be malevolent, on principle.) There's a 2010 version with the excellent John Hurt, but he plays a lovely old guy, and I stopped watching it--it's no fun to see him mistreated by a spectre.

The other is I finally (shame on me) watched La Jetée, the short film told in still images (no, but it works! they're powerful!), audio, and voice over. [on vimeo, 26 min.]
Oh my god. 
Even though I knew all about it (and I'm sorry I did, it was a little too familiar), still, watching it unfold in time was so much better than I expected.
And inspiring! I thought, I want to do that too!
In fact, Dr H had recommended the film to me years ago after watching my Star Trek fanvids, which are all set to stills, saying I could expand my repertoire.

Do you ever overlook something as too obvious?
Oh, if I could do it, it's not worth doing?

And then you see someone do something along the lines of what you could but do not do, and you think, that's worth doing?

I am not the most energetic person and I don't expect or need to make masterpieces before I die, but, you know, I'd settle for writing a shivery little ghost story to read to friends at Christmas, and maybe some more little micro movies, and that crinkly sense of satisfaction that comes with making a little something you're proud of.

And now, I am signing off because L&M are due any minute with a stuffed pizza and a bottle of Asti! 
I haven't even re-read this post and fear it's embarrassing, but I am going to post it anyway and wish you a Happy New Year, one and all! 
2017 is absolutely bound to be terrible in spots, but I say, damn the torpedoes, make your little something-or-others! publish your posts! And here I go... *hits publ


ArtSparker said...

Very fond of M.R. James.

Fresca said...

I'm looking forward to reading M R James;
I'd actually never heard of him until this year, when an English friend sent me the link to that Whistle version, saying he watches is every year at Xmas.
(What is it with the English and ghost stories at Xmas?)