Google alerts just tipped me off to the existence of another PsychicToaster:
Apparently it’s a user over at Gaia Online. Yes that Gaia Online.
It’s a little strange. I doubt many Internet users have had the experience of having a 5 year unchallenged domination of a screen name, let alone a 16 year run. In fact, most Internet users haven’t been online for more than a decade yet anyway. I fell into that trailing cluster of late AOL and Compuserv/pre-dynamic web pages users. Just before the Eternal September and Web 2.0.
We’re finally back in Chicago after spending a fantastic couple weeks back home. New Years was great. Quite a few of the Radio/TV/Film and Theatre crew who I was in school with were back in town for the holidays so we all partied together. Three nights in a row of hanging out with some of my best friends? Sign me up.
First night was seeing Richard Kalinoski’s play My Soldiers. It’s a story about a National Guard medic, Angi, who comes back from Iraq with PTSD following an IED strike. It’s always interesting to see his work since he’s my alma mater’s artist in residence. It’s also awkwardly amusing to see him break his own rules for playwriting and poignantly demonstrate why they’re important. Principally, breaking the “show, don’t tell” rule with a long, expository phone call at the beginning. But by act two, the scenes with the competent therapist are perfect examples of playwriting done right. After the play we hit Polito’s, a by-the-slice pizza joint just off campus and caught up.
New Year’s Eve we partied at JP’s place, where I chugged a cup of champagne because it was given to me in a red cup with a foam head so thick I thought it was just beer. That was an eye opener. It was fun hearing stories from the friends of mine who are out doing professional productions, though none are writing or acting yet. I will admit, it was slightly awkward to be at a party where some were ten years younger than me, though I was not the oldest one there.
When we got back to Chicago, we had to make room for quite a bit of new stuff: a vacuum, a toaster oven, and a printer. Really, it was the printer that catalyzed the cleaning.
In just the area within reach of my office chair, I managed to get rid of two garbage bags full of junk. Everything from old D&D character sheets to an old messenger bag. I had kept the bag (even after getting a new one) in the hopes of finding a place that could repair the clasp, since even with the broken clasp it was the best bag I’ve ever owned. But in two years, I couldn’t get a replacement and the store that sold it is closed.
Other junk cleared out:
– Arm straps for using a pull-up bar for ab workouts
– A charger for a phone I haven’t owned in two years
– Notes for my first book that I never used
– An issue of a UWO alumni magazine that slipped in with my Mensa research journals
– Leftover Census forms
– A bluetooth hands free earpiece that always really sucked to use
– Tons of old driver disks for hardware I haven’t had for ages (Side note, who the hell has needed driver CDs since like . . . 2002?)
– Instruction manual for Acid Music that was shoved in a drawer
– User manual for a camera
But since most of this stuff was in drawers that are now empty, it doesn’t feel like the space is cleaner just yet. I’m sure I’ll notice it as the year goes on, though.
One thing I would like to do is build a community around the Delmyria setting. I’d like fans to be able to do more than just read and comment. Disclaimer: Nothing I say here should be construed as giving license or ceding control or ownership. But I’d like to set up a license structure (not necessarily Creative Commons but definitely inspired by the openness) that allows fans to build on what I create.
I’m experimenting with BuddyPress plugin that adds many social networking functions to a blog. I’m not satisfied with the forum features it includes, however. I prefer any number of other purpose-built forum software packages to this. It reminds me too much of the Facebook discussion boards which are woefully lacking in both user and moderator control.
I also plan to have a wiki. I had one hosted here once before, but it was for personal use and removed.
In terms of actual news, “Mercy Killing the Dragon” has been revised and is now being submitted. I’ve added a yet untitled short story to the list. The new one focuses on a Kroh’chuk warrior and their traditions.
Recently, over at the Tor.com blog, there was an article lamenting the absence of polyamorous relationships in science fiction and fantasy. The piece gets a bit repetitive in parts as Mandelo pines for more examples of plural love, but the questions posed near the end (one explicit, one implicit) struck me:
In space, why does the two-person relationship stay the norm? I’d like to see more collective relationships developed between people living together in shuttle environments, for example. Close quarters are bound to produce some interesting variety in liaisons and emotions. In a second-world fantasy, it would be one more part of the created universe to have the regular structure of relationships include three or more people for a family unit.
As far as science fiction is concerned, the situation I have encountered most frequently with regard to polyamory is the gene pool angle. From hardcore “science fact” speculative fiction to flashy space operas, the issue is treated in one of two ways. In the first, it is treated with sterile, clinical disregard for sentimentality attached to sex, and for some reason, everyone goes along with it emotionlessly. The other, with a wink and a nod, men offer serious reasons (note: gene drift and shrinking gene pools are serious issues in isolated communities) but in reality are grinning like 14 year old boys at the thought of repopulating the species with as many women as possible.
For example, a classic moment in Star Trek: TNG: (Jump ahead to 4:40. The timed embed isn’t working)
When the episode aired, the very notion of suggesting polyamory on prime time television was controversial. This is before we had shows like Big Love dedicated to handling the topic in a more realistic way. So on one level, I appreciate Star Trek: TNG’s effort in shifting the Overton Window on polyamory just by bringing it up. But the scene itself is dripping with stereotypical behavior. Even Dr. Pulaski can’t help but grin here. (To be fair, it seems she can’t wipe that smirk off her face no matter how serious the topic is.) Topping it off is the only plausible reaction: Picard rolling his eyes at the absurdity of it all as something between genuine character response and audience surrogate. He lampshades the silliness being displayed, and in the one redeeming moment offers the suggestion that the other delegate is just scared of the ramifications of uniting their societies, not of the polygyny specifically. He desperately gives the audience hope that this is still a serious topic being dealt with maturely, only to have that hope dashed by the delegate declaring that it is “repugnant.”
As far as fantasy, Mandelo’s article missed the granddaddy of modern fantasy epics: the Wheel of Time. In it, Rand al’Thor falls in love with not one, but three women: Elayne, Min, and Aviendha. He spends the better part of Fires of Heaven whining about this predicament (as do several of the women who pine for his return). Eventually, he ends up married to all three, and them to each other.
How do you know it’s a cop out? It’s easy. It’s far too easy, to the degree of being unbelievable. The women are all such good friends that they readily and wholeheartedly jump into it. And from that point forward, none of the relationships is ever truly explored in any meaningful way. Aside from moments of longing for one or the other, there’s no window into the reality of their relationships. There’s nothing domestic about the relationships; the problems of the world supersede all else to the point where the relationships are conveniently about sex and longing. We don’t need lurid details of whether the women bump uglies without Rand around. But the effect of the absence of detail of any sort beyond the Rand+Woman of the Day coupling is a rigidly compartmentalized set of three relationships independent relationships (no matter what is said about how much the women care for each other). He’s married to three separate women, in three separate relationships, not unlike wife-and-mistress-and-mistress. We never see anything normal or relatable about how they interact as a polyamorous unit, so there’s no way to really treat them as such.
The end result is the “Luckiest Man Alive” phenomenon. Again.
So, what would the best way to handle it be? My feeling on it is to build it into the world on day one if you are going to explore the topic at all. Don’t even “explain” it. Just have it present. If it’s a fantasy world, have the MC’s parents in a polyamorous relationship, or someone in their village, or whatnot. The fact that they are in a polyamorous relationship should, at that point, be treated like any other relationship. It doesn’t need explaining, or excusing, or further comment. Just make it an unobtrusive part of the world, as everyday and normal as trees.
I’m not saying it should be done this way to avoid criticism or opposition. Quite the opposite. If it is explained thoroughly, or treated as something “special” enough to warrant a long description, then it becomes an author soapbox, where the author is shouting, “SEE? THIS IS NORMAL!” The best way to show something is normal is to treat it as uninteresting from the perspective of the characters.
28 years ago today, I decided I’d call Earth home for a while. Not to get maudlin, but it’s a frustrating reminder that there are people who have built decade-long careers and people who have burned out by now. And I’m still getting started.
– I finished Calc 2. It was the most challenging class I have ever taken. If you rolled up the next three most difficult classes I have ever taken (I’ll even let you count all three times I took Calc 1 as one class), it’s still harder. And I loved every fucking minute of it. There was so much nerd squee in that class I actually got annoyed that I had to do the homework. I could just sit and listen to the lecture for weeks. Dr. Maltenfort has a gift for teaching, and Calc 2 tackles some really cool problems. Calc 2 was like Chem 2. It’s where the final piece of the puzzle fell into place and it all made sense (even if I got the answers wrong, I was finally asking the right questions). I finally understand what Lori found so fascinating about really cool mathematical proofs. They’re like the universe’s poetry.
– I finished a 600 page novel. That’s further than 95%* of people who take a shot at writing a novel. Even if it isn’t good, it’s done.
– I built some kick ass scripted systems for Legacy: The Dark Ages, including a player reputation system, replacing D&D slots with Spell Points, and a customized spell teaching and learning system that doesn’t use scrolls.