Let’s start with the idea of an environment and a technology.
Something unimaginably old that people use every day, but aren’t too concerned about it when they do.
What else is tied to our perception of reality?
Politics, perhaps – but could our fascination with bureaucratization be enough to facilitate a lapse in our technology? Or at least enough to sustain our plot?
Perhaps a decline is not what we’re looking for. Instead: stagnation.
What would make our culture reach a point where it would say: “Enough. This is good enough.”
(I’m sometimes afraid we’ve already reached this point.)
It would have to be a world where making technology no longer was a priority because it no longer made money. In order for it to no longer be fiscally feasible, it would have to be ubiquitous – or nearly so.
So it would have to be homemade, as well as an incentive for people to make it themselves, rather than just having someone else make it for them.
And maybe we personalize it.
SO. What are we thinking here? We’re thinking of an extremely easy level of technology, right up there with, say, cooking.
This suggests something that is organic – because too many people are unskilled to create something mechanical.
Organic is easy.
Okay. So where does that leave us? Recap: An organic technology that has been spread throughout all cultures, has superseded all other forms of technology that garner the most money, and has brought an unprecedented equality (or perceived equality) across the boundaries of human experience, reducing social stratification and nationalistic feeling.
Holy crap. Let’s do this thing!
This organic technology would have to be something that allowed people to connect to other people. It would also have to be capable of communicating pain and pleasure equally – because pain is the incentive for people to like things, right?
Or is that the absence of pain?
Depends on the person I suppose.
Now what else?
Does it have to be one thing, or can it be a number of things? And what about conflict? Are we looking at the need to encounter another species?
Hold the phone. ARE WE TALKING GALACTIC WAR? Because that idea is old, and already perfected in Ender’s Game.
So how to make it new again?
Could this technology take people somewhere else? Because if the only place they can go is into their own minds, that was done in The Matrix. If it takes us into another plane, which abandons earth, that might make it less relevant again – for both our readers and our characters.
And then people would be clamouring for galactic war.
And this is not Starship Troopers. (And Starship Troopers is already the best there is.)
This has to be a story about us, not somewhere else.
Until about the age of twenty-one, I would only read real books.
“Oh me?” I would snottily opine. I’m a real Dostoevsky, Dickens, Austen, and Grass kind of girl.”
I could never understand why my boyfriend – my brilliant, cerebral and completely badass boyfriend (who now happens to be my brilliant, cerebral and completely badass husband) – read so many graphic novels, and books with picture of trolls, and dwarfs, and dragons adorning their covers.
How could he be interested in such stuff?
And despite his best efforts, for the first three years of our courtship I staunchly refused to crack one open.
“Sorry,” I would say. “I’m just not into that stuff.”
“You really have no idea what you’re talking about,” he’d say. “But I’ll wear you down eventually.”
And wear me down he did.
My first “non-book” (oh how wrong was I!), was V for Vendetta by Alan Moore which blew my brain harder than anything that had come before it (and I seriously thought I could ever again undergo anything as soul-shaking as the time I first read Devils and Crime and Punishment.) Next came the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman which I inhaled in about a day and a half, and then Watchmen, and Preacher, and about every other comic series on which I could get my hands.
It took me a little longer still to get into “fantasy” and “science fiction” (oh how I now loathe our need to classify so much brilliant literature as such!), but I finally caved and picked up A Clash of Kings a few months after my twenty-second birthday.
And once again, I underwent a kind of mind-exploding madness.
How could George R. R. Martin write so seamlessly and brilliantly from one character to the next? How could he be so heartless and beautiful all at once? WHY WERE ALL OF THESE PEOPLE SO AWFUL?
After burning through the entire Ice and Fire series (in what was then it’s most current incarnation) it was GAME. ON. The floodgates were opened, and it was nothing but a steady, raucous and ever more passionate ride filled with Bradbury, and Asimov, and Heinlein, and Tolkein, and Guy Gavriel, Scott Card, and Neal Stevenson, and Susanna Clarke, and so many more (and more and more and more!)
And then, ladies and gentlemen, Marc introduced me to one of the most brilliant, gut-busting, world-creating satirists English literature has ever known.
He brought me the world of Terry Pratchett.
This man made me laugh, cry, think, pace, question, believe, and most of all read.
My goodness did I love to get lost in his worlds and read!
To this day, I always know when Marc is (re-)reading a Pratchett book because of the sonorous laughs that all but explode out of him.
He’ll then read the offending passage aloud and we’ll both cry-laugh together. More often than not, we’ll just end up reading entire sections of the book to one another.
These truly are some of my most treasured literary memories.
And so when I found out last Thursday that Mr. Pratchett had died (via Guardian update from my mobile phone) I immediately phoned Marc to tell him the news.
I couldn’t even finish my sentence before collapsing into my tears. I sobbed straight into the receiver, my whole body wracked by a terrible, melancholy palsy.
And then, in the most Pratchett-ian of fashions, I was immediately catapulted back to laughter.
Marc, speaking slowly into the receiver, said, “This – this makes me really, really sad babe. But – unfortunately I have to go. The arborists are here.”
Because, of course, we were having the dead cherry tree removed from our backyard, and yes, at 8:13am on a Thursday morning, the arborists had arrived to facilitate that removal.
I immediately burst out laughing, even though my tears kept streaming steadily down my face.
I cried for the better part of the entire day, and I really don’t think I’ll ever get over the loss of such a brilliant, kind, compassionate, passionate, and life-changing man.
But I know that I, like the world, am so much better off for opening my mind, heart, and soul to his beautiful works, and the zany, madcap brilliance of Ankh-Morpork.
And like Marc before me, I’ll continue to encourage people to read his works.
I mean, it’s totally my fault that I purchased them without realizing that they are, in fact, footless.
But at the same time, I just assumed that anytime I bought something marketing themselves as “tights” that they would, you know, cover my feet.
HENCE THEM BEING TIGHTS.
And why in the ever-loving heck would I buy fleece-lined tights, if not for the sweet, sweet heat they would bring to my frozen tootsies throughout the long, and frigid Canadian winters?
Certainly not for the slimming factor!
These things bring a bulk to my calves previously known only to competitive stair runners and long-distance cyclists.
But I digress.
I will suffer through this fashion injustice.
If only for potential blog hits.
Back to the original purpose of this entry – my confession.
This past Saturday, Marc and I woke up late and decided to go see Ender’s Game. It is one of his favourite books of all time, and for many moons I have been extolling the virtues of Mr. Scott Card’s literary genius to all those who asked if I too had read the book.
Only, I had, you know, never actually cracked it open.
I AM A GIANT FRAUD!
I’m not exactly sure why I pretended that I had in fact read the book. I think a lot of it has to do with protecting my nerd cred – I have read and loved so much science fiction, that I figured by admitting that I had omitted such an important novel, people might take me less seriously.
(Even though the more I think about it, people would probably be more likely to forgive this literary transgression, than you know, LYING TO THEIR FACES LIKE A BALD-FACED SCOUNDRAL.)
Even Marc had assumed that I had read it – and was shocked to hear on our exit from the theatre that I had no knowledge of the written words in which to compare the film.
(SPOILER: I thought that movie was pretty grim, and Marc just downright hated it.)
It looks at the controversy that’s surrounded Card and his career for the past decade – his rabid homophobia, and xenophobia to be precise – and how these views stand in such sharp contrast to the messages of love and tolerance that permeate so much of his writing (and in particular Endger’s Game and its sequels.)
It made me think of how it is we are able to separate an artist from their art – and who we are willing to make exceptions for, and why?
For instance, I have never understood Hollywood’s enduring love affair with Roman Polanski. To me, the man is nothing more than a rapist who refused to face the consequences of his actions, and I couldn’t give two cares about his movies or his talent for storytelling.
I also don’t care if John Galliano ever designs another dress, and I certainly don’t care if [insert name of professional athlete convicted of doping/sexual assault/animal abuse] ever plays another game for the rest of their lives.
And yet, despite this hard-held views, I will always, always give the latest Woody Allen film a try.
I definitely don’t feel good about this choice, but it’s something that I do, and that I accept.
My love for Annie Hall is just so strong that it propels me to seek out what this man – this quirky, strange, totally perverse man – might next deliver to the big screen.
It’s an off-putting balancing act: while I definitely do not support his life-choices (in fact, I find them downright disturbing), I do really like many of his films.
And I like that I am at least conscious enough to identify this push-pull binary that lives inside of me, despite the fact that it’s an on-going struggle to figure out where this leaves me standing – especially if we’re talking moral, and not literal ground.
But alas, such is life. I’ll just have to keep working on it.
And in the meantime, I’m going to crack open Ender’s Game and finally see what all the fuss is about.
Because if I know one thing that’s going to help both my morality and nerd cred, it will be to finally stop lying about having read the book, and to just read it.
Did you all celebrate earth hour this past Saturday?
We managed to do some major tea light damage over the course of the evening.
Seriously, we had many, many candles aflame throughout the living room, and those tiny bright lights brought quite the kind glow to our little home; all in all it was truly a lovely way of passing the night, all bundled up in blankets, and crouched over our crossword.
Though I would be lying if I said there weren’t a couple of close calls, what with just how many tea lights we had going at our peak burnage, and, well, you know, the innate flammable quality of newsprint.
Factor in that we couldn’t really see all that well, (and had to hold the flames pretty close to the clue boxes to make sure we could actually read what they said) and it’s pretty darn commendable that we weren’t consumed by an inferno of our own making.
We even got the chance to do a little story telling.
Here’s a taster of something we’re up to (on our gosh-darn, no-good end):
The city feels old.
My glasses are scratched but even from way up here, I can barely make out the mason jar skyline. There is too much dirty glass, cut against the rusting sunset, which bleeds into the eastern coast’s rushing waves. I watch as they bury the dead – two thousand grayhairs – beneath a concrete blanket, their mouths hang open, as if they simply lie there, suspended in mid-breath. I think of how cold it must be beneath the streets. Their wedding rings will wash down the gutters, along with the soft silt that used to stick to the corners of their eyes, rubbed away with the early mornings they’ve now left behind. Tonight the wind blows in from the west, and I move from my balcony back into the apartment.
Everything smells of mold and mothballs. I pick up the rough spun blanket, folded on the floor and wrap it around my body. The electric thrum coming from Maggi’s apartment makes my heart quiver – it feels sticky and unsatisfied, suspended inside me.
It too feels old.
The kettle jumps on the stove. I wanted to make tea, but all I have is chickaree root, so heavy on the tongue and stomach.
“I want some tea babe.” Tom turns to me and cracks his neck.
“Yeah. Me too.” I walk over and turn off the element.
“Money, money, money,” he mutters, rolling his shoulders clockwise, and then counter.
I walk over to his chair, unwrap myself from the blanket, and lay it over the length of his body. With it tucked up around his chin, he looks like the men in all my fathers’ photos from his days at the barbershop.
“I wonder what beards felt like,” I mutter. Tom doesn’t say anything, knowing that I’m talking to myself. “I’d like to think they felt like velvet – or a freshly brushed cat.”
I reach out and trace the outline of his cheekbone, so smooth it’s almost raw.
“Hey now, whatcha doing?” He looks up at me.
“You’ve got this really sad look in your eyes. Like you’ll never know the taste of tea ever again.” He trails off.
“Shut up,” I say. “I don’t care about the tea.”
“Goodbye sweet pekoe! I hardly knew your sweet, sweet taste!” Tom reaches behind and tickles my ribs.
“Don’t be a jerk!” I swat at his bruised fingers but still, his hands are strong, and he takes hold of my waist and lifts me into his lap. I take his hands in mine, and instinctively peel back the hardened strip of skin atop his left hand. I probe at his panel, and its sickly tangerine glow, such a stark contrast to the coal of his skin.
“You need to get this checked out. It’s looking really infected.”
“Nah. It’s fine.” Tom again rolls his shoulders and rustles his arms further, tighter, around my body. “I told you already, there’s nothing to worry about.”
I lean forward. He tightens his grip. I can feel his abdominals contracting against the center of my back.
“What has it been?” I whisper. “Six months?”
Tom pushes me off of him. “I don’t want to deal with this right now.” He stands and walks away into the kitchen.
I follow him in and start to put away the dishes from drying rack. The compost steams to the left of my knee.
“The company’s the one that paid for it in the first place! Right?” I ask, knowing that I’m right. “It can’t be that big of a deal!”
I look at his back, turned to me and trace the outlines of his shoulder blades with my fingers, flexing against each of his movements.
“You’re a superintendent. They’ve got to understand this!”
Tom pulls away and begins to poke around the icebox, pretending to look for something. There is nothing but freeze dried fruit and some black bread.
I follow him. I know I should drop it, but my tongue keeps pushing words to the front of my mouth, that no matter how hard I try, they won’t stop falling out.
“It smells infected, it looks infected. Seriously, if you’re not going to do anything – ”
Tom turns around, brandishing a thick sack of frozen peas.
He presses the bag on top of his hand. I can hear the sizzle of the heat making contact with the cold plastic. He draws in a deep breath, his eyes bulging, teeth clenching.
I come up behind him and slam the icebox shut. I grab the now almost completely defrosted peas from his hands and flail it about, dramatically. “Well that seems healthy, now doesn’t it? A kilo bag defrosted in what, five seconds? Astounding! I throw the plastic into the sink. “I don’t know about you, but I think a jobsite losing their head operator might not go over so well for the company! So yeah. I’m ecstatic!”
Once I give it a bit more work, and get a little braver, I’ll post a little more.
But in the mean time, here are some things that I bloody-well love:
Heritage walks around New West:
And pretty treats:
So that’s all she wrote kids.
Enjoy the start to your week, aannnnddd – DANCE! p.s. I’ve entered the twitterverse. Follow me @ethelthedean YAY!
Well, boys and girls, it’s back to the sick bay for me.
If only I had a real-life Dr. Crusher.
She, in her fierce blue-black onesy, and camp-fire toned hair would not only cure me, but also immunize me from any other cough-flu-colds I may pick up in the future. (Somewhere around the rings of Saturn no doubt.)
Plus, on top of it all, Wil Wheaton was pretty darn cute as her son.
Side note about Mr. Wheaton: In one of our more, well, nerdy moves, in 2007 M and I went down to Seattle for the Science Fiction Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony, as M’s favourite author is Gene Wolfe who was being honoured that year. Gene Roddenbury was also being celebrated and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who was the man introducing him until I turned to the woman sitting next to me and stage whispered, “HOLY FRICK – IS THIS WESLEY CRUSHER?”
Little did I know that he’s now some prolific blogger and hugely popular figure in the nerdverse and highly celebrated as such. Seriously, the women seemed very off put that I was at an event at the Sci-Fi Hall of Fame and didn’t know this.
I actually got a photo with him after the celebration that ran on Startrek.com for an entire week.
Ah well, live and learn.
Last night on my way home from work my entire body seemed to go into shut-down mode. A thick fog swept its way over my brain, throughout my sinuses and down into my lungs.
My bones felt as they had been soaked in rubbing alcohol.
It was all I could do to pick up the necessary ingredients for a much needed cure-all: Jaime Oliver’s Mint Pea Soup.
What I love so much about his recipes is just how easy they are – you make them once and it’s easy-peasy (pun intended) to memorize the ingredients and instructions – it takes absolutely no effort to put them together.
Plus they taste so darn lovely.
I got home, unloaded my bags and turned on my favourite CBC radio program As it Happens.
Now, hands down, if I could have any job in the world, I’m pretty sure hosting this show would be it.
They interview the craziest, most irreverent, brilliant, interesting, heartbreaking individuals, and cover stories that can be described in pretty much the exact same way.
Last night they interviewed a city councillor from Louisiana that is working on banning pyjama pants from public places (having already passed a bylaw prohibiting the wearing of baggy pants.)
They also interviewed Michael Semple, a former EU envoy to Afghanistan, on negotiations with the Taliban, and read a story about how sheep shearers in New Zealand are trying to get their sport into the Olympics (albeit just for demonstration.)
To say that the show is scintillating and thought-provoking would be simplistic in the extreme.
It is, the best.
I think one of the biggest reasons behind why I enjoy it so much is the brilliant way in which it is structured: mixing in the odd with the important, the beautiful with the bad.
There is a very fine, very important balance to the program. No one emotion, and or sentiment is ever allowed to hold a monopoly over the stories they cover.
For one and a half hours, you get the happy, and you get the sad.
Because isn’t this how life itself, actually unfolds? From my experience, nothing is ever just good, and nothing is ever simply bad.
That’s why As it Happensis such a refreshing look at world events compared the overwhelmingly negative emphasis that I find so pervasive in traditional news outlets. Turn on any news site – whether radio, television or online, and I promise you the focus will be on what bad thing happened, in what bad town, orchestrated by which bad individuals.
No wonder so many people chose to remain uniformed – the constant onslaught of depressing stories is enough make even the strongest individual weary of established (read: static) journalistic practices.
We already know bad things can happen. Need we be reminded every single day of this fact? I don’t even have the energy to get into how this is probably the number one reason why so many dangerous and harmful isms are so readily and easily reinforced and socially institutionalized.
There is a reason why brainwashing has remained en vogue for so long. It works.
I suppose this is also another reason why I really love CBC radio programming as a whole – the overwhelming diversity it brings to the table. And yes, I am fully aware of how nerdy this makes me (yo – Wheaton, are you hearing this? I’m encroaching on your crown so you better watch yourself!) but I really don’t care. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family that always had it on in the background, but the more I listen, the more I learn, and the more I am inspired.
There is so much good work being done in the world, it’s just such a shame that so little of it remains unreported, and unnoticed.
But then, even just typing those words, immediately they rang false – because if these wonderful works actually went unnoticed, I have a hard time believing the world would even be running at the (somewhat limited) capacity that it is.
They may not be celebrated, but they are definitely making the world a better place.
And that makes me feel better, on the whole.
And I hope that, perhaps, just being aware of this will, like a real-life Ms. Crusher, make me just that little bit healthier.