Blind Spots

(This is very much out of sequence, but caught my fancy.)

A newsgroup post from 6/26/2008:

Elsewhere on the nets, I’ve been reading (but not participating in) a discussion where a couple of people are talking about how they despise modern popular music — “modern” in this case meaning everything after 1955 or so.

What boggles me is their air of superiority — they listen to real music, i.e., classical. All this modern stuff is just noise.

Well, no, it isn’t. You cannot sell people straight-out noise; it’s been tried repeatedly. (Anyone remember what Yoko Ono did before marrying John Lennon?) Obviously, if millions, perhaps billions of people find something enjoyable in popular music, there’s something there to enjoy. No, you cannot fool that many people for that long. If you genuinely can’t hear it as anything but noise, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the music; it means there’s something wrong with you. You are lacking a normal human response.

This is not something to be proud of. You, whoever you are, are a part of the human race, a member of a social species. If you cannot understand, even intellectually, something that provides billions of your fellow humans with pleasure, this does not make you part of an elite; it makes you defective, an outcast, a failure.

I would think this was obvious. Apparently it isn’t.

What Was I Thinking?

September 23, 2005:

I’ve been trying to sort out some files in my “Works in Progress” folder — classifying them as novels, essays, short fiction, or whatever — and I’m finding stuff where I have no idea at all how I was planning to complete some of these things.

For example, I wrote three stanzas of… um… something; I really don’t know what it was going to be. And they’re stanzas 1, 3, and 4; 2 is missing.

Here’s what I have:

Warlock Tea
by Lawrence Watt-Evans

Margaret’s mother was rushing about
Getting coats and preparing them both to go out
“It won’t take too long,” she said, “so you’ll see,
And when we come back we can have warlock tea.”

[missing verse]

Mister Bear, sitting up high on the shelf,
Muttered uncomfortably to himself,
“I wonder just what that could mean,” muttered he,
“To say that they both can have this warlock tea.”

The rocking horse down by the bureau replied,
“I’ve been everywhere, traveled far, traveled wide.
“A warlock, you know, is a magical man,
“Working much the same spells that the old witches can.”

What on Earth was that going to be about?

On the Classification of Classifications

Okay, there have been signs of life among the comments, but I’m still quoting this newsgroup post from August 13, 2005. Note that I said I’d let it stew overnight before pursuing it; well, I never did pursue it. Apparently it didn’t look as interesting the next morning.

So over in “Strange Days,” we’ve been discussing the relative merits of SF and fantasy — which I don’t think is a very good idea, but thinking about genres has just triggered an insight of sorts.

Why are SF and fantasy so often grouped together? Well, partly it’s for historical reasons — fantasy hid in the SF mags for the middle decades of the 20th century, and many authors wrote and write both because of that shared history. I think that it’s partly, though, because both are genres defined by setting.

SF is set in our universe, as altered by new science or technology.

Fantasy is set in a universe other than our own. (It may look just like our own with magic added, but it isn’t, since we have no capability for magic here.)

Compare this with genres defined by plot, such as mystery or romance; you can set a mystery anywhere, but it involves someone solving a crime by evaluating the available evidence; likewise, a romance can be set anywhere, so long as it follows two people as they fall in love and overcome whatever obstacles there may be to consummating that love.

And horror is a genre defined by mood — in fact, Douglas Winter famously said that horror is a mood, not a genre at all.

This has me thinking that we really ought to sort out genres into categories according to whether they’re defined by setting, plot, mood, or some other story element.

It is, however, late, and I have a busy day planned for tomorrow, so I’m going to let this stew overnight rather than pursuing it right now.

Take Cover

Newsgroup post, March 4, 2005:

So I’m messin’ around with iTunes, which I downloaded ages ago but have yet to actually buy anything from, and I start poking through the Yardbirds’ catalog, and play a sample from “Train Kept a’Rollin’.”

The Aerosmith cover is way better.

Which got me thinking about how often a cover version is better than the original. Not that often, certainly — most covers suck — but when it happens it can be pretty cool.

Aerosmith’s version of “Train Kept a’Rollin’ kicks ass, for example. Or consider Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” which is vastly superior to the original.

And then there are the covers that are so different that you can’t really compare them, like the Cardigans’ version of the Black Sabbath song “Iron Man.”

But there are borderline cases, too. Is Pat Benatar’s cover of “Wuthering Heights” as good as the Kate Bush original? What about the remixed Bush version?

Things You Probably Didn’t Know

So here’s the deal: I’m going to keep posting old stuff from my newsgroup until I either run out — and I have over 500 old posts saved — or until we get a good conversation going in the comments.

This one is way out of sequence; I skipped ahead a couple of years. It’s also out of date, unsurprisingly.

September 1, 2008:

So I hold stock in a company called Triarc, which owns Arby’s — they used to own other stuff, but now it’s just Arby’s. They’re planning a merger with Wendy’s, and it needs stockholder approval, so I got this big fat mailing I was looking at just now.

Some of the stuff from the comparable companies I find fascinating.

Did you know Applebee’s is now owned by International House of Pancakes?

Did you know that Hard Rock Cafe International is owned by the Seminole Indians?

This is my competition…

From February 15, 2005:

Something I stumbled across on a website where would-be screenwriters were invited to make pitches.

Oh, my God….

“Greetings. The following is a screenplay that I’m using to seek representation. The Florescent Shaded Teddy Bear Murders: An island community of Millionaire supermodels must overcome their vanity when giant, ravenous teddy bears threaten their quirky lifestyle. Sparkle Island, a place of grotesque wealth where locals use “cosmetic genetics” to eliminate every flaw in their appearance, celebrate Tickle Festivals to relish the euphoria of hysterical laughter and thrill their pets with the sport of bungee jumping. The unattractive in this world fight for the leftover crumbs of opportunity, as success is primarily given to beauty before talent. Paradise is thrown into a blender when fanged beasts of plush mysteriously arrive to chow down on the gorgeous elite, leaving the less-attractive-hell, let’s just call them ugly-labor force untouched. Police search the town in their limousines for clues, a military with questionable motive enters the fray, led by a Commander armed with lethal PEZ dispensers. But it’s the town princess and ugly accordion virtuoso who discover the bears’ origin: a paltry, balding scientist who created them as revenge for not getting a promised genetic makeover that would finally give him beauty and inclusion among the island’s royalty.”

Bands that deserved better than they got

Again from an old newsgroup post, dated November 7, 2004. I went through a period of mild obsession with this subject — bands that I thought produced great music that nobody else seemed to have heard of. I wanted other people to name unknown bands they loved, so I could check them out and maybe add them to my own collection.

Nobody did, except the late Bud Webster, who provided too long a list for me to deal with; this was my response:

Okay, that didn’t work. Bud dumped a whole list on us (and he may be right about every single one of them, since I’ve never heard any of them), and no one else said much of anything. Let’s try it again, with rules.

You can only name bands that had at least one album released on a major label.

You cannot name bands that had an album go platinum — the Knack is not eligible, for example. (And they cut their own throats with their inept second album, anyway — they didn’t deserve better.)

You cannot name more than three bands, so choose carefully.

Any band listed must not merely have been neglected, but must have been good enough to deserve national fame and fortune; as an arbitrary cut-off, they must be unquestionably superior to Green Day in musical ability.

And a band that only had one or two good songs doesn’t count, no matter how good those one or two are — call this the Romeo Void rule.

So, again — I’m starting off with Grace Pool, a stupendously good alternative band that put out two albums before finally breaking up in 1992. They had the misfortune to come from the same town as 10,000 Maniacs and to have a female lead singer, so they were seen, completely incorrectly, as a Maniacs imitator. They were, in my humble opinion, far superior to 10,000 Maniacs.

And there’s Divinyls, considered a one-hit wonder in the U.S. even though “I Touch Myself” is just an average cut for them. I’m told they did make it big in Australia.

So what have you got?

And the category is…

More from my old newsgroup, May 29, 2004:

Thinking about burning some themed CDs (which I guess would be playlists now):

I don’t think I need to explain what the theme was here, do I?
“She-Bop,” Cyndi Lauper
“I Touch Myself,” diVinyls
“Turning Japanese,” the Vapors
“Rattlesnake Shake,” Aerosmith

Still looking for more of those.

And Kiri and I came up with the theme of radio songs:
“Mexican Radio,” Wall of Voodoo
“Video Killed the Radio Star,” the Buggles
“The Radio Song,” REM
“This Is Radio Clash,” the Clash
“On the Radio,” Donna Summer
“Radioland,” Nicolette Larson

Any more?

The Old Order Passeth: Fragments

My newsgroup on SFF Net is gone. Rather than leave everything to the last minute, I asked the folks in charge there to shut it down on March 15th, which they did.

So this is my new home, I suppose. Or one of them, anyway.

I saved a bunch of messages and threads there, some recent, some not. I’m planning to copy some of them here.

For example, here’s an item from May 11, 2004 — the oldest I have saved, and the last in a thread entitled “Fragments”:

It is late spring, but still the Druvars remain camped upon m front lawn. I have spoken with their chieftain, but he will tell me nothing save that they will leave when the time has come that they must leave. My neighbors seem to be quite amused by my predicament, and I am no longer able to share in their amusement.
At first I was not particularly disturbed by this uninvited visitation, but it has been fully five months now since the first cookfire scorched the grass, and the novelty has worn off, replaced by annoyance.

See, sometimes I write down story openings that occur to me — usually openings, but once in awhile a scene from the middle of a story. Sometimes I know what the story is, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I actually write those stories; sometimes I don’t.

I collect these fragments, and look them over every so often to see if one is ready to turn into something more.

This particular fragment never went anywhere, but I still kind of like it.

Our Story So Far…

It seems as if I’m reading more books lately — more of other people’s books, that is. I was asked to blurb An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, for example, and was happy to do so because I really enjoyed it.

A couple of posts back I plugged Disreputable Persons; that was another one I liked.

Well, tonight I finished The Glittering Court, by Richelle Mead.

It’s not bad. I’m not really sure how to categorize it; it’s a romance, but it’s set in an imaginary world that very roughly parallels Europe and North America of the 17th or 18th century. It’s not a fantasy in the usual sense because there’s no magic, but other than that it feels like a fantasy romance. It’s not really my usual line of country, and I didn’t like it as much as the other two I mentioned, but I can see why Mead’s popular.

One of the interesting aspects, though, is that it’s first in a series I assume will be at least three volumes (though only two are out so far). I assume there will be three because it’s not going to be a first and then sequels, but three parallel stories. This first one follows the adventures of a young countess dodging an arranged marriage, and being a romance it ends with her and her beloved happily married and going off to start a new life together.

But she befriends two other young women who drop in and out of the story along the way, and whose adventures we do not learn about in detail. Obviously, they’ll be the stars of the next two volumes — and in fact, one of them is the protagonist of Midnight Jewel, the second in the series. I assume we’ll get the third girl in the third book. Funny thing, I’d guessed wrong about which girl would be #2 and which would be #3.

Anyway, one reason I find this of particular interest is that I’m currently writing Stone Unturned, a fantasy novel told from three interlocking points of view. I had seriously considered splitting it into three separate stories, divided among those three protagonists. So it’s a little surprising to see Mead doing essentially that same trick. Maybe it’s just something in the zeitgeist.