My title comes from a song in Evita, which calls “politics” the art of the possible. I think writing is really the art of the possible, though. Even if we like to slip into impossible once in a while. Because really, we deal in possibility. If _______ happens, what could possibly be the result?
What would it be like if an elven-year-old boy got a letter saying he was really a wizard? If a teenage girl saw her younger sister picked to fight to the death? If a boy turned into a wolf when the weather got cold?
Maybe these things aren’t likely to happen—but that’s not the point. The point is, in order for fiction to work, the reaction has to be real. The consequences have to ring true. Every character, every place, every society has to have an echo of truth to it, or it will not read as true. It will not hit home for the reader with the force that it’s supposed to. Science fiction has to be based on science. Fiction has to be based on fact.
Now, I’m not saying that all books have to be autobiographical, of course, but that people can tell the difference between something a writer understands, and something they’re just hoping will sound good. Someone who’s experienced pain and loss can tell if your character is really feeling pain and loss, or if you’re just hoping they’ll take your word for it. Someone who’s fallen head-over-heels in love will know if the connection between your main characters is there, or if you’re only hoping that it is.
There’s a reason why people say write what you know, and a reason why they say that writing is like opening a vein—people want stories that feel lived, because each of your readers have lived, and they want to feel like your book is another life they can slip into. Whether that new life is something familiar to them or something they can only dream about doesn’t really matter. It just has to feel possible.
Does your book offer that?
Looking at this list, I don’t feel like a very controversial reader…. and the italics I have to blame mainly on my being once upon a time a very over-ambitious and yet equally impatient reader as a child. I’m an extremely patient reader now—Turgenev and Trollope will do that to you—but I am as yet not quite over my post-college, Wee, read whatever I want! phase. And I have to admit, I’m more interested in ye olde classics (like Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, whathaveyou) than I am in a lot of American classics, which this list seems to be mainly compiled of… but hey, to each his own. That’s what this week is all about, after all.
Look through this list of banned books. If you have read the whole book, bold it. If you have read part of the book, italicize it. I’m placing a * next to ones I read because they were required by a school or college class.
I spent all day Sunday knitting. No, not the above, mine is a secret for a friend, that’s just a picture gakked from here. Really, when I say I spent all day knitting, I mean I spent about six or seven hours knitting, with a break for dinner. It’s my own fault… I act as if my friends’ birthdays sneak up on me or hide when they are from me, when really every year I have a year to prepare… and I don’t.
I ended up really pleased with the knitting I got done, but I also ended up freaking out when I finally put the knitting down and went to bed.
Why, you ask?
Because both of my ring fingers had gone dead numb. Actually, it was worse than numb. They were simultaneously numb and feeling ultra-bruised. I shook my hands out and rubbed my fingers and stretched my hands and arms, but by the time I fell asleep, my ring fingers were still both numb. I had a pretty good idea what was wrong with me, but that didn’t stop me from being scared to death of it. Everything I do—everything I do—I do with my hands. I actually said to my husband that I can’t lose my hands.
I looked it up the next morning, and as I’d feared, it looks like I’m starting to develop RSS—Repetitive Stress Syndrome. Basically this means that if I don’t slow down and take breaks when I’m doing a lot of knitting—or typing, or doing anything repetitive—I could develop carpel tunnel syndrome like that.
I’m frustrated, because I don’t even knit that much. It’s just that when I do, I like to do it for hours. And now I can’t, really.
So my plan is to a fairly basic one. Firstly, pay more attention to my hands. They do a lot for me, these lovely little things, and I need to treat them better, notice when they start hurting, etc. Secondly, I need to actually plan my crafting out in advance. This knitting project is simple and can be finished in a matter of hours… but if I plan things out, I can make something a lot nicer, and actually have it done on time (this one will still be late!).
I’m also realizing that knitting is by far not my only problem. Typing and handwriting are two big things that I do all the time. All. The. Time.
So I have to figure out my writing time a little better, too. I have to be more economical with my time, for one thing, and with what I do with my hands.
And I’m going to try and do the dishes more. Like, after every meal instead of after a day and a half. Because soaking my hands in warm water is something that all my research has suggested, and I can’t just sit still and do nothing.
What I can do, though, is take more reading and meditation breaks, though. Who knows… maybe this might help me out with getting more out of both my knitting and my writing than I ever have.
A lot has been said about 9/11 this year for the tenth anniversary. I have to admit, I didn’t watch any of the special programming on TV, other than some news coverage on the memorial. I did think more and more about my experience. It wasn’t anything particularly special, but it was certainly a memorable day for me. I think I wrote about the experience in my journal at the time, but I haven’t written it out since, so here I am.
I was a junior in high school in Southern California. My brother and I took an early-morning scripture study class before school each day, so it was climbing in the car after this that I first heard on the radio about a plane going into the World Trade Center. Someone had seen my mom in the car and told her to listen in, I guess, since usually she read when she waited for us. I didn’t really even have a concept of what it all meant—what the World Trade Center was, exactly. At the time, of course, we thought just like everybody that it was just some little thing, an accident. A little plane couldn’t take down a major building like that, and that was what it seemed to be… a small plane that somehow didn’t see the giant structure ahead of it. By the time we got home and had the TV on, the second plane had hit. I remember staring distractedly at the screen while getting ready for school, and everything still not really sinking in.
At school things seemed more hectic than usual, but to be honest, most of the day was a blur. There was a lot of speculation, but the TVs in all the classrooms had been shut off from the office, so nobody could see the news or knew what exactly was going on, though most of the teachers were smart enough to realize that we were smart enough to handle what was going on—and that we wanted and needed to know.
I remember getting more and more scared as the day went on and words like ‘war’ and ‘reinstating the draft’ were going around. The second one was the one that really bothered me, and I spent most of the school day thinking of all the draft-age guys I knew. As I said, I was a junior in high school, so that was pretty much all my guy friends and my older brother. I remember going over in my head as to reasons why various guys wouldn’t be taken—or at least wouldn’t have been in the 1940s. Flat feet, bad back, no depth perception. Things like that. I also spent most of the day clinging to my best guy friend’s desk. I usually sat next to or in front of him in classes we had, and I had a tendency to sit sideways in my desk, so one or both of my hands were wrapped around his desktop edge in any of the classes we had together that day.
Eventually the powers that be that were in the office decided to let us have the news back and turned the signal to the TVs back on, and that’s how I spent the second half of the day for the most part. Again, most of this is all a blur. I only really have two strong impressions of the day. Firstly, one friend of mine was having completely inappropriate reactions to the whole day—she was laughing at random things and actually said it would be cool if we went to war—I don’t think it had sunk in yet for her that it was more than just a building, that it had been so many people, too. Her reactions did calm down the guy whose desk I’d been holding on to all day, though, and that calmed me down, if that makes sense.
Secondly, it had spread that a girl I’d been friends with in middle school but had fallen out with had had a brother working at the WTC—I had one class with her and wished I’d been able to say something, but I couldn’t remember the last time we’d spoken, and I didn’t think I’d help at all, though I’d met her brother and was shocked and sad for her.
I was deeply impressed by how the country seemed to unite and pull closer together after the attacks, though, and when I think of 9/11 on a regular basis, rather than focusing in on the day itself, I like to think of the strong sense of nationality and brotherhood that existed afterwards. Of the news stories of volunteers pouring in from everywhere to help, of the emerging stories of the heroes of that day, and of the extreme blessing that so many people for one reason or another weren’t at the WTC when they normally would have been. Not all that came from that day was bad, by far.
I don’t really have more to add on the subject, so I’ll simply suggest you read Maureen Johnson’s account of that day which she shared recently. It’s much more relevant than mine, though mine of course, is very relevant to me.
For the first time since the inception of the Doctor Donna, I am actually caught up on Doctor Who. I have to admit, there was a long, long time that I thought I just might never watch the new doctor. I loved Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, and I love, love, LOVED David Tennant. In fact, it took me nearly a year and a half just to watch the goodbye episodes with David Tennant, because the idea of him leaving as the Doctor just killed me.
What made me more hesitant about moving on to the Eleventh Doctor, though, was the fact that Russell T. Davies had also left the show. He was the executive producer for the first five series, the driving force behind a lot of the episodes and story arcs that I really loved, and it was his vision of Doctor Who that I’d originally fallen in love with. Stephen Moffat took over with the introduction of Matt Smith as the eleventh doctor. Now, I’d definitely loved some of Moffat’s previous episodes… in fact, his episodes had often listed among my favorites in the Doctor Who canon (the 2005 incarnation, I can’t claim a lot of knowledge of the older Doctors).
But still, I wasn’t ready to give up David Tennant. And so, I couldn’t help but see spoilers of what I was missing with the Eleventh Doctor. C’mon… many of my friends are or have been Whovians. And honestly, I didn’t like what I saw. The bits and pieces of what I’d seen were not the Doctor Who that I had come to know and love. When I rewatched the show from the beginning with my husband, though, we decided that we’d go ahead and give Matt Smith a try.
Guess what? I didn’t like him.
Now, I’d been assured from several people that he would “grow on me.” In fact, those were the exact words of three or four different people. Which was a little odd and disturbing in its own way. Like there had been some subliminal message played in the episodes: he’s growing on you… he’s growing on you… he’s growing on you…
Luckily, I did like the new companion, Amy. Most of the time. Tall, pretty redhead with a Scottish accent, what’s not to like, right?
But the show was so different. It felt—no offense meant by this—like a normal British show. It wasn’t the delightfully cheesy thing I had fallen in love with, with cartoonified plastic enemies and bad-guy aliens that blow up under a wash of vinegar. Lost with all of the cheese was, I felt, a lot of heart. The new episodes were darker. The Doctor didn’t seem like he was in love with the human race anymore—he was much more removed and superior to them. He also acted out of character a lot of the time—running and fighting before trying to talk, not getting upset when something that was the last of its kind was destroyed. These things irked me.
The show also did its best to not refer to anything that had happened in any of the previous Eccleston/Tennant episodes. The transformation from Nine to Ten made it clear that while he was a different man, he was the same Doctor. Here he was entirely changed… not even minor characters made it back into the storyline. I would have enjoyed at least seeing someone random… Sally Sparrow, or someone. I mean, I understand that Moffat wanted to separate his show from Davies’, but for me that meant a lot of hacking away at the continuity of it. People didn’t even remember the daleks? Really? That made me sad…
Now, my fiction-fixing brain wants to put reasons to all of this. Maybe the Doctor simply felt too much in his tenth incarnation. Maybe with these strong attachments to people like Rose and Martha and Donna, the Doctor simply wore himself out, and had to retreat into an incarnation that was much milder in his affections… and in his feelings in general. Maybe becoming someone more removed was a matter of self-preservation.
And I have to admit, I do like Matt Smith now. He has his own quirks and is fun to watch. I just don’t really feel like he’s the Doctor. Not my Doctor. I watch the show now, and I enjoy it, but not without a wistfulness for what it was. The show I loved, really loved, is gone. Now there’s a similar-ish show on that I like more or less. Maybe someday I’ll love it again. We’ll see.