Wednesday, November 24, 2004
The names for this place are legion. First it was called Ambush, Pennsylvania, 1995. After that it was Washington, DC, 1997-98. Most recently it was Riverside, Maryland, date unspecified.
Now it's Sherwood, Maryland, 2019. It's a place where chaotic forces of evil wreak sporadic havoc on society, where the U.S. Department of Metaphysical Purity coordinates with the Vatican and Al Qaeda to control and eradicate humanity's new enemies--the demons and the Desperate. A place where 18-year-old chess master and aspiring Prom Queen Antonia Brennan discovers she's the daughter of the Devil.
From Labor Day through Election Day, I did not write a single word of fiction, even though [checking business card] that's what I do. It defines my sense of self. When I'm writing, I feel more me than at any other time, even as the act forces me to let go of myself.
But reality bites.
In particular, it gnaws away at creativity. When we see only what is, rather than what could be, when we consume and regurgitate the party lines over and over like copraphagous dogs, when we allow the media and the politicians to define us and divide us until we're no longer individuals, just labels with assholes--well, ain't no new synapses firing there, folks. Imagination, DOA.
I think that a fiction writer must maintain a certain distance from the real world, a certain objectivity that allows him or her to see or even experience a tragedy or heartbreak and have a small piece of the mind say, "I can use this!" The most important place must become the universe created inside one's head, at least during a first draft. It requires a certain degree of internal immersion.
But when one cares deeply about the real world--and more importantly, when one becomes involved in the real world and discovers that an individual's efforts can make a difference--it's hard to turn away. The world needs me, needs you, needs all of us to stay engaged right now. But staying engaged is not the same as becoming obsessed.
If reality is the drug, then the Internet is the needle and spoon. In the last several months, I've spent hours a day scouring the news sites, searching for signs of hope and commiserating with those who shared my beliefs. Once I started blogging, I felt like I had a responsibility not just to entertain, but to inform. And there was this nagging notion that if I turned my back for a few minutes, something terrible would happen, as if my gaze was keeping the world rightside up (Jean-Paul Sartre would have a field day with that one).
My name is Jeri Smith-Ready, and I'm addicted to reality. [Hiiii, Jeri]
I've got my 10-day pin (that's how long since I've watched CNN), and I remove the wireless card from my laptop except when I need to check my e-mail or look something up. I'm truckin' along on my first draft, which, if I really haul a-asterisk-asterisk, I'll finish by the end of this year.
Sherwood, Maryland, 2019 is a dark place. Maybe today will bring another demon attack, or maybe the DMP agents ('dumpers') will take you away for examination. Or maybe your boyfriend will decide you've become a liability to his coolness.
Don't worry, Antonia. I've got it all under control.
Monday, November 15, 2004
The US Supreme Court won't overturn an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision to uphold that state's ban on cockfighting. This is the absorbing sport of watching two roosters slice each other up with knives attached to their heads (all the while chanting "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way").
I'm shocked and impressed that the same state who elected to the U.S. Senate a guy who says abortion doctors deserve the death penalty had the compassion to pass this law at all. Then again, maybe they were just trying to be cool--after all, 47 other states have already joined the No Cockfighting Club (the lone holdouts are Louisiana and New Mexico).
Anyway, the attorney for the "sports enthusiasts" claimed that the law would prevent people from enjoying birds in their natural habitats. It was so vague, the lawyer claimed, that people could be arrested for watching bluejays fight in their backyards. Because "all birds fight by nature."
But what Mr. Behavioral Ecologist doesn't know is that fighting in nature rarely results in actual death or maiming. Fighting in nature is mostly posturing, the animal equivalent of trash-talking. Lots of shoving, wing-flapping, teeth-flashing, hackle-raising--you get the idea (note: hackle-raising and wing-flapping sold separately). Usually in nature you don't find animals with WEAPONS STRAPPED TO THEIR HEADS, and even when you do, as in the case of deer, rams, etc., the antlers/horns are used to wrestle, not slash.
Speaking of total shitheads, you can now buy a tourist package in Norway that will let you, personally, kill a baby seal.
It's nice to feel morally superior to at least some Europeans for a change.
P.S.: Even if you were somehow compelled to bet on backyard bluejay battles, how could you tell which was which? It's hard to get them to wear those shiny shorts.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Okay, go ahead and look. But come back afterward to share the fear.
Welcome back. Yeah, that was my reaction, too.
I think having a doll custom-made to look like your kid could be the subject of an entire library full of horror novels, so I won't even go there. Here are some plots for novels of other genres:
Mystery/Thriller: A My Twinn(registered trademark) doll goes to the Doll Hospital for a makeover and winds up "broken." Her wise-cracking private investigator/bounty hunter Human Counterpart infiltrates the hospital, only to discover that the doll-killer's real target is...herself.
Literary: Protagonist, who left his tight-knit family to move to the opposite coast and become a writer, comes home to help his resentful sister take care of their dying mother. He discovers that his My Twinn(R) doll has replaced him in his mother's favor because "he's always there" for her.
Romance: Spunky divorce attorney Clarissa Lamont has met her match: the Machievellian Trent Montgomery will fight to the death for his client's right to keep custody over her children and their corresponding My Twinn(R) dolls. Will Clarissa fall prey to Trent's wiles, or will her own client (played by a winsome Jeff Bridges) steal her heart with his deep emotions and charming though infantile fixations?
Submit your own My Twinn(R) plotline! I'll give a $5 gift certificate for the online bookstore of your choice to the winners in the following categories: 1) Funniest 2) Most Believable and 3) Most Likely to Keep Me Sleeping With the Lights On for Three Weeks Straight.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
This year's Author Guest of Honor is Robert Sawyer, who has won both the 1995 Nebula(TM) award for Terminal Experiment and the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, which I just read a few weeks ago. It's an incredible story about the intersection between our universe and a parallel one in which Neanderthals became the dominant human species. When Neanderthal quantum physicist Ponter Boddit accidentally ends up in "our" Ontario, wacky hijinks ensue. No, not really, it's a serious yet entertaining book, the first in a trilogy. The second installment, Humans, is even better. The third one, Hybrids, is sitting on my coffee table, calling me right this moment.
Anyway, there'll be lots of cool programming, as well as an art show, parties all night long, and much much more.
Okay, the voice of Hybrids is getting louder, and is now accompanied in a rousing string section by a delicious cup of cocoa.
Monday, November 08, 2004
If you're reading this in the morning, take a look tonight and check NASA's spaceweather.com to see if things are looking active.
This was one of three things I wanted to see before I die. A whooping crane in the wild and the Cubs winning the World Series are the other two.