Sign up for my newsletter to receive news and updates!

Posts Tagged ‘ranty’

Jim says it all — or at least 90% of it

Fellow author Jim C. Hines has posted on numerous occasions before about rape — its causes and consequences, our cultural attitudes surrounding it — based on his experiences as a rape counselor. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that he would post about the Polanski situation, and utterly demolish the various defenses on Polanski’s behalf.

(He does overlook the Hitler/Manson one. To which we can quote the comment thread: Your own victimhood doesn’t give you a right to make somebody else a victim.)

I don’t have much to add to that. Only an incomplete thought on what should happen now.

What do we stand to gain by imprisoning the man, or otherwise punishing him? There are three obvious possibilities. One is vengeance: make him suffer because he made someone else suffer. (No, thirty years of gilded exile as a well-respected filmmaker does not count as suffering. Not in my book.) But our justice system is, at least in theory, not about vengeance, and the victim — the one with the most claim to this angle — has said she doesn’t want it. Another is prevention: lock Polanski up so he can’t do this again. We’re a bit late, seeing as how he’s had thirty years plus in which to do it again, but there’s perhaps a faint bit of merit left in this one. The third angle, of course, is deterrence: we lock Polanski up so some other guy (whether a prominent filmmaker or not) will think twice before he drugs and rapes a thirteen-year-old. But it seems to be sadly true that prison-as-deterrence is not nearly so effective as you’d like to think.

I see a fourth angle, though, hiding in the shadow of deterrence, very similar but not quite the same. Call it principle. This is the bit where the community of the United States, and more specifically the state of California, as manifested in its criminal justice system, stands up and says very publicly that THIS IS NOT OKAY.

It is not okay to drug and rape a thirteen-year-old girl, over her continued and consistent protests. Even if you’ve had a bad life. Even if you thought she was older. Even if her mother shoved the kid at you. Even if you’ve made some art that people really like. It is also not okay to plead guilty and then flee before your sentencing. Even if you think the judge was going to be harsh. Even if you were afraid of going to jail. And if you do these things, you will suffer consequences.

It isn’t just about scaring the criminals off. It’s about teaching all the rest of society, all the ones who aren’t criminals, that these crimes are something they can and should do something about. It’s a lesson I fear too much of society still hasn’t learned, where rape is concerned, because we still hear all the usual defenses. She shouldn’t have gone there. She shouldn’t have trusted him. She shouldn’t have been wearing that dress, that makeup, those shoes. And you know, it isn’t that big a deal anyway, let’s feel some sympathy for the poor guy who raped her, because now he’s being blamed for what he did.

When the day comes that somebody like Polanski rapes a thirteen-year-old and nobody says “He thought she was older” as if it would have been okay for him to rape an eighteen-year-old, then I’ll feel like we’re making progress. And maybe then I’ll feel it’s okay to show him leniency after thirty years of escaping justice. Maybe. But we’re still light-years away from that, apparently.

In the meantime . . . I don’t know what’s the right punishment here. I find myself wondering what the penalty is for fleeing sentencing after you’ve pled guilty. It would make a good minimum to start with.

on the topic of history education

In light of my earlier rant about post-Reconstruction history education (especially in Texas), I now kind of want to slam my head into a wall until the pain goes away.

The snarky response here, of course, is that it hardly matters what the standards are, since the students will never make it past Reconstruction anyway. But snark aside . . . it’s enough to make me cry blood.

I love my home state, but in the way one loves a child that really needs to be sent to reform school for its own good.

what the hell did we spend our time learning?

Watched Charlie Wilson’s War last night.

Got furious, again, over the state of history education in this country.

Maybe somewhere in the U.S., there are schools that do a decent job teaching history. God knows I didn’t go to one of them, and neither did anybody I’ve ever talked to about this. We never seemed to make it past the Civil War; even in junior high, when U.S. history was split over two years, the first one ending with the Civil War and Reconstruction, we still didn’t get through the twentieth century. Why? Because we started the second year by recapping . . . the Civil War and Reconstruction. And then got bogged down reading All Quiet on the Western Front. I know nothing about the Korean War. (Except that I think technically I’m supposed to call it the Korean Conflict.) What I know about Vietnam, I got from movies. Ditto WWII, mostly. And when it comes to things like Afghanistan (the subject of Charlie Wilson’s War) or our involvement in Iran, there are whole oceans of historical incident I’m ignorant of.

Historical incident that is very goddamned relevant right now. How many people in the U.S. — especially those under the age of 30 — understand the ways in which our problems in Afghanistan are of our own creation? We wanted to stop the Soviets, so we poured weapons and support into the hands of the Afghans, and then wandered off as soon as the commies went away. What’s worse than rampant interventionism? Half-assed interventionism. But thank God we’ve learned our les — oh, wait.

You can’t learn from history if you never learned it in the first place, people.

I want the history textbook I never got. I want a single-volume overview of United States history, 1900-1999, that will tell me the basics about the Korean War Conflict and Vietnam, about Afghanistan and Iran and Iran-Contra and the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, about all those things that were kind of important to U.S. policy and foreign relations that might be tripping us up today, and most especially about the ones I’ve never even heard of and so can’t list here. Bonus points if it has colorful pictures and informative sidebars and maybe a brief quiz at the end of each chapter, because when it comes to this stuff, I’m about at a junior-high level of comprehension.

I don’t even know if that book exists. If it does, I don’t have time to read it anyway, because the downside of writing the Onyx Court series is that most of my nonfiction reading is about Britain. But I can always buy it and hold onto it until the next time I hear about some war I never even knew we fought, and then maybe I’ll drop everything for a few days and learn about my own country.

I’ll verb whatever I want to

Long ago, Tantalus turned into a verb: if something tempts you but you’re never allowed to have it, it is tantalizing you. Well, I hereby declare the verbing of Sisyphus, henceforth to be used for tasks which undo themselves every time you finish them.

As you might guess, this is because I’m being sisyphized by something right now. And not just in the usual laundry-and-dishes sense.

(Ixionizing, I suppose, would be when something goes round and round without ever getting anywhere at all, like a hamster on a wheel. Or, well, Ixion. On his wheel.)

damn you, British astronomers!

I’ve been digging for ages now, attempting to discover when people in Britain first sighted Halley’s comet in 1759. Not when it was first seen in general; I know Palitzsch spotted it on Christmas Day, 1758, and Messier picked it up a month later, and then lots of people saw it after perihelion, throughout March and April. So I figured that if I aimed to have this book in seven sections, one per season, then I should start in summer 1757, because odds were it got spotted in Britain some time in winter 1759.

Those lazy bastards of eighteenth-century British astronomy apparently didn’t pick up the damn thing until April 30th. Which means that, for the purpose of my structure, I need to start the book in autumn 1757.

It isn’t a simple matter of changing date stamps on the scenes, either. Galen’s conversation with his father is partly predicated on the assumption that it’s summer, and therefore a lousy time to be attempting any kind of large-scale social networking. Ergo, his attempts on that front don’t begin until part two. Also, there’s a scene that has to take place on October 3rd, but part one is too early to use it, so I’ll have to rework that idea for part five instead. Etc. Etc.

The worst part is, I think this change will be a good thing. Example: I couldn’t introduce the Royal Society properly until part two, because they were on hiatus from June until November 10th. Problem solved! Now I can have them in play sooner. Another example: there was a comet sighted in late September/early October, that I was having trouble working into the scene flow of part two. It will, however, do very nicely for an early note in part one. I suspect a whole lot of things will balance out more usefully once I boot the story back one season. But this is going to mean a crap-ton of very frustrating revision on the 33.5K I already have written, because I didn’t find the answer I needed until just now. And that’s almost certainly going to put me behind, because I think I need to get my extant wordage sorted out before I’ll be okay to proceed forward.


And sigh. I do think things will be better this way. But I’m rather ticked at myself for not turning this info up sooner, and at Bradley and all his cohort for failing to spot the bloody comet until almost May. We’re going to have to make some changes around here . . . .

writing-ish things

Important one first: John Klima of Electric Velocipede is looking to move some stock and help out his finances to boot. Head on over there to see what’s on offer — back issues of EV, plus chapbooks. If you’re looking for my fiction, issue #13 is the one you want; that has “Selection,” which might very well be the oddest short story I’ve ever written. It also has Rachel Swirsky’s excellent “How the World Became Quiet: A Post-Human Creation Myth,” which I suspect some of you would really dig. (If you perked up at the word “post-human,” then yes, I mean you.)

Sillier, but very true: a rant against Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. I’ve become more jaundiced about that book over time, so it’s good to see my jaundice backed up with some evidence.

And a distinct moment of oddity: someone on Amazon claims to be selling a copy of In Ashes Lie for the low, low price of $1,000 dollars. Yes, that’s a comma, not a decimal point (and yes, that’s American-style notation). No, I have no idea what’s up with that. Even if they’ve gotten ahold of an early copy, a thousand bucks??? WTF, mate.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled whatever you’ve been doing.

Amazon update

One of the negative features of kerfuffles is that the outrage tends to spread a lot farther than the eventual explanation does. Not that this explanation doesn’t have its own problems, but it’s better than the “lobotomy + homophobia = FAIL” equation people at first assumed.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the thing was a consequence of what strikes me as an extraordinarily dumb programming decision. Somebody made an erroneous category-edit in France, and it propagated from through to all the rest of them. This has more discussion of Amazon’s internal operations, and how errors like this end up happening.

What’s the line about never attributing to malevolence what can be explained by mere stupidity? I suspect Amazon’s site architecture could use some work.

two things that make me angry

I’ll put the important one first: a lengthy article on Dubai that frankly just turns my stomach, presenting both the dark underside and the artificially bright topside of that city. I presume not everybody in Dubai is like the Emiratis and expats quoted there, but that’s the image of Dubai I’ve seen marketed: a sunny playground for shopping and leisure, to be enjoyed by the wealthy — just don’t ask what’s propping it up.

The second one’s smaller, but closer to home: apprehension about Pixar’s latest, Up. Why the apprehension? Are they worried it will be a flop? No; in fact, everybody’s pretty much assuming it will be a critical and commercial success. But probably it won’t be as big of a hit as (say) Toy Story, and (perhaps more to the point) it doesn’t have all the merchandising opportunities of that film, and so nevermind that Pixar has yet to release a single film that could be termed a critical or commercial flop; some corners of the industry are worried that Pixar’s films aren’t as lucrative as they used to be, and this is a problem. Not that they aren’t profitable; they are. But that they aren’t always increasing in profits.

I find that outlook diseased. Here we have a rock-solid company that has, since its inception, turned out quality entertainment that also brings in a nice, healthy return on the investment of making it. But hits, it seems, aren’t enough; they must be mega-hits, and ever-growing in size, or Wall Street will flip out.

Can you say “unsustainable model”? I can.

Anyway. I’ve had those tabs open in my browser for a couple of days, but I decided not to rain on Easter Sunday with them, so you get them today. Enjoy. So to speak.

No, really?

Amazon — discerning my interest in historical fiction — offered me a list of recent and upcoming titles it thought I might want to take a look at. Notice a pattern?

The Women: A Novel
Drood: A Novel
Agincourt: A Novel
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel
The Help
The Fall of the Templars
The Book of Unholy Mischief: A Novel
Roanoke: A Novel of Elizabethan Intrigue

Dear Publishers: for the love of all that’s holy, PLEASE STOP IT WITH THE “A NOVEL” THING. Seriously, what is up with that? It isn’t just a historical fiction practice, where you can try (and fail) to justify it by saying you don’t want readers to confuse it with nonfiction on the same subject; it’s like this is supposed to flag books as being somehow more highbrow than their non-novel-labeled brethren on the shelf. Guess what? It doesn’t work. It just annoys me.

I am moderately willing to let it pass if you make use of the preposition “of,” in which case “novel” is simply the anchor for an actual descriptive phrase. But when five of Amazon’s eight recommendations feel they must notify me that they are Novels (and nothing more), any value the word might have had — scant to begin with — is long since gone.