Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Binary Politics and the lure of Historical Romance

Many of my Canadian friends don't understand how American politics can be so polarizing that discussing politics at all at family events is considered a bit of a taboo. Part of that, theorizes one friend, is that we have not had a viable third party in elections in 90 years.

To paraphrase one of my favourite authors, we tend to see zebras. Us versus them is a really easy conflict, even more so when we frame it as good versus evil.

Jedi versus Sith, practically everyone versus Nazis, British versus French in the Napoleonic Wars: these are conflicts easily understood as binaries. The only exception is the second world war, which was actually quite complex politically. Most of the stories we tell about it,* though, are ones about one aspect of conflict, with one enemy, easily identified. One possible explanation for this is that real life is complex enough, and fiction is an escape from that. Those stories with grand conflicts tend to be geared more towards entertainment than the elevation of society, because they provide that escape. Thrillers, military historical fiction, and a great deal of speculative fiction tend to all focus on the binary conflict.

Another genre that focuses on simpler conflicts is historical romance. One of the great tools of the romance genre is throwing together two adults and keeping them together through some plot device, and then having them fall in love through repeated exposure. One of the favourites of the romance genre as a whole is having two people married on a slim premise and fall in love afterwards. In historical fiction, we have a great many plausible options to force a marriage, from alliance to scandal. We have divorce as an awful scandal to be avoided at all costs, and heirs as the goal of all marriage, both of which encourage the wedded to get along with each other.

I know I go for simplicity sometimes in my reading material, because historical romance is like chicken soup for the mind when I am sick, and sometimes I just want the good guys to beat up the bad guys. But when I'm all here, I want more. I want the speculative fiction I read to give me something more than 'us', the living, versus all 'them' zombies,** unless the zombies have no fewer than three levels of social commentary.

Two requests stem from this:
  1. I would very much appreciate recommendations for fluffy historical fiction.
  2. If you're a writer, don't give me a binary! Find more nuanced ways to make great plots.
*Harry Turtledove's In The Balance series is a notable exception, in which aliens arrive and it's everyone versus everyone in an ever-shifting tessellation.
**Heinlein jokes are a thing that happen and I am not sorry

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The More I Blog

The more I post on this blog, the more it becomes for my own enrichment.

When I started, I had grand visions of it helping me find clients and leveraging into an advertising revenue stream as well as sending people my way.

The fact of the matter is, though, that I don't blog enough for that to happen. Blogging in a way that keeps people engaged requires doing so more often than I do: daily works well for many people, and microblogs like Twitter thrive on many more than that.

But I like talking to friends, or reading blogs, or writing fiction. When I have chunks of time I could dedicate to prolonged fiction writing or blogging or polishing my rusty art skills, sometimes I'll just choose to watch a movie and knit (my well-used Netflix subscription can attest to how often 'sometimes' is). I guard my time jealously.

If I were spending a great deal of my fiction-writing time putting the finishing touches on something just about to hit the market, I'd spend more time researching it. If I encountered more new things I didn't expect to have changed dramatically in the next few months, I'd spend more time researching that, too. But, with no pressing need to know exactly which channel for publication will work best for me (KDP Select looks best, especially if you make sure you get reviews before you use your promo days, but I've only spent a couple hours researching), it's easy for me to get caught up reading social justice blogs or fanfiction or meta-analysis of video games.

And this post is my permission to myself to do just that.

This blog stands as a reminder that I should always be researching and trying to improve my writing, but it's okay if I do other things sometimes, as long as I am still able to churn out a coherent chunk of writing-related non-fiction every week.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I had, until tonight, never watched Labyrinth. I've read things about it, seen meta discussions of it, and been subjected to pictures of David Bowie's hair from it, but I had not seen the thing itself.

Since it's rather ridiculously late at night, I figured I may as well liveblog it. And by 'liveblog' I mean 'write it up and the queue it for like three weeks from now in case I am lacking in bloggable ideas.'

Seven minutes in, and Sarah is really ridiculously melodramatic. She makes me cringe. Liked the transition in the garden with setting jarring stuff, though.

The goblins are amazingly adorable.

David Bowie's eyebrows are amazing, and I think it's Sarah's voice that I hate.

The Labyrinth itself is really, really neat.

Something I love about the visual medium more than the written one is clothes. Specifically, David Bowie's coat. But also Seneca Crane's beard. Reading about gaudy things and internalizing 'okay, yes, ridiculous and blingy and wasteful' and seeing absurd and fabulous are different things.

It's like the problem of translating Lord of the Rings to film: long passages of the books are encompassed in a single long shot of New Zealand. As a corollary to that, an accurate description of David Bowie's coat would most likely be boring and overdone and ruin the pacing of the story. The coat may be as awesome as the eyebrows.

I had been worried, momentarily, that at the end she would be required in proper bildungsroman fashion to leave childish things like goblins behind at the end of her journey. The dance party is excellent. I am glad she left David Bowie's creepy love/possession thing behind, though.

Dance Magic is possibly my new favourite song.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Hunger Games

So, I just saw The Hunger Games tonight, but I'm delaying this post because, well, there are spoilers, and I don't want to ruin it for anyone who wants to see it in theatres still.