Posts tagged with "quandary" - Faerye Net 2009-02-23T18:55:41+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Postal Predicament 2009-02-23T18:55:41+00:00 2009-02-23T18:56:06+00:00 <p>So I took a walk in the rain today down to my local post office. As I&#8217;ve mentioned, <a href="" target="links">I am fond of the postal service</a>. I like ink, paper, pens, letters, stamps and post. I also like my local post office. Today I hied me hither because I was walking that way anyway, and because it might give my short story submission a few hours&#8217; jump over home pickup. My carefully paper-clipped story, my <span class="caps">SASE</span>, and my signed cover letter were tucked into the traditional manila envelope, laid on my dear little home postal scale, and affixed with no fewer than five stamps (like <a href="" target="links">my colleague Tina</a> I like messing with the stamps) in order to reach the exact postage for a &#8216;flat&#8217; (big envelope.)</p> <p>Today, however, escorting my carefully addressed short fiction submission to the &#8216;stamped mail&#8217; slot, I noticed a sign that said <em>Bring packets and parcels to the main desk.</em> The item in my hand resembled a &#8216;packet&#8217;, so I strolled over to the desk and approached the postal employee &#8212; not the one with whom I usually chat. &#8220;Am I not allowed to put this in the slot?&#8221; quoth I. The lady took the envelope full of hopes and dreams and slapped it on the scale. &#8220;I already weighed it&#8230;&#8221; I protested. She pinched my hopes and dreams appraisingly, then looked at me over her glasses.</p> <p>&#8220;Does this have anything rigid?&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;No. Just a paperclip.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;That&#8217;s rigid!&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;What?&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;That&#8217;s rigid. It&#8217;s like a key.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;But&#8230;every short fiction writer in the world is probably in trouble,&#8221; I babbled. &#8220;Editors don&#8217;t like staples. Are staples okay?&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Staples are fine. It&#8217;ll be 34 cents more.&#8221;</p> <p>I nodded and managed to buy the stamps I needed before wandering away, feeling (and doubtless looking) poleaxed. If this is true, it means almost <em>every postal submission I&#8217;ve ever sent out</em> has been underposted. I imagined that every sub had arrived solely by dint of luck. I imagined my pristine manila envelopes arriving in New York stamped with an angry and inconsiderate &#8220;<span class="caps">POSTAGE</span> <span class="caps">DUE</span>&#8221;! I shuddered. And <a href="" target="links">tweeted</a>.</p> <p>Then I rebelled. Seriously, if my postal submissions are underpaid, but no one notices and they&#8217;re getting there just fine, are the clips really a problem? Wouldn&#8217;t the editors have objected if they were paying 34 cents a pop for the privilege of turning me down? So here I sit, bending one of my largest paper clips easily to and fro between my thumbs. It is nothing like a key. The <span class="caps">USPS</span> <a href="" target="links">website</a> prohibits items in flats that do &#8220;not bend easily&#8221; or &quot; cause more than 1/4 inch variation in thickness&quot; &#8212; to my eye, this clip is fine.</p> <p>What do you think, fellow writers? Are you willing to pony up an extra buck every three submissions on this nebulous pretext? Do you think my post office is being overly rigid? Anyone know an editor who takes paper submissions well enough to ask whether they get &#8220;postage due&#8221; often?</p> Respecting your elders 2007-05-11T14:17:36+00:00 2008-05-30T14:02:24+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve long been locked in a quandary. Due to certain circumstances, I am often on the receiving end of the most appalling rightwing <a href="" target=links">glurge</a>. I know some of you, my friends, have a similar problem. This stuff ranges from the merely insipid to the racist, the sexist, and the appallingly regressive. And whenever I find these things in my inbox, I want to protest. But I never have.</p> <p>Why don&#8217;t I? It&#8217;s partially politeness. It&#8217;s partially an unwillingness to vent the torrent of my spleen on sweet little old people, however wrong-headed. We are taught, after all, to respect our elders. They&#8217;ve lived and suffered and so on and so forth. But isn&#8217;t this just a sort of ageism? If a 30-year-old sent me this, wouldn&#8217;t I feel honor-bound to tell him or her off? Are we really respecting our elders, or are we assuming their brains are atrophied, their ideas are fixed, and they are so intractable that hearing their worldview challenged will harm them?</p> <p> I don&#8217;t think older people are feeble-minded, stupid or inflexible. I know and love a woman who changed her political party in her 70s, after all. So can I in all conscience say that I am respecting these other elders by being dishonest?</p> <p>It&#8217;s a hard question for me, all the harder because if I upset them, I&#8217;m not the only one who&#8217;s going to have to deal with the fallout. I have been trying to deal with it by ignoring and not reading, but occasionally I fail, or I assume something will be innocuous that actually contains a subtextual cylinder of nerve gas. The attitudes and strictures that are being so gleefully embraced and trumpeted are not new. They&#8217;re as old as fear, conformity, and the valuing of comfort over individuality and liberty. They are nestled down deep into psyches and hearts, protected by layers of religion and social convention. There is nothing I can do to budge them or fight them. But don&#8217;t I owe it to myself to protest? Wouldn&#8217;t I like someone to tell the footsoldiers of orthodoxy that we aren&#8217;t all like them? Wouldn&#8217;t I like that someone to be me?</p> Affectation and authenticity (not an Austen novel) 2007-03-12T16:01:34+00:00 2008-06-08T12:14:05+00:00 <p>Today I am engaged, one way or another, in writing. Unfortunately, in the world outside Faerye Net, I cannot simply create a bizarre world and genre &#8211; Dickensian urban dark fantasy, shall we say? &#8211; and expect the reader to like it or leave. Out in the world, it is the reader &#8211; editor, professor, etc. &#8211; who tells me to leave! This puts me in the position of having to please my audience to a far greater degree than I must here. At the same time, my best work can only come from being true to myself, and who wants to be false?</p> <p>That brings us to today&#8217;s difficulty; rephrasing on the fly. My current project is written from the point of view of a little girl circa 1910. Usually I would use this hundred year gap not only to insulate myself from the demands of realism, but to partially justify my habitual vocabulary and verbal style.<p> <p>However, today I find myself scratching out &#8216;likewise&#8217;, &#8216;pinnacle&#8217;, uncertainly wavering between &#8216;octopuses&#8217; and &#8216;octopodes&#8217;. I tell myself that a little girl would not speak that way, regardless of era. I tell myself that by modulating my verbal eccentricity in these few respects, I draw in the reader and win her trust for more plot-crucial, global oddities. I ask myself, is that true, or are you merely trying to please your professor? I tell myself, I am striving for an unbroken impression of authenticity! <em>Authenticity?</em> I hoot, you <em>do</em> actually speak that way! It&#8217;s not as if it&#8217;s affected for your writing. Ah, says the pragmatic Felicity, but is the way you actually speak affected?</p> <p>Sigh. I am so confused.</p> A question of names 2006-08-28T15:15:05+00:00 2008-06-08T13:30:02+00:00 <p>I am in the midst of writing a response/commentary to Margaret Atwood&#8217;s <em>The Handmaid&#8217;s Tale</em>, a dystopia based on Fundamentalism&#8217;s grab for reproductive control of women. And I continuously run into one stylistic question: <b>what do I call the protagonist?</b></p> <p>So far, I am using, well, &#8220;the protagonist,&#8221; but it is cumbersome. The issue is that her &#8216;name&#8217; in the novel, &#8220;Offred,&#8221; is not her name. It&#8217;s a possessive title indicating she is the property of Fred (and which applies to her only so long as she is assigned to him.) By using this name, I feel I would be somehow complicit, legitimizing the protagonist&#8217;s reproductive slavery. (Yes, I know she&#8217;s fictional, but I am an English major. Words have power and I have ethical qualms about my treatment of fictional characters.)</p><p>She has a name, this fictional woman, but it is never stated. A good guess is possible from a close reading, but it&#8217;s hardly clear communication to use the possible answer to a riddle as a fact. So, I struggle on with &#8220;the protagonist,&#8221; using &#8220;Offred&#8221; only in scare-quotes, and suspecting that this quandary was <em>precisely</em> Atwood&#8217;s intention.</p> What's in a computer name? 2006-06-08T16:36:02+00:00 2008-06-08T13:55:44+00:00 <p>So my desktop computer, Titania, has broken down. New parts arrived via <span class="caps">UPS</span> this very day. I had already, since her first construction, replaced her graphics card, her <span class="caps">RAM</span>, and given her a new, larger hard-drive; with this upgrade she&#8217;s getting a new motherboard, a new processor, another new graphics card, and losing the old, smaller hard drive. So, in short, absolutely nothing will be original to this computer except the case and its native power supply.</p> <p>So&#8230;should I rename it? I suppose it doesn&#8217;t matter in the slightest. One could have a series of completely indepent computers, all named Frank, and as long as they weren&#8217;t on the same network at the same time, I imagine no repercussions would ensue (except people thinking you dreadful dull.) However, while I think most commentators would admit the existence of some sort of &#8216;essence&#8217; in a sentient being that would allow one to apply the same name to it were all its pieces replaced but its memories and personality left intact, I&#8217;ve never heard any sort of ruling on nonsentients. If Qubit were replaced tomorrow with a clone of the same age, would we feel compelled to give the new cat a new name? Should I think of a new faerie name for my zippier and completely mindwiped machine?</p> <p>If so, it sure as hell isn&#8217;t going to be &#8216;Oberon&#8217;. Because <span class="caps">I KNOW</span> her gender hasn&#8217;t changed with her innards.</p> <p><b><span class="caps">UPDATE</span></b>: I had to run out and buy a new power-supply, but I haven&#8217;t changed her name. Yet. I&#8217;m tempted to name her &#8216;Promethea&#8217; :p But I won&#8217;t. For now.</b></p> What's in a hat? 2005-11-10T23:11:25+00:00 2008-06-08T16:37:30+00:00 <p>As some of you may have noticed with disapprobation, Saul Jordan, the hero of my <a href="" target="links">NaNoWriMo pulp novel</a>, remains vaguely defined. In part this is because all the world knows the features of Saul Jordan&#8217;s face from his previous adventures (sorry, I do love my own pulp pretensions); in part it is because the combined clich&mdash; I mean, <em>power</em>&mdash; of Saul&#8217;s description might bust your noggins; and in part this is because I figure it is unnecessary. However, one piece of his description IS necessary. It shades his firm jaw and sets off his gunmetal grey eyes. However, I cannot bring myself to define it.</P> <p>Perhaps the problem is that Saul Jordan wears many <em>metaphorical</em> chapeaux. He is a cynical, world-weary private detective; an international man of mystery; a decorated war hero. These roles cannot be subsumed into one hat. Moreover, what hat can I use? Given Saul Jordan&#8217;s true-blue history as an ace fighter pilot, I <em>had</em> to have his non-PI wear include a flight jacket. Therefore, he absolutely cannot wear the hat which his PI role would imply: a fedora. Saul Jordan is not a cheap Indiana Jones knockoff! Saul Jordan is a cheap Sam Spade/Indiana Jones/Jack Colton/Flash Gordon/Lucky Starr/Richard Seaton knockoff. (I&#8217;m keeping my options open.)</p> <p>The fedora ruled out, what is a girl to do? He can&#8217;t wear a pilot&#8217;s helmet to match his flight jacket. That would just be <em>weird</em>, and besides, <em>Sky Captain</em> was too disappointing for any part of it that didn&#8217;t involve Angelina Jolie kicking ass to influence my hero. </p><p>He cannot wear a cap, as styled by news boys, Eponine, Bertram Wooster and myself. Not only would it be below his dignity, but on Planet Hard-Boiled, only the most coffee-and-doughnut loogan wears a cap. It&#8217;s a symbol of the lowliest thug, not the loftiest hero. </p><p>So what then? Every other felt dress hat is too wimpy or too evil. Pith helmet? <span class="caps">PLEASE</span>. Aussie hat? I do not plan on putting velociraptors in my story (though I keep my options open.) Cowboy hat? Urgh. We are from <em>Chicago</em>, people. We are not <em>every</em> steely-eyed American stereotype. I&#8217;m sorry, Johnny Ringo, but that even goes for <a href="" target="pics">the best evil cowboy hat evar</a>. (The best good cowgirl hat, incidentally, was worn by <a href="" target="pics">Prue on <em>Charmed</em></a>. I want this hat as I have never wanted a cowboy hat before.)</p> <p>All this nattering aside, where am I left? Is Saul Jordan, besides being the greatest hero of his generation, the only man in that generation not to wear a hat? In sunny, high-altitude Peru? Would a hero be that stupid?</p>