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April 21, 2007

Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Pt. Eight)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:10 PM * 20 comments

For indeed, dear Miss Musgrave, if I saw even a woman whom I loved, borne along the circling waltz . . .

“Ah, Watson. Once again we are brought news of the Musgrave Ritual. This will, I think, be a two-pipe and one-bitchin’-speedball problem.”

Tina Adams wants to sell you something

Continue reading Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Part Eight)



“Fanfic”: force of nature

[W]hat if these characters were real people? What if these ideas really worked? What would it really be like? … Can anyone else think of any?

[tiny, embarrassed cough]

***

I don’t know how much control Paramount (I think it’s Paramount) keeps over the contents and subjects; is it enough to make those feel different from fanfic to the writers or the readers?

“How much control” should be obvious: they own the property and they own the publishing company. Their control is absolute. If they veto something, it’s vetoed where what is veed must toe.

Now, the degree to which that control has been applied has varied a lot with editorial regime, and the degree to which the Company monitors what goes on has tightened* and loosened over time. I don’t know what can and can’t be done right now (apart from some observation of what’s coming out that anybody could make), and the specific incidents I know of would take more backstory than Gundam Wing. For example, certain types of slash would obviously be out, but I would imagine that relationships that briefly did take place onscreen (Troi/Worf, say**) could be incorporated as long as they stayed inexplicit, the story being assumed to take place While All That Was Happening. I might be wrong, though.

And despite what some folks might think, I wouldn’t put explicit sex in a Trek story under any circumstances. I can imagine a science fiction story in which detailed erotic mechanics were essential to the understanding of the plot (presumably when talking about nonhumans, for whom/which/wha-? inference wouldn’t do), and I can think of a couple of examples, but if I were going to write it I wouldn’t write it as Trek, or B5, or indeed in any such background where it would collide with most readers’ expectations.

I’m deliberately delimiting my participation in this discussion for reasons that, as Vicki noted, are obvious.

*Ya wanna know if certain writers can bleep things up for other writers through their irresponsiblicious actions? You’re faded.
**They were snogging in the corridor in their synthesilk shortees, for the Great Bird’s sake. Diane’s Horta ensign would have noticed the funny smell. And probably asked when to expect geodes.

***

Would I be a fanfic writer?

Is that how you’d think of it? A great many people writing Long Complex Novels (never mind evolving series) write out particular sub-scenarios that never make it into the book. Sometimes the idea looked terrible on the page. Sometimes there was a better idea for the event, or a different better idea that invalidated the present one. And because all ideas look lots better in your head than on paper, putting it on paper is a kind of alpha testing.

Back in the Silver Age’s Light Tarnish Period, DC Comics did what they called “Imaginary Stories,” which were what-if tales about things that weren’t about to happen in the regular continuity — the death of Supes or Bats, or completely left-field scenarios; there was one in which the orphaned Bruce Wayne was adopted by the Kents, and grew up as You Know Who’s half-brother. (This was disposed of in one issue; one imag— er, supposes that now it would be a four- or six-issue limited series. Which might be interesting. Just sayin’.)

Usually, as in the “brothers” case, it was announced up front that a yarn was Imaginary, but sometimes it got rung in as a Big Surprise after something unexpected happened. I doubt that was popular. No points for guessing why.

Anyway, I’m sufficiently to the side of mainstream comics that I dunno if they do Imaginary Stories much anymore.* But the idea is perfectly valid. It is characteristic of fanfic to do this sorta thing, simply because, for the most part, what the canonical author writes is canon, while the amateurs (in a coupla senses) can do whatever pleases them, but there’s certainly no reason one of the Onlie Begetters** can’t or shouldn’t do it.

As to how it ought to be published, the options would be “as fanfic” — privately published and distributed — or by selling a short-fiction version of the incident to a magazine or anthologist. Whether or not an editor would buy it would be entirely up to the editor. It would doubtless be easier to sell if the background work were already successful, and indeed my suggestion (which is perfectly ignorable) is that then and not before would be the time to do it.

Selling the story professionally has the advantages that you get paid for it, and the distribution is done for you. But if you want to keep the “reality” of the Imaginary Story separate, you might want to keep it in a different format. Your decision, when the time comes to decide.

One other point, which I’m sure is obvious but I’ll make anyway, is that if you publish the Alternate Version, in whatever format, do whatever is necessary to make sure it’s as good as the canonical matter. You want the fans to recognize that this is a different work, but it’s not a first draft you hauled out of a drawer to stretch the readers’ patience and budgets. (The people who dislike the story — and there are always some — will claim that anyway, but there is nothing that can be done about that.)

… the “drunk teenager has car accident and reforms” story that I get every year!

Even Joss Whedon’s people couldn’t make that one work.

*There has both been a rise in the perceived value of Continuity and the recognition that lots of cool things can be done if you work Continuity over with a Thanagarian Nerf Bat. However, there’s always two percent that don’t get the word. Some time back, a fan asked Frank Miller if the events of Batman: Dark Knight had “really” happened. “No,” he said. “It’s a comic book.”

**”Captain, I’m getting intense readings from the starboard Irony Sensor.”

Annals of short-lived phenomena: Star Wars fanfic on Amazon
As an aside, wikipedia says that The Count is based on a true story, that Dumas found in a memoir written by a man named Jacques Peuchet.

That’s what he said about the Chevalier d’Artagnan, too. And Cagliostro (who we all know is not that Vinegar Joe Balsamic guy the Masons tried to fob off). And Cesare Borgia, who whatever else you can say about him at least made the trains run on time. And the Phantom of the Opera. No, wait, he didn’t write about the Phantom of the Opera, that was Gaston Leroux, before he went into vaudeville with Alphonse. Well, never mind, I happen to know that one of the original “Corsican Brothers” was named Maria Susanna. I don’t know what to make of that.

Anyway, I am only saying that we vaguely historical personages, wherever we are,* really do not mind very much being taken for a walk around the yard by writers, at least ones good enough to give us a few snappy lines. Julius Caesar has been dining out for a long time now on “‘Et tu, Brute!’ Of all the stand-ins for that particular verb I’ve heard, ‘et’ has got to be the funniest.” As your King Louis the Vaguely Absent’s favorite economist said, “In the long run, we’re all oygeshpilt.”

Yours very,
M. Planchet
Adventurous Supernumerary and General Dogsbody

*I have a nice flat in La Défense. Alphonse Donatien François, Marquis de Vous-Connais-What, is adjacent, but thank God he is downstairs. Comte de Richelieu says we are in Hell, but then he is what the English call a Eurosceptic..

***

M. Layman-Kennedy:

As a General Dogsbody, I am always glad to introduce persons of quality to one another, for a most modest considertation. And as M. le Marquis has never, in my admittedly limited experience of him, refused an introduction of the type to which you refer to anyone, or indeed anything, I can only suggest that you have gentlemen on immediate call to refurbish the boudoir in question.

You must excuse me now, as I am to accompany my sometime employer M. d’Artagnan and his associate M. Zoltan-Brust on an affair involving several cases of Tokaj Essencia and most likely a number of dead people. Fortunately, I wield a slashing mop, as you will learn upon the publication of my roman de cape et d’épée The Man with the Golden Gut, in which my actual role in secret affairs of state is fully disclosed for the first time. I trust that there will no trouble in such a publication, given what I read here, though the fine house of M. Retif de la Bretonne assures me that no difficulty exists.

***

“I find your lack of … frankly, everything disturbing. To use an expression of my former master’s, it is as if the Force belched once loudly and was silent.”

***

“This isn’t the book you’re looking for. Move on.”

***

Because fanfic thrives in fandoms that are full of holes — poor plotting, inconsistent characterization, half-realized worlds are the building blocks fanficcers use.

I think I may agree with the concept here, but I can’t buy any of the descriptors.

There’s room for fan fiction when the source material leaves such room. Series television (and series novels) almost always create larger worlds than the author chooses (or can) fill. There must have been other Lensmen beating the Material Cosmic Crap out of Eddore while the Kinnisons were center-stage; I’ll bet cool things happened to some of them. (And, of course, other people, beginning in Smith’s lifetime and with his approval, have written stories set in the Lensman Universe.)

Some things don’t leave that kind of room. There was actually a short-lived radio series called “The Lives of Harry Lime,” with Orson Welles, about the early adventures of the character — presumably when he was still a good guy (and the story doesn’t work if he never was). But of course the Good Harry Lime is just another international adventurer. And we know what went on offstage in “The Procurator of Judea.”*

I certainly accept that much fanfic is inspired by what the writer perceives to be bad characterization and faulty plotting, and in some cases — probably many cases — evidence could be found to support this. But:

— This is the writer’s assessment. To pick an example that’s already widely known, a “happy ending” to “Puff, the Magic Dragon” in which Puff and Jackie get to live forever is to have not one single neuron attuned to what the song is about.
— In the case of ongoing source works, the source author may have things in mind that will, down the pike, cause the “sloppy plot” or “mischaracterization” to make perfect sense — and if the author is subtle and skilled, cause the shift to seem obvious in hindsight.

A “half-realized world” would be one that doesn’t make complete sense from what’s in the source. In this case, practically every novel ever written has been set in a “half-realized world.” It’s not the same thing as “Gosh, they didn’t spend as much time as I wanted in the Slough of Despond. I’ll bet there were neat monsters there that they could have fought.” (Yes, that’s a cheap shot, but so is the “half-realized” line.) Now, if you meant “incompletely filled-out” world — or universe, since there must be thousands of Lucasian planets** we haven’t seen in the fillums or books, that would be a quite different thing.

Failures aren’t “building blocks.” You can’t build on sludge. You can, however, carve a block that fills the volume the sludge occupied, and you can fill lacunae. The thing is, sometimes the gaps in the wall were left there for deliberate aesthetic reasons — like, for instance, to reduce the overall weight. It is not always necessary, in a large, complex novel with many intersecting characters, to know what each and every one of them was doing at all points in the narrative. (I am in the middle of such a novel right this here minute, and suddenly I want someone who’s been Elsewhere Doing Other Things to show up and say, “Look, I ate and slept and went potty a few times. Also there was this guy with a split-level hayloft. We have more important things to worry about than where the fandango I was.” I probably won’t, though. Another book.)

Look, I’m not going to call anything a priori a bad reason for writing a story. But of the many reasons (all valid) for writing fan fiction, wanting to “fix what’s broke” is among the less likely to satisfy anyone who does not precisely share the author’s conviction as to what was broke in the first place.

*Which I don’t think I would classify as St. J. the D. Fanfic, though it seems that some folks might.

**There is a wonderful story in this — it could even be Trek fanfic, but that is the Left Hand Path Making a Rude Gesture — and if I were Charlie Stross I would write it as soon as I could.

O dere ghod

Duw prid, gwraig, rydich waeth na y Gatling-gwn; rhifo i’n tri milwrau marw.

***

Well, whether there were “really any Cathars,” there definitely was an Albigensian Crusade in which a bunch of people got killed for being … whatever it was they were.

The Gospel of Judas has somewhat less historical evidence connecting it to, well, anything.

On the other monstrance, if your point was that the Albigensian Heresy (or more accurately, popcult versions thereof) chelates with the zeitgeist, and so does the Original Gangsta Judas of the putative Gospel, yeah, I can follow that.

***

I’m goin’ back to the selo
Where my insides, my insides ain’t abused
I can’t take any more vodenka
Ya bolyen from my fur hat to my shoes

Oh, is that the time?

Open thread 64

Line that leapt out from an online film review:

… a Hallmark Channel movie based on a Jules Verne novel starring Patrick Stewart

Now, I’d read that book in a moment.* I’ve long been one of those curmudgeons who holds that, as entertaining a writer as Verne is (especially now that good translations are available), his credit as a “predictor” was overrated, as most of the inventions imaginaires in his books were things other people had written about, and in some cases built early versions of.** Now, with the appearance of his more sociological stuff in English, I’d modify this view a bit, but coming up with Patrick Stewart definitely counts as, well, something. Projective geometry, maybe.

(Stewart might have been an interesting Phileas Fogg, to the extent that Fogg is actually an interesting character. It might also be fun to see him as Professor Arronax, up against Ben Kingsley as Nemo.)

*No, I’m not gonna write the thing. Please, let’s not bring the fanfic arguments over here.

**Verne was loudly insistent that he was not a fantasist of any sort, and complained that Wells had invented Cavorite to get people to the Moon, while he had used the extremely practical method of blasting them into wet pulp with a cannon.

***

Oh, I knows an Challenge when I sees yt.

MYSSIONE MOST UNLIKELYE
Wyth, naturally, Rowan Atkinson as Lord Daniel and Tony Robinson as Hys Henchfellow, and Fry and Laurie in there Someplaice.

Baldryck: Now is the recording hoist with his own petard.
Lord Daniel of Brygges: Out, briefe Taper.
Baldryck: My lord, thou has explain’d to me the plot full forty times,
Yet my small braine cannot contain its tenth.
Lord Daniel: Why, Baldryck, that’s its soul; these petty men,
Who think to say “to do’s” to’ve done the did,
Are undone quite with biding as they’re bid,
And never see the lie beneathe the lid.
Baldryck: It is a cunninge Plann, my lord, whatever the Hecke it is.
Lord Daniel: Baldryck, to you the BAFTA awards are just an excuse to fall asleep in free pudding, aren’t they?
Baldrick: And wobble cods with posh ladyes, my lord.
Lord Daniel: True. Now to our plottinge strong,
‘Fore god, that title sequence was most long.
We’ll build a treason out of lyttel things,
And tiny Blaires may make an end to kings.
Baldrick: I’ve brought my clubbe, my lord.
Lord Daniel: Pish, tiddle, and bang, quotha, making the requisite Monty Python reference. The candle burns low, henchman, and the attention spans grow shorter by the minute.
Time for our Masque. Canst counterfeit the King?
Baldrick: Mmmphmmm mph ptoo.
Lord Daniel: ‘Twill have to serve. A Knave may play a Count,
In this game Calumny is Paramount.
Let’s toss another lordling on the fire,
And what’s Impossible may yet Transpire;
A thousand misdirections make a Doom,
And we’ll choke off this Cruise line in the womb.
Baldryck: Rat on your left, sir.

(No, wait, the Author thynkst, he hath already Writ thys Booke. Aha, quoth he, it is the East, and this is the Sequel.)

***

Rare American Chestnut Trees Discovered

Somewhere there’s a village smithy who’s gonna be very happy.

Dreadful phrases

You may be treating written English as a heiroglyphic [sic*] system (you remember the shapes of words, rather than merely their phonetic components). There is research to support this; it is one way of treating the most common form of dyslexia.

Which is interesting, because within living memory that is how reading was taught in a great many American elementary schools — the infamous “look-say” system, which was later denounced as the primary source of American illiteracy, phonics being touted as the Only True Way to do it. (The issue is anything but simple, and as you’d expect with something involving public ed, has political components, and I’m not trying to start a fight about it.)

Most of the examples I remember have already been cited, though not “comprise” for “compose.” I would put “comprised of” in the same category as “I’m nauseous;” it’s not usually an issue of the person mistaking one word for another (“compose” and “nauseated” are not particularly esoteric words) but of someone who assumes they are synonyms and is trying to sound elevated.

An invented one does come to mind,** though it’s more of an in-joke, as I can’t imagine the people who would use the phrase making this error:

“Speech is privilege.”

You know, there’s at least one F/SF story in that.

*Speaking of popular typos… .
**Come on, you knew I would do this.

***

Teresa: I want to paratypo that as “copyediting farms.” (There surely must be an actual word* for Deliberate Misuse.)

And I’ve had too dire a day** to search the thread, but did we really miss that other minor classic of the form, “straight-jacket”? I don’t remember actually seeing it, but surely there must be an instance of “Straights of Hormuz” out there. (Long ago, when the TV show being parodied was still on the air, Mad ran “The Straights of San Francisco, which was fairly inspired, by Mad standards.

I realize that Closed Captiousness is a different Department of this Office of the Inquisition, but earlier tonight the Weather Channel offered up Tor Nay Does. Doubtless these are a frequent excuse for Flatiron traffic accidents.

*Yes, I know. Let’s Not Go There, though we’re already in There’s Central Business District.

**See previous footnote.

***

Close, but you’re thinking of “Dire á Dale.” He’s with the Morose Men, a band* that roams through Sherwood Forest robbing from hedgehogs and giving to sheep. Well, that was the idea, anyway. But it goes a long way toward explaining the name.

*Drummer, bassist, lead guitar, and 2nd-level Bard.

***

Everybody please cover your trash. There’s a cross-eyed bear in here somewhere. I think he’s the plaintiff fawn’s publicist.

***

I believe Empirical Storm Troopers are the ones who say, “My direct experience tells me that I should hide behind a lot of boxes, never fire my weapon, (since it cannot hit the broad side of a planet anyway), and when spoken to by anyone carrying a red lightsaber, nod once vigorously and hide inside the heaviest available pipe until my external life-form sensor quits pinging. Also, if pursuing rebels and they blow the control on a blast door, shout ‘Open the blast doors!’ and then go find something else to do.”

***

The sky above was the color of a Denver omelet, turned and just setting. Denver itself had been missing for eight years.

“It’s not like I like alcohol in my protein,” Cheese heard someone say as he hunted and pecked his way around the bar. “It’s just that I’m denatured.” It was a Beefbone voice and a Beefbone joke. The Coop — at least the MIT side — was a bar for professional eggheads; you could drink there for a week and never hear two clucks… .

… and that will be quite enough of that.

***

probably due to the prof’s defining “comprise” as something like “embrace”

The grave is fine on your demise
But don’t expect to decomprise.

***

“a regiment of diet and exercise”

Monstrous.

Glass flow

J. Austin: Fulgurite is indeed pretty cool stuff. There’s also trinitite, which is sand fused to glass by having your friendly neighborhood nuclear device go off next to it.

Jim K: The beach sand that is glass pounded down by the clangorous sea is from Book of the New Sun, not too surprisingly.

Re Bernoulli, flight, and science books: long ago, when Philip and Phylis Morrison were still reviewing books for Scientific American, they did a broad survey of science books for kids. They were less than amused by much of the material.

And as for the time lag between the arrival of the Enterprise crew in SF* and the public announcement of transparent alumin(i)um, a more stefnal explanation was covered by John Campbell decades ago in a well-known editorial, “No Copying Allowed;” it ain’t easy to reverse-engineer a manufacturing process from a technology significantly more advanced than your own, even if you have a sample to hand, and in some cases, even if you have a description of the manufacturing process.

“How did the strangers with the weird personal habits make such metal? With weapons of that mighty steel we could conquer Hounslow, Putney … perhaps the Tootings of Bec shall fall beneath our chariots.”
“Once we get the wheel thing down.”
“Eh?”
“Nothing. Their jester said something about ‘basic oxygen furnaces,’ o Wonder of Nature.”
“Then build furnaces, lout of a knavish churl! And gather as much of this ‘oxygen’ as you can. Perhaps it grows in peat bogs.”
“You are not called Dymwyt the Wise for nothing, Your Liegeyness.”

*the city, dammit.

***
The man bent over his guitar,
A broad-hatted dude. The day koo-kachooed.

They said, “You have a brick guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are
Play slide upon the brick guitar.”

And they said then, “But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, as we am,

A tune upon the brick guitar
Of things as-is, with DRM.”

“I cannot roll the world, though round,
Although I oil it as I can.

“I sing a hero’s funneled head,
A mighty axe, no heart contained,

“Although I oil him with this can
He still gets rusty in the rain.

“If strumming bricks should trouble you as stark,
Let me tell of the swans, that they live in the park;

“Say it is the serenade
Of one whose instrument got laid.”

— with all the usual apologies.

***
The Mississippi delta
Was shining like a nanomech guitar
I was following the schema
Through the cradle of a metaphor

This could go on and on.

The Feeste of Kalamazoo

They’ve played the Beatles’ “When I’m 64” this semester, for sure.

When I get older, losing my tone, many years from now,
Will you still be giving me a friendly ring, climb my tower, usual thing?
Count off the changes, hand me the toll, I don’t ask for more
In my September, will you remember, what a bell is for?

You’ll be older too … and if you oscillate, I will answer you.

I could give warning, sound the alarm, when the Jerries jump
(Hope you will forgive me, that was some time gone, years go by and one soldiers on)
Hey Quasimodo, give me a tug, I’ve still got the knack
If I start tolling, like thunder rolling, will you echo back?

Every summer I can watch a party on the churchyard green laid out at my feet
People step and glide
Down there I see the well … keep the cat inside!

Winchester calling, answer required, would you break me down?
If you go all silent and you don’t look back, my heart might develop a crack
Ring Mr Hansen, set up a time, I can be recast,
Once more with feeling, things are appealing, when they’re made to last.

Historical re-creationism

the Heiro Gamos

Hieros gamos. These are things you want to get right. Someone might be watching, and being turned into a tree or a sacred spring or a traffic light in Columbus Circle can ruin your whole day.

***
taking the Christ out of Christopher

In the fashion that will be familiar to all the Making Enlightened, this points an obvious direction:

Taking the Christ out of ChristML
Taking the Christ out of OS Christ
Taking the Christ out of Christ-Ray Spechrists

Obviously, this is the reason that Our Lord in His Infinite Wisdom created global replace. Further examples are left for those daringly unwise enough to try.

***
And I am also mildly disappointed to think that the book is not quite as dumb as I had been led to believe… or maybe it still is?

Well, there’s still all the crap research hektographed from crap sources, and more importantly, pasted in without the slightest creativity or imagination in its use.

Tony Robinson’s documentary on the book’s sources (which is the one to watch if you’re going to watch anything on the topic) had a very interesting aside: Robinson said that he believed that Brown had every right to use whatever he wanted to as source material for a fictional thriller. He didn’t explicitly say that Brown did not have the right to pretend that this junk was real history, but he had not long earlier run a clip of Brown talking about the “real” Priory of Zion, followed by a detailed demolition of the silly hoax.* I rather think I feel the same way. If Brown had said, “Look, this is a fantasy based on other fantasies; if you can’t figure that out, I’ve got some palantiri to sell you.” But he didn’t do that.

Brown refused to be interviewed for Robinson’s program; it was said that he was “researching his next book.” Since, from the evidence of his prior books, this could not have taken more than half an hour, perhaps he just didn’t want to talk to someone who had done some actual research.

*I almost called it “stupid,” but the guys who put it together were actually rather clever — not honest, but they found a way to use their skills as con men and forgers to separate les fous from their francs without breaking any specific laws.

Styrofoam tits

So it stands for Scientifical T & A Research Labs. That explains all sortsa things. On the other side of the bed, of course, we have Unstable Molecules.

If you’ll excuse me, the Stark Autumn Couture Line is finishing up (we’ve had an excellent production season — no deaths, only four major injuries) and the Adamantium Springform Instep is proving … difficult, shall we say?

See you in Paris.

John M. “not Tom” Ford

***
Mrs. Dibny! Stop that this instant!”
***
The CCA meant instead of Sherlock Holmes, we get Superman. Instead of Hamlet, we get Aquaman. Instead of Hercules, we get Captain America.

All those characters antedate the Code. And it really doesn’t have anything to do with the shape American comics took. And even once it was in place, it didn’t prevent Hamlet or Sherlock Holmes — Classic Comics, though it’s perceived something of a joke now, did some excellent adaptations; their Frankenstein is definitely the book and not any of the movies.

It is also worth noting that Hamlet and Hercules are public-domain characters. You can certainly use them, and you can hold rights to particular representations of them, but you can’t own the names. But that’s another thread.

We’re talking about a format that, in the United States at the time, was produced by publishers of modest means and sold through the extremely wasteful system of newsstand distribution. Indeed, both DC and Martin Goodman’s publishing Escher diagram (which was about to be Marvel) nearly went under at the end of the Fifties. DC was saved mainly by Julie Schwartz putting together the Justice League, and Goodman’s outfit largely by his playing golf with boss of DC, who mentioned that their new “team” book was doing pretty well. Goodman went to one of his writers, who was on the brink of quitting the comics business entirely, and that guy, one Stan Lee, created — oh, heck, you already know that.

If you want a direct comparison, America doesn’t lack bandes dessin&eacite;es because we had the Comics Code. We lack them because we didn’t have Hergé, to create something that everybody, kids and grownups, would read, and could enter the culture at all levels.

And y’know, it doesn’t flipping matter anyway, because those walls are down. They are probably more down in independent work than Lexcorp Comics, but that is not a terribly significant issue, and Lexcorp Comics itself has divisions doing nonstandard work, which when it’s good is very good indeed. (And bad work we have always with us.) You are surely not going to suggest that every last comic that comes out of Europe or Japan or South America is great art; surely not, because I’ve seen total brainless crap from all those places, along with brilliant work.

It is undeniable that mass-market businesses, like the one I work in, create certain pressures on the creative people. It is also beyond any question that excellent work gets done despite those pressures — sometimes by leaving the system for the open country, but quite often by finding new avenues in the old neighborhood. Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s run on Teen Titans was superpeople — heck, some of them weren’t even new superpeople — and you know what? It was good stuff — sometimes it was heartbreakingly good — and it was entirely grownup in its concerns while still being readable by kids. And that was twenty-five years ago, and no, it wasn’t a one-off.

Yeah, I’m mildly ticked off. I’ve had three decades of being told that forms I work in can’t possibly do anything that isn’t cliched and juvenile by their nature, and it got old three decades less five minutes ago. Judging an art by its bad examples isn’t criticism; it’s tossing a grenade into the barrel and then complaining that the fish are dead.

***
even though the protagonist was only a copy of himself in the later books.

Subjunctive Tension is Everywhere!

If I did this as a shirt, with various choice examples on the back —
“She turned on her left side. She had been running her game console off the battery.”
“His world crumbled. Bits of it piled up on his shoes.”
“His heart melted at the sight of her. She grinned and took out a spoon.”

— would anybody, like, buy it? (Being typographic, it wouldn’t take very long to prepare and put up.)

Comments on Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Pt. Eight):
#1 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 05:38 PM:

They were snogging in the corridor in their synthesilk shortees, for the Great Bird’s sake. Diane’s Horta ensign would have noticed the funny smell. And probably asked when to expect geodes.

Will take me some time to read through the rest of this lovely long post, but as a Trekkie who somewhat followed Worf's adventures, this made me giggle. And remember that Mike Ford did actually write Trek novels, didn't he?

#2 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 05:59 PM:

I seem to have finally got to the point where there is much more pleasure at reading these again than pain at the recognition that what there is now is all that there ever will be.

There is indeed a great deal to be said for brilliant writing, freely and generously shared with any who choose to read. Thank you for posting this sampling of Mike's work.

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 06:30 PM:

[snickering as I read this. Happens every time, for some reason.]

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 07:10 PM:

When I read these, I don't know whether to smile or cry.

#5 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 08:58 PM:

Nenya, yes, he did, and whether you love Star Trek or hate it, they are great books.

Fragano, smile. That would've been Mike's preference. Which, okay, makes the smile a bit wistful, but that's okay, too.

#6 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 09:24 PM:

I suspect this one will keep hitting me at odd moments for some time, leading to supressed snickers at socially awkward moments:
Julius Caesar has been dining out for a long time now on “‘Et tu, Brute!’ Of all the stand-ins for that particular verb I’ve heard, ‘et’ has got to be the funniest.”

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 10:38 PM:

will shetterly #5: I expect you're right. That would undoubtedly have been what he would have wanted.

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 11:16 PM:

I've been scooping up Ford novels as they turn up in thrift stores. No luck getting any 'Trek ones yet.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 12:51 AM:

It frustrates me to think our paths may have crossed at worldcons and/or NASFiCs, but I never recognized him and never got to thank him for his making me laugh so much.

#10 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 05:27 AM:

Since Mike mentions Tony Robinson, may I recommend The Doomsday Code, should you get the chance to watch it.

Available from the usual suspects...

#11 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 05:10 PM:

We discussed The Last Hot Time at book group yesterday and when I first started rereading it, it was painful. But as I got caught up in it, the pain went away.

#12 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 07:19 PM:

That response of his to me made me joyfully giddy for a long time. I mean, it's not every day you get to make a Lautreamont/Sade RPS joke on an online forum (even this one), much less get it batted back.

#13 ::: MikeB ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 12:03 AM:

Nenya #1: Oh, did Mike Ford write Star Trek novels:

The Final Reflection
How Much for Just the Planet?

Amazon and its affiliated horde of used bookstores seem to have plenty of copies.

(And, while we're on the subject, I'd like to thank Jim, Teresa, and the rest of the Boskone charity auction sales force for convincing me to buy my very first Mike Ford book. The Final Reflection was every bit as good as you promised.)

#14 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Wow. I knew JMF had written ST novels. I had been told the name. It was not until I followed the Amazon link that I realized I had READ The Final Reflection. It, along with another "Things That Happened Before the Five Year Mission" book (a Pike book, marketed as "Spock's First Mission on the U.S.S. Enterprise") were among my favorites in that long-ago time.

#15 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Marilee @ #11:

I read The Last Hot Time for the first time recently, having found a copy at the last convention I attended.

Reading the Library of Congress data in the front of the book, I was amused by the priorities demonstrated by whoever compiled the subject listing.

#16 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 11:07 PM:

My Pixel-stained Technopeasant offering is related to Mike.

#17 ::: Tucker ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:22 AM:

I’ve had three decades of being told that forms I work in can’t possibly do anything that isn’t cliched and juvenile by their nature, and it got old three decades less five minutes ago. Judging an art by its bad examples isn’t criticism; it’s tossing a grenade into the barrel and then complaining that the fish are dead.

I got into this discussion myself about a week and a half ago. That right there sums up about ten minutes of my rambling, and is witty to boot.

#18 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2007, 10:22 PM:

The awesomest used book store in Providence had its big spring sale today, and I picked up three John M Ford books: The Last Hot Time, Web of Angels, and The Final Reflection. Soon I'll know better why all of you love him so much. I couldn't be more excited.

Also related to ML topics, there was an unbelievable quantity of awful-looking self-published novels in the SF section.

#19 ::: SummerStorms finds it amusing ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2013, 08:11 PM:

... in a sort of "this is not a ____" way, only reversed.

#20 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2013, 08:22 PM:

The interesting part is that the user name and the link behind it are completely different.

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