Daily Archives: June 17, 2008

Moderation Reminder

I know a lot of you are throwing in a lot of links in your comments over the last couple of days, so here’s a reminder: Posts with three or more links automatically get tossed into the moderation queue, to prevent spammination. If you try to post a comment and it doesn’t show up, chances are good that’s what the problem is.

Do not assume I’ve put you on a moderation list unless I’ve specifically said I was doing so (as, indeed, I have done a couple of times in the last week) — I pretty much always alert people if they’ve earned a trip to the queue, and almost never spring the moderation queue on people without an announcement.

I’ve also had a few folks punted into the spam queue in the last week or two. Don’t ask me why; Askimet works in mysterious ways.

In both cases, I go through my moderation and spam queues at least once a day and usually more, so the chances are good I will free your comment eventually. Don’t panic.

I Never Trusted That Rat Bastard

Incontrovertible proof that Chuck E. Cheese in league with Al Qaeda:

Yes, that’s right, he’s performing a terrorist fist jab. But it’s not just that. He’s training our youth how to perform terrorist fist jabs! Look at that adorable moppet whom he is leading down the path of iniquity! Why, that tousle-haired child is performing that terrorist fist jab as if there’s nothing wrong with it at all. That’s how it starts. And what makes it worse: It’s from an ad on Nickelodeon this morning. Thousands of children were indoctrinated in terrorist hand signals in between episodes of Spongebob! This shall not stand.

Here’s a computer-enhanced version of the terrorist fist jab, so you can gaze up on it in all its incipient evil. Can you not see the menace that drips from the rodent’s curled fingers? Why does the rat wear fingerless gloves? All the better to fiddle with the bomb fixin’s, I say.

Clearly something must be done. First, I call for a ban on all future Chuck E. Cheese commercials, pending a review by a trusted committee of experts who will comb the spots for terrorist lingo, code and body movements (I suggest ED Hill, John Yoo and Antonin Scalia). Second, I suggest all Chuck E. Cheese locations be closed until such time as the FBI and Homeland Security can comb through them to look for clues for Bin Laden’s whereabouts (ever notice how much his “cave” looks like a Chuck E. Cheese animatronic stage?). Third, I suggest rendition with prejudice of Chuck E. Cheese himself. He’s animated, you know. That means he’s not a citizen. Heck, he’s not even real. He can’t possibly have habeas corpus rights. Scribeas corpus rights, possibly. But there ain’t nothing in the constitution about that.

Let’s get on it. Before the rat bastard indoctrinates yet another child. I know when Athena watched the commercial today, she said “their fists didn’t touch! They’re doing it wrong.” When even my own precious child knows the terrorist hand signs, we know we’ve let this go too far, for too long.

The Big Idea: Peter David

What does it take to return to Neverland? Author Peter David, who as a child dreamed of life among the Lost Boys, mulled over this question as an adult. His answer is Tigerheart, a pastiche and paean to Peter Pan and J.M. Barrie that is being praised as having “the same kind of atmosphere as William Goldman’s The Princess Bride.” That’s ringing the changes off two classics at once. How did David do it? By paying attention to the little things, as he explains in this Big Idea.

PETER DAVID:

My fascination with Peter Pan goes back to my awareness of my name, since the Boy Who Never Grew Up was partly the inspiration for it. For that matter, my first real girlfriend was named Wendy. I was certain we’d wind up married purely on that basis. Anyway, the Mary Martin TV version helped cement my obsession with the character, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’d read the James Barrie book, not to mention the original play.

So when various Peter Pan sequels began hitting the stands, some of them written by people with remarkably well-suited surnames (James Barrie versus Dave Barry. Coincidence? I think not) I was first in line to pick them up.

Yet I found all of them–even the eventual “official” sequel–to be lacking. I couldn’t put my finger on why. Returning yet again to the Barrie original, though, I realized what it was, and why, though the flesh of the books may have been willing, the spirit was weak.

What most people seem to ignore, or perhaps even not get, is that the Neverland isn’t merely another place. It’s a dream realm. If you read the original Barrie play, it’s virtually unstageable. At least, it can’t be mounted if you try to stick to Barrie’s descriptions, because they’re written in a surreal, dreamlike manner that calls for all manner of things on stage that can’t be done. Any version you see of the play is of necessity watered down from Barrie’s original vision, and the subsequent novelization of his own play merely exacerbated that. The narrative is all over the place, by design. It reads like someone experiencing a dream, constantly switching perspective and perceptions. Sometimes you’re right alongside the characters, other times the narrator is speaking in the royal “we,” and on other occasions he changes to first person, seemingly at random. He comments on the characters, drops hints, openly manipulates the goings-on, and draws rather acerbic conclusions. Sometimes he even seems more sympathetic with Hook than he does his nominal hero. The story is not logical; it’s paralogical, set within a dreamlike state that makes sense in and of itself.

And I realized that that narrative voice was essential to make a Peter Pan sequel feel like a genuine sequel. You have to use the narrative in a far more active manner than anyone else had been doing because it has to sound like someone is recounting a dream they once had, possibly in childhood. It has to be surreal. And no one was doing it that way. They were treating Peter Pan like just another adventure character, no different than the Hardy Boys or Tarzan. It was the wrong approach.

Since no one else was doing it in a manner true to Barrie, I decided to.

Ironically, as the story developed, it became less and less an actual sequel to Peter Pan (or, if you go with the original title, Peter and Wendy) because my protagonist, Paul Dear, was the one who really drove the story. In the original, Peter Pan shows up seeking his wayward shadow and winds up transporting the Darling children to the Neverland in order to serve his emotional needs. Paul, by contrast, actively seeks out the dream realm in order to retrieve something he hopes will bring back together his family, shattered after an emotional loss. The Barrie characters wound up as the supporting characters. So, even though Pan et al were in public domain, I decided to do pastiche versions instead. I figured if it was good enough for Philip Jose Farmer, it was good enough for me.

But I maintained the ethereal, dreamlike style I had borrowed from Barrie. I felt it was even more important since I was setting aside the goodwill inherent in the Barrie characters and instead substituting archetypal versions that would have to stand or fall on their own merits. Plus I firmly believed that it would make the book unique against a field of other narratives that never wandered beyond the normal boundaries of either third person or first person.

Still, I wanted to have a modern sensibility set against the old-fashioned writing style. That’s why, for instance, I have Paul’s mother trying to deal with Paul’s flights of fancy (claiming he’s talking to animals or magical boys in the mirror) by bringing him to a psychiatrist and having him take medication. Layering 21st century methodology against an early 20th century writing style. I thought it would provide an interesting contrast.

It is, I admit, a risky proposition. No one’s really writing stories in that manner anymore, so anyone coming to Tigerheart without a real understanding of Barrie’s writing style may find themselves put off. It takes a few chapters to become accustomed to the notion that there’s a first-person, occasionally third-person narrator who’s not actually participating in the story, yet doesn’t hesitate to skew the outcome of events and even speak smugly about his ability to do so. To me, the ideal way to experience Tigerheart is to be a child listening to a loving parent reading it to him or her…or, for that matter, to be the parent doing the reading.

Tigerheart: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Read an excerpt of Tigerheart here. Visit Peter David’s blog here.

On the Occasion of Same-Sex Marriage in California

A few counties in California got started on it Monday, but today is the first day that every county in California starts handing out marriage certificates to same sex couples, and then allowing those same couples to marry. In honor of this really excellent day in the state of my birth, allow me to repost something I wrote, four years and one month ago, when a similar day happened in Massachusetts (with suitable updating where necessary).

A Quick Note to About-To-Be Married Gays and Lesbians

I have married eleven people. One of them I am married to; the other ten I have married to each other (two at a time). So I have some experience on the whole wedding and marriage thing. Please allow me the honor of sharing some of it with you.

Remember to breathe.

It’s all right if you stumble over words during the vows, but don’t screw up the name of your spouse.

If you feel yourself crying, go with it, but remember to sniffle strategically — tears are endearing in a wedding ceremony, a runny nose less so.

Don’t lock your knees.

The old saying that if the ring gets jammed as you slip it on it means it’ll be a troubled marriage is a contemptible lie, so don’t let it worry you. But strategic use of talcum powder wouldn’t hurt.

You will almost certainly have trouble focusing on anything but the face of your beloved during the ceremony; that’s why there’s a third person up there to direct traffic.

Even if you’ve written your own vows, you’ll barely remember what you say. So don’t sweat most of the words. It’s the “I do” that counts.

Speaking of which, I think it’s always better to say “I do” than “I will.” You’re going to be married in the future, but you’re getting married now.

But remember, it’s your wedding. Anyone else’s opinion about what the two of you should do or say during the ceremony is strictly advisory.

When you’re told to kiss your spouse, do it like you mean it.

Be aware that this last piece of advice will be almost entirely unnecessary.

When you plan your wedding, try to cover all contingencies. When the one thing you forgot could go wrong does go wrong during the wedding itself, accept it and keep going. Weddings are often imperfect, like the people in them. It doesn’t mean they’re not still absolutely wonderful (like the people within them).

Before the ceremony, pee early and often. I know. But look, you want to be up there with a full bladder? You’ll be nervous enough.

Some people don’t think you should invite your exes to the wedding. But I think it’s not such a bad thing to have one person in the crowd slightly depressed that they let you get away. They’ll get over it at the reception. Trust me.

There will not be nearly enough time at the reception to spend all the time you want with all the people you want to. They’ll understand and will be happy for the time you can spare them.

Smashing wedding cake into each other’s face is strictly amateur hour.

It’s your best man’s (or the equivalent’s) job to remind people that at a wedding reception, as at the Academy Awards, speeches are best very short. You didn’t spend an obscene amount on the catering just to have it grow cold as Uncle Jim blathers on.

Remind the DJ or band that they work for you, and they’ll damn well play anything you want. For some reason I think this may be less of a problem at gay weddings. Thank God.

There will be drama of some sort at the reception. If the wedding party lets any of it reach the newlyweds, they haven’t done their job.

Don’t fill up on bread. You’ll have to dance later.

The first dance should be a song people expect from you. The second dance should be a song they absolutely don’t. It gets things going.

Try to remember as much as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t; what you absolutely will remember is how it feels to be with those who love you, who are pouring their love and happiness over you. Weddings are testimony to your clan of family and friends. You put them on to give them a chance to share your joy. They come to them to remind you that they already do.

In case this is in any way an issue, let someone else clean up the reception hall. You have better things to do on your wedding night.

There are very few things in the world that are better than the very first time you wake up next your spouse.

In some ways, your marriage will be like every other marriage out there. In other ways, of course, it won’t. Those of us who are married now will certainly offer you advice, whether you ask for it or not. But there are some things where you’ll be the first married people to experience them. In some ways, those of us who are married now will be glad we don’t have to go through them. In other ways, we’re deeply envious.

Marriage is work. It never stops being work. It never should.

I’ve been married 13 years as of this very day. During all that time, there hasn’t been a single day where I haven’t said “I love you” to my spouse — several times if at all possible. The two facts are related.

Other short phrases which also occasionally come in handy: “I’m sorry,” “You’re right,” “I’ll get that” and “Of course I’ll go down to the freezer and get you some ice cream, even though it’s 3am and you woke me from a dead sleep. There’s nothing I’d rather do.” Okay, so that last one is not that short. Think about all the times you’re entirely unreasonable, and then go get the ice cream.

The thing about marriages — even the really good ones — is that human beings are in them. And you know how people are. Keep it in mind.

I have no advice to give you for the people who have decided that your marriage threatens their own. Only remember that some of us out here would wish to give you the strength to endure them.

I cannot speak for all married people, but I can speak for myself. Marriage has been so good to me that I cannot imagine not sharing it with anyone who wants it. I celebrate your weddings, and I offer the greatest gift I have: That you receive in your married life the joy I have had in mine, and that you share that joy, every day, with an open and loving heart. You’re about to be married. There is nothing better.

To those about to be married: Welcome, friends. It’s good to have you here.