Daily Archives: May 26, 2009

Reminder: California is a State in Which Same-Sex Marriages Are Legal

Having zoomed through the California Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage recognition, here’s my basic, I’m-so-totally-not-a-lawyer opinion:

It seems like the California Supreme Court has upheld the amendment to the California Constitution embodied in Prop 8 to the bare minimum that they could without actually throwing it out (which, I am led to understand by a number of lawyer friends, would have been very difficult to do), and in doing so have made it as toothless as they could. As I understand it, the court is basically saying “same-sex couples are allowed every right non-same-sex couples are allowed except to the actual word ‘marriage,’ unless of course they were already married before Prop 8 passed, in which case they get to use the word ‘marriage,’ too.”

Let’s not pretend that the pro-Prop 8 folks didn’t get a victory here in banning recognition of future same-sex marriages in California, because they have. However, the victory they did not get, the one that mattered the most from the point of view of delegitimizing same-sex marriage in California, and the one will make the Prop 8 ruling look increasingly foolish and bigoted as time goes on, is the one that would have invalidated the 18,000 previously-existing same-sex marriages in California. These marriages make a mockery out of the Prop 8 wording, because guess what? That part of the California constitution that says: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”? Completely and totally false. California is in fact legally obliged to recognize marriages between two men or two women.

Fact is, these existing California same-sex marriages are real, they are legal, they are valid and recognized. The people in them have the same rights as the people in any other marriage. Prop 8 has fundamentally failed to erase the state recognition of same-sex marriages in California. California is a state in which same-sex marriages are legal. That the state will no longer legally sanction additional same-sex marriages is in a very real way aside the point from this.

I imagine there are all sorts of legal implications to this ruling that will have to be sussed out from here, specifically involving why some same-sex couples are allowed legal recognition of their marriages while others aren’t, and in the long run I see the people of California seeing the fundamental bigotry of not allowing the latter group of same-sex couples to joining the former group in a wedded state. But that’s to be dealt with in the future.

In the meantime, I will revel in the fact that every time one of the people in those 18,000 real live actual legally recognized in the State of California same-sex married couples does something associated with the state recognizing the legal status of their marriage, they will taking one of their fingers — the one with the wedding band on it — and poking it directly into the eye of bigotry. You tried to kill my marriage, but it and I am still here, I hear them saying to the Prop 8 supporters. You tried to kill my marriage. You failed.

Yes, they did. They failed spectacularly.

Prop 8 Ruling In

From the LA Times:

The California Supreme Court today upheld Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage but also ruled that gay couples who wed before the election will continue to be married under state law.

I’ll likely update with more of my own comments soon. The short form of my thoughts, however, is that I’m not surprised at the ruling, that I’m very glad that no existing marriages were destroyed, and that because the previous same-sex marriages are still valid, the constitutional amendment embodied in Prop 8 is already mockably pointless (because the state has to recognize same-sex marriages as valid, despite the amendment), and I expect will not remain long as part of the California constitution.

Discuss in the comment thread. Be aware I am wielding the Mallet of Loving Correction very enthusiastically. If you can’t discuss the ruling without also taking personal shots at other commenters for their thoughts on the ruling, down comes the mallet.

Update 1: The actual ruling (pdf link)

Various & Sundry 5/26/09

What’s going on in my head:

1. First, another quick shoutout to the folks who put together and participated in ConQuest 40, which I have just come back from. It was an excellent con, for several reasons. First, and most directly relating to me, they kept jamming barbeque down my throat all weekend long, and while I’m sure I’ve gained about fifteen pounds and am now flirting with hypertension, it was worth it. I’ve invested in a home defibrillator in any event. Second, I thought it was a well run and well-paced convention — not overprogrammed as cons occasionally are, which meant that as a guest I didn’t feel overworked, and as a congoer I didn’t feel like I was missing out on stuff because it conflicted with something else I was doing or seeing. Third, everyone was lovely; it had a real family-like atmosphere and I quickly became fond of a number of folks, both staff and congoers.

So in sum, it’s a lovely convention and I hope to go back one day soon. If you’re in the market for a Memorial Day convention, this is a very good choice. They already have the splash page for ConQuest 41 up, so check it out.

2. As happy as I was to have attended ConQuest (and I was), it’s nice to be home and also nice to have nowhere I’m obliged to be, in a public capacity, until late July. Yes, I know, having to travel to places where people want to put you in a spotlight and have you party until the wee hours of the night seems like one of those problems most  people would like to have. I’m not saying it is actually a problem. It is, however, tiring, especially when you’ve had three travel commitments in four weekends, as I have. And it does put a hole in the writing schedule, as I do almost no writing while traveling and it takes me a day or so once I’m back home to get my brain back into writing mode.  So as you might expect, as much fun as I’ve had this May, it was not a sterling month for writing. June, however, looks excellent in this regard.

3. Yes, I have something planned to be writing on in June. No, I’m not going to talk about it now.

4. Got my physical copies of Zwischen den Sternen (the German version of Zoe’s Tale) in the mail today, which makes me happy, as it’s the first foreign version of ZT to arrive here at the Scalzi Compound. It appears to be selling pretty well over there, which makes me even happier; it’s nice to see Zoe doing well in the world. It’s also interesting to me that Chapter 20 gets me all misty regardless of what language it’s in.

That’s what’s up.

China Miéville on Crime Novels

China Miéville’s new novel The City & The City hits the stores today, and it’s a novel that simultaneously fulfills Miéville fan expectatation and is something that they never would have seen coming. Fans of the author almost certainly expected a complex and satisfying tale of a fantastic city real enough that you get the genuinely tactile sense of the place, given the author’s long association with New Crobuzon, in Perdido Street Station and Iron Council. If there’s anything Mieville knows (and to be clear, he knows lots), it’s how to put his reader into a city with all senses firing.

What they couldn’t have expected were Beszel and Ul Qoma, the cities of the book’s title, or their intimate relationship as sisters and rivals — or the fact that Mieville would give them their view of these cities through the lens of a murder procedural — or that Mieville both supports and subverts the crime novel form exploring the cities he’s made. He’s doing a lot of fascinating stuff here, and makes it look easy, which it’s not. Expect The City & The City to be an awards front runner, and not necessarily just in the genre of science fiction and fantasy.

Having now written his own crime novel, China Mieville has some thoughts on the nature of the form, and why it’s so hard for whodunnits to stick the dismount, as it were. I’m delighted to give him the floor here at Whatever to explain it to you.

CHINA MIÉVILLE:

Crime novels never end well. We’re talking here about the whodunnits. There’s a body in the library. Seven people hated him. A cantankerous cop plays by her or his own rules, or a small-town librarian charmingly uncovers sordid truths. There are other paradigms, of course — the alt-crime formulas perfected by geniuses like Patricia Highsmith, the youalreadyknowwhodunnits, the whodunwhats, the doesitreallymatterwhodunnits. But the centre of gravity of the genre, the pull against which such brilliant dissidence chafes, is the whodunnit. Be it cozy, police procedural, noir, the problematic is shared. And these novels – which I like many passionately love – always end badly. Even the brilliant ones. I don’t mean for those still alive within the books’ worlds, necessarily, but for those of us beyond the text.

Reviews of crime novels repeatedly refer to this or that book’s slightly disappointing conclusion. This is the case even where reviewers are otherwise hugely admiring. Sometimes you can almost sense their bewilderment when, looking closely at the way threads are wrapped up and plots and sub-plots knotted, they acknowledge that nothing could be done to improve an ending, that it works, that it is ‘fair’ (a very important quality for the crime aficionado – no last-minute suspects, no evidence the reader hasn’t seen), that it is well-written, that it surprises… and yet that it disappoints.

The reason, I think, is that crime novels are impossible. Specifically, impossible to end.

Obviously there’s a danger here of exoneration, of using this argument to evade responsibility for all manner of bullshit and bad writing. So let’s insist that one of the reasons for any crime novel’s – sometimes nebulous but in my opinion inevitable – failure may very well be authorial inadequacy. Nonetheless. Even absent that, such books always leave the reader feeling, even if just a bit, let down.

Because crime novels are not what they say they are. They are not, for a start, realist novels. Holmes’s intoxicating and ludicrous taxonomies derived from scuffs on a walking stick are not acts of ratiocination but of bravura magical thinking. (Not that they, or other ‘deductions’, are necessarily ‘illogical’, or don’t make sense of the evidence, but that they precisely do so: they make it into sense. The sense follows the detection, in these stories, not, whatever the claim, vice versa.) The various manly Virgils who appear ex nihilo to escort Marlowe through his oneiric purgatories are not characters, but eloquent opacities in man-shape: much more interesting. Dalgliesh’s irresistibility to hyperrealised moral panics du jour – the poor man manages to contract SARS – is an elegiac opera of Holland Park angst, rather than any quotidian gazette of a policeman’s unhappy lot. Detective fiction is a fiction of dreams. Not only is this no bad thing, it is precisely what makes it so indispensable.

Secondly, detective novels are not novels of detection, still less of revelation, still less of solution. Those are all necessary, but not only are they insufficient, but they are in certain ways regrettable. These are novels of potentiality. Quantum narratives. Their power isn’t in their final acts, but in the profusion of superpositions before them, the could-bes, what-ifs and never-knows. Until that final chapter, each of those is as real and true as all the others, jostling realities all dreamed up by the crime, none trapped in vulgar facticity. That’s why the most important sentence in a murder mystery isn’t the one starting ‘The murderer is…’ – which no matter how necessary and fabulously executed is an act of unspeakable narrative winnowing –  but is the snarled expostulation halfway through: ‘Everyone’s a suspect.’ Quite. When all those suspects become one certainty, it’s a collapse, and a let-down. How can it not be? We’ve been banished from an Eden of oscillation.

It’s no cause for despair. Even if these stories fail, we still love them, and can’t do without them. And they’re only one of countless phenomena which can, in this here-and-now where we live, only always fail. But Beckett’s advice is good: fail again, and fail better. Some detective stories, after all, fail very well indeed.

(And for the lit-geek, there is one, just once, in the history of the genre, that succeeded in the impossible, and defeated this narrative kobayashi maru. It’s its brilliant solution to this impossible narrative conundrum that makes Darcy Sarto’s Lady Don’t Fall Backwards the only flawless crime novel ever completed.)

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The City & The City: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Read an excerpt from the first chapter of the novel. Read a Q&A with Miéville on The City & The City. China Miéville’s book tour itinerary.