And with the headline, “Science Fiction Author John Scalzi Explains How Not to Be Boring.” Usually the answer to that is “Spangles! And lots of them!”But this time I suggest something else instead. I know, spangles still are the way to go. Check out the interview anyway. In addition to not being boring I also discuss the new book, the role of humor in my writing, and my influences. You know, stuff that will change your writing life forever. Be ready. And stock up on spangles.
Attached below, a screenshot of an article today from Business Insider:
The site evidently snurched it from my Wikipedia entry. It’s amusing to see it getting around, although, of course, I would like to specify that in fact I have no connection whatsoever to the malware described in the article, other than my Photoshopped face being used by Business Insider to personify its pure, unmitigated evil. I guess it’s nice that they used it for “The Strongest Computer Virus in History,” thought. If they had used it for, oh, “The 4th Lamest Computer Virus of the Week,” I might be annoyed. I’m all about the superlatives. The evil superlatives.
Holy crap, the year’s half done already. On this day, some various things I’m thinking about:
* I hate to keep linking to Andrew Sullivan and saying, “yes, this,” but regarding his essay on Obama and why he doesn’t just come out and say he’s for same-sex marriage, yes, this. Obama’s not only the president of the six states that currently allow same-sex marriage, he’s also the president of the twenty-nine states that now have some form of constitutional bar against them, and while nationwide there’s apparently now a (very slim) majority of people who believe in marriage equality, that majority is, shall we say, not equally distributed. Obama’s still got needle-threading to do.
Personally speaking, I find it annoying, so I can imagine how it’s playing with people who want those same-sex marriages for themselves. But I think Obama also (usually) has a finely-tuned sense of when and how to jump in. It doesn’t earn him any “profiles in courage” awards, but it does make him a pretty effective politician, and if we know anything about Obama at this point, it’s that he’d rather have a political win than a moral victory.
* Via MetaFilter, this article from the New Republic on transgender folks and the current state of their struggles for equality, which are often tied into — but not always in line with — the struggles of the gay and lesbian communities. I know a number of transfolk, including one who I honestly don’t which gender they wish to be seen as (which is why I’m glad there’s at least a colloquial acceptance of the word the “they” for third person singular). I guess I could just ask them.
I don’t suppose it’s entirely surprising that I think transfolk are entitled to the same protections as the rest of us, but I also know there’s a lot I don’t know about their particular struggle to get to that point, so this article was useful to me.
* And as long as I’m (clearly) on a kick about sexuality, gender and relationships today, here’s an article in the New York Times called “Married, With Infidelities” which looks at the question of whether its monogamy or stability that should be the goal of long-term relationships, and what means for the people involved in them. Dan Savage is prominently quoted in the piece, although there are also some folks quoted who point out that his particular point of view on the subject is an especially male one, which he doesn’t deny. For those interested in my point of view on the matter, I posted something along this line a little while ago.
Thoughts on any of this?
Jacqueline Carey has a healthy respect for history — you have to know what you’re working with in order to change it so wildly, as she does in so many of her book. But as she learned in writing Naamah’s Blessing, her latest novel set in the world of her wildly popular Kushiel books, changing history doesn’t necessarily get easier the more you do it; indeed quite the opposite.
I rewrite history… a lot. Over the course of the six books of the Kushiel’s Legacy series, I created a chronology in which the Roman Empire fell centuries before its time, the British Isles were isolated by a supernatural entity, and vast tracts of Germany and surrounding territories were subjected to an extended Dark Ages just so I could have my barbarian tribes. I developed a mythos in which the majority of Jews acknowledged Yeshua ben Yosef (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) as the mashiach (a.k.a. the messiah), and Christianity as we know it never took root; a mythos in which a wandering deity in the fertile Dionysian tradition was born of the mingled blood of Yeshua and the tears of Mary of Magdala, nurtured in the womb of the earth.Elua; Blessed Elua. I gave him seven fallen angels for Companions, and sent him to Terre d’Ange (a.k.a. France) to found a realm of their descendants, based on the sacred precept, “Love as thou wilt.”
Oh, and I invented Pictish culture based on nothing but a list of kings’ names and a handful of line drawings, and I discovered the lost Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia, and I resurrected Carthage. So when I decided at the beginning of the Naamah trilogy, which is set in the same milieu, that I’d visit the New World in the final volume, Naamah’s Blessing, and undo the Spanish conquest, it didn’t seem like a Big Idea. I didn’t expect it to be terribly challenging.
I was wrong.
Rolling back the conquistadores wasn’t the hard part. I’d read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel as part of my general background research. I took guns out of the equation early in the trilogy and I had a plan to deal with germs, which were totally the deadliest weapon of the three. I figured steel and horses alone weren’t enough of an advantage for total conquest. So, yay! That left me free to explore Pre-Columbian culture in Central and South America in a more sympathetic light…
…which brought me bang up against human sacrifice.
Although my divinely amorous D’Angelines are the heroes of the books, throughout the series, I’ve strived to give equal weight to all the belief systems I addressed. Core truths might be subject to reinterpretation, but not outright invalidation. This was a tough one. I could temper it, but I couldn’t deny or ignore it. I tried looking at how other contemporary writers had handled the issue. I even watched Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. It didn’t help. Especially not Apocalypto.
As I’ve written elsewhere, I finally found my psychological access point in the rich Aztec tradition of poetry, and particularly in imagery equating the ephemeral nature of human existence with the poignancy of the cut flower. It allowed me to look past my visceral reactions and see an awful and terrible beauty in the relentless strictures of a demanding faith. And in the end, I was able to incorporate it in a manner that gave the book’s denouement greater resonance.
It turned out to be a Big Idea after all.