Daily Archives: February 15, 2013

Something Really Old VII: Shaving

From the AOL years (1996 – 1998).

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After months of using my razor when she thought I wasn’t looking, my wife finally gave in and got one of her own. I saw it today when I opened the medicine cabinet. It was all swoops and bumps and utterly lacked sharp edges, which struck me as mildly odd. On a razor, sharp edges are kind of the point. If my wife wanted to run a smooth, rounded object over her legs, she could have just as well used my bald spot.

I finally located the razor cartridge (it was on the smaller of the two egg-like structures) and found another weird thing: little crossbars over the blades. I have no earthly idea what that’s all about. I suppose the idea here is to keep the blades from getting too close to the skin, thereby avoiding nicks and cuts. Which would be fine, if leg hair levitated an eighth of an inch from the surface of the skin. But it doesn’t. My wife may be avoiding nicks, but the trade-off may be permanent, Don Johnson-like stubble.

“Why are you staring at my razor?” my wife asked.

“Because it looks like a tricorder,” I said.

“Oh,” she waved her hand dismissively. “They’re just trying to make it feminine.”

I looked at it again. It is feminine, to the extent that looks absolutely nothing like my razor. Her razor is playful, swooping, postmodernist. My razor is a metal stick with two blades on the end. Walter Gropius or one of his Bauhaus “Machines for Living” baddies whomped up my razor one day when they needed beer money.

The only things vaguely ergodynamic about it are little rubber bumps on the shaft, that serve to strengthen your grip on the thing as you swipe it across your face at high speeds, just like they do in the commercials. Of course, in the commercials, they’re already shaved under the foam. There’s no razor in the cartridge, either. Try swinging a razor across your neck like that in real life, and the last thing you’ll see are your toes as your head rolls by them, stopped only by a final clunk against the toilet porcelain.

Other than the bumps, it’s a lean and mean shaving machine. The razor manufacturers make token bows to the gods of comfort and safety in their ads, but at the end of the day, you know that the feeling at the razor factory is: you’re a man. Deal with the pain. No little crossbeams for you, you hear them say. You tear off your own head, it’s your own damn fault. If you can’t handle the blade, don’t dare to shave. Oh, stop crying. Here. We’ll give you a moisturizing strip, you big baby. Shaving is the last stand of the buff macho stud.

Mind you, I don’t want my razor to be all swoopy and curvy. I prefer it the way it is. Shaving can be a painful experience, and I don’t want my razor pretending to be my friend. It’s a mercenary, barging onto my face every few days, wreaking havoc, taking no prisoners. It might as well be ugly. My wife’s razor does all the horrifying things mine does, but hides it beneath a pretty, sweet exterior. It’s the Heather Locklear of hygiene products, and my wife’s legs are Melrose Place.

I’ve noticed that a lot of painful things relating to women have had curves added to them, as a sort of protective camouflage. I see those commercials for what we men (when we are somehow barred from running from the room, screaming, at their first appearance) like to euphemistically term “feminine products.” At one point or another, the very attractive and enthusiastic woman in the ad says “now with a rounded applicator!” with a tone that implies that this is the height of several thousand years of human engineering.

I have no direct experience with this (thank God), but I have to say I am skeptical; maybe if she said “now with a topical anesthetic!” I could see getting excited. Thing is, just because something is rounded off doesn’t mean it can’t hurt. Babies are rounded off, but they don’t give epidurals just for fun.

Ultimately, what bugs me about my wife’s new razor is now that she has it, I can’t blame my own painful shaving experiences on the possibility that my wife used my razor without switching the cartridge. Before, I could always rationalize a bad shaving experience on the idea that the blades were exhausted from the workout my wife gave them (excepting Jay Leno, most men’s chins have less surface area than a woman’s two legs). Maybe I’ll borrow hers from time to time. The little crossbeams might be useful after all.

The Big Idea: Hannah Strom-Martin & Erin Underwood

Facing a horrifying dearth of available science fiction YA anthologies, Editors, Erin Underwood and Hannah Strom-Martin sought to rectify the problem. Crowd-funded through Kickstarter, Futuredaze: An Anthology of Young Adult Science Fiction aims to make a dent in the market, complete with 33 short stories and poems aimed toward the younger fans of the genre.  Here are Erin and Hannah to explain the genesis behind their Big Idea.

Erin Underwood & Hannah Strom-Martin:

Our big idea for Futuredaze: An Anthology of Young Adult Science Fiction was born out of a discussion about a lack of short SF for teens.  If you haven’t heard of The Hunger Games by now you’re probably living in District 13—but while we both enjoyed Suzanne Collins’ series and looked forward to a Harry Potter-esque revival of science fiction stories for teens, we ended up holding our breath a long time, at least as far as short stories were concerned.  (Erin nearly passed out at a Boston B&N when she realized the lack of SF anthologies. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.)

Since our Big Idea evolved as a dialogue it seems fitting for both of us to share the story here.

Erin: In early 2012, the Earth stood still. That was the day I entered a Boston Barnes & Noble’s YA section, really “looked” at what they had to offer.  I didn’t see a single SF anthology for teens. Standing there among the paranormal romance, urban fantasy and horror anthologies, I felt a bit betrayed. I’m a girl who grew up consuming a regular diet of geek fiction, and finding an absence of geek among the sleek, shiny anthologies told me that something had gone desperately, horribly wrong with the world. We were being invaded by werewolves, vampires, and witches, and there wasn’t a single space alien to blast them off the anthology shelves. That’s when I called Hannah and the Big Idea for Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction began to germinate. From there, our Big Idea grew into a Kickstarter campaign that gave life to Futuredaze.

Hannah: I’d noticed that, despite the Susan Collins juggernaut, comments about SF or the classic tales from which The Hunger Games derives appeared limited to a few mentions of Battle Royale.  As someone who remembers hearing audio broadcasts of Ray Bradbury’s short stories on NPR I kept waiting for some snarky critic to point out the grand tradition of ersatz future fiction that The Hunger Games had drawn on for inspiration.  I also noticed that dystopian SF seemed like the only sub-genre to have really gripped the public imagination—and while I adore those kinds of tales, there is much more to the SF universe.  This is the genre of James Tiptree, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, and Stephen King’s Bachman books (I can’t read The Hunger Games without thinking of “The Long Walk”).  When we started reading for this anthology, we wanted to explore the possibilities of SF written for young adults, but we also wanted stories that hearkened back to our own formative reading experiences and gave us that special thrill of discovering characters who reflect a bit of your own experience—even if they’re in a far different time and place.

Erin: I agree with Hannah. I looked for the stories that made me “feel” something while reading because those are inevitably the stories that stay with me long after the last word is gone. If a story from our submission pool didn’t have that effect on me, I couldn’t imagine it within the anthology. Eventually stories began rising to the top, and we saw several standout stories per subgenre.  This encouraged us to move toward a much more generalized anthology that could showcase the best of what science fiction can offer. Except…..

Hannah: Except then we were invaded by robots.  My favorite aspect of YA is that it doesn’t talk down to its audience.  Likewise, I feel it must be said that our early submission period saw a deluge of what I nicknamed “white-girl robot” stories.  Speculative fiction has been going through some self-analysis lately and this sudden influx proved why.  A good chunk of those early stories not only thought “inside the box” when it came to the possibilities of scientific advancement—they were also obsessed with the idea of white-girl robots.  Not just the obvious sex-bot variety (although those were there, some even well written).  The robot horde came from white suburbia and, relentingly, had white suburban concerns.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that—but the sheer volume of such submissions proved why we need more projects like Futuredaze.

Erin: The robots were tough. We received so many we had an abundance of “mech” stories to choose from, but “The End of Callie V” was our favorite because it approached the idea of life and love in a unique way. For me, the biggest concern was the number of stories that, while well-written, didn’t fit the contemporary definition of young adult fiction. By this point, I’d been promoting and working with YA authors long enough to start wondering if there was a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes “YA fiction” within parts of the science fiction community. That realization was a bit of a shock for me.

Hannah: My one frustration with this anthology was that the overall submission pool wasn’t quite at the level I would have hoped for—either in terms of cultural awareness or an ability to think outside the box and get away from typical SF cliché’s like rocket ships.  However, the stories that were really thoughtful and original had a way of popping out so we quickly had more than enough entries for a highly entertaining, book length project.

Erin: My biggest challenge was to stop being nice. (If you know me, you’re laughing right now. I know it!) But seriously, once these gems floated to the top, it became a lot easier to cut the other pieces. Eventually, I learned an invaluable lesson: each anthology must have a story that sets the bar for every other story, if you want to avoid publishing an average anthology. For me, that story was “A Voice in the Night” by Jack McDevitt. I’d been a fan of his Alex Benedict series for years, and when Jack agreed to write a YA story for us featuring a young Alex (a teen with his very own “big idea”), I was thrilled. Once I read Jack’s piece, I saw what Futuredaze could be. The bar was set.

Hannah: While I would have liked to see a bigger representation of cultures from our submissions I really think this anthology will be a good jumping off place for kids who may have read The Hunger Games and are wondering what other sorts of characters and situations they can find.  We’ve got stories set in the near future, grand space opera type stuff and unique tales from emerging writers like Alex Dally MacFarlane whose “Unwritten in Green” was one of my favorite pieces.  This is a story that straddles the fantasy and SF genres in a really interesting way, ups the level of writerly craft, and points the way towards what this nascent rebirth of young adult SF can be.  We also decided to include poets in our line-up, which I feel provides yet another avenue for exploration.  Exposing our audience to new things—that was the idea all along.

Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powells

List of Contributing Authors. Visit Erin Underwood via her website.