Monday, April 30, 2007

Fan Fics I Want to See

I commented:

It's interesting what characters become the focus of fanfic and which ones don't. It's not about the writing. Really good writers write really good books but no one writes fanfic about them. (As far as I know, no one is writing fanfic about Genly Ai from Left Hand of Darkness and the Gethan who consoles him for the death of Estraven.

Ted commented:

Isn't the vast majority of fanfic about characters from television and movies? Very few books achieve that kind of audience; LotR and Harry Potter managed, but Left Hand of Darkness doesn't come close. So I think the question is, why is there so much fanfic about BtVS but so little about E.R., when the latter was a much more popular show?

I think Ted is not wrong, but I think they are the same class of questions.

I found a list* of books that have fanfic written about them, (Harry Potter, 293379 works linked, followed by The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 2 works) and a list of tv show fanfic, (Buffy The Vampire Slayer 30924 works, ER 4933, Bill Nye The Science Guy! 7) It didn't surprise me that the books with the most written about them had crossed over and were movies as well.

But I have to echo Ted's question, I am under the impression that most fanfic is written by women. George Clooney seems to appeal to women. So why little about ER? It's not because Buffy is a story centered on a woman, since Harry Potter is centered on a boy and it gets a ton of fanfic. Although it is hard to imagine Goerge Clooney's ER character as one of the two main characters in a hurt/comfort story.

(Btw, the game Final Fantasy has a lot of fanfic written about it 41273 works for the whole series, but Halo, which I have been paid to write a kind of fanfic for, has only 1757 works. And Sonic the Hedgehog has 8627 works.)

There are no Maureen McHugh works or Ted Chiang works with fanfic written about them. No Walter Jon Williams, either. But Orson Scott Card makes the list.

*The list I've linked to is far from definitive, of course, since Star Trek The Original Series, the granddaddy of fanfic, has only 1488 works linked.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Of Course I Wanted One

Friday, April 27, 2007

Did Elizabeth Bennet Sleep With Mr. Darcy Before They Were Married?

I am reading Why We Read Fiction by Lisa Zunshine (Greg Feeley recommended it because he thought I would like it and I very much do.) It’s a book about how our mind takes the abbreviated information encoded on a page and reads into it the complexity we read in people’s behaviors. In one part, she talks about how we don’t believe that the characters in books are real, but some part of our brain behaves as if we do believe they are real.

She talks about how instructors work so hard to illuminate the intricacy of the artifice of a work of fiction and then the students get caught up in a debate about whether or not Elizabeth Bennet slept with Mr. Darcy before they got married.

It seems to me that our unease on this occasion stems from our intuitive realization that on some level our evolved cognitive architecture indeed does not fully distinguish between real and fictional people. Faced with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, our Theory of Mind jumps at the opportunity (so to speak) to speculate about their past, present and future states of mind, even as we realize that these “airy forms [and] phantoms of imagination”* do not deserve such treatment.

Why We Read Fiction, p.19

As a writer I am always astonished at how little it takes to evoke character. At how far we will go with a single strong detail. At how much agreement you can get from readers about a character’s motivation.

It’s quite an interesting book.

*Henry Fielding, Tom Jones.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Book I Can't Bring Myself To Read

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I Engage in a Flight of Cockeyed Optimism

The guy behind me in line at the garden center said ruefully, "Another year of killing vegetables." He had parsley and watermelon plants and from what his wife said, they had already bought other vegetables.

I bought two kinds of heirloom tomatoes, one red and one yellow, and a cowhorn chili pepper plant. The plants were pretty cheap. The pots, cage for staking the yellow tomatoes and two bags of potting soil, not so cheap. Add that to the six rosemary, six thyme and two basil plants I put in the side garden and its been a very domestic/botanical kind of week.

I flower-gardened in Ohio, where the growing season began on about July 7th and ended on about August 2nd. I was really ambitious for awhile, starting plants from seeds in an elaborate set-up up lights, trays and warming pads in the basement. (After a couple of years I gave up and they mouldered. Now my brother-in-law has them and is probably putting them to good use.) But I am not so good at, you know, keeping up with stuff. I do it in spurts. The office slowly drifts into disaster and then one day, in a fit, a clean the thing up. (Or, as it took the last time I cleaned my office thoroughly, three long days of moving furniture and sorting and painting.)

The problem with plants is that if I do that, let them drift for awhile, when I swoop back in with a burst of energy, they're dead. Weeds have taken over. I bought pretty three colored shrubs and planted them in front of our family room window. Turned out they were a kind of willow. Willow trees are weeds. They don't mature, they just grow until they get too big, split and die. These went to six feet in a couple of years and it was like we were living underwater. One night I was home alone, watching television. It was windy. They were scratching the glass and driving me nuts. I took my pruning sheers, went out at the dark and cut them down. In the morning it looked a little like the Midnight Garden of Good and Evil had been attacked by the family from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The one thing that always did well in my garden in Ohio was my thyme. If I watered and fed it, it grew. If I ignored it, it grew. When I needed thyme, i went out and pulled some off and it grew. It had thyme in February. In Ohio.

Hence the herbs planted in the bed on the side of the house. I had gotten used to wandering outside and plucking some thyme. I had, in Ohio, also planted Rosemary but we were in zone 5 and Rosemary is only hardy to zone 6 which is an advanced gardening way of saying that every winter it died, unlike the thyme.

Texas is warmer than Ohio, so I figured that rosemary would go well here. I bought my six plants and brought them home and was about to stick them about six inches apart when I happened to glance at the planting instructions. It turns out, in Texas rosemary grows into a three foot shrub. I had been about to make the reverse of the mistake in Spinal Tap with the Stonehenge dimensions. Luckily it's a big bed and I was only using a corner of it. Now we will have an artful planting of rosemary bushes.

About the tomatoes. They're a fond hope that this year I will finally be able to eat something other than grocery store tomatoes. if the only tomatoes you have ever had are grocery store tomatoes, well, I'm sorry. You've never actually had a tomato. If I neglect these, I won't have tomatoes, either. But hey, all I have to do is look up when I let the dogs out and think, 'oh yeah, gotta water the tomatoes.' And they have to grow.

Okay, it's a pretty iffy proposition all the way around. But I'm feeling optimistic. And if I manage to grow both the basil and the tomatoes? Homemade pasta with pesto made from my own basil and fresh tomatoes. Oh God. It's worth the gamble.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Evidently some damn upriver--electronically and computationally speaking--has burst and last night I had 43 email messages, some from quite awhile ago. If I have been silent in response to your email, I'm sorry.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Every Age Is the Age of Despair

I've been researching global warming trends of late. But mostly it's a depressing litany of drought, extreme weather, especially in Australia and North America, heat, and rising sea levels. And of course we moved from Ohio--pretty well situated in the next twenty to fifty years in the global warming sweepstakes thanks to the Great Lakes as a supply of fresh water--to Austin, which because of drought is in the 'probably screwed' category.

It is easy to despair. I see no sign of major change in people, or in me, in the face of possible looming catastrophe. Kurt Vonnegut made it clear that he felt humanity was unlikely to change. How can anyone who has hostages to the future, that is to say, children and young people they love, not at least worry? Yeah, yeah, I know, despair is defeatist. We are supposed to fight. I am doing some things. Looking into solar power, even considering a cistern. I guess I'm saying I can do things, but that doesn't stop me from feeling things.

I remind myself that mankind has a long history of expecting the end of the world. I tell myself I am underestimating our ingenuity. My friend Geoff Landis said practically that to me about five years ago.

The scariest thing? I am so happy in my day to day life, living as if this will all never change. Here in Austin I am quite happy. Happier than I've been in years. The temptation is to stop worrying.

The right thing to do is to find a balance. But I guess if I were a balanced person, I probably would have chosen a saner profession.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Life in Iraq

Ever so often, I just hit the Next Blog tab at the top of blogspot's menu bar. Today I found Sketchpad Warrior, the site of an artist deployed to Iraq to draw and paint, to cover the Marine Corps and Marines.

The work is a vivid diary of the soldiers and the place.

So often he catches that weird relationship between tension and boredom that seems to characterize life in an occupied country.

Wiscon Bound!

We've decided to go to Wiscon at the last minute (for Wiscon, this IS pretty last minute--but I bought our memberships and booked our flight and hotel. It's too late for programming, too late for the Concourse, but you know, I think it will be nice to attend programming instead of be on it.

It's all Bob's fault. He said we should go. So we are.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I Buy Furniture For the Dog

I bought a chair and ottoman. The chair will be delivered, by furniture delivery truck, some time in May. The ottoman was delivered by UPS today.

It is deemed acceptable.

This was not how I invisioned my life.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Nutrionally Dense Again -Roasted Vegetable Soup

I've made a couple of those big pots of stuff that were nutritionally dense for lunch, including a big pot of mushroom barley soup, which is pretty good. But then I got a head cold and got hives and blamed the hives on the mushrooms. Probably not true.

This week I made roasted vegetable soup with beans and whole wheat rotini. At one point in my erratic food-disordered lurch from eating well to eating disastrously, I decided to try to eat the minimum daily requirement of fiber. It's 25 grams. I probably eat more fiber-as-part-of-my-diet than most people (I'm not saying there's anything wrong with fiber supplements, I'm saying I have this weird thing where I decided that if we're supposed to eat 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day, we should be able to do it. This is an arbitrary supposition on my part, but hey, I'm trying for five days a week of nutritionally dense.*) Anyway, I have occasionally managed to go over 25 grams of fiber in one day, but involved eating a whole bag of popcorn.

Anyway, the Roasted Vegetable Soup has beans and whole wheat rotini in it in an effort to increase my chances of eating fiber. It is, alas, more trouble than the Italian sausage thing I posted a couple of weeks ago.

1 chicken
1 large carton chicken stock
4 cups of water
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 cups of snapped green beans
1 green pepper, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, whole in their papery skins
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 plum tomatoes, quartered
1 turkish bay leaf
2 cans of beans (I used a can of kidney and a can of great northern)
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of whole wheat rotini

1. Preheat the oven to 375

2. Cut the chicken into several parts and put the back, the wings and the drumsticks in a large pot with stock and water and simmer for about forty minutes.

3. While the chicken stock is simmering, put the onions, carrots, green beans, green pepper, and garlic on a cookie sheet and toss them with the two tablespoons of olive oil. Put them in the oven for about thirty minutes.

4. When the veggies are roasted, take them out and put them to one side. Roast the quartered tomatoes in the oven for about thirty minutes.

5. While the tomatoes are roasting, take the boiled chicken parts out of the stock. If you are really virtuous, strain the resulting stock through cheesecloth. If you are already feeling fed up with this whole process, just drop a bay leaf in and grind some pepper.

6. Bone the chicken breasts and thighs left over from the whole chicken that you cut up. Since they are going to be in the soup, this does not have to be done with elan. Chop the chicken up and put it in the soup stock. Add the roasted vegetables. Pull the tomatoes out of the oven and if you feel like it, scoop the seeds out and peel off the skin. I did, because I think the roasted skin is tasty but nasty in one's teeth and it just comes right off. Put the tomatoes in the soup.

7. Drain the beans and rinse them and throw them in. Then throw in the rotini, boil the soup according to the directions on the box (8 to 10 minutes for my stuff) and then eat off for the next week. I suspect it also freezes well. I mean, it's vegetable soup, and vegetable soup freezes well.

I'll let you know if it's good or not tomorrow. I suspect I may feel compelled to add some suracha (hot sauce) some days. You know, for variation. You could probably buy a roasted chicken and get two big cartons of chicken stock and it would still be good. Just all the messing with chicken parts, bring the stock to a simmer and throw in the roasted veggies, then throw cooked chicken meat in with the beans and rotini. It's vegetable soup. It's peasant food. It's variable.

If your tomatoes taste to acidic, add a quarter teaspoon of sugar. If you're feeling like you want something meatier, throw eight ounces of sliced mushrooms in with the onion, carrots, etc, when you're roasting. If you still feel your stock is weak, add a tablespoon of tomato paste. If all this variation stuff sounds weird, read up on the recipe for stone soup.

*I actually started the whole fiber thing as a way to lose weight. Fiber is supposed to fill me up and, you know, move things along before they lodge in my hips. No luck in losing weight. Fiber might make me feel more full but it doesn't stop me wanting brownies and ice cream, like the ones Barb Denton served on Sunday at the jam session at Brad Denton's house with Brad, Warren and Caroline Spector, and Bob, and me and Barb as The Appreciative Audience. They were really good home made brownies and the ice cream was Blue Bell ice cream and I'm pretty sure there was no fiber involved. The bbq was damn good, also.)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

In My Dreams

what would u look like in anime?

u look like this!
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

25% of all people who have taken the quiz end up with this look.

In other words, a lot of people are really taken with black. (Except I did request blue hair.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Foods I Hate

I probably eat things no one else you know eats. I like thousand year old eggs. (I was the only foreigner in China I ever met who actually wanted to eat thousand year old eggs, or, as they are more commonly called, preserved eggs.) What I don't like is Red Bean Paste. Red Bean Paste is the dessert filling of China. Red Bean Paste is in Moon Cakes. In glutinous rice balls. Red Bean Paste kept turning up in all sorts of places. In China, not liking Red Bean Paste was a sort of like not liking...say, caramel. Imagine you didn't speak or read English and you craved chocolate but didn't like caramel. Life would be a crap shoot. I craved dessert in China, but lots of times, I got dealt red bean paste. I can't tell you why I don't like it. For one thing, I haven't eaten it in fourteen years (because I don't have to.)

I like goat, I like lamb, I like sweetbreads. Okay, I like sweetbreads a lot. Not liver. Liver makes me gag. I justify it now by explaining that the liver's job is to filter out toxins so it's full of all sorts of unhealthy stuff, but the truth is, you can deep fry liver and I'll know. It's still liver. And it still has that...taste.

I used to hate lima beans. I used to not much like beans at all. But now, I like garbanzos, great northern, kidney beans. Black beans. Pinto beans. I figure if I tasted lima beans now, I'd eat them. Oddly enough, what I really don't like now are hot dogs. I was never a hot dog fanatic, but hey, they were fine, but now I'll go to some lengths to avoid hot dogs, or their sliced cousin, bologna. I never cared a lot for bologna. There were so many perfectly fine things you could eat instead. Ham. Turkey. Meatloaf sandwiches. Bologna, like spam, always struck me as having been synthesized out of the food category and into some other category, the food-like substance category. There are other foods in the food-like category, many of which I do eat, like Velveeta processed cheese (good in grilled cheese sandwiches and good for that dip where you microwave it and stir in salsa) and popcorn (which is really a packing material that we eat, but still tasty with butter) and cotton candy (more an experience than a food, like freeze dried ice cream for astronauts). Somehow hotdogs and bologna have crossed a line for me.

Well done beef. Not my thing. I can eat it in pot roast and braised stuff, but really, it can border on inedible to me.

I always wondered what chefs do about foods they don't like. I've only had foie gras once, but if you were a really good chef, would you have to serve fois gras? Would you have to like it? What if you like your meat well done? It's pretty much de rigueur that meat today is not cooked much. I figure we're pretty susceptible to training and peer pressure (I read once that a baby will be attracted to meat with maggots, until learn not to.) But I don't think there's much hope of me ever loving beef liver.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I had my second yoga class tonight and the stuff works like valium.

Okay, maybe it wears off faster.

I can do triangle pose pretty good and I rock at Warrior 2. Downward Facing Dog, on the other hand, is never going to be easy for a fat middle-aged woman with tight tendons so I'm just working on letting go of ego.

It is easier to let go of ego in this position since no one is behind me when I do it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Trying to Cozy Up to Texas

I am trying to be a little more open minded about Texas. I love, really love Austin. I'm even learning just how interesting Texas is. But every time I see some bumper sticker that says 'Native Texan' or someone tells me you can't really be Texan unless you are born here, I think, 'thank God.' I can't get over my knee jerk Texas prejudice.

I can't say it's because the image of Texas is often rural and conservative. Even though I don't want to live there, I have a deep fondness for rural Kentucky (which often shows up in my writing.) Kentucky people can be conservative, narrow hicks whose idea of a really good time is The Golden Corral (and that's just some of my relatives) but I still have this deep sympathy with the people and the landscape.

Driving across Texas with the Blue Bonnets out--Texas kicks ass when it comes to wild flowers. The mix of European, Central American and Asian influence? Coolest thing ever. I mean, I had Texas kolaches for breakfast and Bob will possibly have Vietnamese for lunch. Texas is just layered with societies and cultures. It's history is supremely weirder than the Alamo. In fact, the Alamo is pretty damn strange. And that's so cool.

But driving through towns where the largest cultural gathering is the Friday night high school football game just makes me feel 13 and misunderstood all over again. I keep telling myself that Texas is not the stereotype, and it isn't. But a lot of the stereotype exists because those behaviors are here. And sometimes they're large. We pass a billboard telling you where you can get a vasectomy reversal and I shudder. I associate Texas with swagger. With a peculiar arrogance. I want really badly to get beyond that and I think I might be starting to. But then I see some piece of furniture with a Lone Star on it and I realize I'm still wincing.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

So The Vet Says...

...the test results from Shelly are weird.

Neither the vet nor I are surprised by this. Shelly has been tested for Thyroid problems, Cushings Disease and Addison's Disease and my very patient vet has done a consultation with an Animal Endocrinolgy Specialist and the result is...

...Shelly is weird. It cost me over $500 to have this medically confirmed.

Luckily, her weirdness doesn't seem at this point to be life threatening. In fact other than losing a bunch of hair, she seems fine. She isn't unhappy. Eats well. Doesn't itch.

We are to bath her in...get this...dandruff shampoo. This for a dog who hates to get her feet wet. And then we'll run another test in about six weeks. I have spent more on this dog's medical bills in the last month than Howard Waldrop spends in some whole years!

Anyway, it's possible she has Addison's Disease. If so, it means she'll get a shot once a month (which she will think is nearly fatal--she is not big on the whole injection thing.) I keep telling her that JFK had Addison's but she's not a very political dog.