Sunday, October 22, 2017

Idea Garage Sale: Rennies, the Soap Opera

I'm a long way from back, but I did have an obvious garage sale idea the other night, something I couldn't possibly write for myself.

It's Renfaire season in Texas, and our closest friends are essentially living out there for the duration. They only do this one Faire, but many of their friends-and-neighbors make all or most of their income travelling from Faire to Faire all over the country, interspersed with craft shows, flea markets, fan conventions, and similar local events. Known as "Rennies," they are a subculture with footholds in a number of adjacent ones, particular lifeways, roots in the counterculture that go back to the 60s, and a network of fluid connections and intersecting relationships that, while natural to them, look convoluted and confusing to more sedentary professions.

And, people being people, this subculture is full of Drama. Open relationships that turn out to be not as open as all that. Seasonal relationships that are stable as long as no one changes their yearly schedule. Business partnerships that are also romantic ones; ongoing rivalries; children and teens being children and teens, forcing free-spirited parents to be grownups; health crises; emotional crises; shoestring budgets; vicious infighting side-by-side with breathtaking generosity; polyamoury; neurodivergence; religions from paganism to Christian Fundamentalism that are both deeply felt and a kind of performance art; an atmosphere of infinite acceptance that can be savagely broken if certain lines are crossed - tell me all this wouldn't make a great Daytime Drama!

The beauty of this idea is that it would allow the writers and producers to do an end-run around a lot of the problems that a long-running dramatic show is generally faced with. Did a character not work out, or is a popular actor leaving? No need to force a dramatic write-out willy-nilly, just have him change his schedule so it no longer intersects with the main cast's, or quit to work a more conventional job. If the actor comes back, well, the new schedule or job didn't work out; or he's filling in for someone; or he returns with his new family - on the other side of the booth, a consumer rather than a producer of the Renfaire experience. The standard soap practice of ungainly and unrealistic serial marriages punctuated by affairs and divorces is unnecessary in a subculture in which polyamoury and seasonal relationships are so common; and the prospects for High Drama are better due to the intersection of so many different personalities and situations. Children who appear and disappear as required by the plot are far less jolting in a culture in which children of a particular age may live with grandparents during the school year, or live alternately with parents who no longer work the same shows.

My own biggest problem with soaps is that sooner or later people who should know better keep repeating the same mistakes and reliving the same stories, because the choices the writers have are so limited. The Rennie lifestyle renders this unnecessary - there is always somebody who can plausibly throw a wrench into a situation. Why does anyone still deal with the Scheming Matriarch? Why, because she runs the biggest Faire in the circuit! Why does anybody still fall for The Heartbreaker? Because the non-standard expectations of the culture result in just as much drama, but fewer broken hearts.

Anyway, got to get on with my Sunday schedule and can't delve into practical details. But it's a natural. I'm shocked no one's done this.

Friday, May 12, 2017

News: Island Refuge, Oral History, and Boat People!

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Guided by local folklore, archeologists found one of the "island refugia" (not really an island, but an ice-free zone in the middle of the Ice Age glacial area) that people boating down from Beringia used as a base for their marine hunting and gathering - 14,000 years ago! At last, at last, at last! It's amazing what you find when you look where the most knowledgeable people tell you to...

On a more personal note, turns out I enjoy making patchwork. Who knew? It may be genetic, as the gramma I take after the most was an avid quilter. Not going down that rabbit hole, though. This'll be a skirt. Because I have about two skirts that are fit to be seen in public.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Synopsis Spoilers; Another Duh Moment

Trying to rewrite the synopsis for the lesbian western, with Thai yowling almost continuously about the quality of the food in her bowl, I erased everything and started a list of key points. And this is what I got:
Len is a young woman, who is attracted to women, who disguises herself as a man to run away, and continues the disguise to prove a point.
Diana was born in slavery and freed herself by assuming her half-sister's identity when she died.
Lee has surrendered, Texas has not, and civil authority is nonexistent.
The Caves murdered William Bonvillain for financial reasons, but he partially foiled them by hiding his moneybelt.
Much of the plot revolves around the mounts - hand-raised Bean, charismatic and much-coveted Pegasus, misused Sheikh. That doesn't make this an animal story.
Len involves herself in Di's business for Di's sake, even before she meets her.

Um, wait. Len involves herself in Di's business for Di's sake, even before she meets her.

Well, yes, that's what the whole business with the letters blowing around is about.

I was so busy softpedaling the romantic element of the plot, I didn't reveal, even to myself, that I'm dealing with love before first sight.

Well, that lets me off synopsis writing for today. Now I need to go back and figure out where in the story I didn't make this clear. Without losing the soft pedal.

Still more fun than writing a synopsis.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The President's Day Tornado

For those of you out there who know I'm in San Antonio but don't know where, the answer is - not in the area hit by the tornado! We slept through it. Touchdown was about 8 miles away from our house and I'm pleased to say that as far as current news reports know, only five minor injuries have been reported. Property damage was more serious; but since the path of the tornado went through a good chunk of undeveloped flood zone even that is unimpressive by tornado standards. It's bad enough that the Red Cross has set up a shelter; but by far the majority of people affected can stay in their homes. The most far-reaching damage was to power lines and the utility company is on it. People are advised to stay home today, but that's mostly due to the usual post-storm street flooding. Which is inconvenient for anybody wanting to get out there and research for a novel with a tornado in it; but people who want to write those stories should probably look into a journalism career.

I can no longer say that no tornado has ever touched down in San Antonio; but I can continue to say that, from a natural disaster perspective, we're a pretty safe place to live.

Also - always vote for flood control measures! The toll would probably have been worse without that huge drainage easement in the middle of the affected area.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Like Riding a Bike...

Officially restarting the agent search today.

It's nice to see that some of your skills don't rust with disuse. My procrastination techniques are as fine-honed as ever!

Monday, January 16, 2017

News: Old and New, Good and Bad

A new date on human-altered bone from Bluefish Cave puts humans on the American side of the Bering Strait in the middle of the Last Glacial Maximum. At this point this is only a surprise to those who haven't been paying attention, but firm data points are always welcome, and frankly any advance in science is to be celebrated.

On the personal side, I feel obliged to inform long-term readers of some recent losses that are primarily of personal impact. Moby Dent, the Great White Car, is officially dead. We do not yet know the name of the Subaru Forester who has assumed his duties, and it may never matter to blog readers, depending on my future capacity to undertake adventures abroad in the future. Moby was not a car we would ever have chosen on our own, having been bought cheap from a family member in a time of crisis, but he got us where we needed to go that the buses couldn't take us for almost 30 years, and kept patching up and plugging along long after we really should have replaced him. He was the first and is still the only car I've ever known intimately, since I didn't even learn to drive till we'd had him for quite some time, so it is hard not to be sentimental about him. But the Forester is the first car we've chosen together and this is a cheering thing.

We need cheering things, because shortly before Christmas both the cats were mauled by stray dogs. Miss Thai is currently washing herself next to the keyboard, though things were iffy for awhile there; but thanks to the neighbors who drove off the dogs and took us straight to the vet (Moby being immobile and the Forester not yet chosen), the efforts of both our regular vet and the Animal Emergency Room, and the help of our friends who provided further mobility as needed, she survived and is doing well.

Dr. Bruce, the cat in the header, had his neck broken outright, and was dead before anybody knew the dogs had struck.

And Thai, who was his littermate, does not like to sleep with us without him anymore, unless the night is very cold.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Welcome to the Dystopia

So. The electors didn't save us (it was never very likely, but this is 2016 - probability was not a limiting factor and if they'd had any guts they'd have done it) and we're living in a dystopia with an incompetent con man at the helm appointing neo-Nazis and profit pirates, incidentally encouraging devotees of every systemic evil that we've been papering over since the country was founded to come out of the woodwork and do evil by the light of day.

Well! This is not the first time the bullies have been in charge of the classroom, and we do not lack historical examples for how to behave. Unfortunately, most of them involve the most privileged hunkering down and collaborating or hiding and leaving the work of making things better to the major sufferers, who are pretty busy being oppressed and surviving - or not. A lot of people will die and someday the privileged will look back and say: "Hey, we survived, it wasn't that bad" and get angry at any one who tells us that the systemic problems still linger and if we'd look past our privileged noses and admit that, we might finally be able to dismantle dystopia.

Millions of stories are about to go down. Many will be tragedies. How many will be told?

It's hard for an artist to know what to do in these situations. Few of us have much in the way of margins in our lives, or resources to devote to dismantling the structures of horror rising up around us. We don't make much money, often have multiple jobs (the day job, the creative work, and the family work; possibly also the bureaucracy work of getting the help you and yours are entitled to), and our talents may not be well-suited for activism or actively rescuing the people who are getting thrown under the bus. It's a certain amount of work even seeing and recognizing a chance to do someone some concrete good. Jews are asking their gentile friends now "Would you hide me?" and they aren't the only ones with reason to ask that question; but I must number myself among those whose answer is: "I would, but I don't think my attic is really habitable and I'm not sure how to make it so."

I'm a dumpy little white lady who writes books for young people but can't land an agent and is therefore in a long dry spell. I have health crap, I have no energy and a dodgy memory, I have a single-income family and the car is officially dead; but I know I'm still better off than a lot of people are going to be at any given time in the next four years. (I hope, only the next four years; I know that's not realistic, but some of us have to be optimists to get out of bed in the morning.)It cannot be enough to click and reblog and send occasional small donations to a handful of important activisms, to tread water and keep stuff in the mail and maintain an escapist little simblr and grumble to my friends. But what more can I do?

And do I even have the right to keep writing and trying to sell stuff, when it's so clear to me that what publishers should be doing over the next four years is dropping all their cis-het-white-abled writers in favor of amplifying marginalized voices? Seriously, if every artist of any kind who met that description stopped producing work for the next four years, and the amount of media published remained the same, the level of representation for people who don't meet that description would increase more than the level of cis-het-white-abled representation would decrease, with a considerable net gain for the world at large.

These are things that we must all consider. What privileges do we have? Is there a way to leverage them into the service of the unprivileged? Are we terrible people if we do not go to rallies because we simply cannot face the crowds or stand long in the cold, or are too afraid of tear gas?

Which privileges are we denied? Do we deserve to have them if we don't fight for them? How do we know a right from a privilege?

Back in middle school, I heard a family friend (who would have vigorously denied that he was racist) say (in effect) that "Negroes" had done a lot of things for "Society" and deserved not to be discriminated against, but "Mexicans" did nothing for "Society" and could be excluded, marginalized, and looked down on, guilt-free. I was not brave enough to speak up against a grownup, but we were living in West Texas at the time and I was aware enough of my surroundings to think: "But without Mexicans, there is no Society here."

And this is the bottom line, this is what the con man and his cronies and those who put him in power don't realize - we are all Society. Those who survive the next four years will be diminished by the loss of those who do not - and by the loss of the voices that fall silent in order to survive.

It is our responsibility to diminish this Society as little as possible - to help others to survive, and this is important.

But it is also important to keep making a Society worth preserving. To contribute our little mite, no matter how trivial it may seem, to a world that is not unrelieved misery to live in. To encourage others to create, to empower those less privileged, and to get the attention of those more privileged. To amplify the whispers of others and to make ourselves heard amid the raucous shouting of those who think that they are Society and that anyone who is insufficiently like them has to earn the right to exist in their shadow.

Resist by existing, if that is all you have the energy to do.

And if you must die, die loudly. Make it count.