Words, Words, Words

So, the novel. As near as I can figure, after much dithering about with thorny plot issues and restructuring, plus a couple of wasted days in early November, my grand total word count for the end of National Novel Writing Month is:

The problem is that I’m not exactly sure how long the thing is going to run. My previous optimistic estimate of plus or minus 110K was, well, optimistic. 125K may even be a little short of the mark. But! Progress is being made. Slowly but surely. One of these days, I’ll have a finished novel.

Now, as previously noted, I didn’t actually participate in NaNoWriMo this year and didn’t get to use it as a pace car either. My plan still stands to do my own private NaNoWriMo for the month of December. So, keep an eye on that death bar. I suspect it’s stalking me and may try and jump me if I go to sleep.

The Smell of Pepper Spray in the Morning

As usual, Naomi Wolfe has the number on the OWS crackdown:

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

It’s not just that the OWS movement is getting all up in the face of Wallstreet and thus bringing the ire of their lapdogs in Washington. OWS is now threatening the income of our blessedly corrupt leaders. And thus, the DHS is coaching our militarized police on how to crack skulls.

Much has been made out of the now Internet-famous cop who casually pepper sprayed seated protesters. But what did you expect? You give a cop pepper spray and a baton he’s going to go looking for an excuse to use it. It now appears that excuse came from Homeland Security and with the blessings of our ruling class. OWS is a little more than 2 months old and so far, has been surprisingly peaceful (at least on their side). It will take a miracle for that to last because if history has taught us anything, it’s that those who make peaceful progress impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.

As Goes Bella, So Goes the Nation

Over at Goodreads, they’ve discovered something interesting about the readers of the Twilight books (click the link to see the infographic):

There is no more divisive book on Goodreads than Twilight. It manages to top both our Best Books Ever and Worst Books of All Time lists. And now, surprisingly, we’ve discovered that where you live can indicate whether you’re a Twi-Hard or not.

With the release of the film adaption of Breaking Dawn (well, the first half of the film adaptation), we thought it might be fun to dive into some more of the incredible trove of data we have on the Twilight Saga and its readers.

A map of what each state thinks of Twilight ends up looking a lot like a map of the most recent election results. On the map above, the readers in the red states rated the book highly (the darker the red, the higher the rating), while readers in the blue states gave it a lower rating). The Midwest and the South represent The Twilight Belt, while the coasts were decidedly less impressed with the book.

Reviews were mostly distributed according to population, with the notable exception of Utah. Utah is the 34th most populous state in the US, but it generates the 6th most reviews of Twilight. In terms of cities, Salt Lake City—the 125th largest city in the country—is second only to New York in number of Twilight reviews. Opinion on the book is split in the Beehive state, with the average rating a pedestrian 3.64.

The series’ popularity in Utah becomes more explicable when you recall that the author, Stephanie Myers, is Mormon and so are the Cullens.

Having lived in the Twilight Belt/Red States most of my life, I find this not at all surprising.  The lack of literacy in that region is a scourge upon the land and the popularity of Twilight, like the rise of yokel-bating politics, is a direct result of the fact that the locals are a proudly ignorant folk. They like their leaders to be Good Old Boys and their entertainment a slick patina of pop culture that just barely covers a misogynistic pseudo-spiritual story that just happens to reinforce hetero-normative values and white male privilege. The popularity of both Twilight and Rick Perry are part of the same problem.

Also: If you really want o make your head spin, here’s an article praising Twilight from a feminist POV, on the grounds that Bella’s objectification is something young women can relate to, unlike the ass kickery of Buffy Summers or Lisbeth Salander, who are icky masculine girls because of pants. Or something. And also that the pregnancy is realistically depicted (except for the whole vampire eating itself out of the mother’s womb).

Anyway. In the comments of that article there’s a long digressive discussion centering on Myers’ use of blank pages to represent Bella’s heartache when her vampire boyfriend leaves her (alas, temporarily). That particular passage is one of my pet peeves as a writer. The blank pages are just a gimmick to cover up Myers’ week writing skills. A good writer doesn’t shy away from delving into the murk of touchy emotional states. If anything, they relish them as a challenge. The blank pages are Myers admitting publicly she doesn’t have the emotional maturity or writerly craft to depict a lovesick teenager. Which begs the question of what she would do if a story required her to describe the savory delight of a well prepared cheesburger, let alone the ineffable quintessence of love.

On the upside, I did come upon the realization that Bella isn’t a character, she’s a McGuffin, an object to be hoarded, fought over (by men) and fetishised. Those blank pages representing Bella’s mental state when Edward isn’t around are extremely telling. Without a man to observe her, she literally has no presence in the story. She neither thinks about her predicament nor feels anything that registers as an emotion or a thought. She has about as much agency as the Maltese Falcon* (objectively worthless except for the secret thing inside her that everyone really wants).

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*I was going to say the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones, but the Ark has at least enough agency to melt some Nazis for failing to recognize its inherent inertia. The Ark will not tolerate being used crassly for the needs of men. Bella exists solely for that purpose.

NaNoWriMo Update

So. yeah. How’s your novel going? Hope you’ve been working on it harder than I have on mine.

I had a little set back, in that i wasted the first ten days of National Novel Writing Month working on a project that didn’t go anywhere and now, the month is half way through and I’m just getting up to speed. So I’m behind by 2 weeks already.

But!

Since I wasn’t officially taking part in NaNoWriMo, just using it as a pace car for the novel in progress, it’s not the end of the game for me. I intend to extend my own personal Novel Writing month into December.

As for where I’m at in said novel, let’s go to word count death bar of doom:

As you can see, I’ve just broken the spine. I’ve revised the total word count down as well — now that the midpoint is in sight, I have a much more lucid estimate of the total length.

With a bit of perseverance and a few extra cups of coffee, I should be able to bring the first draft in by the New Year.

Alright, enough blather. Back to the keyboard!

The Skywalker Twin Delimma

So I was mopping the kitchen floor this afternoon and got to thinking about the genealogy of Star Wars. As one does. It occurred to me that the prequels created not one but two plot holes in the story of the Skywalker twins upbringing.

The first is the well known and much griped about “Schrodinger’s Amadala” problem. Those of us who grew up with the original trilogy (ep. 4-6 for you younglings) know very well that, in a conversation during Return of the Jedi, Luke asks Leia if she remembers her real mother and she says, “Yes, in fact she was a mopey bitch and I never understood what Papa Organa saw in her.” Or words to that effect. Point is: Leia confirms in ep. 6 that Amadala was alive, presumably up until Gov. Tarkin used the Death Star to turn Alderan into space debris in Ep. 4.

The obvious problem here is that Amadala dies on screen in ep. 3, 20 years before that.[1] Meaning that either A) Leia sees dead people, or 2) Leia is in fact talking about Bale Organa’s wife, her step-mother, whom we’ve never met or even seen and so the conversation is pointless. We all know that the real answer is of course 3) George Lucus forgot his own story’s continuity and ripped a gaping hole in the space time continuum/plot.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to square this fuck up in the context of the prequals as they are filmed. Taking some license, we can add a few scenes and make some judicious edits in dialogue. To wit: Obi Wan convinces Anakin that Amadala was stepping out on him with suave prince of Alderan, Bale Organa and the twins are in fact Bale’s. Amadala did survive and for 20 years was living with a man she didn’t love but who would, for the safety of the rebellion and to save the galaxy, pretend to love her and her two kids, whom he would raise as his own.[2] What do you mean, two kids? wasn’t Luke raised on some backwater planet furthest from the galactic center of civilization (that everybody just happens across at some point in the story)?

Yeah, that brings us to the second and lesser known problem: “Uncle” Owen.

So, you’ve decided to split up the twins and hide the son of Darth Vader on a distant, backwater world (that everybody just happens across at some point in the story) where he will be safe from the prying eyes and legion of spies of his father.[3] So naturally, the man you want to raise the future savior of the Jedi order and the galaxy as a whole is Lord Vader’s step-brother. His only living relative. On the planet where his mother is buried and where he spent the first ten years of his life as a slave. The only way it would be easier to find him would be to have him raised by a live-in au pare on Corescant. (“Lord Vader, I apologize for the intrusion but your nanny is on the hologram. She says young master Luke is colicy.”)

Now, originally (that is, ignoring the prequels), there’s no reason for the audience to believe that Uncle Owen is actually Luke’s father’s brother. It’s just a signifying title, to show that he’s not Luke’s Pa. Now, if Star Wars were really as mythically themed as Lucus claims, Owen Lars would have turned out to be a trusted member of the army who fought with the Jedi and was a member, if  a minor one, of the nascent rebellion. He could easily have served the role of Captain Cody to Obi Wan, a lower ranking but trustworthy commander during the Clone Wars. When Amadala bears twins and they for some reason decide to hide one of them but not the other, Commander Owen retires and returns to his ancestral manse in the boondocks to raise a family that now includes a young foundling child who will grow up to be the squire to his natural born son. He will in short, play the role of Sir Hector to King Arthur.[4]

This of course all goes out the window with the prequals, who show you that in fact, Owen is just a moisture farmer and once gone from Tatooine, Darth Vader decides never to ever look at anything going on there ever again for 20 years. Despite the fact that Tatooine is the nexus point to much of the drama of his life and clearly a magnet for Force sensitive individuals (not to mention a hot bed of extra-empirial intrigue, seeing as how it’s the seat of one of the more nefarious gangsters in the galaxy), he and the Emperor are just going to ignore it. Too much sand. Icky.

There is of course another solution to the Amidala Problem: make Luke and Leia not related. This also has the side benefit of cleaning up a clumsy bit of story telling.

Leia really is Bale Organa’s daughter by his nameless, unmentioned wife. Amidala dies in ep. 3 and the discussion between Luke and Leia in ep. 6 about mothers becomes just a symbolic discussion about family and duty. The only reason Laia is Luke’s sister anyway is as a way to defuse the love triangle between her, Han and Luke. And there’s no reason to do this. Having sexual tension would add subtext and nuance to the story. And then you can resolve the issue later by killing Luke when the Death Star 2 blows up. Or better yet: have everyone think he’s dead. Luke escapes, has a funeral for Anakin and then becomes a hermit on some far away moon, biding his time until the Galaxy needs him once more. Han and Laia become the President and first Man of the New Republic. Cue fireworks and dancing teddy bears.
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1. or 20 years later. When talking about these movies, shit gets Timey Wimey, fast.

2. Which begs the question of why it took Darth Vader, galactic bad ass, 20 years to get around to nuking Alderan and then let Gov. Tarkin do the actual dirty work. This is a man who sits at the right hand of the Emperor of the frickin’ galaxy and force chokes admirals for fun. Your telling me he wouldn’t send bounty hunters after his ex wife for cheating on him and having another man’s kids?

3. I guess Force Sensitivity is a gene carried on the Y chromosome. It would explain why there aren’t many female Jedi, as it’s a recessive trait in women.

4. And if we overlay the well-know inspiration for Tatooine that is Dune, this of course makes Luke into Feyd-Routha Harkonnen.