(Disclosure: I met Eric Edstrom at WorldCon 71 and received a free copy of his most recent novel, Daughter of Nothing, from Story Cartel in exchange for an unbiased review.)
I was initially quite skeptical of the novel. The underlying nefarious nature of St. Vitus became clear to me very early on as a voracious reader of dystopian sf. Other reviewers have likened it to the 2005 film, The Island, though I somewhat more optimistically thought of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go, published the same year. Truth be told, one of the underlying premises of Daughter of Nothing is one I’ve seen many times. That’s no reason to expect a wholly derivative work, but the author truly set himself a difficult task.
And then he pulled it off nicely. The story’s central trope is of far less importance than I initially expected. This is very much a character driven YA novel with an empathetic protagonist and a well-paced plot. At times, it felt a tad predictable but in the end I have to write that off due to my own familiarity with this particular sub-genre.
One element of the novel that was of particular interest to me came from the unexpected cut off which really allows the novel to stand on its own while not precluding sequels. I would expect very different follow up novels as the author explores the wide swath of the world that was, of necessity, left out of this centrally located and terribly oppressive first volume.
Pick up a copy at http://www.ericedstrom.com/buy-my-books/ and browse the author’s site.
In the fall of 2012, I published a Master’s thesis entitled “ACCIDENTAL DYSTOPIAS: APATHY AND HAPPENSTANCE IN CRITICAL DYSTOPIAN LITERATURE.” This post is the last in a series seeking to extend the ideas in that thesis to Margaret Atwood’s final installment in the MaddAddam trilogy.
The reader should not expect the following work to stand up to the rigors or academe.
In this final installment, I would like to come around to the central point of my Master’s thesis. Admittedly, a good deal of ground has to first be set as I attempted to coin a term and reasonably explicate the necessity of that term. My thesis sought to establish a subcategory of dystopian literature within the group called “critical dystopias” by Tom Moylan in his book, Scraps of the Untainted Sky. The premise for this book came of several stimuli, if I can be allowed to simplify Moylan’s work. In the very late 1960s and through the 70s, there was a reemergence of utopian literature in the West in response to civil movements of the 60s. A reinvigorated hope sprang out from a large swath of the population and SF writers were not immune. However, in light of heinous, world-wide events not a quarter of a century earlier, this return to utopia was no accompanied by a new naiveté. Moylan calls the utopian novels of this time critical utopias for their insistence on dealing with the idea of utopia as ephemeral and impossible. Utopias depicted in these stories are not perfect worlds but they strive to be and are assessed realistically by the characters, the narrative, and hopefully the reader.
In response to another political moment—the neo-conservatism of the 80s and early 90s—Moylan saw a shift in the collective speculative world view typified by a new set of critical dystopias. While they contained a new set of criteria, these stories treated dystopia much like earlier novels had treated utopia. These worlds were not bleak, utterly hopeless places but neither were they easily responded to. Critical dystopias resist easy narrative clarity, they blur the lines between genres, they depict dispossessed people try to reclaim the language of their lives and worlds, and—if we take all of Moylan’s criteria—they are situated in a particular political moment and they foreground political realities to allow an openness in regards to addressing wrongs.
To this very reduced version of his theory, I attempted to add a subcategory of these critical dystopias which I called accidental dystopias. These works treat dystopia much as Moylan delineated but added to the mix the frightening possibility that no causative agent is required for these worlds-gone-to-hell to come into reality. These novels attempt to relate a world, perhaps the author’s worst nightmares, so they might not come to pass through ignorance or inaction. I further broke this category down into three types as illustrated in works by Le Guin (with her psychological impossibility of utopia in The Lathe of Heaven), Octavia Butler (with her view of the sociological inevitability of dystopia in the Parable novels), and Atwood (with her rather older but continually relevant view of a world brought on by man’s hubris in trying to reform the world). In what ways does MaddAddam align with this previously established framework?
In the fall of 2012, I published a Master’s thesis entitled “ACCIDENTAL DYSTOPIAS: APATHY AND HAPPENSTANCE IN CRITICAL DYSTOPIAN LITERATURE.” This post is the second in a series seeking to extend the ideas in that thesis to Margaret Atwood’s final installment in the MaddAddam trilogy.
The reader should not expect the following work to stand up to the rigors or academe.
Among the most fruitful themes of the MaddAddam trilogy is the treatment of religion in both the pre- and post-Flood worlds. For me, a big part of the reason that Oryx and Year work so well as companion novels comes from the different regards given to religious thought versus scientific materialism both by the protagonists of the novel and—through form—by Atwood herself.
In Oryx and Crake, the protagonists is an advantaged Compound-born word person or, in the likely insults of his contemporaries, nearly unemployable. Jimmy enjoys the strange nuances and etymologies that fill our language to a much greater degree than the rest of his world. In high school, his use of language amounts to parlor tricks and after obtaining a degree from the dilapidated remains of a liberal arts college—while Crake studies science at a university that solicits prostitutes for their promising future alums—his best prospects lie is ridiculous advertising and coining neologisms and portmanteau. He is neither adamantly pro- or anti-religion but Crake sees the existence of God within the brain as a defect and he seeks to remove it in his genetically modified people. In the novel’s past, Crake mentions that doing so left the resulting Craker’s near catatonic and we’re left to think that he still did his best to remove religious and symbolic thought from the inheritors of the Earth. That’s undermined by the end of the novels when, in Jimmy’s absence, the Crakers build an effigy to their missing spiritual leader and we are left all but certain that Crake has failed in something.
The second novel in the series delves into religion in an altogether different way. Each of the protagonists is a member of a contemporary Judeo-Christian-green cult called the God’s Gardeners and we experience a lot of life within the church. The GG are both spiritually minded and highly prepared for the Flood as nearly all of their scripture contains some practical and sustainable knowledge for further life in a world cut clean. However, neither of the women in the novel take much solace from religion. They both feel like outsiders in their own ways and though true faith does ultimately creep in in Toby’s case, she feels little comfort in response. The religious themes of the book are bolstered in the novel’s form as each chapter is introduced with reverence to GG saints and each section opens with a religious history lesson and a prayer/hymnal. Much as in Le Guin’s Always Coming Home, the form of the novel heavily influences a cultural/anthropological reading of the work.
Between these two volumes, we get a very clear indication that something is terribly wrong in this world and it very likely has to do with the eradication of true reverence for religion, symbolic thought, and—if I may reach—the humanities. With a book each from the secular and the sacred, one from the rich and one from the poor, one male and one female, etc, etc, an intricate picture comes together of a world hobbled by an overreliance on scientific answers and a devaluing of internal life.
Needless to say, MaddAddam has a lot to live up to and in some respects it succeeds. As mentioned in my previous post, the question of core Craker humanity remains unanswered in the previous two books and is only slowly elucidate in the final volume. We have indications in the prior novels that we can put towards our own opinions—Crake was unable to remove “the God cluster” of neurons and singing from the Crakers, they develop religion with little outside influence, etc—but it is not until this final novel that we have any concrete reasons for seeing the Crakers as human. First, Blackbeard claims language just as Toby is reclaiming it and thus some sense of human permanence is added back into the mix. The idea of language reclamation belongs to the third and final installment of this review series, but Blackbeard’s ability to quickly assimilate the written word, when Crake’s great hope was to abolish symbolic thought, is nothing to ignore. At the very least, the ability seems to put Crakers on the same intelligence levels with homo sapiens sapiens.
The second measure is a variable throughout half of MaddAddam. Several of the former GGs and MaddAddamites become pregnant at roughly the same time and nearly all of them see the Craker men as possible fathers. Without going into individual storylines, at least a couple of the women are correct and it is confirmed that there is no hard special line between the humans and the Crakers. Religiously, this places the whole of developing Crake language and dogma into a human context and the ideas that Oryx hints at, that religious thought cannot be removed from a person without destruction, is made whole.
These novels never hint at the veracity of any one religion nor do they damn even the most outlandish cults—a little light ribbing is hardly damning—but they do indicate that in the kernel of the human mind is the human spirit and that spirit requires something loftier than itself. For Toby and the remnants of the GG, it isn’t necessarily god but rather an elevated sense of purpose taken from living with others. For the Crakers, for now at least, the kernel expresses itself in a totalized worldview with Oryx and Crake at the center. Even that, however, is not intractable. Blackbeard weeps when Oryx and Crake are made mortal in his mind. He sees the corpses that were once his deities and it rips at him, but he manages to redress the pain. The core of the human spirit is at once indestructible and highly flexible. It seems it just needs an outlet of expression.
In the fall of 2012, I published a Master’s thesis entitled “ACCIDENTAL DYSTOPIAS: APATHY AND HAPPENSTANCE IN CRITICAL DYSTOPIAN LITERATURE.” This post is the first in a series seeking to extend the ideas in that thesis to Margaret Atwood’s final installment in the MaddAddam trilogy.
The reader should not expect the following work to stand up to the rigors or academe.
Even as I wrote the Atwood chapter of my Master’s thesis, I knew the author was cracking away at her own computer, working diligently to date my thesis as quickly as possible. I made note that she had started the final volume and got to cite a tweet, as the MLA had only just added proper citation rules for items posted on Twitter. Of course, Ms. Atwood has very little knowledge of my existence—she answered one of my questions during a Reddit AMA she did in the first part of 2012—so I can harbor no resentment, but I digress. As the release date for MaddAddam approached, I decided it would be fitting to try to write a review that dealt with the new novel both as a standalone novel and as the final in the trilogy through the same lens as used in my thesis, so here we are.
Before addressing any particular themes from the novel or attempting to parse whether it approaches it dystopic elements in similar or novel ways compared to Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, I would like to spend some time addressing the book on its own and in view of the earlier works. I’ll say now that while I’m not particularly interested in providing spoilers, they’re likely to crop up. You are warned.
Oryx and Crake saw Atwood present a novel for the first time from the point of view of a male protagonist. Jimmy (aka Snowman) is a cripplingly insecure womanizer and man of words who tries endlessly to deal with his mother’s abandonment and his best friend’s immense shadow. He is hopelessly enamored with a women known as Oryx and at the start of the first novel he is the protector and accidental mage of a group of bioengineered humans known as the Crakers in the wastes of his former world, left shattered by the genocidal machinations of his now dead best friend, Crake. In The Year of the Flood, Atwood presents much the same time and many of the same events through the eyes of two female members of the God’s Gardeners, a Judeo-Christian eco-cult living in the slums of the near future world of the novel. The women are a generation apart and the age difference as well as significantly different life circumstances allows Toby and Ren unique perspectives of their uncomfortably familiar dystopic world.
In MaddAddam, all three of the prior protagonists is back and again Toby acts as the novel’s primary POV, though Zeb—Toby’s long time crush from the GG and consummate hard ass biker-type—is arguably the central protagonist of the novel. One of Atwood’s great strengths as a novelist lies in the depth of her character exploration and the brilliant insight she offers, especially for her female characters in regards to their relationships with both males and females. Given that, Toby’s perspective in MaddAddam is surprisingly uninteresting. It is apparent from early on that Toby is desperate to find something worth clinging to in her new world, having been denied such in her pre-Flood life. The end of The Year of the Flood put her back in touch with many characters from the pre-Flood world but she is no more in touch with them than she ever felt. Her deep wish to feel more connected to the people around her and to find a healthy romantic relationship is certainly relatable, but it somehow feels uneasy and untimely in her present setting.
To top that off, something of the gender relations in MaddAddam recalls to mind a rather depressing quote from Kurt Vonnegut: “High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.” Where conditions other or the novel a YA work, Toby’s jealousies might have been more interesting but I often found myself counting pages and waiting for the better parts.
Much of the novel takes a similar form not only to the prior books in the series but to all of Atwood’s novels. Much of the novel reveals huge parts of the main character’s—here Zeb—past as it brought him to the present of the story. The problem here is, I believe, two-fold. First, I pull from Tasha Robinson’s review for The AV Club: “The issue isn’t that MaddAddam covers familiar SF ground, it’s that it covers ground trod firm by the series’ two previous books, and doesn’t bring enough new to the table.” On this point, I have to agree with Ms. Robinson entirely. Many of the major revelations for the series come from the first novel but that is not to say that The Year of the Flood does not have a great deal to offer as well. Events that take place in a vacuum in Oryx are given another life in Year and brought into a greater socio-political-eco-religious context. By the time we get to MaddAddam, however, there seems to be little less of importance about her world that Atwood wishes to impart. This time around, we’re just going to see what antics Zeb took place in and it’s not quite enough reason for a novel of his own.
The second issue is one that may speak to the first: Zeb is a much less interesting character than Jimmy, Toby, or Ren, though not as much in the previous novel. Zeb never (obviously) appears in Oryx but he has a huge presence in Year where he is enigmatic and resists easy comprehension for characters and readers alike. In MaddAddam, sadly, that which made him mysterious is demystified and we find that much if not all of his motivation lies in the scare tissue of a disgustingly abusive childhood. That is not to say that such a story makes for an uninteresting character but I think Zeb actually manages to lose a great deal on closer inspection.
Even so, Zeb’s backstory makes up the more interesting parts of the book. In the present, much of what’s presented has to do with Toby’s insecurity and pining, Craker-Human interaction, and a quite possibly imminent threat.
The Craker-Human interactions, though tedious at times, are one of the more significant components of MaddAddam in regards to fitting it into the trilogy and relations must of necessity come up in every post I make about the novel. One of the central questions presented in the first novel and mentioned in passing in the second has to do with the question of Craker humanity. The Crakers are the species that Crake meant to inherit the world in the wake of his mass genocide. They are humans made more weather resistant, docile, ecological, pacifistic, etc, etc. This is to say they are humans made purposefully less human. There are numerous comments across the novels to do with Crake’s attempts to remove symbolic thought from the Crakers so as to remove music, money, and the very kernel of the concept of God from their minds. It is said that his most rigorous attempt left him with vegetables, so we know something had to be left in tack and Jimmy’s interactions with the Crakes in Oryx show the beginnings of symbolic though and religious iconography among the kind-minded meek.
MaddAddam sees this question explored at greater length and in fact even augmented to wonder whether they remain the same species and can thus be mated with. Over the course of the novel at least one Crake takes an interest in writing such that he ultimately takes over the narration of the book from Toby near the novel’s end. More and more ideas from the remnants of the God’s Gardeners are made sacred and ultimately Atwood settles the question of Craker humanity very cleanly and in short order, thus answering one of the major quandaries of the series. I question whether she did this to the novel’s detriment but I prefer to preserve that particular line of thought for my post on MaddAddam and the [accidental] critical dystopia.
There is a final and significant issue with the novel that stems from strange plot choices. Throughout the novel, we and the characters are aware of an imminent threat from roving Painballers. These men made less than human and inordinately violent by their Battle Royale perseverance in Gladiator-like game and they lurk continuously at the edges of the story’s map. The story taking place in the novel’s present is quite obviously heading towards a run in with the Painballers from the beginning and yet when the moment comes, it is convenient and unsatisfying. The latter is due largely to the altercation being viewed through the eyes on an increasingly literate Craker, but even still the lack of detail and attention Atwood devotes to this pivotal seen makes for an anticlimactic ending and a lackluster cap to the trilogy.
As a pair, Oryx and Year are two sides of a dichotomy ever present in the world of the novels. Words versus science, haves versus have-nots, Compounds versus pleeblands, ecological sustainability versus consumerism. As a trio, I fear the overarching story is weakened. Again, I return to Robinson’s review where you opines that “it feels like this trilogy might be best read in reverse order of publication, since the series’ key mysteries are revealed by the end of the first book, defanging everything that comes afterward.” I might agree if I didn’t think the series stood quite well enough as two works. At the very least, MaddAddam makes for a lagging final volume in the trio and one I’m far less likely to suggest to all but the most ravenous readers.
For the more thorough reader, there may still be a silver lining. The final volume in the series has a great deal to offer in regards to the philosophical aspects of Atwood’s near future dystopia/post-apocalyptic waste, as mentioned previously with the question of Craker humanity. It also continues to thoughtfully address the religious and dystopic themes of the prior novels in intriguing and worthwhile ways and these topics will be at the heart of my next two posts on Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam.
I’m of an age that I could have grown up in an entirely GUI computing environment but due to finances and, likely, geographic location, my experiences skewed first towards the command-line interface. I wrote last week about the first computer I could call my own. It was a secondhand green screen with little functionality beyond crafting ridiculous greeting cards and the odd game of Snake. I absolutely loved it and my mom went to great lengths to buy it for me. Though I was only seven at the time, I came to appreciate what she gave up to give me that gift.
It was about five years later that I got my first new computer. It was Christmas ‘98 and my big, beautiful machine ran Windows 98, but I’m a bit ahead of myself.
I was a present peeper as a young, precocious lad. Over years, I perfected the science of stealthily opening my gifts to determine what I was getting sometimes weeks in advance. The practice started when I was all of three years old and I snuck from my room a week before Christmas to open every present in the living room. I assure you, my craft improved exponentially from there.
At twelve, I still had several years before the game would lose its thrill. My mom switched up types of wrapping paper to make the task more difficult—she always knew after the fact what I had done—but that years the paper was fairly cheap and my game easy. I lifted corners repeatedly, one box a day and a full two weeks before Christmas. The “Santa gifts” were hard to put off, especially for being as heavy as they were. At the time, I had a small, hand-me-down tv in my room and I had been asking my mom for a while to us satellite cable. There it was. Two great big boxes that no doubt held the satellite itself and at least two boxes and I was thrilled.
Over the remaining two weeks to Christmas, I opened and reopened at the corners of the package until the weak tape threatened to give way without provocation and I was forced to wait for the great unveiling.
At twelve, I was old enough that I slept well through Christmas Eve and I was startled when my mom woke me at 3 am and asked if I wanted to open presents. As was often the case, I was sleeping in the guest room—I couldn’t tell you why, but I basically used it as my second room—and at that young age I was not yet the morning person I have become. I stumbled to and from the guest room and my room and the bathroom, alternately forgetting and remembering the task at hand. I needed to pee, of course, but my mouth tasted pretty terrible as well and could use a rinsing at least. I needed clothes but I couldn’t not remember what had drawn me to the closet when I got there.
All the while, I’m walking back and forth across a hallway with a straight shot at the living room and my real Santa gift. I’m floored when I finally peak out there to see what has my mom and her boyfriend so excited. There on the dinner table is a brand new desktop in full color and possessing the capacity for an actual modem connection to the internet. I imagine my eyes assume at least a quarter of my face’s real estate.
The Dish boxes had been obtained from my uncle, a licensed reseller, and fill with random junk to give them the appropriate weight. I revealed my trickery to no great surprise or controversy. The adults were excited to see me gush over my computer so that they could pour themselves into bed and leave me to play through to morning.
From that point on, I’ve had one computer or another continuous. For well more than half of my life, I have had frequent access. I grew up with computers but still I reserved a lot of activities for analog. Even as I learned the ins and outs, I romanticized old ways, especially in young adulthood. I wrote creatively in pencil on paper, I kept physical to do lists and calendars, I called when I could have emails. Some of this remains today, but far less than once upon a time. I keep digital and analog calendars, I write primarily in a word processor now. I still collect typewriters, but they are trophies now rather than staunchly clung to anachronisms. At this point, I read roughly half of my books, stories, news, and magazines on a tablet. That comes at the end of a long and protracted resistance to giving over so much life to the computer. Even though I loved it and wanted to learn its ins and outs, I resisted its pull as much as one three times my age might.
Still, the deep interest I showed in my first modern desktop computer conveyed to my mom just how much she had done for me. Indeed, though I studied literature through undergrad and graduate degrees, I make my living today in IT. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the day when the only computer I repair is my own, the only data I manage is that which profits my writing, but I hope my mom sees in my current career and skills the ramifications of the gifts she worked so hard to give me. I hope she can see all these years later the impact my first computers had on me and that I have repaid her back some measure of what she selflessly provided me with.
Last night, My lady and I put together a little impromptu date night. I’m currently working normal business hours but she has shifting scheduled hours without the luxury of set weekends, so we’ve been finding it hard to work dates in.
Thankfully, we live in one of those rare towns still possessed of a dollar theater, so last night we caught a super cheap showing of Pacific Rim.
Let me preface with two quick points. As referenced in the post title, (1) this is not a review, per say, but rather a few notes I think might make the difference for people on the fence about the movie. Also, before the surprisingly good reviews came in, (2) I did not have much interest in seeing the movie. However, a couple of positive reviews from people at WorldCon and a well-regarded director can make a significant difference.
I really enjoyed Pacific Rim and it very much feels like a bad movie. I mentioned on Twitter last night, after walking out of the theater, that the film “is a graduate seminar in clichés, sf tropes, and bad dialogue, but it’s still a lot of fun,” and I stand by that. Given that undigested, one line review, it would seem I would relish reviewing it more thoroughly but something nagged at me not to do it and this morning I finally figured out what that thing was. I enjoyed the film, clichés, sf tropes, bad dialogue, and all, but not listed there is how referential the movie is anime. I noticed it during the film as well, despite not enjoying anime and having too little exposure to it to critique it meaningfully. There are plenty of other people out there who want to do it, so please. This morning, I realize that I can’t give a good “this movie does everything you shouldn’t do, and does it well” review without giving time to the anime stuff.
And for that reason, this is not to be considered a review. Instead, it is a positive nod to the film and to Del Toro for managing to wedge in every bad line and big-bad sf cliche under the sun into a movie that, quite surprisingly, did not feel all that long at 131 minutes. Pacific Rim is tongue-in-cheek, eye-rolling popcorn fare at it’s finest and though it is unlikely to stand up over the years, I sorta hope the box office gross indicates to producers around the country that we would really prefer our bad movies to know they are bad, to embrace it, and to make it fun. Keep the head-up-its-own-ass summer flicks on the chopping floor.
I was watching a video complaint about the exceedingly terribly Tiger Electronic Games with a friend yesterday and It dredged up a surprising amount of nostalgia. Let me start by saying that I know the immediacy with which we young whippersnappers feel nostalgia can be a bit annoying to older generations. I also know, however, that a big part of the reason that our younger culture consumers experience such strong nostalgic tendencies a mere decade after initial consumption has to be the amount of that culture that is ready available for revisiting. Whereas before nostalgia might center on travel, recollected cultural experience, or revisitng favorite books, there is now an enormous volume of available childhood cultural ephemera for us to visit over and again. Many retain their childhood video consoles, Netflix delivers up your favorite teenaged cartoon, celebrities right out of one’s adolescence grow and re-experience their own growth and bring others along for the ride. To top it all off, we can reminisce alone as well as with other. Does it border on obnoxious at times? Sure. But I assure you that newspapermen of the early 20th felt the same about the damnable telephone.
The memories dredged up by the Tiger Games video, however, were ones that seemed entirely lost in the haze of youth. I have never thought myself a big gamer but I was really floored by the number of obscure VG mentioned I not only recognized but actually experienced as a kid. I’m in my late-20s now and I can remember growing up around a generation of older relatives thrilled at the NES and Sega first generation console offerings. I observed a lot more than I played, but these memories stick out. So does the Christmas when, strapped for cash as we ever were, my mom bought me a reduced Sega bundle on the eve of the N64 release. What I didn’t recall until I watch the video were the more obscure games that I begged out of ma and pa. Gamecom? Yeah, I had that enormous POS. Sega Game Gear? Used and yes. Rzone? Yup, and I now recall taking the damn thing apart six months later because the guts were a good deal more interesting that the red-on-black single-eye display.
All of that got me thinking of how readily we (read:we of the younger ilk) take to new electronics. As I say, I’ve never been a big gamer but I played an obscene number of consoles growing up. I ran through them way too quickly and in my mother’s position, I would have grounded little me for how ungrateful I was in insisting ever on the next console. Then came the pining for a home computer, and a better one, etc.
The story of my first computer comes in two parts, I think. Rather, it comes in two computers roughly five years apart.
The first computer that I could really and truly call my own came secondhand from a neighbor and eventually a dear friend by way of my mom’s negotiating skills. When I was seven years old, I befriended on behalf of the rest of my family the semi-reclusive, incomparably kind neighbor, Dodge. In a couple of months, he was a staple at the house and my ailing grandmother had another homebody with whom to chat. At least once a week, I would go over to play on Dodge’s computer. Even by 1993’s standards, the thing was seriously out of date. There was no graphic OS and only enough memory to run whatever program came off the 5.5 floppy presently in the drive but it fascinated me. Up to that point, I had only seen a computer in operation on television and I’d never been allowed to play with one. I would make and remake terribly little greeting cards that Dodge would then print out on dot matrix paper. He’d help me fold them and I’d give them to my mom and my Nana and, on occasion, my uncle. I loved it. Dodge showed me around the command line too, but the cards stick out much more.
Christmas neared and the house was as cash poor as ever. My mom, who had to pull out of high school prematurely to help support the rest of her family, had recently completed a GED and enrolled in nursing school. In addition to coursework, she waited tables at Olive Garden at or near full time. I didn’t see her much that year, but I had my Nana at home and Dodge next door so it was a happy year. I don’t think I was aware before the holidays just how little money we had. When Christmas came, I took in a great haul. Lots of little odds and ends, games to play with my uncle, coloring books, etc. And a friggin’ bike (my old one was run over by a truck). At the center of the pile, Dodge’s computer. My mom figured out he wanted to get a new computer and offered, insisted even, that she be allowed to pay him part of the price of a new one in exchange for me getting the old. He only relented, I learned much later, when he got her to agree to a payment plan doomed from the beginning.
It’s easy to see why I didn’t realize our money problems, until a month later while playing around the house. My mom’s room was dark and, though not off limits, seldom trod through. It was scary for lack of experience and I was creeping along her floor when I saw her empty media center (this is a kind use of the term). My mom’s stereo was the nicest thing she owned and it was gone. My mock fear became real and I ran to my grandmother to inform her of the robbery. She laughed and took me to the backyard to show me what the stereo had become and there stood my bike.
That moment stands out in my mind as one of my earliest humbling experiences. Even after selling her stereo to replace my bike, she haggled up the price of a computer that would have gone to me any way. Such is the nature of pride in our family. I learned more slowly than I ought that it was perfectly ok to need something from someone else and it was fine to ask for what you needed, but so long as you could do for yourself, so long as you could provide for those nearest you, you never took as though the world owed you something.
As I say, I learned that too slowly, because I still begged for console after console, handheld after handheld that I barely remember now. What I learned at the time, I think, was the length to which those who love you will go to make everything you want possible. It was the second first computer that taught me how to replay that love in kind.
Take 2: Evidently my first attempt at this post failed to publish and was lost. Here we go again.
After my first day at the Con, I was fairly on the fence about going Monday and intended to play it by ear and only attend day 5 if I felt I hadn’t yet gotten everything possible into the first four days. Sadly, illness kept me from attending all day yesterday and thus I missed my first Hugo ceremony. With quite a few hiccups, I followed the live write up and ustream while watching Breaking Bad last night, so at least there was that. Congratulations to winners and nominees alike. Only one big disappointment for me but I’ll keep that to myself.
I’d like to follow up on the first day’s post with another list of stray observations. On Day 2, my girlfriend found herself with a free day and decided to get a day pass to accompany me. She is a completely different ilk of nerd (Victorian era, no steam) though I’m slowly bringing her on board. She really made the day for me and Day 2 was probably my best over all day at the Con, thanks largely to her. Even so, she didn’t know what to expect and thought she might be lost or bored in the panels. She brought a book of Martha Gellhorn’s letters which managed to remain closed all day.
At times, I feel overwhelmed, underprepared, out of place, and ready to bug out but for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed my first Con experience. I would like to thank a handful of writers I had been itching to meet for being wonderful people and quashing all of my worries that the author-as-human being might not meet expectations.
I also want to thank my gf for really making the con a great experience for me, both while accompanying me and by doing everything she could to make sure I enjoyed every minute I could. It would not have been the same without her.
My only regret is having to miss the Hugos in person, but c’est la vie. Next time!
I’ll be spending time this evening decompressing from my first convention day and making a plan of attack for day 2. My lady claims she might just come along tomorrow on a day pass and I’. m ever so thrilled at the prospect.
Rather than try to write up an examination of the day’s events, which I have not yet properly digested, I offer up these observations.
*The crowd here skews older than I expected. I knew the crowd would be diverse I’m age, but I guess I expected a slightly younger group.
*Most of us look like you’d expect.
*The Texas theme on events is strange.
*I’ve been silent a lot more than I expected I would. I’m hoping to speak with more people in the next few days. I think I’ve just been out of sorts and as a result I’ve been far more introverted than is my norm.
*I could not have enough money for the Huckster’s room.
*Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary has some great people working with him.
*The first George RR Martin signing line was looong but I expected it to be loooooooong, so that’s good.
*Paul Connell is quite funny.
*I won’t be participating in any after hours, informal gatherings today (don’t know of any) or tomorrow (other obligations) but I’m looking for some late night tomfoolery for Saturday and Sunday.
*The film festival is overwhelming, not sure if I’ll make it to any shows.
*Nix that, I may try to get here at 10 tomorrow for fan short films
*If not, I’ll be back at 11 for the “Fans and Academia” panel.
A Day in the Life of a Sexologist: A sexologist's two cents on the 2013 MTV VMAs -
If you think a woman in a tan vinyl bra and underwear, grabbing her crotch and grinding up on a dance partner is raunchy, trashy, and offensive but you don’t think her dance partner is raunchy, trashy, or offensive as he sings a song about “blurred” lines of consent and…
The only mention of Cyrus at the VMAs capable of capturing my attention. True words.