Inexorably Famous

8 September 2001

Last night, Mark and I took the train up to Berkeley. It's so cool: they had a BART strike that managed not to inconvenience us even a tiny little bit. I don't know when else they could have timed that and had it work. But the strike ended the day we got back, so off we go on the train, tra la. We had noodles (Draaaaagon's Breath), and Mark decided we absolutely needed a copy of "Before I Kill You, Mister Bond...." from Cheapass Games. They have been ordered to cease and desist making it, so the stores are selling out their last copies. I think people would still be buying it if it was called "Before I Kill You, Agent Twelve...." or something like that, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, it was $5, and what can entertain us and N friends for $5, even for just an hour or two?

There was a herd o' geek at the noodle place when we were there. I could pick out somebody I know who looked like each of them. (I'd never seen someone who reminded me strongly of Scott before. Strange. Michelle's Scott, yes, but not the first Scott.) Then again, Liz looked at my pictures from DC and said that she felt like she'd seen all of my friends before. So maybe she's right and us geeks really do all look alike.

But if any of you know somebody who looks like me, though, please, please tell me. Because I almost never have somebody say, "Oh, you look just like my college roommate/high school lab partner/cousin/whatever." I don't remember if it's ever happened. If it has, it's certainly not common.

(For those of you who know my mom: that doesn't count.)

It's 7:00 in the morning, and I've been up for half an hour. But it's Saturday! you protest. And you were supposed to be sleeping in! I know. But I had one of my Gran dreams again, and Booboo was in it, too, this time. See, when I was little, we went to see my great-grandmother, Grandpa's mom, about once a month. Grandma and Grandpa would meet us in Sioux Falls and we'd all stay at Gran's house, see the aunts and uncles and cousins and so on. And on Sunday morning -- the only morning of the week she didn't go to the office -- Gran would take the family out to brunch.

Well, Gran died in the late winter of my freshman year of college, smack in the middle of my Vonnegut kick. (Vonnegut and grief don't combine well, in case you're wondering. I was glad I didn't have to combine the two of them with heavy machinery.) And a month or two after that, I dreamed about going for brunch with Gran and catching her up on what had been going on in my life since she died. Ever since then, I have a dream about having brunch or coffee with Gran, every month or so. Sometimes Booboo, my dog who died, is in the dreams, too, and those are the ones that make it impossible for me to go back to sleep.

And besides that, I woke up the time before that with three tweaks to make to the rewrite of "Mad Skillz" from yesterday. I managed to mumble them to myself enough times to remember them, but I wanted to make them as soon as I could.

So here I am.

I finished reading Newton's Cannon yesterday. Not a good book. I kept reading it mostly because I'd started. Nobody could say anything. They shouted, they whispered, they declared, exclaimed, opined, but nobody could ever just say. This was particularly upsetting to me because somebody edited that book. More than one somebody, in fact, and "say verbs" is one of the basic, low-level edits one does on a story. It's one of the first things people learn, and it's one of the things that's actually somewhat teachable.

More importantly than that, though, it used my pet peeve in alternate histories: everybody was famous. Same thing happened in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula, which Tim lent me. Different historical period, but same deal: put in a radical social change, and somehow all the people you've heard of are still hanging around doing interesting stuff. Amazing. I guess some people are just destined to be fascinating. Inexorable fate etc. I wouldn't mind so much if I didn't get the feeling that the authors were trying to cram everyone famous from their place-time (Do we all know the word "ficton?" Can I safely use that?), fictional or not, into their books. All inexorably well known.

This would not bother me so much if the major change to make the alternate history work had been really recent. But in Newton's Cannon, the entire premise seems to be continuously functional alchemy. So we're talking some pretty major changes here. Yet Voltaire, Ben Franklin, and Newton himself are all running around. Even Maclaurin. You know, as in Maclaurin series? Him. They were all there. (If you don't know what a Maclaurin series is, well, it's like a Taylor series, but slightly different in the way you expand it. A little more general.) (That didn't help a bit, did it? Just smile and nod, then.)

Brad Denton's Wrack and Roll was pretty much the opposite of that: nobody famous in our timeline was popping up in his. I liked that. I also liked that it read like the bastard child of Connie Willis and Robert Anton Wilson. (Timprov made that analogy originally, and he's right.)

Anyway, I'm reading Summer King, Winter Fool right now, and it's not set in our world, so there's no chance that everybody in it is going to be required to be famous. Which is something of a relief. And, of course, I'm reading the last story for Avi's writing group thingy tomorrow. I have no idea how helpful I will be. We shall see.

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