Elemental, Incremental Adventures

17 September 2001

Someone, sometime, must have produced the very first brand-new poem about how there's nothing new under the sun. The very first novel, the very first play. I find that delightful.

I got a rejection letter over e-mail yesterday. It almost made me happy. At the writers' spelling bee: "Normal. R-E-J-E-C-T-I-O-N. Normal." I looked at my sendout log, and it turns out I've had ten-day gaps between rejections before, not all that rarely, in fact. But it just feels odd. I think it felt odd in the past, too -- I think I did get antsy -- but I had different attributions to it. The normal flaws of the USPO, for one thing, and editorial foibles for another. So I'm trying not to let the symbols get too symbolic.

Last night, while I was reading Elementals, I watched "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." (I know, Momma, I know: "You watched what?") I'd never seen it before, and it was on Comedy Central. It was not the world's greatest movie, in case any of you were wondering. It will not make my Top N list. But in addition to not taking itself too seriously, there were two serious things I liked about it.

The first was the fundamental assumption that Bill and Ted were important. What does that mean? It means that the people of the future don't have the same priorities as the people of today. This has been pretty obviously true, historically speaking, but somehow a lot of writers can't wrap their brains around it. Kate keeps trying with her music time-travel stories in Speculon, but it's just not as widely recognized as I'd like. And the second was the acknowledgement that easy time travel meant that the plot could work in whatever complicated or crazy way it needed to, because they could just go back in time and set things up for themselves to come upon in the future. For a serious story, this would remove the narrative tension. "Bill and Ted" had no narrative tension. It wasn't supposed to. So it could just be fun, and the time travel could be used in a much more sensible way than it would have been in a serious movie.

Not really excellent. But pretty good.

Well, the US has given Afghanistan a three-day ultimatum. Which means that I can wait until Thursday morning to be scared to turn on the TV for fear that "bombing Kabul" will be the words the announcer is saying. Guess I'd better get a lot done between now and then.

It's Ken Kesey's birthday today. My godmother's calendar comes in handy sometimes. It does list a birthday for Euripides, though, which seems, er, trusting. Yes. Definitely very trusting of historians.

At any rate, Elementals was good prose, but I felt that Byatt would have benefited greatly by reading some spec fic, particularly some more modern fantasy -- Sean Stewart, say, or Powers or Graham Joyce, even. The Lying Stones of Marrakech is -- well, I don't know what's wrong with it, really, but it's a lot less interesting than I usually find Gould. Sad. Mark had the same reaction, I believe, so at least it's not just me.

Michelle forwarded me a message from one of her professors, wherein he was saying that it seemed more urgent to him, these days, to get things done and to get them done right. I usually have at least a moderate sense of urgency -- essential, I believe, to successfully freelancing -- but I know what he means. Amber said she had the "urge to purge" -- not, thankfully, that she's become bulimic, but that she wanted to clean her whole house before she had to leave on Saturday's flight. And I understand that, too. It seems like a good idea to get things tidied up, to get them in order. To exert that kind of control to make everything okay, in the small part of the world that I can make okay.

I'm usually a great believer in political incrementalism, as people who read this journal regularly or know me well already know. I believe that it does make a difference that I gave [small amount of money] to [worthwhile charity] yesterday. I believe that helping people out one at a time is the only way things really get done. But I can't come up with an incremental solution for Afghanistan. I can't even come up with a big step solution for Afghanistan. If I was going to try to help the Afghani people one at a time, my first step would probably be to get them out of Afghanistan one at a time. I don't see any way at all for Afghanistan to fix itself, with or without US help or hindrance. I wish I did, but I don't.

It's depressing, so if you have any brilliant ideas, I'd love to hear them. In the meantime, I'm going to "clean my book" essentially -- editing, editing -- and work and just be around here. Be well.

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