Chapters and Worse

22 November 2002

Yesterday was a three-rejection day, bringing the career total to 375. Woooo. That's something, I think. I think I get some kind of celebration for 400. It's a bit daunting, but when I think about it, that's really not that many per story or book, and it covers pretty much everything. Still. Three hundred seventy-five. Many. (But they were all three good rejections. Positive rejections. Yay?)

I think I found an excuse that's worse than "because we've always done it that way" yesterday. The worse excuse is, "because they've always done it that way." The book I was reading, Made in China, was just nauseating. The author was an American businessman, and as I said yesterday, a total tool of the Chinese Communist Party. It was just bizarre. He badgered any Chinese person he interviewed, if he or she didn't follow Party line and swear that things were getting better every day. He got snippy with Chinese people who talked about how they want more freedom of the press or anything like that. And it was all essentially, "Oh, their culture isn't like our culture, they've always done it this way." Even when he was faced with living examples of "them" who didn't agree and didn't want to do it that way. Even when "that way" had people so used to atrocity that one old man who lost his job when a factory closed was quoted as demanding, "Why is there no one to execute?" But we were supposed to accept that as an okay response, because it was "how they've done things."

At least when people claim that "it's how we've always done things," they're drawing on their own experience; they're explicit about speaking for themselves. But this guy's reasoning just sounded like the sort of stuff that people used to justify slavery: oh, they're not like us, they don't want the same things as we do. They like it! They couldn't manage without it. Wouldn't know what to do with themselves.

It wasn't okay then. It's not okay now. But I'm done reading that book, at least, and I don't think Dragonwings will be anything like it. And that's a relief. (I know, I know, I should have read Dragonwings ages ago. I didn't. I'm making up for it, all right?)

In contrast, the Finnish political history, with which I am not yet done, was so charming. I love the bit with the February Manifesto. In 1899, Tsar Nicholas II signed what they called the February Manifesto, a document that extended Russian autocracy into what had been the Grand Duchy of Finland, in explicit violation of the Finnish constitution that Nicholas himself had approved. So what did the Finns do? They assumed he didn't realize. After all, it was unconstitutional, and he signed the constitution himself, so...the tsar must not have been informed. He must not have remembered. They collected 520,000 signatures in February in Finland, 90% of them from rural areas, of Finns who wanted to bring this error to the tsar's attention. It took them two weeks. Then they chose 500 Finns to go to St. Petersburg to deliver the petition and talk to the tsar. The tsar refused to see them, although he sent word that he "was not annoyed" that they had come. (Naturally, the Finns did not share his lack of annoyance.)

I just found that so charming. We've seen it in some people with Mom's rebel Lutheran group: the idea that if someone has done something wrong and broken his word, it must have been out of ignorance. Must have been! And if only we can show him where it went wrong, he'll stop doing it.

Oh, did I just inadvertently compare one hierarchical and dictatorial system with another? Oops. Bad habit.

Anyway, so, I chuckle over the Finnish history book, but it also makes me wish for more material in English. This 500-man march on St. Petersburg, for example: what would all 500 of them say to the tsar? How were they selected among their countrymen? How did they get there? Where did they stay once they did? There's at least a long article worth of stuff in those questions, possibly a book. But not in English, I'm guessing. I'm betting that there are rather few English-speakers who are interested in this (but they should be! Because it's cool!). So I'm thinking I need to find myself a good Scand Studies department, or failing that, learn Finnish.

Maybe I should reverse those two, actually. Because learning Finnish without a good Scand Studies department...well, it might be good to have the Scand Studies folks' brains to pick, is what I'm thinking.

See, here's the thing: I really don't know how long this Finnophilia will last me. That is, I don't know for how long it'll be actively useful. I've got several short stories and two more books beyond the Not The Moose, that I know of. I don't intend to make a career out of being That Chick Who Writes About Finland, and Finnish is a hard language. Non-Indo-European and all that.

Maybe if I learned Swedish. It's only a half a jump away from Norwegian, so I've got a start on it that way, because I have a bit of muddly Norwegian to go on. And I know of a good dozen Swedes who would be charmed that I was trying and could probably be persuaded to write me letters in it and all. And a lot of Finnish books are in Swedish as well, because it's the other language of Finland. (But then there's the question of how much cultural skew would pervade the materials...and how much I'd be able to see what it was...and how much I'd have to care.) And while that could be more useful if I also wanted to do some stuff about Sweden, I'm not sure that I do. Iceland, yes, but Icelandic is right out, it being the coolest and most useless language I know of.

I'm a bit worried about this, because somehow my brain jumped from "how do I get more information about this one event in 1899" to "which language(s) will it be most useful for me to learn in my ever-copious free time, without benefit of an instructor." I don't think that's necessarily a good jump. I think I should back away from this jump and rethink it.

Do you know what I did yesterday? This is weird. I did a full and detailed outline of Dwarf's Blood Mead (for lack of a better title). That's not the weird part. The weird part is that it has chapters. I have chapters in the plan for this book. It's so strange. It feels a little kinky, honestly. It's the sort of thing I don't disapprove of in other people but never expected to do myself. And the way the chapter outline came out, I could take a quick polish to it and call it a synopsis, which is even stranger. I mean, if I really wanted, I could have three chapters and a synopsis for this thing by the time Dan gets here. I could have all sixteen chapters drafted by New Year's, no problem. That'd be a bad idea, of course, with the Chinese book coming up due, but it's still kind of neat. And I'm thinking I'll just take this with me when we travel at Christmastime, whenever and wherever that may be, unless the Not The Moose is so close to done I can taste it. Because otherwise, hauling the Not The Moose on the plane would have its charms (lots of editing time on planes!) but also its drawbacks (lots of time with Dr. Bill afterwards!). But this thing is developed enough to be interesting and worth my time, but not developed enough to be a major backache.

Chapters. Me. It's just so weird.

So speaking of Dr. Bill, that's what I'm doing in another couple of minutes: calling up to his office to see if we can get in this late morning/early afternoon. Then I'll get clean and we'll head out. My hope is that we'll manage the chiropractor, some kind of lunch, time at The Other Change and maybe at Alec's comic store as well, coffee, and gelato. And we'll acquire a Wendy and a Daniel (not the one who's Mark's brother, the one who's Wendy's husband; sadly, I do not get Wendy for a sister-in-law) along the way, and hilarity will ensue.

Hilarity will ensue. Does that sound ominous to you? Because it's supposed to.

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