Like Cher, With Footnotes

9 December 2001

I saw Doubt and Certainty on the BART train last night. They got on at MacArthur and got off at Lake Merritt. In case you were wondering. I know they were probably just a couple of punk teenagers, but my brain saw them and clicked, "Ah, Doubt and Certainty," and off it went. (Certainty was the girl with the dyed-black hair. Doubt had a disc in only one of his ears.) So this morning I've been writing a totally unplanned short story that isn't really about Doubt and Certainty at all, thematically, they're just bit players. I like that better, I think, than if it was, ooohhh, here's this big ol' myffic theme (to Pratchetize it) look at the characters, and Think About Their Meaning, rrahhhhh!

Er. Right then. We went to Ken's launch party at the ever-lovely Albatross last night. Splendid time had by all. Ken kept expressing surprise that so many people came. It was supposed to last from 5 to 8, and it was pretty pure coincidence that that was nearly exactly how long we stayed. Things were still (oh, shockingly!) going strong at 8:00, but we were all starting to get a little wandery, so home we went.

In the meantime, got to hang out with people I already knew, including a veritable journalfest of Bay Area folks (Tim, Heather, Susan, Jed, and Sam), although I didn't talk to any of them for very long. Hung out a good bit with writing group people -- talked to Alec a lot, and got to meet Corie's partner, who was cool and seemed to fit well with Corie. And I met Frank! and his roommate Jim and their friend whose name I am totally unsure how to spell. Despite telling Tim that I wasn't really in "meet and greet" mode. (He laughed and said that he never is, and that I'm more exothermic. We shall see.)

Oh, the Frank! thing. Well, Frank and I were talking about how great it is that speculative fiction is like this big ol' small town, and people can be first-name style celebrities. (This came up with Mary Anne, of course: "Do you know Mary Anne?" "Oh, yeah, yeah. Everybody knows Mary Anne." "Well, yeah.") So Frank and I decided that I could be just Marissa!, you know, like Cher or Farrah or somebody. (Or Mary Anne, I suppose.) I thought that Frank could be Frank!, too, but evidently there are a few other artists in the field named Frank. Go figure. Anyway, go look at his art. It's cool. I'd mostly been familiar with the Strange Horizons piece for Slugball; it turns out I like the rest of his stuff even better.

(Timprov didn't buy the "like Cher" thing, though. "Oh yeah," he said, "you're just like Cher. I never forget how much like Cher you are. It's on my mind constantly." The world is filled with skeptics.)

I got home to find Future Orbits in my inbox, with "The Handmade's Tale" in it. Woo! Looks nice, albeit pretty different from Timprov's and my plans for the Bay Laurel anthologies. I love getting stories published. It has so much nift.

And speaking of the anthologies, um, would you think that I would have to put "no Jesus" in the guidelines? You would not think so. But evidently I do. I'm running over one-fifth Jesus-related stories. And I plan to feature, um, zero. So, if you're still thinking through a story for me, and it has Jesus in it, you should know that your chances are rather slim. I don't mind stories about Christians and hating aliens, not at all. But stories about Christ and hating aliens? No, no thank you, thanks all the same.

(Kelly asked me last night, "What if you got the perfect Jesus story?" Um. Well. Just, no.)

I sent out my second acceptance letter yesterday. It's very much fun to write those. It's even more fun to write them to friends. And even more fun than that when you know it's the friend's first acceptance. I'm going to try not to write very many more early on -- I don't want to leave myself with no maneuvering room at the end -- but sometimes, you just know.

Yesterday I finished reading Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, about nationalism. Interesting book, much to ponder. However. The footnote structure drove me just mad. Here is my belief system about footnotes: there are three types of comments with which people annotate their texts.
1) Pertinent information that doesn't fit into the flow of the text. Ideally, there should be few of these. If there are too many of them, you may have chosen the wrong topic to write about. But I don't mind some. This type of commentary is good as a footnote, and a good example of it is a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.
2) Snarky or pointless comments from the author. If these are really funny, I can forgive them as annotations (usually footnotes), but mostly I think that they should be left out entirely.
3) Citations. If all you're going to do is tell me where you got this information, put it in the back, in endnotes, where the reader who has paused anyway to ponder, "Where'd she get that?" can flip and find out, but the reader who doesn't really care (at all or for the moment) can just keep going without it interrupting the flow of text on the page.

Is this in any way objectively right? Oh, heck no. But it makes sense. And it has a certain consistency to it. In many moods, I don't care where they got the specific information -- I care about reading the bibliography later. But I still want the information that's pertinent but doesn't flow.

Also, I think that there are very few, if any, cases where you should not translate a passage. Not everybody speaks French. Not everybody speaks German. Etc. And if you don't, random paragraphs in the middle of history texts are a terrible way to learn. Some words and phrases have made it into the English language intact, and you should not have to gloss it if you want to write about an amicus curiae brief, for example. But otherwise, translate, translate, translate.

Right then. Well, I'm wearing a fleece top and wool socks. (Just like Cher, right? Oh....) Doesn't get cold here, but it sure gets chilly sometimes. I'm glad it's finally fall. Hmm. Or spring. We're about three weeks into about the second week of October here, and I can see the second week of March coming up in another two weeks or so.

And I can really identify with today's online Agnes (it's the one for December 7, in case you're not reading this today). I think that's it. I'm going to finish the unexpected story from the BART train last night, and work a bit more on the NTMB, do laundry, buy tomatoes if I can find any, and other such amazing feats.

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