A winnar is me.

Winner-2014-Twitter-Profile

Esther is just behind me in this, but I figured I’d post my thingy to be all thingy now.

So, I won Nano.  And I feel cheesy even saying that.  “Win” is a word that usually refers to a competition.  It implies that I somehow accomplished something.  But as I said in an earlier post, all it means is that I shat out 50,000 words of a novel.  It’s by no means complete; I haven’t even written the final chapters yet.  I don’t have the rough draft of what I would call “a novel,” just most of one.  But still. I win.

Hooray?

This whole experience, to me, feels as through I just wasted a month.  Going into November, I could have been working on the revisions to book 3, a novel I’m actually proud of.  I could have been drafting short stories for the upcoming sequel to Beer Saves the World, or the new anthology for Campcon.  I could have been doing anything but mickey-mousing the plot of this ridiculous book in order to complete an artificial word count in an artificial period of time.

When are you going to get to read this novel?  Never, most likely.  It needs burning, and badly.  It’s 50,000 words, and almost all of them are crap.

So, I promised an update on my perspective by the end of the month, and here it is:  my perspective is largely unchanged.

Nano, I believe, can be a wonderful tool for those who have never completed a novel.  It offers a massive support structure, and a lot of assistance getting through those 50,000 words.  I am sure that, had I participated in Nano before publishing two novels, and before I signed a three-book deal with my publisher, I would have appreciated it for what it is able to do:  teach people that finishing a novel is possible.

That’s really step one to completing the novel.  Ass goes into chair, and typing begins.  And Nano does that, and for that it has value.

But I’m looking at the dreck I produced in my slapdash effort to make it to the end, and I’m realizing that Nano teaches you to complete the novel.  It does not teach you to make the novel worth a damn.  In fact, when the finish line (today) loomed near, I stopped doing any kind of creativity or quality control.  I work a full-time job, and completing Nano on top of that and going to Orycon meant I had to bear the hell down when it came to getting this thing done.  And the result is?  Nothing I would ever care that the public read.

So does Nano have value?  Absolutely.  But it has value for an author at a certain stage of their writing career–namely, the very beginning.  Does Nano have value to me now?  No.  I would go so far as to say that it has a negative impact on my writing now, as I could have been working on something good, but instead I did this.  Will I be participating in Nano 2015?  Hell no.  Been there, done that, got the “winner” logo to post on my blog, was offered the ability to purchase a t-shirt.

I left open the question, at the end of my last Nano post, as to whether or not Nano was a cancer on the indie publishing community.  That question remains open.  I say “cancer,” because I believe the analogy is accurate.  A cancer is a growth that uncontrollably grows, depleting the bodies resources for no function.  My Nano novel, which is still titleless, grew uncontrollably, and uselessly, and took the resources that could have otherwise been devoted to healthy writing pursuits.  I feel like it might be doing the same across the industry.

Still, it has value for beginners.  So if you love doing Nano, then good on you.  Enjoy it.  Post the graphic and call yourself a winner.  I have.  A winner is me.  But I’d prefer to be working on things I can be proud of, instead of being proud of that.

 

On Shirtgate, and the response thereto.

Let me begin by stating that this is Frog writing, not Esther, and my thoughts are not necessarily our thoughts.  This one is all me, she can respond if she so chooses.

The shirt thing is getting crazy.  There’s an inflationary thing the internet does, where one person has a thought that might make coherent sense, and it is taken to its completely irrational extreme within the space of, say, thirty seconds.

1.  That shirt was wildly inappropriate.

Come on, dude.  You’re going on television.  Have the sense to dress appropriately.  I’m not talking about the women, by the way; I’m simply talking about representing yourself as a professional while wearing a Hawaiian shirt.  Maybe it’s because I wear a suit to work every day, but really?  Hawaiian shirt?

That said, it’s not like he really needed to impress anyone with his attire.  He’d just led a team that landed on a comet.  That was pretty impressive, and I’m willing to give him a pass on bad taste.

2.  Sexual Objectification is, generally, wrong.

Can we agree to this?  That treating people as sex objects and nothing more is a bad thing?  Good.  And there’s no doubt that shirt screams I likes me some ass and titties.  It is one step away from simply glue-sticking the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition to one’s torso.  The shirt, therefore, was doubly wrong; tacky and misogynist.

3.  That said, the reaction to the shirt was over-the-top.

That shirt is undeniably tacky.  But so was the response to it.  I’m sorry, feminists, but there are better battles to pick.  A passing comment along the lines of “Wow, dude hit a comet.  Not a great shirt, but still, cool guy.” would have been about right.

That’s not what Rose Eveleth did.  Her tweet, in its entirety, reads “No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt.”

That dude was not making any comments about women in the scientific community.  He wasn’t there to engage in this conversation.  And by referring to him as “the dude in this shirt,” she made it look as though his accomplishments were less important to her than the shirt.  Which leads me to my next point:

4.  Accomplishments do not justify misogyny.

Let’s start there.  I do not believe “landed on a comet” means “gets to be a dick.”  That said,

5.  Minimizing accomplishments does not lend itself well to the cause of feminism.

Here’s the problem:  It’s not that I support the shirt.  It’s that ranting about the shirt without at least tipping the hat to the purpose of the clip in which the shirt was worn just looks ignorant.  It gives the impression that you think your thing is more important than his thing.

His thing?  It’s pretty massive.  Referring to him as “the guy in this shirt” without even naming him?  It says more about you than it does about him.  Oh, sure, you’ve thrown some meat to the feminists who already agree with you, but what good has that done?  None.  At all.  Instead, you’ve given every cockbiting asshole out there all kinds of ammunition to use against you.  Bravo.

I don’t think that was the intent.  I think this was a quick tweet, minimized for character count, and sent on its way.  That’s all this is.  But being very careful about how you phrase such things is pretty important, because it gave the impression to many that it was the only thing in that clip you cared about.  And that clip?  It was about some shit that may damn well change the future of humanity.

In other words, nobody who wasn’t already a feminist was looking at the shirt.

And when you refer to him as “the guy in this shirt,” as though that shirt is what he’s known for, it makes you look like an idiot.
6.  As a result, #Shirtgate/#Shirtstorm has done more harm to feminism than good.

Look at all the feminist articles out there.  They are in damage control mode.  The one I linked at the top?  Pure DC.  Meanwhile, in conservative crazy land, the opponents of feminism are taking a victory lap.

7.  Maybe pick your battles next time.

In short, I think feminists had a point on this one.  This was a wildly inappropriate and offensive shirt.  But in bashing the guy, and not trying to be polite and informative, they hurt themselves.  They attacked someone for something in the zenith of his 15 minutes.  Not a good call.  Bad PR for feminism.

If you want to change the culture, you couldn’t have picked a worse way to do it.  Pick your battles better, next time.

Halfway through Nano

So, this weekend marks the midpoint of November.  It also marks the half-way point on my NaNoWriMo word count.  I’m recovering after Orycon, which set me back in my word count, but I’ve managed to make up ground this weekend.

So far, I’m learning some things from the experience.  I’ll try and condense it down, but there’s a lot of thoughts I have mulling about and I’m going to try to crystallize them here.  Before anyone jumps down my throat about what I’m about to say, I recognize that this is a hot-button issue amongst writers.  There are some who are die-hard fans of the practice, and others who wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.  NaNo is, undoubtedly, a force in the writing world, and there are many who take advantage of it and ride that wave to help them create something great.  There are many who think it interferes with greatness.

Me, I’m of two minds about it.  So here’s my musings, such as they are.

Positive Things I Have Learned:

1.  I can throw down some serious word count

Twice, now, I have topped 10,000 words in a day.  That’s over three average-length chapters for one of the Gift of Grace books; for my NaNo project, it’s about five chapters.  When I’m on a roll, the dam breaks and the words hit the page.  My word count is quickly approaching the 30k mark, and I have only really devoted two weekends to the pursuit.  By the time my four-day Thanksgiving expires, I will have stuck a fork in this thing easily.

2.  My non-collaborative work is pretty organic

Esther and I are working on two separate projects, and that means I’m free to take these characters and this world and run with it.  My characters pretty consistently surprise me with the crap they pull, and I have absolutely no idea how this whole thing is going to end.  I know it’s going to end in 20,000 words, give or take, but I don’t know how yet.  That’s a little terrifying, but it’s a lot of fun totally pants-ing something.

3.  The less revision you do to yourself in your zero draft, the better

This one I’ve preached many time, and so this is more of a confirmation than anything else.  I’ve said it before, but the absolute best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received is “Put Your Ass In the Chair and Keep Typing.”  I am, in fact, taking this opportunity to coin the following term:  PAIC, for PUT ASS IN CHAIR.

asschair

 NaNo, by enforcing a word count on me, has actually forced me to PAIC.  I’m not concerned about revisions; if I get to the end of this book, and it’s something that I feel like is worth pursuing, then I’ll go back and polish it.  Right now, I’m shitting out a word count as quickly as I possibly can.  Most of those words will, eventually, need to be changed, but the rough cuts of a story are taking shape very, very quickly.

I’ve been on a couple of teams for writing workshops, now.  This will probably be a blog post all its own, but I want to mention it here.  Twice, now, I’ve critiqued a Chapter One for someone, and in speaking that person have found out that they have ceased roughing out their story to focus on making sure they got Chapter 1 right.  This is pure lunacy, as what you decide to write in Chapter 14 may very well completely change what needs to happen in Chapter 1.  NaNo drives home the need to get your word count in first, revision later, and I really appreciate that because it is absolutely the correct way of doing things.

And now, the not-so-positive observations:

There’s a false sense of completion at the end of NaNo.

Get 50,000 words done, and you “win” NaNo.  Win.  There’s no competition, mind you, but you get to claim a “win.”  That’s all you need, is that word count.  Write 50,000 words? Then:

a_winner_is_you20110724-22047-1nd3wif

 

But remember when I said I was just shitting out word count as fast as I could?  I called that a good thing, and it is.  Revisions are pointless until you’ve got the whole thing roughed in, and you know what your story looks like front-to-back.  Getting the whole thing roughed out is absolutely the first step, the thing that enables your revisions to be worth a damn.

But I used the verb “shitting” very intentionally.  Doing this?  It is only step one.

Roughing a story is a hell of a lot more fun than revising it.  Word count is fabulous, really, and driving that word count home feels great.  It feels like you’re doing something.  But it is the most emotionally satisfying and least difficult part of the novel-drafting process.  Revision is an excruciating, tooth-pulling nightmare of a process, and it is absolutely necessary to complete your novel.  We use the terminology from the art of sculpture; “roughing” and “polishing.”  So let’s extend the metaphor a little bit.

Here is your novel at the end of the rough-draft process that NaNo gets you through:

unfinished

Note, if you will, that while you can basically tell what the statue is going to look like, it is by no means complete.  Michelangelo never finished this thing.  Now, because of that it’s currently worth a lot, but that only works if you get (1) really famous, and (2) dead.  If (God forbid) GRRM eats it before finishing Volume VII of Song of Ice and Fire, you can be damn sure that unfinished draft will be worth something to someone.  But your NaNo project?  Not so much.

Making the rough cuts on a statue is the easy part.  You take a big-ass, heavy chisel, and you get some stone the hell out of the way.  Woo!  The marble chips fly and shit is getting done.

But the art, the true beauty, isn’t achieved that way.  It’s achieved with fine-grained rasps and with pumice and cloth, polishing the stone into a perfect smoothness.  It’s meticulous, painstaking work, and hours can go by without a significant change to the statue as a whole.  But therein lies the true art:

David_von_MichelangeloSee the difference?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and therein lies the problem.  There is this persistent feeling that, once you’ve got 50,000 words in a file, you have written a novel.  That’s so far from the truth it’s laughable.  Getting a rough draft done is great, but you haven’t written a novel until you’ve actually finished the revisions.  NaNo glorifies the easiest part of writing, and gives a hand-wave to the rest of it.

There is, at least, a hand-wave.  You can “sign a pledge” once you “win” to revise, but there’s no additional kudos given for someone who revises their novel.  No, that’s extra, a bonus.  Revision is treated by NaNo as an afterthought, when it is the real meat and substance about the art.  Can you imagine someone looking at Michelangelo after he’d roughed in a statue and saying “Wow, Mikey.  That’s amazing.  You Win!  We consider this complete.  You can, if you so choose, promise to polish it up a bit, but pretty much we think it’s great that you did this much.”  Of course not.  But that’s what NaNo has essentially done with thousands upon thousands of aspiring authors.  And this leads me to my final, earth-shattering conclusion:

NaNoWriMo may do some good, but is also responsible for a whole bunch of really terrible books on the market today.

Looking back at the time we spent struggling with the Friday Indie Review, it was God-Awful.  There was so much dreck that my eyeballs had to absorb.  Looking back, many of those novels were the products of NaNo.  50,000 words in a month, followed by a hand-wave at revision, and then a jump straight into publication.  Is it any wonder that they stank with the perfume of a thousand maggot-infested corpses?  Hell no.  I’m looking at what I’ve thrown on a page so far this month, and I’m not even willing to share the basic plot outline here.  It’s not very good, at the moment.  I would be ashamed to let it see the light of day in its current state.  And I’m pretty sure mine’s one of the better ones.

So I write this blog post.  Maybe, when I get to the end of the process, I’ll have some further revelations.  I see a lot of good coming from NaNo, but I also think there’s a chance it might be a cancer on the indie book industry.  The jury is still out on that one.

 

The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received, or This Article Is Full Of It

For a website supposedly devoted to helping writers become authors, they certainly have a really strange way of showing it.

In the summer of 2012, we had just submitted Grace Under Fire for consideration.  We attended Spocon, where the madness began.  There, I received the greatest piece of writing advice ever given to me.

For those of you who have never read anything by CJ Cherryh, you’ve done yourself a disfavor.  She’s a wonderful author, and absolutely one of the wisest people I have seen doing the con circuits.  She also brooks absolutely no bullshit, and is quick to the point of incendiary to refute it when she hears it.  I didn’t ask the question; someone in the audience did.  They asked “I always start novels, but I can never finish them.  How do you finish the novel?”

CJ cut the rest of the panel off, answering before any moderator had the chance to stop her.  She burst forth with the best piece of writing advice I have ever received, bar none.

Put your ass in the chair and keep typing.

That was it.  No other response could be given.  It was that simple.  Don’t stop writing.  Even if you think the ideas are bad, don’t stop.  Even when it seems like you’re up against a wall, don’t stop.  Put your ass in the chair and keep typing.  Do not worry about whether it sucks.  That’s what revision is there for.  You may end up changing everything but love of God, put your ass in the chair and keep typing.  It is, bar none, the only way to finish a novel.

So let’s look at what Ms. Weiland, who appears to make her living giving advice on writing instead of doing it, has to say.  Actually, Ms. Weiland’s most concise statement isn’t her own; she cribs it from Margaret Atwood’s article in Writer’s Digest:

You know when you’re not ready; you may be wrong about being ready, but you’re rarely wrong about being not ready. You keep trying, but you may wait a while between the tries. … I’ve had books that didn’t work out. I had to stop writing them. … It was depressing, but it wasn’t the end of the world. …sometimes you bash yourself against the wall and you get through it. But sometimes the wall is just a wall. There’s nothing to be done but go somewhere else.

Bullshit.

Here’s the thing:  stories aren’t magically ready to be written.  There is no divine muse out there, waiting to wave her magic wand and inspire you with the muddle-in-the-middle portion of your story.  There is only you.  You and a blank computer screen, a yawning void waiting for you to try to fill it.

So what should you do when you hit a wall?  Should you “go somewhere else?”  Hell no.  That wall is an artificial construct, it’s there because you put it there.  Only you can remove it, and there’s only one way to do that.  Put your ass in the chair and keep typing.  Don’t make weak-assed excuses to yourself like “I guess this story isn’t ready to be written yet.  Put your ass in the chair and start typing.  Find ways around.  Switch your perspective character, write from a different viewpoint.  Write the end and work backwards.  DO SOMETHING.  But don’t sit there and tell yourself that, because you’ve hit a wall, it’s time to work on something else.

I did that.  I did that for years.  Do you know how many novel-beginnings I’ve written?  ‘Cause I don’t.  I have absolutely no clue how many tattered remnants of a story litter the hard drives of my various computers.  It’s a lot, I’ll tell you that, but the one thing all of those novels have in common is this:  I gave myself an excuse to stop writing them.

You can make yourself feel better by blaming the story.  “This story isn’t ready to be written yet,” you can say, adopting the stance of the pretentious artiste whose work is a living thing.  But that’s a cop-out, and deep down you know it.  In any given project, you are going to hit a wall.  It is Going To Happen.  The moment you hit that wall, you’ve got a choice.  You can take the easy path, walk away, start a different novel that will also die on the vine, or you can follow the wisest writing advice I have ever heard from one of the greatest authors I have had the honor to share a panel with.

Ass.  Chair.  Write.  Now.

Orycon 36:

Just got back from Orycon 36.  Interesting con.

To begin with, Esther had to take a different car entirely.  She got last-minute notice of a job interview.  Now, as much as we’d like to blow off having a day job in favor of being rich and famous authors, we’re not exactly there yet.  So she had to pass her panels off to me (the ones she could) and head down later.

I opened Friday with a Dark Fairy Tales panel with The Duchess Herself.  Walking into that panel next to her was…um…interesting.  I’ll quote her blog on the subject directly:

 

I ambled across to the proper venue with another panelist, and discovered that the room contained nothing but three towering stacks of chairs.  We all just assumed that, this being a Dark Fairy Tales panel, the goblins had been there before us.

 

This panel was followed rapidly by one in which we (the whole room) collectively outlined a story.  This story ended up being about a lone mermaid, away from her home, pissing off Poseidon.  I’m honestly a little interested to see whether anyone writes that up or not.  Still, Jason Andrew managed to guide the rest of us poor lost souls into something of an outline format, and all walked away pretty happy.

I’m not going to go panel-by-panel through the con.  That would take forever, as I ran (yet another) marathon of panels in this one.

Also got to hang out with a lot of old friends.  Phyl Radford, Bob Brown, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, and a whole list of others.  Saw some old faces, saw some new faces.  Finally tasted Radioactive Sludge (thank you to the good folks from Radcon for that particular, uh, delicacy).

Our marketing technique was all kinds of fun this con.  We wrote a mini-adventure for Robert and Grace, one that falls in between books 1 and 2 of The Gift of Grace series.  They came in at around 1500 words each, and combined at 3,000ish.  It’s a story of our heroes’ attempt to seal a breach in the Weave coming through in two places at once.  (Robert’s is entitled “A Day at the Beach,” while Grace’s is entitled “A Walk in the Park.”)  We then put these on stories on brochures; I carried Robert’s brochure, and Esther carried Grace’s.

“Free Flash Fiction” works really well as a pitch for people to pick up someone’s marketing materials.  But then the fan would discover that they could hunt down the other spouse to receive the other half of the story.  Throughout the con, Esther and I were sought out by people who had read one perspective of the story, and not the other.  It became something of a scavenger hunt for authors, which is about as cool as things can possibly get.

What’s that?  You want to read “A Day at the Beach” and “A Walk in the Park?”  Better catch us at the upcoming Radcon, then, because these stories are exclusively available to people who find us at cons.  Until then, I guess you’re out of luck.

All in all, I have to say that Orycon was a hell of a lot of work, and a hell of a lot of fun.  The staff was fabulous, the room setup was confusing but not overly so, and the panels were, for the most part, engaging, varied, and interesting.  A big shout out to all the cool folks who made it happen, and we can’t wait for Orycon 37.

A Response to the Criticism of Scorpion

I am a genius.

When I was a child, I was called “gifted.”  My IQ was abnormally high, and I had the ability to master mathematical skills and language arts that exceeded most of my peers.  I still do.  Saying it sounds arrogant, sounds like I’m just a smug bastard, but it is simply true.  I am smarter than about 98% of the people I meet on any given day.  About one percent of those will be as smart as I am.  The last percent are those that have me beat.

Those are rough figures.

I say that not to belittle you, the reader.  Chances are, I’m smarter than you, just playing the odds.  And the very fact that I’ve said that has you a little miffed, because how dare I?  I don’t mean it to be insulting.  But there’s no way of saying it that makes it not insulting.  So there it is.

So, here’s what my childhood was like:  I was raised in a small farming community.  It’s got exactly one school district, and the children you enroll into kindergarten with are, more or less, the children you graduate high school with.

When I was first placed into kindergarten, I was an unruly child.  I don’t remember it vividly, save for one particular incident in which the teacher asked me to put down my copy of Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wrinkle in Time so that I could name a word that started with the letter “C.”  Did she not understand I was trying to figure out how a tesseract worked?  I mean, I’m reading a novel here.  I probably know three words that start with “C,” right?  There are at least that many on this page.  My teacher is an idiot for issuing me such a ridiculous question.  I threw my shoe at her to punish her for her stupidity and went on reading.

This didn’t end well for me.

The school was going to hold me back for a year.  Clearly I wasn’t prepared to be a kindergartener.  Try again next year.  But my mother, who was at the time a teacher, and several of her friends who had interacted with me off-hours, instead had me tested.  This test proved, definitively, that I was a genius.  The school then reversed its position.

Literally.

Instead of holding me back, Jennings Elementary school took the unprecedented step of moving me from kindergarten into first grade in the middle of the school year.  Why they did this was never explained to the children around me, or really to me.  I was just a first grader, all of a sudden.  Of course, first grade was still well underneath me, but at least there was busywork. When homework was passed out, I generally completed it and handed it back in before the bell rang, saving me from having to take it home.  I did this in front of every other child.  Then, when they asked me why I didn’t take my homework home, I would answer by telling them that it was easy, and I didn’t need to, and if you had problems with those questions then you were probably stupid.

And I said these things to children at least a year older than me, some more, who were already jealous of my grade promotion.

I got my ass handed to me.  School was a place to fear, and recess was an opportunity to hide, under bleachers and behind bushes, from the children who entertained themselves by beating the stuffing out of my arrogant butt.  Once on the playground, it was generally known that I was the target, the pariah.  I thought I was better than everyone, and so I should get beaten as hard as possible.

In the first grade, everyone knew why they hated me.  By the time high school rolled around, why they hated me had ceased to be relevant.  They hated me because that was a done thing.  Hate Peter.  In the locker rooms of junior high and high school gym, I was beaten down in the showers and peed on.  I stopped taking showers, and that led to the PE teacher trying to have me suspended.  Those teachers who weren’t Mom’s friends saw me as an object of nepotism, and worked as hard as they could to break me.  I graduated high school believing that, despite my many accomplishments, I was near worthless to society.

In large parts of America, this is how geniuses are treated.  Genius is not a thing to be celebrated, it is rather a burn-the-witch situation.  If someone dares to call themselves intelligent, everyone around them assumes they are putting on airs.  Admit it, when you read the first sentence of this blog post you wanted to laugh at my arrogance for even saying it.

Do you even understand how damaging it is to go through that?  I learned social skills as a survival mechanism, as a way to protect myself.  Underlying those skills are deep, deep fears that in any given social situation I’m a second and a half away from receiving a beating.  I’m 6’2″ and weigh over 350 lbs, and I still worry about getting an asskicking from just about everyone I meet.  And I will, for the rest of my life.

OK, I titled this piece as a response to some television critics, so let’s tie that in.

When I see a show like Scorpion on CBS, it’s an amazing experience.  There’s a lot of critics who are calling it Big Bang Theory, but unfunny.  It’s not.  Scorpion respects the genius.  It places genius on a pedestal.  Big Bang Theory laughs at how stupid smart people are.  BBT justifies all the beatings, all the mockery, and all the bile poured on me as a child.  It tells society that it’s OK to loathe smart people, because obviously they’re stupid.  I hate watching BBT.  Most of the other smart people I know hate watching BBT.  It’s a show of laughing at, not with.

Scorpion, though, is a show in which being a genius is a valuable thing.  It comes right out and tells us that it’s characters are geniuses, and that as geniuses they’ve had a rough time in their lives.  Now, this show is dealing with people in that 1% of the population smarter than me.  But even so, I found it really relatable.  It hit home on a very deep, basic level for me.  I was that kid.  I know what it’s like to not relate to the rest of the world.  I know what it’s like to have a conversation with someone and think how in the hell do you not get this, are you an idiot, and to spend almost my whole life holding back from calling someone stupid.  And failing.  And getting in trouble for it.

And Scorpion basically hits that nail on the head.  Its characters are flawed, but brilliant.  They need someone to “translate the world” for them, and this is something that most critics aren’t getting but is absolutely true.

Then I read a review like this, and I get to be traumatized all over again by another person being a bully.  But this time, it’s on the internet, and this time I have a blog, too, and so maybe I can step up and defend the show about smart kids.

“That guy over there? He’s a genius. You can tell he’s a genius by the way he’s constantly rude and dismissive to women. He pedantically and unceasingly lectures that woman he somehow was dating; he criticizes that waitress’s nail polish because yeah, she’s definitely doing that for his benefit and analysis.”

So, yes.  In the first couple minutes of the show, the main character does some things that, from a different perspective, seem misogenist.  He has the same sorts of interactions with men, though.  This isn’t a sexism thing, it’s a social skills problem.  Walter sees the world through the lens of rationality, and most of the things people do aren’t rational.  It drives him nuts, and he tends to point it out to people.

“He’s just such a genius, you see. It’s impossible for him to relate to anyone who’s not a genius, and obviously, at the genius club there is only room for one woman, so everyone else who’s not a genius — goats? Is that the opposite of a genius? Who can care? — will simply have to step aside. Genius coming through. Watch out for the genius. Genius here.”

Yes, I understand that you don’t like him.  He’s not likable.  That’s the point, and frankly the great tragedy behind his life.  He’s a brilliant guy who could benefit society, and for the large part society won’t let him.  Because to do so, they’d have to admit they weren’t as smart as him, and noone is going to do that.

And there’s four geniuses, one of whom is female.  By the way, she’s the badass mechanical engineer, but we’re leaving that part out.  This is a bit of a gender imbalance, although it feels like it makes sense.  Scorpion (the company) is really built to give the people who can’t relate to society a place to relate to each other.  And since the company is based on actual people that were hired by the actual Walter O’Brien, we can maybe forgive CBS for not having an exact male/female ratio here.

The characters mention their respective and collective IQs four times in the first 18 minutes of the show, which should tell you something: First, that they’re geniuses; second, that they’re incredibly insecure; third, that this show thinks you’re a huge, huge idiot; and fourth, this show is not interested in authentic human behavior.

Fair enough on some ham-handedness with the exposition there.  That was on the pilot, and they don’t really do this as much in the rest of the show.  But they are geniuses, and they are incredibly insecure.  They do not know, at any given time, where they stand with the person they’re talking to because they don’t understand why that person isn’t getting it.  And then they fall back to what is a perfectly rational (and insulting) argument:  I am clearly smarter than you, and therefore in any given situation you are more likely to be wrong and I am more likely to be right.  We disagree.  Therefore, rationality dictates that we play the probabilities and do what I say, because it is more likely to be right.

“[S]aid brainiacs enlist the help of a pouty diner waitress to help “translate” the world for them. She is of course inclined to help because she’s the mother of a genius, and these government-supported geniuses have promised to help her “reach” him. Indeed, who could be better qualified to help a child than some guy who saw him in a diner once and never spoke to him? Typical genius, always helping. The waitress is Katharine McPhee. I’d say McPhee plays the waitress, but … mostly she stands there in a waitress costume.”

Well, first off, that’s not true.  It’s true that McPhee is playing a character that doesn’t think on the level that the other characters do.  She’s not as brilliant as them.  Neither, by the way, is the Homeland Security Agent for whom these people all work.  That seems to get less of a mention in this review.

But both of those characters have an essential function in the show.  “Translating” the world, when I first heard the phrase, was a twist of words that got me demonstrably excited.  I’ve had friends who provided exactly this service to me throughout my life.  “Translators,” as I’ll call them from here on out, are people who don’t mind that I come off as superior and arrogant, and who therefore can stand to communicate directly with me.  It is from these people, throughout my life, that I’ve figured out how to act more or less like a human being.  When I heard that McPhee was being hired to “translate the world” I damn near jumped up and down clapping, because that’s exactly right.  Exactly right.

And let’s talk for a moment about the child.  Here’s a kid who has taken the salt and pepper shakers, the sweetener packets, and other condiments and improvised a chess board for himself to play with.  Alone.  Becuase noone around him understands what he’s doing.

This is actually a thing that I have done.  I did it in junior high, not second-grade, but it is a thing I have done.  And when someone would ask me what I was doing, I would respond by saying “nothin’,” because if they couldn’t clearly see what I was doing already then they weren’t worth talking to.

So when Walter, and later Syl, started playing chess against the kid using the improvised setup, that was amazing.  I imagined what it would have been like if, as a child, I had met someone who did that.  Someone who got it.  As one of those children, I can tell you right now, without a blink of hesitation, that noone in the world would have been more qualified to help me, even without saying a goddamn word.

Scorpion is a show about how much geniuses can do for the world.  It’s also a show about how much pain geniuses can feel in the world.  There’s a list of critics out there who don’t, can’t, and won’t get that.  Who think that simply labeling someone a genius is a mark of arrogance, as though it were not a biological fact that some brains process information more quickly than others.

I want Scorpion to be popular.  I want it desperately, if only becuase its popularity may save some other kid who’s on a path to an ass-beating from the damage I had to endure.  If the world recognizes that it’s hard for some of us to relate, then maybe the world will cut us a break every once in a while.  Maybe, just maybe, geniuses in backwater settings like mine will be encouraged, and nurtured, if there’s an awareness of the challenges faced by the so-called “gifted.”  Maybe more people decide, upon meeting a genius, to start to translate the world for them.

Maybe, just maybe, the world as a whole becomes a bit of a better place as a result.

NaNo Approacheth

We’ve tended to avoid participating in NaNoWriMo.

Here’s the thing; it’s a great program.  It gets words on paper, which is really what needs to happen for young writers to evolve.  It’s the sort of thing that sharpens one’s skills and progresses one towards their first published novel.  All of this is good, wonderful stuff.

It just hasn’t typically been for us.  We’ve got a couple of novels published, and more on the way.  We’re not exactly new authors, even if we are young.  And generally, in November, we’re in the middle of a revision on a novel.  That, by the way, remains true; we’re about a third of the way through our revisions on Falling From Grace.  So we’ve watched our friends participate, and we’ve stayed in our little cave, editing.

But this year, something’s different.

Really, that something is our location.  I took a job in Shelton, Washington last February.  Shelton’s a great little town with a lot of character, but I don’t actually know anyone who lives here.  I go to work, come home, jump on the computer.  Esther’s basically the same.  Our world has condensed down from a great social circle to the two of us and work, and that’s getting a little old.  Time to meet some new friends.

So, we’re sharpening up our…keyboards?  Wow, that phrase doesn’t work anymore.

We’re dusting off our laptops (from the accumulated dust of Campcon), flexing our fingers, and preparing to draft a 50,000 word novel, each, in a month.  Those drafts will then be stuck in a drawer in December; revisions on them will happen much, much later, as Falling From Grace needs to reassert its importance in December.

We’re looking forward to meeting new friends and taking on new challenges.  But it’s going to be a hell of a month.