April 13th, 2009

good mris pic

weekend not-a-report

I don't tend to do formal con reports, in part because the sort of conversation I go to cons to have is not one that lends itself well to the, "And then I talked to x about y," format of reportage. I didn't go to any panels except the one I was on, partly because I was not particularly inspired by most of them and partly because the few I was interested in would have required me to leave a good conversation and ask someone to walk me over to programming. It's not that I think they wouldn't have. It's that it didn't seem worthwhile to me. I do a lot of things in long chunks with the vertigo at cons: went to both concerts Friday night and three readings in a row Saturday because I was in the right location and it seemed like it would be fun, rather than because it seemed like it was the very very most fun I could possibly be having at that moment.

I came out of this Minicon all excited about Pat Wrede's new book, Thirteenth Child. I want to go buy a copy and read it and probably press it upon several other people as well. And she didn't even get to the mammoths in the bit she read!

And as for Easter, it went as well as you could expect the first major holiday after losing Grandpa to go. My parents' church had all the right songs I would want for Easter, which was good but very hard, and also they added "On Our Way Rejoicing" as the closing hymn, which makes me snuffly even in the best of times. I think because Grandma was down at Aunt Dor's for Easter, it felt...I don't know. I think the ones where we have Grandma with us will be better, because I miss my grandma, but also worse, because it will highlight that Grandpa is not with us, rather than just being, y'know, not with us. We had dinner at my folks' with lots of our own monkeys. We talked on the phone to Aunt Ellen. We got through it, and even enjoyed some parts. This is all we could really ask under the circumstances.
good mris pic

SF and WW; Mrs. Landingham

I was thinking about what SF writers could learn from West Wing, and one of the big ones is to trust your audience to buy into fiction itself, and do not overexplain. The big example I'm thinking of is with time. In the universe of this show, US Presidential elections occur in even-numbered years not divisible by four. And they do not explain it. There is no blundering about babbling about the Great Election Reset of 1874 or how it actually makes sense to do it this way because of the Utah Compromise of 1986 or anything like that. Because anyone who looks at this and says, "But no, I can't watch and enjoy this show, because the US President is elected in even-numbered years divisible by four," is also probably going to say, "The President isn't named Josiah Bartlett, and I've never seen this press secretary before in my CNN-watching life." There is a certain amount of buy-in you can expect for your fiction, and explaining it weakens it.

In a similar vein, they carefully do not specify Bartlett's predecessors. Is he in place of Clinton? Is he Clinton's successor? If they started trying to answer those questions, they would raise exactly the questions they do not care about, regarding why the elections are in the wrong years, rather than doing what they wanted to do with the pressures of modern national-scale politics. There are almost always questions you don't want to answer in a piece of fiction, either because they are boring or because you have no good answers for them (and ideally the latter category is not of great interest either). So what you need to do is not lead the viewers directly to these questions--I am looking at you, Battlestar Galactica. You need to give the viewers (or readers) more interesting things to think about--if you have dedicated fans, they will be asking lots of questions, and if you're doing a good job, the questions are related to what you're actually trying for, or are at least complementary (spelling important: not complimentary) to your aims rather than working at counterpurposes with them.

Last week I was watching the end of S2 of West Wing, in which Collapse )