The Frog Says…

Even after an absence of a week or so, I find it hard to get back into LJ.

“But I have nothing good to say,” says the frog. “Nothing’s happening in my life.”

And nothing just keeps on happening. The insurance adjuster came to
look at Clyde’s modern art masterpiece, “my car.” My allergies
continue. I am finding it harder and harder to work in Virginia–I have
never reacted so violently to flora. But every morning my head is heavy
and my eyes are weeping and my nose is stuffed or running. It takes
hours for any medication to work, and by work I mean switches the nose
from runny to stuffed or vice versa, depending on the starting state of
said nose. And medication, whether it works or not, makes me groggy.
This is not a state naturally inclined to the production of literature.

And today I have to fill out this massive Bantam questionnaire for their publicity people, which I have put off far too long.

“But it’s boring,” says the frog. It’s like an evil amalgam of every
“Tell us about yourself!” questionnaire you ever filled out when
applying to colleges cross-bred with every job application you’ve ever
filled out, the kind where you have to go scrape up that former
employer’s phone number because damned if you remember it now. But it
must be done, and I am possibly able to do it through my fog of
symptoms. Except it’s cold and I ache.

***

Sam bought me The World and Other Places
for Christmas. We own rather a lot of Jeanette Winterson. We buy her
books for each other all the time; it’s half a joke and half a safe bet
for books, because Sam likes her and I like her when she’s not being
insufferable. He knows I think she’s insufferable approximately 40% of
the time, hence the half-joke. But I think she’s the only writer we’ve
discovered together, as it’s been ten years and he still hasn’t quite
worked through my initial list of OMGYOUMUSTREADTHISORICANNEVERLOVEYOU
books.

I wasn’t too thrilled at The World,
because generally short stories aren’t my bag, baby. Ironic that I have
so many in the queue to write, then, hm? And the blatantly “genre”
descriptions of the stories further pissed me off–they actually used
the phrase “in a world…” on the back cover!–because Winterson is one
of those writers who writes fantasy or loose SF 75% of the time and yet
still gets called literary fiction and has Nabokov-style covers and
wins the realist awards.

But the first story in the collection just slayed
me. “The 24-Hour Dog” is not genre, for the record. It’s about getting
a new puppy, and taking it back because it’s too much trouble. Really
boring premise, right? And meant only for dog-owners, and insufferable.
Except it’s so beautifully written and sad, and sweet, and terrible.
With both my dogs there was a moment in their early puppyhood where it
was just too much and I seriously considered taking them back. I
didn’t, the narrator, (gender-obscured as usual), does. But god, the
story is just so lovely, and exquisitely paced, and quietly, gently
ashamed.

It could have been cute or stupid, over preciously intellectual as only Winterson can be, but it was nearly
transcendant, putting something like Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain
to shame. (And I’m sorry, I haven’t seen the movie yet
because–big-surprise–it’s not playing here, but I’ve read the story
and the story sucks. It’s
like a sketch or an outline of an actual story, or worse, as a
screenplay treatment. I get that it’s supposed to be all “masculine” and minimalist, like unto the Wyoming hills themselves, but it reads as affected, what Wyoming men should
sound like based on dozens of movies and books, except where she throws
in some ridiculously baroque phrase which is hilariously out of place
and out of character. The plot is doled out like a memo. The characters were compelling, and the first
part of the story is even interesting, but the delivery blows, no pun
intended, and the female characters offend me wildly, and the second
half is nothing but a series of “and then, and then, and then” clauses,
and then the end winds the whole story up in the most cliched way
imaginable. Just another dead homo, folks, nothing to see here. Didn’t
you know, kids? Homosexual love is always tragic. Ask Hollywood.
They’ve never seen gay they couldn’t ridicule or kill. I can’t believe
people champion it as anything other than laudably bringing oft-ignored
subject matter into mainstream view, if The New Yorker can still be considered mainstream. As a story, it’s just awful and makes me want to quit the whole game. But then, I thought Far From Heaven was as offensive a portrayal of a gay man as any I’d seen, so what the hell do I know?)

Winterson’s delivery takes a story with absolutely no stakes
whatsoever, no sex or murder or even names for the characters, no plot
to speak of, and makes something so real and heartbreaking out of it
that I pulled poor Grimm up onto the couch and held her to my cheek,
all 75 pounds of wolfy-puppy limbs and slobbery kisses. I’ll hardly
think about dogs again without remembering this story.

***

Oh, and I watched the first season of Battlestar Galactica,
which gets a resounding: “That was ok” from the frog. Until said frog
listened to the commentary track, where the producers utterly failed
to mention that they ripped off a major plot device from Farscape
(while bizarrely claiming that the “originality” of that device was part
of what sold the SciFi network on their series, despite, oh, I don’t
know, the fact that SciFi produced Farscape
and surely recognized your fuckable-Scorpius-in-a-slinky-nightie from
some other show they were busy cancelling. And the whole “all 9 fans of Farscape” scoff should earn you a slap to the head) and a good deal of their
camera-work style from Firefly,
preferring instead to pat themselves on the back for creating something
OMGTOTALLYORIGINAL, (which…gah. Remake, shitheads) and re-inventing the entire science fiction genre from
the ground up.

Get over yourselves, assholes, you made a very standard, solid,
middle of the road SF series utilizing all the same tropes and tricks
that every SF series does. It’s good, but it’s not as dark as all that,
your plot ain’t that original–in fact, I think I saw it on Stargate
this season–and listing all the shows you think you trumped just makes
you look like dicks. For your sake, I will not mention how asinine you
sound comparing 9/11 to the fictionalized destruction of all of
humanity, which is either stupid because it’s fiction or stupid because
two buildings are hardly comparable to wiping out almost the entirety
of human life in the universe. I can’t decide which. Also not up for
discussion is the moronic act of mentioning 9/11 every five minutes,
claiming to somehow address the issue with every single episode, and
crediting yourselves with bravely soldiering on with your scifi TV show all the while criticizing people for watching too much fluff on TV. I swear, I won’t even mention it.

But.

If in the first ten minutes I have to say “Why the fuck do all SF
shows…[have AIs that want to kill all humans] [depict men as totally
helpless in the presence of an even moderately attractive female] [have
a crusty alcoholic/drug addict in a major role, because OMGREALISM]
[have psychotically, punishably idiotic civilians and massively
competent military/gov’t folk] [have goddamned daddy issues between the
stolid commander and his crackerjack son, complete with ‘I love you,
Dad!’ hug-and-sob] [have fucking bloody babies of the apocalypse]” then
you did not make anything that breaks the genre box even a little bit.
A codicil to that might be “Why do all SF shows post-1990 have to
portray monotheism as teh EVIL?” I’m pagan and I’m tired of it.

BSG dwells deep in the genre, and it ain’t coming out. So just go with it and stop talking, or you’re going to end up like that Babylon 5 guy, who is at home right this very second, I guarantee it, bitching into his beer about how you totally, totally
stole the sleeper agent/Night Watch lite/diplomatic station/tough
female officer character/ships flying in space/waffles/Christmas/your
mom from him.

Oh, and no one cares about Starbuck. Shut up.

***

“Yep. Nothing happening,” says the frog.

Can you tell Santa also brought me the Muppets DVDs? I love them with a love that knows no boundaries.

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