Friday, August 30, 2013

On Strong Characters, female and otherwise

I hate Strong Female Characters

To be fair, I frequently don't like females, character or otherwise. It's what bemused me most and inspired my Girl Power post, that I now have several novels in which the main characters are female. They are not perfect. They are a strong as they're able to be, certainly.

There are many writers who set out to have strong female characters. Some of them seem to do this for the purpose of destroying their lives immediately and rendering them a quivering, weeping mess for the rest of the book (I read a book called The High Flyer like this, about a London lawyer). There are others, like Joss Whedon, who craft true badasses. However, they are also women who are frequently marginalized (Zoe) and disregarded in a Cassandra-like fashion (River Tam, Druscilla), which kind of undermines their obvious strengths. My favorite "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" character was Faith, and while bad things happened to her, and she clearly had a dark past, she was kind of like "Nah, fuck that. I'm doing this." I'm woefully behind on "Sons of Anarchy", but the Lady Macbeth-esque (ooh, remember Lady Macbeth? She went crazy too. Thanks Shakespeare) character she plays, Gemma, is serious, strong, and flawed. Gemma is like a real person.

Now, male characters. Apparently they're just assumed to be strong, and I see little discussion on this. It's possible I've missed it, I confess. But, a trope of males that I see again and again in television is guys who are afraid of their wives. Otherwise "strong men" who have erratic, "crazy bitch" wives who can make their lives hell on perceived slights. In The Wheel of Time series, there are frequent instances when the male characters are utterly bewildered by whatever those womenfolk are doing.

I want characters to be real. I want them to have likes, dislikes, certain ways they prefer to act. I want them to have flaws and foibles, and tremendous vices. I want them to accidentally hurt people around them sometimes, because we all do that. And I want them to carry on with their lives when something bad happens, because we all do that. I want them to crack at the edges and maybe stop carrying on for a little while, because we all do that. Guys cry too. Women do violence too. We're people, people. Strong, weak, male, female. Tits do not preclude "True Grit" (and there's a strong female character for you, though she needs rescuing too. Sigh.)

It's also worth noting that, while I may not personally like a character, it does not mean that he or she is not written in such a way that best complements the story.  I think that's an important distinction too. You may not want to be friends with Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, but he is who he is supposed to be. Faith is probably not a girl you want to be friends with, but she's kickass and a plays an important role.

Now, it's interesting that as I was preparing this post, Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skyler White on "Breaking Bad", posted an Op-Ed column in the New York Times called I Have a Character Issue. It's an interesting article, and it's bewildering to me that people transfer their character dislikes onto the actors. It bothers me, actually, that people are unable to separate fantasy from reality in that regard. I mean, there are some actors who will always be one specific character to me, but that doesn't mean I love or hate them personally, just that I have a hard time seeing and/or believing them in other roles.

Note: Possible "Breaking Bad" spoilers follow.

So. I don't like Skyler White, but I don't hate Anna Gunn (and I really liked her in "Deadwood"). I don't like Skyler, not because she's a "nonsubmissive" woman. I dislike Skyler because, when her husband starts apparently sneaking around and playing games, she decides to play passive-aggressive games herself. There are times that for all she knows, the way Walt is acting is a medical issue, or a result of the tremendous emotional ramifications of having a terminal cancer diagnosis. So of course the appropriate reaction to a terminally ill and apparently disturbed about it husband is to play "you won't be straight with me so I won't either" games. In fact, I pretty much never think there's an appropriate time for "you won't be straight with me so I won't either" games. So that's why I dislike Skyler (well, that and I dislike the name itself), not because she's a strong woman. One of my favorite scenes from the show is when she's in the back room of a swanky store, having discovered her sister shoplifted the item she was trying to return. She turns the situation around on the male store manager and security guy, then fakes labor to make them let her leave, and afterwards I really hoped she would drive over and slap the shit out of her sister but that didn't happen.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Your brain in a robot body

Since I read Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, I was intrigued by the notion of one's brain/thoughts/consciousness being saved via satellite uplink, making one essentially "immortal" so far as said consciousness goes. If you haven't read Altered Carbon, please do. It's the first in a trilogy.

So with that bit of information, you can assume I'm very, very interested in Dmitry Itskov's Avatar Project. Or the name is the 2045 initiative. I'm only just reading about it, so I'm a little unclear. But the endgame is similar to that of Altered Carbon: your consciousness in an "undying body", a hologram body. The physical body was referred to as a "sleeve" in Richard K. Morgan's books, and was mindless clones, if I remember correctly. There was also that movie with Bruce Willis, Surrogates, wherein one selected a body and "played from home", as my fiancè just put it. He watched that movie; I have not.

2045 also has a video on Youtube, if you're interested (it mentions flying cars! Your brain in a life supporting robot body!). I'm not sure we have any laws regarding cyborgs, robots, and their actions, but I imagine such a thing will happen rather quickly. Maybe it'll take some time to catch up, really, much like Internet laws. I think the Internet happened far faster than lawmaker type people imagined, and continues to bound along in a (mosly) delightful Wild West kind of way. I love this kind of Science Fiction in Real Life™ stuff.

An interesting point in the 2045 video is that "war and violence will be unacceptable", which is a noble goal indeed.

What do you think? Will you be signing up for the 2045 initiative? Will you wait and see if they're any kind of successful at all first?

Monday, August 26, 2013

How Not to be a Creeper

So, over the weekend, I read a literary agent's blog. Yup, the entire thing.

See, I'm a writer (you may have noticed). And I have some novels. I have some query letters for said novels, some better than others. So I've got a file on my desktop called "Literary Agents", containing several files, each named an agency I think is appropriate to direct some of said novels to. Each agency file then contains the agency web site, the name of the agent I think is most suited, with contact info and specific submission guidelines (most people would probably make a spreadsheet or something. I never acquired that skill, nor had anybody suggest its usefulness to me).

Some of these agents, and agencies, I'm following on Twitter. Some have blogs I follow as well. Some agents and agencies I follow because they're so damn smart, and helpful, and clever, not because my books are necessarily going to be a good fit for them. Sometimes I think that, and then see a new thing they're representing, and have a glimmer of hope. I've tweeted some of these agents, and commented on some of these blogs. These gestures of research and commitment are good for somebody who wants to get published.

But, the agent whose blog I've read. Over the years, she's blogged about some books I've heard of, some I've read, and some I've never heard of and now have on my library reserve list. She loves some books that I love, and I kept smiling over those discoveries, thinking "It would be so Goddamn cool to be signed by her. Or just friends with her."

What I'm not doing?

I'm not going to start emailing and Tweeting her about our perceived connection. I'm not going to take my research and information gathering into cyberstalkerness. If and when I query this agent (maybe as soon as Friday; we'll see the state of the query and pages at that time), it will be without reference to those books (which have no relation to my project, not even in my throes of literary references), it will be without reference to shows I've known she's seen, beverages she says she likes, and I'll leave Elka out of it. Even though she has dogs too, my manuscript (for once) contains them only rarely.

Because you know what? Agents are very public. They have all kinds of people who "know them", who they've never heard of. They have all kinds of people who "know them" who might get a little too familiar, or stalkerish, or downright creepy. Some of these people may not even mean it, or realize it, but it happens.

We're all special snowflakes, and people who query agents are convinced their book is the Next Big Thing™ and will make everybody piles of money and be a movie and all that. Really, it takes that kind of conviction to face querying a novel; query letters are hard, and rejection really sucks. But not everybody succeeds, not every book is a movie (thank God), and not every book makes somebody piles of money. Even if you do get accepted, not every advance is bajillions of dollars that will let you quit your day job and buy an island off the coast of Africa.

So, consider this when considering agents. Own your special snowflakehood, but don't be a creeper.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What you write with. Literally.

 Funny, I just wrote about office supplies, and now I read Flavorwire's Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors, which inspired me to write further about my own writing tools. Other than a computer, obviously. 

I do not like pencils. I never have. I probably never will. They're a "necessary evil" for gaming (character sheets require a lot of erasures, for your health if nothing else), and they were required in math class in school, but other than that, I don't use them. And I no longer have school, and thus little math.

I do like fountain pens, as many of the 20 writers the quoted article favor. I have a couple of cheap ones that tend to run out of ink through evaporation before I've written it all down. I've also used Varsity disposable ones, discovered in my college store. I just got a new one (brand forgotten already) from Walgreens. It's "steel" and the cardboard package is green; that's all I remember so far.

If I'm hand writing something, though, I like pens that are felt tipped. Flairs are great (pictured in my previous post with the rad wolf journal). Bic has some that aren't too bad. Sharpie pens are surprisingly disappointing; they're too rigid at first, the lines too draggy and skinny, and then they die soon after they're "just write". I do like a regular Sharpie, and occasionally I've written in a sketchpad using a Sharpie. This works well for the legibility of my handwriting as well. Like a kindergartener, a larger writing implement helps with my manual dexterity.

The (horrible) epic fantasy novel I wrote in high school was written using Pilot vball pens, and also sometimes Pilot precise, which had a way of leaking onto the first knuckle of my middle finger, leaving me with a smudgy blue smear. I flip flop between using blue ink versus black. More than 1000 pages handwritten on loose leaf, in one of those Pilots or the other. I'd like to think that I got it out of my system.

I've been on a black ink kick for several years now, so that might be the one that stays.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I might not like outlining, but I do love office supplies

I talk about how I'm a "pantser", and most of the time I walk the walk. I occasionally dabble in outlining, but really, it falls apart pretty quickly. I diverge from it soon after the writing goes on, I decide what I outlined was stupid, etc.

Not taking, I'm a little better about. Since I wrote Dispatches to Myself, I've continued to email myself notes on the Work in Progress.  As I've drawn The Last Song to a close, I've begun to think again about my werewolf novels. Learn to Howl needs another readthrough, I know this to be true, and The Wolf You Feed is a mild mess that needs an overhaul, and then to be drawn to a conclusion. After that point, there are more rewrites, certainly, and I'll know by then if there's a third book in the series or if it's just a duology. Duo? Twinner? It's super awkward, whatever you call it.

To aid in this process, and because it's Back to School™ time at Wal Mart, I got a two pack of the flair pens I absolutely love, and a blank book with a wolf on it.





Monday, August 19, 2013

A conversation

A patron, picking up a book on his wife's card: The Submission? That sounds like it could be kinky.
Me: I think it's about publishing, so depending...
Patron: Same deal, really. I used to make a living as a writer, it's pure masochism
Me: Considering that's what I'm trying to do, I see what you  mean
Patron: I actually got my start writing pornography, but you had a few of my romance novels on the shelf.
Me: Oh, you moved up in the world.
Patron: Something like that.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Will Writing a Book Kill Me?

Kind of a weird blog post by author David Biddel: When Novels Become Assassins: the Problem with Writing on the Edge. I confess, I've read nothing else by him, and approached the topic skeptically to begin with. But, it's an interesting question.

Any obsessive behavior is supposed to be alarming, but there's always the line. When is it too much? When should it be interrupted? For a dog example, there's a point at which I'll tell Elka, my Doberman, to be done if she's been licking. What harm can excessive licking have? Well, there's the matter of tremendous wet spots on the bed or couch where she's been laying. There's hair that will get in her gums, and I'd prefer she not have some kind of weird mouth infection. If she was an obsessive licker (thank God, my particular Doberman does not have OCD. Some do.), there's a thing called "lick granuloma", where a dog obsessively licks the same spot, until he or she bleeds, and continues to lick some more.

But. Writing. There isn't really a question, I don't think, if writing obsessively can affect your health. If you don't eat, don't sleep, don't leave the house...these things are unhealthy. These things can lead to health problems, and an intervention would be necessary at some point. This isn't really what David Biddle was talking about, though.

What Biddle talked about was the affect that writing Bad Things can have on oneself. What he asks is, if,
"More to the point, is it possible that writers leave themselves open to self-destruction in general because they go so far into the unconscious mind and try their hand at the black magic of dredging weird myths and stilted meaning out of that thing that is probably only supposed to be the engine for normal human dreams and nightmares?"
I think this can be possible. There is a certain darkness that some writers find themselves confronting, and having to wrestle with, that non writers might never encounter. Do I think Mr. Biddle's abdominal cyst occurred as the result of his having written what he considered to be an "unnerving, possibly amoral, anarchic, and, certainly, nihilistic as hell" story? No, I don't personally think that. If we as humans still operated under notions of different humors, I might say that he suffered from too much black bile, but we don't.

I don't want to scoff at somebody else's experience just because I haven't shared it. Maybe if I one day write something dark enough, I'll find myself struggling with myself physically and emotionally in a way that grows beyond just the novel.  And really, I could stand to miss a couple of meals.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Haunted in the Waters

Chuck Wendig hosts Flash Fiction Challenges on his blog. I've meant to do this before, but had not yet gotten there, whatever the reason. This week's challenge was Random Story Title Generator wherein the entrants went to this link, got five randomized titles, and picked the one to write. I love this kind of challenge, and working within these kind of limitations; 1000 words sounds like a lot, until you realize you're at 983 and haven't driven the point home.



Haunted in the Waters
My husband never understood the ocean.
We inherited my ancestral estate, a three story affair with broad grey wraparound porches and a sandy lawn running down a gentle slope to the seawall.
"It's so big," Max said to me when we arrived, looking towards the water. I dug the keys out of my purse, smiling at the roar and mutter.
"The house?"
"The ocean."
"I forgot you'd never been." It seemed impossible to me, that somebody had reached their adult years having never visited any ocean, Atlantic or Pacific. "You're still okay with this?"
"I'm fine. You've missed this and I can write anywhere." He took the keys from me and opened the brass lock.
"As long as you're sure." I smiled at the familiar squeal; no matter how much my father and grandfather before him had oiled the hinges, that was the door's sound. Maybe it was the wood; much of the what constructed the house was from a ship wrecked on the beach a hundred and fifty years before. The house shared the ship's name, Neptune's Sadness.
For the summer, anyway, we were going to give Neptune's Sandess a go. The house we'd been renting in Harrisburgh's suburbs was sold out from under us. Between Christopher's writing and the inheritance, I was in the unique position to waste my time how I liked, something I never expected. I could pursue idle hobbies like garage sales. I could spent my time staring at the ocean with no false task to occupy my hands.
We were there for three weeks when Max told me over dinner he thought maybe he'd write about the ocean. "I thought you were writing about Vietnam?" I asked.
"I need a new angle on that one, I'm going to let it sit for a time," he said. "Something new will help me keep my mind off it."
"I thought you didn't like overlapping stories like that, though." I believe, in fact, he'd said that he never started a new work in progress until the current one was in some stage of finished draft.
"I don't, but when one thing isn't working, you need to try another. Why are you arguing with me about this, anyway?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to." I really hadn't. I never read his work anyway, not after his first few successes. We didn't discuss it.
"It's all right. What did you do today?"
"I went to that little beachcomber's store on Main Street. They had a class on wire wrapped beach glass jewelry."
"The excitement never ends. Maybe I should write cozy mysteries about a seaside town."
"Maybe you have brain fever." I reached to test his temperature. Laughing, he caught my wrist, and kissed my hand.
"Let's have wine on the sea wall."
In the way women with no schedule find themselves, I was soon busy with library volunteering, crossword puzzles and having afternoon iced tea with Margaret down the street. Max was absorbed in his writing, and when he was in that state, he preferred my absence. Even while home, I lolled on the porch or lawn, working on my tan.
One night, though we'd gone to bed together, I woke up after midnight alone in our moonlit bed. I roamed the house barefoot, calling for Max, and when I heard the loose screen door banging in the breeze, I slipped outside and went down to the beach.
It was high tide, and Max stood on the seawall. The full moon reflected off the waves, and he did not turn when I came up beside him and slipped my arm through his. "Inspiration strikes?" I asked.
"I heard something."
"I don't see anything." I looked out across the empty waves. "Come back to bed?"
"I think I'll stay awhile."
The next morning, Max asked "Do you know what Neptune's Sadness looked like?" We had an entrenched ritual of coffee and newspapers.
"Yes, it's the engraving in the upstairs hall. Three masts, a delightfully curvaceous figurehead." I looked up. "Why?"
"I thought I saw it last night."
"I didn't see anything. Maybe you dreamt it."
"Maybe." He had withdrawn already, prepared to spend the day filling blank pages.
I went to the farmer's market, and swung by the library where I paid for a copy of an article on Neptune's Sadness. At home, I swept sand out of the kitchen and then got lunch going. Max sat at the table and read the article.
"All hands went down," he said. "Even the cat." I nodded, slicing tomatoes. I knew.
I woke more mornings, more nights, to an empty bed, grit between the sheets. It wasn't so unusual, except Max wasn't actually writing. He brought his pens and notebook down to the seawall, but he stood in the waves, looking to the horizon. The books contained sand and broken shells. Snooping is inexcusable, but something was amiss. I tried to ask him, "How's the writing?"
He would look at me as though startled from a dream, blink and nod. "Good, good."
He came to bed with me the next night, and I lay awake as I heard his breathing smooth into sleep. Moonlight roamed across the room, and I pinched myself to stay awake. Then came the shift and spring as he got up off the mattress. I counted the creak of the steps downstairs. He had learned, and did not allow the screen door to slam before he crossed the porch. On cat's feet, I followed in his wake as he went down to the water, the surf silver upon the sand.
He stood barefoot, looking out to sea, and the wind ruffled his hair. I waited, my skin growing damp, my lips salty. Max lifted his arms and entered the waves, and then I saw it too; the Neptune's Sadness was coming ashore, swinging lanterns lighting the deck, the curvaceous figurehead reaching her arms out in greeting.







When I read a story

Like a good little "Oh God please just publish me pretty please" writer, I read a lot. I read books in my genre, and outside it. I read interviews with agents and authors. I read short stories in literary magazines.

There have been pieces in Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld that left a lasting impression, even years later, in some instances. I'm working through an issue of Ploughshares right now, and am impressed alternately by the richness of the stories and of the paper on which they're printed. At Christmas, my aunt got me a subscription to The Sun, and every month I page through it and enjoy. Even the non fiction is written such that it's experienced like a story, not just the facts, ma'am.

There are times, though, reading Strange Horizons, and Ploughshares, and others, in which I don't like the story. Its faults (as I see them) are glaring to me. Sometimes I can't even finish a story, and skip to the next. I try very hard for this to not be sour grapes, as I have received rejections from many of these venues I'm reading. I also try to look past my "I don't like this" to look for what made the story get accepted. If I think I've found it, or even if I don't, I look further.

I try to think about what the author meant when they wrote the story. What was that ending supposed to mean? How does it tie in to the beginning, or the middle? Was there symbolism, or was obliqueness overdone? Should different decisions have been made? What was it that inspired the story in the first place? How long did it take to write? How many rejections did the author receive?

One day, somebody will be looking at my story in a similar way. Once I get past those gates, my stories will be in the hands of strangers, on coffee tables and in bathrooms wherever those magazines are sold. One day, somebody will read my stories and think "Well, I've done better than that, why didn't they pick me?" Or, hopefully, they'll think "Wow, I really enjoyed that." Maybe they'll get my literary references (having an in joke with oneself is a bit pathetic after awhile). Maybe they'll say "I wonder if she's on Twitter? Or has a blog?" and I'll get followers and readers that way. It's the way these things work, nowadays. I find myself surprised and pleased to find an author I've read online, to peel back the curtain a little further and see more of their brain working, see more of their words strung together.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Revise, rewrite

I still have the stories I wrote in college. I'm sure we all do, college or high school.

They aren't bad, per se. They clearly aren't good, either, as each one I've sent out has received a rejection.

I received an acceptance once, from a small press. It was going to be for an anthology of my short stories, and it's why I started this blog, actually. And my twitter. I was supposed to have a "social media platform" to build fans. Which I have, I suppose. But no anthology, you might have noticed. See, the press went on hiatus due to financial difficulties. And then the owner was going to open a small boutique press. Etc. etc. So I asked for my rights back. No real hard feelings; other than saying "yes", they weren't necessarily the best fit for me. A lot of romances; the questionnaire/informational thing I filled out about the anthology asked for "heat levels" and other mysterious things that really did not apply.

So the bottle of Veuve Clicquot remains unopened; I'll open it when I have proofs in hand, or a book itself. I haven't quite decided yet. It's meant, to me, to celebrate publication. Never mind that it's probably champagne vinegar by this point. It's the symbolism.

But, every once in awhile I get the notion to rewrite one of those old stories. I'm working on one now; I reread it, then realized a new start and new direction would work well with the framework I'd already established. I'm not doing a cut 'n' paste, add and subtract. I have both files open, and I'm referring to the original when I pause in the new. It's exciting work, sometimes, that flash of inspiration where you realize what will make everything better. Untying the yarn snarl that makes things hang just right in your hands.

Would I have liked to be published before now? Well, yes. I've been subbing stories since college. Would I like to be proud of what I've had published, even ten years later? Yes. So, maybe that's the delay. I know I'm still growing and changing as a writer. I know I had a lot to learn in college, and probably even now (example:rejections).

So I revise and rewrite, and write new works altogether. And the Veuve Clicquot gathers dust with the other bottles, waiting, waiting.

If only I still had my Petster

Remember Petsters anybody? Mine was a cat, with blue eyes.

For those who don't remember, Petster was a big round animal robot thing (my understanding is there were non-cat ones available as well) that rolled around on the floor, meowed once in awhile, and changed direction based on obstructions and sound. I have memories of using a Petster during a thunderstorm while my grandmother was vacuuming (which might have, in fact, caused its little robot brain demise. I don't remember).

So why am I talking about Petster? Well, Roomba really reminds me of it, actually. They're disc shaped, they have directional capabilities. Roomba, however, is considerably smaller than Petster was (the above linked article said it's seventeen inches long and nine inches tall, compared to Roomba's 13 inches long and 3 1/2 inches tall). Where. Uh. Where does the vacuumed up stuff go? Does it have an internal combustion engine which uses vacuumed debris to power its cleaning primary directive?

No, it docks in a wall charger.

Okay, and it's wireless, so there isn't a little vacuum tube that runs along the ceiling and directs the stuff to some internal house waste bin.

Teleportation? No, I don't think the science on that is quite up to par.

How Stuff Works has an article on Roomba how they work (which you should look at at least the first page of, because it shows a neat picture of the Roomba's cleaning algorithm, which determines the path it takes. Said article also says:

You typically need to empty the dirt bin at least once for each room the Roomba vacuums, and possibly two or three times depending on how dirty your floors are. Roomba doesn't know when the bin is full -- it just keeps going. There's a filter you'll need to replace when it gets too clogged, but there's no vacuum bag -- you just dump the bin and put it back in the unit.
 So, not as World of Tomorrow™as one might perhaps desire. It isn't intended for thick carpeting and it doesn't know when its internal dust bin is full. So, I guess we're still a ways away from a self cleaning house, so far as tiny robot vacuums are concerned. Of course, the Roomba is just the brand name one everybody knows about; somebody could be working on a Jetsons-style Rosie and we don't know yet, though God, is Rosie named that because of Rosie the Riveter? That's just as bad as the recent Swiffer commercials (and I already dislike Swiffer and will not buy them because of their Cesar Millan endorsements).


Friday, August 9, 2013

Because "cucumber melon" totally means anarchy

So, I happened to notice that Axe has a "for her" scent: Anarchy.

I kind of like guy-Axe, when one has not marinated in it, so I thought I'd give girl Axe a sniff. Pretty much all of my perfume comes from the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and is essential oils. I haven't used a "commercial", alcohol based perfume in years.

So, standing in Walgreens, I gave the lady Axe a very very brief squirt, because I don't want to be one of Those People who wastes product and hoses down an aisle and then ditches, leaving an unpleasant wake of aerosol funk behind me. I gave it a sniff, expecting to be inspired towards listening to Rage Against the Machine while slinging a skateboard and spray painting oblique symbols on the walls of buildings. I expected something maybe a little raw in that white can with its pink writing, something free and individual.

But no. Anarchy smells rather like cucumber melon. You know, the seminal Bath and Body Works scent that everybody slathers on in all manner of ways, and have since the 90's, if not before.  While I like actual cucumbers, to eat, and actual melon again, to eat, I do not like the slimy scent of what chemical engineers think "Cucumber Melon" means to them. I do not like it, Sam I am. So that's why it was especially funny to me that a company that wants to make you think they sell sex in a can chose such a trite Goddamn flavor to head their female line.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Angelheaded hipsters

Conversation in Ruby Tuesday

Me: I hate this fucking song
Fiancè: You know, you're so close to being a hipster.
Me: Oh, I'm sorry. Because it's every day two of my favorite songs get mangled into a dumbass pop rock song with different stupid lyrics.
Fiancè: Actually yes, it happens all the time
Our Friend: Not to her favorite songs. Other songs.
Me: Hey, if I'm almost a hipster, does that mean I can get Converse again? Remember how you told me Converse were for hipsters?

Monday, August 5, 2013

But what if it's an evil hand?

So, did you know that they do hand transplants?

According to that Wikipedia article, the first hand transplant  was in 1964 in Ecuador, but within a couple of weeks, the patient suffered from transplant rejection. Which I don't even know how to countenance.

I mean, as a society, we're not unfamiliar with replacing organs. Heart transplant, Kidneys, whatever. This year, they transplanted a windpipe that they printed on a 3D printer. Truly we're living in the world of tomorrow.

But a hand? I saw Star Wars. I'm comfortable with the idea of a robot hand. They even (I think) have robot hands that you can control pretty well with your brain and all that. But a new real living hand?

My train of thought got started on this when I read about the Boston Children's Hospital having started its first pediatric hand transplant program. Which raises so many questions. If a child receives a hand transplant, is said hand expected to grown normally with the child? Will they make effort to match skin tone? They'll obviously, I think, transplant a right hand to replace a right hand, a left hand to replace a left hand. Right? The Boston Globe article does say they expect the hand to grow as the child does (so, they're not putting a grown up hand on a child), and also that children's nerves regenerate more quickly than adult nerves.

Can you imagine, getting a hand transplant? The nails might be shaped differently from your nails. There might be scars on it that you don't remember getting, because you didn't. I've got two scars on my right hand, one from the corner of a laptop (yeah, I know) and the other from an apparently dull knife when I was trying to cut up sweet potatoes for fries. Would they make effort to find out that kind of a history, to make the new hand owner more comfortable with their new hand? What if the person was married, and they've got that little ridge from their wedding ring? Would you think about their husband, their wife? Would you still have the feeling of wearing a ring all the time and then suddenly not? What if you get a guitarist's left hand, and you're not a guitarist so what do you with that flexibility, those callouses? Does muscle memory count, if the muscles who learned it weren't attached to your brain at the time?