A Random Election-Year Thought

Because I live in New Hampshire, and we’ve been getting pollsters and campaign phone calls at the rate of two or three a day, and four-color glossy political flyers from all of the declared candidates in every load of mail.  We haven’t seen many candidates actually visiting up here in the North Country, though; I think Hilary got as far north as Berlin, and Bernie Sanders lives over in Vermont, so he doesn’t need to do much besides stand on the other shore of the Connecticut River and wave.  The Republicans, on the other hand . . . this year, either they think they’ve got us all sewn up, or they’ve forgotten that we’re here.

Meanwhile, I can’t help thinking things.  Like this:

Most of the time, a person who’s contemplating the acquisition of a house, or a refrigerator, or a new car tends to go about the process in a relatively thoughtful manner: they consider the amount of room in their budget, and their family situation, and their projected patterns of use before making the purchase; and only sometimes fall head over heels for the expensive model with the automatic icemaker out of a pure irrational lust for cold drinks in the middle of summer. You’d think we would approach the selection of our next president with something close to the same care, but we don’t. And I’ve decided that it’s because choosing a president is less like purchasing a home appliance than it is like choosing a spouse . . . we don’t want to be reasonable about it (although we should be), we want to fall in love.

And this is why people go off and do things like eloping with the chauffeur voting for a third party candidate with a single-issue platform and no chance of actually winning:  The main candidates make them feel like they’ve been promised they can pick their own future spouse – just so long as they pick one of the two unattractive prospects their parents have already approved.

The Unified Doyle-Macdonald Arisia Schedule

The Arisia Science Fiction Convention is being held this coming weekend at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston, and (barring unforeseen disasters) Jim Macdonald and I are planning to be there.  Our schedule for the convention:

5:30 PM Friday  (Three bells of the First Dog Watch)

Thrown with Great Force:Classics We Won’t Finish – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min- Marina 2 (2E)
This is a panel for all of you who didn’t finish LotR; everyone who needed to self medicate through Infinite Jest, exiled Frankenstein to the frozen wastes, or wanted to flush the Foundation. What did you fail to finish, which ones do you feel guilty about not finishing, and which ones do not make you feel any twinge of guilt at all?

    Kate Nepveu (m), Mark L Amidon, Vikki Ciaffone, Debra Doyle, Catt Kingsgrave-Ernstein, Ken Liu
10:00 PM Friday  (Four bells of the First Watch)

Trains and SF/F – Fan Interest, Panel – 1hr 15min – Faneuil (3W)
Perhaps the most iconic development of the Industrial Revolution was the steam locomotive, and science fiction and fantasy has made great use of locomotives and trains throughout its history. Whether the “lightning rail” of D&D’s Eberron setting or the popularity of locomotives in steampunk, SF/F is no stranger to the love affair and sense of wonder people have for trains. Come “all aboard” with Arisia ’16, as we explore this phenomenon in the realm of fantastic fiction!

 Dennis McCunney (m), James Macdonald, Daniel Miller
10:00 AM Saturday  (Four bells of the Forenoon Watch)

The Founding Mothers of SF/F – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Marina 2 (2E)
As we know, women invented all our favorite stuff! Mary Shelley defined science fiction with Frankenstein; Baroness Emma Orczy invented the superhero with The Scarlet Pimpernel. Let’s discuss the founding mothers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Catherine Lundoff (m), Debra Doyle, Greer Gilman, Victoria Janssen, JoSelleVanderhooft

10:00 AM Saturday (Four bells of the Forenoon Watch)

How to Write a Fight Scene – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Grand CD (1W)
Come find out how viable your fight scene really is. An experienced panel of talented authors, martial artists, and maybe one hapless would-be victim will take your quick fight scene and act it out while our esteemed panelists help you work out the physical and literary kinks. Please no epic wave battles.

Keith R. A. DeCandido (m), Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, James Macdonald, Mark J. Millman
1:00 PM Saturday  (2 Bells of the Afternoon Watch )

Shifting the Language of SF – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Marina 2 (2E)
Very few SF authors of the many who set stories in the far future ever speculate what language may sound like in following centuries and distant stars. Some formative works, like Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange and Orwell’s 1984 include this as a theme. Who else? What are the dangers of speculating vernacular? How might the language our descendants speak differ from ours? What works in SF imagine how the kids talk in the far future?

John Chu (m), Heather Albano, Debra Doyle, Greer Gilman, Lawrence M. Schoen

1:00 PM Saturday  (2 Bells of the Afternoon Watch)

Cinematic Writing and SF/F – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Burroughs (3E)
SF/F literature gets a lot of its fans from other media, especially visual media like TV and film. How has it affected the writing of spec fic? Can writing be truly cinematic? What does cinematic literature look like? What techniques in SF/F point back toward more visual techniques in other media?

James Macdonald (m), Marlin May, John Scalzi, Sarah Smith, Ian Randal Strock

Peeve of the (New Year’s) Day

Regarding that common colloquial affirmative:

People, it’s spelled either “okay” or “OK.”  It is not spelled “ok” in  lower-case.  “O.K.” with periods in it is defensible, but only just.

My own preference, when I get a chance to enforce it, is for “okay.”  This is in part aesthetic, in that I just plain think it looks better than “OK”, and in part a reflection of my considered belief that the etymologies deriving the term either from the humorously-misspelled “Oll Korrect” or the tip-of-the-hat-to-Martin-Van-Buren “Old Kinderhook” are, to put it mildly, full of it.  I go with the theory that the origin of the term is in a borrowing from either Choctaw or one of the West African languages, or possibly from both.  (And I certainly would never put forward the conjecture that resistance to that etymology comes from an unwillingness on the part of some scholars, back in the day, to admit that American English might have borrowed such a useful word from anything other than a lily-white source.)

As for when writers of fiction should use “okay” and when they should avoid it (personal opinion alert here):  Writers of contemporary mainstream and literary fiction have free rein to do as they choose.  Ditto for contemporary mystery and romance.  It’s the writers of historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy who have the tough decisions to make.

Historical fiction – still, of course, strictly in my opinion – should avoid “okay’’ except for eras when it was in use.  To do otherwise risks breaking the illusion being created for the reader by the introduction of a glaringly contemporary item into a careful arrangement of past details.  The same principle holds for created-world fantasy written in the high style, or created-world fantasy that strives for a non-modern sense of time and place.  Created-world fantasy written in a vernacular style, or urban fantasy, or fantasy set in the contemporary era or in some time and place closely resembling it, can use “okay” at will.  Science fiction is also an “okay”-okay zone.

Edge cases, as always, remain edgy.  Consult with your artistic conscience and use your best judgment and hope for good luck.

Because in the long run, it’s always the writer’s book, and you’re entitled to do whatever you think you can get away with.