The Play’s the Thing…

…wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

Shakespeare in the Park is doing Julius Caesar this summer, not Hamlet, but the reference is an apt one nonetheless.

Somebody’s conscience (or self-love, or something) has definitely been caught by this year’s modern-dress, Trump-inflected production of Julius Caesar, and they’ve unleashed the flying monkeys roused far-right protesters to disrupt the performance.

Shakespeare himself would have no doubt at all about what’s going on here.  The twin questions of what makes a good ruler, and what can or should be done when the realm is suffering under a bad or unjust ruler, run like a streak of red through all his plays, from early ones like Richard III to later ones like Hamlet and The Tempest.  He never comes up with any definitive answers – he was a playwright, not a political philosopher – but he certainly gives the matter a thorough inspection from all sides.

Make no mistake, what he was doing was Serious Business.  The Elizabethan censors didn’t worry about bawdry†; they worried about sedition.  Fretting too obviously about, for example, whether or not it could ever be a good and necessary thing to overthrow a reigning monarch could definitely be regarded as seditious if there wasn’t a convincing enough veil of “this all happened a long time ago, or in foreign parts, or both” thrown over things.

Art mattered.  Shakespeare knew it.  The lords and the groundlings at the Globe Theatre knew it.  The Elizabethan censors knew it.

Furthermore, art still matters.  The people who put on Shakespeare in the Park know it.  The audience knows it.  And the alt-right protesters and those who egg them on sure as hell know it, or this production wouldn’t worry them so.


The general rule for reading Shakespeare, as articulated by Elizabeth Bear: “If it looks like a dick joke, it’s a dick joke. If it doesn’t look like a dick joke – it’s probably a dick joke.”

Why Authors Go Mad, Reason Number I’ve-Lost-Track-By-Now

Author Seanan McGuire (who is also Mira Grant and I think somebody else I’ve forgotten) has just received — on a tight deadline, of course — a beyond-the-copyedit-from-hell copyedit: The copyeditor did a global search and replace of “which” with “that.” Among other gross incompetencies.

And there isn’t time to scrap the copyedit and send the MS back out to somebody better.

People wonder why authors sometimes drink heavily. The amazing thing, actually, is that more of them don’t.

Bad Moon on the Rise

If everything in this article at blogcritics is true (and that does appear to be the case) then there is some very bad stuff going down at All Romance E-Books.

Hard to tell, from the available info, whether the root cause is malice or stupidity, but for the authors caught up in the ongoing mess, it doesn’t make a difference.

(This is also why, when I purchase an e-book, I prefer to take what measures are necessary to make certain I have it stored on my own hardware, and not on somebody else’s.)

Well, the election is over

My candidate didn’t win. But as Rocky would say, “she went the distance,” and maybe that was the best we were truly likely to get at this point in time. We’ve just finished with two terms of a precedent-shattering presidency, and I’m not surprised, in retrospect, that the elastic band wasn’t up to stretching out to another one.

But I’ve voted for — pauses to count on fingers — eight presidents, now, and half of the ones I voted for won, and half of them didn’t. Which is the sort of thing that happens, with elections.

Granted, it’s still no fun to get so close you can almost taste it, and then not get it anyway.

The world goes on, however, and we as writers still have books to finish and books to edit, because people aren’t going to stop reading just because their candidate lost, or even because their candidate won.

Take Care, People.

Hurricane Matthew looks set to romp and stomp all over the state of Florida, and possibly a goodly chunk of the Atlantic coast.  Some people who might have otherwise been reading this have probably already evacuated to safer climes; for others, I direct your attention to this web page on emergency jump kits, also known in the trade as bug-out bags.  (Full disclosure:  The author of the list is also my co-author.) They’re the bag you keep packed to grab when the state police come around your neighborhood telling everyone that the dam has busted/the wildfire has jumped the firebreaks/the chemical plant has exploded and you need to get out of there now.

If you’re a writer, your jump kit might also need to contain a means of continuing your work – anything from a paper notebook and pencils to a cheap netbook and a mouse, depending upon your purse and your habits.  And it’s never a bad idea to keep a current backup of the work-in-progress on a thumb drive you can grab on the run and shove into a pocket, as well as another backup on Dropbox or Google Drive or whatever offsite server you trust with your data.

For right now – stay safe, and take lots of mental notes on the storm while you’re getting slammed by it.  You’re writers, and everything is grist for your mill.

One of Those Summers

Summer is always a bad time for nasty stuff to go down . . . too much heat and too much humidity and nobody ever being quite comfortable enough. Long ago, I read a piece by Judith Martin – writing in propria persona, not as Miss Manners – opining that this was the real reason why so many holidays of national independence are in the middle of local summer: too many days in a row of heat, humidity, stinky streets, and flies, and all it takes is one more incident and the next thing you know they’re hanging the aristos from the lamp-posts again someplace.

And this is an election year in America, which always makes the summers worse even when we aren’t afflicted with as polarizing a pair of candidates as I think I’ve ever seen. (Though I’m amazed that the right-wing true believers haven’t given up on hoping to pin something on Hillary by now. You’d think that after over two decades of trying and failing, during which she’s been under almost constant investigation by a regular clown parade of different interest groups, they would wise up to the fact that either there’s nothing there for them to find, or that where leading a double life is concerned she’s got Batman, Superman, Daredevil, and the Amazing Spider-Man all beat to hell.)

This year, though, it isn’t just us here in the USA. The UK has got the results of the Brexit vote to contend with, and France has mass terror attacks, and Turkey has an attempted coup, and it’s generally difficult to put your finger down at random on a spinning globe and not hit someplace that’s having a hard time at the moment. And thanks to the wonder of immediacy that is the internet, we get to have everybody’s bad day in our faces all at once, instead of getting the news delivered to us in more manageable, staggered-by-distance chunks, so that we have time to process things in between.

(Overly serious people sometimes complain that the internet is too full of pictures of people’s cats. I maintain that the ability to go look at the pictures of cute cats in Japanese train stations, in New York City apartments, and in backyards all over is a necessity in a world where we are regularly slapped in the face with bad news from everywhere, whether we’ve asked for it or not.)

Maybe when the cool weather comes back around, things will calm down a little. Probably not, but one can hope.

Meanwhile, it’s back to the word mines for me.  If anybody out there has a manuscript that needs editing, they can always get in touch with me by way of the About or Contact Me links on this page.

O Canada

There’s a raging wildfire burning in the province of Alberta.  Over 10,000 hectares (that’s over 24,710 acres, for those of us who can’t think in metric without whipping out our calculators) have burnt so far; over 1,600 homes and buildings in the town of Fort McMurray have been destroyed; and more than 88,000 people (the whole town and its environs, more or less) have been evacuated.*  The Alberta government has declared a provincial state of emergency.

 

Pictures, video, and breaking news can be found on the CBCnews liveblog, here – including the 6:36 Eastern time word that the Alberta government has pledged to match donations to Red Cross Canada dollar-for-dollar.  The Red Cross Canada donation page is here.

*Obligatory writing reference: There are times when the passive voice is both appropriate and effective. This, I think, is one of them.

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.

Of Books and Stew

A brief thought on the science fiction and fantasy community’s ongoing Hugo controversy (which is too depressing to have more than a brief thought about, especially before noon; for more links than you can probably stand to shake a stick at, go here):

If books I especially like are considered as analogous to chunks of beef, while books I don’t care for that much are considered as analogous to a collection of assorted vegetables, then “this beef stew has more vegetables in it than I prefer” is a not unreasonable statement. Likewise, the assertion “this isn’t a beef stew with vegetables anymore, it’s a vegetable stew with beef” – while almost certain to be productive of considerable argument about the precise definitions of “stew” and “with” (and probably the definitions of “vegetables” and “beef” as well, once people really get going) – isn’t especially unreasonable, either.

What is unreasonable, though, is if I go on from there to shouting out loud in the public street that my local diner HAS BEEN TAKEN OVER BY A VEGETARIAN CONSPIRACY!!!

And if at any point I start threatening to burn down the whole diner if the proper proportion of beef (good) to vegetables (bad) is not restored, then I have become a danger to the community and ought to be gently removed from it.

A Position Statement, of Sorts

In the wake of the Paris attacks, there’s been much earnest discussion going on, in those quarters of the internet where earnest discussion always hangs out, over whether Charlie Hebdo‘s political satires were, in fact, racist, anti-Muslim, and so forth, or whether they were part of a long-standing tradition in French political expression (Daumier keeps getting brought up, for example, and pre-Revolutionary cartoons about Marie Antoinette), and about whether Charlie Hebdo was punching up, or down, or sideways. These are arguments I’m not going to get into, because, one, there are few things more impenetrable to the outside observer than another country’s political humor, and two, from where I stand as a free-speech absolutist, it shouldn’t matter whether Charlie Hebdo was punching in the right direction, punching in the wrong direction, or spinning madly around in all directions like a punching top . . . shooting up a bunch of people because of something they said, or wrote, or drew is just plain wrong.

Shooting up a bunch of unarmed people is wrong to start with, for heaven’s sake. And doing it because they were saying, or writing, or drawing something that the shooter wanted to silence is a heaping big plate of wrongness with wrong sauce poured over it and a maraschino cherry of wrong on top.