Over the past few months I worked my way through the five seasons of the TV show Haven. In its core structure, it’s basically Yet Another Procedural: each week there’s a mystery, the heroes investigate, the mystery is solved by the end of the episode. But the premise of this one is speculative — an FBI agent discovers weird things going on in a small Maine town — and spec-fic shows usually pair their procedural-ness with at least some degree of metaplot, which I find myself really craving these days. So I figured I would give it a shot.
And for the most part, the structure is indeed conventional. Weird Thing Happens. Audrey Parker (the FBI agent) and Nathan Wuornos (the local cop) investigate. The problem is inevitably being caused by the Troubles, a set of supernatural afflictions that plague many residents of Haven. Our heroes find the Troubled person responsible —
— and then they help that person.
I mean, every so often they do have to arrest somebody or it even ends in death. But overwhelmingly, the focus is on solving the Troubles, not punishing them. In many cases, the person responsible doesn’t realize they’re the source of that week’s weird thing; when they do know, they’re often terrified and unable to stop their Trouble from hurting people. These supernatural abilities trigger because of emotional stimuli, so week after week, you watch Audrey untangle the threads of someone’s psychology until she figures out that they need to accept the fact that a loved one is gone or reconcile with an estranged friend or admit the secret that’s eating away at them, and when they do, their Trouble lets go.
It is amazingly refreshing, after all the procedural shows I’ve seen that involve people with guns using those guns to solve their problems. (There’s a key moment late in the series when the entire Haven PD gets sent out to manage a big outburst of Troubles, and they literally get a speech from the police chief about how the people causing problems aren’t the enemy and need to be helped, not beaten down.) In fact, it’s so refreshing that I was willing to forgive the show’s other flaws. The scripts are often no better than okay, and for the first four seasons the characters are remarkably incurious about the metaplot: they accept that the Troubles show up every twenty-seven years, Audrey is somehow connected to them, etc, but it takes them forever to get around to asking why, much less making a serious effort to find the answers. (In the fifth season the show dives headfirst into the metaplot, and the results are less than satisfying.) Furthermore, if you’re looking for characters of color, you basically won’t find them here. Haven does a pretty poor job in general with secondary characters, often getting rid of them after one season; I can only think of two people who get added to the cast after the first episode that stick around instead of getting booted out of the plot.
But the character dynamics are pretty engaging, some of the episodes have a pretty clever premise . . . and it’s a show about helping people. About resolving problems through addressing their underlying causes. About how, if somebody has a Trouble but they’ve figured out ways to manage it without hurting anybody, you clap them on the back and move on to someone who’s having more difficulty. There’s a good-hearted quality to the show’s basic concept that kept me interested even when I could have been watching something with better dialogue but less compassion.
More compassion, please. We need it.
Queen of Swords Press will be tabling and I'll be reading at the Queer Voices Pride Month Book Fair and Reading at the Minneapolis Central Library on 6/27. They're doing some great programming this month!
The print edition of SILVER MOON is in progress and is going to be purty! And I should have an announcement on the StoryBundle soon. I also got a bio request for the Helsinki Worldcon Program so fingers crossed for panel assignments. In Sirens Conference news, Nivair Gabriel and I have submitted a round table proposal. I'm also waiting to hear back Diversicon and World Fantasy and have other events in the offing.
In other news, weird foot pain is weird and will get medicsl
attention soon, new toilet is glorious and some day, if it stops raining, there will be new asphalt by the garage. Also, hoping to go back to writing new fiction REAL SOON NOW.
See Lee you at WisCon?
Yup, big sale at Macy's started today, and the earrings are on sale for less than $30 with promo code. Now, I did fall into the trap by... misbehaving slightly among the other sale items, but I got enough "Macy's Money" out of it to get the other pair I wanted, that were not on sale, for free, so I'm still calling it a win.
(I was seduced on Saturday into buying a "fine jewelry" pair I didn't like as well because they were 70% off -- those got returned, so it all worked out.)
It's the little triumphs you have to treasure...
* We got a new mattress! Our old mattress was sagging on each side and had a hump in the middle and was getting increasingly painful. The new one was delivered yesterday and so far, so good. At the store we looked at a fancy one that sucked the heat out of your body while you were sleeping, but it was more than twice what ours cost and I did wonder how comfortable it would be in the winter.
* The paperback edition of The Murderbot Diaries is back in stock at Barnes & Noble, Powells, Indigo, BooksaMillion, Book Depository, and Amazon US, if you were still looking for a copy.
* I cleared out our guestroom closet and my office and got rid of a lot of random crap.
* I've been trying to get Murderbot 4 started and for about two weeks and finally got the first scene written. It and Murderbot 3 are not sold yet, so keep your fingers crossed.
* I got a Raksura Patreon story started and about halfway finished.
* When we were at Comicpalooza, we walked past the end of the row where one of the big Star Wars cosplaying groups had their booth, and they had a full-size backdrop of a Death Star corridor for people to take pictures in front of. One of the people in a stormtrooper costume was standing in front of it, and as we slowed down to look at backdrop, and the stormtrooper did the voice-synthesizer "Move along, move along" bit. It was pretty hilarious.
* We also saw a full-size Taun-taun with rider costume.
I went to see my psych last week for a followup on the new/old meds and said, "I feel like I have my brain back, but I don't much like the brain I got back." In particular I'm having trouble with executive dysfunction and a lot of hyperfocusing.
I told the psych this and she looked at me, fidgeting in her office chair, and said, "have you ever considered that you might have ADHD?"
As it happens I have been pondering that very thing of late. But it's notable that I am 37 years old and she is the FIRST medical professional ever to suggest this diagnosis to me. See also: ADHD presenting very differently in women than in men.
Since I'm still having trouble sleeping without taking low-dose seroquel, we're going to focus on trying to sort that out first, but when I see her again in August we're going to discuss the possibility of going on something for ADHD.
This, by the way, would make all three of us upstairs both bipolar and ADHD. We're all medicated for at least one of those diagnosis but still, there's a reason our household is sometimes, um, volatile. Add in our various physical ailments and Rayne's PTSD and it's a wonder we're functioning at all.
To a certain extent this is part of why I'm poly. I need to have and be part of a support structure not just an individual partner. I think in pairs none of our relationships would be workable, but together we balance each other out quite nicely.
The really awful thing I can't talk about is possibly less awful than it was when I made my last post. Still awful, but no longer horrifyingly impressively awful. This has taken a lot of weight off our household.
I had a shrink appointment today and she said, "have you ever considered grad school?" The answer to which is a somewhat complicated yes. When I was in undergrad I always assumed I would go on to get my masters, probably in Intercultural Communications, but then I fucked up my last semester of university and that kind of crashed and burned. Currently, we're not in a financial/family place where me going to grad school would make sense, but yes, the possibility has entered my mind again.
We leave for Wiscon in the morning, and I am not actually packed, because reasons, so I should probably stop talking about stuff and sort through my clothes and figure out what I'm taking.
If you’re like me, the phrase “Orpheus myth in space” gets your immediate attention. Here’s Jessica Reisman to tell us about the spark that brought Substrate Phantoms to life!
Substrate Phantoms had a long road to publication, so I’ve had to cast my mind back to remember the original writing and when the fire seemed to catch. I already had my far future science fiction universe, the Aggregate, in which I’ve had several stories and my first novel (so long ago now that Substrate gets to be a new debut), and had been playing around with the idea of the Orpheus myth in space, a kind of ‘don’t look back’ when a character is fleeing a space station, trying to save a loved one.
That was all very well, but things weren’t really taking any compelling shape. It was with the haunting of the space station that the first sign of heat flared up. A kind of film reel unfurled in my mind, of powerful images and feelings having to do with the intersection of technology and futurity with superstition and our need for the kind of possibility inherent in the more inward, arcane, and irrational side of our natures. Where these elements—often set in opposition—cross is a deep vein of story for me.
It was a pretty potent unfurling of image and feeling, that film reel. It had what felt like the whole story—and more—within it. My writing process is what we sometimes call “organic.” The initial phase of image, feeling, and story arc is like a seed for me, a tiny, dense ball of potential in which the story exists. To maul the metaphor, note-making, research, background work, and world building are all preparing the ground, planting, and fertilizing; the actual searching march of words onto page is when the growth begins and the story stretches toward its shape.
So there was the spark of the haunted space station—a usefully compelling elevator pitch, but what now? I think it leapt into full conflagration when I found the opening of the first chapter:
Revelation deck rested currently in station shadow, spangled in reflections off the solar collectors. Long glimmers cut through the high dim space in a slow dance. Revelation deck was a big space with open gridwork, gridwork being the bones of station superstructure hidden on other decks. Tall viewports and a lack of adult traffic made it a favorite haunt of station kids, four of whom sat clustered under a twenty-foot span of the grid arch. Likely there was someplace they were supposed to be, and strict regulations said they shouldn’t be there, but it was a regulation never enforced.
Jhinsei, two-thirds of the way through sitting a shift at the automated shuttle monitors, liked the murmur of voices. He had been such a kid himself, not too many years past, listening to tales on Revelation; besides, they lessened the loneliness of the cavernous deck.
Revelation deck, far future space station, kids telling stories, future and past: it makes friction for me and, voila, sparks!
From the cover copy:
The space station Termagenti—hub of commerce, culture, and civilization—may be haunted. Dangerous power surges, inexplicable energy manifestations, and strange accidents plague the station. Even after generations of exploring deep space, humanity has yet to encounter another race, and yet, some believe that what is troubling the station may be an alien life form.
Jhinsei and his operations team crawl throughout the station, one of many close-knit working groups that keep Termagenti operational. After an unexplained and deadly mishap takes his team from him, Jhinsei finds himself—for lack of a better word—haunted by his dead teammates. In fact, they may not be alone in taking up residence in his brain. He may have picked up a ghost—an alien intelligence that is using him to flee its dying ship. As Jhinsei struggles to understand what is happening to his sanity, inquisitive and dangerous members of the station’s managing oligarchy begin to take an increasingly focused interest in him.
Haunted by his past and the increasing urgent presence of another within his mind, Jhinsei flees the station for the nearby planet Ash, where he undertakes an exploration that will redefine friend, foe, self, and other. With Substrate Phantoms, Jessica Reisman offers an evocative and thought-provoking story of first contact, where who we are is questioned as much as who they might be.
Jessica Reisman’s stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. A three-time Michener Fellow, she has been writing her own brand of literary science fiction and fantasy for many years. Jessica has lived in Philadelphia, parts of Florida, California, and Maine, and been employed as a house painter, blueberry raker, art house film projectionist, glass artist’s assistant, English tutor, teaching assistant, and editor, among other things. She dropped out of high school and now has a master’s degree. She makes her home in Austin, Texas, where well-groomed cats, family, and good friends grace her life with their company. Find out more at her site.
Still getting back into the swing after a week in Dallas -- great weather, some fun shopping (I adore antique malls so very, very much; it's my second favorite shopping next to thrifting), movies with Dad (The Fifth Element was GREAT on the big screen, and GotG2 of course rocked), gardening with Mom, taking Katee for walks, and just general low-key hanging out, which was awesome. I am SO behind in posting Flickr pictures (the Dallas Arboretum was in full bloom and had a gorgeous exhibit of Zimbabwean sculpture, and we were literally finished and back in the car 15 seconds before the skies opened up) and I might try and get to that over Memorial Day weekend.
I also went up into the attic and sorted through all of my childhood books, and found some very old and dear friends: The Mole Family Christmas, the kids book about the hippo in the garden in Dar Es Salaam, some YAs that I read over and over, my ENTIRE stash of YA romances, wow. Some of them came home with me, some have been transferred to bins (still in my parents' attic) because the boxes they were in were literally dissolving. I'm on a crusade at home to weed out a lot of my books (already been through the sf and fantasy, moving on to the romances) -- the ones available in ebooks if I want them, that I will never read again in dead tree edition, and that I don't have a sentimental attachment to. I expect to still have a considerable collection, but hopefully I will also have bookshelf room for the precious young reader and YA books, and to display other stuff. The culls are going to Friends of Bezazian Library this round, because Chicago doesn't fund its public libraries for anything. :P
Oh, and the stupid P-trap under the kitchen sink gave out again, and I suppose I should be grateful it didn't happen while I was out of town, but it's just such a hassle to deal with first thing on a Monday morning: "Oops, the kitchen throw rug is wet, crap!" Hit the hardware store last night for a new seal/washer/rubber flange thingie which is much sturdier than the old one and successfully installed it last night. Also weeded out the weird little plants that were choking my basil seedlings and got my little lavender bush put into a pot outside, hoping it thrives. So I was quite the domestic person last night. I hate plumbing.
What's this about? Every year in July, we've been throwing a Doctor/Jack party at wintercompanion - and this year we'll be at wintercompanion too! On July 1, we start posting new fic and art created to a prompt list kept secret until the month starts, and then all of the prompts are opened to everyone. Here's what we're looking for:
- writers willing and excited to write at least 500 words of Doctor/Jack based on specific prompts, to be finished and submitted by 25 June
- artists interested in producing a Doctor/Jack-centric work (wallpapers, icons, banners, drawings, vids, etc.) based on specific prompts, to be finished and submitted by 25 June
Interested? Sign ups are open right now here at LJ or here at DW.
We'll send out prompts over the course of the week for everyone to pick their favourites, and final prompt assignments will go out no later than the 31st.