Thursday, June 20, 2019

Superman Contemplates Bruce Willis: Fan Fiction Continued

Early May, Year 1: “Neverending Battle”

“So did you and Superman join the zero gravity club?” Cat teased Lorry at the earliest opportunity.

“Superheroes are always straight.”

“There’s that guy from The Flash,” Jimmy suggested. “And that other superhero guy from some alternative universe. And Deadpool is supposed to be pan-sexual or whatever. But yeah, heterosexual is definitely the norm.”

“Makes sense,” Lorry said, who preferred his fiction not to be filled with designated tokens.

Life is what it is. Accept it. There’s a flying space alien in town, and you and every other reporter on the planet wants an interview.

Yeah, but Superman flew me back to Earth.

Okay, yes, maybe the latter was because otherwise, Lorry and The Planet might have been fined several thousand dollars for Lorry being an uninvited passenger on the shuttle to begin with (hadn’t these people ever heard of Julius Chambers who committed himself to a mental institution for a story? now there was dedication). At least Superman indicated he had sympathy for Lorry’s job.

If only Lorry had actually thought to ask questions on the (far too fast) trip home rather than staring around him and pondering how it was he could breath and didn’t burn up on re-entry. Superman’s cloak? His body heat?

I need an interview.

***

Clark was irritated.

First of all, he had to find an apartment, which meant rushing off to meet with potential landlords at a moment’s notice.

“Girlfriend?” the tenth maybe landlord asked. “Boyfriend?”

Clark shrugged. “I’m single,” he said vaguely.

The apartment was a mess, but he could fix it up. He didn’t mind the extra work although he’d probably need to get someone to help with the plumbing. A guy with superpowers who could heave old refrigerators into the sun wasn’t so good at fiddling around for hours with gaskets, lock-nuts, and washers.

The episode includes the marvelous Bruce Kirby.
The now-actual landlord offered terms. Clark agreed. One problem solved.

He was still irritated. Someone was testing Superman. Two jumpers on the same day in the same city both from the tops of buildings in line-of-sight of each other? Sure, Clark saved them both. It was still irritating, especially since it distracted him from people in real need.

Then, Lorry stole his story about the jumpers.

When Clark confronted his erstwhile, occasional, maybe reporting partner, Lorry got snarkily defensive. He spouted off about Clark needing to be a tougher reporter, not let go of a lead, etc. etc. etc.

“Sorry, man,” said Bob from Sports who overheard Lorry’s rant. “It’s not like Lane though. The guy’s relentless, but this is the first I’ve heard of him playing dirty.”

Clark sighed. The problem wasn’t Lorry. The problem was Superman. The costume, the “disguise,” was supposed to help Clark help people. Instead, it was turning him into this vaunted hero-type figure—who was loved and despised (the news networks were already trying to determine whether he was a liberal or conservative threat). And tested.

When a call came in about a bomb at a bank, off Clark flew—as Superman—prepared to rescue civilians and stop mayhem, only to discover that the bomb was programmed to go off only when he, Superman, arrived.

I don’t understand people.

He stomped outside, covered in dust, trying to look non-irritated and non-upset. Anybody at any moment might snap a picture. Superman’s constant subtle movement—even when standing still—meant that no photo could completely capture his face. Still, he had a duty to be calm and collected and not miffed as hell. No throwing chairs and shouting the “F” word like a deranged Hollywood celebrity.

So Clark, as Superman, was all stoic and judicious and “no comment” guy right up until he saw Lorry interviewing a bomb expert on the edge of the scene. Lorry was bleeding from a cut on his forehead.

Superman changed back to Clark so rapidly, he left off his socks.

“There were extra cameras in the bank?” Lorry was asking as Clark approached. Arms folded, he studied the bank blueprint held by the bomb expert. He glanced briefly at Clark, who flinched. The cut looked worse close up.

“How did that happen?”

“I got here right before the bomb blew.”

“Did you get it looked at?” Clark said, his fingers brushing Lorry’s forehead.

Lorry scowled, then shrugged, quick-silver smile manifesting briefly.

“I’ve been in worse situations,” he said. “Listen to this—there was no theft or terrorist threat. Yet there were extra cameras in the bank, and the bomb didn’t go off until Superman arrived and was inside. I think someone is testing him.”

“Yeah,” Clark said.

Yeah. What was that movie with Bruce Willis? The one where a villain needed a hero? Once a hero arose, a villain had to arise in response? Or vice versa?

Was Clark Bruce Willis? Only slightly less taciturn? With a mom who liked to sew? Was the bomb the product of his designated supervillain, responding to his or, rather, Superman's appearance? Did there have to be a supervillain? Some kind of balance-to-the-universe thing?

If so, wasn’t it better to have no superheroes and no supervillains and just let people get on with life the best they could?

Superman Dilemma #1
“Superman should leave Metropolis,” Clark told Lorry glumly later that night.

He was helping Lorry with the bank story—he’d even flown off to get authentic Chinese food (“Great local place,” he told Lorry, not adding that the great local place was local to Shanghai)—and they were kicking back late at night at The Daily Planet.

Lorry glared at him, and Clark sighed. Even glaring, Lorry had gorgeous green eyes. Unfortunately, those green eyes drew Clark’s eyes to the bandage on Lorry’s forehead. My fault.

He added, “Things are going to get crazy—already have. Superman is a catalyst or whatever. Something new enters the system, and it goes out of whack.”

“He can handle it.”

“Not everything. I mean, sure, a lot. But he can’t be everywhere at once, no matter how fast.”

Not to mention that Superman had a job and parents, a life, and couldn’t spend every waking second lurking around Metropolis waiting for disaster. Because there was a horrible way to live.

Not that Clark hadn’t contemplated the lurking lifestyle when he was flying Lorry back to Earth, but it seemed to his Sunday-School-trained brain that living as his true self—as Clark—would better enable him to help his fellow citizen than would living outside of society. Didn’t superheroes who followed the latter script eventually go nuts and try to boss everybody around?

Shrugging, Lorry said, “Whatever Superman can do, that’s enough.”

“And if people get hurt?”

“The greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

“What about the minority?” Clark said. “The outliers?” Collateral damage, he was thinking.

“Civil defense is all about the majority,” Lorry said. “It has to be. In the long run, the outliers will suffer if the majority isn’t secure. Anarchy sucks for everyone.” He leaned back, popped a dumpling in his mouth and grinned at Clark.

“Superman shouldn’t leave,” he declared as if the matter was settled.

And it was, Clark found to his astonishment. He—Superman—was going to stay. Lorry’s non-B.S. version of the world was, ah, insightful. (Not perfect, not comforting, not something I've been looking for all my life—because Clark was trying very hard not to be the big puddle of mush he knew he could be.)

I am not going to fall for him.

Of course, the possibility that Lorry would fall for Clark was slim to none—especially since Clark wasn’t “out.” Not to mention, Lorry had apparently decided that he and Clark were in direct competition for the “Best Reporter in Metropolis” title.

“You are never going to get a better byline than me,” he informed Clark.

“Not yet.”

“Not ever.”

Clark shrugged. “We’ll see.”

Arch-nemesis
“How long can you hold your breath?” Lorry raised a brow, snorted, and sauntered off.

“A very long time,” Clark muttered. It was probably best not to mention that he once swam half-way across the Mediterranean before he popped up for air. A very long time would do.

[My fan fiction contains some changes to the episode's original order of events. Also, Lois & Clark fans may note that I hold off on Clark figuring out that the tester is, in fact, his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor. While I dislike shows that keep people circling round and round and round an obvious truth--see Merlin--I would have favored Superman/Clark not figuring out "the man behind the curtain" immediately.]

Sunday, June 16, 2019

More Friends in M/M Romances: The Works of Annabeth Albert

Annabeth Albert is especially adept at creating friends-to-lovers within her M/M Romances. Her military romances are okay, but I very much enjoyed her gaymers (yes, "gaymer"--feel free to groan at the pun) series. She knows that world inside and out!

Connection Error is the beginning of the cross-over between the two worlds. Although seemingly quite different people, Josiah (a gamer) and Ryan (a military man) bond over the role-playing game produced by Josiah's company. Through these moments of bonding, their awareness of each other's interests and needs grows. A desire to get a dog. Opinions and worries about what to do after the military. Eating out. Long-term work goals.

Playing online morphs to chatting online and although sex is introduced early, the friendship precedes the romance, then supplements it.

Off Base also combines gaming and military characters in one. It is actually the beginning of Albert's military romances but starts in the gamer world, of which Zack is a member. He goes on to become a professor of statistics instead. The personalities, habits, ideologies and attitudes of both the gamers and the professors are all quite realistic. (In fact, Albert's description of a classroom where one student is listening to music, one is playing a game on his lap-top, one is knitting, and one is an eager beaver ready to answer ALL the teacher's questions: total hoot.)

The strongest friendship aspect of Albert's novels is that she never (as far as I can tell) falls back on the "I gave up something for you; therefore, I must love you, and you must love me."

In Connection Error, still growing up at 23-years-old Josiah does not accept Ryan's offer that he move in and take care of Josiah when Josiah's mother gets married and moves out. Josiah argues that he is Ryan's boyfriend, not a "cause" to be charitably handled. Along the same lines, in nearly every book, as part of the emotional climax, the protagonists realize that they were both part of the miscommunication/narrative problem. Although in Off Base, Zack's reluctance to come out to his family and team-members is the biggest issue, Pike's reluctance to actually form a commitment (out of fear of getting hurt) plays a part as well.

Love is not the almighty excuse that washes away all problems, issues, confusions, etc. etc. etc. Rather love is something both characters need to work on. The reader believes that Albert's characters can do this--their friendship already proves the possibility.

(Plus, in these books specifically, Albert takes the time to "show" the friendship rather than saying, "Oh, they talk a lot about mutual interests and had a great time!" Note to romance writers: if you don't give me actual dialog where the characters actually talk like the couple in The Thin Man, I'm not going to believe they can.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Religion as McGuffin: Amish Romances

A McGuffin refers to a literary goal--such as the Holy Grail--which simply supplies the pretext for characters' actions. Nobody is quite sure why they want it. For all intents and purposes, it could be a Holy Partridge Feather since the goal is far less important than how the characters get to that goal.

Although most romances are not always as extreme as Romeo & Juliet, the goal of most romances is in fact to overcome differences or misunderstandings or tensions (of personality, social class, age, etc.) in order for the couple to get and stay together. Sometimes the goal is to overcome religious disparities/pressures. Those pressures supply the plot device that keep the main characters struggling until they understand each other well enough to form a unit.

A perfectly respectable plot, in my view.

It does help, however, if the religious pressures are MORE than a McGuffin.

A comparison between Love Means No Shame by Andrew Grey and the Gay Amish Romance Series by Keira Andrews points the difference.

I should say first that Andrew Grey is a perfectly respectable writer, and I quite enjoy several of his books, including The Best Worst Honeymoon Ever. In the case of Love Means No Shame, however, he might have been better served leaving Amish country alone.

The difference is the difference between a McGuffin and an actual setting/culture/milieu that informs the characters.

The Amish connection in Love Means No Shame is . . . well, there isn't really one except for a mention of "rumspringa" and Eli's clothes. And his feelings of shame. But really, he could be a traveling circus performer who abandoned his family or a cosplay actor who absconded with someone's lunch money or a freshmen who dropped out of a college and doesn't want to go home and tell his parents. I'm not sure why he needs to be Amish--other than that the story takes place in the country. Maybe because Amish-romances tend to be surprisingly popular (like Laura Ingalls Wilder tributes: all that wholesome living without pesky things like grasshoppers and disease and freezing to death).

Keira Andrews's series, on the other hand, is quite good and quite fascinating. For one, she closely researched Amish communities, coming to the obvious conclusion (though I admit it never occurred to me) that not all communities are the same in terms of theological belief/adherence. She is able to convey the culture of one particular community from its boring Sunday meetings to its singings, from its extremely conservative gender roles to its poverty to its communal care. It's not all bad or all good; it's mostly rather normal.

The behaviors of different people within the community are also normal--the outspoken brother who will likely settle down one day and become a willing member of the community; the friend who experiments with "the world" but never honestly debates leaving; those who embrace the community's strictures; those who compromise with them (internally and externally); and those who leave.

The young men who leave both want to go (and feel it is necessary since they are in love) and don't want to go. Their uncertainty coupled with a realization that certain changes are inevitable is realistic and touching. Religion is not merely an obstacle or a thing to be overcome but an ongoing aspect of their lives; consequently, it informs the type of struggles they endure, especially in the second book when Isaac and David move to San Francisco and have trouble adjusting to "English" city life (their reactions are so thoughtfully and compassionately detailed, I suspect more research by the author).

The smartest aspect of the series, which many writers unfortunately gloss over, is the religious one. Neither member of the couple is theologically devote, but they both take God and heaven and hell seriously. Isaac's brother has gone the full agnostic route, but neither Isaac nor David are comfortable with that choice. They still pray. David--slightly more theologically minded than Isaac, who is more like his brother--ponders questions of right and wrong and what God truly wants from them. They eventually become committed, communal Unitarian church goers--one of the hardest sacrifices for them was walking away from the community of belief (despite boring services).

I maintain elsewhere that writing well about religion is hard. It helps if one treats it like an active psychological and mental and even physical factor in the characters' lives--

As opposed to a McGuffin-like obstacle to be overcome.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

High School as an Endless Trope Machine: His Favorite

Makimura, Yoshida, Sato, Akimoto
Many manga series revolve around high school students or just-graduated seniors entering college. Think the range of John Hughes to Heathers, then throw in Buffy and, to really confuse the genres, high schools where people sing. The setting and human developmental period supply an endless round of tropes that run the gamut from serious to comic to dark.

Lots and lots of material.

When I first started reading His Favorite, I assumed it was standard teen romantic fare, a mix between Only the Ring Finger Knows and Dengeki Daisy.

In truth, it is an outrageous though gentle spoof of trope after trope after trope (at least as of Volume 6). Consequently, it is quite insightful about how high schools and high schoolers operate.

One of the smartest elements, for instance, is that when Sato isn't being pursued by demanding girls, he hangs out with Yoshida and Yoshida's friends.

Yoshida belongs to a hard-to-define-but-totally-definitive group, namely the kids who hang around the convenient store in Say Anything. Yoshida & Company aren't slackers, though, and they aren't  smokers and they aren't (always) the AV crowd although there is some overlap. They aren't the art crowd either (that "crowd"--a competitive brother and sister--is spoofed in the series). They're basically the kids who skateboard and play hacky-sack but in His Favorite, they are less likely to draw attention to themselves in those overt ways.

Sato and Yoshida, bored at Makimura's latest crush.
Two of them are girl-crazy. Starry-eyed Makimura is constantly chasing after the latest supposedly perfect girl; earnest Akimoto is a big guy who has a female friend whom he has known all his life and with whom he is totally in love. However--other than a very funny scene where they and Yoshida go on a blind date with some truly scary girls--they tend not to actually date. After all, Yoshida has Sato.

And Yoshida is the de facto leader of the group--without realizing it. He is the most level-headed, the most likely to recognize the moral implications of a decision. And the most likely to call out behavior that crosses a line. (Sato is as capable of this but cares less.) Yoshida is Lister from Red Dwarf and Leonard from Big Bang Theory, guys around whom a group naturally forms without them forcing their leadership on anyone (high school libertarianism).

Sato aligns himself with Yoshida and therefore, with this group. And here is where psychology comes into play. Sato could hang out with the honor students. Or the jocks (sort of--it is unclear whether Sato even likes sports, but everybody assumes he does). However, the faintly nihilistic side of Sato (mentioned in previous posts) keeps him from taking the one-upmanship of high school seriously. Besides, Yoshida's is the group he always gravitated towards, even when he was a fat kid in elementary school (hence the psychology).

And the group fits his needs. Yoshida's group gives Sato the outsider status he naturally inhabits. At the same time, Yoshida's group is so devoted to ordinary, everyday life that Sato is prevented from becoming an intellectual poseur.

In the end, he just wants to hang out with Yoshida on a rainy day. This is the group that lets him do that.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Lorry & Clark: Superman DOES Have Inner Conflict

While writing my Lorry & Clark summaries, I came to the conclusion that Superman's lack of inner conflict is not Superman's fault.

The material provides plenty of possibilities for inner struggles. Some graphic novels have addressed this--Secret Identity by Busiek and Immonen is one of the best--but generally speaking, there is an assumption that only Batman has angst. Superman is all about the external problems.

Truth is, Superman has lots and lots to worry about, especially if he is as ethical as Superman is supposed to be. Superman's internal issues don't come down to "oh, I feel so bad about my dead parents!" angst, which may be why most writers avoid Superman's inner life. (Face it: death is easier to write about.) But issues of identity, self-doubt, and morality are certainly there.

So here are Lorry & Clark again with more inner voice dialog from both characters. I start with the gay stuff, then move into the ethical stuff. I'm not sure if I'll cover all 4 seasons, but I will be covering most of Season 1:

"The Pilot"

Clark Kent, 26, 6’2”, Kryptonian, was not “out” to his adoptive parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent.

They took him in, a baby who’d fallen to Earth in a spaceship. They raised him. They protected him. They coped when he began to manifest more and more superpowers.

“Hey, Mom and Dad, by the way, I’m gay” was a shock he preferred not to deliver. It didn’t matter how many school assemblies spouted off about diversity. One more difference, Clark decided, is one too many.

So he dated girls, took Lana Lang to the prom, stayed a virgin, which luckily—even in twentieth-first-century Kansas—was, well, not exactly a norm but at least an expectation. He could claim a desire to stay on his parents’ and pastor’s good sides without too much push-back or rolled eyes. It wasn’t as if most of the boys he knew weren’t virgins too (no matter how big they talked). In any case, he suspected that the girls he dated, including Lana, were relieved at his “chivalrous” attitude.

He graduated from high school, went to college, got a degree in journalism, traveled abroad, lost his virginity in the spiritual if not technical sense, moved to Metropolis.

And met Lorry, Lawrence Lane, reporter for The Daily Planet.

And the world got a lot more complicated.

One more thing.

* * *

Lawrence (Lorry) Lane, 25, 5’9”, Daily Planet staff member, never wanted to be anything other than an investigative reporter. Get inside the story. Learn the truth. Find out things nobody else knows (yet). Be the fly on the wall.

Bursting into Perry White’s office with a story about the space program, a story that mattered, he glowered at the way-too-handsome, excessively polite guy with the perfect hair, perfect teeth, and shy smile. Straight, Lorry told himself. Not reporter-material. Not my type. 

“Who's the cutie?” Cat Grant from Lifestyles & Fashion asked as Lorry escaped Perry’s office followed by Perry’s hollers that Lorry “get me that theater story!”

Lorry shrugged. The “cutie” was not his problem.

Until Perry hired the cutie—who stole Lorry’s theater story; okay, sure, whatever, Lorry didn’t want the theater story, but still—and assigned him to Lorry.

Okay, yes, maybe Lorry took too many chances. And maybe he got pulled into stories at the expense of other assignments. And maybe he needed someone to be his gopher.

What he didn’t need was a babysitter.

“He’s a hack,” he told Perry and glowered at Kent, who smiled benignly back.

Perry sputtered. Kent waited with more patience than Lorry could muster in his pinky let alone his entire body.

“Fine,” he snarled because the guy really was way too attractive. And big. But not swaggering and pushy, which made him totally Lorry’s type.

Straight, he reminded himself.

“Let’s go,” he said brusquely. “I like to stay on top of things.”

He was almost at the elevators when he heard Kent say softly, “I’m sure you prefer to top.”

Lorry spun around, glared. Kent smiled benignly. Patiently. Non-threateningly. Innocently.

Except there was glint in his eye.

So the big guy has a sense of humor. Huh.

By the end of the day, after multiple interviews with space program personnel, during which Kent continued to stay preternaturally calm and good-humored, Lorry had to admit that his temporary partner wasn’t...totally useless.

* * *

Lawrence—Lorry—Lane was trim, fit, always moving, sharp as a tack (as Clark’s mother would say), and a mass of barriers and “keep off” signs. Just as well. Clark was not ready to do anything about his bi- or pan- or whatever-sexuality. Not in any public way that involved coming out and so on and so forth.

Not when he was trying to figure out how to come out as Metropolis’s superhuman protector. A man in civilian clothing who just happened to end up in the middle of sabotaged construction sites and bomb scares and car pile-ups was too suspicious—even if Clark claimed he was there as a reporter. People would start asking questions, would start complaining. He didn't want to lose his job at The Planet, not when he'd finally achieved his dream (no matter how corny that sounded).

Nevertheless: Lorry was super tempting. And quite frankly and cheekily “out,” which Clark envied to no end. When Lex Luthor held a soiree announcing his plans for a privately-owned space station, Clark stood at the nearby bar and watched Lorry unabashedly flirt with the so-called great man.

Lorry winked and grinned and swaggered towards the bar. Lex’s eyes stayed on him for a few seconds before some high-powered somebody or other claimed his attention. And Lex Luthor, Clark had already determined, was not easily distracted from his single-minded ambitions. Which just proved Lorry’s attractiveness.

Which, Clark decided, Lorry was utterly unaware of.

Lorry got to the bar, ordered a soft drink. He gave Clark a sideways glower and hunched his shoulders.

“Lex is bi,” he said belligerently. “I want an interview.”

Clark smiled because saying, Yeah, I gathered, and I wish you’d flirt with me that way wasn’t a possibility.

Then Lorry sighed and produced a quick-silver smile. “Yeah, well, I’m not in that guy’s wheelhouse,” he said into his drink. “Or yours. Don’t fall for me, farm boy.”

Too late.

* * *

Life wasn’t awful. Lorry had a good story, an okay (temporary) reporting partner. Maybe his (temporary) partner was occupying his thoughts a little too much these days (Straight, remember?) but life could be worse.

Life didn’t get worse. It got way more complicated. First, the space shuttle blew up. Lex Luthor offered to move forward the building of his privately-owned station. The Congress of Nations thanked him kindly but refused his offer of collaboration. Lorry, Clark, and Jimmy—The Daily Planet’s newest photographer—then uncovered a conspiracy to sabotage the Program’s latest project. Lorry finagled a place on board the remaining space transport vehicle. Not his smartest move, since it had also been sabotaged with a bomb. And he would have died—except—

Superman showed up.

Superman. A humanoid wearing a garish costume—with flapping cape—walked—no, flew—onto the space transport vehicle. He dismantled—swallowed—the bomb, burped slightly, smiled at Lorry and introduced himself to the rest of the passengers, as if his appearance was everyday normal.

And then he picked up Lorry and flew him back to The Daily Planet.

Lorry’s life was never going to be the same again.

What a scoop!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Romances & the Problem of the Perfect Dead: Review of Redesigning Landry Bishop

On Votaries, I discuss the trope or plot where one character attempts to get over another character's death. Too often, this trope resolves with the living character deciding, "So and so would want me to...move on/be happy/get this particular degree/marry again!"

Conveniently, the dead always seem to want exactly what the living character wants.

This type of resolution is far too common in romances, which run the risk of both sacralizing and debasing the dead ("Dead Bob was never as wonderful as you [the current lover]!"). After all, it's not like the dead can fight back.

Redesigning Landry Bishop by Kim Fielding bravely attempts to tackle the tension between perfecting the dead and blaming the dead. It doesn't quite manage (it does come very close).

Before I continue, I should mention that I'm a fan of Kim Fielding. Her book Love is Heartless is one of my all time favorites as is A Full Plate and The Little Library. She is also one of the best romance short story writers on the market (romance short stories are terrifically difficult to write).

Regarding this particular book . . .

Landry came to Hollywood as a young, innocent 20ish-year-old. It is entirely likely that he never intended or wanted to be a celebrity. Rather, he always wanted to be the party planner who works for celebrities. But he fell for an older, high society lawyer Steve, who pushed him to recognize his ambitions by becoming a "brand."

There's no sugar-daddy construction to the relationship. Steve was a decent, ambitious guy. Landry was ambitious enough. And a hard-worker. He earned his name. And they honestly loved each other.

However, now that Steve is dead, Landry is rethinking his life and his goals.

Or is he? Is Landry truly "finding" himself or simply reflecting back the opinions and viewpoints and life-path of a new, domineering lover (and Landry's not new hometown)?

In fact, Landry rather resembles the empath on Star Trek: Next Generation, who becomes whatever kind of woman the man nearest her wants. She likes who she is when she is around Picard, so she secretly bonds with him. She has the wit to fool the man she ends up marrying into thinking she has bonded with him instead.

So Landry bonds with the people who want the best for him, but what does Landry himself want?

To answer that question, I'm afraid Fielding would have had to go more directly at the dead-Steve-issue. She does a fantastic job setting it up but there's never a candid internal pay-off.

And therein lies the tension and the point of this post's title: I'm not sure that in current American/Western society, internal pay-offs re: the dead are allowed. We're all still Queen Victoria at heart, mourning the dead forever (when, in fact, research shows that people recover from the death of a loved one far sooner than the hype and the self-help industry wish us to believe).

For example, the internal pay-offs would include Landry pondering stuff like:
  • "Steve was a great guy, but were we really suited?"
  • "Am I being disloyal to decide that actually he headed me in the wrong direction--without me blaming him at all? After all, I'm responsible for my life."
  • "If he were still alive, would we have lasted? If I changed the way I want to change now, would he have stuck around?"
It would be even more fascinating (but difficult and not entirely acceptable) if Landry came to realize, in answer to the last question, "I actually have no idea. I can't speak for the dead. I'm not going to get any closure on this issue. Maybe Steve and I wouldn't have lasted. Who knows!"

Again, I have to give Fielding kudos. So many romance writers do try to speak for the dead. I'm not referring to the ones who write paranormal romances where the dead, um, literally speak; I'm referring, rather, to the ones who imagine that Stevie would be all kinds of happy for Landry doing the opposite of what he wanted Landry to do when he was alive.

It is to Fielding's credit that she doesn't propose any particular desires on dead-Steve's part. I just wish she could have taken the argument one step further and have Landry reflect on what he truly, actually, honestly wants without reference to other people's input or versions of his life.

Unless, of course, Landry is the empath, and he likes new-lover Jordan's version of his life better than dead-Steve's version of his life--but that would still be "dissing" the dead. Landry might actually have to think, "Maybe I go for the strongest personality in the room--nothing wrong with that--but it certainly didn't make Steve and me soulmates."

As Accidental Tourist proposes, "I'm beginning to think that maybe it's not just how much you love someone. Maybe what matters is who you are when you're with them.

In fairness, Fielding is tackling a Hollywood romance, which is troublesome all by itself

Monday, May 27, 2019

Anything Can Be Taken in More Than One Way: Why and How Spoofs Work

In my alternate fanfiction Lorry & Clark (based on Lois & Clark), I used most of the original characters, plots, and even (when I could) characterizations. I did change some things: Lorry is somewhat more sarcastic (although Terri Hatcher's Lois is more sarcastic than she seems) plus a tad more defensive with stronger reasons to distrust the people around him (not just because he is gay but because he has been burned somewhat more than Terri Hatcher's Lois who was a popular girl in high school).

What fascinated me, though, was how often I didn't have to change any lines or scenes. Here are a few examples:
  • "You like to be on top," Clark says in the Pilot.
  • "Girlfriend? [Pause.] Boyfriend?" Clark's prospective landlord asks him.
  • Clark's embarrassed reaction to Cat's interest.
  • Everything to do with closets. From example, from "The Pilot," Perry asks Clark, "When are you coming out of the closet?" And in "I've Got a Crush On You," when Lois states, "You could have pretended we were sharing a moment of passion," Clark does in fact respond, "I'll remember that the next time we're in a closet."
  • Clark's parents (now and again): "Well, Clark, is there anything you'd like to tell us?" hint hint.
Ad from Sayers' agency.
Not having to change lines brought to mind a quote from Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers. At the beginning of Chapter 3, Sayers--who worked at an advertising agency--reflects on what makes an ad "work":
[T]the most convincing copy was always written with the tongue in the cheek, a genuine conviction of the commodity's worth producing--for some reason--poverty and flatness of style. [And if] by the most far-fetched stretch of ingenuity, an indecent meaning could be read into a headline, that's the meaning that the great British Public would infallibly read into it. (my emphasis)
Anything can be read into anything. Spoofs work because we are always ready to see the other side. It's actually a pleasant shock when the writer means exactly what the writer says--but come on, how often does that happen? (All the time, but we think it doesn't.)

More Superman to follow . . .