Wednesday, June 2, 2010

sleep-deprived thoughts while finishing a story: fanatics, first drafts, wiscon, etc.

1. I was just going to post this link: Cronan's Shit List. Then I thought I would include an example:
Fanatics of any variety: They come in many sizes, shapes, and colors, but one fact makes them all similar: they care about what you think only when you think what they think.
When I read that in my sleep-deprived state, I thought for an instant that "fanatics" was Cronan's coinage of "fans" plus "lunatics." I laughed, and then my brain kicked in. I remembered something about "fan" being derived from "fanatic", so I looked it up:
Etymology: Latin fanaticus inspired by a deity, frenzied, from fanum temple
That made me think of anti-racists busily denouncing everyone for being racists, which made me think all politics is religion, which made me google "god of politics." One site says Odin has the title; another offers Apollo. In either case, the god of politics is a sky god and a jerk.

Whether there's a god of fanatics, I don't know. Eris should be a contender.

2. I've been sleep-deprived since Friday because I've been in full avoidance mode over a short story that only today has a decent beginning, middle, and end. I hate writing first drafts. Based on how often I see this quoted on the web, the wisest thing I have ever written is "It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all."

It's the observation that I most often need to be reminded of. I hate writing badly, but that's just the nature of first drafts.

3. I'm prouder of another bit that gets quoted now and then: "There are no scientific tests for race... blood is blood, and bone is bone. Race is a con game. Don't play."

It does annoy me that given the current state of genetic science, people may be able to test for whether someone had light or dark skin. But even if someone comes up with a scientific test for something that could be called race, the rest of that statement stays true.

4. WisCon 34 GOH Speech - Mary Anne Mohanraj is well worth reading. I like Mary Anne, so I feel a little guilty for quibbling with one bit, but I'm a quibbler from way, way back, so:

She says, "In the SF/F community in the past few years, there have been a series of incidents around social justice -- feminist issues, race issues, more. I think more are coming. I expect that along with RaceFail, we're going to see TransFail, AgeismFail, DisabilityFail. And that's scary, but it's also good. We're at a critical moment, a shifting of the social norms, and we are the ones defining what the new norms will be, what is and is not okay in our community."

She does not mention ClassFail. Indeed, the word "class" does not appear in her speech. Class has been called the last taboo; maybe the field will have to work through all those other Fails before it's ready to tackle class.

Like Mary Anne, when I was in my thirties, I focused on race and gender. Class was always among my concerns—I hate stories about the restoration of princes or plutocrats—but writing about class is hard. The stock sign of success, becoming rich, is a tragedy in a story about class: it means the characters have joined the oppressors and exploiters, even if they become nicer exploiters than the ones they opposed.

Well. I suspect I'll be thinking about this for the rest of my life. I hope I do it more coherently next time. G'night!


  1. Of course there's a goddess of fanatics! Two of 'em:

    Juvenal uses fanaticus in Satire 4 with reference to Bellona and in the 2nd (along with Livy) with regards to the priests of Cybele. The word is actually pretty rare - Perseus should only 18 instances, mostly in Livy and those mostly refer to the galli.

    Bellona was a peculiarly Roman goddess of war. The sister (or wife or daughter) of Mars, her temple is where the senate would convene to meet with persons who could not enter the city, e.g. commanders still holding imperium. Her priests, in a Spring festival, would dance and stab themselves in the arms and shoulders with knives.

    The galli, priests of Cybele, as is well known, would castrate themselves (presumably only once) in an ecstatic celebration on March 24th. Roman citizens were prohibited from joining this cult until the time of Claudius.

    There is no classical deity of "politics" in the modern sense of the word(s). However... The personification Harmonia (which means just what it looks like it means) did something like that for the Athenians. She originally hung out with Aphrodite and the verb form of her name meant "to become engaged" and in the middle voice "to marry". By the 6th C BCE, she's mixed up with "eunomia" and pertains to stability in the polis.

    At Rome there were several temples of Concordia who personified orderly relations between the plebeian and patrician classes. The largest (set against the base of the Capitoline hill at the NW end of the Forum) wes built by Camillus in the mid-4th C. BCE and restored several times over the centuries. Ultimately Tiberius re-dedicated it to "Concordia Augusta".

  2. In re-reading that post you could say the classical definition of a fanatic is someone who:
    1) runs around in circles while
    2) gesticulating wildly and
    4) shouting nonsense and then
    4) falls down and hurts himself

  3. @william.colsher:

    I don't know if the two no. 4s was a typo or not. But I hope it was intentional, because it's perfect that way.