Handsome, Ruthless and Stupid

Some random thoughts:

Over at SF Signal, one of the commenters on the Mind Meld I participated in yesterday noted that most of the people giving examples were white men, and most of the examples they gave were the works of white men. Putting aside the fact that we don’t know how many women or other ethnicities were invited to participate and perhaps did not respond, I always find these kinds of examinations interesting. In the same way, I sometimes notice halfway through a movie that every single character in the film is white, or black, and from that moment on I’m more obsessed by the monochrome nature of the film than anything else.

Personally I don’t think I’m a sexist, but perhaps I am and don’t realize it. We all think we’re wonderful people, when in fact most of us are complete kneebiters. But that’s beside the point.

The question was to give an example of SF/F worldbuilding that I thought was genius, and I used Pohl’s Heechee books as my choice. I could have used Julian May’s Pliocene/Milieu books as my example; it’s just that as I scanned my bookshelf I happened to notice Pohl’s books first and thought damn, Pohl’s worldbuilding was fantastic and I fired off my response. If I’d glanced at a different shelf, I might have added one more woman to the list.

This makes me think about women writers I would give a limb to be in the same writing class as. Aside from May, there are plenty of female writers from various genres who have rocked my socks off, and continue to do so – like Barbara Tuchman, Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith (perhaps my favorite non SF/F writer currently), or Dorothy Sayers. Of course, anyone who reads should be able to produce a lengthy list of authors of various genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religious affiliations, without trying too hard. If you can’t, you’re probably just not reading enough.

I’ve been trying to learn how to play guitar and speak French. For several years now. I don’t learn easy. Part of this is a stubborn determination to regard human interaction as undesirable, meaning I disdain teachers and tutors and try to do these things by myself, with fairly predictable results. A year ago The Duchess, my suffering wife, bought me some guitar lessons at a local place and marched me over there so she wouldn’t have to listen to my self-invented “chords” and I have to admit I like the teacher and have made astounding progress. I’m no Clapton or Van Halen, but at least I can play something identifiable as a “song”. And I now know what a Power Chord is! and why everyone lurves power chords.

French: Not so much. I’ve been striving to learn merely to speak broken, pidgen French using various audio recording-typ lessons, and while I think I might be able to painfully mumble something a generous and helpful Parisian might be able to understand, I don’t feel very masterful. We’ll see how it goes.

Aside from all that, revisions on The Eternal Prison continue apace, with some surprisingly hefty changes. This happens to me a lot; a minor suggestion or criticism inspires a lot of writing, because I suddenly see how things could be oh so much better, and I’m off to the races. I like what I’m doing, ripping and tearing things apart and pasting them back together. Hopefully my editor will, too.


  1. janet reid

    Vous êtes un auteur stupéfiant peu importe quelle langue.

  2. jsomers (Post author)

    Aw…shucks, J, thanks! I think. The only thing worse than my spoken French is my ability to translate it. Especially when wordpress mangles it like that.


  3. Mat L

    First i have to say thanks for the awesome books. Just finished the digital plague after a few days of reading it ( it seems when i read a book i can’t just put it down) and its fantastic. Its great to see an SF book where the characters actually bleed, swear, and actually are human.

    Second, your not gonna learn too much french by tapes, and reading books. It helps, but honestly you can’t grasp a whole language that way ( i sort of know since im french, and im trying to teach my girlfriend french).

    It is best to try and take some lessons ( yes it sucks, but try to find some french canadian to teach you and it will be alot better… France french will just warp your mind. I promiss you.). Then sort of try to immerse your self in some french media ( TV, and radio works). I find this is the fastest way to learn.

    Well, hope work on the book is going great, and can’t wait to read it. It will give me a great excuse to not do my homework.

  4. Algaidaman

    HAHAHA you made me remember my guitar of 12 years. I never make time for lessons, yet can’t bring myself to get rid of it either.

    On another note, jsomers “The Kneebiters” sounds intriguing . . .

  5. jsomers (Post author)


    Thanks for the advice–glad you enjoyed the books! I’m too lazy for lessons and immersion, and really, all I’m trying for is the ability to say “Help me! I need a hospital immediately!” or “You call this swill whiskey?” and be understood, even if the natives are making fun of me behind my back the whole time.


  6. jsomers (Post author)


    That was me for years as well. I got my first guitar about 15 years ago and not only didn’t take lessons, but didn’t even do any reading of any kind. I literally would strum it until something sounded cool and then strum THAT endlessly. Who knows, I may have invented chords only now being discovered by the rest of the world. I might have been an atonal king of composition! Now the world will never know.


  7. Rebecca Porter

    There’s this excellent Canadian movie called Bon Cop, Bad Cop. It’s a mix of English and French Quebecois. Plus it’s hilarious. As far as I know though, it was only a hit in Quebec. It’s also got a great explanation of swearing, the French cop is trying to explain it to the bilingual one while kidnapping a man by putting him in the trunk of his car.

  8. jsomers (Post author)


    Thanks–I’ll have to check that out. Maybe it’ll sharpen up my pidgen French a bit, stop me from squinting in perplexity all the time.

    Bon jour!


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