45 degrees off

Seeing the same thing from a different angle.

Monthly Archives: June 2012

Fan Fiction, Literary Elitism, and Fifty Shades of Grey

I made the comment on Twitter that I wonder what it says about me that I know people who are feeling shocked and getting hot and bothered over reading Fifty Shades of Grey, but I just didn’t see anything that exciting when I looked through it in the store recently. My Twitter feed has been full of talk about it since. Most of that has ranged from “I hated it” to “I wouldn’t even both reading it”.

One of the biggest reasons I’ve seen cited for being opposed to the very existence of Fifty Shades of Grey is that it started out as Twilight fan fiction. There are two camps of  This Is Bad… the FanFic Is Bad camp, and the Twilight Is Bad camp. I can’t put myself in either camp.

I read all the books in the Twilight series and enjoyed them. I read them at a time when my medical condition was making it increasingly difficult for me to read at all. As a child, my reading and comprehension was on the college level while I was still in elementary school. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to find books both on my reading level and with age appropriate content. Even as an adult, I just had to accept that books were something I would easily devour and not have to think very much about. Right up until I became ill, anyway. That made my brain take a sudden leap from being able to read a novel with half my attention on something else and still get the whole story (including remembering dialogue) all the way down to wondering why I couldn’t read the book. Why I just couldn’t make sense of all the words when I knew for a fact that I knew what each of them meant.

Twilight isn’t great literature. It was what I needed at the time, though. There are plenty of people who have never climbed above that level of reading, and they are often intimidated by books targeted at them because, whether they should be able to easily comphrehend those books or not, the reality is that they can’t. So they don’t read. Because they don’t read, they don’t get better at reading. Pat the Bunny is no Chronicles of Narnia, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say it never should have been published. There’s a group of children it is appropriate for.

I didn’t get preachy anti-sex lessons out of Twilight, but I often don’t get the lessons other people do from things. I almost always see the opposite of whatever people are outraged about in Disney movies, and I think everyone’s missed the biggest lesson in the story of the birth of Jesus… Don’t travel so close to your due date. Honestly, I just accepted that these are fictional problems that may arise when humans and vampires try to mate. I never read it as Edward being a symbol for any kind of real boyfriend/partner. I read it as a human and a vampire. Buffy and Angel had strange relationship problems, too, but I never thought Joss Whedon was trying to preach to me through them.

Fan fiction. That’s a big one. Lots of people hate fan fiction. I’m not a big fan of it, myself. (No pun intended.) Now, I flipped through and read a few pages here, a few pages there of Fifty Shades of Grey. (Yes, I was going for the naughty bits.) I cannot comment on how much it may or may not still resemble Twilight fan fiction without reading the whole thing. I wouldn’t judge it based on the fact that it started as fan fiction, though. Not if it’s been rewritten enough to be its own story since then.

I don’t like having to sort through a lot of badly written fanfiction to find the good stuff, and I don’t care for the drama I hear about in fan fiction communities. I read good stuff when it’s recommended to me. (There was one some years back in which John Constantine ends up in the Harry Potter universe and becomes the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. It was very true to the spirits of the originals. If you’re familiar with both, let that sink in for a moment.) I don’t have a problem with the existence of fan fiction, though.  Mercedes Lackey explains the benefits of fan fiction much better than I ever could.

I enjoy roleplaying my characters when I play roleplaying games, and that’s a form of fan fiction. And I’ve enjoyed reading Peter David’s Star Trek: TNG novels. Especially the ones about Q! And, as Mercedes Lackey points out…

Well just as an example, go have a look at all the Star Trek, Star Wars, and game-based books there are out there. If you reduce things to principles, most of those are fanfiction—fanfiction commissioned by and given the blessing of the publisher, and produced by professionals, yes, but still fanfiction.

You don’t have to enjoy fan fiction, or the Twilight books, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist. I think they have their place. It may not be a place that’s relevent in your life, and that’s fine. I can’t help, though, but think it’s an elitist attitude when I see and hear people say certain books should have never been written or published.

I’ve been known to argue that I don’t think certain works should have been done in a certain way, especially when it comes to adaptations in another medium. Even that depends on just how much was changed and why. I do not believe that anyone really can make an adequate movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, but I’m able to enjoy the movie for what it is. The movie version of Starship Troopers, though? The actual approach to making the movie was so dismissive of Heinlein’s novel that I just don’t think it was fair to use his work at all. I think it would have been better to build something else on top of the basic idea and then say in interviews, “We drew some inspiration from guys like Heinlein when we wrote this story.” I do not actually fault the director for not wanting to finish the novel or thinking it was depressing, nor for wanting to take his movie in a a different direction because he couldn’t muster up enough “give a damn” for the book. I only fault him for passing the movie off as an adaptation of the book instead of really going his own way with it.

So what is my problem with Fifty Shades of Grey ? I don’t have a problem with it. The situation is exactly what I said it was… I’m kind of confused about myself when I compare my reaction to it to the reactions of other people I know. People I don’t think of as having poor reading skills, or being particularly naive about sex and relationships. Certainly not overly-religious, sheltered people. Admittedly, I don’t think any of them are part of the BDSM lifestyle, but neither am I. I’ve had friends who are, though, and so I’m not completely ignorant of it just because I’m not experienced with it.

A book has me taking a look at myself, wondering about my place among other people… about how and why we’re different and whether or not that has any significant bearing on how I relate to those people. (And I didn’t even really read the book!) I’m not arguing that it’s great literature, but isn’t this what books are supposed to do?


Broken Tools

Very often, my hands hurt.

Not just a little stiffness or ache that a little rest and hand massage will fix. No, this is a pain deep inside my hands. Or maybe on the surface. Perhaps both. That’s the trouble… it reaches a point where I can’t tell you exactly where it hurts, just that it does and I want it to stop! It’s a warm pain in the joints, like if you go for an MRI and they tell you the contrast may cause a warm sensation. That warm feeling can feel like a wave passing over and through you. I get a very similar warmth just lingering in my painful joints of my hands. That’s not even counting the feeling of hot needles stabbing at the joints.

None of that helps me get my work done. And there has been some trouble with doctors. Back and forth with general practitioners and specialists… a lot of boring, frustrating details. The good news is that some progress is being made! The bad news is that’s only been true for one day. Not much progress gets made in one day.

My hands are my tools. It’s likely my tools are broken. We’re looking at arthritis, but the question is which type. It’ll take some time to find that out, and possibly to get me to another doctor if it’s not a type my current doctor can treat. And even treatment can take some time to work. But I’m not ready to throw my broken tools out, or say I can’t do the job with them anymore.

I may work slower. On days that I can work, I may choose not to draw or crochet at all. There’s a life to be lived that is my source of inspiration for my creations! I don’t want to get so focused on the bucket I carry that I forget to go back to the well where I fill it.

I’m in the middle of crocheting things for Craftypodes, the Etsy shop my husband and I have opened together. (You can find Craftypodes on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.)

I have mushrooms to finish painting.

I’ve added some work to Positive Space. The above picture is one of the Kindle cases I’ve added. You can find more of those at Everyday Myth, including my Alice in Wonderland-inspired work.

The Kindle cases make me think of drawing on book covers.

There’s also a section in Positive Space now for products with the art from my black and white floral fabric There’s a part of me that really wants to take one of the notebooks and color the cover with markers.

I have not forgotten that I have a request to fill for some new gift tag designs this year, but one of the people who requested that has also requested a crocheted gift for her birthday and I need to fill that request first. Whether I can get around to everything else I want to do or not, requests from my sister’s children make me very happy!

Maybe my tools aren’t really broken, but they are worn down to the point where I need to be careful with them until they can be repaired. If only hands could be replaced like pencils and yarn! I know there’s something of value for me to carry out of this experience. I just haven’t found it yet. It may be something I don’t realize until years down the road when I say, “Remember when my hands hurt so much for a while…”

Enjoy what’s available now. I promise there will be more. I just can’t promise when.


Craftypodes Knitting and Crochet

I’ve written a couple of times before about my crochet projects, and if you follow me on Twitter you may have seen me mention “yarn mangling” before. I often get requests from people who are more than willing to pay if I’ll squeeze some time in to crochet for them. I’ve politely declined these requests except in a couple of cases. My mind has been set on the idea that I don’t have time to add crochet to my work.

The problem with that line of reasoning is that I’ve already been spending plenty of time crocheting! I make things for the joy of making them and then wonder what I should do with them. Obviously, I do have time for this!

Add to that my husband finding his own creative niche in knitting. Being a disabled Marine has taken a lot away from him and been a physically and mentally painful adjustment. I’m glad he’s found something he enjoys doing that we can share an interest in without stepping on each other’s toes. (He doesn’t really understand crochet, nor am I a knitter. We can share the general yarn crafting interest, but we don’t try to manage each other’s projects.) This is a situation just asking for us to start an Etsy shop, isn’t it?

So that’s what we did!

As of the end of last week, Craftypodes is open! We’re both working to get more into the shop, but it’s exciting to be able to make the announcement.

Why “Craftypodes”? This is a story for word geeks. I favor “octopodes” as the plural of “octopus”. (I did not make that up, I promise.) I also favor “platypodes” as a plural for “platypus”.  My husband, being a bit amused by the terms, has embraced them and it’s become something of a joke in our house. Things often get the “-podes” ending to pluralize them here at home when it makes the word fun to say. When every store name we could think up was already taken, we resorted to trying Craftypodes as a plural for “crafty people”.

The desperate silly name was, of course, the one that was not taken.