Halflings Don't Ride Quarterhorses

22 January 2002

Dr. Bill worked wonders on my back, and my back worked wonders on my mood. I'm doing much better now. It also helps that I finished all of the early revisions on Reprogramming yesterday, so now I just have to add on to the end. I find it much easier to add things on than to rewrite things that are already there, so this feels like the downhill pull, even if it's still going to take me awhile.

I'm the rejection queen this week. Tossing rejection in all directions. I had waaaaay too many maybes for this anthology, considering that the reading period isn't even over yet, so I had to reject stories I really liked. Sigh. Also, hotmail was griping at me about how many files I had (or, more accurately, the total space taken by those files), so I had even more incentive. Sigh. I've been thinking about the theory of table of contents. I know I want to mix up lengths. I know that if stories have similar settings or characters or what have you, they should go far from each other. And I'd like to mix up reprints and new stories. Other than that, I don't really know how to do this part. I can't do it with my current data, but I'd like to know how I'm going to do it when the time comes.

In honor of my better mood, I think most of this is going to be about people I like. I like Scott! You're all shocked, I know, particularly Scott, but no, really, I do. And the reason this comes up is...drumroll...he got tickets! Yay! They're at human hours of the day, even, and he's coming to visit at the end of February really and for true. He has vacation days! He has tickets! All he has to do now is pack and get on the plane! Wheeee! We are going to have so much fun.

Well, that's the big one, actually. I like Mike McShane, though, and he was on a new "Whose Line" last night, so I was happy and no longer hated TV. Mike McShane improvisationally rocks my world. (It was one of the British ones on Comedy Central -- I'll watch the American ones, but Clive Anderson makes Drew Carey look like...Drew Carey. Hmm. Maybe it's Drew Carey who does that, actually. I think it's a bad sign when you are your own insult, though.)

And I like Kate Wilhelm! I was reading the new F&SF, and I remembered yet again: oh yes, this woman has talent. And uses it. Amazing. The next time someone starts in on how their favorite New Wave author is so underrated, I believe I'll listen and nod and then say, "Kate Wilhelm." If the person doesn't get it, I will listen some more, and then say, "Kate Wilhelm Kate Wilhelm Kate Wilhelm!" If necessary, I will devise a Kate Wilhelm dance, which I will do around whatever room we're in, or around the general area if we're outdoors. Don't think I won't do it.

Also, I like Harriet Vane. Hmm. Maybe I should limit this love fest to people who actually exist or existed at one time. All right, then, I like Dorothy Sayers. I'm reading Gaudy Night just now, and it is very, very, very, very good. Yes.

One thing about these books is that they're drilling into my head a new understanding of the British class system, at least as it existed in the period in question. I knew, for example, that Lord Peter as a lord and the brother of a duke would enjoy rather high status. I knew that his manservant Bunter would also enjoy high status among servants. I knew that the country vicar they encountered in The Nine Tailors was certainly of lower status than Lord Peter, and that his servants would be of lower status than Bunter. What I didn't realize is that the ladders don't overlap. There are People Who Keep Servants and People Who Are Servants, and if you are in the latter category, you associate with those who are in the latter category and not with those in the former. It was a shock to me when they went to the vicar's house and Bunter was sent off to the kitchen for the cook and housemaid to make him comfortable, rather than hanging out with Lord Peter and the vicar and the vicar's wife. And I had what I'm sure was a very American response: "Oh, who are you to be so snotty with a guy who's probably better educated than you are, makes more money, is certainly a more interesting character...?" And the answer was, he was part of the class of people who keep servants. That was how he was supposed to behave.

It's coming up again in Gaudy Night more explicitly, with the scouts at Oxford and the bits of class snobbery between the scouts and the dons. (I had to look up "scouts," by the way, but the dictionary was no more helpful than the context was.) At one point one of the dons comments that some of the scouts (servants) are better educated than some of the dons, and I put the book down and said, "Whaaaat? Then why are they scrubbing your blackboards while you write books?"

I knew all of this stuff, intellectually. But coming upon it in the fabric of a story is something entirely different.

Last week, I think it was, there was some discussion on Utopia With Cheese about whether it was okay to change Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for American audiences. We got into a discussion of whether or not Britishisms should be used in American books, and someone said she didn't want to be jolted out of the story when a boy was given a jumper for Christmas. Well, I think there's a certain amount of jolt necessary when you're reading a story set in a truly different culture -- which Britain has, they're not just us with funny accents -- and the jumpers don't cover the half of it. If a book set in Britain reads just like a book set in America, you've probably done it wrong.

(What I didn't notice at the time is that there's nothing particularly British or American about a Philosopher's Stone. It was just a word change, not a change in colloquialism. All of the arguments against "Philosopher" could have been made in Britain, too.)

One of the drawbacks of having some books Americanized and some not is that when I come upon a girl wearing a jumper in Gaudy Night, I don't know whether she's got a sweater on, or a dress that requires a shirt underneath. I can't tell you what the convention is unless I run across a man wearing a jumper or someone else wearing a sweater.

All right. Well, I'm trying to stay hydrated to warn off the sore throat stuff lurking around me, and I'm trying to stay rested up to minimize the effects of a bad period. And I'm trying to do computer things at intervals, so as not to undo Dr. Bill's work. I made a really good risotto last night, and I think I have my recipe for it finally figured out to my satisfaction. I'm going to throw a potpie in with the remaining chicken before I get in the shower and read more slush and write more of the new ending to Reprogramming. I love dinners that cook all day and make the whole house smell good.

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