‘All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’
So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written. ~Ernest Hemingway, ‘A Moveable Feast’
Category Archives: Books
For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they were born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives’ tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read, and the God they believed in. It is all these things that have made them what they are and these are things that you can’t come to know by hearsay, you can only know them if you have lived them. You can only know them if you are them. ~W.Somerset Maugham, ‘The Razor’s Edge’
Loyalty, book adaptations. How far do you support something based on it’s origins, rather than it’s own merits? Ideally I think most of us would say that we wouldn’t do that, we either like something or we don’t–not because of any prior bias. For myself, I can admit that I do give weight to that bias and it makes me feel guilty, twofold: If I’m giving the project more leeway than I normally would because of the story it was adapted from, that’s not a fair judgement. By the same token, if I don’t like it as much as I feel that I should, that somehow feels disloyal to the original story. Sometimes the differences between “original” and “adapted” bother me, while other times they don’t. I guess it depends on whether I think they’ve improved upon the original story or even branched off far enough that it’s become it’s own unique telling. What has me in this particular frame of mind currently is the Starz television drama Outlander.
As I’ve stated previously in former posts, I’m a long-time fan of the Outlander novels. Yet, I’ve struggled with my impressions of the television version. Character portrayals, plot changes, and even minor historical or logistical differences have stood out to me like a sore thumb. I want to over look them, just go with the flow and enjoy seeing my beloved story on screen…but I can’t. It’s not that I hate the show, I would probably really enjoy it if I had no prior Outlander knowledge; I hate being one of those “in the book” people but in this case I am. I think it’s time to own that for myself.
There were many “in the book” people who didn’t like The Hobbit movies. I could understand their complaints but I had no problem enjoying the movies on their own merit…sort of. I really liked the first movie, An Unexpected Journey. And it was through my love of that movie that I became enamored with one of it’s leading men, Richard Armitage. The second movie in the trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, had a different tone to it than the first but I liked it well enough. By the third and final film, The Battle of the Five Armies, I was left questioning how deep my bias might actually be. Looking back, I’m thinking that it was my investment in certain characters that pulled me along, instead of an overall affinity for the films themselves. The second series of the Star Wars films can fit into this category as well. The original three were, and still are, a nostalgic part of my childhood. The last three were only watched for Ewan McGregor–and by the third film, even he could hardly get me through it.
I always carry some kind of bias with me in regards to book and film series, tending to see them as a whole instead of their individual parts. I can’t help but have positive (or negative) slants regarding actors, directors, screenwriters, etc. before I even view a film for the first time; it’s unavoidable, really. Sometimes that bias helps and sometimes it hinders but most of the time I can see the forest for the trees. On the occasions that I can’t though, do I keep trying in hopes that some switch will suddenly be flipped, or just bow out while I’m ahead?
I’ve pretty much bowed out with the continuing book series of Outlander, for instance (I adore volumes 1-4 but I gave up after number 6) but I think it’s easier to let go of a book series than a television one, for some reason. It’s so easy to binge watch things these days, which can be an entirely different experience than hanging on week to week. I’m a big fan of the television series Lost but was not an original watcher. I binge watched the series during the summer before the final season aired, and fell in love with it. Waiting week to week during that last season though was torture! Considering how different some of the seasons were from each other, and how many of the storylines never came to fruition, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it if I had watched in real time.
I think I’ve hung on this long with the Starz version of Outlander out of obligation: so many of my family and friends know my love for the story and look to me for opinions about it. so much so that I think some of them were surprised that I didn’t visit the real life sites when I went to Scotland last summer. I won’t say the characters and situations didn’t cross my mind on my travels but Scotland isn’t Jamie Fraser to me. I guess the question is: how much of Outlander-Starz, is?
Once Upon a Time the Twilight fan-fiction community was my happy place. Countless big name fics were updating weekly. Internet sites dedicated to Twi fanfic regularly reviewed stories, interviewed authors, held contests, and promoted charity drives. Lively discussions about the stories took place on forums, blogs, and Facebook pages. The community had it’s fair share of drama, don’t get me wrong, but there was an order to things- a balance. And the world kept spinning on, the way it was supposed to.
Every once in awhile someone would come along and try to spoil my happy place by calling out the main fan-fiction hosting site on it’s Terms of Service regarding explicit adult content, causing some of my favorite stories to be yanked from the site. The authors would counteract this by creating their own blogs for the beloved stories and fans would flock there to read them, while waiting for the drama to die down on the main fanfic site and the rules to lax once again. The order and balance of things altered to accommodate- and the world kept spinning on.
There were so many stories to read, that Index sites started popping up to keep track of them all. Review blogs kept up to date on what was happening with the popular fics and their authors, and alternate fanfic hosting sites were created to better meet the needs of the Twilight community; bypassing the content guidelines issues- balance was restored and it was good.
I was a Twilight fanfic devotee, living and breathing the many forms of Edward Cullen. He was one fictional person but many at the same time. He became my ideal and I loved him. I was learning so much about myself from reading the stories he took part in. The pop culture aspects were fun, the social and economic aspects were informative, the psychological aspects were vastly interesting, the intellectual and literary aspects were beneficial, and the sexual aspects were enlightening-especially for a shy yet strong willed “good girl” like me.
Soon a new story started to get a lot of buzz within the community. It was a BDSM fic called “Master of the Universe” (aka Fifty Shades of Grey). I steered clear of it at first because although I had read some BDSM themed stories previously, they weren’t really my thing. Fellow readers assured me that this story didn’t follow the classic “collared submissive” storyline, not really; it was more of a love story. Well, okay. I guess I can give it a go. I found rather quickly that I did indeed like the story. It was more about Edward’s (Christian) tortured past and whether or not love could save him. The Bella (Ana) character was curious about the taboo lifestyle but it was him that she was drawn to, him that she couldn’t resist. How far was she willing to go to win him-how much of herself was she willing to sacrifice to keep him? I was firmly on board and waited impatiently for weekly updates, along with everyone else. But towards the end of the story, suddenly previous chapters started disappearing and the window of time to read current chapters before they were no longer available, was getting smaller and smaller. Oh here we go with the Pull to Publish bullshit again!
Something that had been happening more and more within the fandom at that time was that authors of popular stories were trying to get published out there in the “real world”. At first it was a minor issue that didn’t really touch many but the authors themselves; going through the process of endless edits and revisions just to get a publisher to consider you was time consuming and not something that warranted removing the fic from public view until you were much further along in the process. But then Independent publishing companies, some with ties to the Twi fanfic community, started to appear. Now a fanfic author could get their story into print, with real pages in a book format or downloadable in E-Book form, with much more ease. Several of the older stories started disappearing because even though the authors had to revise and edit for copyright reasons, the stories were still similar enough to the original Twilight that the fanfics had to be removed from public view. What a bummer! On one hand, I was happy for the authors in their achievement, but on the other hand my happy place was getting smaller because of it.
So when Master of the Universe seemed to be on it’s way to a similar fate, it should have just been bunched in with all of the other authors who were doing the same thing; but this time was a little different. This time there was very little revising and editing involved-with no traditional editor to answer to only proper names were switched out, some descriptive adjectives added and a few minor scenarios tweaked. The story itself was a good one but the writing could have benefited from an editor’s expertise. This didn’t matter all that much in it’s amateur fanfic form because the purpose of the fan-fiction world is to provide a safe haven of sorts, an atmosphere of learning and growing, in order to perfect one’s writing voice. But in this case, when a traditional publisher did come along they chose to keep the story in it’s rough form. This added an integrity angle to the ever growing issues surrounding the story’s journey into the real world. And an ethical one as well: because the storyline, no matter how far removed from vampires and werewolves, clearly still followed the plot path of Twilight. Fans started splitting down the middle- those who were loyal to the author and her story and thus willing to follow it where ever it ended up, and those who were loyal to the community and the spirit of what fanfic was supposed to be grounded in.
The Twilight community was dealing with it’s own issues and incidents of drama at the time, so if you happened to be involved in both communities, the burden was becoming a little too heavy to bear. One “Big Name” fanfic author had had enough, all the way around, and wanted out. This author chose to set the record straight on some things, go out in a blaze of glory, before she bowed out for good- and one of those things was sharing who she knew the writer of the Master of the Universe story, aka E.L.James, to really be. Her claims painted Ms. James as someone who didn’t care about the fanfic community where “Fifty” was born, didn’t understand how or why it worked, and had never been all that interested in trying to adapt-someone who had dreams of making it big and was using the fanfic community to get her there. The Big Name author chose to release private conversations between herself and E.L. to illustrate her claims. A shitty thing to do, some might say, but what those conversations showed was the last straw for many in the community. Where had my happy place gone? Was it all about money and fame now? Had it always been and I just didn’t realize it? The readers were sick of getting yo-yo-ed around and a big portion of them threw in the towel. The blogs dedicated to reviewing fanfic were focusing more and more on the flourishing YA genre in traditional publishing instead; it was safer and more readily available. The Index sites couldn’t keep up with the ever changing information that the Pull to Publish trend created: tracking down story locations, knowing which stories you were allowed to feature and which ones you weren’t, what the published stories and authors were now named, etc. etc. And a new normal, a new balance, was struggling to be found. It wasn’t my happy place anymore, and so I left.
I still read Twilight fanfiction from time to time. I enjoy my fanfic Edward too much to give him up completely! but I read completed stories only now, ones that fly under the radar and don’t have huge followings. I play it safe.
So when Fifty Shades of Grey took the world by storm, I struggled to keep my bitterness at bay. I did still love “Fifty”, even if he’d changed his name to Christian. It was odd seeing so many go ga-ga over him years after I did, to have them implore me to read the book and then watch them fidget as they try to explain it to me while skimming over the fact that it’s actually Erotica…I think a lot of people genuinely didn’t know that it was racy in content, until they read it. The word of mouth and promotion campaigns that I had seen conveniently left the Kink label out- ah, the world of marketing! I moved on to another fandom and my PDF copy of Master of the Universe got shoved into a folder and collected dust. Then “Fifty” signed on to become a movie star, accumulating new drama all his own- the politics of respecting women, misrepresentation of BDSM communities, the popularity of “Mommy Porn” and whether it should be shamed or celebrated, not to mention the general drama that happens behind the scenes on any movie set. But underneath it all, he was still Fifty-the one that had been the topic of many a discussion between my fanfic friends and I as we quoted him, photoshopped him, shared inside jokes about him; it was the same Fifty.
In the end, I’ve had to let all that past history go. Did I really care about all the baggage that went with it anymore? Nah, not really. It was what it was in a time that has since passed for me, in a fandom I’m no longer involved in. The fanfic community didn’t fall apart because E.L.James decided to try and make a name for herself. Just like the Twilight community didn’t fold because “real life” Bella made some not-so-wise choices. Both communities were in the process of dismantling long before those incidents happened. I needed someone to blame though, so E.L.James stepped into that role for me. I’m over it now. It’s not so important to me how she got where she is. I’m finally willing to let the bitterness go and enjoy seeing Fifty have his moment a second time around, on a much larger scale this time. Do I want to see the movie? Hell yeah, that’s my Fifty up there on screen! And better yet, he now looks like Jamie Dornan- win/win!
So why hasn’t my bum been in one of those theater seats yet? Because “good girls” don’t watch skin flicks in public, they do it in the privacy of their own homes when no one is looking. Because just like the story was in it’s fanfic form, it’s dirty and it’s wrong, and it’s “fifty shades of fucked up”…which is what makes it all the more thrilling!
I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold out for the dvd, the anticipation is strong. So I might see it in the theater eventually-preferably alone and sitting towards the back. In the dark…
I checked out a book from the library last week, yet all I’ve read of it so far is the book jacket. When my mother saw the book resting on my coffee-table, she asked me what it was like. I took my cue from Geraldine (The Vicar of Dibley) and casually peeked at the back cover to read the reviews…
The worst part is that it’s from a book series that I absolutely adore! (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander saga) This book is from an off-shoot series concerning a secondary character (Lord John Grey) but this particular book (The Scottish Prisoner) is about one of the main characters from the overall saga (Jamie Fraser) as part of a flash-back to an earlier time.
I’ve avoided even opening the book for several reasons:
a.) it takes place during a time when Jamie was in a very dark place (in prison, separated from his wife, who thinks he’s dead) so I’m sure there will be many turmoil filled inner thoughts, troubling my beloved hero.
b.) I had planned to read the main series from the beginning again, right before I impulsively checked out the book at the library. Now it will throw me off if I read this book, out of order, before doing that. (it takes place somewhere around book number three.)
c.) The newest book in the saga (number eight) is due to be released in March. I have yet to finish reading the most recent book, in it’s entirety, because I know from teasers that the ending is angst filled and I’m dreading it!
d.) I’ve just recently gotten over an addiction to fan-fiction *blushes* I really enjoy fan-fiction for many reasons, but I fell into the bad habit of skimming and skipping ahead for that instant gratification fix. It’s very easy to do when reading on a computer, instead of a real book with pages.
the devil is in the details, but the heart of the story is as well. I’ve been doing much better with the fan-fiction from the new fandom I am in, it contains more cannon based story-lines instead of the AU (alternate universe) that trapped me in a fluffy erotic fueled box.
I have read books over the past year, but either I’ve sped through them just so I could say I read a “real” book or I dilly-dally around (like I’m currently doing with “The Master & Margarita“) trying to avoid getting that instant gratification fix that I still crave from time to time: I will not peek at the last chapter! I will not look at the last page!
So, should I just take the Outlander book back to the library, unread, and go forward with my original plans of rereading the saga from the beginning? Should I force myself to buckle down and give “The Master & Margarita” the time and attention that it deserves? Maybe I should read them both simultaneously, for variety’s sake?
I’m still looking at the book from the library, as I speak. It’s a nice, thick, hardback book that I just enjoy holding in my hands. it’s so pretty! and the protective cover was put on so nicely. ( I volunteered at a small library years ago, and always enjoyed putting the clear protective coverings on the dust jackets) I’m also feeling the urge to just open the book and smell the pages…