Questionable Experiments

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

12:08 am - Pterosaur!fic: Tuppence a Bag

From st_aurafina:

Write a drabble (100 words exactly) based on your current default icon. no changing it! just write it as it comes; no beta-reading or mulling over. any fandom or no fandom at all. comment or link here

I fail the challenge completely, because this is closer to 500 words and I cannot claim not to have mulled, but considering how long it's been since I wrote anything but Wikipedia entries, I'm unrepentant.

Magneto in the Savage Land, early days of Ultimate X-Men, roughly as Charles/Erik slashy as the actual comics. Or, well, maybe not quite that slashy.

ETA: If you haven't read Ultimate, it shouldn't matter much; this should make sense if you've seen the movies and know that Ultimate!Charles and Erik ran away from their wives to build a mutant civilization in the Savage Land, which is a prehistoric land with dinosaurs and all that. (Yes, when Marvel decided to update the X-Men for a new, younger audience, the first thing they did was include their ripoff of Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World. Go figure.)

Read more...Collapse )

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

6:07 am - New light on the meaning of the verb "to kipple"

In 1907 Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall -- who hadn't taken the pen name "Radclyffe Hall" yet -- fell in love with a married lieder singer named Mabel Batten. Hall's biographer Sally Cline is explaining how well Hall got along with Mabel's husband when suddenly her rhetoric throws a shoe:
At seventy-six George was more than old enough to be Marguerite's father. In his jokey, paternalistic but patently affectionate attitude towards her, he often behaved like one. Sometimes he treated his wife's lover as his son-in-law. They discussed business and speculations, hunting and country matters.
That phrase. I don't think it means what you think it means. Don't bring the Shakespeare unless you know what you're doing.

And this is from after the first censorship trial of The Well of Loneliness, when they were getting ready for the appeal, and almost the whole literary world was prepared to defend Hall's right to publish, but Rudyard Kipling had agreed to testify for the prosecution. Hugh Walpole asked him why:
I asked him at luncheon whether he approved of censorship (apropos of this tiresome, stupid The Well of Loneliness). No, he doesn't approve of the book. Too much of the abnormal in all of us to play about with it. Hates opening up reserves. All the same he'd had friends once and again he'd done more for than for any woman. Luckily Ma Kipling doesn't hear this.
Historical RPS writers take note.

This quotespam is in honor of my Wikipedia article on The Well of Loneliness being finished -- where finished means "okay, sick of looking at this now, not working on it anymore." I had a great time writing it, though. The book seems to have been under a curse that required everyone involved to behave as ridiculously as possible. It was fun describing the idiocies on all sides in an encyclopedic deadpan, even though the heart of the story -- a few highly-placed homophobes using obscenity law to establish that you were not allowed to say anything good about love between women, but that writing about the "moral and physical degradation which indulgence in those vices must necessary involve" was still OK -- is about as funny as the Black Death. Writing dark humor about history isn't exactly a new thing for me, come to think of it.

ETA: forgot to mention that at jade_lightning's request, the Mystique/Destiny FST is available again for as long as the sendspace link lasts. (Original post here.)

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

7:43 pm - Fight the hegəmony

Someone posted this to the English Wikipedia mailing list today. It's the start of an argument on the discussion page for Elision:
Oh, I deliberately used my version of showing speech because I dispute the IPA's. I deny the existence of the schwa, I object to r/R sounds as being difthongs, I refute its status of r and R as consonants but as vowels, I object to its fictive prescription of whether whichever words are aspirated or unaspirated, I object to its using lone or blended glyfs for clusters as careless overlooking of the intention of the key as showing a one-to-one relationship between sound and glyf, and as no part of speech was given to the words in my list. Do you wish to obscure my work from accuracy?
Ah, Wikipedia. There's no better source of information, as long as the only thing you want to know about is the diversity of cranks.

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

8:09 pm - Idle braynes are the Diuell's playgrounde

I'm overhauling the Wikipedia article on minced oaths, for no better reason than that it needed it and I happened to have Geoffrey Hughes's Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths, and Profanity in English on my shelf. (I also rewrote a shockingly bad article on Fakelore, so I've got a whole "things that are ersatz" theme emerging here.) Doing some more research on the subject I came across this brilliant rant from 1550 about how the English just can't seem to "talke wythouten othes plentye":
And some sweare [by] his fleshe, his bloude, and hys fote; And some by hys guttes, hys lyfe, and herte rote; Some sweare by Gods nayles, hys herte, and his bodye; Some other woulde seme all sweryng to refrayne, And they invent idle othes, such is theyr idle brayne: By cocke and by pye, and by the goose wyng; By the crosse of the mouse fote, and by saynte Chyckyn. And some sweare by the Diuell, such is theyr blyndeness; Not knowyng that they call these thynges to wytnes, Of their consciences, in that they afirme or denye, So boeth sortes commit Most abominable blasphemie. (Furnivall 133,294) [ETA: switched two lines that I'm convinced the source transposed; it makes much more sense now.]
Ah yes, Saint Chicken. That's the one who miraculously ran around for forty days and nights after his head was cut off and taken to Canterbury, right?

Also, I recently found out that Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog will sell you a shirt that says:
Okaye, so sometymes it raineth in March: make notte a chancerye case of the whole mattere.

current mood: idle

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

3:27 pm - Well, then.

Apparently the Death Star blew up Tuesday. Congratulations, universe, although Darth Vader is still out there.

current mood: still more disbelieving than anything else

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

7:34 pm - The bones of humans, language, and the earth

I wish I'd found this *before* Halloween was over, but if you happen to have any holiday spirit still hanging around with the leftover candy, may I suggest Wikipedia's article on the Sedlec Ossuary? It's a chapel in the Czech Republic that was heaped up with big stacks of human bones until a woodcarver named František Rint got hired to put the place in order. "Order" is one word for it.

Wikipedia's list of unusual articles is a good place to lose a few hours that you don't have to lose. I'm fond of Arbre du Ténéré, an acacia in the Sahara that was the only living tree in 400 kilometers until it got hit by a drunken Libyan truck driver. Also Ferdinandea, a seamount that rose above the waves after a volcanic eruption in 1831 and was the subject of a four-way territorial dispute until it sank again the next year, then was mistaken for a Libyan submarine and bombed by the U.S. Air Force. (Take that, tree-killers!) And the Phantom time hypothesis, which holds that the years 614 through 911 A.D. are a myth.

One that's been on my watchlist for a while now is a linguistic curiosity, the sentence "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.‎" -- which carries a secondary risk of getting lost in the archives of the LINGUIST list. "Unlike American teenage postposed 'not', Australian postposed 'but' seems to form an intonational unit with the preceding material in the sentence." I love that sentence. Not just that it exists, but that it's a serious hypothesis.

I have an icon that combines skeletons and geekiness. Perfect.

Monday, October 16th, 2006

9:25 pm - My strained relationship with Wikipedia

It all started almost two years ago when I was writing What Is Kept and was trying to get Storm and Rogue to talk about sexual orientation without, you know, actually talking about it.* Being thorougly stuck, I started trying to figure out what Rogue might have picked up from her parents, which led me to realize that Mystique and Destiny's ideas are not only pre-Stonewall, they're pre-trial of 'The Well of Loneliness; you have to think Natalie Barney, Djuna Barnes, and so on. Which helped the story not at all, but did give me the idea of someday writing Mystique and Destiny Go To Paris in the 1920s. A few months ago I started doing some research in a desultory way, just to see if there was a story worth telling or not, but I got bitten by a large mutant plot bunny when I found out that Natalie Barney, as a teenager, was written up in a medical journal as an example of telepathy.

Early on, though, before I even knew who was going to be in the story, I made the mistake of doing some preliminary research on Wikipedia, and encountered the following Tale To Amaze:

She [Edna St. Vincent Millay] later went to Paris, where she met novelist Djuna Barnes, with whom she had a strained romantic relationship. Their liaison was marred by mutual jealousy, partly due to a literary rivalry, but mostly because Millay also had an affair with Barnes' long time partner, sculptress Thelma Ellen Wood. Millay allowed her involvement with both Barnes and Wood to come to light, spawning a terrible fight between the three lovers. Both Barnes and Wood ended their relationships with Millay and remained together, but later separated after feuding about another woman. Millay also was involved for some time with the photographer Berenice Abbott, and had a short affair with writer Natalie Barney.
There are a couple of actual facts in there -- shreds of truth stuck in the teeth of the beast that devoured them -- but nearly this entire passage is, in the quaint dialect of the Wikipedians, "nonverifiable" (a word analogous to our English "bullshit"). The more I read, the more I realized that all the Wikipedia articles I'd looked at were full of claims for which no reliable source exists -- much of it due to one anonymous user who had nothing better to do all May and June than bear false witness about the sex lives of every woman writer in Paris in the 1920s.

I mean, I'm not stupid, I knew Wikipedia wasn't *reliable* reliable, but I thought it would be as good as a random website you'd find through Google, maybe a little better since errors might eventually get corrected. I think that for the more popular articles that's even true, but nobody was paying attention to Djuna Barnes or Edna St. Vincent Millay. Those entries had gathered together every bit of stupidity you could find about their subjects on the Internet, like a top predator building up mercury in its tissues -- then added its own, purpose-built stupidities found nowhere else. I finally found the source of the idea that Djuna Barnes and Edna St. Vincent Millay had a "strained romantic relationship," linked from one of the Wikipedia articles where it had been repeated: a large, sloppy, but sometimes correct self-published gay history website that simply said they had a *strained relationship.* Reading comprehension for the win.

So I signed up for an account. And at first I was just going to fix obvious falsehoods and be the Edna St. Vincent Millay Nazi (No sex for you!) but, well. Then there were the language issues. Some of the entries I looked at used the word lesbian to modify *every possible noun.* Some included charming turns of phrase like "known lesbian Berenice Abbott." Natalie Barney's 55-year relationship with Romaine Brooks really shouldn't have been classed as an "affair." Djuna Barnes "won a reputation as both being openly lesbian and a heavy drinker"; I'm not sure what game that's a prize in. Her entry had a section with the highly encyclopedic title "Obsession, the Barnes/Wood Affair'; Thelma Wood's had "Barnes/Wood, passion and jealousy" as a subheading under "Sculpting career, volatile relationships." Colette's had the heading "Lesbianism, outlandish behavior." Nancy Cunard's, before I started doing meatball surgery on it, had a section called "Outlandish Behavior, Relationships," in which we were informed that "she also at this time took up alcohol, drugs, and communist fellow-travelling." All infuriating, and yet how seductive is it to see something wrong or offensive and be able to just change it? I love the edit tab. Cable news should have one, only then I'd never sleep.

I'll skip the rest of the steps; you can see where this is going. I'm now sort of on a quest to make these articles not suck, which for most of them means ground-up rewrites. Natalie Barney's entry is now more or less finished. I think. This kind of writing is surprisingly difficult, or maybe it just doesn't come naturally to me. And she's an easy subject in that her life is fascinating, but it's hard to know how to balance the article when her personal life is legendary-ish while her writings are mostly untranslated and forgotten. But I think it at least compares favorably to the old version (featuring the photo in which Natalie is sad because somebody has put whipped cream on her hat). The next step would be to try to get it through the "Featured Article" process, after which it might go on the front page for a day, which would mean (1) someone might actually read it, and (2) I would spend the entire day cleaning obscene vandalism off of it. I saw what happened to the (really quite good) entry on Dürer's Rhinoceros when *it* was on the front page.

Evidence would suggest that I'm now taking Wikipedia pretty seriously, though I should really know better. I mean, it's satisfying in a way. Anytime I have a few minutes I can clean up some vandalism (why is Picasso such a popular target?), unsnarl the confusing bibliography of a gay porn writer, or make sure the demon Rahab is properly cross-linked with Rahab the prostitute, and feel like I've done my part against entropy for the day. But I can't help thinking the whole thing's going to collapse under the sheer weight of human stupidity sooner or later. And if it doesn't, the articles I work on will just change beyond all recognition in the long run. But maybe fifty years from now someone will look up Djuna Barnes in the encyclopedia, and most of it will be about the interview with her those time travellers did ("get out of here, you freaks" said Djuna) and the movie of Nightwood that was a surprise hit in 2038, but somewhere, in the boring parts that no one pays attention to, there'll be something I wrote, one coelacanth sentence. That would be cool.

* A problem for the ages. Sometime around 1820 Anne Lister of Yorkshire engaged a neighbor in a decorous conversation about Latin literature, concluding in her ciphered diary "Miss Pickford has read the Sixth Satyr of Juvenal. She understands these matters well enough."

current mood: quixotic

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

7:33 am - DVD Commentary: "For the Kingdom of Heaven" (Part 2)

ETA: Okay, I think the formatting on both of these is fixed now.

Commentary Part 2Collapse )

7:31 am - DVD Commentary: "For the Kingdom of Heaven" (Part 1)

"Because you demanded it!", as Marvel covers used to say. I couldn't make this work without sticking long comments in the middle of paragraphs, so you'll definitely want to read the original story first, if you haven't already.

Kingdom of Heaven Commentary, Part 1Collapse )

Friday, August 11th, 2006

6:45 am - Look under the hood

I can't resist doing this meme whenever it comes around. Via artaxastra:

If you've ever watched your favorite dvds, and then found yourself eager to hear exactly what the actors, directors, writers and even production designers thought about making the episode, the movie, or whatever - you'll know sometimes the best parts of dvds are hearing the commentaries. Getting into an actor's feelings about the character they play, getting the background behind a writer's plans and metaphors, even just getting the stupid anecdotal stuff that makes you laugh, it's all good.

Ask me about any story, and I'll do a DVD commentary for it! Satisfy your curiosity!

current mood: tired

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

6:49 am - In case your day isn't surreal enough yet

"Total Eclipse of the Heart" as performed by insane buttcrack-showing Norwegians using kitchen appliances as instruments.

(Via Making Light.)

current mood: indescribable

4:13 am - The Ones God Blessed: A Mystique/Destiny FST

This is an attempt to sum up 80 years of love and partnership (give or take some Marvel time) in 14 songs and a few scanned comic-book panels. May contain inexplicable stylistic choices, personal fanon, and traces of crack.

zipfile (88mb):

Individual Tracks and Liner NotesCollapse )

I've decided not to flock this, so that more people can make fun of my musical taste download it, but I'll probably go back and flock it once the yousendit links expire. The liner notes are also in the zipfile and here.

current mood: geeky

Friday, July 14th, 2006

8:31 pm - Stamp tinhattery, past lives, and the Fantastic Menagerie Tarot

I only send physical mail about once every three months, and I couldn't remember whether the non-denominated bluebird stamps we had lying around were still current postage or not, so I googled "bluebird stamp." That led me to the Bluebird Postal Stamps page, which explains:
According to the U.S. Postal Service, This colorful Love stamp, called "True Blue" depicts two birds perched on a branch sharing a devoted gaze. The space between them forms a heart. The design is by illustrator Craig Frazier. It's not clear whether the birds are supposed to be stylized bluebirds. If so, they would both be female, as only adult females have a white eye ring.
Illustratorial ignorance, or sekrit gay Love stamp slipped past the Powers That Be? I report, you decide.

Past lives quiz meme, via ArtaxastraCollapse )

My Fantastic Menagerie Tarot came in the mail yesterday, and I've wasted far too much time flipping through the cards and admiring them. It's a Tarot based on animal illustrations by J. J. Grandville, whose work looks a lot like Tenniel. I have no real use for a Tarot deck, but I love the art, and the way the illustrations are matched up to cards fascinates me.

Two scans behind the cutCollapse )

current mood: unproductive

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

9:52 pm - fic: We Never Close (X-Men Comicverse/Futurama, Mystique/Destiny, Mystique/Leela)

Summary: Fry and Leela deliver a package. That isn’t all Mystique receives.

Rating: PG.

Pairings: Mystique/Destiny, Mystique/Leela.

Author’s Note: Takes place during S1 of Futurama, and in the far future of the X-Men Comicverse. Title from Elvis Costello, “Watching the Detectives.”

~1400 wordsCollapse )

current mood: cheerful

5:13 pm - Spam and Futurama

Spam subject in my inbox, from "Gay Walls":
Your health, mutation stop
The cure would be spamvertised.

News that is making me happy: Futurama is coming back! Comedy Central ordered 13 new episodes, which will air sometime in 2008. My celebratory X-Men/Futurama crossover should be ready to post soon.

current mood: amused

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

5:51 am - fic: Betrayals and Resurrections (X3 Five Things, gen, ensemble)

Summary: Five things that didn’t happen at the end of X3.

Rating: PG.

Author’s Note: All hail Basingstoke, only begetter of the Five Things genre. The section titles are all lines from Dylan Thomas.

~2000 wordsCollapse )

current mood: sleepy

Monday, June 12th, 2006

10:30 pm - X3 factchecking

I seem to be writing "five things that didn't happen at the end of X3" instead of the genderfuck Mystique/Destiny story I'm stuck on. (It's always so much easier to write the story I'm *not* writing.) Anyone willing to help me with a couple of small points of X3 canon that I can't seem to remember?

Are we still doing spoiler cuts for X3? Eh, I guess.Collapse )

Friday, June 9th, 2006

4:53 pm - You don't need a condom to fanwank

viciouswishes asked about use of condoms in fanfic. It's an interesting question, but I was just randomly amused by the reasons for not using condoms that came up in comments. Not so much the mundane reasons, like "monogamous for the last 17 years" or "gay men living before 1981," which cover most Charles/Erik fiction -- I'm interested in those special, science-fictional reasons why condoms are unnecessary. How many of these do we have, anyway?

Medical advances. In the future, science will eliminate all risks of sex except burning yourself on your partner's jet pack exhaust.

Magic. Waving your wand and pronouncing the word "prophylaxis" gives reliable protection from both pregnancy and STDs. Only Muggle-born wizards know what this word means.

Healing factor. I think we're all agreed that Logan can have all the unprotected gay sex he wants to. Het is another story -- self-repairing, functionally immortal sperm could wait *years* for you to go off the Pill.

Vampirism. There is no scientific basis for the myth that vampires or mosquitoes can transmit HIV. Vampire semen cannot fertilize an egg unless invited.

Interspecies sex. Charles and Lilandra have nothing to worry about except bird flu.

Sex with plants. Getting Swamp Thing excited is not recommended if you're prone to hay fever; otherwise, no problem.

Sex with robots. Just clean them well afterward. (Does not apply if you are the Scarlet Witch.)

Luck. Sex with Longshot should be safe unless having a child would be lucky for him in some way, in which case the condom would have broken anyhow. See also Teela Brown.

Precognition. Every few years since Destiny's death, Mystique finds a list of names and future dates taped to a box of condoms in the back of a closet, or delivered by FedEx from a nonexistent address in Myanmar. She consults these lists religiously. Everything else is safe.

That can't be all. What am I missing?

current mood: amused

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

5:54 pm - Fanfic drag revue

Via penknife, the regender filter meme: running stories through a filter that swaps male and female names and pronouns. It's an interesting and sometimes disorienting exercise.

Charlene, Erika, camp!Rogue, and "For the Queendom of Heaven"Collapse )

current mood: thoughtful

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

9:13 am - Flashfic: Foresight (post-X3, Mystique/Destiny)

Summary: The cavalry comes for Raven.

Rating: PG.

Disclaimer: If these characters belonged to me, Brett Ratner wouldn’t be allowed within 100 yards of them.

Author’s note: I could have written up my reaction to X3 as a review, but I’d just be repeating things penknife and vagabondsal and a dozen others on my friendslist have already said. So instead I wrote flashfic expressing my deep need to comfort one particular character and feed her cookies. The comfort is a little doubtful and the cookies were lost in the mail, but I did manage to bring the femslash. God, I’m predictable.

~1100 wordsCollapse )

current mood: tired