Mysteries of the Past

Our office closed early yesterday, and I spent the afternoon going through a box of my sister's old stuff – the stamp collection she had as a teenager, and a bunch of old postcards she'd collected for some reason. My brother-in-law had given them to me to put with the yard sale stuff, since none of us had any particular interest in stamp collecting. I though we might have a better chance of selling them on eBay, so I sorted them out and took some pictures and put them up. I don't think there's anything spectacular in either lot, but maybe someone will buy them anyway.

With the stamp collection, there were a lot of random old envelopes she'd saved, apparently with the intention of taking the stamps off some day. Some of the envelopes still had letters in them. Most of them were short, unimportant notes from my elderly paternal aunts, detailing their aches and pains and listing whatever was growing in their gardens that week. (My father's family were all fantastic gardeners – I wish I'd inherited more of that.) One letter, though, was from the woman I'm named after.

Her name was Barbara Massie. She came from Scotland originally, and she was a nurse/midwife of some sort, and she owned a sewing machine. That's about all I know about her. What she was doing in Arizona in the 1950s I have no idea. She and my father had a fairly serious relationship, but at some point around 1958-59, she had to return to the UK to take care of her ailing mother. She left the sewing machine with Dad. Within a year or two, Dad met Mom, and in September of 1961, proposed VERY suddenly. There was a hasty Justice of the Peace wedding, and I was born seven months later – Mom insists I was 'premature,' but as I weighed over seven pounds and required no post-natal care to speak of, you can draw your own conclusions. Barbara (Original Version) was quite upset when informed of these developments, and unsurprisingly broke off her correspondence with my father.

Dad wanted to name me after Original Barbara, and Mom did not object, feeling, as she said, that it was as good a name as any. I'm not totally sure where my middle name came from, but I think it was the name of another of Dad's old girlfriends. (I get the distinct impression that though Mom came to appreciate us in time, back then she was not at all happy to have ended up a first-time mother at the age of forty.) When my brother and my sister came along later, they both got old family names, but when I look at our family tree, I'm the only Barbara as far as the eye can see. (Naturally, my sister didn't much care for her old family name, while I wished I'd been the one to get it.)

Anyway, I've always been curious about Original Barbara, who was important enough to my father that he wanted to name his firstborn after her. I suppose I harbored some hope that this would be a letter shedding some light on the assorted mysteries surrounding my entry into the world, but no – it was written in April of 1959, and aside from one cryptic reference to her having calmed down over something infuriating Dad had written in his last letter, this letter is all about how poorly her mother is doing, and how miserable she was to be back in cold, wet, dirty London.

Ah, well. Some things are meant to remain mysterious.

I've been pulling up random unfinished stories and writing a few sentences her and a few sentences there, an the theory that eventually enough sentences will accumulate and one of them will be finished. Today I did a fair bit on one inspired by my sudden realization that wait a minute, if Tara inherited her magic from her mother, how the heck did her father fool her OR Tara with the statement that Maclay women had a bit of demon in them, because Tara's mother wouldn't have been a Maclay. At least, for Tara's sake one hopes not. So obviously something else was going on there, and I've got the beginnings of a story where Tara goes back home for her father's funeral and ends up having to defuse a family curse or something. The main problem is, I'm not sure exactly what Tara's emotional arc needs to be, so I'm winging it and hoping something comes to mind.

Hm. I had initially set it after Tara and Willow break up (which is why Buffy is accompanying her rather than Willow) but maybe I need to set it before the break-up, and have that be the catalyst for the breakup? Or one of the catalysts, anyway. I'll have to think about that -- there are timeline issues that may make that impractical.

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Fic vs Meta

It occurred to me the other day that although I've written a lot of meta in my day, I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the times I've actually changed someone's mind about something via that route. Usually with meta, you're preaching to the choir. That's something I've known for a long time, to the point that on contentious subjects, I'd often append a disclaimer that I wasn't trying to convince anyone, just explaining what I thought and why I thought it. That seldom prevented people from trying their best to convince me I was wrong, wrong, wrong, of course. They convinced me to change my mind about as often as I convinced them.

On the other hand, I've lost count of the feedback I've gotten for fic over the years, saying some variation of "Usually I hate X, but your story sold me on it."

Maybe that's just because I'm better at writing fic than I am at writing meta. But I suspect that it's more likely because fiction engages us on an emotional level as well as an intellectual level, and that emotional level is where most of our decisions are made, sometimes before we even realize we've made them. Upon getting into a new canon, no one sits down, calmly and coolly considers all the possibilities, and says, "This couple is the healthiest, most progressive, and least problematic! Therefore they will be my OTP!" No, instead we see a pair of characters and our lizard brain screams "THEM!" And then our higher functions are stuck trying to justify our choice for the next ten years, while the Lizard Brain clutches them to its bosom and growls, "My preciousssss!"

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Eleven years ago...

I wrote an essay.

I am going to reprint it today, as a record of how far we've come, and how far we have to go.

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I was out in the back yard earlier unloading the solar dryer (read:taking sheets off the clothesline) and something fell out of the pine tree, cheeping and fluttering like mad. It was a baby wren, almost fully fledged. Bo was quite excited about it, but I ordered him off, picked it up, and put it back up on a branch. I could see its mother perched three or four branches up. It hopped around from branch to branch for a bit -- it could sort of fly horizontally, but it obviously hadn't managed up yet. It fell off again, occasioning more dog excitement, so I sent Bo inside and put it back in the tree again. It was still there when I took the clothes in, exchanging cheeps with Mom, so hopefully it'll figure things out.

Bo is agitating to go out. It's a quarter after seven and still 109 out. He's insane.

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Vague comics musings (no spoilers)

I've been reading a lot of the responses to Buffy Season 10 Issue 16. On the whole, Spuffy shippers seemed to like the issue, even if there have been some complaints reported about there being too much focus on Spike's insecurity.* I don't know if they're from Spuffy shippers who are annoyed that the relationship isn't moving more quickly, or from people who would be annoyed about any focus on Spike. But all in all, the reactions I've seen from the Spuffy side of the force have been favorable.

Reaction on the Bangel side has, understandably, been more mixed. You've got the people who are outraged that Spuffy is happening at all. You've got the people who are grudgingly resigned to it. Among the latter, there's another divide between those who think it's real, but Buffy is obviously just marking time until she can get back together with Angel, and those who think that Spike (wittingly or unwittingly) somehow magicked Buffy into falling for him via the wish-granting Vampyr book, and sooner or later that will be exposed.

What I find interesting is the attitude both camps have towards their ships. Spuffy shippers, especially those of us who've been around for awhile, tend to assume that the relationship won't last (if for no other reason than that this is a Joss Whedon production). Some of us are still stunned that it's happening at all. If our ship goes smash, well, it's not like it hasn't happened before. All we can do is enjoy it while it does last.

On the other hand, many of the Bangel posts I've seen on the subject express outrage and betrayal – B/A is sacrosanct, and how dare Dark Horse and/or Joss even hint that it might not be endgame for the characters? There's a lot of talk about "implicit promise" (a term taken from a Jennifer Crusie essay about the narrative conventions of genre romance novels and how they relate to audience expectations), the thrust of the argument being that Joss made an implicit promise in BtVS season 1 that Buffy and Angel would get a happy ending, and any deviation from that is bad writing and a betrayal of the audience. (To be fair, they've been saying this since Season 3; it's not a new thing.)

Honestly, I think that applying an essay about genre romance novels to BtVS is an exercise doomed to disappointment, because 1) BtVS is not a genre romance; it's a cross between gothic horror and coming-of-age which relies heavily on romance tropes, but which subverts them as often as not; and 2) The narrative conventions of serial media are completely different from those of self-contained novels.

Particularly now that BtVS is a comic, and no one need worry about actors getting older, there is no endgame. This is a prospect that does not thrill me, but the likely hood is that if Buffy the Comic continues, there will be an endless series of make-ups, break-ups, retcons, and reboots, in which every possible combination of characters will eventually get together, because that's just the way US comic series roll. In fact, eventually the time gap between the show, which is firmly rooted in the late 90s and early 2000s, and the comics, which take place in a nebulous and ever-shifting "now," will grow so great as to make it difficult to impossible to consider them part of the same canon. Indeed, I'd say that's on the verge of happening now.

In the meantime, I'm going to collect gifs of Spike and Buffy cuddling kittens in bed while the collecting is good.

*To which I'd say, while yes, Buffy has been very clear that she wants to be in a relationship with Spike, there's a large potential gap between what she wants and what he wants out of that relationship. I think Spike is very much aware of that. He's madly in love with her and wants a permanent, happily ever after relationship – or as close to permanent as a mortal and an immortal can manage. Buffy, on the other hand, values Spike greatly as a friend and finds him sexually attractive, but she's dodged the question of whether she's in love with him in a romantic sense. They've never talked about what happened in the Hellmouth – did she mean that ILY, or was it, as Spike said at the time, simply an expression of comfort and pity on her part?

On the other hand, Buffy's been open and frank on several post-Chosen occasions about the fact that she loves Angel in that romantic sense, and even after the Twilight mind-control wore off, she was referring to him as the man she loved and wanted to spend her life with. So I don't think it's wildly out of line for Spike to feel insecure, however irritating it may be.

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It's now that time of year, by which I mean that it's 116 in the shade with 3% humidity, and we're probably going to break a record for number of days in a row when the temperature is over 110. (That's around 45 for the rest of the world.) I'm trying to keep the plants watered so nothing dies on us, and feeling guilty about it because of the water shortage. The monsoon season should start in July, and that will break the worst of the heat, but send the humidity skyrocketing up to 40%. It'll be better for the plants but less bearable for the people.

Ma-San continues to be a problem. We discovered the other day that she'd stopped using the litterbox, and was going behind my chair in the living room. I can't entirely blame her, because Churro positively lies in wait for her and pounces her every time she leaves her hideyhole under the printer, but... argh. So we cleaned it up and I put a litter box behind the chair, where she can use it in peace, but we're serious considering trying to lure her back into the big cage for awhile. Gah. We just do not have room to keep her and Churro apart, and I don't think she's ever going to tolerate him. Mom was saying the other day that she would be all right with taking her to a shelter, but I don't want to do that unless it's absolutely the last resort. :(

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon updating the Barbverse timeline, which I've sadly neglected over the last few years. I got all the newer stories in, but I still need to check and see which of them have been uploaded to my website, upload them if they're not already there, re-order the series (which is an enormous pain) and then paste the story URLs into the timeline. And then go over all the text and update/add all the stuff that's changed since I worked on it last.

It's so weird to look at all these stories which, when I wrote them, were set in the far future, and think, "Whoa, that's this year."

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When This Old World Starts Getting Me Down
By Barb C

Characters/Pairing: Dawn/Gunn
Rating: PG13
Notes: Barbverse. Written for fenchurche for a fandom_aid prompt she gave me TEN MILLION YEARS AGO. Sorry for the delay, Fen, I suck.
Summary: There were a lot of things she and Charles didn't have in common, but at least she'd never had to go through the OK-so-vampires-are-real-no-I'm-not-crazy dance with him.

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A question

For those of you who have Tumblrs... I notice this thing in the LJ settings which says Tumblr Connect, and when you switch it on, it seems like it's for crossposting LJ entries to Tumblr. However, it doesn't actually seem to do anything. Is it a snare and a delusion, or is there something else you have to do?

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nothing to see here, move along


Dead Baby Dinosaurs Falling From the Sky

This is the time of year when baby birds get pushed out of the nest a lot. From a dog's point of view, this means the park has become an AWESOME DEAD BIRD BUFFET. If it's a dead adult bird, I can usually spot it and keep him away from it, but the babies can be hidden in the grass and half the time I don't realize what's happening until I see bird feet hanging out of the corner of his mouth.

Me: Drop it!

Bo: Are you nuts? If I drop it, you'll take it away! And it's not like you're even going to eat it yourself!

Me: Come on, it's gross! Drop it!

Bo: Mmmmm, carrion!

Work is still a madhouse. The more I thought about the manager position the more I didn't want to do it. So I talked to my boss's boss, and she confirmed (in the sort of circuitous, "I'm not actually saying this because that would be a breach of confidentiality" way) that they were already in negotiations with the person who'd been their second choice when the position was first created. (If it's who I'm betting it is, they are way more qualified than I am.) We talked about it, I went into my ambivalence about doing this right now, and said I probably wasn't going to apply this time. She said she liked that I was thinking about doing it at all, and we agreed on some stuff I could do now, and all in all it was a huge relief.

I realized that what I REALLY want to do is get into the universe building end of things, but without a technical background I doubt that's an option. Oh, well.

Been playing around with setting up a Tumblr for the Herald – still working on a format, since Tumblr dashboard has an irritating way of inserting breaks before and after images whether you want them or not. If we do decide to post there, I do not want to have to mess with separate templates for different sites.

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