2014-08-19 09:52 pm

Meanwhile, think of me fondly

Made it to my parents' fine. Wi-fi has disappeared though, and I won't be very contactable unless I can find it (because it's way easier to keep track of fb, blogs, comments, IMs and e-mails on my phone than my parents' computer...especially because they have a rubbish new Windows 8 one that makes no sense to me at all).
2014-08-18 08:32 pm

I know I should. But I don't.

Along with the new pants I really did need, today I bought a new nightshirt I really didn't need (except it's sufficiently body-covering that it'll be useful to have at my parents') just because I liked that it says "Today I don't want to do anything."
2014-08-18 01:45 am
Entry tags:

I'm just lucky i guess

Apparently, having read my last blog post, Andrew was jealous and wanted to join in the best way he could, which was to accidentally hit my hand just as I was drinking water out of a glass held in that hand.

I'm fine, but I might start drinking with straws more.
2014-08-17 11:13 pm

Sweet Home Andover

So yesterday people are turning up for the wedding feast/party and milling about with drinks and such (I have now tried Pimms! it just tasted like cucumbers...) and I find myself close enough to where [personal profile] magister is standing that I hear my name so wander a bit closer and find him laughing at something someone-I-can't-remember-who-it-was said. She explains to me that she was just telling him "we'll have to get you married off", so I hide my startled open mouth behind my hand, but can't keep from giggling, and the more I think about it the funnier it gets and it takes a while for me to stop laughing.

We hadn't really thought about how this poly thing might complicate things. I only got told once that I'm probably called Janice (close enough...) and that I live in Brighouse, but people seemed to have the rough idea that we lived together and have been together possibly longer than we have. James rightly didn't want to scandalize or confuse his relatives on a day that was supposed to be about his sister, and it wasn't really a problem, but that 'we'll have to get you married off" line is still making me giggle for so many reasons.

This is the second wedding I've been to since my own and the first one I enjoyed. Probably not being invited to The Actual Wedding helped. But also enough time has passed now I think that my own doesn't make me so sad any more (I'm happy I'm married, but everything about my wedding was miserable and I hated it). I was a little wistful hearing the father-of-the-bride speech, but I realized this is more because I couldn't imagine my dad doing anything like that. I'm mostly content with the alternatives that choice and circumstance have led me to, but sometimes I I do get a twinge of longing for convention.

Then we raised our glasses in a toast to the bride and James jogged my elbow just as my glass touched my lips, sprinkling cider (we were using a lovely dry fizzy cider for champagne) all down me and, worse, making me laugh which caused more ripples in my drink that sloshed onto my borrowed posh clothes and up my nose. Yes it would be nice to do everything "right" but that's never gonna be me, and at least I was laughing.

The food was amazing. My hopes were not high when I found out it was a hog roast, but everything else was vegetarian, and there wasn't a thing I didn't devour --lentils and beetroot, new potatoes with chili flakes, green beans with some very light orangey dressing, butternut squash with a bunch of lovely stuff I don't remember (everything was really well labeled but I couldn't see the labels so James read stuff out for me and I basically forgot everything immediately after I was told), including some kind of actual nuts. And gorgeous moussaka! If aubergines were always like that, I wouldn't have to work so hard at trying to like them (I taught myself to like mushrooms cos they're in so much veggie food and that worked so well I'm now trying courgette and aubergine, with less success so far). I basically ended up eating two platefuls because James gave me his and went back for more moussaka.

Oh and our table won the quiz, much to my astonishment (not least because James, who set it, was told by his mother to fix it so someone (I can't remember who but I think it might have been the person who called me Janice) won because he'd put a lot of effort into it). We might have been at something of an advantage what with the bridesmaids being at our table so they could answer all the "how did the lovely couple meet?" kind of questions. I wasn't even paying attention because, never having even met them before, I knew I'd be useless. But my ears pricked up at the first line of Pride and Prejudice and then there was a question about Jane Eyre and the bridesmaids (and, I think, partner of one of the best mans) were dead impressed with me for knowing these things. They said if we won it'd be down to me, and indeed no one else wanted to take the wine and chocolates home so I've got them.

I had a nice drunken conversation with the Australian bridesmaid, who seems to live some kind of complicated bi-hemispherical lifestyle, about how hard, but also nice, it is to have two places you belong. James's sister said at breakfast this morning that I'd apparently made a good impression on her, which really surprised me because it turns out losing my inhibitions only makes me talk a lot of depressing garbage these days (well, it still makes me want to kiss girls too, so there's hope for me yet), so it's nice if baffling to hear that I wasn't too off-putting anyway.

I needed a brilliant weekend, to get me through the week now ahead of me. I'm glad I got it.
2014-08-13 09:07 am
Entry tags:

What we do in the world without Robin Williams

As late as yesterday morning I was thinking how nice it was, in a way, that so many people felt able to talk about depression and suicidality and mental illness generally. Even only a few years ago, I don't think it'd have happened like that: there was more awkwardness and discomfort in people's reactions to suicide and they seemed keener to change the subject.

Now people are criticizing tabloids for not following the Samaritans' guidelines on how to responsibly talk about suicide and while I haven't seen or heard anybody saying suicide is cowardly or selfish I have seen many swift and thorough smackdowns of those ideas in response to such things being said elsewhere. Now a lot of people are talking about their own experiences of mental illness. It doesn't seem to be associated with a campaign or an organized effort on anybody's part; something about the state our culture's gotten to and perhaps the particularity of Robin Williams -- who was popular for so long to so many different kinds of people, including a lot of film roles that were important to people at young impressionable ages (like Aladdin or Hook...or, if you're me, Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poet's Society, because I was a weird child) -- has made for this organic outpouring of grief for his particular tragedy and rage at the misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental illness.

I'm glad of that, even as I've found it hard to see all these things and to think all these thoughts and see the effects it had on the people I'm closest to.

Not helped by the fact that I had a terrible mental-health day yesterday, for unrelated reasons -- I cocked something up and induced possibly the worst panic attack I've yet had, one whose effects lingered for hours afterward and I'm not sure aren't still ongoing (if only because I have zero reserves of energy or self-care right now). So it was a really hard day all round, really, and I'm struggling to find reasons to be cheerful even now.

But I did want to share this link, from trusty Captain Awkward, about how to reach out to people with depression. It's the most cheering -- not to mention helpful and useful -- of the many, many things I read yesterday.
I think one thing you can do to help your friends who are depressed is to reach out to them not in the spirit of helping, but in the spirit of liking them and wanting their company. “I’m here to help if you ever need me” is good to know, but hard to act on, especially when you’re in a dark place. Specific, ongoing, pleasure-based invitations are much easier to absorb. “I’m here. Let’s go to the movies. Or stay in and order takeout and watch some dumb TV.” “I’m having a party, it would be really great if you could come for a little while.” Ask them for help with things you know they are good at and like doing, so there is reciprocity and a way for them to contribute. “Will you come over Sunday and help me clear my closet of unfashionable and unflattering items? I trust your eye.” “Will you read this story I wrote and help me fix the dialogue?” “Want to make dinner together? You chop, I’ll assemble.” “I am going glasses shopping and I need another set of eyes.” Remind yourself why you like this person, and in the process, remind them that they are likable and worth your time and interest.

Talk to the parts of the person that aren’t being eaten by the depression. Make it as easy as possible to make and keep plans, if you have the emotional resources to be the initiator and to meet your friends a little more than halfway. If the person turns down a bunch of invitations in a row because (presumably) they don’t have the energy to be social, respect their autonomy by giving it a month or two and then try again. Keep the invitations simple; “Any chance we could have breakfast Saturday?” > “ARE YOU AVOIDING ME BECAUSE YOU’RE DEPRESSED OR BECAUSE YOU HATE ME I AM ONLY TRYING TO HELP YOU.” “I miss you and I want to see you” > “I’m worried about you.” A depressed person is going to have a shame spiral about how their shame is making them avoid you and how that’s giving them more shame, which is making them avoid you no matter what you do. No need for you to call attention to it. Just keep asking. “I want to see you” “Let’s do this thing.” “If you are feeling low, I understand, and I don’t want to impose on you, but I miss your face. Please come have coffee with me.” “Apology accepted. ApologIES accepted. So. Gelato and Outlander?”
if nothing else, it sounds like a lot more fun than Being There to Help.
2014-08-11 11:57 pm
Entry tags:

Five good things from today

I have had a rubbish day, mental-health wise. Also a sinus headache.

So I'm in extra need of reminding myself of nice things.

1. I braved my inbox, applied for jobs, and caught up on a bit of Plus work. I did all these things half-assedly, and they all need a lot more work, but half an ass is better than no ass, right?

2. People were really nice when I said on Facebook that I'd done these things. All I could can think about is how much there is left to do, but some of the best people I know told me very firmly that what I had done was enough for right now. I'm still working on believing them.

3. I'm very glad I have such good people in my life. I'm particularly grateful when I cannot believe myself that I have (what I used to call in college) justified the clean underwear I put on today.

4. I basically had a mint chocolate milkshake for my dinner. It seemed to help my sinus headache, as an added bonus to how tasty it was.

5. Cosmos is on Netflix! The new, Neil deGrasse Tyson one that I've heard so much about from North American chums for ages now, all good. And so far it seems to be maybe the first thing I've ever seen that I can really appreciate the high-definition of: until now I could honestly say that in anything I've seen, the HD may as well not be there for all the use it is to me. I shall resist the temptation to stay up all night watching this. Honest. I can go to bed any time I want.
2014-08-08 02:52 pm
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Did I say this already? I think I might've

Ever since I first got here British people have been telling me that they love to talk about the weather. This has always mystified me -- maybe because of the people I know? -- because compared to what I'm used to no one talks about the weather at all. I remember hearing forecasts on the Today programme that go "Rain in the northwest, otherwise nice." That's it!

Whereas my dad still talks about isobars because a local TV weatherman used to go on about them. My grandpa got irate at me once for not being able to answer to his satisfaction the "what's the weather like in England now?" question when I was visiting; I still remember him demanding "but what's the temperature?" like he was Jeremy Paxman, because I didn't have a number ready for himself. My dad has a rain gauge that measures down to hundredths of an inch, so it's not at all unusual for him to tell me "yeah, we only got seven hundredths." After talking to a few friends and relatives, a good Minnesotan will be able to give you a comprehensive picture of the wider weather situation, comparing rainfall or snow accumulation or temperature/windchill/heat index differences thanks to their equally precise family and neighbors.

Maybe it'd be different if I hung out with farmers here too, but as things are the only place in British life I now encounter sufficiently-detailed weather reports is during rain delays on Test Match Special. It's quite sweet and soothing to hear the details of the direction the storm is moving, the appearance and growth of water puddles, the wind and the color of the sky.
2014-08-07 11:51 am

Timing

This sounds so "me" to me that I wish I'd been clever enough to think of it and strong enough to write it. But I'm neither, so I'm glad someone else has done it.

I wish I'd written it not because I'd like to be a skilled and clever writer (though I would!) but because I don't know how to convey to people how I'm doing otherwise. I worry I'm talking too much about my mom's situation and then get asked by someone I met at BiCon if they'll see me if they come to Manchester over the bank holiday weekend. No, because I won't be here. I'll be cooking bland meals for my mom and watching boring TV with her. I will not be kissing you.*

I would probably think it ironic or frustrating that after ages of being quietly fine with the prospect of being flirted with and it never happening, now a couple of people have tried to do it at the one time when I'm too distracted, too anxious about everything, to see it as anything other than a problem to be solved as quickly as possible. It's hard to override my usual eagerness to please but easier than usual because I really do have no energy, I'm not even doing fantastically well at maintaining the relationships I do have -- I can't reply to e-mails or blog posts reliably, Andrew hasn't seen enough of me, I've been neglecting volunteer work... -- so it's a no-brainer that I can't encourage anyone right now. I'd feel dishonest if I did.

So I'm honest with the new person and with the person from way back who's picked today to text me, and they're both lovely actually, saying they care about me and they're here for me. Fine, but they have to be there for a while without me doing anything interesting. ‎‎Because even the long-term weather forecast is weird and intense. 


* Thinking about kissing when I'm at my parents just makes me go sad and weird (I could do another version of this article for when I'm at my parents', which wouldn't be about my mom's recovery but would fit the same structure and style but be about all the times the non-heteronormative non-monogamous world infringes on my mind in the way that filial worry and sadness does now: "...in the third Hallmark-channel movie Holly watched with her mom since the last time she thought about the last woman she kissed. Oh. No. Not any more, gotta reset that counter now").‎
2014-08-04 08:07 pm
Entry tags:

Fat Femme Clothes Swap

The third best thing about the Fat Femme Clothes Swap at BiCon was that when Jacq called something "a Doctor Who coat" and I thought it was because it was black with a flash of red lining I could see as it was unfolded...but it turned out to be my own pinstripe Joe Brown coat, the one [livejournal.com profile] doctorstewie told me when first he saw me in it looked like what a female Doctor would wear; I'm delighted that this idea had been developed independently.

The second best thing was, of course, that I came away with some nice clothes: a couple of dresses and an orange skirt (which clashes with everything I own but I like wearing it so much I don't are).

The best thing, though, was that it was a big pile of clothes for fat people. It felt so luxurious, to have such abundance. I'm so used to having practically no options. A lot of us are used to having to buy clothes online so not getting to try things on like we were all doing here -- indeed a lot of the clothes brought to swap were things whose sizes weren't what the internet led us to believe they'd be. Also, the phrase "that's too big on you" was quite often said, and that's not something I'm used to at all. A lot of clothes and clothes stores can make me believe I'm at the absolute tip of the bell curve, and that this is why I "deserve" so few options in what I can wear. Of course I know this is bollocks, but the actual experience of hearing and saying these words was oddly powerful. And even more so was the fact that, since the conference room we were in had no mirrors, we were left with what other people told us about how the clothes looked on us.

And there was so much positivity flying around that room. So much "That really suits you!" and "that's a good color/cut/etc on you" and just lots of "ooh!"s. But it wasn't all pollyanna-ish; there was as I said plenty of "that's too big" or "these trousers need someone taller" or whatever too; the substantial amounts of niceness did not get in the way of gentle, constructive honesty.

And as always when you know that people won't lie in a (misguided, in my case!) attempt at flattery, it does make the actual nice comments all the better. Once, I put on a dress and suddenly everyone was looking at me and grinning and saying nice things and it was actually kind of overwhelming (admittedly I am easily overwhelmed these days...). It was really nice. They were people who don't know me hugely well if at all and had no reason to be so positive if they weren't really feeling it, so there was nothing there for my confidence-killing Jerkbrain to work with. I just soaked up the nice comments and made sure to keep the dress.
2014-07-30 10:45 pm

And he can make cornbread! A sham match made in heaven!

My chili is apparently good enough that tonight I've had my second "if you needed to marry somebody so you could stay in the country, I'd marry you" offer, which made me smile.

I am of course happily married and don't need to be married to stay here any more (or indeed to make chili for someone!), but that's hardly the point.
2014-07-27 08:43 pm
Entry tags:

The inaugural meeting of the Gazebo Space Agency

Oh look, we're at it again.

(Except he said now Mars has that system of satellites? So that's sorted!)

Today we were working on our moonbase. Which featured conversational exchanges like "The Moon's eight light-seconds away, so we can Skype it because TCP/IP will work" and "We'd only need about, what, a hundred meters of extension cord? I've got a fifty meter one in the house."

Which might well be the one [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours just lent me along with his hedge trimmer. Because until we get to worry about protecting the solar panels from micrometeorites and the benefits of orbiting vs. flyby unmanned missions, I have to tackle the overgrown hedge in front of our house.
2014-07-25 09:02 am

Another nice thing

I got a card from [personal profile] magister's parents with sympathy and good thoughts for my mom. It really surprised me (though not James, who thought he knew what it was before I'd gotten it out of the envelope) and I found it really touching.

This is exactly what I grew up with (jokes about whisky-acquisition are a more recent development in "how to be nice to someone who has bad news"): you buy a nice card probably with some pastel watercolors on it and you write a sentence in it and sign your name (and that of your husband, yes, this is not a perfect system, just my native one).

Also, I've only met his parents twice and I am the first example of poly not just as something their son's put up with from his girlfriend for the last few years but as something he's interested and involved in himself. I want them to approve of that even more than of me, because that'll be good for James in ways more far-reaching than those which directly affect me. And they have certainly been nothing but welcoming and kind to me. I really enjoyed the Easter weekend James and I spent at their house.

But his parents and I don't otherwise talk -- as evidenced from the fact that the card was sent to his house and had only my first name on it -- and it hadn't occurred to me that James would've told his parents about my mom, though of course it seemed perfectly obvious that he would once I gave it a second's thought. So it was an unexpected kind of loveliness, and a reaffirmation not just of the network of love I feel privileged to be surrounded with, but also of how important the kindness of other families is to me at the times when I feel furthest away from my own.
2014-07-20 09:54 pm

Because we need a little more positivity around here

Here's a list that's all about people being nice to me.

1. [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours has a present for me. I don't know what it is yet (the one advantage of my ridiculous headache is that it means I told him to come round tomorrow rather than tonight) so I get to enjoy the anticipation for now.

2. [personal profile] trinker tells me I am easy to love at a time when I am feeling especially weird and intense and difficult (of course she's not the only one; Andrew and James have been very reassuring too, but it's nice to hear this from less expected quarters too!). I seem to have a knack for making hyper-vigilant people feel at ease and I'm especially glad to be comforting to people who find it difficult to feel comfortable around people.

3,4. ‎plok's always good for happy things. Here are two in a row, from an e-mail he sent me.
When [a friend of his] had something she wanted to talk to me about, that she could only talk about elliptically, it's because YOU wasted time on ‎educating me about queerness that I was able to be intelligently ‎supportive. So:

THANK YOU, HOLLY.

Once again, you have been really really great. How in God's name do you manage it, week in week out, year after year? With all your own headaches and troubles? You astonish me. Look at your friends, and how ‎good they are: who the *fuck* draws that many good and smart and generous people to themselves. I mean it just isn't natural. I was going to send you an email a couple of weeks ago asking you to which Doctor you'd prefer to be a Companion...but it's clear that this was me taking it completely the wrong way around.

*You'd* make an excellent Doctor. So which Doctor would you like to be?

...clearly Troughton, that's the Holly one? I mean, the *most* Holly one, in advance of a one *more* Holly-like? Ha, maybe Peter Capaldi will be the most Holly one...‎
I told Andrew and [personal profile] magister and they agreed that I am the most like Patrick Troughton (so far!), which delights me.

5. My dad got me a present too. The All-Star Game was last week at Target Field. Apparently there was a big thunderstorm just before the Home Run Derby and when Minnesota Twin Bryan Dozier came up to hit there was suddenly a big rainbow over the ballpark and the Minneapolis newspaper was selling prints of this for ten bucks. My dad thought I'd like one and so it'll be waiting for me when I'm next there. He said the photo was taken from about where we were sitting the time we saw a game at Target Field, so you can see out over the skyline, and yes that is a great view but mostly hearing this just makes me happy I've been there with Dad.
2014-07-20 09:46 pm

You might be from Minnesota when...

Your mom apologizes for telling you she has cancer when you just lost your job. Both of you feel worse for making each other feel bad.

Your dad talks about golf at first. When he mentions the cancer thing, it's only to talk about supplemental insurance and time off work and how my mom is getting to Rochester for her appointments. To some people this might seem cold and callous but it's actually the most reassuring part of the conversation to me.
2014-07-19 10:53 am
Entry tags:

Friday night and Saturday morning

Come on, body. Not being able to eat without getting sick is not going to help with this.

I made the same post on facebook that I did here last night, only there you can't turn off comments so I just asked people not to leave them. And then I left one myself, to illustrate that while I hadn't stopped crying yet I was at least getting to the point of making stupid jokes.
To diffuse tension I said something about how nice it'd be if I had some whisky.

Andrew, of course, immediately offered to go buy me some but I said the off licence was unlikely to have the kind that I like. This might be some of the saddest and scariest news of my life, but that's no reason to drink whisky I don't like!

I did think, though, that Dave's probably got some in his house, and the idea of just turning up at his house with my hysterical tear-stained face demanding his whisky is a ludicrous enough one that I actually laughed.

"I'd be happy to go there with you," Andrew said, all supportive-like.

"Don't be silly, I said: "I wouldn't make you go there with me. I'd make you go instead of me!"
So now there are 60 comments, all about whisky, increasingly-silly plans to get me whisky, and other things my friends think will help -- and, it being my friends, these things are generous, sweet, and rude, sometimes all at once.

A lot of people were very nice to me yesterday evening, and I appreciate it. Comments and fb chats made me giggle a lot and cry in gratitude and sheer overwhelm at the friends I have and how kind and perfect they are. I feel so, so lucky. Another one of those "you are at the center of a network of love" moments (that's something Andrew told me after Chris died, and it's stuck in my head ever since because it seemed so apt).

Today I've had work to do! None of my million contacts know I'm no longer working there of course so I keep getting phone calls about the kind of stuff I would know if this were a normal week. But since technically I am still employed and because I still think a lot of the work being done I don't want to just hang up or otherwise be unhelpful to well-meaning people I've been talking to at random intervals for more than a year.

Bloody surreal, now, and sad. I miss that fucking job so much. I don't know how I can get one anything like it, because I don't know how I can distill out what made it good into something I can look for.

Andrew, in his blokey fix-the-problem mode, looked up a bunch of stuff last night and said my mom probably doesn't have colon cancer and anyway that kidney and colon are two of the easiest kinds to fix. I just worry because if it's moved from one place to two places it's also likely to have moved to others too, or be about to. But I know someone will be along to tell me I shouldn't worry about what I don't know yet. I'm trying. But it's really difficult.
2014-07-18 12:32 am
Entry tags:

Why polyamory is bullshit:

You get less cheese on toast.

When I got in from being at the pub with [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours and J, [personal profile] magister told me he was going to have some cereal and go to bed because he has to get up early tomorrow. "You haven't had anything to eat, have you?" he said.

I shook my head. I still wasn't that hungry, even after three pints which is usually enough to leave me drunk and ravenous. "Not yet, but it's okay," I said, and went to follow him into the kitchen. "I'll make some cheese on toast, or something."

"Ooh!" he said. He actually stopped in his tracks, so I sleepily/tipsily bumped into him as my trajectory carried me kitchenwards.

I snorted. "Do you want cheese on toast now?"

"Is it that obvious?"

"Yes."

I think this was the point where Andrew shouted from the living room "I want cheese on toast!" as if the idea had never occurred to him and his life was made complete by the existence of cheese on toast.

I sighed and fetched the grill pan. But we only had four slices of bread left, so I made them one each and had the other two myself, on account of this and a veggie wrap being the only things I'd eaten today. And it being me who could be bothered to make the cheese on toast.
2014-07-14 10:53 pm
Entry tags:

The ghosts all want to be in things

There is something so plausible about the "stone tape" theory it makes for very effective horror. You hardly have to suspend your disbelief at all to get swept up in the premise -- and thus the heartbreaking and horrid conclusions it would lead you to if this was really how the world worked.

It's deliciously compelling. This theory (which also goes by the less poetic name of "residual haunting") is used by real-life parapsychologists now -- I just saw the stone tape theory mentioned in the book I'm reading, Richard Wiseman's Paranormality, yesterday. On the DVD commentary for The Stone Tape, its writer Nigel Kneale says that during the filming he made a "stone tape" to trick the director -- just took a regular tape apart and replaced the magnetic tape with a sliver of stone, but apparently it really unnerved the director who seemed to think it was something sinister rather than just the joke Kneale had intended.

And who can blame him. As Kneale's co-commentator Kim Newman (who now that I think of it wrote the other book I'm reading now, actually: The Hound of the d'Urbervilles) points out, there's an irony in a story about a group of scientists searching for a new recording medium being released on a recording medium that would've been unimaginable when The Stone Tape was made in 1972. That the stone walls of a building record past events that took place there hardly seems, to the uninitiated like me, more outlandish than that my laptop is using light to play me this movie. And before the lasers of DVDs, the movies I watched were played back with magnets. I'm as likely to be able to explain how stone can record events as I am light or magnets.

Newman calls The Stone Tape forward-looking, saying "This feels like the beginning of something we're still living," in terms of computer research and "the kinds of people who work with computers." Kneale observed a real BBC computer research and development department, and said that inspired him to create the characters in the way he did: they're all men except The Girl One, whose plot-driving feminine weaknesses are contrasted with the boisterous, boyish men, absorbed in their intellectual pursuits (though she is the computer programmer and the leader of the team tells her "I need you for your brain," which hopefully would please the ghost of Ada Lovelace, who used to own the house where this was filmed).

"I don't believe in the supernatural," Kneale says in the commentary, "but there were reasons for people to believe in the supernatural. So it's interesting to try to put in a guess as to why." I remember one of the things I'd complained about to [personal profile] magister about The Quiet Ones was that it cheated: like so many horror stories about "finding the scientific basis of" whatever horrific thing is the story's theme, there is a banal explanation, terrible, if at all, only in the "man's inhumanity to man" kind of way. I'm sure my little rant on this subject would've been reason enough for him to lend me The Stone Tape, even if it weren't for all their surface similarities (spooky old house, set in the 1970s, team of scientists and a "sensitive" woman who's the conduit for the supernatural...).

Because while The Quiet Ones ends in a pointless, unsatisfying jumble of cliches, The Stone Tape follows its premise through to its logical conclusion. Which does mean it's rather bleak, of course -- if there really were records of traumatic events in building materials, it would be very difficult to deal with being anywhere something terrible had happened and, if you wait long enough, something terrible will happen anywhere -- and usually I don't like bleak but I like The Stone Tape because it's honest. It doesn't cheat.

And I rather admire a writer who's very clear about his lack of belief in the supernatural still going where the idea takes him (for instance Kneale says, "If you accept the idea of a ghost, does he know he's a ghost? Or is it a purely mechanical effect like switching a machine on and off?") without writing something ironic or cynical. "Once you've thought of ghosts," Kneale says when asked about other stories similar to The Stone Tape, "they all crop up, they all appear, saying 'can I have a job?' The ghosts all want to be in things, and they're ready, and obliging."

With something like The Quiet Ones you get the feeling that no one involved in it cared about it that much, it was just a string of genre tropes. And so I don't care about it much either. While Kneale seems to take a very workmanlike approach to his writing -- when asked what ratings The Stone Tape got just said "I have no idea!"; when asked if he was at the filming, said "Oh I was probably on to something else by then...I did drop by..." not seeming very interested in being involved; "you write a thing and it goes into production a year later or two years later, and by then you've forgotten what it was, almost, you're glad somebody else has taken it up" -- he does seem to respect his subject matter in a way that appeals to me, even when that means the story leaves me shivery and unsettled.
2014-07-12 09:35 pm

I'll call him Cal (short for Caloris Basin)

I don't care if it's only 9:30; I'm off to bed with my new cuddly toy.



(You can tell it's Mercury because it's got silver wings on the back of its red tennies.)
2014-07-11 05:58 pm

Code phrase

I'm surprised Andrew's never mentioned this, given I know he has contingency plans for Dalek invasions, waking up one day to discover that he's Batman, what to wish for if he's ever granted three wishes, etc.