a romance by any other name

 
Here’s a cheesy, tacky,  pretentious turn of phrase that makes me shudder:
 
They shared a kiss. 
 
This phrase works for me like a red flag. It says that I am reading   a run-of-the-mill, no surprises, HEA romance.   Which is fine, if that’s what I’m looking for. 
 
But this morning I was looking for a summary of the latest political fuckery, when I caught sight of an unusual headline in The Washington Post:  “A ‘lost’ wallet leads to found love.”
 
Now, it’s no secret that I truly appreciate a good romance, so I read the article, and I’m both confused and irritated by it. It’s not fiction, it’s not a review, it’s not news, it’s … family newsletter material. A little story about how two young people met and fell in love, shared that kiss, and got married.
 
Nice enough people, boring story. If it were fleshed out to novel length and turned into fiction, it would not be anything exceptional and in fact might be crap, in accordance with  Sturgeon’s Law: 90 percent of genre x is crap, but then 90 percent of everything is crap.
 
[This] was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms (Venture 49, 1957).
 
So I find this WaPo article to be surprising in its ordinariness and I wonder why it deserves column space.  I wonder if it could be rewritten into something interesting.  I wonder, but mostly I’m just irritated.  
 
The only upside:   I was reminded of an entertaining 2016 Guardian article  about genre and reactions to genre,  with emphasis on romance fiction.   That was worth reading again.
 
 
 

card games, then and now

II have done some research on nineteenth century children’s games before, but this time I was looking for card games in particular when I came across a mention of Happy Families, which is played something like Authors.  From Board Game Geek:

This game was designed in England and was originally published for the Great Exhibition by John Jaques & Sons. The outside of the box described the name as Happy Families while the inside of the box describes the name as Merry Families. Each quartet consists of four family members — a father, a mother, a son, and a daughter. The fathers are Mr. Daub the Painter, Mr. Dough the Baker, Mr. Pill the Doctor, Mr. Sand the Grocer, Mr. Saw the Carpenter, Mr. Snip the Barber, Mr. Stain the Dyer, Mr. Smut the Sweep, Mr. Thread the Tailor, and Mr. Tub the Brewer.

What I like about this is the art work:

Compare this game to more current editions of Old Maid:

So maybe I’m being overly picky here, but why are the modern illustrations for children’s card games garish and shoddily done? There are so many wonderful illustrators out there, is it just a matter of the manufacturer going with the cheapest options?

Irritating.

I went to look up Authors just to see if that game has had better treatment, and the answer is, as far as I can tell, no. There are multiple editions of the card game Authors. When I was a kid the deck was all dead white men, but there are now games called American Authors, Women Authors, Children’s Authors. Unfortunately it seems none of them are especially carefully or artistically done, as you can see by this example.

But there are great illustrators who do author portraits. Ryan Sheffield sells his work on Etsy, including his version of Emily Dickinson,  below.

Somebody like Ryan Sheffield should put together a modern version of Authors using original artwork. It would be a good idea to have some info about the author along with the titles of their work, of course.  

Would you be interested in a game of Authors like this?  I’m really curious.

Note: I don’t know Mr. Sheffield and he doesn’t know me. I just found his work on Etsy and my imagination took off.

Back in the Day

“Back in the day” is a phrase that came into broad usage suddenly and spread quickly maybe a decade ago. I remember hearing a character on Entourage (HBO) use it and thinking that it was already on the brink of becoming a cliché.  Which is too bad, because I like it. 

It’s a human thing to attach emotion to particular words and phrases. We hate some words and others evoke nostalgia. There are words that work for me like chalk squeaking on a blackboard (for example: blog, which is why I use weblog).  Others I adore. In grade school Spanish class I fell in love with the word pupitre.  It still makes me smile.

Lately I seem to be awash in nostalgia more generally. I’m hoping it will subside sooner rather than later, but for the moment, here’s my question. According to the statistics quite a lot of people read this weblog. If you’re reading it and you were once a student of mine, I’m wondering if you’d be so kind as to send me an email and re-introduce yourself.  I taught many hundreds of people over fourteen years — first at Princeton, when I was a graduate student, then at the University of Michigan, then at WWU, but currently I’m in touch with only five or so of them.  I also student taught and then taught fourth grade in Austria. 

Call it idle curiosity or nostalgia or whatever. I’d like to hear from you.  To make it easier: email me.  Or comment here. Whatever works.


Illustration by Elvira Wolven Krieger @DeviantArt

Editorial Me

So after futzing around with this for years, I’m officially launching myself as a consultant. Primarily for those who write fiction, but not exclusively.   You can get the skinny on the sub-sub-webpage (click on the header below). 

This is a practical (and necessary) move. You may have read here or elsewhere that over a five year period, incomes for full time writers dropped about 28 percent.  As the cost of living has not dropped 28 percent, the difference has to be made up somewhere. This is something I have done, and can do, and I take great satisfaction in helping storytellers get started. So it’s a practical, necessary and logical move. 

If you know of anyone who might be interested in working with me, please point them in the direction of WRITE