When All Else Changes

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A few years ago, I read a book called The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume I. This book purported to be “The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of All Time” and presented stories published in the 1930s to the 1960s in order to showcase these “greatest” stores that were published before they could win a Huge Award that they so obviously deserved. Two things became immediately obvious upon reading this book:

  1. Out of the 21 stories presented, only one was written by a woman. And that was the least sexist thing about this volume.
  2. Some of the “greatest” science fiction writers of their time could not imagine a world where women had names. Or speaking roles. Or didn’t exist simply to keep house and get the coffee.

The utter lack of any idea that the social elements of a country might change along with the technological elements echoed through those stories like the dog that didn’t bark. It isn’t like these writers didn’t know that culture changes. They lived through the first world war or the second or Korea or the Cold War. They1 saw their world change, sometimes dramatically, during the course of their lives. And yet? They could not see the role of women change much if at all in the futures that they wrote about.

This comes to mind now because I’ve been watching and enjoying the various DC television series, often called the Arrowverse. These shows are fun and some of the most progressive shows on television from a social standpoint: diverse characters, inclusive storylines, strong women in positions of leadership and authority. We have Sarah Lance leading the Legends and next year we’ll have Supergirl’s adoptive sister Alex leading the DEO. Barry Allen married Iris West, a black woman. Two of the smartest people in the universe are Felicity Smoak (a woman) and Cisco Ramon (Puerto Rican) and they come through to save the main heroes every episode.

Just on Supergirl we have gay characters planning their wedding, a black hero/vigilante afraid to take off his mask because cops kill people like him, the chauvinism of how the world affords much more respect to SuperMAN than SuperGIRL, and a huge crossover series where the ultimate point of the storyline was to punch Nazis. And yet?

And yet they can not conceive of relationships as anything other than monogamous.2

What brought this to mind was the storyline on Supergirl over the last two seasons between Kara and Mon-El. It started off traditionally enough and, in true Superhero fashion, ended tragically (so we thought) when Mon-El had to leave earth. We open season three with Kara mourning the loss of her sweetie just seven months prior and dreaming about him. So of course, before she’s fully healed from the tragic and sudden end of her relationship with Mon-El, before she’s stopped loving him, he returns. From 1000 years in the future. With his wife.

For him it has been seven years and he’s “moved on.” But of course, he hasn’t. In good 3 television fashion, the writers set up a potential love triangle between Kara, Mon-El, and his wife Imra. It’s obvious to everyone that all three are conflicted about what’s going on. Kara respects the fact that it has been seven years for him, but it hasn’t for her and she tries to deal with that by not telling him how she feels because she ‘respects’ his marriage. Mon-El begins to remember what it was that he had loved about Kara in the first place but doesn’t say anything for Reasons and lies to Imra when she asks him how he feels. Imra sees that there is conflict and wants to know what her place is because 31st century woman passively wait for the guy to choose just one.

Why? Because in the 31st century they still have 20th century idealized relationship structures?

We’ve seen relationships change, radically, even within my lifetime. Divorce and gay marriage just two of the most obvious changes, not to mention singledom and cohabiting without marriage or even plans for marriage, all of which are part of the Arrowverse. And yet, one thousand years from now, the very ideal of coupledom as the sole basis for relationships hasn’t changed? At all? Not even a little bit?

I’m not saying that the characters would eventually choose polyamory or even that they should. But I am saying that the very concept that love is boundless should be given some screen time. Because even now, in the 21st century, ethical nonmonogamy is a thing, practiced by uncounted thousands of people in the US alone. More and more people recognize that attraction and love can happen without it being the end to a current, agreed-upon relationship structure. No, I’m not suggesting that in 1000 years everyone will be poly. I am suggesting that the writers of Supergirl might have found a progressive way of writing a storyline involving three people that wasn’t trite, overdone, completely predictable, and the least progressive thing about the show.


  1. As noted, these authors were almost all men. You’d think that ‘the male gaze’ would have at least noticed flapper dresses. 
  2. Maybe the writers can imagine such a thing. Chances are that some of the writers may even practice ethical nonmonogamy themselves. But that’s one social element that has not made it to the screen. 
  3. And by that I mean boring, unimaginative, and predictable. 

Top 100

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I took over 1000 photos on my recent trip to France. Most aren’t what anyone else would find fun to see: closeups of blocks used in walls, cobblestone patterns, the vaults of way-too-many cloisters and churches. But there are a few that are just pretty or (I think) represent something cool. If you’re not sure what a particular picture is all about, ask me in the comments!

 

Choosing settings

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I’m here for a purpose. I have a story in mind that takes place in the south of France. I’ve been researching the area and had made some decisions about how things were going to go. But the purpose for being here was to check things out, to learn what’s actually here. The difference between reading a map and walking the path.

There’s also knowing something and, well, KNOWING something. Avignon was not part of Provence during the 15th century. It was a Papal territory. I knew this. And yet, I’d been planning on setting my story in Provence because of the presence of King René and so I’d use Avignon. And then I toured Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. This is an interesting city to set my story in! Actually in Provence, unlike Avignon. But I knew that.

Entrance to the walled, fortified city of Villeneuve-lès-AvignonGardens in the former Abbey there.Looking across to Avignon and the Palace of the PopesA chapel for one of the saints that predated the abbeyRelaxing in the gardens after the tour

Not going to be a setting, at least, not a primary one. But so cool! Two thousand years of history and this hand built bridge that also worked as a life source providing water for cities for a thousand years. Man, just cool.

Pont du Gard. I’m sure I’ll have to use this bridge because, cool!

This is a tunnel cut — by hand, remember — through solid rock to help carry the water towards Nîmes

Reading a place

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There are things that I needed to know before traveling that I didn’t realize I didn’t know. Language plays a huge part in this, I realize now. How often does one go into a restaurant, a shop, and listen to the other people around to learn how the place works. Do they want you to take a number? Will they call your name? Do you ask for a place, whether at the bar or at the table? Are there different rules for different types of places that might otherwise seem similar? And can you discover those rules if you don’t understand what people are saying?

I thought I knew enough French tho “get by.” I’m doing great with the reading of placards and historical notices. But I’m not picking up on the speech. There’s a French phrase that I’ve used for years: L’esprit d’escalier. It’s the act of coming up with just the right phrase, the bon mot when you’re already halfway up the staircase, when it’s far too late to use it. That’s where I’m at, but it is happening at every interaction. I realize the correct phrase I should have used, about 2 minutes after when I should have used it.

On another note, I’m going to have PTSD from driving over here. Some of the roads make sense but those are the big modern freeways. The rest? I drove on roads today that were no bigger than the bike paths in Madison but were expected to allow drivers on both sides of the road (hah! “Road”) doing 70 or even 90 kph (about 45-55 mph). No shoulders. In fact, on the sides of the road are ditches about two feet deep. Let’s just say it would be bad to fall into one of those. Most likely, more of those tomorrow.

But I’m here in Sarlat, alive and well, loving the flat I’m renting for the next bit. Now, have some pictures from the Limoges area. And a selfie. Next time I’ll even smile.

Not the start I had hoped for

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Let’s just say I’m off to a slow start. Two days in France and I accomplished driving to Limoges. In a minivan. Diesel, manual transmission, but where I was hoping for a small car I got “upgraded” to the minivan. European-sized mini van, but still.

I stopped one place for pictures near St Emilion but by the time I got there it was closed for their lunch break. Given the time of day, I decided to drive straight to Limoges and not stop in St Emilion itself.

Seriously, I’ve spent most of yesterday getting to the hotel in Bordeaux and most of today looking for a SIM card. As it was, I ended up just adding International travel on to the plan I have and I just have to hope it doesn’t cost me that much more. 19,000 steps, much of it in the rain, looking for an Orange store in either of two cities. When I finally did find it, they told me the SIM I’d shopped for was at the “other” Orange. wha?

Too late now for anything but eating. I’ll find something and then tomorrow will be another day, one that, I hope, will be the actual start to the research part of the trip.

Fly, by night

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Moon rise, thoughtful eyes

Staring back at me from the window beside

No fright, or hindsight

Leaving behind that empty feeling inside

Start a new chapter

I find what I’m after

Is changing every day

The change of a season

Is enough of a reason

To want to get away