Jul. 21st, 2012

thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
The other night, Best Beloved and I were reading before sleeping, as is the custom of our people, and I had to take a break from the story. In the days when I did most of my fan fiction reading on a computer, that meant just switching to another tab. But now I do most of it on my Kindle, and I can't switch in and out as quickly. (On the other hand, it's way easier to read fan fiction before bed.) So for short breaks, I just kind of - look away from the screen. Which is what I did.

"What?" BB said, looking up from her own Kindle.

"It's getting gross," I told her. I may have sounded a trifle grim when I said it.

There was a pause as she tried to figure out if she wanted to know, and decided she probably didn't, and then realized she couldn't stop herself from asking anyway. (This is, by the way, self-destructive curiosity. Normally I'm the one who has it. Not this time.) "Like - blood?" she asked. "Serial killers?"

"They're having feelings all over the place," I said. And I meant it.

See, even in stories, I prefer feelings in small doses. When people start having impassioned conversations in which they share their innermost thoughts, I have to stare into space for a while, even if they are totally great and in-character conversations and the story is awesome.

I realized, after BB finished laughing openly at me and returned to her book (in which people probably had feelings left, right, and center without her flinching at all, because she is weird enough that she believes a serial killing is more disgusting than emoting) that this was totally related to a question [personal profile] bethbethbeth posed quite a while back, about people's favorite character types.

This might lead you to believe that my favorite character is the strong silent type. And, okay, I do enjoy reading about people who, if they have a feeling, have to go ford a stream or hack through a jungle or venture into deepest space to deal with the trauma. But that isn't my type.

My type is the spacetoaster. I love spacetoasters. I can get into all kinds of fandoms and I can like all kinds of characters, but only a spacetoaster will force me to turn my brain into a sort of heart annex to hold all my feelings of love. (Yes. Irony: I live it.)

So it's probably pretty obvious, but I'd still like to define the spacetoaster.

A toaster, see, is someone with a feelings dysfunction. Maybe the toaster has few feelings. Maybe the toaster has lots of feelings and is totally bewildered by them. Maybe the toaster has spent a lifetime getting distance from any and all feelings, only to be suddenly confronted by them and fail to deal. Whatever. My point is: toasters don't get feelings. They spend a lot of their lives watching other people emote and wishing to be elsewhere, or having feelings themselves and thinking they're maybe hungry or something. (And, yes, there is a bond of sympathy here. I once had an argument with an art therapist in which I finally said, "But I don't have feelings all the time." "You do," she told me, using the tone that therapists used to get with teenaged me after half an hour or so of attempted therapy. "Everyone has feelings all the time. You just don't acknowledge them." And then the hour was up, thank god, but I still think I was right. Sometimes I don't have any particular feelings.)

But not all toasters meet my character needs. There are lots of people who are coldly efficient, or coldly correct, or coldly distant who in no way grip me, or at least don't specially grip me, because I am specifically interested in spacetoasters: toasters who are alien, or alienated. Or maybe just easiest to describe in alien terms. Whatever. My point is, if you have an alienesque person who dreams in black and white, a person who acts like all her feelings are beamed in from a space station orbiting Jupiter, you have a character I'm going to want to meet, and read about, and write about, and possibly pin up on my super-secret Wall of Spacetoasters.

This is why my reaction to Spock was, basically, where have you been all my life, you dreamy, dreamy spacetoaster? Spock is the exemplar, the archetype, the essence of spacetoasterdom. If you're looking for a spacetoaster, you can do no better than Spock. And if you're trying to build a better spacetoaster, I'm just going to have to laugh at you, because they don't get better than Spock. (Although I encourage you to try. So, so strongly encourage you to try.)

But there are other spacetoasters out there, of course. Benton Fraser, I would submit, is a spacetoaster - a guy routinely labeled a freak even by his fellow Mounties, whose only successful emotional relationship, as the series begins, has been with a dog. (Many spacetoasters are better with animals or babies than with adult humans.) Aeryn Sun would rather shoot everyone in a building, or indeed on a planet, than have a single heartfelt sharing moment, and she is, again, an actual alien: spacetoaster! (And, man, maybe it's just that I never really watch - uh, anything, basically - but to me it looks like there is a serious shortage of lady spacetoasters out there. Someone needs to get to work on that, stat. I mean, I get the sense that Temperance Brennan may be a spacetoaster, but I also get the sense that she's on an ensemble show, and I still have scars from the last ensemble show I tried to watch. Beyond that, and of course my beloved Queen of Attolia, I've got nothing.) Jamie Hyneman has three certified expressions, last had a feeling in the fall of '39, and is weird even to other Mythbusters: spacetoaster, spacetoaster, spacetoaster. Abed Nadir is, as far as I can make out, the result of Dan Harmon's actual attempt to build a better spacetoaster. (He failed, of course. There's only one Spock. But Abed is awesome, even so.) And then there's Sidney Crosby, who only has feelings during and about hockey, and who may actually be from space. Spacetoaster. (In fact, the word itself comes from a pathetically long email exchange on the subject of one Sidney Crosby. I am not going to implicate my co-conspirator, though, on the grounds that she might then refuse to finish a story I really want to read. Guess what it's about!)

So, you believe you may have a spacetoaster on your hands, but you aren't quite sure? Here are some signs! (Please note that, like many tests, this is not intended to diagnose. A high score merely provides a basis for further testing. The real proof of the spacetoaster is in the story.)
  1. Is your character highly competent at something that is not feelings or people? (If yes, +10 spacetoaster points.)
  2. Try writing a story from your suspected spacetoaster's first-person point of view. Then write the same story from some other character's point of view. If the first character requires more words to get to the same place, and those words aren't in dialogue, you may have a spacetoaster on your hands. (+1 spacetoaster point for every additional thousand words. In extreme cases, you can just stop the test here; some spacetoaster points of view can add 50k words to a story.)
  3. Imagine writing a story in which your suspected spacetoaster is a robot. Now imagine writing a story in which the same character spends fifteen minutes discussing his or her feelings intensely and sincerely. (+5 spacetoaster points if the robot was easier. +10 spacetoaster points if you fell over laughing when you tried to picture the second scenario. +15 if your character is actually already a robot.)
  4. Picture your possible spacetoaster receiving a heartfelt hug from an acquaintance. (+5 spacetoaster points if the character stands there stiffly. +10 if he or she recoils, flees, or flinches. +15 if it is impossible to picture an acquaintance hugging your character because the Do Not Touch field is so strong with this one.)
  5. Take a random sampling of five stories about the suspected spacetoaster, or five episodes, whatever you have. Count the number of times the character fails to understand some extremely basic human concept. (Example: if you want to kiss someone, that might mean you are attracted to that person!) (+1 point/incidence.)
  6. Consider the same random sample. Give one spacetoaster point for each incidence of the following:
    • Someone calls the character an alien.
    • The character must engage in some level of research (reading texts, calling friends or relations, setting up an elaborate double-blind study, whatever) to understand a joke.
    • The character avoids an emotional scene.
    • The character fails to notice an emotional scene.
    • The character wishes to be a robot.
    • The character fails to respond appropriately to a fairly basic cultural concept. (Example: not really understanding the rules of visiting a friend at home.)
Total up your points. The higher the number, the more likely it is that you should email me with news of your spacetoastery discovery. What, you thought you were taking this test for you? Don't be silly. (You might not even appreciate spacetoasters. Although I hope you do.) This is my attempt to get you to tell me about your favorite spacetoasters, because I might have missed some. And I'm sick. There's nothing like a spacetoaster when you're sick. The hopeless way she stares at you in distressed confusion, pats you awkwardly on the shoulder, and then disappears and comes back with a welding torch - it just sets you right up.

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thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
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