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Originally posted on Ben Jeapes’ blog on 10th December 2018

Like me, Babylon 5 was also on a mission to do right what Star Trek got wrong. Its key innovation was the story arc – the idea of an overall plot across the entire series that would take many episodes to unfold. Nowadays it’s almost unknown for a series not to have an arc. Babylon 5 gave us a universe of consequences – if a character broke a leg in one episode, they were on crutches in the next. In one episode a fighter pilot was killed and the closing shot was of Commander Sinclair composing a letter of condolence to the next of kin. Humans in Babylon 5 were a minority species, one among many, as opposed to the apartheid-like setup of Trek in which humans are clearly the minority yet equally clearly in charge of almost everything…

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via How (Not) to Write a Steampunk Novel by Gaie Sebold

I’ve never really got the hang of romantic love. Even in my teens and twenties, I wasn’t looking for someone to bring me flowers and gaze into my eyes, or someone to settle down with in a semi and have two point three children. I wanted someone to have my back in a fight, and stand beside me on the barricades. Not really surprising I never married, I guess.

Then again, some ideas of romance are just downright reprehensible. They were talking on the radio about the film Elvira Madigan, and since I’ve never seen it and knew nothing about it, I looked it up. In case you don’t know either, it’s about a young girl who works in a circus and an aristocratic older man who falls for her; they run away together, and finding no means of earning a living they agree to commit suicide. This is considered by many to be romantic.

Then I looked up the historical incidents on which it was based. The man apparently pursued the girl, writing her endless letters, threatening to kill himself if she didn’t go with him. He omitted to mention that he was married, or that he had frittered away all his money. In the end he persuaded her to go with him, and in the end he shot her and then himself. This is apparently also considered by some to be romantic.

The other day I had occasion similarly to look up a very well-regarded 19th century novel, Effi Briest. Young woman marries older man, has affair, husband and lover fight duel, lover dies, and young woman goes to pieces and dies young. Again, I looked up the “true story”. Not too far off – except the woman didn’t go to pieces and die young, she devoted herself to good works and died at an advanced age, full of honours. But that, of course, is not romantic, nor a fitting end for a faithless woman.

And I thought, there are far too many people who find women acceptable only when they are dead, and this is very distressing.

A poem I wrote many years ago:

Dantean Eyes

This is the splendour of Christ

To see each other as I see him –

angel in canvas shoes

Apollo with a fag in his mouth

a god walking

a fool and a violent man

a god walking

another woman’s lover

a god walking

a man at a factory bench

a god in a public bar:

to know his dull humanity, and still

to see in every turn of his head

every muscle in his arm

every line of his back

my lovely lad

a god walking

 

Marion Pitman  1985

 

I have a problem with politics. Well, lots of problems, obviously, but the one I’m thinking of is this – both sides, as it were, start from the premise of Big Business (not the Cold Comfort Farm bull, no). If you don’t work for the government, you are either a Boss, rolling in dosh, and employing many Workers; or you are a Worker, obliged to obey the Boss in order to eat. (Actually if you do work for the government it’s much the same, except the Boss is the government.) So self-employed small business people, sole traders, freelancers, hiring out their wares or skills, answerable to no Boss, but employing few or no Workers, simply don’t appear on the graph. We make the place look untidy, and should be done away with.

Since I cannot imagine myself at all comfortable as either Boss or Worker, I find it hard to support either side. I would like to think the Green Party would not regard me as merely a piece of annoying grit, but I’m not entirely confident. However, a party for People Who Don’t Want to be Told what To Do or Tell Anyone Else What to Do doesn’t sound very likely to hold together…

Source: Why everyone should be a science fiction fan, by Ben Jeapes

When I was young, I used quite often to go to London and visit the British Museum. I spent a good deal of time in the Babylonian, Assyrian and Sumerian galleries. The kings with their massive curly beards, the huge winged sphinxes, the way the Sumerians stand with their hands just so, and with neat three-cornered smiles; and the fabulous gold and lapis lazuli goat in a thicket, I found very pleasing.

On Tuesday I found myself with a little time to spare in Bloomsbury and went to the BM – it was nearly closing time, so I just had time to say Hallo, long time no see, to Ashurnasirpal, and admire the great human-headed winged lions – and to read the inscriptions on a pair of statues that stood outside the temple of Nabu, god of writing – with inscriptions that said “Trust no other god”. I so like that. Don’t trust anyone, always get it in writing.

Apparently I have posted nothing here for two months. Doesn’t time fly :-(. I have two excuses – been away a lot and been frantically emptying a storage unit. For which I have given myself a deadline of tomorrow :-). So I will post again after that…

Sorry it’s been so long. I should say that I have a piece in the anthology “Something Remains” from Alchemy Press, due to launch at FantasyCon next weekend, in memory of Joel Lane, much missed author and poet. The book is a collection of posthumous collaborations, where writers have taken one of Joel’s notes and written a story – or in my case a poem – from the notes.

I knew Joel for many years, and he died far too young. I am very honoured to be part of this project.

Many, many years ago I volunteered to help for a day with an organization working for the homeless. I got on well with the homeless people, but found myself awkward with some of the other volunteers, who tended to talk about the problems “these people” had, and why “these people” were unable to cope. I didn’t join in the conversation – I was very aware, as I still am, of how easily I could be one of “these people”. The only difference is that I was fortunate in my family and friends; if I had had no parents, or unsympathetic parents, or if I had been living in a relationship that broke down, or a dozen other things, I could easily have been sleeping on the street. Essentially, I was one of “these people”. I’ve suffered for many years with clinical depression; if I hadn’t had the right people there to help me I could easily be homeless.

There are many people who think that because of the way they are, or the things that have happened to them, the Church would not welcome them. And with some churches they’re sadly right, since churches are made up of fallible human beings. The Church – perhaps the Church of England most of all – has an image of being for respectable people who are sane, stable, solvent and straight. But we are all God’s children – able or not, sane or mad, straight or gay, cis- or transgender, well-off or broke, doing nicely, on benefits, on the street, married, single, divorced, remarried, even addicted, on the game, on the wrong side of the law. God loves every single one of us. And we are all these people.