Monday, November 20, 2017

Picking Your Fantasy Poison

This is real now, folks.  I have a choice to make, and it's not an easy one.  I'm writing a story set in something that vaguely resembles European medieval times (albeit in a fantasy world), and I have to decide: do I try to make it more authentic to the actual European Middle Ages or do I totally create my own world? 

If I create my own world, it has to be from the ground up.  Everything about the religion of this empire?  All mine to have to explain.  Everything about the politics and history of it and the neighboring countries?  From the aether through my brain to the page or not at all.  Trying to find and balance all of that with the modern mindsets and worldviews of my characters?  ALL ON ME.  Even if I wanted or could afford research assistance, I couldn't USE it.  But I wouldn't HAVE to research in the first place.  I would just have to create things to fill the gaps out of nothing!  And if people hated it, it would feel like they personally hated my soul, which is uncomfortable.

Trying to make it more like the real Middle Ages certainly removes some imaginary burdens.  I can try to apply the more collectivist religious and social aspects of the time and place (after doing a lot of research).  Then I will still tick off the historians, and the new fantasists will hate  it unequivocally because it would have to try to depict things our culture does not endorse, and they see that as a cop out, not a skill.  Many of them believe that there is no value in a story that does not rewrite the past to make it more to our liking.  It IS fantasy after all.  But I have read some absolutely fantastic historical based stuff (Guy Gavriel Kay, Lois McMaster Bujold's 5 gods series, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, etc.), and the things you can get done with it are fantastic! 

It's not as if I get out of work either way.  I just shift some responsibility, and I’m not sure one way is easier than another.  Or less fraught.  It's just something I'm thinking about because I was writing this poem about weird things I had used to mark my place in my Bible at some time or another, and there was this shiny notebook with some bits of a good story I liked and have contributed tantalizing pieces to over the years since I first dreamed it one day in college . . .

Anyway, I will not be distracted (again) by shiny things.  What was I going to say next?  Rats. Can't remember.  Anyway, advise wisely, friends.  Because if you advise certain options, you will likely be pestered with questions and plotline possibilities and the history and social customs of different countries in imaginary worlds until you're sick of it. 

No, seriously, what else was I going to say?  It was important, drat it all!  If you remember, let me know.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Jury Duty (a Horror Story that hasn't even started yet)

I want to do it.  I'm afraid I can't do it and that trying to do it will result in hurt.  That's the gist of it.

Just the other day, I was thinking about whether I would ever get the chance to serve on a jury.  I think it was when I overheard the little old ladies at the therapy pool talking about their experiences over the years.  The first two times I was called up, I had to pass because I was in another state or another country, I think.  That was when I was young and politically active and enthusiastic and full of patriotism and uprightness and duty.   

A friend and I were discussing an important jury trial in the news recently, and I wondered if I would be able to serve on a jury.  Definitely not on a capital case because I do not believe I would be able to convict someone unto death.  But on something else?  After the baffling verdict, I read that the jury repeatedly asked for transcripts of certain testimony, and the judge denied their requests.  Baffled, I researched and read elsewhere that's common, that judges don't want to give people transcripts of some and not all and many judges don't want to give any transcripts.  They are more likely to approve requests for video so that all nuances are present.  Jurors are required to rely on their memories of the lawyers' arguments, witness testimony, laws, and information.

I don't think I can do that. 

My memory is better now than it was back when things were Very Bad, after I got hurt working for the government, and it turned into a chronic minor disability which robbed me of sleep and increased my overall pain until my health was getting worse and worse, and I could not have served if I were summoned, though at least I would have been making more on jury duty than I did working full time in  a retail underworld while trying to get a master's degree to make myself employable despite my disability.  

Today I got the summons.

Now that my health is on a general upward trend and not a downward spiral, I thought that I had relaxed somewhat, that I had mellowed with age and increased experience .  That I would not be overly serious about jury duty like I was about driving passengers in a car when I first got my license ("Their LIVES were in MY shaking and inexperienced hands!).  That I was not so patriotic and bound to my duty after my country treated me badly after I got injured in its service and left to the charity of family to prevent bankruptcy because there was no more money left for the government assistance I did quality for.  That I would not panic and over-think things.

I was wrong.

 I have known about being called for a little over an hour, and I am overwhelmed.  I find that I still desperately want to serve and do this duty diligently and with care, but if those are the rules, I cannot in good conscience do so.  If I am supposed to remember every detail and every nuance of testimony, if I HAVE to, if someone's freedom depends on my ability to understand and recall, and I can't do that reliably because of all the years of chronic pain, bad sleep, and further injuries, is it right for me to check No in box 5 where they ask if I have a disability that would affect my ability to serve just because I want to, and just because it's only a small disability?

Am I still prone to over-seriously over-thinking everything? 

Well, at least some things.  Clearly this is one of those things.  I have a lot of questions I will be asking shortly.  Can jurors stand up during a trial and move around to prevent their bodies from stiffening and causing distracting agony?  Can I take notes with my voice recognition software?  (That's probably a terrible idea, considering what it does to mangle anything I say when I use it for writing that contains any emotion at all.)  Can I get transcripts of everything since I can't rely on my memory (especially not for something this important)?  The information says most trials last 3-5 days.  If it was a really simple trial and only a day, maybe I could keep it together, but 3 days of things to remember?

I think I need a towel.

I could just try to calm myself down by pointing out that in all likelihood, I wouldn't even be called.  And if I am, I don't think there are any high profile cases coming up, and if there are, they'd disqualify me in a heartbeat if the stress made me somewhat incoherent.  So I should clearly not check Yes.

The problem is that incoherent me is just fine for most people.  They wouldn't even notice or know I wasn't functioning at full tilt or what I was worried about because I can't articulate well on the spot under stress on account of the not-sleeping from the pain and whatnot.  So I might get called up and be TERRIBLE at it, and some poor schmuck could get convicted for something because I can't articulate my point of view and reasons to convince people on the spot.  So I should clearly not check No and wait for the embarrassing process of proving I'm a bad choice and the guilt that would come from knowing they think I'm a bad citizen for "trying to get out of jury duty" when I'm really not!

But what if my slightly-incoherent reasoning and my stubbornness was the only thing saving some poor schmuck from a terrible fate?  And I wasn't there, and so that terrible fate happened?  So clearly I should not check Yes.

And I should definitely never start a land war in Asia. 

(And it's unworthy to even be concerned that this will be during rehearsals for a performance.  Or that the training I have to create and finally just scheduled for the whole department is during this time.  Or that it might be right over an important project deadline.  Because life and work conflicts are true for everyone, and many people have more of those than I do and still serve on juries because it's part of the territory of being a good citizen.)

Just because I'm not at full capacity doesn't mean it's impossible for me to serve, does it?  Does it?