This weekend Oyce and I were eating lunch at the Ferry Building, overlooking the bay, when we began perusing the discount book rack that was outside the bookshop, on the pavement next to us. It was an odd mix of pretty good YA (like Nancy Werlin and Paul Fleischman), decent-looking gay lit, and horrible self-help books, like Healing the Amazon Wound and Cry of the Soul-Daughter.

And then there was God is Gay.

It was a slim, yellow, self-published paperback. The back cover quotes (which we decided were sock-puppets) were decidedly strange:

Ah, it is marvellous... I read and read and then ponder over it.
--Dr. K. D. Chauhan
Jagdishnagar Society
North Gujarat, India

I just read your book and I felt 'happiness creeping over me.'
G. Rommersheim
Munich, West Germany

['Happiness creeping over me' turned out to be a quote from GiG; the narrator, Bob, feels that sensation when he talks to his soon-to-be cult leader, Daniel.]

The chapters are all headed with peculiar drawings reminiscent of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, but with more animals, some with faceted eyes and all a disturbing cross between cute and evil, like the subliminal octopus in Serenity.

It's the swinging 70s. Bob, along with God, is gay. He lives in San Francisco with his lover, Steve. Then Bob meets Daniel, who is obviously a crazy cult leader. Only Bob doesn't think so. GiG is a love letter to Daniel, Daniel's superb musculature and gentle smile, and Daniel's whack-job philosophy, which consists of crazed nattering about androids and mouseries and "the sound of hearing, the music of the spheres," not to mention "the sight of seeing, the vision of the third eye." (No, there is no scent of smelling. Alas.) Daniel points out that Asia and Asians are spiritually superior to non-Asians. (A concept which, in addition to creating many awkward encounters between obtuse Westerners and unfortunate Asians, ruined my childhood.

Bob is overwhelmed by Daniel and his circle: A very handsome, muscular man let us in. As I was introduced to him, any doubts about his gayness were resolved when he cruised me. Plus, there is gay boxing (normal boxing, gay boxers), and Daniel takes Bob out for a banana split.

But Steve, whom Bob describes in phrases like an ugly sneer crossed Steve's face, cannot appreciate the wonder that is Daniel. In fact, he accuses Daniel of being a cult leader. But Bob finally drags Steve to a meeting, where Daniel goes on for pages and pages of gibberish, including Isn't it obvious that male gays are men, with the understanding of women; who understand instinctively that war, violence, and hatred are wrong. Bob is sure this will make Steve see the light. But Steve takes Bob aside and tells him that Daniel reminds him of Charles Manson.

Horrified, Bob runs to Daniel and says, "You won't believe what Steve said about you!"

Daniel says, "Did he say I reminded him of Charles Manson?"

Since Daniel wasn't there, this convinces Bob that Daniel is clairvoyant and telepathic, because there is no other way Daniel could have known Steve said that. It does not occur to Bob that perhaps Daniel often reminds people of Charles Manson.

Needless to say, Bob dumps Steve and runs away with the perfect and telepathic Daniel. That was the point when we noticed that the book was coauthored by Ezekiel (who presumabably used to be known as Bob) and... Daniel!

There is a clearly fictional chapter in which Steve later apologizes for not being wise or brave enough to embrace Daniel. Oyce and I think that Steve is now happily working for Google, and he and his handsome live-in lover sometimes do dramatic readings from GiG at dinner parties.

Having finished Gig, we then picked up a novel by bestselling fantasy author Terry Goodkind, and opened it to a six-page scene in which the heroine is menaced by... an evil chicken.

No, this is not played for laughs. There are more excerpts at fandom wank if you don't believe me.

The bird let out a slow chicken cackle. It sounded like a chicken, but in her heart she knew it wasn't. In that instant, she completely understood the concept of a chicken that was not a chicken. This looked like a chicken, like most of the Mud People's chickens. But this was no chicken. This was evil manifest.

She is terrified! For six pages! This is the heroine-- scared of a chicken.

Kahlan frantically tried to think as the chicken bawk-bawk-bawked.

In the dark, the chicken thing let out a low chicken cackle laugh.

In between being terrorized, Kahlan remembers her perfect boyfriend, Richard. Brilliant, strong, probably omnipotent, Richard comes across as a cross between Daniel and Diego. Did I mention that he is wise, too?

Richard had been adamant about everyone being courteous to chickens.
Tor editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog, Making Light, has more than once taken on scam publishing houses, scam editors, and other forms of parasites which suck the blood of gullible writers. This is a little different. It concerns a man who avoided the scammers, but internalized their claims-- that no unknown writer can ever get published by a major company, and that the only possible difference between a popular and published writer and an unpublished beginner is the name on the cover. He then took it one step further, decided that popular authors probably aren't writing their own books, and put his unpublished manuscript up on ebay, to be sold to someone like Stephen King for $ 150,000, so King can then sell it as his own.

And then Teresa wrote about it. And then the author heard that she'd written about it. Read the comments all the way down for the full effect, which is almost-- but not quite-- too appalling to contemplate.

ETA: I have now had occasion on the thread to state my policy regarding duels. This does indeed remind me of some choice moments at Green Man Review's letter column.
No, I don't mean Anne Rice. I mean this account of the making of David O. Russell's latest movie, whose preview looked quite intriguing:

"Mr. Russell shouts: "Eeeeee! Eeeee! Keep rolling!"

Mr. Hoffman: "We're rolling. What's `Eeeeee'?" There is no response, but Mr. Law keeps emoting.

On the next take, Mr. Russell lies on the ground, just behind Lily Tomlin, but out of view of the camera. Perhaps he's trying to add to her feeling of unease in the scene. "Most likely he was looking up my skirt," she deadpans while watching the playback a few minutes later.

It seems impossible that a film set could feel any less formal — but come lunchtime, it does. Mr. Russell sheds the rest of his clothing, leaving only his boxers, and starts to exercise — first jumping rope, then sparring with his personal trainer, right on the sidewalk of the suburban street. Many of the actors and crew join in. They, however, keep their clothes on."

The article, which is well worth reading in entirety, reminded me of the years I spent doing theatre. I majored in it as an undergrad, focusing on stage management, and then got my MFA in playwriting. I also spent a few years stage managing professionally in LA.

One of the things which became clear to me early on was that a rehearsal hall, like the set of a film or TV shoot, can very easily turn into an echo chamber. Everyone inside thinks they're doing brilliant work, there's a real and thrilling excitement in the air... and then the show opens to universal puzzlement, sneering, or worst of all, boredom. And the scary part is, if you're honest with yourself, nine times out of ten you don't think the audience is wrong. You realize that all of you were wrong. You were creating garbage and somehow you never noticed.

This is why it's good to invite outside observers whose judgement you trust to take a look at your work. Whether you're working in a team or at your desk all by your lonesome, sometimes your ideas about what your doing can become completely detached from the reality of the work and float away like a blimp. Sometimes, as seems to have happened to Russell, you decide that indulging in raving semi-consensual insanity is a really good idea. Sometimes, as seems to have happened to Anne Rice, you conclude that everything you touch is gold and should not be sullied by anyone else's thoughts. Most commonly, you think it's complete garbage and would ruin your reputation if anyone saw it. But whatever you think, it's not a bad idea to get someone else's take on it. Maybe they will prevent you from inserting a totally meaningless dream sequence into your revival of a classic play which the hero is trussed up in leather bondage gear and suspended from the ceiling while all the other characters emerge from the wings and march around him in a circle, chanting "Schnapps. Schnapps. Schnapps."

Or maybe they won't. But it's good to give them a chance. Think of how wise it would be if authors would ask their friends if they would read the letter they're planning to send to their critics, and taken the friends' advice on whether or not to actually mail it. Think of how much pain David O. Russell could have saved his actors from if he'd turned to that New York Times reporter and said, "Give me your honest opinion: Is my behavior on the set producing great work, or am I just embarrassing everyone and making myself look ridiculous?"

In other words: if the whole world thinks you're wrong, that should not be taken as proof that you're right.

This has been your Anti-Lone Individual Standing Firm Against The Masses public service announcement for the day. Thank you.


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