You know the trope. Big Billy Badass retires from his low profile high heroic job at middle age. He now has a faithful companion, be it the plucky son/daughter/orphan he picked up along the way, the girlfriend who understands him so very well, or the dog/horse/ferret with near psychic ability. He probably lives on top of a mountain, on a farm, or smack in the middle of suburbia. We know this guy, He refuses his call to return to action until … they shoot his dog/horse/ferret, plucky son/daughter/orphan that he picked up along the way, or his understanding girlfriend.
I hate that. Well, I hate it when the author bungles the job of emotional manipulation. If you’re telling this story, you’ve got a tried and true trope that is loved by the masses. We know what’s coming. We know that William Wallace will lose his wife. We know that plot of Taken wouldn’t happen without it. And those are ones off the top of my head and on TV Trope.
If you love this story, turn it on its head. Switch genders. Tell it same gender. Love your characters and your audience enough to give us something more.
Working away from home today, so stopped on my way through Dallas to have a cup of coffee and a breakfast that wasn’t poured into a bowl. My server, a cute college kid named Cheryl, was friendly and chatted with me on and off. While I ate, I doodled and made a few story notes. I got up to grab myself a refill from the community coffee bar and Cheryl had come by to clear away my empty plate. I made some asinine comment about Texas weather and I got no response.
No laugh. No smile. No nothing. And she didn’t come back around.
I got 0 goodbyes from her as well when I paid my check and took off.
I puzzled over it for the rest of my drive. I checked my comments for sexism, racism, and any other -isms. While I do my very best to live -ism free, I am not a perfect person. But, I couldn’t think of a damn one.
And then I checked the pad I’d been doodling on. It read like a psychotic’s to-do list.
- car bomb – park in driveway for max damage
- house fire – snipe emergency pers.
- max casualties including school? research
- stitch up with fishing line/tackle box in trunk
- average blood loss before unconsciousness? research
And in all the corners, I’d drawn stick figures with XX eyes and broken limbs.
If I’d been her, I’d have gotten my license plate number and reported me. Cheryl, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I scared you. I’m really a nice person with a bad habit of writing in public.
TL;DR: Other people can read what you write in public.
Don’t freak out the norms. It’s a rook mistake.
It took me years to admit that I had a problem.
I cut ties to people that cared. Drank too much. Distanced myself from as many people as I could, just so I couldn’t see the care in their eyes. It took someone seeing past the bullshit to get to me, the real me. Not the one that was a good time at the bar. Not the me that could crack a joke and bring sarcastic word play into a sharped skin-flaying edge. They could see the me that ghosted when people got too close. The me that hurt. The me that counted the exits in a room. The me that sat so I could see people approach. The me that had panic flowing through my veins into the closed fists shoved into my pockets.
That one person helped me help myself. I went to the VA, but that was not my answer. I got into private therapy instead.
And now I have more good days than bad. Those bad days don’t hold a candle to the ones I had back then. I can still function and I don’t need to pull away from the people that love me.
I identified my triggers, the smells, the sounds, the places that set me off. I avoid them or I prepare myself.
Adapt and overcome.
You can be that person. The one that helps or the one that gets help. Seek if you need it. Help if you can.
In my experience, being in the service isn’t much like it is in the movies. Writers have a tendency to romanticize or bromanticize the whole idea of war. Someone’ll put a cherry of honor on that big patriotic sundae, and force feed the masses with it. Do I regret my time in? No. Do I regret what I had to do? Yeah, sometimes.
Our Air Force drone pilots have it worse though. Where being at war takes you away from your family and into a hostile environment, you’re there with your fellow soldiers. That environment lends itself to what you have to do. The talk, the sounds, the full emersion in the way of war prepares you in a way that sitting back at post can’t ever do. You’re in the shit and so is everybody else.
Air Force drone pilots don’t have that. They’re stateside. And the whole things has an Ender’s Game quality to me. Fly the mission so far removed from the thick of it and take out targets from base. When their 12 hour shift is over, they go drive home. No time to deal, no time to get your brain around it. Home to the wife and kids. Home to PTA meetings and Little League. And so they’re leaving the service, unable to cope with the clinical nature of pushing a button and watching the aftermath a world away.
What’s the solution? Don’t have one. But the fact that these men and women don’t want murder (because that’s how it feels to them) gives me some hope. I don’t think we’ll ever get to drone on drone warfare where we all watch from home on CNN, but maybe we will. What do I know?
Now this may be a series as I do some research. But staring at a big egg breakfast with chicken fried steak bigger than my plate (and my stomach) has got me to thinking about the foodie aspect of science fiction. I know lots of fans are foodies and some are not. But other than an occasional glimpse at what’s for dinner during a big political hoohaw or on Ten Forward, I can’t really think of food playing much of a role in my reading/watching. Like, I said, I’m probably wrong and I have done 0 research on the subject. Don’t crucify me. I’m just typing up thoughts in my favorite DFW diner and mopping up the grease that’s pooling on my home fries. That said, point me in a direction if you’ve got a favorite food sc-fi or even fantasy story. I’m interested.
Help me, Lord Insulin. You’re my only hope.
(The above is a joke. I take my diabetes as seriously as Wilford Brimely takes his mustache.)
As is the rule in Texas, I drive a truck. It has moved me from DC to Texas, to the Pacific Northwest and back. It is my most cherished possession though even as it falls into disrepair. That being said, I am from out in the country a piece (You know, past the old Miller place where they used to keep the Brahmans, but don’t any more because Luckett, their oldest boy, decided to go off and be an engineer at Lockheed, but before you take the turn to get to LakeCreek). There might even be some livestock within a stone’s throw from my back door. And in the summer I do have an opportunity to get sunburned from time to time. Do you see where I’m going with this? You seem smart enough, so I’ll just work on that assumption.
I take no offense to the word redneck when used properly. My extended family has worked the land since before they came to the States. But, my sheepskin proud friends, farming is not a measure of intelligence any more than a diploma. I’ve met plenty of moronic doctoral candidates and their opposite in closet intellectual cattle ranchers. It’s all just a matter of stupid pride on both sides.
So, all I’m saying is let’s don’t judge people based on a lifestyle. All bets are off once they open their mouths or drive a Ford though. Let’s just take it on a mouth by mouth and truck by truck basis though.
That’s right, I’m about to say it. Can’t we all just get along?
TL;DR Don’t judge people. That’s just another Rook mistake.
Unless we’re talking about the Air Force.
Screw those guys,
Come on, guys. If you type things you wouldn’t say to someone’s face, stop. I’m a parent and I’m not as media social as most people I know, but I’m not a insensitive inflamed asshole either. Reading about Curt Schilling’s experience makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with the world my son is growing up in.
In our extended family, we only have boys. Nephews and cousins – all male and under 13. We raise them to think before they speak. It’s an acquired skill and one they’re still acquiring. They weren’t born with it. If they had their way, it’d be Twinkies for every meal and poo flinging competitions instead of 5th grade. But they would never say anything so disgusting and callous about a girl – whether they knew her or not. And at least one of them would let loose a loaded cuss-cannon of vulgarity directed at anyone who would say such things. (Hey, they’re not perfect. We’re working on it.)
Their excuse though is that they’re kids. They have mistakes to make based on a lack of wisdom that can only come from age and experience.
I cannot understand those men-shaped flesh bags. And I don’t want to.