On Being Lydia Bennett A Blast From the Past from November 2018
*Excuse me for this, but it’s a Blast From the Past From my other blog, According To Hoyt. I was at a loss for what to write today, and stumbled on this post I didn’t remember writing, and which is ALL about writing. Or maybe not all, but close enough. So, there you go – SAH*
In 1997 my heart broke and I decided to give up writing.
Sure, you can read that again.
Look, I’d been at it for 12 years. And I mean seriously, even though sometimes we couldn’t send novels out because we lacked the $8 for postage. But still, by that time I had written 10 novels (8 in the same universe) and come in second in two contests.
My first short story got a personal rejection, but after that I was stuck in bad-photocopy-land. I used to fill a big plastic bin of rejections every March because I was circulating 60 stories on average.
And then our writers’ group decided to send out submissions to a writers’ contest (I think in NM) and I sent out two novels (both finished) that I’d worked on and polished. They were both rejected in the elimination round. Meanwhile my friend who had dashed off a proposal (and never finished that novel) won the contest. She’d been writing seriously for … three years.
It wasn’t that I envied my friend. I just decided that I was doing something wrong, that something about me was intrinsically non-saleable. (I wasn’t even wrong, as such. Friend’s proposal was far more accessible.)
I’d always wanted to be a writer, and now it was impossible. So I gave up writing.
It might have been harder, honestly, but Dan was traveling five days a week and I don’t sleep when he’s not home. So I was stumbling drunk with sleep.
But even though I’d realized that I’d never be what NY wanted (and boy, was I right!) I also wanted to be around writers, to write, to learn, to spend sometime with adults, even virtually.
I looked around for fanfic I could write. This was a little problem, since I don’t watch TV. And while it’s theoretically possible to write fanfic in a show you never watched, it would probably get weird. (It got weird, anyway.)
I tried to find Three Musketeers Fanfic and ran away. It was ALL slash and also let’s say “only fandom that runs to foursomes.” But the worst part — which tells you a lot about me, alas — is what offended me: they were all about the Disney movie. The idea that Porthos used to be a pirate, or that D’Artagnan had an affair with the queen (for heaven’s sake) was woven all through. THAT I couldn’t take.
So I found Jane Austen fanfic, which is always mostly Pride and Prejudice fanfic. For those of you who only know it through the execrable movie with Keyra Knightly she of the flat chest and stupid expressions, or from the movie set in 19th century TX, you’re doing the work the same disservice as if you only knew Starship Troopers through the movie.
Honestly,if I read one more fanfic that makes a comment about being fools in love, I’m going to reach through the screen and…. uh… nevah mind. “Break fingers” is probably indicated.
Jane Austen wasn’t writing about being “fools in love.” In fact, she was not a very romantic writer. Or I should say her romance was more realistic in that people marry for all sorts of reasons, sometimes zany. What she was mostly was someone with a sharp eye for folly, but one who still loved humanity nonetheless.
The book might be mostly inaccessible unless you’ve made a study of the era and/or are willing to work harder. Even I find myself going “Wait a minute, why is saying that wrong? It’s the logical thing!” Let’s say their manners and morals are sometimes bewildering.
I think well of the A & E miniseries which is fairly accessible and fairly respectful of the book. I watch that when I have a cold or can’t function.
So I drifted into a fanfic group, and eventually got thrown out of it by implying that Mr. Crawford (whom I gang pressed to marry Kitty) might have a taste for being whipped. No, it wasn’t even that blatant. When they met I had established that he was excited, mostly by danger, which is why he had previously run away with a married woman. And Kitty has gone bonkers and is threatening him with a gun which makes him fall in love with her.
I simply had a scene in which a married Kitty is coming into the house (secretively) with a whip and tells Lizzy that it’s to subdue unruly pillows. (Honestly, I wasn’t visualizing S & M, just the threat.)
Apparently this was too hot for that site, the story was expunged and my log in terminated. Which meant I bounced into another site and posted the same story. (In retrospect, you can tell how not-sleeping I was. Printed it out recently, and it’s borderline incoherent on the word level.) No one cared about how risque I was.
I stayed with that site ten years, and I honestly learned more there not about writing per se, but about the tastes in story of normal human beings, than anywhere else, ever.
On the site I was “adopted” by a family of five women who’d taken on Bennet girls personalities. Because they were all taken, I had to be Mrs. Bennet.
Honestly, they offered me the chance to be sensible. Charlotte. Sensible, me?
I became Mrs. Bennet because she’s sort of a grown up Lydia.
Today I was meditating on the book and the personalities of the women and I thought “Good Lord, I AM Lydia.”
Think about it, I open my mouth when I should stay quiet. I have a weird sense of humor. I don’t bow to the dictates of my society. And I am running away with indie, which is probably as bad as running away with Mr. Whickam. If not worse. I understand ALL the proper society is VERY properly scandalized at me and after 18 years and 34 books I ADMIT TO including a for-hire book which made someone else’s career, a Prometheus, a Dragon, two collaborations with bestsellers, my first book being a finalist for the Mythopoeic, I’m not a real writer, and not qualified to be at panels at cons.
Isn’t it amazing that the people who fancy themselves anti-establishment are the most hide bound of mannered ladies, just in a different way. “No, no, deary. You must challenge convention like everyone else.”
All the PROPER LADIES will look down on me. Why, I have no reputation left! (Snort, giggle.)
Oh, yeah, the rest of the story: eventually I decided to try my toes in the publishing water again (seriously, if I had the ability to send my younger self a letter. Never mind.)
I wrote Darkship Thieves, which was rejected sometimes with furious letters, and I had NO IDEA what they objected to was the Libertarianism. Eh. I iz dense and don’t get these social signals well.
Eventually I went to a workshop met an editor and sold the Shakespeare trilogy and since then we’ve been trundling along in this hell-bound basket.
I’m bringing some of my Austen stuff under Alyx Silver. Only one out right now.
The whole point of this post, though, is that while most women of an intellectual bend identify with Mary Bennet, I am apparently and forever much closer to the scandalous and imprudent Lydia.
Well, you know, if you can’t fix it you must embrace it. I’ll snort giggle in the face of the proper ladies of science fiction and go on in my socially-unapproved way.
Because sometimes, it’s the best you can do.
I wrote for years before I tried to publish. Habit was too engrained
I have been advised I am the office barbarian.
One of these days I should find a desk bobble of that. Probably a guy in shirt and tie with beard everywhere and classic barbarian arms and armor fashioned out of office supplies.
I have always been certain that if I were a character in a novel – I’d be Flora Poste, from “Cold Comfort Farm.” Practical, businesslike. masterful and intolerant of idiocy.
I said this when it was first posted, and I still believe that you are not Lydia Bennet. Lydia’s main characteristic wasn’t that she was scandalous, it was that she was thoughtless. She didn’t run away with Wickham to cause a scandal but because she was genuinely unaware that there was anything wrong with it and had never thought through what might happen if Wickham didn’t marry her. Indeed, even as the days went by and it became came clear to anyone with an IQ above room temperature that Wickham didn’t intend to marry her, she still didn’t get it or consider any contingency plans.
You’re obviously not Charlotte either. If you were, you’d have followed the advice of your early agents, and none of us would have heard of you. Perhaps in some alternate universe, Sarah “Charlotte” Hoyt is turning out one literary fantasy novel every two or three years while making ends meet as an adjunct faculty in the English department at CU-Colorado Springs, but that’s not this universe.
You might be closer to Elizabeth. While Elizabeth had a better sense of decorum, she also had a willingness to follow her heart even if it led to trouble. She rejected Mr. Collins despite the obvious advantages of the match and the risks that she would end up a spinster if she turned him down. She rejected Darcy when all material advantage said she should have accepted him, and then later accepted him despite the difficulties she would have in marrying someone who was, if not legally above her station, clearly socially so. She looked at the potentially disastrous consequences and said, “Screw it, I’m doing it anyway.” Lizzie and her youngest sister had far more in common than Elizabeth ever wanted to admit.
As for me, I’m definitely Mary. Not because she’s an intellectual (I know she’s not actually as smart as most of her fans think) but because she’s unattractive and insecure. I know what it’s like to be looked down on because of your looks, and I understand the desire to prove that you’re just as good as the pretty girls by doing something—anything—well.
I always say that I’m a Mary Bennet because I’m pompous and introverted, and when I was younger I had kind of the hipster-ish, “I’m better than you because I’m not interested in mainstream things” vibe that she gives off.
Fanfic has generally been something I did for myself alone: missing scenes (generally romantic bits for cowboy movies with a perfunctory romance track) or plugged plot holes. Also a few AU or crackfic type thingies, a few hundred to a couple thousand words long. (There was also the time I wrote a ficlet based on a Bollywood dance number from a film I hadn’t seen, because I’d seen the leads in something else and liked them there.) Never been much point in sharing them, because what little fandom there was for the movies I was riffing on was not into fanfic.
The last phase was…I don’t know, going on 10 years ago? Think I nuked the file where I was storing them. Now I’ve had the bug come on again a couple of times, but it feels like it’s been useful for priming the pump (which it was on the last cycle, as well). The results are at least sort of adjacent to one of my original project ideas, so I’ve been dumping the fics in the research section of the Scrivener project file for that idea.