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Friday, January 23, 2009

 

I'm freee!

Yep, I'm out of hospital, and it went fine. But it was an interesting experience.

First, to answer the question of the previous thread, I brought in two books - an Alexander McCall Smith and Sarah Waters's Night Watch, which is the only one of hers I haven't read yet. In the end, though, I didn't read them, as the waiting times weren't that long, I was too nervous to concentrate, and I spent the time talking to my fiance instead. There was no TV blasting in the ward, mercifully; the surgery had some cheery music on in the background, but that was the point where they anaesthetised me so I can't quite remember what. I'm feeling a bit fragile and I'm not allowed to drive, drink or operate heavy machinery today (three things I don't do anyway), but basically I'm all right.

What did I learn from the experience? Mostly, that I have a really, really big thing about independence.

Also, that I'm more scared of medical procedures than you'd expect an educated person to be.

The latter is easy to account for: my father is a lawyer who specialises in medical negligence cases. The work stories I grew up with involved doctors who had messed up but good, causing terrible and permanent injuries. The surgery I was in for involved removing a benign lump from the region of my back under light general anaesthetic, and I'd never had more than a local before. My rational mind knew that this was a minor procedure, but certain phrases wouldn't go away: anaesthesia awareness, spinal paralysis, death under anaesthestic. A kind student came by and asked me how I was, and when I mentioned I was scared she took note: I was supposed to have a three-hour wait, but when my fiance went to see if that was definite, she apparently told the staff that there were a couple of cancellations and that I'd be a good person to move up the queue because I was anxious, and the next thing I knew people were walking into my little bay telling me to hop on the bed. Nice of her, really.

Which was where the independence issues kicked in.

I'd considered myself all right up till then; frightened, but coping. Once I was lying on a bed and getting wheeled along the corridor, I was overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness. Ceilings rushed past, doors were opened for me, I was trollied along with no control at all. They got me into the surgery, where there seemed to be about a dozen people milling about, and one of them got hold of each of my arms. The nice anaesthetist was knocking my wrist to put a drip in it, which was dealable, but there was a nurse taking my blood pressure on the other side, which made me panic: one mildly painful procedure I could deal with, but two at a time was too many. It split my concentration, and I wasn't sure I could maintain control of myself. Someone was sticking ECG badges to my chest, my arms were no longer my own: I felt surrounded, outnumbered. Once you're in surgery people start working on you like mechanics on a car, and while it's an efficient way of doing things and efficiency matters a lot in a public health service, if you have control issues, it's freaky.

Well, something went into the drip; the anaesthetist told me it was a pre-anaesthetic, and the stuff on the ceiling got a bit swimmy. The next thing I remember, I was surrounded once more, this time by two nurses talking about some other patient and messing with my arms again. This wasn't where I'd expected to wake up: I'd seen people wheeled back into the ward asleep, so I'd anticipated being back there, which would have been okay - I could come to peacefully, my fiance would be there, and he was on my side. Instead, I was somewhere strange and nobody seemed to be talking to me, and I got panicky again. Coming round wasn't what I'd expected to begin with: I'd been picturing a consciousness jump, a kind of lights-off, lights-on transition from one place to another; instead, I did know that time had passed. There was just a hole in the middle, and I wasn't sure where its edges were. I asked if I'd be going back to the ward soon, the nurse told me I'd already asked that, and I started to cry.

People come out of general anaesthesia in a variety of ways: they weep and wail, or giggle, or act groggy; my fiance had seen one polite woman being wheeled back in thanking the nurse like a slowed-down but appreciative recording. I was wheeled in crying and insisting that I wanted to go home.

The interesting thing about this is that I remember it - and I was totally convinced I was fit to be discharged. I was crying like a child, my blood pressure was all over the place and I was apparently talking slow and confused, but in my own perception I was fine. I knew exactly what I needed, there was nothing wrong with my judgement, I was crying because people weren't taking me seriously, which was insulting, because I was fine and knew exactly what I was saying. In a sense, I was right - I was saying that I wanted to go home, and I did want to go home - but I was also bitterly resisting the idea of any kind of dependence on the staff, which, considering I'd been unconscious ten minutes ago, was far less reasonable than it seemed at the time.

I wanted to be in complete control of my own fate. Finding that I wasn't, I just cracked and lost any control at all.

So my fiance watched a nervous adult woman being wheeled out, and got back a pathetically regressed mess, who greeted him with a wave and then started sobbing, 'I want to go home, they're talking over my head and I want to go home...' I kept asking the nurse to take the drip out, to let me get dressed, to let me leave, even though I was undoubtedly not ready for any of those things. They offered me a sandwich and I declined, insisting I wasn't hungry, even though I'd had nothing all day except a smoothie about nine hours previously; after about half an hour of recovery time, the nurse pointed out that the headache and dizziness I was complaining of were probably hunger and pressed some fruit squash on me, but up until that point it genuinely hadn't occurred to me that the headache and the fasting might be connected. Accepting food would have been accepting their hospitality, and I didn't want it. The surgery was over, as far as I was concerned, and I wanted out of there.

Why did I freak out? People react unpredictably, according to the staff - I wasn't the only one to be wheeled in weeping - but I do wonder whether people who usually care a lot about self-control and independence tend to collapse the most. (Anyone else's experiences that confirm or contradict this, I'd be interested to hear.) The fact that I was scared probably had a lot to do with it, but the big thing that upset me was that I had no say over what was going on. I got wheeled instead of walking on my own two feet; people were fiddling with my arms and I couldn't stop them; something major had happened to my body and I didn't remember it; I was told I was repeating myself and I didn't remember that either; I didn't wake up where I expected; people were treating what I said (not without reason) as babbling rather than sense. So I wanted to go home - my safe place, of course, but also the place where I was in charge of my own destiny. I got touchy under the anaesthetic; in my confused state, being treated like a patient seemed like in unbearable assault on my dignity.

Which is something I generally pride myself on - and tend to treat as inseparable from self-reliance. There's been more than one occasion in my life where I've delayed asking for help until long after I needed it because it was so important to me to feel that I could manage. The Coper is a role I find hard to let go. In the normal run of things, I say please and thank you, I try to act intelligent, I conceal disappointments, I hesitate to accept help because I want it known that I can handle myself. In a situation where people correctly divined that I couldn't, I just couldn't accept it. Attempting to comfort me, my fiance suggested I relax and trust that the hospital procedures would take their course for the best, and think of myself as being on a boat moving safely downstream to its destination; I tearfully responded, 'What kind of a bullshit metaphor is that?'. As far as I was concerned, I wasn't a passenger, I was a prisoner. I spent a good ten minutes insisting that I was fine and ready to leave before I wore myself out and gave in to a short nap out of sheer exhaustion; after that, I started being politer to people for no other reason than that I'd got the vague idea in my head that I was upset with everybody for perfectly legitimate reasons, but because they were mean they'd never believe that and would only let me go if I pretended to accept their authority.

Things moved along, and I was finally discharged about an hour and a half after I came round from surgery, which is fairly fast according to my pamphlet (it predicted one to six hours' recovery time). By the end, I was prepared to tell the nurse that I'd been confused when I came round and I was sorry if I said anything rude, which seemed to please her, patients apologising for rudeness perhaps not being the universal rule. But it took several more hours for the weepiness to finally wear off and for me to be able to accept a basic fact: I was out of my head on drugs, and my judgement was all shot.

The human brain is a rationalising organ, and resists any knowledge of its own fallibility. One of the best examples of this I've ever heard is a story a doctor friend told me. She was working on the wards, and in one bed was a man who had lost his short-term memory. But because he'd lost it, he didn't know he'd lost it: he couldn't remember the doctors telling him. So here he was in a hospital ward, but he didn't feel sick; there be some other reason he was there. And he came up with one: he was there to sell watches. He kept going up and down the ward trying to sell people watches, convinced that this was why he was there. His brain had a gap, and plugged it, as brains tend to do. The plug was made of false conclusions, but he just couldn't tell.

Ask me today if a patient who's just emerged from surgery under general anaesthesia should be discharged five minutes after she comes around, especially if she's crying, and I'll tell you no, of course not; a hospital would be completely irresponsible to let her go. Yesterday, I completely lost track of that. It's an interesting lesson in perspective, in a spooky sort of way: never forget, you might be out of your mind.

I've been considering, too, how these issues I apparently have relate to other areas of my life, including writing. One reason I don't drink, I suspect, is that post-adolescence I'm no longer comfortable with feeling drunk. It involves a chemical suspension of your self-control, and I think I tend to fight the feeling rather than enjoy it, which doesn't lead to a happy experience. But while I was talking about not wanting to lose it, my fiance asked where writing came in - don't you have to let go for that?

Well, sometimes. Some days it's a grind, and serious self-control is the only thing keeping me at my desk. But in other circumstances, it can be like a controlled detonation. I can let go - but on my own, in a safe environment that I'm in charge of.

My fiance worried me a bit by speculating whether anaesthetic strips you down to some kind of core self, which I hope is not the case as it suggests my core self is a confused and frightened five-year-old with no manners, but something else occurs to me. The way I was acting - blurting out 'What kind of a bullshit metaphor is that?', for example (a comment I subsequently apologised for) - is much more the way some of my characters act than the way I usually do. I seemed to have picked up some of their most difficult personality traits: Lola's touchiness, Anne's vulnerability, Henry's stubborn hatred of being handled. Which suggests that a lot of the time, I put my post-anaesthetic emotions into my books - or, more generally, the anaesthetic brought out emotions that I usually only show in my fiction. There's also the general point that I possibly wouldn't have woken up crying if I hadn't gone in afraid, and scaring yourself is the price of imagination, but the main thing, I think, is that I tend to put my less controlled feelings into my fiction, unless I'm on drugs.

So there you have it: general anaesthesia and surgery were not much fun, who knew? But I'm basically okay, if a bit sorry for myself (what? you couldn't tell?), and the experience was educational, so there's always something to learn.

Comments:
I'm probably a bit lucky. If I have stomach flu, I get vertigo (which of course leads to an upset stomach). If I fall asleep naturally? I get vertigo. Give me a sleeping pill? I get vertigo. Put me under anaesthetic? Vertigo.

It's at the point where if I feel that way, I have some automatic responses... Most of them related towards getting to a safe place where I can stay keeled over and asleep. And I *know* my judgment is terrible when I'm in that state. It is very hard to think clearly when you can barely walk without the help of a wall. I tend to get irrationally fond of walls with handrails in that state, and walls with nice textures are wonderful. Stairs are a great and terrible evil.

Once the vertigo passes, I have a lot more function, and I'm less inclined to sleep all the time.

The way it hits you sounds much rougher indeed.
 
I went under general anaesthetic a few times as a child, and I reacted in pretty much exactly the way you describe each time. In fact your description is quite evocative of my memories of the time, so I doubt it's a "core personality" thing, I suspect it's just that a drug strong enough to knock you out is going to substantially impair you in other ways to.

PS Bareback was a fantastic book, I can't wait to read your next one.
 
I possibly wouldn't have woken up crying if I hadn't gone in afraid,

I doubt it, actually. When I had my wisdom teeth out I went in completely unafraid (I mean, mild nerves, but really nothing much) and I came out of the anaesthetic bawling.

I don't lend much credence to the ideas of true selves and such (if my SO had said something like that to me I probably would have made the bullshit metaphor comment and then not apologised because, really, what an asshole thing to say). If we are the products of our brain function then it's only to be expected that our personality will change when our brains are changed with drugs. Even if there is individual variation in how that change looks I don't see any reason to suppose that it has anything to do with some deeper layer of who you are that you normally keep hidden, or whatever.
 
Welcome back. I'm glad it all went as well as could be expected. Which is to say, not much fun, but at least it's over. And I presume it can't be too bad if you're well enough to write? If Kit's writing, we say, she's herself again.

I've had general anesthesia twice. The first time, I woke up to the sound of someone crying, and I really wished she'd shut up, because I was feeling quite bad enough without having to listen to that noise. Then I woke up a little more, and realized that, oh, the person crying is me. And I shut up.

I remember waking up all alone; that can't be right, they surely wouldn't leave an immediately post-op patient unobserved, but I remember it as a very solitary experience.

The second time I woke up in the recovery room with my husband and a bunch of nurses there. This time I knew they were there, they seemed to be having a nice chat with each other. Which was fine with me as long as they left me alone and didn't expect me to talk or move.

So maybe my core self is an inarticulate, morose hermit?

Anyway, hope you're feeling better still by now.

Verification word: "suantri." I think that's a Gaelic lullaby.
 
what an asshole thing to say

I'll thank you not to insult my fiance. He wasn't insulting me; we were having a mutually speculative conversation that I started about why different people reacted to anaesthetic differently. I made some suggestions, he made some suggestions; 'core self' was one of his, but he wasn't implying any criticism by it. If anything, he was concerned that I might be concealing greater levels of distress in the daily run of things than he'd realised, and if so whether he could do anything to help.

There's a difference between a speculation and a nasty remark, and his was in the former. I know this because I was there and you weren't. He took a day's leave to support me, looked after me with great patience and sympathy, and was the only thing that made the whole experience tolerable. Please don't call my future husband an 'asshole'.
 
I too have had the unable to stop crying after general anaesthetic, though with madly unsympathetic nurses. After a different surgery with a different drug, I did not have this same reaction, and I do not believe I was more or less scared for either surgery, though the one I cried after was elective, repairing damage caused by the first surgery. I have no idea what this means about control or my deepest personality flaws, though I suspect it means I had a bad reaction to one drug and not the other.
 
Hey Kit- Glad to hear everything went as well as can be expected for something like surgery. It's never fun, and I'm sorry you were so shaken by the experience. Glad you're back, safe and sound.
The one time I've been under general anesthesia was when I had my wisdom teeth removed. I don't know what the relative strength of the drug was, but it put me waaaaay out. I remember counting down from 100 (I got to 98, I think) then waking up in my bed at home, with a mouth full of blood and gauze. My mom tells me I was awake before then, that I had a full conversation with her on the ride home. I don't remember that AT ALL, which is really weird. Incidentally, part of the surgery protocol was that they gave me a prescription for Valium beforehand and told me to take it before coming in. I don't remember being nervous or anything, but I bet the Valium would've helped if I had been.
 
It's worth noting that I didn't call him an asshole, only said that it was an asshole thing to say. Wonderful people can say terrible things occasionally out of thoughtlessness and I didn't mean to imply anything more than that. That said, you are right that I was missing context, and I withdraw the comment with apologies. I'm sorry.

Also, I'm very glad that everything went well and that you're all right.
 
I tried to email this to you but it bounced:

Hi Kit,

I wanted to apologize again. After our most recent exchange I took a
look at my mood and recent behaviour and realized that I am in an
all-around foul mood and am picking fights every way I turn. My
comment was way out of line and I shouldn't have made it. I'm really
sorry.

/Jake
 
Kit, I'm glad that you are out of hospital and back into writing.

Like everyone else, I don't think you should take too seriously the experience of anesthesia. The times I've been put under, I usually come out mean and bitter and itching to pick fights with everyone in the room, which is NOTHING like my "core self". [grin]

I'm hijacking this thread a little bit because I know you are a fan of the AVATAR animated series (it was through your thoughtfl analyses that I picked it up, and now my whole family are fans) and I thought you might not be aware of the controversy over the big-budget live-action movie being made by Paramount.

The tentative cast has been announced and all the main characters are white.

Yeah.

I remember seeing the live version of EARTHSEA with a white cast and was horrified; Ursula LeGuin was reputedly heartbroken.

It's not the same, but I can't imagine how you would feel if someone would choose to make a movie version of BAREBACK and said, "Hey, vampires are in right now, we'll make the same story but just make everybody vampires."

Some things are just wrong. And this is not only wrong, it's racist and insulting.

I don't believe that protest campaigns ever accomplish much in cases like this, but if anyone is interested, a respectful protest is being organized through aang-aint-white.livejournal.com

[sorry if this was ought of place here. I'd have posted it on my own blog, except I'm experiencing serious Internet wonkiness and can't go there myself this past week]

(verification word: "unaera", the exquisite rage felt by aetherial beings)

I don't know
 
Oh, and I forgot to ask, which McCall Smith? I love the Isabel Dalhousie books, but I confess I never got into the Precious Ramotswe ones.

(And I laughed so hard at an audiobook of one of the Prof von Igelfelt stories (I think it was FINER POINTS OF SAUSAGE DOGS) that I had to pull off the road before I had a wreck.)
 
It was The World According to Bertie, which I borrowed off my mother-in-law. The Precious Ramotswe ones are my favourites, but I'd read all the ones I could get hold of...

Re the Avatar movie - yeah, that's pretty stupid. There would have been a problem finding appropriate races, as none of the races in the series are exactly like real races - those with the darkest skins tend to have blue eyes, for example - but they could have done something. The Water tribe are majorly influenced by Atanarjuat the Fast Runner, down to the hair loops (very good movie), which is Inuit; the Earth Kingdom are basically Chinese; the Air nomads seem Tibetan (though how they're nomads when they live in monasteries is a bit hard to figure); the Fire nation seem like a mixture of Japanese and white: their music and dances look kind of Russian, they have that Western thing for technology, and in attitude they seem very Bush-era American - competitive, energetic, patriotic, preoccupied with winning, excelling in many areas, imperialist, authoritarian and led by a dynasty of tyrants who hate the environment for too bloody long. When Zuko makes the speech to his father about how he was raised with the 'amazing lie' that they were the greatest nation and the war was a way of sharing their greatness, I confess my first comment was 'Listen to the Yank! It learns!' (No offence to Americans who aren't in favour of trashing the world.) Art is often influenced by its political era, and I think you could make the case that Zuko moves from a Dubya headspace to an Obama one. So for them the best move would be to look for a lot of mixed-race actors, probably.

So yes, any choice of real races would be a bit of a simplification but far better than the 'white is normal' template. That's offensive, no question.

But you know? That fan thing of getting worked up because a favourite piece of mine is being adapted badly has never been my scene. I love the TV series, I never really planned to watch the movie because the TV series does the job just fine. If I don't like what the movie does, no one's going to make me see it.

And I really doubt an internet campaign will do any good; if I was an executive, I'd class the board as 'people who'll kick up a fuss but who love the show enough that they'll probably go and see the movie - they'll complain about it afterwards, but we'll have their money, so who cares?'

Honestly, if someone chose to make Bareback about vampires? It would depend on two things: one, whether it was a good movie in itself, and two, whether they'd paid me enough to compensate for lost creative control, which Warner did. I'm not a movie maker, I'm a novelist; even if Warner made the worst movie in the world, it wouldn't make my book any worse. My book's complete in itself.

And as far as I know, the creators of Avatar aren't objecting; I watched a couple of commentaries, and they were talking about Shyamalan in a friendly way. If they don't want to object, that's their call. It's their show, not mine.

A bad adaptation can't hurt the original. The only way it does harm is if people feel they have to watch it, and then have to associate it with the original, and we don't have to do either. I'm just going to give the whole movie as big a miss as possible.

Racism sucks, and it's a bad decision. But I'll just stick to other movies; there are plenty of good things to watch.

Word: patif. A decorative form of textile dyeing unique to Western India.
 
Welcome home, Kit - I am glad everything went well and that you have the learning experience attitude.

I am not sure if it is due to your (as usual) accurate/good descriptions or simple recognition, but I got sympathy tears in my eyes from reading about your hospital experience. However I think you touched upon this in an earlier blog post, using a submarine as an example - you don't need to have commanded a submarine to recognize the feelings that might (or might not) appear in such a situation. In my case I have never actually had surgery myself, but I have quite alot of hospital experience without being knocked out. And I just HATE that I am not allowed to walk beside the trolley/bed/whatever to wherever I am going when I am basically fine, undrugged, legs ok and working, and I walked into the ward. I hate seeing the ceiling rush by and how everyone stop talking TO me as long as I am on that bed, just pulling at my limbs and sending me off like some parcel.

In fact, I think that because now I know that I am not the only one disliking seeing the ceiling rush by and doors opening and losing track of the corridors, if I find myself in that situation again I will rebel and jump off and walk no matter what. Thanks. :)

But as to why you freaked out - I think it is a mixture of circumstances and not necessarily some "core self" - you were scared, you were drugged and not in full of understanding your surroundings, you were out of control while you are used to being in control, and crying is a completely normal way of showing emotion unless self-control prevents it. If you hadn't cried, you might even have felt worse (but we will never know) considering how much crying is a release of all those emotions.

All speculation, of course.

And congratulations on what sounds like an awesome fiance, being there for you when needed!
 
Thanks, Silme. And thanks on behalf of my fiance, too - I read out your kind remark and he did a little dance around the room, repeating 'Awesome fiance! Awesome fiance!' You've made him a happy man. :-)

Word: floutous. The condition of a fluid-filled swelling such as a blister in the stage of healing where the fluid has been partly reabsorbed into the body, leaving the swelling soft and pliable.
 
"That fan thing of getting worked up because a favourite piece of mine is being adapted badly has never been my scene. "

I agree with you, alas, about the internet protest thing, which is why I am not getting personally involved in it.

But I respectfully disagree that it's a case of being worked up about a "bad adaptation."

I remember when I first read the Lloyd Alexander Prydain books as a young girl. I had read a lot of fantasy before then, but these were a... revelation. A wonderment. I read them over and over until I could probably still recite them from memory.

Why? Because of Eilonwy. This was the first fantasy which I had every encountered in which the GIRL went on adventures, was tough, used a sword, didn't sit around embroidering and waiting to be rescued.

I had never noticed the overwhelming sexual stereotyping in fantasy before then, because it never even occurred to me that girls could do that sort of stuff.

Of course, there are lots and lots of good role female role models in chidlren's fantasies nowadays; Tamora Pierce's heroines, for example could send Eilonwy shrieking under the tablecloth.

But most fantasy (in the US at least) remains overwhelmingly white. So white that we don't even see it.

And there are a lot of Asian kids where I work, who glom onto manga, who gobbled up AVATAR, not just because they are good stories but because it never before occurred to them that there could be heroes "who looked like me."

Most of the fansites I see complaining about the movie aren't saying "well, they're adapting something I love." They are expressing a deep sense of hurt and betrayal that "once again, I'm being told that people like me aren't good enough to be anything other than villains, sidekicks, and comic relief."

I respect what you say about the rights of the artist, and the willingness of an artist to let others interpret his or her work.

But I have always argued that a work of art does not belong solely to the artist. Once it is published, "released into the wild", as it were, that piece of art is created in collaboration with the reader, the viewer, the listener.

Does that mean that reader etc. gets ownership of the artwork, or heaven forbid should be allowed to dictate to the artist? No, of course not.

But I do believe that an *adapter* of an already created artwork has a responsibility to both sides of that creative process. If the director is not willing to take into account the artwork that is read and seen and heard, as well as the one that was written, they should jolly well go out and make up their own stories.

My (considerably more than) two cents.

(verification word: "maticaf" -- a spectacularly unsuccessful coffee-substitute made from recycled thatch)
 
Goodness. That sounds utterly harrowing. I haven't got any real insights on that one (was put under twice in my life, and only remember being freaked, when I woke up, that so much time had gone by when it seemed like none). But I'm glad you're all right now! It's lovely how you're able to take insights away from this, not only into your own mind, but into your craft.

Boy...this is a thing I've been livid about for some time: The Avatar creators gave a thorough breakdown of which culture derived from what on their DVD commentaries -- if I remember correctly, the Fire Nation was a Japan/Korea combo (especially with a lot of what they chose to do with the hair, very Joseon Dynasty at times). They had a good time mixing things up, I think. (I cheered a bit at the "what an incredibly lie that was.)

I would feel that the world contained some balance and fairness if the movie flopped. It won't, but this is something Hollywood needs to stop doing. It's got a pervasive reach, sending messages throughout the world, and too many of their subtler racial messages are offensive -- and believed by people without the same level of personal contact. As a minority who has been privy to what people outside my country think of me, I am particularly tired of this crap.

(What with all the care and enthusiasm Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko put into creating and detailing this franchise, and with all their study of various Asian cultures and martial-arts styles -- not to mention the care they put into individual characterization and plot -- I can't imagine they're actually content with what's going on. More likely they don't want to be unemployed pariahs for the rest of their lives and are keeping quiet. And while they said nice things in early 2008, they've been keeping very quiet since the casting.)
 
would feel that the world contained some balance and fairness if the movie flopped.

Fairness doesn't enter into it. Audiences aren't there to mete out justice; people either go to something or they don't.

I agree it's a crappy thing to whiten out a work of art - it bespeaks a lousy attitude to people and art both, and I seriously doubt any adaptor who does it will have the sensitivity to produce a good work. Which is one reason why I don't intend to see the film; I doubt it'll be any good, in lots of different ways. I'm not defending the decision. It's a stupid decision.

I have always argued that a work of art does not belong solely to the artist. Once it is published, "released into the wild", as it were, that piece of art is created in collaboration with the reader, the viewer, the listener.

It's a common position, I know, but I just don't see it that way. The piece isn't created in collaboration with anyone but the people who create it; by the time it gets to an audience, it's finished. Audience response can build up its own culture, but it's a culture of response, not of creation.

Even if audience response influences a work in progress, I don't think that gives the audience any more stakes than an editor or friend or critic who gave feedback. Feedback is a common thing, but that doesn't give the editor, friend or critic any creative standing, and audiences aren't a special category, however emotionally involved they may feel.

Artists very often do make decisions based on all kinds of influence - far more than consumers generally perceive - but I don't think that counts as a two-sided 'creative process'. You're either a collaborator with the whole world, in which case that includes the parts of it that make bad decisions, or you're just a collaborator with your co-writers, if any. Influence is big and nebulous, and no basis for responsibility.

Whether you're adapting something or creating it from scratch, you have only one responsibility: to do it as well as you possibly can. If you do it badly, you've let down art and yourself, never mind the audience. If you do it well, you're highly unlikely to come out racist, because racism is wrong about everything.

But this is how I see it: nobody owes me a good work of art. Nobody owes anybody a good work of art. If somebody creates a work of art and I enjoy it, that's a gift. They didn't have to do it, and I'll appreciate it for all I'm worth because it's enriched my life. But that's it. They don't owe me another one. Neither does anybody else who handles the work. One good work is so precious that it already puts me so far ahead of the game that I've got no right to ask for more; it's as if somebody gave me a gold vase and then I got annoyed that their friend offered me a silver one.

So if somebody offers me a work of art I don't want, then I just don't want it. The fact that I liked a previous work from the same shop doesn't give me the right to get annoyed about it. I can just turn around and keep walking until I find another work of art somewhere else.

And if people are looking heavily to fantasy to provide good role models and portraits, and it's not coming up with the goods, I reckon there are two sensible options: branch out your tastes - there's lots of good art out there with - or create some of your own that does what it should.

So I can certainly sympathise with feeling insulted; heck, I feel kind of insulted at the implication that only white people are interesting, and I'm white. I just think the best thing is to walk away and look elsewhere.

Basically I'm saying that I feel annoyed about it as a racism issue, but not as a fandom issue, because fandom is really not my thing.
 
When my grandmother awoke from reconstructive hip surgery, she began reciting the collected works of Percy Shelley, and continued for about 10 minutes. Anaesthesia just makes people a bit weird.

Having grown up in hospital wards, being the Daughter Of A Nurse, they feel like a second home. I'm sure that knowing what each person's role is, the instruments they're using, and the techniques they employ makes the experience less overwhelming. When I was a poor student earning money from medical trials, I certainly felt the "mechanic" aspect, but was more fascinated by watching competent professionals working confidently than intimidated by their lack of interest in me as a person.

Haven't met anyone else who felt the same way I do about drunkenness, and now I have proper words to explain it to to other people. Thanks!

(My word is "fempses", which are small chubby creatures spontaneously generated from the femurs of recent corpses)
 
Fairness doesn't enter into it. Audiences aren't there to mete out justice; people either go to something or they don't.

Oh, I know. Believe me, I am well aware. But I do indulge in dreaming sometimes. This past week I have been very dreamy indeed. :-) Frozen stiff by the Lincoln Monument, but very dreamy.

It's a bit different, I think, with a book than with something whose original incarnation was visual. Harder to sort out "canon" from not.

I don't know.

I'm glad the original creators will be doing two (animated) specials of their own. I'm... saddened? Disgusted? Unsurprised? that the whitewashing probably will draw more of an audience to the film, or at least will not provide them any reason to change their ways. And I'm tired of the way American media portrays the nation to the world, that other ethnicities either aren't here at all, or are drug-infested criminals preying on the decent citizenry, and that "all-American" still equals "blond athlete" in the minds of -- well, a lot of people. I am often horrified at what people who meet me in other countries think I will be, and this is making the wound rather salty.

So if no one owes us accurate (hmm. Define accurate, Anthrophile...) representations of minorities in our (U.S.) media, on what basis is there protest against it, or method of countering it? There's always "write your own," but there's a lot of reasons why that could be considered unfeasible and dismissive (influence, monetary power, lack thereof, et cetera). This is not a question I can answer at the moment. (But I still ardently hope for floppage -- perhaps a message would be sent.)

So yeah, I'm enraged about it as a race issue. (Many examples I could point to aren't fantasy-genre.) But I think most of the petition-drafters and so on are also enraged in that way.

(And I'm kind of annoyed that the Earthsea miniseries' existence probably means that the books will never be made into good and representative movies somewhere down the line, because I've always thought they could be just as epic as any Lord of the Rings clone... but I admit that might be ever so slightly motivated by selfishness on my part. Entertain me, dammit! Indulge my entitlement! ;-D)

(That was kidding, above.)

At any rate, the important part is, I'm glad you're out of the hospital and feeling better! Holy thread-jacking...
 
I'm sure that knowing what each person's role is, the instruments they're using, and the techniques they employ makes the experience less overwhelming.

That's very possible. I think one reason I cried was that I didn't know what was going on or what was likely to happen next, so when the nurse told me I was repeating myself I got upset because, well, I didn't know what was going on except that people were doing stuff to me, so I found her physically intimidating. Then again, I don't usually cry because people are a bit curt with me, so I suspect it's mostly the drugs. Reciting poetry would have been far more fun! Your gran had style.

And I'm tired of the way American media portrays the nation to the world, that other ethnicities either aren't here at all, or are drug-infested criminals preying on the decent citizenry, and that "all-American" still equals "blond athlete" in the minds of -- well, a lot of people.

If it's any consolation, much of the rest of the world has had it absolutely up to here with that All-American-Hero crap. We don't see it as heroic; we see it as the way Bush and his gang see themselves while acting like criminals. As an export, the product has zero credibility - because, you see, it's exported alongside foreign policy.

America has a big self-image and its media pushes it far and wide, but we don't accept it uncritically. In England, at least, we've seen ourselves cast as the villian far too often to take Hollywood anthropology seriously, and I suspect it's the same with many other nations. When everyone but the All-American-Hero gets stereotyped, that includes foreigners, so we're more or less in the same boat.

Whitewashers make themselves look stupid, not you.
 
I'm sorry you had a bad experience Kit, good thing it is over ! And you seem to have a good attitude about it.

I had general anaesthesia once when I was around twelve, for a broken arm. My parents told me after the surgery the doctors kept shaking me to wake me up and insisting I was fine, while I did my best zombie impression.
I just remember waking up in a hospital bed, and having a miserable time until my parents came to get me, but I think being in Germany while not speaking a word of German had more to do with that than the anaesthetic.

On adaptations : I think an issue is the fact that there are only so many adaptations of a work that get made, especially for movies, and especially when you only look for high-profile adaptations. So if you want to see your favorite series/book/etc made into a movie/series/etc, you'll have a vested interest in that adaptation being as good as possible.

After all, that's the tragedy of (for example) a LOTR fan who'd like to see it on the big screen but hates Jackson's adaptation. She won't be seeing another one, let alone a better one, for quite some time.

Phosi : an incorrect plural of "phosus" (which isn't actually Latin, but a corruption of the early Greek word for "speckle", "phosos". The correct plural is therefore "phosopodeezes", but "phosuses" (pronounced "fuzzies") is accepted), which is the little light particle you get when sunlight is filtered through leaves.
 
Whitewashers make themselves look stupid, not you.

If only.

But keep in mind, Kit, that you are an extremely aware and thoughtful individual, invested in storytelling, representation, and narrative process, and are likely interacting with other similarly aware persons on a regular basis, and that England and the UK, sharing (more or less) a language with us have a distinct communication advantage. And yet I've still encountered the "Wow, Americans [read: lower class/"ethnic" ones] are weird and fucked up" meme in England and Scotland (from UK citizens and from sojourning Australians and New Zealanders), based on viewings of Jerry Springer. And even in the UK in the early 90s I was finding colors of tights called 'American Tan." (???) Multiply that by a bit in Japan (and in the U.S., interacting with my Japanese students), where I was more-than-occasionally looked on and spoken to as someone who might spontaneously strip to a thong and start shaking my booty like a rap video. Or my friend's little sister, in Singapore and Indonesia, being repeatedly followed by groups of children doing "gangsta" poses. Or leaflets and letters to the editor from Germany postulating things like how the worldwide housing crisis and the collapse of banks was actually caused by welfare queens living off "our" taxes (because of course only white people pay taxes), or all crime in America is caused by drug infested blacks who are "holding American citizens hostage in their homes" (because only whites are actually citizens) based on acclaimed movies like "Traffic." Or things that go over people's heads entirely even in the U.S., like how in both "Traffic" and "Requiem for a Dream," you have the nadir of the young, beautiful white heroine's story arc being sex with or at the behest of a black man (after which films I actually went home and cried), or in popular "Cloverfield," post-Katrina, where fifteen huge black men (and one tiny white guy, front and center, for "plausibility") are seen looting a store while everyone else is running for their lives or nobly trying to phone their loved ones. Reflective of such media portrayals I am treated like a slut -- "I really like black women, will you get into my car at 11pm" (while modestly covered and professionally dressed, for the record) or asking me about my or my father's sex life -- or the flip side, "you're so quiet/polite/well-mannered... for a black woman"/"don't you ever speak, you know, slang?" -- or (more recently) a potential identity thief far more often than I care to enumerate, by people overly influenced by media portrayals, both abroad and in my own city (very international and very 1st-generation immigrant-y. Which I mostly adore, btw, especially as the child of an immigrant myself). Black Americans are looked down on very, very often -- even by blacks from other countries (which is another source of shock and unhappiness to quite a few black Americans).

Possibly the most innocuous of these is that I was taken for a basketball player in Jerusalem, and a friend of mine was, shall we say, vigorously pursued in the streets of Berlin by an elderly fellow who must have lived through WW2, who badly wanted to tell her that "you should know that black is beautiful!"--which were fairly nice and charming, in comparison!

(And a good 80 percent of the experiences I'm citing are well-pre-Bush. Er, pre Bush the Second, anyway. I first left the U.S. on my own, long-term, in 1991.)

Pretty much all that Asian Americans (in general, never mind SOUTH-Asian Americans) have representing them now -- aside from a couple of movies where the actual real-life Asians are replaced with blondes; commercials with children in them doing anime-esque kung-fu; or loud, unintelligible laundry operators terrifying a white guy -- is the Korean couple from "Lost," if they're even still there, and Harold and Kumar. And this new Clint Eastwood thing I haven't seen and so can't judge. (I'm often torn between whether bad representation or complete invisibility is worse. I still can't decide. This is an aspect of things I'm still learning about from the outside.)

I think it's getting better. A little. But yeah -- there are far too many people who are taking the whitewashers very seriously indeed, as fact and documentary. It makes me knee-jerk, it makes me angry and depressed, it makes me avoid even acclaimed shows like "The Wire," because I'm tired of seeing THAT face of me and mine as the only one out there.

Please understand that I do see your point. It IS comforting that at least some people are seeing these people as the moneygrubbing, non-chance-taking, unimaginative shortcut-taking folks they are. (Possibly I'm unkind to say "moneygrubbing," even -- it's expensive to make a film, and a financial kick in the butt to suffer a flop. But it feels like laziness and cowardice to me, and I do see it affecting my own, individual life.) And I agree that it likely won't do much at all -- but in light of all this, I can't fault the ones who want to raise a little Internet hell. After the Avatar creators going to such lengths to do the right thing (down to using accurate Chinese characters when the majority of their audience -- being non-Chinese, and children to boot -- are not even able to read them, plus using them to encode evolving meaning into the writing of the major character's names), this is an especial slap, and it's a helpless feeling, and very constant. And I'm at a loss as to what else can be done. Aside from making my own movies, which is...implausible at the current time, to say the least. The best I can see myself doing so far is trying to nudge language use in the magazines I work for in the right direction...

But the "take my money elsewhere" approach hasn't been working.
 
Anthrophile, can I ask your opinion on something?

I've got a story that's about a plumber. In space. It's your standard "plumbing problem will destroy space station, but no one listens to the plumber" story, and it comes out of the fact that I do a lot of lab work, and I get frustrated with the fact that people who do hands-on work are often taken much less seriously than the "idea men" even though they have much better idea of what will actually work and what the risks are.

Anyway, this plumber was originally named Joe (seriously!) but obviously I had to change that. So, I thought about it, and I changed his name to Tyrell. Why? Because I was trying to think of "T" names, and there's a college football player named Tyrell Sutton that I'm a fan of. And in changing his name to Tyrell, I decided that he might as well be black. His race doesn't matter to the plot at all, really, but it helped me imagine his background in a little more detail. I gave him a dad in the military and a mom who's a nurse and a family home in a small town in North Carolina.

Now I'm not black, and I'm not blue collar either. I'm German-Irish from Kansas, and I'm in grad school right now.

I guess I'm wondering -- am I likely to step on anyone's toes, when really I have only my imagination to rely on when trying to describe a character who grew up as a black, blue collar man in North Carolina? Should I write about a character like this, and take the risk of being wrong about what the experience is like? Or should I write about people whose background is close to my own? In which case there will always, by definition, be a shortage of minority representations in fiction...

I guess it comes down to the question that you asked yourself -- is a bad representation better than no representation? Is it okay to risk a bad representation, by writing about someone else's experience?

David Simon is white, but I think "The Wire" has some of the strongest black characters on television ever. On the other hand, I didn't love "Slumdog Millionaire" made by a British white guy, and set in India. (Probably because I couldn't help comparing it to The Wire throughout -- similar plot points, but much less convincing character development.) It felt condescending.

I think a lot of writers, of books, TV, and movies, are afraid to write characters too different from themselves. I am. But if the result is that minorities are unable to see themselves as heroes very often, it's a shame... What should white (especially white male!) writers do, do you think?
 
"I really like black women, will you get into my car at 11pm"

You are kidding me. Do you ever go to a security guard/policeman and report the guy for soliciting/harrassing you?

What a scumbag.

it makes me avoid even acclaimed shows like "The Wire," because I'm tired of seeing THAT face of me and mine as the only one out there.

Fair enough, though in its defence 'The Wire' has a lot of black cops and law-abiding citizens as well as dealers, and a fair few scummy white guys on both sides of the law. From an English point of view, it's actually an example of American talent-drain on black British actors - a lot of good actors like Idris Elba or Eamonn Walker went Stateside and became stars there because Britain just wasn't offering them decent roles. The bus takes me past a big, proud poster of Elba every time I go through Peckham, but he had to leave to make it. So I can see why you feel that way, but I still think of it as being well ahead of us in terms of giving talented black actors decent parts. (I must confess it was also interesting from a white point of view to realise how badly tuned to black faces my eye was; until I got used to it, I had a bit of trouble telling Idris Elba from Wood Harris - because they were in all the same scenes saying similar things, and both had goatees and longish faces. Once I had my eye in I saw it was ridiculous, because they look nothing alike, but it was a good sharp lesson in my own limitations.)

Anyway, you clearly have good reason to be pissed off, and I'd never argue with that.

After all, that's the tragedy of (for example) a LOTR fan who'd like to see it on the big screen but hates Jackson's adaptation.

But that's kind of what I'm saying: racial insults aside, 'tragedy' is just way too strong a word for it. So there won't be a good adaptation; so what? Life goes on. There was a good original, so you're already fortunate. I have a vested interest in the National Health Service keeping on going and the market for books surviving this recession; good adaptations of stuff I like are entirely do-withoutable luxuries.
 
Reading over my comments, I think I was rather patronising and insensitive to the issues of racism raised by people here. This was wrong of me, and my apologies to anyone I offended. Next time an issue of race comes up - and it's a pretty bleak certainty that I will - I will take it more seriously than I did in this discussion.
 
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