I have input days and output days. Today is an input day: learning about UX and user research.
I have input days and output days. Today is an input day: learning about UX and user research.
I just moved my next follow up doctor’s appointment up two months to the week after next because I’m still so tired all the time and not convinced my increased thyroid supplements are helping enough. Celebrating my birthing day (kid’s birthday) by taking care of myself.
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I love to read about writing. I’m the kind of person who finds Strunk and White fun. I keep buying books about writing: Stephen King’s On Writing, Ursula K. LeGuin’s conversations, and many more. And I do write: mostly blog posts and email messages these days, but I have written just about every format there is. I have not shared or attempted to publish much of that writing, though.
What keeps me from doing it? What has me loving reading about craft but rarely implementing what I read? It’s not that I never write but rather that I enjoy reading about writing perhaps more than writing itself. (No, that’s not quite right. I actually enjoy writing, even genres/formats I think I don’t enjoy, like book reviews. I loved writing last week’s book review of Brent Spiner’s Fan Fiction, despite constantly telling myself I don’t like writing book reviews.)
I think one of the things that keeps me hoarding and absorbing resources but leveraging them less frequently than I acquire and engage with them is my love of learning. I was working on a blog post about qualitative research for a client today and my head started swimming with how much I love learning about different methods of qual research. And I love doing it, too! I love creating a research design. I love finding the meaning in the data. But I think I love learning about new techniques for it even more. I was talking with W. about how readily I forget that I actually love doing this thing I spent six years learning to do - I went into the PhD explicitly because I wanted to devote time to understanding research methods. My PhD is in qualitative methods as much as or more than it’s in my discipline. (Except I love my discipline, too, which I also sometimes forget!)
Back to the point, here: W. suggested that perhaps UX careers would be a good fit, a place where a person could do qualitative research. I told him yes, that or market research. And then I told him that I don’t want to just do it in service of whatever business would want to hire me for it as much as I want to learn about it and share what I learn with other people so THEY can do it.
And then I said, “But what I REALLY need to remember is that I already have a client paying me to do exactly that.”
So I’m actually getting paid to do the learning I love. In a very real sense, I am at present, living the dream. It would serve me well to remember that.
Amy Gentry’s second guest post for The Professor Is In, about transitioning from academic to novelist, is one of the most helpful post-ac pieces I’ve read.
Portrait of the Mother as an Artist – Guernica guernicamag.com
To think of the mother as artist does not necessitate a conflict, nor does it require a choice between passive domestic surrender or total domestic rejection, although for a long time the world demanded that it did. Such frames only reinforce hierarchies, limit her to merely a fragment when, of course, she is com posed of many pieces.
Craft — a designation used to subjugate many art-making practices that have been the domain of women: needlepoint, pottery, quilt making. With their connections to the home, these mediums have been historically dismissed, supposedly lacking the rigor and intellectual complexity of high art.
“I have drawn my children and painted them endlessly and I cannot distinguish them from my soul…”
she sometimes wonders why an artist must inhabit turmoil or drama to be taken seriously.
Watching the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Offspring” as a parent adds a whole new perspective to the experience.
Have y’all read THE DARK TIDE by Alicia Jasinka? because I started it tonight and it is gorgeous. 📚🌊🧙♀️
Whoopi Goldberg has done a lot of great work in her career, but I think I’ll always feel that Guinan has been her greatest role. 🖖📺
Finished reading: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski 📚
So far in my rewatch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode 3x13, “Deja Q,” is my favorite. Having Data be Q’s tutor in humanity is brilliant. And the way John de Lancie says “Red alert!” when he first shows up is chef kiss perfect. 📺🖖
Me, watching Super Monsters with my kid: I can suspend my disbelief to allow that Universal monsters send their kids to night preschool, but putting lace-up shoes on kids who can’t tie them? Hard side-eye.
Brainfog day 😞
👩🏻💻 That feeling when it takes all day to maintain your (6-year-old budget) laptop…
There is a medium-small spider hanging out on my corkboard and I’ve decided to adopt it as a pet. I will lure mosquitoes to it and call it cute names.
📚💬 “If this is your first draft, stop worrying.” - Leigh Bardugo in her latest newsletter
What I mean when I say I have variable disabilities: today, I am using a cane because I have mild vertigo and need the stability. Yesterday I did not need this.
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Quick head’s up: In this review, I use “Brent” to refer to the character and “Spiner” to refer to the author.
Brent Spiner’s explosive and hilarious novel is a personal look at the slightly askew relationship between a celebrity and his fans. If the Coen Brothers were to make a Star Trek movie, involving the complexity of fan obsession and sci-fi, this noir comedy might just be the one.
Set in 1991, just as Star Trek: The Next Generation has rocketed the cast to global fame, the young and impressionable actor Brent Spiner receives a mysterious package and a series of disturbing letters, that take him on a terrifying and bizarre journey that enlists Paramount Security, the LAPD, and even the FBI in putting a stop to the danger that has his life and career hanging in the balance.
Featuring a cast of characters from Patrick Stewart to Levar Burton to Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, to some completely imagined, this is the fictional autobiography that takes readers into the life of Brent Spiner, and tells an amazing tale about the trappings of celebrity and the fear he has carried with him his entire life.
Fan Fiction is a zany love letter to a world in which we all participate, the phenomenon of “Fandom.”
Let’s get the fanfiction discussion out of the way.
If you are into fanfiction, you probably know that, despite anything the OED may tell you, fans (or fen, as we’re sometimes pluralized) write it as all one word: fanfiction. Spiner’s book is titled Fan Fiction. But there’s a reason, I promise! In spite of Spiner not writing this the same way as fans do, I can fanwank the title! The novel itself, you see, is mostly Fiction, and it’s about not only Brent dealing with the attentions of a scary Fan, but the ways in which Brent is a Fan himself.
There is a point at which Brent tells Patrick Stewart that he feels as if he is a character in a work of fanfiction. At first, I thought, “Whoa, an actor aware of fanfiction in 1991?” but then I remembered that this is Star Trek, one of the first media fandoms and the first fanzine-based media fandom, and that the first issue of a newsletter devoted to Data and Spiner was released in the fall of 1987, well before this book takes place. That newsletter (adorable titled Data Entries) published its first piece of fiction in issue 3, which was published in spring of 1988, again well before this novel takes place. It’s worth noting that the first issue of the newsletter discusses establishing a fan club for Spiner and later issues report that Spiner requested that fans not do this and that the newsletter not include photos of him out of makeup. While the driving force in the novel is a fan who is creepy as can be, there were a lot of active fans of Spiner’s who were careful to respect his privacy. All of this to say, of course by 1991 Brent would be aware of fanfiction, though whether he would have actually read any for Star Trek or anything else is something I don’t know.
What I loved:
This book is a lot of fun. Brent Spiner makes it impossible to know what draws on real life and what’s totally made up, though there are interviews where he clarifies it a bit.
I can’t include exact quotes because I only have an Advanced Reader’s Copy and not a final version, but I can share some of my own notes with you. I think that will illuminate what I love about the book better than a summary can.
There’s a point at which Brent goes to see a detective at the LAPD. This detective offers a lot of assistance regarding Brent’s stalker, but of course he finishes their meeting by telling Brent he has a TNG spec script that involves Data traveling back in time to the 20th century to team up with a character who is clearly a self-insert for the detective. But really, who among us doesn’t have a TNG spec script that features Data collaborating with a self-insert character? When I was in middle school, my best friend and I plotted out the beats of an episode where Data teams up with a middle school-aged flautist to communicate with the Crystalline Entity through music. The middle school-aged flautist was a self-insert for my best friend; Data was guaranteed to be a Data Sue for me if we had actually finished the script.
Spiner portrays himself as a nebbishy, anxious wreck, which completely contradicts the image I have of him in my head as a confident, charismatic, and hilarious performer. It made me feel more aligned with the character Brent, which is nice because as someone who sees myself in Data, there was the risk I would find Brent to be so different from his character as to be not relatable. I too am an apparently confident and charismatic person who is actually an anxious wreck. (Can women be nebbishy? If we can, I am on the inside but not externally.) Because of this, I found Brent super relatable.
We get a glimpse into the glamor of a Hollywood life here when Brent puts in a CD in his car in 1991. How fancy is he? My family didn’t get a car with a CD player in it until probably 2000 or later. We bought one with a tape deck in 1993.
Spiner references his comedy influences in the book frequently; at first, I didn’t think of him as a comedic performer, in spite fo thinking of him as a funny person, but remembering that he was part of a panel on humor in Star Trek as part of First Contact Day 2021 reminded me that this is, in fact, a huge part of his work. Spiner’s comedy chops shine through in the book, when he has Brent drop jokes in a classic comedic structure. Again, I can’t tell you the exact quotes, but there are a lot of places where my annotations say things like “Fucking hilarious” and “Brent Spiner is a goddamn delight.”
Spiner confirms what I already knew (and used for my Data cosplay at my dissertation defense): Data is not white. He is gold. I liked that he confirmed this and mentioned it pretty frequently.
Spiner portrays Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry as freaking adorable. I don’t know what they were really like, and I know that Majel wasn’t the alpha and omega of Gene’s attractions and romantic/sexual relationships, but DAMN, so cute.
Spiner’s portrayal of his TNG classmates is, according to his SyFy interview, exaggerated; it’s also delightful. Levar Burton is the most enlightened hippie in hippietown and Patrick Stewart is 100% So Very RSC.
What I wanted more of:
There is a lot going on in this book, in spite of it focusing strongly on one storyline: Brent dealing with the mysterious fan who is stalking him and seems to believe she is his daughter from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Offspring” (almost there in my rewatch!), Lal. I wish we’d gotten to spend a little bit more time with any of it. It’s a fast and fun read but it wouldn’t have been hurt by I having more time on set, more time dealing with the mystery, more time with Brent handling his complicated relationship with FBI Agent Cindy Lou and her twin, private security guard Candy Lou.
What I need to warn you about:
Spiner’s writing voice here is sparse. I think this is because Spiner is putting on a Chandleresque voice; reading the Google Books preview for The Big Sleep confirmed this for me. I rarely read hard-boiled detective fiction or noir; I’m more of a Victorian/cozy kind of gal. Because of this, the voice took me by surprise. If you’re used to that kind of writing, I think you’ll go, “Yep.” If not, know that it’s an intentional style.
While Spiner imitates the voice of a hard-boiled detective here and “mem-noir” is a delightful neologism to describe what he’s written, this has a more optimistic vibe than is typical of noir or hard-boiled detective stories. There’s a mystery, the book is set in LA, and Cindy Lou and Candy Lou could be credibly called dames, but that’s where the similarities end.
There are a couple of anachronisms that I wonder if they’ll be in the finished book. There’s a point at which Spiner uses the word “besties,” which seems to have first appeared in 1991. So it’s possible it would be used in the context of this story, but it would be very cutting edge. There’s also a character described in the epilogue as having been taking online classes for years, and I can’t tell if the epilogue is supposed to be from the perspective of Spiner-now, as the prologue clearly is, or Brent-then. So that might be an anachronism or it might not, I can’t tell.
Some people have criticized Spiner’s portrayal of women in the book, especially the twins Cindy Lou and Candy Lou, as being too limited and focused on them as sexual objecsts. It’s a fair critique, but it didn’t bother me.
Final word: Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation should definitely check this out. Noir readers might enjoy it too; Spiner does a good job of explaining things about the show that non-fans might otherwise confusing.
Book: Fan Fiction
Author: Brent Spiner
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Age Range: Adult
Source of Book: Digital ARC from NetGalley
📚💬 “When academic women, experts in their fields, are seen as not credible, then can women ever be?” Kelly J. Baker, SEXISM ED, “Academic Men Explain Things to Me,” p. 55.
Want to read: Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit 📚
📚💬 “My Ph.D. cannot trump my gender.” Kelly J. Baker, SEXISM ED, “Academic Men Explain Things to Me,” p. 52.
🎙️ Listened to Gates McFadden Investigates 101: Jonathan Frakes.
Love it. McFadden is a great host & it feels like being with friends.
“Life just ran more smoothly when she got her way.” Leigh Bardugo, KING OF SCARS. Oh, Zoya, I love you so. 📚
I finished reading SIX OF CROWS almost 4 months ago. It’s time for me to get back to the Grishaverse with KING OF SCARS. 📚
Finished reading: Fan Fiction by Brent Spiner 📚
Went to Internet Archive to find my blog post from 20 years ago. More interesting than anything I had to say was this comment from my grandmother, who died this January:
Dearest Kimber…yes, you will remember today & what you did & were doing…and possibly feel a sadness for the terror and loss and a little bit of maturing….I know, for I can vividly recall the memories of the Pearl Harbor Attack when I was in 7th grade and the impact & saddness that followed those war years…but happiness as well as tears come along and in a wink, blink & nod the years go on, but memories linger….I love you very much my precious, gorgeous granddaughte.