Monday, July 21, 2014

June Award and Writing

As the seasons inch away from the Summer Solstice, I'm finding it more difficult to get up and write.  It appears that the sunlight drives my productivity more than I thought.   Also, this last week I've been staying up later than I should.  The early morning writing has paid off, though; I managed to win the Penn Cove Literary Arts Award for June with a brand new flash fiction piece. 

I'll have to invoke the spirits of Jay Lake, Chris Hadfield, and other industrious souls.  Also, I need to get fresh batteries into the LED candle that turns itself on at 4:55 am.

The award came at a good time, and has been a nice boost to writing moral.  What seems crazy to me is that with this single sale, a setting has tripped and Duotrope is automatically congratulating me for my high sales rate.   I don't know if that means that folks who have been professionally writing longer than I have (and presumably have better sales) aren't using Duotrope or if a lot of folks don't place stories.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

3D Printing and Art

I finally designed, uploaded, and ordered a model from Shapeways.  I'm hoping that they will appear at our house before August 1, which will be my and Mark's tenth "wedding" anniversary.  More realistically, they probably won't get here until just before his birthday in the middle of August.  

I've been wanting to have things 3-D printed for some time now, but man, it's not exactly inexpensive.  Or, to be more accurate, you can have something large or you can have something cheap.

I always thought it would be fun to reproduce something like this Art Deco elevator door from the MET.  For one thing, it's too large to be printed in one piece; and for another thing, the amount of metal in it would make it something like $400 -- never mind the shipping costs.  I could make an H-scale reproduction out of plastic for about $20.

In terms of an art revolution, I always thought a 3D printing service like Shapeways could fulfill the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's dream of beautiful things for everyone... but right now the service is still so new that it's beautiful things for designers with CAD software and a little extra cash.

I know I sound a little grumpy, but really, I'm excited and looking forward to receiving the final product.  Pictures in August when things appear.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Country Fair Strings

Yesterday we went to the Oregon Country Fair.  It started out nice and cool, but by 1 PM or so, the sun came out and it got up to something like 90F.  We took a bus there, which is probably the best way to get there, as parking (and driving out with half of the Eugene-Springfield metro area) can be a chore.  I want to say the fair's been running for fifty years or something.  Imagine Eugene hippies, the Ken Kesey bus, alternate energy folks, Celtic knots, tattoos, a lot of jazz/blues bands, hemp culture, fairy wings and dust, and bare breasts painted bright colors.   And crafts!

Next to the fire-makers dressed like cavemen in deerskin shorts were some folks playing a hurdy-gurdy and a Swedish keyed fiddle or nyckellharpa.  They kindly let me photograph their instruments.

 I'd seen hurdy-gurdies before, but not up close.  The woman playing this one showed me the C and G drone strings, and the interior strings which the keys manipulated.  The instrument was squeaker than she liked, and she explained how she needed to take a big of cotton and sort of pull it out so that it could get wound up around the drone strings.  She also demonstrated a buzzer, sort of a vibrating bridge the done-string went over that she could cause to loudly vibrate by spinning the hurdy-gurdy's crank (and rosin wheel) more vigorously and provide a bit of percussion.

I'd never seen or herd of a nyckellharpa before.  It was a fiddle with four main strings and about twelve or sixteen resonator strings.  It's an older instrument, so the keys are the same as the ones on a piano.   Both instruments were quiet, but I was standing close enough to hear them; they sounded like they would be nice instruments for a Nordic night in a cabin with a fire.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Zellij and Blender

Sometimes it's nice to take a break from reading and writing and play with virtual objects in 3D space.

I've wanted to create an interwoven pattern from this design for some time.  I thought I was going to have an unmanifold object when I imported part of this design from Inkscape into Blender.  When I rendered the design, some of the top faces were shadowy, as if there were missing sub-faces.  I tried to fix some of the stray faces and vertices in the model, but gave up.  Serendipitously, when I stretched my model out and then performed a Boolean difference with a flattened cube, the "jagged" edges of the model were smoothed out.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Synthesis and Progress

I've been trying to synthesize what Joanna Russ said about voice being "on the slant," and her imaginings of macho Kirk, the golden grain god and "egalitarian other alien" Spock, the dark Pan god as same-sex lovers; what Jo Eldride Carney says about stories about Queens reinforcing the narrative of patriarchy; and my dreams.

In my dreams deity expresses itself as queer and male which is A) able to balance spiritual love, romantic love, and sexual love; B) a mediator between immanent, nurturing, divine, erotic waters and culture; and, C) in touch with and informed by fiery erotic creative inspiration.  Looking at the dream imagery, I'd paraphrase this as the rhyton and the snake.

Hmmm.  Now all I have to do is write around these symbols in a way that is interesting, yet not preachy.  

On the submission front, I'd been waiting and waiting for a market to get back to me, and was about to query them when I checked their web site. It turned out they'd rejected my story (based on their usual turn-around-time, probably two weeks ago), but the e-mail must have crossed somewhere. 

 On the writing front, the other night I passed a piece of 800 word flash through the table. This time around, walking over the Plank of Description, I fell not into the Deep Pool of Too Much Detail, but instead into the Trickle of Not Enough Information. Most everyone got bits and pieces of the story, one person figured it all out, and the person sitting next to me kept going "OH!" as the critique progressed and little bits of the puzzle were revealed.

And now, back to writing.

Monday, July 07, 2014

July Reading

Phew!  The 85F + weather is here for the summer.

As a native Oregonian, I'm officially wilting and looking to the skies for rain.  It doesn't look like there's much in the forecast for the next week or so.

When I haven't been writing, I've been reading.  Currently I'm reading a bunch of things more or less simultaneously.  One of them is "The Christian Goddess: Archetype and Theology in the Fantasies of George MacDonald," by Bonnie Gaarden.  I think I've read one of his stories out of an anthology of Victorian Fairy tales, but judging from this analysis, he sounds quite preachy.  I'm reading it because it was a candidate for The Inklings' Mythopoetic award, and also because I wanted to see how another author writes female divinity within a Christian framework so I can then look at how it works in my own work.

The main difference between my representation of the female Christian divinity and MacDonald's is that I'm approaching the Divine She as both an immanent fiery forge/creatrix and Judge of Choices, whereas MacDonald is seeing Her as a transcendent Cauldron of Life / spiritual medicine.

In the same vein is "Fairy Tale Queens:  Representations of Early Modern Queenship," by Jo Eldride Carney.   It's interesting, but it's beginning to feel like a stuck record because all of the tales she's examining reinforce the patriarchal world order.  So far, the most memorial line is, "In order to find a prince, a girl's got to slam a bunch of animals against a wall."

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Dream: Why Am I Dreaming About Jesus?

I've been thinking about various dreams I've had over the years that have an divine erotic gay male theme to them, and to that end, I managed to dig up this old dream from 2000.  I've included it here with the tag dream-knot for personal research reasons.  Segment Three of the following had stayed with me (for reasons that will become obvious), and those readers whose sensibilities are offended by a non-traditional Jesus may wish to skip this post.

May 20, 2000

OK.  I guess I shouldn't drink margaritas (it was only one, I swear) then think about religion and queer spirituality before going to bed.  Oh, and No, I haven't been reading C.S. Lewis in quite some time.

I'm also not clear on the segments' order.  I saved the weirdest for last (which may offend some religious sensibilities, so consider yourself Warned).

Segment One

We had arrived at a fancy restaurant, in a litter [editor--or palanquin or sedan chair] for four to the buffet table.  I am not sure how the litter was carried there.  We were all dressed up, I was in some kind of black tuxedo.  One of the women in our party was trying on the cheesy gold paint and glitter crown I have, but she had it on backwards and Marg P and I were trying to convince her to switch it (although it kind of worked the way she had it on).  Our litter for four sort of took up the entire isle it was in, and so we had to fold it up out of the way and just walk to the dinner salad.  I think Arcosanti somehow worked its way into this. . .

Segment Two

I was walking down Ridgewood hill from my parents' house to the bus stop to take to school.  Someone was helping me carry a large spot-welded log down the hill.  It was really huge.  Unknown to us, we were also carrying a bear in the log, which had somehow snuck in while we were halfway down the hill.  I think it was a polar bear.  When we were three quarters of the way down, I realized there was no way it (the log) was going to fit on the bus.  There was a discussion of how we could take the log apart and then re-spot weld it together when we got to school.

Segment Three

It was a warm day, and I was at the beach.  I was walking through the surf.  I think I had sandals on so I didn't have to worry too much about rocks or glass or jellyfish.  I looked up at the dunes and there was a figure in white walking towards me.

"Oh man," I thought to myself.  "This is going to be like one of those cheesy 'Footprints in the Sand' posters, isn't it."  The sun was behind me, so the dunes were very bright.  The figure on top was lit up very well and His clothes were whiter than the sand dunes He walked upon. 

I guess there was channel I stepped into because He disappeared behind the dune's crest, but eventually I came up out of the water and we met.

He was wearing a white turtleneck and white slacks and had a dark, suntanned complexion.  He had a very short, masculine beard - almost like He hadn't shaved in three days.  Wordlessly he showed me His right and then His left hand so I could see the stigmata.  I thought to myself, "Blessed are those who have not seen, yet still believe."  I felt a little like doubting St. Thomas.  He lifted up his shirt so I could see the spear wound over his hirsute and tanned abdomen.  With a bit of a shock, I realized Jesus was a stud.  [Editor-I suppose the closest parallel I can come up with is suddenly discovering that one's friend's parent is Super Hot which is A) Unexpected, B) Exciting, and C) Awkward.]  (I don’t know why Jesus would appear to me like He had just finished a photo shoot out of an International Male catalog, but He did. [Editor-I don't know why Jesus would appear before me, a Neo-Pagan, and not, say, Apollo or Horus or Pan or some kind of Greenman.])  

Without a word, we embraced and He kissed me on both cheeks in a way that managed to have equal amounts of Agape, Amore, and Eros. 

[Editor-Around 2000, I was interested in exploring male-male Agape, or spiritual love; Amore, or romantic love; and, Eros, sexual love.  I think it would take a divinity to have equal, harmoniously mixed aspects of all three.  Jesus's washboard abs and that perfect, divine kiss -- which wordlessly said "Oh child of man, how could you not love with your spirit, your heart, and your body?" -- was the part of the dream that stayed with me, and re-reading it has reminded me of the next parts, which seem to be more and more from some crazed lost works of William Blake; I blame that long-ago margarita.]

"Look," He said, and pointed behind me.  I turned around and there was a wide river.  On my left, swimming upstream, was a white lamb.  It really had to work hard to make any progress.  "Gee, that's like what Leslie said about Pisces," I thought to myself.  "If they just go the right direction life is much easier for them."  I looked again and there were now five or seven lambs swimming in the water.  They were acting more like dolphins than lambs, swimming around in a bunch and playing, but still slowly working their way up stream.

Then I looked across the river to the other shore.  Huge (oak?) trees stood, leafless and covered in snow and ice.  "Oh," I said, realizing that on our side it was still sunny and warm, "this is important, and I need to remember it."

[Editor-at this point, the dream turns into crazy Book of Apocalypse stuff...]

Jesus then went on to explain that the world was going through some earth changes.  "There's actually one Power and three Intelligences for Earth," He said.  I had the impression that Jesus was one of the Intelligences, and that they took turns rotating jobs.  I had a vision of the globe with three lines - one green, one purple, one blue -wrapped around it.  I don't remember His words exactly, but somehow humanity's minds were going to be hooked up to a kind of computer network.  The blue line wrapping Earth lead off to a celestial background, and by small technological bugs, was routed into somebody's ears and nose.  In their eyes were bar and binary codes.  

Jesus continued to explain that the Internet would become a new technological Book of Judgement, and cyborg angels would judge one's acts.  Further wires lead out of the person's head and into a hovering, winged metallic figure -- who looked like something out of the Japanese animation, *Voltron*.  (No, I only saw *The Matrix* once, and it's been weeks since Mark and I watched *Voltron* on our way to Jackson Hole.)

I'm not sure what happened next, but I found myself in a café with my Black Book of Art, trying to find a place where I could write this all down.  It's possible this lead to the other dream segments.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Dream: Rhyton Priest

I had this dream October 16 of 2012.  I thought I posted it to the blog at the time, but apparently, I hadn't.  The dream was part of a FaceBook Discussion.  I'm posting it now because it's a particularly meaningful dream for me.

Just before I went to bed, I read a post about a Christian straight man from Tacoma who pretended to be gay for a year so he could write a book about his experiences.  At first I had several conflicting emotional responses ranging from, curiosity as to what he had did, cynicism about writing a book about his experiences, and a sense of betrayal and cultural appropriation.  But... I haven't read his book and I wanted to wait before responding to the [FaceBook] post [by David Raines, I think, asking for reactions].

As I expected I might, I had a dream which I think addresses this... (and no, I still haven't read the book).

The dream started out about rentals and insurance, and then transitioned.

I was in a dry land, with lots of large stony blocks.   I have an image of a river emerging from the fallen stones.  Somehow we were either performing "Jesus Christ, Superstar," and/else we were living in the historical time of Christ as an adult.  I have a recollection of togas or white robes.

A group of about six of us formed a procession into the shallow cave from which the river issued.  There was some sort of ritualistic taking of water or wine from a rhyton.  I'm trying to recall if the rhyton used was carved or not.  My sense was that it was plain, and gently curved like a horn.  I think it was stone or ceramic.  It was large and heavy with the liquid inside.  

(Here's some examples of non-plain rhytons)

We passed it around, squirting the water into each other's mouths.  Having taken the waters together, we processed outside into the bright morning sunlight.  I had the full, heavy rhyton (I have a sense of it resting on my shoulder), and was taking its contents back with me to distribute (I'm not sure where or to who).

A woman (a religious Christian person I know from real life) with a kind of crown of nails (points outward from her head -- in waking life she reminds me of Mary Hansen's painting of The Queen of Swords) was at the gathering outside on the stone blocks.  

She was of a different faith, but my sense was that we were all priests and priestesses together, so I offered and she accepted the spurt of liquid that shot from the rhyton when I removed my finger from its opening.  I have a sense that there was another woman there in brilliant white robes (there was a short conversation, or the brilliantly garbed woman explained something to the other woman).  The water shooting into her (the Christian woman's) mouth was a thin stream, as if from a garden hose spigot only slightly opened or an atomizer.  In waking, this seems wildly Freudian (it could only be more so if milk came out of the rhyton instead of water), but in the dream the emotional emphasis was the satisfaction of sharing water in order to quench another's thirst.   

To interpret this dream... If you want to understand the message of the waters, you can drink from the source, or you can (less immediately) drink through an intermediary.  Also, this dream is a metaphor for my understanding of the male expression of deity...  

So, yay for Tacoma guy for trying to experience what it's like to be discriminated against for being perceived as gay, and yay for this guy questioning his religiously-motivated intolerance, but his message of the grace of queers would have been stronger had he actually been queer.  

Monday, June 30, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

Writing as a Gay Man

I've been thinking about writing and the following words--wishes, fears, knowledge, background, experiences and desires--and how they relate to me as a writer who is also a gay male.  Other than occasionally writing gay male characters, I'm not sure how I write as a gay man.  I write women characters, too, and I'm pretty sure that doesn't make me a female writer.

(Pause for gay super-hero madness...)

I stand before my secret Phallic Shrine, which is guarded by a band of taut satyrs, and which I go to to renew my Gay Writer's Pen.  In the pink glow of the shrine, I hold my pen up to the Mystic Gay Phallus and recite:  "By Brightest Day / By Darkest Night / My Gay Body / Brings Great Insight / Let All Who Worship / Writing Trite / Beware My Power / Gay Writer's Might!"  When writing wrongs, those whom I have rescued exclaim, "Ooh! Look at that pen!  You must be... Gay Writer!"  

(Meanwhile, back at the essay...)

My personal gay male story is probably not as a unique an experience as it sometimes feels to me.... I officially came out in 1995, when I was thirty-one (hooray for me, I got to go through awkward dating rituals fifteen years after high school).  As a result the gay narratives of the Baby Boomer Generation feel like they're for characters in an old play, and the gay narrative of Gen Y seems like it's come from some inappropriate party-tunes radio show.

Trying a different tack, I wonder if I can approach being a writer who is gay by asking how I read as a gay man.  Man, that sounds like a Gay Agenda Joke waiting to happen.  

Um, it would be nice to read about gay characters who don't die in car crashes as soon (or just before) they discover their same-sex desire, or who don't die so we can see how the other gay character is sad and noble.  It would be nice to have gay characters who are more than just gay, or who spend time outside of a gay ghetto.  I want my gay characters to be more than "magic gay guys" who exist only to give another (usually straight) character advice and who's sole source of wisdom is that they're gay (Queer Eye, I'm looking at you).  I'd like more stories that are not about coming out, pride, or reminiscences about post-stonewall/pre-AIDS New York City.  And just because there's a gay guy in a story isn't going to automatically make me like it; it has to be a good story.

There... that's enough queer literary theory for today...   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dreams, Russ, and Personal Voice

This morning I woke up with a dream.  I only remember the tail end of it -- something about Mark and me walking in Northfield/Astoria along old closed storefronts... 

In the dream, I awoke in our bedroom.  There was classical music playing from KWAX on the radio.  And on the floor of the bedroom, still glowing from last night, was the iron teapot with a tea light in it.  

I'm not sure how I was able to see light through the tea pot, which was pleasantly warm to the touch.  Good thing I didn't start I fire, I thought.  Mark was still asleep so I took it out of the room.  

And then the dream turned into a gardening dream... I was weeding early in the morning.  We had a (not existent in real life) plot in front of the house.  I was using a plastic claw or rake to uproot weeds and snag out dead leaves from around the roots of a small ?maple? and ?flowers?.  I had a brief conversation with with a dream amalgam neighbor, probably about weeding.

I woke up for real with the image of a warm glowing teapot and gardening.

I read more Joanna Russ this week, and her other works aren't speaking to me as strongly as her Kirk/Spock papers.  I was hoping to click with her Lovecraft essay, but I didn't, perhaps because the alien voice interests me more than horror induced by depression caused by the realization that chthonic forces will return the self to the void.  

The work of Russ that I have read is mostly from from 1985, and a lot of it is (surprise!) feminist theory.  The conversation about feminism has changed from thinking about a specific end goal  to thinking about a process or journey, and essentialist notions of discrete genders and orientations have become continuums.  And, although she reports about trying to get a gay male perspective on Kirk/Spock, it feels like she wasn't able to talk to many gay men.

On the plus side, Russ's papers have reminded me that stories have a latent content (heart or symbolic meaning) as well as a manifest one (rockets and dragons).

Russ's image of Kirk and Spock as divine male-male lovers spoke to me very strongly, and while Russ claims her story is written by a woman speaking to other women about egalitarian vulnerability in romantic relationships, her symbolic imagery speaks to this gay man.

Which leads me to questions about my own direction.  Do I need to write gay speculative fiction?  I think the world does not need Yet Another Coming Out Story.  Do I need to write male speculative fiction -- or, better question:  how do I write male speculative fiction as a gay man writing in (as "Women Destroy Sci-Fi" reminds me) a male-dominated speculative fiction market?   

Do I write a story about future men-without-penises, or male AIs, or a fantasy country called Tiresias, where the inhabitants may switch genders?  Oh dear, I think I'm being pulled into writing what Russ called "a dreadful Amazon Utopia" story.

I think the answer is "just write what you're interested in."  Like gardens and glowing, warm teapots.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

More on Russ, Kirk and Spock

Whew. I'm back from the special collections room and another round of Joanna Russ essays.  This time I looked at rough, first, and second drafts of "Ravings of a K/S Addict," written thirty years ago, about, I think,1982 or 1984.

Russ is exuberant at her discovery of Kirk/Spock slash fiction.  After listing about eight attributes of Spock's which are also the attributes of non-traditional women in a male-centered and dominated culture, Russ hails slash fiction it as an exiting new structure enabling women to tell stories in women's language about women's ways of loving and romance.

Russ's essay drafts have energized me.  She breaks down the elements of romance fiction in order to show how they work in slash fiction written by women for women.  She makes astute observations about the differences between male and female writers.  Every other page examines a foundation of fiction's voice, construction, or social impact.  I keep asking myself how each page can be applied to my own writing voice.  It's exhausting.

Near the end of "Ravings", Russ writes that Kirk/Spock slash fiction allows women writers to not have to write on the slant (Emily Dickinson) or against male literature (Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf).  She writes that slash fiction has gotten away from the the process of writing fiction being an "unpleasant awareness of being different or marginal."  And later that Kirk/Spock slash is a Rosetta Stone because "[the authors of it] make their art from the same wishes, fears, knowledge, background experiences and desires as their audience.

The difficulty I have with "Ravings" is the essentialism in it.  For her, Kirk/Spock slash is romance and adventure fiction exploring the notion, what do romantic relationships look like in a universe where one gender is not undervalued nor exploited?  This necessitates a linkage of lists of gender traits which can feel a little quaint, as one woman asked me, "Spock is the woman? Do people still think [in gender binary] like that?"

What's interesting to me is her confession that, as a non-traditional girl who was smart, she could identify as the half-human, half-alien Spock, who was part of both worlds and belonged in neither.  This is exactly the same reason he appealed to me, a non-traditional boy who was smart.  I guess the language of women (and gay men) in the seventies early eighties was the language of alienation.  

I'm not sure that's still as true in 2014.  Back in the 80's, there was a lot of emphasis on "women's ways of knowing," or on exploring gay men as "anandros" (Harry Hay's term for "not-men") or gay men's "lunar masculinity."  My sense is that in the 70's and 80's the identity politics of gender and orientation equality was more about describing what a perfect society would look and feel like, whereas in 2014, there's more of an emphasis on the journey to and the dialog about equality.  Also, this was before e-mail was commonly used; web pages wouldn't exist for about fifteen more years:  the Internet in the United States was a collection of DARPAnet and other fledgling networks.  People were much more isolated from communities, and Kirk/Spock slash fiction was one way to share in a community.  (Russ reports that her phone conversations with another woman about literary theory, women's voices and slash fiction resulted in astronomical phone bills.)

While oppression based on gender, orientation, and perceived gender still exists in the forms outright harassment, and  of wage and marriage inequalities, it seems like mainstream American has assimilated the more palatable aspects of "non-traditional women" and the homosexual community (e.g. "Will and Grace," "Queer Eye," Ellen DeGeneres).  And it seems like LGBTTQ identity has become less about an either/or matrix of qualities and more a continuous space along the axes of social gender, biological gender, and orientation, with a person's expressions a fuzzy cloud instead of a discrete point.  Additionally, the internet has provided virtual community for far-flung folks (there's an essay, "How the Internet Dissolves Perceptions of Regional Difference, or 'Yes, We're All Individuals. / I'm not!'")

Still -- Wishes, Fears, Knowledge, Experiences, and Desires -- sounds like like a useful lens for crafting stories to me.  (Looks over list again...) And I'm pretty sure this is a tarot card spread, too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dream: Authors at Arcosanti

Last June 10th, I had a dream:

I had the Arcosanti dream again. A usual, the canyon below Arcosanti was filled with a lake, in a way similar to Crater Lake.  This time it was different because I had come with Mark and various Reed College friends (at least I think Chris C and Darunee W were there).   We were trying to find a space for us to sleep in a bunkhouse, which was a very large wooden room with beds, couches, cabinets, and balconies.  Most of the places had been taken, so our sleeping spaces were scattered within the place.

I went into the Craft 3 Building (a four story tall concrete cube).

Everyone was writing a book.  S. W. was writing one on her experiences dealing with the some white collar crime family she had married into.  T. T. (who bore a suspicious resemblance to Grant Imahara)  was writing a book on architecture and cooking.  He had a terrible idea for his book jacket design, and I remember writing something down on a tablecloth in blue marker (along the ideas that "the image and the title of the book had to work well with the contents").

At least I wasn't stuck trying to figure out how to get back home.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Using Character Emotion to Hide Plot Devices

In honor of Mary Stewart, I re-read "The Crystal Cave."  I'm currently somewhere in the middle of "The Hollow Hills."

Mary Stewart uses deus ex machina at the end of "The Crystal Cave" well.  If you look at the Geoffrey of Mallory version of the Arthur stories, they're pretty messed up, but Stewart manages to salvage the events around Arthur's conception:  With the aid of Merlin, Uther and Igraine are able to conceive Arthur at the expense of Goloris because... God wills it.  It's not an extra-marital cuckolding on the slimmest of technicalities, and Stewart writes Uther's wrath at Merlin over the arbitrariness of the matter so convincingly, that she pulls the reader's attention away from God pulling everyone's strings.