Monday, May 28, 2012

What happens when you grow up on Star Trek?

I love history and 19th century fashion, the Civil War, the Victorian era, lace and patent leather, curly hair and red lipstick. Swing music, the Andrews Sisters and jitterbugging. But that's only one side of me. You see, when I was about six, I had my first crush.

On Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Not Patrick Stewart the actor. Captain Picard the character. See, my dad's been a Star Trek fan since he was a teenager. Star Trek: The Next Generation (or Nitro as it's known our house) debuted in 1987, just before my fifth birthday. I remember watching it with him some and getting mad at my youngest brother when we had to stop watching it for awhile because it was giving him nightmares.

My mom doesn't understand science fiction. She's the only person in the house who still doesn't understand what's happening in Star Wars, though she's seen them all more times than she count. Papa passed on his love of science fiction to all four of his kids. My sister and I got the Star Trek bugs, and my brothers got the Star Wars bugs really bad. I mean really bad. This past Saturday my youngest bro was watching cartoon voice actors read the script for Episode IV. My other brother's favorite video game is Lego Star Wars and my dad plays both Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I grew up on Star Trek. When the SciFi Channel premiered, Papa stayed up all night watching The Twilight Zone. Thanks to the original SciFi Channel, our science fiction world expanded. Quantum Leap, Seaquest DSV, Tek War, Earth 2, Sliders, the short lived but lots of fun The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, The Twilight Zone and countless others no one shows anymore. And then, in 1999, Farscape, via Australia. Best. Space Opera. Ever. Our entire Friday night for four years revolved around Farscape. We just about cried when it was canceled, leaving us hanging with the hero and his fiancee turned into little crystal balls and scattered on the floor of an ocean.

I've continued soaking up science fiction, mostly of the Star Trek variety, throughout my life. I still love me some Captain Picard and it's not unusual for my sister and I to "argue" over who's hotter, Kirk or Picard. She says Kirk. I say Picard. Our last father-daughters date was May 2009, when the JJ Abrams Star Trek movie came out. We're counting the days until the next one.

A blog post is not enough space to go into the whole Doctor Who obsession currently running rampant through the house. Thanks to Netflix and my dad, who's been watching it since the late 70's. Suffice it to say September can't get here soon enough! Also, stay calm and DON'T BLINK.

Eventually, when you take in massive quantities of TNG, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Doctor Who and Farscape, it apparently does something to your brain. Now, I watch science fiction and love it. But I've never read it, despite the house being full of it and it being 95% of what my dad reads.

So what on earth am I doing writing it? I don't know. But on the night of Wednesday, May 16th I had a dream. Not unusual for a dream to spin out a story idea. It turned into an alien humanoid race who had their home world taken from them and it's been lost in the mists of time. They've been enslaved. Anyone familiar with science fiction at all knows it's a common theme, especially of the Star Trek variety.

No one was more surprised than me when the next thing I knew there was a whole galaxy to go with it and a story of one man's search for what freedom really means. You're reading this on Monday, but I wrote it Sunday afternoon and my word count was 22,000. I've set and broke THREE new personal records for most words in a day. Currently it's around 4200. In ten days. With no pre-plotting, no character development studies, nothing. Just sit down and it pours out.

I've decided to run with it. Probably won't stop until it's done. And I'm having so much fun!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Red ball gown

This gorgeous red gown caught my eye a couple weeks ago. It dates to 1842 and is at the Met.

What pulled me in is the criss-cross braid down the front. I've never seen one from this decade done like this.

Another interesting thing about it is the fabric. It's damask. Most unusual. The dress description on the Met's website provides some insight:
This is a striking example of how 18th-century fabric was treasured. The textile was probably originally a 1740s dress which was taken apart and then reconfigured into this fashionable dress in the early 1840s. The elongated waist and V-shaped bodice front emphasize the bust and wide shoulders and were key features of the dresses of the period.

Silk damask was incredibly popular throughout the 18th century. What's even more amazing, though, is the incredible condition the silk is in. Which is another clue that it's older than the 1840's. The introduction of analine-based, or synthetic, dyes in the 1840's created a very interesting reaction in silk as it aged. It shatters. That's exactly what it does too, and exactly what it looks like. I've seen shattered silk in person and it's at once amazing and painful. Red and mauve are the worst offenders. Mauve was also the very first synthetically created color.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Musings: Characters and real-world ethics

 I'm a woman of varied interests. I write historical romance, but I also have a legion of contemporary characters living in my head. Most have been there, in one form or another, half my life.

They range from soldiers to doctors to Thoroughbred horse trainers to professional football players. Yes, you read that right. This self-proclaimed history nut is also nursing a fascination with professional football that rivals my history obsessions. The central one is, of course, an NFL quarterback, and the positions around him have slowly been filling themselves in since Tebowmania hit full stride last fall.

When I'm tired or stressed (like I've been the last month), these guys come out to play. Recently, a new character went from a name and a position to a fully fleshed out person. What shocked me the most about him is his background. I'm from a traditional nuclear family, homeschooled and proud of it, very conservative, a Reformed evangelical in my theology, and very very traditional in my outlook on life. I don't even personally know anyone whose parents have divorced.

This character told me when he was eleven, he ran away from his mother to live with his dad. He considers himself raised by his gay father, and his father's boyfriend. Could have pushed me over with a feather. This character becomes a committed Christian in college, after the death of his high school sweetheart, and eventually goes to seminary.

He struggles a great deal with how to pray for the two most important people in his life. Who fear he will disown them some day. The thought of their son getting married in a church scares them, but they find the family of his wife-to-be open and willing to accept them as their new son-in-law's parents.

It occurred to me last week that his background is illustrating something that's happening in modern society. Something which many Christians are ill-equipped to handle, or simply afraid to think about. I've long been fascinated with the psychology of homosexual behavior, in part because I do have friends who are gay and I enjoy spending time with on the rare occasions I get to see them.

Yesterday afternoon I was reading an article by Wheaton College psychology professor Stanton L. Jones, about the various methodologies in research of homosexual behavior and how those methodologies and bad science are being used to craft public policy and the law of the land. The quote below is from the very end of the article, and I found it very striking in its truth and simplicity.
As moral and religious traditionalists face this profound polarization, it is important that we confess our own culpability in creating the mess we are in. We were complicit, even if ignorantly and passively so, in the cultural embrace of the disease conceptualization of homosexuality. We offloaded responsibility for the articulation of a thoughtful, caring, theologically rich and pastorally sensitive understanding of sexual brokenness onto the disease conceptualization, and thus were unprepared for the vacuum created by its timely demise. We have failed to articulate thoughtful understandings of human sexuality in light of evolving scientific findings and cultural developments. Perhaps most importantly, we failed and continue to fail to engage individuals who embrace homosexual identity with compassion, understanding, and love, and to seek to defend them against unjust discrimination and violence.
Sticking to the truth of the Bible is not an easy thing to do in this day and age. And our approach should never be one that causes another human being unjust distress.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beauty and Tragedy

I don't know why, but I'm drawn to striped fabrics during the 19th century. Might have something to do with the multitude of talented seamstresses who knew how to play tricks on your eyes with them.

This is an American made visiting dress dated between 1845 and 1850. Based on the tightness of the sleeves I'd stick it closer to 1845. You can see the skirt starting to take on a bell shape too.

Look past the shawl collar at the bodice. Make the picture bigger, I'll wait. The careful work it took to do that with these stripes is mind-blowing. The collar is also edged with piping made of the same fabric. Exquisite piece of work here.

This green one is just unfortunate in so many ways. It's a lovely print and color. But man! Was the person who laid it out drunk, blind, or both? It's late 1860's, though you can't tell from this picture. I didn't pin the back of it, but it's clearly no earlier than 1867 because it's made to wear over a bustle.

If this had been my dress and I paid for it, I'd have been one very upset customer with the bodice. There's nothing flattering about how the stripes were laid out. Tragic.