Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If Superman's costume was indestructable..... did Clarke Kent's mother make his costume?
It took me over four years to write French Letters: Virginia's War. Why? It's not that long and compared to, say, War and Peace or Harry Potter, not all that complicated. Answer: Because almost every night for four years, I woke up worry about the equivalent of what to say when asked the equivalent of how someone could sew up Superman's costume from an indestructible baby blanket. It didn't matter that no one but me might read Virginia's War and question whether I had the right kind of airplanes flying from the Clovis Army Air Field (B-24's), what kind of engine would run the cotton gin (Bessemer), and how Poppy Sullivan could counterfeit red or blue ration stamps if the Tierra Times was printed only in black and white. The fear of being wrong caused author's agony, and four years of research to not make those kinds of mistakes.
Oh -- Superman's costume. The answers on my Facebook posting and emails: A secret kryptonite laser. Kryptonite needles. A Super Sewing machine. An author's license. 'Mothers are magic like that.' And, drum roll, best answer: "She unraveled the threads and rewove it."
None of those is correct, of course -- Superman is a comic book. It's crazy to think that a baby could survive a blastoff from Kryton, land on earth, become a super farmboy who tosses tractors around, ages appropriately for a while before becoming -- get this -- a reporter and man of steel, and no one catches on. But, if you accept that the whole thing is crazy and buy into the storyline, all you have to do to explain the costume is come up with something that, while not correct (since it never happened....) is nevertheless believable. The comics appear to have never told the story of how Mrs. Kent made the costume (or had the foresight to put a big 'S' on his chest years before anyone ever called him Superman) but a reader poll also said that she re-wove it from the baby blanket threads, occasionally tricking little Clarke to use his X-ray vision to burn a few in two in lieu of wasting time with scissors.
So.... it's fiction. Unless I wanted someone to point out the mistakes and the story went up in flames, I had to worry .... Was there really a State Line Bar near Clovis? Did it sell Pabst Blue Ribbon? Did people like Bart go to places like that to look for girls?

Friday, August 7, 2009

In the mid 1600's, days of quill pens and before there was a single paved road in America, France built the Canal du Midi, connecting the Atlantic and Mediterranean with a waterway that runs up and over mountain ranges and through craggy rocklands and dense forests. Canals became the fastest way to move anything anywhere until the development of railroads. They now are the fastest way to do one thing and one thing only -- recharge batteries.
Alice and I spent a week on the Canal before I flew off to Boston to begin a trial. We rented a houseboat in Castelnaudary, ate cassoulet and stocked up on cheese and plonk, then raced toward Carcassonne at 3 kilometers per hour (not counting delays to navigate the locks). A week later, after castles, street markets, boulangeries, and endless rounds of Boggle, we turned the boat in at Hompes.
The result: I slowed down enough to finish the last chapter of the sequel to Virginia's War. I am putting the last touches on Will right now, then will ask some technical readers to take a look before I send it to Vire's editor, Mindy Reed. Look for it; it's coming.
Thanks, and see you soon.