Thursday, November 07, 2013

Culture Clash

I'm still plugging away at revisions. One thing I'm struggling with is how much to explain. I did extensive research for this book, reading something like 60 books in the process. That included books on history, books on historical technology, books on the culture and novels written or published in the general time period to get a sense of the language, what words were used, etc. That means I probably know more than the average reader and certainly more than the average teen reader. The editor keeps questioning things that I would have thought were general knowledge -- like there's a question mark every time I mention electricity. The book is set in 1888. The first power generating station that provided electricity to a portion of Manhattan went online in 1882. Not to mention that the book itself is alternate history, so it doesn't have to be accurate to our history. There are things that are different on purpose. My world is actually behind on technology, as they're only just starting to experiment with electricity in 1888. There are some things I can kind of explain in context, but it's impossible to explain the timeline differences in the book because no one in the book knows they're in an alternate timeline. I'm having to find creative ways to explain the situation in this world without having the characters lecture each other. "As you know, Mary, magic is the predominant power supply, which is why people with magical powers are the upper class. It would be like owning all the oil in a world that uses fossil fuels for power, if you can imagine such a thing."

Speaking of alternate realities, I forgot to mention the strangest thing about last weekend's Steampunk convention: At the same hotel, in the adjacent function space, one of those Toddlers and Tiara's-style kiddie beauty pageants was going on. Talk about culture clash! There were all these small kids wearing makeup that made them look like they'd been spray painted, their hair processed, styled and sprayed to the point they looked like they were wearing wigs, dressed like Vegas showgirls. There were even some running around in diapers, with pacifiers in their mouths, with their hair in curlers and the same painted-on makeup. We had to pass through their part of the function space to get from our area to the hotel itself, and they were all out in the halls, practicing their routines. I thought it was a joke for exaggeration in Little Miss Sunshine when the little girl's talent, coached by her sleazy grandfather, turned out to be a burlesque routine, but that actually looked innocent and tame compared to what these girls were practicing. They were doing stripper moves while attempting Shirley Temple levels of dimply cuteness, all while being constantly berated by their mothers and coaches. I couldn't even see what the point was. It didn't look like anyone but the moms was in the audience, and there only seemed to be a few girls competing in each category, so it wasn't like any title they won was meaningful. I saw one of the crowns as they were checking out, and it was cheap plastic, like the kind of thing you'd buy for a Halloween costume.

Meanwhile, there were the women in our group, many of whom were dressed in full Victorian attire. Or else they were dressed as explorers. There was one lady dressed as a frontier doctor, complete with little black bag (I got the impression she was a doctor in real life, as well). I wanted to hold an intervention for the pageant girls. Unfortunately, it seemed like most of them had already been brainwashed, and they were mostly really, really bratty and entitled, like they really thought they were princesses. For a while, they were practicing their routines in the hallway in front of our meeting rooms, and they got snippy if any of us dared walk through where they were practicing on the way to our sessions. They were really bratty at the breakfast buffet, too.

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