“Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature.”
Teresa Nielsen Hayden

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

literature and sports take turns taking bites out of my brain
Thu 2015-03-19 23:18:39 (in context)

So I was a penalty timer at the Shamrocks And Shenanigans scrimmage tonight. When you're a penalty timer, everyone comes to visit you. Everyone gets penalties, after all. Maybe not everyone on every night, but everyone eventually. If you never ever get penalties, it's questionable whether you're in the game.

When I arrived, I told our head coach, "I'm ready to be assessed! Whenever works for you." (I got injured before the league went through skills assessments and travel team tryouts. I still need to do that before I can skate with any of our teams.)

She said, "Great! Get your gear on."

And I said, "Er, tonight? I... didn't think that would be an option." I hadn't brought my gear. Drat.

By next week, though. Between Sunday practice and the following Thursday scrimmage, I should have ample opportunity to demonstrate my skills to people empowered to fill out my score sheet. After that... team practice again? Please? As soon as possible? Back with my Bombshells? Pretty-please?

Obviously this has been much on my mind.

It has been sharing space in there with something very random: the Mark Reads archives for the Discworld novels.

You know about Mark Reads? Blogger Mark Oshiro began a project some years ago to read the Twilight novels and comment on them, chapter by chapter. And, well, a lot of people came along for the ride. It wasn't so much that they enjoyed watching him suffer, per se--it was that he suffered so entertaingly. And also enlighteningly, if that's a word. His criticisms were spot-on and his pain was shared and familiar.

Inevitably, the blog community began urging him to read something he'd actually enjoy. As soon as he got through Breaking Dawn, they said, he should treat himself. Read Harry Potter, they said. Because, as it turned out, he hadn't read those books yet. There were a lot of books, beloved classics of the fantasy genre, that he'd just never been exposed to. And his fans not only wanted him to enjoy a reading experience, but they wanted to enjoy watching him experience it.

And Mark read it. And it was wonderful.

You can never go back and read a favorite book for the first time all over again. Not so long as your memory is intact, that is. But the privilege of watching someone else read that book for the first time, witnessing them falling in love with the characters you've come to know so well, that's almost as wonderful. Maybe it's even better.

Mark has since then read many, many wonderful books, and his fans have enjoyed the heck out of watching him discover all these worlds and characters. And for a commission of $20, I think it is, he'll add to his written review video footage of him reading the chapter aloud. And that's the best. His reactions are priceless, hilarious and touching by turns.

So about a year ago he embarked upon a chapter-by-chapter read-through and review of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. In--and this is important--the order that they were published. (Which means he's only now making his way through Eric.) Discworld fandom is large and it is contentious; veterans will often try to curate newbies' experiences by telling them which books to read first. "Oh, don't start with Colour Of Magic, he hadn't gotten good yet, you'll be turned off. Read Reaper Man first," or, "Rincewind is tiresome. Read the Vimes books instead," or whatever they'll recommend.

Which is understandable, but at the same time, it's kind of arrogant. Like, dude, you're so proud of having been around when Colour of Magic came out, you read them in publication order because you had no choice--you still fell head over heels in love with them. Why do you think someone approaching them for the first time today couldn't do the same? Why do you think they need you to shepherd them through the experience? And why is it so important to you that they come to the same conclusion about the characters that you did?

Sometimes it's understandable, like I said; you love a thing, you want them to love it too. You want to spare them the jarring moments of the not-quite-good-enough. But sometimes I think, there are some fans who have a bit of ego involved in being the living filter through which someone experiences the material. I suspect that, either consciously or un--, it makes them feel important.

To hell with that. Mark is going into this as completely unspoiled and unbiased as a reader on publication day would, only without the three-year wait between The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. His spoiler policy is aggressive, and I share it: If I haven't gotten there yet, don't talk about it. Allow me to experience it the way you did--without you hanging over my shoulder saying, "Oh, this is when it gets good" and "Just wait until you meet [CHARACTER] in Chapter [X]!"

I only heard that this was a thing the week after Terry Pratchett died. And it's been fantastic. I've been watching his videos or, where appropriate, converting them to MP3 and listening to them in the car. Not only does it convert these old familiar books into brand new experiences for me, but it comes at a time when 1. I wanted to commemorate the author's passing with a read-through of my own, but 2. all my books are in storage and I can't easily get to them. So I get to have Mark read them to me! And I get to hear him react to the awesomeness! And the hilarity! And the puns, dear Gods, the puns. (Oh Gods the "horse d'oeurves" pun. Mark's reaction to the pun. It takes him like three minutes to get past it, it hits him that hard. I love Mark this much, y'all.)

I've just gotten up to Mark's read-through of Mort. And it occurs to me I may never actually have read Mort before. I could swear I'd borrowed it from a friend back in the late '90s, but I'm not recognizing any of it at all. Maybe my memory isn't intact--which would be odd, for me--but maybe The Last Continent isn't the last Discworld book I've yet to read? This is such a treat.

Like I told John, "Mark's reading Discworld! Expect my productivity to dip a bit." And so it has. Drat.

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