I’d like to kick off today’s entry by announcing the winner of our very first Caption This contest. The winner was chosen by none other than the awkwardly pictured party himself: Carl Binder. Thanks to everyone who took the time send in their captions. There were a lot of great ones – and a few that had me scratching my heads wondering whether some of you had been drinking.
Anyhow, drumroll please….
In third place, DougIndy with a nice call-back:   

“There is a producer standing here with wet hands”
“There is a producer standing here with wet hands”

 Second place goes to K-Man for:

Pretty fly for a white guy
Pretty fly for a white guy

And taking the first place crown is JES with his winning caption:

Jonathan Livingston Binder
Jonathan Livingston Binder

DougIndy and K-Man win bragging rights!  JES wins…er…something else.  I haven’t decided quite what yet.  But drop the Baron an email (BaronDestructo@yahoo.com) and you can discuss.

Well, I had only planned on finishing up Act IV of Script #2 today but, as expected, got on a roll and ended up sailing through Act V to finish the darn thing. The second script is a robust 53 pages (52 full) and contains what is, without a doubt, the biggest HOLY #%&@! ending I have ever written. I mean, I knew what was going to happen but, as I was writing toward it and the different pieces of the story were falling into place, I decided to go with a little something different in the lead-up and…well…it’s quite the eyebrow-raiser. Actually, the double eyebrow-raiser. Hell, the truth is, you don’t have enough eyebrows to make it work. Trust me.
So, now I have two rough drafts. Tonight, I shift gears to reading two first drafts Lawren sent my way – Marty’s G.‘s Lost, and Carl’s latest oeuvre, Pain. Tomorrow, I start work on streamlining my two scripts, getting the all important timing down, adjusting the scenes, tweaking the dialogue, and generally just making sure it all makes sense. The plan was to put them out on Monday but, given that I’m so ahead of schedule, I may aim for a pre-weekend release.
Let’s celebrate with some pics: 


Qu'est-ce que c'est? indeed.
Qu’est-ce que c’est? indeed.
Bet you always wanted one of these.
Bet you always wanted one of these.

 I’d like to finish off with some discussion of this month’s book of the month club selection: The Speed of Dark.  And a gentle reminder to post your questions for author Elizabeth Moon before week’s end.

Sylvia writes: “Not far into the book, I began to feel anxious for Lou…waiting for the shoe, the other shoe, etc., to drop because we know how mean, cruel people are/can be. And, the “child like” innocence and trust seemed quite vulnerable. “

Answer: What I found particularly interesting was the fact that, despite his skills in pattern recognition, Lou was unable to figure out who was behind the acts of vandalism directed against him.  Rather, he works it all out in his head and yet refuses to accept the logical conclusion because allows his emotions and sense of right and wrong to overrule the obvious answer. 

Sylvia also writes: “The ending was good, but it did not feel exactly right. Perhaps my overly critical view of the people performing the experimental procedure biased me. So, now, we see where the procedure worked and apparently worked well.”

Answer: I think that the ending will be the point of contention for many.  Does Lou achieve his goal and is it a victory or does he abandon who he was and is it really, in some sense, a defeat for the character and all he represents?

Shelly writes: “The characters were noble, to me, as they struggled with the sudden possibility of being like the majority of people and there is no one right decision to make.”

Answer: That’s what I loved about this book.  It presents a complex issue but doesn’t offer up any easy answers, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.  Whether the decision (in the grander sense) was the right one or the wrong one is up for debate – EXCEPT in the case of one of the project’s participants who is referred to only in briefly passing at book’s end: “Bailey, in particular, made a juicy tidbit for the media. I didn’t know how badly it went for im until I saw the news archives; they never let us see him.”  I wonder what did happen to Bailey?  Did he remain in an arrested childlike state?  Or were the effects even worse?  He’s the only one who rolled the dice and you could say with certainty lost out.

Charlie’s Angel writes: “The Speed of Dark is one of my favorite books.”

Answer: Had you read it before?  Did you read it again for this discussion?  If so, what did you think of it on second reading?

Thornyrose writes: “The same point of view strengthens our commitment to Lou as we can recognise how badly treated he is by certain characters in the story, from Dr. Fornum, to Crenshaw, all the way to Dr. Ransome, all of whom fail to recognise, or even acknowledge, Lou’s place in humanity.”

Answer: That’s a terrific point.  None of the aforementioned saw Lou as a person.  He was merely the means to an end for all of them.  I wonder whether a non-autistic person was in the same position would have received the same treatment.  Quite possibly yes in most cases, but I think they would have received a certain amount of respect that wasn’t afforded Lou.  These individuals didn’t little to hide their disdain and ulterior motives in front of Lou – which is ironic since Lou was in a better position than most people to pick up on this.

Thornyrose also writes: “There’s even the question of Don’s punishment for his crimes? Is it justice, or even mercy, to “adjust” a person’s mind?”

Answer: Yes, that was interesting, the parallel between the mind reformating that Don undergoes for his crime and the similar treatment Lou must undergo to become “normal”.  It’s interesting to note how, despite the fact that no one else had a problem with Don’s treatment and even argued for it, Lou was quite adamant in his belief that altering someone’s brain was wrong regardless of the desired outcome.  So it came as a shock when he ultimately decided to go ahead and have the procedure done.

Ponytail writes: “His only issues where sometimes having trouble communicating and handling emotions. Don’t we all?”

Answer: No argument here.  I reader some reader reviews after I finished the book and was surprised by how many people strongly related with Lou – to the point that some of them wondered whether they were “slightly autistic”.

Ponytail writes: “The new Lou seemed to be just seeing the surface – like “normal” people tend to do. Like “normal” people did with him.”

Answer: Yes, which is why I, personally, found the ending more tragic than hopeful. 

Ponytail also writes: “I guess it worked out the way Lou had wanted. I felt a loss. I’m don’t know why but the Epilogue made me cry. Maybe because I would not like this new Lou as much or maybe because I know he would not like me either. I don’t know.”
Answer: Or, quite frankly, because by book’s end, the Lou we know is gone and has been replaced by an inscrutable stranger.
Charles Schneider writes: “The only dissapointments I suffered were the threat of Lou’s villains, I never really felt that Lou would not ‘vanquish’ them. Don was just a man-child, and Mr. Crenshaw is excized off-screen in a deus-ex machina call from his boss, and in the end both become speed bumps in Lou’s life.”

Answer: In the case of Don, he was a pretty dangerous man-child, escalating from petty acts of vandalism to assault.  And I disagree that Mr. Crenshaw’s punshiment came as the result of some deus ex-machina.  His downfall is orchestrated by Pete Aldrin.  In fact, one of my favorite moments in the book comes when Lou arrives at the office to find a shell-shocked Crenshaw, boxed belongings in hand, being escorted out.
 Charles Schneider also writes: “I thought it was interesting that virtually everyone in Lou’s life after ‘the treatment’ virtually left the story as Lou set off on a whole new life. “Answer: Yes, interseting and incredibly sad.  He was no longer the Lou they knew and the new Lou no longer had an interest in maintaing a friendship with them.

Iamza writes: “It struck me as kind of ironic that the first thing Lou does after his treatment is sign up to be an astronaut, and travel to the stars, far away from all the normal people just like him. Is that what normal means?”

Answer: Interesting.  I never thought about it that way.  It’s ironic that he seemed warmer and more empathetic when he was autistic (given that many people with autism are considered remote and socially isolated) but seemed to embrace a solitary existence as a “normal”.

Iamza also writes: “I am somewhat torn on the notion of developing drugs and/or computer chips to regulate behaviour. I thought it was an interesting idea to raise: what if we could condition abnormal behaviour — make everyone normal, productive members of society. On the one hand, you would be able to get rid of anti-social behaviour like that of Don. On the other, who gets to decide what it means to be normal?”

Answer: The truth is this is a debate we should be having now at a time when drugs that alter brain chemistry are being prescribed to deal with everything from depression to attention deficit disorder.  I’m sure that they help in many cases, but what are some of the undiscussed drawbacks?

Light writes: “I agree with your review of the book, it was great. I have read elsewhere that it was the publishers that classified it as a scifi book, which may explain why it is under that, even though as pointed out above, it is more marginally a scifi.”

Answer: I’ve always found it interesting what tends to be classified and NOT classified as scifi.  The Road, for instance, is, in my opinion, SF, but many (including, if I’m not mistaken, even the author himself) do not consier it SF.  Compare this to Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents which pretty much told the same story some 15 years earlier and IS classified as SF.  

Silver_comet writes: “All the other characters were well drawn, too. The only exception is Marjory. The reader didn’t learn much about her and her real feelings, the reasons behind them. That’s a pity, because for Lou she had an important part in his life.”

Answer: I think she was written this way to place us fully in Lou’s perspective.  Like him, we don’t know for certain whether she does or doesn’t like him in “that way”.  Rather than be allowed into her mind and know for sure, we share in Lou’s anxiety and doubt.   

Silver_comet also writes: “From Don’s point of view it’s so much easier to blame Lou for everything instead of himself. He was definitely a person who couldn’t take responsibility for his own actions. The question for me is, has anybody ever explained that to Don? Really, in a friendly way? Or did they just turn away and confirmed therefore his way of thinking?”

Answer: Hey, that’s a very interesting point.  Did the others contribute to Don’s descent by not showing him the kidness and respect they showed Lou.  Was there a double standard here?  I mean, having dealt with my share of jerks, I totally sympathized with them.  It’s hard to turn the other cheek or be understanding with an openly hostile individual.  I guess I’m guilty of it myself.

Silver_comet also writes: “I don’t have problems to socialize. However, I’m a person who needs much time for herself. Definitely more than most other people. Since I was a kid I have been happy being left alone for hours. It hasn’t changed much since then. I still like daydreaming. To immerse myself into the world of books, films and forget my actual surroundings. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood for talking and/or company. Is that bad?”

Answer: We’re very similar in this respect.  While I enjoy socializing, for the most part, when given the choice, I can’t be bothered and prefer to just stay at home with the dogs and just write or read.

Silver_comet writes: “It was different with Lou. The changes were forced, they happen suddenly and quite randomly – not because of events in his life. For example, maybe his feelings for Marjory would have changed anyway. Naturally. I just don’t feel comfortable with the way they have changed now.”

Answer: Agreed.  In some ways, this book reminded me of Flowers for Algernon.  But in reverse.  The shock of losing someone so dear and so suddenly stays with you.

Chevron7 writes: “I must say that I loved Lou’s internal monologue. I actually found it very comforting. In fact I was REALLY annoyed when the author switched to Tom’s or Pete’s POV.”

Answer: I agree.  While I realize it was necessary, I always found myself eager to return to Lou’s POV.

MikeB writes: “As one who has lived with Asbergers all my life, albeit undiagnosed for most of it, I read this story with great appreciation. It is a wonderful book.”Answer: Hey, Mike, were there certain aspects of the book that rang particularly true for you?  Were there some that didn’t?

Michelle writes: “At times I found myself wondering why I was so fascinated. I mean, the description of how Lou will replace four slashed tires goes on for pages, but I couldn’t stop reading them. “

Answer: Like you, I found Lou’s voice so engaging, his character so compelling, that I took my time with this book, truly appreciated it.  I have a feeling it’s one of those books I’ll be pulling out and rereading for some time to come.


Michelle also writes: “I missed Lou-before by the end, but I felt selfish for doing so. As beautiful a soul as he was before, he was not “happy” in my opinion. He was unsatisfied on many levels. And maybe that was partly because of what he’d been told all his life, but to the degree that life is about the people in our lives, he was missing so much. And I’m very glad he got to keep his genius.”

Answer: I had the exact same feelings at book’s end.  Even though he seemed happy and fulfilled, I wished he’d never taken the treatment – and immediately felt guilty because I guess I was being selfish, missing the old Lou.

Nolalib writes: “Like Michelle said earlier, I felt selfish for missing Lou-before. “

Answer: Well, you’re not alone.  One thing the book doesn’t cover that I was curious about was how his friends reacted – especially after their friendship drifted.  Tom, Lucinda, and especially Marjory – did they feel selfish for regretting his decision to take the treatment?

Drldeboer writes: “Like Tom, at the end I found it very hard to accept that Lou didn’t value things about himself that I valued. “

Answer: I wonder whether new Lou would have liked old Lou, or appreciated some of the things that made him “him”.

Otros Ojos writes: “ Her jealousy of Marjory, with resulting statements and actions, culminates in her telling Lou that he needs to associate with “your own kind” — although Emmy, like many other people, doesn’t perceive the difference between her disorder and Lou’s. In this way, the author not only nudges readers about the tendency to lump together all disorders that are superficially similar; she also brings in another concept related to communities of people outside the majority…”

Answer: I also found this very interesting, how Moon contrasts the autistic community and the community of “normals”.  On closer scrutiny, however, it’s surprising how many unsavory similarities exist between the two groups. 

52 thoughts on “August 4, 2009: Announcing the Winner of the Caption This Contest! The Biggest Holy #%&@ Ending Ever! Some The Speed of Dark Discussion!

  1. Congrats to the caption contest winners! Will there be another caption contest? They’re fun..

  2. From reading y’all’s discussion, I think I’ll skip THE SPEED OF DARK. My only nephew is autistic.

    Brie’s latest photos are so cute…I can almost feel her in my arms! (Time I got back to the shelter as volunteer!)

    Congrats to the top three captioners!

    The DESTINY is looking pretty darn steampunk…!

  3. Congrats to the caption winnners – too funny!
    And David Hewlett twittered one of his followers:
    “cast has heard nothing about Atlantis movie. I think the chances of it happening now are slim to none…such a waste!”
    and he seems like an upbeat kind of guy, so now I really am saddened. Darn it

  4. @Gilder Yeah, I’ve noticed that SyFy is big on the steampunk… Warehouse 13 has that sort of feel, too!

    All the captions are quite awesome, but I like the Ba’al reference best. =)

  5. @Gilder – You volunteer at a shelter? Me too! The dogs are wonderful…

  6. You can’t fool us with your vague and mysterious teases, Joe, as they are all transparent to logic. Observe:

    Qu’est-ce que c’est? = What is this?

    So essentially, the caption is “What is this? Indeed.” Now, this is obviously a loaded statement; your “indeed” no doubt refers to the fact that we already have the answer, but we don’t realize it.

    Thus, that thing is a “This”. What a great looking This. The Art Department have made many Thises, but this is clearly the best looking This so far.

    Also, the thing in the 3rd pic looks like a telescope.

    Congratulations to the caption contest winners! JES, I suggest you ask for Flocking. Not only does it bring you a world of joy, but it also gives you the ability to travel forward in time at a rate of 1 second/s; allows light to impact the optical nerve at the back of your eye without the need for advanced technology like a personal force shield device; makes it possible to get up to 4 quarters when you want change for a dollar; and, of course, the best of all: it looks like fake snow, which is so much warmer, and thus better, than real snow.

  7. Congratulations to JES and the runner ups. Will you let us know later what JES won? If it is super cool, I may have to hire a writing team for the next caption contest. It was fun.

    Interesting discussion on The Speed of Dark. I did not feel selfish for feeling the loss of the old Lou. Because there was nothing wrong with the old Lou in the first place. He was just more unique than other people. When he read that big text book and understood it, I think that could have been the beginning of a new phase in his life. He learned so easily, who knows where that would have taken him. He did not have to alter his brain. His mind was brilliant already. He just needed to develop it more.

    Seems like today the increase in autistic diagnosis is frightenly soaring. I never heard of it when I was young. And only occasionally as I got older. Reading Lou’s thoughts and the way he saw the world does make me think that I may be slightly autistic. So slight, it shows up only in my personality. I thought that before I even read this book. Maybe, like Lou, it is because those “normal” people are busy making anyone who is not quite like them, feel bad about themselves.

    I wonder about myself because I too like to be alone. I shy alway from people. One on one I’m okay. Maybe even exceptional. But add another person to the mix and I back up. My desk at work is organized in a particular way. Paper clips all lined up. Rubber bands stacked neatly together to resemble a birds nest. And I have had the same silk flower arrangement on my desk for 15 years! My co-workers complained they were sick of it after the first 3 years. Twelve years later it is still there. I love it and look at it everyday. It never gets old. I listen for speech patterns in people so I can tell when they are happy, angry or worried. I watch faces for these signs also. I think I liked Lou so much because I can relate to him. He was a great guy and I thought he had made an excellent life for himself. If we would just stop listening to those normals around us, life would be more satisfying.

  8. Does the crew always wear awesome shirts to work, or only when their pictures are taken?

  9. I’ll tell you one more story on why I might be slightly autistic. I am an organizer. I arrange like sets of objects into stacks, rows, piles, whatever is appropriate for the objects. It drives them crazy at work. They will open my desk drawer and say, “Oh my god, look at how neat everything is!”. When I eat a little bag of M&M’s, I arrange them in rows according to color. Then I eat the longest row down until all rows are equal. No doubt someone will always walk by and see my M&M’s all lined up and say, “Oh my god, look what she is doing now!!” I give them my best Ronon impersonation and say, “what?”. They are like, “everyone, come see this!”. I just smile and say it dumped out of the bag that way. Freaks them out every time! But always good for a laugh.

  10. @ Gilder: My son is autistic as well. Although there are lots of challenges having a disabled child, I find it interesting to learn about how other people view the disability and if others can see some parts of it as a gift. I know that it’s been a major challenge having a child with this disorder, but, in many ways, he’s taught me a lot. So, I look forward to reading the book from that perspective. I can’t participate in the book club since I don’t have time to read the books suggested. But there are certain books that are so compelling, that I will save them for when I do have time to read them.

    Joe: We all have nick names for this blog. If you had to have a nick name for someone else’s blog or if you were lurking on the Gateworld forums, which one would you pick?


  11. Great pics. SGU’s sets really do have that steampunk look in places. – Qu’est-ce que c’est? Dunno, but I think it’s watching your blog readers.

    On The Speed of Dark: On closer scrutiny, however, it’s surprising how many unsavory similarities exist between the two groups.

    Yes, that’s how I feel about the book’s characters and their counterparts in real life. I really wish that everyone could be like Lou and most of his fencing group: different, but tolerant, accepting, and not wanting to quit working through issues, thereby growing as people.

    Everyone’s brought up such good points about this book (especially re. its ending, about which I’m ambivalent; Dr. Fornum alone would be enough to make me want to be normal), and there’s still a fair amount that hasn’t been covered — things that aren’t necessarily major plot elements, I mean, but are still interesting and important in some way, such as music being such a major part of Lou’s life. I think the abundance of as-yet-undiscussed material is pretty incredible, but then it’s really an incredible book.

    The truth is this is a debate we should be having now at a time when drugs that alter brain chemistry are being prescribed to deal with everything from depression to attention deficit disorder. I’m sure that they help in many cases, but what are some of the undiscussed drawbacks?

    That’s a major button-pushing, soap-box rant topic for me. I don’t intend any offense toward anyone who has a psychiatric diagnosis — I have one myself — but at the psych facility where I work, it’s not that uncommon to have people come in because of psych meds they’ve been given – inappropriate or unnecessary meds, excessive dose, whatever. Or, one med or another has created emotional and/or physical dependence, and someone who’s tired of the side effects decides to stop cold, and possibly winds up in ER or ICU before going to the psych floor. OD’s, intended or not, and all too easy with some psych meds. Or someone doesn’t pay attention to instructions about drug interactions, especially when there’s more than one doc prescribing, and communication is woefully lacking. I learned to tend bullet holes as a result of two patients taking an ill-advised medication combo.

    Psychiatry was the neglected stepchild of medicine for a long time (and often still is, but anyway). However, now that breakthroughs in knowledge and treatment have taken place in some areas, there’s quite a bit of bandwagon-hopping. Misdiagnoses are made; prescriptions are written when a course of behavioral therapy might actually be more effective as well as making meds unnecessary, but maybe both doc and patient really want change NOW. Or maybe a typically short-sighted health insurance group will pay for the meds, but no other type of therapy — which really makes me burn, especially where kids and adolescents are involved.

    I’m fortunate in that I rarely need meds, while I acknowledge that they’re an immeasurably great blessing for many people with disorders and all those who care about the afflicted. Of course, nobody wants to return to the days before psych meds, when illnesses like schizophrenia or severe endogenous depression (e.g., not caused by circumstances, but by aberrant neurotransmitters) caused truly horrible suffering, or led to homicide or suicide — and that’s only two out of a multitude of problems. Still, I’m very concerned about what seems to be a growing tendency of people feeling like they need to be fixed somehow, and relying on medication to do that, when the cause may ultimately be socially related rather than medical. I think doctors, insurance companies, and patients all need to take a good long look at current practices, and search for less intrusive treatments wherever possible. Even better, in some cases signs and symptoms are mild enough to obviate assigning a diagnosis at all, thus helping to reduce the number of people who consider themselves mentally defective, therefore reliant on the system. That may not be a large number of people, but each person counts. (Trite but quite true, imo.) – End rant.

    To change the subject entirely, your reports on your script progress are really getting me stoked for SGU to start. “You don’t have enough eyebrows to make it work,” indeed. (I hope I got that right. In any case, it gave me a good laugh, and I’ll be glued to the couch for the season finale.)

  12. @iamza

    It struck me as kind of ironic that the first thing Lou does after his treatment is sign up to be an astronaut, and travel to the stars, far away from all the normal people just like him. Is that what normal means? Wanting so much to be like everyone else right up until we are, and then we want to be something different and escape?

    Wow, that’s really an interesting thought. Didn’t see that myself.

    Joe wrote:

    Answer: I think she was written this way to place us fully in Lou’s perspective. Like him, we don’t know for certain whether she does or doesn’t like him in “that way”. Rather than be allowed into her mind and know for sure, we share in Lou’s anxiety and doubt.

    That’s a good explanation. Now, that makes a lot of sense. Nevertheless, I’m still curious about her feelings. 😉

    Joe wrote:

    I mean, having dealt with my share of jerks, I totally sympathized with them. It’s hard to turn the other cheek or be understanding with an openly hostile individual. I guess I’m guilty of it myself.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes (more often than not?) a jerk is just that: a jerk. 😉 And, although I believe that other people can have somehow a bearing on our personality, it would be again the easiest way. To claim becoming a jerk just because other people didn’t care enough. As if someone wouldn’t have a choice. In the end, everybody is responsible for himself and his actions.

    I want to thank you, not only for this book, which leads to interesting discussions (I loved reading everyone’s thoughts about it), but also for the BOTM club in general. It definitely broadens my mind. Most of the suggested books I wouldn’t have chosen by myself. And I believe many of them aren’t well-known in Germany (yet).

    Also congratulations for your short story and to the winners of the Caption This Contest. I’m sure, it wasn’t an easy decision. 😉

  13. So… what happens if SGU doesn’t get picked up for a second season? This is why I hate cliffhanger finales. Sure, it’s all well and good to hope it gets picked up, but if it doesn’t, the fans are screwed. And if it does get renewed, I still don’t like it. After three or more months of lag, the “I must know now!” feeling has worn off, so you’re either going to watch the new season or not based on whether you liked the first season as a whole, not just because you want to know the ending of a story you’ve had a good chance of forgetting by that point.

  14. More on Speed of Dark:

    JM: What I found particularly interesting was the fact that, despite his skills in pattern recognition, Lou was unable to figure out who was behind the acts of vandalism directed against him. Rather, he works it all out in his head and yet refuses to accept the logical conclusion because allows his emotions and sense of right and wrong to overrule the obvious answer.

    I found it perfectly reasonable. Don equals Friend. Friend does not equal People who slash tires etc…therefore Don does not equal People who slash tires etc. I found it simple and totally logical.

    Ponytail writes: “His only issues where sometimes having trouble communicating and handling emotions. Don’t we all?”

    JM: No argument here. I reader some reader reviews after I finished the book and was surprised by how many people strongly related with Lou – to the point that some of them wondered whether they were “slightly autistic”.

    I think that’s putting it very simply. Lou had more issues than that – taking things literally and understanding non-verbal cues (he had to learn to get around these things and it sounded like his parents did a great job). While it is common for people to have one characteristic (perhaps they don’t have great eye contact for example) they would have to have a certain number to be considered autistic. That’s true isn’t it MikeB?

    JM: Yes, which is why I, personally, found the ending more tragic than hopeful.

    JM: I wonder whether new Lou would have liked old Lou, or appreciated some of the things that made him “him”.

    I actually found it hopeful. I felt that the existence of Lou-Before deep inside the new Lou was a big F You to the people handing out the treatment. I’m sure they thought that nothing would remain of the old Lou. Perhaps I’m reading something into the end that no-one else is reading.

    I am sitting here at a desk entering my notes, and the desk is in a ship and the ship is in space, and the space is full of light. Lou-before hugs the series to him, dancing inside me like a joyous child, I feign more sobriety, in my workday coverall, though I can feel a smile tugging at the corner of my mouth. We both hear the same music

    Isn’t that hopeful?

    Silver_comet also writes: “From Don’s point of view it’s so much easier to blame Lou for everything instead of himself. He was definitely a person who couldn’t take responsibility for his own actions. The question for me is, has anybody ever explained that to Don? Really, in a friendly way? Or did they just turn away and confirmed therefore his way of thinking?”

    JM: Hey, that’s a very interesting point. Did the others contribute to Don’s descent by not showing him the kidness and respect they showed Lou. Was there a double standard here? I mean, having dealt with my share of jerks, I totally sympathized with them. It’s hard to turn the other cheek or be understanding with an openly hostile individual. I guess I’m guilty of it myself.

    Yes, especially when Tom turned around and told Lou about Don’s first tournament. It seemed he was trying to embarrass Don after he harshly criticised Lou’s performance. Probably wasn’t the smartest move.

    I’ll have to think of some questions for Elizabeth Moon..promise.

    Cheers, Chev

  15. Coucou Joseph!

    Vous allez bien? Ohh snif vous ne m’avez même pas souhaitez mon anniversaire =(…cela ne m’aurai tellement fait plaisir, mais bon j’aurai du m’en douter, j’ai l’habitude.

    J’espere que vous allez passer une trés bonne journée! Merci encore pour ces photos.

    bisou, à bientôt.

  16. Sorry for confusing you all. My computer seemed to save my alternate identity and I only just realised. LOL! It really is Chev.

    Cheers, Chev

  17. Congrats to JES, K-Man and DougIndy. What a tough choice it must have been.

    Cheers, Chev

  18. Ponytail said:

    I’ll tell you one more story on why I might be slightly autistic. I am an organizer. I arrange like sets of objects into stacks, rows, piles, whatever is appropriate for the objects.

    My nephew used to line up all of his toy cars when he was little and you really didn’t want to mess them up.

    If you’re curious, try the Autism Quotient test which measures the extent of Autistic traits in adults. It’s not an official diagnosis but it may help you decide whether to talk to a doctor about taking the real test, if you really want to know that is.

    Cheers, Chev

  19. Thank you; thank you so much (I love Brenda Leigh Johnson) for picking our (husband provided it; I entered it) caption. Knowing Joe’s previous generosity (flocking?), I’m sure the prize will ease our concerns about the recession and its impact on our retirement savings. Barring that, I’m sure it will be a wonderful keepsake as we move into our golden years. Oh, wait; we’re already in our golden years. In that case, hurry up with the prize, Joe. 😉 Thanks again.

  20. Questions for Elizabeth Moon:

    1. What research did you do to get Lou’s internal monologue so authentic, or what I imagine it to be? Was it a difficult style to write and and did you find it flowed as you went along?

    2. I loved Lou’s POV and found it abrupt when you switched to Pete or Tom’s POV. Did you ever consider writing it solely from Lou’s POV?

    3. Everyone seems to see the ending as tragic, whereas I see it as hopeful. What did you think as you were writing it?

    4. How did the Nebula Award change your life professionally?

    5. What are you reading at the moment?

    Cheers, Chev

  21. Congrats to the winners,the contest was fun and garnered a lot of comments for the blog, so double good, waitin’ anxiously for the next one.
    That last picture, he looks like he is working on antique roadshow,and how much is this item(found in my attic) worth?!?
    And the first picture, is that the exhaust pipe for the BBQ smoker?!?
    -the middle pix,,hmmm,

  22. I said to myself:”Hummm! Bad timing again, asking question during discussion of this month’s book of the month club selection. No response…I can understand, let us try again…”


    Quand vous rédigez un dialogue, le lisez-vous à voix haute pour vérifier si les phrases sonnent bien à l’oreille, pour entendre les répliques afin de vous assurer qu’elles sonnent naturelles?

  23. I’m glad I read the book. It was excellent and thought-provoking.

    “The Speed of Dark” was a book that hit very close to home for me. My best friend’s son is autistic. I’ve known him since he was born and knew he was autistic before his parents did. He is now in his late 20s and lives in a group home. He loves music, but he is more a rock and roll guy. I asked myself, if the treatment in the book really existed, would I recommend to my friend that her son take it? No. Maybe. I don’t know.

    My own teenage daughter has Asperger’s syndrome and depression, which was made much worse by the Asperger’s When she first started taking the Prozac she hated it and accused me of wanting to change who she was and make her into someone else just because it would be easier for me. I often asked myself if that was true. She takes medication for the depression and has some accommodations (primarily social) at school. It was difficult to get the school to acknowledge that problem since she is so darn smart and they couldn’t accept that a smart person could have problems. And they didn’t want to have to use their limited resources to help someone who already “performed at an above-normal academic level” when there were a lot of kids struggling to just to pass their classes.

    ” ‘He will, at least, not be autistic,’ she (Dr. Hendricks) said, as if that justified everything else.”

    But it doesn’t justify anything. Different is not bad. Different is not wrong. Providing support so that people can live to their full potential is not wrong. Physical supports and medical interventions. There are many examples: Braille for the blind. Insulin for people who’s bodies do not produce enough. Medications to reduce cholesterol in the people who’s bodies produce too much. Medications to adjust serotonin uptake for people who don’t produce enough. That last one refers to antidepressants.

    Is one type of therapy good, but the other is tampering with someone’s mind? Where do we draw the line? Is it okay to give medications for any defect that does not involve the brain but not okay to treat medical conditions that involve the brain? Why?

    The research done in the book was of very questionable ethics. There was no reason to develop therapy for the few autists that remained in society, since there would be no more. But the therapy had other (insidious) uses and the autists were a marginalized group that made convenient research subjects. The fact that the therapy was successful in most of them makes us feel better about it but doesn’t make the way the study was set up justifiable.

    Like many of you, I also saw the parallel between the mind-chip that Don got and Lou’s therapy. But there are differences. Don was a repeat offender and had become dangerously violent. Heck – he was going to shoot Lou! He was a psychopath that needed to be either removed from society or treated. Is it more humane to lock someone up or to treat their problem with mind-controlling technology? This gets into the big-brother discussion. It is certainly cheaper and more convenient for society as a whole to use the mind-chip. You keep the members of your society functional and don’t have the expense of prisons.

    Lou was a guy who was getting along pretty well. He had a job and friends and hobbies. But he had a dream that he could not realize. The therapy allowed him to realize that dream.

    Like many of you, I missed the Lou-before at the end of the book. He was good and kind and had incredible potential in both science and fencing. And he But I accept his right to choose what he wanted to do. For someone who’s life had been circumscribed by fear of things outside the routine, he was incredibly brave and ultimately chose to step into the unknown.

    I, too, saw a similarity to “Flowers for Algernon”. And I cried at the end of both of them.

    I could rewrite the questions raised by the others who posted yesterday, but that would just be silly.

    And now you made me late for work again, Joe.

  24. Hi Joe,
    I have to say I really enjoyed reading The Speed of Dark. It is a book I will go back and reread. I tore through on my first reading as I too was afraid of the other shoe dropping and of Lou being hurt.

    In a coincidence, I was reading the book last week while my sister was home from her group home. My sister is profoundly developmentally delayed and needs 24 hour care. She usually comes home on the weekends (truthfully to go to TimHortons for a donut and to watch Lawrence Welk), but at Christmas and in July, her day program closes for a week and she comes to stay with my brother and me.

    As I read I found so many parallels between my growing concern and admiration for Lou and with my relationship with my sister. I’ve always wondered who my sister would have been and what our relationship would have been like if she’d been normal.

    My sister and I are very close. We are 1 year apart in age and shared a bedroom for many, many years. As a child, seizures made her totally dependent on others and I beg to be allowed to be the one to spoon feed her at the dinner table. Watching tv we would share an arm chair, with her pretending to hug me to prevent me from being able to see the tv screen. Did I mention she has a wicked sense of humour and loves to tease?

    I know that had she been normal our teen years would have been hell. Picture 2 strong willed girls sharing a bedroom and closet, wearing the same size clothes – ugly.

    Today, we have a very close relationship. Since the death of both my parents, I’ve become her ‘mom’ and primary advocate. Unlike Lou, my sister cannot speak up for herself, in fact my sister really only talks to my brother and I. Frequently, I’ll arrive at the group home to collect her and she’ll burst into speech (all about getting her donut and going home to watch Lawrence Welk), any new staff that haven’t worked a Friday evening are in shock as they may have worked for months with my sister and never heard her say a word.

    If my sister had been normal, would we be close, would we share much, would we even talk? These are questions I ask myself all the time.

    At the end of the story Lou talks about Lou-before and Lou-now, to me that is the pivotal moment in the book. The theme of change runs throughout the book, but at that one moment it crystallizes. Coping with the demands of autism took up a great deal of Lou’s life. Each new event (fencing in the tournament, falling in love, realizing Lou wasn’t his friend, dealing with Mr Crenshaw, having people come into his apartment) made a profound change in Lou’s life and he had to deal with the fall out to his comfort level. At first I was surprised that he decide to have the treatment, but then I realized he was already changing and he felt he was ready for more changes.

    We mourn because the Lou-before is gone, and that is sad. We had all grown attached to Lou-before in a caring/supportive/protective way. We also wonder why there was so little about the Lou-now at the end of the book. It made sense to me because the lack of disclosure was normal, we don’t know much about others and Lou-now as narrator would be very private in a normal way. As with my sister, I know everything now about her life, if she was normal I’d only know what she was willing to share.

    Finally, I have to comment on the role of the Dr. In my experience many people who work with people with disabilities share the attitude held my Dr. Fornum, the attitude that they are the all knowledgeable individual with the power. They seem to look for ways to prove how disabled, how ‘bad’ life is for the person they are suppose to be helping. After an initial diagnoses, I’ve never understood why some people focus all their energy on finding out what else this individual can’t do. I’ve always felt that discovering what the can do was the proper use of time.

    At the same time, I’ve found people like Dr Fornum don’t look at the person with a disability beyond what is written on paper, but are willing to make profound decisions that effect the level and type of support offered.

    A friend shared an experience of attending a child’s school annual update meeting. During the past year the child had made enormous positive growth, the parents were looking forward to the meeting to share with all the professionals their son’s amazing improvement. Instead, the professionals related all the previous information. The mother was enraged as she realized the professionals charged with the decision making had no personal knowledge of her son. She reached into her briefcase and pulled out the class photo and shoved it in front of the worse offender and asked them to point out the child they were condemning to stagnation with status quo. Of course they couldn’t, so she told them to shut up and listen to the people at the table who did know and hear what her son could now do. The right decisions were made because the mother was able to demonstrate the lack of knowledge of the professionals.

    I don’t really have any questions for Elizabeth Moon, just heaps of admiration and thanks for a provocative and gripping novel.

  25. Oh, and thanks for a very entertaining caption contest. I laughed so hard at the picture and the many comments.

  26. Ponytail: When I was taking my son for testing, the doctor told us that everyone can have autistic characteristics and not be “defined” as autistic. I know that my son and I have a few Asperger’s traits (a type of autistism) and my cousin definitely has Asperger’s syndrome. OCD’ers can have a lot of advantages over other people. Of couse, in most situations I have the social grace of a rhino in a glass shop 😉 .

    Unegawaya and Gilder: I’m going today and cleaning the catteries at our local shelter. A lot of work! I’m usually exhausted when I get home. Kitty litter is heavy.

    Bailey: thanks for pointing out D. H.’s tweets! I’ve been too busy to look lately. I refuse to budge from my optimism, though :P.

    Thank you, Mr. M. for another intersting blog.


  27. Hi Joe, While you’re scratching your heads, I’ll wait to see this holy #%&@ ending of yours!

    If I’m to believe the rumors, how sad there will be no SGA movie. Saw Joe Flanigan on “Warehouse 13” and it really made me miss SGA. Damn.

    Good day, all!

  28. Deni: Ditto on Warehouse 13! It was great seeing J. F. again. Did you catch D. H. on “Closer”?


  29. Joe wrote:

    The truth is this is a debate we should be having now at a time when drugs that alter brain chemistry are being prescribed to deal with everything from depression to attention deficit disorder. I’m sure that they help in many cases, but what are some of the undiscussed drawbacks?

    For sure!

    I was reading an article on one of the news sites, which pointed out that since 1995, the number of people on medication for depression has doubled. I found that statistic shocking. On the one hand, it probably means medical professionals are getting better at diagnosing and treating depression, and that the previous stigma associated with mental health issues is beginning to fall away — people feel more free to come forward to seek help and treatment, and that’s great! But I also can’t help wondering that, if so many people are afflicted, might it also not point to an inherent flaw in our lifestyles, that possibly we need to look for something beyond medication (which, yes, can be hugely helpful for a lot of people but acts to ameliorate the symptoms rather than curing the cause). Maybe our idealized vision of what people need to be to be considered productive members of society is at fault. Maybe the American dream needs to be scaled down a little, to fit more with reality.

    Also, I can’t help feeling that there is a certain glamourization at work. Some self-diagnosed Aspergers people who want to believe their brains work differently (but also better) because it explains why they feel so different, so apart, from everyone else. Like Rain Man, only more normal — the secret misunderstood genius in society’s midst, if only people would just realize it.

    And then there’s the concern of, who exactly is determining what is normal behaviour. When does depression go from being a normal natural feeling blue period to being something that needs to be treated now, now, now? When does a kid go from being very active and mildly inattentive to needing treatment for ADD, stat! We seem to be losing patience with people who don’t conform exactly with some mythical standard of normal, and medication offers an easy way to make them conform…

  30. Thanks for the 2nd place Joe. I love the caption contest idea, I hope you do more!

    Seeing Warehouse 13 last night with Joe in it made me a little sad that SGA is is no more. If for some reason they don’t make the movie will the script ever be released anywhere? Maybe as a novel or something?

  31. First, congrats to DougIndy, K-Man and JES!!

    Second, my office computer was hijacked yesterday (serves me right for browsing while I should be working 😳 ). Needless to say, my mind is elsewhere – again – and this time the bugger is even harder to get rid of than the one that got me at home last October. First it prevents me from using my virus protection and running scans to find it…then it screws up Google…plays odd music and sounds…bascially f***s up my entire system. I’m not happy, and I’m spending all my free time trying to find a solution. This totally sucks…again.

    I think I got it from superdickery – a hilarious site with all sorts of REAL comic book pages that mostly go to prove that superheroes – especially the likes of Batman and Supes – are super…well…just look at the web addy. 😉 BUT DON’T go there – that’s where I was when the thing hit (I had also been enjoying old Neil Young vids on youtube just before – but I doubt it came from youtube ).

    Anyway…this got me even though I now run scans all the time. I hate these hijacking jerkwads, I really, really do. Joe – if you are ever at a loss as to who to feed to Todd, I suggest you start with them.

    Was that too many tos in one sentence?

    Have a good one…I’m sure it’ll be better than mine. 😛


  32. Okay, now instead of being late for work, I’m writing while I should be reviewing my cases and making brilliant diagnoses. But I needed to stop to eat my late morning yogurt anyway.
    I completely forgot to mention that I thought the book was brilliantly written and the characters and events and even the conclusion were wonderful.

    I got off into the science and forgot the religious discussion I had originally intended to mention.

    It seemed to me that the turning point for Lou came when he heard the sermon in church about “drinking from the well.” The sermon was not directed at Lou but at members of the congregation who needed a lesson in accepting and forgiving others (if I remember correctly – I’m at work and can’t look that part up) – which are also themes of the book.

    But Lou took it personally and asked himself the question: did God make me this way or did I become like this because of an accident? The answer to that question is what helped him make the decision to take the treatment. If God had intended him to be autistic, he was fine with that and would go along making the best of himself. And in my opinion, he would have done quite well given time and the help and support of his friends. But, if it was due to some accident of development or genetics, after hearing the sermon, Lou believed it would be wrong to refuse to “drink from the well” and accept the healing that was now offered to him.

    So, it seems to me, that Lou came to the conclusion that he was, in fact, “damaged” and should be “cured.”

    So I guess I do have a question or two for Ms. Moon:

    Lou seemed to believe that God would want him to accept the treatment, since refusing it would be refusing to “drink from the well”. What do you think? Why did you bring right and wrong into the already complicated decision-making process?

    If this is too personal, just skip it: If the treatment you invented in the book was available, would you encourage your child to take it?

  33. Hi Joe
    The Dogs are cute. Bubba always looks guilty.

    Is Brie the newest edition to the bunch? And do they all get along with each other?


  34. pourquoi j’ai pas gagné???? 😥

    qu’est ce que c’est?????

    euh panneau de controle de securité

    translation: control panel for security room (to close door)

    for the yesterday picture, it was the shuttlepod like i have thought???

    what is the utility of ground chevron?? to say, “It is that way you cross the gate.”

  35. @ chevron7 – I took your Autism Quotient test and scored a whopping 29. Those with diagnosed high functioning autism scored 32 or above. Oh boy! Lets just say I’m a “normal deviant”. And maybe that is why I could relate to Lou so much. He seemed pretty well adjusted to me. So am I.

  36. Chevron7: I had to laugh at my score on the Autism Quotient test: 33!
    When I’m around someone who has been “officially” diagnosed as Autistic, I can definitely tell a difference between us, though. It makes my behaviors seem like quirks.


  37. Congratulations to JES on a well earned win, and kudos to the runners up. Some really great discussion going on about Speed of Dark. I’ve been doing my Spock raised-eyebrow imitation a lot as others have pointed out things I’d not considered. This book will definitely go on the re-read list sometime next year.
    I’d like to make one last comment on the book, and specifically the character of Don. Don’s character is the one part of the book that didnt ring true to me, most particularly his acceleration from generic jerk to foam at the mouth madman. I accepted that Tom and his wife would allow Tom to stay with the group long after his behavior had annoyed or alienated everyone; the author made a point of commenting on how Don was something of a “reclamation project”. I can even accept that he might act out by vandalizing Lou’s tires. But it’s a great leap from there to planting explosives, and then acting out violently in such a suicidal fashion. Given how Moon works to show us that using labels like “he’s a retard”, or “he’s autistic” is not good reason to assume someone has no depth of intellegence, ability to plan, or to feel, it seems odd that Don is presented so one dimensionally as “the nutcase”. Given that Don would have known what he risked in assaulting Lou, I would have expected him to show at least a bit more subtlety.I can understand the character as a foil to force Lou to adapt and grow as a person, but I still wish we’d seen something more about Don’s background to explain why he went so overboard. Again, this is a minor quibble, a very minor distraction from an outstanding book.

  38. @Chev: Thanks for the link. I went and took the test for fun.

    Like Ponytail, I also scored a 29. I’m not autistic, just not very sociable and not very socially adept. In a well-structured place environment, like at work, I get along just fine. But I’m not so good in social situations and I really, really need my alone time. I haven’t had any in a while and I’m beginning to get very stressed and fatigued.

    Congratulations to the caption winners!

    @das: Sorry to hear about your computer problems. I hope they get straightened out soon!

  39. @ chevron7 : Ha, I got 35 on that test.

    I was never diagnosed with Autism or Asperger’s though. Then again, we never really checked.

    Not sure what would change even if I found out that I had those things; my life is fairly normal and carefree as it is.

  40. Hi Joe, In answer to your question, this was my second reading of “The Speed of Dark.” The story resonates with me in several ways.

    I play piano and love music, and it is always interesting to see the effect music has on others. Lou enjoys the mathematics behind the music, but he also perceives the colors and moods of music. Very left brain/right brain.

    I’ve also worked in a corporate environment similar to Lou’s and seen people victimized by the internal power struggles that come with personal empire building.

    Lastly, and most relevantly, I watch my husband deal with a disability every day, so Lou’s struggle with normalcy strikes home. His issues are more cognitive than physical, so it is interesting to see how others that don’t know of his disability react to him. Most people are very kind, but the jerks are out there, believe me!

  41. Hey Joe,

    Can’t recall where I saw the link, but I found this post of John Scalzi’s:

    The accompanying photo montage is just as good… Have you read it already?
    Also, if he’s the kind of talent you’re bringing onto SGU, right on! Even if he’s only consulting… Or have I mixed up authors?

    Slightly random encounter this afternoon: I bumped into Colin Cunningham while running errands this afternoon. Quite cool actually. And he seemed like a really nice guy. Pretty sure I did a rather obvious double-take, but we chatted for a bit.
    It was kind of neat, because I find it’s one thing to know that there’s this whole Stargate community in Vancouver, and another to run into someone you actually recognize from the franchise…

    Oh, and I had my second biochemistry midterm yesterday. Think my brain’s still a bit fried, so if I’m rambling, that would be why…

    Hope the “kids” are doing well!
    Oh: did you know that Tubby’s “wife” is expecting a litter soon?

  42. @sparrow_hawk – It would be really interesting to see the results of really social people. Who will get the lowest score?

    Joe & some other social people, please take the test. Autism Quotient test

    Cheers, Chev

  43. Hello ! C’est un générateur !?

    Questions :

    1)Quelle est votre niveau d’étude du français ? (Vous avez lu la BD Asterix en Français !)

    2) Quelle est la marque des “Tablets PC” sur Atlantis ?

    3) Allez vous sur le site de David Hewlett (dGeek.com) ?

    Merci Joseph Mallozzi !

  44. @ Sparrowhawk and Narelle – Well, Narelle…it’s really white-locked men (there is a big difference!), and yes…that could be part of the problem. 😳 Friend is working on it now (which is good for him since he’s one of our workers, and work is slow right now – so it’s good he’s a computer geek as well as a duct installer!)

    On a rather disturbing note…

    Seems there is a spider named after…

    Neil Young. 😕

    The Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi…on this page, somewhere… *is afraid to look again*




  45. PS: I tested 35 on the Autism test. 😛 I would have scored higher, but I am pretty good at reading a person’s body language – I know when someone is getting bored or impatient with me… I IGNORE it…but I still know. 😛 I wonder if that counts?

    I didn’t talk much until I was 18…very quite kid, hid behind my hair. When I did speak out, it was usually in some sort of ‘joke’ form, just because that’s how my brain reacted to my nerves. I just remember praying every day at school that no teacher would call on me to answer or to go to the blackboard, and that no one would pick on me…and that I wouldn’t have to run in gym class. God…I hated school! I think school made me autistic…lol.

    Hated it so much that I decided not to go to college (though I graduated 4th in my class). Instead, after I graduated I went right to work in the school library. I changed then – started opening up and talking and interacting with people more. I am very good with visual organization, so working in a library was great for me – I had a photographic memory for where each book was on the shelf. I still miss that job, but I quit after 4 years because – well…because I was stupid. 😛

    But no one really cares about all of that. I’m rambling, as usual! Blah, blah, blah…


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