Dating Advice

15/11

I’ve been reading a lot the past couple of days about a school in Texas that invited some asshole to speak about how girls need to “learn how to shut up” to be “datable” and similar crap. Since I’m currently working on a book about two boys who try to make themselves over to make themselves more “datable,” this guy’s crappy advice struck home with me.

In response, I thought I’d offer some dating advice of my own. Feel free to take or leave it as you see fit.

My focus in this article is on straight boys and girls; I would offer my dating advice to gay boys and lesbians as well, but society is switching too quickly under my feet and advice I give you today may no longer apply in a year or so. Some of what I say to your straight brethren and sistren applies to you, but overall the best advice I can give to my LGBTQOMGWTFBBQ readers is to seek advice from people older than you but younger than me. When I was a teenager, the best dating advice boys like I could get was “run and hide.” It’s not like that any more.

The situation with boys and girls, however, is timeless. The interactions are the same, the conditions are the same, and the mistakes people make are the same. So here goes.

Boys:

Portrait of a young guy smilingRemember that dating is not about sexual gratification. Dating is about pairing off and hopefully finding a partner for the long haul. Girls are not conquests, and if you are just dating a girl to get your rocks off then in the end you are wasting your time and hers. If you want hormonal release, that’s why God gave you an overactive imagination and tube socks.

Since you want to find a girl that you can be with on a regular basis and for the long haul, look beyond the surface. You want a girl that can hold down a conversation with you and shares at least some of your interests. If you are lucky, the two of you are going to spend a lot more time over the course of your life talking than playing bongo-bongo-bongo. You’re going to enjoy it more, too.

Look beyond the surface. Deep down, every woman is beautiful. Their surface appearance is just one aspect. Look at all the aspects of a girl. Clothes and hairstyles change at the drop of a hat, outward attractiveness may fade with old age, but the inner person and inner beauty are forever.

Remember one basic thing: don’t do anything that either of you is uncomfortable with. If she is not ready for something physical, stop. If she is pushing you toward something physical you are not ready for, tell her to stop. Any girl who won’t take no for an answer is someone you don’t want to be around, and a boy who won’t take no for an answer is someone no girl should ever be around. You are in this for the long haul. There is plenty of time for that when and if you two are ready.

Most importantly: be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t put up a front. Again, you are in it for the long haul. If you lie about yourself to a girl (and that’s what pretending to be someone else is, lying) she’s going to find out about it sooner or later and she will feel she can’t trust you. And she’s right. Never think you aren’t good enough; there is always a girl out there for whom you are perfect.

Be patient. Finding someone takes time. Building something that is going to last takes time. Don’t despair, and don’t settle. Keep looking. When you find the right girl, you will know.

Finally, if it doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world. A relationship that falls apart that easily is not one destined for the long haul. Don’t mope, don’t sulk, just pick yourself up and get on with it. Something worth having will stand the test of time.

Girls

One important thing for you to remember is this: you don’t need to be with a boy to be complete. Every person in the world is complete in and of themselves. Couples are just joinings of two complete individuals to make one complete combo.

As I told the boys, dating is not about instant gratification, either sexual or social. Dating is about finding someone you want to be with for the long haul. Look for someone you share common interests with and enjoy talking to. Look for someone you feel comfortable with, and who you could imagine sharing part of your life with.

Be yourself. Whatever you do, do not change who you are or pretend to be something you’re not. Do not dress “sluttily” or play dumb to make a boy like you. A boy worth dating will see past those shallow things and grow to love you for who you really are. You are someone special and unique, and you shouldn’t feel the need to change that person to appeal to someone. They are not worth it, and you are.

Remember: you are not too smart for a boy, he is too dumb for you. If he is uncomfortable because you are too intelligent for him, then guess what? You’re too intelligent to settle for someone like that. You do not need the hassle of trying to hold down both sides of a conversation for the rest of your time together.

Don’t feel pressured into anything! You don’t need to “put out” to get a boy to like you. A boy who only wants sex really is only interested in one thing. Don’t waste your time pursuing a boy who keeps trying to get you to sleep with him when you don’t want to. If he threatens to break up with you if you don’t put out, for God’s sake let him break up with you. You will be better off for it. If a boy keeps pushing forward when you say no, walk away. Run away if you have to. And if that doesn’t work, there’s a reason God made women’s shoes pointy and men’s dangly bits so dangly.

In fact, I’m going to amend the above paragraph. If a boy threatens to break up with you for any reason, let him! Remember, you don’t need a boy to be complete. Any boy who tries to manipulate you in any way is not worth it! Do not change your friends, your hobbies, or even your hair just to please a boy. He is not worth it! Remember, you want to be in it for the long haul, and that means you need to be comfortable with who you are. If he doesn’t want to be around you the way you are, then he doesn’t want to be around you.

Be patient. Finding a boy you want to be with for the long haul can take time. Don’t settle. When you find the right boy, you will know.

Finally, if it falls apart, it’s not meant to be. Anything that fragile is not meant to last the long haul. Don’t sulk, don’t mope, just move on. There are plenty of boys out there worth dating.

Conclusion

Dating is tricky. It’s a minefield full of dangers, both physical and emotional. Mostly emotional. No one comes out of it unscathed. But follow these tips and you might just survive it.

If I Could Design a Motel

06/11

I do a bit of traveling. I attend conventions on a somewhat regular basis, and now am doing events to promote Sidekick and to pave the way for Brothers in Arms.

In all that time I’ve stayed in many different hotels and motels, ranging from beautiful to so bad they should be razed to the ground to protect the children. Yet none have quite managed to be just what I need when it comes to a hotel room.

You see, when I’m on the road, a hotel room is basically a place to sleep and prepare for the next day. If I’m doing a con, I’m working the floor. If I’m at a signing, I’m signing. If I’m on vacation, I’m out doing stuff. The hotel room for me is essentially just a bed and a bath. Screw the free HBO. Screw the TV entirely. It’s a place to sleep.

06-13-09_0829The greatest experience I’ve actually had at a hotel, believe it or not, was the Telemark Motel in Ellicottville, New York, mainly because it was the simplest. I picked my room on their website and paid for it with my debit card. When I arrived there was no check-in process at all, just a post-it note on the door to my room with an unlocked door. When I went in, the key was sitting there on my bed waiting for me.

I slept in my room and went about my business. When I came back, the room was cleaned and the bed was made and I was all set to sleep. The same thing happened the next day. When my stay was done, I just left the key in my room and closed the door behind me. No lengthy checkout process, just leave and that’s it.

That is how motels should be.

If I were asked to design a motel for a traveler like me, a lot of the dross that the hotel business feels the need to have nowadays would go right out the window.

First off, the room would be considerably smaller. Probably about 200 square feet, total, which would include a bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower. Other than that, just a bed and a place to put my stuff. That’s all I need. Like I said, no cable TV. Maybe a mini-fridge and microwave but they aren’t really needed. Like I said, I do little more than sleep in my hotel rooms. More smaller rooms in a motel means that rates can be cheaper, too.

Second, let’s get rid of the reservation and check-in system. Put card swipers and keypads on all the doors. (This works, since you’re already using key cards at most motels already.) Small red or green lights would indicate whether a room was ready for rent or not. When you arrive at a green lit door, swipe your debit card and enter your pin. Enter your desired check out date (or open ended) and authorize the transaction. The room is yours. When you need to get in, just swipe the card you checked in with.

Every day a maid will come in and make your bed. Every other day you get fresh towels and clean sheets. No freaking mint on the pillow, just clean and move on, thank you.

If you selected a check out date, then your card stops opening the door at 1 PM on that day. You’ll also have the option of checking out early by swiping your card and checking out from the menu.

I’d love to just be able to pull up at a motel, swipe my card at a door, and have a place to sleep, then be gone in the morning. If I could do it for about $30.00 or less, even better. This is the kind of motel I’m waiting for, and the kind I want to use in the future.

North Carolina Comicon!

25/10

Ill be atWe’re just a couple weekends away from North Carolina Comicon, and I’m thrilled to announce I will be attending and signing books!

I’ll have plenty of copies of Sidekick for those of you who haven’t gotten your copy yet, as well as a slew of my other stuff. I’ll be happy to chat, answer questions, pose for pictures, and so on.

As a special treat for readers of the blog, the first several (depending upon how many copies I can burn before then) people who tell me “Bobby sent me” will be surreptitiously slipped a copy of the Sidekick Soundtrack. And if you’re really nice, I might let you read the first couple chapters from Crush Story.

youarehereI’m not going to be the easiest person to find at Comicon; I’m stuck way in the very back of the very back of the venue. I will be in Hall “A,” the smaller of the two exhibition halls, at table A4 as indicated in the picture to your right. I will try to make it worth the trip. Promise.

As for signings, here’s my basic policy. If I wrote it (or part of it, if the paperback edition of Very Superstitious is available in time), I will sign it. You do not have to have bought it from me. You do not need to buy it at the table. I will sign it. If I did not write it, I will not sign it.

I’m looking forward to this visit! Please come on out and see me.

Division by Zero

23/10

In 1993 I had an amazing opportunity. I connected online with another area writer named John Passarella to develop an idea of mine for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Working through his agent at the time, we submitted our spec script and were invited in to pitch to then-story editor Robert Hewitt Wolf.

We never did manage to sell a pitch to DS9 (although one of our “B” plots eventually formed the basis for the seventh season story Take Me Out to the Holosuite) but we were both given an open-ended invitation to pitch to both DS9 and Voyager, which was in development at the time. (I’ll talk about my Voyager experiences later on, if you ask really nicely.)

Although I’ve held on to the second (and I think better) spec script that we collaborated on, as well as a copy of John’s own solo spec script for DS9, I had thought that the script that had gotten us through the door was forever lost.

Until I started trying to recover some of my old floppies this week.

At the time I was actually still writing on an Atari 130XE. My PC days were months away, and I went through hell trying to convert files back and forth between Atari’s own proprietary data format and something readable by Jack’s PC. To facilitate the conversion process, I dumped the script as a generic text file onto a PC-formatted floppy disc using a kludge program to let Atari users read and write DOS floppies. I forgot about that backup copy, and ended up dumping it into a box with other floppies that I never bothered to look at.

Today, I found it.

The date on the disc is August 21, 1993, and while the label says “Acts 1-4,” it also included a copy of the full merged script, revised on August 27, 1993. I can’t remember which one of us did the last revision: Jack or I. In any case, I’m reasonably sure that was the version that we submitted, and since neither of us can profit off of it, I’ve decided to put it out into the wilds for those who might be curious.

I had the story concept in the early days of DS9’s first season, and Jack and I wrote it during the closing days of that season before we even had a chance to look at the series bible. A lot of things we touched on were eventually negated, retconned, or even ignored as the series continued. (The main story comes from facts about Trill physiology from TNG.) We got the news that our script had been formally rejected but we had been invited to pitch, oddly enough, a week before one of the episodes doing those retcons actually aired.

So if you can ignore the fact that this was written before most of what we now know about the characters of DS9 was firmly established, and that we wanted a chance to do some of that character development, go ahead and read it. But don’t be surprised if it doesn’t feel like the DS9 you remember; you probably aren’t thinking about what the first season felt like.

You can read the script by clicking here.

Once again, people don’t learn.

23/10

Another school shooting brings out the same old tired mantras. “Motive unclear.” “Heroic blah blah.” “Crazed gunman.”

For those of us who actually give a shit, there was no mystery about the case of Sparks Middle School. Just as there was no mystery about Lanier High or Carver High or Taft Union. Or Paducah, or Jonesboro, or (despite the best efforts of historical revisionists to change the narrative) Columbine.

Eventually, the truth will out. And it finally has once again in the case of Sparks Middle School. It was a bullying victim who felt no other option but to take matters into his own hands.

The problem with school shootings, at heart, is one of denial. As I wrote in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Columbine:

“By all rights, Columbine should have gotten the message across loud and clear to kids across the country: don’t fuck with the wrong people or you will end up dead. It didn’t, though, and neither did the killings that came later, because people love victims. Because a couple of kids who were sick of being kicked around killed their oppressors, they wound up making themselves into the bad guys, and made the bad guys into victims in everyone’s eyes. People were too overcome with grief over the senseless bloodshed to think about what had driven the two shooters to do what they did. And for those jocks, having their blood spilled wound up washing away their sins as far as everyone was concerned. Don’t think about what they were really like, turn them into perfect little angels in everyone’s eyes. And, personally, I am not really in favor of giving the world of jocks any new martyrs.”

In Americans’ minds, being shot makes you the victim. Never the oppressor. No parent wants to consider that their kid brought on their own demise through their actions. No one wants to say, in effect, that they got what they deserved. We’re too busy grieving and wringing our hands to actually think about what happened.

We keep having school shootings simply because we don’t make a real effort to stop them. We add security checkpoints and metal detectors and spot inspections but we never address the underlying cause.

I’ve said before that if I’d had easy access to a gun when I was in High School, I would have wound up like one of these shooters. I was a victim of bullying just like so many others. I carry the scars to this day, even as some of the people who bullied me now try to pretend that they’re my friends.

Are we finally going to get serious about ending school shootings? If so, we need to get down to the root cause of so many of them: bullying. And I mean a real effort, not the eyewash that we’re trying to pass off as an effort now. Here’s a start.

END “ZERO TOLERANCE” AS WE NOW KNOW IT.

Our current “zero tolerance” policies only aggravate the problem. If a kid tries to defend himself against a physical attack, he gets suspended or expelled. If a kid complains about bullying to administrators, their hands are tied because it becomes a “your word against mine” situation so the bully gets away with it.

We need to change zero tolerance so there’s zero tolerance against the aggressors only. We need to start suspending and expelling bullies, not their victims. We need to have administrators respond when complaints about bullying are made, not brush them off.

We need to show kids that their problems can be solved another way, through a system that works.

Because if we don’t, more and more kids are going to feel they have no other option to end their suffering than to kill their oppressors and then themselves.

…Only to Find Gideon’s Bible

22/10

 

…Only to Find Gideon’s Bible

A Short Story by

Pab Sungenis

Inspired by Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by

Cory Doctorow

 

I will never forget the look on the first guy to realize what a mistake had been made. And when I say “never,” I really mean never. When you have all of eternity to look forward to, you don’t throw words like that around lightly.

“But I don’t understand,” he sputtered in disbelief, “we cured death!”

* * *

I was running intake that day at the Gates. In the early days, the traffic was light enough that one guy alone could do the job, so Peter took it upon himself to greet every newcomer. But the humans felt the need to take “be fruitful and multiply” a bit too literally, so we ended up needing a team to process everyone who had shuffled off their mortal coil so to speak. That day it was my job to oversee the operation, and within seconds of starting this one’s entrance interview, I knew we were in for big trouble.

“You can’t cure death,” I explained with a sigh. “Everything dies. It’s the nature of being.”

“Yeah, but our scientists took care of that. Backup and restore, you know? Retire the body, and restore the mind from its backup.”

I vaguely remembered seeing a memo about this. “The Bitchun Society,” the humans called it. It seemed that over the previous few decades they’d been busy dirtside. They’d discovered the secrets of free energy (or at least something they called that). They’d managed to do away with scarcity. They’d replaced money with some abstract concept they called “Whuffie” which no one up here had managed to figure out; heck, most of us had barely come to understand money! Finally some particularly bright human had come up with the idea of copying all the data stored in a human brain into electronic data, then implanting it into another brain.

“The cure for death” they called it. They were so, so wrong.

“Let me see if I can explain.” I motioned to a chair. I didn’t really need to sit, since I don’t get tired, and neither do the spirits of dead humans for that matter. Still, we had been told that it was a good idea to get them to sit when we delivered bad news, since it tended to make them calm. “Your scientists really didn’t understand the true nature of human life. You were concentrating on the biotech side and didn’t think much about the supernatural side, so to speak.”

The guy looked back at me like I’d told him that he was secretly born a giraffe. I knew I would have to take a different tack. “I’m sorry,” I said in an attempt to rewind the conversation, “what did you say your name was?”

“Gideon.”

“Nice name.” I didn’t tell him it was mine, too. Didn’t want to get too connected to the clients. “What was it you did while you were alive?”

“I was a computer engineer.”

Perfect. I had just the metaphor I needed. “Then you know how a computer is really the sum of a number of component parts. Hardware, firmware, software?”

“That’s a little simplistic isn’t it?”

“Oh, what I’m comparing computers to is even more complicated, but it’s still the best way for you to see where I’m coming from. Stay with me now.”

“Okay.”

“Now let’s say that a human being is like a computer. Humans have hardware, which they call bodies, and they have software, which they call the mind. Do you understand so far?”

“I think so.”

“Good. What you call the ‘cure for death’ is roughly equivalent to backing up all of the software from one computer, and installing it onto a different computer.”

“But the same computer! An identical one! And we dispose of the old computer afterward.”

“That doesn’t matter. The two aren’t completely identical. Your motherboard, processor, all that sort of thing, are they going to have the same serial numbers?”

“Of course not. How else are we going to tell parts apart?”

“Precisely. Every piece of computer hardware has a Globally Unique Identifier, or GUID. Correct?”

“Yes.”

“Well, so do humans.”

The giraffe look came back so I tried to sum up. “What do you know about the soul?”

“You mean like Stevie Wonder?”

I shook my head. What were they teaching these creatures dirtside? “No. Every human being has a unique bit of firmware, I guess you would call it. This is that human’s soul. It’s eternal, indestructible, and sorry to say non-transferrable. When you copy a person’s mind into a force-grown clone, what you are doing is creating a brand-new human being with their own individual soul. You are giving that new person all the memories and personality of the first person, so they think that they’re the same, but they’re not. The soul is different. And when the old body is ‘retired,’ its soul is released and comes here.”

“So, I’m dead, and there’s a new guy down on Earth who thinks he’s me?”

“As far as everyone on Earth is concerned, he is you. Up here, however, it’s a different story.”

Gideon still didn’t seem to have a handle on the matter, so I kept trying to find some metaphor that would make sense to him. I had no idea how long I’d actually been trying to shed light on the subject until I heard a knock on the door.

“Uh, boss?” One of the lesser angels was standing there with a look I hadn’t seen since shortly after the Crusades. “I think you’d better take a look at this.”

He gestured behind him and opened the doorway wide enough for another dead human to enter.

It was Gideon. Or, at least, another Gideon. They looked nearly identical both in body and in spirit. It was a toss-up as to which of them had a goofier look on their face upon learning their fate.

“I was out skydiving. Celebrating my recovery from my first death, and….” The newcomer Gideon looked at the first Gideon.

“Who are you?”

“Who am I? Who are you?”

“Or should I say ‘who am me?”’”

“I am me, and you are me, and we are me.”

“And we are all together,” I sighed. “Goo goo ga joob.”

* * *

Things did not get much better over the next few years. More and more people showing up at the entrance were so confused at the thought that they had actually died that we had to triple our intake staff to handle the processing delays caused by talks like I’d suffered through with Gideon.

Eventually, someone came up with the idea of creating a new orientation film of sorts, which would be presented to new arrivals from the Bitchun Society, outlining their misconceptions and how things really worked. I tried to get the Gideons (there were twelve of him by that point) to help me put one together, but it proved to be more trouble than it was worth.

“I don’t understand why we have to show it to everyone,” one of the Gideons said. “We could flash-bake this whole thing as they come through the doors, and….”

“Wait,” another one piped up, “’flash-bake?’ What are you talking about?”

“You know,” a third offered, “direct mental implantation of memories and experiences.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Come on,” yelled a fourth. “Iwe invented flash-baking when iwe worked at Disneyland Beijing!”

“I’ve never been to Beijing!” protested a fifth.

“Yes, iwe have!”

I was truly frightened by this point. It had gotten so bad that they were inventing their own grammar. I quietly snuck out while they were arguing about which of he had done what and decided to offer the task to a half-dozen author who might do a better job of getting the idea across.

* * *

Before long, the situation had gotten completely out of control. The overcrowding situation on this plane of existence was threatening to become as dire as it had been dirtside. Eventually it would probably be worse since the birth rate on Earth had slowed to a trickle, but the manufacture of unique souls through the restore-from-backup process was actually accelerating as humans became more and more irresponsible as death became little more than an inconvenience as far as they were concerned.

Before long, we had to expand our operation. We briefly considered a merger with Hell, but it turned out that conditions were even worse for them. We tried to purchase room from a number of different planes that hadn’t seen as much of an increase in traffic as we had (practically no one had gone to Valhalla or Hades for centuries, for example). Finally, after a land-for-peace swap with the Islamic Paradise and a hostile takeover of the Planet Kolob, we managed to stabilize our expansion at a sustainable rate.

I breathed a sigh of relief as room was finally located for the last of our overcrowded souls and space was anticipated for what had become the new normal arrival rate. I had hoped to settle down for a couple of centuries, maybe enjoy a cup of tea or two, when a new knock came at the door.

“A new problem, Boss,” the minor angel moaned as he came in. He was holding an object in his hand which he laid on my deak. It resembled an old computer floppy disk.

“Deleted backups have started to arrive.”

I folded my head into my wings. The heat death of the Universe couldn’t come soon enough.

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Keep Your Eyes Open

15/09

I met a character in one of my upcoming books last weekend. I don’t know who the character is just yet, or where I’ll use him, but I do know I met him.

It was on the platform at a light rail station in Baltimore, where I had just come from an appearance at Comic-con. One of the other people there made such an impression on me that I decided to base the appearance of a character on him. He’ll probably end up being someone’s best friend or big brother since he didn’t strike me as the protagonist type, but who knows who he will end up being in the end.

One of the tricks to making your writing realistic is to use as much of the “real world” as you can in it, and the best way to make sure you do that is to always be on the lookout for inspiration.

As another example, while walking to that light rail stop, I passed by an old boarded up restaurant whose sign was falling apart. Where once it said “China Doll” restaurant, it now reads “Chia Doll.” My immediate thought was “don’t eat the salad.” I will probably use that setting and that joke somewhere down the line, too.

It’s not just characters and settings that present themselves to you at random moments, either. Whole story concepts can smack you upside the head at times like these. While “backstage” at our local Fantasy Fair (where I was performing some scenes from Shakespeare with a friend) I saw someone’s sword and helmet laying on a blanket, next to a pair of high top sneakers. It took the better part of a year for that image to yield fruit, but it stuck with me, and when I was trying to come up with a story for a new novel I remembered that image and Sidekick was the result.

If you’re serious about writing, spend some time just wandering around looking and listening. Walk through neighborhoods, especially if you’re in or near an old historic town with lots of character. Make notes in your handy pocket notebook (which you do keep with you at all times, right?) whenever something strikes your fancy. If you have your phone handy snap pictures of images or locations that strike you as interesting. I won’t advise you to take pictures of people you find interesting because that can get a little stalkerish, but to each his or her own.

Sit in the Mall or a park for a couple of hours and look at the people going by. Try to imagine stories about them: who they are, what they do, what their hobbies are, etc. If you find an interesting idea, write it down. You might find use for it somewhere down the road.

As a writer, your eyes are as important to your craft as your fingers are. Keep them open at all times. You never know when your next story is going to stare you in the face, or vice versa.

The War on (Fictional) Marriage

12/09

It seems like one can’t type the words “DC Comics” without having to use the words “stupid idea” close by. But the latest stupid idea from DC is getting media attention for all the wrong reasons.

This morning the two writers on DC’s Batwoman book announced they were leaving the title because the editorial staff forbade the title character from marrying her female lover (the much more interesting character, Maggie Sawyer). The revelation of this decision by the Powers that Be has started the predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the majority of complainers have it all wrong. Homophobia didn’t enter into it. DC Comics is just against marriage.

All marriage.

Before the series of reboots, starting in 2005 with Infinite Crisis and culminating two years ago with the “New 52” the DC Universe was full of happily married people. Superman finally married Lois Lane in the late 1990’s. Three generations of Flashes all had wives to whom they were devoted. Ralph and Sue Dibney were a comics version of Nick and Nora Charles: a married couple who solved mysteries together. True, there were some exceptions. Batman showed no interest in getting hitched to anyone but that’s just the way Bats is, and Green Lanterns in particular had less than spectacular histories with loved ones but at least they made an attempt.

No longer. With history wiped (almost) clean in this last reboot, Clark and Lois are no longer together. Barry (Flash) Allen is not married to Iris West. Every long-standing romantic relationship is turned on its head unnecessarily. And DC hardly deserves all the blame for this trend. After all, Marvel started it.

But comics aren’t the only culprits in this war on fictional marriage. I myself have been a willing participant.

When Sidekick was picked up by its wonderful publisher editorial changes were obviously going to follow, and the first change that was made by mutual agreement was that of Bobby’s marital status. The original ending to the book included Sarah accepting a marriage proposal from Bobby, and the epilogue showed them almost a year later as a married couple. When the publisher told me they wanted a sequel to be published a year after Sidekick hit the shelves, I immediately told my editor that I wanted to rewrite the last two chapters to take out the marriage so I could keep the romantic entanglement between the two characters as a plot thread in later books.

Imagine my surprise when I found out the marriage was at the top of the lists the publisher wanted changed, but for different reasons. Their argument was that teens would have a hard time identifying with a married character. I truly had never thought of that, and I don’t necessarily agree with the idea. If it hadn’t been for the needs of a second book in the series (which also led to the decision to de-age Bobby by a year) I might have fought the decision. In the end, it was the right choice, and it did open up new avenues for the characters as the story continues.

But now I wonder what if I hadn’t made the decision, or agreed with an editorial change, to wipe out Bobby’s marriage? True, most of the plot of Brothers in Arms (no spoilers) would have worked out differently but I couldn’t honestly say it wouldn’t have been possible. The plot complications that I threw into their romance wouldn’t have been as simple but married couples have complications all their own. In literary terms, it’s no more a challenge to have a married couple cope with challenges in their home life than to have two lovers face romantic entanglements. And it would probably involve fewer sex scenes, which would keep the books from getting banned as often.

It’s not even just a question of YA characters marrying, proposing, or even considering marriage. My buddy over at The YA Dogtown recently had a great article about how YA really gives parents the shaft. The YA landscape is littered with the remains of divorces, dead parents, or absent parents. There are logical reasons for not featuring parents too prominently in YA literature, but at least their presence should be acknowledged. And there’s no reason why a YA protagonist should be automatically be excluded from having two parents (of either gender, I’m not picky) in a happy, or at least functional, marriage.

No, as far as my own decision to keep Bobby single, je ne regrette rien. It was right for the character and it made for a better story. But looking at a larger picture, I do have to wonder what kind of message are we sending to teens about the institution of marriage? When people are fighting for the right to get married, are we perhaps discouraging teens from even thinking about making their relationships permanent somewhere down the road?

Something to think about.

“Sidekick” Audio Commentary – Chapter 5 – “Clothes Maketh the Man”

25/08

Picking up the pace a little here with the commentaries. In this chapter, Bobby gets ready for school, suffers through a talk with his guidance counselor, then suits up for action!

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“Sidekick” Audio Commentary – Chapter 4 – “Big Shoes”

25/08

Bobby contemplates his new role, and seeks advice from a good friend.

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