Getting It Right

I just started reading a little book called The 1950s, edited (and partly written) by Stuart A. Kallen. I picked it up at the library to do background research for my reimagined, possibly-set-in-1950s Crane Girl, but even if I weren’t writing a novel, the book is fascinating in its own right. A veneer of blissful, Leave It to Beaver suburban prosperity, with McCarthyism, the Cold War, and gender and racial tensions bubbling under the surface. Not to mention the end of polio, the dawn of the Space Age, and the glittering potential of ENIAC. The stories almost write themselves.

The book has a section written by Kallen, beginning on page 24, titled “The Role of Women.” It begins:

In the years before women’s liberation, fifties women were simply expected to perform the jobs of stay-at-home mothers. A widely read book titled The Women’s Guide to Better Living advised, “The family is the unit to which you most genuinely belong. . . . The family is the center of your living. If it isn’t, you’ve gone far astray.”

I was immediately intrigued by this Women’s Guide to Better Living. What else did it say? How widely was it followed? What, exactly, did American society expect from women in the 1950s, and just how skewed was it? I figured I’d do a little research and write today’s blog post about it.

Well.

For starters, The 1950s has the following footnote for the passage above:

Quoted in Miller and Nowak, The Fifties, p. 147.

This would seem to indicate that Kallen just grabbed the quote from another, earlier book with a near-identical title, rather than taking the time to hunt down the source material. In fact, seven other quotes are also pulled from Miller and Nowak, and every quote in the essay is likewise taken from secondary sources, most with titles like The Fifties. Kallen does this with fourteen quotes in under twenty pages. Unless I’m badly misunderstanding, this seems awfully lazy.

What’s more, if you go back to the quote’s secondary source – Miller and Nowak, The Fifties, p. 147 – you learn a couple of very interesting facts.

First, the title is not The Women’s Guide to Better Living, it’s The Woman’s Guide to Better Living. It’s a minor detail, but details matter, especially for the name of a primary source. This kind of mistake is just sloppy. It may not be solely the fault of the author/editor, Stuart A. Kallen; he may have been under some kind of crazy deadline. Kallen’s official page claims he is cranking out more than ten books a year, so perhaps that’s not surprising. But regardless of the reason, it reflects badly on the book as a whole.

Much worse, however, is that – according to Miller and Nowak – the full quote from Woman’s Guide is as follows:

Whether you are a man or a woman, the family is the unit to which you most genuinely belong. . . . The family is the center of your living. If it isn’t, you’ve gone far astray.

(Emphasis added.)

In other words, the point Kallen’s making in his essay – that women were being disproportionally pressured into obsessing over family life – is completely contradicted by the full quote, which is clearly addressing both genders. And since that’s the only part of the quote that was cut, it’s hard to believe that the exclusion wasn’t deliberate. A distortion like this goes beyond mere sloppiness and approaches genuine deception.

(To be clear, I’m sure that women were, indeed, overwhelmingly pressured into a confining social niche, and I imagine that this Woman’s Guide probably is sexist overall. I’m not arguing the larger point. I’m saying that the point is weakened by faulty scholarship.)

Anyway, it appears this Woman’s Guide is available online for a few bucks. I just might pick myself up a copy and get my information straight from the source.

The Crane Girl Rides Again

Once upon a time, I was writing a novel called The Crane Girl. I had finished the first draft and started on the second, brimming with excitement and ideas. I had learned so much from my last novel, and I couldn’t wait to use those lessons to make this one better.

And then, sometime in the first half of 2014, I stopped.

What happened? Mostly, depression happened. For a few months there, I couldn’t even write my blog or my diary, much less something as exacting as a novel. Hell, I could barely take a shower. I didn’t care about Crane Girl. I hardly cared about anything.

But nothing is forever, except for taxes – I maintain that death is negotiable – and eventually I restarted my engine. First the blog and the diary. Then the Buffy stories. And then…

This past weekend, I received a visit from that gentleman and scholar, my good friend Ben Trube. As always, he was excited about stories. Stories he was reading, stories he was writing – and stories I had written.

I realized it might be time to go back.

Right now I’m tearing apart Crane Girl and rebuilding it from the ground up. The core feelings and plot elements – and some of the characters – will remain, but everything else is shape-shifting faster than Odo on a warm day. Maybe the biggest change is that I’m thinking of shifting from high fantasy to late-1950s-era real world (with fantasy elements). I’ve never done a novel in the real world, so it ought to be fun. At the very least, I’ll learn a few things about history.

Well, anyway. No matter what happens, it’ll be fun.

I’ll keep you posted.

The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 19 & 20

Standard Disclaimer

This is fan fiction of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which were created by Joss Whedon. If you like, you can read my thoughts on the ethics and legality of fan fiction.


[Start reading story from beginning]

[Go back to chapters 17 & 18]

Chapter 19

Illyria spoke up again. “Do you regret what you did?”

A weight settled in Willow’s stomach. Tell the story, get it out, and be done, that’s all she had wanted. “I’m sorry?”

“You destroyed a star,” said Illyria. “You committed the premeditated murder of multiple sentient beings. You drastically reduced your own abilities. You put twenty-one other witches at risk. And you toyed with Lilah’s soul. These are morally questionable activities. Do you regret what you did?”

“No,” said Willow. “I did what I had to do. It was the right decision.” All around, her friends nodded.

“I agree,” said Illyria.

“Oh. Well, um…good?”

“So why will you not perform the Almada spell?”

Wow. And she’d thought it was awkward before. Willow’s heart thumped as she searched for the words to respond.

“Someone help me out,” said Spike. “What’s this Almada business?”

“The Almada spell,” Giles chimed in. “A magical means of reversing certain types of otherwise incurable mental illness.”

“Wait,” said Spike. “There’s a spell that can cure him? What’s the catch? Why haven’t you done it?”

“Giles told us not to,” said Willow. “While he was still…himself. He thought it was wrong. Too much like cheating death, meddling in dangerous forces, intruding on the sanctity of the mind.”

Spike snorted. “Okay. And? People say stupid things all the time. Doesn’t mean you punish them by holding their sanity hostage. I don’t even like the guy, but what he’s got, I wouldn’t wish on a dung demon.”

“Spike!” Willow snapped.

“He’s right,” Buffy said quietly.

“I am?” Spike looked over in surprise. “I mean, damn right I’m right.”

“I never understood why you didn’t cure him,” Buffy said. “It wasn’t my decision, so I kept my mouth shut. But I always thought it was wrong to leave him that way.”

“That is my assessment as well,” said Illyria.

“Pretty much,” said Dawn.

“What, all of you?” Willow felt like her skin was getting tight. “Xander, come on, tell them.”

“Sorry, Will, but I vote with the majority. I get what you’re saying, but you’re overthinking it. There’s a disease, there’s a cure. He’s our friend. What else matters?”

She wanted to hide, to run away, but they were all waiting for an answer. She had to give them an answer.

“It’s not up for a vote,” she said roughly.

“Will – ”

“No, Xander, listen. All of you, listen! This has happened before. Don’t you get it? We had this same debate over resurrecting Buffy. Everyone told me to be careful, but what did I do? I ripped her out of heaven. I did that. Giles called me a rank, arrogant amateur, and you know what? He was right.”

“But here I am,” Buffy said quietly. “Because of you, Willow. I don’t wish I was back in the ground.”

“When Tara died,” Willow went on, “you all know what happened. I did what I wanted, whatever I wanted, because I could. This is about self-control. It’s about respecting the universe. You don’t just wave away the things you don’t like. That’s not a path you want to start on.”

“I get it,” said Dawn. “But we’re not talking about ripping anybody’s skin off, Willow. We’re trying to heal him. If one of our lab techs found a pill that would cure Giles, you’d give him that. How is magic any different?”

Willow was shaking her head. “No. No. I’m not explaining it right, I realize that, but none of you understands. None of you has carried the kind of power that I have. Not even you, Buffy.”

“I have,” said Illyria.

Willow blinked in surprise.

“I was a god among gods for longer than the age of the cosmos,” said Illyria. “I murdered trillions of innocents for pleasure. And when I took over this shell, I killed Winifred Burkle, an intelligent human being.”

Spike smiled sarcastically. “You’re, um, not really selling the argument, Blue.”

“I did these things because I lacked a conscience,” she continued. “But I acquired one from Wesley, and from the leftover fragments of Fred’s mind. When Charles Gunn was captured and made to suffer, I ripped a hole between dimensions and brought him back, even though it was the fate he chose for himself. I do not believe I was wrong.”

Head tilt.

“Do you?”

Willow sighed.

It was getting late. Her head hurt, and they faced a battle tomorrow. She wanted to go to bed. The issue had waited ten years. Surely it could wait till morning.

But there, sitting on a rock, alone among friends, squinting at the fire and whispering to himself, was all that remained of Rupert Giles.

She owed him a decision. That much, at least.

“Emily,” she said.

The younger woman jerked, startled. She’d been quiet all this time. “Ma’am?”

“You were there when we killed the Partners. You understand power. Now you’re stronger than me, and you’d be the one to cast the spell. Tell me. What do you think we should do?”

Willow thought Emily would hesitate, defer, try to wiggle out of answering. She should have known better. Emily’s reply came swift and certain.

“I’m game if you are,” she said.

The fire crackled quietly.

After so many years of self-restraint…could she really have been wrong the whole time?

Maybe, sometimes, using the power took more humility than rejecting it.

“All right,” she said. “Let’s bring him back.”

Chapter 20

They gathered in Buffy’s tent, the entire campfire group. Dawn seated Giles on a folding chair in the center. The rest of them stood before him in a semicircle, Emily at the middle, Willow beside her. Two lanterns provided an eerie light.

Emily produced a small tablet and tapped the screen a number of times till she found what she wanted. “Here it is,” she said. “Almada.”

She lowered the device. “Not going to lie,” she said, “this spell makes me pretty nervous. It’s really complicated, it could go wrong in a hundred ways. You’re all sure you want me to try? If it fails, it could do nothing, or we could even…lose him.”

It was Dawn who answered. “We’ve already lost him.”

“Do it,” said Buffy.

“You’ll be fine,” said Willow, wondering if the butterflies in her stomach were in everyone else’s too. “And I’ll be right here to help you.”

“Okay,” said Emily. “Here we go.”

She lifted the tablet and read from the screen, chanting in a low voice.

“Ante leves ergo pascentur in aethere cervi…”

A sudden wind tugged at the tent canvas, shaking the structure. Giles’ mouth fell open. He looked around, startled.

“…et freta destituent nudos in litore pisces…”

A cloud of glowing specks gathered and swirled over his head. He gazed up, eyes widening with terror. Panting. Hyperventilating. “The text is corrupted,” he gasped. “The volumes are misnumbered. Out of order. Out of order. I cannot…I cannot locate the original…”

Dawn bit her lip in worry. Willow set a hand on Emily’s shoulder, watching the spell’s invisible lines, offering what support she could.

“…ante pererratis amborum finibus exsul…”

Wind howled and whirled in the tent now, blowing at their clothes, their hair. The cloud of light over Giles grew brighter. He tried to stand, but some hidden force seemed to push him down. He screamed. Dawn was shouting something, drowned out by the wind. Xander had his arm around her.

Still Emily’s chanting continued, deep and clear somehow despite the whirlwind.

“…aut Ararim Parthus bibet aut Germania Tigrim…”

The glowing nebula filled all the air above, nearly blinding them. The lines of magic, which only Willow and Emily could see, curled and twisted around each other, pirouetted and dived.

The air shrieked. A wide gash ripped across the top of the tent. Giles screamed again and again, his gaunt face resembling a skull in the ghostly light. Dawn tried to run toward Emily, but Xander held her back. Buffy just watched, still as a rock, hair flying in the gale.

“…quam nostro illius labatur pectore vultus!”

The wind died instantly.

Quick as a blink, the cloud of light rushed into Giles’ mouth. His eyes flashed yellow and dimmed. His screaming stopped. Silence. He hunched over, quiet and limp.

Dawn leaped forward and knelt beside him. “Giles,” she whispered. “Giles, are you okay? It’s me. It’s Dawn. Do you know me? Giles, please. Are you okay? How do you feel?”

“No one…” he mumbled.

“What? What are you saying?”

“No one offered me a marshmallow.”

Dawn shook her head. “I don’t…”

“I should have liked a marshmallow,” he said quietly. “Nobody offered me one. Even a madman likes a candy.”

Buffy crowed with sudden laughter. “Giles,” she said. “You’re back? Are you back?”

He looked up now. All around the tent, seeing each one of them. “I feel I might be,” he said, “only I’m not sure where I’ve been.” His gaze turned to the Slayer. “Buffy, what’s going on? What’s happened to me?”

“Oh, Giles,” she whispered, and they all rushed together then, laughing and crying and talking all at once, hugging each other, hugging him.

Finally Dawn shooed them away. “Give him some room,” she said. “Everybody, just give him a second.”

Giles was frowning. “I’m not sure anyone has answered my question.”

“You were…sick,” said Dawn. “A kind of dementia. It’s gradually been getting worse for the last ten years. You were sort of, well, in your own world. We felt like we’d lost you. Do you remember any of it?”

“Well, yes,” said Giles. “More or less. A bit patchy. But, uh, well then, how did I…recover?”

Dawn opened her mouth to answer, but closed it again.

“We sort of, um…” Xander trailed off.

“I did it,” said Emily. “I cast the Almada spell on you. I know it goes against your wishes, and I’m sorry, but – ”

“No,” said Willow, “it was me. I mean, Emily did cast the spell, and she did a fine job, but I take full responsibility. It was my decision.”

“Like hell,” said Xander. “We all chose this. We all decided together.”

“Even me,” said Spike.

Giles got a pained expression. “You let Spike vote?”

“Well, that’s a fine how-do-you-do,” said Spike.

Giles glanced at him, did a double-take. “You’re human.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Which means you lot can’t just off me whenever you feel the urge. You’d have, eh…” He searched for the word, then snapped his fingers. “Qualms.”

“You’d be surprised what I’m willing to do,” said Buffy.

Spike leered at her. “No, I have a pretty good idea.”

“One more word – ”

Giles looked wearily at Willow and Emily. “I don’t suppose you could bring the dementia back?”

Just then a tall, red-haired Slayer entered and found Buffy. “Commander, I have news.”

“Not now,” Buffy snapped.

“But Commander, we’ve captured a vampire.”

“Lieutenant, I told you – !” Buffy paused as her brain caught up to her mouth. “A vampire? Here? In the middle of the desert?”

“It approached us with a white flag, ma’am. It wanted to be captured. It’s asking to speak to you. We can kill it if you like, but I thought you should know.”

Buffy nodded slowly. “All right, thank you, Lieutenant. Sit tight for now. I’ll be out in a little while to examine it.”

“Ma’am.” The Slayer left.

“You’re needed,” said Giles. “You ought to go now.”

“We just got you back, Giles. I can’t leave you already.”

“You don’t have to.” He stood up. “We shall go together.”

“Giles!” said Buffy. “It could be dangerous. Besides, you’re…”

“I’m what?” said Giles. “Too old? Too feeble? Rubbish. You are my Slayer, and I am your Watcher, and we shall investigate this matter together. Xander, Willow, you’re with us. The rest of you, stay here and try to keep out of trouble. Come on, everyone, I’m not getting any younger!”

He walked out of the tent.

“Well, you heard the man,” said Buffy, and followed him out. Willow and Xander looked at each other.

“Screw that!” said Dawn. “I had to wipe drool off his chin, I’m not taking his orders now. I’m going to go see a freakin’ vampire!”

“If she’s going, I’m bloody well not staying here,” said Spike.

“I also wish to observe,” said Illyria.

“Fine,” said Willow. “Less talking, more walking.” They all followed Giles together.

Emily brought up the rear. “So, yeah, you’re welcome, everybody! Difficult spell, very dangerous, healed a beloved friend? No problem. Happy to do it. Your gratitude is my reward! Anyone?”

[Chapters 21 & 22 coming soon…]

Friday Link

Here’s what’s up: English lacks a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun! Options like “he or she,” “s/he,” and “ze” are awkward; universal “he” is sexist and outdated; rephrasing or alternating the pronouns isn’t always possible! What’s a writer to do? EMBRACE THE SINGULAR THEY!

It’s good enough for Chaucer, Austen, and Shakespeare, and a growing number of copyeditors are embracing it too! They’re probably not embracing all these exclamation marks though! Tell your friends, spread the word, Singular They is the future!!

*sips coffee*

Fun English Fact of the Day

I wonder how many people just stop reading when they see a phrase like “fun English fact”? Well, anyway.

You know the words “genus” and “species” from biology, right? In Homo sapiensHomo is the genus and sapiens is the species. A species is a very particular type of organism, while a genus is a broader category that the species belongs to.

In fact, you might say that a species is very specific, and a genus is more generic.

Whoa. Did I just blow your mind?

Yes, in fact, “species” and “specific” both come from the Latin word “species,” meaning a particular type or sort, while “genus” and “generic” both come from the Latin word “genus,” meaning race, kind, or family. The genus/generic connection becomes even clearer when you realize that the plural of “genus” is “genera.”

Mad props to the Online Etymology Dictionary for enabling today’s post. Also, I want to apologize for using “etymology” and “mad props” in the same sentence. Actually, wait, no I don’t. I regret nothing.

Today’s knowledge bomb is officially dropped. Carry on.

The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 17 & 18

Standard Disclaimer

This is fan fiction of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which were created by Joss Whedon. If you like, you can read my thoughts on the ethics and legality of fan fiction.


[Start reading story from beginning]

[Go back to chapters 15 & 16]

Chapter 17

It was late afternoon when they reached the crater. Everyone stared as they went off-road, onto the dry dirt, and circled around the outside.

“I haven’t seen it since the day we left,” said Xander. “It’s so…empty.”

“I haven’t seen it, ever,” said Spike. “Was kind of dead at the time. By the way, you’re welcome, everyone.”

For most of the crater’s circumference, it was a sheer drop to the interior. But in one area on the south side, the slope was gentle enough to drive on. They made their way there, and then to the center of ‘town.’

Buffy’s Slayers did their thing, scouting the area, creating a perimeter. Emily led the witches in casting one defense and trap after another, as Willow observed their magic and made the occasional correction. The main spell was a great invisible dome, covering the whole crater, which nothing evil could penetrate.

In theory.

Finally all preparations were complete, all strategies confirmed, everything as ready as it could be. The sinking sun painted the desert red and gold till their growing shadows faded into the general darkness and the first stars appeared. Willow shivered and put on a jacket.

Murmuring something in Latin, Emily started a fire over bare dirt, then pulled a dozen rocks into a circle around it. She sat on one, and Willow made herself comfortable on the rock beside her. Soon Xander, Spike, Dawn, Giles, and even Illyria were seated around the fire. Giles was pointing at the sky, seemingly drawing constellations with his finger.

“Well, isn’t this a cozy little pre-apocalyptic campfire,” said Dawn.

“Technically, all campfires are pre-apocalyptic,” said Xander. “The world has to end sometime.”

“Sure,” said Dawn, “with that attitude.”

Willow rubbed her hands together. “All of us together again, I’d be pretty disappointed if there wasn’t at least one Armageddon to look forward to.”

Xander opened a large travel bag and fished out marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. Spike watched him. “You’re seriously making S’mores?”

“Don’t want ‘em, don’t eat ‘em,” said Xander.

“Hey now, let’s not be hasty,” said Spike. “I never said that.”

Xander passed around the snacks and some metal skewers, as well as boxes of apple juice. Soon Willow found herself eating a S’more for the first time in ages.

“Um, Illyria,” she said, “I think your marshmallow’s done.” It was on fire, black as charcoal, oozing white goo.

“This food is revoltingly saccharine and lacks nutrients,” said Illyria. “I enjoy watching it burn.”

“I said that about Cathy’s sweet potatoes one time,” said Xander. “We still have ladle marks on the wall.”

A figure emerged from the shadows.

Buffy.

“New shift is starting,” she said. “I’m going to sleep now so I can be up by six. If anything happens, get me. I’ll be in that tent over there.”

She nodded once, hesitated, turned to go.

“Hey, Buff,” said Xander. “Stay, why don’t you? One way or another, this is all over tomorrow. We might not get another chance like this.”

“Yeah, come on, Buffy,” said Willow. “We have sugar.”

The Slayer looked around doubtfully, then glared at Spike.

“Oh, come off it, Goldilocks,” said Spike. “If it makes you feel any better, I won’t talk directly at you. Promise.”

After a moment, Buffy sat down between Giles and Emily. She declined an offer of marshmallows.

Awkward silence reigned. Willow began to wonder if inviting her had been a good idea. Come on, she thought, somebody say something.

“So. Illyria.” Xander casually unwrapped another chocolate bar. “You a virgin?”

Dawn spewed out her apple juice, either laughing or choking. Spike grinned. “Xander!” cried Willow, though she was smiling too.

“What?” said Xander. “She’s obviously not shy about, um, biology. Can’t a guy ask a simple question?”

They were all – except Giles – looking at her now. All, apparently, a little bit curious. Even Buffy.

Illyria did her head-tilt thing. “It depends on one’s precise definition of the term ‘virgin.’”

Silence.

“So…many…follow-up questions,” said Xander, pretending to gasp for air. “Can’t…choose…just one…”

“Well,” said Dawn, “I have a question for you, Willow.”

“For Gaia’s sake, Dawn,” Willow said. “I didn’t do it with Faith, and I didn’t do it with Illyria. Just because I’m a lesbian, doesn’t mean I’m some kind of sex-crazed lunatic.”

“Okay, one, our bedrooms used to share a wall,” said Dawn, “so I know exactly what kind of lunatic you are. And, two, not the question I was going to ask.”

She leaned toward Willow from across the fire. “It seems like a good night for a story, and like Xander said, this could be our last chance for a lot of things. I was wondering…well, I guess I’ve always wondered. How did you kill the Senior Partners?”

“Oh.” Willow pulled her jacket a little tighter. “That was so long ago. I doubt anyone’s interested.”

Xander’s hand shot up. “Ooh! I am.”

“Yeah, Will,” said Buffy, “all you ever told me was that you did some kind of spell. I could never get you to spill the details.”

“Maybe that’s a clue, children,” Spike said sourly. “Some things you don’t feel like talkin’ about. Why don’t we leave her be?”

Willow sighed. Spike was right – some memories you would rather forget. And yet, in a way, it might be good to finally tell the story.

She looked at Emily, who gave her a small nod.

“Okay,” said Willow. “Here’s what happened.”

Chapter 18

“To do the spell, we needed space, and we needed privacy. One of our students had a big barn on her property, so we gathered in there. I still remember the smell of hay. The air was chilly. Just before 3 AM. The witching hour.

“We didn’t have any spellbooks or artifacts or anything like that. You don’t need the relics so much for the really professional-grade stuff. We only brought one little thing. I’ll get to that in a second.

“I stood in the center. Seven witches, including Emily, in a circle around me. Fourteen witches in a circle around them. Their job was to stabilize the magic, keep it contained and controlled. My job was to do the spell.

“The plan was simple. Find the Senior Partners, and destroy them.

“Finding them was actually the more complicated part. See, their fortress shifted dimensions every forty-eight minutes or so, and of course it was well-hidden from locator spells. We had to find another way.

“So we used Lilah.”

Buffy frowned. “Time out. Lilah Morgan, the Wolfram & Hart lawyer? I thought she died way before this.”

“She was dead, but still under contract. We needed to summon her, which meant we needed something that had belonged to her. We found a copy of Dante’s Inferno she had given Wesley. Quite lovely, in fact. Sixteenth century. Wesley kept it until his death, then it passed to Charles, who gave it to me.”

Illyria listened. Firelight leaped in her eyes.

“So we summoned her,” Willow continued. “Right into the barn with us. A simple binding spell kept her in place. She started talking, and then shouting, but none of us paid any attention. We were deep in the magic by then.

“She had come from the Senior Partners’ home base, so I just followed her summoning line back to its source. And there they were.

“Once we found them, the rest was simple. I destroyed them, and their fortress, with a basic fireball spell.”

Willow sipped her juice.

“That’s it?” said Xander. “What do you mean, a fireball?”

“A ball,” Emily clarified. “Of fire.”

“Must’ve been a big one,” said Dawn.

Willow smiled.

She pointed at the sky. Giles paused his own calculations to watch her.

“You see that big triangle of bright stars?” she said. “That one’s called Altair. Right beside it, a little to the south, you can see a dimmer star by the name of Alshain. It’s a yellow giant. About ten billion years old. Part of the constellation Aquila.”

She lowered her hand.

“It doesn’t exist,” she said. “It’s gone. Alshain was forty-five light-years away, which means that in another…let’s see…twenty-seven years, it will vanish from the sky. Astronomers will go wild trying to figure out what happened, but they’ll never guess the truth. I channeled its entire energy into the home dimension of the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart.”

They all stared at her in astonishment, except for Illyria, who was unfazed. She said, “The star Gamma Ursae Majoris has certain properties that might have rendered it a more suitable candidate.”

“I thought about that,” said Willow, “but I would’ve felt bad messing up the Big Dipper.”

“Anyway,” she continued, “once the Senior Partners were gone, their contract with Lilah expired. Her body crumbled to dust on the floor. And we all drove home and went to bed.”

“Bloody hell,” muttered Spike.

“So that’s why you…” Xander gestured. “You know.”

Willow nodded. “Apparently, relocating a sun isn’t something the human body is really designed to handle. I burned out as soon as I released the spell. Lucky to have any magic left at all, really.”

Her eyes rested on Dawn once again.

“And that, as they say, is that.”

[Go on to chapters 19 & 20]

Justice

Evidently, the previous residents of our house include a preteen girl, because from time to time we get ads like this:

justice catazine adJustice Brands would like me (or, presumably, someone more in their target demographic) to “pre-shop” with their “new digital catazine.”

Justice Brands is doing some interesting things with the English language here.

“Pre-shop” was a new one for me. I couldn’t imagine what it would mean. Am I shopping before doing something else – and if so, what? Or am I doing something else before shopping – and if so, what? I did some Googling, and apparently it means researching your purchases before going out to buy them. No word yet on the use of “post-shop” to mean “regret and despair.”

“Catazine” was likewise new to me – but only because I’m out of the loop. This 2006 press release from Tween Brands (which owns Justice) is already talking about catazines, and claiming they’ve been in on the game for seven years now – meaning these things go back to at least 1999.

As you can guess, “catazine” is a portmanteau of “catalog” and “magazine.” This word was desperately needed to describe the huge volume of publications that are simply too magazine-like to describe merely as catalogs. Thankfully, Tween Brands was there for us, linguistically speaking. You’ll be happy to know that “With over 10 million customers … Tween Brands, Inc. is the largest publisher of tween catazines.” Said catazines “will help [them] forge stronger relationships with [their] tween audience.”

I know that if I were a parent, helping my daughter forge stronger relationships with clothing store companies would be high on my list of priorities. But just what kind of relationship are we talking about here?

Tween Brands proudly informs us that their marketing team can “give tweens more social status than ever before,” presumably blowing 90s-tween-status figures out of the water.

Who are these tweens, exactly? Tween Brands (hereafter abbreviated TB, like tuberculosis) defines the category as 7- to 12-year-olds. That’s right, if you’re concerned that your 7-year-old isn’t thinking enough about fashion, appearance, and internalizing the judgment of others into self-judgment, TB has you covered!

Remember, though, TB is all about “keep[ing] tween girls fashionable—and, even better, feeling self-confident.” It’s not about money, you see, it’s about building confidence. Because what better way to build strong, enduring self-confidence than by spending someone else’s money on fashions chosen by someone else, and then repeating the process every three months when something new comes into style?

(The Slate has an eye-opening article about shopping at Limited Too – another TB brand. The title, “Lolita’s Closet,” should give you the flavor of its contents.)

And don’t worry – TB isn’t just helping girls. They have another brand, “Brothers,” exclusively for us Y-chromosome types. According to TB, “Boys want to be outfitted for exploration, with merchandise that fits their style and sense of expression.” Which is weird, because when I was a boy, I was much more concerned with the exploration than the outfitting, and my sense of expression was able to operate with minimal dependence on merchandise.

But then, I didn’t have TB.