Jessica Williams, Impostor Syndrome, and Me

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So the latest kerfuffle on the interwebs: Jessica Williams, correspondent for “The Daily Show,” was put forward by fans as a possible replacement for departing host Jon Stewart.  Williams told fans via Twitter that she would not be hosting, partially because she was “under-qualified.”  A writer for the Billfold then accused Williams of being a victim of “Impostor Syndrome.”  I’m not going to get into the whole thing, but this Salon article spells out what happened pretty well, and it has links back to the original Billfold article and Williams’ Twitter responses.

Upon reading this, my thoughts were:

1) HOLY SHIT, JESSICA WILLIAMS IS ONLY 25?!?!?  She just seems so incredibly mature and self-possessed during her segments on “The Daily Show” that I never would have guessed.  Many of the 25 year olds I know can barely use a microwave without supervision.

2) I don’t blame her for being pissed.  The Billfold article is very condescending, and it puts the onus on Williams to ensure that “The Daily Show” breaks the white male monopoly over late night–rather than putting the onus on Comedy Central to look beyond white male comedians for Stewart’s replacement.  Basically, it implies that Williams is not intelligent or self-aware enough to know what’s good for her, and good for her career.  All she needs is a pep talk?  Yikes.  In fairness, the author has since conversed with Williams on Twitter and apologized for the article, and she now seems to get why it garnered the reaction it did.

3) What exactly is Impostor Syndrome (which I keep wanting to spell as “Imposture Syndrome”)?  Let me read about it.  And read some more on Wikipedia, the source for all things everything.  Do I have that?  Do I feel like my success has more to do with luck than professional competence?  Was I just in the right place in the right time?  Do I feel like I might be exposed as a fraud?  Do I demean or belittle my successes?  Do I stop myself from going for things because I think I’m not accomplished enough or skilled enough to get them?  No, I never do that!

Except…when I do.

I’ve gotten to the point in my day job where I feel confident and secure in my abilities.  When I change jobs, I always have this moment of anxiety where I worry that I might not be able to pull it off, but I’ve always been of the “fake it ’til you make it” mentality.  But when it comes to my writing, I’m not there.  At all.

I have been writing fiction since I was six years old.  I have literally been writing stories since I had the ability to string sentences together.  Now here I am, on the verge of achieving one of my biggest dreams–becoming a professionally published author–and my mind is swirling with doubts that I don’t deserve to be at the grownups’ table.

I was speaking to Robert Peterson, my editor over at California Coldblood, yesterday.  I made a self-deprecating comment about how I needed to “make my case that I deserved to be here.”  Bob responded with, “Beth, of course you deserve to be here!”  He seemed aghast that I would even think otherwise.

Except that I can’t help but think about how long these rewrites are taking me.  A real writer should have been done a long time ago.  And how many times I have hated this book, and wanted to throw my computer out the window.  How much I’ve wondered whether I even could finish the rewrites.  How much I have wondered whether I have the capability of building an audience, in this social mediated landscape where authors are expected to really connect with their readers.  Whether anyone is even going to like the book once it’s out there.

Long before this publication deal materialized, long before I even wrote The Demon Within, I often held myself back from submitting manuscripts to publishers and agents.  I often tried to push myself to do it, with a little success–but not as much as I would have liked.  I just couldn’t do it.  My mom could never understand it, kept pushing me to do more, but it came down to a few things: I didn’t think I was good enough, and I feared rejection.

I didn’t get my publishing contract at California Coldblood because I spent months or years in the slush pile.  I knew Bob professionally long before any of this came up.  I was the Book Editor for CC2Konline–a pop culture website Bob founded–for five years.  Bob and I talked a lot about our own fiction writing, and Bob gave me a beta read of The Demon Within about three years ago.  After Bob founded California Coldblood, and it became an imprint of Rare Bird Books, he contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in publishing The Demon Within with them.

I know, logically, Bob didn’t reach out to me just because he thought I was a cool person; he reached out to me because he had read my writing, and he felt it would be a good fit for his company.  He believes I have a good story that will sell well.  I can also attest that he has not gone any easier on me because he knows me.  He can be a tough editor.  He’s pushed me hard, and the rewrite process has been harrowing at times.  But he’s also helped me make the story better and stronger than it ever was before, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Logically, rationally, intellectually, I know all this.    I’m not “lucky” to know Bob, to have a contact in the publishing world; I know Bob because I took a professional opportunity years ago that I thought could be good for my career–and it was.  I didn’t do anything that anyone else isn’t capable of doing.  And yet, there’s this part of me that feels undeserving because I didn’t go through a process that every writer hates, that many of them would give up their firstborn child to avoid.

I think this is probably a common phenomenon among creative types, and I think (and my reading has confirmed) that it’s more common among women.  As women, society teaches us to minimize our talents and skills, that guys won’t like us if we outshine them, that our accomplishments aren’t really worth as much as our ability to look pretty and attract a high-status mate.

I’ve been very lucky in that I never got this message directly from my parents.  In fact, I think they both would have been horrified to know how much I still denigrate myself.  “You can be anything you want to be,” they always told me.  They allowed me to dream, and in doing so, enabled me to become the person–and the writer–I am today.  But the world, society, exists, and it has affected my outlook whether I want it to or not.  (And certainly, there were plenty of other people along the way who basically told me that I should give up such childish dreams, as if I wanted to be a fairy princess or a unicorn.)

I don’t know that there’s a solution, and I’m not looking for sympathy.  It is what it is, and I’m speaking about it because I know I’m not the only person affected by this.

Jessica Williams may not have Impostor Syndrome, but I do, but the hell with it.  The hell with all those timid voices in my head and belittling thoughts.  I have Impostor Syndrome, but I’m following my dreams, anyway.

Most Romantic “Doctor Who” Moments

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, the BBC America blog Anglophenia posted a list of the most romantic moments in “Doctor Who” history. It’s a great list, and it includes a lot of the Doctor’s tearjerkiest moments, too—“Doomsday” *sniffle* *sniffle*—but I think they missed a few. Here are my additions to the list.

The 9th Doctor Saves Rose, and Rose Saves Him Right Back

There’s a special place in my heart for the 9th Doctor. He may not be the cutest Doctor, or the most dashing, or have the best costume, but there was just something so noble and wounded about him. In a way, he will always be “my” Doctor, since he was the Doctor who got me into the series. And Rose Tyler will always be my companion.

In this clip, the Doctor realizes there is nothing he can do to save the world, and he’s likely to be blown up by Daleks. But he has one last move: to save Rose Tyler, the girl who pulled him out of the abyss of the Time War and back into the world.

But my favorite part—and the clip I, unfortunately, couldn’t find—is what follows. Rose breaks into the heart of the TARDIS, which allows her to return to the Doctor and save him. But the human brain is just not equipped to process all of time and space, and it’s killing her. With a dashing, “Looks like somebody needs a Doctor,” the gruff, taciturn 9th Doctor kisses Rose, absorbing the energy into himself, sacrificing himself (at least, that incarnation of himself) in the process. And in his final moments, we finally get to see the 9th Doctor happy. “You were fantastic,” he tells Rose. “And you know what? So was I!”

The Doctor and Rose Say Goodbye, Again

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many of the romantic moments in Anglophenia’s list involve the 10th Doctor. David Tennant’s incarnation, more than any other, longs to be human in some way. He might be a kickass Time Lord with great hair, but he’s all alone in the universe, and part of him just wants to settle down with Rose Tyler and have babies.

One of the most heartbreaking moments in “Who” history is when the Doctor must leave Rose behind in a parallel universe in “Doomsday”—which is on the Anglophenia list. But two years later, in “Journey’s End,” the Doctor and Rose reunite because the worlds are collapsing. The Doctor has the chance to keep Rose in his universe; instead, he leaves her behind with his meta-crisis clone, an exact replica of the Doctor who—through an accident of genetics—will age and die like a human.

Rose kisses the clone Doctor when he whispers the words the Doctor will not—maybe cannot—say to her, and the real Doctor gets into the TARDIS and leaves her behind. But what really kills me about this one is the look on David Tennant’s face. In “Doomsday,” Rose is the one who made the greater sacrifice. This time around, it’s the Doctor. He gives Rose as much of himself as he can, and he leaves her behind because he knows it will ultimately be better for her, even though it means he’ll never see her again. It’s enough to break your heart all over.

The TARDIS Says Hello

None other than Neil Gaiman wrote this episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” and it’s great, and it focuses on one very simple premise: what is the Doctor’s most enduring relationship?  None other than the TARDIS herself.  In this episode, the TARDIS is allowed to temporarily take human form and finally interact with her Doctor face to face.  (She likes it when he calls her sexy.)  As she’s fading back into the TARDIS, she appears one last time to tell the Doctor…hello.

Most of 11th Doctor’s romantic moments in the series involve his mysterious, Time Lord-hybrid wife, River Song.  But honestly, I think he has much better chemistry with the TARDIS  Alas, it was never to be…and yet, she’ll always be there, looking after him.

Amy bids farewell to Raggedy Man

Amy Pond was not my favorite companion in the beginning, but she grew on me, particularly after the introduction of her fiancé (and later husband), Rory Williams.  Rory is the kind of guy you don’t see very often in romance, or in sci-fi.  He’s sweet, easygoing, and kind of passive.  Amy, with the much stronger personality of the two of them, dominates the trajectory of their relationship, including their travels with the Doctor.  If he gets fed up traveling to the ends of the universe with a funny man in a blue box, it’s all worth it to be with Amy.

Amy, for her part, has idolized the Doctor, her “Raggedy Man,” since he visited her as a child.  No matter how many times he kept her waiting, no matter how many times he disappointed her, she maintains her faith in him.  Early on, it’s unclear whether Amy will pursue the Doctor romantically or stick with the ever-loyal Rory.  But even after Amy chooses Rory, it’s always a triad: the Doctor, Amy, and Rory.  Amy may be the girl who waited for the Doctor, but Rory is the guy who waited 2,000 years for Amy.

But in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” Amy must make the ultimate choice.  A weeping angel has sucked Rory to an unknown time, and a major paradox has compromised Manhattan so much that the Doctor cannot risk going back in time to rescue him again.  So she bids farewell to her Raggedy Man one last time and lets the angel take her, knowing that she’ll never see the Doctor again, and knowing that it’s the only way she might get to be with Rory.

The Anglophenia list includes the moment earlier in the episode when Amy and Rory jump off of a Manhattan skyscraper together—thus creating the aforementioned paradox.  But for my money, Amy’s final choice to spend her mortal lifetime with Rory, rather than spending it jumping across time and space with the Doctor, shows her ultimate growth and maturation as a character.

Clara and Danny Pink’s Last Christmas

Clara Oswald gets my vote for “most improved” character in New Who.  As the 11th Doctor’s companion, she was a rather one-note character.  The Doctor spent most of his time with her trying to figure out the mystery of the “Impossible Girl,” and we really don’t get to know anything about the woman herself.  But as the 12th Doctor’s companion, she has grown in strength and self-sufficiency.  She becomes a schoolteacher, and she falls in love with Army veteran/math teacher (and unfortunately named) Danny Pink.  Once Danny discovers the truth about her friendship with the Doctor, he tells Clara that the Doctor is using her and urges her to put some distance between them.  Rather than doing so, Clara continually lies to Danny about the Doctor, and their relationship collapses.  Clara ultimately chooses to be completely honest with Danny and repair their relationship, but her poor decisions lead indirectly to his death.  Danny’s death is so sudden and unheralded that I expected Danny to magically come back to life.  In the end, he didn’t.

In “Last Christmas,” the 2014 Christmas special, Clara is sucked into a dream world with the now-deceased Danny.  As they spend Christmas together, the Doctor bursts in, begging Clara to wake up.  (There’s the small fact that the dream world is actually the manifestation of an alien that is boring its way into her brain and killing her.)  But even if Clara realizes on some subconscious level that this world isn’t real, she still doesn’t want to leave Danny behind.  But at least Clara finally gets the goodbye she needed.

Fast forward to the 31-minute mark of the video to see the scene.

Jupiter Ascending

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So I have been sadly neglecting this blog of late, for which I apologize. I have so many ideas for blog posts running around in my head, but very little time to execute them. It seems like I’ve spent most of my “free” time lately working on the rewrites for The Demon Within–which are progressing, though not as quickly as I’d like them to. It’s tough, working a full-time job and trying to balance my writing. Right now, it’s like working two jobs, and I’m not getting paid for the second one. But my fingers crossed that the book will do well once it’s out, and that I’ll be able to spend more time concentrating on my writing, and less time concentrating on my day job.

I saw Jupiter Ascending with my boyfriend last night. I really enjoyed it. First of all, the movie looked amazing. It was just visually stunning. One of the things I’m picky about in sci-fi/fantasy films is when the visual effects seem to overwhelm the human actors and the storyline. (See the Star Wars prequels for an example of exactly what I’m talking about.) This movie found exactly the right balance of cool visual effects and actor engagement. In other words, it didn’t seem like the actors were working against a green screen–and none too happy about it–the whole time.

I was also very happy to see a big budget sci-fi film with a female lead, for once. Unfortunately, Mila Kunis’s Jupiter Jones feels a bit underwritten. One of the complaints I’ve seen is that Jupiter spends most of the movie being rescued by Channing Tatum’s Caine, a hunky bite of human/lycan hybrid man-meat. And it’s true: for a movie that is ostensibly about her, Jupiter sure does spend a good chunk of it playing the damsel in distress role. But this isn’t what bothered me so much. Jupiter has been born and raised on Earth. She’s outnumbered and outgunned by these aliens who are out to kill and/or kidnap her. She’s very much in over her head. I don’t know of very many people–male or female–who would do much better under those circumstances. (Though for once, it would be nice to see the roles reversed, with a male “damsel” being rescued by a kickass female warrior. Just sayin’.)

No, what bothered me most was how much Jupiter vacillated depending on where she was and who she was with. Like, she knows she’s in over her head, and that she’s outnumbered and outgunned by the aliens. She also knows that these aliens have decided that she’s super-duper important for some reason or another, and that some of them are trying to kill her. But she seems to trust whomever she’s with, whenever she’s with them. For someone who proclaims early in the film that she always expects the worst of people, she’s very generous with her trust. She spends a lot of the movie allowing other people to make decisions for her. If someone told me I was literally queen of the universe, I’d be damned before I’d let anyone else make my decisions for me.

But overall, it was a decent, entertaining movie, and there was a lot of room for a sequel. I, for one, hope we get one. Jupiter Jones may not go down in history with Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley as one of the great sci-fi heroines, but I’m always happy to see more women in the sci-fi/fantasy movie world.