Author Archives: Joel Derfner
MIKE: Hey, honey, how are you?
ME: I’m fine, I guess.
MIKE: What’s wrong?
ME: The history of the fifth century Athenian constitution is very confusing.
ME: I’m fine.
Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family — Available Now!
“I bought more ornaments for the Christmas tree!” Mike called as he closed the front door behind him.
“We already have too many ornaments for the Christmas tree,” I said, not looking up from Persuasion. (Louisa was about to get her concussion, and I’d be damned if I was going to interrupt the story now just because my boyfriend had passed a store with shiny things in the window.)
“I know, but these were so fabulous I couldn’t help myself. Come and take a look at them.”
“But I’m reading.”
“Too bad. You have to come look at ornaments.”
“Fine,” I snapped, dog-earing the page—Captain Wentworth was unlikely to have a change of heart while I wasn’t looking—and walked into the living room, where Mike stood beside the Christmas tree taking things out of shopping bags. (I’m Jewish, but Mike is not, so I seize the holiday as an opportunity to decorate.) I sat down on the couch, picked up the nearest bundle of pink tissue paper on the coffee table, and unwrapped it to find a huge, glittering purple star. “Oh, my God,” I said; I could tell Mike was manipulating me by playing on my weakness for purple, but I was powerless to resist. “You’re right. That’s gorgeous.”
Perhaps this was worth a few minutes before returning to my book after all. I unwrapped another ornament, which revealed itself to be a shiny tin ear of corn.
“Hmph,” I said. Mike is from Iowa and thinks of himself, because it drives me crazy, as a corn proselyte. He feels he has both the right and the responsibility to torment me by doing things like threatening to replace our chandelier with a corn-shaped light fixture or buying shiny tin ears of corn to hang on our Christmas tree. It’s awful, but I haven’t figured out yet how to stop him.
I unwrapped a couple more ornaments, which were, I was grateful to see, closer to the purple star than to the ear of corn. The contents of the last box, however, when I got it open, looked, confusingly, not like an ornament but like a ring sort of thing. It was round and heavy and gold, with an engraved pattern and a little pink jewel—lovely, but far too small to be a Christmas tree ornament. I turned to Mike, puzzled, and saw that he was down on one knee.
“Joel,” he said, “will you marry me?”
And I looked at him, looked at the man who had been my comfort and my support for years, through trials and tribulations greater than I had ever expected to face, gazed deep into his eyes, so full of love, and said, “Hang on a second.”
“I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Okay,” I answered, “I haven’t been an astrology addict for years and years but this is super-extra important so I have to go check and make sure the moon isn’t void of course. Stay right there.” I leapt over the coffee table, ran into Mike’s office, prayed as I woke his computer up that the Cablevision gods might choose to be merciful today and allow us the elusive Internet access for which we so grossly overpaid their earthly representatives, checked the void-of-course ephemeris online, ran back, leapt over the coffee table again, turned to Mike, took his hands, and said, “Yes! Yes, I’ll marry you!”
“I don’t know, you left me hanging a long time. I’ve been having second thoughts.”
“Get away from me.”
“Your shirt is on inside out.”
The ring was a little big; when I pointed out that we’d need to have it resized, though, Mike furrowed his brow. “I don’t understand. I used one of your rings as a guide.”
“The one on the chain in your desk drawer.”
“Are you serious?”
“Honey, that ring is a replica I bought online of the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. That’s the only size it comes in—they sell it with the chain because you’re not supposed to wear it. Didn’t you see all the Elvish lettering?”
“I’ve always thought you were the greatest force for evil in the world.”
But we spent the evening watching romantic comedies with his arms around me all the same.
Okay, so I have a new book coming out and I’ve already gotten my first negative review from somebody who hasn’t read it! (Everything between the first sentence and the last paragraph is quoted from a review on Lambda Literary’s website.)
The book is called Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family, and it looks like this:
I’ll post about the book itself later on, but I’m too excited by the review not to post it immediately:
“As American leadership declines, these messages in a bottle from that quaint and flatulent Victorian empire seem more and more irrelevant every day. Marriage, the refugee camp of the intellectually exhausted conformist, must be dolled up to look like the Academy Awards ceremony. Can these people really think of themselves as superheroes for joining the status quo? Yes they can!”
Several years ago, I decided that I wanted to write a murder mystery set in ancient Greece in which Socrates was a bumbling idiot.
It has taken me a while, partially because I’ve been focused on other projects and partially because certain aspects of ancient Greek society presented obstacles I didn’t know how to overcome. I’ve figured out how to overcome them, however, and am now working on the book.
I’m finding fiction about ten thousand billion times harder to write than nonfiction, but that’s a post for another day.
Today I want to discuss a small problem: Thucydides.
It turns out that pretty much every single ancient Greek person you've ever heard of lived at the same time. Pericles, Socrates, Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Thucydides, Hippocrates, Alcibiades, Protagoras, Zeno, Anaxagoras, Pindar—in 449 B.C., every single one of them was alive (and most of them knew each other). Go fifty years in either direction and you add Plato, Aesop, Xenophon, Pythagoras, Aeschylus, and Themistocles. For Homer, Draco, and Solon you need to go back from there, and for Aristotle, Demosthenes, Archimedes, and Euclid you need to go a little forward, but the point is: they’re all mashed up together.
This is great for me, in that I get to write about how annoying Euripides finds Pericles. This is bad for me, however, because, since nobody had last names (well, they sort of did, but using them in genre fiction would be impossible; Socrates’ full name was “Socrates, son of Sophroniscus, from the deme Alopece,”and doing it that way would be worse than a mystery in which everybody went around calling each other “Mikhail Nikolayevich”and “Stephan Sergeyevich”), there are other people with those names as well.
So my current problem is that a major player in my mystery is named Thucydides—but he’s not the Thucydides we all know and love from the History of the Peloponnesian War. He's Thucydides’ grandfather. The Thucydides we all know and love from the History of the Peloponnesian War is ten years old in my book. But there’s a frame, and in the frame the Thucydides we all know and love from the History of the Peloponnesian War has just started writing the History of the Peloponnesian War. So it’s becoming more and more difficult to give the reader a clear guide in how to tell them apart.
Actually I may have it covered; I'm calling them “Thucydides” and “Old Thucydides.” The real reason I'm making this post is that I was talking about it to somebody the other day and discovered that it’s incredibly difficult to say, “The Thucydides.”
Go ahead. Try it.