Broken Blade: chapter 4

(… continuing from chapter 3.)

Broken Bladechapter 4 

“I’m still not taking off my clothes,” Blade said. It was odd, to be allowed a decision of her own.

“We could make a selling point out of that,” the big man commented, after a moment’s pause. She couldn’t tell if he was amused, impressed, or just not wanting to waste time.

Then he turned and shoulder-charged her, grabbing her shift, and throwing her forward with the inertia of his movement—sending her sprawling across the arena floor, her rear skidding painfully on the smooth sand.

Sword, of course, just stayed on his feet, looking down at her. She squinted back, surprised how bright the sky was.

“Lesson one,” he said, offering her a hand up, and an appraising look that might have concealed a grin. “Out here, everything’s an attack. Never drop your guard, always look to exploit the enemy’s weakness. But you took the fall very well.”

“Thanks,” she said, with what was meant to be a shrug, but came out inexplicably as a smile.

Sword laughed, and the sound surprised her. “You’re different. That could work in your favour.” His eyes flickered, appraising her. “It also means there might be a mismatch between our fighting styles.”

“Are you saying you might have some difficulty training me, Sword?” She grinned, partially because she’d just experimented with calling him by his name.

“I like challenges. Now, square off, and we’ll go through a few hand-to-hand drills. Then I’ll work out where you fit in the weapons scheme.” He paused, shifting into a fighting stance, to anticipate any surprise attack. “Where did you learn your unarmed combat?”

She met him with a steady gaze, eyes dark, impassive. “Not in the Corps of Janissaries, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“SHACOM girl scout camp, then,” he grinned, feinting with his left hand. It wasn’t any sort of question.

Is he left-handed? she wondered, stepping back but keeping her left foot firm, elbow raised.

“You’d have admitted pretty much anything else,” he noted, stepping right—not the direction she expected. “So is it true that you’re completely beaten now?”

For a moment, Blade just looked at him.

Her answer was a low, spin-kick attack, designed to make him spring to dodge, followed by a push-up jump attack from her crouched left foot.

(… and a link for chapter 5 will go here when it’s online!)


The Adventures of Pneumatic Girl!

This blog post is about a literary archetype (said the author, casually).

When we hear the adjective pneumatic applied to the female of the species these days, we tend to think of a girl with a particularly large décolletage, especially of the sort that looks like a bicycle pump was involved – inflated, probably with mechanical assistance. It’s not exactly a particularly complimentary description any more, although it might imply a certain taut-skinned lack of clothing: bare arms and bare thighs, an airbrushed illusion of athleticism.

The cheapness of the word in current use is rather a shame, I feel, because the origins of the concept were a little more sophisticated.

The trope namer was, of all people, T.S. Eliot, with some able assistance from most of the major English literary figures of the early-to-mid twentieth century: Ford Madox Ford, Aldous Huxley, and John Betjeman were all actively involved. Don’t worry if you don’t know who they were. The point is, they weren’t the sort of writers who fetishized air-headed girls with silicone implants; what’s actually happened is that popular culture has fetishized an idea that they developed.

I suspect that in England, the modern archetype is a little more brazen than it is overseas: this is the land of the “Page 3 Girl”, where topless photos are an inexorable part of the biggest-selling daily newspaper; where it’s socially-acceptable to adjust your fake tan colour and upper-body dimensions depending on the season’s fashions, and the reality shows make Jersey Shore look intellectual. Thus, our pneumatic girl has fallen further than America, where the fitness models place a little more emphasis on actual fitness, and the valley girls tends to have a certain lack of stamina and an incoherent sense of social modesty, traits that rule them out of proper consideration.

In origin, the pneumatic girl was a far more respectable thing, a chaste Atalanta, as bad writers (and some good ones) would say. Sporty and taut, not necessarily particularly overdeveloped in the chest, and competent in the manner of the talented amateur rather than the ambitious professional, clean in attitudes and lifestyle. Generally blonde, generally Anglo-English, but always independent-minded, and often with surprising (yet generously understated) intellectual depths – Miss Valentine Wannop in Parade’s End, for example, is fluent in Latin and Greek to the point of random scholarly extemporation, and one of the few people yet invented who can intellectually out-argue that book’s protagonist, Tietjens.

Some English literary heroines of the era, such as Lady Joan Brett in Chesterton’s The Flying Inn, have a more complex relationship with the trope (but that book’s a topic for a more serious blog under another name).

Of course, at first sight, this seems suspiciously like a male fantasy, and there’s an element of that involved; though the first thing I want to say in riposte is that I don’t believe it’s simply a fantasy, or any sort of bad thing, that clever and confident men give honour to the idea of women who they can treat as equals.

This hopeful lack of prejudice in the concept is further strengthened by evidence for a level of metaphor and meaningfulness, as well as a strong twist of self-knowledge. The inherent strength of the pneumatic girl was never entirely physical. Pneuma, if you take it back to the Greek (as Miss Wannop would) is a name for the human spirit; Eliot’s pneumatic bliss, today’s trope namer, is ostensibly a reference to a heaving chest, but his poetic context connects it to the soul, to the highest aspirations of both religion and literature, and to that most human of all actions, conversation. All things, however apparently carnal and transient, hint at something fundamental.

You’re just going to have to take my word on that part, okay?

Buried deeper in the subtext is the fact that the Russian girl he’s describing is the greatest ballerina of the day, a physical embodiment of a skill and beauty; to the unwary reader, her eccentric, accented English might seem to objectify her, but this is merely the mirror to the poet’s own utter incapacity in the language of Pushkin and Tolstoy. She speaks two languages, one fluently, the other charmingly, and her entire body is a thing of high art; he has just one, and his thoughts keep straying to her breasts.

Eliot, who would never use a word with two contradictory meanings when three were possible, was probably also thinking of what were already by then known as penumatic drills – that sound you hear is the shattering of the narrative voice’s own intellectual tarmac – and Huxley, ruthlessly debasing Eliot’s own imagery in Brave New World, gave us a future where “pneumatic girls” are as mechanical, mindless and interchangeable as office chairs – yet here, once again, it’s the male protagonist who fails to make the human connection.

In some cases, in other word, the male narrative voice portrays the pneumatic girl as more than an equal. But I think the inadequacy of the male protagonist is a self-conscious stance that we can happily leave out of the wider discussion. It’s a little boring. It’s that layer of meaning about the soul that I want to turn back to, and explore a little more. In simple terms, it works like this: Eliot’s imagery identifies the quasi-unobtainable and self-possessed free woman with a pure longing of the soul, and see in her athleticism as an expression of a fundamental creative energy.

The pneumatic girl, in other words, is a symbol of goodness, and maybe just she’s capable of improving the typically-male narrative voice, as well.

The fact that is even the worst excesses of what feminists call objectfication by the male gaze hint at it. The modern debasing of the image of the free, athletic woman (and Huxley’s, and Eliot’s) point back towards the fact that it exists there in the first place. The subtext of the exploitative version breaks down as it tries to cheapen and simplify the concept, because by it’s very nature, it is debasing something, or rather – more optimistically – aspiring to be something, acknowledging the archetype in question.

And finally, I want to emphasize the simple fact that not all pneumatic girls of the good sort are imaginary; they operate quite independently of the male imagination. English boarding schools still produce them in appreciable quantities. The Daily Telegraph employs a good handful. We’ve recently seen an Olympics starring Hope Solo and Jessica Ennis, while Katee Sackhoff and Gina Carano are bankable at the box-office, to say nothing of Keira Knightley, who I could probably link to every single conceptual theme within this monologue. Black Swan touches on some important aspects of the trope, and even does so in a new way.

Counterparts also appear quite widely in modern fiction, in the form of that that “strong female protagonist” who’s so fashionable at the minute: Hermione Granger is only the most lucrative example.

Some of them, like Anne and Austra in Greg Keyes’ Thorm and Bone quartet, even have Valentine-and-Tiejens-style flirty conversations about comparative linguistics, too. I should emphasis that in Keyes, as in Parade’s End, this is played for laughs.

I want to mention Matt Stover’s female Knights of Khryl, but I’m not quite sure I have the courage to try and fit them (or anything Mr. Stover writes) into my own interpretative pattern. In this, I’m like T.S. Eliot confronted with a ballerina, bizarre as the simile is.


(An aside I made in a recent post reminded me that I meant to get my thoughts in order about this movie, so here goes – a retroview, if you will, though it doesn’t say much extra in hindsight that I didn’t think about at the time.)

Battleship was a flop, right? It was kicked out of sight on its US opening weekend by The Avengers, and followed that up with a poor domestic gross, negative critical responses, and a worldwide meme of “sunk” jokes.

It’s still made a net box-office profit of over $100 million worldwide, but the informed opinion seems to be that this was less to do with the film itself, and more because it was the first major 3D release in some foreign markets, benefiting there from the added draw (and higher ticket prices) of the funky new technology.

By the time I saw the film, near the end of its UK theatrical run but well before the US release, the critical narrative had already been established. Come to think of it, the fact that Universal shunted their international openings forward may mean that the studio already felt the film was a flop, and wanted to avoid the negative publicity of a low domestic opening.

All of which is a shame, because I actually reckoned this was a pretty good movie.

There have been dissenting voices saying similar things, of course. The Australian media seem to have generally recognized this film as a high-quality piece of mindless fun. Time and Entertainment Weekly, in contrast, gave it a more intellectual sort of thumbs-up. That seems like a paradox, but I don’t think it’s a mistake.

Battleship is, on one level, a very silly movie. After the success of the Transformers film franchise, Universal Studios were looking for more Hasbro properties with a military theme to adapt for the big screen: someone picked up the old back-of-the-car board game where you try and sink the ships on the other player’s unseen grid, and decided it had the makings of a blockbuster.

It’s an absurd idea, and I have a hunch that whoever made the pitch wasn’t actually taking it too seriously.

But Battleship goes two ways with this. On the one hand, this is a gleefully silly film, one which has huge fun with a stupid dork of a protagonist, and a kick-ass alien weapons system that looks and works just like the whole process of pitching the plastic pegs into your opponent’s board. It casts Bajan music sensation Rihanna as a hyper-smart U.S. Navy seaman with an arsenal of great big guns.

It’s also silly in a knowing, cine-literate, way, constructed in large part from second-hand scenes, plot-points and soundtrack cues, patched together with insanely hard-boiled dialogue (“The fact that you know that infuriates me beyond belief!”, “Mahalo, mutha*u”-boom!, and my personal favourite: “They killed all my grad students!”). It throws Pearl HarbourTop Gun, Independence Day, every old technicolor war movie you ever saw, and even Young Guns for no good reason, into a cocktail mixer that doesn’t spare any of their reputations, and produces something which (as the Time reviewer recognized) is essentially a merciless parody of the whole Transformers franchise.

It’s Snakes on a Plane on a big damn boat.

And no, I’m not going to mention the 2010 live-action version of Space Battleship Yamato, which, you know, has the exact same plot.

This is a film with its tongue so far in its cheek it’s giving itself a rimjob. Even the titular battleship is a shameless send-up of the “Chekov’s Gun” trope: in Act I, you draw attention to the presence of the old rifle on the wall (or, in this case, the USS  Missouri and her nine sixteen-inch cannon in a museum dock), so that it can be taken off the shelf and used in Act III.

Now, I’m not someone who usually enjoys metatextual referentiality for its own sake, especially metatextual referentiality of such a huge, self-destructive scale: but the sheer, shameless aplomb with which they carry it off in this flick made me grin right through the movie.

On the other hand, when it comes down to the business of fighting, killing, dying, this film doesn’t pull its punches. While the film generally fetishizes the shiny mechanical fluidity and bright electronic wavelengths of modern military technology, there are times when it knows it can’t: the deaths of men, and the deaths of warships, are handled with an instant, unsentimental finality that’s about as authentic as you can get. Character-arcs are abruptly cut short in fire and shrapnel, and the special effects suddenly aren’t gratuitous or prurient any more.

A soldier who had his legs blown off by a roadside bomb somewhere in the War on Terror is played by… a soldier who had his legs blown off by a roadside bomb somewhere in the War on Terror. You simply can’t argue with that.

This film is basically Flash Gordon meets Went The Day Well.

Now, maybe that’s an odd juxtaposition. But it worked for me – because, I think, the freeform silliness intensifies the impact of the moments when it’s suddenly not there any more, and at the same time, provides the human motivation for the characters to keep on fighting – and it worked, one way or another, for some reviewers who weren’t paying attention to received opinions. Maybe wouldn’t work so well for most people? Maybe most people would find the juxtaposition jarring, troubling, confusing?

But my hunch (though it is only a hunch) is that the problem was more specific: the studio didn’t really know how to market the film, and the media didn’t know how to respond to it.

After all, most people didn’t go and see this movie. Did you?

Broken Blade: chapter 3

(… continuing from chapter 2.)

Broken Blade: chapter 3

Sword could hear the roar of the crowd as he strode forward, down the dark tunnel that led into the light. He could hear the cheer change pitch as he walked out into the vast white space of the arena.

It took a couple of seconds for his eyes to accept that the encircling grandstands were empty—just like it always did; the echo of the crowd roar always seemed to linger. Perhaps it was because he had always kept his eyes low when he was a fighter- focused on the expanse of white sand ahead of him, and whatever dangers it contained; never straying above the false horizon of the arena’s far edge. He needed the sound to fill the emptiness, the dusty expanse stretching so far that the eye could hardly grasp that it was circular.

It was here that Sword had become the Galaxy’s greatest gladiator, and now, it was here that he was expected to turn Broken Blade into a weapon—her owner’s latest challenger for the championship.

“Stand there,” he ordered her, when they’d gone about a minute out into the empty space. She stopped, and glanced at him. “No, just stand natural, like you’re about to get into an alley fight.”

He frowned professionally at the girl as she shifted her weight, then circled round her, studying her poise and the way her her weight translated into force, gauging the muscle definition under her skin, and the shape she was likely to move in.

“You should take off the shift,” he said, his tone flat and professional. In response, she folded her arms below her chest, and looked at him, her expression tightening slightly.

“I’d rather not,” she shrugged.

“You can’t have any sentiment, in this line of work,” he told her, and he meant it. “Your body is a weapon. Nothing more.”

“Don’t tell me you’re not proud of your own body,” she countered, with a small, hostile smirk as she ran her gaze across his bare chest.

“I’m satisfied with what I am,” he answered, with a muscular shrug. “But I’m an unsentimental kind of guy.” He moved towards her, slowing to a fighter’s pace. “My body looks the way it does because it’s the best killing machine my training masters ever produced. It’s functional.”

“In the arena, or the bedroom?” the girl challenged. “You want me to fight for His Lordship, fine. But don’t expect me to pose for the audience of a trillion drooling teenage boys in Future Corps armbands. I know what arena sport is like.”

The corner of Sword’s mouth lifted in what might have been amusement, as he rested one big hand on her shoulder—a gesture that reminded him of how to snap people’s necks with his bare strength. He looked down towards her eyes, not caring if she looked back or not. “Like it or not, they’ll drool at the way you move anyway. There’s not much about the way Stiletto wears her armour that’s especially sexy… there’s just something about a girl who handles a weapon like a ballet dancer.”

“Stiletto?” Broken Blade’s eyebrow lifted, her tone showing the professional interest of a fighter before a fight. That was good.

“Stiletto is the Lady Empress’s reigning champion,” Sword answered. “The woman you’re being trained to kill.”

“I’m still not taking off my clothes,” she answered, looking calmly back at him.

(… continued in chapter 4!)

Space Battleship!

Fans of genre fiction may recognize the franchise….

Apparently this was made in 2010, topped the Japanese box-office, has proved a bankable Blu-Ray elsewhere, and still hasn’t got anything closer to a release in English-speaking markets than subtitles on a region 4 DVD.

I feel there should be some way to connect this to the similarly-themed live-action movie in the similarly-named but otherwise comically different Battleship franchise, but I’m not quite sure whether the point is that Battleship tanked in the domestic and UK markets, or whether Space Battleship makes it look awfully like Universal Pictures made a $200 million mockbuster.

In the original Klingon!

Klingon really isn’t my thing.

I know enough about languages, real and invented, to know that tlhIngan Hol is a technical triumph, but I can’t pretend I’m particularly fond of it as a cultural statement. My strangely retentive memory for trivia means I have a pretty good grasp of the nuances of Klingon costume styles and warship variants, but I don’t have any emotional attachment to that particular spacegoing barbarian empire.

I can admire the skill and dedication that it takes to make the appropriate mask and costume, translate some Shakespeare into a language originally designed for insulting Captain Kirk, or set some Klingon poetry to Klingon music and perform it – especially if you do all three at once.

But I don’t feel any urge to do any of that myself.

On the other hand, this isn’t entirely to do with my usual antipathy to organized geekdom. Back around 1990 when there was no new Star Wars to enjoy, I made up for it with a diversion into Star Trek. I became a big fan of the novels, and maybe one day I’ll write about Diane Duane’s cycle about the Romulans, but today, I want to tell you about a book called The Final Reflection, written way back in the early 1980s by an author named Mike Ford.

The Final Reflection is a book about the Klingons.

But these Klingons aren’t the ones you know: the headbutting, armour-wearing barbarians with the funny shouty language, and the tourist-friendly cultural backstory that give their loyal fandom the toolkit for an alternative identity. In 1982, when work on the book began, the Klingons had a continuity backstory of just three low-budget TV episodes and a single movie cameo, and they were still primarily a metaphor for powerful foreign opponents of America – the Russians and the Japanese, specifically. So Mike Ford wrote them as a high-tech military superpower with a violent and heroic history very different from our own, and a confusingly foriegn way of thinking. Unlike today’s Klingons, they valued intelligence, deception and forward planning just as much as strength, brutality and honour.

They even had a different language.

But there was a problem. Even before The Final Reflection came out in May 1984, the people in charge of Star Trek had decided that official continuity had to actively contradict everything outside the movies and TV series. If there was to be a Klingon language on the screen, it would have to not be the one in the book. As far as I can tell, the people who began to create a Klingon language for the next Trek movie were unaware that one had just been created for the novel (and adopted in the extensive RPG material that accompanied the movie’s release), but the franchise’s policy made integration of the two impossible.

This was before the internet, of course, and at first, the intentions of the production people struggled to counteract the influence of the tie-in material (not least since the novels and comics were allowed to supply running continuity fixes to keep themselves consistent with the movies); but eventually, the development of The Next Generation created a fairly decisive estrangement between the two elements of the franchise. It became pretty clear around the time I got involved.

Thankfully, Star Wars started producing original fiction again soon after, so I was suitably distracted.

But I still think that the direction Star Trek took was a shame, not least because the original Klingons, like the original Romulans, were much more interesting as a sci-fi concept. Ever since, in spite of the commitment of their fanbase, the official Klingons have been in danger of becoming inept comedy barbarians, unintentionally reforcing all sorts of problematic cultural prejudices.

It’s inherently harder to do that with the novel-continuity Klingons.

And then there’s their language. Klingonaase, not tlhIngan Hol. Both take their cue from the same source, a few lines of subtitled dialogue that were made up for the first Trek movie, but they do very different things with it. For one thing, ‘aase isn’t a complete language, though I’ve been starting to realise it was probably more completely-developed gramatically than I’d thought. The key difference is in what the language is meant to do: the Hol that modern Klingon fanboys speak is a linguist’s language, with a fully-functional lexicon and gramatical system and an interesting structural and phonological alienness – but ‘aase is a novellist’s language, designed to tell a story.

At first sight, the words and phrases dropped into the text seem simply to be relatively light, decorative details in a piece of viscerally enjoyable space-fantasy world-building. But they’re much more than that, as the reader realises as the novel develops.

What ‘aase provides is a set of concepts and conceptual frameworks that aren’t very easy to translate directly into English. These are the concepts that define the Klingons of The Final Reflection, embodying the patterns of their thoughts and their society, articulating their biological imperatives.

As the reader (probably an impressionistic teenage boy) begins to get to grips with Klingonaase, he starts to understand the Klingons, and starts to see why they’re different from the Feds who we generally see as “the good guys”, as “us”. This “reader’s journey” parallels the Kilingon characters’ own encounter with the humans, and the end result is firstly, a very good story, and secondly, one that ends up telling us something new about ourselves.

The way the reader picks up ‘aase in the course of the novel is designed to complement and accentuate a story about a clash of cultures, and about learning to see past confrontation to understanding. Not the most original story, perhaps, but that’s hardly the point. It’s the only language course I know that’s structured as a telling of the Campbellian monomyth.

And that is something that you just don’t find in modern Klingon.

The Great American

This is an apparently incongruous essay about major literary novellist. But since it’s Michael Chabon, I figured I’d indulge myself: he’s a Pulitzer-winning heavyweight whose works include a loving eulogy for the Golden Age of comic books, a considerable number of knowing baseball references, and the adaption of some Edgar Rice Burroughs stories into a Disney movie.

In other words, Chabon likes genre fiction; more to the point, he uses it as a powerful thematic reference point for the American identity. I really like his novels, and I really like that aspect of them (and I’m also a huge fan of the movie adaptation of his second book, Wonder Boys, which is probably my all-time favourite American film, and which was what led me to discover him as a writer).

That said, though, there are certain sections of his books that I find slower, less interesting, and I wonder if this also has something to do with that whole genre-and-identity thing.

(Alert readers will notice that this is the idea I stopped myself from digressing into a few posts back; really alert readers might notice that that idea is actually a retrospective edit into that previous post, designed in large part to set this one up).

The parts of the Chabon canon that have nothing to do with America are the parts I find most accessible: Gentlemen of the Road, for example, a homage to high fantasy which is set in faintly improbable countries that no longer exist, a thousand years ago. But then again, I also really enjoyed the first half of Kavalier & Clay, which is all Americana: superhero comics and electric urbanism imbuing young, apparently powerless immigrants with new hope and strength.

On the other hand, the whole second half of Kavalier & Clay didn’t do so much for me. Here, Chabon is doing the “geek” thing, with a plot crafted from extensive metatextual referentiality to the “Silver Age” of comic books, and at the same time, he makes a “serious” narrative shift of pace; it’s all about lost optimism, disillusionment and a renewed hope in a suburban family setting. It’s also, I think, a distinctively American story, both in its use of a ruthlessly authorial, almost pulpy, plot-twist, and in its expectation that the reader will either experience the emotional impact so coldly set up, or else enjoy the genre referentiality.

Oddly, there’s one tiny continuity error in the novel, which suggests this wasn’t the original plan (or else is designed to emphasise the mid-novel narrative break by doing just that)….

I also find myself tripping over the extended intermission before the third act of Wonder Boys the book, where two of the protagonists disappear off to hide in what’s effectively another story: someone else’s rather meaningless family reunion, where they all sit around the table and fail to connect. The screenplay simply ditched the entire digression, and it could simply be that its presence in the book’s narrative jars me because I saw the film first, and because I rate the film so highly; but even if I’m biased in that way, the detour around the detour seems like a smart bit of editorial intervention: the long digression is quietly involving (mood-wise, it’s what David Lynch’s The Straight Story would be if it was a novel by Thomas Pynchon) but it’s superfluous to the novel, both in terms of plot and pacing.

What it is, moreover, is a piece of standard-issue Americana, the family narrative as mini-metaphor for social change and generational tensions. It’s as much a piece of genre fiction as the worst of clichéd heroic fantasy, yet it conceals its true nature because of the conventions of the narrative, the same ones that function in suburbia. It also contrasts very strongly with the setting in which the rest of the novel takes place. It is, very deliberately, a switch of genres.

With that in mind, I’m curious if this out-of-place half-act is a surviving section from Fountain City, the unfinishable and selfconsciously Great American novel that Chabon had been trying to complete, before he gave up and turned the writing and abandonment into one of the inspirations for a different book. Quite probably that’s a wildly wrong guess, but it’s the sort of question that occurs to me, and it would certainly be appropriate if it was.

In a critical sense, this is a key point of Chabon’s writing, where he directly highlights the innate connection between  the identity-building themes of genre fiction and the American identity itself. But at the same time, there’s an emptiness there for me that I don’t think is deliberate. It’s Passover told as Thanksgiving, but I don’t think that’s even intended as the double-ended skewering that it actually is. The clever, “geeky”, genre games aren’t enough to transform it into fun for me, just as they aren’t enough when Joe Kavalier retreats to his fortress of solitude in the polar wastes, and Sammy Clay hides his secret identity behind the life of an ordinary American.

It’s a measure of Chabon’s skill as an author, though, that these sections simply read as less good than the rest.

So, ultimately, where am I going with this? Genre-fiction fandom as a metaphor for America, embodying on multiple levels the search for a new, free identity and the generational renewals of that search, from the Mayflower via Occupy (another reason, perhaps, that it has no resonance for me, since I’m not American)? I think so, yes. And, if so, then the wider tensions and concerns and narratives of genre fiction might turn out to be intimately symmetrical with those of America itself.

America, in other words, is a work of genre fiction.

More on that theme in general some other time, perhaps?

(Funny, that. I knew where this essay was going to end up well before I wrote it, or even had the idea for it.)