I love banter, but I'm out of practice.
Back when I was in college the first time, before I met John, I had a sort-of boyfriend who was a world class banterer. I had to work hard to keep up with him, and although I got better with practice, I was never really up to Bob's standard. Then came John, and we were somewhat more evenly matched on the banter meter. But that became family banter. It's easy to banter with a loved one, because we know each other's personal history and cultural references. And we don't do as much of it as we once did, methinks.
When I was at First Magnus, I made an effort to make my boss laugh every day, and to write amusing emails in conducting business with the folks in HR. But that wasn't banter. That was quips. It wasn't really interactive. And it's been over a year and a half since First Magnus closed its doors. I haven't really had anyone to quip to, much less banter with, in any job since then. Nor do dog park conversations lend themselves to bantering. If I try it, people just look at me strangely.
These days I get in a little banter with John, and a little bit with my friend Kevin on Sundays. Kevin has a gift for absurdity, so we have little runs of nonsense conversation, such as Kevin's claim this morning that Pepper's recent escape into the front yard was so she could help plan the rise of our new canine overlords. And that was fun, but it wasn't world class banter.
But over the last several days I read Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi. I did so admiringly and more than a little enviously, because it's full of galactic-class banter.
Zoe Boudin-Perry, the protagonist of Zoe's Tale, is a 17-year-old smart aleck, but that's just a small part of who and what she is. In fact, the book centers on who and what she is, and how she learns to use her unique identity to save a planet. A little backstory here: her stepdad, John Perry, is the protagonist of the first and third books in the Old Man's War series, a resourceful and ethical man who accomplishes amazing things because he's just that clever. He's like the Doctor or Don Diego de la Vega, the smartest and wittiest man in the room, who can out-strategize his adversaries and improvise his way out of almost anything. I love that kind of character. Zoe, whose story takes place concurrently with The Last Colony, is sort of the female, teenage equivalent of John Perry, but with teenage concerns as well as planetary ones, and an unsettling but crucial relationship with an entire race of aliens.
And all through the book, Zoe and her loved ones banter. She banters with her best friend and her boyfriend and her best friend's boyfriend, with her dad and her dad's assistant, and even with alien generals. It's awesome stuff, and I couldn't resist reading out passages of it to John. Now the book's over and I'm annoyed, because I wasn't through enjoying it.
But I tell you what I'm going to do about it. Inspired by Zoe, I'm going to brush up on my bantering skills. So watch out.