a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
other gardeners 
27 February 2015 23:10 - the difference three years makes
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
(I am trying to post when I think of things, even if they don't seem "worthy" of posts, because I want to get back in the habit.)

We took the kids to Wild Kratts Live tonight. Wild Kratts is a PBS show about two brothers who, in bookending live-action segments, meet and talk about wild creatures, and in the animated middle, put on "creature power suits" and fly around in a giant turtle-shaped ship with a tech crew of three saving animals from the obligatory villains. (I have never actually seen an episode all the way through, so this is a rough approximation.) The kids love this, though SteelyKid is starting to go off it a bit, and it must be pretty popular because six weeks ago, the only seats left were literally in the second-to-last-row of the balcony.

Anyway. The show was cheesy but hit all the kid-pleasing notes, and they had a great time. But the thing of note was the end special effect [*], which was the brothers using a "miniaturizer" they'd recovered from the villains: they said they were activating it, fog or lights or something covered their exit, and then when the stage lights came back on, there were stuffed toy versions of the brothers on the stage where they'd been standing. (Which were, of course, for sale outside.)

As the subject line says: SteelyKid (now 6.5) and the Pip (now 3.25) nearly got in a major fight over this, because she saw that they were toys, but he insisted that they'd been miniaturized. Fortunately we were able to distract them before someone started crying over this disagreement.

[*] Prior special effects included "caracal power" of high-jumping using a springboard behind a fake rock, and "orangutan power" of moving through trees by swinging on a big swing coming in from off-stage. Also the process of donning a "creature power suit" was a stage blackout while the actor went off-stage to put on a cloth costume, covered by a super-slow animation on the screen, which made me really grateful for the person who put together all the Iron Man suit sequences into one video to clear the palate.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to listen to something other than the show's theme song to get it out of my head, fold laundry, and then collapse into bed.
27 February 2015 19:33 - Lifted from Facebook
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP
Leonard Nimoy's final tweet

27 February 2015 18:42 - last night
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
The street cat found the dish of kibble I left out. Not only was the dish empty but the cat carefully sifted through the snow for stray kibble.
27 February 2015 14:48 - He grew up three blocks from here
sovay: (Rotwang)
Leonard Nimoy has died.

I am stunned. I thought he would be around forever. I know no one is, but he was there so early, even in the Museum of Science; I was just talking about him. He was the only actor to survive the Abrams reboot of Star Trek, so why not everything else the universe could throw at him? I can remember being six or seven, teaching my hands the Vulcan salute that I did not yet know came from the blessing of the Kohanim. He was household shorthand for intelligence in science fiction, unapologetically intellectual and deeply loved. We had at least one of his autobiographies in the house. I talk about losing people like watching landscapes fall away. This is like losing a star out of the sky.

His memory for a blessing.
yhlee: Shuos Jedao (Hellspin Fortress) (hxx Jedao 1x10^6)
Photos of the day: [personal profile] tbutler's Things that can't be duplicated. Beautiful but heartbreaking.

- recent reading
Mildred L. Brown & Chloe Ann Rounsley. True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism: For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals. This book was recommended to me by my current therapist, who cautioned me that it's starting to show its age. I think some of the material on intersexed individuals is medically dated and this one sentence pinged me as maybe not aligned with current understanding:
Even individuals who are asexual or celibate have (or have had) sexual fantasies about members of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both. (19)

I had thought that asexuality is on a spectrum but there are people who never think sexually? But I am not myself asexual, and my knowledge is mostly limited to what I picked up from reading The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality [writeup I did in late 2014], so I welcome correction/clarification.

In any case, this discusses transsexualism/transgenderism. It starts out by making clarifications (sexual orientation vs. gender identity vs. things like cross-dressing or gender-benders), then talks about the experience of growing up as trans from childhood to teenagerhood to adulthood. A lot of the experiences resonated with my own. Once I figured out that dresses were for girls, I hated being stuffed into dresses. (I still don't like dresses, but when I was younger my understanding of gender presentation was extremely rigid and binary--in part because, having no physical anchor to point to, I had to defend my identity as ferociously as I could.)

The next section discusses the process of therapy, including the Benjamin standards of care. I am under the impression that the long wait times for access to physical sex reassignment, which individuals may or may not choose to pursue, have been ameliorated in recent years, but I'm not actually sure what the history is here. I personally always felt the "real-life test"--where you spend a year living 24/7 as the target gender--was maddeningly circularly designed to set you up to fail, especially for people whose bodies really did not match common norms for the target gender. For instance, I can pass part of the time, especially on glancing contact, mostly with haircut and dressing carefully, but my voice tends to give me away if I open my mouth because it can range too damn high.

Then the book talks about transition. This seems to assume that most people are going to transition partially or fully. It talks about practical things like voice training and body language and, say, electrolysis of body hair for MTFs (male-to-female transsexuals).

I admit I snoozed through the entire chapter on transition and workplaces because I am in the lucky (?) position of being a houseYoon. The bit about designated restrooms made me wince, though, because that's something I worry about when I attend conventions. I wasn't previously out to the point of asking for pronoun switches [1] so I just used the women's rooms. [2] But I imagine this is useful advice to people who work day jobs.

The next section deals with coming out to parents. I was actually surprised to learn that it's apparently common for lots of trans people to feel really guilty about letting down their parents. I do not feel that I have let down my parents in the least, but I also come from a minorly dysfunctional family and have an adversarial relationship with both parents. Well, to the extent that I can be said to have a relationship with a father who hasn't talked to me in almost a decade. I'm reminded of when I was seeing a guidance counselor because of my family going through a divorce, back in high school, and the counselor said, "It's not your fault, you know," and I stared at him in annoyance and said, "It's not my fault in the least. It's not my job to fix my parents' relationship." The counselor seemed really taken aback.

The coming-out-to-spouses section was more useful and less useful, in the sense that I have a spouse and this was and is a Thing. It was frustrating in that, due to reasons of numbers (there are/were? both more MTFs than FTMs, and of those, more married MTFs), the discussion was pretty much about MTFs dealing with their wives. I wanted to know if things were any different with FTMs. Probably not, but it would have been nice to know. I should add that while there's a brief acknowledgment that not all trans people are straight, almost the entire damn book assumes the trans individual is straight--I don't know if this was due to the samples or what.

All this just to say when I get to this:
[For example, a] wife may experience considerable confusion about the way her husband's transsexualism affects her own feminine image and her own sexuality and sexual orientation. As one wife said, "After he came out, the last time we tried to have sex I went to put on my sexiest nightgown, and when I walked into the bedroom, there 'she' [NOTE: there are things like scare quotes and mispronouning in this book, sorry] was in an even sexier one. I was completely turned off. So now I don't have a male sex partner, and I'm not a lesbian, so where does that leave me? What do I do?"


It is important to note that these are initial reactions. Whereas some wives are never able to move much beyond this point, others, with time, discussion, learning, and possibly therapy and support groups, are able to work through their issues [emphasis mine]. (184)

The work acknowledges that outcomes range from continued marriage as the transsexual transitions to divorce. But I don't like the way this is presented as "issues"? I'm not sure the wife in that quote did anything wrong, because she married someone she thought was/identified as male and who didn't tell her that she was really a woman. As an analogy, sex is a deal-breaker for me (as in, I want to get some, thanks). I would feel pretty annoyed if I were dating someone enough to get to the point of considering marriage (let alone actually getting married) and we'd been desultorily having sex and then they let me know that, Hey, by the way, let's get married but actually I never want to have sex again, sorry I didn't tell you earlier. The issue here is the misrepresentation. Whereas if they let me know earlier that they're asexual then I could say, I like you but we have incompatible needs and this isn't going to work, we're going to have to split up, sorry; that would be sad but the split would (barring other issues) be amicable. So, sure, some of these spouses can adapt to the new situation but others won't, and I almost feel like the book is judging them for not being able to adapt when actually these spouses didn't do anything wrong to land in the situations they did. I feel strongly about this because I myself didn't come out to Joe until some years into our marriage; the details are between him and me, but again, he didn't do anything wrong.

This goes on to discuss coming out to children at various ages.

Then it dives right into medical/surgical options, starting with hormones. I wish it did a better job of describing permanent vs. non-permanent changes, especially for FTMs, since that's a Thing. I skated right by all the surgical stuff not out of squeamishness but because it gets rather technical, honestly.

There follow guidelines for support with entertaining headers like "You Must Be Crazy" and "But You'll Never Be Real...." and rebuttals. I skipped the chapter after that, "In Their Own Words," because it was POETRY. This is probably mean of me, but I have read a lot of psychology books where they include poetry written by clients to express their life journeys, and I don't care what the life journey was, in almost every instance, the poetry qua poetry was execrable. Life is too short to spend reading bad poetry so I just opted out. If poetry is a good therapeutic tool for dealing with your traumatic life journey, have at writing it, but dear sweet Shinjo since I'm not your therapist I'm not going to read the results. I speak as someone who has produced more than their share of execrable poetry.

There are resources in the back, but as this book is ©1996 I expect them to be dated.

[1] I will answer to pretty much anything as long as I recognize it as a pronoun, right now; life's too short and I care too little. That being said, I'm going to be using male pronouns in author bios moving forward. I could cry when I think that I could have been using male pronouns in author bios from my very first sale, but I was a freshman in college and I was afraid my parents would find out and kick me out or something...

[2] This is probably a super-unpopular opinion, but I wish we'd just move to restrooms-that-are-just-restrooms and forget sex/gender divisions. The dorm I lived in for two years when I was at Cornell had restrooms that either/any gender could use. I found it congenial and also no one died.
27 February 2015 13:33 - Leonard Nimoy, RIP
It's completely replaced any discussion of llamas and dresses on my twitter feed, so I'm hardly breaking news here. Like millions of others, I grew up on Star Trek, catching the original series in reruns on local stations when I was a kid. I was never aware of fandom, as such, as a kid, but I was definitely a fan, even if a solitary one. (I also watched him on Mission Impossible, another show that ended before I was born but lived on in syndication.)

Spock wasn't technically my favorite character -- that would be McCoy -- but he grew on me, and he was certainly the most interesting character. And Nimoy, perhaps more than any of the cast, seemed to take his role with him (see the titles of his two bios) in a way that no one else did.

I distrust my perception of any celebrity, since by definition, they're conveying an image whenever they're in public, but Nimoy always came across as charming, sincere, and both amused and amazed that playing Spock gave him a level of cred that, in all fairness, he probably shouldn't have earned. But he always seemed to have a wonderful sense of humor about himself and saw that he could use the cred he'd gotten to try to make the world a better place.

Anyway, here's Nimoy leaving this world, his work complete, twenty+ years ago. Glad we had those extra twenty years. Wish we'd had more.

27 February 2015 09:00 - Too Niche – Lauren Jankowski
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

“Like most asexuals, I spent a good portion of my life feeling broken.”

That’s the very first line of Lauren Jankowski‘s guest blog post. Think about that for a minute. Think about being one of those 1 in 100 people growing up with that message.

And it’s not even a lack of representation, exactly; it’s selective representation. Heroes have to have a romantic storyline. Villains, not so much.

Just let that sink in…

Like most asexuals, I spent a good portion of my life feeling broken. While watching a movie or devouring the fantasy novels I loved, I felt more like the villain than the hero. Not in philosophy or beliefs or actions, but being alone and not experiencing the same desires as heroes often do. The hero’s happily-ever-after almost always involves settling down with another person. Even if they fail to achieve that ending, the audience is made to root for that outcome. You read about the chemistry or sexual tension between characters. As a society, we’re made to want that happy ending: marriage, 2.5 kids, and an overall blissful family.

What about the archetypal villain? They tend to be alone (sometimes widowed, sometimes just because). Oh sure, they occasionally have henchmen, but more often than not, they’re isolated. Their arc tends to be opposite the hero’s, probably because their desires are meant to run counter. They don’t want people or family. They want power and control. This is especially true of women villains: just think of almost any Disney villainess.

Imagine being a teenager and everyone around you is sorting out their identities, discovering new labels and desires, and connecting with a community of people who share this label. Gay, straight, bi, or trans. Some of these terms are used in sex education, and all of them are found in U.S. popular culture. Learning these labels helps people discover who they are.

Now, imagine you don’t fit into any of these labels. You don’t fit into any of these communities. Imagine you can’t find a label for what you feel, your identity, because it doesn’t exist as far as you know. Imagine people telling you who you are, telling you that you’re going to fit into one of these groups eventually. Imagine that never happens.

That was the situation I found myself in: I was perfectly content with platonic friendships but experienced no sexual or romantic desire. Not even the typical crush teenagers are expected to have.  Everyone around me was pairing up, diving into relationships, and I was left feeling rather confused.

I turned to the fantasy novels I loved so much only to have them suddenly fail me. I searched desperately, often late into the night, my eyes and fingers darting over the tiny black print. “Please,” I would silently plea. “I don’t want to be alone. There must be someone like me. Someone who isn’t broken, twisted, and evil.”

There wasn’t, at least not any women. Every now and again, there would be an old white man who seemed to not experience any attraction (Tolkien’s Istari, Lloyd Alexander’s wizard, etc.). The few women found in these pages were either in a romantic relationship or evil. I was alone.

On a whim, I revisited some ancient myths and I found her. A woman who had always been there, but one who I hadn’t realized would become so important to me in the future. Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, a woman who went out of her way to remain unattached. This powerful goddess specifically demanded that she not be romantically involved with any man. And Zeus, the King of the gods, agreed! He didn’t protest or suggest that perhaps she just “hadn’t found the right one.” He basically said, “Yeah, sure” and let her do her own thing. At last, a powerful woman who, like me, didn’t appear to experience sexual or romantic desire and was perfectly fine with that. There was hope!

The years went by and I continued to search through modern fantasy for a fellow asexual woman, even before I had the term for my orientation. Books blended together and my search continued to be fruitless. There just weren’t any modern asexual women in fantasy. Whenever I got frustrated with what seemed to be a pointless search, I always returned to stories about Artemis. Yeah, she did some pretty horrible things, but she was a goddess. All deities had their petty and vindictive moments.

DoomsdayAnd then I found Eden Sinclair in the movie Doomsday. Imagine my shock, sitting in a theater, watching a woman kick so much ass and experience little to no attraction to other characters in her story. She wasn’t evil, she wasn’t a villain. Sinclair was a tough-as-nails soldier who was there to get a job done. And she was an interesting character: an orphan (an adoptee like me), someone who was a mystery. Sinclair kept a cool head in hostile territory and outsmarted every opponent she encountered. There wasn’t a large audience in the theater, but I looked around anyway, curious what my fellow movie-goers thought.

I’ll never forget the feeling that bloomed in my chest when I saw how riveted the few people in the audience were. They were rooting for her. They were rooting for someone who was like me. It didn’t matter that she never flirted with the other characters. It didn’t matter that she was an archetypal lone wolf. She was a badass and the audience loved her for it. I think I may be the only person who got misty-eyed during Doomsday, a post-apocalyptic horror film with copious amounts of gore and violence.

As asexual visibility has gradually begun to form into a movement, there has been a predictable backlash. In genre, many creators have dug in their heels to resist the idea that so small a group needs representation. Whether it’s Stephen Moffat declaring Sherlock Holmes can’t be asexual because he’s too interesting, or the literary agent who told me “asexuality is too niche to move books,” ace phobia and the erasure of asexual voices and characters continues in genre.

When I came out as asexual, I decided to be as open as I could. I would wear my label proudly because it was who I was. Being naturally quiet and introverted by nature, this was a bit intimidating. Then I thought of other girls like me: alone and scared, desperately paging through the stories they loved in the hopes of finding someone like them and being disappointed.

Nobody deserves to feel alone or broken or invisible. People should never be labeled as too niche. Asexuals can be interesting and heroic and adventurous too.

Lauren Jankowski is an aromantic asexual fantasy author and a passionate genre feminist from Illinois. She’s the founder of Asexual Artists (on Tumblr and WordPress), a site dedicated to highlighting the work of asexual-identifying artists in all mediums. Author of the ongoing series The Shape Shifter Chronicles (Sere from the Green, Through Storm and Night, From the Ashes, Haunted by the Keres), she specializes in strong heroines and hopes to bring more badass women (including ace women) to the fantasy genre. She’s also still very much platonically enamored with Artemis.

Lauren Jankowski

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

26 February 2015 23:51 - spork of fooding
yhlee: Animated icon of sporkiness. (sporks (rilina))
Why I should not be allowed to cook:

Me: Joe, have you seen our 1/3 c measure?

Joe: No.

Me: Okay, well, I have a 1/2 c measure here. 1/2 c - 1/6 c = 1/3 c, right?

Joe: Yes. So you'll want to use 2/3 of the 1/2 cup measure.

Me: You think I can eyeball that? Screw it, I'll eyeball that.

For the fearful, I wasn't making anything more deadly than Overnight Oats so it's not like eyeballing it a bit would kill anyone. I'm cynical about customary measures anyway. Is it really the case that you're getting optimal taste/results cooking at exactly 325 F for 50 min. with 1/3 cup of whatever? What if it's really more like 1/3.4 cups, and 329 F for 48 min.? All this rounding irritates me. I eyeball stuff and adjust a lot, and I pretty much automatically double or even triple the amount of garlic in anything I make because we are a garlic-loving family here.

Again, why I should not be allowed to cook.
26 February 2015 19:48 - "Been a lifetime on deposit"
rosefox: Me laughing joyfully. (joyous)
I am now officially out at work. Pronouns and all. :D :D :D

Here's the letter I sent to my colleagues once I'd personally talked things over with management (who have been super awesome from start to finish) and my team (ditto):
It's a bit long )
And now I collapse in relief.

:D :D :D
26 February 2015 17:48 - on a more positive note
jinian: (birdsquee)
This may be the best pic of me of all time. OF ALL TIME.

(I found it going through the snow monkey pics from Japan in 2012. Would you like to see snow monks? Yes you would. Remind me.)

 photo 2012-12_k_jigokudani_zpsegnrs1wj.jpg
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
It's the sequel to Prisoner, which is FREE at all stores.

DJ Torres, the dyslexic werewolf Marine, and Echo, the genetically engineered assassin who is probably not a platypus shifter, return! Can they take on a shady government agency armed only with a playlist of the world's worst songs, the dubious assistance of a pack of dysfunctional made wolves, the power of love, and a whole lot of stolen weapons?

Features banter, movie and music references, about two bingo cards worth of hurt-comfort, PTSD and other mental illnesses (warning: suicide attempt), Russian meat jello, adventure, comedy, and way more sex than in the first book.

If you contributed to the posts requesting songs with odd subjects or terrible songs, some of your nominees appear in the book.

Echo has devoted her life to protecting her sister.

In all her years as a genetically engineered assassin, Echo never met anyone like DJ Torres before. The captured werewolf Marine offered her trust, friendship, love, and the hope of freedom— not only for herself, but for the frail clone-sister she won’t leave behind. But will Echo’s dark secret destroy their hopes for the future?

DJ Torres would give his life to save his buddy.

DJ has spent his life accomplishing the impossible. But now he’s faced with a dilemma that threatens to crush even his bright spirit. DJ can’t rescue his captured buddy without fleeing the lab. Echo can’t flee the lab without abandoning her hostage sister. Will DJ be forced to choose between his best friend and the woman he loves?

Will love keep them together or tear them apart?

Still held captive by the shady government agency running Wildfire Base, DJ and Echo are forced to go on a series of missions, from undercover escapades at an excruciatingly elegant diplomatic party to a desperate battle in a terrorist compound. Their relationship grows stronger under fire… until they are confronted with a terrible choice.

Partner has a happy ending and no cliffhanger.

You can get Partner as a $3.99 ebook here: Amazon. Amazon UK. Barnes and Noble. Kobo. Apple.

The paper version will come out later. You can also get it direct from me by Paypaling the cover price to Rphoenix2 at hotmail (NOT gmail.) If you feel so moved, you may add a tip/patron gift, but that is absolutely not necessary. I only mention it because several of you have mentioned thinking that the prices of my self-pubbed books are excessively cheap.

Please consider reviewing it. If you do, please mention that it's a sequel and the first book is free.
26 February 2015 12:26 - academic rage moment
jinian: (attack zero)
My former advisor asked me to edit a rebuttal letter for someone else's paper (from Nature! pretty exciting!), and I am doing so. Come to find out that the third reviewer has addressed the authors as "Ms [Lastname] et al."


The first author is not a Ms. She is a Professor, in actual fact, but Dr. is the default courteous address in paper submissions. I got called Dr. as an undergrad, because that is just what you assume, because it is offensive to lowball someone's title. And unless this reviewer is of the first author's specific ethnicity, it's not bloody likely that they were able to discern gender from her name. They would have had to go look her up, in which case they would have seen her qualifications. Or they've met her, which would be worse.

She probably doesn't mind this as much as I do. I am really mad right now.
26 February 2015 11:31 - For no reason in particular
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
I wonder how many readers last year read only books by authors from a specific narrow demographic without finding that aspect of thier reading choice in any way noteworthy?
26 February 2015 10:00 - Human Nature
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

It was so much easier to learn Nomad’s set when I had more than two days to come up to speed. Also I wasn’t the only one coming up to speed, since there was a new horn section (one sax, one flugelhorn). Learning new songs is much more fun, in a way, when you have plenty of time to play with them. I say “in a way” because I suppose it depends on your definition of fun. I can’t say I didn’t somewhat enjoy doing what I did in Japan: I did. But it was kind of nice to have the leisure to take more time.

Not that I didn’t get impatient with the process once in a while, but I could tell myself to chill out. I wasn’t driving this bus, and we were all going to get there together.

Read the rest of this entry » )
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

The guest posts so far have talked about representation in SF/F from the perspective of people seeing themselves–or not seeing themselves–in fiction. But of course, there’s more to it. John Hartness talks about growing up “whitebread,” and how fiction helped him start to consider other perspectives, and to develop a greater degree of empathy.

There are parts of this essay that were difficult to read. There are parts that made me angry. But I also think back to my own childhood, growing up in a time and place where kids played “smear the queer” at recess (designating one random kid as “the queer,” with the rest of the kids trying to tackle him) or thought nothing of chants like, “Fight, fight! The n****r and the white!”

It was messed up. And it’s hard to look back and talk about. Which is why I appreciate John’s honesty, his willingness to look back at that ugliness, and to recognize how stories helped him to humanize those others and change his own behavior.

What in the world is a straight, white, American male from the Southeastern United States doing writing an essay about “the other?” That’s very similar to a question I asked at a convention a year or so ago when I found myself on a panel titled “Writing the Other.” I sat there in front of a roomful of writers and asked why the straight white guy who wrote books about straight white guys was talking about the Other.

I’m about as un-other as you can get in my part of the world. I was raised Presbyterian, by two parents who still lived together. I am white, straight, and I went to college. If you throw out the part about growing up poor, it was pretty much a Beaver Cleaver upbringing, complete with Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden novels. Even my reading material was whitebread!

Then I met Chris Claremont, and a little later, Mercedes Lackey. Not in person, but through their work. In 1986 Claremont was writing The Uncanny X-Men, and he, along with Louise and Walter Simonson, crafted the Mutant Massacre storyline, one of my favorite X-Men storylines to this day. It was a far-reaching crossover with massive character shifts that sent waves through the X-Universe that have been felt for the past 30 years. But that wasn’t the important part.

No, for me the important part was one five-panel scene in Uncanny X-Men #210, where Nightcrawler (the blue dude with the tail from the movies) is trapped in a warehouse by a mob that wants to beat him to death for being blue and scary-looking. Kitty Pryde, the young, pretty white girl X-Man, steps out of the shadows and calls the mob leader out on his BS while Colossus (in his non-metallic form) tries to reason with them. The dialogue in this scene opened my eyes to things I’d never considered.

Kitty: “Hey mister, who defines what’s human?”

Mob guy: “It’s obvious, girl. Just open your eyes.”

Kitty: “That simple, huh? Well, a whole chunk of my family was murdered in gas chambers because the Nazis said it was just as ‘obvious’ that Jews weren’t human. And not so long ago, in this country, people felt the same about blacks. Some still do. Is that right?!”

Kitty Pryde

Almost thirty years later, that’s the part that stuck with me. Growing up in rural South Carolina in the 70s and 80s, the Holocaust was something you learned about in History class. There was never a personal connection, because there were no Jewish families in my town. But here was a character that I had been reading for several years, telling me that her family was killed just for being Jewish.

That connected. It connected because I had never paid attention to Kitty Pryde’s Jewish heritage. I assumed she was like me, because she looked like me (only female and pretty). Suddenly I had a realization that these people I read about in history books were real people, and I got that understanding from a fictional character. Dear Alanis – that’s ironic.

But Claremont wasn’t my only teacher, and I certainly had more to learn. Late in high school, I was more immersed in fantasy literature than I had ever been before, on account of having a girlfriend who read the same stuff I did, and having a job to buy my own books. I think it was that same girlfriend who handed me a copy of Mercedes Lackey’s Magic’s Pawn, and said “You have to read this.”

I trusted her taste. After all, I started going out with her because I saw her reading David Eddings’ Demon Lord of Karanda. So I read Magic’s Pawn, and I fell in love with Valdemar, a love affair that has lasted since that first day I sat down to read about Vanyel and Savil and poor doomed ‘Lendel.

Mercedes Lackey writes the doomed outsider teen as well as anyone I’ve ever read, and I was immediately wrapped up in the story of Vanyel. I was so wrapped up in the story that I didn’t really pay attention to the fact that he and Tylendel are both male, and in love. I cried like a baby at Tylendel’s death, and only later noticed that I had just wept for the death of an imaginary person that I would have likely made miserable had he ridden my school bus or been in my gym class.

Tylendel could have been anyone. He could have been the kid we called “fairy” on the bus and punched as he walked by, because he was slightly built and his voice hadn’t changed yet. He could have been Wayne, the pudgy kid down the road that we picked on for being a “band fag.” He could have been any number of real people in my life, and they could have been him. And what I said to them was just as cutting and hurtful as the words in those books. Those books didn’t transform me overnight, but they gradually opened my eyes to the consequences of my behavior, to the power words have. I started, ever so slowly, to change.

I couldn’t call someone “faggot” in the lunchroom anymore without thinking of how hurt Vanyel was by his father’s disapproval, and what kind of pain that kid might be going through at home. I couldn’t make cheap Jew jokes without thinking about how that casual cruelty and dehumanization led to things like the Holocaust and lynchings in my own county. Lackey and Claremont taught me that no matter how different I am from someone, there is a common thread, a connection to be made, if I’m brave enough to let it.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t turn from a bully into a saint; it was more like turning from a nerd into a slightly more understanding nerd. But I’d like to think that my friends who live somewhere else on the rainbow know that I’ve got their back. And I have a gay wizard and a Jewish mutant to thank for it. As always, I thank Chris Claremont and Mercedes Lackey for their characters that changed my life.

John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the author of The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, a comedic urban fantasy series that answers the eternal question “Why aren’t there more fat vampires?” He is also the creator of the comic horror Bubba the Monster Hunter series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad series of horror anthologies from Dark Oak Press and Media. 2015 has seen John launch a new dark fantasy series featuring Quncy Harker, Demon Hunter.

In his copious free time John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and recording new episodes of his ridiculous podcast Literate Liquors, where he pairs book reviews and alcoholic drinks in new and ludicrous ways. John is also a contributor to the Magical Words group blog. An avid Magic: the Gathering player, John is strong in his nerd-fu and has sometimes been referred to as “the Kevin Smith of Charlotte, NC.” And not just for his girth.

Patreon | Facebook | Twitter

John Hartness

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

26 February 2015 02:00 - Less Is More
swan_tower: (Default)

I just sent the first draft off to my editor; that makes the fourth Memoir a Real Thing now, ’cause other people are going to be reading it.

Doing the final polishes before kicking it out the door, I came upon one scene where I felt like I needed to amp up the emotional force a bit. So I went to the middle of the scene, stuck in a few line breaks, and started typing a new paragraph that would take what was going on and foreground it a bit more overtly. I wrote a sentence . . . started another one . . . deleted it . . . wrote a second sentence . . . started a third . . . deleted that and the second sentence . . . and after a lot of fiddling, I had a new paragraph, which I joined up to the following text. I looked it over, polished it a bit, tweaked some words — and then deleted the whole paragraph.

Because I was trying to play the wrong game.

These aren’t the sorts of books in which the narrator lays out her emotional state for the reader to marinate in. Those lines I had so much trouble writing? They were too overt. They were modern in style, rather than the buttoned-up Victorian tone I’ve been aiming for this whole time. I don’t pretend this will work for every reader, but: as far as I’m concerned, that scene has more impact, or at least more the kind of impact I’m going for, when I keep it simple. Less is more.

This is on my mind right now because my husband and I just finished watching Agent Carter, and we’re also nearing the end of the first season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I realized tonight that I’m starting to crave passionate, operatic, heart-on-sleeve declarations of love, because both of those shows feature a lot of very proper characters having All the Feels but never talking about it openly. I said before that I ship Peggy Carter and Edmund Jarvis in a totally platonic way, and I stand by that — but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t flailing during one of the last scenes of this last episode, with the two of them being so very Britishly reserved at one another. And my god, if Jack Robinson and Phryne Fisher don’t kiss by the end of this season, I might throw things at the TV. (A real kiss, I mean. Not a “no I only did that to keep the murderer from noticing you I swear that’s all it was” kiss.)

My reaction means the writers are doing their jobs correctly, of course. And this is the thing romance and horror have in common: they both carry more impact if they tease you for a while first, hinting at stuff and building it slowly before finally delivering the emotional payoff. If you rush the process, it doesn’t work as well. But if you play the tension right, if you see only hints of the monster or the occasional Meaningful Gaze between the characters . . . then you don’t need an enormous payoff to get a lot of energy out of it. One kiss can work as well as — or better than — the characters falling into bed; one brief shot of the monster’s face can horrify you more than seeing the entire thing.

When it’s done well, I adore this sort of thing. Too steady of a diet, though, and I start feeling like I need some characters with a bit less self-control. But tell me: what are your favorite “oh my god this tiny thing was so incredibly meaningful” emotional payoffs in a story, or your favorite “and then we pulled out all of the stops and fired up the jet engines and went so far over the top we couldn’t even see it with binoculars” moments?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

26 February 2015 00:11 - Father's Day
wcg: (Default)
On this day in 1974, my daugheter, [profile] gracefulchaos was born.

Today I will wear the black and gray of The Father, in Lois McMaster Bujold's Quintarian pantheon. They are shades I've grown accustomed to over these last two years, and marvelously apropos.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
LRT jokes are going to be part of the KW culture for the foreseeable future.
25 February 2015 15:36 - Even a hedgerow can be a crucible
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
A brief note, before I disappear again:

My short story "The True Alchemist," originally published in Not One of Us #51, has been accepted for reprint by Wilde Stories 2015, edited by Steve Berman (Lethe Press, July 2015). It is dedicated to [livejournal.com profile] ashlyme and takes its title from his story "A Portrait in Rust," available in the same issue. I am extremely happy about this.

I was trying to run down a fact about T-shirts when I ran into Lou Miami. Take three and a half minutes and watch that performance of "To Sir, With Love." The existence of punk—and the range of music covered under that definition—will never cease to delight me.
25 February 2015 10:35 - Reading Wednesday is Hungry
pantryslut: (Default)
I took a break this week to catch up on back issues of Science News and peruse a lot of cookbooks. I'm still kind of trying to decide what to read next.

There's something personally amusing to be in this state the same week that Tempest's "I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year" article came out and made so many (tiresome, predictable) waves. "Reading Wednesday" posts are not an entirely accurate indicator of what I read over the course of a year (I omit mentions of certain books for various reasons, including but not limited to "I read a book by a friend and I was only lukewarm about it," because it's more polite to pretend that I never read it at all), but out of curiosity I went and looked over the course of 2014. I had thought that the last fiction book I'd read by a presumed-straight, cis white guy was "Les Miserables," which took up half the year (!), but I was wrong; the last one was "Rides of the Midway" by Lee Durkee, which I did not like precisely because it focused on the dopey het white dude main character and not any of the more interesting secondary characters. So much so that I rewrote it in my head. (I guess that means my recent tweet was inaccurate. Oh well.)

Anyway, I am not taking the challenge because reasons but it was interesting to look back over my posts, and look at the piles of books in my house waiting to be read, and ponder. It's a great thought experiment that I recommend highly. P.S. I also recommend [livejournal.com profile] nihilistic_kid's discussion in this context, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia's post as well.
25 February 2015 14:03 - Playing an ICONS one-off
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
For various reasons, I will be playing two characters:

Read more... )
25 February 2015 10:34
pantryslut: (Default)
Once upon a time I set a record for an acceptance in less than 24 hours.

Today I set a record for a rejection in less than 24 hours. Following closely on the heels of a rejection that took less than 48.

They were both encouraging rejections, and it is kind of a difficult story; otherwise, I might have taken to my bed for the week. As it is, let's mark it up as a dubious victory for our new age of technology.
25 February 2015 13:24 - Little footprints in the snow
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Tell me that cat I encountered a few cold nights ago survived.
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Annalee Flower Horne’s essay talks about the portrayal of sexual assault survivors in SF/F. While not graphic in detail, I thought a content warning was appropriate. As she notes, it’s not that our genre never writes about assault; it’s that we tend to do it badly.

I’ve always appreciated Princess Leia as an amazing character, but I’d never considered how powerful her portrayal and story might be to a child survivor. After reading this, I doubt I’ll ever look at Leia in the same way.

When I was a kid, I loved Princess Leia.

She was smart and capable; a leader and a hero. And unlike Luke and Han, I could see myself in her. We were both girls.

We were also both assault survivors.

The original trilogy was on a lot in my house. I saw the Twi’lek dancer pulling away from Jabba with terror in her eyes. I saw Leia in that humiliating bikini. I knew what it meant.

These days, I’m mostly just disgusted with how the movie (and the fandom) handled it, but child-me wasn’t disgusted.

LeiaChild-me saw an assault survivor who still got to be a badass. Leia left Tatooine and returned to her life as a leader of the rebellion. No one treated her differently or told her she couldn’t do the things the boys do because someone might rape her. At the end of the movie, she got the dashing rogue and the happy ending.

I wanted to be just like her.

It may seem weird to talk about sexual assault for a series about representation, because sexual assault survivors are all over genre fiction. Jim has written about how much of a cliché it is, and TV Tropes has an extensive list of examples. But seeing representations that bear so little resemblance to your actual experience is damaging. Especially when so many of those representations portray people like you as fundamentally broken.

That’s pretty much the life of a sexual assault survivor in fiction. We don’t get to be the hero. We get to be brutally raped by the villain, leaving the hero—not us, mind you; the hero—scarred and hell-bent on avenging our virtue.

There’s also the trope where writers throw a little agency our way, and we get to avenge our own virtue—but that’s all we get to do. Our entire lives revolve around a thing that was done to us, to which the only “proper” response is murderous rage and possibly world domination.

I used to wonder if I was really a survivor, because I never tried to kill my attacker. He lived in my neighborhood. We made polite conversation at the park, and it was awkward as hell, but I never wanted to hurt him.

I certainly never tried to take over the world. I really don’t know where writers get the idea that sexual assault causes sociopathy in survivors, but it’s lazy bullshit and I wish that trope would just die already.

A lot of folks have suggested that all rape and survivor tropes should just die already. I remember reading one article suggesting that every time a woman on a TV show is raped, a male character should get his balls cut off, for parity.

It took me a long time to unpack why that bothered me, but it comes down to this: I have not been maimed. Popular media often drastically underplays how awful rape is, but it also overplays the fallout. I don’t want to dismiss survivors who really do end up with acute stress disorder and severe PTSD. We need to hear those stories, because the people living them need to know they’re not alone.

But that’s not always how the story goes. One out of every five women is an assault survivor. If you think every woman you know has beaten those odds, it may be because survivors don’t look and act like you think we will. Many survivors get on with our lives. We manage as well as we can. We heal.

For me, the effects have always been subtle. There are books I won’t read and shows and movies I won’t watch. I have a phobia you’d never guess was related to having been assaulted unless I told you.

I show up at work early, because we have open seating, and I want to be sure to get one of the desks with the wall behind it so people can’t get behind me without passing through my peripheral vision first.

I’m happily married, with a steady job and a lot of friends. I build cool stuff and have too many fandoms, and don’t actually spend a whole lot of time thinking about that thing that happened when I was a kid. I wrote most of this post while pacing around my neighborhood alone after midnight, because I know where monsters lurk, and it isn’t the damn bushes.

I still want to see survivors in fiction. I just want them to be whole people. They should have goals and dreams and inner lives that don’t revolve around that one thing that was done to them. They should get to be heroes, villains, lovers, and liars without anyone reducing them to their survivor status.

These days, I understand that this isn’t what Lucasfilm was going for with Leia. Like so many survivors in fiction, her story was only important when the film could pass it off as sexy. Reducing her to her survivor status would have ruined the bikini shot.

I’m glad child-me didn’t get that. I’m glad I was able to project onto Leia the capable survivor I wanted to grow up to be. Her happy ending mattered to me, because it helped me imagine my own.

But now that I’m living that happy ending, I want more than to see my heroes completely stripped of agency for cheap fanservice. I want to see what child-me saw in Leia: survivors who get to save the day, fall in love, and experience the whole range of human emotions without anyone—including the narrator—treating them like they’re broken.

Annalee Flower Horne is an open-source developer and science fiction writer from Washington, DC. You can find her on Twitter, her website, and the Geek Feminism blog. Her fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

24 February 2015 22:25 - Watching one of Tony Robinson's shows
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
And suddenly I wonder which single human has had the greatest long-term effect on Earth's geology.
24 February 2015 20:29
yhlee: wax seal (Default)
Poll #16483 Flashfic ebook collection title
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 18

What should I title the flashfic ebook colleciton?

View Answers

The Melancholy Astromancer and Other Stories
8 (44.4%)

Tiger Wives and Other Stories
7 (38.9%)

Moonwander and Other Stories
1 (5.6%)

something else I will explain in comments
3 (16.7%)

ticky the talky toe
2 (11.1%)

NOTE: For now I'd rather use the title of one of the included fics, unless you have a brilliant suggestion to convince me otherwise. :) Titling things is not my strength so I'd rather keep it simple.

Basically, I want a title that's evocative on its own while giving the cover illustrator something to work with.

Tentative ToC (I still need to write new ones to add):
Carousel Foals
The Third Song
The Crane Wife
Magician's Feast
The Mermaid's Teeth
The Dragon Festival
The River Soldier (new--it was a mini-fable I cut from 9FG draft 1)
The Fox's Forest
The Melancholy Astromancer
Harvesting Shadows
The Gate of Bells
The Workshop
The School of the Empty Book
How the Andan Court
The Last Angel
The Virtues of Magpies
The Fox's Tower
Two Bakeries
The Palace of the Dragons
The Red Braid
Sand and Sea
The Birdsong Flute
Two Payments
A Single Pebble
The Pale Queen's Sister
The Sunlit Horse
Tiger Wives
The Firziak Mountains
The Youngest Fox
The Witch and the Traveler
The Godsforge
24 February 2015 14:15 - Every Frame a Painting
swan_tower: (Default)

This is a fascinating series of videos.

The video blogger, Tony Zhou, digs into the art of the director and the cinematographer to talk about how they achieve their effects. For somebody like me, who is a dyed-in-the-wool narrative geek but doesn’t know the first thing about the craft of film, it’s like catnip: a chance to understand how one tells stories with images rather than words.

Mind you, I can’t quite follow everything he says. There are times where he’ll try to draw out a particular point, but its effect is subtle enough or he doesn’t unpack the idea enough or I don’t have enough basic grounding in film craft that I end up shrugging and thinking “okay, if you say so.” But many of them are just great, like “What Is Bayhem?”, wherein he dissects the work of Michael Bay. It isn’t about saying “oh, he’s such a genius” — he isn’t. Zhou’s thesis is that Bay imprinted on a couple of visual tricks and then BEATS THEM TO DEATH in every movie he makes. But it’s possible to identify what those tricks are, and to see he got them from or where other people try to copy him without understanding what he’s actually doing. It’s possible to put your finger on why you don’t like Michael Bay’s films (if indeed you do not like them) . . . because the man uses the same visual tricks without much regard for the material he’s using them on. It’s the equivalent of playing a piece of music all at one volume: there’s no dynamics, no contrast, just EVERYTHING IS EPIC ALL THE TIME. Even when the story itself is not actually being very epic at that moment.

I also loved the video on “Edgar Wright: How to Do Visual Comedy”. It hammered home for me some of the reasons why I find Wright’s movies to be a lot of fun, while a lot of other cinematic comedy bores me stiff. I’ve said before that the issue is one of content, and that’s true: I don’t find humiliation funny, I’m annoyed rather than amused by people acting so stupidly I’m not sure how they can even walk and talk at the same time, gross-out humour is just NO, and I’m very hit-or-miss with physical comedy. I like wittiness, and wittiness tends to be in short supply these days, at least in American comedy films. But it turns out there’s more to it than that. Zhou points out that so many movies have limited themselves to only one channel of humour, which is people standing around talking: they don’t use lighting or well-timed sound effects or matching scene transitions or soundtrack synchronization or things entering and leaving the frame in unexpected ways. (It was interesting, watching Galavant after seeing that video; I found myself noting the places where it employed a broader array of tools.) Using all those channels means you can vary your approach, make your point in different ways depending on the context.

Other particularly good ones: “Jackie Chan: How to Do Action Comedy.” “David Fincher: And the Other Way Is Wrong.” “A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film.” All of them are interesting to watch, but I found those five the most comprehensible and eye-opening. If you have any interest in that sort of thing, they’re well worth taking a look at.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

It’s happened to me several times at a literary event — sometimes one at which I’m reading or speaking — that a kindly, affable chap, after regaling me with a long account of his next book, smiles generously and asks me what I do at Penguin, or how long I’ve been working for the venue. When I say, Oh, actually I’m a writer, a spasm of embarrassment comes over his face. As it should. Not, of course, because of any career’s merit over another’s, but because he’s revealed his inability to see me as a writer. A flustered flash of insight has taken place. One such occasion was an event organized by one of my European publishers, at which I and three other writers (all men) read from our books; a dozen journalists (all men) were present, as were other guest writers (all men). Sort of the equivalent of a New York Review of Books with 26 men writers and 1 woman; or a London Review of Books with 14 men and 2 women. In a sense, I can’t really fault those male writers who inquire politely as to my job. They’re kind of right: I don’t look like a writer.
sovay: (Cho Hakkai: intelligence)
Mark your calendars: on April 21st, Greer Gilman and I are reading at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. Cloud & Ashes is coming out in paperback and I have this beautiful collection of ghosts. Come support independent bookstores and incidentally people who write books!

I may not say much on LJ for the rest of this week: I have heinous month-end deadlines. We'll see how things go. At least it's not snowing.
24 February 2015 12:41 - spork of fooding
yhlee: Animated icon of sporkiness. (sporks (rilina))
I made my second trip to Chicago Al's Hot Dog Emporium and this time tried the Chicago beef sandwich:

I was offered giardiniera and I said YES. Since it was nippy out [1] (at present they only have outdoor seating), I got mine to go. I brought it home and la! It was delicious. I can't decide whether the best part is the giardiniera or the bread soaked with juices from the meat and giardiniera!

Needless to say, I plan on going back from time to time. I only ate half the sandwich because it is GINORMOUS, but that means I'm all set for dinner, or lunch tomorrow!

[1] I realize 40 F is nothing on what y'all are suffering up North, but I'm from Houston and also it was windy. :]
24 February 2015 13:10 - I love how social media
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Provides me with the means to overlook far more messages than in the past.
24 February 2015 13:02 - The advantage of not being File 770
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Is that I don't have to deal with the, uh, rich gumbo of commenters F770 gets.
24 February 2015 10:00 - Baby Baby
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

(Site news: did you see all the fanworks were posted on Saturday? There is fan art, fan fiction, audio of a song, song lyrics, and a fantastic fanmix/Youtube playlist, and a ton of memes. Please go leave comments for your fellow fans if you enjoy what you see/hear! The directory is a new permanent page on the site: http://daron.ceciliatan.com/fanworks -ctan)

That night, after the baby was asleep (and Melissa too, I think) Remo and I went into the studio and played until our fingers were tired. We traded guitars for a while and when he took his back from me he shook his head a little.

“What, did I warp it or something?” I asked.

“No no, just, every time we play together you teach me something.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

Read the rest of this entry » )
24 February 2015 09:30 - Fat Chicks in SFF – Alis Franklin
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

One of the things I loved about this series last year was that it made me think. Each essay pointed out things I’d never considered, or helped me to get a better understanding of other people’s experiences. This year’s essays are no different.

In reading Alis Franklin‘s post, one of the things that stood out for me was a comment toward the end. She talks about how it’s easy not to think representation matters when you see yourself in so many stories that you don’t comprehend what it’s like to not see that reflection…but that it’s also easy to think it doesn’t matter when you never see yourself. Because your invisibility becomes “normal,” and it never even occurs to you that it could or should be any different.

I was in high school. I had glasses, dead-straight straw-brown hair with bangs a decade out of fashion, and a tendency to wear too-big tie-died t-shirts featuring screen prints of aliens and dragons. I was good at English, bad at Math, terrible at sport, and spent most lunchtimes playing games with colons in the name, like Magic: the Gathering and Werewolf: the Apocalypse.

In other words, it was the 90s, I was a nerd, and I knew I was never going to be a hero.

Don’t get me wrong. This latter realization wasn’t because of the bookishness, the bad fashion sense, or even my complete inability to run or catch or throw. It wasn’t because I had no friends. I had plenty (all the better to play TCGs and RPGs with). I wasn’t because I was bullied (I wasn’t), or didn’t date (I did).

It wasn’t even because I was a girl. Well, not really. At least, that was only half of it.

Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? I knew, at the tender age of thirteen, that I would never be a hero because I was a girl, and I was fat.


There are no fat chicks in SFF. And by “SFF” I’m including the broad tent of my teenage nerdish interests: sci-fi and fantasy novels and TV shows and films, yes. But also video games, comic books, trading card games, horror, urban fantasy, roleplaying games. The works. There might as well have been a great big NO FAT CHICKS sign hanging outside the entrance. And me, peering in through the flaps, loving the show but always knowing I would never, ever be it.

There are no fat chicks in SFF.

There are geeks, sure. Geeks a-plenty, and I loved the Willows and the Mizuno Amis as much as the next bookish loser. But Ami wore a sērā fuku and Willow cosplayed a vampire by putting on skintight leather pants. All it took was one look from that to my own chubby knees to realize that would never, ever be me. The geeks might inherit the Earth, but–for women, at least–they had to look hot while they did it.

(Years later, I found out about “fat Willow,” the version of the character that appeared in Buffy’s original pilot. By that stage, the fact that actress Riff Regan had been replaced by waifish Alyson Hannigan for the “real” show wasn’t enough to elicit much more than a resigned sigh.)

Books were worse. Even before I knew phrases like “male gaze” I was rolling my eyes over the endless litany of SFF heroines with an obsession for describing their cup size in extravagant detail. I didn’t think much about cup size as a teen, but I sure did think about my muffin top and double chin and bingo wings, and how it would be nice to once–just once–read about someone who had all of those and yet still saved the world.

Boys had it better. Not great, admittedly, but better. Weight in male characters can be a marker for the down-to-earth everyman (the Bilbos of the fantasy world), or can go hand-in-hand with power, both in the physical (Broadway from Gargoyles) and political (Londo Mollari, anyone?) sense. There’s certainly an argument about the limited roles fat guys are found in–comic relief, “the heavy,” older mentors–but at least more than one of them exists.

Fat chicks get Dolores Umbridge; the “toad-like” sadist, whose attempts at femininity and beauty are there to emphasize the horror of her perversion of the mother archetype embodied by “acceptable” fat characters like Molly Weasley. Ditto The Little Mermaid’s Ursula (anti-mother), or Discworld’s Nanny Ogg (mother). Don’t get me wrong, I love Ursula and Nanny as much as anyone, but I was thirteen and much too young to be trapped into an adult woman’s archetype. Meaning I would’ve loved someone my own age as well as build to look up to.

I got one, after a fashion, in 1995, when Terry Pratchett introduced Agnes Nitt. Agnes, like Nanny, is a talented witch … one whose primary talent–resistance to mental manipulation–is predicated on her hostile relationship to her own fatness. Agnes’ unhappiness with her weight has given her a split personality: Perdita X Dream, her “inner thin girl.” When Agnes loses control, such as when being hypnotized by vampires, Perditia  takes over.

You can be fat (I guess), and you can save the world (once or twice), but gods forbid you be happy while you do it.


Around the same time Agnes Nitt was making her entrance on paper, MTV made an animated adaptation of Sam Kieth’s comic, The Maxx. It’s a semi-surrealist superhero deconstruction, and though it never quite got the momentum that the Frank Millers and Alan Moores of the world did, I loved it.

I loved it because of Sarah. Because, for the first time, I’d seen myself.

Sarah is a geek and a loser. She wore the same big, round glasses, the same oversized sweaters and shapeless jeans, had the same mess of un-styled (albeit curly) hair. She wanted to be a writer, like me, was standoffish and vulnerable, like me, and–most importantly–she was fat.

Just like me.

Sarah - Maxx

And yet, Sarah’s narrative arc doesn’t revolve around her weight. On her outsider status, yes, but she’s no Agnes; cast a skinny chick in Sarah’s role and her plot would be unchanged. Except Sarah wasn’t skinny.

She wasn’t helpless, either. Sarah is one of the protagonists, one of the characters who both moves the action and through whom the action moves. She’s flawed and imperfect, dealing with problems both mundane (depression, a fraught relationship with her mother) and fantastic (her father is a semi-dead rapist sorcerer who dwells outside reality). She’s lonely and angry and awkward, yet the narrative doesn’t deny her humanity or her importance. Sarah is, in other words, a hero in the context of the story in which she’s placed.

And, as a teenager, I identified with her. Hard. Because she was someone I knew I had the potential to be. Someone I wanted to have the potential to be, warts and all.

In the twenty years since I first saw Sarah, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve identified so hard with a fictional character. Sarah’s who I think about in conversations about diversity and representation, particularly when anyone dismisses the idea as unimportant. Because, thing is? If I hadn’t had a Sarah, I’d probably think representation was unimportant, too. It’s an easy position to take, not just when you’re so used to seeing yourself everywhere you don’t know what it’s like not to, but also when you’re so used to not seeing yourself that it doesn’t occur to you things can be so radically different when you do.


So. This is the part of the story where I’m supposed to tell you it gets better. Because I was a fat girl, into SFF, and I found my One True Representation, and it changed my life. That’s, how this goes, right?

Yeah. Right.

Thing is, it didn’t get better. I had Sarah and her rage and Agnes and her body hatred, and they were one of only a handful of characters who looked like me in an ocean of others who did not. Because there are no fat chicks in SFF, except for when there are. But how statistically insignificant does that number need to be before people will allow the hyperbole? We can test it, you and I. We’ll play a game. You name a fat woman from a videogame, comic book, fantasy, or sci-fi title, and I’ll name six thin chicks and a fat guy. Who do you think’s gonna run out of examples first?

I don’t have any answers here, no uplifting mortal. Only anger, and a rallying cry. I want more fat women in genre fiction. I want fat women whose narratives don’t revolve around their being fat, and whose fatness is not used as a lazy shorthand for mothers or for monsters.

I can’t turn back the clock and force things to be better. I can’t be a teenager again, watching the same shows and reading the same books, but this time finding them populated by big girls who laugh and love and fight and save the world. Whose big bodies are symbols of beauty and of power, not shameful obstacles to overcome. I can’t do that. But I can say there are girls out there now, girls with muffin tops and bingo wings and chunky knees, and they’re looking for heroes of their very own.

And I can ask you, oh fearless reader, what you plan to do to help them.

Alis Franklin is a thirtysomething Australian author of queer urban fantasy. She likes cooking, video games, Norse mythology, and feathered dinosaurs. She’s never seen a live drop bear, but stays away from tall trees, just in case.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

24 February 2015 02:01 - excerpt; letters
swan_tower: cover detail from Voyage of the Basilisk (Voyage of the Basilisk)

If you want to whet your appetite for next month, Tor.com has posted an excerpt from Voyage of the Basilisk.

It seems a good excuse to remind you all that you have until the end of this month to send a letter to Isabella and get one in return. (Those of you who have sent one already will be getting replies soon: my progress on those has been slowed by the necessity of finishing and revising the draft of the fourth book.) I have to say, I’ve been touched by the number of personal elements people are incorporating into their missives; it’s wonderful to know that this story speaks so deeply to their own lives, in one way or another. I hope my replies will do that justice.

And now, back to the revision mines!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
My evening was spent with [livejournal.com profile] gaudior and [livejournal.com profile] rushthatspeaks, watching another two episodes of Twin Peaks. Based on available ingredients, we made this for dinner. It was great. I may have found a form in which I can tolerate broccoli. I feel very smug about this.

Theatre@First's production of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap opens this weekend. I have now seen photographic evidence of [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel's smoking jacket and am looking forward to seeing it in action.

I got this off Gaudior's Tumblr. It is probably an advertisement for shoes or other fashion, but I don't have to think so.

23 February 2015 20:59 - dance!
yhlee: (SKU: Anthy/Utena (credit: sher))
[livejournal.com profile] a2zmom made my evening Sunday with her Gotta Dance! post. I love watching dance, but I also have no TV and live under a rock, and since Joe does not Do Dance Performances (apparently his mom stopped taking him to the Saratago Ballet's performances because he would...bring a book and READ; I nearly had a heart attack when he told me this back when we were dating), it's been a very long time. Anyway, the only one of these videos (Youtube embeds) I had seen before was "Singing in the Rain," because even I know of that one. Everything else was new to me. I was really wowed by the Nicholas Brothers' "Jumping Jive" from Stormy Weather (holy cow, I...was forced to take ballet lessons and my sister took ballet lessons and I do not want to think about the amount of athleticism those amazing up-and-down splits took, up and down stairs to boot, and the gorgeous and sensual "Take Me to Church" by Hozier, dir. David LaChapelle, danced by Sergei Polunin. Now I want to wander around Youtube watching dance. If you have dance videos you want to rec me, drop a link! Or an embed! :D

(Also, don't forget to check Robin's post for the embeds in the comments! Some great stuff there too.)

Things I am working on:
- putting together an ebook of flash fic (thank you to everyone who sent helpful notes, plus I have a Mysterious Benefactor holding my hand)
- space opera story
- Copic practice! (still taking prompts for practice sketches) Man, markers are addictive. And the Copic Sketch are so much better than the ShinHan Touch I have (admittedly, not brush tip, but they also don't blend quite as nicely).

I'll be working on Revenant Gun revisions as time permits, but it's not urgent at the moment.
23 February 2015 20:23 - Saag Tofu with Misc. Greens
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
1 lb. frozen broccoli
1/2 lb. frozen spinach
1 cup parsley, measured after it has been picked off the stem, washed, and squeezed to get the water out
about 20 fresh sage leaves, also washed and squeezed
12 oz. firm or extra-firm tofu
1 large shallot
1 very large tablespoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 scant tsp. paprika
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
more salt

one Cuisinart (really really, trust me)
one large pot
one large skillet
cooking chopsticks or kitchen tongs

You will want to serve this over rice. It will serve 4-6 people.

Cut the tofu into 3/4-inch cubes, pile them all in a bowl, cover them with hot water, stir in a teaspoon of salt, and leave for fifteen minutes.

Dice shallot. I picked the parsley off the stems at this point, which takes forever.

Defrost frozen vegetables by rinsing them under warm water. Set a large pot of water to boiling, and boil the broccoli and spinach for 5-6 minutes, or until wilted, bright green, and reduced in volume significantly.

Drain the tofu and put it on a plate covered in a paper towel to dry.

Put ginger, garlic salt, and shallot into a Cuisinart and blend until it is a paste. You could also use fresh ginger and/or fresh garlic with a little salt, but I haven't shopped lately.

Heat canola oil in large skillet over high heat and then pan-fry the tofu until it is light gold on 3-4 sides of the cubes. Use the chopsticks to turn the pieces over. If it spits at you, turn the heat down. Transfer tofu pieces to a plate lined in different paper towels. Leave the oil in the pan and hot.

Remove shallot paste from Cuisinart. Don't bother washing the Cuisinart. Remove the boiled vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer directly to Cuisinart. Don't worry about getting all the water out of them. Add sage and parsley. Blend into a paste. Consistency will resemble batter, which is correct.

Fry the shallot paste with the cumin and paprika, stirring continuously, for several minutes, until dark brown and very aromatic. Add tofu back in and stir just to combine.

Add the greens paste and at this point we should have put in a teaspoon of salt-- it turned out doing it later was fine, but it would be better here. Beat heavily. Cook until the greens have darkened and reduced slightly, trying to beat out pockets of water as you see them. Taste and add salt if necessary. Sprinkle the top with the lemon juice and beat it in.

Finally, stir in the butter. You really do need butter or something like it to bind it all into an unctuous sauce as opposed to a pile. Uncertain what vegan ingredient would do this. Serve immediately.

I have not had better in a restaurant. The freshness of the parsley counterbalances the darkness of the broccoli, and the sage adds something indefinable but necessary. Could be easily made with paneer cubes if you have them or feel like making them.

Loosely adapted from Andrea Nguyen's cookbook Asian Tofu, Simmered Greens With Fried Tofu, p. 121.
23 February 2015 15:40 - Frozen, by Meljean Brook
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
This short paranormal romance sounded right up my alley: two characters snowed into a cabin while battling hell-hounds and a curse! But it didn’t make much use of these delicious elements, other than the curse. Instead, it focused on the consent issues inherent in the old sex pollen trope. (Outside forces compel the characters to have sex.) Unfortunately, that didn’t work either, due to a combination of bringing up the issues without actually delving into them, plus a truly astounding amount of “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Olivia once shared a sizzling kiss with her co-worker Erik. He then shoved her away and proceeded to freeze her out for the next six months. Then she has to bring some documents to his woodsy cabin in the dead of winter. Next thing she knows, her car is wrecked, Erik has revealed himself to be part frost giant, and they’re both snowed in with a lot of poorly explained supernatural baddies banging down the door.

But it gets worse! Erik is under a curse, the nature of which he won’t explain except to repeatedly, and I do mean repeatedly, demand that she shoot him in the head before he hurts her. After a lot of repetitive arguing, he finally tells her that the curse means he will be compelled to have sex with her in his part frost giant form, which is extremely well-hung.

She’s totally fine with this, since he’s now acting nicer, she’s had a crush on him all along, and she thinks he and his giant frost dick are super-hot. She does attempt to explain this, but gives up due to getting convinced that the reason he’s so dead-set against having sex with her is that he doesn’t want to have sex with her. Meanwhile, Erik is convinced that she doesn’t want to have sex with him, so any curse-driven sex they have will be rape. The “you need to kill me” argument repeats about five more times.

Some plot happens! They have sex! It’s a bit exhausting and rough but otherwise delightful! (His ice junk isn’t that big. It sounded a bit bigger than Liam Neeson’s.) Regarding consensuality, Olivia enthusiastically consents. Due to the curse, Erik doesn’t have a choice, but he would like to have sex with her under better circumstances and the reason he doesn’t want to have sex is that he can’t bring himself to believe that Olivia is actually consenting.

But due to Olivia again not being quite as direct as she probably could have been (by which I mean that she didn’t repeatedly bellow into his ear “YES I WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU I AM CONSENTING I AM CONSENTING THIS IS TOTALLY CONSENSUAL I LOVE FROST COCK YES I SAID YES I WILL YES”) and Erik again leaping to the worst possible conclusion, he decides that the curse-driven sex was rape and she hates him. She decides that he hates her and hated having sex with her. Then they finally manage to have an actual conversation and clear all that up. The end!

A very smooth, conversational, easy-reading style doesn’t save this paranormal romance from the Scylla of Stupid Decisions and the Charybdis of Communication Failures. Olivia was interesting but underdeveloped; Erik had very little characterization at all. As for exploring consent within the sex pollen trope, it probably it needed to be either much darker or to dig into the issues much more. “Murder/suicide or mildly rough but awesome sex that both parties would like to have with each other anyway” is right up there with “Cake or death” in terms of non-dilemmas.

The purpose of the sex pollen trope is typically guilt-free enjoyment of dubcon fantasies. You get all the trappings— “I know I shouldn’t but I just can’t help myself,” roughness, neediness, sex with someone who’s otherwise unavailable, swept away by passion, animal urges, spontaneity— without anyone being a rapist.

I have seen sex pollen fanfic that does explore consent issues, but it tends to go very dark. Typically, the characters really didn’t want to have sex and feel terrible afterward, or even if they did want to, they think the circumstances made it rape and feel terrible afterward. Neither scenario makes for a happily-ever-after without a whole lot of post-climax work.

Meljean Brook is a writer people keep reccing to me on the strength of good/unusual worldbuilding, lots of action, interesting characters, and cracktasticness. I will definitely try some of her other books! I think this was a bad one to start with. Other reviewers who didn’t like it mention that it’s very atypical of her usual style.

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