I should write SciFi

Anyone not heard of Queers Destroy Science Fiction yet?

I think it’s both a very cool, and very sad, thing.

First off: the cool. It’s not about queer characters, though they (logically) have said if they have to choose between two equally good works they’ll probably pick the one with queer characters over the one without; it’s about queer writers. Normally my opinion is that such details are wholly irrelevant. I couldn’t care less if my favourite authors are bigger into goats than Lord Byron (if you don’t get it I suggest that ignorance, in this case, is bliss), so long as they tell a good story.

But the rationale for this just plain rocks. The thing is that there are a rather vocal group of vitriolic homophobes, transphobes, people who assume bisexuals are more mythical than unicorns, etc. SciFi personalities from widely recognised fans, to authors, agents, even editors. Too, there’s this habit for the agents/editors to say things to the effect of “good story, but the queer quotient is too high”.

John Joseph Adams: It’s mostly people complaining about the presence of queer characters appearing in stories that I’ve seen, as opposed to complaining about the sexuality of the authors themselves. But of course by complaining about the sexuality of the characters, they’re telling queer authors that their POV is not welcome.
As one example, take a look at some of the lower-rated reviews on Amazon of my anthology THE END IS NIGH (http://www.amazon.com/End-Nigh-Apocalypse-Triptych/dp/1495471179/). There were several readers there complaining about the very existence of queer characters in the stories. And that’s in a book where I think literally 5 stories had any mention of queerness (out of 23). One story was political (about marriage equality), but the others just contained queer characters, yet the very presence of queer characters “destroyed” the stories for them. That’s what Queers Destroy Science Fiction! is rebelling against.
As another example: We did a Facebook “promoted post” to boost the signal about the Kickstarter. Within a few minutes of that going up, the post got comments like “No queers in my scifi please” and “Being gay is wrong.”

So, it’s a great protest of this attitude, and I love great protests. Pickets and clever chants have their place but are not, strictly speaking, positive nor always terribly powerful/effective (besides, too many slogans these days aren’t even all that clever; they need to find some old 1960s hippies to help). This is so many kinds of positive and powerful. It’s also heartening that the Kickstarter earned US$53K of its US$5K goal.

But it brings me to the sad: it’s heartbreaking that such a thing should even seem necessary, let alone show strong evidence of being necessary. Queers Destroy Mysteries or Queers Destroy Romance or Queers Destroy Westerns (okay, maybe Westerns) … no such feeling that this is a Thing (though it can be, there’re agents for Romance that won’t handle LGBT material … how rude!). Science Fiction, though?! Of all genres that should never have needed such a thing as this, SF was it.

Science Fiction is the genre that is supposed to make us ask questions, to dream, to show us a better future to strive for or warn us from a path towards a terrible one. It paints the world of the noble gentlemen heroes known as Lensmen, it gives us the bleak dystopian corpocratic UV irradiated hells of cyberpunk, the alien scapes of Star Wars … the new gospels of love and acceptance of Stranger in a Strange Land.

Too much of it, today, though is caught up in … I’m not sure what to call it and what my wife has to say about it is horribly unladylike and R-rated … if I cleaned it up and censored some of it.

I’ve said before that I adore Science Fiction (and its sister genre, Fantasy, so commonly collectively known as Speculative Fiction), and I do wish I had more SF ideas than I do. But I don’t really read much newer stuff, in fact I’m wont to not even be able to bring myself to consider so much of what is dubbed SciFi these days (and a sad proportion of Fantasy along with it) as legit; I just can’t bring myself to count these works as the same genre as Bradbury, Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Doc Smith, and Jules Verne. They just don’t really push the envelope of human imagination in the way that even some of the pulpiest garbage from back then could. As for Fantasy, it’s doing better, but there’s quite a bit lately that I feel has Lewis & Tolkien spinning in their graves such that we could connect them to turbines to power the world.

There was a time when the biggest names in SF, along with some of the least names in it, would look at the world and write things … oh hell, SciFi has been ill for so long … the beginning of the end was when Star Trek: TNG not only didn’t start with even a single character who wasn’t cis+straight, but never got one … we had to wait for Talia & Ivanova in Babylon 5.

I could go on like this for ages. It’s just that it isn’t only about representation, but about the fact that if our new mythology (Fantasy) and our dreams of the future have no place for women, people of diverse ethnicity, or queers … what hope have we of ever being accepted? Luckily the slack is taken up by drama & comedy, Will & Grace, and Orange is the New Black among others, take up the slack left by SF falling asleep on its job.

So, it’s cool Lightspeed is stepping up to the responsibilities of the genre, but it’s pretty shite that they have to resort to such methods as this.

Binary Isn’t

Originally posted on Whatever:

There’s a very interesting piece in Nature today about how science is making it more clear than ever that the binary nature of the sexes isn’t actually binary at all — that there are a lot of gradiations in biological sexual development, brought on not only via chromosomal differentation (the old “XX” and “XY” thing) but a host of other processes. This is how people with XY chromosomes can (rarely) get pregnant and give birth, and how a man who fathered four children can be discovered to have a womb. Biology: It’s wacky.

I don’t imagine this report will make essentialists (“There’s men and there’s women and that’s it!”) particularly happy, but then it’s not actually the job of science to reinforce people’s comfort zones — or bigotries, to be less polite about it. But I look forward to the mental two-step some of these folks will take to try to cram…

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Women in Canada can wear what they want (and that includes niqabs)

Originally posted on niftynotcool:

(Hopefully) soon-to-be Canadian citizen Zunera Ishaq has recently won a court battle allowing her to wear her niqab (a veil, worn by some Muslim women, that covers most of the face) during her public citizenship ceremony. Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Ishaq’s wish to take the oath with her face covered “offensive”, and his government is currently appealing the federal court’s ruling.

Before I offer my opinions on the matter, some background (which you can also obtain by reading the article linked above):

  • Though Ishaq wants to wear her veil during the public swearing-in ceremony (at which a large number of people and photographers are usually present), she says she has no problem uncovering her face with a government representative in private to verify her identity before taking the oath. Therefore, the wearing of a niqab during swearing-in would not be a security concern.
  • Since 2011, a law introduced by…

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(Bad) Advice for Fictional People: How to Be a Guy.

Jaye:

I fully agree with Mr Weaver’s assessment of the … ahem … advice, but would like to add that I do think it’s useful in one regard: it’s a handy checklist for making a nice stereotypical and generic western culture male. Picking & choosing up to 2/3 of those traits WOULD yield a decent societal expectation of a man & work for a throw away character’s surface gender expression. The full list can be used to get the kinds of guy “Bro Country” is about and the guys who identify with it try to emulate, but please note even here it ought to be exterior characteristics … not internal reality … of a character who will be unimportant and non-lasting.

To use the advice for its intended purpose would be a terrible and sexist idea unless you’re writing satire, parody, or other comedy.

Originally posted on North of Andover:

Today I want to talk about stereotypes in fiction.  Specifically, I want to talk about stereotypes in writing characters’ behavior.

Yesterday, I happened upon a blog post  with advice on how to write ‘realistic male characters’ — you know, fictional people who speak and behave the way men speak and behave in real life.

So… You probably already know that I’m not in favor of any pigeonholing of people — real or fictional — based on sex. gender, race, age, species… If I go on a bloggish rant when I see some fantasy story where the author says ‘All gnomes think alike and act alike’ — people who are entirely fictional — why should I have no opinion about stereotyping half of the human species in a similar way?

I’m sure the author of that article meant well and was just trying to help women who write male POV characters. Still…  There would be quite justifiable outrage if someone were…

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[Reblog] 7 Tired Phrases That Marginalize Trans People – And What to Use Instead

I thought this was very well said.  Yes, I discovered the article because it linked to one of my own posts but I’m reblogging it because it’s just damned good advice.  Is it advice I necessarily follow in my own daily life?  No and yes.  Not as put here, no, but I have my own version of some of this stuff.

7 Tired Phrases That Marginalize Trans People – And What to Use Instead

Person in a blue shirt with long, dark hair standing in front of a chalk board that has a speech bubble drawn on it

A few years ago, when I became a government volunteer, I had to be fingerprinted, as it is now the custom for the US to get the biometric data of everyone they possibly can.

The employee filling out my information got to a page about gender. There were four options: “Male,” “Female,” “Male Impersonator,” and “Female Impersonator.”

If it were not for my fear of the NSA, I might have pointed out to this person that, for a governmental body as intent on intelligence collection as this one, it was certainly going to have trouble gathering accurate information with those four options.

I certainly hope that everyone reading this article knows that trans people are not “impersonating” anyone.

However, many well-intentioned people simply don’t know the language that we use for ourselves. They want to treat us with respect, but they often fail because they don’t know the practicalities of how to do it.

Some may have heard that the trans community is very “sensitive” about words and are extra nervous about this as a result.

I say, though, that we aren’t “too sensitive.” That label is used to dismiss the concerns of oppressed people time and again.

Society has built a language and mentality that does not accommodate trans people or allow us to exist. We have created new language and reshaped old words to build a place for ourselves in the world.

These words work to reframe an entire language that is focused on cis supremacy. Of course, using the right language is not everything (check out Jess Ide’s article on page ten of this newspaper for a more in-depth analysis of this).  

Language is not a replacement for tangible support of the trans community. But shifting our words is an important step in shifting our ideas and actions.

These words are not the wailing of a “sensitive” community. They are tools that can bring us all closer to gender-based freedom.

Just to be clear, when I use the word “trans,” I am using it as an umbrella term for everyone who doesn’t completely identify as cis. When I use “non-binary,” I am using it as an umbrella term for everyone who doesn’t solely identify as male and female.

I know that many people’s experiences and identities are more complicated, but I’m using those words as shorthand in this introductory article.

I also want to acknowledge that I am only one person in the trans community. I cannot speak for everyone. In particular, I want to acknowledge that my race and class privilege has likely influenced this piece, although I’ve tried to mitigate it.

I’ve done my best to make this list inclusive, but many others might have more to add or say differently on these issues. And I absolutely welcome you to comment and engage with others on this topic.

Language changes over time, space, and culture/subculture, and although I have done my best to gather as much information as I can, this list is definitely not the last word on this topic. If you are trans and have more to add, please let me know! (Continue reading on @evrydayfeminism)

When in Doubt, Go with Sweetness

Originally posted on Eye-Dancers:

Ideas can strike writers at any time, and often without warning.  They can frustrate and baffle, but they can also give us wings as we soar aloft, above mountain peaks and green, lush uplands where our imaginations roam unhindered.  In short, ideas can be magic.

uplands

But what if, after the initial euphoria has worn off and you step back to examine your idea with the cold, hard light of objectivity, you realize that it’s not a perfect fit for a particular market; it doesn’t neatly fall into a trendy category; it doesn’t reflect what’s on the bestseller lists or the prime display shelves at the local bookstore.

bestsellerlist

Even so, you can’t deny that you feel genuinely excited about the idea, the scope, the characters you can create that will populate the pages.  You feel a connection to the project.  It’s a story you feel meant to write, and you know…

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A Twit … in more ways than one

Murdoch is such an arse.

Rupert Murdoch thinks all Muslims should apologise for terrorism. So on behalf of white people I’d like to apologise for Rupert Murdoch.

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Let’s Make it Better

Jaye:

Very well said

Originally posted on One HuMan's Journey:

Trigger Warning: Suicide

I’ve been reading post after post on the death of Leelah Alcorn. My heart breaks for her – as a fellow transgender person her suicide note resonated all too well. The aftermath of additional hatred from those compelled to defend her parents or differentiate them from “true Christians” only adds to my own personal sense of hopelessness. Who am I to say “it gets better”? That won’t happen – unless we work together to make it better. And from where I sit, it is a monumental task and blaming her parents will not bring her back nor honor her memory.

Leelah’s parents are victims as well – victims of indoctrination in a hateful religious ideology that I am all to familiar with in my own fundamentalist Christian upbringing. An upbringing that no doubt played a role in delaying my own transition for years. Fear based obedience takes…

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WordPress has a rather cute new feature

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

[Reblog] THIS PRETZEL IS THE WORST LASAGNA EVER

I thought this was simply brilliant.  Such a wonderful way to explain what is wrong with so many reviewers and critics, professional and otherwise, of so many artistic endeavors:  reviewing/critiquing a preconceived notion, rather than the reasonably presented expectation.

THIS PRETZEL IS THE WORST LASAGNA EVER

Untitled-14

Imagine you are one of the foremost makers of lasagna in the entire world.

You spent an anonymous decade making the same lasagna over and over again, obsessively perfecting your craft. When you make a lasagna, there can be no doubt it is the result of years of passion, perspiration and perseverance. Your lasagna captures, in its meaty deliciousness and cheese-tastic wonder, the very thumbprint of God.

You are as close to a prophet of lasagna as a human being can ever come. You have created a lasagna so perfect, your face and name are synonymous with lasagna. You cannot even make lasagna as fast as the world wants to devour it. There are websites and people who spend a significant portion of their lives dreaming about what your next lasagna will be like.

Stretch your imagination a bit further.

Imagine…

… that one day you make a pretzel.
(continues here)