English is so annoying

There’re really times I wish I could do my writing in Latin instead of English.

In Latin it’s so much easier to be clear who or what things refer to because there’re different sets of suffixes for accusative  and nominative, to say nothing of the existence of the genitive, ablative, dative …

Why does English have to lack that sort of clarity of grammar?  It makes writing any sentence where two people of the same gender are interacting with one another terribly awkward and cumbersome, truly.

“The New Civil Rights Frontier”

I’ve been thinking very hard about something recently.

Time magazine has been receiving a lot of flak for calling trans the next civil rights frontier of America.  Even I criticised this on my Facebook page.  But while there were numerous other reasons to criticise the article, I believe this is one thing it was dead right on; albeit I think it’s the new worldwide issue, not just America.  There may be legal recognition of 3-5 genders in parts of former Persia and in India and Thailand might have no problem with its ladyboys (hey, literal translation and one that those ladies who speak English from there prefer or don’t mind), but by and large it’s a struggle abroad, too.

Thing is, the criticism is that it makes it seem like the fight is over for women, for races, for homosexuals.  It’s not, no, but the battle there has evolved and has momentum; it ain’t won, but it’s a matter of time, winning is becoming inevitable.  Trans is sort of the new kid, our battles began … when would you like to say?  With the fops and dandies of a bygone era?  With the 20th century?  Somewhere in the 19th?  History is fun that way, depending how you want to interpret a question the answer could actually be since before we came down from the trees.

I was thinking about this because I wondered why so many of the things lately I’ve been seeing, sharing, talking about, etc. have been trans-rights.  I realised because it is the new war for equality.  Trans has had it’s battles, its skirmishes, but that was the underground, viva la resistance!  Now it’s armies at war, now it’s faces like the young Jazz or the beautiful and talented Laverne Cox, now it’s something that is in the news every freaking day in some fashion or another.  Now it’s on the cover of Time Magazine!  Racial equality, women’s rights, gay rights?  These have fought those battles.  Kirk & Uhura kissed on national TV.  Babylon 5 had a woman pope and president to say nothing of the force of nature which was Ivanova!  Will & Grace?

Legally these wars are won.  Note, though, I said legally.  The need for an equal pay act isn’t a question of legal victory, it’s the get legal protection from a social ill.  It’d be a legal victory if there was a law specifying women earn less than men; it’s a form of the Affirmative Action laws which made it law that society give blacks a chance so that they could take advantage of the elimination of the laws that kept them in second class status.  Gay marriage is a legal win, and one that 20 of 50 states have been won in!  Numerous countries have bowed out of that war and homosexuals have their rights — other fronts are still a bloody and brutal battle; some parts of the Middle-East, for example.

To say that transgender isn’t the new fight, isn’t the new war, isn’t the new frontier isn’t to invalidate the fighting for it that has already happened, nor does it say word one to deny that other civil rights battles haven’t and aren’t still in process of being fought.  It just says that the battles are big, public, and people are actually aware of them now.  More importantly the fights are being won!  Before the fights were more to do with small measures of acceptance from this employer, from that family member, from this friend … now bottom surgery is slowly disappearing from the laws governing changing the gender on ID; now little by little gender-identity is being specified as a protected status – and if you think that isn’t important, talk to a homeless transgender person who can’t get even a job at McDonald’s and who has been denied housing, has been turned away from shelters … except maybe you can’t because odds are now the poor woman or man is dead, murdered for being who he or she is and in a few too many cases it was discovered because as ever when a group is marginalised so thoroughly — they turned to prostitution, and unless whoring is legal with nice safe and clean brothels to work in … well … not a happy scene.

I believe wholly that all people regardless race, religion, gender, sex, orientation, etc. are people.  Some people are good, some are bad, some contribute better to society than others — but that’s because of who they are, not what they are.  Catholics can be amazing people or utter twats; I’ve known Asians that were the most fantastic people you’ll ever meet and others who were the most hateful and horrible people; same with gay, trans, men/women/other … truly it matters not because labels don’t make someone bad or good, they just help us communicate things like “she prefers the ladies”, “he has a kind of reddish tint to his skin” and so on; our actions and our words make us good or bad people that’s what makes us “oh, he is such a saint!” or “God, she was Satan in her past life”.

So I suppose the answer to why I’ve shared so much related to trans is simply that besides the latest news on the latest fight won, the war for gay equality and the fight for women’s equality and the fight for racial equality … no, they’re not over, but they’re not news!  We all know that battle is still being fought and what the issues are.  The odd reminder now and then keeps the fight alive, the celebrating of the next milestone victory let’s us know yet another checkbox on the to-do list has been filled.  Thing is I’m an author of teen fiction.  I’m not an Advocate, this blog isn’t for promoting anything but myself and my work — and to fill in the time in-between that purpose I ramble and subject you all to the inner-workings of my psyche — it’s on Human Rights Campaign‘s website, or on George Takei‘s Facebook page, or Lizzie the Lezzie’s blog/Facebook that one can find a constant barrage of “this fight is being fought” “there’s a pride parade over here!” “oh bloody hell!  can you believe someone actually said this to me today?!”.  If you want live, up-to-the minute coverage of women’s rights, gay rights, racial rights, and even trans rights this is not the place to find that, those other places are.  I’ll just share the news that catches my attention and right now the important part of that word, ‘new’, is the inroads that trans rights have suddenly found itself making.  I am, for the time being, celebrating that.  I think it’s beautiful and wonderful.

[Reblog] Cis Lesbian Dismissal of Trans Lesbians, and Why it’s Wrong

Rather beautifully put, I thought.  Though I do tend to find that referring to things as hetero-privilege, or cis-privilege, white-privilege is often a bit short sighted.  I’m not sure it’s a privilege to not always think things through properly or to simply be unaware of an issue or to not be able to quite wrap your head around it.

An example — my own editor is, psychologically, quite androgynous despite identifying as female and as such can at times be rather confused about things that matter to cis-men or cis-women alike around her and some aspects of transgenderism don’t quite … click … for her without a little hand-holding and analogy to help her fathom whatever concept is in question.  She’s not suffering from this disease of cis-privilege, there’s room to even debate if she is or is not cis for one thing, she just doesn’t understand because it’s not her issue.  She’s bisexual and her issues are not those of the homosexual nor the heterosexual people around her and just as those trans and cis friends of hers must explain things to her, she in turn must explain her androgyny or bisexuality to them.  Do they, then, suffer trans-privilege or homo-privilege in addition to the others purportedly possessed of cis and hetero privileges?

This isn’t to say that there isn’t some privilege extended to men, to cisgendered of either side of the binary, to heterosexuals.  This is rarely anything that can be helped by the individual, only by society and its expectations.  This is the man being, perhaps, more likely to get a job.  The white person who isn’t watched by security as closely in the department store.  The person dressed in a fashion that suggests wealth being treated with greater deference than the one who, by their clothes, may well be poor.  The cisgender who is taken more seriously at work and who is never asked to go to a special restroom at their job or asked for ID by some zealous clerk when taking a pee in some public facility.  Cis and straight, regardless of race, are not denied their basic civil rights by any country in the western world that I can think of.  That is privilege.

Still, regardless my pet-peeve on the overuse of ‘privilege’ in our language these days, this post makes a fantastic point:  If you cannot accept a trans-woman as a lesbian or a trans-man as gay then you are being a) quite sexist and/or b) you are saying that this person whose sex and gender simply do not match is not who and what they say they are.  Are we so insecure in our own gender-identities, are we so ashamed or proud of our sex and our sexuality, that we should deny others their right to be who and what God made them?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cis Lesbian Dismissal of Trans Lesbians, and Why it’s Wrong

Ying posed the following scenario/question: “Recently, I heard a lesbian woman comment about a trans woman (who happens to be a lesbian). She said the transwoman was not “really” a lesbian like she was. It was upsetting to me. No one can define another person’s identity, right? It seemed so petty, too. What skin is it off her nose anyway? What are your thoughts on people not accepting a trans person’s sexual orientation as being valid?”

Something to consider is going into this is that even though many of the LGB portion of our acronym are supportive and allies, that makes them no less cisgender. Just like any non-LGB person, they’re acting from a position of cis privilege, and don’t understand the implications of their actions, because, frankly, they don’t have to think about it much. We pop up once in a while, in a single circumstance here or there, and that’s generally the extent of it. And while they’re our allies for political purposes, I’ve come to find in my experience that LGB people are often woefully ignorant of the issues of the transgender community they support. Which is no surprise, really: We’re a vastly smaller group, a minority within our lgbt minority, so appropriately less time is spent on issues relating to us. (Just a shout-out to the LGBTU student group at The University of Akron, as they break this trend and give trans issues a much larger chunk of the spotlight than we deserve by population, because they’ve recognized the importance of these topics. Well done on them)

So what does this mean for the lesbian in question? Well, she’s invalidating our trans lesbian’s identity, plain and simple. By saying she’s not ‘really’ a lesbian, she’s implying an awful lot, and none of it is good. First and foremost, let’s go ahead and define “Lesbian”: a lesbian is a woman* who is attracted exclusively to other women*. Pretty simple definition, right? Well the two key elements are “Woman” and “Attracted exclusively to other women”. By saying she’s ‘not really a lesbian’ she has to be excluding our trans lesbian from one of the two criteria: and since, presumably, the trans lesbian has been with, or is currently with another woman, and has shown no interest in men, we can assume that ‘Attracted to other women’ is true. This means the only remaining conflict is in fact, our trans lesbian’s womanhood. There’s no other way around it. (Continues here)

Updates and contemplations

Frankly this post isn’t really about anything in particular.  I just had some things to share.

First the important one:  Ready or Not is looking more and more like it will not be ready until around the anniversary of Love or Lust‘s publication (end of June).  I’m sorry, it just didn’t come out half so cleanly in its first draft as Love or Lust had so the editing is going a bit slower, and too there’s the several weeks’ delay while I was in hospital or recovering — my editor takes a very interactive approach to the process (for which I’m grateful) instead of just assuming she knows what my idiot mistakes are supposed to say.  Regardless work should progress well from here and I’ll announce a release date the moment I have a really good idea when that will be.  Sorry for the delays, I am; I’ve anxiously awaited a sequel more than a few times in my life, and I really appreciate the messages asking after the next book and stating how you’re looking forward to it.  It’s possibly the most heartening thing an author can get.

Next is a contemplation on surgeons.  Plastic surgeons work hard to minimalise scarring, and even have tricks for removing ones someone/something else left behind.  Why is this technique not taught to all surgeons!?

I was looking down at my belly full of laparoscopy wounds (yes, plural … 5!), where a damnedable drain thing was, and then the gash showing the neighbourhood of the problem which took me to the emergency one fateful Tuesday afternoon and realise that the former half-dozen scars are dimpling and then the gash is like six inches long and near my hip … glad I don’t go in for skimpy bikinis!  And I’m not so self conscious as to now avoid two-pieces, but good God, could these not have been done in a cleaner way so that they can’t be seen?  Ah well, I suppose it’s better I’m alive than flawless, which I wasn’t anyway — I’ve my share of childhood scars, I was quite the active little thing.

Finally a comment:  Frozen was seriously, undeniably, unabashedly one of the awesomest movies I’ve seen in awhile and certainly continuing my newfound adoration of Disney animated films.  Tangled, Brave, Frozen, Princess and the Frog … I love this new trend of the princess being the hero of the story, and I love how in Tangled and Frozen the prince charming was not a prince (though they were charming … in their ways) and were heros, I love the equality of that.  Most of all, though, I simply love the phenomenal storytelling that is going into these.  Frozen really took the lead, though, there was something simply beautiful about it, I swear to you I cried at more than one point watching that movie … albeit, not for long (thank you Olaf, I love you!!).  And for those wondering, I didn’t see it until recently — movie tickets in this town are obscene, but we have a second run cinema that finally got it … c’est la vie.

What’s so great about Hemmingway?

Ed Greenwood

Ed Greenwood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not just Hemmingway, but Jane Austin, Steinbeck, Stephen King

I’m not saying they’re awful, though I can’t stand three sentences in a row by a single one of them. I simply ask why are they sainted in the annals of recent fiction and literature? Certainly why do so many blogs and forums dispensing cheap writing advice swear by them as such deities of the written word?

Why is not the advice to first ask who the person likes to read the best and say, “Read that carefully and think about the things the author does that you do and don’t like. After, try to borrow and unashamedly steal those techniques you love and consider how you might do differently those which you loathed.”

How boring would the world be if all writers were determined to be the next of only a small pool if very similar writers?! (Rather dry ones, in my opinion) Would the world read even less than already it tends to do?

I do believe some works do deserve their deification. The Discworld series by Pratchett is undeniably brilliant and holds the attentions and imaginations of scholars and huddled masses alike; The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, and Wizard of Oz too are inarguably timeless classics, along with the adventures of our good bear who “lives under the name ‘Sanders’.”

Still I would not presume to tell anyone they ought to write more like Tolkien, Milne, or Carroll. For one they’re ill suited to a suspense-horror.

I suppose it’s the idea that King is a famous best selling author so must know something … please note, so is Seanan McGuire, J K Rowling, and Stephanie Meyer. Rowling, outsold and outsells the others in that list combined, yet you’re supposed to not write like her … so I’ve no idea how King is a god.

The others are all classified Literary Fiction, which is somehow superior to all other sorts (Literature majors who try to write the stuff say so, and they’re experts and should know, right?) despite being that dry boring stuff we’re made to read in Literature classes which probably turned rather a lot of people off reading altogether.

To each her own personal gods of the pen, be it Mercedes Lackey or Lawrence Block, Ed Greenwood or Danielle Steel, Dean Koontz or Louisa Mae Alcott … when you write study the master who you so loved you wanted to write, carry on that writer’s legacy. The acclaimed saints of writing need no undue worship unless you happen to favour their styles.

P.S. Is it me, or is the list of people you’re supposed to strive to write like nearly always Americans, primarily from around the Depression?  Never minding the rather selective era, but … why are we excluding other English speaking authors … or non-English (they don’t say English or American lit, just lit — I’m fair certain a Frenchman would have something to say about the superiority of, say, Voltaire to any six Americans you care to pick.

The oppressed should stand together

The transgender pride flag

The transgender pride flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know, sometimes I think the oppressed groups of this country (America), and possibly of much of the (at least Western) world are sometimes the worst for bigotry and hatred, cruelty and intolerance.

Oh, there goes my readership.  Fascinating whooshing sound.

Seriously, though.  I present to you a situation.

Introduce a group of cisgendered, straight men to a woman who is extremely masculine and love sport and can talk shop with them all day long and show them up on the basketball court, or introduce them to a transgender man of the same sort, etc.  Now, please note, I said men, not overgrown children and adolescents full of insecurities and nonsense.  In this scenario the woman may or may not get flirted with, both she and the transgender will be welcomed as brothers to the football couch in every example I’ve ever enountered.  Sometimes the woman, or the transgender, might have to talk a bit more shit, as they say, and be a little manlier than thou to be accepted, but for the most part in this very mainstream scenario she/he is welcome.

Take underdog minorities.  Gays, Lesbians, Transgender, Women, Geeks, etc.  The bullied and oppressed.  The downtrodden and reviled.  The ones who ought, really, to understand one another and stand up for each other and protect each other as brothers and sisters … well.  If you want to know about geeks I suggest Seanan McGuire or John Kovalic — “Fake Geek Girl” is the catchphrase to search their LJs, Twitters, Facebooks, and Blogs for.  The rest?  Feminists who reject transgender women as not really women.  Homosexuals who won’t accept that someone who favours the opposite sex from their own, but the same gender … well, “you’re not really gay, you’re just a cross dresser” is how it is most politely put.  Transsexuals who get upset with people who are content to only be transgender and don’t want their balls/ovaries, vagina/penis to be removed or ruined and say they’re not really trans, only confused.  It goes on.

What is this?  The social group version of the abused child who grows up to abuse his/her own children?  The molested and raped who go on to molest and rape in their own turn?

I like that:  molestation and rape.  It’s a good image to parallel this discussion because we are molesting and raping the self-esteem, the hearts, the souls of others just to feel even more special about that which sets us apart from the mainstream — as though that which gets us bullied and ridiculed is an exclusive club and we don’t want their kind participating?  It’s sad, it’s pathetic, it’s wrong.

I tend to stay away from social groups.  I don’t go to gay meetings, or trans-parades, or whatevers.  I simply associate with those I meet whatever and whomever that might be.  I swear I never realised how very much like the very same childish bigots for the extremist mainstream some of the various oppressed groups could start to sound until I came across discussion forums and blogs about the subject or even just personally witnessed some of the inter-“weirdo” hatred.  Seriously, folks, isn’t the one thing we’ve learnt from being gay or bi, transgender or transsexual, or whatever is that to each her/his/its own?  That, in the end, we’re all people and that we all love and live, try to find some form of joy and to find someone to share that life and joy and love with?  Do we really need to sink to the childish levels of those who would us and oppress others in our turn to feel that we’ve finally achieved some kind of status, recognition, legitimacy, etc.?  Do we?

Instead of denying that the transgendered woman beside you is even a woman, or telling her that because she has a penis that she can’t possibly be a lesbian … embrace her and treat her as a fellow, as a sister, as someone who quite possibly is going through more and worse shit than you are Ms Cisgendered lesbian or Cisgendered Straight Feminist.  That gentleman over there crying because he cannot get a hysterectomy and it’s time for his period and he thoroughly hates himself right now needs comfort, not derision.  That genderqueer … something in-between … is being very brave to show (for want of a useful English pronoun for a hypothetical person) its face in public, congratulations are due, not insults.  Gay men do not threaten feminism … none of it.

If we as peoples looking for greater respect from those around us … what makes us so special we deserve and are entitled to greater respect than we’re willing to show to others?  The transgenders who are rude to all cisgender.  The gays who are as hateful to straights.  Everyone is so mean to bisexuals — they’re not sex fiends, really they’re not.  We are entitled to respect because every major faith I can name says, in some fashion, “Love thy neighbour as thyself”.  In short, we show to those around us, those who remember that, every bit of respect and courtesy we can, all the love and kindness who possess — because we hope to recieve that love and kindness, that respect and courtesy back … no, because the more love in the world the better the world.  If you’re hateful you, by most logical arguments, deserve only hate — but maybe if you’re shown a little love and respect instead you might come around to a better attitude.  I’ve my own share of prejudices and dislikes — I’m no saint; I sincerely don’t trust or respect most yuppies I meet, I can’t help it they make me nervous.  We’re human, but while that means we’re flawed, it doesn’t mean we have to embrace our flaws, it just means we should know we’re not perfect, watch for the signs of how we’re not and fix them so that, maybe one day, we will be perfect.

I don’t care if you follow Christ or not — I don’t, though I love His teachings and stories — strive to be like Him or any of his various analogues through the course of history.  Be better than those who hate you.  Be a source of love to all.  What would happen if every person on the planet, tomorrow, jumped out of bed and decided to not treat a single living soul like shit ever again?  Pretty awesome world we’d have, wouldn’t it?  We can’t convince the full 7billion+ humans of this globe to do that, but we can each of us jump out of bed tomorrow morning determined to be excellent to each other and make that many more lives that much better than they would have been otherwise.

Just a thought.

How do people shop for books?

English: Author and musician Seanan Mcguire at...

English: Author and musician Seanan Mcguire at Dezenovecon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, in perfect honestly I almost never read the comments of blogs (other than my own), YouTube videos … I’m not even wont to read internet forums much.  So I never noticed, until it was pointed out to me, a very peculiar phenomenon that just blows my mind and makes me wonder just how pervasive this is … I mean is it just a Paranormal Romance/SF thing, or is it all books?  Did I get some of my initial sales from this, for example?

What phenomenon is this?  People buying the author rather than the book.

I don’t understand this.  I mean, I do in the sense of, for example, I’ve met next to no Heinlein books I didn’t like, thus I will often buy a Robert Heinlein penned  story without doing more than glancing at the synopsis, and (given the single Heinlein I can’t stand, Starship Troopers) I read the first page to be sure I can get past it.  Same with Dennis L. McKiernan.   Thing is, I’m not buying the person, I don’t really care, I’m buying the writer or writing.

Now, it is true and fair to say that I’ll not be in any hurry to put money in Orson Scott Card‘s pockets, but if I discover a story of his is particularly fantastic, I can always pick it up at a second hand bookshop with no itch of conscience, he doesn’t see a dime from that.  Why?  Well, because his homophobic tirades were just a little too offensive to want to give him my cash when I can help it.

I guess I can’t understand this idea that the producer of something is the brand that needs selling.  I mean, yes, Starbucks, this is somewhat the case – that said, though, I don’t care how awesome they are as a company, how good they are to employees, how they use fair trade coffee and such … they make awful coffee!  And, in the end, the coffee is their brand!  Tazo, on the other hand, is fantastic, and Starbucks gets lots of my money for that stuff.

So I have to wonder now, did someone buy Love or Lust because they were impressed with one of my random blog posts about writing or about … stuff?  Because I shared something from The Kindness Blog?  Before tonight I’d have never wondered that.  “Of course not,” I’d say.  Then I learnt that in the comments of authors like Seanan McGuire and John Scalzi are people going “Wow, this post moved me so much, I’ve got to buy your book!”  All I can think is, I like Scalzi’s blog, he’s got a fun way with putting things … doesn’t change that his stories don’t interest me, I don’t care how much his blog posts inspire or move me, I’m not buying a copy of Redshirts, I’m sorry.  Certainly a blogpost of Seanan’s is how I got addicted to Incryptid stories, but that had to do with a part of one that was describing Verity Price from Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special that involved her being like the bastard offspring of Dazzler and Batman; who wouldn’t want to read that!?  It, admittedly, was in conjunction with her post about being annoyed that so many people equate rape and tragedy with character growth and … I already blogged about it, here but that’s irrelevant, I didn’t buy the book because of her views of rape, I bought the book because of Verity, I bought the sequel because of Seanan’s talented writing.

I always assumed everyone else thought this same way, certainly no readers I’ve ever once had the chance to converse with seemed to operate on any other basis besides the few who shop by genre and will read anything that’s from the Science Fiction section, or the Fantasy, or anything that’s a Warhammer 40k title, or Star Wars Expanded Universe (a rant for some other time), etc. which is understandable enough if you just enjoy wizards and warriors, or ray guns and spaceships and the rest be damned.

I’d be interested in comments on this, but I’ve learnt in the past that most people will just click like.  C’est la vie.  It’s an interesting insight into someone’s psychology … I’ve no idea what to think of it, or how to interpret it, certainly no idea what I’m supposed to actually do with this knowledge, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

Writer’s can’t take time off

Greatest Hits (Billy Joel albums)

Greatest Hits (Billy Joel albums) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s another National Novel Writer even this month and while I’ve ceased having anything to do with them I still haven’t got around to blocking/unsubscribing from the periodic emails, and I’ve friends who still do it and still peruse the forums.

There is this pervasive notion among those who give writing advice that boggles my mind so thoroughly it deserves a second post … I’m not sure I’m up to providing a link to my first tackling of this subject.

What topic? This idea you have to write. You can’t take time off for family, for holidays, for illness, for simple lack of inspiration. To this I say “bullshit“, emphatically and unshakingly bullshit.

Now the argument is that, if you find one reason to not write you’ll find other and fall into a vicious cycle of unwriting.

Lawrence Block says:

“If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass.
If it persists, you probably ought to write a novel.”

Excerpt From: Block, Lawrence. “Writing the Novel.” Open Road Integrated Media, 2010-06-15. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=411349843

If you have a story you want to write, you’ll write it. If it is such a chore that you can talk yourself out of it, then you may wish to ask yourself what is your real reason to do this and if it’s worth it.

Me? I just spent a week in hospital. I’m fine, but in pain – major surgery is unpleasant that way; I’m on narcotic pain relief, suffice to say I’m not writing. Besides, I can’t pick up my writing back without popping my stitches so I can’t write if I weren’t vaguely out of it.

My point is, I still want to see the end of Now & Forever, so the day I can pick that bag up and complete a rational though at one and the same time I’ll be right back to writing, and probably better at it as the surgery fixed a painful problem that is not an open topic for discussion (not embarrassing or tragic, just personal and private).

Artists need not bleed for their work. Certainly they should not buy the razor blades, bare their wrists, and make all the cuts themselves. Our art should be part of us, it should be something we can’t not do. Art is also life, we cannot make good art if we do not live. Take musicians who take their music so seriously they burn out after a half dozen albums because they are never not touring or recording, now think of Buffett or Billy Joel with their decades long careers, upwards of hundred albums, and no burn out: they remembered to live. They took time off for love, divorce, children, getting shot at by Jamaican police, philanthropy, etc.

It’s true for all of us. Take a day off to climb a mountain, take a two week honeymoon in the Italian Riviera, relax and recover when you find yourself stapled shut after a visit to the ER, take a nap in a hammock on a warm sunny spring day … it’s okay, your book will still be there when you get back.

To those who say I should have written while in hospital and should be while recovering, I repeat: bullshit.

Thinking about penises, dolphins, and elephant trunks

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My mind wanders, and to very odd places sometimes.  Maybe it’s because I’m an author; or perhaps it’s why I’m an author … I’m not even sure if there’s a difference.

This time it wandered to the notions of male power and phallic symbolism.

Certain people see phalluses everywhere they look and decide this is signs of male dominance.  If that’s the case, then perhaps it’s also a sign of God‘s gender, because the criterion I’ve encountered in scholarly attempts at these kinds of arguments really seem to amount to “anything even vaguely cylindrical is a phallus”.

Case in point:  A critique of the Little House books that I don’t recall terribly well, but it relied on the idea that Pa’s rifle was, in some way, symbolic of both his penis and his power.  Funnily enough, I strongly suspect that it was a symbol of nothing at all, and was a factual hollowed tube of metal which lobbed high velocity chunks of lead for the purposes of self-defence and obtaining of meats.

Really, by this same reasoning, dolphins are phallic symbols, elephants’ trunks are …

Thing is, some things just need to be cylinders or approximately so.  A streamlined shape for going through water?  Phallic.  A streamlined way to fill something up with high explosives so that it can reach escape velocity in a vertical orientation?  Phallic.  What other shape would you have them be?

I saw an image of a woman standing beside a taxi she’d made up to look like a vagina — it was interesting, but you must admit, not terribly aerodynamic.

True, yes, we are in a patriarchal society; true, yes, men do hold greater power than women (at least in Western culture, there are exceptions on some of the non-Western societies as I understand them); true, yes, symbolism can exist in certain things.  I just find it so amusing that so many feminists have penises on the mind to such extent that when they see a portabello  they see a man’s genitals.

This isn’t to say that, at times, penises are’t hiding places; either by design, mistake, or a bit of both.  Whether or not they’re symbolic of anything, I’m sure, varies.  Some fantasy book covers of a few decades ago?  Those towers and castles that look like towers and castles, nah; some of the more creative ones that … maybe at first glance might be modelled after mushrooms … look again, few mushrooms have a small slit at the point — that’s a penis.  A gun, no — a projectile weapon of that sort can’t help its shape; until we have particle beam weapons there’s no other pragmatic form, after that we can start maybe shaping them like trumpets since we may want to accelerate the particles or beams before ejecting them … still a ray-gun modelled after a pistol or rifle is just to keep it recognisable … the rayguns of more than a few 50s pulp SF mags and novels which had that odd little, shall we say ‘knob’ on the end?  Mmm-hmmm …

I honestly believe, especially in the case of the book covers, that a lot more of it is sophomoric silliness than any malicious anti-feminism.  I might be wrong, certainly wouldn’t be the first time; but such is life.  I just think that in the case of being taken seriously in a matter it is wise to think over the arguments in question.  That needless phallic symbols are places is undeniable, but are they malicious or childish?  The former is certainly a terrible thing, the latter is certainly foolish and rude, but hardly a statement against anyone’s rights.  It’s a reversable thing — making vaginal symbolism for malicious purposes makes you no better than the penis-mongers, making it to be sophomoric makes you no more clever, but it can also be used to make a positive and important statement — it all comes down to intent combined with reasonable interpretation.  But first you just have to relax and ask yourself: is this a cigar or a big brown dick, to paraphrase George Carlin.

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Which character is the author?

Among the many odd questions an author is often asked one of the oddest is some variation on “Which character is you?”

It’s so very strange to be asked this – because depending how you look at it, either all of them or none; unless, of course, I happen to have a character who is a shy author named Jaye Em Edgecliff that lives in Georgia and writes teen fiction.

On the one hand, they are all me.  They do, after all, come from my own hand and head.  They may be inspired by any number of things from notions and ideas to other fictional characters I encounter in my reading or watching a movie to real people I’ve met or seen or read about.  In the end, though, they’re my perceptions of those people.  Even if we assume the ficton view of reality wherein all of these characters are very much alive and real somewhere, it doesn’t change that the story on the page is my perception of those very real people.  By that measure, all the characters are me.  They’re all my perceptions of right and wrong, my perceptions of beauty and kindness, my perceptions of humour and sorrow, and so on.  How I narrate the story is going to highlight those perceptions – they’ll paint who is or isn’t supposed to be a villain and who is or isn’t in love with whom.

More accurately, though, they are a part of me.  My own dreams, desires, thoughts, feelings, experiences, darknesses, prejudices, anger, sorrow, laughter, and all go into shaping the words on the page and little pieces of those go into each little person in the dreamworld of the fiction.

In that sense – unless one of the characters shares my name, my description, etc. none of them are me.  I don’t share a religion with any one of my characters; my political and philosophical viewpoints do not perfectly align with any one of my characters.  Yvette and Lucas like eggplant, Lauren does not – neither do I, but that doesn’t make Lauren me.

I’m not sure what the point in asking such a question is.  I have written characters who share nothing with me, personally, beyond morphologically – they’re human shaped, not even actually human, just shaped this way.  I often write characters with different beliefs, different outlooks on life and everything else; major and minor characters, protagonist and antagonist alike.  I assume that this is mostly true of many authors.  I suppose we all, somewhere along the way, do write our views and thoughts into things.  This character or that one will say some brilliant line that perfectly parallels our own views.  Sometimes, if we feel strongly on a matter, we might write a protagonist who shares fully in our outlooks and thoughts; still, I do not believe that means the characters are ourselves – I’ve yet to meet any author who is writing purely from personal experience, using the Dragnet names changed and slightly tweaked reality to write their novels.  Oh, they exist, certainly, but I believe there’s a good reason they’re rare:  most people who live that interesting a life write memoirs, not novels.

So, in answer to the question – no, neither Lauren, Sally, Yvette, Lucas, Allison, Sarah, Lisa, Lucy, nor anyone else you have met or ever will meet in my stories is me, unless there’s ever a quiet author named Jaye … then maybe, but she’s shy and avoids the narrative camera like it’s carrying a plague.