Zombies in Love

Happy October, my beautiful darlings! I present, because I’m me, a fluffy romance … about queer zombies. Yes, I know “Jaye, why are you like this?” Honestly, sweetheart, I haven’t a clue. Enjoy 🤟 🧡

Content Warnings: allusions to suicide & traumas, an implied ideation

This story, like so many of the greatest romances of all time, begins with a dead body; namely, mine.

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Religion in SFF

“Portal to the Depths of Space” by ErikShoemaker is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

There was a discussion not so long ago, on Twitter (I don’t have to remember how to work the shortcode this time … sadly I’ve forgot who posted it and so can’t look for it. Maybe someone will post it in the replies) about how strange, and rather colonialist, to think that in space and in future there is no religion.

If you think about it, it is pretty daft. Why would religion disappear like that? The rather moronic and racist notion of Social Darwinism, if you must know.

I can see religions that have to adjust their thinking. Some Abrahamic religions have sects that interpret their religion such that it is incompatible with meeting alien life – especially wholly alien life – unless they want to … oh, never mind, some of that lot already tend towards such a warped perception of their holy works commingled with Renaissance painters being ecstatic over new pigments that they’re the sort who consider anyone not like themselves to be subhuman anyway. Still the ones not rabidly racist will have to adjust their doctrine or haemorrhage believers to the point of [veritable] extinction.

Why, though, should we believe that the peoples we find among the stars won’t have religions, superstitions, and more?

Sure, it is possible the psychology of an alien race is such that it doesn’t do faith, or dogma, or any of that. It does not mean they’re more advanced, as the standard trope of SFF would have you believe, merely that they are not human. Which is cool. They’re not better but neither are we. The only reason you’re unlikely to see such in my writing except as a passing character is that, like atheism, I find it tremendously difficult to wrap my head around.

Oh, but Jaye, you’ve said you aren’t religious! [Insert references here], see?! You’re an atheist! (Says all the religious folk, especially the atheists … which is a different tangent I’m not following. And I’m not even medicated for my ADHD anymore).

No, I’m not religious. Therefore I am neither atheist not theist, though neither am I agnostic in the strictest sense. In some definitions of the latter I am, in fact, agnostic, but in my own understanding of the word I prefer not to claim it. I do believe that the universe was created. I feel that it’s reasonable to assume aspects of our reality, possibly our very biologies, are the work of beings more advanced than ourselves and more ancient. These we may as well call gods. I mean … it’s a nice catchy word is ‘gods’, sorta rolls off the tongue. Deorum, los dioses, gli dei, na déithe, die götter, nā akua, devataon, para dewa, kamigami … see? round the globe it’s just such a catchy little way to express it. And so bloody versatile it is! It doesn’t have to mean omni-anything, or even immortal! If you remember there’s faiths, religions, gods, beliefs outside of the western world and it’s Christian-centric way of thinking.

It’s fun to write religious characters. It’s enlightening to envision the faiths of races that evolved around an alien sun. To try to understand what is important, divine, to a sensual race of empaths; to an obligate carnivore; to people who have been among the stars and meeting alien beings for longer than humanity has had fire.

Science fiction ignores all of this in favour of the cult of scientific dogma and a sense of logical superiority. Mostly because of an utter and ingrained disdain for the “soft” sciences … thank you John Fucking Dickface Campbell.

Fantasy is much more open to it, if sometimes misunderstanding how polytheism works. But at least Gary Gygax can be thanked for that; sadly a desperate bid to be taken more seriously by the SciFi crowd has lead to a breed of fantasy that is more faithfully drab.

Still, Star Trek vs Star Wars: SW was a more rich and vibrant tapestry even if the only religion given any serious visibility was The Force, in particular the Jedi understanding of it. We never truly learn of the adherents of the light, and then we finally get some glimpse of the Sith but unclear if they’re adherents to the dark or merely unbalanced Jedi or if even there is a strict difference. But we have the questions because we have that glimpse and all a storyteller can ever really do is give a glimpse. Star Trek is so often so much flatter and more … what’s the word … Stepfordy … which means you don’t get much room to ponder these questions. Everyone is like some soulless cog in some cosmic machine. Newer things colour this in, at least for the aliens, so that’s helpful.

Still, imagine it. Take yourself into the great deadly void of space. Race at hyperphotonic speeds between the stars, between the galaxies. You’re like the ancient Polynesian in a canoe on the ocean headed towards an island no one has set foot on before or even seen. You’ve skill, knowledge, supplies, wits, and courage … but do you sincerely believe you go out there alone? That you don’t carry with you gods whose caprice could drown or starve you? Whose benevolence will deposit you on the shore of the next paradise? Of one who is eagerly riding, just in the corner of your eyes, along for the grand adventure as excited and thrilled at the prospect of discovery as you are? I said LIKE, I’m not painting a photorealistic picture of Polynesian sailors. But it’s scary and uncertain. There will be things difficult to explain. Even once your science can explain it … just because you know how the gods made it work doesn’t mean they didn’t make it work, just that you’re possibly one step closer to godhood yourself and you may wish to ponder what sort of gods you’d wish to be.

Perhaps, even, we already are clumsy and fledgling gods creating strange alien universes in CERN unwittingly bringing to life whole existences and realities. What if one day we do so on purpose and with control? Cool, huh? Maybe that’s the religion of the peoples who ride the worlds circling the middle sun of Orion’s belt.

It’s why my characters always have beliefs, faiths. Even Sally, who is angry with God and is shunning Him, has faith and religion. She believes in the God whom she rejects. Otherwise what’s she angry at? Sure, she doesn’t buy that He’s the only one. She doesn’t. And as such felt a pull to wonder at the others and how they might fit into her life, but she wasn’t ready for that and then Lauren showed her a way to see things differently. That it was people and their temples and churches who were wrong and not her God … she’s still angry, still resentful; it’s in her nature and unlike Lauren she demands answers why God allows such things in His name. But she can accept Him.

Yes, Now & Forever is contemporary, not SFF. But it doesn’t make it any less an illustration that people interpret the universe in a shield of faith. Even atheists with their dogmatic adherence to science. Some are more flexible, they adapt their teachings and beliefs in accordance with new science just as any religion that wishes to understand the universe would. Others balk at changes in knowledge and understanding, are aghast that their deities like Hawking or Einstein could have been fallible, could be wrong. Some understand the underpinnings of their faith in sciences as a quest for knowledge and understanding and that these can change in light of new data; just as there are Christians who understand that Jesus said we should love our neighbours and that God is a kind and benevolent father.

But it’s no more realistic to say that only one religion follows humanity to the stars than to say that everyone in space is American. It just doesn’t fit facts. The language of Terrans in the stars could be Hindi or Mandarin; it could be a language as yet unspoken as it hasn’t been born of the combined cultures and tongues of joint travels and mixed settlements.

I have probably wandered down a tangential rabbit hole. Those who were betting I would may now collect their winnings.

I’m sure I had a point around here someplace. Looked shiny, had space churches in? Anyway it’s stupid and boring to say there isn’t religion in space. That’s all … and now I have a better understanding of the end of Weird Al’s Albuquerque 🤔. Except I rather like sauerkraut, at least good sauerk—I’m doing it again.

Still imagine those stars populated with gods and pantheons and spirits and færies and ghosts, goblins, spooks, spectres, saints, sinners, paladins, priests, crusades, zealots, adherents, layman, friars, monks, et al. Unashamedly recognise that our most chimplike ancestors seemed to have done funerals. We’ve believed in something higher for millions of years, we’re not liable to stop and it seems unlikely that the psychology of a race we can have meaningful conversation with is liable to be so tremendously different in the end. So go ye forth and spread the Word(s) and erect those monuments. You’ll create, in the end – I’ve faith – a brighter and more palatable future for us all.

No horror

Well, I was, and in a manner of speaking still am, working on a vampire horror for Queers Destroy Horror but I ended up working on something else that’s proving far more fun and interesting, so I won’t have the horror finished before the submission deadline.

It’s not abandoned, I’ll finish it sooner or later and then I’ll decide what to do with it, but it won’t be going to QDH.

I still fully intend to get a Færie Patrol short worked out for Queers Destroy Fantasy, so there’s still that to look forward to.

Goodbye Sir Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorar...I honestly don’t know what to say about Terry Pratchett‘s death.  So much for he and Neil ever getting together and doing a Good Omens sequel.  No more Rincewind, no more Granny Weatherwax, Tiffany Aching.  The Luggage has moved on, and so many more.

Scott Lynch managed something articulate and good to say.  I’ll settle for reblogging that here:

I was surprised by my own mild reaction when I woke today and saw the first of many subtle tweets about Terry, though I guessed immediately what they meant. I was surprised by just how many of those tweets were also some flavor of subtle or mild or restrained. I didn’t see many all-caps primal screams or 140-character duets for Emoji and exclamation point.

Of course, I peer out at the universe through a knothole as tiny as anyone else’s and the plural of “Twitter stream anecdote” is surely not “data,” nor even a distant relation to data, nor even a part-time and barely convincing cosplay of data.

And yet I think there’s something natural and inevitable about this quiet reaction. It’s not merely that we’ve all known for some time that Terry had to be passing soon, that we’ve been forced to think about it, that he had the chance to say so much about it.

When some people die, they leave the rest of us with a sense that they’ve packed their words and warmth and hauled them along like luggage for the trip, that we can never hear from them again. Terry gave us so much of himself, though, so damned MUCH– seventy books, just for starters, and a world and its inhabitants that might as well be a religion for millions. A good religion, a useful religion. The sort where there’s always a little golden light flickering behind one of the church windows at any hour of the night, so you know there’s someone there to talk to you about anything, and they won’t have locked the doors. They won’t even have put locks on the doors. Some asshole suggested putting locks on the doors once, many years ago, and everyone else in the church carried that person out of town and threw them into a pond. That’s a Terry Pratchett sort of church. That’s a Terry Pratchett book. And he walled us in with them. He stacked them high all around us, and they’re all him, they’re all still here, and they’re going to be here so very long after you and I and everyone else reading this have gone off for a last walk WITH THE ONLY PERSON IN THE UNIVERSE WHO SPEAKS NATURALLY IN ALL CAPS AND WE DON’T REALLY MIND AT ALL, IT’S JUST THE WAY THINGS HAVE TO BE.

Terry Pratchett can die, and fuck everything for that sentence. Fuck those four words. I am feeling the cracks starting to appear in me now. I’ve lost the mildness and quiet I had this morning. But here’s the point. Terry Pratchett can die, but he can never go away. (Continued here)

Queers Destroy Horror/Fantasy!

So there’s nothing with my name on it for Queers Destroy Science Fiction.  C’est la vie.  I didn’t submit anything with my name on it, so that’s to be expected.

I’m actually trying to get a couple things together for Horror and Fantasy, though.  I’m writing some kind of thing involving some college students on spring break meeting vampires; I’ve a feeling that’ll be gory if I don’t get stuck and not manage to finish it on time.  The one for Fantasy is going to be a Færie Patrol short adventure.

If they get rejected I don’t know what I’ll do wit them.  Almost certainly post them somewhere here on the site, or maybe I’ll publish them as free stories on my retail channels.  Or both.  Similar for if I don’t finish them before the submissions deadlines, assuming I finish them at all.

Still next month or so should be pretty interesting.

Sexism in the world of writing

English: J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter ...

English: J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the Easter Egg Roll at White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find it fascinating to think about how the world of writing is often rampant with very profound sexism, and one enforced from all sides — including the consumer end.

Writing, I know, includes rhetorical writing, which has always been dripping with extremities of thought in every direction. Same goes for informative texts — everyone has a point to make.  I often find the term non-fiction a touch funny — sometimes I think the only honest writing is fiction; it admits to being made up, then so often proceeds to give you a glimpse of some life truth through this made up account.

Still, by the same token the sexism isn’t in depiction, it’s in the industry itself.  So, yes, even in the rhetorical and non-fiction worlds.  Thing is, I’m not talking about on the paper.  I’m talking about in the material, themes, genres.

Take SF, a favourite of mine.  Speculative fiction is a vivid place full of idealised histories and shining futures.  It’s a place where women could captain a starship with dignity and respect at a time when, perhaps, they couldn’t get taken seriously as the captain of a bass boat.  It’s a place where a sorceress could cross spells with an archmagus and none could know who would prevail, and both were looked at with awe and respect — even fear.  Yet it’s a place where authors, at times, find themselves thankful for a name with a masculine tone, or find themselves writing under pseudonym.  Because, of course, women don’t know the first thing about writing Fantasy, Science Fiction, and the like!  God, no, who ever heard of such a thing?!  Oh, not to say they can’t, but it’d certainly be all fairies, unicorns, and True Love — not a decent fight scene in sight, and no mighty castings.  It’d be court intrigue and … notice how I’m sticking with Fantasy here?  Yeah, there’s a reason for that.

Sexism works both ways.  Romance.  Oh, fellas, you poor dears.  Don’t you know, not a one of you has a romantic bone in your whole body?!  You couldn’t write a touching love scene if your lives depended upon it.  Oh, sure, a bodice ripper, all sex and “love muscle” this, and “throbbing” that might be seen as okay, though you’ll probably find you’ll have better luck if you called it erotica than romance, and throw in a few colourful vulgarities or just get rather more graphic about it.

Agents and publishers aren’t as bad about it, if they were then many of the authors writing under pseudonym couldn’t.  Clearly one cannot cash a royalty cheque made out to their pen name, so obviously the agent and publisher knows who really wrote it.  It’s the readership, though, they’re the worst.  Jo Rowling‘s middle initial isn’t K.  J. K. Rowling, just doesn’t sound as feminine — it does now that we all know that she is the lovely and talented author of the Harry Potter series, but when the stories were new … oh, my … let’s not put Jo, a distinctly feminine label, on this Boy’s Adventure Fiction, it won’t sell very well.

It’s true, too.  Oh, if you ask people directly they’ll say it’s more important what’s in the book.  But that’s while they’re thinking with their forebrain.  What happens when they’re scanning the bookshelves?  What happens when they see a cover with Fabio’s arms draped with a pert young blonde in a French Renaissance dress?  They might glance at the title and see something like Jasmine’s Desire (I am not going to find out how many books have that title and nor how many have a cover remotely as I’ve made up … I won’t), in many cases if it’s by Elaine Wrotabuk the expectations for what will be between those pages will be different than if it says Edward Wrotabuk.  Ever notice just how many names on the shelves of Science Fiction are ‘male’ and how many on Romance are ‘female’?  Ever notice how many are only initials?  Ever wonder who just got clever and picked a perfectly innocuous name?

It’s not just those two genres, they’re just the easiest to pick on.  I write one and read the other, so I’m more familiar — and there’s the fact that it often appears to be the worst for it.  They’re the ‘[sex] can’t write this stuff’ genres.  In other genres it’s just assumed the content will be different.  Also, if we’re talking Young Adult, Children’s, and other stuff that might, at times, be divided into girls’ fiction or boys’ fiction, then we run into the situation where you want a male name on The Hardy Boys, a girl’s name on Nancy Drew.  

It’s in other aspects of the readership.  Men just can’t possibly write a female protagonist.  Certainly not as a point of view character.  Just as Jo Rowling, clearly, could not have penned the work with this male star-of-the-show — obviously that was done by the ambiguous, but assumed to be Mr J. K. Rowling.  

So we’ve got expectation of content — male penned romance is smut, female romance is moving and passionate (even when it’s really smut).  Female written fantasies are just romances with pixies in it, but male penned ones are hobgoblins and epic, bloody battles.  Men can’t write convincing women, and women cannot write men to save their lives.  And women don’t know the first thing about science fiction.  Feel free to extrapolate into the expectations of horror and mystery, westerns and contemporary, and other such fictions.  

Those matters, though, I can largely be amused by.  I mean, an author can change her name for purposes of making the book on the shelf conform to societal expectations and, once the content between the pages is know — instead of only guessed at — her true name and face can be known and, now that everyone’s thinking with their higher brain functions, no one gives a damn.  J. K. can now, once more, be Jo — though for convenience’s sake the cover retains the J. K.  It’s the criticisms, analyses — the literary breakdowns that actually bother me.

It’s the feminist critique of works, for example, wherein a book by a woman (or perceived to be) can have lesbians, strong females, women who enjoy sexuality and women who loathe it, men who’re sensitive, and men who are brutish — and she is brilliant.  There’s so much spoke in this work!  Tell them though, that Sam Spade is Samuel, not Samantha, though and suddenly the lesbians are just perverse fantasy, the strong females are somehow sexist (I’ve never understood how that works), the sexual women are more perverse fantasy, and … need I go on?

It does work a little to the flip side.  A woman author who writes sensitive men, or weak men, or strong women and so forth is clearly a dyke femi-nazi or something.  Strangely I’ve noticed men tend to be less worried about this sort of thing.  Maybe it’s just taken for granted by the male of the species that women think them idiots and so are unfazed when a woman writes them as such, who knows?  Still, in all fairness, I’ve seen men get quite riled by the depiction of men in various writings.  

Why is it that something is positive for little boys, or little girls if it’s written by one gender, but horrible and perverse the other way ’round — even if the text is unchanged (I’ve actually encountered, sadly I cannot recall where or with regards to what, people reversing their attitudes when such data is brought to light)?  Why is it insulting when it’s discovered an inspiring story of homosexual romance was written by someone who’s straight?  Okay, so that’s not sexism, but prejudice is prejudice.

I know, I spoke at length of fiction, but I said rhetoric and information had the same issue.  It does.  Women aren’t supposed to know about some topics, and men aren’t.  Imagine a book on etiquette and protocol, or on flower arranging by a man — a straight one!  Or a book by a woman about DIY diesel engine repair that isn’t just Suzy Homemaker “if the sprocket-hose, this little thing right here, gets a hole in it and you’re on the interstate, don’t call triple-A, just grab your ballpoint pen and …”, no I mean “So once you have the engine mounts loose, we’ll hoist the son of a bitch out of there and get to work rebuilding it …”  

The point is we’re writers.  Writers are readers, then there’re the people who’re just readers.  We’re the weird people.  We’re not normal!  Why, then, are among the worst at maintaining stereotypes and prejudices?  Oh, sure, we love a good stereotype while writing, it’s useful for making things succinct, “For a redhead she was remarkably even tempered” and “what do you expect, he went to Oxford,” but we shouldn’t enforce the things in life.  I believe wholeheartedly that any woman who wants to know a camshaft from a steering column ought to be fully capable of showing any man at the local service shop a thing or two with a torque wrench (minds out of the gutter, folks), that a straight man can be a fantastically cultured individual with an eye for floral arrangements and interior decorating, that women are more likely to write an action filled blood and gore fightfest, and that any man who lets himself feel can write profoundly touching emotional explorations.  Some of the most scientifically and technically minded people I’ve met were female, and there’re certainly a good deal of double-Xs reading SF … and there’re straight men who don’t mind a good tearjerker and have all the technical and mechanical aptitude of an earthworm.  Maybe as the people who live in the world of facts (non-fiction), imagination (fiction), and trying to move people into new ways of seeing things (rhetoric) we ought to remember to think more forwardly in the real world just as well or more than we let ourselves in the worlds between the pages.  

Who knows, it might change the world.

Prolificness transpires

So, I’ve been trying to decide on a series for when Now & Forever is over (it’s to be four books, by the way).

I knew I wanted to do a teen, high school super heroes thing. Hadn’t been able to work it out beyond that, though. Tonight the inspiration fairy paid me a visit and gave me a lovely idea in exchange for just a little more of my sanity (standard market rates, of course, she does have sales goals to meet after all).

I introduce you, therefore, to Færie Patrol, a working title for the series. It might stick around, I’m not sure. It has something of a ring to it, and conveys the fact that this series is anything but serious.

All I know for certain is the cast list, and some quirks to reality, and the gist of what they do.

There’s a page up there under Series for it.

To sum up what you’ll find there is a vampress dhampir stuck forever at a little over fifteen for the past three hundred years, and will be so for the rest of her unlife – not that she much minds. Then there’s the half-nymph who’d rather have a normal life, except for the whole easy access to fairy thing, since that’s where the best parties tend to be. A chivalrous ghost who hasn’t entirely caught up with the sixteenth century (and this is set in the twenty-first century). A mentalist teen male gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide (thank you Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett for that turn of phrase). The sex crazed, wine guzzling, swashbuckling sprite. And the Romani witch (or Æthyrial Engineer according to the business cards she got made up recently).

This is meant to be a completely irreverent romp through fighting monsters, finding romance, and remembering to do math homework. Legends and myths will be used, abused, twisted, and played with, but mostly used as is (fairytales are mostly fun enough as they are). Magic will abound. Irreverence to many things, and a three inch tall horny drunken sot with a penchant for the silver screen.

I can’t wait to see what happens, I hope you’ll think so too; though, admittedly, I do rather hope you can wait. I’ve kind of got enough in front of me and haven’t done more than jot down thoughts and character snapshots.