Chally Kacelnik at BitchMedia: "Octavia E Butler and Rewriting The Other". 'There’s an image of sci fi as a genre of the white man, going out and exploring, conquering, the universe. She took these elements of striving for other futures and turned them to social justice. She took the alien other and confronted us, her readers, with the otherness in our experiences.'
"The Ten Thousand Steps" rejected by Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, with my first ever hard copy rejection letter! I shall now start a hard copy folder to errmmmm...keep the stamps.
"Twixt" rejected by Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Yeah, I deserved that rejection. I was a bit of an arse, and queried way too early because I was in a weird headspace that week I submitted (pushy cow!). Sorry ASIM, you still da magazine, and I'd think it a singular privilege to eventually be published in your pages.
Somebody asked me the other day why I blog and Twitter about my writing when I have little to show for my efforts and I'm not a "famous author". I didn't take offense, I knew what they meant - my banging on about writing in a public space has very little relevance to many people and seems like a fairly futile endeavour.
Here's the thing: I don't blog or Twitter about my writing for anyone but myself at this stage. I don't like writing a diary, and I never have. I don't want my family members knowing my inner most thoughts when I'm long gone, or it used to make some revolting memoir about me.
Many may argue that blogging is a bit like writing a diary, but I temper that with the argument that I'm blogging about only one part of my life (I know my feminism is mixed in here too, but again that's only one part of my life). I'm only writing about my feelings and the roller coaster ride of becoming an author.
And right now, to me, that's important. This blog probably will change it's MO as time goes by and my writing career progresses - I mean, it's no use talking about the challenges of starting my career when I'm well into it, say a few years down the track.
I use this blog, and Twitter, as a way to stay focused and accountable to myself. Sometimes writing things down, say making lists or goals, gives you something to tick off or point to. I'm not so hot on list-making or writing out goals like PhD proposals - it seems futile when its only my eyeballs looking at them.
But I am happy about writing down goals and challenges here - I'm surprised at how good this blog and Twitter are at keeping me motivated. If I'm using the #amwriting hashtag, I better have a few thousand words by the end of the day to prove I'm not lying or procrastinating. If I announce I'm doing a Writer Monday, I better own the time I have set aside for that. If I write about a success or how happy I am with a project, I can feel satisfied of a job well done. If I moan about what an arse I've been, or how down I am, it serves to focus my thoughts, put the problem in a box and try to move on.
I started this blog because I was terrified of rejection. MORTIFIED, I tell you. So I decided to own my rejections, laugh at them, number them, and revel in them. And it's worked. The more rejections I get, the more I try, the better I feel about keeping on going. I honestly now wake up in the mornings itching to check my email for replies. Rejections - great! Acceptance - even better!
This blog is not to have a wank or preen, or to think I'm any sort of fantastic writer. Writing is a growing, learning, evolving experience, and blogging is a tool I find works for me. Your mileage may vary. I don't care if anyone is reading my ramble screeds.
So my hair is purple again (huzzah!) and I have just completed my last full writing day before The Holidays (with a capital Tea and a Capital Haitch)
Next week I'll have to work full time (boo!) because, you know, the week before Christmas (yay) and all that (boo retail hell). Then the Monday after that I'll still be on culturally and familial imposed holiday (yay). Then the Monday after THAT will be another public holiday, which I think I'll still be hungover during. So that'll be three Mondays I'm going to miss out on. Hopefully I'll be able to do some bits and pieces - aim for 250-500 words or some editing a night mebbe - but it's gonna be messy.
In the spirit of the month, I had a go at starting two different Christmas based stories, but they just didn't take. I guess it felt weird writing something now when I know by the time I'll finish them it'll be irrelevant. So maybe I'll revisit them middle of next year, in preperation for selling them around Christmas time. Still, felt a bit crap to abandon two stories in a row, because they just didn't feel right for me.
A little amused and perplexed that after those two weeks of meh-ness when it comes to New Word Mondays, I suddenly hit a good streak just before I take some down time. Still, I usually find a way and time to make things happen if I really like the latest masterpiece, and I doooooo. It's super creepy cool. I never thought I could write horror, but it seems I'm dabbling, thanks to my super squicked out subconscious that threw up a trippy dream at me last night.
Yes, this is the second story I'm writing directly from a dream! Gawd, don't groan, I know. It's inspiration cliche, right? But I swear, my dreams were on acid last night. And I LIKE IT. The last time I wrote a story straight from a dream was "Through the Open Door" (and look how many rejections that's got, ha!)
So I'm on the up-wave of feeling writerly good at the moment, what with two stories being published this month (omg, how did that happen again? Is this my life?), and inspiration coming in droves. I was seriously getting worried there for a few weeks, I was going through a dry patch. I'm happy that I'll have plenty of ideas to return to after The Holidays.
Hope the silly season is treating you ok. Here, have some Darren, to make it nice 'n sweet.
The Julian Assange case has been getting a lot of air time, and giving more hot air to rape apologists and mouthpieces incapable of separating the intersections of the issue. There are a lot of great posts from the blogosphere.
In fact, it is totally possible to support the WikiLeaks project and to think that the international response to Assange and the project is thoroughly fucked up and to think we should withhold judgment on whether or not Assange is actually a rapist and also to think that we should withhold judgment on whether the women are lying, and to not discredit the women involved, and to not create a hostile climate for rape survivors, and to not play into every tired old stereotype about women and rape. Seriously, we can chew gum and walk at the same time.
Still on the topic of rape, while not directly about Assange, revisiting the topic in public forums has caused Elizabeth at Spilt Milk to ask people to be careful with their flippant comments in "Who hears you, when you speak about rape?"
Over at Geek Feminism Blog, Mary writes a response to "helpful" comments about conference anti-harassment policy in "Why don't you just hit him?", how violence is really not a helpful response from a victim at all.
The assertion that violence is an appropriate response to harassment is made by people (usually men) who make it explicitly because they are auditing the responses of people who are harassed (usually women) and find them lacking.
This kind of social pressure works because, at the end of the day, most trolls wouldn’t have the gall to say to another person’s face half the things they anonymously post on the Internet.
Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon's Broadsheet writes about gender essentialism in the workplace and how this relates to relationships in "The terror of successful women"
trend pieces like the Times article so often rely on the account of the group of people -- most often women -- who are loveless-and-looking. Needless to say, we aren't always accurate in our own evaluations of why others aren't interested in us.
And a great one from Jennifer Kesler over at The Hathor Legacy "It's just a show. Really?" talks about how sexists and apologists dismiss feminist deconstruction of popular culture, then turn around and use said pop culture as the measuring stick of female behaviour and thinking!
The Mistress of the Lash Wears Chains. Over at The Border House, Quinnae dissects bad matriarchal society and female sexuality tropes in fantasy and gaming. "Driving these depictions is a pantomime of female sexual and social power that is readily adapted into a form that exists only at the expense of men, and thus becomes the ‘male-nightmare.’"
Stung by gender bias, author Tawni O'Dell stings back. If you think male-gendering an author's name, sexualizing a female author, or making up a back ground for a female author is so 50-100 years ago, think again. "I stood by blowing on my hands and stomping my feet to keep warm when suddenly he turned to me, eyed me up and down, and proclaimed, "We need to tease her hair. I want glitter. Lots of glitter, and the clothes will have to go." "You want me to be naked?" I spluttered."
Jezebel is in the shitter for posting a rape apologist screed that has left readers anywhere from scratching their heads to raging apopleptic to scared and shaken. Calm rage eminated from Sady at Tiger Beatdown in "So, just so we're clear...", and then "Updates!". So many people are left asking "What the hell Jez?" (QoT), and trying to figure out why Jez would betray a safe space for women (they now come out and say it isn't - why, um, thanks for all those "safe" post-your-experience-so-women-can-learn-sharing moments), or use a woman-centric space to pimp a friend or personal project (totes anonymous!), or post some clap-trap to gin up page views (don't get money from page views, totes honest!). All in all - congrats Jez on disenfranchising a large chunk of your readership. You won't be getting my eyeballs anymore. Still, for a parent company with Gawker, Kotaku, Deadspin etc under their umbrella, I guess I was naive to expect more, expect better. Good to know women are just mouldable clicks...
Ninja Edit, because I knew I'd forgotten one: "Women Don't Negotiate" by s.e. smith over at This Ain't Living. "Surely, women being unwilling or unable to negotiate when it comes to pay scales has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that women are trained not to engage in that sort of activity and taught not to ask for more."
Oh my giddy aunt. Hasn't this just been dominating the conversation of late? Claire Connelly at The Drum Unleashed at ABC.net.au deconstructs 'what the nice guys are saying about Stephen Fry' in "Some well-meaning men and the dominant gender paradigm". Obvious warning: If you want to retain your blood pressure at a good level, don't read the comment section.
Says Connelly: "a lot of nice guys truly believe they are engaged in trying to reverse the dominant gender paradigm, but sexist remarks tend to sneak in anyhow. This is for me, at the very heart of the issue: that even the most well-meaning men don't recognise the damage they are doing to gender relations by continuing to make women responsible for the status quo, and fail to understand that women are as much a victim of this paradigm as they are".
Over at What Tami Said: "In support of feminist bloggers". Tami tries to deconstruct in the simplest of terms why feminist bloggers write they way they do, and how this has influenced a new generation of feminists, and intellectual think. I agree with her - discovering social justice online has made me a smarter person, as it constantly links me through to different discussions. It really has taught me more than any paid for, bookish education. (via Shakesville)
"Over time, you see WHY the rules of engagement in Social Justice spaces have to flow from the positions of least power. Because if we let [Guy who seems to derive all of his self-respect from his denial of racism and sexism] set the agenda, he will declare that privilege doesn’t exist. And if we concede concepts like “Privilege” or “Mansplaining” or “Kyriarchy” or “Rape Culture” or “Systemic Oppression” – if we let those structural concepts and theoretical matrices be taken from us, we must essentially fight every battle from scratch."
I went to check out Magowan's blog ReelGirl after reading this piece, and discovered a lovely feminist deconstruction of Willow Smith's "I Whip My Hair" in "ReelGirl Star of the Week: Willow Smith". Who would have thought a song so simple, could be so much fun, so enthusiastic and so freeing of image stereotypes!
"Queering SF: Writing Queer - Languages of Power" by Brit Mandelo at Tor.com talks about how especially important it is to get the descriptions of and words used by queer characters right, so that their worlds and their motives ring true. This is especially important to me right now, because I have been writing so many queer characters, and I am very concerned about getting them right. (via SF Signal)
This one is So. Cool. I'm so proud of this one - it's my first video game!
Deirdra Kiai Productions presents "Life Flashes By" - 'a game about what might have been'.
Deirdra describes the story as such: "Life Flashes By is a video game about success and failure in following one’s dreams, about finding love and losing it, and about feeling isolated and out of step with the rest of the world."
In this game I voiced young Charlotte with a very prim, young lady British accent, and teenage Charlotte with a Canadian/British accent mix. Deirdra has also added my name to a credits page.
Deirdra is an independent game developer from Vancouver, with a penchant for the sousaphone.
If anyone really wanted to query my motives behind writing "Twixt", I'm sure they could point to my current reading list, which includes Tiptree's "Her Smoke Rose Up Forever". I started dipping into this fantastic anthology in the last month, but I only read "Houston" last night.
I finished writing "Twixt" last week.
To say I was momentarily devastated is an understatement.
Gosh, I do get a bit carried away blogging about life, the universe and everything that I forget to talk about what I really started this blog about: writing.
Since my last majorly writer update (Sale! SQUEE!), I've been plugging away at my short stories, editing and submitting in a steady fashion. That's all I could ask for about now, but I do feel the personal pressure from myself to do more, more, ever more.
I'm very conscious of time slipping away if I'm not writing, but I do know that if I focus all my energy and time into writing I will learn to hate it and it will become a job, not something that I really love and have been dreaming of doing for so long. I've learned this hard lesson from other life experiences I thought I must suck all the marrow of goodness out of these things, and when I was done with them (bored, excelled or unable to move any further) I felt an obligation to keep doing them until my soul was crushed under the weight of that obligation.
I don't want to do that with my writing. I want to learn, to become better, to always change, but in no way do I want my writing to become a Have To. I've wanted this too long to squander it on my magpie mentality.
I'm happy that I seem to have plateaued at two states of writing being: I can do a really full on Monday sometimes and totally fall in love with a piece so much that I'll expend my week's writerly energy and explode 6000 words all over the page in one sitting; or I can steadily plug away at 250-500 words a day over a week, using a Monday as a major edit day.
I also have a rule: no writing on the weekends. If I want to I might submit or edit a bit on the weekend, but no new words. I find it leaves me really fresh and revving to go for Monday.
Of course every new piece that I write is my newest favourite! I've just finished polishing a piece where I had to invent how the protag spoke (basically inventing a language), and that was exhausting yet invigorating. So currently that's my fave. But as time goes by and I get rejections and feedback, I'm sure it will fade away and be replaced by something omg noo 'n shiny. It's what happened to the first piece I wrote this year - I'm still shopping it out, and giving it the occasional edit (you wouldn't believe how much it's changed since the first draft! I can't!), and I still believe in it, but the shine's off. I'm sure I'll love it again if/when I ever sell it.
I keep hearing the same phrase a lot: I have great ideas, but I need better follow through on execution. Not enough tension or conflict. Ok, I'm hearing you, I'm working on making myself better, but here's one thing I'm keeping straight - I'm staying true to my style. And if that style is a little rambling, a little laid back, so be it. I'm not going to become some carbon copy of this or that writer or style. I'm staying true to the original idea. If I believe in myself enough, someone (some editor) will eventually believe in it too.
Am I getting better? I'd say my sale to Semaphore is evidence of that. The first ever piece I wrote this year, as I was talking about above? Currently on it's ninth submission. The piece I sold to Semaphore? Was it's first submission (though I'd submitted there before with two different pieces).
I'm so excited to see the December edition of Semaphore. Because it's my start. You don't have to like my writing, I'm not asking you to pimp for me. Social media is an amazing promotional tool for a freelancer, and I'm sure I'll make use of my great networks in the years to come. But right now, it's enough that I believe in myself.
So it seems my piece on Stephen Fry has been making it's meandering way around teh interwebs, even hitting Reddit for a few days. It has become my most read piece, reaching over 1200 views.
So, welcome new viewers. My place isn't always about politics or activism. It's my place to talk about writing too. Does what the headline says - writing, voice, geekery, hulk smashy stuff.
Of course, not all viewers are, or will be, nice. A few have seen an OMG Woman Being Wrong on the Interwebs, and have taken it upon themselves to mansplain. No thanks, not here.
Therefore I have made a commentary policy. Fairly bog standard: you piss me off, you go bye-byes. This is my safe space, and I make the rules. Also, I can and will change this commentary policy and automatic commenting at any time.
This is not a Choose Your Own Adventure. If you disagree with my commentary policy, see step one.
ETA: As above re: arbitrary changes to my comment policy: I have temporarily enabled comment moderation, because some people seem incapable of reading and following guidelines.
The meme taking teh internetz by storm the last few days: Privilege Denying Dude!
ETA: The original Tumblr got taken down for some reason (conspiracies abound) but currently someone is keeping it alive through Blogspot.
Tansy Rayner Roberts has written up a comprehensive "Reader's Guide to Connie Willis". I am currently dipping in and out of the "Fire Watch" collection, and have asked for MOAR PLX for Christmas.
A comment I keep seeing come up in feedback I'm getting from editors is that I don't have enough conflict driving the story (most of my pieces so far have been reasonably navel gazing internal conflicts, but still...). Janice Hardy talks about "Forcing the Issue: Adding Conflict to your Scenes" at The Other Side of the Story. (via SFSignal)
You claim that you were putting this idea of female sexual repression out there as such: "I had fondly imagined that in a free and open society one might be allowed to play with such ideas in a reasonable spirit of debate". Surely one such as yourself should understand the rules of the debate: that each side gets to speak their piece and the other side rebut.
However, what has gone down here is not a debate. You said your piece in a forum which was a one sided conversation, and when women/feminists/pesky media finally got a chance to respond in the forums they have, you flounced from the debating table, opened up the opposition to attack, denigrated the forums in which we have to respond, and positioned yourself as the victim.
Yes, we understand the media is a nasty wee beasty who will twist words and seek attention using a person's good name. I am critical of the media on a daily basis for such bottom feeding behaviour. However, it is disingenuous for you to write paragraphs acknowledging this and the status of celebrity in today's society, then turn around and say you are "Just a nobody whose opinion is worth no more than anyone else’s". No matter how twee, sweet and humble you posit yourself as, there comes a time where you must own the responsibilities of celebrity, with the power and privilege that come with it.
So, you were "simply taking a thought for a walk", as if struck by the thought on the spur of the moment and your tongue got carried away with your brain. Strange that you've taken this same idea for a walk on previous occasions:
Regarding your disengagement from media and avoiding reading about yourself, that's fair enough - engaging on every little thing would get tiring and hurtful, and who wants to be told they're a moron on a daily basis, without basis. But this is not a little thing, and refusing to engage on it makes it even less littler. You chose your own forum in which to respond, your own safe space, which is also fair enough, but by refusing to read what was written and asked of you (intelligent engagement with people who know something about female sexuality) you have no sense of what troubled people so much beyond the vague concept that "people were upset, and when they're upset they're angry, it's so silly to be angry and I don't engage with silly and angry people". Goodness, that sounds very much like the Tone Argument. You're intelligent Stephen, I thought you'd be beyond having Feminism 101 explained to you.
"I suppose I might have to find a way to avoid saying something monumentally stupid that finds its way back to Britain." I am in New Zealand. The person you opened up for a Twitter dogpile is from New Zealand. You talk to the world, yet you make out like this is some quaint little Fleet Street ruckus, a storm in a British teacup. For someone who has been a major early technology adopter and one of the biggest Twitterers, this is another disingenuous leap.
"All they have to do is ignore me". Ah another derailing cry from the fingered misogynist. I know the big, bad "m" word can be frightening, but you know what Stephen? Own it. Women have ignored sexism for far too long, and silence condones. If no one is willing to speak out about sexism, how will it ever be solved?
"I admit that I do have a sometimes disastrous tendency, when asked a question, to answer it, often jokingly, or in the interests of ventilating a new thought that has struck, or more or less as the mood takes me but certainly too much without any consideration of the possible consequences." Good good, we're getting somewhere - yes, we all have brain farts. But a sexist joke is still sexist, and still hurts. However, not once in all the times that you have spouted this nonsense have you framed it as a joke or some comedy spiel. The above video seems to be in a serious tone, and the quote from the article that stirred this debate (ahem) were taken in a serious manner by the journalist. My comedy meter is not broken - I'm still not going to laugh when someone jokes "Women, eh? Aren't they just frigid, marriage and baby hungry shrews?"
"I am not, after all, a politician who has to weigh every syllable and its chances of giving offence." No, you're not a politician, but dammit Stephen you're a human being, and human beings of every type, politician or no, should weigh their words carefully regardless, to save harming other people. Basic common human decency. Honestly, is that so hard?
"It simply isn’t my business to pronounce on something that I know nothing of and I’m sorry if the very idea of my even touching on the topic is deemed offensive, inappropriate and outrageous by authorities on gender issues, if such authorities exist." Goddamit Stephen, it's passive aggressive bullshit like this that really gets my goat. Of course you're allowed discourse on topics you may not be so learned on, but don't be so put out if we come back at you claiming a little more expertise and wishing to engage on the matter in a different manner. If such authorities exist? Are you really saying women are not the authority on their own gender or sexuality? Men can be learned on gender issues too if you take the time to listen. This is not listening - this is sneering at our frustration.
In the end, you play the Oppression Olympics and victim cards. We are very much aware of the homophobic bullying, and we're on your side with that. It's disgusting, and should not be tolerated. But we're feeling bullied here too, especially by you with your insistence on non-engagement and non-apology. You're feeling "spanked with a fly whisk"? How about women feeling slapped in the face every single day by the patriarchy, told they have no right to their sexuality, that it belongs to hetero men? How can we be effective allies to you if you're blocking us in such a fashion.
I'm glad that you see your words were "ill-judged", but my guess is not because you feel sad you hurt some of your fellow human beings - it's because you were pulled up and your privilege shown for what it really is. Hey, I recognize what it's like to have your privilege pointed out. It hurts. It sucks. But Stephen, it's not your precious feelings that need saving here.
Not once did you give a decent apology in your response. In fact, it amounts to the standard, sigh-inducing non-apology that the discriminated against get every single fricken' day - "I'm sorry you were offended". I see you recognize your prejudices too, and I'm not asking you to grovel, just a recognition that you have a ways to go to unpick where these prejudices are coming from and that you are willing to try.
And if you're not willing to at least try, then I'm sorry Stephen we can't be friends any more. Because I expect better of my friends. Perhaps you should consider a leash for that thought of yours if you decide to take it out for a walk again.
"Me Myself I" rejected by Electric Spec, with very positive feedback.
This was another "almost, but not quite!". I had been waiting on a reply for this one, because it had made it through the initial stages, and getting the rejection hot on the heels of my FIRST. EVAR. SALE (squeee!) I can only grin, shrug and say "Oh! Stake to the heart", Paul Reubens original Buffy style:
So, you're a Nice Guy (TM), one who I greatly admire and respect. One can imagine that entering into a verbal debate with you would be most intimidating - you eviscerate, usually in the nicest of ways. Meeting you across the debating table sounds like one of those "naked at school" dreams, a concept that has me quivering in fear, because your intellect would squash mine like the mote that it is.
However, having a towering intellect, a sharp tongue, and biting wit does not give you a pass to say cruel and unusual things about women, or straight men (that's a bit rough, categorizing all straight men as completely mindless when it comes to sex and women. Even I like to think better of my fellow men), or even gay men (they'll fuck anything? Really? This from you who will stand up and attack the "gay men are promiscuous" stereotype?), as you do in this article. Those are some very broad strokes there, ones I'm bemused to hear coming from you, someone whose intellect and wit I value and appreciate so highly.
So I'm sucking up my fear and saying "Hey, come on Stephen Fry. This is not on." Cruel strokes like "women are only sexual to get a relationship" and "Women don't enjoy sex" are not fair, not nice, and completely misses the point of how the intersections of patriarchy and policing of sexuality harm women.
You have the privilege of education, class, race, intellect, gender, and power, but surely you of all people would understand what it's like to have your sexuality misrepresented and maligned. Don't get me wrong, I'm completely on your side. I respect your struggles. But to say you don't believe women when they say they like or want sex is negating our lived experiences and dismissing our voices. I'm at a loss as to why you would do so, when you have fought for so long for the voices of under-represented sexuality to be heard.
You say "If women wanted sex for pleasure they'd just go out and get it". Well, sure they do, but only if they're strong enough to wade through the tide of "slut" and "whore" jibes, not to mention rape culture and the threat of bodily harm. Oh yes, we can have all the sex we want, but the patriarchy sure as hell makes sure we pay for it - with our dignity, pride, bodies and lives.
You say: "The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want. They want a boyfriend and then they want commitment."
I ask you this, Stephen: What about lesbians? What about bisexuals? What about pansexuals, asexuals, polyamourists, non-monogamists? The women who, throwing off the policing of sexuality and the jibes and the whispers and the not so covert bullshit, DO go out and get laid? Women are not this single-minded, single sexed collective intent on trapping a man into a relationship with our disgusting sexy wiles. That is a narrative sold by the patriarchy to keep women in check, busy, and in fear of questioning their sexuality. Surely you are more intelligent than that to believe that sort of socialized tripe?
I don't know what reason you would have to say these things, it's not really my place to guess, but to say I'm disappointed is an understatement. You strike me as the sort of person who wouldn't dismiss people out of hand, simply for disagreeing with you - heck, you love a good debate. People listen to you, people respect you, and your words have weight. Therefore, I'd politely ask that you join and engage with the narrative, and instead of driving the conversation, stop and listen to what women actually have to say about their sexuality. You know, the sexuality that belongs to us, the individual, and what we want to do with it, when and if we can break free from the chains of patriarchy.
In a world that's already stuffed with misogynist rhetoric, it's so very difficult to find someone of stature, intellect, wit, and pleasant nature to point to and say "Hey, he's really a nice guy. I respect what he has to say". I hope you will clarify your position and not disenfranchise a rather large portion of your fan base. Please don't make me take "The Fry Chronicles" off my Christmas wish list.
In the last few days, I've been contemplating Writerly Inspiration, whence it comes, and how to translate it into useful action.
Much wordliness has been devoted to "How to Be Writerly Inspired For Dummies (or Non Writer Dummy Types)". Where to look, who to talk to. Do you do it in groups, or is it better scraped off the floor on your lonesome? Is it found at the bottom of a bottle, or from the crystal clear vision of transcendental meditation? Do you dream it, or be-hee-iiit? Whether one way, or multiple ways, it comes down to Doing It Your Own Way.
I have never actively sought inspiration for stories or characters. I know many people are going to groan, and hate this but...ideas just happen for me. I sometimes dream them; I have brain lightning; I sometimes have an image of a scene, character or idea and I stick it in the back of my mind to simmer, and my subconscious ends up spewing something back at me. Probably the most active search for inspiration I undertake at this time in my writing career is driving.
I read an interview with Peter Gabriel where he said driving works to calm his mind too. However, I don't actively jump in the car with the intent of clearing some writer's block, or forming a story in my head - not overly climate friendly "Uh yeah, my doorstop novel was written at the expense of dwindling fossil fuels. Yay me!" Driving Inspiration comes unbidden, on previously planned journeys.
It's lovely serendipitous inspiration. It usually happens when I'm the passenger, and gently nodding off or watching the scenery rush by unseen. I guess you could say I fall into a meditative state, and clear the pathways for my subconscious to talk.
When inspiration struck like this before I actively started working on my writing career, I filed the idea away in the back of my head for later interest. I have revived some of those ideas, but they aren't as fully formed as they should have been had I written myself notes. Revisiting the idea years, maybe even a decade, later, means the scene isn't as vivid.
Now, I carry a notebook everywhere with me. Just in the last six months, I've had two brain lightnings. Once I wrote for two hours solid when I arrived at my destination, writing up characters and plot lines for something that looked like a fantasy romance (how did that happen? I'm not even usually interested in that genre! Let's hope my idea is something different enough). I'm not in the right mindset to attempt a novel just yet (no NanoWrimo for me this year), but if I did, I think I might have something there.
The second brain lightning happened just this weekend past, and I startled myself by hearing the voice of a fully formed character in my head, having an actual conversation with another character. Golly gosh, I'm hearing voices? This character was most interesting, in a post-apocalyptic setting, and I wanted to hear more of what zie said. So I started - another! - piece.
My second source of inspiration comes from the support of the people I surround myself with, whether they know they're in my writing network or not. I follow a lot of really interesting writers and editors on Twitter and through their blogs. Seeing them talk daily of sales, fails, word counts, their writing tribulations, and industry politics, angst and triumphs is fantastic, normalizes the career of writing, and lets me know I'm not alone.
The Christchurch arm of SpecFicNZ meets on a monthly basis for a social outing, where each writer chats about what's happening in their writerly sphere. I'm hoping I'll be able to go on a regular basis. It's been quite an eye opener what a big community of writers there is in Christchurch. Having felt so cut off from writing for so long (on my own volition), it really is quite a wonder to find so many like minded people. Quite invigorating.
Though I do like being surrounded by interesting people if I'm in a social frame of mind, there are a lot of times where I just like being with myself. I like the quietness of writing. I like the thought of myself as a bit of a writing recluse. How earnest and slightly mystical, yes?
"Through The Open Door" rejected by Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.
I'm trying really hard to stay positive, despite my rejections starting to number in the dozens now. I believe that this piece is my strongest literary piece I have out there at the moment, and to see readers "not get it" is frustrating. I'm trying not to internalize or personalize the criticism. I'm looking at feedback and thinking "ok maybe I could edit that bit or change that idea", but I don't want to completely rewrite the piece or the character to make it more conventional because the whole idea of the piece was that it was non-conventional.
I'm trying to do something reasonably challenging with it - there's some really deep stuff that you have to dig for in it, and it's not my job as the writer to have to hold the reader's hand all the way through it. The best pieces leave you thinking well after you've put the story down.
It seems like I'm doing the mental pep talks more and more of late, and it is getting difficult. Someone told me once, many years back, I was "just an average writer" (yeah, I don't work for them thankfully) and I keep hearing those words over and over in my head, even though I know that person was wrong. You can reject the words, but it still hurts.
Am I getting better? I don't know. But I'm writing what I want to write, not what's popular, nor do I want to experiment with "writing like a man". I tossed that idea round in my head over the weekend, wondering if I should try some sort of social experiment, but damn it all....I'm going to succeed on my terms.
Ha, maybe I'll become one of those writers more appreciated after my death.
"Career Advice for Young Writers" by Trent Jamieson can apply to new writers of any age (hello!). It's the "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" for writers. Basically - hang in there, keep doing what you're doing.
OMG THIS: "Novels don't need to be nice" by John Lucas at The Guardian's Book Blog. I've tried to write a couple of morally ambiguous characters, and critiquers claimed the story failed because they weren't "nice" or their actions didn't make sense if they were meant to be "normal" people. Ya know what? Arbitrarily assigned "normal" people can be jerks too. Yeah, even me! (via SFSignal)
"The Female Flowchart", originating at Overthinking It (and in this case, overthinking things without any thought at all) has been making the rounds of teh interwebs, telling women culture consumers and writers that, once again, there are no good female characters. Whatsoever. Full stop. Coz we're emoshunul. And Tropey. And stereotypes. And One Dimenshunul. The best takedown and link-about can be found at "Feminism, and how I thought we'd been over this already" by HavocTheCat (via Shakesville)
"Tasty Maidens" rejected from Daily Science Fiction via form letter.
"Slingshot" rejected from Expanded Horizons via a novel of constructive criticism. The editor took a lot of time to expand on all my Fail in this story, and after a little sniffle and a pout I came to the realization they were right. What might have worked (almost) for Redstone had gaping holes you could drive a monster truck through. My usual fail: trying to stuff too many concepts in. Also I recognize: maybe I'm not cut out for hard science fiction, because my science lets me down.
I have started and discarded this post many times in the last few days, on the computer and in my head.
I could say some trite phrase like "I've lost my mojo" or "It's just writer's block, I'll get over it", but it would come across as self pity and I really don't want to go down that road, because I'm not looking for reassurance.
For the last week or so I've been struggling with Writer's Block. My fiction is still alive, even if it's running into the middle of a dusty western town with a flat tyre and dust devils bouncing past.
My solution to my fiction writer's block is to force myself to write: physically sit down, put my fingers on the keyboard and demand that I type, dammit, even if it sucks. I've gone from a fairly loquacious 4000-6000 words a week, down to a pitiful 1500-2000, but I'm hanging in there. Maybe my big burst of passion is over, and I'm settling into a routine of somewhere around 250-500 words each scheduled writing day. It hurts a bit, because I have so much lost writing time to catch up on (all those years wasted). Yes, I know, that's my patience clawing at the cage of my brain. At least words are still flowing, ideas are coming, even if the pace has slowed somewhat.
The biggest chunk of writer's block is aimed at my blogging. I've always positioned myself as an ally, been very conscious of my privilege, and hoped I didn't screw up too much. Still, it hurts when I realize I've made a clusterfuck of something, hurt people, and get called on my privilege. I'm not making excuses, nor am I going to give specific recent examples - it's a little hard to quantify my feelings right now as I process being shut out of conversations even though I had the best of intentions. And as so many feminists have been quoting lately "Intent, it's fucking magic!" (TM Genderbitch)
It's frustrating, because I'm trying to find the words to convey how I want to help, how sorry I am for things said, how I'm not like Them, how I know I fucked up and I'm not proud of it, how I'm on people's side...but I feel like a failure of a writer when the words just won't come. I'm not John Scalzi who has written a paean to privilege, or Genderbitch (again) who puts it so succinctly.
So, here is me, forcing myself to write, even though it's a pretty crummy thousand words or so. This is not digging for sympathy - this is my way of trying to work things out. I have nothing succinct to say, and willing the words to Just Happen is putting a burning sensation behind my eyes and a big slammed shut gate of Get The Fuck Out in my brain.
The first book that I'm excited about coming out soon is NK Jemisin's "The Broken Kingdoms", due the start of November. She has sample chapters up at her website for a taster, Chapter One Here, Chapter Two Here. I'm being very good and not reading them because I want to inhale the book once I get my paws on it!
Wellingtonian Philippa Ballantine's latest "Geist" is due out in a couple of weeks. Check out her website to find out how you can pre-order, or check out all her other projects in podcasting and writerly worlds! I have it on my wishlist at The Nile.
Local author Lila Richard's is launching her dark fantasy "A Different Hunger" on Halloween. Details here about the launch party.
Over at my favourite podcast group Escape Artists, EscapePod editor Mur Lafferty has announced that EP is putting its first run rates to pro-level! Yay!
And to finish off, a timely and welcome rant from NK Jemisin on "The "harm" of political correctness". The corruption of the term political correctness into "PC gone mad!" or "PC nanny state!" or "PC whiners!" creates new universes between my molars.
Jemisin says: "Have the courage of your convictions. Don’t downplay them, rationalize them, or pretend that you’re the aggrieved party — because no matter how you try to paint yourself as a brave crusader against the thought police, or the innocent victim of the anti-bigotry hordes, nobody’s buying it, except maybe your fellow whiners. Everybody else just thinks you’re stupid and a coward, on top of being selfish and sadistic."
The Language of Rejection Letters Part One: Gabrielle Edits "Reading Between The Lines" gives some tips on how NOT to read between the lines of rejection letters. If it's a form letter, there really is nothing in it - it's simply to save time. (via SFSignal)
The Language of Rejection Letters Part Two: Rachelle Gardner's "Why, oh why, did I get rejected?" is focused on agent rejections, but it still rings true for manuscript submissions. Sometimes you have to hear some hard news. (via SFSignal)
In the ongoing pursuit of adjusting my language away from ableism, I love how Raising My Boychick explains why the word crazy hurts so much, in "On the ubiquitous use of "crazy"". "No one is asking or expecting that you do it all at once. Just that you try. And I bet you’ll succeed, because it is just a tiny little word."
Spilt Milk does turn-it-on-its-head social commentary with this piece of Sci (Sigh?) Fi, "The Good Wife"
The Hand Mirror has a good link round up about the Paul Henry problem in "How bad does it have to get to be fired?" Suggestions here on positive action to get this racist, ableist, sexist, elitist jerk off our screens. NB: I have never, and will never, watch this moron. Lock him in a room with Howard Stern, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh post haste.
"Through the Open Door" rejected by Semaphore Magazine.
But not to worry! I currently have three (yes, THREE!) pieces that are sitting at "stage two" of the decision process at various publications. Most invigorating, and I'm constantly checking my email. Must...stop...terrible habit.
And now, for something completely different. BeardyMan, the most awesome beat boxer of all time:
I've had a basic understanding of the concept of tokenism for some time, but I've never had to apply that concept to myself and my writing until now. Writing is a meritocracy, old chum, and some are more meritocratic than others...
I'm very late to the discussion, months late in fact, but only recently I've been to grappling with the idea of submitting to "Women Only" issues of magazines and anthologies if I ever came across them. In particular, the Realms of Fantasy "Women in Fantasy" special edition - I linked to this sometime back, and enthusiastically started writing a piece in time for the deadline.
I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't think too hard about it. Your Newbie Writer thought "Fantastic! This may be an outlet that may get my work seen on a more equal standing!"
Doh. Back to my reading and thinking harder I must go.
The other day I returned to the submission guidelines to remind myself of the date and address (this would be a snail mail submission, a whole other issue in itself considering our massive online world and presence). And I started reading the comments. And I thought "Huh. Well, I didn't think about that very well, did I."
What I didn't think about? That in 2010, women writers of spec shouldn't have to be Othered, shouldn't have to be given proportional representation, for their wonderful writing to be recognized. Proportional representation should just be a natural thing that happens all the time, in every issue of a magazine or in publishing.
Of course that's a naive state to exist in, but I certainly expect better. Every time I return to discussions like this of late, my thoughts return to Joanna Russ' "How To Suppress Women's Writing". Mis-representation of women's writing may not be as egregious as 30 years ago, and the industry may not be operating under intentional bad faith, but bad faith is still bad faith.
So I decided to check in with some writers and publishing people whose opinion I trusted on the matter.
Women are actually not a minority in fantasy fiction, even if they are regularly treated/discussed as if they are. A women’s only issue appears to be addressing the problem, while not actually making any changes that will have a long term effect on the gender balance of the magazine.
I agree with Tansy when she says women's fantasy fiction needs to be celebrated, but as she says a women's only issue is "the very definition of tokenism" if editors and publishers are not willing to address the underlying issues of representation. She offers some good advice on how do this, and it's so simple it's stupid:
If you’re going to bring affirmative action in to try to change the diversity levels and particularly the gender balance of your magazine, then trying to regularly publish a 40-50% balance of female authors would be a far more useful contribution.
[The all women's issue] not only acknowledges that you have a problem, but it seeks out not to address the why, not even to address if it is somehow to do with how the editor reads and selects stories.
It's a matter of re-educating yourself past your comfort level and privilege, which requires listening to women, and female identifiers and allies, about their experiences. As Krasnostein says:
I just don't seem to have a problem with the gender balance thing. And I don't specifically slush for it.
Some people may (and did!) cry "Reverse Sexism!". Cat Valente said in "All Girl Action":
I feel certain that there have been all male issues without calling them THE ALL DUDE REVUE.
Here's the thing about an -ism: it requires a certain privilege and power to perpetrate that -ism. For the marginalized to be told they're abusing a power and privilege they don't have is laughable - It shows bad faith that you would throw back in the face of those attempting to deal with their marginalization as a way to divert attention from yourself.
What this all means to me, having dipped my toe in some gender and publishing politics, is that I have decided against sending the story I have written for just this project to RoF. It's not like I'm short of outlets for submission that already have affirmative action as stock standard slush rules, and not just for women either. There are also some great outlets doing great things recognizing the contribution and stories of GLBTI, disabled writers, and writers of colour, culture or religion.
And that's today's lesson. I am edumacated a little bit more.
There has been interesting discussion and debate around the blogosphere in recent weeks as pertains to Islamophobia. This link-about starts with the ever excellent A Shiny New Coin and "Muslin: A Threat to the Fabric of Society". While it does not pertain to Science Fiction, it's a well written example of tolerance and calling out the bigots.
SF&F author NK Jemisin guest blogged at John Scalzi's Whatever with "What He Said", which critiques the bigotry in the media and mis-information surrounding the "Ground Zero Mosque". Yes, it is in air quotes, because as Jemisin says "so much of the rhetoric on this issue ignores the basic facts: that the building’s nowhere near Ground Zero".
Jemisin followed up this piece with an open discussion topic on her blog, called "And Just In Case..." where a troll managed to do exactly what she asked people not to do!
Media cynic Charlie Brooker also took a swipe at the rhetoric in "Ground Zero Mosque: The Reality is Less Provocative" in The Guardian. "Cordoba House, as it's known, is a proposed Islamic cultural centre, which, in addition to a prayer room, will include a basketball court, restaurant, and swimming pool. Its aim is to improve inter-faith relations. It'll probably also have comfy chairs and people who smile at you when you walk in, the monsters." (emphasis mine)
In Science Fiction land, Elizabeth Moon set off a firestorm with her piece "Citizenship" at her blog "Moonscape". Oh dear.
It's been six months, or thereabouts, since I started my writerly journey. While I have my ticker, and I regularly update about my rejections, I thought a little statistical update might put these months into context.
This update is for me as well, to give myself a little self-motivational cheer leading.
Numbers of stories I have written: 15
Approximate number of words (without edits): 58 000
Stories submitted: 7
Number of submissions made to magazines and online publications: 22
Number of contest entries made: 5
Number of close, but no cigar: 3
What surprises me most is the approximate number of words written. I'm rather scared of making plans about a novel, but seeing that 58K number coming from aggregate sources over six months is heartening. I know I can do it if I put my energy into it. However, a novel is a completely different beast because it's such a large devotion of time and I am really loving writing short fiction at the moment.
So hello void, I'm still shouting, but you haven't defeated me yet.
Litres of blood, sweat and tears expended: infinite
We're at the end of New Zealand SpecFic Blogging Week, being hosted at NZSpecFic.org. Check out all the posts from the week here.
New Zealand spec publishers Random Static are opening up submissions for novellas. Official guidelines will go up on the website soon, but publisher Anna Caro has given a sneak preview here. (via @anna_caro_nz)
I remember slimy tasteless food. I remember grey. I remember ugliness, of the soul and of action. I remember fear.
I remember a river and a mine.
When I was contemplating New Zealand SpecFic Blogging Week and the theme I wanted to explore, I re-examined my media history. I asked myself what were the first Science Fiction and Fantasy I encountered. These included the original Battlestar Galactica, Lou Ferrigo/Bill Bixby's Incredible Hulk, Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman, watching original Star Trek reruns on a Saturday morning, a bit of Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee, Peter Davidson), and of course most children of the 80s has a history with Star Wars. In my early teens it was Indiana Jones and the BBC's version of John Christopher's Tripods.
However, I wanted to focus on my earlier media history narrative, from before I was 12, and before media and pop culture has an impact on your teenage years. So I asked myself what were the over-riding images I remember of SF&F before that age, and the answer came up distinctly kiwi - Under The Mountain, Children of the Dogstar, and Maurice Gee's other 80s children's classic "The Halfmen of O".
I knew of the concept of death as a child - dead pets and ageing relatives created teaching opportunities for my parents. The scene is only mere seconds long, but it is the image of teenage Ricky floating face down at the edge of Rangitoto Island after being attacked by the Wilburforces that still lingers with me even three decades on.