Thursday, September 30, 2010

Here's a Rejection I made for you earlier 30/9/2010

"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:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Oh Dear: In which I get a schooling on tokenism from some great women

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.

Tansy Rayner Roberts says in "Realms of Fantasy: now for Ladies!":
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.
Alisa Krasnostein - whose blog I seem to end up at more and more these days - says in "The latest in female presence in SF ToCs":
[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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Islam Link Around, in which I hush, listen and learn something 28/10/10

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A writerly update of the six month kind

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

Sales: 0

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

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Rules

There are new Writing Rules in Pickled Land:

No computer games on week nights. That means you, Guild Wars.

The SO has been informed. He is not to ask me to do anything in game, nor am I allowed to complain on missing out.

Weekends are free reign to game 48 hours straight if I so wish. I don't, I can't, but if I want to, I can knock myself out.

With that sorted, I must do at least one hour every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night. This one hour can be editing, submitting or writing.

As for reading and/or crafts, they come after the week night Hour of Power.

That is all. And now, a katten to make me feel better:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Linktastic 19/09/2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Beginnings: The Halfmen of O

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".

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beginnings: Under The Mountain

Spoiler Alert: Ricky dies!

For a thirty-one year old book and a 29 year old TV show, that would not be much of a shock to peers of my generation. However, as a kiwi kid coming of age in the early to mid 80s, this was the first embodiment of death I had encountered.

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. 

Wham, Bam, Rejection M'am 15/09/2010

This week's rejections are brought to you by:

The royalty of spec magazines, Asimovs! "Through the Open Door" rejected by form letter. Hey, it was enough that I sucked it up and submitted to them.

And also, Fantastique Unfettered. "Me Myself I", also receiving the form letter treatment.

I shall return to my regularly scheduled broadcast of fighting my newest enemy: the word "was".

But now, the Pickled Kitten.

A calico cat with white, brown and black patches, its face sideways, looking out the corner of its eye
Who's Queen?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Beginnings: Children of the Dogstar

In 1984, I was ten.

In New Zealand, the Muldoon era came to a close, and David Lange took over as Prime Minister in a Labour government. We signed the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

At the movies we were watching Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, and Billy T James in "Came a Hot Friday" (bruhuhu, choice bro).

We were listening to Netherworld Dancing Toys, DD Smash, Herbs, The Mockers, Splitz Enz, The Narcs, The Chills, and "Poi E" was huge.  It was the year of Michael Jackson's Thriller, we loved Wham, Cyndi Lauper, Queen, U2, New Wave, and Frankie told us to Relax.

On TV, we were watching The Young Ones, The Cosby Show, Miami Vice, Magnum PI.

And New Zealand's own "Children of the Dogstar".

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sausage Links 9/9/2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Continuing Serendipity

Remember "Found in a 2nd hand book store"?

The story continues.

The previous owner of the book, the Meliors of the inscription, found my blog and took time to comment.

I am awed. The Internet is a strange and wonderful place, and I can honestly say that I have made the most incredible connections ever since I started blogging and Twittering.

Meliors Simms: Artist, Poet. Her stitched pieces has the embroiderer in me going WOW.

Thanks Meliors. I needed a nice moment like that this week.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In Privileged Company

A while back, I spoke about how I'd been rejected, with great feedback, from the Redstone Science Fiction Towards An Accessible Future competition.

At the time, I was very pleased with the feedback and the fact I'd been considered in the top three stories.

Sarah Einstein, a judge in the competition, has written an essay talking about the competition process and the quality of the entries: "Choosing The Best Possible Future: Thoughts on the Accessible Futures Contest at Its Close"

Reading this essay has made me feel even more enthusiastic about my piece and its almost success. I look forward to polishing it and getting it out to a new market. After reading this essay, I want to do this as soon as possible, because I know I'm on to a good thing!

The winner of the competition was Nick Wood's "Lunar Voices (On A Solar Wind)". What a thoroughly deserving piece! It was has a nice challenging literary voice (I like that!). I'm going to read it again, and slowly, to take it all in. Congratulations Nick!

Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand Stories

I'm tired.

I'm lucky.

I have survivors guilt.

I'm finding it difficult to think above subsistence level.

I hate it. I want to write. I really really want to write. I could say all sorts of selfish things about wanting my life to get back to normal - I was buying WINE last night for FSM's sake, when supermarkets are running out of water, milk and bread - but then I'd sound all whiny and ungrateful. And I'll feel selfish again, and down the spiral I go.

For all my protestations about wanting life to get back to normal, I'm frustrated and angry about having to go to work. In the middle of this disaster, the rest of the country still carries on! For the most part people have been incredibly compassionate, and I can understand the need for normality, but while historic buildings are collapsing a few blocks away from me, I'm sitting there writing copy that feels largely irrelevant and putting on a cheery voice.

I got told earlier today I'd "get over it". Really? And you're a judge of my mental state how? Oh, because I survived, I was lucky, I'm alive, I have nothing to be worried about.

I really don't have a sense of humour being told that the fear I feel lying in the dark as the world shakes around me and throws my life to the floor is "nothing" compared to other people's problems. Ah, dear slippery slope, how you create a culture of suppressed emotions.

I'm watching places I love vanish. I'm seeing beautiful old buildings fall down, or be irrevocably changed. I'm seeing thousands of people anguished, or homeless. I'm seeing roads - something so permanent, that should be unchanging, something you don't really see until they're gone - disintegrating. And I can't do a damn thing about it.

This is probably a paean to trauma that millions have written, thought, felt for time immemorial. My experience is unique, tragic, but nothing new. Saying that media coverage shows the scar on the soul and landscape of my community is not enough is really Not Enough. They have their own agenda, and to try to make politics out of human suffering is simply crass. All very nice and comfortable in the Ivory Tower.

One can't comprehend the sheer scale of hurt until one actually lives through it, and it's not an experience I recommend.

Not having a shower or having to boil all my water is simply an inconvenience. I understand that change happens. But when your mortality, resourcefulness and response to disaster has been challenged and found wanting, your faith in yourself is shaken.

And that is no pun.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Excuse me, but your Rejection is showing m'am 5/9/2010

"Antropology, Redacted" rejected by Apex.

"Me Myself I" rejected by Fantastique Unfettered.

But, eh. I have bigger things to worry about now.

A two story brick building which has sustained heavy damage. The walls are falling down and shop verandahs have caved in. A police car sits outside, and police tape cordones it off.
Photo from

House is fine, I'm fine. But the city...once I'm over the shock and stress I know there's a story in here.

I have got a little behind in my editing and writing of late, but this latest set back...well, I think I can forgive myself.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SpecFic in September

After such a successful con, the profile for New Zealand specfic seems to be on the rise again.

This might not mean much for the average reader. While those in the know have always been aware of New Zealand's talented writers, they are mainly published via overseas venues. Raising the profile, and the idea, that NZ specficcers are an incredibly talented lot (die, towering poppies, DIE!), means a lot for writers like myself who have felt like they've been working on a desert island. And that's a good thing - for a zeitgeist to gain momentum, the community behind it needs to remain cohesive, positive and motivated.

On the heels of Au Contraire, a successful launch of SpecFicNZ, and the launch of an anthology of New Zealand specfic, "A Foreign Country", September continues the New Zealand specfic momentum within various communities.

Over at Kiwi Writers, September is specfic month. This month's challenges include: focusing on writing, editing or finishing a spec fic (even if you've never tried the genre before); writing a piece specifically using an Urban Legend; rewriting Chapter One of a spec novel that you may have in the works.

SpecFicNZ are holding New Zealand Spec Fic Blogging Week from September 13th to 19th. You don't have to be a member of SpecFicNZ to participate - just write a blog post (or 3) about spec with a uniquely New Zealand bent, and send in to the link to be published on the page.

I have already started planning my blog posts for that week. I have chosen a theme of "Beginnings", since this year has been my start on the path towards becoming a published writer. I already have a couple of blog posts in mind upon that theme.

There are New Zealand spec writers with books just released, or about to be released within the next few weeks. With such a broad depth of talent getting international exposure and publication, it's very hard to argue that New Zealand spec is on the down low!

Check out:
Philippa Ballintine's "Geist", out October 26th.
Mary Victoria's "Tymon's Flight", available now.
Helen Lowe's "The Heir of Night", out October 1st.
"A Foreign Country", edited by Anna Caro and Juliet Buchanen, published by Random Static, out now.
Douglas A. Van Belle's "Barking Death Squirrels", out September.

I'm sure I've forgotten some other spec books by New Zealand writers due out (or out now) so if you know of any, please post in comments and I'll add them to the list.

Happy first of spring!