Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dear Stephen Fry

Dear Stephen Fry,

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.

Ms Pickled.

For some further reading:
Boganette: "The Stephen Fry Saga"
Not Emily: "An Open Letter to Stephen Fry"
Queen of Thorns: "I am a woman and I enjoy sex"
Lizabelle: "Stephen Fry and you and me and everyone we know"
Laura Penny at The Guardian: "Stephen Fry, how could you?"
Catherynne Valente "The Why of Fry"
Annie Sisk "Mr Fry, I'm a bit disappointed in you"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On: Inspiration

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?

Inspiration. Don't push it. It'll happen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm not dealing well with this Rejection thing 26/10/2010

"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.

Happy Cat Has Run Out of Happy

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Links Schminks 21/10/2010

  • "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.
  • Over at i09, "15 classic science fiction and fantasy novels that publishers rejected". Said about Joanna Russ' "The Female Man", "I'm sick and tired of these kinds of women's novels that are just one long whiny complaint." Huh, o rly?
  • Juliette Wade at TalkToYoUniverse has some helpful advice when writing about body language, something which has been a focus in one of my current pieces. "Body Language: Are There Cliches?"
  • Everyone's sharing it, and I'll join the bandwagon too, again: John Scalzi's "Things I Don't Have To Think About Today"
  • 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)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Open a can of Rejection and walk a mudhole dry 19/10/20

"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.

A white and grey cat attempts to run up a slide, but keeps sliding backwards
Gif: A kitten's futile attempt to climb a slide

On: Writer's Block

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.

Angry doesn't always get the job done.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Books Smoosh Links 13/10/2010

  • 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.
  • Helen Lowe's (yes, another local author!) "The Heir of Night" was released this month, and to celebrate she has been running a series of guest blogs on her site, under the banner of "Why Fantasy and Science Fiction rock my world".
  • Nial Harrison at Torque Control talks about "Women and the Clarke Award", discussing the state of women SF writers, with some focus on British female authors. (via SFSignal
  • A writing focus of late has been practising dialogue. At TalkToYoUniverse, Juliette Wade has advice about Internalization, Silence and Avoidance. In other words, your characters don't have to vocalize everything in their heads! Thanks for the reminder Juliette!
  • 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."

Monday, October 11, 2010

A spoonful of sugar makes the Rejection go down 11/10/2010

"Tasty Maidens" rejected from Flash Fiction Online.

One of the pieces at "second level" I was waiting on a reply about has had the decision delayed for another two months. And so the waiting goes...

Patience is not my best virtue, but I shall prevail.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Link Salad, with a side of Link dressing 5/10/2010

  • 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.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Don't let the Rejection hit you in the ass on the way out 4/10/2010

A new one I've started sending round the traps "Trois" was rejected by form letter from Fantasy Magazine.

This one spent fourteen hours on their slush pile. I call that a win, because it was a whole. FOUR. HOURS. MOAR! than the last story I submitted to them.

Tee hee!

Friday, October 1, 2010

VA: Seminar Ep 36 "Outside of the Box"

Pendant Audio Productions presents Seminar Episode 36 "Outside of the Box".

Direct download link here.

I play Mary, a scientist dealing with first contact.

I did this in a middle-aged American accent.