Ready your bingo cards, for we are about to descend into the pit of
fools people responding to my Eastercon post on Twitter.
I posted it at lunchtime and got a few positive replies/mentions/retweets during the afternoon. Then I got home from work to find, alongside another couple of positive mentions, this first set of gems:
While he doesn’t use the word “censorship”, I can’t help but see that kind of idea lurking behind the bottom tweet: it’s upsetting that I’m denying the worth of idiots’ statements? Really? I didn’t say this on Twitter because 140 characters, but I give an ever-decreasing shit about how well-travelled someone is. Expats can spew some of the worst racist garbage out there, so visiting another country clearly doesn’t grant someone automatic knowledge. The point of my post isn’t to say “Oh no you haven’t been to China or read a book about China, you can’t comment!” but to say “Do not make blanket statements about something you are ignorant of!” Own your ignorance, people.
The top tweet seems to place the responsibility on me to fix this, which, LOL. Next!
As I said in reply to this person, we are not in primary school: no one gets gold stars – or exemption from criticism – just for trying. Racist shit went down at Eastercon and we will do the con and its attendees much more of a disservice by not talking about it. I do appreciate the efforts of the con staff, but they cannot pretend that racism (and other fails) did not happen!
I feel that my position is neatly summed up in this exchange:
Fuck the Cult of Nice. I am not here to be nice. I am calling attention to a problem, because otherwise I am complicit. Apparently this is not as important as saving face? HOKAY THEN.
Because, you see, it is upsetting that people are being critical of the con. It makes people sad!
I am going to table-flip FOR ALL FUCKING TIME.
Do you know what makes people sad? What makes people feel that they don’t belong in what should be their own community, their own country? What makes people isolated and alone and afraid and depressed? RACISM DOES THOSE THINGS.
GROW THE FUCK UP, PEOPLE.
I have now been accused of bullying Emmzzi, who has left Twitter as a result of what I’ve said. This is what I said to Emmzzi:
I’m one of those apparently rare geeks who was never bullied (ignored and friendless for certain periods of time, but not actively bullied) so idk, I’m no expert on bullying.
Yes, Emmzzi was helping to organise the con and did a lot of hard, admirable work – but denying that faily things happened at Eastercon is actively harmful to the people who are consistently ignored and marginalised and misrepresented and attacked by the white-dominated world of Western cons. What a twist: this situation is complicated! The con did some excellent things. It also did some bad things. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS.
We actively need to talk about this, or it is never going to stop.
As long as you criticise me for speaking out, I am going to do everything I fucking can to speak louder.
Eastercon starts tomorrow! I will be there on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from late morning until the evening, lurking around wherever there is good lurking to be had. At about 10pm every night I will turn into a pumpkin and take the tube home, because staying in a London hotel would make my wallet tearbend.
I will also be on a panel.
Sunday 7pm – room 38 (Edwardian) – “The personal is political”
Nic Clarke, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Simon Morden, Jude Roberts and Celeste R West
What responsibility do you have for what you write? Does a work exist in isolation? How do you account for personal reactions to a work? To what extent does the quality of the writing and authorial intent matter? Who decides what is gratuitous?
Come and see me being opinionated about writing! I think you all know where I’m going to fall on those questions. >:D
I hope to see you there!
Because I felt almost silly with happiness as I walked home from the station in the last of today’s wondrous sunshine, here is a silly picture I drew while relaxing in my brother’s flat in Russia:
THE LAST FOXBENDER.
No, I don’t know why she has alarmingly long arms, but I do know why she’s a stick figure: I can’t draw bodies for shit. She also has lines for eyes because I can’t draw those either.
I will not be giving up the
dayjob writing any time soon. =D
Speaking of, back to The Bone Queen! Which is going excellently. This may also have contributed to today’s happiness.
Over the hill from my parents’ house, in the middle of a deer farm, is what an anonymous door-painter has dubbed OOE Cottage: an abandoned structure of unknown provenance that has sat alongside the footpath for as long as I can remember.
I have no idea what OOE Cottage means.
Inside is a sparse selection of old wooden furniture, dirty and probably only used as an occasional shelter by the homeless, although I saw no signs of very recent habitation. A small graffito marked one wall. The nettle stalks outside stretched almost as tall as me, winter-dead. The rain drizzled on me. Some of the deer were in the next field, watching me.
I’ve been meaning to take a few photos of this place for years. Today seemed as good a day as any – I don’t know if OOE Cottage will be here for years to come or if the farmer will take it down in a month’s time. Whims of the countryside.
Maybe a fox-witch lives there.
It’s already the solstice, already the turning back of the nights into day, and I have barely noticed it becoming winter. Not because of the bizarre weather (really, England? highs of 13C in December? okay then…), but because of the sun! Shining! Several days a week! In a big, beautiful, blue sky full of light. Sure, the sun only emerges after 8am and disappears before 4pm, but on so many days the hours in-between have been full enough of light that I just don’t care. Even on cloudy days, there have been slivers of sunlight, little patches of colour and life, and some phenomenal sunsets.
And, as a result, no discernable SAD at all for the first time in years.
Compare to last year, where I went about 2 months only seeing the sun 5 times. Granted, other factors were making me depressed last winter, but the SAD was running on overdrive alongside all that. This winter I was going to finally be a sensible grown-up and buy a UV lamp, but so far I haven’t needed to!
And now we’re at the solstice, which normally I would celebrate with much relief, but this year I’m just smiling contentedly at the thought of even more sunshine.
Had a magical weekend with Tori, Koel, Eleanor and Cai, not this weekend but the one before: delicious feasting, pleasant amounts of alcohol, Disney movies (Hercules ahhhh) and Ponyo, walking, poetry, Akkadian homework. We found a rusty old boat in the estuary mud and climbed on it in the un-Octobery sunshine, after some brief debate about the time since our last tetanus shots; it was sturdy in places and falling apart in others, stripped nearly bare inside except for the mud and recent footprints and some planks of wood. Someone had stamped ‘Peoples Republic of Essex’ on the side in bright red.
Curled up in Tori’s bright south-facing living room, I finally wrote the poem for Izmaylovo Market that has been waiting since I got the first line, walking in the market: The market is always packing. I like it. It is already out on submission.
More difficult to write has been a scifi poem. I envisaged it as something the nomadic people in [space opera novel]‘s world would sing – or chant, or say, accompanied by music or just a beat, because I can’t imagine sung things – but this came back to bite me, because I tried to write with a rhythm – like Claire Cooney does, in many of her wonderful poems – and all of my rhythms completely hobbled the words and sounded flat. I then scrapped the idea of a rhythm, heh.
(I will never stop loving this, from Cooney’s “Sedna“:
I want to be the hand that sends the arrow, father
I want to be the arrow, too
More things need to be this beautiful.)
I did finally get a draft I like, but it needs at least one more rewritten draft to become what I want it to be. It needs to be bigger and tell more of the story and say more about the people, both individually and culturally.
Here is a bit that may be gone in the next draft, but I like it at the moment:
A tenth child brings luck:
see Falna, the fierce, her son on her back,
her wife at her side,
her victory unmatched;
see the bones in her hair–
how they sing!
[the drums are the hooves,
are the pounding of feet]
how they clack out the names of the dead.
It feels good to be writing poetry again. Unlike prose, which comes to me no matter what I do, poetry seems to be more of a response: to prompts, to places, to other people’s poems. It’s an odd thing. I think in prose; I would like to think more in poetry, too. Prompts?
• I’m off to Russia on monday! Earlier in the morning than I thought it was, which has one distinct advantage: I will be wearing winter clothes in distinctly non-wintery England, on the tube, so at least the day will still be cool at 6am when I set off. Arriving at Heathrow without a secondary skin made of sweat would be very lovely.
• I handed in my notice last week. I’ve got a 2 month notice period at this job, so there’s some time to go, but in November I will be moving on to a place with better hours and other advantages and maybe then I will write more things! And be less tired! :3 It is continuing my apparent trend of only working in hideously boring parts of London, haha.
• I’m starting Akkadian evening classes soon. Emails have been arriving. I need to read them. Akkadian! Cuneiform! Old things!
• Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories is out on 26 October! Jaymee Goh is posting Q&As with all the authors over at her blog, Silver Goggles, with an author going up every few days.
• Back to work! Making sure things are not left hanging in my absence; working a full day tomorrow as well; very tired.
When I studied the Odyssey at school, I learnt about static or stock phrases: ‘rosy-fingered dawn’ is the one that’s stuck in my memory the strongest; I seem to remember things like ‘wily Odysseus’ cropping up a lot. These phrases are part of the vocabulary of the epic tale, and can be used every time a thing (like dawn) is referred to. I was told that this aids in memorising the tale.
This weekend, at the British Library, I was reading a book about Central Asian oral epics, and they have static phrases too, things like ‘Bokhara with six gates’.
And then there are the ones about other groups of people. ‘The Russians with hairy mouths’ refers to the Russians’ beards. There’s one about the Chinese having an incomprehensible language. But some of them are not just minor barbs; they are involved, impressive insults. ‘The stinking Kalmucks with round tasselled caps, who cut up pork and tie it to their saddles’, for instance. Or ‘The Sarts who love their asses as if they were horses, and who carry their bread in their bosoms’.
I also learnt some relevant-to-my-novel things at the BL, specifically concerning how the Russian presence in Central Asia expanded and affected specific regions of what is now Turkmenistan. It’s really complicated, as all political history is, and not wholly interesting (there’s a reason I never specialised in the political side of history, or even the ‘and some dudes were here, and then some other dudes were over here’ aspect of military history), but it’s very useful in giving me a context for my story’s plot.
It’s also reminded me that I need to be thinking about stakes. While the novel is domestic and quiet in a lot of ways, I think it will be even better – tighter, better paced, less prone to meandering every which way as it’s currently doing – with a greater raising of the stakes; and there are ways in which it is not domestic, and these need to integrate better throughout the novel instead of suddenly appearing towards the end. Meandering is good and serves the nature of the novel, as long as it is not left to grow by itself like those ridiculous weeds in the garden that are now as tall as me. Triffids.
There was an interesting throwaway remark, in one book, about the trade-based economy of the Central Asians at that time and how it fundamentally differed to our money-based economy, and it made the part of me that gets excited about economics sit up and go Oooh. Basically, it was an economy that placed little value on cash – why have a bunch of metal coins that you have to safeguard in a box, when you can have a herd, an obvious sign of your wealth that’s also a little bit harder for a bunch of dudes to run off with in its entirey? And you wouldn’t necessarily push for a fair trade, as we see it – you would also consider factors like building up credit and a good relationship with someone, making a loss (as we see it) on one transaction because later down the line it will benefit you. It’s such a different way of thinking about economics to the way I usually do, and I know my way of thinking has coloured how I’ve written the trade relationships in the book so far. So that needs some re-thinking.
And then I did no more work for the rest of the weekend! It was quite glorious, really. Sleeping and reading and gaming and shopping, even, wherein I found that Clarks biggest women’s trainers are now too small for me ARGH (size changes on their end, not my feet growing) and their men’s trainers are silly money for non-athletic shoes. To a sports shop, I guess. Egh. Fugly and expensive. I want smaller feet. (Eur 42, UK 8/9, US 10/11 = VERY VEXING in a country where women’s shoes often stop at Eur 41 and men’s shoes look like arse for twice the price. Help me, M&S, you are my only hope.)
Russian Embassy tomorrow. Wish me luuck!
The BBC has a beautiful video of gay couples marrying in New York, the latest US state to legalise same-sex marriage. The video is here and you may want some tissues at hand. *happy tears*
I watched Ep1 of Game of Thrones. WHOOPS.
I haven’t read the books, and I know there are differences (apparently the show is more rapey?), so bear that in mind – my reaction is purely to Ep1 of the TV show.
Trigger warning: rape is discussed.
Things I liked:
- Death rituals. :3 Oh man, the painted eye-stones. And then there’s the moment when the King complains that his dead love is buried underground – he wants her buried on a hill, with the sun shining down, but her people prefer subterranean burials. Culture clash over death rituals, I am in love.
- Creepy things in the snowlands.
- Sean Bean.
Things I didn’t like (aka: things the death rituals cannot even begin to compensate for):
- The boy got pushed out the window. ;_; He was about the only character I liked.
- Eastern Rapelandia.
Okay, let me unpack that a little.
First of all, the Barbarians (TM). Apparently in the book they’re faux-Mongols, but in the show they’re some kind of unspecified caricature of Eastern stereotypes. They ride horses, which evokes Central Asia, but their appearance looks sort of like Eastern Mediterranean via Europe. They’re savage and constantly warring and I’m going to go out on a hunch here and add uncivilised to that list. They eat… I don’t know what they eat. Nothing I’ve ever encountered. Bugs? It looks rather like a white person’s nightmarish conjuring of what Eastern Barbarians would like to eat. I don’t know if the creators decided to carefully not use real Eastern cultures to avoid being racist, but they’ve managed to do it in a way that’s still racist. Look at that, the scary brown man raped the lily whitest girl possible. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR BRAINS. There actually are white barbarians in this continent’s history, so it’s not like we have to go East to get scary people. Vikings, anyone? They would have had a nice group of warring dudes to help White Nazi Dude win back his throne, they probably ate Weird Things (TM) and they certainly raped women, and they would have the bonus feature of not adding this show to the long list of SFF media that goes ‘Want Barbarians? Add Asia!’
Second of all, gosh, I have never seen rape so romanticised. He bends her over with a beautiful sunset in the background? Yes, yes, it’s meant to be Very Tragic, but it’s so very lovingly shown. The tragedy is not that Daenerys gets raped, it’s that the dudebros probably aren’t quite done before the scene finally cuts out. Apparently the rape is even worse in Ep2, until she starts to like it, or something. I don’t know, I’m too busy trying to find shows that don’t make me hate society.
I really do like fantasy stories (and other genres) that are gritty and real. I just wish that more creators wouldn’t decide that the way to instantly add grit is to add rape. And then depict it in loving detail. It seems to be the gritty grimdark default, because apparently a lot of people lack imagination. Oh, wait, it’s history! Women always got raped!
Titties! We can’t possibly be reconstructionist or, like, find other things to do to people to make their lives horrible.
Then again, as long as there are people saying things like “I don’t mind when fantasy authors go all rape rape rape if they know how to actually write” (comment in a friend’s post recently), I think we’re a long way from a world where rape in fiction is treated sensitively and truthfully rather than as the latest device to shock! awe! and occasionally titillate!
Aliens: Recent Encounters
I'm the editor of Aliens: Recent Encounters, a reprint anthology of science fiction stories, out in June 2013 from Prime Books.
Coming in 2014
The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women
I will be editing an anthology of powerful, important science fiction stories by women, showcasing the unforgettable contributions made to the genre in recent decades.
Out in late 2014.
People I Read
- Ambling Along the Aqueduct
- Astrogator's Logs
- British Museum Blog
- Brooke Bolander
- Erzebet YellowBoy
- Goblin Fruit
- Hyperbole and a Half
- Invisible Games
- io9: archaeology
- J M McDermott
- Kameron Hurley
- KJ Bishop
- Molly Tanzer
- Papaveria Press
- Rachel Stark
- Requires Hate
- Silence Without
- Silver Goggles
- Small Beer Press
- Stone Telling
- Terri Windling
- The Daily Cabal
- The Streets of Bangkok
- The World SF Blog
- Urban Ghosts