Daredevil, the Power of Story, & Comic Writing Workshop at Wiscon

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Because I’ve signed up for Mikki Kendall‘s Comics Writing Workshop at Wiscon (moment for squee-fest and happy-dance!! I believe this is the first year something like this has been offered) I came across this article, Writer Mikki Kendall Talks Dynamite’s Swords of Sorrow, which led me to Race and Romance in Daredevil Season 2 at Women Write about Comics. It got me to thinking about my own criticisms and disappointments with the show and in pop culture media in general.

While I have criticisms (both cultural and writing centered) of the story, I have enjoyed the Daredevil TV show: well produced, good styling, set and wardrobe; interesting cinematography; complex and intriguing story line. But the writing in the 2nd season felt more scattered (possibly because it was–we did follow three major characters: Daredevil/Murdoch, Elektra, and the Punisher). More noticeable this season, too, was Matt’s disregard for other people–he forces others to clean-up his messes despite their clear discomfort regarding his requests, thus placing those people in harmful and dangerous situations. I don’t know if this is intentional on the writers’ behalf, but Matt came off as a spoiled child thinking he’s acting like an adult. (The character that felt most like a hero was Foggy.) Matt’s callous disregard for the consequences of his own actions and for other’s feelings and needs is a point  makes about Murdoch’s treatment of two of his romantic interests, the two WoC–Claire and Elektra. Ignoring another person’s discomfort and safety is abusive behavior. This paragraph really hit home:

Karen is taken on dates and is formally courted by Matt. Claire and Elektra are the women he’s with only under the cover of darkness, where he’s rougher, less considerate, and embodies more masculine aggression. I can’t emphasize enough what kind of message this sends about what the writers and Matt think of women of color, and how harmful it is for WoC to see themselves as the girls who a white man will come to at night, but never take out during the light of day. We know that stories have a marked effect on self esteem, and the less a WoC sees herself portrayed positively in media, the less likely she is to feel like the society she’s in values her as a human being. 

What we see around us, we absorb into our psyche. We internalize everything. It’s how we learn and function as a species. So the stories we consume as well as the stories we tell ourselves shape our beliefs and what we feel is right and what we feel is possible. If I remember correctly, at a Wiscon panel, Daniel José Older said that happy endings are subversive. And in this excellent interview with Tor.com, Race, Publishing, and H.P. Lovecraft: A Conversation With Daniel José Older and Victor LaValle, I can actually quote him: “I believe in the revolutionary power of happy endings. Especially when you’re dealing with marginalized people… we need to see that there’s hope.”

Apparently even active female characters must be made more… appealing(?, because why else are the writers undermining her active role) by diminishing her agency and being her own competent character. Karen is filmed/styled as the damsel in distress. I’d like to know why her actions need to be glossed up/over with daintiness and a helpless sheen when she’s the one who killed ruthless Wesley, forged forward in her investigations despite real threats (that killed Ben Ulrich), and in general is not cowering or distressed, but active and getting things done. All this while still doing “feminine” things like taking care of the boys and not getting as beat up as the other romantic interests (who are WoC (who are either under-sexualized or over-sexualized…and how sexuality is related to femininity!)), or killed like Ben. As Clara Mae puts it so well, “I’m not at all arguing that violence should befall Karen, but the treatment of Karen stands in stark contrast with the treatment of Elektra and Claire. If Karen is the princess, protected from the brunt of Hell’s Kitchen by the men around her, then Elektra and Claire are the warriors on the front line.” The history of cultural depictions of women of color as not needing/worthy of protection is long. Related is the sexualization of women–either hyper or under sexualized depending on ethnicity, age (lets not forget age!), and whatever it is men were wanting to justify or fantasize about.

I’d like to see all the female characters given as much rounding and complexity, as much humanity and personality, as Karen is given–attractive (well, this is a difficult “idea” isn’t it? Attractive to whom and why? Usually to the male gaze) and worthy as well as active, inquisitive, resilient, and fallible and human, too. There’s some excellent articles out there on why the strong, black woman stereotype is damaging and not the positive praise it might at first glance seem to be (similarly, the “angry, black woman” and other such stereotypes: article by Sofia Samatar on the hyper visibility & invisibility of academics of color, this article by Stacey Patton at Dame Magazine, and “Amandla Stenberg And The Sad Reality Of The ‘Angry Black Girl’ Stereotype” at the Huffington Post).

“But in a society that finds little to praise in black women, other groups’ appreciation for perceived black female strength can feel like a reductive appreciation.”

In Tamara Winfrey Harris’s article linked to above, educator and social-justice advocate Deborah Latham-White is quoted: “I am unwilling to be the mule for the nation.” I cannot put it more eloquently or more succinctly than that.

To those who point out that the comic is different than the TV show–adaptations are their own entity and it is this entity/medium/iteration that is being critiqued. TV has a history and tropes and stereotypes all its own (related to the comics, of course, because it’s created by people in the same broader cultural context). Many consumers of the Daredevil TV show are unfamiliar with the comics, thus the story they are getting is the TV version, so if something different happened in the comic, that’s in the comic, not in the show.

(Clearly this is not meant to be an exhaustive post, nor is it a definitive post. These are discussions that have been on-going and better written than I’ve come up with. But it’s a discussion that is important and vital. Nothing new here, but hopefully a good reminder and stepping stone along the way.)

So, yeah, I’m very much looking forward to Mikki Kendall’s workshop and dipping my writing toes into the world of comics. I’ve got some ideas bouncing about my head I’d like to see out and about in our world. Here’s hoping they make their way to you all one way or another.

In other news, I received edits for “Backlash of the Rapunzel Incident” from Mad Scientist Review. Things are looking good, people! Very excited about this piece finding a good home.

Coming soon:
my Wiscon schedule,
writing updates,
maybe some photos of Spring!

Sale!

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MSJcoverAutumn2014My short story “Backlash of the Rapunzel Incident” will be published in August 2016 in the Mad Scientist Journal! Well, I can’t really take the credit since it is Frau Doktor J. G. Holzinger’s, Assistant Professor of Social Behavior and Antiquities, proposal for funding which I merely stumbled upon and forwarded to the Journal. I’m really looking forward to sharing her quirky, fun, alt-alt-historical political thriller of a tale with you later this year, which is to say this is a completely serious and academically fascinating project. I hope she gets her funding.

You’ve let your subscription falter or haven’t heard of this fine Journal? From their “About” page:

Though initially established in 1818, time travel has allowed The Mad Scientist Journal MSJ-spring-2015 coverto become the preeminent scientific journal for atypical scientific theories and journeys throughout all of space and time.

Or maybe that’s not actually true. Perhaps it is more accurate to describe this as a mad-scientist themed e-zine. If you are interested in writing for us, please check out our submissions page.

The Mad Scientist Journal is edited by Jeremy Zimmerman and Dawn Vogel.

MadScientist Autumn-2015-Ebook-Cover

A new story or article is published every Monday. Every Monday.

MadScientist Summer 2015_EBook_cover

Will let you all know when publication is imminent!

In the mean time, happy cold and snow (for us Northern Hemispherers).

Make First Contact, Again

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It’s out! The Book Smugglers have released the “First Contact” anthology. Behold:First Contact cover

Tales of First Contact: Five Short Stories of First Encounters

ebook

“An intergalactic negotiation commences between a husband and wife, and actual aliens from outer space. A romantic encounter kindles between the last human alive and a fallen star. A young woman discovers her ability to choose her fate for the first time. An experimental application questions what it means to be alive and to be self-aware. An overlooked and unheard antiheroine comes of age, and realizes her self-potential.

First Contact: Five Tales of First Encounters collects five short stories that examine the concept of “first contact” from diverse, feminist, and original perspectives.

The Merger by Sunil Patel
Luminous by A.E. Ash
The Vishakanya’s Choice by Roshani Chokshi
Application for the Delegation of First Contact: Questionnaire, Part B by Kathrin Kohler
The Bridegroom by Amelia Mangan

All stories originally published and edited by The Book Smugglers.”

Purchase from:
The Book Smugglers! You will get the following files: MOBI (28MB), EPUB (13MB)
Smashwords
Kindle UK

Kindle US

First Contact purchase options

Goals & Organization: the Particular and General

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Goals are a way of putting our selves into the future, achieving desires we now think we’ll want then or desires we have now but can’t fulfill until later. They are ways to achieve something that for any number of reasons we are unable to right this minute. In short, they help us focus and help us remember.

Goals may change. While on our way we may discover something more important, something we didn’t even know or something the process brought into sharper focus. Or, we may achieve the goals and realize we wanted something else entirely. We may achieve them and not feel the satisfaction we thought we would. I think mentioning these things is important because, in general, we could use reminding that Things Change. Sometimes we change (hopefully, and hopefully for the better). Sometimes achieving goals is unfulfilling because we don’t really know what we want. We humans are convoluted beings.

What are writing goals and what are they good for?
Setting writing goals helps me organize my thoughts and desires, the things I want to achieve with my writing but can’t do Right This Minute because writing is a Process and if it happened all at once I’m pretty sure authors would explode or implode or something. Organizing is a very Useful Tool and can improve your writing practice and your life in general. And like any tool, organizing is especially well adapted to some aspects of writing but not to others. Hammers–useful as hell when you need to drive a nail into wood, not so useful when you want to talk to someone on the other side of town (that’s what phones are for). In writing, keeping track of character arc and internal and external conflict and how all these things relate can be tricky. Notes, spreadsheets, pictographs, and other tools help to organize these so you can write and remember what your main character was struggling against (and what she’s struggling toward) so when you write her next scene you can focus on her progression and create the change in her you need to tell this tale.

Goals and organizing help in both plotting out how to expand on a story so that you properly “unpack” all the important details, and they can help you focus on what’s important so your story doesn’t sprawl.

Anything that involves a Process or is a Practice (like a writing practice or meditation KIMG0554practice) is a dynamic experience which evolves and that evolves you. Another way of saying, Things Change. Lots of change happens in writing. It should–to get better at anything you MUST change. That thing you did to keep you on track during your last big project may not work the best this time around, or the way you dealt with character development in your last few stories might not work for this character in this story. And please remember (*looks at self*), things do not change in a linear fashion. Linear or mono-directional or steady and predictable change is a work of fiction used to simplify math problems and other constructs so we can get a general idea of what’s going on and not feel like total idiots. But it’s not real. So we shouldn’t get upset when we make goals and don’t necessarily achieve every milestone on schedule and feel every elation and bit of satisfaction the way we thought we were supposed to.

But being creatures of brains that allow us to move through time in that special ghostly fashion that humans do, we can help ourselves move toward what we hope for and which we don’t have right now. And being creatures of immense complexity and unknowable depths, we can help ourselves understand when the goals change or we change or circumstances change, and through this we can help ourselves see the process for its own sake and not always for the end result.

Because maybe it’s the other way around–maybe we have goals so we can undergo a process, an evolution…

KIMG0547…and thereby change ourselves and know ourselves better.

Speculative Literature Foundation’s Working Class Grant

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slf_logoI’ve received an Honorable Mention for the Speculative Literature Foundation‘s 2014-2015 Working Class Grant!

I sent a short story (unpublished) and three poems (“Woman of Wood” in Goblin Fruit, Winter 2012; “the art of domesticity” in Stone Telling, issue 8, 2013; and “Sea Change” in Strange Horizons, October 15th, 2012).

Of my work, one of the jurors wrote: “The poetry is beautifully executed, with wonderful use of language–spare and direct.  The short story pulls you into a new world with consistent internal rules and delightful attention to detail.”

Thank you to the Speculative Literature Foundation for this opportunity, to managing director Malon Edwards and all the jurors for their efforts in coordinating and awarding this grant, and for their generous, kind words regarding my writing.

Big congratulations to Nino Cipri, this year’s winner! Of Cipri’s entry, “The Shape of My Name” in tor.com: “This is a very original story, with an unusual take on time travel as well as gender and transgender issues. Pitch perfect. Very polished and potent.”

And congratulations to my fellow Honorable Mentions Alix Heintzman and Molly Moss! I had the pleasure of meeting Nino at WisCon earlier this year and got to congratulate *in person*, Alix and Molly I must congratulate over the Internets.

Stories and words by these authors (including Malon Edwards!) are out there for you to read and enjoy.

My Story and Essay are Up at The Book Smugglers!

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Book Smugglers FIRSTCONTACT logoI’m thrilled to be a part of the Book Smugglers “First Contact” Issue. My story, “Application for the Delegation of First Contact: Questionnaire, Part B” is available here.

You can download the PDF or scroll through the PDF online. You can read and answer the questions in whatever format you desire or just read the questions and ponder them without responding and applying for the Delegation of First Contact. It’s up to you.

You can also read my essay about the inspirations and influences that led me to write this strange little story in questionnaire format here. I mention Carl Sagan, the Dreamtime, and quote a quatrain of Rumi’s.

The Book Smugglers will publish the full issue, one story per month, on their website. Don’t miss:
“The Merger” by Sunil Patel, available 06/23/15;
“Luminous” by A. E. Ash, available 07/21/15; or
“The Vishakanya’s Choice” by Roshani Chokshi, available 08/25/15!

You can read about these stories and recommended books of First Contact here.

Sharing: A Book Review That Works

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Wow! If ever a book review made me want to go out and purchase a book, it’s this one by The Book Smugglers — Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, from Macmillan Children’s Books, May 7 2015.

The Lie TreeBack in the trophy room the gentleman would be taking the leash off their conversation. Likewise, here in the drawing room, each lady quietly relaxed and became more real, expanding into the space left by the men. Without visibly changing, they unfolded, life flowers or knives.

Yeah, that’s the best three consecutive sentences I’ve read in a while.

And as if that weren’t enough to encourage me to pick this novel up and read read read, there is this in Ana’s review (also beautifully written–who can refrain from reading reviews when they’re this beautifully written?!?):

I wondered if I was looking at it wrong. Because if we look at the realest aspects of story which describe events that really did happen, thoughts that people did believe, it is easy to be struck by how surreal they read. Because in truth, the further removed we are in time, the more history sounds fantastical to us. In a way, everything about The Lie Tree could be seen as fantastical, especially with regards to gender. But then again: no. Better not to reduce what was very real and very painful to flights of fancy.

and this:

The Lie Tree is the story of a young girl – Faith – who is at that moment in time where she is no longer a child but not yet a woman. Faith lives a conflicting life, torn between what she is told about what it means to be a woman and the things that she is not supposed to do, feel and know and the feelings she has, the knowledge she knows and the thoughts she thinks. Constantly at war within herself, Faith strives to be good – but also to be accepted and loved. What she has learned over the years is how to hide, to conceal. In sum, how to become just as invisible as the world expects her to be. But she is ever so angry about it. And watching that anger unleashed was one of the best reading experiences of my life.

These are themes and topics that have shaped my life, that run deep in the currents of my mind. That division, the struggling of various needs (social vs personal vs emotional) that contradict one another and can therefore not peacefully co-exist within one person, which render that person torn and invisible (and a part of me wants to say powerful, for what is anger but energy or power that is tainted and stopped up so that it poisons the one who holds it?).

Rest assured, I will add my two cents worth once I have read this novel. Because I will. How could I not?

Happy reading!

The Book Smugglers “First Contact” ToC Announced!

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It’s been announced!
The Table of Content for The Book Smugglers “First Contact” series!
I am so honored to be among this fine group. Behold:

Application for the Delegation of First Contact: Questionnaire, Part B.
Written by Kathrin KöhlerLogo_Book_Smugglers_2_1500px_JPG-300x500
Available 05/19/15

The Merger
Written by Sunil Patel
Available 06/23/15

Luminous
Written by A. E. Ash
Available 07/21/15

The Vishakanya’s Choice
Written by Roshani Chokshi
Available 08/25/15

You’ll find tantalizing descriptions of the stories here, (“a first encounter between a woman and a falling star” and “an alternate historical mythological fantasy yarn” and “we have an experimental short story that is actually a questionnaire. (Or is it a questionnaire that is an experimental short story? You decide!)” and more!).

The post includes a list of favorite First Contact stories by the authors. It’s a great list of books which added to my own Must Read list.

The Book Smugglers' BannerHaven’t read the Fall 2014 Subversive Fairy Tales, yet? They’re amazing stories. Treat yourself. Stories can be found here for free on-line (and includes a story by my Odyssey Workshop cohort and friend, Kate Hall–“The Astronomer Who Met the North Wind“), and can be purchased here along with too many beautiful goodies (gorgeous tote bags, I tell you! I mean, I can always use another book bag, can’t you? Oooh, I think this means there will be more gorgeous tote bags and posters soon… Totally a guess, not official, but wouldn’t First Contact pretties go so nicely with Fairy Tale pretties? I get ahead of myself… stories first to open the imagination and play and dream, book bags later to help carry more imagination home from the library and bookstore).

art by Sally Jane Thompson

Astronomer art by Sally Jane Thompson

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