Poster for my WisCon Reading

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All Our Favorite Nightmares, Midnight swirly text, lens flare2

Used a drawing from Andrew Lang’s “The Green Fairy Book” to create this poster. Much fun in the making. Will have much fun at the reading, too, with the inimitable Emily Cataneo, Julie C. Day, and Sarah Read!

Hope you can join us Saturday, May 27th, at 4pm (that’s Memorial Day weekend). Reading held at Michaelangelo’s Coffee Shop near the Concourse Hotel.

WisCon Schedule

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Another WisCon! This year I’m participating in two panels and a reading. The reading will be the first time a significant portion of my writing/critique group will be getting together IN PERSON! We’re very excited and thrilled that we’ll be together and sharing our work with you!

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Here’s my schedule:

Small Everyday Forms of Resistance in SF/F
Type Program
Track(s) Feminism and Other Social Change Movements (Spirituality, Organized Religion and Politics)
Description SF often presents resistance as dramatic: clear-cut choices, cinematic fight scenes, and so forth. It’s difficult to get away from that mindset, even in real life. For those of us muddling along in moral murkiness, for those of us who can’t or don’t want to commit violence, for those who cannot for any number of reasons take up protesting full time, what are examples of small, everyday ways to resist injustice and fascism in SF/F?
Location Wisconsin
Schedule Sat, 10:00–11:15 am

Tweet! #SmallResistanceSFF
All Our Favorite Nightmares, Obsessions, and Inhuman Familiars
Type Reading
Track(s)
Description The Post-Apocalyptic Writers’ Group has been working together for a few years now. Members short fiction has been published in Interfictions, Interzone, Black Static, Gamut, The Dark, the New Haven Review, and many other venues. Some members have books forthcoming with others editing magazines. As a group our fiction encompasses horror, slipstream, fantasy and science fiction, but no matter the specific genre, the stories are always rooted in the dark and the literary with a strong, feminist sensibility. As a virtual critique group that spans a number of time zones, WisCon will be the first time we’ve been able to read together.
Location Michelangelos
Schedule Sat, 4:00–5:15 pm

Tweet! #FaveNightmares
Impeding or Empowering? Representations of Mental Disability
Type Program
Track(s) Feminism and Other Social Change Movements (Reading, Viewing, and Critiquing Science Fiction)
Description The world of social-change stories in science fiction and fantasy is rapidly expanding, but those of us with mental disorders are often overlooked. There is a lot of ignorance and stigma surrounding mental disability, including the question of what qualifies as disability vs. what is simply a difference. Like all other marginalized groups, people with mental conditions seek not only representation, but empowerment. Why are characters with these disabilities rarely written into major roles? Why are mental disorders such as Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome never interpreted as powerful? Why are we so often portrayed as weirdos and villains instead of heroes? This panel discusses relevant issues, the concept of neurotypical privilege, and works of fiction that do offer representation and empowerment.
Location Caucus
Schedule Sun, 8:30–9:45 am

Tweet! #ImpedingOrEmpowering

Please stop by and say “hello” if you’re going to be at WisCon. Leave a comment if these topics interest you or are important to you in some way. I hope to be able to bring many voices to the discussions. Plus, the discussions need not only be at WisCon, right? I mean, that’s what blogs and other forums are for, after all 🙂

What’s intersectional feminist speculative fiction? It’s where the future starts.

Why is genre a dirty word

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“We do not encourage the formulaic use of popular genre (e.g., romance, science fiction, horror, thriller, etc.)” – from the Iowa State University MFA website. This summarizes the academic view of genre fiction. Formulaic. That some genres carry “more literary weight than others”. Need I state that SF/F/H is not one that carries this gravitas or merit. At least in this quote, ISU recognizes, or pretends to distinguish, that the use of “popular genre” as formulaic is what’s frowned upon; though, the implication is that genre is by its nature formulaic and therefore inferior (“We understand that there are subgenres within each of these classic genres, some of them carrying more literary weight than others” = there’s a hierarchy, and guess where “genre” fiction falls?).

Relying on stereotypes is inferior writing. It’s lazy. Not crafting sentences or scenes; not developing theme or subtext; ignoring character arc and inherent cohesion; yes, these things are a sign of inferior writing, inferior craft. But that’s not the genre, that’s the execution and the writing craft.

This is an interesting conversation to try to have–to understand that SF/F (a.k.a. genre or popular fiction–I’m dropping horror because that’s another conversation) is not inherently or by definition formulaic. What genre fiction is, is a use of speculative elements relating to scientifically or fantastically derived themes used to explore topics otherwise unseen, or unable-to-be-seen, the that which is hidden from or difficult for social and personal conversation and contemplation. Topics typically unable to be written about for whatever reason (usually involving (lack of) emotional and cultural distance) can be written about and explored in SF/F precisely because the approach is an unfamiliar one. It’s disarming. Hackles don’t immediately raise; assumptions aren’t immediately formulated. I think this fascinatingly relates to post-normal science–that you can not have an observer-free observation. How’s that for academic?! Yeah! If I had more time and energy I’d drop some links and mentions regarding utopian studies, post-colonial and feminist theory, the human need for concrete ideology–something to look toward, as opposed to things to avoid.

the-closest-thing-to-animals
The Closest Thing to Animals by Sofia Samatar |September 2015 Fireside Fiction | Illustration by Galen Dara

[Sofia’s “The Closest Thing to Animals” is a wonderful example of well-written, thoughtful, beautifully crafted science fiction, a.k.a. speculative fiction.]

But this doesn’t mean you can’t write genre fiction that’s formulaic. Because you can. You can write bad SF/F. Some authors really do just write formulaic fiction with the trappings of SF/F. That’s possible. But it isn’t inherent to the genre.

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Some SF stereotypes commonly found in formulaic fiction. May be found in non-formulaic fiction (though they’ll usually look a little different in that case)!

It’s like saying that metal or rap or country music sucks (to pick on sometimes popularly picked on red-headed step-children of the music industry). Bad metal or rap or country sucks. But good metal or rap or country music is good. There is nothing inherent in these types of music that automatically frames them from foundation to artistic-execution as inferior.

I know this is one reason people have started using the label “speculative fiction”–to distinguish well-written stories with “literary merit” from the formulaic fiction (other) people usually call SF/F. I do. But this can be problematic, putting the speculative fiction in its own genre, since it furthers the idea that SF/F is a genre of formulaic hackneyed writing.

What do you think?

Here’s the opening quote with a bit more context: “We understand that there are subgenres within each of these classic genres, some of them carrying more literary weight than others. While we do not encourage the formulaic use of popular genre (e.g.,romance,science fiction,horror, thriller, etc.), we do support writers who wish to create cross-over works that combine the energy of popular genre traditions with the greater ambition and more nuanced techniques of classic literary traditions.”

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I’ve got something better growing

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Walking through the neighborhood today I was delighted to see strong signs of Spring. There’s no turning back now: the flowers are going to bloom, leaves bud and unfurl. Before we know it, it’ll be all-get-out Spring!

crocuses

I have no crocuses growing in my yard. Along with snowdrops, they are the first flowers to bloom in this area. I was thinking I’d like to plant some so I can have color and life early in the season. Looking in my backyard to see what’s happening back there I saw something better.

I’m growing dragons!

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What’s showing  in your yard or neighborhood?

(You know I’m going to have to write about this in a story now, right?
Yeah, you knew that.)

Poem,“From the Dictionary of Nonexistent Words, a Sampler”

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Happy New Year!

2017 has just begun and already I’ve seen a rejection (thank you Upper Rubber Boot “Women Up To No Good”) and a publication (thank you Kaleidotrope).

“From the Dictionary of Nonexistent Words, a Sampler” is up at Kaleidotrope!

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“Black Window Baby” by Cesar Valtierra

It gets better! Yes, it does. And this is the best part…I’m sharing this issue with two of my dear friends and writing family: Julie C. Day’s “One Thousand Paper Cranes” (Julie’s author website here), and Lisa Bergin’s “Scrapie’s Trap” (Lisa blogs with her writers’ group here). I’ve also had the honor of reading poetry with Gwynne Garfinkle before (Live & in person, at WisCon) and now I have the honor of our poetry appearing together–Gwynne’s “The Last Word” is in this same issue.

Life is good.

And with that, dear readers, I have some writing to do!

A Bit of Good News- Poetry!

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My poem, “From the Dictionary of Non-Existent Words, A Sampler”, is scheduled to appear in the Winter 2017 issue of Kaleidotrope!!! I will post the link when the poem and issue are live.

It has been a very difficult year. I probably don’t even need to write that, it seems to be true for far too many people, for the obvious societal and social reasons as well as personal ones. I might write a post about some of my own personal challenges later, but for now, let’s leave it at “a difficult year”. Therefore, this news from Fred Coppersmith at Kaleidotrope was a much needed positive, good-things-can-happen-too, don’t-give-up-! reminder for me to keep working, to not give up.

And there’s one other bit of good news that I can share in a couple days.

There is hope. What I work so hard for with my writing does not always get lost in oblivion, does not always fall short. And I will work to remember this, work to share it with you, and work to manifest it for the good of all. And if I forget, if anyone dear to you forgets, please remind them. Remind yourself. There is hope. We affect each other, in a thousand small but not insignificant ways. Let’s be there for each other.

WisCon!

I’ll be at WisCon again this year! My work schedule is hectic, but I am making time for a panel.

We’ve even got a hashtag so you can Tweet about it: #BabyWriters

The Baby Writer Panel
Type Program
Track(s) The Craft and Business of Writing
Description Ah, the joyful triumphs and crushing setbacks of having no idea WTF we’re doing. A panel of writers with 5 or fewer pro sales under our little baby belts discussing the vagaries of changing markets, and the twists and turns of learning the ropes.
Location Caucus
Schedule Fri, 9:00–10:15 pm
Panelists M: Becky Allen. Colleen Booker Halverson, Kathrin Kohler, Charles Payseur, Nicasio Reed

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!