Friday is 0 for 3 with legendary Pokemon 🙁
- Greatest Owl Pics. For International Owl Awareness Day!
- Dungeons and Doggos. Webcomic of much cuteness.
- Hens adopting other animals.
“As an author, I should be able to write about I want! Nothing is off-limits to art and creativity.”
I see this refrain again and again in conversations about everything from cultural appropriation in storytelling (and elsewhere) to writing characters of another race/gender/culture/orientation to writing about rape. It comes up in other contexts as well. “Why can’t I as a white person paint my face brown for cosplay?” or “Telling me I can’t use the n-word is suppressing my free speech!” But I want to focus on the writing aspect for now.
The thing is, you can write about anything you want. Nobody is going to come to your home and take away your computer because you wrote another so-called romance between a Nazi and a Jew. Nobody will revoke your Author’s License for adding another gratuitous rape scene because you wanted “historical accuracy” in your fantasy story about dragons and elves and talking swords. Nobody will drag you to jail for perpetuating stereotypes of magical negroes or mystical Indians. Yay, freedom!
“But no matter what I write, someone will choose to be offended!”
Y’all can see the underlying assumption here, right? That people are simply choosing to be offended — running around looking for reasons to be angry. The implication being that these criticisms aren’t things that any “reasonable” or “normal” person would get upset about. It’s generally just an excuse to ignore criticism and attack the critics.
It’s true that if you write and publish, odds are you’ll eventually produce something people take offense to. Not because there are hordes of people searching for reasons to be offended, but because none of us are perfect. As authors, we grew up in a world full of conflict and prejudice and stereotypes. We make mistakes. We step on other people’s toes.
We’re allowed to write what we want. And people are allowed to be offended. They’re allowed to be angry. Free speech works both ways. We get to write our stories, and others get to offer criticism.
“Well, art should be offensive!”
Being offensive doesn’t make something art. Being offensive doesn’t make you right. (See, for example, the KKK.)
One of the things that makes stories so powerful is their ability to challenge readers. Ask yourself, who are you challenging? Who are you offending?
I’ve seen people hold themselves up as the epitome of courage for daring to write “dangerous” stories. “Look at me, daring to be offensive!” And it’s weird, because most of the time if I read their stories, they aren’t challenging people in power. They’re attacking people who are already marginalized and oppressed. They’re going after those with less power.
That’s not daring and dangerous; it’s old-fashioned bullying.
“What if I didn’t intend to be offensive? Why are people still getting mad?”
I didn’t intend to step on my cat’s paw earlier tonight when he snuck up behind me in the kitchen. It still hurt him when I did. (He forgave me a few minutes later, and went right back to crouching behind my legs in case I dropped food. He’s not the brightest beast.)
The point is, whatever your intention, people are telling you they’re hurt/angry/offended/upset/dismayed by something you wrote. Maybe it’s a science fictional future that omits any people of color or anyone who isn’t straight. If you tell me you didn’t intentionally try to eliminate those people from your universe, I’ll probably believe you.
But intentional or not, you still erased large groups of people from your story. Believe me, you’re not the first. Authors have been writing that kind of exclusionary fiction pretty much forever. Which is part of the problem…
As authors, we’re supposed to be able to empathize and connect with different kinds of characters. Imagine being on the receiving end of this stuff. Of reading yet another book where it’s a few hundred years in the future, and apparently there was some unwritten genocide that wiped out all the black people. It gets really tiresome.
Here’s the kicker. Generally, people aren’t saying you’re a horrible human being who should be banished to the tenth circle of hell to have your giblets chewed apart by rusty robot parrots for all eternity. They’re saying, “Hey, I’ve got a problem with this thing you wrote.”
What you do with that criticism is on you. You can listen to it, and maybe learn something. You can take it personally and unleash your wrath in a Very Pointed Blog Post.
But if you’re so upset about someone criticizing your work, do you really want to double-down and escalate things?
“But we have Black Panther and a female Doctor and women are winning Hugo awards now and why are people holding on to inequity from the past when everything’s better?”
You realize a few victories doesn’t magically erase centuries of inequity and oppression, right? That the effects of institutionalized racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination last for generations? For example, here are some stats on racial inequality in America. Shockingly, things like a black actress playing Hermione Granger didn’t instantly fix it all.
In some ways, things are better than they used to be. Interracial marriage has been legal in the U.S. for a whole 50 years. Same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide two years ago. Women have been allowed to vote for almost a hundred years. (Of course, they couldn’t get their own credit card until the 1970s, and marital rape wasn’t outlawed nationwide until 1993…)
We’ve taken some steps forward. For every one, we’ve had people pushing back hard.
A lot of those dates are a hell of a lot more recent than I would have thought. These are things from my grandparents’ lifetimes. From my parents’ lifetimes. Some of them are within my lifetime. Inequity from the past continues to impact the present. So does inequity in the present.
“You’ve gone on for 900 words, Hines. Get to the point.”
You can write about ________. What you can’t do is prevent others from challenging or criticizing what you write.
Stories are powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility. And lots of rebooted movie franchises.
The point is, you’re responsible for your writing. You’re responsible for the stories you choose to tell, the characters you choose to create. You’re responsible for the assumptions you bring into the story. You’re responsible for choosing whether or not to educate yourself on the subjects and the people you write about.
You own your stories. When they’re brilliant, you own that. When they’re hurtful or offensive? You own that too.
It’s part of being an author.
Currently working through page proofs for Terminal Alliance. Once I get the corrections sent back to DAW, I’ll be prepping an excerpt from chapter one, which will be shared first with subscribers to the newsletter. Subscribers will also get a little more info about that 15K-word novelette I’ve mentioned…
I’m hoping to get the next newsletter out by the end of the week. As always, I’ll be sending an autographed book out to one random subscriber as well. (Any requests for what to give away this time around?)
I met G. Scott Huggins almost twenty years ago. We were both published in Writers of the Future XV, and we ended up in a writing group together for several years. He was one of the folks who helped me grow and improve as an author. I published one of his stories in Heroes in Training a while back.
I love the premise and setup. Dr. James DeGrande is a veterinarian in a land that’s been taken over by a Dark Lord, and the whole thing is written with a kind of tongue-in-cheek humor. The book is made up of several distinct but related stories, showing the growth of James and his partnership with his assistant Harriet (a physically disabled almost-witch).
Here’s part of the publisher’s official description:
Everyone says it was better in the Good Old Days. Before the Dark Lord covered the land in His Second Darkness.
As far as I can tell, it wasn’t that much better. Even then, everyone cheered the heroes who rode unicorns into combat against dragons, but no one ever remembered who treated the unicorns’ phosphine burns afterward. Of course, that was when dragons were something to be killed. Today I have to save one. Know what fewmets are? No? Then make a sacrifice of thanks right now to whatever gods you worship, because today I have to figure a way to get them flowing back out of the Dark Lord’s favorite dragon. Yeah, from the other end. And that’s just my most illustrious client. I’ve got orcs and trolls who might eat me and dark elf barons who might sue me if their bloodhawks and chimeras don’t pull through. And that doesn’t even consider the possibility that the old bag with the basilisk might show up.
The only thing that’s gone right this evening is finding Harriet to be my veterinary assistant. She’s almost a witch, which just might save us both. If we don’t get each other killed first.
I appreciate writers who take traditional fantasy and flip things around to present a different perspective. Just as I enjoy clever protagonists, like James and Harriet. (And while this may come as a shock, I also like fantasy that tries to have fun.)
There’s one bit I need to talk about. About 80% of the way into the book, we meet Countess Elspeth Bathetique, an incredibly neglectful pet owner and generally unpleasant person, and we get this exchange:
“Dammit, my lady, you’re not even a vampire!”
“How… how dare you? I identify as a vampire, you filth! You cannot dream of the tragic destiny which is ours!”
“What? Suffering from vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, keeping out of the sun for no damn reason, and torturing your poor pet basilisk? If I dreamed of that, I’d seek clerical help!”
I don’t believe it was intentional, but seeing language generally used by transgender people played for laughs by a wannabe vampire threw me right out of the story. I emailed and chatted with Scott, who confirmed that wasn’t the intention. The Countess was meant to be a darker take on Terry Pratchett’s Doreen Winkings. But he said he understood how I or others might read it the way I did.
One of my favorite parts of these stories are the veterinary details. Huggins’ wife is a veterinarian, and there’s a sense of real truth to the protagonist’s frustration with neglectful pet owners and the various challenges of keeping all these magical animals healthy. It helps to ground the book and acts as a nice counter to the humor.
I couldn’t find an excerpt online, but there’s a promo video on YouTube.
By now, I imagine most of my fellow geeks are aware that when Peter Capaldi leaves Doctor Who in the coming Christmas special, he’ll be replaced by Jodie Whittaker. Naturally, not everyone was happy about the next Doctor being…gasp…a woman.
As the conversation progressed, I started to see more people suggesting the backlash wasn’t a thing. All they were seeing was people complaining about the backlash, as opposed to anyone actually being unhappy about a woman playing the Doctor. The whole thing was people getting angry over nothing, and feeding on each other’s anger.
Now Steven Moffat himself has joined in to proclaim, “There has been so many press articles about a backlash among the Doctor Who fandom about casting a female Doctor. There has been no backlash at all. The story of the moment is that the notionally conservative Doctor Who fandom has utterly embraced that change completely.”
Oddly, most of the people I’ve seen saying the backlash is imaginary, made-up, and/or blown completely out of proportion, have been men. Perhaps — and I’m just guessing here — because it’s easier for men to overlook sexism? Misogyny doesn’t directly affect us, so we’re less likely to notice it?
It’s like white people denying racism, straight people denying the hatred and intolerance of homosexuality, and so on. Just because we don’t see it — perhaps because we choose not to look, or perhaps because we’ve never learned to look — doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
For all those who share Moffat’s confusion, here are just a few examples of the ignorant, sexist, hateful, and sometimes flat-out batshit responses to Whittaker taking over as the Doctor.
“The replacement of male with female is meant to erase femininity. In point of fact, and no matter what anyone thinks or wishes, readers and viewers have a different emotional relationship to female characters as male. This does not mean, obviously, that females cannot be protagonists or cannot be leaders. It means mothers cannot be fathers and queens cannot be kings.
“…I have been a fan of Dr Who since age seven, when Tom Baker was the Doctor. I have tolerated years of public service announcements in favor of sexual deviance that pepper the show. But this is too much to tolerate.
“The BBC has finally done what The Master, the Daleks and the Cybermen have failed to do. They killed off the Doctor.”
Twitter also has plenty of comments like this fellow’s woeful lament, “And again the PC brigade get their way. R.I.P Doctor Who” (Source)
British tabloid and shit-filled dumpster fire The Sun responded to the announcement by publishing nude photos of Judie Whittaker.
But remember everyone, it’s not about sexism!
“It’s a woman. That’s it, Doctor Who is ruined. Like I said, I’m not sexist, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.” –Mark S.W.
Now, folks might argue that the majority of Doctor Who fans are excited about the Doctor being a woman. (Though there’s a very real and valid frustration that we’re on our fourteenth doctor and the character has still been exclusively white.) Others will say some of the negative comments are coming from trolls just looking to get a reaction, or that of course Daily Mail readers are being horrid about Whittaker’s casting.
You might be right. That doesn’t change the fact that the negativity exists. It’s not one or two isolated assholes. It’s a real and significant thing, and it’s closely tied to the kind of harassment and disdain and hatred and other forms of sexism women deal with every day. Sexism that men so often don’t see. Sexism we respond to by telling women they’re overreacting, or they’re just imagining things, or that if they’d just stop talking about it the problem would somehow magically go away.
I get it. You’re tired of hearing people complain about sexism. Gosh, can you imagine how tiring it must be when you’re constantly on the receiving end of that sexism. Constantly being told you shouldn’t be allowed to play the same kinds of roles. Constantly being told your only worth comes from your body. Constantly being told your inclusion is some kind of public service announcement. Constantly having your accomplishments belittled as “PC pandering.”
Look, I wish we didn’t have folks like Wright rolling around with his head up his ass every time his Straight White Manliness feels threatened by a cartoon or a TV show or whatever else he’s scared of this week, but we do. Pretending otherwise not only turns a blind eye to the pervasiveness of sexism and other forms of bigotry, it also means turning your back on those who are directly targeted by that intolerance every day.
I checked Amazon today and was surprised to see that three of my books are on sale in electronic format.
Barnes and Noble doesn’t appear to have price-matched the sale yet (they have now!), and I don’t know if this is limited to North America, but here’s what I do know:
Libriomancer is on sale for $1.99.
Goblin Quest is on sale for $2.99.
The Stepsister Scheme is on sale for $2.99.
That’s book one of all three of my fantasy series. If you’ve been waiting to check out my stuff, this is the perfect time.
It’s movie trailer season!
1. Thor: Ragnarok – I love the banter between Thor and Hulk/Banner. Everything I’ve seen about this movie looks like fun.
2. Star Trek: Discovery – I’m intrigued enough to want to see more, and it will be nice to have some new television-style Star Trek. We don’t have CBS All Access, but I’m sure it will be available on Blu-ray eventually.
3. Ready Player One – I know a lot of people loved this one, but for some reason, the book just didn’t work for me, and the trailer seems to be following suit. The trailer looks pretty, but it doesn’t grab me.
4. Justice League – I don’t know. DC’s cinematic universe has let me down again and again…but then they did Wonder Woman, and I started to hope again. This looks like it could be fun. Or it could be a mess. I’m withholding judgement for the moment.
Which ones, if any, are you looking forward to?
“There is a common poor attempt at a joke … that consists purely in stringing together a series of marginalized identities and calling attention to it … as if the mere existence of someone like that would be so absurd it could only be laughable.”
Alliah is one of the contributors to Invisible 3, which came out on June 27 and includes 18 essays and poems about representation in science fiction and fantasy. You can order the collection at:
Any profits from the sale of the collection go to Con or Bust, helping fans of color to attend SF/F conventions.
As with Invisible and Invisible 2, the contributors to this third volume have shared work that’s heartfelt, eye-opening, honest, thoughtful, and important…not to mention relevant to so much of what we see happening in the genre today.
Growing up in the 90s and early 00s in the south-east of Brazil, all I saw in mainstream media were the same repetitive, harmful and offensive stereotypes about travestis in telenovelas and badly written comedy TV shows, and the effeminate gay men and macho lesbian women token characters whose non-conforming gender expression was grossly caricatured for cheap laughs.
As an openly queer young girl in school, I learned that I could be queer, but not too much, not too visibly. I’ve heard those laughs, and I internalized through bullying and ridicule that I should change how I presented myself to the world—which I did really fast by becoming the stock image of a non-threatening feminine girl, although I never hid my sexuality. My first awkward attempts at a masculine gender expression didn’t have time to blossom. I shoved it down some unreachable recess of my mind and avoided it for 10 years, which (along with compulsive heterosexuality and a binary cisnormative culture) is why it took me so long to understand my bisexuality and figure out my transmasculine non-binary gender identity.
Once I did, I uncovered a gender euphoria I’ve been cultivating ever since.
It took me years to understand the ways in which I inhabit my queer transmasculine genderfluid neuroatypical body, and my most powerful illumination came unexpectedly through the stories of a queer non-binary neuroatypical green witch: Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West.
I first met her in the book series The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire, where most aspects about her gender and sexuality were ambiguous or obscured between the lines, and later in fan fiction, where the depths of Elphaba’s intersectional identities (canon or not) could be explored to the fullest by writers that shared those same identities.
Despite being an avid reader of speculative fiction since childhood, it was only after these encounters with trans and non-binary characters in fan fiction during the first half of my twenties that I started researching these topics, that I found out where I belonged. I discovered a thriving community of authors from marginalized groups creating astonishing rebellious versions of every world I’ve ever dreamed of and countless others I couldn’t imagine would be paramount to my process of liberation.
I owe it mostly to the fictional characters and their creators that illuminated me—from early readings like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando to the most recent fan fiction stories about a non-binary autistic Elphaba, a genderfluid bisexual Korra (from The Legend of Korra), and an agender transhumanist Root (from Person of Interest). I wish I could’ve met them sooner. Along the way to self-discovery, I had to collect all sorts of missing pieces with jagged edges and weird fractal shapes, and figure out a way to put them together myself. I was lucky to stumble upon the stories that I did and then to be able to find the communities that I needed. That’s why representation is vital. You cannot search for something you don’t even know exists.
There is a common poor attempt at a joke (that I’ve seen in both Anglophone and Brazilian online spaces), often directed at dehumanizing non-binary people and mocking activists working at the multidimensional core of intersections, that consists purely in stringing together a series of marginalized identities and calling attention to it, using the accumulation of these identities as a joke in and of itself, as if the mere existence of someone like that would be so absurd it could only be laughable.
One of the things fantasy author Jim Anotsu and I wanted to acknowledge when we wrote the Manifesto Irradiativo—our call to diversity and representation in Brazilian speculative fiction—is that our lives cannot be reduced to an isolated shelf in a bookstore or a niche market, thus we cannot be constrained to discussing the realities of our identities in those compartmentalized terms. We’re so much more than single-issue stories, than the same old one-dimensional narratives constructed to serve the gaze of the oppressor without making them examine their privileges and dismantle their systems of violence.
Those single-issue stories exist and persist for several reasons concerning the maintenance of racial, economic, and social power, amongst them because there is a fear of “too much” diversity. As if a book about a bipolar asexual bigender Afro-Brazilian person, for example, would scare away or alienate the common reader—who is always presumed to be the neurotypical cis straight white default that can handle only one unit of diversity at a time, served lukewarm, unseasoned. But as Audre Lorde said in a 1982 speech at Harvard University: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
Stories matter. And we shouldn’t have the full extent of our existences cut, segregated, and dimmed in them. We deserve to live as a hyperdimensional mesh of identities when they want to flatten us, to be loud when they want to silence us, to occupy the spaces that have been negated to us, and to be wonderfully written and represented as such.
Alliah/Vic is a bisexual non-binary Brazilian writer and visual artist working in the realms of the weird and pop culture. They’re the author of Metanfetaedro and have various short stories published in themed collections and on the web. They’re currently building too many independent projects, working on their first novel, and haunting your internet cables. Find them tweeting at alliahverso and newslettering in Glitch Lung. Or buy them a coffee at ko-fi!