Links? Lynx?

I’ve an accumulation of things from…the beginning in April? I think I’ll do these in a couple of posts, to keep things organized.

First, links on writing:

Fundamentals of Writing the Other Basically, Writing Beyond the Default 101. This is good. Also, lots of Julie Dillon‘s stunning art. (On a side note, she recently won the 2014 Hugo for Best Professional Artist, and is utterly deserving.)

Should White People Write About People of Color Listen to Malinda Lo. JUST LISTEN:

When white writers come to me and ask if it’s OK for them to write about people of color, it seems as if they’re asking for my blessing. I can’t give them my blessing because I don’t speak for other people of color. I only speak for myself, and I have personal stakes in specific kinds of narratives.

It also feels as if they’re asking for a simple answer, and frankly, there is no simple answer. Writing outside your culture is a complicated endeavor that requires extensive research, being aware of your own biases and limitations, and a commitment to delving deeply into the story. However, writing any fiction requires this. There are no shortcuts to writing fiction truthfully and well.

Cultural appropriation (from Aliette de Bodard)

When a writer is perpetuating horrible clichés in the course of their writing, when they’re propagating transparently false ideas of what it means to live in a place and/or a time period… This is cultural appropriation, and it’s bad–and whether said writer meant it or not doesn’t change the fact that they’ve egregiously mangled someone’s culture through lack of care.

Five Common Problems I See in Your Stories Chuck Wendig has smart things to say about doom and dream-teats and eating things made out of paper. And maybe some stuff about writing, too. I don’t know. I read this months ago, so why don’t you go and find out.

now i’m looking in the mirror all the time wondering what she don’t see in me (from Elizabeth Bear) “Everybody deserves stories. “

And some resources:

Writing with Color What the URL says. Lots of questions, accompanied by good answers.

Diversity Crosscheck Tumlr “This Tumblr is intended as a platform for writers to interact with the very marginalized people they want to write into their stories, in order to minimize stereotyping. Nothing will ever be a 100% perfect portrayal, but this will hopefully open conversations and take us a step in the right direction. Diversify your writing. Don’t be afraid.”

card-swiping for diversity

I’m going to talk about publishing–specifically, my publisher, Sparkler Monthly. But first, I’m going to talk about apologies.

The word sorry leaves my mouth a lot. And yet, never often enough. Sometimes, it’s fear that stops me. Or ego. Usually ego, especially because the fear is often there because my ego is a coward (clarification: I am). But I try to keep my ego in tight-check, so I’m usually able to get the apology out. Sorry.

I’ve also had apologies made to me, and in both instances (as the giver and receiver of remorse), apologies can be genuine or they can clog themselves with inaction. Because apologies are half-assed when all you do is say sorry. You can look at me all frowny and penitent, with contrition bleeding sweet as liquified lollipops from your eyesockets, but if action doesn’t accompany your words, sorry sounds like an insult. Same goes for me: if I ever apologize and neglect to follow up, I am (again) sorry, I have failed and you now have permission to stuff my socks full of meal worms and snap my drum sticks and poke holes in my rain pants. I will be better. Do better.

Here are a couple guides to apologizing: Getting Called Out: How to Apologize and Apologies: What, When, and How.

This framework of inaction = questionable sincerity, and action = sincerity that might actually mean something can be applied elsewhere, too. For my purposes, I’m using it to talk about writing and publishing—specifically, women and diversity in writing and publishing. Other people have discussed it (eg: Malinda Lo, Kameron Hurley, and nattosoup), with more eloquence and intelligence than I will, but this is an important conversation. And a conversation is only a conversation if there’s some conversing occurring.

A piece of the dialogue: you can talk all you want about diversity in publishing and narratives, but true support is action. I can say I support diverse authors all I want, but if I go out and spend all my (paltry) allotment for book purchases on Scott Lynch and George RR Martin, then I have failed. I mean, I fucking love Scott Lynch (GRRM I enjoy, but not to the same extent), but I love Aliette de Bodard and Ann Leckie just as much, so wouldn’t it make just a little sense for me to swipe my card just as often (if not more) for them?

I’m not saying don’t ever give a straight white cis male your money ever again, the end. I’m saying that if you believe in something, act on it. Give women your money, prove we have value, that we sell. Which, yeah, is objectifying as hel and a really terrible way to frame this, BUT. In many ways, this is how worth is established. With money. You want more diverse writers, stories, characters, settings? Buy it ALL. Everything you claim keeps you grinning and thrilling and screaming in biblioporno bliss? Let it feed upon the belly of your bank account. (This is, also and by the way, a reminder to myself.)

As I said earlier, I’m just pissing at the mouth, basically regurgitating what my betters have said, so here’s my personal spin on it:

I have a serialized novel running in Sparkler Monthly.   (It’s called Skyglass, and is about sex, cyber- elves, rock ‘n’ roll, and murderous firecats). Sparkler Monthly is a multimedia publisher of comics, prose and audio dramas written from the female gaze, with diverse, ensnaring casts: people of color, a wide breadth of sexualities, fluid genders. This is quirky and not normal, because what is normal, what is expected, is the male gaze, is lack of diversity, and to have someone out there giving us great stories that aren’t cemented into that default? It’s vital.

But Sparkler is only just entering their second year and if they want to see a third year (and beyond), they need the support of everyone who says they support this kind of thing. (That’s you, by the way.) To keep stable, they need 2000 subscribers. Right now they have 142. They’re still small, and relatively unknown, but they deserve to be known. Their stories deserve to be read, and listened to. They deserve, and need, your support.

I admit: I have a stake in this. Multiple stakes, actually:

    1. Sparkler Monthly gives me money, because I give them words. It’s a good arrangement, and worthwhile for us both, I like to think.
    2. They publish really addictive stories, really important stories because they feature strong, diverse, female characters (and male characters, as well as those who don’t strictly adhere to that binary). And let me be clear: when I say strong I don’t intend ‘strong’ to only mean brawny-but-still-beautiful, kick-ass women. When I say strong, I mean nuanced, and potent. And deep. Women who get to be full characters. Which leads me to my last stake (and look! I could almost raise a tent with all these stakes…)
    3. Me. The third stake is me, because I’m female, and I get to see myself in the stories they publish. I’m not wallpaper, or a bed-prop, or a convenient orifice. I am a necessary, narrative creature with lungs and teeth and heart and spine, and I want more. So much more.

I know I’m not the only who wants all this. I know I’m not the only one who wants to do something. So consider a membership to Sparkler Monthly. Read up on their membership drive, and all of its excellent tiers. If you’re lacking funds, try their sampler issue, which is free to download. Also, their submissions are currently open, so if you’re looking to get published (or if you’re a voice actor), go send them something. (Something good, preferably.)

There’s continuing the conversation–and then there’s engaging and leveling it up. Make art that matters, art that syncs with this necessary diversity, and keep talking. Do everything you can, keep on and keep on, and the storyworld will grow close and colossal.

clocks cut

Sometimes you find that something you love with all your dirt-gritty and blood-gravid heart isn’t universally loved.

Fourteen. I was fourteen when I found my music. Mine and mine and just mine (so you’d think, then, I wouldn’t give a damn about universal adoration–but you know, there’s that whole being human thing, brimming full with logicfuck). Not all the bands from that time survived the course I forged from there to here, but some have. Some I still keep with me, earside, and spine- and bellywards. Pain of Salvation is one of these roadrazers, these unknowing companions (roadrazers), as all bands are (and, somehow, ineffably, aren’t) to the listener.

They:

Viscera. Greencoil. Mosswrecked epiphytic interdependency and knee-plunge and hipclutch. Plunge and batter and rust.

I don’t know how else to verbalize their soundscapes and stories, except with wordstreams like the above. Their music, it’s like kneeling in someone’s chest, stealing their lungs and squeezing the air into your mouth. The taste is seaweed and candlefish all solar-bright and a-flair–salt and oil and ash–and it drips down thick, sick, as any other pearlescent bodily fluid.

But–but I was wondering about the universe, and love. I recently spoke to a friend about Pain of Salvation, and found she isn’t fond of their newer work. Utterly fine. However, it lead me to think–about why Road Salt One and Two rope me in probably harder than any of their previous work.

This is what I wrote, more or less incoherently:

Apparently I have lots of thoughts and feelings about these albums. While Road Salt One does spin a sex-narrative, for me it’s more intensely about the fucked up ways humans catch (fire) against each other, the pain and viciousness and just humanness that ignites when people come in contact. There’s a bonus track that I’m not whole-hardheartedly fond of, but I think its last line sums up one vein of the album:

[And I don't know where I need to be, but it is not here inside her]

Sometimes sex is the worst answer. The most painful? The least urgent despite all its gravid thrust?

And then, beyond–I think the album is about finding the spinal, self-machinated strength to just fucking trudge on and not letting the bruising and knee-dirt and bed-bow-and-warp keep you from existing in the world, from walking the road. (The songs Road Salt–and Tell Me You Don’t Know–for context seekers.)

But more than any of it, when I listen to Road Salt One, in the context of its it sonic power and musicianship, the thing is…giant. And purgative. Like some sort of wounded animal stranglehold put to music. (Am I somehow implying that strangulation is cathartic? Dunno.)

And then, more intimately, plain, me? I think of the song She Likes to Hide, because I like to hide. And Tell Me Where it Hurts, and Mortar Grind from Road Salt Two, because–just because. (Quiet.)

So on and on.

Listening to songs like Sisters, even after having heard them too-too many times probably than is healthy, the immersion is still…too much? Part of it is just the edgy, doomy subtly of the music (especially in the Leo Margarit’s drumming–not to mention Daniel’s breathwrenching and terribly vulnerable vocal performance on that song) and then, again,

Sisters, Sisters, Sisters. I’ve never been in love with anyone’s sister, yet it. It. It, the song, is oceanic and huge and so so small. The story isn’t mine (but somehow, I don’t know how, it is, it is) chokes me, but beyond that skin, the catharsis is anatomically negating and I can’t help but just sit and sink when that song comes on. I inhabit it?

I change every single fucking time I listen to the Road Salt albums–especially the first. Like I undergo a premature and quick and bloody chrysalis. And when it’s over, though I’m not actually all that different, in the between time, the friction of middle, the heaviness that falls before beginning and after end, in those places, I’m…something else.

And all I know is that I don’t. I just…don’t.

an obsessive anatomy

an obsessive anatomy

I made a decision at the beginning of high school that changed me forever. I have no regrets. The memory isn’t bitter. At the time, my choice made sense, and it still does–nonetheless, it was a strange decision to make.

From the near-beginning of my life until ninth grade, my foci were drumming, writing, and visual art. I think drawing was the first, it had always been, I’d always done it. Writing came not long after. (I had to learn to enjoy books first, but once my hunger for narrative started in third grade, feeding myself was a quick and natural progression.) Drumming took longer–in fifth grade I started band as a percussionist, but didn’t connect with it in that innate gut-kindling inescapable magnetism till the summer before ninth grade, when I began studying the drum set.

I can’t pinpoint the existential moment I started drawing, but I know when I stopped: high school. This goes back to the choice I began with. Two weeks before high school began, there was band camp. The day it was supposed to start I was wavering: I could continue with music and let it become my own personal, friendly parasite (I’d heard stories of high school band and its tyranny)–or, I could quit, and focus on visual art. (At the time, I had aims of going into character design.)

My mom neatly dispatched my indecision. Her solution: attend a day of band camp, test the waters, choose. I tested the water, chose the drums–and for the most part, turned my back on visual art.

I’m not sure why. It’s not that I thought my percussive center was already folding, that I was groping desperately for anything that might save it–because it wasn’t folding. On the contrary; it was lifting its head. Sniffing the air. But still. Why side with a medium I’d loved only a year, when visual art had been with me almost my whole life? The simple answer is that band was a hel of a lot of fun (probably mostly because it was actually pre-, percussionists-only, band camp). And, undoubtedly, my…interest in a certain unnamed instrumentalist (who I had no doubt would be continuing band) had something to do with it, as well.

My other answer: I’d found my musical heart (metal) a year before, and already knew I wanted a band of my own. Alas, I wasn’t a stellar drummer (still working on that, always will be), and I knew I needed help. Band, and its percussionist director, could be that help.

End-story: I gave up drawing. I kept doodling on my paper edges, but the intensity was gone. I stopped filling sketches, I stopped trying. This lasted for years–a decade, I just realized, looking at the calendar. I was fourteen at the time. I’m twenty four now.

In June, I started drawing again. Not scribbles; not copious, repetitious and embarrassingly sloppy eyeballs. I began drawing with intent. Studying anatomy and form and movement–distilling and stilling it all as I focused on the lines I was making, learning to be dissatisfied again, to see my failures once again, learning shove through them and find even more, because that’s how you get better, you know. That span of lost time has the potential to sicken and frustrate me (just think how much better I’d be now if I’d kept at it), but I won’t let it, and it just doesn’t. I did plenty during that time, and I’m glad for it, and the way I went forth. I wrote and drummed demonically, and now I have a published book, published stories and poems. I have a band (multiple bands) to call my own.

One thing I remembered vaguely about drawing, but didn’t really truly recall, was how obsessive I can get about it. I’m driven and (paradoxically) singular in all things, but with visual art, the obsession is even more innate, somehow deeper. When I’m free-playing on my drums, I can find my flow easy, but if I’m working through a new groove, or focusing on some weird foot ostinato with tricky limb independence over top I have to be awake–and while that wakefulness is sinewy, it can, on occasion, be snapped. Yet, if I sit down and tell myself ten minutes on this painting and NO MORE, I’ll typically find myself still drawing or painting, arting, whatever, three hours later. It’s a dangerous preoccupation, because drumming and writing are still my heart (rather than being a near satellite like visual art is), and lately, it’s been destructively distracting (for those of you nonexistent people who’ve wondering at the lack of blog posts that contain words, you’ve found your answer). The haze is so addictive that if I want to get anything done, I have to keep my sketchbook in a separate room, and my tablet unplugged.

I want to keep drawing. There’s so much I want to be able to do with pen and paper and paint and pencil, etc , whether it’s digital or analogue, so in these dwindling months till grad school, when time will be severely squished, I need to learn how to get things done again (I’m currently not counting making visual art in the ‘getting things done category’). Maybe teach myself to make drawing a treat. Or possibly a bribe.

But until I reign myself in, have some arts/works in progress. Including a new chapter of Skyglass.

the velocity of inwards

If you couldn’t tell from the exponential upspike in fanart production, I started rereading The Silmarillion last week. I’m participating in the Tolkienreadalong on tumblr (Team Angband ftw!), and it’s serving well to feed the fannish hunger I’ve had these past few months. But it’s also been a reminder: I like being wholehearted.  I consume consumption. I have this urge to find new obsessions or sustain old ones. But sometime I have to remember to hold back.

We’re only one week into The Silmarillion and won’t be finished till November, yet I’m already trying hard not to kick through the whole book this very instant. I want to pace myself, so I’m going slow.  What’s the point of participating in a readalong if you’re not actually going to read along? I’m in this for the neck-deep onslaught of intestinal Middle Earth  mayhem (and all the dark lords ever), but it’s the ‘along’ bit that I’m excited about. Being in the same ephemeral headspace as a couple thousand others, seeing the divergent and intersecting bookspawn people create via headcannons, meta, fanart/fic/vid (I mean hel, we already have a booty dancing Annatar–aka Sauron–video)–it’s a glorious leviathan overload of community, and I want to ride with it, not ahead of it.

I guess it’s as simple as I don’t want to be alone. Especially not with The Silmarillion. One, it’s vast, and sometimes silly and wonderful in its vastness, and these are not things that should be bibliomaniacally imbibed on one’s own. For example: it’s one thing to think to myself, Melkor is a metal god, and quite another to see a billion fanartists in pen-and-inked-accord with this thought. Also, it’s been years since I last read the book, but I have no doubt this reread will prove The Silmarillion to be problematic; I’ll catch some of the terribleness, but not all of it. In other words: bring on the meta-tons of destructive criticism. In the meantime, I’m going to teach myself how to slow down.