Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Still Feeling Down

If I don't cut it out, this is going to start sounding like Simon's journal... (ha. No offense, dude).

Trying to work on rewrite of fantasy saga today. Haven't been sleeping well all week, and the last two nights I've had horrible leg cramps that have literally woken me up from a sound sleep 3-4 times during the night. My credit card balance looks like the GNP of a small South American country (ah, healthcare costs and retail therapy. Wheee!). Still swinging on the relationship rope, not sure what to do, not sure what I want. Really burned out at work.

There are all these big decisions to make that make HUGE differences in the next large chunk of my life, and I really don't want to make them. I want to run away and join the Peace Corps or something.

Alternatively, I'd just like to write books and buy a beach house with a lot of land and a stream and put books in it. In the house, I mean. Not the stream. Or the beach.

I think I'm just tired.

My Home State Passes Gay Rights Bill

And conservatives are already freaking out and trying to overturn it.

What's this frightening bill all about? What "special rights" does it "give" to these troublesome gay people?

It's the addition of two words to an already existing state law:

State law bans discrimination based on race, sex, religion, marital status, disability and other categories. The bill, which takes effect 90 days after adjournment, adds sexual orientation to that list.

Yea, let's overturn that bill and bring back lawful bigotry! Fucking Washingtonians! What were you thinking with all this "banning discrimination" nonsense? Do you think you live in a free country or something?

"I Know Lesbians, and Lesbians Don't Act Like This": Or, I Don't Speak for all the Mostly Straight White Girls in America Who Eat Apple Pie

I went through Cheney's links about "Writing the Other" and read over Pam's essay on The Infinite Matrix on the whitewashing of SF and the "SF Media"'s responsibility to engage with these sorts of issues (I'd argue that blogs and message boards *are* SF/F's media, such as it is, but that's a debate for another day).

What I read were stories like this one of non-people-of-color writers who had gotten the smack-down for writing characters whose skin color or gender was different from theirs. I'm wondering how many black writers get banged around for writing white characters? Or gay writers get harragued about writing straight characters? I didn't see anybody harping on Michael Cunningham for "not getting the Straight Experience right" in his novel Flesh & Blood.

I ha-ha-ed these poor Clarion writers until I remembered an incident in my own Clarion class a few years ago.

One of our older (male, straight) classmates wrote a story with a lesbian character in it. When it came around to another (male, bisexual) classmate's turn to critique the story, he proclaimed, "I know a lot of lesbians, and lesbians don't act like this."

There was a stunned silence. I looked at the story in front of me again. I knew some lesbians, too, and I could certainly see them "acting like this" (I believe the issue was that the woman was aggressive or too smart or something. And I had worked with a woman who was very similiar in temperment - she'd smash you up on her way to the top of the heap - and also happened to be a lesbian). For the record, the lesbians in the room seemed pretty confused by this utterance of absolute fact as well.

"Lesbians don't act like this."

How did he know? Well, he had a lot of lesbian friends, and because his lesbian friends didn't act like that, no lesbians acted like that. There was only one Lesbian Experience.

It's the old, "But I have black friends!" argument. So all of your characters are limited by the handful of personalities you see in your friends of color? If I only wrote about the personalities I saw in my friends' group, I wouldn't be able to write about asshole misogynists or, hell, blade-wielding brown women.

The tension in the classroom was cut when we got around to my buddy Patrick, who ended his critique of the same story with, "You know, I have some problems with your male main character. I know a lot of straight people, and straight people don't act like this."

It was awesome.

I haven't written any books containing an all-white or even majority-white cast since Clarion. In fact, since Clarion most of my stories are full of brown and black people. My next stand-alone novel features an entirely black-skinned cast. In the world I'm building, that makes the most sense. Putting white people on that world would be like putting white people in Austrailia - watch your rate of skin cancer increase. I also want the root of these cultures in this new world to be southern Africa, with some North African influence. That's going to mean a LOT of research.

I also haven't written a book peopled entirely by straight characters since Clarion.

Why the sudden switch post-Clarion?

Well, I realized how much more interesting my fiction was when it wasn't white-washed and straight. And I realized the world wasn't white and straight, either.

I grew up in a little town, 98% white. Our "diversity" was a diversity of religion. Apostolic Lutherans, regular Lutherans, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics - you name it, we had it. I grew up next to a family of Apostolic Lutherans - known derogatorily around town as "bun heads" because the women kept their hair long and usually up in a bun - whose social mores encouraged both women and men to marry as young as 16. They would then drop out of high school and their families would help them build their own house. The men were encouraged to get jobs where they worked with their hands - constructions jobs like carpetry, drywalling, pouring concrete, etc. Contraception was taboo. Families of 13-18 children weren't uncommon. They often married their 2nd or 3rd cousins, and primarily hung out with other people of their faith, and yes, even though they were "white," you could spot a "bun head" from twenty feet away. Hanging out with the girls from those families, well, let's say we all had very, very different views of what constituted a fulfilled life. And talking to them was really fascinating. I've never been a person of absolute faith in much of anything, and being able to talk to people who were - who really believed this was the best way to be - taught me a lot.

In high school, because I was involved in theater, it actually took me two hands to count the number of people I knew who were gay. That may not seem like a lot to people from a big city, but in a little town, that's a good number. And high school kids in theater talk a lot about sex, so throwing out a question to one of the gay guys, "So, being gay, how does that work?" when I was fourteen was pretty illuminating.

Throw on top of that the fact that I've been interested in race relations for most of my life, and it's constituted most of my academic work. I lived in South Africa for a year and a half. I don't know what it's like to have black skin, but I know what it's like to be the only white person on the bus, in the hall; the only white person on the street for as far as I can see. And I remember coming back to the States and sitting in the airport in Minneapolis waiting for my connecting flight and feeling like there was something really *wrong* about the airport, something really *off.* It took me a good ten minutes to realize what was bugging me:

Everbody was white.

I'd gotten so used to being a minority in a sea of dark faces that I felt physically "off" when I wasn't.

So I've read widely, talked to people who are very different from me, and even if I'll never "get it" that's OK - I'd rather "get it wrong" and have somebody go, "Uh, you realize you just did this racist thing, right?" than not do it at all.

Because I understand how important it is to see yourself in fiction, in media. I grew up seeing images of women who spent all their time shopping and gossiping about boys and playing with makeup. I saw women who were small and thin and had huge breasts like Barbie dolls. And for years I tried to conform to that ideal. I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought I needed to spend my time vying for male attention so I could be a "real girl." What I desperately needed was to see a big, strong, smart woman like me who could go out and write books and take kick boxing classes and be smart and still get laid if she wanted to. I woke up one day and thought, "It's not me that's all wrong. It's the society. Fuck this."

Jenn told me that after the first time she watched the Buffy episode where Willow and Tara get together, she was floating around for days on a wave of happiness.

It's so fucking cool to see the possible.

The first book I remember reading that broke down all of the cultural assumptions I'd been fed about women was Tamora's Pierce's book, Alanna. It blew me away. I think I was 10 or so.

For years I'd soaked up media that told women were all weaker (physically and mentally) than men (my parents thought otherwise, but I was very steeped in media as a kid). I was told women didn't fight in wars. They couldn't. They were weak and inclined to stay home and raise babies and clean the house. Staying home and raising babies might be a lifelong aspiration for some men and women, but it wasn't for me. And yet the options I saw weren't that great. If I was too smart, headstrong, and successful, I'd never get laid and I'd be socially ostracized ("Why aren't you married yet?" "Why don't you have a good man?" "Sorry, we're only inviting couples").

And here was this other 10-year-old girl who decided to say "fuck you," and dressed up as a boy and went through knight training. And you know what? She was good at it. She wasn't the best - she excelled at some things and not others. She wasn't perfect, afterall. But she held her own with the boys and became a knight and even got two or three boyfriends in the process. She did what she wanted to do and wasn't socially outcast for it.

Stories are important.

I want to see myself.

Jenn and I got into a series of conversations about the lack of good/happy lesbian films available at our local Hollywood Video, which morphed into a talk about good books with lesbians characters, and the ghettoizing of "gay/lesbian/black" fiction sections at Borders (Neither Sarah Waters nor Nicola Griffith's books are in the "gay/lesbian lit" section. Why is that? Cause they're good books?). And it reminded me again of the importance of being able to "see" yourself in fiction, in media. So much of what we're fed is blatanly directed at a straight white male audience that you can feel the walls closing in while enormous breasts jiggle at you on the screen. You feel like something's wrong with you.

I've been dying to see for big, strong, intimidating female heroines my whole life (Xena was just too cheesy a show for me at the time). However funny the idea of Buffy being a tiny girl without muscles was, she was still a tiny girl without muscles, as was River in Serenity. Not that little women can't be buff - my 115 lb, 5'3 former martial arts instructer would kick my ass for saying that - but she was *buff.* And you could *tell* she could kick your ass.

I'm tired of little-girl heroines who are supposed to be super-scary, but aren't. Because if they really were, guys wouldn't find them attractive or something, they'd be intimidated, and wouldn't watch movies or read books with characters in them who could kick their ass. There's a swath of fantasy over it - sure, yea, ha, she's a superhero, but in real life, I could crack her in half.

So I know something about wanting to see something that isn't there.

It's why I write what I do.

You write because you go out and look for something and don't find it. Somebody has to write it. Why not you?

There's a reason I love Russ and Griffith, but there's not enough to go around.

I would rather write a story about a big butch black lesbian woman who was 6'3 220 lbs and get a bunch of pissed-off letters from black lesbian women who told me where I fucked up than write about a little straight white woman whose "intimate" scenes with male lovers describe her as "child-like" and perpetuate the white-washed SF/F world.

When I write, I try to be aware of what I'm doing. I recognize that I've got a character in God's War who might be seen as "The Magical Negro." I personally don't think he is (and there are other black characters in the book, of course, and pretty much everyone else is brown), and I just killed off my gay male character knowing full well I'd just sacrificed The Gay Male Character (though there are lots of other gay people in the book). But you know, first and foremost, to me, he was a person. Which means that's how I write all of my characters: person first. And then he's also a half-breed gay guy with really good organic tech skills and an interest in Nasheenian politics. I'm a person too. I can relate. The rest I have to come up with through lots of talking and research, and imagining.

I'm a fantasy writer. That's what I do. You know, imagination and extrapolation?

If I can create whole worlds in my head but can't write a heavily-pigmented character, what kind of fantasy writer am I?

Nobody blinks when a woman writes from a male POV. That's just expected. Even men write female characters all of the time (who do you think writes 90% of those Hollywood scripts?). Some of them do it badly, yes. And I'll rant about it when they do. But would I rather get the opportunity to critique something badly done or just have 90% of all movies without any women in them at all? Better yet, why don't *I* start writing Hollywood scripts that kick ass like Girlfight? (now there's a woman I believe could kick my ass).

The trick is to be aware of what you're doing. If you know what you're doing but want to do it anyway, go for it. But know what you're getting into and how some people might read it.

To tell the truth, I *like* writing about race and race relations. There aren't any strange creatures in any of my fantasy books. There are culture wars. It so happens that one of the markers of race in my books is, indeed, skin color. I've got POVs in the fantasy saga from two white people (one male, one female, both "mostly" straight), one straight brown guy, one half-breed bisexual woman who can sometimes "pass" for white, and one black lesbian (I've taken out the brown gay guy POV and replaced it with hers for pacing reasons). There are also other markers: height, religion & other belief systems, eye and hair color and styles, facial features (and amount of facial hair and styles of such), clothing, transportation, mythology systems, diet (taboo foods, habits), fighting styles, and etc.

It ain't all about color. Color's often just the easiest to spot.

And, of course, I'm reminded in all of this that I *am* "The Other" in some circles. In business meetings. On conference calls.

As K once said to me, "You know you're in trouble when you're the Diversity in the room."

Just like an Other, I'm not writing about All Women any more than I'm writing about All White people (when they make an appearance). I couldn't imagine anyone assuming I was.

Like Duncan said:

Being gay is a similarly "othering" attribute to give a character, but you know what? When I write a gay character I'm not writing about the Other. I'm gay and I ain't no Other, thank you very much. So I'm not writing, as if for the edification of some heterosexual reader, about Gays! or Gayness!, Gay! life, Gay! culture, Gay! identity, like there's some great universal experience all us Gays! share in our day-to-day, Gay!-to-Gay! existence. I'm not waving the rainbow flag and standing up as spokesmen for the Gay! cause, for all my Gay! comrades-in-arms. I'm writing about a fukcing character, a gay character, this specific gay character, their life, their culture, their identity, their personal experience... The idea that by making a character black and/or gay you must therefore be talking about "the black and/or gay experience" is, not to put too fine a point on it, utter bollocks.

And when I write about a character of color, or a gay character, I sure ain't pretending to speak for "all people of color" or "all gays" anymore than I'm speaking for "all white people" or "all women" when I write white or female characters. It's absurd to think I would be.

I write books I want to read. They deal with my pet themes: war and gender - which includes feminism and definitions of masculinity - race and race relations, genocide, sexuality, ways of constructing families and extended kin groups and sexual relationships.

And if you think only white people deal with that kind of stuff, you're cutting off a huge range of experiences from which to draw from. And you're Othering a whole nother generation of readers by telling them that they don't exist, that the future's only for the straight white people, that only straight white people dream that things can be really different.

The Top 100

The top 100 best lines in lit.

Though I'd call them the "most popular" as opposed to "the best."

One of my favorites comes from a genre book:

"My mother was the village whore, and I loved her very much."

Monday, January 30, 2006

Target Pharmacist Fired For Not Doing Job

Imagine being fired for not doing your job!

It only took them five years!

Tomorrow morning, I'm telling my boss I can't use computer equipment because of my personal aversion to things that use electricty. Let's see how many years I can keep the paychecks coming.

My favorite part of the article?

Target declined to provide comment Thursday. But Williams emphasized that she was blaming Planned Parenthood — not Target — for her predicament. She cites Planned Parenthood’s heightened national campaign to persuade major pharmacy chains such as Target to agree to fill emergency contraception.

Those fucking baby killers and their "educational" campaigns! The nation shouldn't be "educated"! Then people who don't do their jobs might be fired!

Oh, the insanity!

Now You Need to Enforce It

Liberia's new rape law:

The new law... broadens the definition of rape to included "penetration by any foreign object not just a penis." Anyone under 18 is "automatically deemed not to have given consent". Gang rape carries a penalty of life imprisonment.

I'm concerned a tad about the under 18s automatically not being allowed to give consent, but I'm uncertain as to the context. Is that only if she comes forward with a rape charge? What if her family does?

Otherwise, great. Now I hope she makes it safer for women to come forward.

Recovery Weekend

Spent the weekend feeling like I'd survived a big, brutal fistfight.

Drank a lot of orange juice. Rearranged my room. Doing some re-filing/organizing because I've got to many projects going. Went to see "Brokeback Mountain" with Jenn (it's good, and I understand why it had to be Another Gay Tragedy movie, but still), ate some good food, did some line edits.

I'm still sleeping like shit, but I did have my first beer in months, and let me tell you it tasted good....

The Culprit is Revealed

The guy using the women's restroom here at the office and leaving behind puddles of urine and raised toilet-seats in his wake has been apprehended.

One of the women here in the office (not me) put the smack-down on him.

No more urine on my shoes. Yay!

I get enough of that bullshit on the train.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Dragon's Wall: Excerpt

Edits have finally begun. Should be making the rounds again by October, though if I could swing it this summer, that would be great.


Thirty-Six: The Cats

Zezili pulled back the sheet covering the body, still half-hoping the face would not be one she knew. The sheet stuck to the lips. Zezili tugged it free and saw the empty sockets of the bloodied eyes, the sharp cheekbones, the aquiline nose, the frosty face of eight hundred years of Dhorinian queens.

Zezili looked into the face of the last of them.

“He took her cat eyes,” Zezili said. “Tell me you have him.”

Sir Janvier stood next to her, her cropped brown curls squashed under a woolen cap. She kept her helm under one arm.

The body lay at the back of the inn’s big kennel atop a makeshift table. The cold room stank of dogs and red grass.

“We picked up tracks going south,” Janvier said. Her voice was raw, husky. “A dog, probably carrying two, and a set of footprints. Following them.”

Janvier did not say it, and Zezili would not. Not aloud. King Nathin, whore’s get of the south, had slipped a man into the queen’s circle.

Nathin of Lendynd, self-styled king of savages.

Janvier shifted her feet, wiped at the blunt mash of her nose. She opened her mouth, closed it again. There was another question to be asked, and she would not ask it.

Zezili jerked the sheet back over the corpse. She palmed her own helm lying on the table. She pulled it over her head, fastened the strap at the chin.

“I’m going to Daorian,” she said. She had already sent a runner, likely sent her into death, bearing news such as this, but that’s what dajians were for.

“Sir,” Janvier said.

“I’ll ask her to give you first of the legion,” Zezili said. “I’m serving her my head.”

“On a platter?” Janvier said.

“Silver,” Zezili said. “Is there another kind?”

Zezili went back out to where her big dog Dakar was kenneled. His shoulder was as tall as hers. She hefted the saddle from the pen bar, buckled it over Dakar’s shoulders, cinched it at the chest.

Janvier still stood behind her, motionless at the kennel gate. Zezili pulled herself up onto Dakar and regarded her Second.

“Anything else?” Zezili asked.

Janvier shook her head.

“Then get out of the way,” Zezili said. She kneed Dakar forward.

Daorian was a five day ride, but the snow was light, the roads clear, and way-houses Zezili stayed at were old haunts. She had failed the Queen of Dhorin. She had let the heir to Dhorin die. There was no other fate, no other path, and she went willingly. It would be a gift to take death at the hand of the Queen.

By the time Zezili reached the outer sprawl of Daorian, the city was already wreathed in red, the color of mourning. Great red banners flanked the tower gates, the spires of the distant keep. The city people had put out red kerchiefs in their windows, hung them from the snow-heavy awnings of their shops.

Zezili wound her way to the keep. She had left it over three months before with a dozen of the royal guard. She returned alone. She enjoyed the silence.

People knew her by her armor, the plaited skirt knotted with the hair of dajians and outer-islanders, the image of Rhea holding a sword over a dead dragon etched into the breastplate, outlined in flaking silver. Her helm had no plume, ended instead in a curve of metal like a snake’s tail. Her dog’s scars, the bulk of him, told all who she was as clearly as her dress, and the people came out to see her, muttered about her on their doorsteps, pointed. Some saw her and hid. Two old women made a ward against evil as she passed. It told Zezili something of the Queen’s silent ambiguity regarding her station that they did not spit at Zezili or curse her. The Queen had yet to post judgment.

The city waited.

Zezili brought Dakar up onto the hill of the keep overlooking the harbor, the black water rimmed in dirty snow.

Zezili whistled Dakar to a halt in the courtyard. A kennel girl darted out from the warmth of the kennels, took the reins of Zezili’s dog without looking Zezili in the face.

Zezili paused. She reached up a hand to Dakar’s ears and rubbed at the base of them. She pressed her cheek to his. The dog licked at her face with his hot tongue. She pulled away only to find that she had gripped the hair of his collar in both hands. She slowly uncurled her fingers. She turned away, walked up the loop of the outdoor stair and into the foyer of the hold. She met with the Queen’s public minister, a fat woman with the fey, beautiful face of a clean-shaven mardana man. Zezili could never remember her name.

“She’s been expecting you,” the minister said.

A little dajian ran ahead to announce Zezili. Zezili went to the long hall outside the queen’s audience chamber.

The dajian slipped back out the door, gripped the outer handle and leaned back with all her weight so she could pull it wide.

Zezili squared her shoulders. She concentrated on the length of purple carpet, but could not help but see the willowy length of the queen at the other end of the room, two red banners framing her silver throne. The figures moving at the edges of the room were not her officials, but her cats.

The sight of them sent a prickling up Zezili’s spine. The Queen’s cats were as tall as Zezili’s shoulder, sleek and black, with the queen’s eyes; they moved the way she did. They paced the length of the cold chamber.

Zezili walked onto the carpet. The dajian closed the massive door. Zezili still did not look at the queen. She walked to within a yard of the cusp of the Queen’s belled white gown, stared at the hem, and got down on both knees before her. She took off her helm, set it beside her.

The cats wound closer. A dozen, more? She imagined them chewing on her body, saw claws rent flesh.

She bowed her head forward, reached up to the tangled hair tied at the nape of her neck, brought it forward over one shoulder. She knelt with her neck bared and kept silent. One of the big cats yawned and stretched, lolled down beside her. Its tail caressed her legs, brushed the back of her head.

The Queen moved. A delicate hand alighted on the base of Zezili’s neck. The fingers were cold.

“I charged you,” the Queen said, her voice like a sigh.

Zezili trembled.

“The most important of my possessions,” the Queen said, and her fingers dug into Zezili’s hair.

“I failed,” Zezili said, and the words came out garbled. But the queen did not need her words to understand.

“Yes,” the Queen said. She released her hold on Zezili’s hair, smoothed it back into place, petted her absently.

“And the assassin?” the Queen asked.

“Her consort. The Thordon bauble,” Zezili said. “I didn’t watch him well enough. It is my head. My head and those of my house, if you will take them.”

“Yes,” the Queen murmured. She took her hand away, walked back around Zezili to the cat lolling next to Zezili. The Queen held out her hand. The cat licked it.

“Thordon,” the queen said.

One of the cats hissed.

“I tire long of Thordon.” The Queen stepped up onto the dais. She stepped back into the long curve of her silver throne, the fantastic menagerie of beaten silver rods and spires twisted into the faces of Delaraan demons. The first queen had had their faces set with emerald eyes.

“You have left me one child,” the Queen said. “You have left me the boy. These foolish choices are yours as well as mine.” And then, lower, to herself, to the cats, “I let the boy live.”

“Look at me,” the Queen said.

Zezili raised her eyes from the carpet. She did not know what she expected to see in the Queen’s face, but looking up she saw an unchanged visage, the face of the corpse in the kennels, unmarked by feeling; grief or fear or anger. The Queen was, as ever, a blank canvas, powdered in white, with the long, regal neck and supple form of her kind, the startling eyes.

“What are you doing this spring?” the Queen said.

Zezili could not speak. She looked for words, searched the floor, the carpet, let her gaze linger on the cats. She remembered Sir Kakolyn’s letter about the purging of the Drakish camps, remembered the last time she had knelt before the Queen, swore to cut out her own heart.

“Purging Drakes,” Zezili said, “if that’s your will.”

“I’ve changed my mind,” the Queen said.

Zezili kept her mouth shut.

“I don’t mind speaking,” the Queen said. “I was to take your head, yes, as you offered it to me. I have a platter, here.” She tapped the silver throne. “But my cats are not hungry.”

Zezili looked at the cats lolling about the audience chamber. They stared back at her with the Queen’s eyes.

“There is another use for you,” the Queen said.

Zezili shook her head. “My Queen –“

“I have told you.” She nodded at the cats. “They are not hungry. Another day? Until that time, I have changed my mind.”

“Your mind?”

“There are Drakish camps, yes. Kakolyn and Orianlyn will clean it. I have some… insects there. They need to be purged. But after, I have a task for you, one your death will not sully.”

Zezili bowed her head.

“You and Storm will go south.”

Zezili brought her head back up. “South?”

“Thordon,” the Queen said. “I want him. I want his country. I want it burned and routed, raped and maimed and mutilated. I want them scattered and twisted. And it is his head you will bring to me. On a platter, no less.”

“Pardon, my Queen, with only two legions?”

“Three. You will have Tanasai’s. I have contacted her.”

Zezili took a breath. Tanasai was dead, packed in snow in the storage house of Zezili’s estate. She tried to think of other things, but the Queen’s gaze had become keen.

“Or will I need to?” the Queen asked.

Zezili gritted her teeth.

“No,” the queen said softly, and her eyes never left Zezili. “No, perhaps I will not have to. Perhaps that time is done.”

“My Queen –“

“So your bauble has gone,” the Queen said, and a strange look came over her face, a turning inward. “Your bauble has committed violence and left you. Sought you out and could not find you.”

Zezili shifted on her knees. She had told no one about what the night keeper of the inn had told her: some hours after her departure, a strange person had come looking for her, too thin to be a woman, the voice too deep, his face hidden in a long hood. She had given him a room. He had disappeared along with the assassin.

“There were tracks leaving the inn,” Zezili said. “A dog carrying two. A third trailing.”

“Then it is both of us owe Nathin something.”

Zezili knitted her brows. “I don’t –“

“You will look. Your wife is south,” the Queen said. “And the killer. You owe Nathin something too, do you not?”

“Yes,” Zezili said. She would find her wife. And Nathin. She saw something opening ahead of her, beyond the throne room. Life. Pursuit.

“There were will be mercenaries from the outer islands. Three thousand Sebastyn pike men, five hundred Alorjan archers. This will not be your campaign, of course. I am giving it to Storm. He has first of the campaign. He decides his subordinates. You understand?”

“Yes,” Zezili said.

“Then we are settled.”

“I await your will,” Zezili said.

“Then rise,” the Queen said.

Zezili stood. Her knees ached. She bowed, turned. She put her back to the cats and the Queen. Her hands were pale, trembling. Cold sweat had gathered along her spine. She had not expected she would be allowed to rise, to leave the door. She had not thought past kneeling upon the carpet.

She saw the little dajian pulling back the door, leaning into it.


The tone was light. Zezili felt fear. She pivoted on her heel, regarded the queen. The cats were uncurling from the floor, stretching, yawning.

“Perhaps there is something else,” the Queen said.

Her cats crept up alongside Zezili, paced between her and the door. They circled her.

“My cats would like a token,” the Queen said. “Just a bit. You will give it freely.”

“Yes,” Zezili said.

The cats pounced.

She did not have time to bring up her hands.

How To Write About Afrika!!

"The View From Africa," by Binyavanga Wainaina (abridged. See the link for the whole thing):

Some tips: sunsets and starvation are good

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover
of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel
Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If
you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or
Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is
hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of
animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot
and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don't get
bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big:
fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy
starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your
book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands,
savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn't care
about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and
evocative and unparticular.

Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between
Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African
writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who
are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital

Among your characters you must always include The Starving
African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits
for the benevolence of the West. Her children have flies on
their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and
empty. She must look utterly helpless. She can have no past,
no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment. Moans
are good. She must never say anything about herself in the
dialogue except to speak of her (unspeakable) suffering. Also
be sure to include a warm and motherly woman who has a rolling
laugh and who is concerned for your well-being. Just call her
Mama. Her children are all delinquent. These characters should
buzz around your main hero, making him look good. Your hero
can teach them, bathe them, feed them; he carries lots of
babies and has seen Death. Your hero is you (if reportage), or
a beautiful, tragic international celebrity/aristocrat who now
cares for animals (if fiction).

Bad Western characters may include children of Tory cabinet
ministers, Afrikaners, employees of the World Bank. When
talking about exploitation by foreigners mention the Chinese
and Indian traders. Blame the West for Africa's situation. But
do not be too specific.

Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the
African characters laugh, or struggle to educate their kids,
or just make do in mundane circumstances. Have them illuminate
something about Europe or America in Africa. African
characters should be colourful, exotic, larger than life—but
empty inside, with no dialogue, no conflicts or resolutions in
their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause.

You'll also need a nightclub called Tropicana, where
mercenaries, evil nouveau riche Africans and prostitutes and
guerrillas and expats hang out.

Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something
about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.

I Reserve Comment

SKATER girl Avril Lavigne wants to get rid of her trademark men's shirts and ties and become a fashion model.

What, was she getting hit on by too many women? I'd consider that a compliment!

I sometimes distrust it when women make the decision to "give up" on being "boyish," or wearing comfortable clothes. I agree that feminism is all about choice, and if she wants to wear make-up and run around in tight clothes, that's cool. I just question the reason why she's decided to run this flip so suddenly.

(thanks, b)

Sweet Jesus

I see there's a reason I had a nightmare about my credit card balance last night.

Sweet Jesus.

Radical Militant Librarian

Get your own "Radical Militant Librarian" button.

You know you want to.

When It All Breaks Down

I went to the doctor again yesterday, this time to PP. For the last six months, I’ve been suffering from what I thought were recurring yeast infections. If you’ve had these or had a partner who’s had these, you know that they make walking uncomfortable, kill most of your sex drive, and make sex uncomfortable anyway.

Two weeks before, I visited another doctor after suffering from a persistent hacking cough. I’d been choking on my own phlegm for nearly two weeks. The coughing fits were so bad that during one of the worst bouts I pulled a muscle on my right side. I had to alter my morning weights routine so I put less strain on it. Getting out of bed in the morning was painful.

The doctor sounded me out and said she had no idea what was wrong with me. She gave me some antibiotics and cough syrup and sent me home.

A few months before that, I got taken out by a major case of the flu that kept me in bed for two weeks. I lived on chicken broth and juice. That’s when all the weight started coming off. I’ve dropped two sizes in 6 months.

When the clinician at PP weighed me in, she looked over my chart and said, “You’ve lost a lot of weight!”

“Yea,” I said, “I have. What am I at?”

“188,” she said.

I was 180 at Clarion. I’ve never in my life wanted to be below 175. I didn’t ask my starting weight, but I’d guess I was 215-220 6 months ago.

The clinician asked me the long list of questions you get about yeast infections: are you using scented soap? Bubble bath? Do you wear a thong? You wear cotton underwear? Cut down on sugar? Alcohol? Change out your clothes after the gym?

I’ve been trying to handle this discomfort for six months. If I hadn’t done some google homework on the issue and tried everything else, I wouldn’t be here.

I told her I’d been taking massive amounts of acidophilus, using creams, and doing or avoiding all of the above things she indicated. Mostly, I felt like I was in a constant state of remission – I noticed some discomfort, but it didn’t really spike except once or twice a month. It was like living in a constant state of tension, with occasional outbursts.

She looked genuinely perplexed.

She checked out my IUD and said there may be a couple of things going on:

1) my IUD may be irritating my uterus, which is why I feel better during my period, because everything’s getting flushed out.

2) I overdid it with the acidophilus (and, I think, if she knew how much I took – every day – she’d likely have gone pale), and too much of a good thing can cause a lesser irritation, which is what I’d been experiencing.

So I got another dose of antibiotics to flush the extra acidophilus from my system and clear up any kind of irritated infection that the IUD may have caused.

Seventy-five dollars poorer, I headed out of PP and went home . The whole right side of my face was throbbing, and I kept a tissue handy for my dripping nose. That morning, I’d discovered I had another of my twice-yearly sinus infections. I needed to take some Sudafed.

I’ve been sick for the last six months. I asked my clinician when I’d first come in about a yeast infection. She said it was in July. Getting on and off the pill will do that. I had one getting on the pill, one getting off. Made sense.

But it started recurring again six weeks later – and kept recurring. Not long after that, I got the flu. Not long after that, the bronchitis-like infection in my lungs. Now the sinus infection. My sicknesses are accumulating more quickly now. And I’m dropping a staggering amount of weight.

None of the doctors I’ve gone to can pinpoint what exactly is wrong with me. They’ve got theories, but nothing concrete. They threw some drugs at me and told me to drink more juice.

At home, my room looks like a war zone. Everything’s been torn off the walls. The angry ripping left behind brown patches where the paint’s been stripped. I have a box of crap sitting by my bed, ready to be moved out.

Six months ago, K moved in with Jenn and me.

For six months, we’ve been trying to make our living situation work.

We’ve all been trying very hard.

Things were not good when we moved in. Things went from bad to worse. There were screaming fights. We had a long list of “house rules” that needed to be followed. No labels on things. Close the shower curtain and medicine cabinet. Keep your stuff out of public areas. Jenn and I did all the dishes. Wipe down the counters every morning. Keep to a strict cleaning schedule. Make sure you wipe down the door handle in the bathroom.

I began to believe that I had to rigidly stick by all of these rules to the letter. If I didn’t, I thought, then K would be upset., and if K was upset, Jenn and K would fight.

All I wanted was to live in a happy house where everyone loved each other.

Now I know what it is to be a child of parents who are constantly fighting.

You keep thinking that if you just do this one thing, everything will be all right. If you pick up the slack – if you do more dishes, give up the TV more often, try harder to have a “relationship” with K, spend more time in your room, maybe, if you were just around the house less often, then everything would be all right.

But, of course, it’s not.

I started to dread coming home at night. I didn’t know what state the house would be in. Would it be a happy night? Or would there be closed doors and angry words?

We all wanted things to get better. Yet no matter how many talks we all had, no matter how many times we said, “This isn’t right, we need to fix it” – it never got better. It never got fixed.

It got worse.

“It’s so strange,” my clinician at PP said, “I had this eight-month time period where I was getting yeast infections all the time. I did everything I could think of, and they kept coming back. Then one day they just stopped.”

After months of talking about breaking off the relationship, about different living arrangements, after a week of K sleeping at other people’s houses, of everyone being “unsure,” after six months of sickness and tension on my part, after surviving more and more on credit cards, after my second computer in two years died, my printer went down, after having my fantasy novel rejected again, after getting stalled on my latest novel because of my dead computer and tangled plotline, after increasing stress at work, after another discussion about all of the things my partner and I were unhappy with in our own relationship, I lost it last week. I completely broke down into a screaming, sobbing mess and told Jenn I was moving out March first.

I tore everything off my walls and started packing. I returned all of the library books Jenn had loaned me. I started moving out.

When I say I’m going to do something, I do it.

I hated my house. I hated how we lived. I hated coming home at night. This was hurting me.

My body had been saying no to this situation for some time. I tried to move out as early as October, but it wasn’t financially feasible. This time around, I was getting a big check for my writing contract work at the end of February, and it would give me my freedom. I’d get a shitty, cockroach infested studio apartment until I moved to NY. I’d done it before.

For months my body was telling me to get the hell out. I didn’t listen. I didn’t listen because every time I ran into something I thought was a problem, I’d try to rationalize it. I told myself things would get better. I told myself that stress wasn’t something that affected you physically. Stress was something you just ignored or “got over.” It was a weak, emotional thing. There had to be some other explanation for all of my sicknesses.

But as the third wheel in a house where two people live who are in a relationship, I had no control over that relationship. Nothing I could say or do would change any of it.

Jenn and K spoke, and K said she would move out. She’s gone to spend time at friends’ places until March 1st. She’ll come in to get her stuff piecemeal, and head out.

On the one hand, I was upset about this. I was sad. I wanted it all to work. And if somebody was going to move out, I wanted it to be me. I didn’t want K feeling like she’d been shit on. I was willing to take the hit. But Jenn and K came to their own decision about that issue, and K decided to go.

I am sad. I’m not as bad off as Jenn, of course. There’s a long grieving process.

I tried hard. I tried to wish everything better.

But it wasn’t my place.

In the end, all I could do was leave. Fight or flight. I needed to protect myself, because my whole life was falling apart.

I don’t know how this is all going to turn out. I don’t even know if me and my own partner will make it through this.

I reached the end of my rope with everyone in my life. I was so angry at one point that I never wanted to speak to Jenn again. We’ve known each other for nearly six years. We’re Clarion buddies. For me to get to that point says a lot about how emotionally exhausted I am.

I don’t know that anything can help me at this point.

“Drink this,” the clinician told me.

I stared dubiously into a cup of fizzing water.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“The antibiotic.”

I’d never taken a drink-based antibiotic before.

It tasted all right going down, but the aftertaste was bitter.

“That will flush everything out,” she said.

I hope she's right.

God's War: Excerpt

Chapter 19

Nyx blew out of Punjai and hit the radio a couple of times with her palm, but all she got was misty blue static.

It was going to be a long ride.

She spent the night in the bakkie after making good time, about halfway to Mushtallah. She kept as far off the road as she dared and was up before dawn and back on the road, out past Mushtallah and the central cities. She landed another night on the road, then climbed over the low mountains that divided the coast from the interior.

As she came up over the other side, the terrain began to change. Sandy scrub gave way to rocky soil. The desert bled away and turned into long-needled pine trees, then tall oak hybrids with leaves the size of Nyx’s head, low ferns with thorns, tangles of wild roses, snake maples, amber ticklers, patches of low-spring wildflowers.

Nyx found it all pretty claustrophobic. The trees were so big they blocked the big sky, the sun. She couldn’t see beyond the turns of the road. That made her nervous. She started checking her mirrors more often.

She came out of the mountains and onto the rolling veldt of red-tipped wheat, the broad pastureland that kept the big, hairy, shoulder-high omnivores they called pigs. Farmsteads dotted the landscape. Swarms of locusts, red flies, and ladybirds mobbed the fields, tailored to devour the less friendly bugs and fungi that ruined the staples.

Nyx found a motel that night at a crossroads. She parked her bakkie out front alongside flatbeds and rickshaws and a cart hitched to the front end of a converted bakkie.

She splurged on good food and a bath. The only upside to coming out to the coast was all the water. Sweet, sweet, water. All the water you could soak in.

Nyx lingered in the bath, rubbing at old wounds that had started biting and aching again. It got colder on the coast, and the cold would only make the aching worse.

She missed the desert.

When she crawled into bed, her sheets weren’t full of sand. The floor was made of wood, and swept clean.

She couldn’t sleep.

Nyx grabbed her pillow and moved to the floor, spent long hours staring at the roaches scuttling along the ceiling. A couple took flight, landed on her head, her arms. She flicked them away.

There was a call box downstairs, but she had no one to call. If she called Kine, it was likely her sister would tell her not to come. If she called the Keg, she could make small talk with Taite or Anneke about defense, but she’d be repeating herself, and they’d see through it.

Nyx got up and went to the bar.

The motel had an “honor” bar, the kind with liquor bottles affixed to the wall upside down and a little book to record how many shots you’d pulled so they could bill you for it later.

Nyx took out her dagger and pried a bottle of whiskey from the wall and went out and sat on the front porch. The sky was big, and the stars were the clearest she’d seen since she was a kid. She drank, leaned back in the chair, and tried reading the constellations. Tej had been good at that.

A noise from the parking lot drew her attention. She went still. The night was clear, but the big bloody moons were at the far end of their orbit, meaning they looked about as big as her thumbnail in the night sky. A year from now, they would look about three times the size of the sun.

But that didn’t help her out much now.

The figure was dawdling next to Nyx’s bakkie. She’d parked close to the motel so she could keep an eye on it. The figure crouched for a long while, then rose and moved off. As Nyx watched, the figure shrank, dwindled. She heard a sneeze, and then a white bird was flapping off toward the road.

Nyx swore. She took a last pull from the bottle, returned it to the bar, and held out the rest of the night in her room with the door bolted. She slept in front of it.

The next morning, an inspection of the bakkie turned up an ignition burst and a cut brake line. It looked like Rasheeda had tried to cut open the main hose connecting the pedal mechanisms to the engine as well, but only nicked it. Some dead beetles and organic fluid had pooled beneath the bakkie.

Nyx disarmed the ignition burst. She opened up the trunk and took out one of the toolkits. She patched the leak, replaced the brake hose, and got back onto the road.

This time, she kept an eye on the road behind her the whole way.

She stopped at a dusty station just past a couple of farmsteads at the foot of the coastal hills and filled up on bug juice.

The woman who popped open her tank was a soft, fleshy, coastal type with big dark eyes and a plump mouth.

“You come in from the desert?” she asked.

Nyx wondered where else there was to come in from. As the woman pumped the feed into the tank, Nyx gazed out at the road. She saw a bakkie crawling along around a bend in the road, coming in from the direction of the motel. Following her?

She turned her face away, but noted the movement of the car in the station windows. The car slowed as it passed the station, then sped up again. Nyx saw three figures. She slumped in her seat, wondered if they’d open fire.

But the bakkie sped on. She looked after it.

“Friends of yours?” the attendant asked. She capped the tank.

“I hope not,” Nyx said. She leaned over, opened her pack and rolled a couple of bursts onto the passenger seat. Just in case.

She paid the woman and got back onto the road.

Three kilometers on, she saw the bakkie parked at the side of the road.



She switched pedals, kicked the bakkie a little faster. The other bakkie turned out onto the road after her.

Nyx didn’t know the country well, and unlike the cities, the place was all wide-open, no cover. About all the cover she had were the hills, and some woods, if she could find them. She switched pedals again, reached for the clutch. She hadn’t had to use the clutch in a long time. She wondered if it still worked.

The dark bakkie kept just within her rearview mirror view. They knew they’d been seen. Either they didn’t know where she was going and wanted to pin her there, or they were waiting for a good turn in the road to take her out.

She sped up. They sped up.

She watched the image of the dark car grow bigger in the mirror.

She fucked with the clutch. It made a nasty grinding sound.

“Come on, you fucker,” she said.

It flipped.

She switched pedals. The bakkie shuddered. The speedometer climbed. She saw a turnoff on her left that went up into the hills. Nyx did a neat break, twisted the wheel, and hit the speed as she came out of the turn.

The bakkie screamed under her. She caught the smell of burning bugs, death on the road. She glanced back and saw smoke and dead beetles roiling out from the exhaust. The way was narrow and twisted, and as she climbed, the grasslands turned to a forest of oak hybrids. She took the turns too fast.

Nyx kept checking the mirror. She spent a moment too long looking and nearly lost herself on a narrow turn. She’d seen the other bakkie.

They were still behind her.

She kept a sharp eye out for turns off the main road. She didn’t want gravel tracks or logging roads. The bakkie would get stuck, and she’d be for shit.

The black bakkie was right behind her. She could just see their faces now. The big woman in the driver’s seat was definitely Dahab. Not a doubt in her mind. Dahab had a new team with her, not bel dames, from the look of them.

Nyx twisted around another curve. Raine had taught her to drive when she was nineteen. It wasn’t a skill magicians taught to boxers. Raine had gone to boxing gyms for years to recruit young blood from the front. She’d started out like all of his crew – as a driver.

Nyx heard a shot, and ducked. Checked the mirror again. The woman riding shotgun with Dahab was doing what people riding shotgun did.

Nyx dared not take her hands off the wheel. Even if she could clip off a couple shots with her pistol, the odds of her hitting anything in that bakkie were slim.

She hit a crossroads. Right was back up into the hills. Left was down into the coastal valley. Down meant she would have to put a lot of faith in her repair of the breakline.

Fuck it.

She veered left and barreled down the hill. She disengaged the clutch.

Heard another shot.

Something exploded against her back window.

That wasn’t good. Organics. A fever burst? Or something worse?

She grabbed at one of the bursts on the seat next to her and lobbed it out the window. Heard a satisfying pop as it exploded on the road.

The bakkie squeezed around another narrow turn. The cover of the woods was thinning out. She saw a house set back away from the road. If she couldn’t lose them, she had to fight them.

Fight Dahab.

Nyx ignored the house and kept on down the road.

She came down a long stretch and turned. The road abruptly changed from pavement to gravel. Logging road.

The bakkie skidded on the sudden raw stretch. Nyx hit the far left and far right pedals, and all four wheels twisted sharply, got her some traction.

She looked back. Missed a turn. She spun the wheel and tried to recover, but she was trying to recover on a graveled road.

The car slid clean off the road.

For a long, hopeful moment, she thought she’d be all right. But as she braked and twisted the wheel, she saw she wasn’t going to avoid the big tree in front of her.

The bakkie smashed into the hybrid oak with a loud crunch. Bugs exploded from the hood. A rain of leaves dropped onto the windshield. Nyx’s torso thumped into the steering wheel, knocked the breath from her.

The sound of hissing beetles filled her ears.

Adrenaline flooded her body. She pushed at the door, couldn’t find the handle for some reason. She leaned over and reach for one of the bursts on the floor.

The barrel of a very big gun pointed in at her through the passenger side window.

“Don’t fucking move,” Dahab said.

"Ten ways you know you're reading a story of mine"

1) It opens with something like: “The Heroes took wing from a dark, raw field the color of blood.” And you know exactly what you’re in for. This isn’t going to be a “happy” story.

2) Somebody loses something - an eye, a finger, a limb, a head, a womb - at some point

3) Big women with commitment issues go around killing things and trying not to care about people.

4)Skinny men - usually described as looking like or acting like dancers (hey, I used to have a thing for a dancer) - act as the loyal sidekick to above strong woman.

5)There are a lot of bugs

6) Wars are going on and shit is blowing up

7) Somebody’s carrying around a big gun that shoots acid.

8) The traditional “one man, one woman,” happy hetero pairing is very sweet – and you’re not reading about it.

9) Getting pregnant isn’t a good idea. And if the women are going around having sex (and oh yes, they are), you’ll get an explanation as to why she ain’t pregnant.

10) The civil war’s just the subplot

Weird Habits For La Gringa

Five weird habits:

1) I talk to myself. I picked up this habit while living by myself in Alaska, and South Africa. It’s a pretty constant streaming narrative of what’s going on in my head (“I need to do this, then this. Fuck. I forgot that thing. That’s lame.”). So when I’m alone in the house I turn on movies and music. I used to constantly run a DVD in my computer in South Africa when I was home so I didn’t feel so lonely. I’ve been doing it this last week, as well, as K is out of the house and Jenn doesn’t come home until after I’m in bed.

2) When I don’t write for about three or four days, I get emotionally weird. This is because I channel my emotions into my writing. It enables me to keep up a calm façade out in the real world. When the writing doesn’t happen, the emotion tends to build up, and explosions over small issues happen more regularly.

More writing: less craziness!

3) I’m claustrophobic. I can put up with small spaces if I have to, but if it’s for prolonged periods or I’m not 100% mentally or physically well to begin with, I’ll start to lose it and wack out.

This is probably why I need to have moving air in my room when I go to sleep. Preferably, I’ve got a fan going all the time, but if one’s not available, I need to have an open window. I won’t die without it, but it’s something I do automatically if I’m in a hotel by myself – I try to open the windows. This also means I have more trouble going to bed when I’m too warm than when I’m too cold. Lord knows how I managed to live in Durban.

4) I often put on perfume before bed. I have no idea why I do this, since 98% of the time, I go to bed alone anyway.

5) I drink whiskey straight. A lot of it. That may not sound weird to some people, but I’ve gotten startled looks when I tell people to serve me my hard liquor straight. Whiskey is my preferred “I want to get drunk now” beverage. In fact, that sounds like something I’ll indulge in tonight.

Monday, January 23, 2006


I'll be taking a blogging break for some time. There's a lot of personal stuff exploding right now that needs to be taken care of, and it might be a month or so before it's worked out.

Everything in my life feels broken.

I'll be back in a while.

Friday, January 20, 2006


I only put in one earring this morning.

I had a dream last night that I had an affair with Bill Clinton.

I also had a dream that I was playing a high-stakes game of Cossaks a la Ender's Game.

In other news, I've signed up me and B for Wiscon, and I'm going out to get some coffee. Looks like I need it.

"It's Not Really Science Fiction": Sackhoff on Playing Starbuck

Is Battlestar Galactica "not really" being science fiction something like saying, "I believe in equal rights for women, but I'm not a feminist"?


In any case, an interview with Sackhoff about the "flak" she's gotten for playing Starbuck.

And what's with actresses playing "strong" female characters wanting to get in the whole "I wanted her to strong, yet vulnerable" line. I've never heard a male actor say he wanted his character's "vulnerable" side to come out in a performance.

And why does an interviewer who interviews an actress playing a strong female character feel it's important to mention that the actress actually has a "delicate physique" and "favors fashion more in the style of Audrey Hepburn than her alter-ego's flight suits."

For fuck's sake. It's one step forward, two steps back.

I do like that people are fighting over whether or not she's "hot." The fact that there's a debate says a lot about what kind of sex symbols we're "allowed" to pine after in this culture.

Her response to the original actor's bashing of her character is probably the best bit, though:

"That's what I said in rebuttal to that (the bashing by Dirk Benedict of a woman playing "his" character). But I never really tried to match it. But once that started happening, I was like, look, at the end of the day, I've now played this character longer. And at the end of the day, it's a TV show. We're not curing cancer, people. I wish we were, but we're not. It's entertainment. So ... tit for tat. Shut up."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

And Now My Printer's Broken

It's just been that kind of a month.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Firefighter Gives Birth, Aces Promotion Exam

Despite just giving birth and getting only two hours sleep, Kent got 104 out of 110 on the test and expects to return from maternity leave in March as a captain.

Because that's just what you do, people.

(thanks, B)

WisCon Panels:


The Fat Trap

A SURVEY today suggested that most women would rather be thick and thin than brainy and fat.

There's already a bias in your surveyor's assumptions if they're only asking women this question. That says a lot about what they're looking for.

(via BFB)

Dear Ladies at the Gym:

You can lift more than 15-30 lbs without looking like the Incredible Hulk.

I promise.

I've been sicker than a dog for the last few weeks, so yesterday was my first day back at the gym since the holidays. I have, however, been doing my daily free weights routine and taking the stairs everywhere, as usual, so there wasn't much guilt on my part about missing the gym. What I missed had nothing to do with guilt. I just missed getting to the gym. I liked the routine.

I cleaned out my closet the other night and got rid of all of my baggy pants, the sort that would literally fall down if I didn't wear a belt. I got rid of some shirts that I looked like I was swimming in, too. At the back of my closet I found a part of shorts I'd worn at Clarion five years ago, and found that they slipped right on.

So after three years of beating my head against a wall, the last year has seen me fall back to my set point with very little head-beating at all. Hooray for 30 lb free weights and tossing out dieting. I'm very happy at a size 14/16. I don't like being too small these days, though when I was a kid I obsessed a lot about being small and fragile and bullshit like that. Now I enjoy having some intimidating bulk. It makes it easier for me to yell at assholes on the train who try and harrass me. But I don't like being a size 20 because you can't find clothes anywhere and everything seems to look terrible on me unless it comes from Old Navy.

To be honest, the best part about being back to my old weight is that I *can* go to more stores and buy actual clothes there. One more size, and I can actually go shopping with size 4 Jenn at the shops she goes to and expect to find something there in my size, too.

That pisses me off, really. Why the fuck couldn't they have sold stuff in a size 20? I would have bought it. Think of the money they'd make! But then I'd be shopping with size 4s, and some of those women might find that really intimindating. Or something. I don't know what's up with that. Heaven forbid a size 2 woman get caught dead wearing the same style clothes as a size 20.

Pisses me off.

For now, it's nice to recognize myself in the mirror again. It took me three years to put on the weight, and three years to take it off. I guess that's fair.

My concern now is keeping 2 sizes of clothes in my closet instead of 4.

Sometimes I wonder if it's weird to gain and lose as much weight as I have in my life. And then I wonder if that's normal. And then I wonder if the problem's always just been the fact that I always thought I was too "big" for a girl and kept trying to diet and got lost in a binge and purge cycle that's kept me yo-yoing for years.

I want to get off the yo-yo.

I'm spending a fortune in clothes.

What I Plan To Do This Year

Because resolutions involve stuff like, "I'll join a gym and go until the end of January when I get burned out," and "I won't eat anymore chocolate until I go crazy and binge on it."

Plans are much more practical.

1) Move to NYC at the end of July

2) Pay off my credit card so I can put said moving-to-NYC costs on it

3) Find an apartment in NYC that costs less than the monthly income of an average two-person household (this is going to be tricky)

4) Buy a new computer under $1500 with a 3-year warranty (after paying off credit card? Because I'm currently word-processing on an ancient back-up laptop that wieghs 20 lbs, has a broken space bar, and can't connect to our wireless network)

5) Get a new job (in NYC) that pays me about as well as I get paid here

6) Apply to Viable Paradise, which I technically can't afford to pay for right now, but if I get accepted, I don't have to find the money until July. I need some new eyes to look over some of my work, and I need to hang out with other writers again. I'm starving for it.

7) Apply to Brooklyn College MFA Program (must be done this week. I put it off way too long and apps are due Feb 1)

8) Sell 3 short stories

9) Finish draft of God's War by March. Have revised and ready-to-hawk version by December.

10) Finish revised (for the bazillionth time) version of The Dragon's Wall and send to Agent by October

11) Get back to work on book two of the fantasy saga (Over Burning Cities) so I have a draft by June of 2007

12) Begin preliminary research and outline for my next stand-alone fantasy book about a feisty girl-turned-resistance-fighter and abused peace-pursuing man clawing out their own versions of an ideal country from the wreckage of a nation butchered by a Rwandan-like genocide. Currently untitled.

13) Finish reading the 20-odd books I'm currently in the middle of

14) Rescue the music stuck on all of my dead computers

15) Consolidate my student loans

Monday, January 16, 2006

Yea, I'm Alive

And I have a lot to do.

So it goes.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Desire & the Pill

It is no secret that some women who take birth control pills lose interest in sex. They have been reporting this side effect to their doctors since oral contraceptives came into wide use 40 years ago.

I'm so happy I have an IUD..

Oops - We're Excluding Our Best Candidates!

Weight limits designed to screen out unfit Army applicants are excluding some of the strongest candidates and will be relaxed, the MoD says.

Under previous regulations, men with a body mass index (BMI) of over 28 were barred from joining the military.

The threshold has been extended to 32 - two points above the World Health Organisation's definition of obesity.

The kicker?

This "relaxation" of the "rules" only applies to men:

Meanwhile, the limits for women will remain the same at 28.

This was *after* they realized that "bigger" people were often stronger, and could perform a wider number of roles. Hence, recruiting "bigger" people was in the UK Army's best interests.

I guess "big" women are just a lot scarier than "big" guys....

(via bfb)

Healthcare in America

I finally went to the doctor to see what the hell's wrong with me. Basically, she said, she had no idea. She gave me some antibiotics, some super cough syrup, and some kind of inhaler to help the inflammation in my chest.

So, $150 later, all I know is I was pretty sick, I'm getting better, and nobody's sure why.

At least I got some drugs, eh?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Oh, Dear

There's nothing so disheartening as receiving an email from a new project manager that reads like it's been written by somebody who's barely literate.

Doesn't exactly inspire much faith.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fat: Still a Feminist Issue

In classrooms around the world, girls swap tips on how to eat less, how to ratchet up their exercise and how to mimic those perfect bodies they see staring out at them from music videos, TV, the catwalk, magazines and billboards.

Somewhere, they know that these bodies aren't quite real - that they have been enhanced by surgery, lighting, camera angles and digital manipulation. But no matter. The deluge of visual images that wallpapers our world has seeped into every consciousness. It has changed the way we view our bodies and what we can and should do to our bodies, including those of our children.

Read the Rest

On Writing the Female Protagonist

In the course of my writing "career" (such as it is), I've run across quite a few male writers who've told me that they have a lot of trouble writing female protagonists, and it was something they had to actively work on. I always found this fascinating because though my short stories are often female POV (though not always), my novels always have mixed POVs, men and women, and I never gave it a second thought.

One of my most exciting character POVs in book 2 of the fantasy saga is the POV of a rational misogynist, a guy who really does believe women are infantile and inferior; and the trick has been to make him interesting if not sympathetic and have him carry a POV instead of just being a spear-carrier. I'm having lots of fun with it. And I don't find it terribly tricky. I know really great guys who are closet misogynists and can rationalize those feelings from here until Sunday. So it's not like I don't have examples to draw from.

So what's up with the male writer fear of writing up female protagonists? Or is it only strong female protagonists that are scary?

I dunno. I set down my free copy of Hickman's "Mystic Warriors" when the protagonist's wife "purred" at him on page four (this was the fourth time she'd done something stupid like that in as many pages). I don't know how many male writers' SO's "purr" at them, but my guess is: not many. So I don't know where this guy's ideas about all that came from. Maybe he thought it made for a more exciting opening scene.

Maybe this has to do with the old, "We're all used to reading books about men," thing. You know, the old saying that boys and girls will read books about boys, but only girls will read books about girls, because reading books about girls is "Girly." Being a woman, I have no trouble writing about women, and reading a lot of books with male protagonists, having male friends, and generally moving in male-dominated circles fills in the other half, so I have no trouble writing about men. I listen to and talk to men all the time.

But I just don't buy that men don't hang out with women. I mean, don't men have female friends besides their SOs? Don't they read books with female protagonists?

Then what's so difficult about getting into the female POV without it all coming out like Heinlein's robotic-sounding Friday or any of his other cardboard female characters? I mean, women are just people. What's so tough about writing about people?

I don't think you have to have an intimate knowledge of cramps, tampons, and hair products in order to write good female characters.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Elyce Deconstructs "Fight Club"

What is even more interesting re the gaze than how the film plays it out is how it turns it around. Instead of having a narrator constantly gazing at his femme fatale or sex object (a la Hitchcock’s Vertigo, for one), Fight Club has him gaze at his hypermasculine alter ego, Tyler Durden. Both the protagonist and the camera linger over Brad Pitt and his buff bod—as well as over the many other men who must strip to the waist when they fight and the pumped up army dudes. This goes even further as the film fetishizes blood, scrapes, and bruises (and I’ll get to kinkiness presently), but first…

It Ain't Easy Being a "Pale Male"

Yea, right.

On the contrary, men at Fortune 100 companies commonly complain that due to diversity goals, women actually have an unfair advantage. "Every company I've worked at goes out of its way to hire or promote women to senior level positions," says an upper-middle manager at a major food company. He adds with a sigh, "It's not easy being a 'pale male' in today's corporate world."

Where do these guys get these impressions? Not from the stats:

Yet recent research and statistics tell a different story, suggesting that the glass ceiling remains firmly in place. It's been 10 years since the U.S. Government's Glass Ceiling Commission released its findings that while women had 46 percent of America's jobs and more than half the master's degrees being awarded, only 5 percent of all senior manager positions were filled by women. What's more, female managers' earnings were on average a mere 68 percent of their male counterparts'.

And, some reasons for it, which I see everyday here in Grande Latte Enema Land:

- Different standards are used to judge the performance of women and minorities.

- Their corporate culture assigns lesser value to women and minorities.

- The "good old boy network" is the biggest discrimination barrier to career advancement.

- Because women and minorities are less willing to play the political game, many choose to leave the corporate world entirely.

Not really new stuff, but fascinating that men's impressions of women's levels of seniority in the workplace are a lot higher than the actual levels women achieve. It's that old 1/4 rule. Anytime a room is composed of 1/4 or more women, people will say that at least half the room is "full" of women.

Read the rest

It Gets Better & Better

HONOLULU -- A state lawmaker has suggested Hawaii's public schoolteachers be forced to weigh in as part of the fight against obesity in students, KITV in Honolulu reported.

Because teaching kids it's OK to discriminate is cool.

This gets into all those tricky arguments about who decides what "fat" is, and what about medical conditions and... and... oh, forget it! Just oust the fatties.

Note that they're not advocating testing cholesterol levels or resting heart rates. It's never really about health. It's about all that nasty, disgusting fat.

Next up: plastic surgery for teachers who don't appeal to Aryan beauty standards!

The Writing Game

As mentioned earlier, I heard back from the Agent about my fantasy novel, The Dragon's Wall. She's incredibly enthusiastic about the whole project, thinks it'll make a great series, but thinks it needs a total overhaul.

Now, that might sound really great, but I had to hide in my room for two days getting over the initial "rejection" part of it before I could think clearly and re-read the e-mail again with a cooler head. When somebody tells you your book really doesn't hit its stride until page 200 and she's fully expecting it'll be about a year's worth of edits, well, you're going to cringe. You're going to cringe quite a lot.

But for all that, she really likes the book. And I ran into her at a con, and I really liked her. I'd love to run the whole series with her. So there are a lot of positives.

Yet I honestly had to sit down and have a mental conversation with myself about whether or not I was going to do this. I had to ask myself: am I just being delusional? Is it worth spending another five years on this book, potentially taking away time from other books that I might work on? Am I just fooling myself? Should I just move on to something else?

Which is a dumb question to ask about a book you've already invested five years in. Escalation of commitment. You just have to keep going.

Because the thing with the first book in a series is that if you can nail that one, if you can sell that one, and it sells well, you've got a series. It's possible you can lock it in, so long as they don't all suck. You may even be able to support yourself for a couple of those years (if you're lucky) on writing alone. And, of course, you may wow everybody and have 500 people show up to all your signings and have huge fan clubs and be able to buy a big house.

I mean, there's that.

But let's be rational, shall we?

One of my writing buddies agreed to look at the book again, and I think I'll haul it to a writing workshop sometime this year. It's a lot of time and attention, but it's my baby, and I want to get this one out there. Maybe I really am delusional to sink so much into it, but really, what else am I going to do besides write? This is what I do. I'd be bored otherwise.

I wrote up a response to said Agent and said she should expect to see a heavily revisied version of the book sometime later this year - after I'm done drafting God's War, of course. GW has about 100 pages to go (yea, I've discovered my max fiction rate appears to be 100 pages a month). My computer's broken again (it keeps automatically restarting everytime it gets to the "login" page"), so who knows how things'll go, but that's what they make those yellow legal pads for.

So here we go again, playing the writing game, gambling that if I do good rewrites, Agent will like them, then Agent will find Publisher(s) who like the book (or require, of course, MORE REWRITES), and you just keep writing, and keep hoping you're getting better at it, and hope that sometime, somewhere, something will roll over and it'll all just hit.

Of course, it may just be a continuous upward slog, but I really hope there's a hilltop somewhere that I can get to the top of and something, somehow, some aspect of the game, will get easier.

I'm not counting on it, though.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Working Computer

Jenn got my computer hooked up to her old PC monitor, so I now have a working computer. I was starting to go a little nuts with the other half-baked solution I came up with. I haven't even finished paying this little number off, and the LCD screen up and died on me.

This monitor's a lot bigger, though. Makes for better computer playing, though the setup looks a little ghetto...

Friday, January 06, 2006

What I'm Doing This Weekend

Writing like a mad woman. I've got that damn God's War draft to finish, and I'm going to look over some of those rewrite suggestions for the fantasy saga that the Agent gave me, and see if it's salvageable.

If I can get that damn fantasy saga right, well, it's a great investment. It's seven books.

Wouldn't that be sweet?

State of the Union

Ah, the pissing gallery:

Straw feminists (I am not a real feminist and I cater to men's opinions of me)

Ide's Place (I'm just a reactionary idiot)

It always makes me sad when I upset long-term posters I respect, like Ide Cyan, and likely many more who haven't been vocal about how upset they are that I seem to have posted an opinion that that doesn't appear to be hard feminist left.

Here's my deal, though:

I believe people are inherently good. I believe people can have civil discussions. And I think we can do it all together. Maybe that's old-school hippie talk.

Ide asked me if I'd gone nuts and burned my Joanna Russ books. Quite the contrary. The horror of Russ's story, "When It Changed," is that the only way women will ever be seen as fully independent human beings is if men are dead. And that when and if men ever come to a women-only world, that they'll still see women as infantile, as objects, as children.

That's pretty fucking horrible to think about.

And it's offensive to both men and women.

It assumes men will never see women as people. And so it assumes feminism will fail.

Because it's not only women's minds we need to change, women we need to educate, but we need to engage with male friends, lovers, fathers, brothers, etc. and teach them what rape culture is, that sexist jokes aren't OK, that sharing household work and looking after the kids is part of being an adult, not a woman. There's already a general shift in men's attitudes toward women. If you look at how men over 40 treat you and how men under 40 treat you, whoa boy, yea, there's a differece. Try it out. I know I've noticed it.

We need to raise feminist women *and* men, because we can scream at the top of our lungs about how shitty it is to be oppressed, but until we start educating people - men and women - about what that means to us, we're screaming in the dark.

So when I see a blog that was open for general discussion start talking about exclusion, about limiting its audience to "radical" female feminists only (who gets to decide who those women are?), I get pretty worried. And that's OK for me to express that opinion. And it's cool to be challenged on it.

For me, it's not an issue of one thread on one blog. I took that idea and I ran with it. I'm a fantasy writer. That's what I do. I take an idea and I see how it could possibly effect everything else. And the ramifications worried me.

I got through an abusive relationship with a man, and then I recreated myself and found a voice. And I'm all about encouraging other women to do the same. And educating men about how that shit just ain't OK.

There was a fascinating question on one of the threads about whether or not I'm homophobic, which I found pretty funny, because I'm mistaken for a radical feminist lesbian boxer by people on the far right.

I think each side is going to paint you into a box of who they think you should be, who they see you as. And I'm not going to win that one. People see you how they want to see you.

Am I a feminist? Do I believe in the equal rights of women? Equal pay for equal work? The elimination of the rape culture? Do I believe in encouraging women to be strong and smart and speak in loud voices?

You fucking bet I do.

And if you think I don't because I saw where limiting a general discussion blog to a small "in" group could lead, because I thought about all of the future reprecussions (this is what I do), then you don't know much about me at all.

I think my fascination kicks in when I realize just how much this pissed people off. It was just another rant, for me.

What nerve did I hit with this one?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Still Sick

Still sick, but working stuff out. I think the combination of house stress, writing stress, sickness stress, a bad reaction to some DayQuil that made me feel like I was in an aquarium, and the fact that really, truly, while being this sick I really, truly, shouldn't be at work just got to me.

I mean, hey, every one in my house has had a nervous breakdown at one point or another. It was my day to collapse. I spent the whole time sleeping and trying to eat mostly whole foods (been eating a lot of soup). Turns out I didn't have a fever, which was good. In a word, I felt utterly hysterical (if I was a guy, what would I call this, I wonder? Hm).

I'm just finishing up a few writing passages for ye olde writing contracte work, which'll get sent out tomorrow. I have a long post about novels that I'll be posting shortly, too.

Hope everybody's feeling better than I am...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

In Which the Protagonist Has a Nervous Breakdown

I'm sicker than a dog (persistent, full-body, hacking cough, runny nose, headache, trouble sleeping), it looks like I've started running a fever, just got back an email reject from the Agent about the book (to be fair, it was very nice, and another request for a revision rather than a total reject), I am having trouble eating, I keep bursting into crying fits at work (me, yes ME), and I want to curl up into a ball and die. And my period is starting.

And I'll be 26 next week.

I'm going home now and drinking tea and watching mindless television.

Of course, even that may be more than I can bear right about now.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Note to Self

If you choose to write a writing contract piece on the origin of hamburgers, you must be prepared to spend the rest of the day craving hamburgers.

In Which the Protagonist Actually Stumbles Into Work On time

Sicker than a dog. Doing lots of novel writing. Pausing to do some writing contract work that's due Friday. My computer is still dead.

I am craving some chicken noodle soup.

Ug ug