It’s a parking lot, not only in an entirely different country, but in an entirely different continent! And Heathrow Airport is in the background, which is actually cooler than it sounds.
I’m here for Ytterbium, this year’s Eastercon, where I am a Guest of Honor, and everything is lovely so far. The convention begins properly tomorrow — today we relax, get some sleep in and prepare for the weekend. Three cheers for a lovely spring day in the UK.
How are you? Please describe in words that do not include “redacted Mueller report” in any way, shape or form.
WELP between this and the Endgame leak fandom social media will certainly not explode!
also, I really don't think anyone who has mental health issues and is having a bad time right now should watch this episode, or at least not without reading a summary
ETA Arjun Gupta is fucking amazing
An intended hug :) pic.twitter.com/8YVX3Y3s3l— Arjun Gupta (@ArjunGuptaBK) April 8, 2019
and all of his replies in this thread https://twitter.com/ArjunGuptaBK/
I just wrote what was supposed to be a couple of paragraphs of reaction to siderea's post about Marie Kondo and books, which turned into multiple pages of feelsdump about tidying and really the only parts that need to see the light of day are
Derry Girls is fine, I guess, but if you've watched one of the Sister Michael compilation vids you're probably good stopping thereand
(A story about a large donations-sorting center that has some kind of magical heatsink/storage battery for all the bad vibes from the spirits of trashed once-beloved objects is something I would like to read, please. Anyone who thinks Westerners don’t understand animism of made objects has never helped sort junk donations on a large scale and seen what people couldn’t bear to throw away. We’re just deeply uncomfortable with it because most of us don’t have a good framework to understand it in. Can we call the story "The Joy Equations"? Can we power an FTL drive with the accumulated spiritual sadness of the debris of the Age of Excess?)Anyway, what it was meant to be an intro to: I have finally finished all of the small tasks I could pretend were "preparation" and have to face the next piece of my ongoing tidying project: fit ~400 unshelved nonfiction books onto ~6 available feet of linear shelf space.
Okay yes that seems comically impossible on the face of it, but I think I can squeeze a fair amount of more space by accepting that all the rest of the nonfiction will just have to be shelve for maximum space use instead of attractiveness of shelves, and also weed about 10%-15% of the collection as I go.
It's the weeding that's going to be hard. Most of these books have already survived multiple weeds, and I don't buy any new ones unless:
- they make me happy.
- I could not easily get another copy if I needed one on short notice* (i.e., they aren't the sort of thing that's on every library shelf and in every used bookstore in fifteen copies, they aren't constantly in print, and if they're public domain they either don't have a digital copy available free yet or there's a reason I want a physical copy instead.)
- they fit into a certain short list of topics of special interest that I am likely to find useful at some point.
*being able to get them on Amazon doesn't count because Amazon is evil and also I don't let myself bookshop on Amazon because I have enough of a problem already. Being able to get them in non-free-to-share ebook doesn't count because just because they're accessible in ebook now doesn't mean they will be later, and just because I have them saved as files now doesn't mean I'll be able to access the files later: learned that one hard and early.
This list is fairly static over time and fairly well refined at this point, and most of the books I buy these days fit into more than one category on it (at 3+ it's pretty much a lock to buy.) But I realized it also only existed in my head and it might be a useful exercise to write it out.
...at least I have a nice starter list of tags to use in the catalog as I re-shelve?
How's the writing been treating you today? What about yesterday?
Today I -
Sent To Beta
Took A Break
Question: are there any 'types' of characters you love writing in your fics? Certain personalities, backgrounds, professions that appeal to you?
It's funny, to see the limits of my own perspective. Back then, I saw the goal of art as faithfully portraying an alternate reality. Someone didn't wear a red shirt because the movie needed a way to set them apart visually--they wore it because it's what they would have worn. When it came to costume, I felt it was the audience's job to adjust to the odd silhouettes and fashion quirks of the past, and learn to read them; altering historical fashions to be more easily read by a modern audience was heresy.
I remember how much my mind was blown when I took Psychology of Aesthetics in undergrad, when I learned to interpret abstract art and understand the concept of art purely as the means to evoke a certain reaction in its audience. It was like my entire world turned upside down. A whole lot of art I'd previously derided as being trashy or inaccurate or bad just made sense, suddenly.
I remember this was around the time sartorias was writing about the "silver fork" novel, things looking back on the English Regency as a time of extreme social refinement and politeness when that was not the way the era saw itself. Learning how to read novels as a product of their era, and not just an inaccurate lens onto a different one, felt like my third eye was being opened.
I'm 32 now, and my sense of how to perceive visual art, of what it's for, keeps developing in entirely new ways. I remember when I was in elementary school, I always wanted to draw, but art books made no sense to me. I remember the feeling of my brain bouncing off the diagrams, off the idea of creating an impression of a thing that bore no resemblance to the actual structure of the thing itself.
It's like... now I'd be ready to begin studying costume design. I just wasn't ready for it before. I've spent all these years focusing on the inner mechanisms of garment construction because that's what I understood, but after decades of a rusty machine stubbornly refusing to work, the gears have started to budge.
Pillofort immediately started looking for a new domain extension. They found one, and have begun the process of shifting over. The site's been cloned; logins work; posting doesn't. They'll keep the .io addresses for at least a year (unless the NIC.IO staffers happen to notice them and cancel it in the meantime), but the whole site will be officially moving soon, like this month sometime.
I'm going to edit my previous PF posts to use the .social domain for the links, so they'll still work in the long run.
... On the one hand, glad they're doing something about this. On the other, how am I supposed to trust they can manage user conflicts and TOS edge cases and the business hassles of running a social platform, when they didn't bother to look at their domain host's content rules.
They come out to 3 pages when pasted into Word. It's less than a thousand words long. And it says, "No .IO domain may be used, directly or indirectly, for any purpose that is sexual or pornographic or that is against the statutory laws of any Nation."
Now, there's some possible quibbling there - I really, REALLY don't want to have to restrict all my content to comply with every nation's blasphemy laws. And maybe "no sexual purposes" means "no hookup sites and no sex toy shops." But it sure looks like it means "no explicit videos." And Pillowfort's staff just... didn't notice, when they were picking a domain for their new social media platform, that this one bans the stuff that Tumblr refugees are interested in hosting.
When, as a writer, you find yourself caught between two tropes, what do you do? And is it a bad thing that you’re confronting two separate writing tropes in the first place? In her series that began with the book Amberlough and continues now in Amnesty, the third book, author Lara Elena Donnelly confronts her tropes and finds a way through them.
LARA ELENA DONNELLY:
For a long, long time, Amnesty was nothing but a big idea.
My debut novel, Amberlough, was meant to be a standalone. A tragedy with a bitter ending, the only hope in a burgeoning resistance driven by death and loss. A story about people who fail, over and over again, to communicate with each other. Who fail to stake a moral, political, or emotional claim early enough to make a difference.
The character who fails biggest is Cyril DePaul. Already back-benched when the book starts, after a botched mission that’s left his confidence shattered, every decision he makes has his own interests at its heart. Nobody else’s enter into it. Even his gambit to save the life of his lover is self-centered; who wants to save their own skin only to live on lonely?
When I first wrote Amberlough, Cyril perished on the page. I had read enough spy novels to know that the bad spy usually dies. It’s not a job you can half-ass or bumble around in and still expect to avoid a bullet in the back of the head.
But I had also read enough fiction to know that being queer is another way to end up dead by the end of the novel. Cyril’s death fell pretty neatly into the trope known as “Bury Your Gays.”
I was caught between two tropes: one I wanted to lean into, and another I had frowned over in many other media properties. And I had gotten myself there by thinking how satisfying it would be to queer such a macho genre as the spy novel (though let’s be honest: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had already done it, and done it well).
But all of this isn’t my big idea. My big idea came when feedback from my editorial team poked at the ending–both my agent and my editor earmarked the potentially problematic death. Could we not just make it a little more open-ended? Not quite so…death-y?
I was torn, and also confused and kind of angry. I had written this ending knowing full well the risk I ran, and chosen to keep it during submissions because it felt right for the story and the character’s arc. I also didn’t think I would have been urged to unkill a straight character.
I have a lot of complicated feelings about tragic queers. But as several friends have said to me lately, “complicated is good. Complicated means it’s worth discussing.”
I felt then–and still feel, a lot of the time–that often there is a pressure on queer characters and queer stories to combat the “Bury Your Gays” trope, or the gay villain trope, or any number of other tropes, by telling stories without death, without tragedy, without detestable people. And yes, the world deserves happy, heroic queer characters. But it also deserves nuanced stories about flawed and fully-developed queer characters who sometimes hurt others and are hurt themselves.
Queer characters have been dying in fiction for a long time: as moral censure, as motivation for straight characters, to lend tragic savor to the story of straight heroes. Often the queer character who dies is the only queer character in story, and death is the only end we see for them. And obviously that’s a problem.
Unfortunately, nowadays the labor of undoing the harm caused by these tropes usually falls on stories that center queer characters–often on stories by authors who are queer themselves. Many queer authors hesitate to write stories based in their own experience, wondering if they are too dark, if they perpetuate the tragic queer narrative. And many times, straight authors including queer characters in heroic, happy narratives write versions of queer people that feel disingenuous or flat; that don’t engage with the nuances of living with a queer identity, some of which can be complicated and yes, painful.
I don’t like the idea that tropes–even Bury Your Gays–should be avoided at all costs. It’s not only simplistic, it’s impossible. If you write fiction, you’re going to write a trope someday. My take on tropes is that when they show up in a story they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but interrogated, turned on their head, and shaken down for their milk money.
So, I wrote two more books. And here we come to my big idea. There are spoilers ahead, so be wary if you mind that kind of thing.
Removing an explicit death scene and replacing it with a much more open-ended culmination felt strange to me, as an ending for a standalone. And the idea that this simple elision addressed the tragic queer trope didn’t quite scan for me; the book is still a tragedy. It still features queer characters. Changing that final scene with Cyril was symbolic, yes, but felt hollow somehow–like it lacked the intended resonance of the original ending. It felt like avoiding a trope on a technicality.
Still, given the feedback, I began to envision a further arc to the story; if Cyril didn’t die, what would his life look like? As a bad spy, a poor communicator, a child of privilege, and a fascist collaborator burdened by guilt, where would he go in this world turned upside down by political upheaval? And, if he ever surfaced again, how would he be treated by his friends, family, lovers, and public opinion?
Essentially: if death was not the final note in a tragic character arc marked by personal failures, what could I replace it with? What was a fate worse than death, to and for Cyril DePaul?
Facing the music, of course.
In Amberlough, death was a consequence for a long string of bad decisions made by a desperate man with flexible morals. I started thinking of the stack of consequences Cyril would have to face if he lived. There were a lot of them, ten times more complicated than a clean death might have been. And they were harder for Cyril to take, as a character, which as any writer knows makes for rich material.
In essence, my big idea was, “If I avoid this trope, it won’t be on a technicality. It will be on my own terms. And those terms will be devastating.”
In the actual writing of the book, things turned out differently than I had envisioned when I set out. But I hope I still succeeded in turning the simple evasion of a trope into something much thornier, that has readers asking themselves questions about guilt and redemption and who is forgiven for what, by whom, and why.
( Cute spoilers )
....//face in hands fuck what is this fandom doing to me (I blame ranalore. I blame her so much. It was her and musesfool and gwyn I think. BUT MOSTLY RANA)
(ONE person didn't get an emoji, can you figure out who it is? No, not Thanos or his gauntlet, I just didn't want them.) (Wait, no actually it's two!) Argh, mine is missing Dr Strange. But he's there.
( BRIEF but GIANT spoilers )
I also did actually like this final mostly retrospective trailer (it did have some Endgame trailer scenes in it near the end, so DON'T WATCH if you want to be completely unspoiled)
This fan tribute is longer, and also, well, kinda more spectacular (also has Endgame trailer scenes in it. No leak footage tho)
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M GETTING SUCKED IN AGAIN NOOOOO.
I volunteered, a little bit, over the campaign; found out I can only do phone banking on the most pristine of mental health days, turned out to be the only volunteer they could scavenge up with power tools and a big truck (I borrowed Dad's), brought in a pot roast, and did dishes. Tonight I was the NDP's observer for the ballot count, which is mostly only a vague formality unless and until some kind of election fraud goes down, but I detected none. Afterward I went to the NDP party, where many people were depressed over losing the general majority, and others were still cheerful over what we did win; the NDP held on to most of Edmonton, and some of Calgary, Lethbridge, and possibly Banff. A lot of people have to get to serious work tomorrow.
And I went back and looked at the numbers, and in Alberta:
25 out of 87 seats is still the second-best the NDP has ever done in an election
It’s the FIRST time the NDP has held onto more than two seats over an election.
And it’s the largest Opposition party the Conservatives have had to sit across from in 25 years.
2015 wasn’t a fluke. Alberta won’t accept Conservatism the way it used to.
Running as a Conservative in Alberta used to be the closest you could get to a sure thing. But now? They can’t take that for granted anymore.
Today I -
Sent To Beta
Took A Break
Dealt With Life
Question: do you have any 'comfort' fandoms that you go back to write for?
In 2018 only about one in four books I reviewed were by white dudes. On the other hand, that's still about sixty books by white dudes, which is more books by white dudes than got reviewed by any one
of Analog, IO9, Asimov's, Interzone, F&SF, Vector, SFS, NYRSF, Foundation, Lightspeed or Cascadia Subduction Zone in the most year for which I have stats.