The Opposite of People

There we were—demented children mincing about in clothes that no one ever wore, speaking as no man ever spoke, swearing love in wigs and rhymed couplets, killing each other with wooden swords, hollow protestations of faith hurled after empty promises of vengeance—and every gesture, every pose, vanishing into the thin unpopulated air. We ransomed our dignity to the clouds, and the uncomprehending birds listened. Don’t you see?! We’re actors—we’re the opposite of people!

–Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

What I’m Reading, Queer-Friendly Haunted House Fantasy YA Novella Edition

okatsu onsen anu

…or at least that was how Tam described Onsen.

I should back up. Tam is a friend and classmate from Viable Paradise, and maybe a few months ago she tweeted that she had a book out, which was Onsen, and which she described as “a queer-friendly haunted house fantasy YA novella.”  I was intrigued, and the cover was remarkably self-confident, so I picked it up, and enjoyed it.

Once I finished it, I discovered that it was part of a series, which made a couple of the things which had surprised me about it less surprising. I went back and picked up Okatsu, which filled in some gaps.  And I saw going over to grab cover images that Anu is now out (yay!), so that’s on its way to my Kindle.  I am not much one for series, so that alone should be read as high praise.

In terms of technical skill they’re quite well-done.  I can’t speak too much to the veracity of the setting or the characters in the context of historical Japan, but Tam writes both with compassion and a good eye for detail.

The books also fill a great need of mine for smart comfort fiction.  (In fact I read about half of Onsen in the ER waiting room at 4 AM—everyone is fine, but taking a friend to the ER is never any fun—and it was exactly what I wanted.)  I have serious trouble turning my brain off, and here I didn’t have to, but I was also able to relax enough to enjoy the books without needing to dissect them, and that’s a rare thing for me lately.  They are pleasant reading.

Tam does a good job with the central queer relationship.  I’ve been mulling a bit over why I relate to some depictions and not others, and I think part of it might be tied up in that lack of demonstrativeness I was mentioning.  Jao and Masahiro are conscious of how they are performing their relationship in a way that I recognize.

Also Tam is now serializing a novel in the same setting but with different characters (so far) over on her Tumblr. (Here is the first post.)

Very much recommended.

(And the cover design! So excellent! I want to hire her cover artist.)

Okatsu (ebook; paper; Amazon)
Onsen (ebook; paper; Amazon)
Anu (ebook; paper; Amazon)

Samuel R. Delany on Ethnocentricity

Quote

To assume you can somehow escape ethnocentricity and that there is some objective position that stands outside your culture from which, “freely and rightly,” you can criticize other groups who are “trapped” in theirs is the moment of blindness from which grow all the abuses of the dominant, unmarked state when that particular state, whatever it is, obtains dominance—which, if it is culturally useful enough, it will.

­–“Escaping Ethnocentricity?” by Samuel R. Delany

Go read the whole thing.

stumbling-home-drunk-in-the-rain selfie

2014-03-30 02.00.41

Drunk after a friend’s going-away party and pissed that he’s leaving even though I can hardly begrudge him fuck if my company got bought I’d be there but…

Fuck.

Meaningful human relationships, how do they work? I’m bad at them. You can live in the same city, another coast, or another country, it doesn’t matter, I don’t know how to people.

And I’m not used to people leaving me. Don’t they know that’s my job?

Fiction: “Palo Alto, Early Summer”

Palo Alto twilight, by Arenamontanus on Flickr (CC by-nc)

I can’t sleep, so here, have some fiction.

Speaking of atlases as we were, this is a story I wrote three years and another life ago (or two? I’ve lost count), as a way to map out one possible future.

My own life has moved past it, but it still lays out a path someone else might take. Maybe even a future me.

For this story, for me, the change of it is not so much something the character undergoes, but between myself, now, and the ‘I’ of the story. I don’t know if that will work at all for you, too, but I hope it does.

Continue reading

What I’m Watching: The Wind Rises

Saw The Wind Rises, the new (and supposedly last) movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki, with my boyfriend over the weekend. We both really enjoyed it.

It is, remarkably, a movie about engineers which shows the characters actually engineering, which we both found pleasant.

It’s obviously conflicted about the uses to which the planes the main character designed were put, and it engages lightly but (I thought) well with the issues, showing us the characters as they work out out how they feel about the compromises they’re forced to make. It also acknowledges Japan’s own imperial excesses in the period more than I had expected (ie. at all).

It is additionally a love story, which reflects on its central theme in interesting ways.

It is inspiring, touching, and ultimately poignant. We found it very powerful.

“They create, through the stories they’re given, an atlas of their world”

This apartheid of literature — in which characters of color are limited to the townships of occasional historical books that concern themselves with the legacies of civil rights and slavery but are never given a pass card to traverse the lands of adventure, curiosity, imagination or personal growth — has two effects.

One is a gap in the much-written-about sense of self-love that comes from recognizing oneself in a text, from the understanding that your life and lives of people like you are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed and even celebrated. Academics and educators talk about self-esteem and self-worth when they think of books in this way, as mirrors that affirm readers’ own identities. I believe that this is important, but I wonder if this idea is too adult and self-concerned, imagining young readers as legions of wicked queens asking magic mirrors to affirm that they are indeed “the fairest of them all.”

The children I know, the ones I meet in school visits, in juvenile detention facilities like the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Maryland, in ritzy private schools in Connecticut, in cobbled-together learning centers like the Red Rose School in Kibera, Nairobi — these children are much more outward looking. They see books less as mirrors and more as maps. They are indeed searching for their place in the world, but they are also deciding where they want to go. They create, through the stories they’re given, an atlas of their world, of their relationships to others, of their possible destinations.

From the New York Times (also).

You can see me here engaged in the same thing.

I’ve found very few maps where my part of the world is marked with any legend more sage than “Here There Be Dragons.”