I posted this over on Patreon, but I wanted to share it here with you too:
I think of speculative fiction as the genre of literalized metaphor. This is a particularly personal one. (CW: authoritarianism, homophobia)
(A brief digression from mostly silence. Possibly a bit of politics.)
First: I believe that everyone who’s editing or publishing diverse anthologies or authors is doing so because they love the stories they’re publishing. I don’t believe anyone who says otherwise. I don’t want to rehash the Puppies’ arguments (oh god please no); at most if you squint maybe I’m tangent to them? A glancing touch and then I proceed rapidly away. I have heard their arguments (and how) and found them not just unsound but uninteresting.
First, again: I believe that everyone who’s editing or publishing diverse anthologies or authors is doing so because they love the stories they’re publishing.
Second: please, editors and publishers of diverse books—say that you love the stories, and say why.
I’m always concerned with representation and equality and the great Social Justice Warrior values. I am also a sad, busy human who is more easily moved to buy books and (more importantly) read books and (most importantly) tell others about books because they are Sad! or Funny! or Angry! or Heartwarming! or All Of Those Feels At Once! and that they have an uncommon perspective and abstract political ideals that I share.
Because I know these diverse books overflow with virtues—they are smart and funny and angry and touching and well-written and have that uncommon perspective and engage with abstract political ideals that I care about. Please tell me about those more mundane virtues too. Their ideals give them meaning and purpose—what makes them sing to you?
I do think it’s scary to love something, especially for us, especially right now. To be genuinely enthusiastic is to open yourself up to criticism without giving yourself much defensive fallback, and that’s especially scary when we know there’s a small mob in our community who are part of a larger mob without it who are ready to shit on anyone they get a yearning to.
I think we fall back to expressing ourselves in these abstract political terms because at least then we have the comfort of a community of people who also care about these abstract political ideals to band together with, and it’s not just our love, our taste, mine, Kellan Sparver’s, on the line and potentially under attack.
So we also need reviewers, friends, allies, readers, whatever you’re called—when you love diverse books, please say that and say what you love about them!
And editors and publishers—you can’t be everywhere on the Internet, but if you see your fans dogpiling an otherwise enthusiastic reviewer, friend, ally, reader who made a mistake, please do at least try to defuse them? Just because your fans are right doesn’t mean that they are justified in being assholes, especially to someone who’s enthusiastic about your work.
I watched this happen once—there was an anthology (no I will not name names) which had been marketed by its editors primarily in abstract political terms. I was aware of the anthology but didn’t feel particularly excited about buying it. I read a review which enthusiastically explained all the concrete things which were also cool about the stories and finally convinced me to buy the book, and then before I could do so, I watched a pile of people whale on the reviewer for a genuine but disproportionate mistake, which shriveled up my interest in buying or reading the book. I think if I were a better person I might have bought it anyway, but I am often tired and much put off by unkindness.
I think what I am saying is, I know we are all enthusiastic about diverse books for a diversity of reasons including their diversity. Enthusiasm is contagious—let’s work together to make the world a happier! funnier! sadder! angrier! and more diverse world!
Okay, I’ll go first.
Guys, guys. O_O I don’t know that I can express how much I love Fumi Yoshinaga’s “What Did You Eat Yesterday?” manga series. It’s half Japanese home comfort food cookbook (I mean, like, half of each issue is just a meal’s worth of recipes for good cheap tasty food, in comic form) and half understated gay slice-of-life story and it’s super sweet and touching and I shouldn’t read it before bed because it makes me hungry but I do anyway… O_O;; I’m really enjoying it.
How about you? What’s awesome about something diverse you’ve read lately?
“Song for a Moonlit Night”
by Kellan Sparver
Do you get lonely
Late at night when the skies are low
Fireflies down and the west wind slow
Animals quiet, stars around you
Moon shining over the fields
Late at night my city lights burn
Pavement washed in a sodium glow
Revelers stumble under my window
Stars of their own favorite show
Do you know
There’s not a lot I miss about you
Accidents, missteps, the odd backward glance
An accent, a word, a face in the mirror
Awash and adrift as the people rush past
I know that you don’t think on me often
Never much wanted me, when I was there
You have your people, your old friends all gathered
They never left, that shows how they care
It’s okay; you didn’t know what I was
If you had known, you’d never have dared
It’s better this way, each of us elsewhere
No one is hurt; your feelings are spared
The city’s not you, as hard as I want it
Every reminder returns me to this
I’m not what I’d be and I’m not what I once was
How long can anyone live within glass
Where am I going? Where have I gone?
Will you be there to meet me?
Where am I going? What will it cost?
When I am there, will you greet me?
Do you get lonely
Night wind cries and the green corn sighs
The crickets are singing the eternal song
The horned moon brushes the horizon
You lie on your rooftop, awaiting the morn
Late at night my lights still burn
The sleepless birds sing up the sun
The quiet lingers where the people aren’t
It waits with patience until they return
My own moon fades against the day
The houses stir as brightness rolls west
The unseen ocean rises and falls
I go inside to face the new day’s test
Do you get lonely
Do you get lonely
This began as an attempt at song lyrics, as the title suggests, but I like it as well as poetry. Feels appropriate to post on a quiet, sticky night in Boston, very much the kind of night which inspired it.
(I’m experimentally cross-posting to Tumblr, if that’s your thing.)
Copyright © 2015 Kellan Sparver. All rights reserved.
The cover image is “Milky Way over Iowa″ by Kenneth Younger III on Flickr, used under the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license. The image is used for illustrative purposes only. All persons depicted are models, and no endorsement or association is intended or implied.
Turn the volume up.
This song has been stuck in my head since I read this essay (h/t Devin Singer). It’s not quite my brand of fucked, but I recognize a kinship.
It’s a great song, and then, from the essay, in characteristic all-caps, to contextualize it:
LIKE DIRE STRAITS, THE VOICE SINGING IS NOT THE ONE “TELLING” ALL THESE HORRIBLE THINGS, THE VOICE IS ILLUMINATING THE OPPOSING VIEWPOINT. THE SINGER OF THE SONG IS ONE LAURA JANE GRACE, WHO HAPPENED TO BE BORN THOMAS JANE GABEL. AND AS SHE SINGS, IT’S CLEAR SHE’S NOT ACTUALLY SAYING THOSE THINGS, SHE IS SAYING THE THINGS THAT ARE SAID TO HER. THE “YOU” IS THE “I.” AND THE REASON IT IS SO IMPORTANT FOR HER TO DO SO IS BECAUSE IT ALLOWS HER TO SHOW THE IMMEDIACY OF THAT CRUDE VIEWPOINT. SHE IS NOT GOING THROUGH THE FILTER OF HER OWN FEELINGS OR PERSONAL VIEW, SHE IS NOT GOING TO JUST SPEAK FOR HERSELF IN FIRST PERSON; SHE IS SHOWING A HORRIFIC VIEWPOINT AROUND HER IN THE CLEAREST VIEW, IN THEIR WORDS THEMSELVES. AND WHAT’S MORE IS THAT THE MERE ABILITY TO SAY “YOU” ALSO ALLOWS HER TO REACH OUT TO OTHERS, TO AN AUDIENCE, TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER SAW THEMSELVES AS THE KIND OF SUBJECT OF THIS SONG, AND PERSONALIZES IT IN AN IMPORTANT WAY.
IT MAKES THEM COMPLICIT IN THE REALITY SHE FACES.
This is one of the first stories I wrote when I started writing seriously—one of the stories which got me into the Viable Paradise workshop in 2012, in fact. I wrote it before I knew much about story structure. I’d of course had Freytag’s Pyramid in school, and I tried to write this story in that form, but I knew once I finished it that I had missed.
Yet I thought the story still worked, I just couldn’t explain why. I only realized much after learning about the kishōtenketsu form that I think I all but accidentally hit on it when writing this story. Fortunately I think that structure fits the themes of the story very well, so I’m loath to try to ‘fix’ it. See what you think.
Also I wanted to write a post-apocalypse which reflected my experience growing up in poor, rural places which had lost a lot of population from the farm crises and were a little post-apocalyptic already. Somehow we didn’t descend into a Mad Max hell of guns and gas and hard men killing for canned goods past their sell-by.
I’ve mentioned before that I read a lot of webcomics, and that in the best of them I find more to relate to in the queer experiences they depict than I do in most prose fiction. (And maybe also that the format lets me take works which make me feel strong emotions piecemeal, slowing me down enough that I can process them without getting overwhelmed.)
Flocks by L. Nichols—which its website describes simply as “An autobiographical story about L’s experience as a queer Christian”—is a particularly pointed example of that.
A lot of L.’s experience of being Christian and queer in a place hostile to the latter was my experience too, and we used college to escape in the same way. The grinding sense that I was wrong, that I didn’t belong, that I was being punished by God, was something I lived with for a long time, and has made any kind of adult relationship with the church very, very hard.
For me the redemptive arc is that that is no longer my day-to-day, and I’m in a place now with people who are welcoming to who I am. The comic is still ongoing (posts about once a month), but it seems L. found much the same.
It is not crocus season yet. I just saw the first buttercups, the very earliest of the spring ephemerals, this morning. But it is closer to crocus season than it was last week, and for that I am profoundly grateful. It has been a long, hard winter.
It has been quiet for too long here as well, but I am trying to get back into the habit of posting again. Maybe nothing much ever at one go, but—it has been too long since I was in front of you, performing, and I miss that, so here I am in whatever small way I can manage.
Also! I will be posting a story next Friday the 8th—the first of my Patreon stories, promised last July and then sidetracked. (One of the excitements of my other line of work is that we can get called any day to drop everything we are doing because something important is on fire, and we have been very busy over the last year.) But the story is now prepped and copyedited and scheduled, meaning it will be posted, so do please watch this space.
Attention conservation notice: Yet another semi-crank pet notion, nursed quietly for many years, now posted
in the absence of new thoughtsbecause reading The Half-Made World brought it back to mind.
The Singularity has happened; we call it “the industrial revolution” or “the long nineteenth century”. It was over by the close of 1918.
Exponential yet basically unpredictable growth of technology, rendering long-term extrapolation impossible (even when attempted by geniuses)? Check.
Massive, profoundly dis-orienting transformation in the life of humanity, extending to our ecology, mentality and social organization? Check.
Annihilation of the age-old constraints of space and time? Check.
Embrace of the fusion of humanity and machines? Check.
Creation of vast, inhuman distributed systems of information-processing, communication and control, “the coldest of all cold monsters”? Check; we call them “the self-regulating market system” and “modern bureaucracies” (public or private), and they treat men and women, even those whose minds and bodies instantiate them, like straw dogs.
An implacable drive on the part of those networks to expand, to entrain more and more of the world within their own sphere? Check. (“Drive” is the best I can do; words like “agenda” or “purpose” are too anthropomorphic, and fail to acknowledge the radical novely and strangeness of these assemblages, which are not even intelligent, as we experience intelligence, yet ceaselessly calculating.)
Why, then, since the Singularity is so plainly, even intrusively, visible in our past, does science fiction persist in placing a pale mirage of it in our future? Perhaps: the owl of Minerva flies at dusk; and we are in the late afternoon, fitfully dreaming of the half-glimpsed events of the day, waiting for the stars to come out.