“It had taken me years to finally note how often Hawke had risked his well-being for me—risks that the Veil did not allow. Because of choices made to protect me from forces I did not understand, he had become a tiger cornered in too small a cage.”—Engraved, The St. Croix Chronicles #5
“We need more bisexual girls in fiction. Happy out and proud. Sad and closeted and scared. Bi girls of color. Trans and genderqueer and two-spirit bi characters. Bi characters who don’t know they’re bi until someone tells them bisexuality is real. Bi girls pretending to be straight. Bi girls pretending to be lesbians. Immigrant bi girls who have got bigger issues to worry about than being bi. With more diversity in our bi girls in fiction, one bi girl character with internalized biphobia won’t stick out so terribly.”—(via raggedyanndy)
I first noticed it last year, when I stumbled upon a particular anime called Koroku’s Basketball (or, more appropriately, Kuroko no Basuke. The direct translation is The Basketball Which Koroku Plays, but English audiences, am I right?)
Anyway, there I was, clicking on a whim, and I found myself watching. Watching all of it. All of it.
And I thought, “Am I finding basketball interesting?”
Yes. Yes, I was. Now, to be fair, Koroku’s Basketball includes talents that are so far-fetched as to be nearly fantastical. Even so, I watched each episode with bated breath as the reigning royalty of the basketball courts went head to head with the underdogs, our protagonists, and blood, sweat and tears were shed in the name of victory and teamwork and friendship. Whee!
Fast forward a year later. I’m still watching Koroku’s Basketball, but I tend to do it in binges—it lets me watch entire matches when they cliffhanger it at the end of the episode. But I have also recently stumbled upon another show, one that—again!—I would never have imagined that I would love quite so much.
Yowapeda is the anime’s name, shortened from Yowamushi Pedal. It’s an anime about roadracing, bicycles, and the sweet anime geek who is untrained but not without raw talent—from biking 90 kilometers every week to Akihaba every week so he could buy all his anime paraphernalia, naturally. (We will go to great lengths to furnish our obsessions, right, geeks?)
I was expecting a fun little sporty anime, and I found a gripping story about a ragtag bunch of first-year cyclists competing with each other, themselves, their third-year sempais, and somehow forming amazingly strong friendships through victory and loss.
That’s not the unexpected part.
The unexpected part is how much I care for the characters. Not just our geeky protagonist—hello, reflection of self!—but the other cyclists, too. The other teams. (The only one I don’t care for is the weird antagonist, but that seems to be a staple of animes.) Watching them push, strive, sweat and cry as they push their bodies to the breaking point does something to me that seems strange, given the catalyst is a cartoon.
That Thing Where You Wish You Were an Animation
Something about Yowapeda has transcended that barrier between cartoon and flesh—something in it has found an answering echo inside my subconscious. Is it the will to succeed? The drive to sweat, persevere, and triumph? Is it the victories?
Or is it, as I have slowly been coming to understand, about the bonds?
I have never been what you would call a “team player”. I prefer, as a rule, to work alone—or as alone as my work will allow me to be. When I was a child, I moved around a lot, and I spent a lot of time in the pages of a book. The few attempts I made to bond never really worked out. I was a weird kid.
The closest I ever came to forming bonds of shared pain and perseverance was when I did ballet. I was, oh, what, seven? eight? We moved, and I never was able to go back.
I guess it goes to show that I’ve been a glutton for pain ever since I was a kid.
So imagine my laughter, and the pangs of empathy, when this scene happened:
Granted, my immediate thought here was, “It’s not your bicycle, kid, it’s the fact you’re willing to bleed for a sport those guys love more than they love breathing.” But he’s young and surprisingly pure-minded, so I just nod at the TV and clap and—okay, fine, yes—giggle in glee.
Your bicycle will help you make friends. Will my pain-related interests (eh heh) help me?
Sweat is Srs Biznass
It’s odd. I’m not sure exactly when I developed an interest in pushing myself, but I’m sure it’s been around for a while. I’m inherently lazy, which is a huge obstacle, but the rush I get from pushing my body to the max pretty much makes everything worth it.
The ideal, as explained by our geeky protagonist’s team captain, goes like this:
I think that’s true of every sport, isn’t it? To reach that peak of performance, push past that invisible wall of one’s mental endurance, and achieve what you never thought possible.
Is it wrong to use a cartoon as inspiration? Because if so, I’m not sure I want to be right.
The problem is, I’m not very good at it by myself. Without someone to push me, to challenge me, I find it easier to give in to that wall than it is to try and climb it. Sweating by one’s self can be a very lonely effort.
This anime, surprisingly, has been challenging me. Maybe it’s because I care for the characters, the way you care for characters in a good book or for a local team or whatnot. Those normal things other people do. I just channel it to a different place.
Upping the Game
I started running again a couple months back, but then I got nailed by a flu and that was the end of that. Last week, I finally gave up on lazy and started using a core body workout session—one put out by Jackie Warner of Sky Labs.
Actually, I lie. I started working out the week before with Jillian Michaels’ kettlebells weight program, and I wrecked my body so bad, I couldn’t even move the next couple of days. Figured I needed to ease into that one.
So I switched to Jackie, and even without the weights, this thing is brutal.
Monday, Tuesday and Friday, I worked out. I felt it every day after, and especially the second day after—this is a thing, right? the day after the day after a workout?—but I stayed with it. I thought that if I up my core strength (of which I have precious little), it would help support me when I start running again.
Yesterday, I was taking a break, watching Yowapeda. It was a race, an unofficial one between the first-years and raw, unskilled Onoda, and I found myself bouncing on my couch, cheering like I was watching a real race. And at the end of it, I got my ass off the couch and worked out harder than I had the whole prior week.
Inspiration seems to come in all forms. I may not necessarily have the crew I’d like to have while running and working out, but for now, it seems like a sports anime is covering the gap.
Is that weird? It feels weird.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be varying my workouts. Right now, I’m focused on the core. I’m not that worried about my legs, because running handles a lot of that, so it’s a lot of focus on core and upper body.
Today, I’m throwing running back into the mix.
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday will be my running days, and I intend to continue to use the Zombies, Run! 5k app to do it.
I’m still using a treadmill, primarily because the closest and only real running routes to me takes me through either long, isolated stretches peppered with cars or through what I affectionately term “Meth Alley”. This is hyperbole. I don’t know if there’s meth. I do know there are more lounging men of questionable character than I am comfortable, as a lone female, running through.
I intend to push myself as hard as I can, for as long as I can, within reasonable levels. If I do it right, I should end up like this only for a little while.
Eventually, my body will adapt, and I’ll be able to build on the endurance I’m grooming.
I will say that I’ve been extremely tired. All last week, I felt like I wanted to nap by 3, and I was barely awake by 10pm.
I did one of those things where I drew a hot bath to relax my sore muscles and almost fell asleep in it. Given I lack a fiery redhead to save me from my own folly, I figured I’d better stick with showers for a while. Personally, while I can think of a handful of ways to go, death by drowning is not one.
I’ve also been hungrier than normal. It seemed like every time I paid attention to myself, I was reaching for something to graze on.
I feel like I’m eating way more than I’m used to.
I’ve definitely had to figure out what I could eat that doesn’t feel like it’d undo all my hard work. Carbs? Fish? Mixed nuts? (Haha, she said ‘nuts’.)
A friend passed over some info regarding recovery time, something involving creatine and such, and as soon as I can, I’ll be acquiring some from Amazon in order to mix into my smoothies. In the meantime, if you know any good things to eat whilst… what would you call this? training?… well, whatever it is, if you know of any good meals that are healthy and supportive of working out on a regular basis, I’d love to see them in the comments!
I feel like I’m already well on my way to being as awesome as this anime. Granted, without bikes. Behold! Seems like #runnerface and #roadracerface are similar, amirite?
And yes, I know exactly how ridiculous that is and no, I don’t think I’ll ever be as awesome as a cartoon. But the way I figure, anything at all that encourages me to keep trying is exactly what I need to achieve what I want.
My whole world right now is in need of perseverance. I’ll take the inspiration where I can get it.
If you look at my first tweet—something about bees, which seems about right—I first started with Twitter in 2009. This is misleading. My first Twitter account was launched in 2008, when I started a job with a local web design firm. A small distinction, that year, but it adds to my lead (neatly buried):
It has been six years since I have allowed myself to be alone.
I have views about Twitter. They cover such things as why one may or not be followed, and how that’s okay, and why you can or don’t have to follow someone else. I believe in following who you want to follow, or not, and in being free to speak whatever it is you want to speak. I believe that it is your platform, and you may use it however you wish, and that is the internet—and, specifically, Twitter.
I believe most strongly in consequences; that whatever it is we want to do, however it is we want to behave or speak, we should do that, and then we must hike up our big-kid pants and deal with the consequences of our actions.
These things are more or less inviolate, and though I still believe in them, I find myself looking at the world—and social media—differently.
Twitter Created Friends
First and foremost, let me be clear: I made a lot of connections through Twitter. I made friends, found people like me and people not like me, and altogether, we ended up with this amazing community.
Twitter brings people together. This is verifiable fact—just look at almost any event in recent history, at least within the past four years, and Twitter played an important, if not integral, role.
The people I know on Twitter are amazing people, to be taken as the whole of the parts, not the individual parts alone.
I love my Twitter people. I heart those who follow me, and those I follow, and I am forever grateful for what they have done for me—through good days and bad.
This is why this is scary to write.
The Good, the Bad, and the Rest
Of late, I’ve been looking at my Twitter feed (I pretty much ignore Facebook, since they made it so most of what I do on it doesn’t matter) and feeling what I could only describe as “lonely”. How is that even a thing? Hundreds of people on my feed, thousands of people who follow me, and I’m freaking lonely. I equated a lot of it to winter depression, and when the sun crept out again and the winter blues fled, I equated it with lingering depression that has its roots in too many things I can’t change but need to. That’s a blog post for another day (aren’t you lucky?).
When it still didn’t settle, I started talking more. Sharing bits and things, more pictures, making the effort to reach out. Sometimes it succeeded. Sometimes it didn’t. As is the nature of things, it’s those latter that really stand out—because even though everybody on Twitter has a life and has followers and can’t possibly keep up with everything, it still stings to be one left unanswered.
I know those feels, bro.
Yet that didn’t help either.
Sometimes over the past couple of months, I’ve started feeling…unwilling. Is that the right word? Maybe not. Maybe I mean “cautious”. Or…”afraid”. I was feeling something that wasn’t comfort, or warmth, or companionship. I was feeling wariness.
It seemed to me as though I couldn’t go a single day on Twitter (or, let’s face it, Facebook, but we’ve come to accept this—see above, re: I no longer visit) without something awful, something negative, something telling us that we’re all doing it wrong even when we’re trying our best, crossing my screen. Sometimes, it’s all well-meaning. A signal boost for a cause, a call for help or prayer for a friend or loved one. A way to be heard.
Sometimes, it’s not so well-meaning.
The world is messed up. The country is messed up. The industry is messed up. The community is messed up. The things we do are messed up. The things we don’t do are messed up. The money we have is messed up and the money we don’t have is messed up, and the friends we make and the people we hate, and the things we think and the actions we take, and the advice we give and the words we put together and the haters and the angry people and the sweet ones and the nice ones and lets not forget you… And me. Everything is all messed up.
But we know this. Of course we know this. We can’t turn on the TV or look at the news sites without seeing it.
Problem is, I’ve started to feel like I’m hunting the Wumpus of good news, good tweets, good thoughts. It’s wily and furry and you’d think, like Bigfoot, that it’d be easy to find with all the available signal, but I feel like it isn’t. It’s a rare animal among the thousands of tweets that are tweeted each day, and that shouldn’t be. I barely have enough time and energy to keep up with the things that really, really deserve my attention.
I’ll be honest: this could be in part my own state of mind. This could be my inability, my introverted nature, rising up and blinding me to the good stuff out there. I am overwhelmed by the noise, and I can’t think of how to pare it down again without hurting the feelings of people I care too much about to hurt the feelings of. Because it’s not them. It’s me.
A Week of Silence
It has been six years since I’ve allowed myself to be alone. I don’t think about how to communicate with people around me, I think about how to share whatever it is I’m doing or thinking with Twitter. I catch myself thinking in 140 characters or less. I literally sculpt my thoughts to fit into a tweetbox. I’d rather check my phone than find something to talk about with my tablemates.
I don’t blog as much anymore, I just talk on Twitter. I flash-share pictures on Instagram, don’t think about Flickr like I used to. Everything is a fleeting thought, a flash and a tweet and it’s gone.
Seems like I’d rather make fun of something or someone on Twitter than engage in any sort of empathetic thought at all.
Seems like it’s easier to slap up a funny gif than it is to reach out to someone who needs it. Easier to foam off at the mouth than let it go.
I don’t know if I have it in me to do it. I reach for a device the moment I realize that I’m starting to think, that I’m alone, that it has become silent. I don’t look at people anymore, unless I do so with the intent to make fun of them where they can’t see me. And that’s awful.
I don’t like what I’ve become, and while I can’t blame it on Twitter, I can see the habits where they have formed, the grooves in my brain that have become routine. It’s easier to look at Twitter—and to get sucked into whatever drama is unfurling that day—than it is to be alone, to look out of the nearest window and smile at the sun, to allow myself to think and feel without the constraints of, “What would Twitter think about X, Y, Z?”
It’s easier to make you laugh than it is for me to deal with my shit.
So I’m taking a week off. Starting today, I will not tweet. I will not use Twitter as a thing to save myself from the quiet. I will not rely on you, delicious ones, to stand between me and my thoughts.
I’ll be online. I’ll reblog fun art and things that make me laugh on tumblr. I’ll post to my Pinterest boards. I’ll be on all my usual IM screens for folks who know them. I’ll, yes, write words. Lots and lots of words. I might even re-launch my newsletter.
But I won’t tweet. I won’t look at the feeds. If I do open it, I will look at @mentions just in case something comes through that I have to, as a professional (or at least as a friend), respond to, but I won’t be looking at the main timeline. I may forget to even do this. I’m not sure.
For one week, I will engage in this little psychological experiment of mine, and see where it leaves me.
I have no intentions as to the outcome. Maybe I’ll find that I’m happier without the constant connectivity that social media promotes. Maybe I will find a way to strike a balance between making myself accessible—both as a promoter of books and as a person—and still disengaging when it’s time.
Maybe I’ll miss you all terribly and come running back, resolved to bury my feelings in wine for the rest of my life.
I don’t know. But I do know that something has got to change, because I’m burning out, and I don’t want to sacrifice everything for the sake of something that is, in the end, draining the well.
What I do know is that I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of negativity there is in the world right now, and I’m not finding the solution in my social media feeds.
So it’s time I take a moment and evaluate what I’m doing there.
I hope you all understand. One week.
No promises, now. I’m even willing to take best on how long I last before tweeting. (No whammies, no whammies!)
But, look. Tiffany Reisz gave Twitter up for Lent. I think that in the face of such dedication, I can do it for a week. Right?
I Don't Know What to Title This So Here's a Rambling Thing About Genders As It Pertains to Me
Gender is such a weird thing. Earlier I tweeted that the older I get, the more I chafe at having to tick off [m] or [f] in the gender box. I mean, what are they asking? Why?
I’ve been thinking a lot about gender, as identification and as a broad category of assumptive stereotypes. I don’t even know what brought it on, except that my life has been a slow and not-so-steady foray into self-identification and (dis)comfort. For most of my life, I’ve identified as female—like, I didn’t even think about. I have a vagina (true story), ergo I am female. Even when I spent most of my youth wearing my brother’s clothes, I was a girl.
It never really occurred to me, or at least it didn’t come to me in ways that I could grok, why I preferred my brother’s loose jeans I had to steal his belts to wear, loose T-shirts and oversized hoodies. Did I want to be a boy?
Well… Yes. In some ways, I did. Boys had freedoms I didn’t. To my (often naive) way of thinking, boys were free of the shackles placed on girls from the get-go. They were under no obligation to be “pretty”, to smile, to be “nice”. They could have as many girlfriends as they wanted without being called names; scoring was a badge of honor, not shame. They could fail in classes and excel at sports and still pass the year.
Not that I wasn’t aware of the kinds of things boys had to go through. They got bullied, too, but at least it was just physical—or so I believed. And I was getting bullied mentally, emotionally, physically. It seemed like a step up.
I felt like a freak for a lot of reasons. I was too thin, too underdeveloped compared to all the girls, too bookish for the boys, too much a victim of my family’s circumstances to get how life was supposed to work. I wasn’t interested in boys or girls, practically asexual through most of my schooling. I liked art and hated kickball; liked volley ball and hated math; liked theater—where I was typically chosen to play men or tomboys and earned the unfortunate nickname of “shemale”—and hated gym.
Not because I was bad at sports, but because of the stigma of changing in public.
I loved weight training classes and hated home ec.
I spent a lot of my time hanging out with the boys because I wanted to be like them / because I couldn’t keep up with the things I didn’t understand girls did / because I’d rather be beaten up than verbally abused.
And nothing pissed me off more than when boys decided I was girlfriend material.
What Are Boys Made Of?
I’m not sure when I started differentiating between boys/girls on a social level. When I was little, I played with my brother’s Transformers—original die-cast metal, natch—and I don’t know if that’s because I preferred them or because, hey, free toys. I had Barbies, and I tended to cut their hair.
Somewhere, I became more of a “tomboy” than a girl. But what does that mean?
There comes a time somewhere along the “school” age where boys are made of sports and sweat and the number of girls they can kiss. They become blue and frogs and stupid decisions resulting in jumping off high places. They become swagger and physical strength. Boys are dominant. Boys are king, and the king is more important than the queen. Boys are jeans and leather jackets and motorcycles.
And because I jumped off sheds and wore jeans and and liked weight training and frogs and blue and dominance, I wanted to be a boy.
What Are Girls Made Of?
I never really thought of myself as a girly girl. Around the time I started forming my own identity, I realized that I didn’t get on with girls all that much. I had a couple close friends that were girls, but by and large, my circle was mostly boys. I didn’t “get” girls.
At that school age, girls were dolls and skirts and beautiful long hair. They were makeup and pink and shaved legs because a boy might get close enough to touch them, or another girl might get close enough to notice if you didn’t. Girls were sugar and cupcakes and bitter judgment. They were expectation and vanilla perfume and bows and the race to the hottest boy in school.
Girls are good grades, not because it was important to be smart but because expectations to achieve the goals set for them; girls are girl’s volley ball and girl’s basketball and softball. Girls are hairspray and big hair and lipstick and boy bands and crushes. Girls were Truth or Dare and spilled secrets.
And because I didn’t cope well with the unspoken rule that secrets were fair game, because I didn’t crush on boys, because I was a late developer and liked the mud and didn’t like vanilla or skirts, I didn’t want to be a girl.
What Am I Made Of?
Somewhere between now and then, I’ve developed my identity—which is to say, I have slowly begun to figure out not only who I am, but who I want to be. My gender binary has softened.
There are only about a billion stereotypes out there as to what makes a man and what makes a woman. Men marry women; women marry men. Gay men marry gay men. Lesbians marry lesbians. A trans person is either a trans man or a trans woman.
A woman is sympathetic. She has a vagina. She is good at taking care of children and the house. She likes skirts, or if she doesn’t, she likes feminine clothing that accentuates her curves—and oh yes, “real women have curves”. She likes flaunting her body and looking good—but not too much, because a woman shouldn’t do anything to get herself raped—and she wants to find a good partner. She is a multi-tasker, not that into sex but always into post-sex cuddling. She reads fluffy books, like chick lit. The only porn she is allowed is mommy porn—that is, romance books. She’s expected to stay pure, or at least picky, until she meets the perfect man. During sex, she’s not likely to orgasm, but she’ll fake it for him—and she wants more foreplay. A lesbian is only a woman in need of some deep dicking.
A man is a fixer; good luck getting sympathy from him. He has a penis. He won’t notice when you change your hair or buy a new dress, unless he wonders how much it set him back. He’s into beer and cars and sports; or he’s into books and beer and coding/engineering/math. He can change a tire, change the oil, or put together Ikea furniture. He always puts a lady first, as long as that lady acts like a lady, and he can wear jeans and flannel or a three-piece suit. Nobody cares when he gets a tattoo; boys will be boys. He thinks of nothing but sex, but thinks post-sex cuddling is a prison sentence. He always achieves orgasm; a nice boy will let the lady achieve one first, but it’s a chore. He fails at foreplay. He watches porn. If he reads at all, it’s hefty books like Ulysses and Hemingway and general fantasy about manly men slaying dragons and nailing virgins. He’s expected to shag his way to the perfect woman—unless he’s gay, in which case he’s treated like a woman.
Breaking the Mold
I have a vagina; I think we already went over this. I am a fixer—good luck getting sympathy from me, as my version of sympathizing is to help you solve your problem. I like skirts and dresses, flaunting my figure—as much as I damn well please, thank you—and make-up. I like being called pretty; and I like being called tough, smart, forceful, intimidating, awesome, talented, and dead sexy. Or live sexy. Whatever.
I like wearing jeans that make my ass look great and I like wearing oversized T-shirts and sweatshirts stolen from the men of my acquaintance (side note: don’t ever let me borrow a shirt, you’ll never get it back).
I never intended to find myself a partner at all, content to remain relatively asexual throughout my life and/or enjoy flings as I wanted them, but sort of fell into marriage and realized I enjoyed it thoroughly—or, well, enjoy him. Subtle difference.
I’m total shit at children and house cleaning, cooking is a Sisyphean chore I will never get out from under, don’t know how to change the oil or a tire but can put together Ikea furniture. I’m into fluffy books like romance and fantasy involving dragons; I watch porn. I enjoy porn. I’m picky about my porn, but that’s cool—I didn’t used to think all that much about sex, but amazing what a good orgasm will do for a body and mind.
And speaking of orgasms, I could give a damn about whether my poor husband gets one or not—I’m a selfish lover. (Don’t worry, y’all, we got it down to an art.) I like it a whole multitude of ways, unlike a “good girl”. I seriously wish I had a removable penis. Removable because I think that whole “dangly” business is a terrible design flaw.
I hate post-sex cuddling. I mean, seriously, I hate post-sex cuddling. I don’t have time for that foolishness. I barely even have time for foreplay. (Seriously, stop laughing.) I like watching TV with a beer in hand and the other hand tucked into my waistband, Al Bundy style. I have the worst potty mouth.
I hate always feeling unsafe because I look like a woman; I hate feeling like the answer to this is to look less like a woman. I judge the fashion of others. I don’t judge their dreams.
I will only sometimes notice if you change your hair—but I always say something when I notice, because hey, flattery!
I’m bi-sexual, which tends to mean to others that I am too straight for gay and too gay for straight; or it means that I’m just claiming it because after all, I’m married to a dude; or it means that I’m secretly hiding the fact that I’m a closet lesbian–a lipstick lesbian, no less.
I like tattoos and piercings—on myself, as well as on others—and I want muscles, reasonably speaking, and I want to get back into an MMA course of some kind. I want to know that I can kick the ass of anyone who insists I kick their ass.
I’m a little bit misogynist—and by “a little bit”, I mean “way more than I should be”. I’m actively working on it. It’s a process, and I still fuck it up on occasion.
If I could have any supernatural power, it would be to gender-bend at well. I want that so hard, it’s not even funny.
My favorite fashion look is “androgynous”; I feel like a curvy girl inside my head except when I feel like a dude—or what I imagine a dude would feel like; if I had a penis, I’d get into so much trouble. Why? I don’t know. I just think I would. Maybe because I tend to assume “penis” means “license to behave as you want”—maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have one.
In a kinky aside, I don’t want to dominate men; I do want to dominate women. I would never let a woman dominate me. I would make a man work damn hard for it. Contrary to popular opinion, I think a man with hands strong enough to break me is a turn-on—a damn sexy one. I like curvy girls the best, because I’m totally into non-sexual cuddling, but I tend to like individuals more than I like gender or any specific type. I’ll cuddle skinny girls, too. But sorry, guys, I don’t really want to cuddle you.
I want a wife who does like cooking and chores and cuddling and all that sexist crap I’m supposed to be better than.
Sugar and Spice and Frogs and Snails
My understanding of gender has softened a lot. I have a better understanding of trans- issues because of social media and trans friends, who are exceedingly patient with me. I see things like “gender fluid” and “genderqueer” and I wonder what it means to me; does it mean what I am? What does an entire “adulthood” of female identification mean given how little I seem to suit the traditional definition? Am I not really a woman?
I often feel like I’m not, given how often I fail to fit the definition of “a real woman”. But is that a legitimate concern or is that my reaction to the public insistence that a “real woman” is the opposite of whatever the current topic under discussion is?
While there is no world where I would fit the definition of a “real man”, I do tend to feel awfully masculine at any given point. Does anyone else? Do you? Do you not? What does that even mean?
Honestly, it’s all very confusing, and the more I consider it—at least as it pertains to me—I wonder if it matters that much to me. Whatever people call me, whatever I call myself, it ends up being a label that seems as likely to change as to stick.
I think the older I get, the less inclined I am to label myself with gender-identification because I don’t think I suit the assumptions that come with it. If I wear a skirt and you call me a lady, fine. If I complain about foreplay and football and you call me a dude, whatever.
Maybe it doesn’t matter all that much. Maybe I spent too long trying to fit into the mold of one or the other, when I could freely be both. I used to say that I have a lot of “classically masculine traits”, which seems like a nice way of saying, “technically a girl but only by anatomical definition”.
I don’t know. Look. There’s no answers here. All I can say is that all this thinking has made me extra aware of others, and their relationship with the whole gender situation. I mean, people expecting me to act like a lady may or may not be disappointed; how can I expect the same thing from others?
So I answer to “guy” and “dude” and “bro” and “man” because it suits me. I answer to “girl” and “lady” and “chick” and “woman” because it still suits me. And I often use the same terms for folks, but I also try to make note when someone doesn’t like that. If I get a sexuality or a gender term wrong, I hope to be corrected on an individual level—I don’t want to call anyone something they aren’t.
I think, for me, I just don’t care enough to fit myself into what I see as a box. Not even for the sake of easy relationships.
But if I get your pronoun, name or sexuality wrong, correct me. I want to make you feel like the amazing individual you are.
A Handbook of Knowledge: No. VIII.—The Coffee Shop (Punch, August 19, 1882)
Q. What is a Coffee-Shop?
A. The opprobrium of the London thoroughfares.
Q. May I ask you to particularise a little?
A. It is difficult in a few words to define so curious a combination of many nastinesses as the London Coffee-Shop. It can only be described, and that in considerable detail.
Q. Is it not, as its name implies, a shop for the sale of Coffee?
A. That would, in most cases, be an imperfect and misleading definition. Firstly, because most Coffee-Shops sell other things than Coffee. Secondly, and most importantly, because most Coffee- Shops do not sell Coffee at all.
Q. But does not this singular carrying out of the lucus a non lucendo principle lead to difficulties with would-be customers?
A. Not at all.
Q. How, then, do the keepers of Coffee-Houses avoid such difficulties?
A. By substituting various dirty and dismal decoctions whtch they vend under the name of the genuine produce of Mocha.
Q. How are these decoctions composed?
A. Of ingredients as numerous, and often as unpleasant, as the constituents of the Witches' broth in Macbeth, among the more innocent of which are chicory, horse-beans, and fig-refuse.
Q. By what devices are these decoctions rendered palatable to the purchaser?
A. They are not rendered palatable at all. On the contrary, the muddy and tepid draught from the clumsy and unclean Coffee-House cup is as unpleasant to all the senses as can well be imagined.
Q. Are, then, the Coffee-Shops of London little used?
A. On the contrary, they are largely patronised by the lower and even the middle classes. The Coffee-House is, indeed, in many eases the restaurant of poor respectability, and to no small extent the home of such persons as labourers, cabmen, and the poorer grades of shopmen and clerks.
Q. What appearance do these curiously-conducted shops present?
A. Externally they are generally characterised by a sort of surface smartness, so far as this can be produced by paint, French-polish, gold-lettering, and gleaming lamps. Internally they are almost invariably frowsy, foetid, and -fly-blown. Particularly the latter; the Coffee-House fly being an insect which, for plentifulness and pertinacity, surpasses even his fellows of the Butcher's or Confectioner's Shop.
Q. Will you describe the average Coffee-House interior a little more in detail?
A. In entering it, you probably plunge down an unseen and treacherous step, or steps, into a dingy, stall-divided, low-ceiling'd apartment, with an aspect of misty gloom, and an atmosphere of steamy unsavouriness. The "stalls," consisting of narrow tables and hard seats, are of wood, grimy mahogany, or grubby sham-oak, the whole confined, unclean, and dismally uncomfortable. If there be any cloth at all upon the table, it is invariably smutty and egg-stained into a sort of Whistlerian arrangement in soot and gamboge. Most commonly there is no cloth at all, but the grease-coated and coffee-ringed board is left bare to sight and to touch. The ceiling is low and smoke-darkened exceedingly; the walls are steamy, and decorated with hat-pegs and battered advertisements. The murky air of the apartment is resonant with a dull, yet fretful and irritating booming. It is the co-operative buzzing of myriads of flies, whose bodies, or whose traces are on and over everything, ceilings, walls, clumsy cups and saucers, the mysterious decoctions served therein, the coarse sugar in the shattered glass bowl, the dirty milk in the dirtier mug, the rickety cruet-stand, and the odd and fractured castors, the greasy bread-and-butter, and the equivocal egg.
Q. And what are the attendants upon the unhappy customer in this dreary den?
A. Commonly depressed men in shirt-sleeves and aprons, or blowsy and bare-armed women in caps or curl-papers, who have to be summoned from dim and mystic interiors, by rapping on the table with a "copper" or a cup-bottom.
Q. What about the edibles and potables sold in these places?
A. They are generally quite in keeping with the places and their appointments; that is to say, they are nasty without necessarily being cheap. The-so-called-Coffee I have already described. It is a dreadful draught, served up in dirty crockery, accompanied by huge slabs of brown-crusted bread smeared with a yellow deposit of oily butter. Tea, too, is forthcoming upon call,-a long-stewed, dingy-tinted potion of uncertain origin, flat as stale soda-water, nauseous as a sarsaparilla drench. Eggs which are musty, bacon which is rusty, steaks which are tough, and chops which are tainted, even sodden cuts from half-cooked joints, and wedges of flabby pastry, may be procured at the more pretentious Coffee-Houses, while at the humbler ones the sense is regaled with the strong savour of red-herrings and smoked haddocks.
Q. You say that certain classes of the community freely patronise these dismal houses of entertainment?
A. They are the only resource of persons who will not stoop to the Cookshop and cannot rise to the Restaurant or Hotel.
Q. Would not clean, comfortable, and fairly cheap Coffee-Houses be a boon to these multitudes?
Q. What the obstacles in the way of their establishment?
A. The same that militate against all improvements whatever - self-interest and stupidity; especially, in this case, the latter. Bright and cleanly Coffee-rooms, where people, seated in comfort, could obtain wholesome refreshment at reasonable rates, would brighten the daily lives of large sections of the public, plump the pockets of enterprising caterers, and be no inconsiderable auxiliaries the cause of Temperance.
Q. Have no efforts been made in this direction?
A. Yes; mostly ill-directed, and not generally successful.
Q. Why is this?
A. Mainly from want of sympathy and imagination.
Q. Are these commonly regarded as the qualities essential to success in so practical a matter?
A. No. They are generally looked upon, and laughed at, as mere poetical equipments. They are nevertheless prime necessities in dealing on a large scale with the wants of the poorer community.
Q. Will you explain your seemingly transcendental position?
A. It needs wide and intimate sympathy to realise the requirements of the great, varied but unvocal throng of what may be called the Hand-to-Mouth classes. It needs imagination and inventive enterprise to devise that which will meet at once their necessities and their tastes. Caterers for the convenience and the amusement of these classes, who possessed in the requisite degree these qualities would go far to transform Society. They would at least provide, what at present are nearly non-existent, places where common people could partake of common fare in common comfort, amidst surroundings which were commonly cheerful, and at rates which were commonly cheap.
Here’s the deal. Most of you don’t care about this, and that’s okay. You don’t have to. I’m just posting this here because it holds me accountable. So here we go: I ran today. The goal is to run T/W/Th.
I stopped doing the Runner’s Log fiction because I couldn’t keep up with my own writing and the fan fiction—much as I love it. And that quickly became an excuse to stop running. So screw it. I ran. I will keep running.
Here’s the deal. Most of you don’t care about this, and that’s okay. You don’t have to. I’m just posting this here because it holds me accountable. So here we go: I ran today. The goal is to run T/W/Th.
I stopped doing the Runner’s Log fiction because I couldn’t keep up with my own writing and the fan fiction—much as I love it. And that quickly became an excuse to stop running. So screw it. I ran. I will keep running.
Here’s the deal. Most of you don’t care about this, and that’s okay. You don’t have to. I’m just posting this here because it holds me accountable. So here we go: I ran today. The goal is to run T/W/Th.
I stopped doing the Runner’s Log fiction because I couldn’t keep up with my own writing and the fan fiction—much as I love it. And that quickly became an excuse to stop running. So screw it. I ran. I will keep running.
That letter to the guy wearing the Death Star engineering symbol was wonderfully and beautifully well written
You are very kind, thank you! It’s just a shame that in the moment, I was so shocked that I couldn’t come up with anything at all except a confused, “…Really?” It’s one of the most fundamentally effective tools a bully, even an “accidental” bully, has: that deer in the headlights response.
Oh, well. I can’t afford to dwell on it—and people like you make a lot of things better! Thanks for writing me. :)
Hey, I’m sending an invite. Oooh, she’s been a bitch tonight. And by bitch, I mean that flight; couldn’t write, lost my bag. So I had to put on the badge and heels And the lipstick and the ears, and walk the hotel, to this bar. And you know that RT stands for: motherfucking wRiters having a good Time.
So I hope you’re up, author, Because you need to be coming over. Unlock the bar and open the doors, Fire up the bartender and put on your glam 'Cause I know exactly what we need.
I Want to Have a Kiki
Bonjour, my delicious ones! How are you feeling? A little pushed? A little discouraged? Feeling like the market and the industry and your own rabid brainmeats are working against you?
Chin up, you delightful creature!
As you are no doubt aware, RT Booklovers Convention is just around the corner, which means—you know it—thousands of authors, readers, and fans are gathering in New freaking Orleans. May is going to drop on us like whoa. And I’m looking to start it off right.
Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 Anytime After 9pm; At the Hotel Bar
Bring me your thirsty and your dejected; your travel weary and your uninspired. Bring me your excited and your manic; your glamorous and your cazh. Bring me your wildest hats and well-worn denim, your mad high heels and sneakers; bring me your brilliant selves.
We’re going to have a kiki.
What It Is
Everyone knows that the end of a con is when the writer-weary get to go home feeling CONpressed and inspired. But how do we get there right off the bat?
Darlin’, we are in beautiful New Orleans, and that means every second counts.
So a group of us are going to have a kiki: a gathering in the bar and surrounding lobby wherein we can gab, encourage, drink to each other and the career we’ve chosen, and otherwise let it all hang out. Find old friends, make new friends, unwind after a long travel day and otherwise launch this par-tay with a badass group of people—you.
So what do you say? Kiki? So, so? Oui, oui?Non, non?
Dive, Turn, Work
You don’t have to RSVP to attend! Wander-bys and pass-throughs just as welcome. It’s a BarCon event, which means you can stride in fashionably late and stay long as you want—but watch out, ‘cause we’re going to make it damn hard to leave the fun. We’re gonna serve; and work and turn, and honey.
I’m Gonna Let You Have It
Wear whatever you want. Bonus if you show in the glammest gear you desire, but we won’t kick you out for jeans and a tee. Take this and run, delicious ones. I’ll be there with my hair and my heels and my glitter and my ears.
So shade that lid and we’ll all bid adieu to your ennui.
Steampunk 101: What, Where, When and Full Steam Ahead!
I’ll be flying to North Carolina—hello, old stomping grounds!—to give a small workshop on writing steampunk. If you’re part of the romance crew and want to know all the details (grim realities and all!) of the steampunk theme and market, then I’ll see you there!
For 2 hours, I will regale you with my mania.
Points of Interest
We’ll be talking about setting, general theme, character types, genre gist, and on the business side, the market. Come prepared with questions! Any questions!
Why You Should Be There
It’s free! If you’re a member, it costs nothing at all, but if you aren’t a member, you can visit twice for free before joining! (Hint: You should join.)
It’s me! I mean, this will be a no-holds barred, fearless look into the things steampunk can do, what it can’t do, and I’m very funny. Really! So come play.
Dear Geek Dad in the Death Star Engineering hat shopping with your toddler daughter at the grocery store yesterday—
My name is Karina. I’m 31 years old, although I am led to believe that I look much younger than my age. This is usually the second hurdle I have to overcome when dealing with what I like to think of as my own kind.
I’m very much a geek. I like to game—video games, tabletop sessions, and live-action roleplay, mostly—and I’m that extra special sort of dweeb that likes to dress up as part of whatever I’m doing. I buy and hand paint my own miniatures for D&D campaigns that don’t use miniatures, just so I can show my fellow gaming nerds what my character looks like. I’m a steampunk, although admittedly of the aesthetic variety, but if you were to make something work, I would be appropriately filled with admiration and encouragement.
My first official “paying” job was at a comics book store. I say “paying” because I didn’t make a whole lot of money—I used everything I earned to buy comics. I still have those comics, and bring them out now and again to admire them. I have first-edition signed Michael Turner copies of Witchblade and Fathom—which means my uncloseted obsession for T&A comics probably outweighs yours—and special anniversary edition X-Men. I admit to a certain love affair with crossovers, including Batman, but will argue with anyone who doesn’t believe that Flash > all.
I’ve got over 500 hours logged into Mass Effect, and that’s before we delve into multiplayer. I’ve set foot on every major title MMO since Ultima Online, except Guild Wars 2 because screw those guys. If you ever played World of Warcraft back before Cataclysm, I probably rolled your face when I assaulted all of your major cities and took down your leaders—unless you were Horde, then I would have called you a brother. I ran a major guild that didn’t make its name raiding, and still managed to get invited to raids. I ran a uniformed guild on a superhero game that became one of the premier guilds simply because we rolled with the superhero tropes we all love and did it well. My point is: I game like whoa.
I like to read the Wookieepedia for fun. I spend time debating fellow Star Wars aficionados in regards to Sam Jacks—I mean, Mace Windu’s lightsaber form, and just why it was he got bested by Palpatine. (Side note: worst explanation for scarred Emperor ever.) My love for the movies goes in this order: The Empire Strikes Back, A New Hope, Revenge of the Sith, with Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace tied for last place. I believe that it’s truly a shame they never made Attack of the Clones.
The Clone Wars is some of the best TV on, well, TV, right now. If you ever hear me rant, you’ll know that I want to punch Anakin in his stupid face, and I want to punch Leia for naming her kid Anakin, too. Because I think the Skywalker bloodlines might be missing a crystal in its lightsaber, if you know what I mean (and I suspect that you do).
Unfortunately, I don’t have a ready-made card with my geek credentials on it. I can’t stop in a crowded grocery store to ask you to read something like this letter before I deliver a zany nod in regards to, say, that Imperial logo on your hat. I don’t have a butler (yet) who can hold up traffic to introduce me as my vast and storied geek history demands.
All I have is a cheeky one-liner in which I endeavor to share with you, the dude in the Death Star Engineering hat, my equal love for Star Wars. A brief moment passed in a busy grocery store aisle, a nod of solidarity between fans.
I say that my apparent age is the second hurdle that I have to overcome because the first hurdle appears to be my gender. I can think of no other reason why my laughingly sympathetic, “Sorry about that fatal flaw,” and gesture towards my head by way of indicating your hat would have earned your undivided attention by way of a smirk, a snicker, and, “You don’t even know what it is, do you?” And I do understand that I—in my 70s coat with the fake fur trim and brown boots over skinny jeans, with my faded red hair left to flop over my forehead, looking very much like a girl but not very much like sex on a stick—did not have that card to give you, or a logo by which you might recognize that I have said credentials, or even a man standing beside me who could nod and smile indulgently in order to set your questions to rest.
You saw a female first, a young-ish one second—or maybe vice-versa—and in front of your toddler daughter, you sneered at that lady babbling words that couldn’t possibly make any sort of sense, and you walked away.
I admit that for an hour or so afterwards, I was angry. More, I was hurt, because that kind of stuff doesn’t really happen to me in a real-world setting. I’m sort of lucky, I guess. I run with a really good crowd, and—internet notwithstanding—they’re all inclusive. If you like what they like—what we like—then it’s game on.
I haven’t been treated in the real world the way you treated me, man in the Death Star Engineering hat, since high school; and never by the geeks like you. Probably something to do with always closing ranks against the bullies, right? I’ve been treated this way at nerd conventions, though, and that makes me more than just angry. It makes me sad.
It makes me sad because you’re missing out on some really very rabid Star Wars ranting and debate. It makes me sad because that is one less person you get to bond with, that you get to count among the people who will Back You Up if you ever need it, that will make you smile when you pass in the hall and share a rapid-fire one-liner exchange. It makes me sad because you won’t get to know how cool I am, and how cool I think you are, and how awesome we are together.
What you did in that crowded grocery store aisle, man wearing the Imperial logo on his hat, was to begin teaching your daughter that knowing the lingo isn’t enough; that recognizing the signs aren’t enough; that being funny isn’t enough. That because she’s a girl, she will have to plaster herself with all the right signs and carry all the right cards and be backed up by all the right people… preferably men so you can recognize them on sight. That even if she can quote scenes word for word, debate the necessity—the necessity—of Shii-Cho as a foundation form before you get all stupid with Vaapad (which, by the way, died out after Mace Windu died, Depa Billaba dropped into a coma and was probably killed during Order 66, Sora Bulq didn’t teach it as a legitimate form and Quinlan Vos refused to use, so suck it, I can be a Jedi and merrily dance on the Dark Side during time periods where the form didn’t exist haters), it won’t be enough.
What you did, fellow sporting a proud badge of geekery, was something so meta that it was just about perfect.
Maybe that Imperial logo suits you, after all.
Because I think maybe that you consider girls to be something of an alien. That maybe you grew up admiring the Empire and all its propaganda promised—order, security, upward mobility (maybe too much upward mobility, don’t you think?) and didn’t pay much attention to the subtler signs. Like the fact that there are and were very few women on that Death Star, and of those that exist, most were not canon as canon is recognized. And the fact that the Empire was, by and large, anti-alien; something to be subjugated for their own good, put to work where their natural talents suited the Empire best. Because who wouldn’t want a nice, stable environment wherein one’s expectations were clearly outlined?
I don’t necessarily blame you, either. I mean, the Empire had a good thing going! You never saw the rampant abuse and slavery, all you know was that some dude died stealing your original plans—and what a dick move that was—and next thing you know, your precious moon-sized space station is exploding.
What a bunch of jerks, right?
But look, dude in the Imperial logo hat, let me be frank with you:
Girls are not aliens. Girls are and can be an extremely useful ally in this geek culture, and there are more of us than you think. If it suits you, you can think of us as the Rebel Scum to your Stormtroopers. Which is to say, you can’t always pick us out by our uniforms, our badges, or our questionable taste in plasteel, but we are everywhere, we know our mission, and we don’t miss nearly as much as you guys do. (In your favor, we have to deal with an Anakin… Twice.)
So here’s why I’m not going to waste my time being sad that you, a total stranger, took one look at me and decided I obviously had no idea what I was talking about:
I learned everything I needed to know about you in that split second. I clocked you for a geek bully, a dudebro comfortable enough to sneer at a fellow geek simply because of some snap judgment you made that had nothing to do with the words spoken, and worse, a guy that felt totally justified doing it in front of your daughter.
But that’s okay. Because here’s my secret, and it’s a good one—the fact that her father is a Star Wars geek means that she is genetically predisposed to the fever, too. She will at least know of it, will probably spend her youth watching all the movies. And no matter how you raise your daughter, no matter what you teach her or what example you set, there will always be people like me willing to show her that she doesn’t have to be the knowledgable arm candy to some guy (even her father) just to feel comfortable liking Star Wars. She won’t have to be a geek girlfriend just so she can get invited to Star Wars marathons, or call retro X-Wings vs. Tie Fighters benders “time together” just so she can play.
She will be welcomed, she will be encouraged to hold her own, and she—like me, man who decided I wasn’t worth talking to—will not be silenced.
So don’t worry about me, okay? I’m just one in a sea of thousands; hundreds of thousands. And we’re very, very loud.
“People indignant that others would have the audacity to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ in a language other than English, when America was built on opening its arms to the world? The quote on the Statue of Liberty doesn’t say ‘give me your English-speaking only, Christian-believing, heterosexual masses.’ It says ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, tempest-tost.’”—Atlanta anchorwoman destroysconservative arguments about the multilingual Coca-Cola ad. (via mediamattersforamerica)
Steampunk Hands Around the World: The Anachronistic Couple
The elucidated and ever so kind Airship Ambassador—the premier source of steampunk news—has launched this Steampunk Hands Across the World and invited steampunks everywhere to attend. The goal is to talk about steampunk—what it is for us, what it means to us, why we like it, and so on.
I joke about the fact that I’m almost Canadian, what with being 20 minutes from the border, but I occupy a small-ish city-town called Bellingham. It’s the home of Western Washington, Cascade DAFO (a prosthetics place that helps people walk!), a farmer’s market unmatched by anywhere else (she says loyally), and a small but dedicated group of steampunks who put on a yearly event with the help of our local indie bookstore.
To make it even more awesome, I’m not the only steampunk in this house.
Function and Aesthetics
Tell you a secret: I wasn’t all that interested in steampunk until the mancandy got involved.
I mean, sure, it wall sorts of pretty, but I’m inherently lazy. Stuff like this takes time. And leaving the house. People. As a natural-born hermit (and a trained extrovert), I find anything that requires me to put on trousers—okay, or a skirt—is way too much hassle.
Then we went to an Abney Park concert.
From the moment we arrived, the community welcomed us, befriended us, and made this “sub-genre” of reality something incredible.
It was pretty amazing to watch mancandy get hooked. He started creating things, developing plans, thinking about ways to do this or that. Most of what he comes up with are completely beyond me—I’m what they call “an aesthetic steampunk”—but I loved that he was so driven.
As for me, it’s really, really hard not to get addicted to acquiring new stuff to wear.
Mancandy is a bit more into function than I am. He wants it to work. He wants to have a story for every piece. Me, I just want to look incredible while I pen stories that have nothing to do with what I look like. It’s always fun to hear us talk about this or that—he’s all, “And these goggles can do this!” and I’m like, “My ass looks great in those trousers.” We’re quite the odd couple.
Steampunk Makes Us Happy
We’ve made friends, the mancandy and I. The general community is a really incredible group of people from all walks of life. There’s couch potatoes and lawyers, photographers and authors, prison guards looking for something to help them through a tough world, and students tickled to find there’s people all over the world who think like they do.
We’re geeks and freaks and perfectly normal people and perfectly boring people—until we put the outfits on. We’re conscientious and, sometimes, a little too rabid to defend the things we love. We doff our hats because we mean it, stand for ladies because it’s how we show respect, enjoy our tea and coffee in porcelain cups or bejeweled flasks, twirl our mustaches and sashay our petticoats, cinch our corsets and button our waistcoats, and the best thing of all is that you can be any gender, any name, any hero, any sexuality, any villain, any body at all you want to be.
The community provided the mancandy with a place where he could put heads together with some brilliant crafters and come out overflowing with ideas.
It provided me a place where I could go ooh and aah over the fashions, where I could write a little book because I was inspired and later take home an award for it.
It gave us a home where we hadn’t really had one before—a worldwide connection across the globe with people who love cogs and gears, leather and corsets, ruffles and top hats, monocles, goggles, and everything else that steampunk includes.
Friends Across the World
Steampunk is many things to many people, and there is no one true definition. It’s Victorian science-fiction, it’s an anachronistic aesthetic, it’s a do-it-yourself menatlity with a focus on the bespoke days of ages past. It’s fantasy, it’s dressing up, it’s a writing setting, it’s a way of manners, it’s innovation in the mold of an industrial revolution.
It’s all that and more.
But what we love most—aside from the constant flow of creativity—is that it’s a worldwide phenomenon. There are people like us in Brazil. In Germany. In Spain. In Mexico. In Japan. In Australia, and Canada, and Russia, and England, and in many more countries.
It’s nice to be part of a global community. The interconnectivity kind of makes one feel like one is part of something big.
Early warning: I’m sex-positive. To tongue-in-cheek (eh heh) illustrate the point of this blog, I’ve got pictures of gorgeous people to objectify freely. It’s fairly safe for work, but if you’re somewhere super conservative, it may not be. Scroll with care!
There are some excellent discussions out there—everywhere—about the role of the creative in everyday life. How far does our responsibility as “makers of consumed creative product” stretch, and is it in our best interest to—in essence—practice what we preach? What does that even mean when it comes to writing and art?
There’s a lot of heavy stuff out there. At the core, most revolves around equal rights—the right of any person, of any color, class, gender, sexuality or creed, to be treated the same across the board.
We are inundated every day with causes—most of which are important. The right for women to be treated as something other than a convenient receptacle for a man’s sexual urges. The right for POC to be something other than subjugated by white, oh, let’s call it “concern-trolling” to stay modern and hip. The right for LGBTQ people everywhere to be something other than “lesser” beings, to be allowed the same freedoms and happiness as their heteronormative straight counterparts.
There are more—many, many more. So many that it’s easy to look at the world we live in today and start to feel a little overwhelmed by the, dare I say it, unfairness of it all.
"We have to be very careful about what we say out there to the masses in the entertainment industry because people are listening to every word, and they take it to heart." — Jennifer Love Hewitt
The Role of the Creative
Content creators are in the unique position where the things they create—art, stories, movies, video games—are consumed by what we’ll call “the masses”. Readers, TV watchers, movie goers, video game players; everyday folk with everyday hobbies that include consuming our material.
Consuming, and more of than we like, absorbing it at a remarkable rate—and not always the bits we hope they do.
Between the covers of our books, in the fantasies we write, there are messages that are not always meant to be messages. How we treat our characters, how we paint them, how we shape them, transitions to a reader like a slow, steady drip IV—not all at once, but drip by drip, book by book, author by author; until the message they learn is the one that shares the same common denominator as the rest.
That is a lot of responsibility for a content creator.
Or, it isn’t.
The alternative is the other extreme: the one that says what we do is art, plain and simple, and we are under no obligation to shape the world with it unless we want to. That what we write is done for fun only, and that it’s not up to us to hold the hands of our audiences.
Both strong arguments in their own right.
I don’t have an answer. I just have a trapeze wire I shuffle back and forth across.
Write The World You Want to Live In
I was talking with another author and she said, paraphrased due to time lapse between that conversation and now, “If you have the means to create a better world—where racism and sexism aren’t the norm, for example—then why wouldn’t you?”
Authors are in a fantastic position wherein they can, in some small to fairly large fundamental ways, change the way the reading world looks at themselves and their surroundings. By creating a protagonist that is not white, a reader might see themselves in that role for the first time. By creating a cast that is racially, sexually, and gender diverse, readers who aren’t part of the easymode echelon might see in themselves the ability to overcome—just like they read in the book.
If someone struggling with their needs reads about a successful BDSM relationship, and not one fraught in tragedy and villainy, then that reader might feel comforted to know that they have a shot at the happiness they want.
You can create an example for almost any genre, any role. What we write matters, and with this sometimes greater than average power, there is a school of thought that says we have the great responsibility of bettering our communities.
Write the World That You Know
On the flip side of this ideal is the world that we see around us. Whether it’s set in a paranormal world, a fantasy, a contemporary, or anything off this planet and beyond, there are recognizable challenges for our characters to face: racism, sexism, hatred, intolerance. The underdog is the POC community vilified for their traditions, the woman mocked for her desires, the gay youth hunted for their “unnatural ways”.
There’s more to pick on in this world we know—poverty, religious hatred, political shenanigans; you name it, it exists as fodder for a book.
Authors are in a fantastic position wherein they can, in some small to fairly large fundamental ways, make the reading world aware of themselves and their surroundings. Through the challenges of an underdog similar to a real world’s injustice, a reader might “wake up” to the way this injustice is allowed to unfold.
Whether it’s intentional or not, by outlining the stories the way we do, we are depositing a seed of “what if?” in our reader’s heads.
And yet, there’s a third option, one that I posit is just as important as the above.
Write the World That Fuels Your Fantasies
I was once sharing my distaste for the 50 Shades franchise with a peer at a convention, and in the middle of a rant wherein I bemoan the (dare I say it) dangerous examples the book outlines in BDSM practices, she asked me, “Why should I be held responsible for a reader’s personal choices?”
That gave me pause.
It’s been over a year since this discussion, and I still think about it.
Here’s what I eventually put words to in my everyday existence, even as I always on some level knew it based on what I write:
No matter what else is happening in the real world, there must be room for fantasy. And fantasy, as we well know, is not always docile, polite, clean, or politically correct.
And that’s okay.
Because the people who fantasize about monster porn, dinosaur erotica, Bigfoot sex, rape (yes, even being raped), public sex, orgies, and so on aren’t, by and large, broken. And to suggest that those who fantasize without fear of acting on it are broken is so very much not okay.
We might laugh a little at stories of the horny, hungry T-Rex and the cavewoman he wants—seriously, how does he use his tiny arms?—but it’s fantasy. It’s always, always a little ridiculous. Even the generally accepted attainable ones (like princess weddings—I mean, think about it).
Pushing the Boundaries
When I look back on my body of work, I see various kinds of fantasy. In my Dark Mission series, I feature incredibly intense sex scenes between naturally aggressive people in a dangerous world, including a borderline-consent sex scene that we almost softened. Almost. I showcase violence, including violence against the repressed, and good people doing terrible things.
It’s a series where intractable alphas can be jerks for all the usual reasons, and strong-willed women can still want them, jump them, make them crazy, have sex for all the right reasons, have sex for all the wrong reasons, and be flawed and loved and weak and stubborn and unpredictable and not expected to change who they are.
And yet, there are places where I could be accused of promoting rape-culture simply by putting words to a common fantasy shared by as many (at least in studies) as 4 out of 10 women.
All I can continue to say is that everyone deserves the opportunity to fantasize. If a woman’s fantasy includes being taken hard and fast and rough against a wall in a dark alley without being called a slut, a whore, or accused of just wanting to be raped, then who the hell am I to tell her she’s wrong?
And yes, this does go in every direction, every gender, every sexuality. Because fantasy =/= reality. Everyone has fantasies; everyone dreams. Everyone thinks about the dirty little things they shouldn’t.
Not every body of work has to be literary genius—although given the nature of Lolita, I don’t think there’s all that fine a separation between the two. It also doesn’t help when it feels like the most pervasive fantasy out there is “man dominates all that he sees”—a legitimate fantasy with the added bonus of being the one propagated by the majority. So when I spin my fantasies, and it includes a real Tarzan of a man, I put a kink—eh heh—in that common fantasy that gives the woman more power than we are led to believe we have.
That’s my nod. That’s my fantasy.
I am a minstrel. I peddle fantasies, sing a sexy song for my supper, and I relish in the chance to fuel those fantasies—and have a few of my own.
I am an equal rights activist for those communities that I ascribe to, and an advocate for the same across those communities I am not part of. I am a feminist.
And I completely encourage everyone to fantasize about whatever gets their rocks off.
How Far is Too Far?
I don’t have an answer for this. I’m not sure I want one. To create a line is to put a cap on art—and to put a cap on art handicaps those who could tackle a subject with the finesse it needs. It could be said that not putting a limit on it allows too many people who think they can tackle it—see most “my strong female character is strong because she was raped” books—the freedom to keep doing so.
It’s like every First Amendment debate ever.
Suggesting that art promotes negativity is eerily similar to the “video games promote violence" debate—which I feel is definitively closed. There’s the theory that a majority of written works feature common stereotypes despite the historical truthbecause society continues to promote the concept that this is truth—it’s own version of fantasy, if you will. Suggesting that authors have a responsibility to educate the masses is a heavy burden that skims too close to the pop culture fanaticism that has us taking medical advice from celebrities, but at the same time, it does provide an excellent opportunity to put a little bit of equality out into a world that occasionally feels like it doesn’t want any.
They tell you that you cannot write about different cultures because if it’s not yours, you do it wrong; they tell you that you must have more diversity because there isn’t enough; they tell you that you can’t victimize X, Y or Z in the pages; they tell you that the way you glossed over the realities of victimized X, Y or Z was inappropriate; they tell you that you must be as true to life as you possibly can; they tell you that life is miserable, so why perpetuate it?
They will always tell you something.
What it all boils down to is personal choice. What you can live with.
Move Like U Carefully Considered It and Made an Educated Choice
Those of us in some kind of minority—women, POC, LGBTQ, poverty-stricken, and more—feel every day what it takes to operate in a world primarily run by the rich and the WASPy. We know what’s out there. You know what’s out there—or should make a valiant attempt to learn.
Because when you write what you write—when you create and put it out into the world—you should at least have an answer for why you chose to set a series in a world where racism is alive and well, where the women are muzzled, where LGBTQ characters are penalized. Know why you make this call, and you will be miles ahead of those who do it simply because “that’s the way it is”.
Making the Effort
With my admittedly un-objective eye, I look back on my various works and ask myself if I made an educated choice.
Honestly? I have no idea.
I can’t say that my intent is pure; I don’t know that I set out to send a message when I write my stories.
But I do know what I did wrong—as it pertains to me and my feelings, and the reactions that most impact me from readers—and I know where to improve. I know that I peddle fantasies, and I know that some fantasies have the potential to share great messages. I choose what work promotes what, and that is, in the end, all a creator can do.
If you choose to infuse your work with all the vigor of your social values, that is your choice.
If you choose to ignore all the causes and write the fantasies and stories you want to write, bedamned to social values, that is your choice.
If you choose to do a little bit of both, depending on the work and the time, that is your choice.
But choose. And then you’ll never be caught off-guard when somebody asks you why. And know that no matter which way you go, there will be people telling you—explaining to you—how and why you’re doing it wrong.
This is the necessary hypocrisy of a working author. To not, in some eyes, practice what we preach. Or, in the yes of others, to do exactly that.
If he dared me to jump off a bridge, I’d do that, too. Such is the secret and terrible power within Der Wendighaus.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I spent my Thursday night dressing up as Miriam Black from Chuck’s crazy intense series (which begins with Blackbirds, in case you didn’t realize, ahem). He ran a contest, which twitter dangled it in front of me like delicious bait, and this is the result.
You should also go and vote for the next winners, because the entries are awesome!
Somebody on Twitter once asked me what my favorite cup of coffee was, and I replied—whilst subsequently adding it to my FAQ—that coffee was coffee, and even bad coffee was drinkable. I have been informed rather vociferously that the Chemex will change my life, and that I might even—gasp!—switch over to drinking coffee black.
That’s right. Black. Without milk or cream of any kind.
Now, if you do stalk my tweetstream, you know that I have a love-hate relationship with coffee. I love it, but without soymilk in it, I hate it. Yet so far this year, I have been challenged to a contest I did not expect to win and given a Come to Jesus talk that I didn’t expect to alter my views on Things(tm) and Stuff(tm)—and did both.
So here’s my plan: Because Chuck was so brilliantly kind enough to offer the Chemex as a contest prize, and I was so fortunate enough to win it, I will be trying my coffee black. I will try it first the way I always make it—in a Keurig and in a French Press (er, not at the same time, as that would be messy and awkward and possibly spawn an inter-dimensional rift). Then I will try it with this newfangled chemistry-based sciencey perfection life-altering Chemex doohickey.
There has been some suggestion that it shall include magical flavor warfare of sexy, chemical intercourse in my face.
I will ever so graciously provide my face for this experiment. For science.
Fact of the matter is, I love coffee more than I hate it. If I end up liking this black stuff, then we are looking at a quality of life improvement of near-epic proportions.
No pressure, scientists. No pressure.
Ein Minuten Bitter!
Seriously, I have to say that I am totally squeeful over this. I never expected to actually win—I just wanted to play. I did add the Chemex to my wishlist for the day I start acquiring luxuries again, but I am over the moon to have won it.
Chuck Wendig is my god now. At least until the next best thing comes along. Or the Chemex ousts him. (Thanks, Chuck!)
On to the (Slightly Less Good Than Delicious Coffee) Good Stuff
I’d like to put my money where my mouth is, but I am afraid of ingesting somebody’s cocaine and bodily fluids. So I will just type here like a normal squeeb.
Awesomesauce is You
I want you to know that you are awesome. I am awesome, too, but it’s harder to remember that about yourself. You are awesome. Yes, you. With the face. Hell, even if you don’t have a face, you are awesome. I want you to carry this with you: Karina Cooper, award-winning author, thinks that I am awesome.
Good? Good. Don’t forget. There’ll be a quiz later. (Hint: the question will be, “Am I awesome?” and the answer is “Yes!”)
I have Engraved, The St. Croix Chronicles #4, to plot, and I have to start writing that like right bloody now. Fortunately, aside from this little issue I have where Hawke fans and loves might come after me with a filleting knife, I am excited to do this.
I also intend to keep positive—or at least steady. The weather’s been grim and the world keeps turning, but it’s okay to just keep to my corner of this crazy universe and think good thoughts. (Psst: it’s okay for you to do the same.)
And I’m running every Mon/Wed/Fri (sometimes Sat, instead of Fri) and it’s feeling pretty good. Indoors on a treadmill, though. It’s just too bloody cold to run outside.
What are your plans this week?
I’ve started adding excerpts to the individual book pages on this website—which I am also making easier to get to. The Dark Mission books are all excerpted. I’ll be working on The St. Croix Chronicles pages as time allows. Why, yes, this does mean that you’ll see an excerpt of Tempered.
A Culture of Mean: How to Gain Followers and Reshares
The internet is for porn, cats, and trolls. All other things—social gatherings, causes, activism, information, chatting—come second to these three main foundation posts of the web (although GIFs are arguably climbing up there). With that in mind, is it any wonder that the most common form of social activism falls under the third category—that of trolling?
And why wouldn’t it? Look around online, at the links shared and reshared, the clickbait posted by places like Jezebel and Buzzfeed, and it becomes rapidly clear that the only way to get attention—for good or ill—is to be a raging ass or irresistibly cute. (Or show your genitals. Let’s be fair.)
Many of us have no interest in showing our genitals to the world at large. Many of us—cute we might be—can’t hold a candle to the irresistible fluff of a kitten or, dare I say it, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch. We have things to say that can’t be disguised in happy fluffballs of adorableness, and reasonable discourse nets very little by way of resharing.
Many of us, you might have noticed, default to rage.
Mob Rule on the Internet "…Distracted from distraction by distraction…" — T S Eliot
I have caught myself more than I’m comfortable with thinking in 140 characters. I find myself reaching for the devices when I have some quiet, or when I’m alone, or even when I’m not and figure it’s just a few seconds. I am no longer capable of being alone.
But even worse than that—who wants to be alone, anyway?—is the social grooming that comes with the constant attendance of the internet. We have been groomed to understand that there are only two ways to net attention to our cause:
be mean about it;
suffer someone else being mean towards us.
Few of us who crave the attentions of our audiences—and let’s not be shy, we know who we are, and we are legion—have the patience to wait for someone to come be mean to us. So we hit it first. For some, that mean is wrapped in folds of scathing humor, the kind of stuff that gets laughs at something else’s expense even while it drills the point home. For others, being mean is an art itself, designed and laid out with as much thought and care as a performance piece. Being mean to be mean garners an audience of those who thrive on watching someone or something get shredded by the ill humors of the shredder.
"Filled with fancies and empty of meaning…" — T S Eliot
(All of you picturing a guy in a spiky bucket helmet, you are welcome here.)
Now, semantics aside, this is not always a default mechanism for everyone. Many are the positive posts, the encouragement, and when that doesn’t do, the silence. I know many authors who remain quiet rather than join in the rage parade, because a thousand voices screaming hate and vitriol is no more effective—and in fact, I think is even more detrimental to the cause.
Yet that parade is the one that looks like it’s getting something done. It looks like it’s going places, like doors are opening for it. All those wide eyes staring and watching and listening to the spew look like they get it.
It takes someone standing back, someone neither in the crowd or on the floats, to see that what that crowd is getting is entertained.
We have become a side show; not even given the courtesy of standing in the main ring. Our culture of mean—a natural progression of the theory that clicks and reshares = popularity support—insists that we continue to deliberately turn to anger. Anger sells.
Not as much as sex, but more than logic. (Zachary Quinto notwithstanding.)
Default Mode: Rage Machine "Tumid apathy with no concentration…" — T S Eliot
Yes. I know, I know, this is me. I have had my share of rage-induced blog posts, and I’m sure that I’ll have more.
Yes, I know, I know that there are cases when people’s voices lifted in anger, in outrage, have netted positive change. It doesn’t take much to recall the fiasco about the SFWA and a few folks’ take on “lady authors”. But that’s my point, isn’t it?
Rage is a weapon. It’s a tool, just like any other emotion placed out there for mass consumption. This isn’t about silencing one’s rage, it’s not about finding zen with the world (although I’d like to). This is not a thing that says you need to be quiet.
What this says is that maybe it’s time we all individually look at what our defaults have been set to, and decide if that’s where we really want to stay.
We have become a society—a community—of rage over reason, of reason buried in vitriol, of vitriol over intimacy. We default to the habitual resharing of such things as a matter of rote—because it’s funny, or entertaining, or sparks in us that adrenaline rush that makes us want to join the party. We craft wittily scathing tweets given the slightest provocation, turn on others at the drop of a currently socially acceptable hat; we emotionally beat up our friends because internet justice has become more important than the friends we’re unwittingly hurting with our broad strokes and absolutes.
"Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time…" — T S Eliot
In every case, there is a rational explanation—an excuse that is supposed to make it all better—that we are prepared to link to; usually in articles posted by others. Most often in the same places known for the clickbait that started it.
They all boil down to a single refrain: “You don’t matter.”
"Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after…" — T S Eliot
Because it’s not about you—even if it is. Because if you dare say that your friend has hurt you with a broad stroke, you become the selfish one. You become the problem. You become the enemy.
If you are not made of iron, then get off the internet—because the cause that seems most prevalent is if you can’t handle my abuse, get out.
"You don’t matter."
Forget yourself as an individual. Forget your allies and friends as individuals. Forget that you, or they, cannot go into your “safe” spots, your friend spots, without being told what a terrible person you are.Tell yourself that you, or they, deserve that—for whatever reason. Forget that you are flesh and blood and feeling and heart. Forget that people are flesh and blood and feeling and heart.
When did our default become alienating our allies and friends in favor of adrenaline rushes and clickbait?
"…Not here the darkness, in this twittering world." — T S Eliot
When did we forget that causes by the very nature of being a cause is in desperate need of support from individuals?
Is that the exchange that makes us happy?
Social communities are more than words. Social communities are made of actions that bind, friendships, shared stories and a future the community wants to see unfold. Unfortunately, all it takes is words to shred a community. Words, and a lack of awareness.
Our default—rage over intimacy—slices off individuals like fungus. We are cannibalizing our own causes. And they are too important to lose to sideshow bids for popularity.
Breathe. Think. Post.
There is popularity in anger—the kind of likes and up-votes and reshares and invites to prom that come from being a mean girl (or guy, if that’s your jam). There is a buzz that comes from the words of encouragement and the shouts of agreement.
There is a high that stems from crushing the deserving underfoot—and the same high from crushing the undeserving.
The internet provides us with a unique opportunity unheard of in previous generations. We have access. We have audiences. We have, dare I say it, fans, and as any celebrity—minor though the internet allows us to be, for however long—learns very quickly, fans love drama.
We have entered into a culture of mean: When it costs us less to be angry and cutting than it does to think or talk things through; when it makes us feel better to sit on a pedestal and spit venom than it does to sit down in a group and hold a discourse.
We are losing the audiences we need to hear us and gaining those who thrive on negativity and bullying.
There are times when mean must be the voice. When rage is the only thing that will puncture holes in a system so broken that reason no longer suffices. There are legitimate purposes for the tool that rage is.
It should not be the default.
Every time a tool is used, it blunts—to extend this already overly extended metaphor. Imagine it like non-stop screamo. When all the world sees from you is anger, they become deaf to it. It loses its edge. Like comedy, where a comedian constantly reaches for the next plateau, every rage becomes so much noise, and people are forced to push harder, get meaner, sharpen their tools on every cause, for every chance, because losing views, losing audience, losing reshares is a slow and lonely death on the internet that does not care.
(If you’re one of those who like screamo and listen to it all the time, then you are akin to those who can look at and read and deal with the rage constantly lashing out at them. Congrats.)
Look. I’m not asking you to shut up. I’m just suggesting that next time you feel the urge to rage about something online, take a moment. Think about it. Ask any questions you need of the subject matter to clarify your understanding. Breathe. And after you’ve done that, if you still think that a reasonable discourse—a blog post without the vitriol, say—isn’t right and outrage is the way to go, then by all means.
Let that be the diamond in your collection, the thing you unveil when all else fails. In a mercenary sort of sense, if that’s your thing, let your outrage be the type that when it does unfold, you stun your audience, shock them into awe and reshares.
We’ve got to do something, delicious ones. Because alienating the people who already support us isn’t the way.
Less Rage =/= Silence
Let me just be clear: I’m not advocating a return to Barbie, or to silence, or to “privileged speakers only”, or any of that nonsense that seems to crop up when someone suggests easing back on the throttle a little. What I’m saying is that relying on one thing too often cheapens the tool. We aren’t out here to hear ourselves talk. We aren’t posting blogs and making waves because it’s for our health.
We do it because we want to be heard. Because we have something to say, and it’s important. because we ant to be treated as equals—all of us—and we all have our individual things to say.
And like all matters involving other people, there are ways to be more and less effective in a crowd.
Reasonable discourse, even reason as a thought process beyond 140 characters, needs to make a comeback. At least a little. Otherwise all we’re doing up here on the net is yelling at each other.