For a variety of reasons mostly having to do with dissertation work, the Sunday Linkdump is on hold, though I anticipate being back to it by next Sunday. I’ve recently completed the final draft of my dissertation proposal (I defend on the 14th) and I gave myself the weekend off on account of the brain needing a recharge.
But today I’m back on the writing horse, so of course I’m putting off doing any actual work on anything with a blog post.
I’ve talked a lot about my writing philosophy, and even some about how my personal stages of novel-writing work, but I’m not sure that I’ve really outlined the details of my particular process. So, to that end, here’s how I usually do what I do.
I’ve been publishing SF for almost half a decade now, but I still feel like I’m only just figuring out what the hell I’m doing. Therefore, it always makes me slightly uneasy to put myself in a position where I’m giving anyone else advice about writing and how to do it – both the mechanics and the practical elements – and even more uneasy when I’m talking about definitions of anything. and I’m sort of intrinsically uneasy with categories anyway. Given all of that, please let me go into this with the caveat that this is just my understanding of a thing, and it shouldn’t supersede anyone else’s understanding of a thing that may differ from my own.
All that said, I think “how do you know you’re a writer” is a very interesting question to consider.
I’m not sure when I first started thinking of myself as a writer, but I know that I was long before I started getting stories published in places. What changed is that I started to be more comfortable calling myself a writer, and doing so in mixed company. What I wrote for a long time before original fiction was fanfiction, and I think most of us know and would agree that fanfiction is still verboten in many circles, and a thing to be looked down upon. And I don’t think that’s entirely fair.
I do think it’s fair to call fanfiction a different kind of writing from original fiction in a number of fundamental ways. Those differences are subtle and not necessarily clear across the board – as with any system of categorization I think we need to leave room for a lot of boundary-shifting and liminal space – but I do think they’re there.
Different is not worse than.
So what does a writer write? I’m pretty much with John Scalzi on this one:
A writer…chooses written words, and chooses them not just for mechanical and practical reasons, but for (or also for) esthetic and artistic purposes. Writers want to write, rather than have to write. In presenting an idea, the medium they intend for it to be in is the written word.
Intent is what matters here, to my mind. Not publishing – necessarily – and not whether you’re writing with characters you made up. I think insisting anything else is categorical gatekeeping, and I’m not really a fan of that practice because it makes our collective world smaller and narrower, and therefore less fun. It also makes it more hierarchical. Hierarchy is generally bad.
So besides intent, what – in my estimation – makes someone a writer? Here are a few things:
I’d like to welcome my co-writer Lisa back to the blog again today. Her last post on what’s involved in co-writing something as hefty as an entire book was awesome, and this is awesome as well. Enjoy.
Writing SciFi is fun for a lot of reasons, the world building, the aliens, doing research on orbits and nebulae on Wiki at 4am, but one of my favorite parts of writing L&O was the characters we spun out. I’m astonished by the awesome feedback we’ve gotten. It seems like a lot of people really enjoyed our cast, which, not gonna lie, makes me want to preen.
The last time Sunny asked me to guest blog, I talked about what it was like writing with a co-author. In the initial stages of L&O’s development we each wrote predominantly from one character’s POV (I started with Lock, Sunny with Adam), and over time we became more fluid and switched back and forth, and added a number of other POV characters to the mix. Because of our history with RPing, the characters were the most important part of story development. The plot and the world building were only interesting if we had fleshed out, three-dimensional individuals to live through it.
So, I still feel odd doling out advice about writing, given that I am at this moment sitting hung over on my couch in my grad student apartment, but! I guess everyone starts somewhere. Here we go:
The Orbital Antares rocket at the Wallops Flight Facility in VA. We were there for the launch yesterday, which was unfortunately scrubbed.
So things sure happened this week, didn’t they?
- Whitney Erin Boesel seriously questions whether images of tragedy belong on something like Vine.
One might argue that this self-repeating aspect makes Vine a powerful tool for reporting, but just because Vine can be used this way doesn’t mean it should be used this way. And Vine definitely shouldn’t be used this way without careful reflection about what it means to put six violent seconds on infinite (and infinitely circulative) self-repeat.
- And I expand on her points with a bit of a meditation on the nature of trauma.
Vine is only the latest, purest iteration of something familiar. Our experience of eventfulness is now the clip, perhaps more even than the still image. A few moments of something, repeated over and over, widely shared and everywhere you go. It’s a feeling of tiny saturation. You may not even notice it as it’s happening. But here’s the thing about the momentary clip, about event-as-seconds: It isn’t memory. Memory involves the incorporation and understanding of a past but also the mediation of a present and the imagination of the future. Memory is what we move through in order to get somewhere else.
A vine has no past, no future. A vine is a moment without a memory.
- Gawker asks “Is the New York Post Edited by a Bigoted Drunk Who Fucks Pigs?”
The back-to-back focus on innocent people of non-European ancestry could imply that the Post is systematically hostile to nonwhite people, and that the paper’s editors are so wedded to the notion that all Muslims are terrorists that they literally do not care which Muslim or “Muslim-looking” person they happen to be targeting on any particular day. We are not saying that Col Allan, motivated by bigotry, is intentionally trying to use the Post to stir up hostility against Muslims. We do not know that Col Allan is a racist. The evidence may suggest that he is a racist, but we are not saying that Col Allan is a racist.
- “Let’s be honest about Kermit Gosnell’s abortion ‘house of horrors’.” Why the whole “cover-up” thing is sort of maybe bullshit.
Troy Newman, a pro-life leader and the president of Operation Rescue, is among the loudest voices sounding the Gosnell alarm. He’s also talking about how Gosnell is a gift from God to the pro-life movement. What Gosnell is accused of doing in his clinic is horrifying and illegal, which is why he’s on trial. His illegal acts are no more an indictment of safe, legal abortion than one child-molesting doctor is an indictment of all pediatricians. But pro-lifers like Newman are glad Gosnell exists, because they can use him to tar all abortion providers. These are the folks who want abortion to be dangerous, gruesome and unregulated. Of course they’re thrilled that they finally found a real villain.
- “Gitmo Is Killing Me.” Read this. If you read nothing else linked here read this.
I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone…There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.
- “One Narrative Fits All.” Dove’s Real Beauty campaign is kind of problematic you guys.
Just as ads of yore leveraged the attitudes that made women feel bad about their looks in order to sell products, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty leverages the response to those attitudes in order to sell products. It allows for exactly one way that women can feel about our looks—bad—and creates a template for women’s relationship with their looks that’s just as rigid as the beauty standard it’s challenging.
- “Meet the 28-Year-Old Grad Student Who Just Shook the Global Austerity Movement.” Okay, but what’s really remarkable about this is that an economics PhD student is going out with a sociology PhD student.
Herndon was stunned. As a graduate student, he’d just found serious problems in a famous economic study — the academic equivalent of a D-league basketball player dunking on LeBron James. “They say seeing is believing, but I almost didn’t believe my eyes,” he says. “I had to ask my girlfriend — who’s a Ph.D. student in sociology — to double-check it. And she said, ‘I don’t think you’re seeing things, Thomas.'”
- “Living the Dream.” Writing for a living is hard. It’s hard even after you get to the point where you can do it at all.
There’s an inspirational quote that gets passed around, usually misattributed to Confucius:
“Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”
I’ve got a job I love, and I’m gonna come out and say this quote isn’t just wrong, it’s so fundamentally opposed to the state of “rightness” that if you put it together with a true quote, you’d create an explosion powerful enough to rip open spacetime and devour Kalamazoo.
I love being a writer, but if you try to tell me it’s not work, I’ll send goblins to eat your feet.
New Daft Punk makes everything okay.
Posted in Linkdump
Tagged abortion, beauty, body acceptance, boston, daft punk, economics, guantanamo bay, racism, trauma, vine, writing
Some of you may – or may not – be aware that Line and Orbit used to be quite a lot longer. Specifically, it was almost an entire book’s length longer. A great deal was cut, some of which we loved, and it seems a shame to think those bits might never see the light of day in any form.
So something that I and my co-author will be doing in the next month or so is pulling out some of the scenes that were cut from the final edit of Line and Orbit, dusting them off a bit, and posting them here for your reading pleasure.
The scene below is actually a huge chunk of what was chapter three, before chapter three became the segment that introduces us to Lochlan and Ixchel. It should be understood to take place directly after the scene in which Ixchel reads Lochlan’s future. It’s significant in that it’s actually the scene that was originally supposed to introduce readers to Kae and Leila, whereas in the final cut Kae and Leila are introduced only after Adam arrives on Ashwina.
It also features Lochlan being his cocky, promiscuous self. And Kae’s full, glorious name.
For those concerned: There are no major spoilers for the plot itself. If you haven’t read or haven’t finished reading, do not fear. Enjoy.
There is a lot this week.
- I wrote a thing for The Sociological Cinema on teaching with SF and the myths that underpin social inequality.
Myths and legends are all-too-often dismissed as untrue; what this attitude fails to recognize is that the deepest, most foundational stories are persistent precisely because the best of them are vectors for the most profound elements of who we are, of how we understand ourselves to be, of where we imagine we might go. These things may be harmful, they may reproduce things that we find undesirable, but we need to understand them on their own terms before we can act.
- “My So-Called ‘Post-Feminist’ Life in Arts and Letters.” What it’s like to be a woman saying things and writing books. There is some potentially triggering stuff in here about rape (non-explicit) and general misogyny. I have no particular triggers and I found it upsetting.
I consider throwing in the towel. The lack of respectful coverage, the slut-shaming and name-calling, all the girly book covers and not-my-titles despite high literary aspirations, has worn me down, made me question everything: my abilities, my future, my life. This is what sexism does best: it makes you feel crazy for desiring parity and hopeless about ever achieving it. A few months later, after delivering a lecture on the media-invented “mommy wars” at the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference, a song pops up on my iPhone as I’m walking back to my hotel room: Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” “When you ain’t got nothing,” Dylan sings, “you got nothing to lose.”
Yes, I think. Yes.
- “‘You’ve Lost Weight! You Look Great!’ Isn’t a Compliment.” I have felt this forever but haven’t articulated it to myself anywhere near this well, and oh my god yes yes yes
When we think of it in that way, it’s not such a great compliment. It’s a set-up for self-consciousness and negative self-judgment of our past selves. When remarking on weight loss is offered as a compliment, the speaker clearly thinks that there’s been a noticeable and notable improvement in how the person looks. Without the normative standard of “thinner is better,” the comment would have no value as a compliment at all.
- “Why I Will Still #uninstallmendeley.” If you use academic citation software, if you care about the state of academic publishing, if you care about justice and righteousness, read.
If Mendeley wants to hitch their horse to the Monsanto of academic publishing they can be my guest. The service will probably be amazing. But remember that the money they gave you –all the new resources you have at your disposal– were purchased with tuition money and charitable donations that should have gone to higher education. Instead, it went to Elsevier (and Thompson Reuter, and Springer and…) so that they could find new and inventive ways of hiding research so that they could continue to charge exorbitant prices.
- “Autofill Mythologies.” Fantastic piece on information and imagination and our experiences of difficult urban spaces.
Lewis Lapham once argued that the imagined city, the one of our collective making, is realer than what we’re fed by maps and demographics, buildings and structures. The ideas, the symbols, ultimately carry more for us than the realities of its dwellers—the people in the neighborhoods that you see when you’re walking down the street.
- “Needing a Bigger N+1.” This is a wonderfully biting response to a terrible essay on why critical sociology is useless and how there’s too much of it. That piece is actually not worth reading if you don’t want to; the response summarizes its major points pretty well.
Insofar as you want to make an institutional critique of sociology… well, I pay an extraordinary (for me) fee to a disciplinary association tasked with intervening in public debates and government policy. We have strong disciplinary traditions and mythologies of activism, including Hull House and the Feminist Wire. We give a fecking ASA award. I’m not saying our house is 100% in order, but if I have to shift into your all/nothing, everyone/no one idiom, I’m going to say we’re all clear.
- “When Facebook Stopped Being Fun.” Facebook users are growing up. This does not entirely bode well for Facebook.
Facebook is like a nightmarishly intense, never-ending school reunion where all of the people you don’t really want to talk to get to expose their lives in self-congratulatory detail. Resentment for that is remarkably difficult to dispel.
- “The writer’s neuroses.” All of this is so incredibly painfully true.
What if my life work, these novels that I have tried to make as clear and articulate and passion-filled and honest and intelligent and entertaining and genre-resistant and accessible as I can manage, aren’t judged to be among the best? Well, as I will find out the news in a hotel room on my own I will probably end up crying on the edge of a bed while shoving salted cashews into my mouth and wishing I’d never ever written a vampire novel.
- “Academia’s indentured servants.” Basically the system to which I have given ten years of my life and a great deal of my mental health is completely broken. I knew that because I’m IN IT, but still.
To work outside of academia, even temporarily, signals you are not “serious” or “dedicated” to scholarship. It does not matter if you are simply too poor to stay: in academia, perseverance is redefined as the ability to suffer silently or to survive on family wealth. As a result, scholars adjunct in order to retain an institutional affiliation, while the institution offers them no respect in return.
- “The entrepreneurial activism of Tim LaHaye’s theologized politics.” hey everyone Tim LaHaye is a very bad person
Consider this: from 1995 through 2007, Tim LaHaye co-authored a series of runaway best-sellers steeped in John Birch Society ideology. During those years he sold more than 60 million copies of books that served as propaganda for a particular political agenda. The tea party movement sprang up in 2009, espousing the exact neo-Bircher ideology and agenda promoted in LaHaye’s novels. Is that just a remarkable coincidence?
But there is The National.
So I’ve been yelling about this across various social media platforms, but here it is again:
I have signed the contracts for my dark fantasy novel Crowflight (which was formerly known as A Murder of Crows), which will be released in September by Masque/Prime Books.
Which is really very exciting except that now I have to go write the other books in the series.
Will update with more details when I have them.
Looks seriously awesome.
Cyborg Identities – Haraway and beyond (I proposed and will be moderating) – Donna Haraway famously argued that cyborgs transcend science fiction and enter the realm of feminist theory – that we are all cyborgs, transgressing identity boundaries and binaries and, in so doing, recreating ourselves. But many of the most powerful explorations of cyborg identities are still found in SF. What does SF tell us about ourselves as cyborgs? How can we make SF into useful social theory (and can we at all)? What are the implications for politics and power? How can we draw connections between fiction and political non-fiction? Like all cyborg transgressions, is the line between fiction and reality more porous than we often like to think?
When “Love Your Body” Isn’t Enough – “Love your body” is the hot trend in empowering catchphrases intended to connect people with their bodies and put them back in control, but what happens when it’s not enough? How does it exclude people don’t love their bodies and are struggling to figure out where they fit in? What kinds of structural inequalities are people perpetuating with an exhortation to “love your body,” and how can we change the way this phrase is used?
Roleplay and Identity – Many of us use cosplay and tabletop, live-action, and computer role-playing games (RPGs) to explore our own identities and/or that of “the Other” (for many values of “other”). How can these experiences of roleplay help us to expand our understanding of ourselves and the world? At the same time, how can we address examples of roleplay that are exploitative or simply perpetuate stereotypes? And how do we keep ourselves from falling into this?
Outer Alliance: New Writings in LGBTQ SF/F/H – Outer Alliance is an organization for writers and readers of science fiction, fantasy and horror that advocates positive portrayals of LGBTQ characters. We will be reading from a wide range of fiction that fits this description.
Not sure what I’ll be reading yet.
No preamble. Let’s do this.
- “Bigots, Bullies, and Enablers.” A Thing happened with Locus on April Fool’s Day. Jim Hines has a good summary, as well as a good argument for why it’s really not a small deal when this kind of shit happens.
The backlash against the Locus article isn’t about someone taking cheap shots at Muslims and women. It’s about yet another person taking those shots, lining up to bully those who are already a popular target for abuse. And it’s about everyone else who stands around, encouraging and enabling that bullying.
- “Barbie, Burquas, April Fool’s Jokes, Writer’s Advice: Small Failures Hurt Us In Big Ways.” Carrie Cuinn’s take and a related take on some additional ways in which the SF&F community is utterly failing, gender-wise.
You know what I have seen? Comments from people telling me that I am overreacting, humorless, a radical feminist, and that I shouldn’t choose to be offended. I got an email telling me that while the SFWA author was probably wrong to say what he did, he’s not a bad guy and didn’t mean it in a bad way.
This is the community I’m supposed to feel safe in. This is where I’m supposed to feel at home.
Tell me how I do that if nothing is going to change.
- And I just basically call the guy an asshole for about 800 words.
Making jabs at marginalized people from a position of power and privilege is not “edgy”, “dangerous”, or brave. It is the status fucking quo. You’re the Man. I know you don’t want to be, but you are. You don’t live in a world where you are likely to be emotionally and physically abused, where you are likely to be disenfranchised, where you are likely to be raped, where you are likely to be fucking killed. You unbelievable asshole.
- Roger Ebert Hails Human Existence As ‘A Triumph’.
- “Project Bendypants: Practicing Yoga While Fat.” This was heartbreaking and also really uplifting to read.
Of all the sports and athletics I have participated in as a fat person, yoga has sadly been one of the most judgmental and the least emotionally safe. This is particularly painful given the principles of compassion and reflection that yoga is built around. I’m not entirely sure what to do with this.
- Surprising no one, there is a major wage gap in the game industry and it falls along gendered lines.
- Jenny Davis offers a defense of the “red sea”.
Though a profile picture change is a small and quiet act, it was amplified through collective action and the interplay between personal and public media. I have argued before that memes are the myths of augmented society. In this way, small personal acts, connected to a larger movement, shared interpersonally and reported internationally, become part of the story that we tell ourselves, about ourselves.
- I wrote a thing on Pinterest and gender.
The experience of first beginning to use the site was bizarre. It was unlike anything else I had experienced in a social media site; it was like putting on a digital dress. I could feel my gender shifting. And it was strangely liberating, as if I was – once again – in a space that was affording me the opportunity to play with an aspect of my gender that other digital spaces had not.
- Catherynne M. Valente – “Fade to White”. Not new, per se, but I assigned this to my students this past week when we covered gender and cultural representation, and it is every bit as amazing as I remember. It’s been nominated in both the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novelette.
Finally the dress. The team at Spotless Corp. encouraged foundational garments to emphasize the bust and waist-to-hip ratio. Sylvie wedged herself into a full length merry widow with built-in padded bra and rear. It crushed her, smoothed her, flattened her. Her waist disappeared. She pulled the dress over her bound-in body. Her mother would have to button her up; twenty-seven tiny, satin colored buttons ran up her back like a new spine. Its neckline plunged; its skirt flounced, showing calf and a suggestion of knee. It was miles of icy white lace, it could hardly be anything else, but the sash gleamed red. Red, red, red. All the world is red and I am red forever, Sylvie thought. She was inside the dress, inside the other girl.
The other girl was very striking.
Sylvie was fifteen years old, and by suppertime she would be engaged.
Play us off, Glitch Mob.
Hey, you. Over there. Straight white guy living in the western developed world and making “jokes”. C’mere. We need to talk for a second. Bring your friends.
Let’s get one thing very clear from the outset: You were an asshole. That’s why what happened happened. That’s why people called you an asshole. You were being one, in a pretty epic fashion. That’s been rehashed in a lot of other places by now and I don’t see tremendously much of a point in saying that much more about it. You were an asshole. Moving on. Because I want to focus on the reaction of you – and others – to being called an asshole.
You and yours have been insisting that you’re being “edgy”, that you’re being “dangerous”, that there is something brave about daring to be offensively “funny” in the face of overwhelming politically correct repression. That what happened to you constitutes that kind of oppression, that the enemies of free speech have descended upon you but that you will NOT BE SILENCED.
It’s worth noting that at the same time you’re painting the people who pointed out that you were being an asshole as a small, shrill minority, not to be taken seriously. Consistency does not appear to be your strong point; you seem to be flailing wildly about, grasping for anything and everything that allows you to declare that you Just Don’t Care about the fact that you were publicly an asshole and that people had the audacity to tell you so. That kind of flailing makes me wonder about how you really feel. But anyway.
Got a few points for you. I’ll take them one at a time and try to go slow.