Monthly Archives: May 2014

I wish we didn’t have to make this shit personal. But apparently we do.

tumblr_n6eh9tNkW61tsjuk2o1_500

Like I alluded to before, one of the ugliest things that’s come out of the UCSB killings – hey, how about we just call it gender terrorism, because that’s what it is – has been watching men who could be allies, who claim to love and respect women, some of whom are our friends and relatives and others close to us, minimize and actively disregard the role a deeply misogynist culture played in this thing. It’s been ugly and it’s been hurtful, and the ugliest thing about it – at least for me – has been the apparent inability of otherwise intelligent people to connect the dots and realize that when they dismiss the misogyny aspect – which, I want to stress, no one is saying was the only aspect – they are dismissing us. The people standing right in front of them, begging them to listen. Our experiences. Our stories. Our anger and our pain.

So we have to shove those stories in people’s faces. We have to make them work to look away from the people they allegedly care for and love. That’s what #yesallwomen is about.

And that’s what my sister’s amazing essay is about.

The truth is that each of those men had been fed a lie.  Possibly for their whole lives.  It was probably one of the many lies fed to the UCSB shooter.  The lie they had been fed was that if you are brave, and you put yourself out there, and you are a nice guy, you will get the girl.  In the cases above, I was The Girl.  Not a girl, not a human being with thoughts and preferences of her own and the ability to decide who she was attracted to and who she wasn’t, but The Girl.  The prize you get for being brave and asking someone out.  No one ever told these men that putting yourself out there isn’t a guarantee, because you are only 50% of the equation.  Me, other women, the other 50%, never entered into their dating math.  My rejection, especially when it didn’t come on the grounds that I was already someone else’s prize, was abhorrent.  It ruined something for them.  It probably emasculated them.  Rejection is bad, but it’s especially bad if the entire world has told you that you shouldn’t expect it to happen.  It makes men angry.  It makes men violent.

I’ve been rejected by boys before.  I’ve been “friendzoned” before.  It never seemed to cause me as much distress as it caused the men I met that summer, and the ones I see everywhere all the time, furious because their sense of entitlement to women’s time, attention, and bodies has been violated.  We all know why this is, if we’re willing to look at something ugly.  We can listen to what the UCSB shooter told us about his reasons for killing six people and injuring more.  We can discover how his actions were on the extreme end of a spectrum of hate that women experience every day.  The connections are there.  The information, the stories, the testimonies are all there.

But we have to look.

Read the whole thing. I mean it.

LABYRINTHIAN score, part the first

As I’m going through the edits for Labyrinthian and reacquainting myself with the sense of it as a story, it strikes me again that it feels very cinematic as I write it. And I know I’m not the only one who does the fitting-of-movie-scores to my stuff. So here, as part of my process, is one of the pieces that feels like it would fit in perfectly with this particular book. Maybe even as the main/opening theme. The vaguely ticking sound goes very well with the fact that one of my main characters is dealing with a major and potentially lethal time crunch.

I mean, BT is just amazing in general. Probably gonna post more of him.

Me at the #WisCon Sign Out

BolD5j_IgAA-JAg.jpg large

This is how I know I’m a real actual author. Note the lovely and talented booth babes (Jason and Izzy, Hulk included).

(photo courtesy of Ginger K)

On #Wiscon and trauma and recognizing it as such

1366912-bigthumbnail

You don’t want to be judged? You won’t be. You don’t think you’re strong enough? You are. You’re afraid. Don’t be. You have all the weapons you need.

Now fight.

– Sucker Punch

Anyone who follows me on the Twitters or the Facebooks or here will know that I spent this past weekend in Madison for WisCon, which is sort of My Con, because it’s almost more like an intersectional revival meeting than anything else, and it makes me have a lot of emotions. Or rather, it gives me a space in which I can feel those emotions safely.

That usually means that Wiscon, while it’s an incredibly positive, energizing, communal experience, is also often draining, and I come out of it mulling over some difficult, painful things. That was especially true this year, in significant part because it coincided with the Santa Barbara shootings, which reminded so many of us – as if we needed reminding – that we live in a culture that is not only hostile to us but lethally dangerous. Where we are not safe in any meaningful sense of the word.

(I should note that although I identify as genderqueer, I consider being raised as a girl an important part of the development of my identity, and in most important contexts the rest of society would consider me a woman. So I’m putting myself in that category for practical purposes. Anyway, GNC people are in that kind of marginalized Other space in any case to varying degrees for various reasons.)

So this was all going on, and emotions – again, many of them not negative ones – were running high, at least in me. And right at the apex of it – sitting in a panel on mental health, ironically enough – I had a very upsetting exchange via email with a member of my family about the shootings, which left me feeling deeply, deeply hurt.

And also something else. It took me a few minutes to really grasp what was happening. I was shaking hard, my palms were sweating, my heart and thoughts were both racing, and my breath was shallow. In other words, I was having a classic fight-or-flight response.

And I was like Oh my God. I’m being triggered.

I have a difficult past with this family member, and a very fraught relationship which we are only now – and very slowly – beginning to try to repair. The peace is fragile, and it doesn’t take much for it to slide back down into ugliness. In fairness, this is not one-sided; they were not the only one who participated in emotional abuse during the period when things were at their worst. I know they have experienced and do experience their share of pain, and that pain is real and legitimate.

But for me, that moment was a revelation. It wasn’t even really about the email and the nastiness that was in it. I was having a physiological reaction to past trauma. It was a reaction that I had experienced many, many times before, and for whatever reason I had not recognized what was happening to me.

This made me realize two additional things: 1) It wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t control it, which in the past I had believed; and 2) I could ask for help.

So I did. I texted a friend and she took me out for ice cream. And then later I Floomped (dance party) in a furious manner and went to a Jem vid party and I had a great time and by the next morning I had mostly recovered.

But again, this was a revelation, about my right to my emotions and my pain and my right to take care of myself, and to reach out to others for assistance in doing that. I didn’t have to wrestle with it alone, I didn’t have to blame myself for not being able to just calm down or let it go. It was okay to not be okay, and that actually made it possible to be okay in a way I’ve never experienced before.

So that happened. It meant that I had to miss NK Jemisin’s amazing GoH speech, which saddened me a great deal, but then later, sitting in a noisy, uncomfortable airport terminal waiting for a late flight home that had been delayed over an hour, I read the speech, and what others have very properly characterized as a call to arms also felt to me like an embrace. You’re all right. And someday you’ll heal. But in the meantime you have the right to defend yourself, and you have the obligation to come to the defense of others.

I wrote an email to my family about it, and in some respects it was a direct response to the member of my family who triggered me. It was the only kind of response I felt able to make, short of no response at all. But silence is painful, and it didn’t feel like it would protect me from anything. I have no idea if they read it. I sincerely doubt that they did. But to me, that didn’t really matter. What mattered was speaking out. So among other things, I said this:

I decided a while ago to make 2014 the year I started doing what Anne Lamott says we have to do as writers and as humans, and dig down into the truly ugly stuff hiding in my psyche, the stuff we’re told – especially if we’re gendered female – that we’re supposed to keep hidden. I’ve decided that I have to do that because that stuff is true, because it’s real, and because the best writing is the writing that tells the truth. I’ve written a few stories that go a long way toward doing that; they’ve been purchased by editors and you’ll see them soon. But something else I’m dealing with, as I consider what it means to write about pain, is that I’m entrenched in both a genre of fiction and a culture that contains many people who are clearly and unambiguously hostile to me and people like me, doing the work that I’m doing.

And how difficult it is to turn and face that and demand recognition of that hostility.

Because without that recognition, there can be no healing, and there can never be reconciliation. Broken bonds won’t be repaired. People will remain strangers to each other.

Me and people like me have been told, repeatedly, to chill out. To get over it. To stop reading too much into things. To sit down. To shut up. To stop making people uncomfortable. That we’re overreacting. That we’re hysterical. That we’re crazy. That we’re looking for things to get upset about. That if we laugh it off everything will be okay.

It’s not okay. And I’m not crazy. And I won’t shut up.

All of us suffering, all of us walking wounded, we have a right to ourselves and our safety. We have a right to be protected and to protect others. We have a right to self-care, and we have a right to ask for help in caring for ourselves. It can be so difficult to recognize and accept that right, because I think often we have a harder time seeing ourselves clearly than seeing others, but also because we’re just straight up taught that we don’t have a right to any of that. We exist in a context that denies our right to be good to ourselves in that way.

We need to claim it. It’s vital that we do that. Without that, we won’t heal.

And we also have a right to fight back. Nora speaks true.

Arm yourselves. Go to panels at Wiscon and claim the knowledge and language that will be your weapons. Go to sources of additional knowledge for fresh ammunition — histories and analyses of the genre by people who see beyond the status quo, our genre elders, new sources of knowledge like “revisionist” scholarship instead of the bullshit we all learned in school. Find support groups of like-minded souls; these are your comrades-in-arms, and you will need their strength. Don’t try to do this alone. When you’re injured, seek help; I’ve got a great list of CBT therapists, for any of you in the New York area. Exercise to stay strong, if you can; defend what health you have, if you can’t. And from here on, wherever you see bigotry in the genre? Attack it. Don’t wait for it to come directly at you; attack it even if it’s hitting another group. If you won’t ride or die for anyone else, how can you expect them to ride or die for you? Understand that there are people in this genre who hate you, and who do not want you here, and who will hurt you if they can. Do not tolerate their intolerance. Don’t be “fair and balanced.” Tell them they’re unwelcome. Make them uncomfortable. Shout them down. Kick them out. Fucking fight.

And maybe one day, when the fighting’s done, then we can heal. On that day, all of us will dream freely, at last.

#WisCon schedule!

Okay, meant to do this ages ago, but here – for those interested – is what I’m slated to be doing at WisCon this weekend. I am excited about every single one of these panels.

A few notes first:

  • I lovelovelove how WisCon has official hashtags for the panels. It makes me all TtW14-happy. I really hope people use them for some great discussion. I’ll certainly be trying to do so when I can. In fact, during the panel on cyborgs that I’m moderating, I would love to be able to take questions from Twitter. So if you have any, shoot them my way. WisCon, maybe consider the option of formally having hashtag mods?
  • I will have one or two copies of Line and Orbit to give away, and I’ll be putting one into the Tiptree Auction for sure.
  • I am incredibly bad with retention of both faces and names. So if you come up to me and we’ve met but I don’t recognize you, please don’t take it personally. It’s just a brain thing that I deal with.
  • In general, I still have a hard time approaching people socially, but I love meeting and talking to people. I just have a lot of trouble making the first move. I’m working on it and I think I’m better than I was, but if you want to just come up and say hi, please don’t hesitate to do so. Especially at the parties, where I’m easily overwhelmed and often looking for something specific to focus on as an anchor.

Secret fanfiction writer identities are like ani, Watson. Everyone has one. | Sat, 12:00–1:15 am | Senate A |  #FanficSecretIdentities

Panelists: M: Cecilia Tan. Sunny Moraine, Samantha Haney Press

You may not know it, but some of your favorite pro writers may have secretly or not-so-secretly written fanfiction before they got their first publishing deal and may even have continued writing it after. The list includes such luminaries as Naomi Novik, Lois McMaster Bujold, Seanan McGuire, Martha Wells, Sarah Rees Brennan, Una McCormack, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and one of this year’s Guests of Honor, N. K. Jemisin. SHOCKING. On this panel authors and publishing professionals who happily exist in both worlds will talk about how fanfiction influenced and continues to influence their work or author brains and how they approach the writing/editing process.

 

Ghosts in the Machine: Anonymity, Autonymity and Social Construction of (Internet) Reality | Sat, 8:30–9:45 am  | Assembly | #OnlineAnon

Panelists: M: Heidi Waterhouse. Alan Bostick, Renee Ismail, Sunny Moraine

It’s easier to notice online that how we perceive each other is something we collectively create. What are the pleasures and pitfalls in constructing online identities? How is the internet version of the identities people create different from identities constructed in meatspace? What’s in a name, anyway, when services like Google+ try to enforce which names are ‘real’?

 

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, The Panel | Sat, 1:00–2:15 pm | Conference 1 | #LongHidden

Panelists: Lisa Bolekaja, S Lynn, Sunny Moraine, Daniel José Older

The anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History comes out from Crossed Genres Publications the same month as Wiscon. A selected group of Long Hidden authors and one of the editors speak about process, craft, and what it means to dig into the margins of history to find inspiration for speculative storytelling.

 

Cyborg Identities 2: The Cyborgs Return! | Sun, 8:30–9:45 am | Caucus | #CyborgIdentities

Panelists: M: Sunny Moraine. Michelle Heeg, Jim Lutz, Paul Rehac, Ariel Wetzel

At WisCon 37, a bunch of us got together and talked cyborgs, bodies, identity, and what it all means when you squoosh it together. That was awesome, so this year we’re doing it again. We’ll be discussing the significance and potentials of the cyborg in fiction, the intersections between that fiction and our daily experience, the enmeshing of the organic and the technological, the boundaries between human and nonhuman, the possibilities of the cyborg for resistance and revolution, and a mess of other things besides.

 

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History – The Reading | Sun, 10:00–11:15 am | Conference 2 | #LongHiddenReading

Panelists: Kemba Banton, Lisa Bolekaja, L.S. Johnson, S Lynn, Sunny Moraine

The anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History comes out from Crossed Genres Publications the same month as Wiscon. A selected group of Long Hidden authors reads from their work. Hosted by editor Daniel José Older.

 

The SignOut | Mon, 11:30 am–12:45 pm | Capitol/Wisconsin | #SignOut

Participants: Sandra Ulbrich Almazan, Stacie L Arellano, Eleanor A. Arnason, Greg Bechtel, F.J. Bergmann, Susan Simensky Bietila, Alex Bledsoe, Gwenda Bond, K. Tempest Bradford, Chesya Burke, Wesley Chu, Julia Dvorin, Rhea Ewing, Hiromi Goto, Eileen Gunn, Andrea D. Hairston, Dorothy Hearst, Liz Henry, Lauren Jankowski, N. K. Jemisin, Emily Jiang, Vylar Kaftan, Keffy R. M. Kehrli, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ellen Kushner, Ann Leckie, Kimberley Long-Ewing, Heather McDougal, Allison Moon, Katrinka Moore, Nancy Jane Moore, Sunny Moraine, Pat Murphy, Debbie Notkin, Melissa F. Olson, Samantha Haney Press, Mary Rickert, James P. Roberts, Madeleine E. Robins, Catherine M. Schaff-Stump, Nisi Shawl, Delia Sherman, Cecilia Tan, Sheree Renée Thomas, LaShawn M. Wanak

Really looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. OMG WISCON

I have a wolf’s bite; I have a pack at my heels

Snarling_Wolves_Wallpaper_95a9x

This is from “Singing With All My Skin and Bone”, which will be out at some point in Nightmare, and which I’m posting because I’ve been thinking about it, because it’s pertinent to my post last night, and it remains the most intensely personal thing I’ve written in a long time. It is essentially autobiography through a veil. It was frightening to write. I’m glad I did.

Let me tell you what I wish I could have said, when they saw the blood and the pits in my flesh and tried to get me to stop, because everyone knows a little kid shouldn’t do this shit to themselves. Let me tell you that when you discover a direct line into the fabric of the universe, it’s very difficult to just leave that alone. Let me tell you what it’s like to wear every mark like a secret ornament that only you find lovely, and to hate them at the same time because of what they’ll mean to everyone else, so you hide them as best you can with long sleeves and shadows but they always see in the end. Let me tell you what it’s like to make blood magic, real magic, because packed under your fingernails the world loses its power to hurt you anymore. Let me tell you want it’s like to run pain through a complex refinement process that makes it chocolate and warm sheets and dappled summer sunlight. Let me tell you what it’s like to select your instruments of sorcery according to their sharpness and keen edges. Let me tell you what it’s like to be a witch in junior high school. Let me tell you. Shut up and let me talk.

~

I wish I could get this into words. None of them are coming out quite right. I want to tell you what it’s like to have magic in your skin. Sit down beside me and let me illuminate all my scars, let me tell you all my many early names. No, they weren’t bestowed like honorable titles and they hurt worse than the actual wounds, but they dug into me just like everything else, and I have them still. Not all scars are the kinds you can see. Not all scars are beautiful. A changing body is a dangerous thing; a body that can be changed is more dangerous still. All these little bodies, all this potential, and imagine if they all found out how to take hold of it all at once. Every single beaten-down body, rising in angry flames.

God, we would have been terrifying. Can you imagine? Can you just imagine that? There’s a reason why we send children off to war.

All that we see or seem

307

Two things happened in the last month. The first is that I came out to my students – gender-wise, and my unconformity. The second is that I wrote a thing for my department’s newsletter about social media and how I use it. I didn’t realize those how connected those things were until about ten minutes ago.

There’s a third thing that I think might be behind most of that connection, which is that I will not be receiving funding next year. That in itself isn’t necessarily something to be angry about – I got more than a lot of grad students get, nationwide – but how it happened was, without going into detail, less than satisfactory, and I’ve been doing some major reevaluating about my place here and my relationship with this institution and what it all means to me personally. And what started as real anger has turned into a kind of freedom I didn’t expect.

I don’t care anymore.

Which, ironically, might mean that I can actually care about the right things for the first time in my entire graduate school career.

So  I came out to my students. I explained what “genderqueer” meant, and then I put myself up there as an example. I did it mostly in passing – an “and I’m that, so you know what that is already” – but it felt big.

It’s not the first time I’ve come out to a class, and it wasn’t the first time this semester where I used myself as an example. I’m a weird confluence of identity categories, exactly like most people: white, middle/upper middle class in many respects but growing up in a lower middle class neighborhood on a lower middle class income, born with a female body but not identifying that way in terms of my gender, sexually sort of all over the place, able-bodied but possessing a wacky constellation of mental illnesses, disorders, and cognitive disabilities. Whatever, nobody’s normal, we all agreed. There’s no such thing.

I had not yet been informed that I wouldn’t be funded. Maybe some part of me knew already that this semester was different.

It’s always an interesting question, how much of yourself you reveal to a class. How much of yourself you reveal to yourself. Coming out to someone about anything strange or uncomfortable makes that person into kind of a mirror; see yourself through their eyes and suddenly you might see something different. It might not be true, but it’s there. In my mid-twenties I came to an understanding of myself as genderqueer, but I’ve never been comfortable with gender, and I’ve never been comfortable with my body, and I’ve always felt like my mind was actively trying to hurt me. I’m not comfortable with anything. At all. Ever. But life has become a process of getting to be Okay with that, and talking about it to other people is part of how I’ve been getting there.

So then I wasn’t funded, and while I’ve been decoupling from Giving A Shit since my comprehensive exams, this finally kicked me away completely.

Abruptly I was saying everything. I was just talking. I told them a lot, in private and in the classroom itself. My final class, I sat on a table in front of my students and I told them the story of the last few weeks. I told them I wouldn’t be teaching again in the fall and how sad that made me. I told them how angry I was. I told them about how diseased higher education is, and about how increasingly their own institutions are cheating them. And I told them what I had realized, after many conversations with wise people: We don’t have to stay here. We don’t have to chain ourselves to failing institutions. We can make space elsewhere for the work we want to do. For some of us it’s easy and for some of us it’s so much harder, but we have to try. Those of us with power have to step back and empower others. It’s painful, this kind of self-confrontation.

But it was more painful to keep lying to them, and lying by omission is still a lie.

I’ve made 2014 the year I started writing my rage, and now I’m making it the year I stopped lying and started talking. I’m making this space aggressively, with my fists and my fingernails and my feet, with my tongue and my teeth. I’m learning how to live in my body. I’m working on not being afraid anymore.

I wrote this for the newsletter, among other things:

We’re taught that we’re not supposed to do that, to be vulnerable. Life teaches us this, but I think academia teaches it especially hard. When you’re in graduate school you’re highly susceptible to fear—What’s going to happen to me? Am I going to find a job? What do all these faculty think of me? How am I coming off? Does so and so hate me? Am I letting people down? Oh God. That kind of fear can break you, but keeping it inside for even greater fear of looking weak makes it even worse, and at some point I decided I couldn’t do that anymore.

It’s more terrifying for me, now, to continue to pretend I’m not terrified. So I’m going to stop. I’m going to dare to be a human being in the most public of ways. We’ll see what happens.

~

Sometimes, when I’m in a certain place in my head, I imagine slicing my chest open with a boxcutter. Somehow it’s sharp enough to pierce the sternum, and I pull my ribcage apart with my bare hands. A flock of crows explodes into the air. There’s never any blood. Inside I’m smooth and clean and full of whispering birds.