I have a thing for samurai stories. You see, Kendo is where I first learned I could fence. I never wanted to be the princess in the stories. I was clear that princesses had long, straight blond hair and blue eyes. I have brown eyes. My hair was short, mousy brown, and curly. Therefore, I wanted to be the knight. Knights seemed to have all the fun anyway. When knights got stuck in towers they escaped of their own volition. They didn't need anyone to save them. They might work in teams, and (to use an expression from Buffy the Vampire Slayer--the movie) there might be a mutual exchange of butt-saving. However, no one told the story of how a knight was the quest prize carted away on the back of a horse. Most of all, swords are far more awesome than princess crowns. Unfortunately, I read Le Morte Darthur and well...that example of chivalry almost instantly disabused me of the notion that knights were awesome. And then one day I dated a man who mentioned that there were women samurai. Me being me, I was instantly obsessed with gonna bugeisha. I've a strong contrarian streak and pretty much always had one. (Yes, I love punk rock.) Therefore, ronin are particularly appealing to me. So, bring on this movie:
Every year that I attend one of the big SF&F literary cons (Worldcon and World Fantasy Con) I can't help thinking of Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous. It does a brilliant job of illustrating the complicated relationship between fans and the creative people whose work they adore. I relate to it quite a bit--not the Penny Lane character, the William Miller character. I'm not a critic. In this metaphor, I'm one of the rock musicians. However, I often feel like the outsider, observing. Of course, pretty much all writers are outsiders who observe others. It's the basic how and why of what we do. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I can't bring myself to drink very much in public spaces.
You know what? Every Monday when I start off this post I make two searches using the word 'Feminism.' Did you know that I can't make that search without getting an overwhelming amount of negative bullshit in the return? It's worse on YouTube. That surprises me since YouTube supposedly has a majority younger audience. And there's a small proof that sexism isn't going to die out with the Trump generation of old white men. It's with us. And we need to pay attention. If we don't, it'll be with us for another century and another. Anyway, today's video makes me want to cry, I'm so happy someone finally did it. They made a big movie about Katherine Johnson! I cannot wait to see it!
So, it's Friday, and I'm late posting, but I've a great excuse. I ran away to the coffee shop today and wrote 1300 words without blinking. It was wonderful. I'm so very excited about this Waterborne story, and I'm having a great time writing it. The background/history for the Waterborne Nations is forming up in interesting ways. One of the things that happened was that I came upon an article today about menopause in Killer Whales. You know, I've always admired Julie Czerneda's ability to take details from actual biology and use them in her science fiction. (If you haven't read her work, you should.) I've always wanted to be able to do that. So, today was especially cool.
I've been wondering for some time why more isn't discussed or known about menopause in nature. (Beyond the usual misogynist medical science shit.) Apparently, there are only two other mammals that share this state with humans and Orcas are one of them. There's a group of international biologists studying the whales. It's a fascinating piece and I recommend listening to the whole thing. Basically, they've discovered that 1) just like humans, the males have a shorter lifespan than the females do--only in Orcas it's even more pronounced. (Females have reached ages in the 100s and males tend to die in their 30s.) and 2) The males live longer if their mothers survive into old age. Why? Because they're the keepers of the pods' long term memory for one thing.
This made me think of a number of things. (Some of which will end up in the Waterborne Nations' political system. Hey, I'm trying to do what Ursula K. LeGuin asked.) One of them was...well...the obvious. That perhaps we shouldn't as a society devalue the input, skills, experience, and knowledge of older women the way we do. Women do continue to have a significant amount of value beyond their childbearing years, and it's long past time we acknowledged this. Men may live longer for it. ;)
So...I'm late posting today. I blame physical therapy and well...I bought a bicycle.
Yes, it's kinda like that. Almost. It's a very nice dutch bike. I found it gently used, and it looks like this only it's black, and the handle bars are more like a cruiser. His name is Rutger--after Rutger Hauer, of course. (Hauer is dutch and well...one of my first crushes.)
Rutger (my bike) is the BMW tank of bicycles. He came with all the bells and whistles. And well, I love him. A lot. It's great being able to bike to the coffee shop. I get my exercise without feeling like I'm sweating to death. I get out of the house and write at least 500 words without thinking about it much. I'm super happy all around. Once I'm finished arting up my helmet, I'll post a photo of it. Had a brilliant idea, and I simply couldn't help myself.
Anyway, I hope you're having a great week filled with joy.
Good morning, y'all. Quick story. So, I was at a convention a couple of weeks ago and was on a panel wherein we were told to make three SFF recommendations to the audience. I was the only woman on a panel of about six. There were no other minority groups represented. Because I was on the end, I went first, and after making only two recommendations was told to stop so the (white) men could speak. Mind you, I like the moderator in question. He's a nice guy. He didn't do it out of malice. Hell, I don't think he noticed what he'd done. Even when he came back around for more examples (since it was clear we had time for a more lengthy discussion) again, I was shorted on the number of examples I could bring up before being told to stop. It was a classic example of a woman being perceived as talking more than she actually did. Mind you, I finally gave up and just started talking over the men. It's rude, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. That just goes to show you that even the most well-meaning men can screw it up if they aren't aware of their biases. Anyway, let's do this thing. :)
Once upon a time, I lived in Kansas City, Kansas. No, really. I was born in St.Louis, and my family moved to KC when I was in kindergarten. (Specifically, in Shawnee Mission.) We lived there until the middle of second grade. KC is where my happiest and earliest memories of childhood reside. Sadly, I haven't been back since we moved. Therefore, I'm super excited about Worldcon being in Kansas City this year. (Even if it isn't in the part where I lived.) This is also the first year that the con committee (outside of the TX crew) extended an active invitation. (I'm very flattered.) I've a great list of panels too. That said, I'm very much looking forward to the convention. Hopefully, I'll see you there.
Wednesday Aug 17, 2016
Reading: Stina Leicht
Kansas City Convention Center, 2203 (Readings)
Thursday Aug 18, 2016
No, Really, That Makes Sense
Kansas City Convention Center, 2502A
Mr. William Dietz | Mike Shepherd Moscoe | Stina Leicht | John G. Hemry
Our panelists are tasked by the audience to come up with rational-sounding explanations for things in SF/Fantasy movies/TV/books that (on the surface) make no sense. Come prepared with some examples of these far fetched things for our panelists to describe. Feel free to bring a prop or two!
Attack the Gazebo! Running a Great RPG Session
Kansas City Convention Center, 2209
Alasdair Stuart | Stina Leicht | Mr. Gareth-Michael Skarka | Max Gladstone | Gary Kloster | Tex Thompson | Stephanie Loree
We've all played bad or boring games, but how do we make a really good one? Our panel think of exciting ways to make your game really work, and also consider some 'do-nots' when planning a tabletop game.
Friday Aug 19, 2016
Enjoying Urban Fantasy
Kansas City Convention Center, 2503B
Yanni Kuznia | Melissa F. Olson | Max Gladstone | Stina Leicht | Diana Rowland
Romance, horror, mystery, and even steampunk. Urban fantasy is rooted in the real world while employing traditional fantasy elements that shape the story, defining it to fit into or cross through many subgenres. Join our panelists for a lively discussion about what makes urban fantasy great, what they enjoy most about writing it, and the challenges of writing within multiple subgenres.
Kaffeeklatsch: Robin Wayne Bailey, Arnie Fenner, Stina Leicht, Alison Sinclair
Kansas City Convention Center, 2211 (KKs)
The Evolution of Epic Fantasy
Kansas City Convention Center, 2209
Kate Elliott | Sarah Beth Durst | Tessa Gratton | Anna Kashina | Stina Leicht
Epic fantasy may have begun with the tales of Lord Dunsany and JRR Tolkien, but modern epic fantasy has evolved far beyond the pastoral landscapes inhabited by warlords and magicians. From Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or NK Jemison’s Inheritance Trilogy, have authors stretched, pulled, and prodded the term “epic fantasy” to its maximum effect? What areas are left unexplored or overlooked? How does urban fantasy on an epic scale compare to its pastoral equivalent?
Saturday Aug 20, 2016
Being Jessica Jones
Kansas City Convention Center, 2207
Anna Raftery (TAFF) | Stina Leicht | Ms. Jeffe Kennedy | Tui Sutherland | Aurora Celeste
Trigger Warning: This session will include discussion of a sensitive nature.
The Netflix series Jessica Jones tackles difficult subjects relating to domestic violence and rape. It does so from the perspective of a survivor, raising valuable questions about society and gender. This is within the environment of the Marvel Universe. Jessica Jones' appeal is to comic fans who are looking for complex representations of women on television. Our panel discuss the show's vital impact.
Sunday Aug 21, 2016
Kansas City Convention Center, Autographing Space
American films of the past couple of decades have focused too much on the appearance of their stars and much too little on their acting chops. Character actors have all but vanished from the screen. Same with older women. Sometimes I literally can't tell the difference between actors, they look so much alike. It's as if there is limited number of molds the studios use to press out stars these days. This wasn't always the case. I enjoy old films in addition to new ones. During my '70s research, I re-watched a lot of older films. The disparity became instantly obvious. The people we see on American TV have as much in common with the average American as Martians. They're thin and perfect and overwhelmingly white. In the '30s-'70s, actors came in all sorts of body shapes and sizes. I've always thought that this was fundamentally a bad thing--this modern homogenization of actors. Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a made for HBO documentary about Marion Dougherty called Casting By (even an article supposedly about Dougherty can't seem to focus on Dougherty) and it confirmed my hunch that the quality of our films suffer for this demand for physical perfection over acting skill.
I'm going to take a brief break on the "mega list of Feminist links" today to discuss something that came up over the weekend on an Armadillocon panel. The panel was titled How to Write What You Don't Know. Basically, it was about writing diversely and inclusively. It was a great discussion, expertly moderated by the fabulous Tex Thompson. I want to emphasize this. It was a great discussion and a great panel. I've seen topics go horrible -- off the rails bad. That is not how that went down. Every person on that panel: Nicky Drayden, Wesley Chu, Marshall Maresca, Kirk Lynn, and Tex Thompson did a brilliant job. Every one. I'm only bringing this up because there's a point I feel I could've made better. And hey, all of this discussion is about refining one's ability to communicate, and thus, help resolve the problems humanity faces. I blame Wes Chu. By arguing in an intelligent, thoughtful way on this one point, he made me defend my position. Wes made me think. I can't tell you how much I value that in a friend. It's amazing.
The point has to do with whether or not it's okay for a writer to say, "Fuck it. I'm not a member of this group. But I'm going to write about it anyway." There was much discussion about how writers need to at least try to write what they don't know. This is how inclusiveness happens. And it IS. It was stated that research was necessary as was respect. Yes. I absolutely agreed. Hell, yes! And I added that writers need to remember that you can approach a subject with respect and do all the research in the world, including interviewing those who have the experiences which you're writing AND YOU WILL STILL MAKE MISTAKES. There is no fool proof method to writing about other cultures. None. This will always be a risk. Always. But do not let that stop you. Writing at all is a risk, people. Fiction writers work with their subconscious. All artists do. Thus, you're baring your subconscious to the world. In print. There's no taking that back once it's out there. Period. It's there. In indelible ink. (If you're lucky.) In addition, I said that there are exceptions to the "it's okay to write about whatever group interests you even if you aren't a member" rule. (Because there is.) I mentioned that there are minority groups that have asked particular authors (that have come to them seeking research interviews) not to write about their group. Specifically, Native American groups. I said, "Sometimes the answer is no. And that's okay. You have to accept no as the answer. Sometimes we don't have permission to do whatever we want. You have to look at the possible harm you're doing." I went into detail as to why this was particularly problematic.
Wes said I was basically full of shit. Which was great. Wes respects me as an author and a person. We know one another. He gets me. He merely disagreed with me. This made this discussion a discussion and not a lecture. It made it far more entertaining for the audience too. It was obvious that he said what they were thinking. That was cool. But there were clusters of white people in the hallway afterward loudly complaining about how I was being 'too PC' and well...insert the usual bullshit excuses for not seriously thinking about racism. That, bats and ghouls, is NOT COOL. VERY NOT COOL.
But back to what Wes said...
Twenty years ago, I attended my first SF literary convention as a newbie writer. Me and my writing buddies (The Wired Sisters-we met in coffee shops, of course.) attended together. We got matching bright yellow Blue Sun biker bags (go, Firefly!) and I started on the long journey of becoming an overnight success. ;) (So many great memories.) I attended the Writer's Workshop and got a great deal of wonderful advice from the likes of Sharon Shinn, Baen editor Jim Minz, Charles de Lint, and so many others who were so generous with their time. I really wouldn't be where I am now if it weren't for them. To pay it forward, as it were, I've been working with that little workshop ever since. So, today is the all day Writer's Workshop. I'm very much looking forward to it. I'll be partnering with Joe Monti, my editor at Saga Press. Funny how the world goes around, isn't it? It's been a long, hard road, but I don't regret it one bit. If you're in Austin, come visit this weekend. You won't regret it. And don't be too shy to say hello.
That said, here's my final schedule:
Friday: Armadillocon Writer's Workshop
Fairy Tales in Current SFF
Sat 10:00 AM-11:00 AM Ballroom E
Catmull, Ewing, Leicht*, Lynn, Moyer, White
How are fairy tales being used in SFF these days? How has this evolved, and what trends do the panelists see?
Sat Noon-12:30 PM Conference Center
How to Sell a Book to Saga Press
Sat 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Ballroom D
Clarke, Leicht, Martinez*, Monti, Weisman
Writing What You Don’t Know
Sat 4:00 PM-5:00 PM Ballroom D
Chu, Drayden, Leicht, Lynn, Maresca, Thompson*
Panelists will explore the challenges of writing fiction from viewpoints other than your own, and talk about how to do it well.
Editor Guest Interview
Sat 6:00 PM-7:00 PM Ballroom D
Leicht, Monti, Landon*
This session will be an interview with our edtor Guest, Joe Monti.
SFF Movies You Should Have Seen in the Last Year
Sat 9:00 PM-10PM
Octavia Butler A Review & Appreciation
Sun 11:00 AM-Noon Southpark A
Fischer, Leicht, Sisson*
There's a reason Octavia Butler was the first science fiction writer to win the coveted MacArthur "Genius Grant" in 1995: she wrote it all! Biologically based SF and dystopian social futures. Short stories, standalone novels, duologies, and trilogies. Come find out why you need to be reading this woman's timeless work.
Sun Noon-1:00 PM Dealers' Room
Cherry, M.A. Finn, Fischer, Fotinos, Leicht, Rountree
See y'all there!
is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author living in Texas.