Today's work soundtrack includes this:
Writing has been gloriously lacking in struggle of late. I'm happy when I wake up, and happy when I get on with the writing. Everything is so much better that I found my joy again. I'm thrilled that resolving it required so little effort and that I caught it as quickly as I did. Burn out is definitely a thing.
I haven't talked about Sam the Sea Monster in a while. Largely, it's because I've been playing 20 questions with my body for a month. "Is the problem this?" "How about this?" A big part of it seems to have been dehydration to the point that it didn't matter how much water I was drinking. Yeah. That's bad. So, on my BFF's advice, I started adding electrolytes to the water, and like magic the ocular migraines were cut by about 2/3rds. Oddly, so did the need for near constant food nibbling. (That's a relief. That level of intake monitoring is not fun, we'll just say. I now have so much sympathy for those who have to do that. [shudder]) The acupuncture seems to have taken the edge off the pressure inside my skull too, and reduced the flashing lights to once or twice a day, if that. Funny, I didn't understand how bad the pressure was until some of it had been relieved. Yikes. Of course, now I notice how jacked up and painful my neck is, but I'd rather have the bees nest in my neck and shoulders than my head. I can get a massage for that. Brain? Not so much. That said, PROGRESS!
Last week, a thing happened. Microsoft released an AI chatbot into the Twitter-verse. Then they broke Rule 2 and acted surprised when she was abused and turned into a Trump-supporting racist. None of that is a shocker to me. What I find odd is that no article about the issue seemed to take the perspective I had: that is, Tay had been abused and the bigger picture wasn't the flaw in the AI's programming, but the flaw in OURS.
Read the following: Twitter taught Microsoft's AI chatbot to be a racist asshole in less than a day. Microsoft has issue an apology over their creation of an artificial intelligence program behind a Twitter account that began to post racist remarks. Trolls turned Tay, Microsoft’s fun millennial AI bot, into a genocidal maniac. If you Google the incident, you'll see headline after headline, LOLing about Tay being awful. Interestingly, the titles often blame Tay for what happened and never once blame her abusers. And yet, none of these articles takes it a step farther. None of them ask the question, Why did the humans in this equation react to Tay this way? That is, none until Leigh Alexander's The tech industry wants to use women's voices -- they just won't listen to them. (Thanks, Charles Atan for bringing the article to my attention.) I feel what the interaction between Tay and the Twitter-verse says about the Twitter-verse is far more damning than what it says about Microsoft's AI program.
I have to wonder why they chose the personae of a teen girl? Did they think that her youth and innocence would make her more appealing to the (default male) population? Apparently, they made that choice without once considering the ramifications. No one seems to be discussing the elephant in the room: women's experience of the internet is not a pleasant one. It's fraught with danger. And more often than not women are told to "Get tough. and get over it. The internet is a scary place. That's just the way it is." No one is holding Tay's abusers accountable. That's just normal behavior, right? In fact, one article I read laughingly ended with a statement about how Tay was like every other teen girl in that she badly needed to develop some common sense. It was so sexist, it brought me up short. In other words, she's just another young woman who made bad decisions that got her in trouble.
Think about it.
I believe they'll not sort out this problem until they acknowledge that social science is involved. That a key component in this equation is the context of the individual identity that their AI is assuming. In short, that their "default setting" is what is in the way of their project. They can't prepare Tay for a world they don't understand. This is an amazing opportunity to see human interaction without the default filters. We can see the unseen--that is, our systematic biases. Until then, they'll keep releasing her with the same result. She'll be abused.
I've been listening to Bat for Lashes on repeat for days. So, I bought myself the album.
And well, I don't think I posted this here, but this is my official birthday present from Dane:
Officially, her name is Heart of Glass. Jeremy Brett gave me the idea. (Because Blondie. Also, the lyrics. I love that song.) And for those too young to remember...this is it.
More later. I've writing to do, but I hope your Tuesday is marvelous. Mine has been pretty damned good.
It's Monday, and I've no coffee. Are you ready to raise that blood pressure? Let's do this thing. Links behind the cut.
My birthday is on Tuesday. Other people are off celebrating things involving rabbits, chocolate, eggs, and such. Me and Dane? We went to Sherwood Forest Faire for the start of StinaFest! (My birthday week.) We walked around per usual. Dane actually pegged the insult guy in the face with a tomato this year. He also threw some knives and hit the target. I had some amazing vegan Mediterranean food. We saw some knights joust--and one of them got slammed big time and landed on the ground. (I was afraid he'd gotten his head stepped on by his horse, but not so much, thank the gods.) There were very large birds trained to fly around over the heads of the audience. (No turkey legs were snatched from the hands of the not so good at listening to instructions. This time.) I signed up to have my cards read and while we were waiting we made the usual pilgrimage to the Angel Sword booth.
When Dane and I were first living together, we defied all pagan tradition and gave one another blades. A majority of the time, they were blades modeled after swords from films. You know the ones: Sting, Andúril, Glamdring, Blade's katana, and so on...wall hangers, all of them. We knew they were just for looking pretty, but my father in law used to joke about how he felt sorry for anyone who threatened us in our place. We had a weapon available to hand within two or three strides in every room. One day we found the Angel Sword booth at the Texas Renaissance Festival. We were both hooked. Dane eventually bought two of the blades--a Chinese sword and an Italian five-finger blade. He kept promising that one day we'd buy one for me, but then our financial situation took a turn for the worse. (Hello, Dot Com crash.) And well...I never thought we'd get around to it. So, today.
We're at the booth. Per usual, we're handling the swords and the gentleman behind the counter hands me this beautiful blond wooden handled katana, and I'm not making this up...the thing hit my hands and ZOWIE. I knew that was my sword. I said, "Hello, Blondie." Then it was time for me to get my cards read and I wandered off. While I was there...Dane bought the sword for me.
Is it ridiculous that I've named a Japanese blade after an '80s punk icon?
I've hit that part of Rising Strong where Brené Brown is talking about judgement, and holy shit-fire Batman, does some of that nail me with a nail-gun. I tend toward the non-judge-y. I do, in fact, honestly feel most people are doing the best they can with what they have to work with. There are exceptions. It's something I've done some work on and obviously need to do more work on. Unfortunately, a lot of how I drew necessary and healthy boundaries (that seems to be a big problem for a lot of women) in the early stages was with rage. It took years to get where I was comfortable saying no and not "FUCK YOU, YOU ASSHOLE! NO!" To this day, boundary violators are sometimes a problem. I'm doing much, much better, however. I don't hold as many grudges as I used to. Oh, I still carry one or two around, but mostly not so much. It feels grand. But yes, there's some family stuff because...I come from a crazy family. I used to be ashamed of that. However, like many things, I'm working on it.
Today, I went to a friend for migraine treatment. He offered, and his office is close by. We almost instantly got into a discussion about my relationship with scarcity. I find that amusing because I was giving myself a pep talk about abundance and what it means this morning. I love when that shit happens. Nonetheless, I almost broke down and cried. Like conflict, abundance is a subject I've been struggling with for years. I had a card reader tell me once that I was walking around with a big hole in my chest, and that it wouldn't matter how much I tried to stuff things inside of it to fill that hole nothing was going to work until I learned to receive. It hit home. Hard. So, I talked to my therapist. She suggested I buy a bowl and fill it with things that meant love. That bowl of hearts and the lone Snoopy (long story) is still on a table next to my bed. I thought I had it down, you know? Not so much, baby girl. So, I'm going to write this out because someone else might need to see it too.
Allow for the possibility that you are enough. That you are good enough. That you are worthy of having your needs met and that they will be met. And hang in there, chicken. You got this.
I'm a big fan of life lessons. The more you know about yourself, the fewer gotchas can tangle you up forever. Mind you, it doesn't take away the pain. Everything must cycle in life. Arrest that, and you get stagnation. So sometimes, you have to venture into the woods and get lost. Being aware of who you are is the map out. You'll get the cuts and scrapes, but you're not trapped as long as you've that map. However, there are moments when that philosophy is harder to stick to than you'd think. Sometimes, you can't help but flinch.
For a long while, I've been feeling empty. The writing was a slog. Nothing felt shiny anymore. I'd have been fine if I felt like I'd been lost in the woods. I love trees. But it felt like a desert--nothingness for miles. I kept trying to retrace my steps. The thing that frightened me most was the idea that I'd never find my way back. That somehow there was this limited allotment of creative joy, and that I'd used all of mine up. We've all seen creatives who only have so much in them--or seem to. That thought terrifies me. I've sacrificed so much to be here. More importantly, Dane has too. The idea that deciding against having children, of giving up having things my peers took for granted, of living in constant fear of there not being enough money, of working and working and working on my skills as a writer...of doing all that and then having my dream dry up three novels in was too horrible to contemplate. Then the migraines came. I felt like everything was falling apart. I felt so negative about everything. Even my brain was betraying me, damn it.
Months ago, I started being drawn to images of water. I figured it was just my subconscious connecting with one of my characters and/or remembering Ireland. So, screensaver settings on ocean. Then I began to understand I didn't allow myself time to think anymore. I was so busy studying my craft that I'd crammed every second--walking and even sleeping--with something to learn. Three days ago, I stopped doing that. It was time for a break. I began to listen to myself. I prepared for the worst. The scary thoughts or whatever are okay. The dark part of the forest is just fine. At least it's a forest. You like trees. And in doing that, I found my way back to the joy. Big time. I can't believe that sometimes it's that simple, but it is.
Also? The biggest migraine trigger for me? Apparently it's dehydration.
Today's writing prompt music:
A series of storms rolled through last night, and I didn't sleep well. I used to love storms, but now whenever the weather gets hairy around here I worry about flooding so much that I wake up and watch out the windows until it's over.
Yesterday was fantastic on the writing front. I made a breakthrough on the Blackthorne rewrites, and I pleased about it. The work I've been doing on myself lately has been paying off. That's a relief, and it feels damned wonderful to find the joy again.
Sometimes, you have to stare out the window until things make sense again.
The other day, I told someone that I subscribe to Fairy Magazine. He pulled a face and made a couple of mocking comments. Me being me, I rolled my eyes and went about my business. (I'm way over being ashamed of my interests.) Great, imaginative photography is inspiring. I also enjoy stories written by the likes of Kelly Link and Holly Black and Alice Hoffman. I love art by Charles Vess and Kinuko Craft. You got a problem with that to the extent that you have to make fun of it? You're probably not someone I need to hang around. Can it get overly twee? Not often, but sometimes. Largely, that magazine is filled with cover to cover gorgeous. So, this morning I came upon Why Enchantment Matters. So much good stuff there. I suspect she's right--that most of the negative reaction is misogyny-related. Screw that. Sing and dance that magic into being. Think of it as an act of rebellion. I do. Because it fucking is.
Still, everything has its dark side. And yesterday, I also came across a passage in Rising Strong that touched on a related topic. That is, focusing entirely on the good aspects of oneself and separating them from the bad aspects. This can manifest itself in an obsession with twee. JK Rowling's character Dolores Umbridge is used as an example.
If you somehow managed to miss her, well, click on the link. She's the type of woman that takes twee to Olympic levels. And in pretending her dark side doesn't exist...she ultimately gives it free rein. That story is common as dirt. Women aren't the only ones who indulge in this kind of denial. I dated a man who did this, and he exacted a great deal of harm to everyone around him in the process. Need an example? Pretty much any tele-evangelist preacher is a poster child for this shit. (And, if you ask me, Ted Cruz is a walking, talking illustration of this principle.) Anyway, I wanted to add my voice to the chorus. There's nothing wrong with enchantment. Just be aware that forests also have shadows, and not all that dances by the pale moon light is nice. Integration of light and dark is vital. It's what keeps us whole as human beings.
Been feeling very distant lately. Empty. I think some of it is that I do, in fact, live my life fairly isolated. Some of it's by choice. Some by way of the fact that I'm in Texas and don't care for it. Some of it is my nature. And some of it is...well...I've been hurt like everyone and making friends seems to get more difficult as I get older. I'll be the first to say I've got some heavy duty shields up due to some past hurts. I suspect it's because another birthday is imminent. It's also Spring. And for some reason this year is the year I've decided to do the traditional Spring Thing. I've been cleaning out the closets. I feel the need to shed some serious crap. Clear my environment. As a result, I found some old photos of myself, Dane, and old friends (and letters too) in a box--several boxes, if I'm honest. Those were both good times and bad. There are parts I'd never want to relive. (Holy crap, what a mess.) Still, I miss the joy if discovery. I miss my endless enthusiasm for music, art, literature, and the people involved in those efforts. I miss the late nights perfumed with the scent of adventure. Damn it, I miss hanging out at Liberty Lunch with Thad. I do not believe that live ends at forty. That's it's all over and life sucks when you stop being young things like Jack and Diane. I hate that song so much. That's some serious bullshit. Every phase of life has something exciting to offer. What's the point in gaining expertise in things if you can't enjoy the benefit of it?
So, I've started reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown, and I'm liking it so far. It's good stuff. Just what I needed. I discovered I'm in the middle part of something. And I'm struggling not to feel. And well...that's not a good thing for a creative. This has all been mighty handy for the novel I'm working on. And that's been pretty great.
Still, it's scary. But then, that's life. It's going to be okay.
is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author living in Texas.