Thursday, July 29 2021

Quote of the Day

If he really wanted a picnic in Leafturn, she would have to arrange one. She wished every day that Sher were not free of her control, not realizing that it was because he was that she loved him.

Jo Walton, Tooth and Claw

Jo Walton and a tradition of people in SFF being awesomely subversive

I’ve been reading Jo Walton‘s Tooth and Claw. I got it free from Tor. I’ve actually never heard of the book or the author, and I read it as a filler book waiting for my husband to finish the one I had planned to read next. As I was reading it I thought: oh it’s all dragons instead of humans. And the dragon people with their fancy hats and wealth and titles are interesting. The writing is pretty good, it’s not an amazing book.

Then I got to the end where the gentile but down-on-its-luck family all make good marriages and end up rich and suddenly like an idiot I realized this is Jane Austin but dragons!!!! (I looked it up on Wikipedia and she’s actually not writing in the style of Austin but of Anthony Trollope, who I’ve never even heard of.)

If I wasn’t feeling dumb enough, then I read the bit at the end of Tooth and Claw about her Sulien books: “‘Arthurian’ fantasy without Arthur, in a fantasy setting not unlike Dark Ages Britain, but with just a few more option from women to have agency–up to and including being warriors.”

That’s when I realized what I want to do with my writing is part of a long tradition in SFF, one that I mainly know through Sherri Tepper. But she is only one voice in a very large crowd of writers working to push boundaries, show new visions, and shift the Overton window in their works.

It is far and away time I started exploring these authors more. I mean, assuming I somehow get time to read more. I almost want to make some sort of list of SFF authors who are pushing boundaries on diversity, or taking on real-world problems in their works.

I mean, I need another project like I need a hole in my head, but….oh how I want to.

Angie Speaks about CRT

The Problem with Critical Race Theory

This is an hour long video. Many things were said. I could probably write a whole essay, going back over the video and picking things out. But what’s going to happen is my initial impressions and some ideas that I had about it.

So Angie says right up front that she is viewing CRT through a Marxist lens, and through that lens, CRT is Not Great.

To give a very poor summation, her point seems to be that CRT stomps all over the entire concept of universality, or colorblindness. That in a backhanded way it enshrines race as a thing that we will never be able to heal or move past. Angie admits that the ideas of colorblindness and universality have been disingenuously used by Some People to ignore real discrimination, but that doesn’t mean we should throw out the concepts entirely. With a Marxist lens, CRT is a stalking horse meant to divide the poor and working class, meant to keep the workers fomenting at each other instead of all coming together to overthrow the capitalist oligarchs making the world a misery for everyone.

To sort of back up her point, she mentions that CRT doesn’t really have a desired outcome. CRT’s loudest call is for equality, an equality measured against what white people have now. Angie says following that idea to its conclusion would be an equivalent number of poor Blacks with the same “advantages” and “privileges” as poor whites, an equivalent number of working class Blacks, middle class Blacks, and rich capitalist Blacks as there are to white people in each class.

(She also says a lot about CRT scratching some unfathomable itch for white progressive shame and guilt, and it’s a very compelling observation.)

So. There’s a lot. But my first big thoughts are these.

There was nothing explicitly said about how a Marxist solution would handle racism, but I have an idea it would be something along the lines of: if we get rid of these rich capitalist clowns in power who are heavily invested in pitting us against each other instead of them, if we don’t have an establishment nurturing these false divisions, if We Labor all rise up as one and make a true equality, the racism will just die out. Fall to the wayside with other useless pseudoscientific ideas like phrenology. (This is an assumption, not research.)

My Jungian lens says that is not likely. I think just like the outcome of CRT could be unequal class structure for all, the outcome of Marxism could easily be a shadow complacency, an assumption of post-racial life that in reality sees the patterns of covert racism unconsciously being played out. It would be just like how most progressive whites up until last summer thought that ever since the Civil Rights movement in the 60s the lives of POCs was on a slow yet steady rise ever upward into equality.

In other words, while I believe in the “workers owning the means of production” side of Marxism, and certainly believe in the pain of all workers being crushed by a capitalist system, I don’t believe racism will disappear under a tide of worker’s rights without a reckoning. In this I agree with the side of CRT that says we are all racist. There’s no way we can’t be racist, because we are being fed a whitewashed history and shown a whitewashed culture that barely acknowledges that POC exist. When they are mentioned, most of the attention is on their forced labor in cruel conditions or mass killings or genocides. We barely understand the diversity of what everyday American life looks like even today, because our only frames of reference are people we personally know or what we see in media. Never mind what it has looked like for various groups of people throughout our history.

If CRT says we should own the full scope of American history and culture and teach that to our kids, I am behind that 1000%. What I am not behind, as Angie says, is shaming and guilting as performative play, or as how to teach kids about racism. I’m also not behind an equality that leaves people equally badly off and equally crushed by the system. And I’m not behind the idea that we all have to be racists forever.

Again I’m right back to Richard Thompson Ford’s ideas about accepting POC experience as an integrated whole of American history and society. And it also makes me want to read his book Racial Culture: A Critique and delve into these ideas further. Why is there never enough time and always another rabbit hole….

Bookshelf roasts!

Simple levity is sometimes all that is necessary to make a day better.



I looked this page up twice while revising my essay yesterday, so I’d better stick it in here as I’m likely to need it again.

Quote Investigator: Teach Them to Yearn for the Vast and Endless Sea

Right up my alley

Five Classic SFF Novels About Environmental Disaster

It’s occurred to me that if I want to be writing this sort of solarpunk / CliFi genre thing, I better read a lot more in it. This seems like a good start.

I mean, once I’ve finally finished catching up on a bunch of series I’ve been following for years. There’s always too many books.


I went to look at the comments on Angie Speaks’s CRT video linked above and found this:

I want more of that in life. My life, specifically!

Thursday, July 15 2021

Quote of the Day

“If he kills us,” Tien said, “he’s simply dropped us off at a place we were going anyway. We shouldn’t hasten it, and it is sad. But see, he can’t take our moment, our Connection, Kaladin. And those are the things that really matter.”

Brandon Sanderson, Rhythm of War


The inevitable I-just-finished-a-draft malaise has set in. Whenever I finish the first draft of a project-thing, I am always exhausted the day after. But yay, first finished thing in…years. I know that what I should really do now is put it away for a bit so I can come back to it and see that it’s not nearly so shiny as I think it is now, and then start making it ultra shiny.

Instead, I’ve been looking at details about submitting a personal essay, because I’ve never written one before. Here are some useful links I’ve found about that.

re: Do I Submit Using My Real Name or My Pen Name?

Erika Krouse’s Ranking of 500-ish Literary Magazines for Short Fiction (lots of these markets take essays too)

Submission strategies (nothing I haven’t heard before, but it’s been a long while, so reading it again is worthwhile)

Just think, soon I’ll have the joys of writing a cover letter.

Subgenes r00l

Explore 60 New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories by Subgenres

I really like how Goodreads divided these, it’ll help me narrow down where my novel will fit. But there are so many new books. I am already so behind!

I might have a serious Inside problem

The other reason it’s a malaise day could be that I was up until almost 1 am last night watching Inside react videos on YouTube.

FIRST REACTION/LISTEN TO Bo Burnham – Welcome to the Internet (from “INSIDE”)

TOO GOOD!! | Bo Burnham – Welcome To The Internet (from INSIDE) REACTION!!!


All Eyes On Me – Reaction – Bo Burnham – Reaction

Our Freaking Minds Are Blown! Welcome To The Internet – Bo Burnham (from “inside” Album) (Reaction)

Is This True? “White Woman’s Instagram” Bo Burnham (from “Inside” album) Reaction

Our First Time Hearing Bo Burnham “All Eyes On Me” Reaction

FIRST TIME hearing BO BURNHAM – ALL EYES ON ME (From ‘Inside’ the Album) REACTION!!!

Welcome to the Internet – Bo Burnham (from “INSIDE” on NETFLIX) | #EpiccTV Reaction

White Woman’s Instagram — Bo Burnham (from “INSIDE” on Netflix) | #EpiccTV Reaction

All Eyes On Me – Bo Burnham (from “INSIDE” on NETFLIX)

During my bleary midnight hour I realized two things:

  1. I always write better when I am obsessed with music that is so good my only response is to try to also create something amazing. I was very productive during Tori Amos’ high producing years (from Little Earthquakes to Scarlet’s Walk). So I need to find lots of music that inspires me at the moment I am currently in. And to keep listening to and watching Inside until my brain melts.
  2. Watching people react to art that makes me want to art is also inspiring. It’s this kind of weird upward spiral of energy around “yes see how amazing this is, we are all touched and amazed in the same wonderful way by this thing” and “oh gods and goddesses, this is what I want when people read my work, this moment of being touched, of pausing to think, of connection, of pushing someone’s worldview just enough to awe and inspire.”

It’s a beautiful day to stay Inside.

Thursday, July 1 2021

Quote of the Day

Blood alone moves the wheels of history.


I found a new video essay on Bo Burnham’s Inside (oh shit, am I going to have to write an essay about Inside eventually?) and it was a delight. Here are some of the thoughts it kicked up in me:

Where Ernest talks about “How The World Works,” he describes part of the song using the quote above. There’s something in the way he phrased it that called to mind a bit of the book This Land Is Their Land. When describing the Algonquian peoples, the author notes that pre-colonization there were not great cities in the Eastern woodland like Cahokia. In comparison their villages were primitive. The historian notes that the difference is because of the abundance in the Northeast. Cahokia was built because the city’s rulers had control of limited food, and forced their people to build this impressive city for them. This couldn’t happen in the Northeast because if a leader tried to force someone to do something they didn’t agree with, a family could just leave. There was plenty of fish, enough hunting, and lots of foragable plants for people to support themselves. So they didn’t build any impressive monuments, but they were happy. (I don’t honestly remember what initial spark these two pieces gave me; I’m hoping someday it’ll come back to me. Ernest calls Socko’s vision of how the world works very “realistic,” and maybe I thought, but that doesn’t have to be reality. Maybe?)

Ernest devoted a whole section of his essay to the lighting, editing and directing of the special. Which was really interesting to listen to, as I appreciate those aspects but don’t know much about the craft. From his photographer’s perspective, he talked about how the lighting informed certain scenes. Makes me think about writing and what the writer chooses to show and chooses to remain in shadow, or let the reader fill in. I think that’s a thing writers don’t often think about enough. Not just word choice to describe a scene, but what in the scene to describe to set the scene. Ernest points out how Bo in the video for Content “provided movement and provided energy to the frame, to the scene, without the camera moving.”

I really liked how different Ernest’s interpretation of “Welcome To The Internet” was from mine. I took it as saying corporations and other powerful entities shaped the Web 2.0 very carefully as a tool to manipulate and extract from people. He took it more as humans are the ones who created this world of the Internet from the ground up, and this is the world we wanted, because we made it and it’s awful. Quote: “And what he’s talking about is like the Internet was never designed for this. It was most definitely not designed to be this. It was designed around you. It’s only this because of the users. The users demanded a different kind of Internet. The Internet is just like the Wild West of random content…And that made me feel like when I heard it for the first time. Like I have no–I have no escape from this. So now that you know what the Internet was supposed to be, what it was designed for, like now you’ve sunk too far. And welcome. You are now in our world. You’re now in our world because we created a world and you demanded that we turn it into what we turned it into. So welcome. You can never escape now.”

There’s a thing I get caught up on, when I think about being an artist and saving the world. First off: that’s a tall order. Secondly, the jury seems to be out on whether that’s an artist’s job or not. I have seen one writer tell new writers that firemen are heroes and writers are not: writing won’t save anyone, so get over that. I’ve also seen lots of arguments to the contrary. My personal opinion is that re-framing societal stories can lead to change, but that doesn’t really feel attainable as one lone writer. But Ernest had a lovely view: “He’s jokingly saying like I’m gonna save the world through comedy. He’s making a joke out of it like it’s not really saving lives or it’s not really anywhere near as important as people make it out to be. But in my opinion, that’s what makes it a hit, because it is that important. At the end of the day it really is that important. His job is important. He is saving the world literally with comedy. Maybe not the entire world, but the world of one person, you know?” He reminds me that art can’t pull someone out of a burning building or solve racism, but it can save the interior world of one person. And if you save or change the minds of enough singular people, then collectively, they can save the world with their new perspectives. That’s what art does. That’s what I need to do.

Men v Women

On 6/30/21:

There’s quite a bit to say there, right? I also think that people smarter and more informed than me will likely say something. I found a couple of articles with Twitter quotes of random people on the Internet also making the connection, and this really harrowing article:

Bill Cosby Is Free And Britney Spears Is Not, Because Women’s Trauma Is Still Ignored

Just this week, hundreds of people spoke publicly about how excruciatingly painful it was to have their IUD fitted, despite doctors assuring them that it shouldn’t hurt. It was in response to a Times column in which Caitlin Moran argued that we should all have access to painkillers when having a coil put in. Women spoke about passing out, screaming, crying and fainting from the pain, and yet medical professionals are content to do the procedure without supplying any sort of analgesic. So not even accounts of physical agony are being taken seriously. It’s the same reason it takes a decade for people with endometriosis to get an accurate diagnosis; because when we are in pain, we’re dismissed, belittled, and accused of exaggerating.

Kate Leaver

I don’t… do you engage with this shit? But we’re gonna. We have to. No, I don’t know how yet, but I want to work on that.

Tough love, but more Buddhist and maybe helpful

A friend who knows I am about to have a weekend of difficult conversations sent me a link with some ideas to ponder:

Tough compassion — here’s what it is and why you need to practice it

Tough compassion is gaining traction because the rosy version is proving so unequal to the present moment, which has been defined by human failures to meet challenges posed by the pandemic, widespread inequality and climate change. 

Of course, there will always be a “soft” side to compassion. It’s always crucial to learn how to be a calm sounding board or comfort grieving loved ones. But warm and fuzzy compassion has little power to sway relatives who spout conspiracies, stop close friends from radicalizing online or counter leaders who tout equality while harvesting the fruits of privilege.

In the Buddhist contemplative tradition, the goal of true compassion is to find ways to promote the least suffering for everyone. In this broader framing, nodding along with someone’s bigotry, bullying, or falsehoods for the sake of preserving that relationship is the opposite of compassion. It interferes with peace-building on a societal level, even though it might seem on the surface like a nonviolent act.

Elizabeth Svoboda

Hmmm. Now I feel like I have to figure this out. Which I do, so that’s probably good.

People and their interesting little people minds

Reddit thread: “How the World Works” (Individual song discussion)

I am really interested in how people engage with this song because I want a kind of barometer for where the public in general is at with these facts, this demonstration. And this Reddit thread does not disappoint. I don’t really have time to dissect it today, but it’s super interesting how people bring their worldviews right on in. Some people believe it’s perfect, some people think neither Bo nor Socko are all right or all wrong. There were a lot of questions, which were answered in good faith, which was nice to see. There was a whole intriguing side convo about whether or not Socko is analogous to a POC or a proletariat worker (“it’s a white sock”).

Reading the responses makes me think that we need to get our fact vs opinion vs belief terms re-defined tout suite. It’s such a huge impediment to honest communication.

Washington re-opening

My state is re-opened officially today. I think there are still some Covid precautions in place, but they are very light. This is stressful. I wonder if my stress is really about taking off my Covid masks or if it’s about getting “back to normal.” The first time I heard that phrase it was from a psychiatrist telling me how she could help me after my divorce. I found it chilling then, and I find it chilling now. Normal is not a synonym for okay.

Re-defining terms again!

Second Day Porridge

I have learnings! I took out the nasamp I made yesterday from the fridge to find it the consistency of very thick mashed potatoes. What I learned is that you can’t add boiling water and improve the texture to something more porridge-like. Throwing it in the microwave with the extra water also does not help! I had little dough-ball-bits floating in a sea of corn-flavored water.

So I just took big pieces of the porridge and started making balls, then flattening them, then frying them in butter. Fried mush tasted much better than doughy corn water.

This is going to be a VERY long journey.

Links from the July Tor newsletter

I don’t have time to engage with these, but I don’t want to forget them.

8 SFF Books That Reimagine Literary Classics

Looking for Body Positivity and Fat Protagonists in YA Fantasy

Five SF Travel Methods That Offer an Alternative to Starships

One last thing before we go!

I went to share the James Baldwin vs Willian F. Buckley debate with a friend and found an hour long version. Don’t want to loose that!