Archive for Personal

Wonder Woman: Inspiration and Pain and Moving Forward

Wonder Woman. So many reactions to this movie.  And for me, the movie itself has not only inspired the Feels, but the reactions to the movie have as well, good and bad.

Wonder Woman

 

Most reactions that I see are inspiring and wonderful, such as this list of reactions from students in a Kindergarten class, or this awesome video of a woman inspired to play like Wonder Woman and kicking imaginary butt.  The garden hose bit gives me endless joy.

I see all of the people uplifted and inspired by this movie and it makes my heart sing.

There have also been negative reactions too.  Some, as one would expect, from men who just don’t get it (or feel somehow threatened in their worldview).  But also criticisms from women who felt the movie misstepped with hurtful exclusions or stereotyping, or was too narrow in its feminism.

I posted before about how I wished we could have more “Yes, And” rather than “Yes, But.”
I see “Yes, and” in the reactions to the Wonder Woman movie like the Bazaar piece, and I find that as inspiring as the movie itself.  Because how we talk about issues even in a Wonder Woman movie has implications and impacts that go way beyond this one movie.

Read more

Share

I Loved My Visit to Black Mirror’s San Junipero

Black Mirror San Junipero episode

Black Mirror: San Junipero hit all of my (and Finn’s) sweet spots!

I think part of the positive reactions might be due to the fact that Black Mirror is pretty consistently bleak, but reality right now is practically a Black Mirror episode, so an episode that was (possibly) hopeful was such a nice gift.

And yes, the concept’s been well covered, so I understand why some may feel that viewer’s reactions to that concept are overblown, but many viewers may not be deeply read in scifi, so their “mind blown” reactions are understandable and a perfectly good thing.

I am fine if people discover, say, robots through Star Trek or Westworld without going back to read Asimov first (or at all) if Asimov doesn’t appeal to them (and no I’m not saying San Junipero is about robots).

We each have limited time to read and consume media, I don’t think it makes someone less of a genre fan or their love of or reaction to something less valid if they only have experience with recently produced media and not the foundational classics or the past century of fiction.

Yes, knowing the whole history of robot fiction might enrich one’s experience of a new robot story — or at least allow one say clever literary things like “this story was in dialogue with the works of Obscure Author, exploring the metaphor of so and so.”

But it also might not. And in the end, I love the possible conversations a story like this might spark among a group of friends around a table (in between Instagramming whatever artisanal fare they are eating, of course).

Share

We Need More “Yes AND” and less “Yes BUT”

In writing, you are told to say, “Yes, BUT”. In improv, you are told to say, “Yes, AND.” I think we all need a bit more of the latter in our real lives right now.
~~
“Yes, the character gained invisibility, BUT now she is blind and begins to freeze to death because the sun’s light passes through her.” This is MEANT to create more problems for the character to solve in a way that impedes their progress, to present opportunities for conflict and setbacks that create tension and drama.
 
VS
 
“Yes, your character is invisible, AND they work in a funeral home.” Or “Yes your character is invisible, AND they cannot speak.” This presents opportunities by combining the elements.
~~
 
In the real world, Yes AND leads to growth, and progress. Yes, BUT leads to feeling shot down, patronized, or to conflict and argument.
~~
“Yes, that is one idea, BUT you didn’t consider X and Z so your idea is flawed/bad.” “Yes, that is one idea, BUT I think this other idea should be considered instead.”
 
VS
 
“Yes, I like X aspect of your idea, great job, AND we should also consider these other ideas, so we can build on your idea together to create something even better.”
~~
 
I feel like the Left has been sabotaged by too much Yes BUT. Yes, black lives matter, BUT. Yes, that women’s march was huge, BUT. Yes, that is a great way to fight Trump, BUT you ignored that this group over here cannot fight that way so your way is bad.
 
I hope we can do more Yes, AND.
 
Not ignore the instances where privilege and blindspots and omissions may be hurtful or harmful, but say Yes you are fighting a good fight, AND we also have this group/ concern over here, AND here’s how we can build on each other’s efforts and lift each other up rather than beat each other down while the real problem goes unaddressed.
 
“Yes, Randy, BUT …”
Share

Occupy Marching Forward

Seeing the millions of people marching yesterday was inspirational, and the perfect counterbalance to the events of the previous day.

Thank you!

Women's March

But when I woke up this morning, my brain couldn’t help but wonder, what’s next?

It is the day after the march.  Although millions marched, they weren’t even mentioned on Fox News today (how odd!).  And Trump will surely be as delusional and in denial about them as he was about the “millions” who attended his inauguration.

But the marches were not just “preaching to the choir.”  Those in power surely took notice.  Millions of people of all genders, ages, colors, ability and orientation have become actively engaged, and that is no small thing, and not easily ignored — if it continues. If it leads to something.

If I have any concern at this point, it is that this surge of activism will go the way of Occupy Wall Street.

When that movement began, I was hopeful that it would rise up to be the Progressive counter to the Tea Party.  But while the Tea Party was generally united toward specific goals, organized, well-funded, and effectively took over the government from the bottom up, Occupy Wall Street never overcame its beginnings as a sit-in with split focus, unclear demands, little leverage and no real plan to actually effect change.

When I heard one reporter saying how the marchers had struggled with messaging in some cases because, of course, different marchers had different motives and goals and priorities, I felt a brief cloud pass over the bright sun that was the march.

And it seems like other attempts to forge a “Left” movement with equal influence (but more reason and reality-based policy) than the Tea Party also fell away with little effect due (based on my admittedly limited and non-expert understanding) to a lack of cohesion, a lack of strategy and organization, or fell victim to the distractions of infighting and self-policing.

So my personal hope today is that the spirit of activism and participation that swept the country, and the world, yesterday will resolve itself into sustained and effective action.

Here are just a couple of resources that may be helpful with that:

Indivisible Guide is “A practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda where former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.”  It outlines how you can invest your time to best effect, what doesn’t actually work; and, importantly, there is a lookup for finding a local group of fellow Indivisible participants to join: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/

 

Jezebel’s list of pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-earth and anti-bigotry organizations we can donate money and time to: http://jezebel.com/a-list-of-pro-women-pro-immigrant-pro-earth-anti-big-1788752078

 

VolunteerMatch is a website where you can search for local, and virtual, volunteer opportunities.  I am very happy with my current volunteer positions I found through this site: http://www.volunteermatch.org/

 

And of course, we must act locally so that we have the strength to prevent voter disenfranchisement and to push back at Federal power when it is abused.

 

I am cautiously hopeful for the future.  Not because I hope that Trump and the GOP will suddenly do anything different than the self-serving and destructive actions they’ve promised to do, but because you all have given me hope, you who marched and shouted and stood up to be heard, that together we will push back and prevent, or undo, their damage with time, with hard work, with love for one another.

 

Thank you.

 

And now, I’m going to continue looking at all those amazing photos of marches around the world and grinning ear to ear.

 

Good luck!  And may the Force be with you.

Princess Leia Join the Resistance

Share

Rise Up – they are coming for our art and history

When you close your eyes and think of ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, feudal Japan, what do you see? What symbolizes “Vikings” to you? If you had to make a person walk into a room and have an “experience” (without food or drink) that is French, or Irish, or Mexican, what would you do? How do you know what life as a musketeer might have been like? How do you know what gods the ancient Greeks worshiped, and how they acted?
 
Indiana Jones

I hate Nazis, snakes, and rich people who think art is only meant for rich people.

How many people knew who Alexander Hamilton was before 2015?
 
What is the book “The Crucible” about, and what inspired it?
 
How many lives did Dorothea Lange’s photographs save, how much hidden history did they preserve?
 
Art (writing, painting, theater, dance, music, et al) is important not only as entertainment, but also as expression, history, education, and provocation. Art is also one of the most defining and enduring attributes of a culture.
 
What defines American culture to the world beyond McDonalds and Starbucks in every town? In 100 years when someone is making a holovid about the period, how will they evoke “Early 21st century America”? How will they learn about experiences not captured in mainstream media, or the increasingly constrained press?
 
We need the arts. They may not seem important in the day-to-day life of many, but those lives have in fact been touched and shaped by the arts in a thousand invisible, and visible, ways.
The Electric Company
And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that many rural and low-income areas rely on PBS and on arts program funding to have any access to the arts, free educational experiences, and the opening of options and opportunities. When coupled with an Education Secretary who’s made it her life’s work to shift funding and support away from public schools to private and charter schools, this aspect is even more important.
 
There was a recent WWII movie called The Monuments Men about Allied art experts fighting to save art from Nazi theft and destruction. A new fight to preserve a nation’s cultural heritage may be upon us, and that culture is our own.
 
The Monuments Men

The Republicans are closing in!

The Republicans have tried many times to undermine and defund the National Endowment for the Arts, usually because it supported something that dared challenge what they have deemed is appropriate for us to experience. And now supposedly Trump has said he wants to defund the NEA.  He wants to defund a program that coincidentally supports non-dominant, non-mainstream voices and experiences from being expressed and preserved.
 
Don’t let it happen.
Rise up and let your voice be heard.
Hamilton the Musical
Share

What Now? One Possible Option

The future remains in our hands.

Whether you woke up today feeling gutted, or terrified, or victorious, and regardless of who wins an election, the things that you can do to be happy and healthy remain much the same.  Except now I feel one of those things takes on even more importance.

Before I offer it, I want to say of course, please take care of yourself.  I’ve written before about the four areas that can impact your happiness – physical, mental, emotional and social.   That article is aimed at writers, but the basic points apply to everyone.  Always put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

And I hope you all are safe, and remain so.

Now let me ask: what were your concerns in the election, or for the coming four years?

Advocacy & Human Rights, Environment, Immigrants & Refugees, Women, LGBT, Crisis Support, Education & Literacy, Employment, Homeless & Housing, Justice & Legal, People with Disabilities, Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Veterans & Military Families?

This list of categories (and others) is found on http://www.volunteermatch.org/, a site that lets you search for local volunteer opportunities.

This is what I wanted to suggest to help get us through the days ahead: volunteering.  It has been shown to add greatly to a person’s happiness and health.  In fact, “community involvement” was one of the measurements used to determine my total health when I filled out a recent health questionnaire.

EDIT: Adding a link to an excellent list of organizations that you can also donate money to either in addition to, or instead of (if time/ ability does not allow) volunteering: Jezebel’s list of pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-Earth, anti-bigotry organizations

You can search sites like volunteermatch, or can search Google for specific organizations that support the causes you care about.

These organizations needed our help yesterday, but they will need our help even more perhaps tomorrow.

I myself have volunteered in the past, but admit I have fallen away from it in recent years, giving only money, always feeling it “wasn’t a good time” to commit some of my time just now.  I am recommitting to it now, making it a priority to protect some time each week to help others.  It is something concrete and positive I am able to do, that I have the privilege to be able to do.

I recognize volunteering does not easily erase the scope of damage that the US government can do with trickle-down economic policies, or ignoring global climate change, or hardline immigration policies, or rolling back decades of progress on civil and personal rights, or, you know, nuclear weapons.

But we can help offset much of that damage I hope, help those hurt by such outcomes, and perhaps even pressure change in the right direction.

And I certainly do not wish to diminish the real fears and concerns of those who have been targeted these past months with hateful speech and threats by suggesting volunteering will make those dangers magically disappear.  Again, I hope you are safe, and my thoughts are with you.

I also recognize that there are some people who are genuinely unable to volunteer due to the burden of time, or access to the transportation or resources needed, or due to age or physical or health or legal limitations or other considerations.

Regardless of whether or not community involvement is an option for you, again I hope you take care of your own health and happiness in the coming days and years, and reach out for help if you are in need.

Share love with your family and friends.  Perform a random act of kindness today for a stranger to help lift your heart and theirs — then do it again the next day, and the next.

And know that we can get through whatever comes, together.

 

UPDATE: I have begun one regular volunteer job, and added several regular donations to my budget.  I hope to do even more as time and funds allow.

Share

Why I Talked to Word Sluts at WorldCon

I found myself in a number of conversations at WorldCon where persons were seeking my advice or thoughts on their writing, or seeking advice of a group in which I sat, and would say some variation on:

“People seem to have a problem with me calling it Warrior Wanda the Space Slut.  But I mean slut in a positive or ironic way, because she is a powerful woman so she can have sex with whoever she likes.”

Or

“I have a pretty graphic rape scene in my novel, but if I didn’t have it she wouldn’t have that motivation to get stronger from it and learn to fight that is so important in my story.”

These persons were clearly seeking someone to say, yes, that is okay.

And I engaged in these conversations in a calm, friendly, positive way.

Why?

Because I have the privilege to do so.

By this, I do not mean the honor, though really it is an honor to be asked my opinion on anything.  Rather, I mean that had such questions been asked of someone who identifies as female, for example, such questions would have been understandably offensive and anger-inducing, and made the person feel unsafe, along with a host of other reactions.

I’m not saying I found the questions pleasant and encouraging, but I recognize that my con experience as a cis white male who presents as het is entirely different from that of anyone who is other than that.

So while I cringed internally, I did not walk away, or mock these persons then, or later with my friends.   I gave them a clear but disgust-free expression of “Oooooo, I wouldn’t do that,” and proceeded to lay out in positive terms how they could improve their stories, and their chances of reaching a broader audience.

Here is an example of the types of thing I try to say in these cases, with the goal not being to score points or put him in his place, but to help guide the writer in the right direction where they will hopefully learn for themselves in time what cannot be forced into their understanding in a single argument (And to be clear, I am not in any way saying there are not other approaches, or that outright anger is in any way not a valid response for others to have):

Read more

Share

Orlando: Many Problems, Many Solutions

I feel like one more post on Orlando is just noise right now. Yet I also feel silence is unacceptable. So, in short:

 

First, it is not any one problem, it is multiple problems. And the solutions are complex and many.  Here’s an admittedly simplistic and limited list:

 

Yes, it is the problem of fundamentalist extremists who believe violence is a divinely blessed action (which we have in every religion).  Solution: Religion isn’t going anywhere for a while, so as long as it is here, support moderate voices in all religions and ideologies, and don’t arbitrarily punish those who believe in the same version of deity as this week’s terrorist yet don’t share the same belief in violence.  Embrace the messages of love and peace, and leave the outdated bigotry and fears (and rivalries) of the Iron Age tribes behind.

 

Yes, it is an issue of bigotry and hatred.  Solution: do not shame people for being different (which only leads to self-shame), and do not support the insidious belief that some deity has deemed their very nature a sin, be that nature their sex, orientation, or race. Know that someone being different than you does not take anything away from you.  Diversity is strength.  And if you know someone who is not a cis-gendered heterosexual, reach out and let them know you care about them.  Events like this are a scary reminder of the hate and violence that can strike them at any time just for being who they are.

 

Yes, it is an issue of uncontrolled gun sales.  Solution: Let the government study the disease of gun violence, to determine and vote into law effective safety rules and regulations the same as we have for cars, for planes, for alcohol, for anything else that may be dangerous if abused.  We can regulate gun sales and license owners without violating the 2nd Amendment.

 

Yes, it is an issue of mental health.  Solution: greater support of mental health facilities, greater support of mental health services by insurance providers and government health programs, and less stigmatization so that people aren’t afraid to seek help.

 

And Yes, it is a problem of broken politics.  Solution: Force States to rewrite voting district lines fairly, and push for campaign finance reform, so that the vast majority of Congress are not safely GOP or Dem seats sponsored by special interest groups and wealthy donors, where the members only have to worry about pandering to the most extreme in their party to keep their seat rather than actually being accountable to a widely representative group of voters.

 

Here’s some folks you can send your thoughts to or support besides the echo chamber on Facebook:

If in the US, contact your US Representative

Human Rights Campaign – LGBT support

GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)

NRA

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Muslims for Peace

Volunteermatch where you can find general volunteer opportunities

Share

Important Update: All the Awards I’m Going to Win in 2016!

It’s award nomination time!  AND THANK GAWD, I don’t need to ask you fine folks to nominate or vote for me or anything, because I already know all the awards I’m going to win this year.  The people behind the people behind the scenes have told me I’m a shoe-in.  So here’s the list.  Don’t be jealous.

 

2016 Locus Award for “Best Use of Magical 80’s Tech versus PTA Blood Witches”: (magical Casio calculator watch) from Finn Fancy Necromancy, by Randy Henderson.

2016 Locus Awardish Finn Fancy Necromancy

 

 

2016 Ricky for Best Line to Read in an Alan Rickman Voice*: “Bloody Mary, and make it as spicy as Shakira shaking her hips in a jalapeño field, please.” From Finn Fancy Necromancy, by Randy Henderson.

2016 Ricky Award

 

2016 Nebula for: Depiction of Gnomes Almost Awesome Enough to Make Us Forget the Travesty that was Gnomeo and Juliet:  Finn Fancy Necromancy, by Randy Henderson.

2016 Nebula Award Finn Fancy Necromancy

 

The 2016 Ziggy Award for Four Completely Random Lines of Dialogue from a Novel Best Sung Together like a Ziggy Stardust Song:

“Feet too, Stormer,” I said.  “You’re a loner, a rebel.”

“He drew me close and snuffled my head, surrounding me with his musky cedar scent.”

“I like that you look at me like I’m still that girl who didn’t know The Clash from The Cure.”

And Petey said,

“I took your Pacman watch.”

All lines from: Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson

2016 Ziggy Award for Best Novel Lines

 

2016 Hugo for Best Novel Idea about Use of a Hugo: “Condom demonstration prop in sexual education class for cyborgs“, submitted by Randy Henderson, author of Finn Fancy Necromancy.**

2016 Hugo

 

Now I suppose if you have an empty slot after you realize that City of Stairs was 2014, and All the Birds in the Sky is 2016, you can actually add Finn Fancy Necromancy to your nomination ballot.  Not that I have any expectation of winning but oh boy could I have some fun pretending like I might for that brief month or so.

 

Or if not me, you can add your deserving-writer-friend-whose-book-you-haven’t-read-yet-because-let’s-face-it-it-just-isn’t-your-thing-and-you-have-so-much-to-read-already-but-you’re-sure-they-are-a-great-writer-and-wonderful-human-being.  That’s cool too.  That’s what I’ll probably do with that last slot on my own ballots.

(On a completely unrelated note, I define “deserving-writer-friends…” as folks who have eligible works for award nomination and happen to take me to a delicious meal and/ or offer a really good neck and shoulder massage.  Just saying.  No reason.)

 

There.  Done.  Phew.  Now I don’t have to do all that uncomfortable promotiony stuff about awards for the next several months.

 

PS:  All joking and Finn Fancy aside, you really should nominate the stuff you read and liked in 2015.  Those folks worked hard, are no doubt mired in Imposter Syndrome, and it really makes them feel good to have that work validated by nominations.

 

Ending Soonish Nomination details:

If you are a SFWA member, you can nominate for the Nebula Award until February 15th. Note the word-counts when nominating.  And you can also nominate for the Andre Norton award for YA books as well.

If you’re a member of the 2015, 2016, or 2017 WorldCons, you can nominate for the Hugo awards.  You’ll need your membership number (emailed to you by MidAmeriCon if you’re registered for 2016, or by Sasquan if you went 2015 but not going 2016).  And you’ll need a PIN, emailed to you by MidAmeriCon (and if you haven’t received it by Feb 5th you’re supposed to email them at hugopin@midamericon2.org).

 

Have fun!  And good luck to all the amazing authors who really do deserve an award.  I’ll probably list a few suggestions when I find the time again.

 

Cheers!

 

*You know you tried it.

**EDIT NOTE: I realized upon re-reading my post that the Hugo bit may be seen as me devaluing or desecrating the Hugo, a sensitive topic after last year.  Just wanted to say that’s not the case, I think the Hugos are awesome, and hope truly great works and good folks win the awards this year.  Left the joke though.  🙂

Share

On “City on Fire” and Mocking Bad Writing

In my social media feed, a lot of people were sharing this post about City on Fire, a book with sentences so bad they are funny (much like entries into the Bulwer-Lytton “Dark and Stormy Night” contest but not intentionally so).

I laughed.  Then I learned about the author, and the history of the book.

I think we can learn a lot from this example, but not just about bad sentences.

City on Fire

WHEN I FIRST READ THE HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE SENTENCES:

First, yes, these sentences are pretty bad.  As in, this is a master class in bad sentences. I think an annotated version of this list that breaks down just why each is so bad would be very helpful for writers.

The examples range from pretty common writer errors like:

“But that was where the drawing ended. Below was just white space.” The problem here is stating something so redundant and obvious that it becomes ridiculous. So we can take this, and learn from it to make sure, for example, you don’t write something like “His heart beat in his chest,” because if you are human, where else would it be beating?

To a wide range of other issues as in these examples:

“Just then, a horripilating Scaramouche appeared at her elbow.”

Or

“Breasts like bronzed mangoes.”

In fact, there appears to be a lot of bad breast descriptions in the book.

 

 

HOWEVER:

Read more

Share