Tag Archive for personal

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).

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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.
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“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.
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In the real world, Yes AND leads to growth, and progress. Yes, BUT leads to feeling shot down, patronized, or to conflict and argument.
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“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.”
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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 …”
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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
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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.

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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):

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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

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When Worlds Collide: Diversity in Fiction vs Drumpf

I see two major conversation streams in my world converging here: Diversity in fiction, and our current political circus.

Diversity in fiction is about many things, but one of those is that it allows us to experience lives unlike our own, and through that experience gain a deeper understanding of people who are different from ourselves, and the ability to empathize with other experiences. This applies across all media.

Perhaps if we had more popular media that shared an honest view of the Mexican immigrant experience, for example, we might not have a demagogue winning votes by promising to build a giant wall and kick people out of the country, or playing on other racial and religious fears.

Not saying diversity in fiction is THE solution to any problem, but this is just one example of why I feel diversity in media is actually important not just for any specific group who see themselves continuously ignored or badly stereotyped in media, not just for those who are marginalized or persecuted in society, but for everyone. Because we are all in this together — at least until we find a way to teleport to our own planet where we can mess it up however we want without affecting others.

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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:

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The Benefits of a Con Where Few People Came

Rustycon 2016 lights out

When the lights went out in the room due to the lack of bodies, we had to laugh.

 

I was a panelist at Rustycon this weekend, a lovely small local con run by very dedicated and passionate volunteers.   Unfortunately, several factors led to smaller than expected turnout — horrible Friday weather and traffic, every other person in the State apparently having the flu, and a Seahawks game on Sunday among them.  As a result, my panels all had two to five attendees.  The Guest of Honor’s had maybe fifteen.   I was lucky enough to have a handful of people at my reading, but several writers had nobody show.

I’m glad I went.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been crazy busy of late, essentially three-full-time-jobs level busy.  So there are those who might question whether a con where only a handful of people attended my panels might be seen as a “waste of time.”

But here’s why I don’t feel it was:

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Setting Your Goals for 2016

Happy New Year!

Rather than simply share events from my past year, I thought I’d again offer a bit of encouragement and advice to help with the coming year.  While this is aimed primarily at my fellow writers, the same advice can also, I think, be applied to most any goal or creative pursuit, and to life in general.

This weekend, I encourage you to sit down and do three things:

1) Create a calendar/schedule for your goals and tasks.

2) Create, or update, your list of goals and tasks.

3) BELIEVE, and do what makes you happy.

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