Sunday, January 18, 2015

Proofreading and Writing Essays

I am now proofing Daughter of the Bear King, my third novel, for the second time. Aqueduct has decided to bring it out next in e-version, after The Sword Smith. When I went over Daughter the first time, having not looked at it for years, I was not impressed by it. Though I noticed that a lot of scenes stuck with me after. Now it looks fine. The same book, two different moods.

You should never listen to an author about his or her work. On the good days, it's a masterpiece. On the bad days, it belongs in a landfill. Actually, I never think my work belongs in a landfill. Instead, I notice all the things that need fixing. I am very much restraining myself re fixing. The book is what it is. It belongs to another era, and it should remain in that previous era.

It occurred to me that my rant about getting disappeared from SF history (see below on Junot Diaz) could be toned down and turned into a Strange Horizons essay, though I will have to do some more research.

The backlash against the Second Wave of Feminism started in the 1980s (the Reagan era) with Cyberpunk. The Cyberpunk writers were almost all men, at least at first, and some were openly contemptuous of the 70s women writers. There were still women writing in the 1980s and producing good work. LeGuin, Judith Moffett and Joan Slonczewski all wrote long, slow eco-feminist novels, as did I: Always Coming Home, Pennterra, Door into Ocean and A Woman of the Iron People. Pat Cadigan, Lois Bujold and Melissa Scott all began writing in the 1980s and kept on, though Scott took a long break from publishing in the early 21st century. Pat Cadigan was just about the only women in the first generation of Cyberpunkers. Scott wrote at least one novel, Trouble and her Friends, which is Cyberpunk.

I think of the 1990s as the decade when space opera made a comeback. Most of these authors were men. Bujold writes military space opera -- though what her books are really about is how many different forms humanity can take: clones, quaddies, the eight foot tall soldier Taura, the very short Miles Vorkosigan with his long history of disability, his seriously overweight twin brother Mark, the eerily beautiful Cetagandans, the all-male society of Athos...

The Noughts are when I lose a good sense of science fiction, though I think it's the period when writers of color began to be more numerous and visible.

In any case, a person who wasn't paying attention might miss the Second Wave of Feminism.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The New Book with Cup and Marmalade


The book and a jar of Tiptree marmalade, my current favorite variety. The photo also contains a cup by the potter Rachael Hoffman Dachelet.

Me and the New Book


To the right, above my shoulder, you can see a few tentacles belonging to Daisy my plush octopus, soon to star in her own story.

What Am I, Chopped Chicken Liver?

I'm not alone in noting the irony that a genre like sf, historically obsessed with alterity, should have so much trouble with actual people of color and women and LGBT peoples. But when one understands the degree to which nearly all our genres are haunted by, and have drawn a lot of their meanings, materials, and structures from the traumatic Big Bang of colonialism and its attendant matrixes of power (coloniality) - irony strikes one as the least of our problems.
Alien invasions, natives, slavery, colonies, genocide, racial system, savages, technological superiority, forerunner races and the ruins they leave behind, travel between worlds, breeding programs, superpowered whites, mechanized regimes that work humans to death, human/alien hybrids, lost worlds—all have their roots in the traumas of colonialism.

-- Junot Diaz

Well, yes. but... I have been writing SF about women for more than 40 years, as have many women SF writers. (Remember when the Second Wave of Feminism hit SF? Remember when Theodore Sturgeon said all the good new writers in the 1970s were women, except for James Tiptree Jr?) My second novel, begun 40 years ago and published about 30 years ago, has a lesbian protagonist. My third novel, a fantasy published about 30 years ago, has a main character (not the only main character, but the only male main character) who is black, as well as an entire black civilization. My fourth novel, published 24 years ago, has an Asian American (PoC) protagonist. My fifth novel, published 22 years ago, has two main characters, one a Hispanic woman and the other a gay man. I have been writing stories about an entirely gay alien culture for more than 20 years. I am not the only writer who has dealt with women, GLBT characters and people of color. Remember Melissa Scott? Remember Judith Tarr? How about Suzy Charnas? How about Joanna Russ? Nalo Hopkinson's first novel came out 17 years ago. (I am skipping over Butler, Delany and LeGuin because everyone knows about them.) The current new, improved history of science fiction has disappeared my entire generation of women writers, plus a bunch of writers who were prematurely GLBT or PoC.

Yes, SF has been too white and too male, but a whole lot of us have been chipping away at this problem for decades. And we're gone out of history.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

New Post

I am falling behind. No posts for a week. What can I say? Our hoya is now blooming -- clusters of pale pink flowers. The weather is gray, dreary and rainy. I've been wrapping presents and watching Ghost in the Shell, an amazing Japanese anime TV series.

I finished a final read through of The Sword Smith, and it should come out in e-book version before year end. It's my first novel, out of print for years. Going back over it, I was pleasantly surprised. It's pretty good. Not so bad, as we say in Minnesota. It could be worse. Next I move on to two more out-of-print novels, due out (also in e-versions) early next year. After that, I return to the long, long delayed sequel to Ring of Swords. My goal is to have it finished in 2015. Aqueduct Press is buying a collection of stories about the hwarhath, the aliens in Ring of Swords. Sometime next year, I will get editorial comments on that and need to make changes and proof.

So, a busy next year. Which is not so bad.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Political Posts

When you read my political posts, check and see if Foxessa has commented. Her comments are really helping me think things through.

The New Book

The page of Many Worlds Press, with Q & A about my new book, Hidden Folk


And here is a photo of me. Notice the glasses frame. It's pretty neat.

I read one of the Hidden Folk stories at the Rivendell group's annual meeting devoted to members reading their own fiction. It went over well. People laughed in the right places.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

More Politics (Sorry About This)

A facebook friend linked to this article for me.

I think I have differences with the author, but find a lot that is useful here, especially this:
The conception of the systemic roots of injustice--and the possibility of achieving systemic change--were replaced by a focus on subjective, individual and cultural relations as centers of struggle, including reclaiming or re-appropriating oppressive language as a tool to combat oppression. In this process, postmodernism--and the accompanying post-structural and post-Marxist--theories achieved dominance by the 1980s.
Yes, one of the things I find uncomfortable now is the emphasis on individuals and individual guilt. The system is racist, and that influences everyone in the system. It is very difficult to be non-racist in a racist system. The point is to change the system.
Calling out racism, sexism, homophobia and other reactionary attitudes is obviously a necessary part of fighting oppression in daily life--and apologies from the offending parties are surely welcome. But this is also a far cry from what is needed to end oppression.
Apologies from individuals in a racist system do not go far. Are these apologies going to create good jobs, fair policing, safe neighborhoods, an end to the war on drugs, which is a war on people of color?

(Challenging racism, sexism and homophobia within the SFF community may do some good, since it's a small community and working on individuals may result in community changes. I still dislike attacking individuals. It's a lousy way to educate and organize.)

I think the article's author has an excellent point when she says that many young or youngish activists have no knowledge of what a big movement looks like. They never experienced Civil Rights or the anti-war movement or the years when the cities burned and the US government had to send in the army (which was dicey, since there were many black soldiers, and they had been politicized by the war and Civil Rights. It was not clear that they could be used against the brothers in the burning cities.) As she says, the young activists have never seen a strike or a rank-and-file union movement. This may explain why my vision is so different from theirs. I lived through the 60s.

I see a profoundly oppressive and destructive economic and political system, which uses prejudice as a tool against ordinary people. This is obvious in some cases: the Republican Party has adopted racism, sexism and homophobia as a way to get white votes. They are pretty upfront about this. Often, the uses of racism are less obvious. The system chugs along, and people spend their time hating their neighbors, rather than the boss who pays them shitty wages and whose crappy jobs make their lives inhuman.

As the article says, it's always important to recognize and challenge oppression and prejudice. But it's also important to look at the system which is -- no kidding -- destroying the planet.

Right now large numbers of Americans know they are getting screwed, and they know the government is owned by the rich, not by them. There is an opportunity to build coalitions. Movements are emerging. Occupy. Ferguson. The organizing of fast food workers. They may disappear. Some may persist and grow.

P.S. I can imagine a younger-than-I-am aspiring activist reading this and being furious. What do I mean by the system? Behavior that causes pain needs to be confronted now! Yes, but there is more.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On Another Topic

My orchid has stopped blooming. I will keep it where it is and continue to water it. Maybe it will bloom again in a year or so. The hoya is producing new flower buds, four clusters so far. I am thinking of buying another orchid, and maybe I will join the local orchid society. They are lovely plants. Though it must be sad for them, to put so much work into attracting insects in an environment with almost no insects.

Moving On

I don't usually remember dreams. When I do remember one, I try to analyze it. Last night I dreamed that we moved into a new apartment. I think it was in a suburban complex, a place I would never move to. But it was a nice apartment with a patio and a balcony, only one bathroom, but two bedrooms. Soon after moving in, I came home and found a young man in the living room, on the phone. I asked him what he was doing here. He said he had broken in to use the phone. He then showed me how to get through my locked door. It was the old credit card trick, which does not work with a deadbolt, which I had.

He explained that he had been in the Twin Cities for a con and was having some problem getting home, so he'd needed a phone. I asked him if he had money to get home. He said yes, and I escorted him out.

I then tried to use my phone, but it gave problems.

I went down to the complex desk and said I needed a new lock and my phone wasn't working. The guy at the desk promised to do something about the lock and said my problem with a phone was due to a new program, which noticed when the person phoning used inappropriate language and then shut down. I said, "Oh, that was the guy who broke in to use my phone."

While talking to the front desk guy, I realized that (1) I hadn't checked to see if anything was missing in the new apartment and (2) we hadn't cleaned the old apartment before leaving, and I still had the keys, which we were supposed to turn in.

So what is this about? Moving on and the difficulty of moving on. Vulnerability. Communication problems. I think it's a dream about dealing with the current group of social justice activists. Someone has broken into my home and screwed up my ability to communicate.

In any case, I think it's time for me to move on -- not to an apartment complex in the suburbs, but to other topics. I am pretty sure that I can't talk to the social justice people or work with them or fight them. Best to leave them alone. And I need to return the keys to the past.

Googling

I Googled "social justice" last night and got to sites like Sojourner's and the Maryknolls. Then I Googled "social justice warrior" and got page after page after page. A definition in the Urban Dictionary, articles in BoingBoing and The Nation, a video game, many blogs and websites that I did not want to read, but they looked to be not nice. So there is huge Internet can of worms that I didn't know about.

The Urban Dictionary definition, which is clearly hostile:
A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of. They typically repeat points from whoever is the most popular blogger or commenter of the moment, hoping that they will "get SJ points" and become popular in return. They are very sure to adopt stances that are "correct" in their social circle.

The SJW's favorite activity of all is to dogpile. Their favorite websites to frequent are Livejournal and Tumblr. They do not have relevant favorite real-world places, because SJWs are primarily civil rights activists only online.
Thinking about this, it is not fair. The people I know who might be called social justice warriors are completely sincere, and I would not call them shallow. So what is wrong? I am still working this out. But there's a group dynamic that makes me uneasy, and they do pile onto people they think are wrong.

I then Googled "identity politics" and got to Wikipedia and this as a criticism of identity politics:
(The historian Eric) Hobsbawm, in particular, has criticized nationalisms, and the principle of national self-determination adopted internationally after World War I, since national governments are often merely an expression of a ruling class or power, and their proliferation was a source of the wars of the 20th century. Hence Hobsbawm argues that identity politics, such as queer nationalism, Islamism, Cornish nationalism or Ulster Loyalism are just other versions of bourgeois nationalism.
A similar comment shows up in an essay I just read on the philosopher and social scientist Istvan Meszaros:
The diversity of "identities" is used to divide labor within itself and thus becomes a vital tool for the preservation of the alienated system.
More cogent maybe is this comment by Foxessa on one of my earlier posts:
My personal opinion is that the confusion and cross-purpose discussion arise on all points by a confusion of identity politics, social justice and civil rights.

They may, and often do, hold hands at points, but they are not one and same.

Identity politics has huge potential for toxicity, see Israel and Palestine, for a single example, particularly if one includes religion as part of identity which both the Israelis and Palestinians do. That identity politik prevents any vision of social justice or civil rights developing.

This being the USA, who can only see and think in binary mode: yes, no; right, wrong; good, bad; us, them...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

In any case, Happy Thanksgiving! I am roasting a chicken with root vegetables (onions, potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips). The cranberry orange sauce is made. The dressing about to be made. (It's not in the bird.) Dessert is Kemp's moose tracks ice cream. Then a movie.

May we all have peace and justice and happy gatherings in the coming year.

Identity Politics Yet Again

Patrick read the emails I got from Wiscon programming and was furious. He said they were ageist and showed deep disrespect to an elder (me). P. takes his Native heritage fairly seriously and respecting elders is a major issue in Native Communities.

In any case, I don't think I can communicate with Wiscon again, which may be a problem, since I have several books coming out next year, and Wiscon -- in the past -- would have been the place to publicize them.

Timmi Duchamp of Aqueduct Press is enthusiastic about the Social Justice movement in the SFF community. She believes it is the most exciting thing to happen for years. I can only trust she is right. But I don't think I can work with the current SJ people.