Inthisdayandage…

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It’s hard to believe, but…

…it still amazes me how incredibly tone-deaf people are.

A friend who works as a stage manager was working a local dance competition recently, and one of the school groups competing did a Disney-esque Pocahontas romancey thing.

He, as a Metis/First Nations man, as tactfully as he was able, pointed out to the choreographer /artistic director of the group, how incredibly offensive this was to First Nations people. How Pocahontas, as far as academia can ascertain, was 11 years old when she was raped by a white adult colonial, then kidnapped and taken from her home, and anyway, it’s not even a story little white girls in stereotyped “Injun” war-paint and feathers should be doing, here in this day and age, in a Canada trying to come to grips with a centuries-old racist and genocidal past, and that they maybe should have given more thought to this.

I was pretty flabbergasted when he told me about this. I mean, this person running the group was a teacher, out their molding young minds, and preparing these kids for the future, and she had apparently given not even a single thought to any of this. In fact, among her many defensive rebuttals, she said that she wasn’t even aware that Pocahontas might have been a real person.

This morning, on Twitter, I was greeted by the advert for an indie novel that struck me as so incredibly offensive that I am perilously close to outing the author and the title – but I won’t. If you have even the tiniest suspicion that it might be you, well, time for some self-reflection, probably. Let me just say that Rudyard Kipling did this less offensively.

It was, in every way possible, a “white man’s burden/white savior” trope of the most egregious nature. The title alone proclaimed its bias: that the poor beknighted savages of some backward nation required a white man to not only rule them with the wisdom and compassion that their own culture so conspicuously lacked, but that only he could save them from colonialistic disasters.

People.

People, please.

Yes, maybe there’s a market for this shit. Maybe there are people who live to see their great-grandparents’ values to return, so they can openly revile and oppress anyone they don’t like. So that othering everyone who isn’t white, male, and heterosexual isn’t something to be embarrassed about, just like you could back when.

I would like to believe people like that are few and far between, but I strongly suspect that the comments and unfollows that will result from this post will prove me unbelievably wrong.

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Flash Fiction Friday!

“I matter. I have importance and I am the captain of my own fate!”

The sonorous voice boomed out over the loudspeaker, and the assembled participants repeated the phrases in enthusiastic unison.

The background music swelled up, adding to the sense of triumph and confidence in every heart.

“I am powerful and wise. I am the pinnacle of creation!”

Again they repeated the words back, joyously, and with reverence. There was no room for thought, only space for the exultation.

“I will conquer the world!”

A half an hour later, not a single one of them remembered what they had said or done. They remembered the sense of wonder, the exhilaration, the glory.

The shock of the credit card bills came much later.

Technophobia and Me

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I’m going to admit right up front that I am not especially tech-savvy.

It’s a pretty frequent occurrence around here that Missy M wanders through the living room muttering “How the hell do I get back into my “Contacts” list from here?” or some equally “to-other-people-obvious” thing. My phone is very often a mystery to me, and likewise are some terms that I really should have deciphered by now: dpi, for one. Don’t know. Not entirely sure I care.

But at the same time, I unashamedly love technology, and I cannot understand the outspoken pride with which others in my generation announce that they have never texted, or that they are still using a flip phone, or have no clue what Instagram is for.

Because the tech has made my life so effortless that when the impending collapse of civilization arrives, I will weep for the loss of Google, et al.

I will. This era has some horrible things happening in it, but the technology and social media are not those things.

I can remember when in order to spell a word, you had to look it up in a dictionary, which was almost useless (and very time-consuming) because if you don’t know how to spell it, you aren’t really sure where in that thousand-page tome to look. Plus – there wasn’t always a two-volume copy of the OED sitting there waiting for you.

I remember having to trust the pharmacist to know what all the side effects of a medication were, and what other drugs might be contra-indicated, PLUS he had to be patient/conscientious enough to tell me about them, and on top of that, I would have to remember what he said.

I remember having to lug around an address book in case I needed to phone someone, or else pray no one had ripped the right page out of the phone book in the phone booth – oh, and being sure of having the dime (later, a quarter) in my pocket to use that phone.

I remember having to get to the bank while it was still open, so that I would have the money to pay for stuff.

I remember not being able to settle acrimonious debates with people over things like the date of the Fall of Rome, because we weren’t near a set of Encyclopedia Britannica at that moment.

I remember how over-the-top inconvenient these simple tasks used to be.  How much of one’s life was spent just finding things out. Now I have Google, and a few hundred friends instantly on tap, in case I need a second opinion.

So when I see people making insulting remarks on Twitter about “Millenials and their iPhones”, you know – I just try to remember that those people would, in 1920, been cursing those darned horseless carriages, and I move the fuck along.

Flash Fiction Friday!

The end of the road.

It was a back alley like any other, narrow and dark, and the aging, uneven asphalt glittered in the rain. The garage doors formed a canyon of blank anonymity, their trashcan ornaments placed with suburban care at regular intervals on either side of her as she moved toward her quarry: the lone, warm, glowing porch light that shone out like a beacon, welcoming those who walked the night, drawing them in, a trap for the unwary.

Van Helsing was getting more inventive in his murderous methods.

No Instant Answers

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There’s no magic bullet when it comes to writing.

I know there are literally millions of websites and courses and master classes out there, insisting that they can tell you exactly how to write best-seller/award-winning/luminous prose, but Reader: they lie.

MFA Writing programs notwithstanding, no one honestly knows how to do any of that.

 

Some writers know (or at least they think they know) how it works for *them*.

It might not work for you. In fact, it almost certainly will not work for you.

First, because there’s almost a 90% chance that the writer who hit the top of the hit list on their very first venture into the world of writing just got a mysterious, unrepeatable stroke of luck. They hit the right editor, at the right magazine, at the right moment, or they queried a book agent on a slow day of a slow week, or someone at a national TV show wanted a “small town success story” for some reason and the writer’s sister’s best friend from high school mentioned their name.

Secondly, and even more importantly, what works for one writer, in terms of subject, or plot, or theme, or genre, might be all wrong for millions of other writers.

I mean, romance writers sell a kajillion more books than I do, but I couldn’t write a straight romance if my life depended on it. My heart’s not in it, and readers, dog love ‘em, would sense that on page one.

I’m not saying you don’t learn stuff from those MFA programs, or the expensive master classes, or even from a website listicle. There are things that can be taught, and you definitely should go out and learn them. Like most endeavours, it’s very important to know the rules before you break them.

But there’s no formula. Computer programmers keep telling us there is, but I haven’t seen any evidence that making sure you use certain words in certain percentages that mimic all the NYTimes Top Ten novels for the last decade will result in anything more than crap.

It’s not the words. It’s how you – specifically you – use them.

It’s not the story you tell. It’s how you – again, specifically you – tell it.

And, perhaps paradoxically, it isn’t merely what you bring to the novel, but also what the reader(s) bring. Fiction is not a monologue.

There is no way to predict any of this, and far less of any magic charm telling you how any current zeitgeist will play into the equation.

There is one thing that all really successful writers do uniformly, though, and it’s not a big secret.

They write the very best book they possibly can, with as much love, commitment, and sincerity as they can possibly give.

It’s as easy as that.

Flash Fiction Friday!

In Saliano, in the central square, the merchants shouted out their wares, and the ripe produce, the freshly-slaughtered sheep, the burlap bags of flour: they all competed for customer attention. Over by the cathedral, the cloth bales were piled high in a riot of colour, their embossed tin guild-tags glinting in the autumn sunlight.

The boy pressed himself back against the stone columns of the council-house, or rather, the wall of flesh and noise pinned him to the cold marble. He had never experienced “city” before, and the excitement this kindled was mixed with fear.

Fear of the unknown, certainly. That, he saw now, was only natural, since he had never seen any place like this before, had not known what to expect.

But another fear was at work inside him, too. Fear of failure – he had not understood the enormity of the task that he had been given.

His eyes closed. His fists clenched.

And then he tore it all down.

Joking aside…

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I hate these memes.

I really do.

I mean, they’re first off a fantasy: no one is ever going to actually offer you money to do without tech for a solid year, let alone the month(s) or week(s) that these things pretend to offer.

Secondly: who wouldn’t be able to do this? Seriously – we all know we can do without Facebook if we have to.

But the third reason is the real kicker.

It shows just how desperate we all are to get free of the system we’re mired in.

We all want out of the capitalist system, the rat-race, the dog-eat-dog factory of despair that we live in.

But we want it at the expense of other people staying in. We want it only for ourselves – we want the requisite number of dollars or Euros or Japanese yen that lifts only ourselves out of the death spiral, so we can do whatever it is that our secret hearts need, but only if everyone else has to stay in.

We want freedom, but we want it in the form of other people’s envy.

That’s how fucked up we all are.