The Usual Excuses

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As an editor, there are a few constants in my life.

One is that when I point out that a manuscript’s structure is flawed, and that in order to fix it, some basic elements might need to be altered, the writer fights me like they are the Russians defending Stalingrad in 1942.

(When I’m the writer, of course, these editorial “suggestions” make me feel like a Spartan at Thermopylae, 480 BC…)

It’s too damned hard. That’s what the reasoned and detailed responses come down to, in the end.

 

And that’s what all the current, real-world resistance to inclusivity and simple human decency come down to, as well.

 

It’s too hard to stop making racist and sexist jokes.

It’s too hard to learn new names and pronouns.

It’s too hard to examine our internal and learned-in-childhood biases.

It’s too hard to work for justice and joy.

Too hard.

 

But if a writer wants a book that people will enjoy reading, and will recommend to friends – a novel that satisfies, that sings to the reader – those changes will be worth it, and deep down, the writer knows it.

A good writer will evaluate the critique, and make the effort, as much as they are able.

A good writer knows that “hard” does not equal “impossible”.

If you want to write a good book, then the hard changes must be made. The work will obviously be worth it.

 

And a good person will look at those current, real-world issues, and see the same equation and the same result.

If you want a good world, then hard changes must be made. The work will be worth it.

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Flash Fiction Friday!

“Really, Devlin, you can’t expect me to –,”

He cut her off with a wave of his hand. “I need this, Gran. It’s not a choice. Either I pay them, or I die. It’s that simple.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. This isn’t the Middle Ages. Call the cops, and get some help.”

He stared at her, exasperated. How could she be so dense? It wasn’t as if he were some politician or celebrity, where the police would agree to round-the-clock protection. He was just a small-time journalist with a gambling debt, and his “creditors” were not the forgiving kind.

“Please,” he muttered, desperately.

“I’ve told you time and again. I don’t do curses.” She turned away, picking up the tv remote, and added, “Damn you.”

Devlin fell, lifeless, to the floor.

No Pretty Pictures

There was a song by John and Yoko Lennon that came out in ’72, called “Woman is the Nigger of the World”.

It was an intentionally shock title, of course, but it held a certain ring of truth.

One of the reasons that women especially have been at the forefront of first, the Abolition movement of the 19th century and then later in the mid-sixties Civil Rights movement, as well as in anti-war protests and in the fight for unionization, to name but a few, is that women of every culture, time, and political variance have been oppressed in ways that made it easy for them to identify with other defining characteristics of oppression.

It’s not surprising that they fought for equality for other identifiable groups, and it is equally unsurprising that their energies could be harnessed for those objectives, while being easily convinced to put their own liberation onto the back burner in service to these more “important” causes.

They were continually seduced into thinking, for example, that once men of colour got the vote, their own suffrage would follow – that those men would in their turn support their right to enfranchisement.

We have been deceived, and then our role in those confrontations has been erased, every time.

And that’s why movements toward freedom must, for women, be intensively inclusive. We cannot allow ourselves to be deflected or fractured, which is how we have been used and betrayed in the past.

We have to comprehend and absorb the differences between our various situations, and come to grips with the chasms between, say, a white middle-class woman’s oppression and an Islamic woman’s more immediate risk of physical torture in the form of genital mutilation, without giving in to the lure of playing one-upmanship with victimhood.

Oppression is not a competitive sport.

We need to recognize that one woman’s oppression is oppression of us all – that it all has to go, and that none of us are free so long as even one of us is in chains.

I will not allow my undeniable privilege in this world to blind me to this incontrovertible fact.

Flash Fiction Friday!

It was a particular time and place she always loved: that perfect pre-dawn sky, with its deep and chilly blue, ornamented with a streak of brilliant orange lying just along the horizon in the east. In the little glade, there were white, new-born flowers peeking up from the pale green grasses underfoot, like tiny stars, and the air was crisp and clean. The trees, silhouetted in the distance, swayed and danced, black and graceful.

Somewhere below her hiding place, she could hear the sound of water, trickling over the rocks, and the faint notes of a flute were drifting on the breeze. She almost sighed aloud in contentment.

She eased her sword from the scabbard.

Reminiscing about Terry Pratchett

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(Reblogging from July 16th, 2016, because…)

It’s taken me a long time to really process that he’s gone.

 

I started reading Pratchett’s books when there were, like, maybe four of them published. They struck me as both funny and wise, and I became addicted.

 

In the 90s, a friend of mine, Deloris Booker, and I opened a bookstore that concentrated on genre fiction: back-and mid-list SFF, mystery and Romance, as well as new releases, bits of history and myth/magic that attracted a collection of Goth teens who would hang out and talk to us about Truth and Beauty, and got along surprisingly well with the older ladies who came in for their Nora Roberts fix every weekend.

 

As part-PR and part- “We love SFF”, we got involved with a few SFF conventions, and eventually agreed to underwrite the cost of bringing in Terry as the GoH for a little convention out in Banff, in exchange for him doing a reading/signing on the Friday afternoon before the con.

 

He arrived exhausted, and spent part of his time asleep on the floor of the office before it was time to meet the fifty or so kids and adults who had come to see him.

 

He was incredibly gracious and patient with everyone, and then slept in the uncomfortable passenger seat of Deloris’ truck all the way to the hotel in Banff.

 

But for the entire weekend, he was our favourite person ever.

 

He came by the shop set-up in the dealers’ room, perused the books, tried to buy two (but we managed to convince him to take them as gifts), talked us up to everyone who was there, mentioned us TWICE by name in his GoH speech (“You should shop at Blue Castle Books, and support them, they’re terrific!”), argued passionately with me about nuclear power and then bought me beer, and stayed late in the parking lot, signing one last, tardy fan’s collection of Discworld books.

 

It was only the one encounter – we interacted in brief moments over a mere three days – but it seemed like so much more.

 

Nowadays, when I go into a bookshop and see the rows of Pratchett titles, my heart still breaks in little ways.

 

I miss that talent. I miss that light. I wish I’d known more and better, when I had the chance.

Flash Fiction Friday!

He noticed the girl immediately.

She was dressed in a tiny black miniskirt, a black t-shirt, rather clumsy-looking black army boots, and black tights that were slashed open in several places, and the sun illuminated her as if bathing her in liquid honey.

There was a sketchbook propped on her left arm. Her right hand clutched a pencil, and she held it out, waggling it slightly from side to side, in the time-honoured and recognizable gesture of an artist trying to measure the exact proportions of some object she was trying to render, and, curiously, she was standing on one leg.

Like a flamingo, he thought. At least, he thought he meant a flamingo. It was possible he meant a pelican, but he wasn’t sure.

She was like an exclamation mark against the landscape, a sudden declaration of how intense and brilliant life could be.

Despite his full and decisive intention of climbing over the side of the bridge and throwing himself over, he paused.

Whateverist-er than Thou

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There’s a thing that happens on FB groups and elsewhere that really drives me nuts.

It’s when someone posts something of an informative nature, and then someone else tries to amplify this and gets blowback from the original poster, accusing them of trying to – I don’t know? Pare down their purity? Steal their spotlight? Oust them as the authority in a discussion? Rob them of their uniqueness?

It’s as if some people cannot bear to be part of a larger whole – as if they need to be the only whateverist in the world, bravely speaking out – the lone voice in the wilderness of Whateverishness – and How Darest Thou…come on here and be whateveristic in my space?

It’s as if they have become so wedded to their role as “The Whateverist” that any other voice somehow takes something away from them.

I don’t know for sure, but it feels to me like one tiny step away from the “I’m not like ‘other girls’” riff some of us do when we’re sixteen and trying to hang out with the guys.

It’s not limited to any one subject or political stance or religious sect, either. I’ve seen the same refrain  from stay-at-home moms, and from supervisors in fast food joints.

(And let’s not even start with “libertarians”. Apparently, every single one of you is doing it wrong, as per every other libertarian…)

This need to be the One, True Whatever – maybe it’s “human nature”. Maybe it’s the competitive forces of a capitalistic society. Maybe it’s down to lousy toilet training.

Or maybe it’s a kind of pathology.

I don’t know.

But it needs to stop.