You Should be Writing

Some of you are probably familiar with that “you should be writing meme”, wherein people take a picture of their favorite TV or film characters, and put the caption “you should be writing” on the picture. You can do a quick Google image search to get the gist of the idea.

I have a few of these pictures saved in a file to try and motivate or remind me to write. I realized, however, there were very few “you should be writing” images with actual, yaknow, writers. Thus, I took it upon myself to further avoid writing to make a few of my own, with writers who have inspired me.

Repost where-ever you like. I don’t own the original images and I ain’t making any money off these silly things. These are just to enjoy and maybe inspire.

Continue reading “You Should be Writing”

Lambda Literary Fellowship

Long time no blog for me! It was a hectic spring semester for me, to say the least.

But I bring very glad tidings: I have been awarded a Fellowship with the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer’s Retreat. I am still dazed and humbled over the fact that my work (and therefore, myself) were selected. I will be in the genre workshop under the tutelage of Malinda Lo. Samuel R. Delaney is also teaching the fiction workshop, and I would very much like to speak to him at some point, even if it’s just to say “dude, you are awesome!”.

You can find more information about what project I will be taking to the Retreat, as well as opportunities to fund my Fellowship here. While the Lambda Literary Foundation gave me a very generous scholarship, I still need about $ 400 to cover the remaining expense of tuition, room, and board. So if you feel so inspired, please consider chipping in even $ 5. And if you can’t, please consider sharing the link to my Donorpage. I would be grateful for any help!

Now, I know you are tempted to drop you oodles of hard earned cash on the basis of a mere premise, something that is still in progress, but can check out some of my previously published work here. And I am going to give you all a teaser of what I am currently working on.

ETA: Sorry all. I took down the teaser so I can meddle with it some more. I know that is mighty anti-climatic and obnoxious. I’m a bit of a perfectionist sometimes.

My Nerd Cred, Let Me Show It You

Despite my better judgement, I have been sucked into Vikings on History channel. I say “despite my better judgement”, because I usually avoid overly violent shows, and shows with too much rape or implied rape. (Hey man, there are some things I just don’t enjoy watching.)

But . . . I was also a Scandinavian Studies minor as an undergraduate, wherein I took courses on Vikings, Scandinavian folklore, and the Icelandic Sagas. So I was lured into the series for that reason, and find myself thoroughly entertained for the same reasons.

I don’t think Vikings is completely “accurate”, based on my limited experience and understanding. From what I do know though, is that they have the power dynamics of Old Norse societies down very strongly on some levels. I was freaking out about the trailer for next Sunday’s episode because it features the hero of the series, Ragnar, getting shot in the back with an arrow. 

DUDE. In context of Norse society, that is a huge diss, and rather cowardly. Ragnar’s enemies are not even going to face him like men, no, they are just going to shoot him in the back.

There are actual Old Norse words for men who shoot their enemies in the back, but I will not repeat them here.

Anyways. I am in love with this series, goddess and gods help me.

My friend M K Meredith, who writes romance novels, does a “Writing Wednesday” prompt on her Facebook every Wednesday. In her own words:

Writing Wednesday! I start, you finish…aren’t I nice?

I have been waiting to join in for some time. This week’s prompt, in conjunction with my recent love of Vikings, gave me an excuse to basically scribble some Vikings fanfiction.

And now I will share it with you internets. Because I am a nerd and I have no shame whatsoever.

MK’s original prompt is in italics. The ALL CAPS are all mine, readers. Oh yeah. FYI: this is the silly, rather than the smutty, kind of fanfiction. Sorry! If you want some of that I suggest you wander over to the Archive of Our Own and use the search functions. Believe me, if Vikings fanfic has has been written, then it is archived over there.

And not that I know based on personal experience or anything.

Hey, is that a Ragnar/Lagertha/Athelstan fic?

Remember: I own nothing nor make any profit off this, just for fun, etc etc etc.

Continue reading “My Nerd Cred, Let Me Show It You”

The Status is Not Quo: Sexism in Fantasy

This past week, I had the misfortune of speaking with another fantasy author who thought that sexism in medieval fantasy “makes sense”. She was defending another author’s sexist assumptions about a work we were critiquing.

I gave her what I hoped was my best are you fucking kidding me? look before proceeding to explain the obvious: “It’s fantasy. You make up the rules.”

I don’t know why I would have to explain that to another fantasy author. It’s interesting that some fantasy writers think unicorns, dragons, and magic are totally possible in a fantasy framework, but not a world without sexism as we know it. The latter would obviously inconceivable, and, totally unrealistic. (Not that! No!)

The only rebuttal I have for this beyond “you make up the rules” is this fine article from The Mary Sue: An Analysis of Sexism in Historical Fantasy.

There’s not much I can add to this already, except to mention that the only reason we see history as “a bunch of (straight white) dudes doing stuff” is because in Western culture we have systematically silenced, ignored, dismissed, diminished, and sometimes just erased the narratives of anyone fell outside of that. This obviously includes women. But anyone who seems to think that women (or any other marginalized group of folks) have not always participated fully in human culture and history strikes me as disingenuous and lazy at best.

This could be me being a judgemental tosser, too, but I am really just fed up with these kind of attitudes in fantasy and science fiction. It’s as if we make it an excuse not to question the status quo, when, in fact, speculative fiction — really good speculative fiction, like all really good fiction — is deeply predicated upon the idea of questioning the status quo. From Mary Shelley to Heinlein and Asimov, on down to more recent authors such as LeGuin, Delaney, and Octavia Butler,  the entire point of these authors’ seminal and often groundbreaking works was to take the world as we know it and turn it sideways just enough to make us look again. This is the power of speculative fiction.

On Irony and The Hobbit

I have been duly informed that The Hobbit commits the grave sin of trying to imbue the story and characters with filthy, degrading Irony, of all things!!!

I believe that Irony has become so crassly omnipresent that it is the most debased form of wit, far lower than jokes about unpleasant bodily functions and moribunded babies. Irony never was part of Tolkien’s original canon; such a suggestion is clearly outlandish and heretical at best.

As further proof that Irony is the lowest and most debased form of wit: no author of actual merit or repute ever used irony with appropriate gravitas, intelligence, or profound artistry.

Additionally, it will be noted that adaptations must always strictly adhere to canon, always. They can never be updated to address a current audience. Such a thing would, again, be utterly base. It is also a well proven fact that audience tastes have remained static since the beginning of human history, just as the structure and style of our stories have remained exactly the same since we first began to write them down.

Thence, the use of Irony in Mr. Jackson’s corrupt and degraded adaptation of The Hobbit is clearly a radical and unorthodox departure. It is far afield not only of established literary and cultural tastes, but also of what Tolkien envisioned for his works of epic fantasy — wherein an imaginary race of people (Hobbits) save the world from being obliterated by evil, which is personified by a character best described as “a giant disembodied flaming eyeball”.

I would like to thank the astute and well educated author for taking the time to pen this artful and erudite piece. This piece is so shattering, so monumentally unironic, that it transcends the author’s opinion, elevating it to something else entirely.

A Dull Dough Sours

I am currently putting together a writing sample for graduate school applications. I had thought I would write, rewrite, and revise a short story which had been brewing in the back of my mind since December.  I made it 3/4 of the way through the story, and I utterly hated it. Not in a “wow is this a shitty first draft” way, because that’s normal. It was more of the “I utterly loathe these characters ” variety, specifically: “my narrator is selfish and shallow and there are few character flaws I despise more”. I didn’t like her, and I didn’t like writing her.

A very small part of me wonders if I shouldn’t “tough it out”, and try to find some way to make the character like-able. But for now I’ve shelved the story. It was toxic to me. It had no redemptive quality, as far as I could tell. And I don’t mean the writing was that bad, but that the characters and the story, had nothing which I would value in reading or writing fiction.  There was no hope, no possibility of forgiveness, or change for the characters. No possibility of redemption.

If I can’t write redemptive fiction on some levels, there is really no point for me. I am not so much of a hard core “realist” as I am an optimist who plays at cynicism, or vice versa, depending on the day.  Nonetheless, I need something in the story to counterbalance my cynicism. I need the hope of positive change and transformation to sustain me. Thus, I spent most of the time writing this story  — which had no such hope  — utterly hating it and not wanting to write it.

In the future I may revisit it, but only after I’ve had considerable distance.

I’ve rarely encountered this kind of problem with my writing. It tickles me a little, to learn something new about my own process, what I like and what I absolutely cannot stand. On that level, the story was very productive.

So tell me, readers: have you ever written something you hated, or reviled? And why do you think you hated, or reviled it? Again, I don’t mean in the mechanical, prose level sense, but more in the “there is something in this story which I deeply, personally or morally, loathe”. And how did you handle that problem?

Hot Damn that is My Jam: the Use of the Second Person

Deal with it.

I love second person.

There I typed it. I will hopefully hit “Publish” later and then this will be released, in black and white kilobytes, for any and all who surf that world wide web to shake their heads over and “tsk” at.

I know that second person is not the most popular out there. It is, next to third person, omniscient, and first person, the kind of nerdy, awkward kid on the playground who is somehow fascinating in her strangeness, and nonetheless, not cool enough to hang out with all that much.

And I get it. Second person is inherently dangerous on some levels, stripping away the comfort of distinguishing reader from text, fiction from reality, and asking a reader to enter into the story and participate on a level that is more difficult to achieve in other POVs. It is a little uncomfortable to have the text metaphorically start telling you, dear reader, how you think and how you feel about a subject, or tell you how you might react. Most readers express their discomfort in this “narrative closeness” by being downright indignant about it and putting the story in question aside.

And that makes sense.

I came to my love of second person through an active distaste of the use of you.

Continue reading “Hot Damn that is My Jam: the Use of the Second Person”

Fiction and (Not) Reality

Tonight at the monthly Colorado Springs Writers Reading Series, I had the privilege of reading “The Racehorse” in the company of some very fine and very generous writers who shared their work as well.

Before reading I asked the audience if anyone liked horses or horse-racing. About half a dozen hands went up and a few faces genuinely glowed. This was something which I noticed, but didn’t really think on until later.

The reading went well and people seemed to like it, but I was unprepared for the response after. During the intermission, one woman excitedly spoke to me about her granddaughter. Her granddaughter, now seventeen, has had a passion for horses since she was little, the woman said, and barrel-raced.

Another man, who had read a very touching story about being a school bus driver, told me he liked my story and that he had done dressage for many years. He nearly had tears in his eyes when he spoke about his experience with horses and his years of riding, training, and caring for them. We talked a little bit about horses and he said something in passing akin to:  “of course you know that about horses”.

I didn’t say anything, because of course I didn’t. I have ridden maybe twice in my life and never worked with, cared for, or trained horses. I know them to be lovely animals; graceful, powerful, creatures who play key roles in myths and legends. I know that humans and horses, through our long, joined history together, are intertwined in ways that are difficult to characterize or even explain, except that we are compelled to one another.

But no, I do not ride horses, nor have I even lived very near them, much less cared for a horse. My knowledge of them is secondhand at best, and distant from the passions of barrel racing seventeen year olds and middle aged bus drivers.

I could not tell the bus driver that I didn’t, in fact, know very much about real horses, because I was afraid of disappointing him and shattering that quiet, teary look of his. He needed that story, somehow; if he needed to believe that I rode horses as well I will accept that, even if it makes me a bit of a liar.

An Excerpt from “The Greek Boy”

Last night at the Colorado Springs Writers Read Series, I read an excerpt from my short story “The Greek Boy”, which is about Lord Byron.

In the final months of his life, Lord Byron was preoccupied with two things: supporting the Greek struggle for independence against Turkey, and his fifteen year old page-boy, Lukas.

This story is not about the Greek War for Independence.

An Excerpt from “The Greek Boy” by Jesse Kuiken

Shortly before your life, like a letter, was completed, folded up and sealed; before the decision to join the Greeks in Missolonghi; before you left the dazzling amber shores of Cephalonia, you found the boy. Off the beach, his skinny brown limbs knotted round the fat branch of an olive tree. He was palming olives; putting them first to his lips and sucking lightly before drawing the whole fruit into his mouth. Continue reading “An Excerpt from “The Greek Boy””