It’s A Wedding

Last week, my brother was married.

It was a Persian ceremony, and I had been asked to be the candle-bearer, a position that I accepted (I was also asked to take part in the Persian knife dance occurring after the wedding, which I also accepted). The ceremony was in both Farsi and English, and there was dinner and dancing afterwards.

I was honored to be asked to take part in their special day, and I am so glad that I was able to go to California in order to see them and the rest of my family.

Coincidentally, the wedding was also within a week of our tenth high school graduation anniversary, and about half of our graduating class was also there (considering we only had a graduating class of about nine, that is not saying too terribly much). It was a very nice reunion.

I don’t usually cry at happy events, but I did cry at this one while waiting for the dinner to be served. My dad, in an attempt to forestall his own tears, was concerned about my makeup, and I assured him that I was wearing waterproof primer. I have long loved my sister-in-law and have considered her to be part of the family for some time now. I also love my brother, and it is a common known fact that they both bring out the best in each other.

I know that my brother has changed for the best since he met his wife, and I am sure she has changed as well (though I did not know her prior to her being with my brother).

I hope that they will be happy together for a long time, and I hope that it will not be too long before we see each other again.

Writing Update

With just barely a week to go before Strange Horizons’ deadline, I finally finished the first (haha) draft of the story I want to submit to them.

It’s been edited once since then, but it still needs a title, I’m still not happy with the name of one of the protagonists, and it needs further revision.

But it’s finished, and that means that even if I don’t get it to where it wants or needs to be, I can submit it to Strange Horizons and that’s really the only thing that matters.

Now, I still need to write the horror story, and there’s another anthology I’d like to submit to called UFO (Unidentified Funny Objects — deadline also April 30).

I’ve not written a lot of humor (actually more like zero humor) so I think it might be an interesting exercise.

I feel like I’ve been writing a lot lately, which is nice.

Reading Corner: Star Wars A New Dawn

I was able to finish reading Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. It was entertaining, and like most Star Wars novels, I was able to finish it quickly, but I also thought it was missing the heart that appears so clearly in Star Wars The Clone Wars (television series) and Star Wars Rebels.

“A New Dawn” introduces Kanan and Hera who are two of the mains in Star Wars Rebels. We meet them both in a different part of their life, when Kanan has less purpose and Hera is not quite as tempered as she appears in Rebels.

It’s always hard to do that, to go back, when the audience is probably more familiar with these established characters that they already know and love.

I think it would be easier to do that if Miller hadn’t decided to ostracize certain members of the audience immediately off the bat.

Star Wars has always had an issue with ableism, and A New Dawn does nothing to contradict that, or to undo it. Obi-Wan speaks of Darth Vader that he is more machine now than man in a manner that suggests that this has something to do with his evil doings. The same sort of context is used repeatedly in describing Count Vidian, the primary villain in the novel. He is a man who murders indiscriminately, who would destroy entire moons to establish himself and his authority, and who would not hesitate to commit genocide. He is described as a “human droid” and the author took great care to detail how unnatural he appeared with his synthetic skin and his cyborg parts.

Another character named Skelly was a war veteran who had lost an arm. His prosthetic was made for a species not his own, and it doesn’t function correctly because the hospital was not well equipped. I feel like this would have been a very good way to discuss when people do not have the resources to access proper medical care–whereas Vidian had vast resources at his disposal–but that never happened. The focus was always on the presence of the prosthetics and did not open a discussion about access to health care.

Even Skelly is contextualized as crazy. Throughout the novel, he attempts to make his point by bombing the mining facility and the town, and even though he shows regret, and even though no one dies from it, it left a sour taste in my mouth, especially since he dies at the end.

There really is no reason for this, and it lacks a nuance that emphasizes able bodied people as the good guys and the ones who survive.

The other ostracizing moment for me was the depiction of Kanan as aggressively straight. The captain of the star destroyer who brings Count Vidian to Gorse is a woman of color, whom he immediately flirts with over the radio. Kanan immediately flirts with Hera. Hera’s physical appearance is perpetually emphasized through the eyes of multiple male characters–which I thought was especially unfortunate considering how frequently the Twi’lek women have been sexualized throughout all of the Star Wars franchises. It felt to me that the author was assuming a heterosexual man would be reading this, not a woman, certainly not a nb lesbian such as myself.

It also affected the way that Hera herself was written. She had several view points throughout the novel, but I felt that she lacked depth and complexity compared to Kanan’s.

In the forward, Dave Filoni wrote the following:

So how do we move forward? And how do we make sure we get it right? Very simply, we trust in the Force, and we trust one another. We came together as a group and found the best talent: people who, like you and me, love Star Wars and want to make it great. Who want to capture the feeling that it gave all of us, that inspired all of us. More than at any other time in its existence, new Star Wars stories are being told every day. More important, the old concept of what is canon and what isn’t is gone, and from this point forward our stories and characters all exist in the same universe.
I really hope he means that. I don’t want the same story being told by the same person over and over.

Listening Booth: Alice Isn’t Dead

The first episode of Alice Isn’t Dead, produced by the same folks who brought us Welcome to Night Vale, was released earlier this week, and I loved it.

I think I preferred it to Welcome to Night Vale–but no, I’m being unfair, because I cannot listen to Welcome to Night Vale without being lulled to sleep (not because the content matter is dull but rather because Cecil Palmer’s voice strikes that sleepy-time cadence in my brain, which combined with my difficulties in processing the spoken word without something to assist in focusing my attention, makes it difficult for me to listen to Night Vale). That said, I adore Jasika Nicole’s performance as the narrator–I love the way she speaks and sighs and laughs and how her voice goes soft and sometimes playful.

I also love how she is driving cross country in her truck. It reminds me of this post from tumblr which talks about how the road trip narrative lends itself so well to this sort of genre fiction.

However, even though I had an easier time listening to Alice Isn’t Dead, I decided that I wanted to write a transcript of it, not just for my benefit but for others as well. You can find the transcript here: [link]

I’m not sure why I decided to write my own transcript instead of finding a transcript, of which I’m sure several exist. After all, I am currently slowly catching up on Welcome to Night Vale by reading transcripts of the podcasts.

Actually, that’s a lie. I did it for several reasons. I thought it would be good practice in thinking a different way since I am trying to make the things I enjoy more accessible in general. It’s something that has been on my various social media feeds for quite some time and so I figured that I should attempt making my own platforms more accessible. I knew that I didn’t have the energy or time to describe every image that I reblogged, but I knew that I, at least, could be responsible for making the content that I produced more accessible, especially if I wanted to talk about Alice Isn’t Dead, which I do want to talk about it because I liked it a lot.

So I decided to write a transcript, and it gave me time to process it in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. Which doesn’t surprise me — I survived college not by writing notes in the way that I was “supposed” to but by drafting transcripts of the class. It helps me to write down the things I hear because I will not remember them, sometimes it feels like I don’t even truly understand it until I see it down on the paper.

 

So, when I began to transcribe, I realized that the way the narrator described the man with the yellow fingernails, the man with the word “thistle” written on his shirt, reminded me of how Carol Oates wrote Arnold Friend in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.

Except, I rather did enjoy Alice Isn’t Dead more than that short story which I think is required reading in both high school and college? I’m not sure.

I just know that there was a similarity even though the young girl in the short story doesn’t go anywhere and the narrator in the podcast drives and drives under a night sky, afraid that the man she saw is behind her, and is catching up.

The podcast structure is the narrator speaking to Alice through the truck radio. Music underlays most of the one-sided conversation that the narrator engages with Alice. Sometimes, there is nothing but silence as the narrator speaks, such as when she states that sometimes she hates Alice, more than any of them, and when she assures Alice that of course she cried after what she witnessed in the parking lot, and when she wonders if Alice left because of her.

Who is them? The narrator doesn’t elaborate but I am sure that the man with the yellow fingernails is one of them.

The structure is punctuated by radio clicks that occur when the narrator presses the button to speak into the radio. The narratives become disjointed as the narrator admits that she is avoiding tell Alice what she saw the man with the yellow fingernails do, and this avoidance turns into musings about the night sky, about why Alice left, and other things that allows the story to juxtapose mundanity and the supernatural, and to have those roles flip with subtle shift of voice and word.

The story has established such subtle relationships: the narrator with what she saw in the parking lot, the narrator with the landscape (at one point, she laughs about a strange little sign she saw but then she goes long about the night sky), the narrator with Alice.

I think though that what I liked most about the narrator is how tired she seemed, and how sad. How she had to assure Alice that of course she cried, of course she did, as if she was afraid that Alice, for whatever reason, would think she would have been unaffected, that she wouldn’t have cried, along with her quiet anxiety that Alice left because of her.

I hope they find each other. I hope they will be okay.

Reading Corner: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

I’ve been struggling with reading, primarily because real life demands in my life take a lot of energy from me, and I have a difficult time finding time to read when I do so. I am trying to make reading more of a priority to me and, since I’m currently still on a Star Wars kick from The Force Awaken’s release back in December, I thought I would start with a Star Wars novel. I also decided to start with Star Wars because I would love, love, love to one day be invited to write one (but that is dependent on me actually, I don’t know, writing, finishing things, etc).

I started with Lost Stars by Claudia Gray.

Read More »

On the To-Do List

I’m looking forward to getting back in the swing of writing again, so I thought I would drop a note here so I wouldn’t a) forget and b) because I’m terrible at deadlines

I’m currently drafting a story for  Strange Horizon’s Our Queer Planet. Up to 10k fiction entries with the deadline on April 10.

I have a story percolating for Let Us In, an anthology featuring horror fiction. 4k words (soft). Deadline is April 30.

Happy writing all.

Story of My First Sale

So when I was writing, “You, An Accidental Astronaut,” it was in a different format because I was writing it for another literary magazine.

When I heard about Mothership Zeta, I already knew that the format I was trying to push this story into wasn’t going to work. And that’s when I realized that I wanted to submit it to Mothership Zeta, and that when Mothership Zeta would reject it I would go ahead and try to submit it to the place I originally had in mind.

Then I promptly forgot about the deadline. I was fighting and struggling with the story, had fallen out of love with it, even, and I had only gone over it once or twice when I remembered the deadline after it was almost passed.

I never even had someone else look it over because I was too busy self-rejecting myself and the story. But I sent it out anyways and to my shock, I survived the first and second rounds of rejection until I received the email they wanted to accept it and have me sign a contract and everything.

It was funny, because the news came on the Worst Day of Work. I was already on the edge of a breakdown in the breakroom when I was on my lunch break. As people at work can testify, I never took my breaks, usually opting to eat at my desk as I worked on the emails that came in–but today if I did that I would have broken down in tears in front of everyone and We Can’t Have That. So I was checking my email, completely zoned out, and I was almost about to autoarchive the email on my phone. I had to re-read the email twice over, and by the time I had processed what it said, I was, as they say, over the moon.

The first thing I did when I went back to the office was announce the news and everybody was happy for me and I was happy for me and work still sucked but it didn’t suck as much because I had published my first story–a story I hadn’t even technically tried to get publish. A story that I had only sent out once and it had been accepted the first go around. A story that I had lost faith in.

That story was accepted.

In many ways I feel like I cheated somehow. I’ve only submitted about five stories for publication in my entire life. Two of those stories I submitted to Weird Tales when I was a teenager and got form rejections. Two of those stories I submitted only once and then self-pubbed them here.

And then this.

I feel like I didn’t earn my first sale, but I’m also trying not to think like that because I did earn it because I wrote it and I sent it out and everything. I just got lucky.

Anyway, that’s how I got my first sale.

While this post was percolating, I also read Sunil Patel’s Anatomy of a Sale Parts One and Two which I highly recommend reading. In the articles, Patel mentions several sites to make submit/rejection experience more engaging and interactive, which I am definitely excited to give a try (referring specifically to The Grinder and the Sink or Submit game).

While Reading The Price of Salt

One of the passages that really spoke to me as a lesbian who had been married to a man in the Price of Salt were the following:

She had known from his first step toward her that he was going to ask her [to stay the night]. Now she felt miserable and ashamed, sorry for herself and for him, because it was so impossible, and so embarrassing because she didn’t want it. There was always that tremendous block of not ever wanting to try it, which reduced it all to a kind of wretched embarrassment and nothing more, each time he asked her. She remembered the first night she had let him stay, and she writhed again inwardly. It had been anything but pleasant [. . .] and the second time had been even worse, probably because Richard had thought all the difficulties had been gotten over. It was painful enough to make her weep, and Richard had been very apologetic and had said she made him feel like a brute. And then she had protested that he wasn’t.

[. . .]

“Why [can’t I stay]?”

“Because. Because I can’t,” she said, every word agony. “Because I don’t want to sleep with you.”

“Oh, Terry!” Richard laughed. “I’m sorry I asked you. Forget about it, honey, will you?”

[. . .] But I can’t, she thought. I’ve got to think about it sometime, because you think about it.

I finished this series of passages and I was like, wow. This is me. I remembered crying myself from the pain and the shame of not wanting sex with my husband like I was supposed to. I remember the embarrassment of it all as I cried hot tears that made my husband uncomfortable–not because it wasn’t good for me but because I was crying so much.

And I hate Richard so much in these passages. I hate how happy he is and I hate how little he cares for Therese. I hate how Therese is pressured to be in this situation when throughout the previous pages, she is clearly drawn to women, even before she meets Carol.

There is a trauma that happens when women who love other women are forced in this kind of situation. It’s so long lasting and men like Richard just laugh.