Cover Reveal!

Ephemera is running a little behind on its production schedule (mostly because I’ve had a rough summer), but here is the cover, at last!  More awesome cover art from the amazing Alex Heberling, spotlighting Nereid, new POV character Renata, and everyone’s favorite, Simon!

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Another Wonder City Stories short story!

“Experto Crede” is a story about a slice of the Equestrian’s life, and how she has to cope with a bad decision she made when she was much younger.

Available on Kindle and also on a number of non-Kindle platforms (like Kobo, Apple, B&N, etc.)

At some point in the nearish future, I plan to release another short story, and will eventually release “Truth, Lady Justice, and the American Way” to other platforms than the Kindle (it was my experiment in Kindle Direct; it didn’t work, now I have to wait for it to unenroll).

Just an observation

fonda

This is Judy Bernly, played by Jane Fonda, in the movie “9 to 5” (1980).  She is our original POV character, walking into the company with the supertoxic boss, and she joins forces with Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin) and Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton) to overthrow the Patriarchy.

Meanwhile, Judy has some issues with sporting the huge bow style of the era:

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Until, of course, she hits her Empowering Fantasy Sequence:

fonda5 fantasy

Of course, in “real life” in the movie, things don’t go quite so picturesquely, but they do overthrow the Patriarchy (in part) and get the promotions Dolly sings about so eloquently in the title song.

I believe that Judy Bernly is the spiritual grandmother of Erin Gilbert of Ghostbusters 2016 and the world’s tiniest bowtie.  (For a variety of reasons, not least that the characters’ presentation and roles are similar, but mostly I’m just presenting this for your consideration, not wanting to argue at all.)

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Ghostbusters 2016

First and foremost: SQUEEEEEE.  Yes, I’m fangirling this movie hard.  The queerness and the women and the fact that men are thoroughly secondary all make my shriveled heart sing.  The action sequences give me ALL the feels of EVERYTHING I DON’T USUALLY GET.  (Especially the super-queer character having the awesome action scene.  I love Furiosa, and Rey, and Ripley, don’t get me wrong, but none of them code particularly queer.  Well, okay, Vasquez.  But she dies.)

When I came out of the theater the first time, I told my wife, “This movie is a gift to my inner 16-year-old, who had to pretend to overlook all the sexist bullshit in the 1984 movie in order to enjoy it.  The same way The Force Awakens was a gift to my inner 8-year-old.”  My inner 16-year-old is still in tears of gratitude every time I see the movie.

WARNING: SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT.

Patty

patty

I love Patty, and I think Leslie Jones has some of the best comic timing of the whole cast.  (There are some improvisational clunkers throughout the movie, things I really wonder why they got left in, but Jones doesn’t throw any of them.)  I think I’d really like Patty in person (I’m not sure about the others; they’re nice and all, and/or hot, but I’m not sure they and I would hit it off).

That said, I am a white woman, and therefore am not hauling up against the black stereotypes that Patty embodies.  I am aware, thanks to the excellent writing and discussion of people like NK Jemisin and the Nerds of Prey, of many of the problematics of the character of Patty.

The most glaring problem is that Patty is, like Winston Zeddemore in the 1984 version, portrayed as an outsider, a non-scientist, who joins for whatever reason the script decides to give them.  Patty has to fast-talk and bribe her way into the Ghostbusters (“Come on, you need Patty, Patty comes with benefits”), she “knows the city,” she’s self-educated, she’s NOT A SCIENTIST.

Those of you who have read about Winston in the original movie know that in the first script that Ernie Hudson saw when he accepted the role, Winston was a super-scientist veteran, and all of that was scrubbed out by the time filming began, in a giant bait-and-switch.

Leslie Jones has given us no indication that this happened with Patty.  Jones has a history of playing black stereotypes as a method of making her way in Hollywood, including during her time on Saturday Night Live.  Still, this excellent article in Ebony discusses the mechanisms of colorism and racism in Hollywood and how they keep dark-skinned black women like Jones caught in playing these roles tailored for the white gaze.

The whole thing pisses me off because it would have been so simple to fix.  I don’t write film scripts, and I could have fixed it in maybe three lines of dialogue, e.g.:

PATTY: “Okay, y’all know about the current science, but I’ve got a science background too and I want to join because you three and your research are the most intellectually stimulating things I’ve run into since they threw me out of grad school.”

ABBY: “Oh my god!  They threw you out of grad school?”

PATTY: “Baby, it was twenty years ago and who the hell was going to give someone who looks like me a (physics/chemistry/biology) PhD?”

(I will note that I was in grad school 20 years ago in biology. My department generally accepted one African-American student per class, and then forced every African-American student out of the PhD program without the doctorate.  I know of the happenings over a period of about a decade.  I don’t know if they’ve graduated an African-American student with a PhD YET.)

Ahem.

Anyway.  I will reread How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things, take a deep breath, and love the parts of the movie that I really really love.  And hope that there is a sequel, where they can expand on Patty’s character the way the sequel to the 1984 movie helped expand Winston.  In the meantime, the Power of Patty compels ME to love her and want better for her.

Abby

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Oh my gods you guys, there wasn’t a SINGLE FAT JOKE IN THE ENTIRE DAMN MOVIE.  Do you have any idea how happy that made me?  How much I want to hug Melissa McCarthy for not doing any self-denigrating humor?  How much I LOVED Abby’s one line, “We just gave a ghost a nuke, I guess we better run,” and the fact that when they reached their destination, NO ONE was out of breath?  NOT EVEN ABBY?

I adore Abby.  Abby is my Patronus.  She’s the best kind of Mulder, the one who wants to believe and has poured her whole life into that belief, and FINALLY has proof.

Also, I love her angry voice.  And the fact that she does an amazing job with the sequence where she’s possessed.  (Which Hemsworth apparently couldn’t even be arsed to attempt.)  And the fact that, given that Rowan doesn’t seem to be enhancing her strength with any onscreen FX (unlike with the jump and the midair planking), she’s probably actually strong enough to pick up Holtzmann singlehanded and carry her to drop her out a window, at least on an adrenaline rush.

Erin

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Erin is our Every-aca-woman.  The portrayal of academia as it impacts a white woman in a STEM field is PERFECT.  Just enough to tell us everything we need to know, not too much to make the scenes drag.

“More prestigious than Princeton?”  Yes, and you just know that some woman in that department dragged Dude’s research at some point.

Kristen Wiig also does a beautiful job of taking Erin from her stilted, awkward, painful pursuit of tenure to the angry, competent scientist who will, in fact, if challenged to prove herself, release a ghost into some asshole’s face because GODDAMMIT SHE’S TIRED OF BEING TOLD IT’S ALL IN HER HEAD.

For a really insightful analysis of academia in the Ghostbusters, see Is It a Race Thing or a Lady Thing?

Holtzmann

holtzmann

I feel like everyone has said everything that really needs to be said about Holtzmann.  She builds dangerous things, she’s queer, she’s resistant to patriarchy, she’s everything we ever needed wrapped up in a tiny blonde eccentric-geek-soft-butch package.  Because of Holtzmann, there are nearly 400 fics, to date, on the Ghostbusters (2016) tag on Archive of Our Own less than a month after the film was released.  (Most of it is Holtzbert, because how can you not react to all the amazing flirtation there?)  Holtzmann is a huge question mark: she’s the only one we get nearly nothing about, except for the credits scene with her mentor, Rebecca Gorin (who, I am not ashamed to say, made me squee at a wavelength that only cats and lesbians can hear when she walked onscreen).  She’s the one who nearly everyone wants to write about, she’s the one who is a blank slate to write on, she’s the one nearly everyone is gay for, and she’s the one seducing her fellow Ghostbusters (especially Erin) all over fandom.  Everyone can project whatever they want onto her.

Holtzmann is the character I’ve been longing for forever, the queer woman in an SF&F movie who kicks ass and doesn’t die.  I hope in any sequel, they can make her queerness canon and text, instead of playing all the subtext and director’s cheerful assurances.

The Dudes

Every guy in this movie is an obstacle for the Ghostbusters to overcome.  Every. Guy.

Dr. Filmore: Is the Patriarchal Academic Gatekeeper that is introducing more and more ridiculous bureaucratic hoops for Erin to jump through, and who finally slams the gate in her face.

Dean of the Higgins Institute: Another Patriarchal Academic Gatekeeper, but one with less gravitas and more of the sort of flippant asshole treatment of women that crawls out of the Internet.  Slams the gate in Abby’s face like a teenage boy drunk on power.

Bennie: Constant low-grade obstacular annoyance.  Abby, particularly, depends on him for a relatively minor housekeeping item (food) that is easy to perform (delivery, particularly after they MOVE TO THE SECOND FLOOR OVER THE RESTAURANT), but he can’t be arsed to move himself to perform that task with more speed than he feels like.

The Tour Guide: Nope, not gonna even unlock the door for you, not gonna even hand you the keys, just gonna throw them on the ground and you can pick them up yourselves.

Ed Mulgrave: Okay, yes, he’s less of an obstacle than others — he provides the way the Ghostbusters can get their first proof.  Still, wow, he’s an asshole to his employees.  Also, I would argue that there’s a certain amount of queer coding to his clothing and mannerisms. No, we have no proof, but there’s something subversive — in his assholery and zaniness — going on there that allows him to be the side-channel around Patriarchy’s Gates.

Manager of the Concert Venue: Speaking about queer-coded white dudes. Still refers to the Ghostbusters as “girls.”

Martin Heiss: I don’t even need to really discuss this, except can I say how fabulously cathartic it was to see Bill Murray defenestrated?  I don’t like the actor, I hate Peter Venkmann, and Heiss was pretty much everything about the Amazing Randi that I loathe.

Mayor Bradley and Agents Hawkins and Rorke: So we have the Godfather and the Men in Black throwing monkeywrenches into the Ghostbusters’ research and trying to make the world think that they’re hoaxers, even moreso than Heiss.

(Jennifer Lynch: We wouldn’t have patriarchal gatekeepers without having at least a token collusive woman.  Notice that she’s the actual thinker of the Mayor’s office, and the mouthpiece through which he conveys any support, secretly. He cannot be arsed to call in the Ghostbusters to thank them himself — he only talks to them when they need to be shut down.)

The Cabbie: Yeah, looking at you, Dan Aykroyd. Need to stop Erin from getting somewhere easily?  Have a cabbie spout “entertaining” lines at you and then abandon you during the apocalypse. Fortunately, Erin was wearing her tennis shoes.

Rowan: Oh, yeah, our antagonist.  Him.  He was creepy and anti-everyone, but super misogynist when given the opportunity.  He recognizes that Abby is the motive force behind the group, and without Holtzmann, they won’t have the equipment to take him on.  He goes straight for their HQ and tries to take them out, then absconds with Kevin because he’s handy, and at the end, tries to take Abby with him out of revenge.  Rowan crawled straight out of Reddit, just like Darth Emo from The Force Awakens and Immortan Joe from Fury Road.  He’s just from a different subreddit.

Kevin: Fandom keeps wanting to make this guy some sort of innocent child-like individual.  Aw, he can’t figure out the phones.  Nah.  The luggage in a pile next to his desk is the key here: he just doesn’t care enough to do the job he’s being paid for. He won’t invest the emotional labor to be attentive, answer the phone, listen to his bosses.

He refuses to acknowledge, at first, that the phone is ringing and that it’s his job to answer it. (He just doesn’t seem to hear it, much less acknowledge that it exists on his desk. He remembers that there’s a phone in the fish tank, though — that he can’t reach.) When pushed to answer the phone, he immediately hangs up on the caller. (He’s “not into that conversation.” Probably because the person is upset and would require some listening.  How many of us have been receptionists who “aren’t into” those conversations?) He has to be asked who was on the phone.  The women have to walk him through every step of the way, repeatedly. He refuses to think through to the logical conclusion the fact that he has to take messages and let the women know that, for instance, they have a visitor waiting.

See ref: all the men (and some women) who, for instance, “just don’t see” mess that needs cleaning. They don’t exert themselves to do that emotional labor in terms of maintaining their own environment.

Notice that when he’s interested, he’s willing to put in the emotional labor to actually do something.  He can dress and groom himself, perform extensive workout routines, and ride a motorcycle, after all. He suddenly becomes competent enough to find an outfit and acquire a motorcycle (tricked out in the logo and with the ECTO-2 license plate — he claims to “borrow” it, but someone had to sit at DMV and get that license plate) when he wants to join the Ghostbusters because he thinks it’s cool.  And then at the end of the movie, he attempts to take credit for saving the city. He includes himself as a Ghostbuster, horning in on the women’s accomplishments without a blink of conscience.

Kevin is not (particularly) stupid: he’s a typical cishet white man with the volume turned up to showcase the lack of emotional labor and the imposition of himself on the women in all the normal ways that men do, with all the casual narcissicism that cishet white men are taught to spew around themselves.

In Closing

Holy crap, I love this movie.  Even with all its problems.

Safety lights are for dudes.

Disjointed thoughts

The shock is wearing off from the news about the Pulse, and I’m having to get through a workday without the convenient dissociation of Dragon Age.  I’m still not particularly coherent on the subject — I’ve been using Twitter for a lot of my thought bursts, and otherwise retweeting/reblogging things.

  1. On June 28, 1969, drag queens and trans people of color said ENOUGH at Stonewall and fought back against police.  It is no accident that the people targeted in this attack were queers and trans folk of color, with drag queens of color and trans women of color headlining the event that was attacked.  Our queer family of color has always been in the bloody vanguard of the fight to get the American public to recognize our basic humanity.
  2. This is not the deadliest mass shooting in US history.  This is the deadliest mass shooting in modern times, certainly in the 21st century.  To state that sweeping “in US history” ignores the state-sanctioned mass murders of Native Americans and blacks and other people of color.  At Wounded Knee, for instance, something between 150 and 300 civilians (women, children, elderly people) were murdered by the US Army.
  3. Politicians and mainstream media are trying to make this about Islam.  It’s not. It’s about the morass of homophobia and transphobia and racism and toxic masculinity that our culture is soaking in.

My writing is almost entirely a love letter to my queer family and our straight allies.  I love you all.  I don’t say it enough, I sometimes say it badly, but I love you all.

Please exercise self-care around all media and social media.  Pamper yourselves.  We all deserve treats.  This grief is real.

Please keep being fabulous and amazing and marvelous, because you all are.

Please don’t stop celebrating and being who you are.

Please keep living.

A few very quick updates

  1. I attended Wiscon 40 and it was GREAT.  The three Guest of Honor speeches — Justine Larbalestier, Sofia Samatar, and Nalo Hopkinson —  were amazing.  I described (elseweb) the experience of listening to them  as, “They not only knocked it out of the park, but blew down the bleachers, turned the park into a real green-space park, and renovated the neighborhood without gentrification.”
  2. Also Wiscon 40: My two panels went really well, and I am grateful to my copanelists and our audiences (SRO for the QueerQuisitor panel) for such a lovely experience.  The Broad Universe reading was a little sparse, but only to be expected when we were opposite Nalo Hopkinson’s reading.  Still, it was great to meet my fellow Broads.
  3. This past Monday, I attended the Lambda Literary Award Gala.  Wonder City Stories did not win the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror category, but it was an honor to be listed among such amazing people.  Next time, perhaps!
  4. I have the complete cover art for Ephemera in hand, and Alex Heberling has, as usual, done an amazing job of reading my mind in terms of what the characters look like.  Now to plan out the final schedule for the book’s release with my book designer, so I can tell everyone! 🙂

WisCon 40!

I am on 2 panels and doing one reading at Wiscon 40 this coming weekend.  You can also find me at the Broad Universe table, selling Wonder City Stories and other books from other Broads!

Schedule:

Hequisitor, Shequisitor, Theyquisitor: The Queer Gaming Experience
Conference 5
Fri, 4:00–5:15 pm

Broad Universe Rapid-fire Reading (RFR)
Conference 2
Sat, 1:00–2:15 pm

Writing and Tabletop Role Playing Gaming: Intersections and Divergences
Conference 4
Sat, 4:00–5:15 pm

Hope to see you there!

Wonder City Stories short story!

One of my Wonder City Stories short stories, shined up and edited and all, is available for Kindle:

Truth, Lady Justice, and the American Way

TLadyJaAW cover

How Kate Clinton Made Me Gay

(Originally published on my LiveJournal on February 12, 2007.)

Long ago, before the wheel was invented (or, well, possibly somewhat after; I was a life sciences major! what did I know?), I was in college. I picked the wrong college to try first, and wandered around it like a lost soul, and stood outside the college GALA meeting (this was also before bisexuals and transfolk were invented, apparently) in a long black cloak at night under a tree, trying to make my hide in shadows roll and failing repeatedly, for half an hour. I watched the meeting of perfectly normal gay people through the walls of the large glass meeting room in which the introductory meeting was being held — whose bright idea was that? — and felt that piquant terror that many geeks feel at the idea of mingling with normal people.

Fortunately, I failed my hide in shadows roll at just the right moment and was found by a wandering pack of science fiction geeks who dragged me off to join THEIR club. None of them, alas, were willing to be gay at me, but I happily shoved the idea of gayness to the back of my head.

Then I went to a different college. I was too busy to try their GLSU meetings, but I eventually found a slightly geeky gay man who worked with me to come out to. I came out to him on one of our long, boring summer afternoons of watching over our brooding ranks of Apple II+ computers (before the invention of the hard drive). He told me the GLSU was a seething mass of politics, so maybe I didn’t want to try them. Besides, I told myself, I was bisexual (this was after I invented bisexuality), not a lesbian. Perhaps there was still hope I could be ‘normal’.

The next school year, I lived in a dorm that was next to a set of train tracks. After getting used to the sound of the train running by my back door every hour and therefore becoming less sleep-depped, I started wandering the town. One store I walked past on an almost daily basis was Wonderland Records.

I was certain it was a Head Shop.

I wasn’t really sure what, precisely, a Head Shop was, but I was certain that it wasn’t the sort of place a Nice Catholic Girl like myself should be. (This was before I invented paganism.)

It took me something like six months before I dared cross that Heady threshold.

It was, actually, a record store.* It sold records. You know, those vinyl disc things that play on phonographs. It also sold cassette tapes, but I didn’t have a cassette player, so I didn’t even bother looking at those. There was a bargain bin of 8-tracks in the corner.

I looked around the store very carefully. I found a tiny section in the racks near the windows marked “Women’s.” I thought, “Women’s music?” and flipped through it.

I don’t remember seeing anything in there except two records by Kate Clinton. One was called Thanks for the Mammaries and the other, Making Light. (This led to later confusion and disappointment when I discovered the blog of the same name.)

There was something deeply subversive and intensely scary about women’s comedy, so I fled.

It took me something like six months before I chose Making Light because it had a less intimidating (and revealing) title. I carried it to the cash register with an exaggeratedly casual air, paid the uncaring clerk for it with cash, and ran for the hills. When I got to my closet-like dorm room, I played it.

I laughed and howled and played it again.

The line that stays in my head from that album: when she’s talking about removing stuck tampons, she notes, “Fortunately, we have friends to help us.”

Over the subsequent years of waffling and confusion, that album was one of those things I returned to like an orbiting comet. It made me wonder what I could be sometime, maybe, possibly. And every return felt a little more like home. I mean dykes! Making jokes about being dykes! How cool was that? And she wasn’t mean. Well, not to anyone who didn’t deserve it. So much humor about women is based on meanness.

I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to be a woman and funny and not mean about other women? It sounds like dykes have so much fun!

(Clearly, Dykes To Watch Out For had not yet been invented. Or, well, it had. I remember seeing the title on the table of the women’s book co-op I went to twice in grad school, and wanting to flip through it, but I ran away.  Then came back later and read bits of it.)

Meanwhile, I kept getting closer and closer to realizing that being a dyke, being part of dykedom, was what I wanted.

It took me a long time to come around to coming out.

Fortunately, I had friends to help me.

Several years ago, while in Provincetown, I bought another Kate Clinton album, this time on CD, in Womencrafts (10% Dyke Discount!). I took it home and forgot it. A month or so ago, I found it again, unwrapped it, and listened to it on the way to work. I laughed and howled and played it again, this time for my wife.

When I think about lesbians, the first thing I think of is Kate Clinton’s voice. I didn’t realize this until I listened to this album.

Someday, I’d like to see her perform live. And maybe if I’m brave, I can shake her hand and thank her for helping to make me gay.

 

*Which does not mean it wasn’t a Head Shop.

We Have Always Been Here

I was reading some more of the reactions to JJ Abrams’ tone-deaf and white-boy-oblivious comment last December about wanting his Star Wars to attract female fans because Star Wars had always been a “boy thing.”  Which is, of course, utter bullshit, and I hope that he actually paid attention to the fans and learned a thing (but given previous experience with supposedly open-minded white male directors getting defensive as hell and refusing to learn anything about their female, queer, or POC fans, I’m not actually very hopeful).

I don’t know how I missed Elizabeth Minkel’s article in the New Statesman before, but it is extremely quotable:

Here’s a theory: you might not have noticed that you were surrounded by female Star Wars fans all these years because you were the one who rendered them invisible.

On Tumblr, my old friend X-Cetra said, rightly:

Shame on JJ Abrams and Steven Moffatt and all the adult geek boys of today who have developed collective amnesia about all the girls playing with Star Wars figures, geeking about Star Trek, learning Elvish, reading comics on long car rides, recording Doctor Who off PBS, programming on Commodore 64s, gaming on Ataris, and being masochistic Dungeon Masters. I am sick of having to shout to the rafters, again and again and again, a la Kosh of Babylon 5, that WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE.

And I remembered:

My first good boss was a woman some 40+ years my senior who ran the microbiology lab classes at my university and who was the biggest Tolkien geek I have ever known. She’d read the books voraciously as they were coming out (she said it was awful, waiting for the next book — eat your hearts out, GRRM fans), taught herself Elvish as she went, and was a bit of a Tolkien scholar (how much, I never knew, or even if she was published).

During the 1970s, when there was a big resurgence of Lord of the Rings, and in one microbiology class, she found Elvish writing in the back of one of the student lab notebooks she reviewed weekly. So she wrote back. And the student wrote back.  And so on.  They carried on an Elvish correspondence for the entire semester, even as the student was turning in assignments and lab writeups.  The way she told the story, it was clearly one of her fonder memories among decades of microbiology students.

On my birthday, I went in at midnight to do some microbiology culture prep.  As I assembled my plates on the lab bench, I saw that she’d left me the biggest card I’ve ever seen, with a reproduction of one of Tolkien’s paintings on it.  The inscription was, if I recall correctly, a short quote from  Bilbo’s birthday party.  I hope I still have it somewhere, because I treasure that memory.  Best. Boss. Ever.

Damn straight we’ve always been here.

Thank you, Mrs. Clouser, for being an example for this lonely female geek.