Why Being Out Matters

Steven Harper PiziksEvery time the media report that a celebrity or sports figure has come out as LGBT, a tsunami of backlash rushes across the country.  What follows is a small sampling of actual commentary from different coming-out news stories:

“This isn’t a story. Why does the liberal media keep shoving the gay agenda down our throats?”
“No one cares about this.”
“So now ‘being gay’ is cool enough to be mentioned every single time that an athlete comes out….what a freaking lousy media we’ve got in the USA.”
“I’m straight. There, I said it. I wonder if Obama will call me and congratulate me for having the courage to reveal my sexual preference. “
“He isn’t a real player.  He’s second string and wont even play a game.  Why are they reporting this junk?”

Most of these comments prove the very point they’re trying to refute.  When you’re in a hated minority, the first step is for society to oppress and crush and eradicate.  Being called a member of the group is a terrible insult.  The group has to fight in order to get recognition and protection. Continue reading

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Write Hacks 9: Whack the smallest mole

This post is about stress, so here are some first-aid cats.

This post is about stress, so here are some first-aid cats.

Is this you?

Wake up
Brush teeth
Make coffee
Feed the cat
Sit down at computer

Because there’s just so much to be done. It’s not a do-list, it’s a tidal wave. Continue reading

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Writing Life: Putting It into Words

Ursula LeGuin has said that the writer’s job is to “put into words what cannot be put into words.”  Writers of fiction—mainstream, horror, magic realism and fantasy as well as science fiction—have cheerfully (or not so cheerfully) accepted this job for uncounted centuries.

What sort of things are we trying to put into words?

In the classic Something Wicked This Way Comes Ray Bradbury gives this evocative description of the month of October:

First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren’t rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn’t begun yet. July, well, July’s really fine: there’s no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June’s best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September’s a billion years away. But you take October, now. School’s been on a month and you’re riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you’ll dump on old man Prickett’s porch, or the hairy-ape costume you’ll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it’s around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.

As Keanu Reaves would say: “Whoa.” Continue reading

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Cataract Journey 6:  Post-Op #2

mona lisa eyesBy the time of my second cataract surgery, I was readier-than-ready. I was so tired of not being able to see clearly out of both eyes, which made depth perception – necessary for driving, pouring water from a pitcher, etc. — impossible. I was excited rather than anxious, an interesting way to approach eye surgery. My first surgery had been quick, painless, and even a little bit fun, especially the psychedelic lights during the femtolaser portion. The gap was only two weeks, so all the surgery prep was still fresh in my mind. By prep, I mean chatting with the anesthesiologist, starting antibiotic and steroid eye drops several days before, fasting the night before. I strongly dislike sedation and had asked to not be sedated the first time. In the past, it’s taken me a solid week to feel really clear-headed after receiving the drug they use. This time, I was able to tell the second anesthesiologist (a different one) how well it had gone and to reiterate my preference. Very often, patients don’t realize their opinions and prior experiences matter, especially when it comes to medication. Just because the “usual” protocol includes a specific drug doesn’t mean it is required. Often, there are alternatives with fewer of the obnoxious side effects. Continue reading

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BVC Announces Fair Winds and Homeward Sail by Sherwood Smith

Fair Winds and Homeward Sail by Sherwood SmithFair Winds and Homeward Sail
Sophy Croft’s Story
by Sherwood Smith

One of Jane Austen’s best-loved books is Persuasion, and of the characters in it, among the most popular are Sophy and Admiral Croft, dashing Frederick Wentworth’s sister and brother-in-law.

In this short novel, Sherwood Smith takes a look at what the Wentworths’ lives might have been like before they met the Elliots, and Sophy’s view of Anne Elliot’s and Frederick Wentworth’s stormy relationship–and how she might have had a hand in bringing about that happy ending.

Continue reading

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Navigating the Ocean of Story, Session 1, Part 5

Ursula K. Le Guin, photo by Marian Wood KolischNavigating the Ocean of Story

Session 1, Part 5

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Alper: A lot of times, when I am writing or thinking a story, a scene just pops up. The scene seems powerful, touching, or somehow important, so I want to include it in my story.

So far so good. The problem is at this point the plot may be mostly set and characters already well developed. It won’t be easy to fit this scene into the current form of the story. Its length may be a few paragraphs or pages but to make it plausible you possibly need to tweak the characters and the events. May be you found a way to do that but then wonder if this new additions spoil the integrity of the plot and characters, make them less organic. Of course you can forget the scene and write your story as it is. No reader can know it is missing. But at the same time you want to include it, for you it seems like it belongs to the story.

My question is what are your tactics to make such decisions? Is this another false dichotomy? When and under what conditions are you giving up on such scenes or forcing things to include them in your story?

Ursula: Length is a consideration. A short story can’t keep tucking in new bits without getting very lumpy. But novels — well, there’s the race car novel: sleek, stripped-down, speed-and-end-oriented – and there’s the camel caravan novel, which can contain all sorts of discrepant stuff, explore byways, take on baggage, stop to rest at oases, just so long it keeps on going.

How fully do you plot out your story before you start writing it, and do you use that outline as a blueprint or as a rough sketch? If you’re working to a blueprint, you can’t suddenly add a bedroom to the second floor without redesigning the entire house. If your plan is a rough sketch, it’s flexible and probably, with some rewriting, can contain the new scene without strain. Continue reading

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Oh, Jolly Hockey Sticks! On Mars!

One of the joys of living in the heart of Silicon Valley is that NASA Ames is just over there, and SETI HQ is even Chaz Brenchleycloser. We live among the cool kids – and the cool kids like to share. I went to NASA for the recent transit of Venus; and ever since I moved here, I’ve been going to SETI’s weekly colloquium where planetary scientists and cosmologists talk about the latest discoveries, or the specific projects they have on a new mission, or the latest weird theory that’s almost a guaranteed Nobel prize if it should ever prove true (“but right now there are only two people who believe it, and they’re both in this room”), and like that.

So there I was with planetary scientists at my fingers’ ends for the asking, and lots of Mars talk going on around the time of Curiosity’s landing, so it’s really no wonder that I started thinking about Mars fiction. Real Mars, not so much, for it is dry and inhospitable and I have written my desert books already – but old Mars, Mars with canals and an atmosphere and aliens? Oh, yes. Very much yes.

And very much within that spirit, I wanted to steampunk it up a bit; and there was a lot of talk at that time in my social media about how steampunk tended to assume British Empire overtones, as though that were the only choice, and how it so very much was not. So I thought somewhat about that – but I did keep coming back to the British Empire, because I am far from home and the more time I spend in California the more inveterately Brit I become, and because I am the son of an Empire brat (Grandad was a major in the Scots Guards; Mum was born in Rangoon and grew up in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, speaking Malay more readily than English), and because above all I was really curious. If Mars were a province of the British Empire, how would that actually work? How could it happen, and what would it mean – to the Empire, and to European and world history? And to Mars, and to the presumptive Martians? How do you impose colonial rule on a race that has no concept of empire, or statehood, or governance? And does it make a difference if you’re there by their courtesy, via their aetherships, for reasons you still don’t understand? And how do you negotiate even the broadest heads of agreement where you can barely communicate at all? Continue reading

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State of the Farm: The Revenge of the Two Cycle Engine

 (Picture from here.)

It’s harvest time on our tiny, tiny farm. It was an interesting summer.

A woodchuck found its way into the garden and it took some doing to get him out. The old fellow was too smart for traps. We tried a few ways to just persuade him to go. Things like about a pound and a half of mothballs down the hole.

This didn’t dissuade him. For all I know he absorbed the naphtha and became a mutant, inhuman, hybrid woodchuck. You wanted to know how the Aliens in Alien came to be? Naphtha and woodchucks. I’ll tell you that for free. Continue reading

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The Rambling Writer Attends the Chanticleer Authors Conference

chanticleerKathiBNOTE: I’ll continue my British Columbia journey next time, October 17

I just attended the Chanticleer Authors Conference and Awards Ceremony 2015, right here in beautiful Bellingham, WA. It’s a book-business-oriented conference, focused on educating authors about tools and techniques for gaining readership, stimulating sales, and much more. I learned a lot and met many terrific people dedicated to improving their outreach or helping authors do so. Continue reading

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When I was young, I had dolls. I remember them, clearly – all of them.

There were the pretty ones – a couple of blondes and my favorite, the little black-haired one with cute bangs and eyes that opened and closed and eyelashes to die for and a curious half-smile painted on her rosebud mouth. These were real dolls, maybe a foot or two in height, no silly poseable Barbies with wasp waists but REAL dolls, to me real “people” with names and stories each her own.

There were also the other kind, the odd kind – I had a rubber Pagliacci character (a clown with a pointed hat with a pompom, all in a single piece of rubbery material) and I had my bears.

I had the Barbie tribe, later, too – I had several, but again, my mostest favourite was not the classic Bland Barbie Blondie but instead a fairly rare Amerind-looking specimen with this long silky black hair that fell down to her (relatively natural, proportion-wise) waist, a Pocahontas type whose origins were obviously far from mine – distant, exotic, full of stories of her own. Continue reading

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