Fuck 2016

from-els

A handmade gift from my friend Els. A Christmas Tree ornament representing 2016 as a burning dumpster fire.

I have vastly different levels of reaction to various celebrity deaths.

For me, the worst reactions this year were to the sudden deaths of crime writer Michelle McNamara (Patton Oswalt’s wife) and the actors Carrie Fischer and Anton Yelchin, both of whom had turned in great performances in genre movies.

I think what bothered me most in those cases is that the deaths seemed so sudden and unfair. Premature cheapshots that took out people who still had work to do, and people counting on them.

I do feel the loss of great icons who choose to end life on their own terms. Or who pass away when they’re over 70, or at the end of a long battle with an obviously fatal illness like cancer.

But there’s some part of me that believes it sucks less to die on a predictable schedule that gives you a chance to get your affairs in order, ironclad your will and put together your swansong album.

This shit where you just never wake up from a nap while your daughter is at school at age 46, or get crushed against your mailbox at the age of 27 just when your career is taking off, or have your heart give out on a plane while you’re in the middle of reprising your most iconic role…

Well, it’s just bullshit.

When I say “Fuck 2016”, I’m not just saying “no” to all mortality. Like the death of an award-winning author who passed away peacefully at the age of 96 on Christmas Eve, survived and supported by generations of his children, grandchildren and great-children, and knowing that his estate will continue to provide for them for decades. I mean… how much better does death get than that…?

I’m not sad that people die at all, that mortality exists.

I just don’t like to see people get cheated.

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Woke As Fuck 2017

woke-as-fuck

Here’s the short version of this post: I started a book club on Facebook. You’re welcome to join it and read along with us in 2017.


Here’s the long version:

The goal of the Woke As Fuck Book Club is to spend 2017 reading the stories, novels, essays and autobiographies of suppressed voices. The authors we’re going to read are:

  • People of Colour (anyone non-white, including people with ancestry from Asia, India, Australia and the South Pacific, Africa, as well as indigenous people from Eurasia, North and South America)
  • Muslims and other non-Christians,
  • LGBTQ or otherwise alternative in their sexuality
  • Disabled or Non-Neurotypical

I’m a genre writer and a life-long genre reader, so my major focus is going to be pulp fiction and graphic novels. I read primarily science fiction, fantasy and horror, but for the WAF Book Club, autobiographies and collections of essays are on the table. I may even sidestep into some crime fiction, romance or academic work along the way.

You could create a Woke As Fuck Book Club to cover any literary genre, obviously. I wanted to make this process fun for me, so I chose the kind of material I generally like to read.

If you were to start a similar program yourself, obviously you would choose the kind of thing that works for you personally. Maybe it’s poetry, or mysteries, or plays. Maybe you’d be reading investigative journalism or some other brand of meaty non-fiction. There are suppressed voices in every literary field, and the goal of a WAF Book Club is to deliberately seek them out and engage with them, in every meaningful way.

Here’s my current Book Club Manifesto. I may update it as the process goes forward.

The WAF Book Club is a study group. Our shared goal is to Get Woke.

We’re going to spend a full year in 2017 reading and supporting literature written by POC and other marginalized voices, including Islamic, queer and disabled authors, and possibly some female authors–although I am going to keep the works of straight white women to a minimum.

THE RULES

1. DON’T JUMP THE GUN. This is a big undertaking and things will get chaotic really quickly if we’re out of sync all the time, posting threads and links at random. Nothing wrong with reading ahead if you’re on fire, but please save your threads and comments until the rest of us are ready. We’ll get to every possible author as soon as we can.

2. KEEP IT FUN. Genre of titles for this Book Club should generally be some form of pulp fiction, personal essays, or autobiography. Science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novels are strongly preferred. (Because getting woke can be fun, right?) A few biographies and scholarly works or anthologies occasionally okay as well, but we are not academics.

3. BUY THE DAMN BOOK. Commit to buying the work new whenever possible, to support the living author and/or heirs of the author. When that is not possible, for whatever reason, try to find some other way to contribute to the author’s livelihood. Check out a legal copy from a library. Support a Patreon, or file a request that the book be purchased by your local library. Reading marginalized creators is good–but they also need to get paid.

4. WAKE OTHER PEOPLE UP. When you’ve read something, commit to publishing reviews of the work in whatever medium you can, including professional magazines and websites, fanzines, newspapers, your own blog, Amazon, Goodreads, etc.. Send fan mail to the author. Send letters and emails to the publisher asking when the next book is coming. Nominate the work for awards. Etc..

Feel free to add your friends and other interested parties to the group at any time to post, suggest books, etc.. If you find an interesting article or book about an author or a subject that is related to this book, please feel free to post it, or add it to the Woke List.

5. BE PATIENT AND KIND. With everyone. Including yourself.

The whole point of this exercise is to elevate your state of consciousness. That means you’re moving uphill, starting at a lower place by definition. I’m going to write a review for everything I read. Someday I’ll re-read those reviews, looking back from higher ground, and I may cringe a little at the way I used to think, the things I used to believe, the things I didn’t know and the things I didn’t see.

That’s okay. It’s worth it.

6. SHARE YOUR FAVORITES. Please post recommendations of authors (and specific books!) to the reading list at any time. The group will retain an ongoing list of books, comics and stories for future reading and reference, and we’ll have open threads for any book or author that we’ve already covered. If someone joins late, they’ll have the opportunity to jump with a new comment or link at any time.


 

 

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Why You Should Follow Me On Twitter

 

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Christmas Memories of Mister Bear

Mr. Bear walks into the room while I am putting on Christmas clothes for a Christmas party.

MB: “I don’t think that Christmas movies are really trying.”

ME: “In what sense?”

MB: “I just searched through the Netflix Christmas movie section. They have a movie called ‘A Christmas Puppy’. The cover is literally a picture of a puppy with a bow around its neck.”

ME: “And this represents a lack of effort.”

MB: “I would say that they are failing to plumb the depths of the human experience, yes.”

ME: “This is not drama which lives up to the ideals of Aristotle and Shakespeare.”

MB: “Look, I’m not saying that it’s IMPOSSIBLE that a movie called ‘A Christmas Puppy’ could be a deep existential think piece about what it means to be loved and wanted…”

ME: “So what you’re looking for is ‘A Christmas Puppy, by Søren Kierkegaard’.”

MB: “That would be awesome.”

People think I’m the weird one.

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Deep Magic – December

deep-magic-december

Just a word to say that the December issue of Deep Magic: the E-Zine of Clean Science Fiction and Fantasy, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

This issue features my novelette “Imperial Ghosts”, which I hope you will enjoy. 🙂

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Package Opening!

The creator of this video sent me the link on Twitter.

I was completely unprepared for it, and caught off guard.

I actually burst into tears.

Being the reason that someone is excited to open a box never gets old. And it did my heart good to know that I had inspired someone to create his own universe.

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We Are At War

Just a few words about the election and its inevitable aftermath. I will not speak about this subject extensively or often, as I am not a political writer, nor am I directly in the targeting reticle of America’s Happy Shiny Nazi Party (which has attempted to brand itself the “alt-right” in recent years).

The outcome of the election has been a source of immense pain for me, as it is for many politically progressive Americans. I am deeply disappointed and deeply ashamed of my fellow citizens for putting Donald Trump in office with their votes.

Unlike most Liberals, however, I was already frightened and disturbed that Trump was able to win the Republican nomination at all, given his record of abuses, his incredibly ugly  rhetoric, and his preposterous and often dangerously dumb campaign promises. I was well aware of Trump’s resemblance to Hitler and Mussolini, which he seemed to consciously orchestrate with his speeches and mannerisms.

I am even more aghast after all the votes are counted to find that both the House and the Senate will have a Republican majority, which will leave the American absolutely defenseless against the rabid jackals that are about to be unleashed on Capital Hill. The Supreme Court, the legal rights of all minorities, the rights of women, the lives of those who depend on social security and Medicaid…so much domestic damage will be done under this administration that it is nearly incalculable. And that’s BEFORE you imagine how bad things can and will get when Trump starts deploying troops or firing nukes.

If precedents from previous Republican administrations can be relied upon…a lot of the damage done will also be irreparable. In many respects, this country has never recovered from blows dealt to the working and middle classes by Reagan, Bush, and Shrub.

Every whim of plutocratic industrial capitalism at its worst is about to be rammed down our throats. Trump and his cronies will unravel every positive change made by every President since Roosevelt–and when I say “Roosevelt”, I mean Teddy, not FDR. Because even our National Parks are about to be destroyed in an orgy of sociopathy, stupidity and greed–I guarantee it.

But ultimately…beyond the horror of bad faith, lies and retrograde politics this country is about to see…the footage of the Nazis celebrating their victory in Washington is the one image of Trump’s election that really sums it all up, for me.

If this is what “Democracy” looks like in the 20th century–Nazis throwing their Sieg Heil in a public building in Washington DC to celebrate the election of a Nazi President…then you can count me out.

Both my grandfathers went to war and risked their lives to keep people like this from ruling the world.

If this America now…then “America” and I are now at war. Which is pretty scary, because America has the largest and most powerful military in the history of the world…and all I’ve got is this laptop.

Oh well.

be-the-woman

 

 

 

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The Evelyn Tables

 

Evelyn-tables-1

 

Found a brief article today which included rare photos of The Evelyn Tables, which are thought to be the earliest known anatomical preparations in Europe. Each table is a wooden board, large enough to be a bit greater than the length and width of a human being. On each board, some system of the human body has been carefully removed from its surrounding tissues and structures, and laid out for study. The complete system is represented to the degree possible, after having been dissected with breathtaking care from the surrounding tissues and structures and arranged on the two-dimensional plane.

 

evelyn_tables_veins

Everything human is fascinating to me, including human anatomy. I tend to feel a kinship with the creators and collectors of anatomical art over the millennia, especially those whose art was grounded in medical science and the humanistic will to understand.

For this reason, I gravitate strongly toward the anatomical art of many eras–everything from the memento mori art that emerges from various religious traditions to the modern art that incorporates or celebrates the human corpse.

To read more about the Evelyn Tables, and about the tradition of Anatomical Tables in general:

The Royal College of Physicians: The Anatomical Tables

Emma Goldsmith on the Hunterian Museum, and other treasures held by the Royal College of Surgeons

Curious Anatomies: A Video By the Royal College of Physicians.

 

 

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The Bones Tell All

Link to the article on Vintage News

Dug up an older article today which briefly describes some research which was done on Viking “warrior burials” in eastern England. Earlier gender attributions had assigned these individuals as “male” based on their grave goods, which often included a sword and/or knife. Once you do the actual science, however, six of the fourteen “warrior” burials are biologically female, seven are biologically male, and one could not be determined.

Link to the article on Tor.com

The upshot to this story is the same that you find with the Hunter of Bäckaskog and many other cases in mortuary archaeology. You have to be very careful about applying modern gender stereotypes and prejudices to an ancient burial population. Your job as an archaeologist is to reconstruct the values, social roles and division of labor in the past based on evidence. (This is worth repeating in all caps: EVIDENCE.)

Your job is not to regurgitate your modern view of what is “natural” or even “possible” for men and women, based on your own social training and gender expectations in the 20th and 21st century.

Do. Your. Osteology.

Every. Single. Time.

Link to the article on Jezebel.

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World Fantasy Award for She Walks In Shadows!

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Incredibly pleased to say that She Walks In Shadows by Innsmouth Free Press has won the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology.

Congratulations are due to all the winners this year, but I know this award is particularly richly deserved. Stiles and Moreno-Garcia have been doing important work for many years now, and it’s an honor to be on the TOC of this book.

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