The Crap Metaphor

Male Gamedev Logs Into Twitter: Wow. You women sure do have to put up with a lot of crap. I don’t know how you manage.

Female Gamedev: I manage crap with a shovel, same as everyone else.

Male Gamedev: Yeah, I guess so. Sure is a lot of it! Oh well, guess I better get back to work making my art and building my career and my network of support, since there isn’t a mountain of crap in MY way. Good luck with that mountain of crap that you get for being born female! I *REALLY* don’t know how you manage!

Female Gamedev: *picks up the shovel and mutters darkly* Best move along, or you’re going to find out…


Here’s some message variants that I am done hearing from “allies”:

“Wow, there sure is a lot of crap…”

“Wow, don’t know how you put up with all this crap.”

“Wow, if I had to put up with all this crap, I would quit.”

“Wow, I sure am glad that I don’t have to deal with this crap.”

If you wake up one morning and see that someone has delivered a mountain of manure to your doorstep so high and deep that it keeps you from leaving the house…?

You have no choice but to deal with it.

No, it doesn’t matter whether you asked for the crap. It doesn’t matter whether you deserve the crap. It doesn’t matter whether you have better things to do than shovel crap.

THE CRAP IS IN YOUR WAY. If you want to get anywhere–to work, to the doctor’s office, to drop your kids off at school–you have to shovel that crap out of your way as quickly as possible.

And when you are bent over in your business suit, sweating as you shovel crap and cursing and weeping as it gets all over your work clothes, the absolute last thing you want to hear is your crap-free neighbor walking out the front door, looking over at your yard, and saying, “Wow, that sure is a lot of crap! I don’t know how you manage! I’d be late to work all the time if I had to deal with all that shite!”

Yes. Funny you should mention it!

You fucking would be late to work all the time. And you’d be late to everything else all the time. And you’d be arriving at work covered with crap all the time. Especially if your neighbors wouldn’t pick up a shovel and help you to clear up the mess.

In short, if you can’t be bothered to pick up a shovel and deal with the crap? Shut your pie-hole. It doesn’t matter whether the crap you see on your neighbor’s doorstep is sexism, racism, transphobia, ableism, whatever….announcing your privilege while you stand by and do nothing is not an endearing habit.



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They’re Made of Meat


I’ve been taking an important writing intensive this week, Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford’s Writing the Other. For the past seven days I’ve been mainly focused on keeping up with the reading and writing/craft exercises, all of which are illuminating and useful, none of which I’m going to share in detail with those who have not taken the course (because it is copyrighted material presented by top-notch instructors and it is so cheap that you should take the course ASAP, if you consider yourself a serious writer of fiction in any medium).

One of the recommended readings for the course is available for reading online, however, and I thought it was worth passing along: “They’re Made of Meat”, by Terry Bisson. This is a classic tale, first published in Omni in 1990, and still relevant today. It’s a masterpiece of comedic SF but it’s also an excellent lesson in SF world-building, in that it demonstrates when and how to use world-building detail in an SF story without destroying the pacing, sandbagging the tale with excessive word count, or losing the thread of the point that the story (and the characters in the story) are trying to make.

As an exercise for people who want to learn the craft at a deeper level, try this: read this story, which is literally 815 words long by my count. Then tell me–how many world-building details can you count?

I counted 102.

Bow before the master, folks.



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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)


Went to see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets today.

Beautiful and visually opulent as expected? Check.

Pretty white kids with a nice switchy rom-com dynamic? Check.

Lots of crazy surreal aliens and starships and guns and tech and space-opera-spy derring do? Check.




















All the major characters connected to the plot are white?


Ten minutes of genuinely agonizing alien character design that looks like the old racist/ableist caricatures from Robert E. Crumb in the 1960’s?


And you LITERALLY have a black female-flagged character dying to forward the romantic relationship between two white characters?





People can bitch about critics being “over-sensitive” or “over-thinking” things all they like, but I honestly think that blatant racism spoils the fun in a genre like space opera. Especially space opera that’s otherwise suitable for people in their early teens.

Racist caricatures really ruined the Star Wars prequels for me from 1999-2005, to the degree that I couldn’t be bothered to continue watching them after the second one. This movie should not have had to repeat any portion of that mistake, since it’s already been made. Nearly 20 years ago.

On a personal note…yes, I know that nothing created by/for white people is likely to be perfect when it comes to representation. But really blatant, negative racial tropes are increasingly off-putting to a lot of us. Finding them in your space opera is like finding a roach on your wedding cake.

Yeah, I know, you’d just pick it off and eat it if you were hungry enough. Yes, I know that back in the old days, every wedding cake came with a roach, and if you wanted any cake you just removed them or crunched them up and that was that.

 But in this modern, highly saturated market for science fiction….is anyone really hungry enough?

Rihanna stars in Luc Besson's " Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets". Photo credit: Daniel Smith © 2016 VALERIAN SAS – TF1 FILMS PRODUCTION

Rihanna stars in Luc Besson’s ” Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”.
Photo credit: Daniel Smith

P.S. Personal suggestions to make this particular wedding cake more appetizing?

1. Have one of the two commanding officers in the film be any race but white. I don’t care which, the hero or the villain, but give a POC character a major role which is not in “Alien-Face”. Maybe switch the actors who played the Hero and the Hero Who Got Fridged? That would have been clever. Because literally two out of three black characters in a film being pointlessly murdered is kinda crappy.

2. When the race-marked cabaret performer finished her death scene, seemed to collapse into talcum powder, and our Brave and Noble White Adventurers turned away to go save the day…give me another 30 seconds of film to show that the shapeshifter had faked her death to ditch Valerian and the authorities, and be genuinely free. Subvert the trope. That’s all I need.

3.  Ditch the awful character design of the cannibal aliens. Do not murder the cannibal alien emperor, even if he was planning to have White Girl Brains for dinner. And have your character designs reviewed by an adult, please?


P.P.S. The original comic actually billed both characters, didn’t it? Valerian and Laureline? Why couldn’t the film do the same, since she’s such a prominent character…? Ennnngh, fuck it, nevermind. Just not so much with the dead black women and Crumb aliens. Ok? Kthanxbye.

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Clarion West News!


Just posting a quick bit of news for summer and fall. Summer is here, which means that it’s time to raise some money for charity! Once again I will be participating the Clarion West Write-A-Thon, raising funds to help forge the next generation of great science fiction, fantasy and horror writers.

My project this year is a deck of world-building cards for writers of science fiction. Each card will have one or more Writing Prompts, questions that you can answer to get our imagination revved up and your juices flowing. My funding goal is $1000: if I reach it, all of my supporters will get

Graduates from Clarion West are represented in multiple media, including games. The current President of SFWA, Cat Rambo,  and the multiple award-winning author Ann Leckie both graduated in the same year. The CEO of Kerberos Productions and I are both graduates; so is Eric Nylund, who served for many years as the lead writer of the Halo series, and Monte Cook, currently the CEO and Creative Director of Monte Cook games. Jeff Spock, who worked on Ubisoft’s Might and Magic series and Dark Messiah, is a graduate–so is Diana Sherman, who has worked with a number of studios, most notably at Cryptic Studios on Champions On-line, Star Trek On-line, and the Neverwinter roleplaying game.

In short, an investment in Clarion West is an investment in the future of entertainment, on a variety of levels. My campaign for the summer is a little over 20% to its goal; all support is appreciated.



Speaking of world-building, I will be teaching a one-day intensive on the subject in September!

The Clarion West One-Day Workshops are for serious writers who want to build skills in a certain area of fiction writing. Previous workshops have covered a variety of topics, from craftsmanship to career-building, and this intensive will be no different. For a modest fee, you get a full day of instruction which includes an overview of basic techniques and the opportunity to bring a specific world-building problem to the table. Come spend the day with me in Seattle and let’s fire up the Forge of the Gods and hammer out a setting that your audience will love.





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Zootopia (2016)



Watched Zootopia for the first time recently, assuming I was about to see a mildly amusing Disney cotton candy story about a plucky rabbit.

Instead I find myself watching a Furry Noir narrative about a naive young cop from a farming town, who comes to the big city and stumbles onto a grim missing persons case which leads her to the heart of a segregated society riven by intersecting boundaries of race and class, and built on a legacy of brutality and violence.

Starring a plucky rabbit.

Spoilers follow. If you don’t want to have the plot twists of a Furry Noir movie ruined for you…go see the movie, and then come back. It won’t take long.

I would agree with critics who say that this film is pretty damned problematic.  The core premise of this film–that racially motivated fear is wholly justified by “biological narratives”–is a serious problem, especially where children are concerned. Speaking from the anthropologist’s perspective, I found those scenes in the “Natural History Museum” and the campaign to dehumanize and blame a minority group using “science” to be fairly on point. This is how it is done, and how it has always been done. And we see why.

I would also agree with those who say that the metaphors of the film are mixed to the point of being unintelligible at times. The primary divide in the Zootopia world is supposed to be Predator-Prey, but the protagonist’s problem is not the fact that she eats carrots–it’s the fact that she’s physically small. The cops that surround her are not all Predators, but they are all large, formidable animals–her chief of police is a Water Buffalo played by Idris Elba.

Technically an elephant or a rhino is a non-predator, but they don’t spend a lot of time hiding in holes or running up trees. I think the issue with the animals on the police force is that they are all coded with the traits of MASCULINITY, not race. And to be honest, a lot of the first half of the film is basically a White Feminist’s narrative about sexism…Officer Hops struggling to prove her competence and her worthiness for equal opportunity for the first half of the film is a feminist narrative. The assistant mayor and Officer Hops are the classic two faces of white feminism: Deliberately Evil Vs. Dangerously Blinded By Privilege.

That being said…Zootopia is most definitely about racism to some degree. It’s also most definitely about class–the foxes are framed as whites from disadvantaged backgrounds repeatedly. All the Fox material in the movie is a “White Trash” narrative about class.

The real issue from my perspective is that the film actually upholds a racist worldview, by framing racism as founded in real biological differences–whereas in reality, racism is an arbitrary political system which has very little to do with DNA. I also agree with the criticism that depicting racism as a personal vice that people choose to indulge or not, while all parties play on a relatively level playing field…is a very bad idea. Everything that fails to address racism as a systemic problem, and frames it as a personal vice, tends to perpetuate racism. That is a given.

There are a few powerful visual metaphors sprinkled throughout the film that I suspect will nag at the back of the mind for children and adults alike, however.

1. The idea that stereotypical negative behavior from people who are marked by marginalizing racial or class stereotypes is coerced, was fairly powerful.

2. So was the idea that stereotypical behaviors can be the result of abusive scripts in childhood. Children do perpetuate these stereotypes in peer-to-peer settings, and “stop doing this” is a good message for them to hear.

I also found it telling that two equally good people could take very different paths based on moments of violence in childhood.

3. The film also puts forward the idea that the message “you can be anything” is a lie, for at least some of the population. And that being framed and stereotyped as a “thug”, “criminal” etc. can be far more potentially damaging than being framed as a victim.

4. The movie tends to suggest the system fails certain people habitually and that it is often built from the ground up for someone other than “the little people”. This message was reinforced often through the use of size as a visual metaphor. The rabbit trying to use equipment and toilets in the police station. The complete absence of a police force in the rodent part of town, and the complete inability of conventional law enforcement to move through that space without destroying the people and the community–even when an outside criminal element has entered that space and poses a serious threat.


Yes. Easy to see why white liberals love the movie. There is a lot going on here, much more than in most films for children.

Unfortunately…the goal here seems to have been to strike a blow for equality and social justice. And every white person who saw this film seems to have been crowing about this movie as if it was a mighty knock-out of a haymaker…

…When all we have here is a harmless rabbit punch.

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Baskin (2015)


I watched this extremely disturbing little horror film as part of my research for my horror panels at Norwescon this year. I had a panel on religious horror, and this was a rare opportunity to see a religious horror film that was made from a non-Christian point of view–Baskin was made in Turkey, and its visions of sin and grace were Islamic rather than the usual Catholic or Protestant fare.

The story is fairly simple. A group of Turkish cops who operate out of a single vehicle are ordered to investigate an incident in an isolated village. They roll out in the middle of the night to respond to the call, but wind up in a car accident that dumps their SUV into the river. When they climb out of the wreckage, the situation in the village is still ongoing, and they move in as a unit to check it out.

There isn’t a great deal of plot to spoil here, but if you want to see the film and be surprised by its twists and scares, this would be the place to stop reading…

Spoilers follow:

Overall, I wouldn’t call this a good film. It has a few moments that truly impressed me as awe-inspiring or terrifying, but these are just high points in a movie that’s otherwise pretty banal or dumb.

The strongest writing of the film is in the characterization of the cops, their banter and their various personal agendas and flaws. There’s one haunting and somehow charming scene of these brutal men singing along to a pop song on the radio as they ride through the dark, snapping their fingers and dancing in their seats. They know every word of the lyrics, a teenage anthem of defiance against the authorities that keep you from meeting your lover after curfew–including the cops.

There is a scene where the youngest of the cops is drowning in a black river at night, and we get a really beautifully shot side view of him sinking into the deep water. What pulls him out of the situation is literally the Hand of God–a massive ethereal hand that lifts him up to air and safety. It’s quite a beautiful and exalting image, and a great special effect. I thought it captured very well how the faithful see the world.

The ending of the film places all of our heroes at the gates of hell, to be tortured by demonic forces/witches. The sequence is long and exploits all of the anxieties of the intended Turkish audience, particularly the sexual fears–there is some heavily taboo material here, including torture and mutilation, and some forced sex fantasies that are extremely kinky and disturbing.

What struck me most about this sequence, however, was the way the demonic witch cult was modeled on a Christian ceremony, with the male leader of the congregation presiding over the sacrifices. They picked an amazing actor for the role, Mehmet Cerrahoglu–to my knowledge this was his first film, although surely not his last. According to the Wikipedia article, Cerrahoglu suffers from a “rare skin condition” which gives him his remarkable appearance…his appearance has not been altered for the film, and he looks genuinely misshapen and inhuman in these scenes. The contrast between his grotesque appearance and ultra-violent sadism and his beautiful voice and gentle tone is a great source of dissonance.

Overall, this movie has a quirky little place in the catalog of any completist who collects religious horror films or sexualized gore films. Not my usual cuppa tea, but I was glad I saw it.

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It Follows (2014)


My usual Friday night werewolvery was canceled in May, so I stayed in one night to make myself a super fancy dinner and watch a horror movie on Netflix.

“It Follows” was…okay. The monster was a disturbing symbol of shame, sexual and body shame in particular, which has very little power over me, so I didn’t get as much voltage out of the premise as some people do. It has its moments. It’s a more honest and meaningful comment on how you get hurt through sexual contact than the usual slasher nonsense–I’ll certainly give it that.

I did enjoy all the forms the curse took, particularly in the rare cases that it took on the form of someone familiar to the victim. (You definitely don’t want “Geez Mom, cover your boob” to be your last words. I’m just sayin’.)

I think the thing that struck me most was that the film actually visits the idea of fully informed consent and the difference between a) partners who manipulate you and betray your trust, for whom sex is a means of escape or transference b) partners who like you well enough as a friend, and are happy enough to have NSA sex with you, but don’t really take you seriously c) partners and friends who listen, who are deeply invested in your well being, who believe you completely when you report a consent violation, and who are willing to help you help yourself when you need it. The protagonist’s support network and how they tried to help throughout the film was very interesting.

But yes. The film is very negative in some ways. Not about sex per se, but about being vulnerable with people you don’t know well enough to have vetted properly. A lot of sexual assault survivors would probably find the first act of that film upsetting. Especially if the assault they suffered was a date rape.

I would agree that any movie in which the impulse to have sex for pleasure leads to death is fundamentally sex negative. But I’ll admit that I was personally more comfortable with a horror movie which seems to be more about trauma, shame, or STI’s than about teenagers being ripped apart by some Embodiment of Patriarchal Morality.

I’m going to discuss some later details of the film in the rest of this post. I’ll assume that you’ve already seen the film or that you have no intention of seeing it in its entirety if you read past this point.


For me, horror movies are very much about sitting with intense and sometimes uncomfortable emotions in a limited dose, in a setting I can control. I’m in favor of saying “no” at any point during the experience. This film made me uncomfortable, for a number of reasons. Not so uncomfortable that I had to tap out, but still uncomfortable.

There is a lot of sexism in the sex scenes, and a lot of patriarchal and heteronormative concepts of how “sex” is defined and when “sex” has been accomplished between two people. That’s always uncomfortable stuff. I was raised with some of these prejudices, and they do get deeply internalized.

It’s also not a very flattering portrait of young male sexuality, for certain. Again, that’s uncomfortable. Trust, tenderness and empathy for men and male sexuality is in short supply, in my culture.

I would also add that all the different forms the monster takes, including the occasional form which has an extremely taboo connotation or a fetishistic overtone, were also sometimes super uncomfortable.

That being said, I am also interested in the things that are portrayed as “positives” in horror movies. In this case, a supportive group of female friends. And a male friend who is able to subordinate his sexual agenda to the protagonist’s trauma and swing a chair or fire a gun at an enemy he cannot see.

The most positive male character in the film has not experienced the monster at the same level that the protagonist has, but he can see its effects on her and he takes that leap of faith. He thinks and acts as if her story is absolutely true, the monster is real, and proceeds on that assumption.

I think that symbolism had some value.

There is a lot of stuff to unpack with this movie, and more than one way to look at it. I’ve included a couple of links to well-written essays. One is simply about how women are disbelieved and made unsafe in horror films. The other is about “It Follows” as a metaphor for the hyper-vigilance that survivors of sexual assault experience as a symptom of their PTSD.

The Peril of Being Disbelieved: Horror and the Intuition of Women


‘It Follows’ is Not About STDs. It’s About Life As a Sexual Assault Survivor.

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Into the Heart of Whiteness


My final word on Rachel Dolezal: I shared the recent article on her by Ijeoma Oluo because it was an article by Ijeoma Oluo. Not because I think anyone should pay even one millisecond more attention to Rachel Dolezal.

As a rule, I prefer to let the people who are more directly impacted by this issue speak to it, when they feel like it. But since this is my blog, fine–let’s talk about my feels.

I hate the fact that this woman has a book coming out. I hate the fact that it will take up even a tiny fraction of the space and energy in this world that could have been occupied by an actual black woman with something to say.

The only useful function Rachel Dolezal can serve is to illustrate the problem of space in a racist society. I hope that her case is extreme enough to throw some light on more subtle problems of white bodies and white egos occupying spaces that rightfully belong to POC creators, artists, community leaders, etc..

Personally, I do not want black people to be forced to deal with this woman and her bizarre claims.

All I feel when I see or read about her is anger and disgust.

The reason I haven’t shared much news about her since the initial article describing her fraud is that I think she’s a parasite. The blood she is drinking is the validation and support available to black women.

Attention and engagement is too often a limited resource, in this world. If public discourse is a jungle, the public eye is the sun, and all creative people are plants struggling to absorb enough rays to bear fruit.

Dolezal blocks the sun for black women like a strangling vine. I want her to be torn down and trampled to the forest floor so that they don’t suffocate under her selfish narcissism.

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Kong: Skull Island (2017)


I’ve been watching kaiju movies lately, and Kong: Skull Island is my favorite of the current crop for 2017.

This flick was absolutely goddamn spectacular, and is now my favorite Kong movie. I love it so much that I’m not even going to write much about it here–I don’t want to spoil it for you.

By far the best kaiju movie I’ve seen since Cloverfield. Some of the scenes of kaiju vs. kaiju and kaiju vs. humans were absolutely horrific and cinematically amazing.


Unexpected moments of pure squee!? Those two golden minutes starring Miyavi as Gunpei Ikari in World War II. I spazzed when I saw him in the credits, because I already thought he was an amazing musician. (There was a period of two years where I couldn’t make a single music mix without “Are You Ready to Rock?” on it.)

Also cool that the bulk of the film was a Vietnam War period piece. I love seeing movies with soldier characters from that era, because they remind me happily of my mother’s friends when I was growing up.

*P.S. If you see it, wait for the schwarma after the credits. It’s cool.

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No More Spirit Animals


Tonight at sundown, “Walpurgis Night” or “Hexennacht” begins. The evening of April 30th through the daylight of May 1st is a traditional pagan holiday in Europe, a turning point of the transition from spring to summer. It’s analogous to Halloween/All Saint’s Day in the autumn months, a day when the veil between our world and the worlds beyond is thin.

In Ireland, the holiday had a Gaelic name, Là Bealltainn, and many modern American neo-pagans call this celebration Beltane nowadays. Personally, I’m good with whatever people call it. In ancient times this was the day that the cattle were driven out into their summer pastures. Bonfires were lit across Europe and rituals of protection and prosperity were performed, as people celebrated the beginning of the warm months and prayed for a fruitful season.

In modern times, there are still some lingering celebrations of this holiday throughout Northern Europe, and it has also been repatriated by Leftists and anarchists as a celebration of Revolutionary ideals. However you celebrate the First of May, there’s usually booze and fire, speeches and rituals, and there’s the lingering knowledge that this day is about…life, and summer (and possibly resistance).

Which is good.

I have celebrated this day in various ways for the last 30 years. Today, I thought I would try celebrating it with a quick essay about cultural appropriation among modern white neopagans. For the past hundred and fifty years, there has been a rising movement of European and American people trying to reclaim or reconstruct the lost spiritual heritage of pre-Christian Europe. “Neopaganism” is at core a heritage movement, and it springs from an incredibly rich and diverse history of beliefs and practices which began in the Paleolithic and evolved continuously until Late Antiquity.

It’s no accident that this spiritual movement began in earnest after the Renaissance and the Enlightenment had restored a great many images and ideas from Classical Greece and Rome…and around the same time that Deep Time, the science of archaeology and the Theory of Evolution dealt death blows to the power of the Church in public life. People throughout Europe stumbled onto the iconography of their ancestors at a time when the choke-hold of Christianity was weakening.

When they first encountered this iconography, some people felt a deep answering thrum of response. Many of us still do.

Along with this deep resonance there comes longing, and not a small amount of melancholy. Neopaganism among white people is, in many respects, an act of defiance and repudiation, a gesture of mingled love and fury.

Imagine a child who is raised to adulthood by people who murdered her parents. As an adult, she discovers the truth and begins trying to reconstruct her heritage. She has nothing to go on but a torn photograph, a handful of bones and buttons, a few pages left from family journals. Everything else is lost.

I think it’s natural to reconstruct your identity from a tissue of longing, imagination, and present knowledge. If the image of your mother’s face is ripped in half and you can only see her eyes, which are the same shape and color as yours, you imagine that she looked exactly like you. If your image of your father is fuzzy, you squint and say that you can clearly see that inherited his skin tone, his curly hair.

What’s less forgivable is to leave your search for your heritage–the evidence, the longing, the gaps filled in by your  imagination–and start stealing your sense of self from others.

I’ve already been uncomfortable with the use of the phrase “spirit animal” by white people for a few years–as of now I’m axing it completely. I’m also not going to use the word “totem” anymore to try to explain a spiritual affiliation between human beings and elements of the natural world, in my religious framework.

“Totem” and “spirit animal” are essentially the same term. The only difference is that the word “totem” was stolen from the Ojibwe people by anthropologists in the 1850’s, and “spirit animal” is a modern translation of the same mispronounced word which has been appropriated by New Age authors. White people usually use the word to describe a personal relationship with a non-human force of Nature.

This is not at all in keeping with the Ojibwe use of the term. Ojibwe totems are part of a social/kinship system that unites people into a clan. It’s an important part of  Ojibwe identity; it’s one of the ways you introduce yourself to other people.

Upshot is? White people cannot have a “spirit animal” or a “totem”. Unless they happen to be a white-passing Ojibwe.

They might have a daemon, as described in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy: a mystical partner which is the animal embodiment of one’s inner self. If you use that terminology, mine would be the timber wolf. A lot of non-pagans claim that their version of this is Samuel L. Jackson, Ru Paul, or a honey badger. As long as they don’t call it a “spirit animal”, they’re welcome to make all the jokes they want about their inner selves. No one cares.

White people might have a patronus, as described in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series: a manifestation of the soul’s capacity for joy and emotional resilience which takes the shape of an animal. If you use that terminology, mine would be the otter. Yours might be Winnie The Pooh, or a tiny tortoise eating a strawberry.

Tiny tortoise eating a strawberry is a perfectly acceptable patronus.

Or maybe this monkey in a tank.

Or maybe this chimpanzee in a tank.

White people might have a charge, a heraldic symbol which has personal meaning to their family line, and could reasonably be incorporated into a coat-of-arms that represents the House or Family that they belong to. This is an ancient European tradition and people of European descent are entitled to use it–it’s certainly  the closest thing that Europeans have to the totems of the Ojibwe. My last name, Dembo, actually means “place of the oaks” in Lithuanian. My ex-husband had a Latvian name meaning “Skylark”. If we had made a coat-of-arms for our household, those would have been the two best symbols to incorporate into it.

White people might also have a tutelary deity, a powerful animal Mentor  or Teacher who is often the center of a myth cycle. A tutelary deity is a guide, a hero, an inspiration. He or she offers both children and adults a series of valuable life lessons through his/her mythic adventures.

As an American, mine is probably Bugs Bunny.

Or possibly this version of Corduroy.

Or possibly this version of Corduroy.

I’m sure you get my drift here. The upshot is that it’s time for to stop trying to rebuild the holes in a tattered cloak from ideas and symbols that were ripped away from other societies. The indigenous people of North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia have been suffering the same onslaught that was first used–very successfully–against the peoples of the Mediterranean basin, North Africa and Europe.

On a serious note, I don’t want to add to their pain.

I can’t regain my lost family by kidnapping the Grandmother of the family down the street and forcing Her at gunpoint to bake me cookies. I can’t kindle the warmth of parental nurture by making some other child an orphan. All I can do is comb the cold ashes of my own heritage to find the remaining threads of evidence and tradition, and re-weave them into something new.

My ancestry is Proto-Indo-European–Lithuanian, Germanic, British Isles and Romany–as well as Jewish. My culture is North American geek culture.

No more spirit animals for me.


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