I have about 30 pages left on the second-to-last (read: ugliest) pass of this revision, so of course I must blog instead of work.
Also: Fuck, 2020 is starting pretty poorly, isn’t it?
Stories that have absorbed some of my energy: the Middle East, of course. The clown show in our current government, of course. The wildfires in Australia. I’m privileged to have some true friends there on the other side of the world, and communication is spotty and damn, what the hell can I do to help them?
I’m depressed about the Democratic primaries. I quite like Warren, despite the niggling conviction we’re never going to elect a woman in this country (this is assuming our democracy survives, and I’m pretty sure it’s all over but the shouting on that, but I cling to hope because what the hell else can I do?). The idea of choosing between Biden and Sanders just makes me tired. I’ll do it, but I won’t do it with any relish. I’ll vote for either of them in the general, and that I’ll do with relish, because they are not fascist de facto dictators. In the primary I’d have to go with Sanders, because on paper I agree with him more than I do with Biden. But I can’t help feeling a bit like I’m supporting a fraternity party where all the women are handed fancy drinks and told to shut up, and the guys who get louder and drunker all night are held up as rational leaders.
I’ll try not to conflate the candidate with the nastiest segment of his fanbase.
I’m saddened, enraged, fascinated, and oddly kind of hopeful about what’s going on with the Romance Writers of America. (There have been developments since that article, but it’s an excellent summary of the background.) [ETA: This is a pretty thorough post-mortem from Vox.] I’m not the only person who’s noticed the parallels between the organization and our country’s current white nationalist government. The difference with the RWA is that the membership are angry about it, and organized, and forcing actual change. Whether that change will preserve the organization or dissolve it, I can’t say. If I had to guess, it’ll continue to exist in some form for a while, but unless they can really root out the problems—which are not recent or new—it’s an org that needs rebuilding from the ground up. That’s an exhausting undertaking and a huge amount of work—but wouldn’t it be wonderful to see an organization built on diversity and inclusion from the start?
Which is of course what the RWA wanted to be, but it got subverted over time. And isn’t that just the story of human history?
Other writer’s organizations have had their own dramas. The SFWA had some interesting times some years back, and you still see dust-ups around befuddled white folks here and there. It’d all be amusing if it didn’t harm actual living people, every time; if the reactions to these incidents didn’t show us, again and again, that there are folks who believe expecting basic inclusion is somehow unreasonable, or even disrespectful.
I get tired, as a female person, of being repeatedly, systemically erased from nerd history. I get tired of the “Star Wars is for boys!” bullshit that still gets spread around. (The Kid gets this at school. Doesn’t bother her so much, because she took Trek‘s side years ago and doesn’t seem inclined to be bipartisan about it.) I get tired of being told girls never played DnD or read SF or wrote SF.
I spent the 70s and 80s reading SFF primarily written by women. I’d seek out those books. I didn’t analyze it much at the time, but at some point in my early teens I learned I was less likely to enjoy a SFF book written by a male writer. I was better off taking a chance with an unknown woman. In addition to Norton and Hambly and Lee (and yes, MZB, although I can’t re-read her now), I read innumerable one-offs that are still in boxes somewhere in my house. I can’t remember all their names, but when I unpack the books and see the covers, I have strong emotional memories of how the books made me feel.
We’ve always been here, dammit, not just as fans, but as creators, and fuck everyone who tells us we don’t belong. Also, fuck everyone who’s forgotten we’ve always been here. Sometimes I think they do more damage than the folks who just want us to disappear. Good intentions are a whole lot more difficult to defeat.
I have been swearing a lot the last few days. A friend of mine posted an article about how much even common medications can affect our behaviors, and I suppose I’m a little suspicious of the antibiotic I’ve been on for a root canal I had earlier this week. (I give The Kid the same two pieces of advice all the time: vote, when you’re old enough, in every damn election; and take care of your teeth.) But of course there’s also the world being literally on fire, creeping dictatorship, and this book I’m almost done with and a little terrified to let go of.
It always comes back to the personal, doesn’t it?
We have control over so little in our lives, and yet it’s everything. I can’t stop the world from burning all on my own, here in my little house in the woods. I can use my voice and speak and vote, but on days like this, the 10th day of the 20s, when so much of the world seems to be choosing nihilism, that seems like nothing. So I do what I always do: focus on the story.
Stories are critical, subversive; they flow from generation to generation, and when we get them right we do make a difference, we do ease pain, we do make people feel less alone and more able to stand up and build a better world.
Is it futile? In the most basic sense, of course it is. None of us gets to see how life on this planet will play out. We don’t get to see what of ourselves is remembered and forgotten. I’m sure my paternal grandmother would be horrified to see what I’ve taken from my memories of her. She was once a little girl, in and out of poverty, with hopes and dreams and anticipation of what life was going to hold for her. She never dreamed of a loveless marriage lasting decades, of finally losing that marriage to dementia and death; she’d be pleased, I think, that she didn’t live to see her own son come apart at the seams the same way.
She was unkind to me. She loved me. She demanded so much of me, and I was a constant disappointment, and yet she never stopped hoping I would become what she thought I ought to be.
What I remember most of her was steel and strength, and I suppose that’s not such a terrible legacy.
So everything is coming apart all around us, all around me, and I’m finishing up this story, and does it mean anything to anyone else? I’ve no idea. That’s the thing about art, no matter who is doing it, no matter who tries to exclude you: you’re taking a piece of yourself, how you see the world, how it’s shaped for you, maybe how you’d like to reshape it. You craft that piece from words or images or materials or music or textures or flavors or scents, and you hand it to someone else, a tiny offering of your own reality. And sometimes, now and then, your art is consumed by someone who says “Also me.” And you’re less alone, and they’re less alone, and it’s a small moment of connection and comfort.
Is it enough?
No. Of course not. Nothing is ever enough.
Maybe that’s the point.
2 thoughts on “No, these aren’t New Year’s resolutions.”
I agree with you about the Democratic primaries. While I wish that someone who is younger than myself would get selected, I have resigned myself to ending up with an old white guy as the candidate. The Dem party has been burned and is now (rightly) only concerned with getting someone elected who is sane and believes in the constitution. I can’t even watch debates anymore. It is just too depressing and provokes anxiety about the outcome.
I’m amazed that anyone thinks girls/women have not been reading SF for decades! I started reading it when I discovered the shelves in the public library that were SF. In my small branch in Amarillo this consisted of one bookshelf of paperbacks. I proceeded to read through them all over the next year. This was in 1974 so this has been going on for a long time now! I also watched Star Trek on TV when I could get a chance (though my brother used to make fun of me all the time about it). I had a friend in 1973 who introduced me to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. So we women have been there for a long time reading and watching and enjoying what SF we could get. We never stopped. And I think we are a force for change in the SF world.
Control in life is always a problem. We are told as we grow up that everything is within our control, that if we don’t like something then we need to just work to change it! But that’s not how life works. You can beat your head against a wall trying to implement changes and only be rebuffed.
I’m sorry about your paternal grandmother. Sometimes those relatives are difficult to connect with. I remember when I took German in college and looked forward to trying out my new skills with my maternal grandmother. But when I told her I had been studying German, she proceeded to tell me how all the German relatives thought she had a wonderful accent, and then grilled me with “do you know this word?” which left me feeling totally worthless. I later realized that wasn’t about me, but was about her and her insecurities, but it still hurt.
Please know that there are those of us who eagerly await anything that you have written, so please, PLEASE do not be reluctant to launch any work of yours out into the world. You have people out here who love what you write and look eagerly forward to your next release.
I hope 2020 improves for you and turns out better than expected! I’m counting on the same thing myself!
Here’s to a new decade. May it be sane and bring us hope!
It’s absolutely mystifying to me how women in SFF are erased over and over again. I’ve probably nattered at you about that before! But I saw it from industry people who absolutely should know better. I don’t think readers forget, but there are sources that seem to constantly have a sort of startle response to women in SFF. I *think* it might be getting better in fantasy.