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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Friday, 17 June 2022

I'm Getting Married!

 ...And that's where I've been. The last six months have been hectic because of it. However, you can look forward to an article that mentions my marriage in July's edition of Apex. Keep your eyes peeled! 

Although this isn't a wedding blog, and although I try to take a light touch with mentioning personal things, I wanted to take some time to talk about what I'm putting together and how it's happening. Because my wife-to-be is in a sensitive field, I will keep photos of her out of this post. 

Some of you may have read "The Underlighters" or "The Loved, The Lost, The Dreaming," which features an alternate ending for the storyline of the same book. A central feature of that tale is the triad romance between Janelle, Una, and Nathu. Polyamory, the practice (and orientation) of having multiple romantic or significant relationships, is also going to be a theme that I explore in all of my series in other ways. When I wrote that book nearly a decade ago, I didn't expect that I'd find myself in a similar relationship some day, but to my great joy and surprise, that's the case. 

Who, what, when? 

My long-time male partner Andrey (aka Disarcade) has been mentioned a few times. Some years ago, when we moved from Calgary to Lethbridge, we made a friend, whom I'll call Starling. Our friendship continued through Dungeons and Dragons and art, and when the pandemic hit, we were close enough that we decided to share a small bubble, with a couple of other people. 

The pandemic meant that we spent a lot of time together, and only grew closer. There was a personal incident with my family that she was very supportive through, and that was an immense help. As the dream of home ownership was offered to us and then snatched away, talking to her made us all realise how well our life plans dovetailed. 

Between the time and the converging goals, love had rich soil, and sent down its roots. It's been an exhilarating, sometimes challenging ride, but I couldn't be happier that in January, when  I asked her to be my wife, and marry us both, she said yes.

But marriage is between two people, isn't it?

Although plural marriages are not legally recognized - mostly due to the stigma surrounding polygamous marriages, which are different and often based in oppressive religious structures - we're having a handfasting ceremony to recognize our connection to each other. 

The blog More Than Two has some great resources and information about what polyamory is and how it works, but for those not acquainted, it's a type of non-normative relationship structure that can take many forms - including non-monogamy, relationship anarchy, and many other shapes. In our triad, all of us have relationships with each other and together, but that's not the only way to love, either. It's also not the same as swinging, which is generally about sexual interactions, but not emotional ones. 

Although polyamory is seen as non-normative (and is not just a lifestyle, but is an orientation which is discriminated against, meaning that it's on the LGBTQ+ spectrum), polyplatonic relationships are very normal - most people have more than a single friend or even best friend. Anyone wondering "how that works" on a basic level should consider how they can feel affection for multiple family members or friends. It's a good reference point for the similarities. And just as caring about one friend usually doesn't reduce your affection for another - unless there's a problem in the other relationship - loving two or more people doesn't mean loving each person any less. 

What comes next?

I might diverge from my usual pop culture, politics, and writing technique content to mention some of the creative stuff; let me know if you readers would be interested in an article about how we put together an unusual outdoor summer wedding for under $5000. 

We've been DIYing up a storm - and if I was cleverer, I'd have posted a bunch of tutorials and progress shots on here - but preparations are almost ready.  I've had a very messy release schedule for a long time now, but my mental health has been improving, and I'd like to put out more articles. I'm hoping to get some more published articles out as well, with places like Apex and even possibly other magazines. 

But for the next couple of days, until the solstice and the ceremony, my biggest focus is going to be on finishing up some final details, making food for guests, and cleaning the apartment! You would not believe the amount of glitter my fiancée produces. Seriously, there's so much glitter stuck in the carpet, on the couch, the dresses...

Oh, and book 5 is still coming along, too. I have an author event at Analog Books on August 30th here in Lethbridge, AB, so if you're a local, come out and see me that night! I'll have copies of the books mentioned here, and will be reading excerpts from those and my upcoming work, the fifth book in the Meaning Wars saga, the grand finale. When that's done, an omnibus paperback edition will be released, containing the whole series. 

Yeah, that's a lot. It's ambitious. But if my girlfriend, and soon-to-be wife, has taught me anything, it's that it's worth living life adventurously. 

***

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Friday, 25 March 2022

I Wrote About The Future; Then It Happened

 So, you might have noticed a bit of a lack of blog posts over the winter. Well, this time it's not (just) depression eating me alive. I made a thing - two things, actually. 

Consider this a soft reboot, and a perfectly good starting point in the series. Book 3, The Meaning Wars, follows two characters: Sarah, the weary Behavioural Criminal arrested for associating with dissidents, and Crystal, a wormhole engineer dissatisfied with her marriage and the safe, boring jobs she's been taking. Linked by friendship and their Martian origins, the two women fight ongoing trauma to reclaim their senses of self. 

Book 4, Poe's Outlaws, finds Crystal and Sarah pursuing intersecting paths. Sarah has become a smuggler, wrapped up in a rescue mission to save a revolutionary leader (who happens to be her inspiration and her crush). Crystal is taking a much-needed vacation, but an old flame, the one who got away, is about to throw her life right back into chaos. The only way out? Friendship, teamwork, and possibly, a revolution. It's a beach episode featuring queer love, aliens, and derring-do.

I'm working on book 5, A Jade's Trick. I'm past the halfway point, but for a few months, I got completely stuck. Part of it was debating on the tone for the ending. War threatens, and I had no idea how to resolve the conflict. Should I choose something idealistic, where the corrective safeguards of the system work, or something drastic and grim, a more realistic vision of power dynamics? I couldn't choose, and it felt like a very abstract question. 

Then war came to Ukraine, and I got a tiny taste of what it might be like to stand in Crystal's boots. 

Apocalypse Turducken 

Being in the late? portion of a pandemic, as very hurried politicians insist we are, and having that pandemic overlap with the disruptive attack on the American election (followed recently by a halfassed attempt to do the same here in Canada, with the farcical embarrassment of the trucker protests) [links], I wasn't exactly expecting more calamities. But the universe isn't really into following scripts or plot arcs or anything sensible like that - no, those are human constructs meant to carve chaos into coherence. I wasn't counting on a paranoid, ruthless dictator deciding that the lull after the second pandemic Olympics was the perfect time for his colonial power-grab. 

And I really wasn't prepared for the war to affect me personally. In addition to the fact that my male partner is Ukrainian, a very dear friend is a Kievan native. She has been displaced by the conflict, and she and her mother are scrabbling to make ends meet in a different city. Hopefully, this displacement won't be permanent. 



We've set up a fundraiser to help her and her mom while these events are going on. This is a fundraiser to help her and her mom not only get a tablet for her to work on as a graphic designer (her laptop is in Kyiv...), but also to help them get by for the next while. Her mother's job at the library is kind of out of commission right now, and it's possible that they'll have to emigrate elsewhere for safety. 

Before this whole war thing got started, I also knitted her a sweater inspired by Yoongi of BTS's famous - and expensive - designer yellow sweater. Proceeds from the sale of the pattern will also be going directly to Katya, to help with resettlement costs. There is a chance that we're going to have to help her migrate to Canada, so anything you can give will be greatly valued. 


Thank you all for reading my work and checking out these fundraisers. If you can't give, please share this article on social media. 

***

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Sin and Virtue: The Internet's Secret Code

 Okay, so not long ago, I put out a post (written in November, actually...) about the internet getting meaner. Since then, I've been wracking my brain about why it's happening. 

Then I developed a theory that made it all snap into place. 



Art by Michelle Browne.

What makes someone end up as the main character on Twitter for a particular day? 

It might be a subculture issue - for example, tabletop roleplay game (TTRPG) Twitter is pretty mad at Critical Role right now because their opening credits feature arguably colonialist imagery/fantasies, and some have argued that its Marquet setting is supporting/pushing orientalism. (Orientalism is the term for the Western artistic fascination with "The East," conflating a whole mess of cultures that include everything from Anatolians and Turks to Egyptians and Iranians, all the way to to Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese cultural elements, and more.) 

I can't really debate this argument because I'm not a SWANA (South-West Asian and/or North African) or SEA (South-East Asian) person, but I would say that there's only so much any particular work of media can do to unpack the entire legacy of colonialism. Change is always going to be incremental; even revolutions leave a lot of paperwork in their wake. 

However, there is something interesting about a good-faith effort being taken as cynical, false, and ill-willed. It's not the first time I've watched something like that happen, either - particularly on Twitter, which thrives on anger, because its algorithm says it has to.

So - just posting on Twitter to vent or be angry is kind of inherently dangerous on that basis alone - it's more likely that you might go viral just when you're vulnerable. Add in a mixture of people interacting in bad faith, and the recipe for conflict is already spicy. But what about people who see themselves as inherently just, or fighting for the right cause? Surely we've all been that person, who signal-boosted a conflict because it seemed important, or weighed in with their two cents. Sometimes, or frequently, the target of that ire may be a person or group with whom we usually would agree - except for this time, or a few other times, of course...

But why would we treat each other badly? 

To survive in a system hostile to our existence, many marginalized people have to learn the art of reading subtext. People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and those who have survived trauma and/or abuse also tend to be members of marginalized groups - and reading the subtle tells of people acting abusively tends to train in hypersensitivity. Unfortunately, that hypersensitivity and the rampant lack of mental health care and resources means that many marginalised people are extremely jumpy, even around each other. The casual abuses of the world around us trains us to default to paranoid readings of the words and writing of mainstream culture. After all, being openly homophobic/queerphobic, openly racist, or openly discriminatory in other ways is punished socially, or at least awkward - but passive-aggression or more subtle jabs abound. Not noticing these things can be harmful to us, so unfortunately, we tend to default to paranoid readings of situations - even when creators, content makers, or other internet strangers are acting in good faith. 

Good intentions, bad chemistry

Speaking of abusive or discriminatory environments, it's also true that a lot of leftists in North America have come from culturally Christian backgrounds. Even if we've moved away from that lifestyle and religion, the logic and classification system remains in our minds - the moral hierarchy of goodness and badness, of evil and moral rightness. And unfortunately, that system is pretty lopsided and badly balanced. After all, we're talking about the system of beliefs wherein - particularly for evangelical Christianity - anal sex is about on par with sexual assault; robbery with being overly proud of yourself; and murder, on par with masturbation. 

"Wait, that's not right!" 

Well - that's a complex topic, but technically, they're all sins. Sure, some admit that not all sins are equally bad - but they're all considered sinful.  There's more to it than that, sure, but from a lay-Christian perspective, the sin thing is persistent. We are all sinners before God, and ultimately, only He can forgive us - so the rhetoric goes. 

Now substitute in "problematic" for the word "sinful." Suddenly, certain behavioural patterns make an uncomfortable amount of sense. There is also no God-figure or representational stand-in, such as a priest or pastor, to act as a forgiver or mediator of transgressions for those of us in the social justice sphere. There is the crowd - whose reactions are cherry-picked by the algorithm to show their worst side - and that's about it. Thus, we may turn to the crowd in hopes of forgiveness, but without leaders (or even a belief in leadership), that just results in a wall of diverse opinions. 

So what comes next? Do we need secular forgiveness-priests?

I'm not saying we need leaders or arbiters of forgiveness, because that's inherently a system of power that seems both ineffective and dangerous, but it's worth being conscious of our roots so that we can understand the flaws in our own rhetoric and belief structures. 

And hey, it's a lot easier to be less suspicious of others when we understand the flaws and dangers of our own perspectives - and the way our mental health issues and backgrounds colour our perspective. Slowing down and giving others the benefit of the doubt takes time, practice, and discipline - but once the habit is created, life becomes so much more relaxing. 

***

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Is the Internet Getting Meaner?

 I'm going to dispense a bunch of advice that I wish both I had heard when I was younger and on the internet, and that I think younguns on the internet could benefit from hearing.


The way people talk about very minor celebrities and critique their every action would absolutely destroy any normal person. Before you write anything online, consider - has someone else already said? Did they maybe say it better? Are you actually adding to a conversation? Yeah, those are a lot of questions to think about. 

But especially white people like myself, and especially young people who may not have learned the full weight of empathy and emotional maturity, need to think before we post. So, take it from an older millennial - you're going to make big mistakes that you regret, you're not always going to say the right thing, and god help you if you blow up enough to make an income at the entertainment industry. 

Accept that microcelebrities and celebrities are going to be problematic or just do things that you don't like - and make room to just not like something without having to justify it on a moral basis. 

Oh, and learn the difference between personal nitpicks, like "I don't like the way she pauses between sentences, or the way they're incredibly cringey" and actual issues, like, "okay, that was racist, that's not okay." Of course, there's overlap here - fandoms can be incredibly fragile about critiques of their faves - but delivery does mtter.

And finally - learn to complain and mock people in private, rather than on forums. Every time we post something on Twitter rather than complaining about it in private, we're putting it out there for the world to read. And that has a different effect than bitching in private to friends. 

Because if you don't? You're going to betray any principles you have of being empathetic. and even if you don't care about the celebrity's feelings, your fellow fans will still read what you say. And it might make them feel terrible about themselves, especially if they're dorky, or they snort when they laugh, or idk, they overshared something recently. So - try to hold others only to the standard you hold yourself to, and for both yourself and others, learn the value of grace and forgiveness. Not everything is really worth throwing someone in the trash bin over.

It's so easy to spend way too much energy on critiquing youtubers or any other mildly public figure when we actually have real, serious problems to focus on - like holding cops and politicians accountable, and climate change. And yes, someone can care about two things at once - but can you care about ten at once? 

So don't fall for the easy trap of wanting to fix or mock something small and stupid. Our anger should be directed at the wealthy class, definitely, but celebrities are just the scapegoats of the rich. Spend your energy and rage on organizing, not merely griping. 

Should I follow my own advice? Absolutely. Are we all still in a pandemic, which makes it kind of hard to protest? Yeah. But let's spend our energy annoying the people who really, really deserve it.

 


***
Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

The Elusinian Mystery Cult

This article's title comes from the worshippers Demeter, Persephone, and Hades, a secretive Hellenic religious group who formed an understanding of the year's cycle from the actions of the gods. Hades (with Zeus' permission, allegedly) kidnapped Demeter and Zeus' daughter Persephone, brought her to the Underworld, and made her his equally-powerful queen and wife, there to reign over the riches of Earth and the multitudes of the dead. Her mother Demeter was unaware of the plan, and mourned her daughter's disappearance. The earth and harvest goddess allowed nothing to grow or bloom while she mourned, and unfortunately, humanity began to suffer and die. 

That meant no sacrifices - which was a big problem for the gods of Olympus. Eventually, Demeter solved the case of her missing daughter - and approached the culprit. But Hades, lovelorn for his new queen, could not bear to lose her forever. A famished Persephone accepted a handful of pomegranate seeds during her sojourn below the ground, and in doing so, bound herself to the underworld forever. This left Persephone torn between two people she loved, both longing for her in seemingly incompatible ways.

Zeus, seen as the rule-maker and judge of his divine family, settled that Persephone would remain with Hades for a quarter, third, or half of the year (accounts vary), and spend the rest above ground, with her mother. Demeter was content with this, but each year, when her daughter left to spend time with her husband, Demeter returned to mourning and would not allow the natural world to flourish.

 Behold: I am not dead, I rise again - though not in spring, as might be expected, but in winter, a time when my mind is sometimes more fruitful and active than in the warm, exciting seasons. 

It's been a second plague year, and as if that weren't enough to deal with, my personal life has been - well - full of ups and downs. I've spent most of the year hunkered over my computer, working on publishing and releasing actual books, working on my mental health to actually improve the damned thing, and trying to get in quality time with friends. The delight of a new relationship has also occupied many happy hours. Unfortunately, all of that has been on the background of a major personal upheaval within my family - and the long and short of it is, it annihilated my blog posting scheduled hopes.

But, as the snow and cold return in autumn, so too did I return to my creative projects - but also to Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. Long-time readers of the blog and followers of my own media will be aware that I adore this book, and have read it several times - but after a nasty mental health breakdown a few years ago, I developed the common malady of reading anxiety. However, my male partner suggested recently that I take up a familiar and beloved book. On a whim, I indulged him, and found myself immediately captivated and delighted by the Robin Buss translation that I had not touched in many years. In a few words, then, if my writing voice is pretentious as hell, you can blame the best 19th century Black author I've read. 

But of course, my thirst for endless cultural analysis and commentary remains unabated, and so, in the dark of the night, I found my way to a video in my queue that was potentially thematically resonant for an upcoming Call of Cthulhu 7th edition game I plan to run for my local TTRPG (tabletop roleplay game) group. Inspired by the imminent game and the turn of my thoughts lately, my next posts will be about a moral panic video about Dark Academia, but also about the intriguing quandary of villain narratives. I also want to write (or more accurately, finish) a series of posts I've made about various writing techniques, including the applicability and utility of writing for and playing in TTRPG games to writing fiction. 

This November, I will also be continuing revisions on the coauthored romance novel I helped write last year, as well as trying to finish book 5 (and possibly 6?) of The Meaning Wars series. If that sounds like a lot, it probably is, so we'll see how far I get. I'm not setting especially hard deadlines, but I'd like to have the writing series out throughout the winter, book 5 out by December (or January), and Book 6, out in February or so. That means the anthology of The Meaning Wars won't be out by December 1st, as I'd hoped - but you can still grab the two most recent books, which are currently Kindle exclusives! (It's for marketing reasons, not borne out of any love for BezosMart.)

The books are a soft reboot of the series, so you can read from the very start, or you can pick up things from book 3 onward! They're about 40K apiece, or about 100-odd pages in paperback equivalency. 

They’re queer, anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist space opera tales - and the second book is a beach episode. 

The Meaning Wars - book 3 of The Meaning Wars 

On the way to a new wormhole-building gig, Crystal and her husband Jai fight over the future of their family. But the safe haven of their base is paradise compared to Pluto. Recovering from her imprisonment, Sarah and her cousin Toby try to scrape their lives back together and stay out of trouble on the icy planetoid. Rebel leader Patience Ngouabi's actions have triggered a growing insurrection on the colony planet of Indus, and the shock waves have reached even the Solar system's worlds. Both Crystal and Sarah will have to decide between uneasy peace and constant danger - if they get to choose at all.
Content advisory: this book contains references to abuse, sexual scenes, torture, and mental health issues. Reader discretion is advised.










Poe's Outlaws - book 4 of The Meaning Wars

Leaving her abusive husband, Crystal finds herself desperately in need of a vacation. She heads off to Nirvana, a resort planet far from the Solar System. Craving company - and wanting to save an old friend from the Human Conglomerate's unjust judiciary system - she invites Sarah, her cousin Toby, and Sarah's mentor Paulo to join her at the resort. Paulo calls on a former partner, but his arrival - and the job he offers - throw Crystal and Sarah's new lives into chaos. Temptation and a stunning revelation bewilder Crystal. Meanwhile, Sarah decides on a risky rescue mission that puts her ideals to the test. It's time to put up or shut up - because a revolutionary icon needs their help.









If you're glad I'm back, and you want to support me, then grab my books, hit me up on social media, or reply to this post. How are you handling the second year of COVID? Were there things you hoped to do, and didn't, or hoped to do, and did? Any plans for year 3? Your questions, comments, and contact are a huge motivation for me, so I'd love to know what my community - tiny, but very treasured - is up to.

***

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi




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