About Me

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

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Success of Failure

Hello hello!

This month, I have an analysis of a friend's beautiful art exhibit. Bonnie Patton is an artist from Edmonton, AB. Originally from North Dakota, they came here for university, and fell in love with Canada. Conceived before Donald Trump's rise, the project has additional layers of resonance now...

 An Analysis of Bonnie Patton’s 1984 Cranes

At the heart of traditional dystopian fiction is a theme of failure.  1984 is a prime example of this: the failure of Outer Party members to resist their training, the failure of proles—thus far—to protest, and the failure of Winston Smith and Julia’s love. At first glance, it would seem to have little in common with the children’s story Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes. Patton’s art finds the links between these books and explores them, creating a poignant visual essay.

Patton started folding cranes from the last page of 1984. Like Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes, the tragedy and appeal of both books comes partly from foreboding and the knowledge that both characters are ultimately unsuccessful. Sadako, who suffers from cancer and hopes the gods will grant her wish of being cured if she folds all one thousand cranes, dies before she can complete her task. Winston Smith fails to resist indoctrination by Big Brother, and ultimately betrays both his lover Julia and himself under the pressure of torture. One character dies physically; the other, spiritually.

Photo credit: Bonnie Patton, used with permission

The fragility and ephemeral nature of papercraft highlights the fragility in the struggles of characters in these books, as well—by reducing 1984 to its very pages, Patton has, in a sense, destroyed it, just as Winston participates in the constant destruction of information and documents, erasing history. His glass paperweight, representing his soul—“so fragile after all” is crushed and broken by the state, literally and figuratively. And yet, because the pages are folded, made into something new, there is an element of transformation and memorial tribute—the cranes are bespoke, handmade objects of beauty, made from a book that is literally about the destruction of beauty by ugliness and industrialization gone awry. The book itself was printed through industrial processes, and Patton has reduced and transformed it into a sculpture, a tribute to the young Japanese girl who wished so hard, she inspired millions to remember her.

Then, too, just as the cranes themselves are symmetrical, there is a dark reciprocity created by the linking of these two books. Oceania wages war against Eastasia (as well as Eurasia). Published in 1949, 1984 was written with full context of the Second World War, and strongly inspired by it. In both Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes and 1984, it is the civilians who suffer. Sadako is one of the thousands of Japanese people who suffered from cancer (and other health complications) as a result of the atomic bombs. Winston, arguably, is one of the people who plays a role in the dropping of those bombs, reinforcing the importance of the constant war and supporting it with his actions. By using Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes to literally reshape 1984, an inherent criticism of colonialism is displayed. It is also a reversal, with the cranes “overpowering” the structure of Orwell’s book—after all, the text can still be read, but the dominant visual impression is of the cranes, rather than the book from which they were formed.

Photo credit: Bonnie Patton, used with permission

Although the delicate cranes—which could be tangled, ruined by a strong breeze or wind—are few in number, and unable to fly, their embodiment of failure is not without a hopeful aspect. In 1984, Orwell writes, “if there was any hope, it lay in the proles.” Winston fails, but also hands over the torch to the bulk of Airstrip One’s population—showing that while his personal revolution fails, it need not truly be the doom of Oceania. The book has become a symbol of the fight against censorship, oppression, and jingoistic wars. Sadako’s cranes have become a symbol of peace across the world, and thousands of cranes are still hung on her memorial every year. According to the book, she herself was unable to fold all the cranes, but many others have done it for her. August 6th has been named International Peace Day in her honour. The cranes, in a sense, show an allegiance to peace and transformation. Though there are only a hundred and twenty-seven, they speak powerfully about two stories that have shaped the world, and connect them across time and distance. A project predicated on the failure of two books and their themes, then, is ultimately a tribute to their success. 

Photo credit: Bonnie Patton, used with permission


Thanks for returning to the nest. Leave a comment and say hi! I want to hear from you. Keep up with the new releases by getting on the mailing list. Buy my books on Amazon, and keep up with me on TwitterFacebookTumblr, and the original blog. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out!

Monday, 6 November 2017

In My Skin: Fashion and Fat (a guest post by Katie de Long)

Today I have a guest blog from Katie de Long!

In My Skin: Fashion and Fat

One of my favorite things about fashion is its capacity to highlight the individual in a way few other kinds of self-expression can. The industry has its problems, but for many, fashion can be something that helps them stay afloat in a hostile world, be they a gay cis man, or a fat trans woman.

But with increased eyes on the fashion industry thanks to the body positivity movement come additional pressures. As a fat woman, your desireability and sexuality is in question constantly: you’re desperate, you have no self-restraint, you’re lazy, a host of other judgments. Because of this, for fat women to assert their sexuality through fashion is something that may be needed to reclaim professional stature, or simply to feel that they can look at themselves in a mirror. But this presents a problem, since the most common way of “proving” their worth in a thin-centered world is to hype up their figure and sexuality in a way that thin women do not necessarily have to. We’re on board for fat women- so long as they still have a waist that appears nipped-in compared to their hips, and so long as their weight is carried in an evenly distributed manner, rather than in rolls or cellulite.

This is a problem. It saddles fat women with extra time spent on grooming, extra money spent on clothes that are priced proportionally higher- particularly vintage-inspired clothes that highlight the beauty in curves but that are considered “specialty”, or are priced up due to the additional detail and tailoring of the patterns, compared to drapey, minimalist clothes, simply in order to prove that they aren’t “sloppy” or tasteless. And this exacerbates classist problems that tend to affect marginalized people more strongly. That hourglass wiggle dress might make you seem more ladylike to your boss... but for a black person, would their boss have thought they were unladylike in the first place?

It causes a host of other problems, too, in that it may force people to perform femininity in a way that is toxic to them. Many survivors of childhood sexual assault grow up to content with eating disorders- including compulsive overeating- and many even see the additional weight as a way of rendering themselves invisible to the male gaze that has treated them so violently. By forcing these people to wear tight clothes for their professional or personal advancement, society may be forcing them deeper into dysphoria, or unhealthy mental triggers.

I don’t say that to say it’s always the case. I often joke that my style is “fuck-you femme”, because for me, exaggerated sexuality and performative femininity is liberating. It says that I don’t have to change myself to please people- who cares if my clothes are “frivolous” or “high maintenance?” It says that I deserve to experience my womanhood without gendered violence- something that’s crucial to me as a rape survivor- and without the pressure to hide my womanhood to obtain the benefits we afford those with “masculine” traits. I’ll bowl you over with a list of my achievements if you dare imply that my taste speaks ill of me as a person. My fuck-you femme clothes are a shorthand for the unbelievable pain and soaring pleasure of being a woman.

Many trans or nonbinary people, too, are haunted by these ideals- by sexualized clothes that are not intended to highlight their body shape, by ideas that say that a butch trans woman must not “really” be trans, to present so “masculinely”. Put simply, the idea that fat is okay, so long as you still prize your desireability in the right ways still amounts to a subtle tax on fat people who exist in public spaces. Women already spend more time and money on grooming and presentation, and the growing percentage of fat or obese women who nevertheless must gather goodwill and authority through their fashion choices only weights that balance further.

We’re all individuals, completely unique in how we relate to the world, each other, and the fashion we adorn our bodies with. And in that light, body positivity has quite a ways to go before it’s truly expanded fashion’s inclusivity.

Katie around the internet:
Katie's Facebook Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/696177510494600/
Katie's Twitter: @delongkatie

Friday, 3 November 2017

In and Out of the Closet: A Fat Girl's Personal Style Journey

Content warning: this article deals with body image issues that may be triggering for some readers. Discretion is advised.

I am a member of the Disney Generation. This is hardly a revolutionary claim or point to make, but for a fat femme girl, who's also bisexual, it comes with invisible baggage and fears.

 Full skirts, improbably round breasts, delicate waists, paneled gowns, shimmering fabric, vibrant colours, and jewels shaped my idea of not only desire, but also royalty. Studying history from a young age, I saw rich fabrics, precious treasures, embroidered and lined gowns, and I admired it. Drawing endless pictures of dresses and gowns, often with surprise cut-aways and deep decolletage, I both desired them and wanted to be them. Formal garb was both my ambition and my most secret hope, but it was also something I believe impossible for myself. 

Fat girl life

My mother's body image issues left a deep impact on me, and readily transferred over to my own. I had always been sort of tall, but wished I was taller. Hating my muscles and fat, seeing the curves as proof of a lack of fitness - I didn't grow up within a corset, or with bound feet, but the cage and constant pressure of the BMI chart was just as strangling and hobbling.

In the 90s and 2000s, flatness and muscle and bones were the beauty ideal. I used to daydream about surgery and liposuction and waking up with a body that moved, looked, and felt different. For years, I tried to get by on 1000, 1200, or whatever number of calories per day would work - inevitably failing when encountering food, of course, or when sabotaged by my mother, who'd encourage me to 'live a little' and eat a salty or sweet treat, caving in to her own cravings. But soon, it'd be back on the wheel of nagging to exercise, not for the joy of movement, but to deal with the shame of my flawed body. 

  In this way, I spent my teens and a good portion of my twenties - trying different techniques to shed stubborn pounds that were as good as nailed to my flesh - due, unbeknownst to me to hormonal imbalances. I learned to like certain things, and aspired to climb buildings and corners and walls and roofs, assuming that only by losing weight could I attain those literal high hopes. 

At the same time, in the back of my mind, fashion and clothes I liked were often weighty. Elegant layers, oversized cuts, voluminous skirts, corsets swooping in to hug a waist I didn't think I had - these were things I associated not with femininity alone, but with being regal, imperious, and respected. Later, I became intrigued by swooping, voluminous clothes - Jedi robes, Amidala's gowns, even oversized boxy cuts in music videos. Finding ways to mingle these elements with layers has led to an unexpected but perfect style intersection for me.

#outfit #selfie #clinic #spoonielife

A post shared by SciFiMagpie (@scifimagpie) on

I stopped confining myself to things I 'could wear', and started experimenting with revealing my skin, taking inspiration from slimmer models as necessary and trying out a variety of looks. Overly modest circle skirts, sarongs with jeans underneath, a million skin-tight black turtlenecks, black and white tiered skirts, fishnets and lacy patterned tights, steampunk leather corsets, knitted sweaters and business-like skirts. Eventually, I achieved a more defined and coherent look, featuring cocoon sweaters, leggy wrap dresses, layered corset-cut vests, flowing circle skirts, and oversized scarves - where I'm at these days. Older style elements make their way into clothes, but I dress with more deliberation, strategy, and joy these days, not seeking to hide my shameful corpse under oversized tie-dye t-shirts and baggy jeans or in ill-fitting and suiting button-up shirts. 

The personal is political - pencil skirts included

I've hit a point where I can not only incorporate a variety of influences, but I receive social praise for my skills in doing so. I've begin to feel like I inhabit my own body, that it is not broken, ugly, or in need of repair. The vibrant body-positivity movement has helped this immensely. Then I saw this

At first, I simply ignored it, because I didn't understand it and couldn't relate to it. But after talking about it with a friend, a sort of Pod People-like realisation snapped over me, and I considered that yes, most fat women ARE dressing according to this code. Pretend it's 1950 or face a return to the same old standards and shames. In my retail days, I had to wear carefully coiffed and chosen outfits and makeup, while my very tall, slim manager wore pilling sweaters and got not a word of criticism about it.

Chatting with my friend Katie de Long, who is also both a ferocious feminist and enthusiastic fashionista, I was dismayed and alarmed by the through-line of this pattern. In her words [edited slightly to remove my part of the conversation],

"...There are societal biases that make it MORE needed for fat women to prove their femininity.
No one ever thinks of the "hot curvy girl" as being draped in loose, structural clothes.
They see her va-va-vooming in a waist-training corset and full face of makeup. Anything that "erases" the figure or the curves is seen as undesireable, even if it fits properly and is well-tailored.
I think another thing is that plus sized women are trained to hide their size. We see Christina Hendricks or Amy Schumer's curves as being desireable.... so long as they're in a close-fitting pencil dress. 

But I do admit I'm pretty prey to that shit too. I avoid wearing loose clothes, wear things too tight rather than too lose.... and get really sexual, lots of cleavage, short skirts, slit-up-to-there, etc. I love exaggerated shapes. So I've always hated really drapey clothes, or close-fitting clothes that don't highlight the figure (fuck you, leggings).

Plus, and I know this is victim-blamey, my first semester of college featured a police officer advising the girls in the freshman class to NOT wear loose clothes because it's easier for a rapist to get them off, even without scissors.
So for me, when I wear loose clothes, I have really nasty panic attacks about the idea of someone peeling them off me without my consent. When I wear tight clothes, I feel confident, that they'll have to use scissors, which is more likely to give me an opportunity to either get away, or seize the scissors and take out an eye. As well, my style's fuckyou femme, so for me [as a rape survivor], I feel like my gender and the violence I've suffered because of it is erased when I put on loose, minimalist designs."

What to wear?

At the end of the day, even though clothing choices are fraught with danger and hidden signalling that can be hard to understand, finding a way to express oneself through attire can be very important. From talking to my nonbinary "enby" friends, I've gotten even more insight into this. What strikes me as funny and maybe even uplifting is that my experiences with feminism and trauma have taken me in a circle. Instead of pretending to be a man, or having no identity at all, or seeing my childhood dreams as unattainable, I've been able to make my innermost desires come true.
There's an old saw idea that feminists are ugly, hairy, unconventionally feminine, fat, and basically undesireable. But taking back a sense of inner worth has given me the tools to fight my inner ugliness, wear makeup without feeling as though I'm faking something, and stop hiding my inner exuberance. There is freedom in ugliness and invisibility, and a merit to reclaiming or defying constraints - but at least for me, there is more joy in this new, permissive ground.

Ultimately, I hope that my experiences can make people feel a little better about their own secret desires and hopes. A lot of hay has been made about how 'style has no size', but there's still fierce debate about 'who can wear what'. But simply wearing what one wants isn't as easy as it sounds, and takes time. If you need it, take this as official permission to try out that thing, regardless of your gender. You are not 'too old' or 'too fat' or 'too thin'. 

You are enough. 

And it's okay if it doesn't look right at first. What matters is that your clothing expresses who you want to be. 

Additional reading:

A Nigerian designer using fashion and style to explore feminism and self-expression

Information about the cost of existing in a female body and/or having periods and breasts

The ways we judge women and how it affects their careers 


Thanks for returning to the nest. Leave a comment and say hi! I want to hear from you. Keep up with the new releases by getting on the mailing list. Buy my books on Amazon, and keep up with me on TwitterFacebookTumblr, and the original blog. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Dungeons and Representation: How a Podcast Did Good

Hello hello!

So anyone who follows me on Twitter - or anywhere, really - has probably noticed that I am majorly into podcasts. I've alluded to my love of tabletop RPGs on more than a few occasions, and as a fledgling DM (Dungeon Master - the non-BDSM kind, though there's a surprisingly large overlap between the two communities...) I like to take inspiration from the best.

Before I explore today's topic in detail, a few recommendations - in no particular order, Critical Hit, How We Roll, One Shot, Campaign, The Adventure Zone, and Dungeons and Randomness are all funny and wonderful programs that showcase both inclusive gaming (on and off the table, for the most part) and really, really good storytelling. Writers and geeks should check them out. Don't worry about the rules; these podcasts are almost all story-focused, so it doesn't get too mathy and crunchy.

With those recs out of the way, I'd like to focus on D&R in particular. Having recently completed its 200th episode, the four (!) groups sat down with the DM, Jason Massey to talk about their experiences.

What happened 

Now, two hundred episodes of anything is a trip, but I'm a binge-listener and a completionist, so it wasn't a big deal for me. However, the beginning of the series was pretty rocky. The first group to form, known as Group 1, was an all-male group of friends who'd met through the wrestling fandom. There are a lot of wrestling fans who also play D&D, for some reason, so that's not a problem - but the group dynamics were.

Beleagured DM Jason and hapless party leader Rob Wiesehan, playing tiefling warlock Malchus Grimnas, then spent about fifty episodes trying to rein in the murderous and careless shenanigans of this initial group. It's honestly a fascinating tour through toxic masculinity - players screw, rob, and murder their way across the land of Theria, and as Jason's worldbuilding becomes increasingly intricate and rich, most of the players enjoy being dicks more than they do abiding by the social contracts of D&D, to quote Rob.

What social contract? 

Here's the thing about Dungeons and Dragons and most other roleplaying games - it's pretty essential, as Rob explained, that the other members of your party are trustworthy enough to not murder you in your sleep, screw you out of things like healing potions, share resources, and fight on your side during battles - and not, say, engage in player vs player combat or act in needlessly antagonistic ways. Interestingly, a couple of the early players from the group seemed genuinely baffled about why it might be a bad idea to act like dicks and fight people who are supposed to be on their side.

Now, group dynamics are an inevitable part of human interaction. We're social animals, and that means we're liable to be jerks and conflict with each other, but it's totally possible to ride out those painful spasms and create a lasting D&D group. Sometimes people leave, which is why inviting a few more people than you think necessary is often prudent. But it's a very important and basic part of this system, and most systems, that you do not screw over the people who are on your side.

The fact that multiple players in Group 1 just didn't understand this is fascinating, and honestly, only seems to have happened because it was an all-dude group. Broish humour is fine, but ripping on each other, jockeying for leadership, and being unnecessarily and often destructively subversive often led to doom and disorganization.

Have some eye bleach: fan art of characters from the Adventure Zone, in Halloween costumes as *other* characters from The Adventure Zone - who are also lesbians. This picture has lesbians ^2. You're welcome. 

When it got better

Perhaps because of Jason's expert implementation of consequences in the storylines, to an extent that many traditional creators should follow, the actions of many Group 1 members caught up with them. It seems that murdering, betraying, and robbing people willy-nilly is kind of not great. While the other groups and players sometimes made ethically questionable choices in the storyline, they always weighed them carefully. Una Anhelada, a gutsy devil-may-care paladin played by Izzy Chadwick, often spearheaded these - but her seeming recklessness and impulsive nature still included concern, empathy, and care for both her party members and fellow players.

As time went on, the DM added more groups, each of which went through their own growing pains.  Holding auditions for new players meant screening and better integration of people, something important for a show, and interestingly, also brought a flood of lady players, as well as at least one non-binary and later trans male player. Not everyone there was white, either, which is a silent problem besetting many D&D games, but a welcome change here. Among the new blood was Brienne Marie, a delightful pixie of a person with a filthy sense of humour and a sparkling laugh. Quickly becoming Jason's platonic soulmate, her addition to the cast marks a sharp change in the show's style - very much for its benefit.

This isn't to say that GIRLS ARE ALWAYS BETTER, because a few of the new lady inductees were pretty irritating - and left quickly - but the most destructive players in the game were definitely all men. Their behaviour patterns had a lot in common, too - a determination to have their desires and goals met, often at the expense of the party; a refusal to accommodate others' needs and priorities, and toddler-like tantrums and antics when their requests were denied.

Back to Group 1 

Group 1 went from being the primary party in the setting to an exception.As the other two, then three, then four (! counting a bonus group made of existing players) groups quarreled and debated and resolved conflicts in satisfying and interesting ways, Group 1 remained somewhat stuck in the past. When party members finally began to murder each other, in a culmination of the rivalries and toxic dynamics, virtually only Malchus remained. Because the players either selfishly focused on their own gimmicks and jokes or sabotaged each other, often both, Malchus (and Rob, his player) were exceptional. As the group reformed once, then twice, it gained lady members and non-toxic male members - and underwent a drastic transformation.

Even as Malchus grappled with the impact of his actions, the group would discuss their decisions carefully and cautiously. Not exploiting others, picking up a dorky and endearing young NPC wizard-fighter (who subverts the trope of that combo brilliantly), and helping each other in heartwarming ways, Group 1 became radically different from its roots.

But Not All Men 

The thing is, men don't have to suck. Male and female players can both participate in toxic masculinity, but focusing on sharing the spotlight, resolving conflicts without in-character violence, not plotting and planning about other player characters behind their backs - and out of character - and above all, just not being awful dicks to each other, will all result in much better table experiences. It's fine to create evil or morally ambiguous, selfish characters. But it's vitally important and mandatory for people to keep their character personas and grudges separate from in-person dynamics, and to settle table conflicts as soon as they happen.

D&D is easy to get invested in. The shared storytelling, improv with dice, and creating a world are intoxicating and empowering. Add in the capacity to be something impossible or better than one is in the real world, and you have a heady brew - but it's easy to get emotionally invested in one's persona and the storyline. When everyone's invested, and at least somewhat working together, it's a hit of pure magic. But even if the characters are planning to double-cross each other, players at the table have to use boundaries and not harm each other.

Failing to do this results in Reservoir Dogs - like chains of revenge and can absolutely ruin friendships forever, because of the basic lack of respect they represent. But working with the other players and keeping in-character conflicts and rivalries separate from real life makes sure everyone at the table can walk away with a spring in their step and an easy mind.


Thanks for returning to the nest. Leave a comment and say hi! I want to hear from you. Keep up with the new releases by getting on the mailing list. Buy my books on Amazon, and keep up with me on TwitterFacebookTumblr, and the original blog. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Diversity Isn't Enough: The Importance of Radical Inclusion

Hello hello!

Well, a friend of mine has now been to 78 agents and gotten as many rejections. Surely, this indicates that the book is simply Not Good Enough, right?

That's the thing. I've read it, and the book is excellent. Featuring a character with PTSD, who is both gay and from a mixed heritage background, it's full of funny moments, intelligent thought experiments about robotic consciousness, and has a very solid mystery through the core. The cast is populated by well-rounded and differentiated characters - of mixed abilities, genders, ethnic heritages, and sexualities. And in this setting, their societal and work crew composition is pretty normal. So in addition to featuring a robot love story and a murder mystery, there are plenty of moments where the night crew assembles, and a deaf character sits at a table with a young hijabi clinic worker and her mechanic girlfriend, and two divorced people who remain friends, as well as the main character - all so they can play cards in the park, out of the sight of a nearly omniscient AI.

The thing is, while audio-visual projects - which often spring from book series these days - such as A Wrinkle in Time, American Horror Story, Sense-8, American Gods, The Adventure Zone, Welcome to Night Vale, Penumbra, Who Fears Death (Nnendi Okorafor), Steven Universe, Blackish, Dear White People, Master of None, Switched at Birth, Fresh off the Boat, Luke Cage, Dark Matter, The Expanse, and Westworld include cast members of many shades, there's still a focus on able, attractive, mostly straight people - not to mention that in more than a couple of these, white characters still end up dominating front and centre roles. Yes, this is getting better, but there seems to be a genuine fear of addressing the (surprisingly large) populations of trans and genderqueer, aromantic or asexual, Deaf, visually impaired/blind, and visibly and invisibly disabled people. Not to mention that a lot of these populations intersect. I personally know plenty of people who are people of colour, genderqueer, and disabled. I've read articles by a surprising number of genderqueer, mentally ill people of colour. Add present and former sex workers to the mix, and you have a pretty good sampling of humanity.

So what's the problem?

The problem is that these diverse shows, which are not radically inclusive yet, are only the tip of the iceburg. Producers and studios and publishing houses tend to hire just one or two people to demonstrate their wokeness, and keep the rest their content steaming along as though it's business as usual - teen YA love triangles, stubble-covered male power-fantasy thrillers, gritty sex murder mysteries, soft and juicy chick lit, spicy supernatural sex romps, and tooth-gritting fast ship space porn.  I've edited these books, read them, and enjoyed them - but the fact remains that the market's determiners keep orienting themselves to what they think is a safe bet, an easy seller. 

We still live in a world where an alternate history series where the South won was greenlit by HBO. So yeah, Nnedi Okorafor's series is getting a production deal, but so is a slavery fantasyland series. So is Ready Player One, too. A Minecraft book by Max Brooks is at the top of the bestsellers right now. So yes, diversity's making inroads, but The Problem Is Not Fixed. Radical inclusion, i.e. just treating people like people, and writing stories where non-white, non-able, non-cisgender, non-heterosexual, non-Christian people are allowed to exist and be in starring roles is absolutely revolutionary. 

Ready Player What, now? 

For those not familiar with RPO, it's basically a pop culture slurry of references; another Teenage White Boy Saves The World book, with virtual reality, and somehow he's the only one who knows Stuff About the Eighties - and Steven Spielberg is attached. You'd think he'd pick a more challenging project or have better taste, but no, fanboy fantasy it is.

The biggest problem is that people think Ready Player One is like, subversive somehow? Or self-aware? But it absolutely isn't. It's sincere. Max Brooks is one of the guys who launched the zombie craze--he's very good at commercial writing, to the extent that he's actually a Name, but yeah, he's not exactly known for challenging or artistically mold-breaking projects.

And all of this would be fine, except that it, and the dozens of imitators who crop up to try and skim that flavour, crowd out the more innovative and interesting projects.

Is this another Commerce vs Art rant? 

Absolutely not. It's not that Commerce and Art are Enemies. Heck, it's *fine* to monetize the daylights out of something. Art's relied on Commerce for basically all of modern history. If it wasn't Commerce, it was religion. But - the problem is *how* those selections are done, and the way people trust their preferences to be free of bias. Which just isn't the case.

It's OKAY to have biases. The problem is that we treat a certain kind of bias as objective, and it gets far, far more sway over the stories that get told than anything else. To the point where just including people is considered revolutionary and gamechanging. Simultaneously, there are so *few* of these inclusive stories that individual properties are often torn apart for being 'not good enough'. Yet meanwhile, mainstream stories with sparkling white casts somehow get a break.

But including people is how you GET different kinds of stories. Now, to be clear,  I LOVE the Hunger Games. A lot. But we have a market where agents are like, 'eh, this sold, let's get ten more that are basically variations of this flavour'. There's very little willingness to risk the core of the market, and it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle of, well, crap. 

Like, if you go to a corner store you can buy some chips. And chips are good, I like chips, but even if you put zesty spice or cool ranch or sour cream on them, they're *still* chips. they're not zucchini chips, or sweet potato crisps, or whatever, ya know? The problem is that the market tends to focus on chips, and assume nothing else will sell...

Wat do? 

The solution is simple. Readers have to step outside their comfort zones - unfortunately, the readers who might not even read this blog are the ones I'm addressing - and writers and publishers have to band together. There is definitely a need and an audience for diversity, and moreso, radical inclusion. People often talk about 'not seeing colour', which is an issue I won't even get into right now, and complain that they want stories that are 'normal', and aren't focused on 'identity politics'.

That's the most bitter irony of all - these stories exist, and they're fun and delightful. And yes, inequality issues do crop up in some of them, because of how those issues affect people's lived experiences - but a lot of the time, people across the ability, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality spectrum just want to have fun.

A transgender plus-sized psychic lady who talks with the dead to solve murder mysteries? Yes. A deaf Chinese-American engineer who discovers the secret to time travel and accidentally changes the course of history? Definitely. A love story featuring an asexual mobility-impaired Indian woman and a Zulu warrior king from an alternate world? Why not? 


Thanks for returning to the nest. Leave a comment and say hi! I want to hear from you. Keep up with the new releases by getting on the mailing list. Buy my books on Amazon, and keep up with me on TwitterFacebookTumblr, and the original blog. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out!