Vacation pictures, part 2

Jun. 27th, 2017 05:25 pm
eimarra: (Default)
[personal profile] eimarra

Now for the rest of the pictures.Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

Vacation in pictures

Jun. 27th, 2017 05:02 pm
eimarra: (Default)
[personal profile] eimarra

Our itinerary:
Pennsylvania to Madison, Wisconsin, overnight stop in Elkhart, Indiana
In Madison for a few days with my mom and younger brother and his fiancée
Madison to Fort Collins, Colorado, overnight stop in Nebraska
In and around Fort Collins for a few days with my in-laws
Fort Collins to Pennsylvania, overnight stops in Lawrence, Kansas, and Lexington, Kentucky

It’s a lot to pack into two weeks, and it was wonderful. (Click through to see pictures up to our arrival in Fort Collins. There are a lot, but even this is just a subset of what I took.)Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)
[personal profile] swan_tower

How often is the thing that brings a story to life a question of grammar? And yet, I know exactly what Linda Nagata means. Here she is, explaining how verb tenses turned out to be the key:

***

cover for THE LAST GOOD MAN by Linda NagataIf there ever was one bright spark, one bit of insight, one unexpected plot twist that brought The Last Good Man to life, I don’t remember it. What I do remember was how flat and uninteresting the manuscript felt to me in the earliest days.

This wasn’t an unusual situation for me. Beginnings are hard and it can take time to work out a tone and style that feels right. So I kept pushing forward, telling myself that if I kept going, the essential spark that every novel needs would eventually ignite.

It didn’t happen. Not for over 30,000 hard-fought words. Sure, the story was advancing but I wasn’t happy with the tone or with the way it was being told—and I didn’t know why.

I’d done my preliminary work—a lot of preliminary work. I’d been tossing ideas into the literary stew pot for months, revising my synopsis again and again. This was a very near-future story centered on a small private military company—contract soldiers of the sort hired by corporations, NGOs, and the US government. These were “white hat” mercenaries, choosy about their clients, working only for the good guys, and though they were a small force, that force was amplified by the autonomous robotic weaponry they could deploy. And I had an unusual protagonist in True Brighton.

Middle-aged women are not generally considered cool enough to serve as the lead in a techno-thriller, but I wanted to give it a shot—I wanted the challenge—so I made True forty-nine years old, a retired US Army veteran and mother of three who is still fit, strong, and agile enough to qualify for field missions.

All the pieces seemed right. For months I’d sensed the potential in this story, but still somehow the spark was missing.

Up to this point I’d been writing in third person, past tense. Then—30,000 words in and on the verge of despair—I chanced to read a novel written in third person, present tense and I was intrigued. Could I write The Last Good Man in third person present?

Present tense is commonly used with first person, where the narrator relates the story using “I” or “we.” I’d done a whole trilogy in first-person present. But I’d never written in third-person present. Inspired by the novel I was reading, I decided to try it.

And I liked the energy of it! It was just a technical change, but at last the tone of the story felt right. I continued to move ahead, writing additional pages every day in present tense, and at the end of the day I would revise my past work, gradually shifting it from past tense to present, adding detail as I did.

I was far, far happier with the feel of the story. The change in tense had given it the spark it needed—or maybe it had given me the spark I needed. Whichever it was, I never considered shifting back.

***

From the cover copy:

Scarred by war. In pursuit of truth.

Army veteran True Brighton left the service when the development of robotic helicopters made her training as a pilot obsolete. Now she works at Requisite Operations, a private military company established by friend and former Special Ops soldier Lincoln Han. ReqOp has embraced the new technologies. Robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence are all tools used to augment the skills of veteran warfighters-for-hire. But the tragedy of war is still measured in human casualties, and when True makes a chance discovery during a rescue mission, old wounds are ripped open. She’s left questioning what she knows of the past, and resolves to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.

“…a thrilling novel that lays bare the imminent future of warfare.” —Publishers Weekly starred review

Linda is a Nebula and Locus-award-winning writer, best known for her high-tech science fiction, including the Red trilogy, a series of near-future military thrillers. The first book in the trilogy, The Red: First Light, was a Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial-award finalist, and named as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015. Her short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and several anthologies.

Linda has lived most of her life in Hawaii, where she’s been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and an independent publisher. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui.

Website | Twitter

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

Invisible 3 Release Day

Jun. 27th, 2017 10:49 am
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Invisible 3 CoverINVISIBLE 3, a collection of 18 essays and poems about representation in SF/F, is out today! The ebook is edited by myself and Mary Anne Mohanraj, and is available at:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play

As with the first two volumes in this series, all profits go to benefit Con or Bust.

Here’s the full table of contents:

  • Introduction by K. Tempest Bradford
  • Heroes and Monsters, by T. S. Bazelli
  • Notes from the Meat Cage, by Fran Wilde
  • What Color Are My Heroes? by Mari Kurisato
  • The Zeroth Law Of Sex in Science Fiction, by Jennifer Cross
  • Our Hyperdimensional Mesh of Identities, by Alliah
  • Erasing Athena, Effacing Hestia, by Alex Conall
  • Not So Divergent After All, by Alyssa Hillary
  • Skins, by Chelsea Alejandro
  • The Doctor and I, by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • My Family Isn’t Built By Blood, by Jaime O. Mayer
  • Lost in Space: A Messy Voyage Through Fictional Universes, by Carrie Sessarego
  • Decolonise The Future, by Brandon O’Brien
  • Natives in Space, by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • I Would Fly With Dragons, by Sean Robinson
  • Adventures in Online Dating, by Jeremy Sim
  • Of Asian-Americans and Bellydancing Wookiees, by Dawn Xiana Moon
  • Shard of a Mirage, by MT O’Shaughnessy
  • Unseen, Unheard, by Jo Gerrard

Huge thanks to the contributors for sharing their stories and experiences. I’ve learned so much from earlier volumes in this series, and this one was no different.

And hey, if you haven’t seen the previous volumes…

INVISIBLE: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play

INVISIBLE 2: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play

If you’re a reviewer and would like a copy, please contact me and let me know your preferred format and where your reviews are published.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Dear Senator Johnson:

Yesterday, you compared me, not favorably, to a car: "We’ve done something with our health care system that you would never think about doing, for example, with auto insurance, where you would require auto insurance companies to sell a policy to somebody after they crash their car."

I cannot tell you how furious I am.

First of all, in comparing health insurance to car insurance, you are implying that:

(1) we can avoid illness, cancer, strokes, etc., the same way a driver, hypothetically, can avoid accidents (although accidents can't always be avoided, either);
(2) human beings are nothing but machines;
3) if we are not useful--as, say, children or elderly people no longer able to work are not useful--we are not worth taking care of;
(4) we decrease in value when we are damaged.

All of these implications are wrong. Frankly, they are all reprehensible. Also, a car accident is in no way, shape, or form like a "pre-existing condition." "Pre-existing conditions" are chronic. You can't deal with them once and then move on, the way you can buy a new car if yours is totaled. You have to deal with a "pre-existing condition" for the rest of your life; it goes on being expensive, eating up energy, and making your daily life harder long after the crisis point (the accident, in your analogy), if there even was one. Many people's "pre-existing conditions" start before they're even born. It is a false and pernicious analogy which you should never have permitted yourself to make.

Moreover, my "pre-existing conditions" are not things that I did, or things caused by my bad choices. The same is true of my friends who are bipolar. The same is true of any child who has cancer. Illness, whether mental or physical, is not a moral judgment, and a person's value, which is inestimable, is neither measured nor affected by the health care they need. And no one can predict the health care they're going to need--in much the same way no one can predict a drunk driver crossing the median and colliding head-on with their car.

Frankly, I have never expected you to oppose TrumpCare, whether it's called the AHCA or the BCRA, and I was angry enough about that. But the contempt this analogy shows for your constituents and for their need to have effective and affordable health care--a need that does not correlate with either their socio-economic status or their moral rectitude and that should never be thought of in terms of free-market capitalism--is appalling, especially from someone who claims to consider it "an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Wisconsin." I sincerely hope that this analogy is not a reflection of your true opinion of your constituents.

Senator Johnson, I AM NOT A CAR. I am a person, created equal with yourself, and I deserve to have my elected representatives respect my humanity and treat me with dignity.

Hay is for horses

Jun. 25th, 2017 10:53 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Someone asked about riding.
Read more... )

Ask me a riddle, and I reply

Jun. 25th, 2017 09:04 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Gentle Readers, however many of you there may be,

I'm in the mood to take requests. What would you like to see me write a blog post about? All suggestions will be entertained (writing, politics, mental/physical health, true crime, Shakespeare, etc.), but may or may not be acted upon.

I'm screening comments, in case you want to ask privately for a public response.

the ugly truth

Jun. 24th, 2017 11:04 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
(I said this on Twitter, I might as well say it here.)

So, yesterday I outed myself as mentally ill. Which was a conscious choice & one I'm not fully happy about, but it needed to be done. It also means that I have admitted I have a disability. (Actually, I have several.) Which I'm also not happy about, but facts are facts.

However, I'm now waiting for the person who's going to come along and tell me I'm not disabled enough:
  • "You don't look/act disabled." (You're not really disabled, just making excuses/trying to make yourself look special.)
  • "You're not on disability." (You fail to meet a arbitrary, quantifiable standard of disability, therefore you are not disabled.)
  • "I don't think you have a real disability." (You fail to meet my arbitrary, unquantifiable standard of disability, therefore you are not disabled.)
  • "You have a job." (You can't really be disabled. You're too functional.)
  • "Your description of your disability does not match with other people's descriptions of their disability/with my experience of my disability." (You're not disabled, you're just lying.)
  • "Other people have disabilities that are much worse than yours." (How dare you claim to be disabled.)
  • ETA 2017 06 25 "You can totally overcome this disability if you think right/eat right/exercise right/pray right/take the right supplements/buy the right Lucky Special Stick." (You're not really disabled, you're just not trying.) [I forgot this one, as I said to rachelmanija when she reminded me of it, because it's the one I still say to myself.]

Well, if that's how you think, I have news for you:

1. FUCK YOU.

2. Disability is not a competition. Yes, there ARE people whose disabilities are much worse than mine. That doesn't make the issues I struggle with less real.

3. You have no idea of how hard I may be working to not "look disabled."

4. Also, and I repeat, fuck you and the horse you rode in on. Whoever you are and whatever your credentials, you do not get to constitute yourself the disability police and tell me, once again, that I'm not disabled enough to count.

I don't want to be disabled. (Jesus fucking Christ, who would?) I don't want to acknowledge that I'm disabled. I'm doing so now because the Republicans are trying to make people with disabilities disappear, and it's time to BE VISIBLE as a person with disabilities who doesn't "look disabled," instead of just passing for "normal" as best I can.

So stop telling me to shut up because I don't meet your standards.

I have disabilities. They're real. By the definition of the health care that I'm in danger of losing, HELL YEAH are they real. I *do* have a dog in this fight, and me and him, we're gonna go down YELLING OUR FUCKING HEADS OFF.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
ETA: Per Snopes, the Warm Springs Foundation, which provided Senator McConnell with polio rehabilitation, was a nonprofit organization with extremely close ties to the federal government (as we'd probably phrase it today). If someone from Senator Johnson's office contacts me to point out my errors, at least I'll know they read my letter.

ETA(2): ALSO THIS.


[via email]

Dear Senator Johnson:

First of all, thank you for speaking out against the speed with which Senator McConnell is trying to force his Better Care Reconciliation Act through the Senate.

Secondly-- As it turns out, Senator McConnell had polio as a small child; his health care was entirely government-funded. This is exactly the kind of health care--the kind that provides needed services to children whose parents *are*not*wealthy*--that he is trying to destroy. The hypocrisy of this infuriates me, above and beyond all the other things that I think are appalling, shameful, and horrifying about the BCRA.

The BCRA is potentially catastrophic for me. I have a number of chronic conditions, including Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Restless Legs Syndrome, that are controlled, entirely or in part, by medications--medications that I cannot afford without health insurance. Without the chemical assistance to straighten out my brain chemistry and neurology, I will very quickly become paralyzed by the apathy of depression and the brain-lock induced by OCD--not to mention the chronic sleep-deprivation caused by RLS. And these conditions are all incurable. They can be *managed* very successfully, but I will never be free of them. I need these medications for the rest of my life. (I'm 42. I'm hoping "the rest of my life" is a very long time.)

Right now, I have insurance through the State of Wisconsin. But--as you are possibly aware--the state has been steadily chipping away at its employees' health benefits for the last 20 years, and if the BCRA passes, it gives Wisconsin greatly increased leeway to make state employees' health benefits ever more meager, which will mean my out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions and doctor visits will continue to increase and increase, while my insurance covers less and less of the care I need. (The medication which principally controls my RLS already has a co-pay of more than $100 a month.) And if I *lose* that coverage, I will be uninsurable. I am a walking compendium of "pre-existing conditions"--I didn't even tell you about the chronic migraines or the fibromyalgia or the Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Senator, I need health insurance. I need it to be affordable. I need it NOT to be contingent on my never having been and never becoming sick, because that door slammed shut a long time ago. I need it to PROTECT ME, not benefit the health insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

I am hoping that, as my senator, you care more about my well-being than you do about providing tax cuts to a handful of people who do not need them. I am hoping that you recognize Senator McConnell's rank hypocrisy and that it angers you as it does me. I am hoping that you will defend me and your other 5.77 million constituents who need, as a matter of quite literally life or death, the access to affordable healthcare that Senator McConnell and his BCRA are trying to strip away from us.

Please continue to oppose the BCRA. Do not let this unconscionable bill be your legacy.

Cool Stuff Friday

Jun. 23rd, 2017 11:18 am
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Friday is almost finished with this first draft…

 

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Senate Healthcare Bill

Jun. 22nd, 2017 03:25 pm
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Senate Republicans have finally released what appears to be the draft text of H.R. 1628, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”

It’s 142 pages, and to be honest, I’m having a hard time deciphering it all. (Not a lawyer or a legislator.) But here are some things that stood out at me…

Elimination of the individual and employer mandate. (Pages 10-11)

Tax repeals on medications, health insurance, health savings accounts, etc. (Pages 25-29)

This includes the “Repeal of Tanning Tax” on page 29.

The continuing attack on abortion rights.

“Disallowance of small employer health insurance credit for plan which includes coverage for abortion.” (Pages 8-9)

“No Federal funds provided from a program referred to in this subsection that is considered direct spending for any year may be made available to a State for payments to a prohibited entity,” which is then defined as an entity providing abortion services except in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger. (Page 35)

#

According to a USA Today analysis, this bill would:

  • Reduce or eliminate most subsidies for individuals and families
  • “Eliminate the ACA’s requirement that insurers can’t charge older customers more than three times what younger customers pay for the same coverage. Instead, those in their 60s could be charged five times as much, or more.”
  • Eliminate penalties to large employers who choose not to offer health insurance. (Elimination of the employer mandate.)
  • Make it easier to drop coverage for things like maternity care and mental health issues.

CNN points out that the bill would also:

  • Defund Planned Parenthood for a year.
  • Require coverage of preexisting conditions. However, it also lets states “waive the federal mandate on what insurers must cover… This would allow insurers to offer less comprehensive policies, so those with pre-existing conditions may not have all of their treatments covered.”

A PBS article says the bill would:

  • Cap and reduce Medicaid funding, and allow states to add a work requirement for “able-bodied” recipients of Medicaid.
  • Provide $2 billion to help states fight opioid addiction

Fox News, unsurprisingly, focused on what they saw as positive in the proposed bill:

  • It preserves health care for people with preexisting conditions (with the potential exceptions noted in the CNN bullets, above), and allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan through age 26.
  • It expands health care savings accounts.
  • It provides a short-term stabilization fund to help struggling insurance markets.

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release their report on the senate bill next week. The CBO estimated that the House-passed bill would result in 26 million fewer insured Americans by 2026, and would cut the budget by $119 billion over the same time. (Source)

#

Nothing here is particularly shocking. I’m glad I and my family can’t be kicked off our insurance for our various preexisting conditions…though some of those conditions might no longer be covered, which sucks. It would hurt the poor, the elderly, women, and the mentally ill, among others. None of my readers will be shocked to hear that I think this is another step backward. The ACA was far from perfect — it’s like a patient with a broken leg, but instead of trying to fix the broken leg, we’ll just throw them through a woodchipper, because hey, it’s cheaper!

It looks like this may be a tight vote, which would make this an excellent time to call your Senator.

Please keep any comments civil. I’m angry about this too, but I don’t have the time or the spoons to moderate fights and nastiness today. (Which probably means I shouldn’t have posted this in the first place, but I never claimed to be that bright…)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

swan_tower: (gaming)
[personal profile] swan_tower

I’ve been sitting on this news for nearly a year, waiting for my first piece to go live so I can tell you all about it.

So there’s this game called Legend of the Five Rings. It was a collectible card game and RPG; I got involved with the RPG, doing some freelance work for the later parts of fourth edition, because it had sucked me in overnight. The setting, Rokugan, is inspired by Japanese history and culture, and it’s got the kind of rich worldbuilding that makes the place come to life for me. So when the parent company sold L5R off to Fantasy Flight Games, I was, shall we say, rather determined to stay involved.

And I am. But not writing for the RPG this time: instead I’m one of their fiction writers. You see, one of the defining characteristics for L5R has always been the ongoing narrative of the game, influenced by the winners of various tournaments, and expressed through official canon stories.

My first story is here!

I think it should be a decent introduction to the setting for those who aren’t familiar with it. (In fact, that’s one of the goals for this first set of stories: give newcomers an overview of Rokugan, clan by clan.) If you like what I wrote, you might find L5R overall interesting, and you can check out the other fictions here (those provide links to the pdfs if you want to see the pretty formatted versions).

Yeah . . . I’m pretty excited. 😀 The setting has been rebooted back to the Clan War, so there’s an opportunity to do all kinds of cool new things, and this story provided a really great chance to showcase that, with the Dragon facing two entirely fresh conflicts that don’t come with easy answers attached. And I’m working on more stuff as we speak, so my involvement will be ongoing. *\o/*

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

“We’re so conditioned to believe that white is the default that we write ourselves out of the worlds that we create.”

Invisible 3 CoverDawn Xiana Moon is one of the contributors to Invisible 3, which comes out on June 27 and includes 18 essays and poems about representation in science fiction and fantasy. You can preorder the collection at:

Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play

(It will be available for Nook as well, but we don’t have that link yet.)

Any profits from the sale of the collection go to Con or Bust, helping fans of color to attend SF/F conventions.

As with Invisible and Invisible 2, the contributors to this third volume have shared work that’s heartfelt, eye-opening, honest, thoughtful, and important…not to mention relevant to so much of what we see happening in the genre today.

#

Of Asian-Americans and Bellydancing Wookiees, by Dawn Xiana Moon

We have always existed.

In the early days of the internet, back when we were on Prodigy or CompuServe and email addresses were long strings of numbers with a comma in between, I was answering distress calls on derelict starships. America Online (because it wasn’t yet AOL) launched an ad campaign that envisioned an internet with graphics; I dodged Borg at Warp Six. I outsmarted Q when he appeared on my bridge, launched photon torpedoes at Romulans, and flirted with fellow Starfleet officers in Ten Forward. I was thirteen. And like a good overachiever, I wondered if I could list being second-in-command of the CompuServe sim group Fleet 74 on lists of my activities and accomplishments, right next to years of piano lessons, parts in theatre productions, dancing and singing in the community show choir, and the environmental and video game clubs I’d started (and of course led as president).

My father is an aerospace engineer; by the time we moved from Singapore to the US, I was five years old and already lived in a world where discussing wrap drive was normal. My AP Biology teacher was shocked when I mentioned a singularity in class one day, surprised that a high school senior would know the term (which she made me define in front of the class before she was satisfied), but I’d been raised on a steady diet of Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, and every science fiction and fantasy novel I could get my hands on—my father handed me Isaac Asimov books in elementary school and I read them, wondering why I didn’t have a robot nanny or automatic food-making gadgets. I am a native speaker of technobabble.

All that to say: I’ve always been a nerd. And proudly so. But growing up I rarely saw people that looked like me onscreen—sure, we had Sulu, but George Takei was closer to my grandparents’ age than mine. Asian characters were few and far between, and girls? Girls didn’t like Vulcans or computers. Girls especially didn’t like dancing and princesses and talking about the space-time continuum all at the same time. Or so I was told.

But I was Asian. And female. And I existed.

I was the girl who hung out at the arcade playing Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, first surprising boys who saw a girl in front of a fighting game, then shocking them when I won. I was the foreigner who walked into first grade in the middle of the school year, a Chinese kid from another country but a native speaker of English. I was the founding member of the high school forensics team who learned quickly that judges gave higher ratings to performances of minority stories by minority students than they did mainstream stories by minority students—so while the handful of black students I competed against performed passages from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, I lent dramatic flair to Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club. I often won.

And now? I’m the bellydancer, firespinner, singer-songwriter, and nerd who designs and codes websites. I obsess with sparkles and sequins and makeup and then wrestle with merge conflicts in GitHub. I flirt with audiences and shimmy to Balkan brass bands and then debate backstage whether Daleks or Cylons would win in a fight. I sing 19th century French poetry layered on piano parts in 7/8 time inspired by traditional Chinese folk music, Americana, and jazz. I break stereotypes into tiny pieces and eat them like candy. I exist.

#

Growing up, the few Asians I saw in media invariably fell into tropes: the martial arts master, the submissive woman, the uber-nerd/scientist, the Dragon Lady seductress. None of these matched my personality. While I was able to beg my way into flute and voice lessons—in addition to piano—my father refused to let me study tae kwon do on the grounds that it would be “like handing a kid a loaded gun and telling him not to use it.” People told me I was bossy—my heroes were characters like Princess Leia and Babylon 5’s Delenn, forces of personality who were fully themselves and didn’t need rescuing. I was more Captain Kirk than Yeoman Rand. I was a geek, but I had far more interest in music and dance than I did in math or chemistry; science interested me primarily as story. And I had no idea what it would mean to be seductive—my conservative evangelical church preached “modesty,” and Bible camp banned spaghetti strap tank tops, two-piece swimsuits, and short shorts on the grounds that they would evoke lust in the boys.

I didn’t exist.

I grew up around Americans who discussed race in black and white terms, expressing couched racism with the assumed understanding that I was one of them. Those were the same Americans who complimented my English, told me my face was flat, and pontificated about how eating Chinese food was great except that you were hungry again immediately afterward. After the last election, CNN disseminated a chart of votes with breakdowns by both race and gender: Black men voted this way, black women this way, Hispanic men and women these ways. Asian-Americans didn’t appear on the chart—we were literally “Other.”

As an Asian-American theatre major, so often I was cast as that literal Other: I spent two summers performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in college. The first year, I was one of the fairies. So were most of the black students. The one who wasn’t a fairy was cast as Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons. The second year, we reprised the show; I was cast as Hippolyta. All of the black students were fairies. The Greeks and lovers were uniformly white.

How often do we cast an Asian-American as the protagonist, the superhero whose origin story we follow? How often do we allow an Asian-American to lead a movie as a swashbuckling rogue, the resistance fighter who marries a princess along the way, the rockstar with thousands of screaming fans? Hollywood casts Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park in The Martian—with so few roles available to begin with, we’re often denied even characters who should look like us. We’re over 5% of the US population, but only 1.4% of the lead characters in studio films released in 2014. According to Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, the majority of media features zero named or speaking Asian characters. Zero.

Two years ago I attended a curated acoustic music showcase where every single one of the musicians was a white guy with a bushy beard. Most of them wore plaid. Producers often think of diversity in terms of instrumentation or musical style; I’ve released two albums of original music, toured 10 states, and performed hundreds of shows, but it’s rare to see another folk singer-songwriter of color. While the genre is dominated by white people, Asian-Americans are making this music. And making it well. We exist, but we’re not part of the narrative.

#

Living in a world where people who look like you are functionally non-existent yields odd fruit. As an ambitious elementary school kid, I wrote (what I considered then) a novel. Starring ninjas. Based heavily on the Ninja Gaiden video game. Of course I Mary Sued my way into the story. But I always envisioned my surrogate as white. And male. (Because, we’re told, the appropriate protagonist of an adventure story is white. And male.) Likewise, when I wrote other stories, every character—heroes, villains, NPCs—was white.

Bryan Lee O’Malley of Scott Pilgrim fame talks about how he never realized that he’d whitewashed himself out of his own story until seeing his comic in movie form and realizing that no one looked like him. As I’ve talked with other Asian-Americans, I’ve realized that I wasn’t the only one—many of us did the same thing. Even the excellent Ted Chiang—one of my favorite writers, and the first Asian-American I can recall encountering in science fiction—falls into this. We’re so conditioned to believe that white is the default that we write ourselves out of the worlds that we create.

#

I refuse to be invisible.

Faced with a culture that minimizes the existence of Asian-Americans in the arts, I’ve long created my own projects. In 2012, I founded Raks Geek, joining my love of geekdom and dance to form a nerd-themed bellydance and fire performance company that features a primarily Asian and LGBTQIA cast. While our society pigeonholes Asians as socially-awkward scientists, perpetual foreigners, and weak submissives, I’m determined to show Asians can be creative, tough, and unconventional.

“To dance is a radical act.”*

A body on a stage makes a statement. A female, POC body on a stage makes a statement. When I dance, I’m changing the narrative, the story of what an Asian-American woman is allowed to be. When I dance with Raks Geek, I’m making an audience laugh at the ridiculousness of a Wookiee shimmying, but I’m also bringing a new audience to an insular dance form, teaching them what bellydance looks like at a high level of technical and artistic proficiency, and defying a host of model minority and immigrant stereotypes.

Visibility matters. Few would conceive of an Asian-American bellydancer performing as a Wookiee. Or Mystique. Or the TARDIS. But I do, and I hope to challenge perceptions of who we are and can be every time. We exist, and we have always been here.

We exist.

_____

* “To dance is a radical act because doing so implies that there are forms of knowing that cannot be mediated to us in words, which give words their meaning.” -Kimerer LaMothe

***

Dawn Xiana Moon is a lifelong geek that has worked professionally in almost every area of the arts. She the Founder and Producer/Director of Raks Geek, a nerd-themed bellydance and fire company that’s garnered acclaim from WGN-TV, MSN, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Mail, and UK Channel 4 TV. As a singer-songwriter, Dawn has performed in 10 states and released two solo albums; her latest CD, Spaces Between, fuses elements from traditional Chinese music with jazz and alt folk pop. She performs with Read My Hips tribal bellydance, spins fire with Acrobatica Infiniti circus, works as a UX designer and web developer, and has written for Uncanny Magazine, The Learned Fangirl, and RELEVANT Magazine. Though she loves Chicago, she periodically needs to flee the US; her wanderlust has brought her to 20 countries (and counting!) thus far.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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[personal profile] truepenny
Dear Senator Johnson:

I'm writing to ask you to put pressure on Senator McConnell to release the text of the AHCA bill and to hold public hearings before the bill is put to the vote. I ask this in a nonpartisan spirit, simply as a principle of ethical governance. Patrick Henry said in 1788, "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. . . . to cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man, and every friend to his country." I believe that's as true now as it was then.

Please don't let Senator McConnell set a precedent with the AHCA. Insist that the text of the bill be published. Insist that there be public hearings. We fall short of the ideal of American democracy a lot of the time, but we are better than this crude and childish attempt to strong-arm an unpopular bill through the Senate by refusing to let anyone see it.

It would only take three Republican senators refusing to vote for the AHCA without proper disclosure and hearings to make it impossible for Senator McConnell's strategy to succeed. I would like to believe, not only that there are three Republican senators who have the ethical and moral strength to make that refusal, but also that the senior senator from Wisconsin is one of them.

New Worlds and Dice Tales!

Jun. 19th, 2017 10:53 am
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[personal profile] swan_tower

The most recent New Worlds post is on sumptuary laws, i.e. the ways in which societies try to regulate the outward signifiers of class and rank.

Looking back at my previous blog series of BVC — Dice Tales is now set to be an ebook! You can currently pre-order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, and Kobo; or you can wait for the on-sale date of July 18th and get it from DriveThruRPG or direct from the publisher, Book View Cafe. This is edited and expanded from the original blog series, with more than half a dozen new essays.

And — as a teaser — while it is my first foray into game-related publishing, it may not be my last . . .

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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[personal profile] truepenny
So, I try very hard not to hate people. It takes energy away from things I'd rather be doing, and it's destructive of the soul. (There isn't a secular word that means quite what "soul" does--"psyche" is the closest, and it's not very close. And I'm really talking about the soul, the part of you that struggles with good and evil. Just understand that I don't mean it in a religious sense, but in a moral/ethical once.) But then you get to where we are right now, in a dystopia imagined by Monty Python (the president is "yelling at television sets in the White House," reports the Associated Press), and I realized that, yeah, okay, I've got a lot of hatred going on here, but also that this is not unreasonable, and here's why:

  1. The American Health Care Act
  2. Executive Order 13792 (the one trying to take away National Monument status from, hey, National Monuments)
  3. The whole thing with Russia
  4. This new policy rollback with Cuba
  5. The general determination to undo everything Obama did, just because Obama did it
  6. His behavior toward Israel
  7. His behavior toward everybody in the Middle East, even leaving aside the "Mother of All Bombs"
  8. His behavior toward the Mayor of London
  9. His behavior toward Angela Merkel and the German people
  10. His behavior toward the CIA
  11. His behavior toward the FBI
  12. His behavior toward the Pope
  13. Also the appointment of Newt Gingrich's wife as Ambassador to the Vatican
  14. Ditto John McCain's wife as "ambassador at large." We can see what you're doing, people.
  15. His stupid-ass decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord
  16. The ongoing hypocrisy of (a) yelling about "fake news", (b) yelling about "witch hunts", (c) demanding apologies from all & sundry
  17. The lying, for fuck's sake.
  18. The excruciatingly blatant nepotism. (Most recently, choosing his event planner--who has lied about having a law degree--to "to head up the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey, where she’ll oversee distribution of billions of taxpayer dollars.")
  19. Betsy DeVos
  20. The quiet rollback of the federal government's role in defending civil rights
  21. The catastrophic budget cuts to the EPA, the NEH, and everything that isn't (a) guns or (b) more butter for the rich
  22. Choosing to mark Pride Month by going to a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, where he praised the founders of the FFC and of Focus on the Family, both of which organizations are poisonously homophobic
  23. The "Mother of All Bombs"
  24. The travel ban
  25. ICE
  26. Melissa Ortiz
  27. That completely bizarre televised Trump-worship circle with his Cabinet
  28. Remember way back when, when he made fun of a reporter with a disability on national TV?
  29. And let's not forget the sexual assault thing, either, or the "locker room talk"
  30. The "plan" (please notice sarcastic quote marks) to privatize infrastructure, starting with air traffic control
  31. His ignorance of the basics of American history, like, you know, the Civil War
  32. His atrocious behavior on Twitter after the terrorist attack in London
  33. The way he fucks off to play golf, like the terrible conflicts he has sparked in his own country (both accidentally and 100% deliberately) don't matter
  34. His completely casual leaks of classified information (and don't give me that bullshit "ignorance" excuse; a FIVE YEAR OLD would know better than that)
  35. His complete failure to behave, in any way or in any aspect, like the actual leader of an actual country


Okay, stopping there, but, really, as Vizzini says, I'm just getting started.

I still don't think hatred is the right answer; it makes you into the monster you're fighting. But racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, xenophobia, plutocracy, religious bigotry, the hatred and fear of education, institutionalized sociopathy: every trend and tendency I hate about mainstream American culture is represented, as beautifully as if he were a metonym, by Donald J. Trump and his leadership of our country. He is actually MORE HORRIBLE than I thought he would be when I had the first of many anxiety attacks on Election Night.

My consolation is that there are a lot of us shouting that Emperor Trump isn't wearing any fucking clothes. I don't advocate hatred--I'm trying to let it go myself--but please don't stop shouting.

Community Labyrinth Garden

Jun. 15th, 2017 02:33 pm
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[personal profile] j_cheney
Yesterday someone posted a labyrinth finder website link, so I looked it up and located a labyrinth not far from us. This one's in Allen, Tx., the suburb one over from us. The labyrinth is actually on land owned by the local First Presbyterian Church, but is also noted on the (next door) Methodist Church's site online. 

So this morning, after walking a bit at the nature reserve, I popped in there, just to see what it  was like.  

It's an interesting hybrid, combining a labyrinth, a garden, and the twelve stations of the cross. The man who laid it out evidently put those twelve 'rest and contemplate' stops into the fabric of the labyrinth. 
(This photo is taken from the edge of the property)

So I started walking the labyrinth. It was full of native plants and wildflowers, with places to sit and contemplate. I was, admittedly, too distracted by the plants to concentrate much. 


I was not alone in the garden, either, as there were multiple inhabitants who were perplexed by my refusal to walk in a straight line. 




The cottontails kept trying to guess which direction I was going, but the path of the labyrinth forces one to turn and change direction a lot, so I was annoying them.  



Plus there were some interesting specimens: 


This looks like a white version of stachys (lamb's ear). Even though it looks a bit odd, it's perfectly healthy.  There were several interesting plants, including one of the loveliest red yuccas I've ever seen, and a huge prickly pear. 

As I was nearing the end of the pathway (I'm a believer in following the path--otherwise why are you in a labyrinth at all?) , an older woman in gardening gear came out of the church and told me a bit about the garden/labyrinth.  

Among other things, it's a community effort. Apparently it was originally built with the help of some young miscreants from the nearby court, members of the local church, and...Mormon missionaries. This may be a regularly scheduled thing for them, because the gardener (Nita) told me that some were coming at 10 to help weed and water.  

Also, the garden doesn't have sprinklers. There's one spigot near the middle, and they can carry buckets of water to needy plants from there. Therefore, the bulk of the plants are native or drought-tolerant ones. Nita also told me that the majority of them were donated or bought on sales at local nurseries over the years since the labyrinth was first built in 2012. 

Here is, by the way, the aerial picture from their facebook page: 




That's just to show you that the scale is pretty large for a labyrinth.  So after I talked to Nita, I finished my trip to the center and left a penny there.  And then--even though I would normally go back the way I came, I took the cheater's way out. 

All in all, it was a pretty amazing thing.  

that whole “tikkun olam” thing

Jun. 15th, 2017 10:09 am
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[personal profile] swan_tower

I’ve been making these tikkun olam posts for about half a year now, and responses to them have been slowing down, which I suspect is in part a sign of fatigue. It’s hard to keep on working to repair the world when so many people seem determined to break it, and when it’s hard to see any result for your effort.

But sometimes you can make a very real difference to a very specific person. Chaz Brenchley has put out a call raising funds to treat his wife’s multiple sclerosis. If we lived in a country where this was covered by insurance, they wouldn’t have to worry; instead we live in a country where Republicans are trying to take away even the insurance we already have. Karen is the primary earner in their family, and she doesn’t know how soon she’ll be able to return to work. Helping out, either by donating directly, or by subscribing to Chaz’s Patreon, can make all the difference in the world to these two people, and to their friends and family.

And while you’re at it, call your senators and beg them to oppose Trumpcare. Because I’d like to live in a world where things ranging from anxiety to surviving sexual assault don’t count as “pre-existing conditions,” and where health insurance companies are required to cover things like doctor’s visits.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

The Little Cherry Tree That Could

Jun. 14th, 2017 03:22 pm
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[personal profile] swan_tower

When we bought our house last year, the property included one Meyer lemon tree, two apple trees (producing four kinds of apple between them, because grafts), and something we dubbed the Charlie Brown Cherry Tree.

Remember the Christmas tree in the Charlie Brown holiday special? Yeah. It was like that. Shorter than I am, spindly, rather lacking in leaves, and though we can’t remember how many cherries it produced, the number was small enough to be counted on one hand. I don’t have any pictures of it, but you get the idea.

This past winter, we finally got an abundance of rain. Also, our neighbors trimmed back a tree on their property that had been overshadowing the cherry.

Oh. my. god.

Here’s one branch of the tree. Note how there are more cherries on this single branch than the entire tree produced last year.

a small cluster of cherries on a tree

Here’s a shot of the most abundant section when it was really starting to gather steam:

a downward shot of cherries on a small tree

And here’s the near-final tally; there are still a few more cherries ripening on the tree that I haven’t picked yet.

a plastic container full of cherries

About half of those were harvested yesterday. Reader, I tell you: I got BORED picking cherries. Pick, pick, pick, for god’s sake why are there still more cherries to pick; I’ve been out here forever. They’re frozen because the tree is still shorter than I am, and even with its present abundance, we have to save up to get a useful amount. (They’re sour cherries, so less the kind of thing you just snack on than what we buy at the farmers’ market.) But we have enough to do . . . man, there are too many possibilities. My husband has been making jam out of various fruits, so maybe that. Or a pie? Is this enough for a pie? Maybe some little tarts or something? I don’t know.

I only know that it’s no longer the Charlie Brown Cherry Tree. Ladies and gentlemen, this is The Little Cherry Tree That Could.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

Gadgets and Things

NSFW Jun. 14th, 2017 07:41 am
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