Hello, 2017

Well, it’s 2017.

After the election I didn’t write much of anything until late December, and it’s only now, when this whole mess finally seems real and not like a terrible fever-dream that I’ve really gotten back in the saddle.

It’s also really weird to talk about how things are going well for you when the world at large is slowly burning down. In a few days, I’ll have my first published story come out, and several more over the next months. I finally have a full-time job with reasonable hours. I’ve moved to a town I love and I’ve got friends and a nice place.

And yet, there’s men in the White House who don’t want people like me to exist. Refugees are being sent back to countries where they will likely die and a Nazi-loving, maniacal racist is my country’s Chief Strategist. The fuck.

Today I also saw this tweet from Marissa Lingen and the thread that follows about talking art in frightening times:

So I’m starting this blog back up. I’m going to make a big effort to do at least one Dang Good Stories a month, because we need stories now, and I’m also going to talk about what I’m working on to remind myself it is worth something.

The good thing is I have been writing. I even bought myself a calendar and some motivation stickers.

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The orange/yellow stickers are for 250 words written, the pink stickers are for 3 pages edited, and the green stickers are for 20 minutes of reading. The blue stars are submissions, the gold are acceptances (none so far, sigh) and the red are for when I put “the end” on a first draft. Words are happening. Slowly, but they’re happening.

Onward we go.

 

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De-Gendering Stories Writing Challenge

SFF author Alexandra Erin recently posted “De-Gendering Stories: A Challenge” on her website. In short, she challenges authors to pay attention to the ways we use gendered language and signal characters’ gender by writing a story in which at least two characters appear and neither character is explicitly gendered.

I’ve been thinking about gender in fiction a lot recently, especially in regards to one story that I just revised. I wrote it in the second person (not a popular choice, but I find that stories often come to me with a perspective already chosen, and I’ve never had much luck in changing them) and in the spring of 2015 workshopped it. The protagonist is female–there’s at least six points in the story where she’s explicitly gendered, and two of them are in the first pages–but half the workshop never realized this and complained that her gender had surprised them in the last few pages. Because she has a girlfriend, I assume.

I thought about changing the perspective, but ultimately left it as is. Ironically, that story just sold, but it left me thinking about how much of our interpretation of gender is tied up in sexist or heteronormative stereotypes.

As someone who writes primarily mostly characters, gendered language and signaling gender is always on my mind. I think its vital that writers learn to move beyond the male/female binary and the expectations that come along with gendering characters. I consider myself a feminist and someone pretty well-versed in gender issues, but I still find myself going that character’s a computer programmer, so they must be a he and falling back on old tropes.

I’m going to give this exercise a shot. I think it’ll be a real eye-opener to examine how I imagine my characters’ genders and how I use gendered language.

Alexandra Erin’s challenge continues until August 1st, and she’s offering a small prize for her favorite entries to encourage participation.