Monday, January 16, 2017

News: Old and New, Good and Bad

A new date on human-altered bone from Bluefish Cave puts humans on the American side of the Bering Strait in the middle of the Last Glacial Maximum. At this point this is only a surprise to those who haven't been paying attention, but firm data points are always welcome, and frankly any advance in science is to be celebrated.

On the personal side, I feel obliged to inform long-term readers of some recent losses that are primarily of personal impact. Moby Dent, the Great White Car, is officially dead. We do not yet know the name of the Subaru Forester who has assumed his duties, and it may never matter to blog readers, depending on my future capacity to undertake adventures abroad in the future. Moby was not a car we would ever have chosen on our own, having been bought cheap from a family member in a time of crisis, but he got us where we needed to go that the buses couldn't take us for almost 30 years, and kept patching up and plugging along long after we really should have replaced him. He was the first and is still the only car I've ever known intimately, since I didn't even learn to drive till we'd had him for quite some time, so it is hard not to be sentimental about him. But the Forester is the first car we've chosen together and this is a cheering thing.

We need cheering things, because shortly before Christmas both the cats were mauled by stray dogs. Miss Thai is currently washing herself next to the keyboard, though things were iffy for awhile there; but thanks to the neighbors who drove off the dogs and took us straight to the vet (Moby being immobile and the Forester not yet chosen), the efforts of both our regular vet and the Animal Emergency Room, and the help of our friends who provided further mobility as needed, she survived and is doing well.

Dr. Bruce, the cat in the header, had his neck broken outright, and was dead before anybody knew the dogs had struck.

And Thai, who was his littermate, does not like to sleep with us without him anymore, unless the night is very cold.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Welcome to the Dystopia

So. The electors didn't save us (it was never very likely, but this is 2016 - probability was not a limiting factor and if they'd had any guts they'd have done it) and we're living in a dystopia with an incompetent con man at the helm appointing neo-Nazis and profit pirates, incidentally encouraging devotees of every systemic evil that we've been papering over since the country was founded to come out of the woodwork and do evil by the light of day.

Well! This is not the first time the bullies have been in charge of the classroom, and we do not lack historical examples for how to behave. Unfortunately, most of them involve the most privileged hunkering down and collaborating or hiding and leaving the work of making things better to the major sufferers, who are pretty busy being oppressed and surviving - or not. A lot of people will die and someday the privileged will look back and say: "Hey, we survived, it wasn't that bad" and get angry at any one who tells us that the systemic problems still linger and if we'd look past our privileged noses and admit that, we might finally be able to dismantle dystopia.

Millions of stories are about to go down. Many will be tragedies. How many will be told?

It's hard for an artist to know what to do in these situations. Few of us have much in the way of margins in our lives, or resources to devote to dismantling the structures of horror rising up around us. We don't make much money, often have multiple jobs (the day job, the creative work, and the family work; possibly also the bureaucracy work of getting the help you and yours are entitled to), and our talents may not be well-suited for activism or actively rescuing the people who are getting thrown under the bus. It's a certain amount of work even seeing and recognizing a chance to do someone some concrete good. Jews are asking their gentile friends now "Would you hide me?" and they aren't the only ones with reason to ask that question; but I must number myself among those whose answer is: "I would, but I don't think my attic is really habitable and I'm not sure how to make it so."

I'm a dumpy little white lady who writes books for young people but can't land an agent and is therefore in a long dry spell. I have health crap, I have no energy and a dodgy memory, I have a single-income family and the car is officially dead; but I know I'm still better off than a lot of people are going to be at any given time in the next four years. (I hope, only the next four years; I know that's not realistic, but some of us have to be optimists to get out of bed in the morning.)It cannot be enough to click and reblog and send occasional small donations to a handful of important activisms, to tread water and keep stuff in the mail and maintain an escapist little simblr and grumble to my friends. But what more can I do?

And do I even have the right to keep writing and trying to sell stuff, when it's so clear to me that what publishers should be doing over the next four years is dropping all their cis-het-white-abled writers in favor of amplifying marginalized voices? Seriously, if every artist of any kind who met that description stopped producing work for the next four years, and the amount of media published remained the same, the level of representation for people who don't meet that description would increase more than the level of cis-het-white-abled representation would decrease, with a considerable net gain for the world at large.

These are things that we must all consider. What privileges do we have? Is there a way to leverage them into the service of the unprivileged? Are we terrible people if we do not go to rallies because we simply cannot face the crowds or stand long in the cold, or are too afraid of tear gas?

Which privileges are we denied? Do we deserve to have them if we don't fight for them? How do we know a right from a privilege?

Back in middle school, I heard a family friend (who would have vigorously denied that he was racist) say (in effect) that "Negroes" had done a lot of things for "Society" and deserved not to be discriminated against, but "Mexicans" did nothing for "Society" and could be excluded, marginalized, and looked down on, guilt-free. I was not brave enough to speak up against a grownup, but we were living in West Texas at the time and I was aware enough of my surroundings to think: "But without Mexicans, there is no Society here."

And this is the bottom line, this is what the con man and his cronies and those who put him in power don't realize - we are all Society. Those who survive the next four years will be diminished by the loss of those who do not - and by the loss of the voices that fall silent in order to survive.

It is our responsibility to diminish this Society as little as possible - to help others to survive, and this is important.

But it is also important to keep making a Society worth preserving. To contribute our little mite, no matter how trivial it may seem, to a world that is not unrelieved misery to live in. To encourage others to create, to empower those less privileged, and to get the attention of those more privileged. To amplify the whispers of others and to make ourselves heard amid the raucous shouting of those who think that they are Society and that anyone who is insufficiently like them has to earn the right to exist in their shadow.

Resist by existing, if that is all you have the energy to do.

And if you must die, die loudly. Make it count.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Duh.

The problem with the tracking sequence isn't that it's circular, or too long, or ends in anti-climax. It's that I'm not using it to make the Caves threatening enough, and everyone is much too calm.

Not sure how to do that, but you can't solve a problem till you recognize it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott

She'd have been 184 today, and she got a Google doodle, an honor I'm sure she'd be into if she understood it.

As for me, I'm at the stage of revision where the lesbian western is awesome, brilliant, and sure to win all the awards; only to be censored and become a rallying point for civil rights activists everywhere! Otherwise, I'm just fiddling while America burns and I can't bear it.

But - and I think we all need to bear this in mind - although there is no excuse for watching your country's ideals go up in flames and water cannons as if it were nothing to do with you - our ordinary daily pursuits do have value even in times of despair. The arts help us cope with reality far more often than they provide a place of irresponsible escape.

And it doesn't have to be traditional art, or paid art, to do that. Shortly after the election I was informed that someone had downloaded Widespot specifically to provide a healthy distraction from the fear and hopelessness felt in its wake. Lots of people turn to fanfiction in times of crisis - fanfiction being full of the specific content that people in crisis feel most need of, but are least provided for by the media.

And the afghan your aunt knitted for you is warmer than the throw you bought at Sears. It just is.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After the Election

Social injustice is like depression.

It's always there, lurking. You clear it in your immediate vicinity for awhile, but you know it's still out there affecting someone, and you know it will come back to you, and you know that it's frequently fatal. It feels like no progress is ever made.

But progress is made, so gradually that we don't notice until we compare a sufficiently distant past with the present. More people understand more about the causes and processes that create the condition than ever before, and are constantly working to improve our tools to combat it. It is more curable than it ever was, though less curable than it will be. It is more preventable than it ever was, though not as preventable as it should be. Failure happens again and again and again, but success can't happen without the risk of failure.

You can't control anyone else. You can't always control yourself. But you can do more than despair. Keep the manuscript in the mail. Take your meds (as long as you can get them). Donate if you can, march if you can, stand firm if you can. Vote in the little elections as well as the big. Speak when It wants you to shut up and die.

If you can do nothing else, choose kindness at every opportunity life gives you for cruelty. It's the only way to reduce suffering, your own and others.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Back in the saddle again?

Sorry, no ideas for sale today.

But I just thought I'd check in and say I'm working on the lesbian western again, despite weirdness with the sleep schedule and other factors.

Mind you, this is the easy kind of work - revision. Can I face the hard stuff, the querying and the hunting down of people to query? That remains to be seen.

But it's good to be with Len again. And I can't query till revision is done, so this is a start.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Idea Garage Sale: Looking Back

Yes, I'm still alive. And I have mysteriously received this brief list of historical novels published in 2116, concerning the anniversary of so very much. Of varied quality, what they have in common is 20/20 hindsight - either the protagonist, or the narrator, keeps throwing a backward-glowing light on events, finding significance and drawing conclusions that those of us living through them couldn't because we lack the context of what's coming. From that direction, it all looks inevitable. From this direction, nothing looks inevitable, or even probable, as we bungee-jump into the future.

Pokemon Bro - A middle school transboy must confront his own latent misogyny when girls face off against boys in the neighborhoodwide race to "catch 'em all"
Coup de Theater - The members of a theater troupe in Ankara get through the night of the coup in various ways, their stories and personalities intertwining with the play they're rehearsing to throw ironic light on near-future Turkish history.
Battle of the Thames - A black comedy centered on (and improving on) the watergoing shenanigans of campaigners for and against Britain's remaining in the European Union, soon to be a major holomotion picture with an ensemble cast of big names, all of them prettier than the people they'll be portraying.
Traffic Stop An unforgiving but ultimately hopeful story of police brutality, racial injustice, and indomitable courage. The protagonist is an idealistic African-American policeman.
Su Vota es Su Voce - Originally written in Spanglish, a romantic comedy about a political blogger and the campaign manager she hounds for information, set against the background of the American primaries. Contains several significant anachronisms.

This has been such a weird year; and we're only half done with it.