Time Quintet: Two Father Figures for the Price of One

[Wrinkle Content Note: Fascism, Hypnotism, Captivity]

Wrinkle Recap: After their confrontation with IT went badly, Mr Murry teleported himself, Meg, and Calvin away. Charles Wallace was left behind (but we don't know that yet).

A Wrinkle in Time, Chapter 10: Absolute Zero

We continue the scene in which Meg is unconscious while Calvin and her father infodump over her. I'm struggling with this section. It is bad, but it's the kind of bad that even really good writers can succumb to in a first draft: it's often so much easier to let your protagonist idle while everyone else does things around her. It's in the editing that you remember people prefer protagonists do stuff and you edit them walking and talking instead of being spectators to their own life. We've just about reached the point where L'Engle remembered that and pokes Meg awake.

   With a desperate effort Meg made a sound. It wasn’t a very loud sound, but it was a sound. Mr. Murry stopped. “Hush. Listen.”
   Meg made a strange, croaking noise. She found that she could pull open her eyelids. They felt heavier than marble but she managed to raise them. Her father and Calvin were hovering over her. She did not see Charles Wallace. Where was he?
   She was lying in an open field of what looked like rusty, stubby grass. She blinked, slowly, and with difficulty.
   “Meg,” her father said. “Meg. Are you all right?”
   Her tongue felt like a stone tongue in her mouth, but she managed to croak, “I can’t move.”
   “Try,” Calvin urged. He sounded now as though he were very angry with her. “Wiggle your toes. Wiggle your fingers.”

Open Thread: Circles of Light in Trees


You know how it is when you see something and, even though you know you must have seen it before (time after time, too many times to count, for your whole life) it's as though you're seeing it for the first time and its completely amazing?

That happened on Monday.  I was walking home on cold December night, probably a bit more than halfway through the two hour walk, and it was all rather boring and mundane with each moment fading into the next in a dull monotony.

And then the world was made of concentric circles of light (reflected off of branches.)

I have to have seen this phenomenon countless times before because it requires very little to achieve, but I can't recall ever really noticing it before.  And it was magical.

Photographing it well, though, has proven more difficult.

(Picture taken while on the same walk last night.)

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We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

The Problem with Entrapta


I was missing my husband over Thanksgiving and ended up marathoning the new She-Ra on Netflix. It is wonderful and I highly recommend it, however I have an issue with the portrayal of Entrapta.

Entrapta was a villain in the original series. The creators of this series chose to make her a member of the "good guys" team first, only to fall to the bad side later after being captured. For a series which is otherwise very good at exploring the motivations of why people (specifically Catra) remain on Team Evil, Entrapta's reasons are... not well fleshed out. She's tricked far too easily into believing her teammates abandoned her on a mission (they thought she was dead) and then enthusiastically builds lethal technology for the Horde because she likes to experiment and doesn't care if her actions lead to people dying.

This is a collection of tweets on the subject. Here be spoilers! 

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She-Ra is so good so far and I'm crying at how much I love it, oh my god. Bow is so pure and good and nice and a wonderful example of good masculinity. Glimmer is short and stocky and I stan her so hard. Angella in Bright Moon as a frustrated mom doing her damned best is a mood and I adore her. Every scene with Catra. Every scene.

I love how all the princesses have "girly" powers that most people would scoff at? Glimmer makes sparkles, Mermista turns into a mermaid, Entrapta has Rapunzel hair, Perfuma makes flowers. But they are brave and strong and they make those powers work. And then you have She-Ra who is an eight foot tall giantess with a sword and I love her and I just. *sobs forever in yes*

I don't like Entrapta at all and I don't know if it's because I'm neurodiverse (ND) so it hurts that the one ND team mate is basically turned evil because she's too much of a reckless fool to realize that evil is bad, or... what. If I have any criticism of the series so far--and I'm halfway through Episode 12--it would be to point at Entrapta and say "all of that". It's hurtful that the ND princess is too foolish to NOT join Hordak because she's offered cookies.

In the prom episode she doesn't even remember what the Horde is and I just. Everyone was yelling "I LOVE ENTRAPTA" at me earlier and I'm sorry but I do NOT. She feels like a collection of parodies and stereotypes about neurodiverse people being foolish and easily confused and laughably simple to lie to. She feels like the Fantasy version of "mentally ill people shouldn't be allowed to own guns" and I just. I'm hoping that Episode 13 gives her a Big Damn Hero moment to reverse all this? Please? Please?

Her fall to evil is frustrating because they did such a good job giving Catra complex reasons for why she stays, but with Entrapta it's just "well, you can't trust neurodiverse people, amiright?" Would it really have been so much to ask that Entrapta be well-rounded and have reasons for joining the Horde other than "neurodiverse people are easily tricked"? I mean, make her a prisoner! Have her join the Horde to save her friends! Give her a complex reason besides making her literally a Fool because she's neurodiverse! Neurodiverse people aren't fools just because we think differently! That's ableism!

It's particularly grating that the fandom has granted her Innocent Cinnamon Bun status when she's knowingly and willingly destroying the planet, and she's allied with Hordak who she knows is a genocidal monster! Those are choices she is making and they matter! (God, and you can't tell me that Entrapta isn't smart enough to realize what Catra intends by breaking that model runestone. PLEASE prove me wrong and give her a Big Damn Hero moment where she helps her friends from inside the Horde. PLEASE.)

Well, that was Episode 13. Mermista continues to be the best and I will die on this hill gladly. And, no, Entrapta could've had a Big Damn Hero moment but apparently did not, though I suppose they could retcon that later. sigh. Whatever. *kicks trashcan* That moment would have been when everything seemed lost and they cut to her and the runestone. She could've thrown a switch to route power into the other rune stones.

She was alone! There was no-one in the room watching her. It could've been her little Big Damn Hero moment to help her friends without the Horde finding out and killing her. Have her quietly build in a "reverse polarity to other runestones" technojargon button. Bam. Then we could believe that she "joined" the Horde because she knew she was captured and so she tricked Catra into thinking she was a useful fool, but she's still helping her friends from the inside.

Which is why I say they might retcon this later and say 'oh, yeah, remember that big battle? Entrapta helped.' and honestly I hope to god they do, but a retcon isn't the same as doing it right the first time. And doing it right the first time would've left the season hanging with WAY more dramatic interest because we'd be anxious FOR Entrapta: she's playing a game of wits and if they find out she's NOT the 'useful fool' she seems, they'll kill her! oh no!

I feel like people think I watch stuff looking for things to hate, but I wanted to be wrong about Entrapta. I wanted her to have a Big Damn Hero moment helping the others so we'd know she hadn't REALLY joined the Fantasy Genocide Team out of foolishness. Honestly, "autistic / ND person convinces the NTs that she's a fool but she's really playing them" would be a really NICE plot-twist if done correctly, because it plays on people's ableist assumptions about us.

Frankly, that would be MY go-to ploy if caught by neurotypicals: pretend I'm a useful fool and let them "recruit" me, then undermine the entire place from the inside.

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[Quote from The Problem of Entrapta by Abigail Nussbaum] Basically, Entrapta is so bent on scientific exploration that she deliberately and knowingly conducts an experiment that could potentially have killed countless people, and rendered parts (or all) of Etheria uninhabitable. That's a profound moral failure that can't be blamed on Catra's manipulation, and can't be explained away by pointing to social awkwardness. Simply put, Entrapta doesn't care that her actions are hurting people.

This post, yes. "But Catra manipulated Entrapta into joining!" is an excuse which completely fails to understand the problems I have with Entrapta. "Hacking the planet" is her idea, not Catra's. She recklessly and enthusiastically dives into an experiment which will kill people and render parts of the planet uninhabitable, and her lack of empathy is tied to her enthusiastic neurodiverse sciencey self. She is the embodiment of the idea that you can't trust mentally ill and ND people with guns or power or being president or whatever because we're all reckless and foolish and will thoughtlessly hurt someone if we're given the power and capacity to do so.

It is impossible to "redeem" Entrapta with a reveal that the Princesses didn't leave her behind on purpose. She has to face her actions and atone--and she's being written in a way which seems to suggest that autistic folks lack that capability to self assess. It's... I don't know the word? Upsetting? Weird? Discombobulating? to see people excuse "joining Team Genocide" and "destroying the planet" as long as it's done by a quirky cute girl.

I find myself thinking a lot about what causes us to excuse the inexcusable, when it comes to fictional villains. I went through this with Ursula and the Disney Villains recently, too, and now again with Scorpia and Entrapta. People who do objectively bad things but are cinnamon rolled in fandom--it's an interesting study in our relationship with fiction. (For the record, I don't think excusing fictional villains must correlate with excusing real life ones; I think we consume fiction *knowing* it's fiction. But it's still interesting to me.)

Scorpia is a sympathetic character (her family was captured) but she is still responsible for her actions. She kidnaps someone with every expectation that they'll be eventually killed by her bosses, and she's aiding genocide and murder. She is, in many ways, a foil for Adora: while Adora had a crisis and fled rather than aid the horde, Scorpia knowingly and with her eyes open embraced her new role within the Horde, trading her morals for the security offered to her. She's also the comic relief AND a gorgeous beefcake lesbian, so it's no surprise that the fandom loves her. But it's interesting to see her culpability glossed over. She's not less responsible for her choices than Adora is/was, after all.

We have an interesting juxtaposition here, I think, with Kyle who makes this explicit: he doesn't like being Horde but he doesn't see any alternative options. Kyle genuinely is powerless; if he walked away from the Horde, he'd be killed the way Adora nearly was. Entrapta and Scorpia, on the other hand, have the power to survive apart from the Horde, but choose to stay.

Incidentally: Several folks have asked whether Entrapta was intended to read as ND or "just" as a socially awkward nerd, and the answer is that it kinda doesn't matter--the damage is the same, regardless. "People who behave like This are dangerous and will kill you" damages us because it affects how people interact with us (and which civil liberties are granted to us) (and how cops engage with us) (and so on). So even if they didn't intend Entrapta to read as autistic or neurodiverse, the overall collection of her personality traits has a high correlation to us, so the portrayal of her fall to villainy needed to be handled with care--and it wasn't. The issue isn't that Entrapta is a villain, so much as how she became a villain. She was turned through a combination of being profoundly foolish and utterly lacking any empathy: two harmful stereotypes about ND folks.

ANYWAY. I love the new She-ra and consider it one of the best things I've ever watched AND I want them to handle Entrapta with much more care in the next season. Both/And.

Transcending Flesh: Pronouns and Self

Note: This was previously published on my Patreon.

a pink and blue sky with a radio tower

This essay is one in a series which focuses on writing gender in science fiction and fantasy settings that provide body modification options beyond our current level of technology. Note that you can download this collection of essays from my website here.

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Transcending Flesh:
Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings


Essay #6: Pronouns and Self

~Static Pronouns~

Many people, whether trans or cis, have one set of pronouns which are the correct set for them at all times. (There are exceptions to this which I will discuss later in this section.) When those pronouns are known to the narrative voice, they should be used to refer to the person regardless of the configuration of their body.

We understand this when we talk about cis characters; most people don't stop using "he/him" for a man after an industrial accident removes his penis, nor do most people stop using "she/her" for a woman after she has a mastectomy to remove cancerous breast tissue. Yet we often forget this guideline when speaking about trans people, or when writing scenes which involve extensive body modification. As a general rule, in a setting with body modification, a character's pronouns should not switch simply because their body has been altered. Here follows some examples which I have seen and which authors should avoid.

Example A: Using Incorrect Pronouns Until Body Modification Occurs

Jos knew deep inside that she was a man. She just needed to get permission from the Interplanetary BodyMod Committee for the penile-implant surgery in order to make it official.

With the caveat that pronouns do not correlate to gender and that a man can absolutely use "she/her" pronouns, please understand that this reads less like a case where a man uses "she/her" pronouns and more like a case where the author isn't willing to affirm Jos' gender until after body modification taken place. This would be particularly obvious if the narrative changes to "he/him" pronouns after Jos receives body modification.

Framings which imply that people aren't allowed access to their correct pronouns until after medical transition are hostile to trans audiences. Pronouns are not linked to body configuration and we shouldn't need to undergo medical transition in order to convince people to use the appropriate pronouns to refer to us. Furthermore, the extent of medical transition which we have undergone and what state our genitals are in is no one's business but our own!

If Jos is a man who uses "he/him" pronouns for himself, then a first-person narrative or limited third-person narrative from Jos' point of view should reflect that at all times and not wait until after body modification to use them. The only exception to this rule with which I would be comfortable would be a narrative written by a trans person, where grappling with pronouns was part of their journey. But for a cis author writing a character who simply hasn't had body modification, I want to see the correct pronouns used at all times.

Example B: Using Incorrect Pronouns When Body Modification Occurs

Jael shuddered as the spell took hold. He hated the feeling of breasts growing on his--no, HER--frame.

This framing implies that gender and/or pronouns change when a body changes. This is hostile to trans people for the same reason Example A was: it hinges our genders and pronouns upon body modification which we may or may not have undergone. (Or may not want to undergo! Or simply may not want to disclose to strangers in order to have our pronouns respected!)

Example B adds an extra layer of problems by implying that our gender and/or pronouns can be changed against our will if someone inflicts body modification onto us. While that may seem like an impossible or unlikely scenario confined to the realm of fiction, the reality is that trans people have often historically been forced to submit to body modification against their will. Furthermore, confining trans people to an unwanted body configuration in an attempt to force them to be a certain gender is how gatekeeping has been used to prevent trans people from accessing medical transition. "If you keep your breasts, you'll accept that you are a girl" is the mundane equivalent of this fantastical situation wherein Jael has breasts forced on him and accepts that he must use "she/her" pronouns now even in the privacy of his own mind!

If Jael is a man who uses "he/him" pronouns for himself, then a first-person narrative or limited third-person narrative from Jael's point of view should reflect that at all times, and should not change pronouns just because a body modification has occurred. Once again, I might be comfortable with an exception where the narrative was written by a trans person grappling with pronouns as part of their journey, but cis authors should use correct pronouns at all times and avoid entrenching the idea that forcible body modification (or enforced body stasis) can "change" a person's gender.


~Multiple or Fluid Pronouns~

Earlier, I stated that many people have one set of pronouns which are correct for them at all times, but that there are a few exceptions to this. Some people (cis or trans) are comfortable with any pronouns being applied to them, or have multiple pronoun sets which they use. Some people do not have any pronoun set which is appropriate to use for that person. And some people have pronouns which change over time.

"Genderfluid" people experience gender shifts over time. The time period over which their gender shifts can cover years, months, weeks, days, or hours, depending on the individual in question. Some genderfluid people use the same pronouns all the time. They might use a neutral pronoun (such as "they/them"), a neopronoun (such as "xie/xer"), or a pronoun they are already accustomed to (such as "she/her") which they maintain regardless of their gender shifts. (Note there is no "wrong" pronoun for a person to use.) Relevant to this writing discussion, some (though not all!) genderfluid people use different pronouns to mark their gender shifts, such as "he/him" on boy-days and "she/her" on girl-days.

In a setting with BodyMod magitech, some genderfluid people might choose to change their body when their gender shifts. Think of a body like clothing: some genderfluid people dress the same regardless of their gender that day, while other genderfluid people may choose to dress differently depending on their current gender. If your setting includes an easy penis-growth spell that takes five minutes to cast, some genderfluid people might make that spell part of their morning routine as they shower and dress and prepare to face the day.

For characters who are (a) genderfluid, (b) who change pronouns when their gender shifts, and (c) who change bodies when their gender shifts, then in those very specific cases it would be appropriate to write those characters with "new" pronouns when their body changes. But it is important that the author understand that their pronouns and gender didn't change because their body changed; their gender shifted and then the character changed their body and pronouns to "match" their shifting gender.

In other words:

WRONG
Cause: Body changed.
Effect 1: Gender is now a boy.
Effect 2: Pronouns are now he/him.

RIGHT
Cause: Gender is now a boy.
Effect 1: Pronouns are now he/him.
Effect 2: Body changed.

Once again, I will caveat that the advice contained herein is meant as guidelines for cis authors. A trans author might well choose to explore a genderfluid character who doesn't have control over their body-changes and feels their gender shift in response to those uncontrollable changes. Such a character would need to be written with immense care, as it would be very easy to imply wrong things about how gender works. I would recommend that cis authors not attempt such a character.


~New Pronouns~

In writing this section, a reader asked: Can a character choose to change pronouns during the story? Can they realize during the story that their gender is different from what they thought?

Yes! Absolutely, it is fine for a character to decide that their gender is different from what they thought it was, and/or that they would like to try a different pronoun set for themselves. Not everyone knows what gender they are from birth, and exploring and questioning that is a great idea--especially in a setting with BodyMod magitech where they can explore not only their inner identity but their outer self-image as well.

There is not even necessarily anything wrong with a character deciding, "You know what? I like this penis, I think I'll keep it and use 'he/him' pronouns from now on." The important thing is to ensure this isn't the only trans portrayal we see in your BodyMod society. There will and should be other people who do not base their gender and pronouns on whatever their current body configuration is at that given moment.


~"Genderless" Binary-Body Societies~

If you've read this far, I hope you accept there will be a variety of pronouns used among your characters, and that those pronouns will for the most part not change when body modifications occur. If you can take my word for that, you can skip this section entirely. Otherwise, we're going to talk about Charlotte.

Charlotte wants a world where body modifications change pronouns automatically, such that anyone with a vagina uses "she/her" and anyone with a penis uses "he/him". She wants this in part because it's easier to write, but also because this is how a lot of cis people think pronouns work: they change what pronouns they use for a trans person when that trans person transitions, so they associate body modification with the pronoun change in the wrong direction. (The pronouns didn't change because the body changed; the body and pronouns changed because the gender wasn't what society had assigned.)

The other reason Charlotte is hostile to the idea of consistent gender and pronouns is because she doesn't trust her readers. She wants to give Robert breasts and a vagina through a wacky medical mishap and use "she/her" pronouns for Robert, because if she keeps calling him "he/him" then the reader might forget his genital configuration. As a writer, avoid this! Very few good stories have revolved around the reader needing to be constantly aware of what genitals are in the protagonist's pants.

Charlotte has heard of the concept that "genitals aren't gender", but she really wants her fictional culture to have a strict "genitals are pronouns" policy wherein all vagina-owners use "she/her" and all penis-havers use "he/him". In an attempt to justify this, she'll call her society "genderless" and insist that pronouns don't indicate gender, just genitals. She has decided that gender is a squishy subjective "feeling" but that genitals are "objective" and therefore a better thing to base pronouns upon.

For the record, there are agender people who don't have a gender. Very few of them, in my experience, are fine with being told that their pronouns must correlate directly to their genitals, or that they should placidly accept new pronouns if their genitals are altered against their will. Agender people are no less deserving or desirous of bodily privacy than gendered people; why should it be anyone's business that Robert has a vagina now because someone spiked his morning coffee with a body modification potion?

When genitals determine pronouns, a pronoun change because of a genital change is the same as walking into a room and declaring "hey, everyone, I have a vagina now!" Why would society normalize that? To what benefit is it that everyone change pronouns from the ones Robert is accustomed to and prefers (because he's still a man since the BodyMod magitech didn't change his inherent gender!) just to be "accurate" in indicating that he has a vagina which is no one's business and no one cares about?

Fictional societies which map pronouns to genitals aren't "genderless"; they're a cis fantasy which is hostile to trans people. "What if trans people just accepted the pronouns we gave them at birth based on their genitals and stopped being so difficult?" is the question posed, but the reality is that humans do not work that way. Robert is not going to accept and internalize "she/her" pronouns for himself just because the BodyTron5000 malfunctioned, even if he is accustomed to pronouns based on sexual characteristics. His body is now, as far as he is concerned, wrong and he will remain a man in his mental narration as he struggles to overcome this plot obstacle and change his body back to a form which fits his self-image.

Many cis people do not recognize they have a gender in addition to their genitals because our society has attempted to conflate the two. But if you take a man's penis away, or remove a woman's vagina, their gender does not automatically change--not in society's eyes, and generally speaking not in their own. BodyMod magitech will not result in a "genderless" society where people have genitals and no gender; gender is a social and cultural construct which intertwines with our self-image and which can exist regardless of our body configuration at any given moment. If anything, magitech would help clarify that gender isn't genitals by giving cis people a chance to explore different body configurations while realizing all the ways in which their gender identity doesn't shift in perfect adherence to the whims of the BodyTron5000.

A final note: A genderless-by-default society is fine for a cis person to write, but it is more likely that such a society would give a singular pronoun to everyone (until they asked for a different one) rather than trying to map a binary pronoun system onto everyone via primary sexual characteristics. The simplest reason for this is that human bodies cannot be easily bucketed into one of two types. There is not a human body binary, especially in a society with BodyMod magitech freely available.

Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 3)

Previously posted on my Patreon.


I had planned this story out in 3 parts of 5 segments each. The number and structure is important to me, as it is in all my books and most of my short stories. October was going to be when Part 3 went up, with all 5 sections. Instead, between divorce and depression, I was able to write the first section and nothing more, and I'm sorry. I hope to have the rest of the story up next month, and thank you for your patience with me.

As you may remember from Part 1 when I opened the fic with a long introduction, this is a fantasy story that explores the tension around being "disabled in public" especially when one's disability is tied to how they make a living, such as disability activism. Meirin has experimented with trying to hide her disability in order to dodge discriminatory hiring practices vs. trying to turn her disability into a selling asset, by making the epic (and false) poem about her being a lost princess work to her advantage.

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PART 3: THE REBELLION

November Sorrows


[Content Note: Pet Death]

I wasn't able to finish NaNoWriMo this month because tragedy struck in early November. My dear Quincey, who had been my constant companion for almost 15 years, suffered kidney failure and passed away peacefully on the 14th. This is posted in his memory.

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Grief is a hole where something beloved once dwelt.

Quincey and his sister Mina were the first cats which were "mine" rather than my parents'. I went searching for them after my first divorce. They were "free kittens" in the newspaper, the last two scrawny babies of a litter being given away by a family with fleas in their house and (or so I felt) an appalling lack of care that these two babies were being eaten alive by vermin. I didn't like the humans and I didn't like the way they handled the kittens. I carried the two kittens away with the furtive air of a thief, determined to take them somewhere better.

Quincey was the runt of the litter, tiny and with sparse fluff that formed a tuxedo pattern. His legs wobbled unsteadily when he walked. Mina was a little poofy cotton ball of white fur and a calico brown tail. She had two little brown thumbprints on her head and bright eyes. I asked my mother, voice full of reluctance, "Do you think she'll be a long-hair? She'll shed fur everywhere." My mother just gave me a resigned smile. "Does it matter? You're not leaving her here." She was right.

The little boy fell asleep in my lap on the car ride home, fearless. Mina cried little panicked cries which calmed down the moment food was placed in front of her. She'd worried that wherever we were going might not have anything to eat. Once food was secured, she was happy--at least until the baths began. I bathed them five times a day that first week and picked off fleas with tweezers when they swarmed away from the water. I killed dozens of fleas. Eventually, they were clean and safe, if a little baffled by all the baths. We hadn't been able to use chemicals to kill the fleas because they were too young.

My mother didn't want the kittens downstairs in her home and I hadn't yet moved into my apartment; I was still staying in my childhood bedroom. We put up a little baby gate at my door so I could go downstairs for dinner without being followed by the kittens. Quincey climbed the baby gate with little trembling jerking limbs, pausing to rest with each inch up. He was determined not to be separate from me. I rescued him before he tumbled down the stairs, and promised not to leave him again.

From that day forward, as long as we were in the same building together he was always within a few feet from me. He napped on the couch next to me as I wrote my books. He slept in bed next to me, the two of us lying side by side. He snoozed on my desk when I played video games, occasionally kicking the microphone I used for my Let's Play videos. Almost every video I have on YouTube includes me pleading: "Baby, we don't kick the microphone!"

He was the most contrary cat I ever met. He hated every cat and human he ever encountered, and he regularly tried to kill both my spouse and my parents--but he loved me with his whole heart. He reminded me of Tinkerbell from the book Peter Pan; faeries, we are told, are so tiny that they can only experience one emotion at a time, but they experience it with complete fullness. Quincey could only love one person, but he loved me totally.

I named him for Quincey Morris, the laconic Texan in Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'd done a senior English project on the novel and fallen in affectionate love with the character who does things which need doing without bothering to talk or inform the other characters of his thought process. My Quincey was not reserved and silent; instead, he was the loudest, most complainy cat I have ever had the privilege to love. He loved to spend his nights walking around the house yowling his displeasure while the lesser inhabitants tried to sleep. But he was brave and strong and never let anyone put his hands on him without feeling his wrath. He taught veterinarians to fear him and he schooled visitors who insisted "but cats love me!" when I warned them that Quincey didn't like to be touched. Or talked to. Or looked at. He drew a lot of blood in his life, but even when he was at his most scared he never once laid teeth on me.

When the time came to say goodbye, Quincey let me know. I held him while he purred for me. He hadn't been able to purr much in the previous few days, but he purred at the last for me. He went peacefully to sleep, surrounded by the people who had loved him most in his almost 15 years of life: his mommy and grandmommy. I didn't give him life and I couldn't save him from death, but I could give him the best possible life I could arrange for him, and a peaceful painfree passing. I loved him with my whole heart and I will miss him so terribly much.

Quincey, you will always be my first and best baby. I love you.

December Newsletter (2018)

November had some high highs and some low lows and has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me.

Bad Stuff: [TW: Pet Death] My cat Quincey became very ill in early November and I eventually had to go on a sort of bedside vigil with him, trying to coax him to eat and giving him subcutaneous fluids from an IV bag. My vet is wonderful but we couldn't fight total kidney failure and Quincey passed away on the 14th.

Good Stuff: I wanted to honor Quincey's memory and felt the best thing I could do would be to raise another little tuxedo baby in his name. Through a series of unexpected events, I ended up with two new babies: a little tuxedo named Crisp and his bonded sister Cherry. The shelter thought Cherry was feral and didn't think they could place her. I took her so she and her brother wouldn't be separated. She pretty much hasn't left my lap since that happened.

Less Good Stuff: Chip and Cookie came to me with a few fleas but otherwise in good health. Crisp and Cherry have not been nearly so lucky. They had a huge infestation of fleas, and additionally have several patches of ringworm. We're fighting that now with medicine and I believe they'll be fine in the end, but it's been a spoon-draining experience.

All that said, I didn't complete NaNoWriMo, which is disappointing -- I'd wanted very much to work on my Earthside book and get it finished. I'm going to try to work on it this December over Christmas. I try to remind myself that delays are part of life and not a personal failing, but it is difficult to keep in mind at times.

Here are some free things that you should definitely check out:

First, some free links for free fun!

My Twitter account @DivorceKittens with stories and pictures is here.

My Magician's Nephew Deconstruction: Index to older posts here.

My Wrinkle in Time Deconstruction: Index to older posts here.

My YouTube series on Quest for Glory is here.

Second, some Patreon links stuff for subscribers:

$2+ The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin. Part 4 is going up today!

$5+ Transcending Flesh, another essay for discussion and questions!

$5+ eBook Download Links are here.

$15+ eBook and Audiobook Download Links are here.

$25+ Paper Book Reminder is here.

Let's talk subscriber gifts.

I have ordered some beautiful custom bookmarks with the No Man of Woman Born cover art on them and would like to send these out to everyone who is signed up for $5 or more as of December. I'm going to wait a couple days to get everyone, but then I'll be sending out messages on the Patreon system asking whether you want a bookmark and where it should be sent. It'll be fun, I hope! So keep your eyes peeled for inbox mail!

In Closing

Thank you all for sticking with me and being patient through this time. Losing Quincey was incredibly hard, and moreso because it felt tied to my husband leaving. (Quincey didn't eat well after he moved out, I think because he was so upset at the change.) I felt in many ways at fault for his passing, like if I had done more to keep my spouse here, then maybe none of this would have happened. So many of you have worked with me on Twitter and in private DMs to counsel me that this is not the case and my brain is being a jerk. Thank you.

I miss my baby so much, and (in some ways) my husband. But if all this hadn't happened, I wouldn't have the joy of being lifted up in love by all of you. Thank you, more than words can say. I love you. ♥

Open Thread: Hippo-corn


This hippo-corn (hippopotamus-unicorn) was one of the revelers present at the Munchkin Weasel's birthday (observed, not actual.)  He does not yet have a name.  (That I know of.)

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Open Thread: Tracks in Snow


Picture taken two days ago from the approach to the Veteran's Bridge on the South Portland Side.

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We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Time Quintet: Nonsensical Backstories and Other Impossible Things Before Breakfast

[Wrinkle Content Note: Fascism, Hypnotism, Captivity]

Wrinkle Recap: After their confrontation with IT went badly, Mr Murry teleported himself, Meg, and Calvin away. Charles Wallace was left behind (but we don't know that yet).

A Wrinkle in Time, Chapter 10: Absolute Zero

Meg continues to be unconscious while Calvin and Father infodump over her, and I must say this irks me.

Maybe it shouldn't irk me. Calvin's talent, after all, is communication so perhaps it is appropriate that he's the one to interrogate Mr Murry for information along the usual axes of who, what, when, why, et cetera. But it vexes me that Meg has come all this way to meet with her father and now she isn't the one asking him questions about why he left her and her mother and her brothers. That job is left over for her boyfriend while she politely listens from the security of her magical coma.

Open Thread:Graffiti


Taken under the Portland side of the current Veteran's Bridge.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Open Thread: Leaf


This leaf was on the ground outside the cemetery I walk by.

It's a leaf.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Narnia: Digory Went On

[Narnia Content Note: Child Abuse, Animal Abuse, Ableism, Mental Illness]

Narnia Recap: Uncle Andrew made Polly disappear and then guilt-tripped Digory into following her.

The Magician's Nephew, Chapter 3: The Wood Between The Worlds

Chapter 3 is probably the part people remember the most about this book (well, in addition to the horror that is Charn, but we'll get there) because it really is quite picturesque: we get to see the "Wood Between Worlds". This is a place which is the connecting point, so to speak, between all the worlds in the multiverse.

   UNCLE ANDREW AND HIS STUDY VANISHED instantly. Then, for a moment, everything became muddled. The next thing Digory knew was that there was a soft green light coming down on him from above, and darkness below. He didn’t seem to be standing on anything, or sitting, or lying. Nothing appeared to be touching him. “I believe I’m in water,” said Digory. “Or under water.” This frightened him for a second, but almost at once he could feel that he was rushing upward. Then his head suddenly came out into the air and he found himself scrambling ashore, out on to smooth grassy ground at the edge of a pool.
   As he rose to his feet he noticed that he was neither dripping nor panting for breath as anyone would expect after being under water. His clothes were perfectly dry. He was standing by the edge of a small pool—not more than ten feet from side to side—in a wood. The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky. All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm. It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing. The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool. There were dozens of others—a pool every few yards as far as his eyes could reach. You could almost feel the trees drinking the water up with their roots. This wood was very much alive. When he tried to describe it afterward Digory always said, “It was a rich place: as rich as plumcake.”

Open Thread: Mall Tree Thing


I got myself a new camera.  This is the second test picture I took.

The first was from the same position but pointing in the opposite direction.  It mostly shows a three wheeled two seated motor vehicle, which wouldn't have been a bad open thread picture, but it's also got an absurd number of ads for the contest the vehicle was there to promote (generally speaking, cars and their ilk are not parked inside the mall without reason.) The ads made it a rather less appealing open thread picture.

Thus I give you the second test picture: a fake tree-thing whose trunk is from a real birch.  Picture taken in the Maine Mall, at the benches nearest the Best Buy, the day before Halloween.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Transcending Flesh: Buffet Bodies

Note: This was previously published on my Patreon.

a pink and blue sky with a radio tower

This essay is one in a series which focuses on writing gender in science fiction and fantasy settings that provide body modification options beyond our current level of technology. Note that you can download this collection of essays from my website here.

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Transcending Flesh:
Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings


Essay #5: Buffet Bodies

~False Binaries~

Human bodies do not conform to a binary model such that there is one "female" body and one "male" body, and everyone aligns neatly to one of those. Any idea of a human body binary is false now; it will be even more so in a world with BodyMod magitech, unless there is an oppressive and immensely powerful authority forcing everyone into line. A setting where everyone is required to have one of two standard approved body types is a dystopia and characters should recognize that and be appropriately discontented.

Humanity's infinite variety is important because it affects everything that follows in your world-building. Let us consider Barbara's world where science fiction technology has provided for easy surgeries which allow people to have any body configuration they please. This sounds perfect for a vibrant and colorful cast of unique individuals, yet all her characters are one of two body types: breasts and vaginas for the ladies; flat pectorals and penises for the gentlemen. No variations, no differences, just cookie-cutter bodies.

Understand that in a world with BodyMod magitech, we should see even more body diversity than we have now. In such a setting, people are going to branch out to change their chins, noses, cheeks (dimples! freckles! blush!), lips, eyes, ears, arms, legs, fingers, toes, body hair (all over!), and every other possible bodily aspect. Even if the magitech is somehow limited only to body parts which we think of as gendered, these will be mixed and matched even more than they are now: there is no reason why breasts would only pair with vaginas, or why a penis couldn't be a fun optional add-on to an existing body of any configuration.

All of these possibilities are going to destroy any lingering concept of a false human body "binary". Genital changes will not be referred to as "opposite" or "reversed" or "flipped", because "opposite" will lose any kind of meaning in this paradigm. How is a penis "opposite" a vagina if magitech can just slap a lab-grown cock on someone in such a way that they now have both? (More fun for everyone!) It'd be like saying an ear is the "opposite" of an eye; there's no correlation between the two! You can have as many eyes and ears as you want! The acquisition of one doesn't preclude the acquisition of the other.

Right out of the gate we see tremendous impacts in how Barbara's characters should look and speak in this setting she's created. If her characters maintain an unnatural body uniformity, and if their language patterns reify the false concept of a human body binary with phrases like "opposite gender", then the reader will observe a mismatch between what Barbara has said about her magitech (i.e., available, cheap, easy, and widespread) versus how her characters act (i.e., behaving as though it does not exist, isn't freely available, or has not widely permeated society enough to challenge speech patterns and assumptions).

"But, wait," Barbara pops up to say. "You're just assuming that people would use BodyMod magitech to diversify their bodies more than nature already provides. Isn't it equally possible that magitech would result in consistent uniformity across all members of society? Couldn't everyone hop into the BodyTron5000 and receive a binary-conforming body the moment the technology became available?" Certainly, that some people will attempt to "standardize" their bodies according to social biases and preferences is within the realm of possibility! We have examples in our own society of people who seek out surgery in order to conform to a social ideal of what, for instance, an "attractive" labia should look like.

Yet in order to justify everyone meekly hopping into the BodyTron5000 for their standard-issue body, Barbara will need to craft a society which supports that behavior. What is causing her humans to accept strictures that her readers would not? Her world will need tremendous amounts of stigma and violence directed at those who do not conform, or a society in which conformity to a singular ideal is considered more desirable than individual expression and creative divergence. In both these cases, there should be people who are unhappy with the situation as it stands, and there will be some who defy society regardless.

Look around at the bodily variety available to us now: different colors of hair (both natural and unnatural), tattoos, piercings, and body customizations like forked tongues and pointed "elf" ears already exist! Many people pursue those alterations, even in spite of social disapproval or anticipated job discrimination. When we are already willing to defy social expectations to explore individual expression for our ears and tongues, why should genital configuration be less prone to customization in a future where potential is unlimited?

Barbara has, I suspect, fallen into the mistake of thinking that most trans people want a "fully transitioned" body and that only the lack of effective magitech holds them back. In her mind, once BodyMod magitech is perfected and widely available, all trans people will use it once to become indistinguishable from cis people in society. But this is not an accurate picture of trans or cis people; in a world where there are no barriers to bodily customization, we will not have anything resembling uniformity. We will have "buffet bodies", where we mix-and-match what appeals to each of us individually.

Here is where I'll confuse some cis readers, because aren't trans people "trapped in the wrong body"? That was a phrase which was used for a long time in order to explain transness to cis people, but while it is still a useful paradigm for many trans people, it's not something that applies to every trans person. Some trans people absolutely do want medical transition to validate their gender and treat dysphoria, but many do not! In a world with BodyMod magitech, some trans people will medically transition, others will not do so at all, others will "pick and mix" a custom body, and yet others will "transition" more than once. (As a genderfluid person, I would love the ability to daily modify my body to better fit my own shifting gender.)

There would not be a rush for everyone in society to immediately conform to one of two body types.

Remember this when we discuss pronouns in a later section. As creator of this fictional world you will need decide how people apply pronouns to strangers. It will be impossible to create a society where "she/her" maps perfectly to vagina-ownership and "he/him" maps onto every penis-haver. People will not be able to look at breasts on a stranger's chest and decide with total accuracy that breasts equal "she/her" pronouns. They may use that paradigm as a starting point, but they will be wrong at times (as we are often wrong when assigning pronouns to strangers in our society), and both you and they will need to recognize this.


~Magitech Access and Square Diagrams~

A quick refresher:

- Being cisgender means being the gender which you were assigned at birth.
- Being transgender means being a gender which is not the one you were assigned at birth.
- Not all trans people want to medically transition all or even some of their body parts.
- Because genitals are not gender, a person (cis or trans!) may modify their genitals to be anything they want without changing their gender, nor without changing their status as cis or trans.

Now I plunk down a square diagram. Row C is cis people; row T is trans people. Column Y is people who say "yes" to body modification and think it is awesome; column N is people who say "no" for whatever reason. As the author, it is important to understand that none of these squares will ever be entirely empty. You can move the ratios of people around by making access to body modification easier or harder, but it's impossible to entirely empty out a square. There will always be people who don't want to modify their bodies, and there will always be people who do and will find a way.


This is important because a lot of cis people incorrectly define cisness as "happy with their genitals" and transness as "unhappy with their genitals". Once someone makes those wrong associations, they often leap onto the idea that in a setting where genital modification is easily available, then every woman will have a vagina and every man will have a penis. Wrong! There are women who want penises. There are men who want vaginas. When you understand that genitals can correlate with gender for some people but not all people, then it's easier to understand that a world with magitech will not have only two body types.

"But at least there's no more dysphoria, right?" is the next question that comes down the line, and I'm sorry to say this is wrong too. The assumption here is that given perfect surgery, universal medical access, and total social acceptance, then everyone in the setting will have modified themselves into a body they're happy with by the time they reach adulthood or soon thereafter. But that assumes medical transition erases dysphoria (it doesn't; it's a treatment, not a cure) and that everyone can be satisfied with one perfect-for-them body. For a lot of genderfluid people like myself, there is no one body that can accurately and forever capture the self-image I have for myself. Why not? Because my image shifts over time! You, as the author, will need to decide whether the magitech is something that takes years, months, weeks, days, or minutes to accomplish, because that detail will affect genderfluid characters in your setting.

Again we see that a world with rapid, easy, perfect, reversible, painless, risk-free, universally-available, and socially-acceptable body modification isn't going to result in a binary system where everyone conforms to one of two body types. Such a setting will be beautiful chaos, with no way to tell gender or pronouns from a glance at someone's body. If you don't want to write a setting with extensive body diversity, then I remind you that you don't have to write that story! But without the reality of body diversity, your setting does not have "rapid, easy, perfect, reversible, painless, risk-free, universally-available, and socially-acceptable body modification". Something is stopping people from accessing the magitech and your job is to figure out what.

Maybe your society isn't as accepting as you thought. It is okay to write a society that has stigma around gender expression, as long as the author doesn't gloss over that reality and understands there are unhappy people in the background! Or perhaps your magitech isn't as rapid or easy or universally-available as you'd imagined. Many societies have contained people for whom healthcare was not freely available. If there are barriers to access, then magitech will be used sparingly and only by the very wealthy or the "deserving" needy who have access to charity or crowd-funding options. Poorer members of society will not have access at all, and people of moderate means will not be able to use magitech for "gratuitous" modifications. There is, in short, a difference between "this is available to treat dysphoria which would otherwise be lethal" and "every second Tuesday you can have fashionable feathers".

Magitech doesn't develop in a vacuum. If you don't want to write a society which values individuality and bodily autonomy and gender acceptance and self-determination, then why did they develop this magitech in the first place and push to make it freely available? As the author, you need to understand the story you want to write, and why, and what body modification as a setting-detail is doing for you. If it's an important part of the plot, then it will take work to seamlessly integrate into society in a way which feels natural. If it's just a gimmick for body-switching shenanigans, then you're risking blowing up all your world-building for a joke that probably won't seem funny or original to your audience.

These are questions I can't answer for you. All I can tell you is that if your magitech setting doesn't show bodies in every possible aesthetic along the gender presentation spectrum, then it's up to you as the creator to explain why. "No one wanted that" doesn't fit human experience. "People wouldn't let them" may suffice, but there needs to be reasons that stand up to examination. It is okay to write oppressive governments, bigoted societies, and dystopian settings, but the author needs to understand that their characters aren't all happily frolicking through meadows. If "buffet bodies" don't exist in their BodyMod setting, something bad has happened to stifle the natural variety of human expression.

Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 2)

Previously posted on my Patreon.


This is the second part of a three-part story about disability and living a life in public in order to make ends meet. I hope you enjoy it.

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PART 2: THE SONG

November Newsletter (2018)

October was indeed a month, as predicted. I've had a lot of highs and a few lows. One of the current lows is that I'm sick while writing this and I'm hoping this head-cold clears up in a few days because the constant headache isn't great for writing. Oh, and NaNoWriMo is coming up! If you celebrate that blessed season, take all my good wishes with you. I'm going to try to set a daily word goal for myself which is less ambitious than the usual NaNo amount but hopefully more reachable for me.

First, some free links for free fun!

My Twitter account @DivorceKittens with stories and pictures is here.

My Magician's Nephew Deconstruction: Index to older posts here.

My Wrinkle in Time Deconstruction: Index to older posts here.

My YouTube series on Quest for Glory is here.

Second, some Patreon links stuff for subscribers:

$2+ The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin. Part 4 is going up today!

$5+ Transcending Flesh, another essay for discussion and questions!

$5+ eBook Download Links are here.

$15+ eBook and Audiobook Download Links are here.

$25+ Paper Book Reminder is here.

That's old business. Let's talk new business!

I've crunched some numbers since my husband left and finances are going to be tight. I'm grateful to each and every one of you here, thank you, and I want to be sure that you're happy and getting what you need in order to stay on as a patron. I know I haven't been posting as much since my spouse left and I've lost a few patrons which is understandable! Obviously a lot of folks can't afford to pay something for nothing. I'd like to turn that around and make sure people are getting good value here, and I have some thoughts but I also need your input.

$5 Subscriber December Gift

I have ordered some beautiful custom bookmarks with the No Man of Woman Born cover art on them and would like to send these out to everyone who is signed up for $5 or more as of December. That gives you a month to sign up if you're interested and it gives me a month to pull together mailing materials. If I'm being honest, it'll probably cost a little more than $5 per person to mail these out but I'm being sneaky because some of the new subscribers may decide they like the $5 content and stay on for good. Marketing! ;) So be thinking about if you want to subscribe for December, and what address you'd like me to send to!

$5 WIP Selection

The $5 tier is supposed to grant access to my works-in-progress, such that you're seeing my books as I write them (and before the extensive editing process at the end, lolsob). I was originally posting my Fire Mage WIP because at the time I was able to juggle three projects: my public Fire Mage project, my secretive Earthside project, and my monthly drabbles for the $2 tier. Unfortunately, now that I'm having to pick up more hours at work (for money) and around the house (doing chores), I only have room for two projects at a time. Something has to be set aside for the moment.

I would like to set my Fire Mage project aside (temporarily!) and work my Earthside draft to completion. I have an outline and I know where I'm going and where I want to end up: I can see the clear end of the tunnel and it feels amazing. The Fire Mage project, in contrast, is a muddle to me right now; I'd like to retool it as a clear YA (Young Adult) because several readers have commented that it feels more YA than NA (New Adult) and I agree, but I'm also unsure how to tackle that just yet. I would prefer to set it aside and focus on completing Earthside #3.

The problem I have is that I do not know if the shift from Fire Mage posts to Earthside posts will cause me to lose my $5 patrons. The Fire Mage project was "new" and didn't require any prior reading; the Earthside project is technically a sequel (though the series can be read in any order) and some folks may not be interested if they haven't read Poison Kiss and Survival Rout yet. I don't want to lose patrons, so I'm throwing this open to a poll: If I stop posting Fire Mage updates for a while and post Earthside instead, will that affect your pledge?

Please be honest in your answer! I'm not going to have hurt feelings if you came for Story A and aren't interested in Story B. I just need to gauge level of interest and why people are here so I can post accordingly. Thank you!

In Closing

This month has been emotionally very hard. I'm finding that I'm still in love with my spouse and that his leaving didn't magically make those feelings go away. I don't want him back, but I miss what I thought we had together--if that makes any sense. But I have you here as my friends and I am so terribly grateful. I love you all and I appreciate you so much. ♥

Open Thread: Partially Colored Egg


My rendition of an octopus in the negative space.  Taken in late march of 2016.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Open Thread: Tractor and Millstone


Just a Ford tractor, sitting around with a random millstone by it.

Taken in late May 2017, back when the place where it was taken was still my family's farm.

For the record, I have no idea why that millstone is there.  I don't mean there specifically, I can sort of figure that out, I have no idea why it exists.

Based on what I know, it was there specifically because it was in the process of being moved.  Millstones are heavy; when time and conditions allow, breaking up a millstone move over multiple days isn't a bad idea.  After a partial move it must have been left there until it was time to move it the next bit.

The thing is, it was being moved from place-which-is-not-a-mill.  I have no idea why place-which-is-not-a-mill should have had a millstone to move.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Open Thread: Rhododendron


Picture taken on the side of a road in Portland, Maine in June.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Open Thread: Branches, Bird, and Snow


This is from early February 2017.  The bird was in a tree in a driveway (I think) in a town north of Boston, Mass.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Transcending Flesh: Gender and Stereotypes

Note: This was previously published on my Patreon.

a pink and blue sky with a radio tower

This essay is one in a series which focuses on writing gender in science fiction and fantasy settings that provide body modification options beyond our current level of technology. Note that you can download this collection of essays from my website here.

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Transcending Flesh:
Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings


Essay #4: Gender and Stereotypes

Let's talk about Alice the Author.

Alice has built an exciting fictional world where magitech can give anyone the body they want and where trans people don't face stigma for being transgender. Anyone who wants to inform the world that they're a girl can just do so and be a girl without facing contradiction or bigotry or gender policing. Excellent! Now Alice is going to populate that world with some trans girl characters who live and move and exist.

...oh no, Alice draped all of them in pink and frills and lace and froth and pearls. What happened?

There is a thing some cis people do where they assume that trans people base our gender on a list of things we like and enjoy, then check that list against gender stereotypes. As though trans boys wrote a list one day that said "cars, leather, hair grease, and Elvis" and went "I guess I'm a boy now!" while the trans girls' lists all said "pink, poodle skirts, lace, and lollipops" and then realized "oh, wow, I'm a girl, better go transition!"

While each of us is unique, that's generally not how trans people find our gender. The thinking here by cis authors like Alice seems to be that since there are so many barriers between one's assigned gender at birth and coming out as trans, then the people who come out as trans are the ones who are the girliest of girls or the boyishest of boys: the "extreme ends" of the gender spectrum who can't closet themselves and so they come out to drape their bodies in pink and blue respectively.

There are problems with that portrayal of trans people.

First, a world-building problem: Alice has established that trans people aren't stigmatized in her fictional setting. That should make it easy for people to come out as trans, or to question their gender, without needing to be a stereotypical representation of a gender in order to justify themselves. Who is demanding trans people adhere to stereotypes in order to "prove" their gender is valid to a judgmental and hostile society? If someone is sending the message that a trans girl who isn't "girly" is invalid, that's social stigma.

Second, a realism problem: In our world which does have stigma, we still have lots of visible trans people who aren't stereotypically girly-girl or boyish-boy. Even in a world with more stigma than in Alice's fictional world, many people still come out and rock their unique, valid, individual personal aesthetic. Where do those real people exist in Alice's world? Why can't we see them?

Third, a bigotry problem: Many bigoted cis people view trans people as embracing and entrenching gender stereotypes, rather than simply navigating them alongside their cis siblings. If the only trans people in Alice's novel are "extreme" examples of gender presentation, does that mean Alice buys into that bigoted idea that trans people are just "acting" their gender? The reader won't know Alice's meaning; all they have to understand Alice's view of trans people is what she writes on the page.

Alice's novel envisions a world with BodyMod magitech where everyone on earth suddenly rushed to one of two "sides" of gender and gender presentation. All her butch women and boyish girls ran to go outfit themselves with a penis so they could be manly men, while all her soft boys and feminine men rushed to install a fancy new vagina so they could be girly women. But that doesn't make any sense! People don't do that now, so why should the ability to easily and painlessly sprout a penis or dig a vagina change that?

There are femme trans women in our world, yes! There are also androgynous trans women and butch trans women. There are trans women who shave their hair off, wear motorcycle leathers, and ride around the world on a sexy bike shooting werewolves with a sawed-off shotgun and kissing ladies on the mouth. Every possible aesthetic of trans woman exists, just as every possible aesthetic of cis woman exists! There is no reason to assume that trans women as a group are more stereotypically "girly" than cis women.

Similarly, there are trans men who love plaid and rock amazing lumberjack beards. There are trans men who look like James Bond and are dressed to kill and know how to toss back a cocktail with just the right amount of smirk. There are trans men who wear gorgeous makeup and skirts and heels. There are trans men who wear pajamas all day and write novels on their couch with Mister Whiskers the cat. Our trans journeys are almost never "well, I like boy clothes and boy hair, so I guess I'm a boy". Exploring our gender presentation can be an important part of our journey, but the styles we each individually end up favoring aren't all aligned to a gender stereotype. Trans characters should have the same variety as cis characters.

Moreover, in Alice's world there shouldn't be just two options. It defies human nature to imagine that, in a world with BodyMod magitech capabilities, everyone would meekly align to one of two gender stereotypes. Alice has written a world in which everyone either signs up for breasts, a uterus, a bag of pink clothes, and a "girl job" or they checked the box for a flat chest, a scrotum, an entire box of blue socket wrenches, and a "boy job". The reader will almost certainly not recognize themselves in this world. Why are there "girl jobs" at all in a world where people can be any gender or body configuration they could ever want? What are "boy jobs" and what would that mean in a world without barriers to transition?

Body modification isn't going to jam our existing beautiful chaos into one of two types: girly-girl and manly-man. It is worth considering what gender looks like in this new fictional world--how many genders are recognized by society? what does it mean to be one gender or another? what sorts of gender stereotypes, if any, exist?--but there will be the same wonderful chaos of people mixing and matching their aesthetics, their interests, their hobbies, and their careers as there is now in our world.

If exploration and variety are disallowed in Alice's world, the setting is a dystopia and both the author and the narrative need to realize that. "You can be any gender you wish, as long as you conform to the rigid gender expectations therein" is a very bad place in which to live! Characters should be unhappy under those strictures, if we are to recognize them as human.

In short: Include trans people in your world with the same variety as cis people. Not all trans girls will be hyper-girly. Not all trans boys will be super-manly. Not all nonbinary people will be perfectly androgynous. Trans people don't fit into perfect neat stereotype boxes any more than cis people do!

Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 1)

Previously posted on my Patreon.


It started with an Amazon Prime movie.

Mythica was a fantasy movie with a disabled girl wizard as a protagonist. It wasn't good--the effects were cheesy, the characters were stock, and the writing wasn't always stellar--but it was the closest thing to representation I've ever seen in a fantasy setting. I became obsessed with the damn movie, and its sequels. (#2 is good. #3 is adequate. #4 and #5 made me want to burn my television in the fireplace.)

I began drabbling with my best friend in the whole world, wanting a disabled wizard of my own. Maybe an enby who didn't know yet she was an enby. Polyamorous without shame. ("Well, maybe some initial shame she could work through," I thought, writing myself deeper onto the page.) Maybe an orphan who deals with my own feelings of abandonment after being disowned and homeless at various points in my life. Maybe exactly like me in way too many ways for anyone else to enjoy.

Fun drabbles happened and she met a nice man who was an earl and a bard. He asked about her disability and she lied happily, feeling in a jokey mood. And then it struck me: what if he wrote a song about her but got the details wrong? What if he thrust her onto the public stage in a way she had to straddle, exploiting the attention in order to make enough money to survive but quietly ambivalent about being pushed into a celebrity role?

Maybe, too, I'd done a lot of thinking about Twitter and how high follower counts come with harassment but are necessary if we want to sell our words to a large enough audience to survive. Anyway. This is the story that came out of all those feelings. It's a three-part story that I'd like to someday expand into a full book, but we'll see.

Thank you.


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PART 1: THE GIRL

October Newsletter (2018)

October has been a month for us all, I think. How is everyone doing? Hanging in there, staying alive? I'm trying too. I know we're all trying. Let's talk about some things I created this month that you might have missed or might want to read again.

Free stuff everyone can enjoy:

My Twitter account @DivorceKittens with stories and pictures is here.

My Magician's Nephew Deconstruction: Latest post here. Index to older posts here.

My Wrinkle in Time Deconstruction: Latest post here. Index to older posts here.

My YouTube series on Laura Bow 1, The Colonel's Bequest is here.

My YouTube series on Not Tonight (a Brexit game) is here.

Patreon stuff for subscribers:

$2+ The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin. Some (not all) of Part 3 is going up today. I wanted to finish the story but the month just was not cooperating. Soon, though!

$5+ Transcending Flesh, another essay for discussion and questions!

Lastly and again, thank you. I'm still in such deep mourning for my spouse and it's difficult because I thought I would be "over" this by now. But I am coming to realize this grief will take more time than I imagined. Thank you for sticking with me through this. I am more grateful than words can convey. ♥