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.

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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!

Open Thread: Leaf


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

It's a leaf.

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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!

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.

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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!

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. ♥