Prairie Fires: Chapter 5

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 5

Who is up for another Chapter? Shit is about to start going wrong. Or, wronger. Chapter 5.

When we last left Laura, she'd just married Almanzo and was certain that everything was going to be fine forever. He was the town hero, he came from a rich family, and everything was looking up. What Laura didn't know was that their new house was *heavily* in debt and Almanzo's sweet impulsive nature of spending money on presents for her as soon as he gets any will be a problem of epic proportions.

"By the time she was eighteen, Laura Ingalls had walked away from at least a dozen homes". The house Almanzo built for her was meant to be permanent, their forever-home, and she loved every detail. The first year, everything is basically lovely. Almanzo buys two ponies and teaches Laura to ride. They race every morning before breakfast. "“It was a carefree, happy time[,] for two people thoroughly in sympathy can do pretty much as they like,” she wrote. It was the closest she ever came to saying they were in love."

Open Thread: Sky and Tree

First off, sorry that this is late.  Mea culpa (which is Latin for "My bad.")  I've been having a rough time depression-wise lately, which has been translating into a rough time hydration and sleep wise, and everything sort of falls apart.

Second, I still haven't figured out how to take pictures of Sunsets with a Canon PowerShot.  My previous camera, which was more or less the Samsung equivalent, had a sunset mode.  Somewhat surprisingly, all things considered, the sunset mode worked really well.

To get the picture above looking the way it does I had to play with the curves in gimp.  Otherwise it would look really washed out.


We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Into the Spiderverse
   ● 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!

Prairie Fires: Chapter 4

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 4

As a reminder, we're going through Laura's real life first before we tackle the fictionalization of her life. Laura is 13 and going west. "The Great Dakota Boom was on. California and Oregon each had had their land rush; so had Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. [...] Boosters called it the “sole remaining section of paradise in the western world.""

Much of the land belongs to indigenous people, but white folks are readily ignoring that. "But white prospectors impoverished by the economic crisis of 1873 began sneaking illegally into the Black Hills the following year". Laura's extended family included in that group of shitty white people. "One of these gold diggers was Caroline Ingalls’s little brother, Tom Quiner. In violation of the Sioux treaty, he penetrated the region in 1874 with a group of miners, the “Gordon Party”...But the gold rush they incited sparked the Black Hills War of 1876", leading up to the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn.

There were also the locusts to consider; they were regularly keeping the area completely devoid of any plant life, to the point where army horses were starving from lack of grass to eat.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 3

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 3

1874. Laura is 7 years old and they're driving to Minnesota. He buys a book of poems for Laura and Fraser pauses to note how Charles (being a younger son) was better educated than the older brothers who would've been needed in the fields as soon as possible. That's another interesting intersection of thought when talking about rugged individualism: Charles received a better education because his brothers were required for labor. By time he came along, the need wasn't as great and he could take a few years of schooling. So even within the same family we see a disparity of resources, rather than some kind of "blank slate" of equal opportunity.

Charles files preemption on Plum Creek. If I'm reading correctly, the land had been Dakota land until they'd been driven off 12 years before. Pa builds a dugout house for them which is essentially a hole in the ground--the roof is woven branches with sod encouraged to grow over them. "But they were also damp and dirty. Dugouts were prone to flooding in the spring, and despite fabric hung overhead, or whitewash or newspapers slapped up as makeshift wallpaper, soil and spiders drifted down upon the occupants."

Prairie Fires: Chapter 2

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 starts off with a bang: "Laura lived within the log walls of the Pepin cabin barely more than a year before Charles Ingalls entered into a dizzying series of financial maneuvers."

"He sold the property in April of 1868 for the astonishing sum of $1,012.50, receiving $100 in cash and a promissory note for the rest. At the same time, Henry Quiner sold his eighty acres to the same farmer, a Swede named Gustaf Gustafson." Henry and Charles had gone in together on that 160 acres for $335, and apparently sold the place a year later for $2,000? That's an amazing profit in a very short time.

Whoops, sorry, factual error: they bought the land FIVE years prior. The "one year" is from Laura's birth. Still.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 1

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 1

Chapter 1 starts out at Maiden Rock and Lake Pepin, which Laura would later call "legend-haunted". Fraser notes that the stories, "like everything else", belonged to the Dakota people. I do appreciate that she keeps drawing the reader back to what is stolen. Whites stole the land, but also the stories. And Laura's own stories, while not exactly 'stolen', will later enrich her without helping the people and places she left behind.

"Charles’s childhood coincided with America’s first great depression, the Panic of 1837...Horace Greeley made the first of his famous entreaties to pull up stakes: “Fly, scatter through the country, go to the Great West, anything rather than remain here.” Charles Ingalls' family was poor and when even worse poverty struck during the 1837 depression, they moved out west to Illinois. By 1853 they were moving again, this time to Wisconsin--where Charles would meet Caroline.

Prairie Fires: Introduction

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires, Introduction

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

The book opens with a convenient map showing several major locations in the Wilder's lives, and it strikes me that I really wish the map had made clear, by name, which indigenous nations owned these lands. Considering that the Wilder story is one of repeatedly displacing and stealing from indigenous peoples, that seems a glaring omission. Maybe they can fix that in a second edition.

The introduction opens strong, pointing out how many copies the Little House books have sold (LOTS), and how the "autobiographical novels were not only fictionalized but brilliantly edited, in a profound act of American myth-making and self-transformation." The "myth-making" part is REALLY important. When I did this read last year, a lot of people criticized saying that the Little House books are 'clearly fiction', but they were 100% fed to me as autobiographical and essentially factual and true. They are not.

Open Thread: Into the Spider-Verse

This is a place to discuss the movie Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, including spoilers (without need for ROT 13 Cthulhu summoning.)

Unfortunately the "Current Comments" feature removes whitespace so, to avoid spoilers appearing there, please use some space for non-spoiler comments or just start your comment with some nonsense.

Example nonsense:
[nonsense] Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, id soleat doctus sit, cum te erant omnium. Invidunt periculis at cum, eos diam vivendum no, ea qui vivendum legendos. Verterem similique ut pri, iisque prodesset voluptaria no nam. Eos esse mollis et, mei no putent utamur praesent, nec ex solum saperet. No has soluta molestie.[/nonsense]
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: Sunset

Just a sunset.

I believe it was taken the day before yesterday.  Incidentally, today is the solstice.


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: Charnian Architecture

[Narnia Content Note: Misogyny]

Narnia Recap: Polly and Digory have agreed to explore a new world at random.

The Magician's Nephew, Chapter 4: The Bell and The Hammer

There is a rule of writing--and Google is failing to tell me who deserves credit--that asks "Is this the most interesting period in the protagonist's life? If not, why aren't you writing that?"

The rule isn't a perfect one, but it's something I fall back on when my brain wants to point out how convenient it is that these characters I've been reading about just happen to have an interesting and noteworthy experience: were it not for the interesting experience, we wouldn't have the book. So this isn't the story of Digory and Polly in which they just happen to visit Charn and Narnia (how convenient!). No, this is the history of Narnia and Charn, and the events which made the tale worth telling happen to include Digory and Polly.

All that is to say this: it is certainly convenient that the first pool Digory and Polly try leads to an interesting and noteworthy world which changes the course of at least one world's history forever, but if they went to a boring world full of boring people and went back home to earth and lived normal boring mundane lives, the story wouldn't have been worth telling. This story was deemed worth telling, thus something interesting must have happened. Q.E.D.

Open Thread: Lights on Trees

Longfellow Square (which is triangular) in the dying light.

I'm actually a big fan of this kind of lighting where you can see the shape of the trunk and branches.  Down the road a bit is another part that has all the trees in purple lights.  It's proven more difficult to get good pictures of those trees.


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: 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.)


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!

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! 


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.


[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.


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:

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

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.



November Sorrows (2018)

[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.


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 5 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. ♥