Let's Play: Stardew Valley | #3 Spring 6 Year 1

Another Stardew Valley video is up! ♡

Let's Play: Stardew Valley | #2 Spring 3 Year 1

Another Stardew Valley video is up! ♡

Open Thread: Cartoon Dog on a Train


If you're like me your reaction is:
 "I know that that dog"
*pause*
"Who is that dog?"
My initial attempt to find out failed, but "famous cartoon dog hat" (no quotes) got the job done.  That is a full length portrait of one Huckleberry Hound in spray paint on a boxcar canvas.

The picture was taken in South Portland, but that was a while ago, so he could be anywhere on the continent by now.

When I am corporate overlord, any unmarked cars on my trains will be treated as free walls.  Maybe I'll even have them park in specially designated places with scaffolding around them so that artists have easy access to the whole canvas, instead of just the parts near the ground.

-

We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

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!

Let's Play: Stardew Valley | #1 Spring 1 Year 1

My first Let's Play video of Stardew Valley is available!

Narnia: Fierce Women and Cruel Lions

[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

When we last left Polly and Digory, they were exploring a castle in which nothing lives (no plants, no ants, nothing) and which never provides a convenient window or parapet for looking out onto the "country [which] lay around the enormous palace" because (I presume) then Lewis would have to make up a description of the landscape of an alien world and he didn't want to.

Instead, we get a monstrous stone fountain with wide-spread wings. I don't know if Lewis intended this, but that would definitely read to my Christian upbringing culture as quasi-demonic and a sign that whoever had lived here had not been "right with Jesus". Good people don't decorate with winged monsters: that much was drilled into me as a child.

Open Thread: Clouds Before Sunset


Taken from the parking lot of Billy's Roast Beef and Seafood.

-

We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

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!

Film Corner: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Nebula from GOTG2

Now it's time for my favorite show: scrolling Netflix for an hour until I finally decide to rewatch my favorite 15 minutes from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 rather than burning down my impossibly big watch-list.

"In a little cafe, just the other side of the borderrrrr...."

God, I love Nebula so much.

This movie is so good if you take out Peter from all of it, and really all the parts that aren't Mantis or Nebula or Gamora. I have a fan-script for 3 that's basically Michelle Yeoh teaching Mantis, Nebula, and Gamora to be badass girl pirates.

Nebula's FACE when she hot-rigs herself to generate the ship, I would DIE for her. Someone needs to recut this movie into a version which recognizes that Nebula and Mantis are the most important emotional arcs, and the Peter/Yondu/Raccoon/Dad stuff... isn't. (I like Yondu, it's just that I have a whole world of Dad Issue Movies to choose from and far sparser pickings in the field of Murderous Sisters. Like, it's not that the Peter/Dad/Yondu/Raccoon stuff is *bad*, it's not, it's just EXTREMELY WELL-TROD GROUND and over there you have Mantis and Nebula being unique and interesting.)

Ugh, and this movie does the trope I hate MOST: knocking out a girl so she can't have a Big Damn Hero moment. Rocket shooting Gamora so she can't save Peter is just so fucking annoying to me, and sooooo maaaaaaany movies pull that shit. If you can't figure out a way to have a female character not sacrifice herself for her loved one EXCEPT by having a man knock her out for her own good, you don't deserve to write female characters.

I really wish Peter was less toxic because I feel like he *could* be my favorite MCU dude if he were just...............a little different? He's softer-bodied, he's family-oriented, he (sorta) focuses on group dynamics and mother-henning his team, he's got the capacity to avoid toxic masculinity and laugh at himself......and then the writers fling him at Gamora in toxic ways and I want to do a murder. He could be an excellent mother hen / cat herder!!! He doesn't NEED to always be badgering Gamora about the "unspoken thing" until I want her to jam a knife in his tongue. Siiiiiiiiiiigh. So close, so far.

The scene where they crash and Ego lands.

The scene where she stops them from killing Rocket.

The scene where she shares her plans.

The scene where she generates power for the ship.

Ironically, Thor--the embodiment of godly masculinity--comes off as softer and less toxic (to me) than Peter Quill most of the time. He really does look like he should be emotionally potty-trained by now into basic things like "don't badger the girl into a relationship" and "it's okay to admit being wrong." Whereas... Thor...shows emotions? We see him smile and grin goofily when he sees the Hulk, we see him show fear when facing a haircut, he... has emotional RANGE besides "Dudey McDude".

I also love those little "Whoa." moments Thor has, like when Valkyrie drinks faster than he ever imagined and he just has to stop and admire the spectacle. You just KNOW he and Loki played as valkyries as kids.

I'll be honest that a MAJOR reason I haven't and probably won't watch Infinity War was because I didn't believe they'd do right by Nebula. After her emotional arc in GOTG2, she deserves to be the one who takes down Thanos. It is the most emotionally satisfying conclusion and if she were a boy, the people involved in these stories would *get* that. Sigh.

How does Peter know Thanos again? He's the abusive father of the girl Peter badgered into being his sorta-girlfriend? That's... I don't... *beats head quietly against desk*

If Nebula is the star of Infinity War 2 or whatever, I will happily go see it.

It is SO CLEARLY what GOTG2 is *BUILDING TOWARDS*, even! Nebula and Gamora resolve their differences and team up to take on THEIR universe-ending dad, after Peter takes care of HIS universe-ending dad! This is why I would never be allowed to work on the MCU because I would keep being a bitch about things like "why are we setting this girl up to be Thanos' nemesis if nothing will ever come of it" and "lol, are you joking".

Like, if you KNOW that Nebula isn't going to be allowed to face down Thanos in the epic one-on-one she deserves, GIVE HER SOMETHING ELSE as her driving motivation OR commit to the job and let him kill her. Those are basically your narrative options? Either let her force a confrontation she's not competent to win (and thus loses and dies) or give her literally any other motivation in the world so she can do that instead.

But it's danged annoying because "son faces down evil father" is entrenched as a goddamn movie right of passage but make the son a daughter and all the sudden it's whoa nelly.

Make Luke Skywalker a girl you cowards, etc.

Film Corner: Bird Box


[TW: Ableism]

Alright, BIRD BOX, you get five minutes to make your case for why you exist.

We open with the standard zombie apocalypse broadcast. WE ARE HERE, COME FIND SURVIVORS.

Sandra Bullock is looking me in the face and saying this is gonna feel like forever and it's gonna be hard to stay alert and it's very meta and I'm supposed to chortle and say SANDY YOU'VE NO IDEA HOW RIGHT YOU ARE, IT'S MY BEDTIME. I refuse. I'm as alert as a peckish tiger, BIRD BOX. Your move.

Open Thread: The meeting of true and false


I thought of various names for this, "Where Imitation met reality" for example, and I wasn't really satisfied with any of them, including the one I used as a title.

Apparently fake bricks are a pretty common thing, they don't exactly endure very well, though.

-

We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

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!

March Newsletter (2019)

Holy crap, it's March? I lost all track of time until today. There are reasons for that but they're sad ones and I don't want to dwell on them here. Let's talk fun stuff.

I mentioned in my last newsletter that I'd like to start posting Patreon rewards at the end of the month (4 weeks after the monthly newsletter) because that means the newsletter gets to be "here are all the fun things I'm planning!" rather than a downer "here are all the things I didn't get to..." so let's try this on for size and see how it goes.

Fun Thing #1: Earthside. I really want to finish polishing my Earthside Chapter 1 and get it in a state where I can post it. This is my first real series and I'm struggling with the delicate balance of how much information to give "new arrivals" to the series (so they can read the books in any order) versus how to not bore the regular readers to tears. This has been really an interesting learning process, from a craft perspective!

Fun Thing #2: Vallis (Fire Mage WIP). I really want to try to re-draft Vallis so that we have some new chapters which slot in before chapter 1. (This will mean radically re-doing all the following chapters, yay!) I think a big problem here is that I take too seriously the Vonnegut advice to "start as close to the end as possible". You do actually need to take time to introduce the world and characters, I think, before you fling a crisis at their faces like a custard pie.

Fun Thing #3: Stardew Valley! I have some Let's Plays which will be going up on Patreon and eventually on YouTube and I am very excited about that! I've never LP'd Stardew Valley before because I was afraid I'd be a very boring commentator, but I think I'll be able to strike a nice balance between "interesting babble" and "soothing white noise" for people who want to fall asleep to my videos.

Fun Thing #4: Deconstructions. I have a new Magician's Nephew post I'm working on which will go up on Patreon first, and I'd link to post reposts of my old Narnia work...somewhere. Maybe I'll post teasers with links up on Patreon that link to the larger blog post on my website? Sort of an In Case You Missed It? That way, the ensuing comments aren't split across multiple pages.

Remember: It's a new month, which means new paper books for the $25 patrons and new bookmarks for the $5 patrons! If I don't have your address, send me a message on the internal system or email me at AnaMardoll at gmail dot com. I love sending ya'll things!

Thank you all so much again for being here with me and sticking with me through thick and thin. Oh! I might be officially divorced by the end of this month!

Transcending Flesh: Magical Potions and Gender Belts

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 #9: Magical Potions and Gender Belts (a Dungeon Master's Guide)

So you're a dungeon master (or a story teller or a game master or just a cool cat with a gaming screen) and you have a player who wants to play a trans character in your world. You want to be sensitive to their needs and the needs of their character so, surprise!, you give them a magical body transformation potion in their inventory at game start and now they never need to face bigotry or adversity again. Well done you, right?

Well, maybe.

Some players want their escape into a fantasy world to not be marred by the same bigotry they face on a day-to-day basis. Other players want their time in your fantasy world to allow them to explore bigotry in a safe setting. The key to being a good dungeon master to your players is to talk to them about what they're hoping to experience and accomplish with their character. It's also important to understand what your limits are as the creator of this world, and where your comfort levels lie.

One solution I've found is to craft a world which does not have systemic bigotry against trans people, but wherein small subcultures such as families or small towns or religious groupings may have pockets of prejudice. That way, Yolanda can play xer trans character over in the main plot without having to experience bigotry, but Zanadar can play ner trans character over here in a side-plot and work through bigotry with the power of persuasion or charisma or fireballs to the face. (Whatever floats your and the Zanster's boat, really!)

I will also make body modification spells, potions, and wearables available as part of the setting, but players can decide whether they want their character to start with those items already in their possession or whether they want their character to work towards those items as a goal. One player decided that her belt of gender confirmation had been pawned prior to game start because she was strapped for cash. This gave her a chance to work through dysphoria while understanding that a solution was still available to her once her character had earned enough money on the main plot quest.

What I absolutely will not do is make a world in which bigotry is pervasive and unavoidable, and players have to accept that in order to play. Nor will I make a setting in which there are no options, either mundane or magical, to allow them to transition. Every society I know of has had pockets of "safe" folks who accepted trans people among them, and had transition options of some kind available to people who needed them. Why would I craft a setting which doesn't include these parts of the human experience? Why would I make a game where people have to agree to let me hurt them in order for them to play?

Be a responsible dungeon master by talking with your players, understanding their goals, and minimizing the harm they will have to endure in order to play your game. Find out if they want to experience bigotry and, if so, what kinds and how much. Work out exactly what you're willing to portray, since you will be playing the villains--you're allowed to have boundaries, too! Respect yourself and your players as you create an enjoyable experience together.

Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 6)

Previously posted on my Patreon.


Metapost: Questions, Concerns, Suggestions

Content has been slow this year and there's reasons for that which I won't belabor. What I would like to know is whether folks would enjoy regular "reposts" of the old deconstructions. Those reposts allow folks to comment again (or for the first time) on old material that is currently locked down. It also gives you something "new" to read every week, if you want that.

Thoughts on whether this feature would be welcome?

Open Thread: Ice Berries


It is, by now, well attested that all ice is harvested from the fruit of the ice berry plant.

-

We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

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: Ice, water, and light



Icicles off the underside of a bridge.

-

We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

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!

February Newsletter (2019)

This is cross-posted from Patreon.

Good news! I still don't have leukemia. Gonna be happy about that one for a while!! Patreon rewards are going up today and I'm so grateful to everyone for being patient with me. You are all the best, thank you. I want to talk about some changes I'd like to make regarding the Patreon structure here, and how I think these changes will spark more joy for us.

Change #1: First of Month Newsletter / End of Month Postings. When I began this patreon it made sense to me to post everything on the first of the month. You should get all your February rewards on February 1st, right? But since a big part of the patreon structure for me is this newsletter, I ended up writing newsletters which perpetually looked backwards. I was giving you a report card and apologizing for not doing more--which I don't think does anything but depress people and certainly didn't make me feel like a success.

What I'd like to try is a newsletter at the first of the month which tells you what I hope to work on that month, which seems like a much better way to build enthusiasm than rattling off how I failed once again to pack 90 days worth of ambition into the last 30 days of living. Will the postings at the end of the month accurately reflect what I stated I wanted to work on? I don't know! Maybe not! I'm going to try to embrace the flexibility you've all so generously extended to me and write what my heart and my fingers want to write.

Change #2: Earthside Goes Live. I've been dragging my feet on posting my Earthside WIP chapters because... like... I know a lot of the content will change between this first draft and the final published copy. It's scary for me to post something which isn't "final". Now I'm going to embrace that fear and post anyway. The same is true for my magical fire mage WIP, which I realized stalled because I was afraid of doing anything which would require a change to what had already been posted up on Patreon. I'm going to make strides in plowing ahead and making a literary mess and embracing that first drafts are supposed to change. Writing is rewriting and I think everyone here heartily accepts that!

Change #3: Content Diversification. I had a lot of time to think while I was sick this month and I realized I've been juggling all these content creation projects--writings (books, short stories, scribbles), blog posts (films, Prairie Fires, Narnia, Wrinkle in Time, Twilight), YouTube videos, and Twitter threads. The whole time I've been making all this content, I've been carrying around this complicated hierarchy like a cross on my shoulders: I "only" worked on a YouTube video today, I didn't do the "good" words for my book, I "wasted" time writing an educational Twitter thread, etc. NO MORE. This is guilt that I've been carrying around for no reason and you all made me realize that when I asked for more time to put up the "good" content. Thank you.

So: There will be content every month. I can't promise it will be books or stories or videos or blog posts or twitter threads all in the same month because that's a LOT of content while I'm working overtime at the day job, but there will be content and it will be produced with love and brought before you with all my gratitude that you're here to share this space with me.

Change #4: Giving Back. As much as possible, I am striving to make my spaces accessible and able to give back to the community which has given me so much. I'm working out a structure by which I can hire a transcriptionist to caption at least some of my YouTube videos (the eventual goal is *all* of them) and I'm commissioning character art again so that in future posts I can talk to you about some of the characters you'll be meeting in my posts. I tailed off on the fan art project (despite all the joy it brought me!) because of the silly headspace stuff above about which words "counted". They all count here, thanks to you all.

Change #5: Polls? Maybe? I would like to gauge interest about what you all value the most, in a sort of "ranked from top to bottom" sense. Some of you are here for the stories, some for the gaming videos, some for the cat pictures, some for the deconstructions, some for the twitter rants, and some because you just love and want to support me. ALL OF THESE ARE SUPER VALID, thank you! If I run any polls in the near future it will just be in order to guide me according to what sparks the most joy for you, my wonderful patrons.

In Closing

Thank you all so much. The income from this patreon feeds me in a very real physical sense, but the emotional support from you all being here feeds my soul as well. I appreciate more than I could ever say how you were all willing to stick with me through my illness this month. Not everyone would, but you did. Thank you. I have a good feeling about this year.

Promotion: Freelancers Found

People often ask me on twitter if I know sensitivity readers for [x, y, or z] topic, or if I can recommend indie artists for [x, y, or z] commission, or if I can name all the freelance editors I know, and often on the spur of the moment I can't because my brain is a sieve.

This is trying something new: if you're a freelancer taking commissions/clients at this time, please post in here with whatever service you offer and a means to contact you. (Might be a good time to make up a work-only email that you can post publicly.) Rates are helpful to add but not required--what you post is entirely up to you.

If folks find this useful, I'll repeat the post on occasion as a means of keeping current who is still active and taking commissions vs. who is done or full up for now. Previous threads will be searchable under the "promotion" tag.

Open Thread: Dirty Snow and Ice


Not much to say about this picture.  It's icicles from the melting of road (or, possibly, parking lot) snow.

-

We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

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!

Index: Revolutionary Girl Utena


Revolutionary Girl Utena


Note: Not to be confused with the other Revolutionary Girl Utena index.
Source: Revolutionary Girl Utena
Label: Deconstruction (Utena)

09-08-2017 - Revolutionary Genderfeels
09-09-2017 - Bottom of the Ocean
09-10-2017 - Naked Ballroom Dancing
09-12-2017 - Nice Guy Miki
10-22-2017 - Nanami and Tsuwabuki

Note: Last updated 02/03/2019.

Index: Gender

Label: Deconstruction (Gender)

2018
02-28-2018 - Transgender Terminology
02-28-2018 - "Girl in Boy Clothes" Tropes
02-28-2018 - Daughters of Witches
02-28-2018 - Why I use Enby and not NB
02-28-2018 - Why I Don't Call Myself a Trans Woman
02-28-2018 - Queer Coding Characters and Re-Pronouning Historical People
04-01-2018 - Transcending Flesh: Why You Care
04-13-2018 - Social Constructs
04-13-2018 - Calling In Our Own
04-13-2018 - The Gender Binary Is False
04-13-2018 - Transness and Our Community
04-14-2018 - Stop Defending Cis Men from the Opinions of Trans Women
04-15-2018 - Including Trans People In Your Anthology Calls
04-16-2018 - Who Defines Transness?
04-17-2018 - Gender Non-Conforming (and why I'm not)
04-18-2018 - Transition and Fluidity
04-19-2018 - Enby Gaslighting in TERF Spaces
04-20-2018 - Cis Actors in Trans Roles
04-21-2018 - Deadnames in Fiction
04-22-2018 - Pride Month
04-23-2018 - "Cis Enbys" and Nope
04-27-2018 - We're Here, We're Queer
04-27-2018 - Gender Reveal Parties
04-28-2018 - Respecting Chosen Names
05-01-2018 - Transcending Flesh: What Is Gender
05-09-2018 - A Breakdown of Bathroom Bills
05-10-2018 - Transphobia and Caring About (Cis) Children
05-11-2018 - How to Support LBGTQUIA+ People
05-12-2018 - Stop Misusing 'Straight'
05-13-2018 - Menstruator and Planned Parenthood
05-14-2018 - Mis-Identifying People
05-15-2018 - Genitals Isn't Gender
05-16-2018 - Some Gender Identities
05-17-2018 - Transgender Terminology in 2017
05-18-2018 - TERF Warning Flags and Rhetoric
05-19-2018 - Queer Books for Queer Kids
05-20-2018 - Poor Relations and Transness
05-21-2018 - Magical Body Modifications and Transgender Characters
05-22-2018 - Boring Stories
05-25-2018 - Bisexuality and Transgender
05-26-2018 - What's the Difference Between Bisexuality and Pansexuality?
06-01-2018 - Transcending Flesh: What is Body Modification?
06-18-2018 - NYT Opinion "My Daughter Isn't Transgender"
10-01-2018 - Transcending Flesh: Gender and Stereotypes
11-01-2018 - Transcending Flesh: Buffet Bodies
12-01-2018 - Transcending Flesh: Pronouns and Self

2019
01-01-2019 - Transcending Flesh: Pronouns and Others
02-01-2019 - Transcending Flesh: Hi, My Name Is Tran S. Gender
03-01-2019 - Transcending Flesh: Magical Potions and Gender Belts
04-01-2019 - Transcending Flesh: Vampires, Werewolves, and Quick Healers
05-01-2019 - Transcending Flesh: Boys Shall Not Pass
06-01-2019 - Transcending Flesh: Sexuality and Gender
07-01-2019 - Transcending Flesh: Children and Childhoods
08-01-2019 - Transcending Flesh: Bodily Autonomy and Rape Culture
09-01-2019 - Transcending Flesh: Body Diversity Beyond Gender Presentation

Note: Last updated 02/03/2019.

Index: Good Luck With That

Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgans


Good Luck With That


Source: Good Luck With That
Label: Deconstruction (GLWT)

01-14-2018 - Good Luck With That: Prologue
01-14-2018 - Good Luck With That: Chapter 1
01-14-2018 - Good Luck With That: Chapter 2
01-14-2018 - Good Luck With That: Chapter 3
01-14-2018 - Good Luck With That: Chapter 4
01-14-2018 - Good Luck With That: Chapter 5
01-17-2018 - Good Luck With That: Review

Transcending Flesh: Hi, My Name Is Tran S. Gender

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 #8: Hi, My Name Is Tran S. Gender

Estelle is an author who is trying to include trans people in her novel, but she's understandably worried over one thing: how will her readers know her trans characters are transgender? Let's first go over some "don'ts" that I've encountered in the wild.

DON'T

- Don't employ phrases like "born a boy". Trans people are not "born" a gender that they later "change". If you must reference an assigned gender at birth, do so in a way which emphasizes that the assignment was wrong (i.e., "mistakenly thought to be a boy"). Having said that, it would be better to avoid defining trans people by their birth events. Rarely are cis people introduced with a reference to their birth years ago.

- Don't misgender the character unless the misgendering is quickly addressed as incorrect. Someone calling a character a girl and being corrected ("Did you not read his email where he came out to everyone? Theo is a boy, Carol.") might be fine. An announcement which misgenders the character ("King Allows Girl To Join Knights!") is not fine unless a character remarks upon or otherwise corrects the announcement. The key here is that it's okay for characters to be wrong if the narrative makes it clear they are wrong.

- Don't rely on stereotypes to make all your trans characters the girliest girls, the manliest men, and the most androgynous of nonbinary peoples, such that they all seem obsessed with maintaining a flawless gender presentation. There are feminine trans girls and masculine trans boys and androgynous enbys, but we come in more flavors than that! Trans people aren't playing a part or trying to win a gender presentation prize. Give your trans characters more interests and hobbies and traits than just "being trans".

- Don't linger over descriptions of their bodily features in lurid ways which highlight how much their gender presentation does or doesn't "match" what is expected for their gender. Cis authors often spend a lot of time on how trans people "look" and whether that look "matches" their gender, with the implication that it's a tragedy when it doesn't and a relief when it does. Trans people do sometimes care about our appearance (and body dysphoria is a thing many of us experience) but it's hardly all we think about or amount to as a person! Lingering over how a trans character looks suggests their appearance is the most important thing about them and tends to be deeply othering of the character, as though they're a zoo exhibit to gawk at.


~Transness as an Experience~

Now you know some things not to do, but you might still be stuck on how to introduce a character as trans. I think where a lot of writers get caught here is they're accustomed to describing people and bodies as a state of being rather than as an experience. If a character's eyes are blue, you can just tell the audience that their eyes are blue. It's there staring them in the face. But this leads authors down the path of trying to describe transness the way they would describe a body feature, which tends to go in bad directions.

Instead of trying to describe your trans character as a physical state of being, think about what their experiences are like--particularly in this world you've built with magitech which allows them to experiment with their body. How is a trans person's life different in this world from a cis person's? Do they have medical loans from the body modification they received when they were younger? Do they have an excitable and embarrassing parent who likes to show baby pictures to new friends and lovers? Does someone in their life still slip up and call them by the wrong pronouns before apologizing and correcting themselves?

If your world is entirely without stigma, your trans characters might bring up their transness themselves, or might joke with their friends about it. They might disclose their transness to other trans characters in need of a friend through a tough time. They might still be navigating the process of changing paperwork in your world, or otherwise still transitioning--either legally, socially, medically, or in some other facet of their life.

Speaking of transition, how was that experience for your character? Not every trans person experiences dysphoria or bigotry or unsupportive families, and many might experience much less so in a world with cool BodyMod magitech. Too often, cis authors write trans characters as miserable, and transition as a scary thing rather than an affirming experience. If body modification is a simple matter of a painless weekend at the magitech spa, make that clear in the narrative. ("Oh, yeah, I told my parents I was a girl when I was four years old so they took me to the Gender Witch and everything has been awesome ever since!")

If your world does have bigotry, they will need to navigate that. Be careful when writing bigotry! Your trans readers could be hurt by slurs or violent scenes. Ask yourself whether those things are necessary to the story or whether they're gratuitous and should be removed. As a general rule, too, your trans characters will have heard bigotry before and shouldn't be "shocked" by it, nor should a protagonist earn "good person" credit by standing up for them. Don't build up a protagonist by hurting someone else; that's cheap and exploits trans pain in order to make a protagonist seem like a good person simply for not being terrible.


~Genitals~

In my opinion, cis authors ought to avoid lingering on trans people's sexual characteristics, because they almost always linger on the wrong things in the wrong ways.

However, if you want to discuss genitals in a setting with BodyMod magitech, ask yourself what value is being added in a scene which lingers on a trans person's private parts? Is the scene affirming the character and showing their joy at having a body which feels right to them, or is the scene gawking at them and cheapening their happiness by making it appear fetishistic? Is the scene thoughtfully exploring how a character feels being in a body which seems wrong to them, or is the scene mocking them for their body?

Be very careful describing bodies in ways which convey disgust. Scenes which linger on the "grossness" of hair, smell, shape, feel, arousal, or erection can be hurtful and stigmatizing to readers. They can also be deployed in ways which perpetuate harmful stereotypes; not all men spring an erection upon entering the same postal code as a woman. It's an old, trite, and predictable trope for a character to gain a penis and suddenly be overwhelmed with how "lusty" and "driven" this body part supposedly is. Be more original than that, and treat your characters like people rather than collections of organs.

Open Thread: Broken Ice


Picture taken on Wednesday.  South Portland side of the Fore River estuary.

-

We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

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!

Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 5)

Previously posted on my Patreon.


Prairie Fires: Chapter 7 (Part 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 7 (Part 1)

I gained 200 new followers today from my programming tweets and now they get to wonder why I'm prattling on about Laura Ingalls Wilder. CHAPTER 7. When we last left Laura, she and Rose were both dipping their toes into the lucrative (more so than farming, anyway) world of newspaper articles. Laura was also forcing her disabled husband to build her a vanity house.

"In 1890, two-thirds of all Americans had lived in rural communities, but by the turn of the century that proportion started a downward slide that would never be reversed. By 1910, more than half of the population was concentrated in urban areas, lured by jobs and aided by a revolution in transportation...Henry Ford had introduced his Model T just two years earlier, and would sell fifteen million of them over the next two decades."

Open Thread: Ducks


Taken not long after the picture used in last weeks open thread.  Here we have ducks, water, ice, the same sunset as last time, and the reflection of a transmission tower.

-

We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

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!

Firefly: Our Mrs. Reynolds

[Trigger Warning: anaSexual Assault]


Ok, I'm watching the MRS. REYNOLDS episode of Firefly because I'd apparently forgotten how awful it is. Expect shouting.

Ghostbusters: You Just Got Holtzmann'd, Baby

I really do want to talk about this scene, because I've NEVER seen anything like it before or since.


I love action movies. And I have plenty of movies where thin willowy River Tam does slender ballet moves as she gracefully carves up enemies in a skinny way. And that's nice? It has its place? But this isn't fight-ballet. It's not pretty waif-fu. Nor is it the polar opposite, the rarer Atomic Blonde "everyone gets their face smashed in, including the heroine" response to that trope. This is a different third thing.

Holtzmann is competent and fully in control in this scene (much like the waif-fu, less like the gritty inversion) but in a very SOLID way. She's not a man, but she's allowed to move like we let men move. She STRIDES. She takes LONG STEPS, the kind of long steps which really can't be taken in River Tam skirts. When she kneels, it's just a normal knee on the ground, not a pretty aerobic stretch that juts her boobs out.

STRIDE!

KNEEL!

MORE KNEEL!

She gets to have facial expressions. Grimaces. Not perfect still serenity (because facial expressions make girls "ugly") and not pain. Just the grimace of YAAARGH I'M USING A MUSCLE TO DO A THING. And she gets to celebrate and gloat after!! Women never get to do that? Because it'd make them less likable or less in control? They're supposed to be calm and quiet and like well yes obviously I was going to win.

It's the difference between this and that. And it's SUCH a big difference.



I'd say it's the difference between a female gaze and the male gaze.

The female gaze presents Holtzmann as a person first, and deeply sexually attractive second. The male gaze positions River as sexually attractive first, and a person... distantly second. I don't even see the utility of that pose River is doing; her foot is so extended that she can't put any weight on it. She'll have to bring it back in just to stand up.

That scene, the sheer UNIQUENESS of that scene, was what moved Ghostbusters from "great" to "one of the best" for me. The movie isn't perfect and I hope we get more and better and my "best" list continues to shine. I need more scenes like that. I spent a long time not realizing I'm queer because while I'm attracted to women, the "willowy River Tam is broken at you" character does nothing* for me.

(*I am really suspicious of guys who live for the "willowy River Tam is broken at you" character. The girl needs meds, counseling, and hot soup in her; not dick! Which are you hoping to provide, buddy? My internal reaction to "willowy River Tam is broken at you" is to brush her hair and to locate the one psychiatrist available in the 'verse.)

Honestly, one of Firefly's biggest failings is that the lady characters all pretty much stayed in their own Bechdel-failing corners and never banded together to cuddle River and counsel her and feed her hot soup.

While I have you here, read my favorite Firefly rant.

[Random Commenter] River’s fight scenes were amazing tho, the whole tone of the movie is better actually. Sometimes women that fight get hurt, a movie like Ghostbusters will never dare show that.

As noted in thread, that exists. A good example is Atomic Blonde and I enjoyed it very much. But I also enjoy movies where women can be effortlessly in control of the situation in ways reserved for men. (Also, the women in GB *do* get hurt in that fight? Just not Holtzmann.)

"Women who fight get hurt" is always a faintly threatening statement when coming from men, and it's one reason why we CAN'T just have WaifFu Versus Atomic Blonde. Because when it's a binary choice, then it reads like women are hurt as PUNISHMENT for not being waifs.

Waif-fu is fine. GrittyFight is fine. But if it's either/or, then they're positioned in opposition to each other, and the violence experienced in the latter looks like a punishment for not being the former. Ghostbusters, by taking the "effortless skill" from Waif-fu and combining it with "masculine moves" from GrittyFight, provides for a third option which is a vital addition to the genre.

Open Thread: Sunlight on Waves


Part of me thinks it should be "Sunlight off Waves", though both are obviously accurate.  It could also easily have the same name as the previous open thread (Reflected Sunlight).

This was taken from more or less the same place as the images for the two "Sunset" threads, and at more or less the same time (sunset), but by pointing in a slightly different direction and zooming in a lot more the result is a completely different image.

-

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!

Review: At Wit's End

At Wit's EndAt Wit's End by Erma Bombeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At Wit's End / 0449211843

As a child, I picked up several of Erma Bombeck's books at a used bookstore and read them again and again. Picking up At Wit's End was like returning to the home of an old friend where everything is comforting and familiar, and you can laugh at old jokes together. I was delighted to see that this kindle edition retains the artwork from the paper version, all of which I remembered with fondness.

Most of the essays here are still very very funny. There are times when Erma dips more deeply into sentiment for me than I want from my humor books--the deep sorrow she feels as time passes and her children age hits too close to home and I read those parts very quickly to get through them--but obviously this comes down to personal taste. There's an undercurrent here that I didn't remember from childhood of, hmm, holding men to lower standards than I'm comfortable in my current feminist life, which just shows how far we've come (yay) but made me profoundly sorry to Erma for some of the stuff she felt she had to put up with (boo). If buying this for a young person, expect to have to explain a LOT about the outdated language, the setting, and the culture it was coming from.

I'm happy to have this in my collection, but it's hard to say if I'd ever read it again. Maybe I might just pull it out from time to time to give my 'old friend' a hug.

~ Ana Mardoll

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 6

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 6: Black Girls Matter

I'm going to start Episode 6. This is the last episode and I'm dreading it. I know there's no happy ending here. The wisdom in switching to legal-age girls for control and domination is that technically, none of it is illegal. Or, rather, the illegality is hard to prove without witnesses willing to cooperate against him. He abuses them with spankings, group sex, bathroom control, fasting, and other methods of abuse--but all those things are legal to do to a consenting adult. The problem here is that even if the girls are consenting, they've been groomed to accept abuse.

He does have guards and people willing to watch the girls for him, but every person who has tried to leave so far has not been physically blocked, at least as far as I can tell from the documentary. The blocks have been emotional and financial. [Note: This is later shown to be wrong.] I don't know how you fix this, shy of putting his butt in prison for the illegal stuff in his past. Assuming double jeopardy and the statue of limitations don't protect him--and they well might. Oof. That has made these episodes increasingly hard to watch. It hurts to see someone groomed to accept abuse and to feel helpless to stop the abuse or get the victim out.

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 5

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 5: All The Missing Girls

I'm going to start Episode 5 and we'll see how far we get before I need to take a break. Episode 5 is called "All The Missing Girls" and that's an ominous title that worries the shit out of me.

"Our daughter Azriel Clary has been with R. Kelly about three years now."

"My daughter Dominique has been in his life for-- off and on for nine years." Oh shit.

Screen text: "Dominique Gardner met R. Kelly at age 17." He's 52 years old. If this was nine years ago, then he was 43 when she was 17? That's... I don't have words. "Michelle hasn't seen her daughter Dominique in almost a year."

Jerhonda: "I would be isolated [in R. Kelly's house]. I felt like a prisoner. I didn't have anyone to talk to. It was just me. The breaking point for me was when Rob slapped me and he choked me until I blacked out." Screen text: "Jerhonda turned over all evidence of abuse (including her diary) to the Illinois Bureau of Investigation."

Open Thread: Reflected Sunlight


Because windows are not flat and therefore reflections make shapes that approximate x-ishness to various degrees, or something like that.

How visible this is depends on the angle of secondary computer's monitor, which is probably not a good sign.  Still, if I don't use something as the picture, this won't even be on the right day.

-

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!

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 4

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 4: The People vs. R. Kelly

Here we go on Episode 4. Take a moment to mute this hashtag in your settings if you need to. Big trigger warning for child sexual assault, R. Kelly, the works. I've been dreading all day coming home to watch this. It's not easy, but I think it's important. These survivors were so brave to come out here and tell their truth. They deserve to be witnessed.

The screen text opens with the "R. Kelly has denied" boiler plate and honestly if that was deliberate shade on the part of the documentary folks then well done because at this stage it provokes an actual visceral rage response. Like, "Oh, he denies the stuff that was on tape? The stuff that went on in an illegal marriage that was annulled? The stuff alleged in the zillions of lawsuits he settled? SURE, WHY NOT, WHAT EVER ARE WORDS."

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 3

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 3: Sex Tape Scandal

I'm using the "#AnaWatchesSRK" tag so that people can mute me without having to mute the entire #SurvivingRKelly tag and/or all [TW: SA] instances. This is a live-watch with direct quotes from the material, much of which is EXTREMELY explicit and triggering, so please exercise caution.

Episode 3 starts out with the same text: "R. Kelly has denied all claims relating to sexual assault, domestic violence / abuse, and sexual misconduct with minors." The longer this series goes on, the more outrageous that denial seems.

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 2

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 2: Hiding In Plain Sight

Alright, tonight I'm watching #SurvivingRKelly Episode 2. Reminder that you can buy the series on Amazon Video, or you can get a 7-day free Hulu "live TV" trial and stream it that way. Mute in your settings "[TW: SA]" to avoid seeing this thread on your timeline.

Episode 2 opens with the same text: "R. Kelly has denied all claims relating to sexual assault, domestic violence / abuse, and sexual misconduct with minors."

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 1

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 1: The Pied Piper of R&B

I'm going to live-tweet the watch, but I don't want to spam the #SurvivingRKelly hash with each tweet because that seems like I could end up talking over people on the hash. I don't actually have very much experience with the artist; the only song of his that I own came with the MAGIC MIKE XXL soundtrack ("Cookie") which I didn't know came as part of the album until after I'd bought it.

I *do* have about a billion Lady Gaga songs and I'm super disappointed that she has refused to speak out about this, especially after (a) working with him and (b) using sexual assault survivors in her Oscar performance. The Lady Gaga thing REALLY upsets me. This isn't 'just' someone who has been in the same room with him or had glancing contact; she has made rape activism part-and-parcel of her platform. If someone tries to make themselves one of the recognizable faces of rape activism in the music industry and then just 'no comment' disappears when Black girls are at stake? That hurts a lot. I have already been around the mulberry bush with Lady Gaga stans, so if you're new here (a) I've always been a big fan of hers, (b) I own a zillion of her songs and sing them all the time in the car, (c) I'm a rape survivor too. I know about triggers.

S1:E1 opens with the words "R. Kelly has denied all claims relating to sexual assault, domestic violence / abuse, and sexual misconduct with minors."

Fat Acceptance: Dumplin

[Dumplin Spoilers]


Okay, I cannot concentrate on any of my work while DUMPLIN exists, so here we go. (I haven't read the book, so all I know about it is the previews, please don't give me ANY information at all, nothing, no thing, thank you.)

Open Thread: Sunset over Water


Um, in my defense, I had completely forgotten that I posted a picture of a sunset back on the solstice.  And I definitely had no idea that it was taken from more or less the same place pointed in almost exactly the same direction.  (This picture was taken on January 2nd.)

Lonespark reminded me to post the open thread because it was getting on in the day and I hadn't.  I quickly picked this picture as the one I would use.  And then . . . I spent something in the vicinity of two hours and twenty minutes trying to get the sky to show up as the color its supposed to be without turning the land into an indistinct black mass.

That's bad for people who wanted to post in an open thread and didn't have one yet, but it's actually kind of a good thing for me.  I used to get a lot of joy out of working with images on computer, so getting caught up in it again is potentially a good sign.

-

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 6

[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 6

Chapter 6! We're now in Part 2 of Laura's life.

"Over the coming years, [Laura] would step by cautious step seize control of their circumstances. She would prove adept not merely at penny-pinching but at finding ingenious ways to generate income, husband their minuscule resources, and protect their assets."

If you recall, when we last left off Laura and Almanzo are leaving De Smet in defeat and headed to the Ozarks while the larger country around them struggles with depression. I do think it's interesting that Laura will take a journey from being the younger spouse who leaves financial decisions to her husband to being the one holding the financial reins in the relationship. She's significantly more frugal than Almanzo, which he probably realized by this point in their marriage, and he must also have felt very much like a failure after repeatedly blowing all their money on farming ventures that didn't work out.

Transcending Flesh: Pronouns and Others

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 #7: Pronouns and Others

You're in a coffee shop mentally narrating your surroundings one day and want to note that the customer in front of you smiled when you came into the shop. How do you pronoun at this situation?

You might try to work around pronouns by using nouns and adjectives. "The customer at the front of the line smiled" or "The tall redhead smiled" or "An apparition in what appeared to be chainmail armor smiled" are all apt descriptions of the person. Or you might default to a neutral "they/them" pronoun set: "They smiled". As a third option, you might look to their gender presentation and make a tentative guess at pronouns from the stranger's appearance--with the understand that your guess may be wrong.

Gender is a cultural construct and thus both gender and gender presentation vary across societies. Gender presentation can include how we wear our hair (lengths and styles are often used to present gender) or our bodies (for example, whether breasts are bound or presented with emphasis). Gender presentation can include what decorations we place on our bodies: hats, tattoos, piercings, jewelry, and clothing. Clothing in particular can be gendered through color, cut, material, and a thousand other indicators.

It is important to understand that gender presentation is not gender. A person wearing a pink dress and possessing a rocking rack, unicorn tattoos, and a Farrah Fawcett hairstyle may be a man. A person wearing blue coveralls and presenting a Brian Blessed beard, a skull tattoo, and a shaved head may be a woman. Gender presentation is not gender, which is why it's increasingly understood to be most polite to ask which gender and pronouns one should use for a person (and to normalize the conveyance of pronouns through worn items like name-tags which include pronoun information).

In the absence of name-tags and an ability to ask (perhaps because you and this stranger are fleeing an alien invasion together and you don't have time or breath to stop and talk), how do you pronoun the person in your head? If you don't apply neutral pronouns to them, then you probably tentatively pronoun them by looking at their gender presentation and hoping their pronouns "match". You make a guess based on the information you have available, and go with that guess until you receive new information to the contrary.

This is important because there will be cases where a first-person narrator or limited third-person narrator will interact with a person whose pronouns they do not know. In those cases, it may not make sense for the narrative voice to know that the trans person in front of them goes by "xie/xer" instead of the "she/her" that the narrator might assume from their gender presentation. This can lead to "accidental misgendering" in your narrative where a character does not know the other person's pronouns.

Accidental misgendering can happen in good faith and doesn't make the narrator a "bad person". It can harm trans readers who have triggers around misgendering, so do warn for it in the content notes for the material, but it is important to note that even common triggers are not necessarily "bad" topics about which you cannot write. I would just urge that you write with care around this particular topic!

Consider why you're writing a scene in which a narrator misgenders a character. Is this necessary to your story? Can you find another way to frame the scene? Can the character in question correct the narrator quickly? Can they convey their appropriate pronouns in their introduction, so that correct pronouns are used throughout? If the narrator doesn't speak with them and instead observes them from afar, can the narrator overhear their pronouns, or be already aware of them because a friend has told them or (in the case of a spy thriller!) they know of the person from publicly-available research they've previously done?

I must strongly stress that trans people's genders and pronouns should not be framed as a "plot twist" or a "surprise". It is okay for a narrator to not know someone's pronouns, and for those pronouns to come out later when the character feels safe making them known to the narrator, but the story should work equally well if those pronouns had been known by the reader from the beginning. Trans people are not plot twists.


~Pronouns and Magitech~

How do pronouns play into a fictional setting where people can have "mix-and-match" bodies that look however they want? Something you will need to consider as the author is how gender presentation works in a society where people can change their bodies easily. Do people still assume that visible breasts on a chest means "she/her"? Would that really be a sensible thing to assume? We're trying to get away from assuming that now, and we don't even have magitech that allows people to put on and take off breasts at a whim.

Maybe your society employs pronoun name-tags so that people don't have to guess when they meet strangers. Maybe everyone has high-tech glasses and earpieces that take in the faces of those around the user and feed back important information into the user's ear. ("Kelpyr Corcane. Star Merchant, Second Class. Suspected Pirate, though never proven. Nee/ner pronouns.") Maybe society has normalized stating pronouns upon introduction. ("Princess Thea Starguide, she of Colluscent, delighted to meet you.")

Authors should understand that when they show characters interacting, they are also showing us the societal expectations of their setting.

Example A: Assuming Pronouns From Appearance

Let us consider James meeting a stranger for the first time: James smiled as Jared approached him with a beautiful woman on his arm, her grin dazzling even at this distance.

Here we see James assume the gender of this stranger. What is he basing that assumption on? Unless it is made clear that she has signaled her gender in some way (perhaps by wearing pronouns on a tag, or by indicating gender through a socially-known marker like a special accessory) then we assume James is using bodily appearance to guide him. If James is representative of his culture, then the world-building has now established that--despite the magitech ability to radically alter bodies at will!--there is still enough adherence to a bodily type such that James feels it's safe to guess that people with that type use "she/her" pronouns.

This world-building undermines the entire magitech premise! We already understand, in our society, that it is impossible to accurately guess gender from body configuration. This will only be more understood in a society wherein people can change their body configuration at a whim in order to test-drive a penis or a shiny new pair of breasts. In a world where everyone can experiment with body shape to their heart's content, it doesn't make sense to guess gender from body configuration. You might as well guess gender based on hair color, as you'll have equally poor odds of success!

Example B: Using Neutral Pronouns Until Informed Otherwise

Now let's try another approach: James smiled as Jared approached with a beautiful stranger on his arm, their grin dazzling even at this distance.

In this version of events, James is careful not to gender the stranger. He uses neutral "they/them" pronouns until he learns the right ones, either through signaling from Jared ("James, this is Melody. She is my accountant and an excellent flamenco dancer."), or by asking outright upon introduction ("James Carlisle, he/him, professional panda-wrangler. You are?").

By normalizing a direct offer-and-ask of pronouns, we see a culture wherein it is widely understood that gender presentation is not the same thing as gender. Without saying a word about magitech, the author has reinforced that this society is different from ours in that bodily appearances are not considered to be static indicators of gender. The directness of the ask also implies that James will accept whatever answer is given, indicating a culture where trans people are safe giving their pronouns to strangers.

Now let's talk about some pronoun corner-cases you may have to grapple with as an author.


~Deliberate Misgendering~

I spoke above about "accidental misgendering" and how it can happen in good faith. When a character is corrected, they should accept the correction and use the appropriate pronouns from there onward.

"Deliberate misgendering" is when a person knows the correct pronouns to use but deliberately uses wrong pronouns anyway because they don't accept the person's gender. Deliberate misgendering is an act of violence! It is okay to have violent characters in your fiction, but the author must recognize they are violent.

For example, if you have a character who is a man who uses "he/him" pronouns, and he has told his family that but they continue to call him "she/her", then that family is not loving. They are engaging in abuse against this character by trying to assert their will over him in an attempt to change his gender.

I would strongly recommend not including deliberate misgendering in your work if you are a cis author. It can be misused as "easy" violence against trans characters, and can be wielded in ways which may hurt the reader. Consider developing a villain who is villainous for reasons other than bigotry.


~Pronoun Shifts~

Some characters (such as genderfuid characters who experience gender shifts over time) have pronouns which change over the course of the narrative. Let us consider Jordan, who is sometimes "he/him" and sometimes "she/her".

One way to handle this is for the narrator to ask Jordan how they should refer to Jordan when they do not know Jordan's current gender. Jordan may ask that the narrator use a neutral "they/them" for times when the narrator isn't sure of Jordan's gender. ("I don't know where Jordan is. Can you reach them on their cellphone at all?")

Another option might be that Jordan prefers people stick with a pronoun set until they're directly informed of a change. In that case, the narrator would use Jordan's last known pronouns when discussing Jordan with others. ("I spoke with Jordon yesterday and he said he was angry with Matt, so I expect he still is." The last "he" in that sentence assumes that Jordan is still a "he" until told otherwise.)

Asking how to respectfully pronoun a person isn't hard or rude. It is perfectly okay to write a scene wherein the narrator asks Jordan how to use pronouns! Asking about pronouns should be normalized, and no different from scenes in which narrators ask about names, nicknames, name meanings, and so forth.


~Pronouns in Flashbacks~

What about cases where the person's pronoun doesn't shift regularly, but has changed in the time since the narrative voice saw them last? Once again, asking is the best choice here. ("Laen, when I tell stories about our childhood should I use your pronouns, or do you prefer me to use the ones we used at the time?")

In general, people should use the current correct pronouns for any and all stories about a person, whether or not those stories occurred in the past when the person was going by different pronouns. The reason for this is that many trans people feel their childhood pronouns were wrong all along. Some bigoted cis people persist in using those wrong pronouns as a means of asserting power in an attempt to define a trans person's gender and childhood against their wishes.

Having said all that, please note that trans people are not a monolith and some trans people do use "old" pronouns and "old" genders when recounting stories of their past. ("When I was a little girl...") Be aware that there are multiple ways for trans people to tell our stories. It is always best to ask the individual person what pronouns you should use for them when talking about their past.

"That's all well and good," I hear you say, "but I'm writing fictional trans characters. Whatever answer they give me when I 'ask' is an answer I came up with as their creator. So what should I do?" My answer is that if you are a cis author, do not change pronouns for trans characters when telling a story of their past. That switch can create the impression that you think trans people "change" gender when they transition, or that trans people who don't transition aren't allowed their correct pronouns. If Brian is "Brian" and "he/him" in the present day narrative, then he should be "Brian" and "he/him" in flashbacks as well.