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.

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)

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

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 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.


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.