"The Game of Rat and Dragon" has stuck better in my memory, but at some point in college I was delighted to discover that there were more Instrumentality stories. The one that I remembered, years later, as being particularly interesting was "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal." Peculiarly, I remembered that it had an unusual narrative structure/format, but not anything useful about its plot. Cue yesterday when I actually reread it, having checked out the posthumous collection When the People Fell from the library, and being bemused to discover that this story was almost certainly, before I ever heard of fanfic on the internet, my introduction to mpreg.
A spoilery discussion of the story follows beneath the cut.
 My high school library's sf/f holdings were very eclectic. They had a couple decades' worth of Analog under Stanley Schmidt. I read every page of every issue available, and remain fond of the zine although I have not read it in over a decade. They also had old classics like John Wyndham's Re-Birth, amusing curiosities like a litcrit book on the best fantasy novels by Michael Moorcock (possibly with a co-author; I no longer remember) in which he immodestly listed his own Stormbringer, a number of old Nebula anthologies, and a copy of Harlan Ellison's (ed.) Dangerous Visions that I read two or three or four times before someone else stole it or, more charitably, checked it out and lost it. (Years later, I still think Philip José Farmer's "Riders of the Purple Wage" was insufferably boring, and Delany's "Aye, and Gomorrah" makes zero sense when you are barely aware of what sex is.) They had Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, which is where I encountered them. On the other hand, the librarians were very friendly, and for a number of years, because my sister and I were the only ones who made use of the request box, we pretty much got them to buy whatever we wanted to read for the year.
( Read more... )
Other than a somewhat jolting experience at the opening ceremonies, which made it clear yet again that many of those who have always assumed their perfect safety in any circumstance (and who thus find argument entertaining) simply do not comprehend the paradigm for those who have always had to be wary, to at least some degree, while maneuvering in public spaces. I trust that learning happened.
After that, things went so very well. So many great conversations, over delicious food. Interesting panels, lovely weather. Another thing occurred to me: I so seldom get that quick-back-and-forth of conversation, as my social life is about 95% online, that I found myself frequently behind a couple steps. At least, I think it's due to that and not (I hope) to me dulling with age.
The con was splendid right to the last moments: my return train was to leave Mpls. at ten-ten that night, and I did not particularly look forward to sitting at the Amtrak station for six hours, but I didn't have the discretionary cash for adventuring about. However after delicious ice cream sundaes (yum, yum, yum!) carbonel generously offered to take me home, then drop me at the station, though it was not even remotely in her way.
My six hours passed so pleasantly it was emblematic of the entire weekend for me: after the fast pace it was so nice to sit quietly, watch some BBC animal planet documentaries . . . and, to my utter delight, the resident kitting--after doing considerable showing off by leaping to wall and ceiling beams and down again--curled up in my lap to purr. When you realize that I rarely get to see cats except in youtube vids when the news is too fraught, you will understand how that was the perfect close to an excellent weekend.
Thence an equally lovely train trip back, much reading and some writing achieved.
And this morning, I hauled my aged bod to yoga, for a much-needed session. This last couple weeks has been all about the head. Exhilarating, but not good for the bod. I used to be so active, until the arthritis turned all my joints into a constant ache; now exercise is something I have to do, so I've some tricks to keep my lazy ass in gear.
Anyway, it occurred to me as I sweated and stretched that the fundamental good of yoga is to strengthen all those muscles we otherwise do not notice that hold the body upright. Especially someone like me with rotten posture (I've had the child-abuse shoulder hunch all my life, and when young fought against it in dance, constantly hearing, "Shoulders down, Smith!" The only time I didn't have it was in fencing, oddly enough) it's easy to turtle. But I feel much better and stronger overall when I keep up with the yoga.
So--that, and to my desk to catch up!
A bit of writerly stuff to pass on: an indie writer I met through a fantasy bundle project last summer, C.J. Brightley, has put out a call for fantasy stories of the uplifting sort, and asked me to pass it on. Submission data here.
Friday is almost finished with this first draft…
- Dogs acting weird
- Glass blowing/glass art video compilation (I find this stuff ridiculously soothing to watch.)
- Redditors design the worst volume sliders possible (The curling one made me laugh)
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Prompt: "Shuos pranks."
with apologies to the black squirrels of Stanford University campus
Jedao and Ruo had set up shop at the edge of one of the campus gardens, the one with the carp pond and the carefully maintained trees. Rumor had it that some of the carp were, in addition to being over a hundred years old, outfitted with surveillance gear. Like most Shuos cadets, Jedao and Ruo would, if questioned, laugh off the rumors while secretly believing in them wholeheartedly--at least the bit about surveillance gear. Jedao had argued that the best place to hide what they were doing was in plain sight. After all, who would be so daft as to run a prank right next to surveillance?
"Lovely day, isn't it?" Ruo said brightly.
Jedao winced. "Not so loud," he said. His head was still pounding after last night's excesses, and the sunlight wasn't helping. Why did he keep letting Ruo talk him into things? It wasn't just that Ruo was really good in bed. He had this way of making incredibly risky things sound fun. Going out drinking? In itself, not that bad. Playing a drinking game with unlabeled bottles of possibly-alcohol-possibly-something-else stolen from Security's hoard of contraband? Risky. Some of those hallucinations had been to die for, though, especially when he started seeing giant robots in the shape of geese.
Fortunately, this latest idea wasn't that risky. Probably. Besides, of the many things that the other cadets had accused Jedao of, low risk tolerance wasn't one of them.
"Not my fault you can't hold your drink," Ruo said, even more brightly.
"I'm going to get you one of these days," Jedao muttered.
Ruo's grin flashed in his dark brown face. "More like you'll lose the latest bet and--" He started describing what he'd do to Jedao in ear-burning detail.
At last one of the other first-years, puzzled by what Jedao and Ruo were doing by the carp pond with a pair of fishing poles, approached. Jedao recognized them: Meurran, who was good at fixing guns despite their terrible aim, and who had a glorious head of wildly curling hair. "Security's not going to approve of you poaching the carp," Meurran said.
"Oh, this isn't for the carp," Ruo said. He flicked his fishing pole, and the line with its enticing nut snaked out toward one of the trees.
Meurran gave Ruo a funny look. "Ruo," they said, "the fish are in the opposite direction."
"Please," Jedao said, "who cares about the fish? No one has anything to fear from the fish. That's just nonsense."
"All right," Meurran said, sounding distinctly unimpressed, "then what?"
Come on, Jedao thought, the nut is right there...
As if on cue, a black squirrel darted down from the tree, then made for the nut.
Ruo tugged the nut just out of reach.
The black squirrel looked around, then headed for the nut again.
"Oh, isn't that adorable?" Meurran said.
"Don't be fooled!" Ruo said as he guided the squirrel in a figure-eight through the grass. "Why would the commandant be so stupid as to rely on carp, which can't even leave their pond?"
Meurran glanced involuntarily at the pond, where two enormous carp were lazily circling near the surface, as if the carp, in fact, had a habit of oozing out onto the land and spying on lazy cadets. "You're saying the squirrels--?"
Ruo continued to cause the squirrel to chase after the nut. "It makes sense, doesn't it? Everyone thinks the black squirrels are the cutest. They're even featured in the recruitment literature. Damnably clever piece of social engineering if you ask me."
Meurran was starting to look persuaded in spite of themselves.
Meanwhile, as Ruo made his case, Jedao leaned back and studied the squirrel with a frown. The local population of black squirrels was mostly tame to begin with and had proven to be easy to train with the aid of treats. (Ruo had made Jedao do most of this, "because you're the farm boy.") But while Ruo and Meurran argued about squirrel population dynamics, Jedao caught a slight flash from behind the squirrel's eyes--almost like that of a camera?
He opened his mouth to interrupt.
The squirrel made an odd convulsing motion, and the light flashed again, this time directly into Jedao's eyes.
Jedao closed his mouth, and kept his thoughts to himself.
“And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.”
Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.
Our fabulous friend Malka Older found time between busy moments at BEA to talk with co-host Fran Wilde and me about her relief work in Japan after Fukushima, writing the data-driven, sf stunners Infomocracy and Null States (out soon from Tor.Com Publishing!) and telling us what foods go away first in an infomocracy universe. It’s all for Cooking the Books this month, both here and at the extension kitchen over at The Booksmugglers! (check out Malka’s Booksmugglers Bonus answers!).
Haven’t read Infomocracy yet? Now’s the time — so you can get caught up for Null States! (and read Malka’s earlier Book Bite over here too)
This month’s Cooking the Books Podcast, #031: Lines of Supply – Cooking the Books with Malka Older contains:
- One half dash, procrastination
- Three heaping spoonfuls of prognostication
- A possible pigeon
- A handful of social programming
- A touch of poetry
- Only the best picadillo
(thanks as always to our friend Paul Weimer who helps clean up the CtB kitchen after we destroy it…)
Podcast #031: Lines of Supply – Cooking the Books with Malka Older
- ground beef,
- pepper (any kind),
- tomato sauce,
- olive oil
Malka Older is a writer, aid worker, and PhD candidate. Her writing can be found at Leveler, Tor.com, Bengal Lights, Sundog Lit, Capricious, Reservoir, Inkscrawl, Rogue Agent, in the poetry anthology My Cruel Invention, and in Chasing Misery, an anthology of writing by female aid workers. Her science fiction political thriller Infomocracy is the first full-length novel from Tor.com, and the sequel Null States will be published in 2017.
She was nominated for the 2016 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Named Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2015, she has more than a decade of experience in humanitarian aid and development. Her doctoral work on the sociology of organizations at the Institut d’Études Politques de Paris (Sciences Po) explores the dynamics of multi-level governance and disaster response using the cases of Hurricane Katrina and the Japan tsunami of 2011. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and at malkaolder.wordpress.com.
Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard
Leave a comment at original post, or comment here.
From left to right, for the curious: Waterman 52V, Webster Four-Star, Scriptorium Pens Master Scrivener in Red Stardust, Conway Stewart Churchill in Red Stardust, Aurora 75th Anniversary, Nakaya Naka-ai in aka-tamenuri, Wahl-Eversharp Doric in Kashmir with #3 adjustable nib, and Pilot Vanishing Point Twilight.
Meanwhile, I swear I am writing flash fic right now. This caffeine is taking an unholy amount of time to kick in...
Senate Republicans have finally released what appears to be the draft text of H.R. 1628, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”
It’s 142 pages, and to be honest, I’m having a hard time deciphering it all. (Not a lawyer or a legislator.) But here are some things that stood out at me…
Elimination of the individual and employer mandate. (Pages 10-11)
Tax repeals on medications, health insurance, health savings accounts, etc. (Pages 25-29)
This includes the “Repeal of Tanning Tax” on page 29.
The continuing attack on abortion rights.
“Disallowance of small employer health insurance credit for plan which includes coverage for abortion.” (Pages 8-9)
“No Federal funds provided from a program referred to in this subsection that is considered direct spending for any year may be made available to a State for payments to a prohibited entity,” which is then defined as an entity providing abortion services except in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger. (Page 35)
According to a USA Today analysis, this bill would:
- Reduce or eliminate most subsidies for individuals and families
- “Eliminate the ACA’s requirement that insurers can’t charge older customers more than three times what younger customers pay for the same coverage. Instead, those in their 60s could be charged five times as much, or more.”
- Eliminate penalties to large employers who choose not to offer health insurance. (Elimination of the employer mandate.)
- Make it easier to drop coverage for things like maternity care and mental health issues.
CNN points out that the bill would also:
- Defund Planned Parenthood for a year.
- Require coverage of preexisting conditions. However, it also lets states “waive the federal mandate on what insurers must cover… This would allow insurers to offer less comprehensive policies, so those with pre-existing conditions may not have all of their treatments covered.”
A PBS article says the bill would:
- Cap and reduce Medicaid funding, and allow states to add a work requirement for “able-bodied” recipients of Medicaid.
- Provide $2 billion to help states fight opioid addiction
- It preserves health care for people with preexisting conditions (with the potential exceptions noted in the CNN bullets, above), and allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan through age 26.
- It expands health care savings accounts.
- It provides a short-term stabilization fund to help struggling insurance markets.
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release their report on the senate bill next week. The CBO estimated that the House-passed bill would result in 26 million fewer insured Americans by 2026, and would cut the budget by $119 billion over the same time. (Source)
Nothing here is particularly shocking. I’m glad I and my family can’t be kicked off our insurance for our various preexisting conditions…though some of those conditions might no longer be covered, which sucks. It would hurt the poor, the elderly, women, and the mentally ill, among others. None of my readers will be shocked to hear that I think this is another step backward. The ACA was far from perfect — it’s like a patient with a broken leg, but instead of trying to fix the broken leg, we’ll just throw them through a woodchipper, because hey, it’s cheaper!
It looks like this may be a tight vote, which would make this an excellent time to call your Senator.
Please keep any comments civil. I’m angry about this too, but I don’t have the time or the spoons to moderate fights and nastiness today. (Which probably means I shouldn’t have posted this in the first place, but I never claimed to be that bright…)
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
"A bit of legal arcana, as I recall," Corydalis answered. "They're trying to create a legal definition of a person."
"... isn't there one already?"
"Not as such. If I understand correctly -- realize this is not my field of expertise -- it's a matter of common law. Everyone knows what a person is when you see one, so you don't need to define one. It's surprisingly hard to define 'person' in a way that encapsulates everyone you'd want to define as a person without including things that you don't. A senile shapechanger trapped in their feline form, for instance, is clearly still a person. But a cat who can't shapeshift is just as clearly not. A mute elf is a person and a parrot isn't. You can say 'anyone born to members of the four races', but would that mean that if I don't know my parentage, I'm not a person? What if my parents don't know their parentage? Does the government issue documents at birth that certify personhood and do you stop qualifying as a person if you don't have one?"
Smoke blanched. "That sounds nightmarish. Why don't they just leave it as a matter of common law? Then the courts can decide on a case-by-case basis where they have all the specifics before them, right? Did a court rule that some person oughtn't have the rights of a person and they're trying to make sure it doesn't happen again?"
"No, not so far as I am aware. But some legislators, Lord Sky among them, believe that the absence of a consistent legal standard of 'person' opens a path to corruption and people registering their dogs to vote or somesuch." Corydalis's lips twitched as he tried not to smile. "I am inclined to agree with you that the matter is best left to individual judges to interpret as needful, and perhaps not the best to present Lord Sky's position that the legislature must weigh in upon the subject. But the matter is outside of my bailiwick."
"Mm. Mine too, I suppose." Smoke contemplated the subject. "Why would anyone want to make their notes disappear? Is it a very controversial subject?"
Corydalis waggled the fingers of one hand. "It has the potential to be. Several legislators are strongly opposed to Lord Sky or anyone else working on the subject. But it's not even a bill in committee yet, just a topic that he's thinking about presenting a bill upon. It is a long, long way from becoming law. I don't even know what his group's working definition is, but judging by the volume of their notes, they are putting a lot of thought into it beforehand."
"So you don't know what incident motivated them to start work on this bill?"
Corydalis shook his head. "Or if there was an incident, for that matter. Sometimes legislators look for things that could become problems in the future and address them now."
"Not yet. Did Hawthorne say how things had been rearranged?"
Try to get conversation back to whether he usually meets everyone who works at Courthall
Ask if there've been any other odd events like this one.
Stop talking shop and get personal
Author's note: I have a document of the Dreamwidth installments of PollRPG to date, if you've lost track of the story or want a more convenient place to look things up then the DW page.
If I were to attempt CHEESECAKE  pinup art of a hexarchate character for lulz, it should be
Kel Cheris 
someone else I will name in comments
ticky the EXTREMELY DISAPPROVING tocky
 May or may not feature CHEESY partial nudity.
 The incomparable telophase once did me a sketch of blonde, busty Cheris with her space ferret because I kept joking that I would get a cover featuring blonde, busty Cheris with her space ferret. (Hexarchate AU...?!)
(In real life, I'm working on an art assignment...ahahahahaha.)
(Dear Louisiana: PLEASE STOP RAINING. At least it isn't downpouring enough that I feel that I have to pack for emergency evacuation, it's just raining drearily, but...)
I’ve been sitting on this news for nearly a year, waiting for my first piece to go live so I can tell you all about it.
So there’s this game called Legend of the Five Rings. It was a collectible card game and RPG; I got involved with the RPG, doing some freelance work for the later parts of fourth edition, because it had sucked me in overnight. The setting, Rokugan, is inspired by Japanese history and culture, and it’s got the kind of rich worldbuilding that makes the place come to life for me. So when the parent company sold L5R off to Fantasy Flight Games, I was, shall we say, rather determined to stay involved.
And I am. But not writing for the RPG this time: instead I’m one of their fiction writers. You see, one of the defining characteristics for L5R has always been the ongoing narrative of the game, influenced by the winners of various tournaments, and expressed through official canon stories.
I think it should be a decent introduction to the setting for those who aren’t familiar with it. (In fact, that’s one of the goals for this first set of stories: give newcomers an overview of Rokugan, clan by clan.) If you like what I wrote, you might find L5R overall interesting, and you can check out the other fictions here (those provide links to the pdfs if you want to see the pretty formatted versions).
Yeah . . . I’m pretty excited. 😀 The setting has been rebooted back to the Clan War, so there’s an opportunity to do all kinds of cool new things, and this story provided a really great chance to showcase that, with the Dragon facing two entirely fresh conflicts that don’t come with easy answers attached. And I’m working on more stuff as we speak, so my involvement will be ongoing. *\o/*
“We’re so conditioned to believe that white is the default that we write ourselves out of the worlds that we create.”
Dawn Xiana Moon is one of the contributors to Invisible 3, which comes out on June 27 and includes 18 essays and poems about representation in science fiction and fantasy. You can preorder the collection at:
(It will be available for Nook as well, but we don’t have that link yet.)
Any profits from the sale of the collection go to Con or Bust, helping fans of color to attend SF/F conventions.
As with Invisible and Invisible 2, the contributors to this third volume have shared work that’s heartfelt, eye-opening, honest, thoughtful, and important…not to mention relevant to so much of what we see happening in the genre today.
Of Asian-Americans and Bellydancing Wookiees, by Dawn Xiana Moon
We have always existed.
In the early days of the internet, back when we were on Prodigy or CompuServe and email addresses were long strings of numbers with a comma in between, I was answering distress calls on derelict starships. America Online (because it wasn’t yet AOL) launched an ad campaign that envisioned an internet with graphics; I dodged Borg at Warp Six. I outsmarted Q when he appeared on my bridge, launched photon torpedoes at Romulans, and flirted with fellow Starfleet officers in Ten Forward. I was thirteen. And like a good overachiever, I wondered if I could list being second-in-command of the CompuServe sim group Fleet 74 on lists of my activities and accomplishments, right next to years of piano lessons, parts in theatre productions, dancing and singing in the community show choir, and the environmental and video game clubs I’d started (and of course led as president).
My father is an aerospace engineer; by the time we moved from Singapore to the US, I was five years old and already lived in a world where discussing wrap drive was normal. My AP Biology teacher was shocked when I mentioned a singularity in class one day, surprised that a high school senior would know the term (which she made me define in front of the class before she was satisfied), but I’d been raised on a steady diet of Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, and every science fiction and fantasy novel I could get my hands on—my father handed me Isaac Asimov books in elementary school and I read them, wondering why I didn’t have a robot nanny or automatic food-making gadgets. I am a native speaker of technobabble.
All that to say: I’ve always been a nerd. And proudly so. But growing up I rarely saw people that looked like me onscreen—sure, we had Sulu, but George Takei was closer to my grandparents’ age than mine. Asian characters were few and far between, and girls? Girls didn’t like Vulcans or computers. Girls especially didn’t like dancing and princesses and talking about the space-time continuum all at the same time. Or so I was told.
But I was Asian. And female. And I existed.
I was the girl who hung out at the arcade playing Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, first surprising boys who saw a girl in front of a fighting game, then shocking them when I won. I was the foreigner who walked into first grade in the middle of the school year, a Chinese kid from another country but a native speaker of English. I was the founding member of the high school forensics team who learned quickly that judges gave higher ratings to performances of minority stories by minority students than they did mainstream stories by minority students—so while the handful of black students I competed against performed passages from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, I lent dramatic flair to Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club. I often won.
And now? I’m the bellydancer, firespinner, singer-songwriter, and nerd who designs and codes websites. I obsess with sparkles and sequins and makeup and then wrestle with merge conflicts in GitHub. I flirt with audiences and shimmy to Balkan brass bands and then debate backstage whether Daleks or Cylons would win in a fight. I sing 19th century French poetry layered on piano parts in 7/8 time inspired by traditional Chinese folk music, Americana, and jazz. I break stereotypes into tiny pieces and eat them like candy. I exist.
Growing up, the few Asians I saw in media invariably fell into tropes: the martial arts master, the submissive woman, the uber-nerd/scientist, the Dragon Lady seductress. None of these matched my personality. While I was able to beg my way into flute and voice lessons—in addition to piano—my father refused to let me study tae kwon do on the grounds that it would be “like handing a kid a loaded gun and telling him not to use it.” People told me I was bossy—my heroes were characters like Princess Leia and Babylon 5’s Delenn, forces of personality who were fully themselves and didn’t need rescuing. I was more Captain Kirk than Yeoman Rand. I was a geek, but I had far more interest in music and dance than I did in math or chemistry; science interested me primarily as story. And I had no idea what it would mean to be seductive—my conservative evangelical church preached “modesty,” and Bible camp banned spaghetti strap tank tops, two-piece swimsuits, and short shorts on the grounds that they would evoke lust in the boys.
I didn’t exist.
I grew up around Americans who discussed race in black and white terms, expressing couched racism with the assumed understanding that I was one of them. Those were the same Americans who complimented my English, told me my face was flat, and pontificated about how eating Chinese food was great except that you were hungry again immediately afterward. After the last election, CNN disseminated a chart of votes with breakdowns by both race and gender: Black men voted this way, black women this way, Hispanic men and women these ways. Asian-Americans didn’t appear on the chart—we were literally “Other.”
As an Asian-American theatre major, so often I was cast as that literal Other: I spent two summers performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in college. The first year, I was one of the fairies. So were most of the black students. The one who wasn’t a fairy was cast as Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons. The second year, we reprised the show; I was cast as Hippolyta. All of the black students were fairies. The Greeks and lovers were uniformly white.
How often do we cast an Asian-American as the protagonist, the superhero whose origin story we follow? How often do we allow an Asian-American to lead a movie as a swashbuckling rogue, the resistance fighter who marries a princess along the way, the rockstar with thousands of screaming fans? Hollywood casts Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park in The Martian—with so few roles available to begin with, we’re often denied even characters who should look like us. We’re over 5% of the US population, but only 1.4% of the lead characters in studio films released in 2014. According to Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, the majority of media features zero named or speaking Asian characters. Zero.
Two years ago I attended a curated acoustic music showcase where every single one of the musicians was a white guy with a bushy beard. Most of them wore plaid. Producers often think of diversity in terms of instrumentation or musical style; I’ve released two albums of original music, toured 10 states, and performed hundreds of shows, but it’s rare to see another folk singer-songwriter of color. While the genre is dominated by white people, Asian-Americans are making this music. And making it well. We exist, but we’re not part of the narrative.
Living in a world where people who look like you are functionally non-existent yields odd fruit. As an ambitious elementary school kid, I wrote (what I considered then) a novel. Starring ninjas. Based heavily on the Ninja Gaiden video game. Of course I Mary Sued my way into the story. But I always envisioned my surrogate as white. And male. (Because, we’re told, the appropriate protagonist of an adventure story is white. And male.) Likewise, when I wrote other stories, every character—heroes, villains, NPCs—was white.
Bryan Lee O’Malley of Scott Pilgrim fame talks about how he never realized that he’d whitewashed himself out of his own story until seeing his comic in movie form and realizing that no one looked like him. As I’ve talked with other Asian-Americans, I’ve realized that I wasn’t the only one—many of us did the same thing. Even the excellent Ted Chiang—one of my favorite writers, and the first Asian-American I can recall encountering in science fiction—falls into this. We’re so conditioned to believe that white is the default that we write ourselves out of the worlds that we create.
I refuse to be invisible.
Faced with a culture that minimizes the existence of Asian-Americans in the arts, I’ve long created my own projects. In 2012, I founded Raks Geek, joining my love of geekdom and dance to form a nerd-themed bellydance and fire performance company that features a primarily Asian and LGBTQIA cast. While our society pigeonholes Asians as socially-awkward scientists, perpetual foreigners, and weak submissives, I’m determined to show Asians can be creative, tough, and unconventional.
“To dance is a radical act.”*
A body on a stage makes a statement. A female, POC body on a stage makes a statement. When I dance, I’m changing the narrative, the story of what an Asian-American woman is allowed to be. When I dance with Raks Geek, I’m making an audience laugh at the ridiculousness of a Wookiee shimmying, but I’m also bringing a new audience to an insular dance form, teaching them what bellydance looks like at a high level of technical and artistic proficiency, and defying a host of model minority and immigrant stereotypes.
Visibility matters. Few would conceive of an Asian-American bellydancer performing as a Wookiee. Or Mystique. Or the TARDIS. But I do, and I hope to challenge perceptions of who we are and can be every time. We exist, and we have always been here.
* “To dance is a radical act because doing so implies that there are forms of knowing that cannot be mediated to us in words, which give words their meaning.” -Kimerer LaMothe
Dawn Xiana Moon is a lifelong geek that has worked professionally in almost every area of the arts. She the Founder and Producer/Director of Raks Geek, a nerd-themed bellydance and fire company that’s garnered acclaim from WGN-TV, MSN, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Mail, and UK Channel 4 TV. As a singer-songwriter, Dawn has performed in 10 states and released two solo albums; her latest CD, Spaces Between, fuses elements from traditional Chinese music with jazz and alt folk pop. She performs with Read My Hips tribal bellydance, spins fire with Acrobatica Infiniti circus, works as a UX designer and web developer, and has written for Uncanny Magazine, The Learned Fangirl, and RELEVANT Magazine. Though she loves Chicago, she periodically needs to flee the US; her wanderlust has brought her to 20 countries (and counting!) thus far.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
My parents knew I was a witch before I was born. The signs were there, they told me. They were unmistakable.
Well. Not all of the signs, or they never would have kept me as long as they did. But enough: My mother’s hair, previously sedate and well-mannered, turned curly and wild during her pregnancy, sometimes even grabbing forks from other people’s hands at meals. Clocks ran backward when she went near them, and thirteen grey cats took up residence in our front yard for the last month before I was born.
Also, I was born on a Tuesday.
I loved this from beginning to end. It's a pretty fast read (under 4,000 words), in lucid candle-language. Give it a try.
[Note to the pedantic: my "books" tag is for stories as well because I am lazy and bad at tagging.]
I am most interested in the following possible new stories in a hexarchate short collection
Jedao backstory when he was growing up with his family
what happened to Jedao's sister Nidana after Hellspin
Jedao backstory when he was serving with the Kel
what happens to Cheris after everything, with bonus math pedagogy
how Kel Ragath got Up to Things
gay romance on the Citadel of Eyes ([redacted]/Niath) with bonus angst
the misadventures of Andan Zhe Navo during her first military assignment
the founding of the heptarchate feat. Liozh and Kel
mini-gamebook about Jedao and his first anchor (actually, you're getting this regardless)
Nirai Mahar's backstory
follow-up on Tseya vs. Mikodez
Moroish Nija's training
Mikodez's rise to power, feat. Zehun
ticky the talky tocky
something else I will suggest in comments
ETA: If it helps, the mini-gamebook will also feature snarky commentary from Mikodez and Zehun.
Prompt: hexarchate, "birth dates."
When she was six, Cheris stopped receiving Mwennin birthday pastries.
For reasons that wouldn't become clear to her until much later, her parents had just moved out of the Mwennin ghetto in the City of Ravens Feasting and to a small house nearer the sea. Cheris missed their old home, even though it had been smaller, and she also missed the other Mwennin children who gathered in the streets to skip rope, or play tag, or chant the counting games that were so risky in the hexarchate. But the new house wasn't all bad. It had a garden, and Cheris liked to chase the dragonflies or pick flowers for her mother and father.
Her mother had impressed upon her that she had two birthdays. One of them was the ordinary birthday that all hexarchate citizens shared. Everyone (so her mother said) was a year old when they were born, for the time spent either in womb or crèche, and then they added another year each New Year. This way no one's birthday was singled out.
But the Mwennin did it differently. They had their own calendar, which Cheris had memorized. Most nights her mother made her go to bed early so that she wouldn't be too tired in the morning when she had school. But sometimes her mother let her stay up, not to play make-believe with her collection of plush dragon toys or read a book, but to study the Mwennin calendar and its feast-days.
Cheris was very good at numbers, and very good at both the high calendar and the Mwennin calendar. Even after she'd gone to bed, she'd lay awake in the darkness, staring at the comforting candlevines that glowed faintly from the walls. Her mother and father always made sure to turn them down low, but not too low, so she wouldn't have to be afraid of the shadow-monsters that lived in the closet. Her teacher at school had assured her that, yes, meditation, especially during remembrances, would keep away the shadow-monsters, but when she repeated this to her parents, their faces turned sad, so she didn't talk about that anymore.
Because she was very good at calendars, she had a hard time falling asleep the night before her Mwennin birthday. Back in the old neighborhood, on your birthday, people would bring you pastries of fine flaky dough with sweet almond paste and rosewater syrup, or little kumquat candies, goat's milk caramels with little crunchy flecks of pistachios. And after dark, in the safety of your home, people would gather and sing songs in archaic Mwen-dal. Cheris liked the songs best of all, even if she stumbled over some of the words, because she had a clear, sweet voice and the adults always complimented her on how well she stayed in tune.
Her parents woke her early the next morning. She blinked up blearily at the pale morning light filtering through the curtains, then sat up in glee, thinking of the gifts that were to come. Then she noticed the looks on her parents' faces. They'd had the same ones when she said the teacher had encouraged her to meditate.
Cheris's father took her hands between his, then looked at Cheris's mother.
"Cheris," her mother said, "we can't celebrate your Mwennin birthday anymore. Do you understand? It's too risky."
Cheris didn't understand.
"You can have an extra dessert tonight," her mother went on. "But there will be no more Mwennin birthdays. Not for any of us."
Cheris's mother circled her with her arms. "We'll go for a walk by the shore when I get out of work," she said. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Cheris sensed that her mother was even more upset than she was, and her mother didn't even like sweets. At least, she always gave her sweets to Cheris. "I'm all right," she said, because she wanted to be brave for her mother. "Can we have extra pastries on New Year's instead?"
There was a catch in her mother's voice. "Of course, my dear."
Cheris still wasn't sure why her mother was upset. True, she had hoped for something nice to eat today, but if she had the same number of pastries in total over the course of the year, it was basically the same. It wasn't so important what day she got to eat them.
And her mother was as good as her promise. Every New Year after that, up until Cheris left for Kel Academy, there were extra pastries.
Looking back at my previous blog series of BVC — Dice Tales is now set to be an ebook! You can currently pre-order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, and Kobo; or you can wait for the on-sale date of July 18th and get it from DriveThruRPG or direct from the publisher, Book View Cafe. This is edited and expanded from the original blog series, with more than half a dozen new essays.
And — as a teaser — while it is my first foray into game-related publishing, it may not be my last . . .
What I went to the library to check out: Batman and Psychology. It was missing from the shelves of the main branch but the nice librarian put a copy on hold for me from one of the other branches, so I'll get to pick it up in a few days.
What I came away with from the one-cent-per-book discard sale:
- Replica and Resistance by Jenna Black. Casual perusal of the back cover suggests there is a replica with missing memories from his original who has been murdered PLEASE DON'T SUCK I eat this particular trope up with SPOONS.
- Gail Carriger's Curtsies and Conspiracies, Waistcoats and Weaponry, and Manners and Mutiny, books 2-4 of Finishing School; I will have to obtain book 1 somehow (I think someone else beat me to it at the discard sale). I don't even CARE if they're any good, those are fab titles, and at one cent per book it's hard to argue.--It turns out the library has book 1, Etiquette and Espionage, on Overdrive, so I could theoretically start it whenever I wanted to.
- David Marusek's Getting to Know You, a short story collection--the name sounds familiar but I can't place it. Anyway, I'll try the short stories and who knows? Maybe I'll enjoy them. Again, at one cent, not a huge loss if it's not for me after all.
- And finally, THE BEST FIND (well, other than CLONE AMNESIA, which is always Relevant To My Interests): America's Maritime Heritage by Eloise Engle & Arnold S. Lott, ©1975 by the United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland. I am dying of curiosity and also, I suck at all naval history that is not the Imjin War, so even a flawed--even a jingoistic--textbook will be interesting.
Which book(s) from my library haul should I read first?
David Marusek's GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Engle & Lott's AMERICA'S MARITIME HERITAGE
Gail Carriger's ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE
Jenna Black's REPLICA
ticky the tacky tocky!
ETA: Feel free to elaborate on your votes in comments! =)
Notice the "age 16+" and "not for children."
I don't even CARE if the gameplay sucks, IT'S ABOUT TENTACLE MONSTERS AND SCHOOLGIRLS. AH HA HA HA HA. I need to make Joe play it with me while the dragon is visiting her grandparents for the summer.
Prompt: young Jedao (hexarchate/heptarchate), "cat, winter."
Jedao would rather have been doing anything but cleaning the bathroom, but his older brother Rodao had skipped out on the chore in favor of a night out with his boyfriend. Their mother was working late tonight, as usual, so she wouldn't know or care who did the job as long as it got done. Besides, Jedao considered it useful to have additional blackmail material on Ro. He couldn't decide whether it was hilarious or annoying that Ro had suddenly become interested in dating. At eleven, Jedao didn't see what all the fuss was about.
In the meantime, he still couldn't figure out how those weird purple stains had gotten onto the bathtub. Had his mother been pouring her experiments into the tub instead of disposing of them properly? Or did it have something to do with her attempts to brew up new and exciting shampoos?
"Jay," said a soft, snuffling voice from the doorway.
Jedao set down the sponge and sat back on his haunches. His six-year-old sister Nidana was scrubbing her eyes. "What's the matter?" he asked.
Nidana burst into tears.
Jedao stripped off the rubber gloves, quickly washed his hands, and put his arms around her. "Hey there," he said. "I didn't think the book I gave you to read was that scary." The book in question had featured a bold girl space adventurer who punctured space monsters with her space rapier. Ordinarily Nidana loved that sort of thing.
After the snuffling and wailing had dwindled, Nidana said, "I went outside to look at the tree with the really big icicles."
"All right," he said, "did you hurt yourself?" He'd had icicles fall on him before. The big ones were no joke. She didn't look injured, but maybe she'd had a scare.
"Jay," she said, "I can't find the cat. I think she got out."
"All right," he said, suppressing his alarm. The cat, which Nidana had named Bunny when she was five, had a talent for getting herself stuck up trees. (Nidana's vocabulary for animals had left something to be desired at that age. The family also had a dog named Bunny, two finches named Bunny, and a snake named Bunny.) Bunny-the-cat tried to escape at every opportunity, and while Jedao wouldn't have worried for her during warmer weather, he didn't like the thought of her trapped outside in the cold. "Go bundle up. Let's go look for her."
Jedao helped Nidana with her sweater, coat, mittens, hat, scarf, and boots, then pulled on his own winter clothes. He left a note tacked to the small corkboard next to the door, just in case. "Come on," Jedao said. "We'll find Bunny."
Nidana snuffled some more. "I didn't mean to, Jay."
"I know." It was too bad that Bunny-the-cat hated Bunny-the-dog. The latter was reasonably good at tracking, but his habit of trying to nip at Bunny-the-cat's tail whenever he could catch her wouldn't do them any good here.
They traipsed out onto the path that Jedao and his brother had shoveled that morning. The wind had blown more snow onto the path in feathered drifts, but it was still walkable. Unfortunately, it also meant that any tracks the cat might have left were obscured.
"Show me where you went," Jedao said.
Nidana led him to the sycamore with its mantle of glistening icicles. He broke one off from a lower branch so that she could suck on it. If nothing else, it would distract her.
"Bunny!" Nidana called in between licking her icicle. But there was no sign of the cat.
Jedao and Nidana checked all the buildings they were allowed into, and some that they weren't. The cat remained elusive. The sun sank lower and lower in the sky, and Nidana was starting to shiver. Jedao made sure not to walk too quickly for her to keep up, despite his increasing concern for Bunny.
At last, discouraged, they returned to the front door of their home. Bunny-the-dog almost bowled Nidana over when they came in. "Stop that," Jedao said, and made the dog sit. He and Nidana shed their winter clothes, and Jedao hung them up in the hallway closet. "Nidana, keep the dog entertained. I'll check around the house."
The dog's wagging tail was thumping loudly against the floor, and the dog was busy slobbering all over Nidana. Nidana didn't seem to mind this, and at least the dog kept her from bursting into tears thinking of the cat.
For his part, Jedao systematically searched every room of the house but one. He knew most of the cat's usual hiding places. At last he came to his brother's room and hesitated. Ro had threatened him on pain of being fed to the geese not to barge into Ro's room...but Jedao had checked everywhere else he could think of.
"The hell with this," Jedao said, since Nidana wasn't around to overhear him, and entered. The first thing he noticed was that one of the dresser drawers was slightly open. He pulled it out: aha. Bunny-the-cat was curled up in a nest of Rodao's socks, underwear, and...magazines? Jedao eased one of the magazines out from beneath the cat and flipped it open to a full-color picture of two naked men. Fascinated, Jedao started paging through.
Bunny-the-cat suddenly hissed. Jedao heard Bunny-the-dog woofing as he bounded toward them, and turned around to see Nidana padding after the dog. Hastily, he shoved the magazine back into the drawer. "The cat's fine, Nidana," he said. "She was just taking a nap."
"Can I see what you were reading?" Nidana said.
"No," Jedao said. He scooped the cat up despite her rather liberal application of claws and hastened out of his older brother's room, doing his best (which wasn't very) to herd Nidana and the dog at the same time. "The cat's safe, that's all that matters."