elialshadowpine: (Default)
This will be one of my few open posts, because I feel it's important enough to share beyond my friends list. Note that

Kameron Hurley (whose Bel Dame trilogy is amazing) wrote an essay for Locus Magazine, which is also quite excellent. The essay is worth reading in its entirety, but in it, Hurley speaks about feeling like she had to make excuses for what she wrote.

A couple excerpts:

Yet I contributed to this very narrative about my work. Instead of talking about my books as serious (or at least fun) literature, I found myself fall­ing into the same self-conscious trap I had as a kid, when I muttered about how I was writing a story about an expedition to Venus where the volcanos erupted with flowers. I said stuff like: ‘‘Oh, you probably won’t like it. It’s pretty weird,’’ or ‘‘It’s not for everyone,’’ or ‘‘You’ll only like it if you read a lot of science fiction.’’


and

Her reaction made me re-evaluate how I talked to people outside of SF/F about the books I love. In SF/F circles, we delight in complexity and sense-of-wonder. We spend millions upon millions of words debating about the slim difference between ‘‘science fiction’’ and ‘‘fantasy.’’ But folks outside of it really couldn’t care less. People outside of the SF/F bubble just want to know, quickly and simply, what it’s about.


While there is definite truth to what Hurley is talking about (and let me say that I am not criticizing Hurley for not speaking about this; I am fairly certain it is something she is aware of herself, but there are many reasons she may have chosen not to address this), there is another factor that she hasn't addressed, and that is gender. Women are specifically taught from childhood not to "show off". Instead of talking excitedly about things we are interested or things we are creating, we are expected to be demure, humble, and even self-deprecating. Heaven forfend we actually take pride in our work.

It's difficult cultural training to overcome. Moreso if you also have social anxiety. Almost all writers are taught that it's just a hobby, that it's not real work, but there is a pernicious sexism when it comes to women. I'm considering some of the panels that I have seen, where there were both men and women on the panel. The men were exuberant and raring to talk about their book; the women visibly struggled to describe their books. These are all published authors.

I do not see the issue as much in romance, where men are uncommon. I see women excited and ready to share their stories, and full of pride about them -- well, so long as they are in groups where romance writing isn't considered "trash". In SFF, even now, there are is still the old boys' club, and while people are working to dismantle that, it takes time, beacuse there are people (usually men, but not always) fighting every step of the way.

While I have talked about being raised as male (long story, but the TL;DR version is that I was homeschooled and dreadfully isolated, and my father wanted a son; after my mother had my sister, she said no more children -- therefore and ever after, my dad dubbed me the son he did not have), I did not actually start talking about my writing much until I started embracing my femininity and womanhood. It was something I noticed, and it is something that worked its way into my subconscious.

It ties in, too, with Imposter Syndrome, which affects women at a higher rate than men. The downside of encouraging self-deprecation is that women start to believe it. When you believe that your work is shit and not worth anything, it's not surprising that women back down for fear of reprimand or scolding. There is a definite subset of people who seek to knock women who are confident about their abilities "down a peg."

In light of that, how can we expect women not to make excuses for their work? It's ingrained. It's there in our very society, and it is certainly there in writers' communities and organizations. It's insidious, to the point many of us don't even know we're doing it.

The solution? Become aware. Know that it is affecting us. Fight it when and where we can (and if and only if it is safe to do so; as important as it is, ideology is not worth someone's physical or mental well-being). At the very least, be proud of ourselves, even when we can't speak up. When we can, tell our stories, and tell people what they're about. Sometimes that means memorizing your blurb until you can say it in your sleep (I can't be the only one whose thoughts fly out of her head the moment she's put on the spot). Sometimes it means having the strength and will to just say it -- and it's hard to say, make no mistake.

But each time, it gets a little easier. (At least, it does for me.) If you're not able to, don't beat yourself up; there will be other chances. This is not an all or nothing game; this is a progression. For every two steps forward, there will be one step back. This is still progress.

Write what you love. Stand up for your work. Or don't, if it's not safe. But most of all: Be proud, because you have your work, and nobody can take that away from you.

I must also add: A great big thank you to Kameron Hurley for writing about this, because it's an important topic. I urge again, for anyone who is interested in a science fantasy Muslim based future setting with plenty of POC, a foul-mouthed and tough-as-nails queer assassin protagonist (who puts all the supposed "ass-kicking, tough-as-nails" women protagonists to shame), and an awesome team of characters that includes shape shifters and bug magic with a very devout but not so very good magician, and their many adventures -- CHECK THESE BOOKS OUT, THEY ROCK. (This series is probably my favorite from the entirety of 2013.)
elialshadowpine: ([misc] not innocent)
Since the internet has been abuzz with rants and raves about this particular book... well. Initially, I was going to be the Cool Kid and not read it, but I gave in. ;) As always, I has thoughts!

(For those who have been living under a rock, Fifty Shades of Grey is a barely rewritten Twilight/Edward alternate universe fanfic in which Bella (Ana) is just graduating college and Edward (Christian) is a multimillionaire businessman. The book is about their romance and involves a lot of sex and BDSM. It's very clearly smut. The author, E. L. James published it through a small press which I believe is an author co-op and somehow, it sold like hotcakes. James now has a contract with Random House and a movie deal is in the works, though I have no idea how they're going to make this into anything less than an NC-17 rated movie.)

Let me get this out of the way first: The book is a hot mess. I have read significantly better prose in crit groups, and this is some of the worst writing I've encountered. I'm not surprised that the "publisher" was actually an author co-op, because it's pretty obvious between grammar errors, bad formatting, horrible punctuation, and writing that just plain doesn't make sense, that no editor touched this thing.

However, having read it, I'm not surprised it's popular. Let's face it: Many readers are not as discerning as writers are (which makes sense; we work hard at our skill and thus we see errors more easily), and I've honestly lost track of the number of times I've heard a reader say they care more about the story; good writing is just a bonus. On top of that, the story follows a well-worn wish fulfillment fantasy: that of the hot, wealthy businessman with loads of issues who falls in love with the girl next door and can only be healed by the power of true love. Look at pretty much every Harlequin Presents romance in existence; these books are not uncommon. The big difference with Fifty Shades is that it became popular outside of romance circles.

(Also I must add here: Not all romances follow this trope. There are plenty of well-written romances with strong heroines and non-asshole heroes. Considering I write romance, I don't really want to hear crap about the genre, thanks. ;)

But that's not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is the BDSM aspects. And for this I'm continuing under a cut with WARNING for frank talk about sex, BDSM, consent, coercion/sexual assault, and related stuffs; also includes some discussion of victim-blaming )
elialshadowpine: ([wow] Eilwyn - art)
Read this to have any clue as to what I'm talking about.

Thank gods for lorazepam. Really, thank gods. It is the only way I am all up in this post (the linked one on the beta forums), arguing back and forth with all the idiots who are screaming "censorhsip!!!" and "coercion/pressure!!" because numerous women have stated that they are uncomfortable with the dialogue of a questgiver as it stands and offered several possible solutions.

I expected a good bit of backlash from men, but it's sad how many women have spoken up to say that they see no problem with a character that hits on you and reduces you to your looks while a male character is complimented on his strength and prowess. Aren't we supposed to be worth more than that?

(I meant to post this earlier this morning but apparently didn't click the post button before I zonked out for the day. Whoops.)

direct link to the forum thread now that it's loading for me again. I'm Eilwyn on there.
elialshadowpine: ([misc] muse hunter)
I love urban fantasy. I have for years. I started out with Mercedes Lackey's Diana Tregarde series, then discovered Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books, and longed for more. For a long while, it just didn't exist. Annnnnd then it boomed.

Unfortunately, there's a pattern in urban fantasy that I have a huge problem with and has been turning me off the genre more and more. And that's the treatment of women in urban fantasy. You would think this wouldn't be an issue. After all, most urban fantasy these days features a tough, competent, kickass heroine. What could go wrong? Well, a lot of things.

Most prevalent is the overwhelming tendency to completely defang women. Hear me out. Most modern urban fantasy has a heavy romantic subplot and borrows heavily from romance tropes. Being a writer myself, I follow a lot of writing circles, and I can't tell you how many times I have heard someone say, "I have this awesome heroine, but she's so capable, she does everything! And I need to make the hero sexy! And nobody will find the hero sexy if the heroine can do better than him!"

Ignoring the obvious solution of having the hero and heroine have completely different and complementary strengths, far too many writers go for the TSTL solution. If I had a penny for every time I saw a heroine do something completely out of character... *sigh*

Like, oh, storming off for no good reason and doing something utterly stupid that nobody competent in their field would do. Usually because, well, the hero suggested it, and thus he must be wrong. And if there was a good reason for the heroine to disagree, great! But that's often not it at all. It's a matter of cutting off her nose to spite her face. It's a plot device to put the heroine in a position where the hero has to come to the rescue and save her from her own stupidity -- and frankly, this is just insulting. And it's common. Ridiculously common. And it's lazy writing.

It's one thing if, hey, the heroine runs into odds that she can't beat, or an enemy that's stronger than her, or gets outwitted by someone equally as capable. But that's not what's happening. These are situations the author is forcing the heroine into by making her act out of character for the purpose of giving the hero a moment to shine. Why not put the characters in situations where both their skills are needed? But, that wouldn't allow the heroine to be the damsel in distress, now would it?

One of the other major issues in urban fantasy in regards to women is how the heroines relate to other women. In a genre that is so focused on strong female characters, it is pretty shocking how few heroines actually have relationships with other women. Often, other women are not friends and allies, but the enemy. Often, the heroine looks down on other women. And you see the same trope over and over again -- the leather-clad dark and tortured gun-toting heroine whose strength is all physical or perhaps supernatural.

This is really just the whole "girl in the boy's club" thing rearing its head. Femininity is derided while masculinity is put on a pedestal. Rarely do we see women who enjoy feminine things, and when we do, it's usually a slight touch rather than an integral part of the character. Even Anita Blake, with her stuffed penguin collection, dismisses and derides other women. It's been a long time since I read the books, admittedly, and I haven't read the recent ones, but of the early series, all the characters that I recall her being close to were male.

(Mind, the problem is not that masculine-leaning heroines exist. The problem is that they are the sole archetype that we see commonly in urban fantasy heroines.[1])

Very few urban fantasies actually pass the Bechdel test (two women, who talk to each other, about something other than a man). For a genre that is supposedly woman-focused, that's just sad. Where are all the relationships between women? Most of us have friends who are women, mothers, sisters, aunts, etc. Where are they?

So what's the solution here? It comes down to writers being aware of the social implications their fiction will have. Because words have meanings, and stories have power. If they didn't have power, Piers Anthony's Mode books wouldn't have helped me when I was a suicidal teen, and Mercedes Lackey's books wouldn't have helped me come to terms with my bisexuality.

When even supposedly strong heroines are undermined at every turn and cannot succeed without the aid of a man, the underlying message is that of Well, if $awesomecharacter can't do it, why should I believe I can? Women are already at a disadvantage in society, with all the negative messages lobbed at us. We should be able to read fiction that empowers us, not reinforces that we are nothing without a man.

I am not saying that heroines should be all-powerful, because that would be boring. But if you're writing about a top-notch FBI agent, you don't have her forget basic gun safety. You don't have her barging into trouble without thinking about it. You don't have her so distracted by the hero's good looks that she misses the villain's move and gets trapped (and yes, I have read this). It sends a very negative message.

So how do you get around it when you need the heroine to screw up somewhere? Well, make it a believable screw-up, not something that a rookie would do (unless your character is a rookie, but most of the heroines I've seen in urban fantasy are purported to be some of the best at what they do). Or, hey, maybe she doesn't have all the information, makes a decision on what she knows, and then finds out that she was missing a vital piece of the puzzle.

But you know what I'd love to see more of? I'd love to see more heroines who get themselves out of that pickle, rather than heroines who have to be rescued by the hero. But, how do I manage an alpha hero and heroine and their power struggle without having one or the other knuckle under? Not everything has to be a power struggle, although they can be fun to write. The best alpha heroes I've read have been adept in their own field but respected the heroine in hers and listened to her opinions. But what if they're both experts in the same field? Well, hey, they're probably going to argue -- but the automatic reaction shouldn't be for the heroine to be the one who's wrong. Mix it up a little. Or hey! Maybe they're both wrong.

There's a lot of focus on alpha heroes in urban fantasy and a need to make them sexy. You know what? The sexiest heroes I've read aren't the ones who are always rescuing the artificially created dumbass heroine -- they're the ones who respect the heroine, her abilities, her strengths, and love her for who she is. The ones who aren't threatened by a strong woman. The ones who know when it's appropriate to take a backseat. The ones who know when it's time to stand their ground, and when it's time to say, "Hey, you know more about this than I do", or "I don't agree, but let's compromise." It's not an all or nothing situation.

I'd love to see more women who have relationships with other women, too. I'd also like to see a greater breadth of heroines -- heroines of color, heroines with disabilities, queer heroines, etc! Or hey, maybe not the heroine but a lady friend who is one of the above, or someone deeply involved in the story. I'd love to see more focus on this, because the lone uber!heroine surrounded by a sausage-fest is getting old.

This is something that writers have the power to change. Let's change it.


[1] I know there are exceptions to this. Please do not focus on them. This is a widespread issue, and the fact that there are exceptions does not negate that the overwhelming majority of urban fantasy heroines fits only one archetype.
elialshadowpine: (Default)
This song is perfect for the current situation. Look it up online, or at least the lyrics.

I'm not covering Holly Lisle's ass anymore. I'm not covering anything up here for her. You can shovel the shit under the rug, but sometimes it's got to get cleaned up.

If you've read the Moderator Changes thread at Forward Motion, you have at least one side of what happened. Heavily slanted in the worst possible way to make Shay and I look bad. I expected this. It's not the first time I've seen a smear campaign go on Forward Motion, but last time, I made the mistake of siding with Holly. I want to make a public apology here to Jennifer St. Clair, who was banned from FM last year. I still don't know the full story behind why she was banned, but given my recent experiences, I'm liable to believe she wasn't in the wrong.

When I first came to Forward Motion, I was 17. I've never acted my age, but whenever anyone found out how old I was, they suddenly treated me different. Either they avoided me or they patronized me; a few honestly treated me like an adult. I don't believe in judging people by the calendar. I've known too many people who're well over legal age who act like spoiled grade school kids and too many underage kids that act like adults to ever do that.

I saw underage kids on FM get similar treatment. Allikat and Julia would get teased about shit that adults didn't, just because they were underage. I saw people support Alli's father's verbal and emotional abuse because she was underage and "it's natural for children to feel that way towards their parents." I didn't want to get treated that way. So I stayed silent about my age. When asked, I would say I was a college sophomore. Which I was, because of WA State's Running Start program which provides college tuition for gifted teens.

Omitting my age out of fear of discrimination is just as valid as if I were pagan or gay and feared the same. Actually, I would have felt safe coming out pagan or gay (I did come out bi in FM and no one had a problem with it). Age is the real discrimination issue on FM. Moderators would deny it, but look at some of the posts and blog entries about children and their views towards them. I don't trust overprotective parents, no matter how well-intentioned they are, because I lived with mine for 18 years and went through a lot of hell. Overprotectiveness often causes the exact opposite desired effect. It's not right to patronize people and distrust their judgement based soley on their age.

In September 2002, Holly Lisle asked me to become a moderator on FM. I was honored that she thought that highly of me. There was nothing on the site that said you had to be 18 to be a mod, so I agreed. I acted with decorum as a moderator, and I was active both on the boards and in chat.

When I turned 18, I wrote Holly a request to join Writerotica, and apologized for any trouble that my omission might have caused her personally. Not because I regretted what I'd done, but I'm prone to gratuitious apologies for other people's feelings, something I'm working on.

I'm not apologizing for anyone's feelings here.

Holly wrote me back and said that it was fine, that everything was going to be okay. Things got back to normal and I figured she understood.

About a month and a half later, a thread was posted on the moderator's board about problem moderators. In it, Holly desrcibed a moderator that had lied about her age in order to gain moderator privilages, that she should have been a Junior Moderator. I wasn't aware the position existed, except that I vaguely recalled Julia and Nathan being Junior Mods, but they were active on YWS--something I never joined because I didn't fit there. Holly also said that moderator had been writing erotica and talking openly about it in chat, and who'd become romantically involved with an adult member of the site. She then went on later in the thread to say that I had written her, knew that I'd done something wrong, and apologized for it. Which I hadn't done, and I still don't know how she managed to interpret my letter that way.

But--there was no other moderator that fit that description. It could only be me, and I couldn't respect myself if I ducked my head and pretended it wasn't. So I posted to the thread and said outright that she was talking about me. I said that I hadn't lied, and that I hadn't been aware of any age requirement to be a moderator. I went up and looked around the site again to be certain. No age requirement. But apparently I was breaking rules?

You can't bind people by unspoken rules. People aren't mind-readers.

I also said that I didn't believe I'd done anything wrong. Omission isn't lying. I said that if I had it to do over again, in the same situation, I would have done the same thing. Somehow that became "Nonny would lie to Holly and not have a problem with it." I don't lie, and as I said on that thread, that was the only thing I'd been hiding. I gave her my word of that. I had nothing else to hide about myself, and I was glad of it.

Holly flamed me in response on the thread. She said multiple places that I didn't have integrity or ethics--or words to that effect. She chat banned me, then banned me from the moderator's board while I was ruminating on my reply. I don't like to make angry posts. They never solve anything. I didn't know what was happening. I was terrified of losing the community. The timing of the incident royally sucked, because it was just before I thought I had to make an emergency evacuation from my home in WA. Thankfully, with that situation, my parents chilled, and I didn't have to. But I posted about it on my blog. I still don't know if it was intentional or just bad timing. I'd like to believe the latter.

But--at the time, I didn't know if I was going to lose FM totally, when they were all I had left. Without access to the mods board, I couldn't do anything. The only thing I could really do was email or post publically. The latter would have gotten me booted. The former--I'll be honest. I didn't and don't trust Holly enough to want that to be private. Without other witnesses, it soon turns into a game of "He said, she said."

I got banned completely from the site that night, with my access removed. A moderator--I'm not going to say who--told me that Holly had posted on mods board and said that I'd reacted with militant rage in my post and was no longer welcome at the site because I didn't have any integrity.

I don't rage in posts. Like I said, it never does any good. I've found cold logic more than anything else works. It didn't in this case.

The only reason my access was returned was because Robert talked to Holly in private chat and managed to talk her down. I'm incredibly grateful for that. I don't know what I would have done then if I'd lost FM.

I didn't say anything about the incident after it happened because I was so afraid of being booted. The reason I was banned in the first place is that I disagreed with Holly on what constitutes a lie. I'm honest to a fault. I don't lie. I'll omit, but that's it, and I'd said as much on the mods board, and then only if I have reason to, closet being one of the few. Being underage is as much a closet as anything, and I respect closets.

In retrospect, I'm glad that Holly stripped me of moderator status. Mods board is a huge fucking soap opera, and it took a lot of time and effort. I'm sick of soap operas. Being removed from mod gave me distance to really look at things.

The rule Holly states on Main about moderator's board business staying on the mod's board was never posted anywhere when I became a mod. It didn't go into effect until after I'd been booted. It'd been an unspoken rule. I'm not bound by unspoken rules. Holly said on the Site Rules post on Main, "If you were ever a moderator, even if you aren't now, material on the moderators' board remains confidential. That's Shay, Nonny, anyone. If you decide you want to take confidential material public in an effort to argue with site policies, you'll (generic, not personal, you) be banned, right then and right there."

Sorry, but you can't bind people who are no longer moderators by a retroactive rule. They have to agree to it. And given as how I've already been banned, there's not much holding me back, is there?

I'll be honest. FM isn't what it was when I first came there. It's become more and more policed by moderators. Robert and I, and Alli and Erik, have been warned in chat for "Public Displays of Affection." One incident, we'd just said "Love you! Sleep well! *snuggles*" to each other. The no-PDA rule is only on the mods board. I have a problem with rules being kept secret so people don't know they're breaking any. After I was booted from moderator status, I'd been talking with someone and mentioned Holly had said there was a possibility I might be reinstated in the future. That person told me she'd made a rule that moderators have to be 21 now.

Funny thing is, I'm pretty sure some of the current mods are under 21. I might be mistaken. But this sort of thing should be openly posted, not squirrelled away on mods board.

I've talked multiple people out of leaving FM over Holly's site rages during the past months. She flamed PL on the saving the world thread back in February. I was a mod at the time and protested. If anyone else but her had behaved that way, they would have been banned. Shay had it right when he said that the site host should be more subject to her own rules than members. Otherwise you have a tyranny.

When Holly posted that FM isn't a democracy, that it's her living room and her rules--fine. I can understand and respect that. That's part of why we're starting Evolution, we're tired of the unilateral rules that're subject to whatever mood Holly happens to be in at the moment.

A couple weeks ago, I received a letter from Holly that insulted someone very dear to me. She further showed me who she was in that letter, and I started to get the feeling that things were going to hell, especially when Shay mentioned leaving again, after the ACLU thread from hell where Holly pretty much spoke out against free speech. That time, I didn't talk him out of it, and we both knew that he would be banned, given that anyone who dares disagree publically with Holly risks banning.

Holly posted that Shay and I were going around trying to get people in private IM in order for some sort of site conspiracy. That's not entirely true. Robert and I, along with some other friends, had decided to start a sepate branch writing site dedicated to free speech and creative expression in all genres. Evolution is that site. I went into chat and PMed friends and asked them into private IM to discuss development plans. I didn't have the site ready yet, and I didn't want to talk about it openly until it was closer to completion.

Is it now against site rules to ask people from chat into off-site IM conversations?

I'm glad I decided not to grab a private room on FM for Evolution discussion. Anything I happened to say to friends when venting would have been posted publically on FM out of context, as evidenced by Holly posting Shay's PMs.

People have said that Shay posted information about me without my consent. For the record, I okayed his resignation letter and didn't consider anything in it inflammatory. I also want to say I trust him implicitly and am proud to call him my friend. If site policy can't be criticized in public without the poster getting banned, there's something wrong. People who feel the same way as the banned aren't going to speak up. They'd be too afraid to.

I want to publically commend Big Mikey for having the courage to speak up on that thread and stand up for Shay. Thank you. That took a lot of courage.

Read the whole thread on Main. It's a doozy. Shay and I've been accused of being childish and playing games. Keeping a site that's early in development under wraps isn't a game. Apparently someone in a PM had said that I was afraid Holly would be mad. That's not entirely accurate. Holly has proven herself to be unpredictable. Actually, no, she's proven herself to be predictable in that imagined worst case scenario is probably the most likely response. I didn't know how she would take it, and I didn't want to say anything to the group at large anyway until I'd gotten Evolution up.

We also've been accused of trying to "steal members." That was never my intention, and I posted that on the thread. I was planning it as a branch community. There'd be FM members, there'd be Evolution members, and there'd be members of both. I was planning on being the latter, because I love the people at FM and didn't want to leave.

I posted that explanation on the thread. Actually, this is what I posted, word for word: "The reason I haven't been publically open about Evolution yet is that it's been in development and was in planning stages. I wanted some help with the site and brainstorming, but didn't feel comfortable discussing it openly. So I asked some friends into IM to brainstorm.

"I don't know what other people have been saying in PM. I can't speak for them. FM means a lot to me, and I don't want to "steal" people away. I don't think you can "steal" people. There were people who expressed concern in development chats that I and/or others would want them to abandon FM, and, to be honest, I was shocked at that, because that's not been my intention. Shay, Robert, and I intended it to be a branch community, with people in FM, people in Evolution, and people that are members of both. We aren't out to "steal" members. There's no real point to that. The last thing we would want to do is tear up the community."

I received this reply from Holly: "You've worn out your welcome here, Nonny. Between the lies and the theatrics, I've reached the end of my patience. You can either leave on your own, or I can kick you out, but I don't want you back here."

I don't see how keeping a site under wraps is theatrical. That single post was the only post I made on the thread at all. This reeks of projection. But ... I had a feeling when I posted, no matter what it was, that I would be banned. After the way things blew up, I honestly didn't expect anything else.

I don't agree with a lot of Holly's policies, but I'm incredibly grateful for all the writing help I've received, and the community is probably the best thing that's happened in my life. I'm going to miss that.

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elialshadowpine: (Default)
Nonny Blackthorne

January 2017

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