Archive for August, 2014

Urban fantasy rock(?) band wuxia

So. One of my friends on Twitter and I had a conversation culminating in the following:

 

Smoke spreads out a bamboo mat on the ground in front of the abandoned bar and set her taiko on its stand. The drum was slightly more than half her height in diameter and hollowed out of solid wood but she manipulates it with ease, her breath smooth and easy, her expression serene.

To the untutored eye, the Dragon would have been just another dilapidated building, rightfully condemned and left to decay. To her mage-sight, it blazes with golden light, a shimmering dome encasing the entire structure.

She takes a step forward and raises her hand. The magical shield presses back against her palm, unseen but definitely tangible.

Her lips shape a confident smile as she looks on what she considers her future territory.

“Soon,” she murmurs.

Settling into position behind the taiko, she takes a deep breath, spins her drumsticks in her hands once and starts drumming.

Slow but alert, the steps of an army on the march. Her movements are loose but precise, the bachi an extension of her arms, thudding a stable beat onto the cowhide. Then, the enemy is sighted. The troops pick up their pace, their blood flowing faster, their hearts drumming a war-cry in their ears. She flurries the excitement and trepidation of battle into her strokes, sending the blood-rousing resonance vibrating through the air.

Golden light gathers around her, motes of brilliance swirling in air displaced by her rhythm. Heat gathers in her core, her magic rising with her qi. She relaxes into the strokes, muscle memory taking over and concentrates on gathering her energy and her magic.

She would get the one chance to open the door. If she fails, that would be it. She’d be out of the running for the Guardianship of the city.

The notes rise into the air, conveying the soldiers’ will to engage, their resolve for victory. Light and magic surround her and the taiko, a whirlwind of power building into a battering ram. Long black hair floats out behind her on a wave of incense-scented heat and sweat trickles down her temple.

Ramping up the intensity, her arms and bachi blur through the air, beating out a warrior’s blood-crazed reach to live, to grasp victory and crush his enemies.

Her breathing comes faster as she weaves her breath and her will into the magic, willing the door to open.

“Aspirant!” The deep voice rolls out like thunder.

Smoke doesn’t look up, her focus complete.

A man in flowing robes and wielding two short swords steps forth from the shadows and starts for her.

She continues drumming, flowing through the motions. He leaps forward and slashes at her, aiming to disrupt her gathering of power. Smoke sways out of the way and blocks with one bachi, upping the speed with her other hand to keep the beat rising and kicked out at him.

He deflects and attacks again, faster this time. They both know that if he doesn’t stop her soon, the magic will complete.

Instead of ducking away, she curls into his space and stomps on his foot with one stiletto heel, her other hand driving her ironwood drumstick into his gut. Bringing her head forward in a crack against his nose, she jabs her elbow into his throat. He staggers back and she presses her advantage, landing a torrent of blows to drive the whirlwind to the height of its power.

“Go!” She strikes one last fusillade of notes culminating in a soaring crescendo and shouts out her will at the sky. The man falls back and lowers his swords, his face watchful, his eyes anticipatory.

The shield bends and bows under the force of her magic before giving way with a single resonant note reminiscent of a gong.

Smoke staggers back in relief, tears trailing down her face to mingle with her sweat.

The position as one of the Guardians is hers.

~~*~~*~~

 

I’m not certain this really fits with wuxia — I get the feeling it is somewhat more fantasy than wuxia, but hey. I am a fantasy writer after all. This piece really, really wants to be written in present. I kept trying to wrench it back to past but it refused, so I’m making it happy and present.

I suppose it’s fitting, after all. There is no past tense in wuxia the same way there are no old swordsmen.

Wedding weeping or angry wedding or?

What’s interesting is that apparently some cultures in China had a tradition where the bride-to-be would spend the days before her marriage crying, sobbing out her sorrow at leaving her maiden home and howling out her anger at the matchmaker.

Another tradition, much less practiced to be sure, involved the bride screaming imprecations at the groom and his family on the day of the wedding.

Supposedly, this was so she could get all of her feels out of the way before she married into another family where presumably she would have much less freedom and would be at the very lowest rung on the social ladder. Even the unmarried daughters of the family would, by virtue of being blood, often have slightly more social status than she would.

There’s is a Chinese saying “媳妇熬成婆”, which means the daughter-in-law has undergone a trial by fire to become the mother-in-law. That 熬 means to cook for a long time over a slow fire. Thus can you imagine the sort of prospect a new bride had to look forward to.

So I suppose it makes sense for her to get it all out before she marries. Hopefully once she’s worked herself into emotional exhaustion, she could manage whatever her new family threw at her with more equanimity.

 

My caterpillar eats mulberry leaves

Hrm, where to start.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Stop beating the dead horse, katje! But… but…

Anyway, go read Gabrielle’s post and then come back. Or not, if you don’t need a second dose of the same kinda medicine.

This whole thing is something I’ve struggled with, actually. The question of whether to try and agitate for more “mainstream” authors to write more diverse characters or to simply turn my back and solely seek out diverse characters who haven’t been discovered yet.

Of course, one can ask why choose? Can’t you do both?

Well, only so many spoons in a body in a day, really and right now my spoon foci is focused on not-dying/getting well and writing.

Which leads into the whole question of whose responsibility is it, really, to foster diversity in the world? And on whose dime spoons?

The situation: authors who write diverse characters want readers to support them; some readers want mainstream authors to write diverse characters but don’t really want to seek out diverse characters by authors who deliberately set out to write diverse characters because…because; other readers howl when they get tricked (offensive, much?) into reading about diverse characters and some Big Name authors either don’t give a damn or don’t have a clue or are hiding behind the whole “I write what I know/ I write what my muse tells me to” concept.

It’s a mess and I’m not helping, which makes me a damn hypocrite. Good thing I know it and own it and try very, very hard to work towards not being one.

Part of the problem is that, really, when hetero-normative, neuro-typical, melanin-challenged authors write diverse characters, they usually get a screaming horde on their hands. The readers who are pissed that their lily-white worldview has suddenly gone technicolor. (I can’t imagine the amount of righteous fervor over Disney’s Frog/Princess…) The readers who are pissed that they’re doing it wrong.

Another segment of the problem is that, well, most people aren’t readers anyway. Because it’s harder to read than to watch TV. Then with the readers, you have the fluff readers — those who read to escape and who really don’t want anything to challenge them within their happy-places.

Then you have the writers. Ah, ye gods, the writers. Here’s the thing: many writers who set out to write diverse characters or who have a mission? They tend to evangelize or they come down too heavy or something and …well, it can come out ugly is all I’m saying.

That author who somehow managed to turn a fantasy series into political evangelizing… the author who had her characters awkwardly extol the virtues of organic food and commented on how cellphones gave brain tumors… the relentlessly ethnic characters depicted in all their authentic glory….

For that last, I might get smacked, but I will admit in interests of full disclosure that often I do not read Asian American characters because it can be painful. When I read, I’m so rarely in the mood to be reminded of the darkest periods of my life over and over and over and over again. I get enough bullshit in real life that I do not want my face ground into painful reality when I’m trying to escape. I still tend toward As-A characters but I usually close the book if it actually starts grating on old wounds.

So okay, katje, what now? You’ve pretty much made a case to rationalize everyone being a dick, including yourself. Way to go. What now?

Welp.

We change despite it being hard? We change, together?

Because much as it pains my fluffy, fluffy soul, I agree with Chuck Wendig about needing to machete past the cushy padded walls of our comfort zones. Here’s me, agreeing to let you drag me out kicking and screaming.

Ah, you don’t want to go to that effort? …welp.

I saw a blog post once that what makes a bestselling book a bestseller isn’t the usual readers. It’s all the people who don’t usually read who get into a book and support it — that’s what makes dramatic explosions like HP and Twilight and Hunger Games. So I’m still with the noblesse oblige here, okay? I believe that if, by the grace of the Fates/God/gods, you have managed to catapult yourself into the public eye, maybe you could consider …diversifying a bit. Add a side character or two. Maybe have the romance interest be not-the-same if you can’t write a MC that way yet.

As a reader, I dip my toes in. So I’m okay with people dipping their toes. I didn’t start reading m/m until I was kinda tricked into it by accident, got snookered by superlative writing and never looked back. It was Jez Morrow and she’s awesome. I still don’t really read it as a matter of course, but I do read it now, thanks to her. Maybe Malinda Lo will be the one to do the same except with the other half of the coin. Don’t machete down your cushy walls if you don’t want to, but maybe, just maybe create a window and peer out. Don’t worry, the water’s fine. Nalini Singh’s Ria, for example, is a good way to ease into things. Laura Florand’s Sarah Lin in The Chocolate Temptation is another great one.

As a writer — well, I’m going back and smacking myself for all of my monochrome characters. It’s an evolving process, but hey, I’m learning. I think I need to go back and spray some color onto like half my cast, but it’s on the to-do list.

So…anyway, super long ramble at this point….

In wrapping up:

To prove my sincerity in shoving past my own limits, if anyone wants to send me a copy of their book-with-diverse-characters, I promise to read and review it.

Readers — please shout out in comments about books you love with diverse characters.

On general musings re: Asian(?) characters

I was browsing through Nice Dragons Finish Last and I was tempted to get it and finish reading because it really is very well-done and interesting and fun… but in the end I decided not to because I had a small (unreasonable, really) quibble that kept me from really getting into it: the idea that dragons are almost all power hungry, ruthlessly ambitious types who aren’t by nature kind or giving.

I admit, it’s unreasonable. But I’ve been feeling a bit bruised lately and so I’m choosing not to engage in a situation where I get more battered.

Magic Tests by Ilona Andrews did a bit of poking.

Before I go on further, let me just say I adore Ilona Andrews — I love their writing; I love their world-building; I’ll read anything and everything they put out. Including their blog posts, which are usually die-choking funny.

But it started with Myong – demure, quiet, passive, doormat-borderline-pathetic Myong. I hated her. I hate how sad she was, how weak, how quintessentially, stereotypically Asian female she vibed. Sure, there was Dali, but Dali wasn’t compared to Kate and didn’t come away lacking. Somehow Myong felt like a personal affront.

Well, also Dali did stupid things like race cars while half-blind which didn’t seem like the best characterization ever…

Then there’s Yu Fong… dragon-boy, Chinese, fiery … also conceited, arrogant, couldn’t bother to figure out what’s going on around him and be a decent human being, does something vaguely self-redeeming in the end and ruins it by claiming a favor…

Yeah, yeah, I got it. He’s a teenager. He’s probably intrigued in Julie and he knows that this is a way to keep on her radar. He’s been through a lot, he was offended by her implied criticism of him, yada yada yada. You know, I get it.

Doesn’t change the fact that I still feel a bit tender.

Because then there’s Nalini Singh’s Archangel of China, Lijuan, who is a complete and utter psycho crazy creepy nutcase. Because of course the Archangel of China can’t be sane, benevolent or an honorable ruler. Considering China’s recent/not-so-recent history, I can’t even begin to think about fair or unfair portrayals. Mostly because if I think that way I start thinking that Lijuan is a pretty good metaphor… All I know is that it stings. It stings every time Lijuan does something even more terrifyingly crazy.

Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe she drew names out of a hat. I mean, it’s not like the Archangel of India is that much saner…wait, she is. Neha might not be my favorite choice for who rules over my land but at least she doesn’t do unspeakable things to babies. Which, complete tangent? I’ve been vaguely wondering why the hell almost all of the female archangels with any power at all are almost all super cray.

Then there’s Ming Lebon. Okay. In the Psy-changeling world, everyone and everything is all mixed so it’s all good, right? Except why the hell does the crazy baddie need to be the man with the Chinese sounding name? Oh wait, maybe it’s a play on Ming the Merciless… except that wasn’t a lot of fun for me either. Yeah, crazy dictator space dude who …yeah no.

Sigh.

So I’m probably not going to pick up Nice Dragons Finish Last. Which is a pity. I would suggest people who don’t have my particular brand of crazy to check it out.

And back to the dead horse I keep beating — this is why more Asian characters would be nice. Then they’re just part of the scenery and not this shining beacon of “this is who you get to identify with in this world”.

When out of the many, many characters in these three series, I have Dali, Ria, Myong, Ming, and Lijuan to hang onto and three out of the five of them are certifiable? Not good for me or my bruises. And Ria was in a novella and less in the main series — I barely remembered her until I went digging.

And now I want to write dragon shifters. Benevolent, reclusive, hidden dragon shifters because that’s how I’ve always seen dragons. Princes of the sea and air, bringer of rain and good fortune. Maybe Estyria needs to meet a couple?

 

 

Uphill, in the snow, every day, both ways…

I saw a tweet today where someone was having a moment about Kickstarters for “Help me Fund my Novel”.  According to her,  you can write novels for free and if you need money, you should get a job.

*blink*

Well, okay.  Not a technically incorrect statement, but I was curious as to why the judgey. As an author herself, I was a little surprised to see that amount of vehemence and pissy.

So I tried fishing for the reason behind their statement:

“I dunno. Go a bit the other way and people start arguing that writers should write for free, too.”

Which, I stand by that statement. Once you start talking about in which cases people should or should not be allowed to charge for their work or how and how not…it’s a slippery slope straight to “well, if you really loved doing it, you’d find a way to make it happen and to provide it for free”.

I’ve seen it — it gets ugly.

They responded with:

“Absolutely not. That’s entirely different. You write your novel yourself. You sell it for money. That’s how it works.”

*blink*

At this point, I’m both amused and a little non-plussed by the vehemence and the almost dictatorial tone.  So, there’s a correct and incorrect way to do it now?

Personally I’m not usually one to spend money on Kickstarters of that ilk, but I’m not against them either. In my opinion, if someone is capable of selling their unwritten book in such a way that makes people want to give them money, I don’t see the problem.

I wonder if she’s all right with people self-publishing — is there a correct way to do that too? Or is it simply incorrect because the gate-keepers have not opened the pearly gates of Author-dom to them and they have burrowed under the gates illicitly?

She responds with:

“Every writer I know wrote their novels while working a day job. We didn’t ask people to fund us. We just wrote and worked.”

…at this point I’m wondering if there’s some sort of “I did it the hard way, therefore everyone else should too” mentality going on and if their “how things should be done” extends to housewives/husbands who don’t have a day job and stay home and write.

Also, seriously? That’s a lot of able-ism going on.

Just because you managed to pull yourself up by your own damn bootstraps doesn’t mean everyone else should be obliged to. Especially since it’s not even like welfare or food stamps where her taxes were going to pay for it.

I have clinical depression, anxiety and a list of health problems — I find it really hard impossible to cope as a working adult, much less managing to write on top of that.

When I work full-time, the job gets done, but laundry/feeding the self/cleaning doesn’t necessarily happen. If I magically find enough spoons to make sure that I’m behaving in an adult fashion, writing is simply not going to happen.

Even during the summer when my job goes on hiatus, I can either write or I can be an adult who gets her chores/laundry/cooking done. I do not have the energy to do it all. If I had children, I don’t think much of anything would be going on at all. The child would get fed and changed and that’d be all.

I find it offensive for someone to make blanket sweeping statements like that and to be so judgmental about what other people can or cannot do with their lives.

Life’s short; you never know what is going to happen in the next moment. Is it truly so unacceptable to say: “I have a dream to finish a novel / write full-time and I’m not currently capable of it on my own while I’m engaged in subsistence living, so I’m going to ask for help”?

I would never presume to tell someone, so long as they’re not hurting anyone, that how they’re choosing to prioritize things in their life are wrong. Besides, I kinda wanted to come back with: “So, what if it was a cancer patient who has only so long left to live and they don’t want to spend the time in the rat race and instead wanted to fulfill their dream instead”? And if she’s okay with that, how is that different from anyone else?

A plane could crash into your house. An earthquake could collapse your life. You could get hit by a car crossing the road. You could choke on something and die.

Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing. Especially not life and what you get to do with your time.

I mention something about patrons and she comes back with: “I would never ask anyone for money to do something I know I can do for free.”

SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS ARE SWEEPING, GAIZ! There are many things one could do for free. It doesn’t mean that asking money for it shouldn’t happen, especially when holding someone up at gun/knife point isn’t happening.

So I ask her: “Do you have a similar reaction to people who live off their partners while attempting to create art?”

She responds with: “As long as they’re not crowd funding something that costs no extra money to create, then no.” and “Simply this. You don’t need someone else’s money to write your book. It makes zero sense to crowd fund it. It costs nothing.”

At this point I really don’t know what her problem is. It is increasingly seeming like she just really doesn’t like the idea of someone having it easier than she had it.

Also, lady, opportunity cost is still cost.

Also, your partner’s money is …your partner’s money? Not yours?

Me: “JOOC, how is one more morally/ethically/whatever acceptable than the other?”

Her: “A private decision between couples and crowd-funding a novel which is free to write seem different to me. I don’t get the question.”

… this is where I get the impression that this conversation is not going to go anywhere useful for anyone at any point. My thought is that if she objects to someone being supported through creating art by someone else, then she should theoretically also object to someone staying home and writing instead of getting a day job.

Apparently not, because despite the Kickstarter not somehow magically roofie-compelling people to pay them money, it is less acceptable despite Kickstarter backers probably have a less emotionally fraught relationship with the Kickstarter owner.

I’ve seen people get emotionally manipulated into doing things “for love” and I’ve seen people who emotionally abuse the people who depend on them while creating art and so I’m really not convinced that one is a “cleaner” concept than the other.

She then comes back with: “I’m sure these people who work from home and write are also doing other things besides writing. Like raising children.”

…not always? And does this mean she’d judge those who didn’t have children and had the gall to stay home and  write eat bonbons all day?

Her: “Simply this. You don’t need someone else’s money to write your book. It makes zero sense to crowd fund it. It costs nothing.”

….okay. Again, opportunity cost is cost. And again, what is easy/possible for you isn’t necessarily easy/possible for another.

We then go back and forth a couple more times where I ask her why one is morally acceptable and the other isn’t and she says it’s not about the morality of it.

Well jeez, if right/wrong isn’t involved, why are your panties in a bunch? Do you go around policing people on how they raise their children, do their job, wear their clothing, etc? Or do you get similarly pissed when restaurants mark up soda from the pennies it takes to make to a couple of dollars?

Finally, from her: “It’s not necessary to crowd fund something that costs no money to make. The end.”

I let her flounce because it wasn’t going anywhere and I didn’t/don’t actually want to get into a pissing contest online. Before, I genuinely just wanted to figure out what her rationale was and once it became clear that she wasn’t anything close to being logical about it, there was no point in getting riled about it.

It’s just frustrating the same way it’s frustrating that feminists/moms can’t get along.  I thought the whole writer divide re: self-pub and trad pub was silly enough, but this is just depressing.

This whole conversation makes me really, really sad. I would have thought that a fellow artist would have understood the value of allowing someone their dream, irrelevant of what/whether they end up producing as a result.