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charles write
All Star Trek stories are Kirk/McCoy unless otherwise stated.
All Avengers stories are Steve/Tony unless otherwise stated.

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I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, I just wasn't sure how to because there's always the "stating the obvious" thing.

So to start with, a month or so ago I had a chat with another writer friend, who was angsting about "how" to write POC in her novel, because she has fears of being perceived as racist or accidentally racist. Which I guess happened because she read the new Donna Tartt book, and I guess Tartt was criticized for writing all POCs as servants and whatnot? Anyway, my (ever so deep) response was, "Dude, just do your research and write people AS PEOPLE."

which, you know, obvious, right? And yet.

So I just finished reading the new Diana Gabaldon book, Written in My Own Heart's Blood. Which, I largely love her because man she does historical research RIGHT. But she's one of those cases where she tries to write diversity and comes so CLOSE and yet SO FAR. Because she writes POC in broad strokes but doesn't seem to understand that she's doing so, or that, for instance, coming at historical stereotypes from the opposite end is problematic, ie. that writing Native Americans as nobly doomed and JUST AS PROBLEMATIC as writing them as scalping maniacs. And its one of those cases of, see, putting all that attention to detail and family trees and characterization that you put into the Scottish people? Doing THE SAME THING to the Mohawks and the Black freemen and slaves.

Like I said, should be EASY. AND YET.

Here's the other thing, particularly about historical fiction (And this needs to be its own post sometime): Historical fiction is ALWAYS just as much about the time in which it was written as about the time it depicts.

So, for instance, Downton Abbey. (I fucking hate Downton Abbey but damn is it a useful Cliffsnotes sometimes.) Thomas, Teh (sic) Gay Character, is largely treated sympathetically even as he is often a douche. But there's one episode where a character informs the police of his Gayness and Lord Grantham has to talk to the cops and be all "he's just as God made him" and there's a moment and Thomas is left alone. And some people were all "Ohmigod, that is so not historically accurate!!!!" Which, of course not, because in 20fucking14 you can't demonstrate that sort of intolerance without being *read* as intolerant yourself--it's a storytelling decision to maintain sympathy. BUT, when they *do* choose to demonstrate period-accurate intolerance to the Jewish characters? That TOO is a decision, and we HAVE to understand that by doing so the writers are trying to demonstrate that as an old intolerance that is dead and thus "safe"--and never mind how contemporary Jews are getting the same crap as always because it is "invisible" and "historically accurate." We're saying that anti-gay is not okay but that anti-Semitic is normal.

Now think about what that means.

Meanwhile, back to Gabaldon. She has a history of some deeply problematic things, but there were two in this book that REALLY stuck out at me. SPOILERSCollapse ) I still love the writing by itself but I really want to make Gabaldon take some consciousness-raising classes and whatnot.

Anyways, as a sort of conclusion: All writing is a deliberate choice on the part of the author. It may be an unexamined choice, but it is still a choice. When it comes to historical fiction, you can't really say "that's how it was back in those days" because that writing isn't coming from THEN, it's coming from NOW, and it's coming from YOU. And you have to be aware of that last bit before all others.

A Note to be followed up on later

fandom is like rl
Being a Better Online Reader

Of course, as Wolf is quick to point out, there’s still no longitudinal data about digital reading. As she put it, “We’re in a place of apprehension rather than comprehension.” And it’s quite possible that the apprehension is misplaced: perhaps digital reading isn’t worse so much as different than print reading. Julie Coiro, who studies digital reading comprehension in elementary- and middle-school students at the University of Rhode Island, has found that good reading in print doesn’t necessarily translate to good reading on-screen. The students do not only differ in their abilities and preferences; they also need different sorts of training to excel at each medium. The online world, she argues, may require students to exercise much greater self-control than a physical book. “In reading on paper, you may have to monitor yourself once, to actually pick up the book,” she says. “On the Internet, that monitoring and self-regulation cycle happens again and again. And if you’re the kind of person who’s naturally good at self-monitoring, you don’t have a problem. But if you’re a reader who hasn’t been trained to pay attention, each time you click a link, you’re constructing your own text. And when you’re asked comprehension questions, it’s like you picked up the wrong book.”

Maybe the decline of deep reading isn’t due to reading skill atrophy but to the need to develop a very different sort of skill, that of teaching yourself to focus your attention. (Interestingly, Cairo found that gamers were often better online readers: they were more comfortable in the medium and better able to stay on task.) In a study comparing digital and print comprehension of a short nonfiction text, Rakefet Ackerman and Morris Goldsmith found that students fared equally well on a post-reading multiple-choice test when they were given a fixed amount of time to read, but that their digital performance plummeted when they had to regulate their time themselves. The digital deficit, they suggest, isn’t a result of the medium as such but rather of a failure of self-knowledge and self-control: we don’t realize that digital comprehension may take just as much time as reading a book.

An interesting article with interesting questions. However, I'd like to point out that some of the most in-depth and critical textual analyses I've ever seen? Have been on Tumblr. And Livejournal. And other e-forums where people discuss genre and popular texts. This could also of course point to a different type of reader; I've long maintained that genre fans can safely be likened to medieval scholars based on their predilections towards intensive readings. But I am struck by this notion of this ability to "construct your own text." In fandom, we call this head!canon--your personal "correct reading" of a text. I'm always struck by how we compare "digital reading" with "real" or "print reading" much in the way we differentiate genres--literary vs. popular and whatnot. I wonder what arguments might be made about different types of readers if we elided the print/digital divide with the literary/popular divide.


"For JUSTICE, motherfucker!!!"

I need a Falcon icon.

Anyways, here's the clip from last night's Colbert where Joe Quesada announces that Sam Wilson/Falcon will be the new Cap: [Edited because embed fail.]


Anyway, I've been mentally writing a post on diversity in writing and hopefully I can get on that in the next few days. In the meantime, I can't stop grinning at my Falcon figgie.

On Recognizing Women's Writing and Labor

So I'm reading a volume of essays on Early Modern women's life writings, which can be identified as just about any nonfiction prose--including diaries, letters, autobiographies, religious writings, commonplace book material like recipes and household accounts--and personal poetry. For a long time much of this material has been totally overlooked because, you know, women's stuff, that's not historically valuable or interesting. And it's interesting to me that culturally we have this dichotomy of "darnit, womenfolks, stay in the house and let men handle the big thinkie thoughts" and "augh, women write about nothing but marriage and family and household stuff, like that's valuable, pfft." That they are there and not there at the same time.

I was taking a course at Rare Book School last week on the history of the Stationers' Company of London, and was delighted that there was a brief section where we discussed women stationers. For many years I was sternly told that, you know, women printers didn't actually print or anything, they were just, you know, there and stuff, at least of course until they remarried or died. Which, you know, that little story is being firmly taken down now, but the insistence on that narrative always struck me: the idea that women couldn't possibly run a business or be knowledgeable about a trade because reasons. Anyway, in class we talked about how women were sort of "written around" in the ordinances--the rules that men could only teach the trade to his sons and his apprentices--with the implication that wives and daughters probably knew the trade, they just wouldn't expect to one day set up their own shops. And then in the late seventeenth century you start getting women who *do* formally apprentice themselves in the trade (this means that their parents pay the trade master $$ for the seven year apprenticeship, and then they live in the master's house working for room, board, and some pocket money) and are then made free. And it's a very small group, but it *happens.*

Anyway, digression. But we look at women's work and devalue it as a matter of course--witness the fact that it's 20fucking14 and women still make, on average, $0.70 to a man's $1.00. If we don't value the work women do in offices or in homes, why would we value their writing?

I have a friend on FB who has several times mentioned starting a blog to talk about being a single mother and stuff, and we had a conversation once where she wondered about putting a donate button on it because she felt bad being seen as "asking" for money from women like her who were her intended audience of working moms, and I was like, "Dude, no, the rest of the world will insist your writing's not valuable as is, so why help them with that assumption?" Similarly, for a long time fans who had a donate button on their sites, or just bloggers, would be attacked for daring to think they should be paid--for work that often, you know, requires paid domain space, sometimes advertising, etc. etc. MedievalPOC has been through the ringer for that too recently, and never mind she has a *huge* site that has become a reputable historical and fan resource for locating books and material on POCs in history and SFF.

I'm fascinated (repulsed, but fascinated) by this cultural notion about being unable to recognize women's writing. I mean, I'll be honest, until I started reading this book, recipe books hadn't occurred to me, but of course they are: they show what's available, what people are doing, and often little histories like "this is my grandmother's" and whatnot--which, I did know they were often useful for geneaologists, but as documents of *writing* hadn't occurred to me.

And then, looking at other forms of contemporary writing: We have social media, of course. I've had this lj for a decade at this point (I remember when the first sort of blogging software/online diaries were a thing and people pooh-poohed them as a sort of exhibitionist writing, as if you could care about a stranger writing about their life, god!). There's an interesting transition to be seen in the trend of blogs that become books (or, like Julie and Julia, sometimes movies too). Can we see this as an analogue to the transition from manuscript culture to print culture, or no? Especially in terms of authority and value. (How does it change when you read a blog versus pay $20 for a book that reprints those blog entries? Is that different from collections of newspaper essays and such?)

I tend to read a lot of SFF blogs, but also cooking blogs, and I think there we start to see similar material to 17th c. stuff, in terms of people recording recipes but also talking honestly about things like depression, job-hunting, relationships, etc. (Seriously, I dare anyone to read Hyperbole and a Half's piece on Depression, and not find it visceral and brilliant.) I post a lot on FB, mostly just sharing SFF and news stories with my own (brief) commentary that I find to be of interest. Sometimes those posts become precursors to longer pieces of writing here; more often I just like having on and off conversations with people throughout the day because otherwise I get bogged down in the solitude of reading. I don't consider that material "published" in the same way that I do my lj stuff, though; I guess because it takes more effort and thought to put together an lj post than a FB post. Also the difference in venue/audience: people on lj are here because they like/want my writing, whereas some people are on FB because of my writing and work while others are relatives, social acquaintances, and so forth. (Scott once referred to my FB as my version of "LinkedIn" which I think is very true.)

Anyways, to conclude: If contemporary historians are revising what they consider to be historical writing, how/does this also apply to writing through social media? How do you even begin to preserve that material (and do you want to)?

Movie Review: Snowpiercer

The World is a Mess
Snowpiercer is a movie that lives up to its (by now considerable) hype. It is gorgeous, so I highly recommend watching it in the cinema if you can; lots of work went into the details and they need to be enjoyed.

It is also dark, and fairly violent in spots (I closed my eyes in parts, and I am not typically squeamish). But that said, one thing I find particularly noteworthy after the fact is that the violence isn't gendered--unlike many (most) films there's never a point where a villain threatens a woman to appeal to the hero, etc. etc. Similarly, there is no romantic component, though there are plenty of women characters. There are also plenty of POC.

And Chris Evans. OH MY GOD. He has a long monologue towards the end and its just--it's horrifying and beautiful and real. He is such a fucking great actor and that scene just shows what he's capable of, and it breaks my heart he wants to leave acting when he can do stuff like that.

The writing. Just. This is one of those movies that so aptly demonstrates what SF as a genre can do that no other genre can. It's provocative and I can't stop thinking about it. Just. Wow.

Basically you should all go see this movie, the end.
Okay, so two things: This article on “Internet Famous”: Visibility As Violence On Social Media

I soon realized that calling me a "public figure" had nothing to do with describing my impact on the industry or recognizing my achievements within it. Rather, the term "public figure" is solely ascribed to me as part of justifying abuse, harassment, humiliation, boundary violations and invasion of my privacy by anyone -- from journalists to anonymous trolls to professional peers. When I protest journalists using bullying and dishonest tactics to exploit my life and relationships for page views, I'm a "public figure" and thus not allowed any privacy or boundaries, or to defend myself in any way. When my experiences and words are twisted, taken out of context and used against me as attacks; when months of my tweets are dug through to find a scrap of something to attack me with: "well you live your life in public!"

Ironically, people who actively stalk me, industry professionals and members of the media engage in the exact same rhetorical tactics of appealing to my "public figure"-ness to justify their acts. The constant gendered harassment, stalking and boundary violation I receive is considered by many to be the natural exhaust of my visibility. There's the assumption that the visibility itself is beneficial enough to me to merit the tradeoff of daily abuse, that I "should have known" it would be like that this, or that I have brought it upon myself by being a "drama queen," "attention whore," or by writing things that are widely read in the industry (which for white cishet men is termed "having ambition" and "being successful").

I also picked up Dowd & Eckerle's Genre and Women's Life Writing in Early Modern England at the library yesterday and have been making my way through it; it's a collection of essays focused on EME women's life writings (including diaries, letters, autobiographies, poems, religious treatises, cookbooks, etc.) and their presentations of "self" in them.

Traditionally when you talk about Early Modern women's writing, you talk about what's known as "the stigma of print", which is not just fears of public visibility but specifically *uncontrolled* public visibility (printing regulations had some controls and copyright and whatnot, but let's face it, media piracy goes a long way back; plus, manuscript circulation gave at least the feel of control because you could usually at least trace how someone came by something--a little bit like Tumblr or Facebook if you will) where there is control neither of how the text is presented but of how you yourself are presented. Print and manuscript circulation had the attendant implications of public/private discourse, though with a rather different impact: by sharing something through mss, though "unpublished" it was still available for consumption. Anyways, long story short, for these reasons Early Modern women have been identified with a specific textual production and consumption model for a bit.

Now, I think that we can talk about the analogs in likening manuscript transmission with social media: the ability to access text and how it is perceived. For instance, those warnings to beware of what you post online in case your employer sees it, etc. etc. Published yet unpublished, consumable and consumed. (I also think it's telling that the MLA guidebooks have FINALLY gotten around for developing citation formats for blogs, tweets, etc.) And I also think that while a fair bit of ink (or electrons) has been consumed talking about social violence in social media, we still have far the fuck to go. I'm lucky in that I'm a small-time blogger and scholar; I've never gotten rape threats etc. from dudez because I have the temerity to post my thoughts on books and comics, etc. But it happens enough to others that we have more or less accepted as a horrifying social norm. And because it IS a social norm there's all these other behaviors that society tries to encode into women writers: "be nice" and "don't be mean" etc. to the men who deign to recognize your work, even if "recognizing" means they are trolling your feed/blog/etc. It comes out of how we are taught "to behave" in everyday life and then feeds back into how we produce our writing.

It's fucked up, man!
charles write
Okay, so the other night I got into a spat on FB about "taking genre writing seriously." Because, you know, lolz, and whatever, amirite? *snort* But it got me thinking on the topic of writing and reading (shocking, I know), and what they mean in the everyday sense.

The Value of Literature

So lo many moons ago I remember my Mom asking me in college, "Are you sure you want to be an English major? You're never going to get a job!" Which is a not unusual statement from many parents. Which is untrue because 1) strangely enough the ability to write in a concise and comprehensible way is actually NOT easy, so people actually do want these skills in a variety of jobs, and 2) the ability to write when balanced with an ability to think critically and under time constraints is also fucking useful. And these are the things that most often come up when people want to defend the humanities, but this overlooks the specific value of literature. Literature is valuable in that it is kind of the doctor of our culture, taking our pulse and telling us what's going on. The recurrent trends in publishing are more than what's popular, it's what we are thinking about, anxious about, preoccupied with.

Plus, my more cynical response: We can't all be fucking neuroscientists. There are a thousand and one ways to contribute to society, and literature is one. I think it's really telling that we tend to value only the really high-end jobs: actors, sports players, government officials, etc. But you know who is invisible and who, once they are gone, you really miss? The janitors. And a lot of writers are kind of like janitors, there's tons of "invisible writing" out there that we don't think about but we need in our lives.

The Value of Popular Literature

Popular literature is like Culture Concentrate: everything that worries us in big neon letters. The common wisdom used to be that popular literature and genre writing were the distillation of the status quo, but a century of literary criticism has proven that's not always true, and often, far from it. Whatever you might think about the Twilight books, they opened up a metric fuckton of conversations about young women in our culture--and a lot of these were conversations we REALLY needed to have!

The other thing about genre writing that I liked to point out when I taught was--literature that is not highly regarded thus has a LOT of wiggle room to do interesting things. For instance, comic books: as painfully bad as a lot of writing is especially in older books, they got away with a LOT. I remember being really struck by a Captain America comic ca. 1964 where Cap declares that the greatest thinkers of the new generation were Martin Luther King Jr., Marshall McLuhan, and JRR Tolkien: a civil rights leader, a media theorist, and a fantasy author. And holy fuck is that one trifecta to hold up as intellectual standard--and to a bunch of kids no less!! The entire genre of science fiction has always been the playing ground for a variety of exploratory political ideas, back to the 16th c. with Thomas More's Utopia.

Art is always political.

Whether it's high or low art, it's still true. Nothing is created in a vacuum, and everything is a product of its own time: it's an action, a reaction, and a lot of works are famous for starting chain reactions right back: Whether it's Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle, or apparently right now, The Hunger Games (check out what's going on in Thailand if you don't believe me).

Why I take genre writing seriously.

You know, a theme of the 16th and 17th centuries was the ability to read correctly--it was part of that whole Reformation thing that then seeped into everyday life. I've been reading Thomas Hobbes and William Tyndale back to back, and man, the preoccupation with reading--specifically the Bible, but everything to a lesser extent--is just so acute. Which, of course, it would be, back when reading the wrong thing could get you hanged for treason or excommunicated or worse. But this determination to read everything as meaningful--the events of our lives as well as the words on (any kind of) page--is still something we see in our society, and hell, it's probably hard-wired into us now if it wasn't five hundred years ago. I think the ability to read seriously is what gives insight not only into specific works but also into our culture. I feel that's important for me to do not only as an individual but as a citizen of the world. If by reading certain things I see that some are oppressed, then I want to do that which will free them; if by reading I see something that hurts, then I want to find the thing to contribute that heals--etc. ad nauseam. And we all do this too, whether it's by choosing to--or not--shop at certain stores or using certain products or companies or (strangely enough), books.
The World is a Mess
I've been mulling over what to post on this topic for a while. In case you missed it:

Marion Zimmer Bradley: It's Worse Than I Knew

In which Bradley's daughter came forward about her mother's abuse.

Rape, Abuse, and Marion Zimmer Bradley

In which Jim Hines rounds up links and points out that we cannot silence the voices of the abused no matter how famous or popular the abuser is.

SFF community reeling after Marion Zimmer Bradley's daughter accuses her of abuse

In which mainstream media takes note.


I want to preface this by saying I was/am a fan of MZB; I've spent years and years reading and collecting her work and the works about her work; I've written academic essays and gone to cons to talk about her; at one point I wanted nothing more than to write her biography and met with numerous people who knew her towards that end. In short, this is all from the perspective of someone who was invested in her as a person and figure of import.

I am not shattered by these revelations. I'm not going to throw out her books. I'm not going to read them with the same amount of enjoyment, either. I do want to think about what happened then and what is happening now means.

I know from conversations with people that MZB grew up in an abusive situation; how abusive and whether that too was sexual, I do not know. One BNF I spoke with at DarkoverCon a few years ago told me how she herself was a victim of sexual abuse, and how MZB helped her heal and also come out of the closet.

MZB did good in this world, even as she did evil. It's difficult to reconcile these things, but this too is true.

I also know that Bradley's generation is dying off; one of her friends and protegees, who mentored me in turn, passed away this Fall. I do not think it is an accident that Greyland chose to come forth in a time of relative safety, when MZB's greatest defenders are gone or quiet, when her popularity is on the wane. In some ways, I think this is a smart decision, because it means people are LISTENING: decades ago, they wouldn't have done, not only because of MZB but because of society's own attitudes towards abuse (and let's face it: we STILL have a long way to go before we can end the whole "blame the victim" mentality).

At Darkovercon, people were matter of fact about Breen and his evil; it was an open secret, if you will. People took care to monitor their children even as there was very much a mentality of "protect Marion." This comes up in The Great Breen Boondoggle, in which the author opines that someone should "warn" Marion about the man she was marrying. You can read the depositions of Marion as knowing accomplice; from conversations I've had, you can also read them as a clueless woman trying to protect those she loved and failing miserably.

MZB was truly a cult figure with all that entails: charisma enough to garner followers and protectors; keep in mind, the same people who wanted to protect her reputation regarding Walter are the same ones who wanted to protect her writing reputation, up to and including how she would pay (or not) fans/followers and pass off their work as her own; not quite plagiarism, not quite ghostwriting. The last books to bear her name have very little of her own writing in it; for instance, the Exile's Song trilogy was written by Adrienne Martine-Barnes, who wrote from MZB's notes; MZB hated that Barnes killed off Regis and summarily packed her off. The Trillium books MZB co-authored had Elisabeth Waters writing for Marion, etc.

MZB's history has also been rewritten after her death. Waters, who is in charge of Bradley's estate, has worked tirelessly to make a clean narrative. For instance, Bradley was an open pagan who wrote articles for The Green Egg amongst other spiritual zines, including pieces on how to set up a Wiccan altar in one's own home, etc. Her Literary Works Trust site maintains that she was a lifelong Christian. There's also very little [nothing] there about Bradley's life as an open lesbian (who happened to marry men, twice, and have children with them both) (we could probably talk here about bi-erasure, but "lesbian" was also the term MZB preferred, so.).

In her own life, MZB took pains to rewrite her history, changing narratives as necessary to make her work more heroic. There's an interesting essay she wrote about being a lone woman in SF in the 50s, and never mind that she sold her early stories to a woman editor. (Woman's inhumanity to woman, etc.)

We can also talk about the cultures of silence in the 50s-90s, especially about abuse. In several of her stories--I'm thinking of "Knives" here, MZB wrote sympathetically of characters who were abused, raped, etc. and who overcame those traumas. Now we know that MZB was both abuser and abused. Another blogger wrote about the underaged/coerced sex of The Mists of Avalon and how it's difficult to reread in light of what we know. I'm thinking of her character Dyan Ardais from the Darkover books; a villain who is and is not sympathetic (not unlike Marion herself); who on the one hand abuses boys and on the other is a "good" man protecting his planet. That character had a significant following; somewhere I have a fanzine devoted to stories only about him. I can't help but feel now that Dyan Ardais was a version of Marion, and the mystique of that character was her mystique too.

This got long and went nowhere fast. To conclude: We cannot separate the art from the artist. We cannot separate the artist from the person. People aren't pies--you can't slice them up and just take the bits you want. It's all mixed up together. Was Marion a great writer and important to SF? Yes. Did she at the least aid and abet in crimes, and probably commit them herself? Yes. Did she help and comfort the abused? Yes, that too. Do her works remain important to genre history? Yes. Can we separate anything out to make a clean narrative of any kind?

No. No, we cannot.
So earlier this morning I sat down to read Sidney's "The Defence of Poesy" and was reading the introduction and there was a really interesting bit on Renaissance writing and imitation. English Renaissance literature--prose and poetry--grappled with imitation as they came out of the Continental European Renaissance and its preoccupations with classical culture; you can see this particularly in the concurrent shift in reading practices (intensive to extensive) where you go from reading the Bible and Aristotle to reading the Bible, Aristotle, Cicero, Herodotus, contemporary pamphlets, etc. etc. etc. You have a shift not just in texts but in how to *read* the texts: from memorization to being able to crossreference or gloss.

There's three forms of imitation: Greek mimesis, which is imitation of representation (drawing an apple, say); Latin imitatio, which is literary and stylistic imitation from a model (an argument using Cicero's rhetoric); and emulation, what is believed to be readerly imitation (reading Sidney and then writing an essay).

So we have this entire humanist vocabulary for dealing with adaptive texts. This is why you also have the rhetorical devices of "I heard this story" or "I found this source" for wholly fictional works, because that was what was respectable for a lengthy period of time. It wasn't until we got to the Romantics with their emphasis on valorizing self-expression--and of course, the accompanying image of the heroic (dare I say Byronic? I dare! I dare!) and struggling author--that we truly shift to the modern preoccupations with "originality." It is also worth noting that this is concurrent with the development of copyright culture; where print culture is truly modern in that only printed books are "published" and the circulation of written material is directly tied in with ideas of professional authorship and ownership and livelihoods.

And so OF COURSE I had to tie all this in with our contemporary attitudes to adaptation and, of course, fan works. I recently picked up Diana Gabaldon's newest book; she had a rather famous spat with fandom a few years ago (I'm linking to the Fanlore wiki because a lot of the original stuff has been scrubbed from the internet); the gist of which is that she felt that fanfic was like raping children (yep, actual words) and then she backed off only slightly when people called her on her crazy. Anyways, in her newest book, there's a cameo with Natty Bumppo, you know the hero of the Leatherstocking Saga, or, if you prefer, young Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans (y'know, either/or). And what I find continually interesting is how the use/re-use of famous characters becomes imminently respectable if done in a "literary" fashion--eg. legit publication, the bigger the author and the publishing house, the more legit it is.

I mean, when we quote Henry Jenkins, we always talk about "textual poaching" in the context of fan writing, but what about the textual poaching in publication? I mean, sure, Fifty Shades of Grey and other Twifics began life as fic, but once they got bought up and published by various presses, they become (magically!) adaptive texts, in dialogue not only with Twilight but with the other texts. (Archontic literature at its finest?) Once it's been bought and paid for, it's no longer "fan" writing; it's legitimizing bastard texts, if you will. And people complain about all this, rightly or wrongly, but that doesn't change you have an entire body of work in conversation with each other and with a clear line of descent. In comparison or contrast, you can look at Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments books, which originated in Harry Potter fic--and her HP fic that, itself, quoted extensively (and some places where it wasn't quoting so much as cutting and pasting...) a number of other media texts including Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I maintain a major weakness of the film version was there were no Whedon actors involved; imagine if Jace had been played by a CGI de-aged James Marsters, and how much more sense everything would have made then!!!)

In conclusion: the cultural capital we assign various works varies greatly depending both on time period and material, and--at least seemingly--happenstance.

Kenyon Review Workshop, Day 7

Cait Yatta!
This morning was the last day of workshop, and in an hour I'll catch the shuttle to the airport and thence home. Some last photographs:


We had book-decorated cupcakes as a final farewell.


We also made enclosures to take our projects home in safely. Hard to believe this little box carries everything I made this week, but it does!!!!!

Leaving is bittersweet because I'll be glad to be home again tonight, but I've really had so much fun here this week!!!!1

Kenyon Review Workshop, Day 6

Cait Yatta!
Very tired after today's art show, so a quick post:

This was my table display with the work I did this week:


I got a number of kind comments from visitors, including one from a woman I shared the airport shuttle here with: "I had to come see the show today because I've watched you walk around every day with your face lit up like a Christmas tree because you're so happy to be here!"

This workshop has been one of the best ever--I'm including the whole Kenyon experience. Every writer and artist I've talked to has been genial and thoughtful and constructive; there's none of that sort of jockeying for position competitiveness I've experienced with other groups. I absolutely want to come back again!!!!!!

I also manned the letterpress demo station for the show and made cards to give out to visitors:


Don't worry, I fixed that "N" after I took this photo!

It was very cool to, for maybe the first time, be a printer in my own right. I've always been in the shadow of Todd and it was neat to be there on my merits and recognized for myself rather than, you know, the also-ran or the apprentice, you know? And the instructors were delighted that I was "a pro" who could set things up for students and clean etc without direction and whatnot. So it was all pretty cool!!!!!!

Kenyon Review Workshop, Day 5

Cait Yatta!
A quick post of more sneak peeks of my work for the studio show tomorrow--I was working until 10:45 there tonight trying to get things done!!!!



Funny story: I'd been texting Todd pictures of things as they came along and whatnot, and mentioned this to one of my instructors; I didn't think anything of it since I had written a nonfiction piece about working in BHW with him, Chris, etc. The instructor blinked and said, "You talked to the character from your story?" "....who is a real person," I explained. Basically, I am way entertained having a bestie who people apparently think is fictional.

...I am entirely too slaphappy. I should probably try to go to bed eventually.

Kenyon Review Workshop, Day 4

So tired: I was in the studio all day and now I'm trying to finish some text for the books I want to finish tomorrow. Here, have a sneak peek:


Kenyon Review Workshop, Day 3

Today was a bit more low-key than previous. I've finally gotten myself into a more or less focused mindset: projects in mine, strategies in place. I spent half the afternoon in the studio marbling sheets and making paste papers for projects to work on tomorrow. Unfortunately, after lunch I started feeling a bit dizzy (dehydrated, I think) and went back to the dorm to take a nap. It helped a little, but I still feel a bit out of it and not great. I did finish my homework though; I opted to skip out on the student readings tonight (I feel guilty, but there will be more nights, plus if I feel like crap and no one's going to miss me then why not).

Anyway, here are some of the marbled papers I made:


I painted them down with some varnish and hopefully will have some smooth, burnished sheets tomorrow.

This morning we also got to visit the Special Collections at Olin Library and look at their collection of artist's books. They also have an exhibit up of the first two volumes of the St. John's Bible (the Heritage fine press edition). The St. John's Bible is a massive seven volume work made by a team of artists to create a medieval volume in the new age--every page of the vellum edition is hand done script and hand done illuminations and art. The fine press edition is on paper but still has hand elements, as with the gold lead illuminations in the capitals, etc. This is the opening of Genesis, with the creation of the world in seven days:


This evening's writing prompt was for a fiction piece, which I spun into a mini-scene from the printerfic:

On Games of ChanceCollapse )


I was hoping to write some more tonight but I'm not sure I have it in me. It could just be that I'm too tired from the last few days and need some recouping time.

Kenyon Review Workshop, Day 2

So to start off with, for some reason they decided to have an art studio class without providing aprons OR telling students to bring their own. Because printing ink washes out of nothing, ever, I improvised an apron with my rain jacket:


Not gonna lie, I feel like it was my best Macgyver moment ever.

Anyway, the day started with transforming yesterday's writing and image into a pamphlet:

0616141003 (1)

I'm still not thrilled with it, but it offends my sensibilities much less in this form, I will say.

In the afternoon we made a flag book with another accordion binding--a structure the prof is clearly really into:


I hope I can come up with some things I actually like before our studio show, I really, really do.


Today they set up a letterpress station, which, FINALLY, something I know how to do! I ended up helping a couple of students with it, as, of all things, apparently I have way more letterpress experience than anyone else. (That is a sentence I would never think to write when surrounded by book artists!)

Anyways, I had my writing critique today, and it was useful. The instructors are excited about my printerfic and were encouraging, which was great: no bewilderment about the language or concept, no wanting more violence, no arguing against the protagonist's race, which, THANK THE GODS. They suggested I try as much as possible to tie in the week's projects as a sort of meta for the novel. So.

Tonight's writing assignment was nonfiction, so here's what I came up with:
WayzgooseCollapse )

So now it's about bedtime, and I'm zonked, but there you go. Stay tuned!

Kenyon Review Workshop, Day 1

There are a hundred students in this round of workshops; there are four workshops of poetry, three of fiction, two of creative nonfiction, and then the lone "literary/book arts hybrid" class I'm taking. My class has 7 people in it, while the others have ~15 per. Consequently, over the last day and a half, I've explained what book arts are to about 40 people.

I'm tired.


Here are some pictures of what we did just today:


This is a sheet of paper marbled using the Japanese suminagashi method, where you take a small paper circle, drop a few drops of dye on top, and then blow or move it around the water with a skewer; the dye only adheres to the surface of the water, and so you can place your paper directly on top. You don't have to treat the paper beforehand, or spend a few hours doing other set-up and prep as you must with Turkish marbling. Consequently, even though the dyes are less vivid, I am quite the fan!


We started off with two exercises. The first was "Twenty First Lines"--potential first lines to twenty works which we submitted before the workshop started. The instructors printed and bound these to create small prompt books. The "Word Dance" was an activity where we created cards using phrases from our writing samples which we shared and redistributed as a group, making poems with the new (randomized) material. Mine reads:

Excuse me
sound might grow a steady stream
if such was ever to be

maybe someone had someone
again and again
subject to the will

Shoes by the door nose each other like fish
tingling cheek
promise of London Devil
garb thin as a sapling.

[I'm only proud of the first six lines which sounds like an actual narrative to me. It's pretty clear I had no idea what to do with the other four.]


Another project we took on this morning was creating a commonplace book, bound accordion style and creating a collage on the cover. We were given envelopes of various interesting scraps, and this is what I put together. The ribbon ties in the back to hold the volume shut; it has an envelope glued in the back to hold various project materials. I don't typically care for accordion bindings, but I'm pleased with how this one came out at least visually.


I've written a story for tomorrow from a prompt; I'm happyish with the text but not the accompanying image, which I'm not going to share, because no, it looks juvenile. (OTOH maybe tomorrow I'll go to class and it will magically seem better, but I think not.) Here it is:


If you stay with me...Collapse )


Last night I wrote a poem, and it at least I an pleased with:

sent at midnight
and at 8am

read and responded

demonstrate only

that I am
the signifier
and you
the signified.


Tonight we listened to readings by each of the student fellows--effective "apprentices" to the instructors this term. Like the workshops, they were a mixture of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I suppose it was a classical "writing seminar moment": all of them white, at least approaching middle class if not actively upper class. One was a gay man. They all had, I guess you could say strong voices, but in that workshoppy way they were indistinguishable too, talking of permissible things like love and loss and extra-marital affairs. One older gentleman had a story from the pov of a recovering alcoholic struggling to connect with his son; the gay writer mentioned a bathhouse. This was the non-normative material. This morning my instructors had a brief spiel about "safe space" and to be aware and accepting of "raw" material, but I am rather underwhelmed? Does that sound awful? And you can count the POCs on one hand; I've spoken to half of them already through happenstance.

It has all made me feel rather anxious. But this may sound like I'm disappointed in the whole thing--I'm not, exactly, and I've never been surrounded by so many creative types before, so that's interesting. So, we'll see what happens. I have my personal conference with my instructors tomorrow, and we're going to discuss the chapter I sent them of my printerfic--the one with all of the triggery stuff. So. We'll see what they make of that.


So I'm reading Thomas Traherne today; specifically the selections from Centuries of Meditations. The notes in the back mention that the Centuries were written in a notebook that was a gift from his friend Susannah Hopton; apparently after finishing his writing Traherne returned it to her for her to write her responses. The editor mentions that Susannah is thus the "you" in his text, and that what in manuscript becomes an intimate sharing of thoughts and writing becomes a rhetorical device in print.
So of course this makes me think of how we share writing today: Google Documents with Comments, or MS Word with Comments and Track Changes. Visually very different. In my Google docs work pane I can see my list of documents, who I have shared them with, and whether someone has commented or edited recently. Is this intimate? Is this shared text?
Cait Yatta!
Sharing because I'm reliving the wonder of my eight year old self!!!

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