The subtitle for this post is: And Why Your Story Doesn’t Suffer Because Of It
Since around September of last year Diversity in SFF has been a conversation a lot of people are having. I have some rather strong opinions on the matter that I might have mentioned on this blog a time or two.
Most of the time, it’s hard to get people to care about more equal representation in fiction, especially genre fiction. We tell stories about aliens and artificial intelligence, isn’t that diverse enough? I have heard so many variations of “It’s the story that matters” and I shake my head every time. The common argument is that using diverse characters gets in the way of the story and makes it somehow hard for some people to relate to your character. Here’s the flipside of that. Is there a real story reason your main character has to be a straight white guy? If there isn’t, shouldn’t you change it in the interest of making the story better? In fact, isn’t the story made more interesting by making your main character someone you don’t expect? Let’s take an example, just for laughs.
Let’s say we’re going to rewrite Robin Hood in modern times. We could make Robin a white guy, just like the original story. He runs around stealing from the rich and giving to the poor because someone in a position of authority killed his family. I don’t know about you guys, but I really don’t feel the need to tell that story again. You know what I do want to tell? A story about a Mongolian girl who turns a gender biased system on its head and becomes a hunter. When someone she cares about is killed in an accident caused by a greedy company executive, she vows to avenge their death by bringing down the corporation. The bones of the story are the same, but isn’t the second version more interesting? Yes, you do have to do a lot more research to make an authentic story about the Mongolian girl. I didn’t say this was the easy path. It’s certainly not, but it is the right path.
Why is it important? Why does it matter? Because Art is a reflection of Life. Our world is magnificently diverse. There are all kinds of people. So many different kinds of people that it makes my head spin to think about it. Why shouldn’t they all get stories? The Mongolian girl who became a hunter despite the fact that girls don’t get to be hunters? She deserves a story. The Filipino boy who wanted nothing more than to become a model? She deserves a story. The dancer who lost a leg but doesn’t give up on dancing? She deserves a story.
Everyone in the world deserves a story. Don’t you want to tell it?
I hinted earlier this week that I made my first sale but I wasn’t sure if I was clear to talk about it. Now I am! My first story as a professional writer (meaning that someone else paid me for a story) was sold to Dreamspinner Press for their 2014 Daily Dose. The Daily Dose is a collection of themed romantic stories that are sent out over a month that you can buy as a set or individually. This year’s theme is Mended, love stories that feature healing. “Deep Water” was my submission to this collection. DW is one of my favorite short stories and the most sweetly romantic story I’ve ever written. Pre-orders for the Daily Dose collection will be up soon, and the stories will be available on June 1st. I’ll provide the sale links as soon as I get them.
Yes, sweet readers, I’ve been a slacker. This shouldn’t come as news. I blog when the muse moves me, and she’s been a frugal bitch lately. Actually, that’s not really true. I’ve had some wonderful story ideas that I’ve been busily scribbling down. In the last month I have finished, in no particular order, a dark fantasy Christmas story (yes, really), a mermaid story, a secondary world fantasy story, and a steampunk flash fiction story. See, I wasn’t kidding, I’ve been busy! Three out of those four are out on submission right now, and the fourth should go out the door later on this week after a final editing pass.
I’ve also been doing yet another editing pass on Summoner’s Circle, with the intention that I will start agent submissions with that novel no later than April 30th. Finally, I started a science fiction story that I’m really in love with that I like to call “Last of the Mohicans in Space.” I’m not sure how long LotMiS will end up being yet, but I think it has a lot of potential so far.
Since attending Viable Paradise last year, I have received twelve form rejections, one personal rejection, and one acceptance. That’s not a bad ratio, all told! I’m not sure yet if I’m clear to discuss the particulars of my first purchased story, but rest assured as soon as I know, you will too!
Part of the increase in productivity has been my use of GMail’s tasks. I’ve been using it to keep track of my projects and goals since the middle of March and it’s changed everything about my writing life. I can actually see what’s coming! Want a sneak peak? Aside from getting Summoner’s Circle out the door, I’ve got a new novel I’m dying to work on that’s a dystopian. I’m going to revisit a science fiction heist short story called “Optical Occlusion” that has been rejected a couple of times and possibly lengthen it into a novella. I’ve also got a project slated for later on this year with the wonderfully wicked Nikka Michaels that I am SO excited about.
Honestly, I’m so damned proud of the writing I’ve been doing lately that I really want to show you some of it, but I can’t. *sad trombone* Thus is the writer’s burden. Well, one of them, anyway.
That said, I’ve managed to dig up for you something that is not recent, but does feature two of the characters from the dystopian I’m going to start work on soon. Like most of the scenes I write very early in the writing process, this will likely never make it into the actual story, but serves to help me flesh out characters and their relationships.
The boots parked under Andi’s table when she entered her cabin were familiar ones. She held back a relieved sigh and glanced over him before saying anything. He seemed intact and no worse for wear than the last time she’d seen him. His sun-weathered skin and shaggy white-blond hair made him seem older than she thought he was, though he’d never admitted his exact age to her. He had the lean, rangy frame of a man used to demanding physical work and not enough meals. The burn scars on the left half of his face always made her wince, but he insisted they didn’t pain him any longer.
“Been a while, Cole. I thought you were dead in a ditch somewhere.”
He looked up from the map in front of him on the table, his eyes a shade of green that reminded her of sea glass. “Too ornery to die.”
She smiled. Despite how weary she was, seeing him always improved her mood. “Thanks for lighting the fire.”
“I figured you’d come back with dinner. The least I could do is warm the place up.” He eyed the gutted rabbits Andi held. “I can start those while you clean up.”
Andi passed him the pair of rabbits and headed to the alcove that housed her bed. She shucked her outdoor garb, hanging the heavy pants and jacket out of the way in the hope they might shed some of the ever-present grit before she had to wear them again. She knew better. They could make a lot of things about their new lives more pleasant, but getting rid of the grit that scoured the world now wasn’t one of them. It invaded everything, digging into every crevice. Some folks said the dust was the ground-up bones of the billions of people that had once walked the Earth, but she didn’t believe that.
She used a handful of water from the basin beside her bed to wash her face, and her survival instincts complained at even that small extravagance. She wiped away the remaining grit with a soft cloth, and then slipped into her lighter house clothes.
She crossed the main room of the cabin again, pausing at the table to look over the map. The paper was yellowed and looked to be near tearing at the folds. Notes in Cole’s cramped handwriting marked several areas of the paper. “What’s this for?”
He responded without turning from his work at the single counter that served as her kitchen. “Same as always.”
So, in summary, 2014 is my year. I’ve put my flag in it and claimed it as my own. I’m good at sharing though, so if you want it too, I’ll let you have some.
Huge hearts and fuzzy puppies,
I realized today that I’ve gone more than a month without an update. It’s been a busy month, but that’s no excuse. I’ve gotten three new short stories done, made an editing pass on my novel, and took a workshop on plotting. All of that has left me very few words to spare on the blog, and I apologize for that. I don’t have much that I can show you, because I’m planning to submit almost all of what I’ve written, but what I can share is the finalized (at least until I change my mind again) pitch for Summoner’s Circle:
Young women go missing in Moonlight Bay, Oregon, but Suri Avesta decided to go to school there anyway. Finding a balance between college and the rest of life is never easy, but Suri has more hurdles to conquer than most: her lacrosse star boyfriend is hung up on his ex and the dining hall doesn’t offer good vegan options. She’s also the last of a bloodline that has spent generations fending off an invasion of elementals desperate to escape their troubled homeland—only she doesn’t know it yet.
When a jackal-headed monster attacks Suri in a dark stairwell, the calm surface of her life is swept aside to reveal what’s been lurking beneath. A mysterious woman with a mohawk and more ink than a busload of tattoo artists rescues Suri and introduces her to the arcane secrets that are her birthright. The magic Suri inherited from her dead mother frightens her as much as the creatures stalking the foggy corners of campus. Now she must learn to wield the untapped power inside her in order to survive and discover the source of the escalating attacks.
I’m pretty proud of it! I’m terrible at pitch writing, but a few of my friends from Viable Paradise helped me out with ways to make it more punchy, and I think it turned out great.
In the workshop last weekend I learned some tricks on making satisfying endings. The class was taught by the delightful Mary Robinette Kowal. Writers, I can’t recommend her Short Story Intensive workshop enough. You should sign up and take her class when next it’s available. She knows a ton about writing and her advice is priceless. Flush with the knowledge from the class, I have one more edit before Summoner’s Circle is ready to face agent roulette. Mary helped me figure out where my beginning went wrong because of where the ending winds up. See, priceless? I’m so excited to put her advice to work in my new stories, and even revisiting some of my old ones that didn’t quite work to see if I can fix them.
An interesting bit of writing news I wanted to share: Amtrak has announced a very limited residency program. The opportunity for uninterrupted writing while seeing the country from a train sounds lovely! I’m hoping to take advantage of the next one that becomes available, as I have some logistical problems with a trip like that early this year. If you’re looking to apply make sure you read the terms. They have very specific rules about what cannot be included in your writing sample, and it seems that whatever you submit will be considered free for Amtrak’s use in promotional material.
Hearts and puppies,
Going a bit of a different way with Science Affliction this week. All of the posts will be related to handedness and interesting scientific discoveries regarding the anomaly that left-handers make up such a relatively small portion of the population (about 10%). I’m afraid this post will come out a bit more like a research paper than “cool science news” so you may want to back away slowly and then run like hell.
The idea for the topic of this post came from a video from a few years back from one of my science heroes, James Watson. He did a TEDTalk where he talked mostly about his group’s discovery of DNA, but he also talks a bit at the end about what he’s interested in now, which is the genetic pre-disposition for diseases and disorders. That part of his talk starts at about 15 minutes, if you want to skip ahead. (I do recommend watching the whole video because Watson is a great example of a non-stereotypical scientist. He’s humble and funny, and very approachable.)
So, his point about the link between schizophrenia and left-handedness has support from more recent studies. Like most cutting edge science, there’s a lot of disagreement on that point. That got me thinking about the genetics of handedness in general, and why only 10% of the human population is left-left handed.
1) Here’s an article that talks about the genetics of handedness. Basically, there’s one gene with two possible options, one says you’re right-handed and the other says you have a 50/50 chance of being either left or handed. Only approximately 10% of humans are left-handed. This would tend to say that the heritability of left-handedness would be around 25%, which the numbers support.
2) In the interest of fair and balanced reporting: A study in the UK couldn’t find a genetic link to handedness.
3) One study went to the world of sports for an answer and determined that the reason for the left and right-handed balance in humans has to do with how much cooperation and competition we require in our society. In sports were competition is favored, the number of left-handers is larger than the population average. Their model accurately predicted percentages in many sports, but does that mean it works as an indicator for the population at large?
4) I’ve saved the best for last. This article from 2008 is probably the most balanced of the bunch, and proposes that the predisposition for right-handedness may have evolved along with our capability for speech. To me, this makes the most sense. Our brains have obviously adapted for some reason to favor one side of the brain over the other (more so than other animals like chimps that have so much genetic similarity to us) and there has to be an evolutionary reason for it that goes beyond our use of hands.
That’s all the left-handed links I have for you today. Hope you learned something interesting! I sure did.