March 25th

I’ve been hiding.

Not from anyone other than myself.

I’ve been hiding.

It’s not an unusual situation. I like to hide. From cover you can see the world around you, but sometimes… well.

However, this time there has been an impact which I need to reveal, in the context of honesty as a writer.

I have been a senior reader with Spark: A Creative Anthology for a while. It’s a role I have enjoyed. My role has involved assigning stories out to writers and, in the recent submission hiatus, encouraging fellow readers to work through the backlog that had built up. It has been a fantastic privilege. But sometimes privileges must be rescinded. As I have rescinded mine.

Woking with Brian, George, Kayla, & latterly, Anne, has been a privilege.

Brian’s vision is wondrous. Choosing to accept new writers, to develop them, and to allow them a place in print is terrific and I applaud it. In George, Spark has a writer liaison of almost magical qualities. His commitment to providing feedback to submitters who miss the grade deserves to be legendary. Kayla & Anne & more recent additions to the team, and I have enjoyed working with them as we fought to reach the levels that Brain and George have reached, and strive to maintain.

Sadly, I have realized I am not in a position to maintain my role. I can not commit to the time required to maintain the role I assumed. As such, I have stepped down. I intend to continue as a first reader, some of the writing is achingly wonderful, while at the same time allowing myself time to deal with life as it is happening.

Part of that life is my writing.

Since October I have found writing tough, Flash stories has kept me going. I need to be doing more. Note the word need? I need to write, to finish stories.

I look forward to continuing as a first reader with Spark. I look forward to writing more myself.

March 11th (again) or, Joss Whedon. Making me proud to be a man.

Two in one day. What is this madness!

                             or

See the sexism inherent in the system.

                             or

Joss Whedon. Making me proud to be a man.

Joss Whedon was asked:

“So, why do you write these strong female characters?”

His reply is famously simple

“Because you’re still asking me that question.”

Do you know when that happened? May 15th 2006. Nearly nine years ago. Only, it wasn’t a single event, but the culmination of questions and responses over years of being asked the question.

You can watch him deliver the line, and the speech, here at: Joss Whedon making me proud to be a man.

Nine years ago. So long ago it was before the odious #gamergate movement had a hashtag. Though even then cowards hid behind their screens and threatened to physically violate women (while trying to avoid awkward questions from their mothers about why there were so many sticky wet wipes in the trash bin).

In those nine years it has been great to see how far the cause of female rights… ugh – how sanctimoniously odious is that phrase ‘the cause of female rights’? How does the basic reality of being fifty percent of humanity require a cause? To trivialize the matter I’d like to talk about apples and pears. They’re different, right? But both terrific. Now, a fermented brew of apple juice is called cider. I love it. I’ve been lucky enough to live in places where it’s brewed and you can rock up to a farm with an empty bottle which is filled for pennies.

But do you know what the fermented juice of pears is called? Do you? If you said ‘Pear Cider’ please unfriend me on Facebook and Twitter. The correct answer is ‘perry’. I love perry, it has a different flavor texture to cider. So, why do some manufacturers peddle perry as pear cider?

Because they are wrong.

In the exact same way that people who wonder why women being written as strong characters in fiction is unusual.

I digress. As I was saying, it’s great to see how the last nine years have seen such great strides in the cause of equality. Only, it hasn’t, has it? Did I say #gamergate already? Or the whole farrago in SFWA a couple of years ago (thankfully things are changing there!) And to prove how little things have moved in the timeframe discussed I offer ‘Writing Women Characters as Human Beings‘. This article, March 04 2015, is on Tor.com and written by Kate Elliot.

I don’t know Kate. She’s written a good article/post/whatever and I will look out for more from her. You should too. Her three Tor.com posts to date are really good. But that doesn’t take away from the fact of how devastatingly awful it is for such an article to be written.

It’s a crime.

It’s a travesty.

Sorry. That’s incorrect, and blame my ire. The crime and travesty lies in the requirement for the article to be written. Because let’s be honest, it is an article that is required. When we turn on TV or go to the Cinema it is still noticeable and even newsworthy when a woman is the main agent (even more so if she is over 30!) and the writers of general fiction are every bit as reprehensible in this matter as the writers of TV/Film.

If you are a writer, if you are a male writer, stop right now and go look at your work. When was the last female MC you wrote? When was the last time you wrote a story with NO MALE CHARACTERS? How many roles do your stories routinely assign to males that have no gender requirement (and lets be honest, beyond child-birth – or natural impregnation, there pretty much aren’t any).

My suggestion, to any person, is this: If you don’t see a person, you’re failing.

As a final coda you may have heard Meryl Streep mention that Joss was working on a Wonder Woman film, nine years ago. What happened to that? Joss dropped out, because he didn’t feel that anyone in the studio was really bothered. We could have had a kick-ass Wonder Woman film 5-7 years ago, but the intern-groping-middle-aged-impotent-men-in-grey-suits weren’t interested.

If someone could point me to a twitter/fb/blog link for Kate Elliot, I’d love to be able to link it above.

March 11th

Beyond Quitting

That’s where I am. Beyond it. I considered quitting, and decided not to.

Go me.

Now, better get these stories written/re-written/edited/submitted/published.

March 4th

Update

Nothing much is happening. I’m working on the first draft of another submission for the Far Orbit: Apogee call. Robinson Crusoe in Space is the loosest of interpretations.

The draft is nearly finished. Then it’s time for edits and re-writes and away by the end of the month.

After that I will be writing my Orthographic Ligature story, well the first draft anyway. I know where I want to submit it to, and I have until later in the year to work on it.

So my focus will be on working the ten stories for my first volume of These United States. I’m looking forward to really digging into these.

As a finalé I’m going to talk about reader comments. Some of the markets I submit to provide reader comments as part of their rejection feedback. I like these. I have a writing style that is developing and I’m aware that some of the structures I use don’t work for a majority of readers. Having an idea of where individual readers had an issue is allowing me to consider how much I amend my personal style.

A few days ago I received a(nother 😀 ) rejection. Hey-ho. There were four comments. Two of them succinct, suggesting the story wasn’t weighted correctly for a flash piece. Valid opinions. A third saying it needs to be a longer story. Fine. And a fourth that lambasted my choice of character names and called into question my familiarities with the realities of which I was writing. There was nothing about the story itself, just a diatribe (based on the readers ‘feelings’ on the matter) and an attack on me as the writer.

Working as a First Reader with Spark: A Creative Anthology (another market that provides feedback) I am well aware that it can be tricky to remain polite and positive when writing a note. Thankfully we have an excellent point man who weeds out the snarliest of any comments that are made, and only passes along the most constructive and, if possible, positive comments.

I know how easy it can be to wonder ‘What were they thinking?’, but there is a Golden Rule in offering critique. Critique the writing, not the writer.

Now, I had done my research on the names used in my story. And I’d chosen to use a fiction writers prerogative to tinker with how I used them. For one I anglicized the name a little, for the other I dropped a letter (though I should have used an extension in the middle name of the MC). I know that, for all their ridiculousness, Ian Fleming always used real names in his stories, pulled them right out of the telephone directory. I don’t do this. Neither do I randomly assign names based on gut instinct.

I don’t know the reader, or what their real issue was. However, I was reminded that when I am commenting on a story it behoves me to remain polite, even if I can’t be positive.