Weekend Writing Warriors: Sunday 24 May 2015 (WIP: Ship’s Heart, character interview)

Our cuisine has enough spicing so it doesn’t taste like the very same thing every day, though we all know that the bases number only a few, our old agricultural staples plus some new plants that have entered our diet since we took to humanity’s second set of inhabited worlds. All manner of effort is spent in keeping those varieties healthy and resistant. We already lost a few overbred species before leaving the Original World.

You don’t think space renegades and plant breeders in the same thought, not if you don’t hail from the Outposts, but all sorts of things prove useful that aren’t obvious at first glance.

All specialties are precious, but we try to diversify. So my gene mother Laila-Istvan also bred plants; there’s a variety of bean named after her. Istvan’s legume, it’s called: round and fat, rows of them in edible pods. Roasted and salted in the pod, they’re delicious; you pop the beans out the end of the husk and eat it last.


The narrator is Taryn the Outlander. From character interviews for the Ship’s Heart universe.

Weekend Writing Warriors offers a selection of eight-sentence excerpts from many different writers. For the full selection, see here.

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Weekend Writing Warriors: Sunday 17 May 2015 (WIP: Ship’s Heart, character interview)

My mother Laila-Istvan was sixty-seven when I was born, from genetic material she’d set aside when she came of reproductive age. In ageless stasis, it kept fresh; my gene-father was nearly two generations younger, young enough to have been her grandson.

She didn’t come to rest, to the rearing of a child, until late in life. Her traveling-companions didn’t include my gene-father, but our notion of kin is somewhat more expansive and elastic than some places planet-side, Karis for example. Now we don’t do clan-marriages like them; we form pairs or groups of traveling-companions, and the more dangerous the trade the larger the circle if there’s a child in the picture. Sometimes a mother or father makes a gamete-gift to a traveling-circle; those of us old spacers who daren’t risk it but still want a child are happy for such generosity.

We don’t own our children but owe them.


The narrator is Taryn the Outlander. From character interviews for the Ship’s Heart universe.

Weekend Writing Warriors offers a selection of eight-sentence excerpts from many different writers. For the full selection, see here.

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Goals: When Life Gets Intense

Right now, I am spending a lot of time with my mentor who is in hospice, in the final stages of her passage out of life. I’m also working with some of my protegé(e)s who are facing intense deadlines.

So posting is slowing a bit on this blog, but know that I will be back soon. I will continue to post excerpts on weekends, and the interviews and reviews should be resuming shortly.

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Weekend Writing Warriors: Sunday 10 May 2015 (WIP: Ship’s Heart, character interview)

The restless one has returned. Taryn laughs with her cousin’s former apprentices, swings her kit-bag to one shoulder, greets one and all as she walks down the Heart-Ring corridor with the swagger-and-sway, the bouncing steps, of someone who’s used to shifting between different levels of gravity. Her body experiments: how far will one push from hip to ball of foot launch her center of mass?

She reaches the doorway of her quarters, swings the kit-bag inside, palms the door closed and then continues to Maia’s family quarters by hand-holds, swinging and flexing from one ceiling-handle to another. Like all low-gravity crew, she’s vigilant to keep up her strength, grabs every opportunity to make her muscles and bones work against resistance.

It’s a habit, unconscious, as much ingrained as dancers’ constant stretching, even at rest.

I’ve watched that one, as I’ve watched all of them, grow from infancy. Just short of half a century she’s been with me, so seems still a child.


The narrator is Naime the Shipwright. From character interviews for the Ship’s Heart universe.

Weekend Writing Warriors offers a selection of eight-sentence excerpts from many different writers. For the full selection, see here.

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Weekend Writing Warriors: Sunday 3 May 2015 (WIP: Ship’s Heart)

“So on Karis, I’d be Jehen Outlander,” Jehen said.

“Oh no, you’d be Jehen whatever-your-epithet-is. Sarronny’s different.”

“Why?” Yasmin asked. Mavra smiled, as if she’d been waiting for that question.

“You know about the Revolt, and the Treaty–that’s why. We’re the water-miners for this part of the Inhabited Worlds. Funny a place this dry … but there’s water below the surface, and that’s what they come here for, that’s why they were willing to make the Treaty in the first place.”


Jehen, age 9, her half-sister Yasmin, 8, and their mentor Mavra Two-Eyes, retired starship captain. From novel WIP, Ship’s Heart.


Weekend Writing Warriors offers a selection of eight-sentence excerpts from many different writers. For the full selection, see here.

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Once in a while, I do a census of my friends, because hey: who am I hanging with?

After this third year of re-entry to SF/F fandom, this is what I notice: I have no friends, no trusted colleagues, who are White cisgender men.

Methodological note: We exclude relatives from the census, because family is family, but friends and colleagues you choose.

In the last few weeks, I’ve watched some singularly unedifying things go down on Twitter, and wasted an unconscionable amount of time gently explaining to Clueless White Boys why their expectation of unpaid emotional labor is a problem, and why some of us don’t think we should be obliged to forgive predators with 10+ years of damage–in this particular case, the notorious troll Requires Hate / Benjanun Sriduangkaew, but the same argument has been made in favor of sexually harassing editors, asshole male authors who claim to know “nothing of females or women,” etc.

So here’s the pattern that we need to stop encouraging:

  • Clueless White Man (generally a fandom gatekeeper of some kind) shoots off his mouth about people who are not his demographic.
  • Victims thereof have to explain, patiently and at great length, why his words/actions were hurtful.
  • Clueless White Man graciously apologizes and gets a cookie for ‘learning.’ Sometimes Fandom Good Guys/Progressive Allies(TM) chime in to encourage us to hand out cookies.
  • Rinse and repeat.

I’ve watched this for decades in fandom and other settings. The ‘education’ expected by these intellectually and morally lazy individuals is painful and emotionally draining for the people who have to do it, and the lesson never takes.

In April, I watched as Shaun Duke, of Skiffy and Fanty, at mid-month engaged in favor of “redemption” for RH/BS (based on how he’d “learned” from being corrected by the victims of his own bigotry) and then, in the last 48 hours, involved himself in shit-stirring against author Kari Sperring, one of RH’s targets.

Sub rosa, a number of writers I respect have warned me about Duke, who has repeated the above pattern time and again. This consistent bad faith is the reason I cut ties with Skiffy & Fanty yesterday. The “Muse of Research” interview series will be hosted on this website until I find another venue.

I made the decision to go independent as a writer and artist for a solid economic reason. In my experience, gatekeepers skew upper-middle-class, white, and male, and generally act in favor of their own. I answered a call from Skiffy & Fanty for women/nonbinary contributors, but I am not interested in being anyone’s token.

Especially since it’s not a paying market.

In the spirit of May Day, I’d like to call on all of us for whom fandom is NOT a safe place:

  • to stop giving out free emotional labor and patient explanations to the clueless and the trolls, because:
  • If someone’s a grown man and can’t do basic research on how to respect other human beings, he has no business trying to participate in cultural curation, or for that matter, adult life.

By the way, that’s the reason there are no cishet White men in my self-selected professional circle: I require reciprocity from colleagues, and all the fandom White dudes I’ve met thus far have failed the friend test.

And if any of these dudes want to send me a check for the time I’ve wasted ‘educating’ them, there’s a Contact form on this site. My rate for this service is $200/hour. There is no statute of limitations, so feel free to add interest to your payment for services incurred in the distant past!

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Genre Trouble: All Art is Interactive (or Why There Are Many Ways to Review)

As I have been reading and reviewing, I’ve listened to a lot of conversations about the “right” way to review. Part of the current backlash against People Who Are Not Our Demographic Producing Things We Produce (be that video games, novels, movies, etc) includes some notions about what does not belong in the assessment of a work of art. All of this is founded in some notion that there is one correct way to review.

At bottom, a review is the record of an audience member’s engagement with a work of art: be it technical discussion (musicology or game mechanics), esthetics (composition or plotting), cultural context (analysis using the tools of history, sociology, or economics).

To inquire of correct reviewing is to ask: what is the proper stance of audience to art?

All art forms are, at bottom, prompts. Whether we are talking about writing, drama, games, visual art, dance, sculpture, etc., the audience participates. The reader/viewer/player maintains eye contact as the artist’s contribution brings up associations. Each member of the audience brings their entire life experience to the interaction. They can disengage and walk away, or not.

Visual artists have the opportunity to lurk in the gallery and watch viewers react to the work. (I know more than one artist who figured out who their ‘real’ audience was by watching various reactions to the work.) Performance artists can feel the exchange of energy with the audience; without this exchange, there is no performance. For writers, especially in traditional publishing venues, it’s a bit trickier; you write into darkness, but you make the act of faith that your work will prompt an experience in your readers.

Writing teacher Peter Elbow (in Writing with Power) has an interesting analogy for the reader-writer exchange: the story is a bicycle, which the reader pedals to run the apparatus that shows the movie.

At any time, the reader can stop pedaling and get off the bike. The movie runs in the reader’s head, and depends upon their engagement. When I was reading stories in Russian and in French, I was aware of building the pictures in my head, as I looked up one word after another in my dictionaries and set them into the edifice like bricks in the wall. I expended effort to bring the picture into focus.

Different readers have different experiences from the same set of prompts.

When I read Tolstoy as a twenty-first-century child of the US, whose childhood was passed in the palmy days of the Cold War and the stirring of social change in the 1960s, I do not have the same experience as his Russian contemporaries, nor did they have the same experience. I built his landscapes out of my own experience of the American Midwest and South; I created his characters from the faces of people I had met.

(And years later, I met his people in all sorts of different guises, particularly the social-climbing office-politicians; some types he had written as early 19th century military men, I met as 21st-century corporate women. But some things don’t change.)

In short: there is no Universal Reviewer, because there is no Universal Person.

Unless you’re arguing that some of us are not real persons. (Which might, in fact, be your very point, disguised as a quibble of esthetics.)

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