A few days ago, I headed out to a local park where my brilliant poet friend, Lorenz Mazon Dumuk, was hosting Glowing with the Moon, a summer open mic series that invites poets, musicians, performers, and other creative souls to come out and share their work. It’s one of my favorite open mics, mostly because Lorenz creates such a warm, welcoming, and fun space.
Today, I was fortunate to be able to tune in to the Litquake virtual event with Rivers Solomon and Charlie Jane Anders. This event was supported by Green Apple Books in San Francisco and 48 Hills, a source for SF news and culture.
Both Solomon and Anders are phenomenal writers of science fiction and fantasy with several books under their name. I’ve bought, read, and loved all of the books each of these authors has written thus far â€” so I was so excited to be able to hear them read from and discuss their recently released books.
Here are some bits of goodness from the event.
Wednesday night, I headed up to The Bindery, a lovely bookstore and author reading spaceÂ in San Francisco, where An Xiao MinaÂ discussed her newly published book, Memes to Movements:Â How the World’s Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power, with Robin Sloan.
Lively and entertaining, the discussion considered whether cats or goats are lords of the meme world (depends where you’re at), the ways Chinese citizens use memes to work around the country’s internet restrictions, decoding memes and the importance of translation for a deeper understanding of culture, and how spreading misinformation isn’t that different from digital marketing. I’m excited for the chance to read this book and to dive more deeply into memes and the power they have in the world.
Last weekend, I attended my first WorldCon!
For years I’ve been wanting to attend, but haven’t been able to travel to the many wonderful destinations the event appears at around the world. So, when I saw that WorldCon 76 was going to be in San Jose, California (practically my backyard), I jumped at the chance to finally attend â€” and not only attend, but participate in a reading!
During WorldCon, I still had to work my day job, so I didn’t get a chance to fully experience the event. But even just going in the evenings and on the weekend, I had a fabulous time. I ran into several writer and reader friends, chatted it up with some lovely strangers, and shopped for books and other goodies to my heart’s content (and pocket book’s misery). Here are a few highlights from my first WorldCon.
Watching the Hugo Awards
Rather than going into the grand ballroom, some friends and I gathered in Callahan’s to watch the live stream together â€” which allowed us the ability to grab some beers and snacks while we were watching. While the ceremonies as a whole were great, one of the best moments of the night was N.K. Jemisin winning the Hugo for Best Novel. She’s the first person to ever have one this award three years in a row, and her acceptance speech was a moving and funny and powerful. I cried seeing it at WorldCon and I cried again rewatching it on video. Check it out. It’s amazing.
Breaking Out of the Margins
Panel with Michi Trota, JY Yang, Foz Meadows, Caroline M. Yoachim, and Sarah Kuhn (moderator)
Breaking Out of the Margins was probably my favorite panel at the event. All of the authors were brilliant, pulling from each of their experiences to form a thoughtful, intelligent discussion on the subject of identity in relation to creative endeavors.
Both Michi Trota andCaroline M. Yoachim noted that when they were young writers, they had defaulted to putting white people as main characters. As they grew as writers, they began including characters who were more like them, representing their own experiences and backgrounds.
Sarah Kuhn noted the people will often ask why the author made the character black or Asian or gay, which reflects the default white straight perspective. But when an author makes a character white, straight, cis-gendered, this also is a choice that they’re making, although it’s not seen as such.
Kuhn also brought up the concept of “Rep Sweats” the stress of watching, reading, or creating a work that is the sole representation of a culture or group of people. Suddenly, there’s a lot of pressure for that work (she usedÂ Fresh Off the Boat as an example) to be perfect â€” in part because if the show fails, then it could be a years before anything like it comes around again.
Foz Meadows replied that when there’s a lack of diverse content in the world, then the little bit of content that is produced has a greater weight to it. So, the solution is to have a wider range of representation that allows authors and creators to have the room to fail.
Meadows also quoted a tumblr post talking aboutÂ Jupiter Rising, which stated that it’s garbage, but it’s your garbage. The point being that some of the fun of fiction and film and such is being able to enjoy fun trash with characters who represent them.
“Yes,” replied JY Yang. “I just want to make stories about kissing and shooting things in space!”
In the end,Â “Let us write trash,” became a gleeful rallying cry â€” and I’m hoping we will all get to read some fantastic new trash from these authors in the future.
Research Rabbit Holes
Karen Joy Fowler, Andy Duncan, Lawrence M. Schoen, Ann Leckie, Irene Radford, and Sarah Pinsker (moderator)
Research Rabbit Holes was a delight of a panel, presenting for the most part stories of the ways the authors had fallen into such holes, how those holes had revealed surprising inspiration for their stories, and a multitude of fun facts they discovered over the years. I unfortunately wasn’t able to retain all of these stories, even though they delighted me.
The panel pointed out that there are two kinds of research â€” the brainstorming stage (before you start the story) and the plug-in-a-fact stage (when you just need to know one specific thing while you’re writing). The brainstorming stage is the hardest to know when to stop and each writer had their own take on when that moment is.Â Ann Leckie noted that you don’t need to know all the details before you start writing, while Lawrence M. Schoen explained that he likes to feel fully immersed in the research, knowing he won’t be writing it all out, but that that immersion allows details to come out naturally in his writing.
On being afraid of getting it wrong, Karen Joy Fowler said, “When someone sends me an email saying ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’ because I’ve intersected two streets in a story that could never intersect, I just think, ‘I gave that person more pleasure by getting it wrong than if I had gotten it right.'”
Petrified Trees, Enchanted Mirrors: The Gothic Universe of Female Mexican Horror Writers
Raquel Castro, Andrea Chapela, Gabriela Damian Miravete, and Pepe Rojo (moderator)
The three panelists â€” each of whom write horror themselves â€” provided some fascinating insight into the long tradition of female Mexican horror writers. This is a horror that is specifically feminine, with women using the genre to explore the circumstances of their lives and the stereotypes and repression of women within the country.
There is something about horror that has to do with control,Â explainedÂ Raquel Castro, a control that women don’t have. These stories help women deal with the horrors of their everyday lives that they don’t have control over â€” providing a way for them to exorcise these feelings. “I’ve heard so many stories of the women’s lives around me, and these stories haunted me,” said Castro. “I wanted to tell these stories â€” but coded through horror.”
GabrielaÂ Damian Miravete said, “Horror is a place for of creativity and life. Even though it speaks of grim things, it is a safe space. It can give you comfort, as you read it, knowing there’s daylight and that in the end, you can put down the book and escape the haunted house. It’s a joy we must recover.” Miravete also pointed out that as horrors in real life increase, the horror genre tends to decay â€” but that she hopes that we can reverse the flow, compensating with genre.
The panel named a dozen or so female horror writers in Mexico, but unfortunately I had a hard time getting all the names down. However, The Outer Dark podcast will be sharing the panel in a future episode and plans to provide a list of all the writers and stories suggested. So, I’ll be sure to link to them once that list appears.
On Sunday, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) hosted a reading of speculative poetry.Â I always find joy and inspiration in hearing poems read, and I was honored to have been read alongside G.O. Clark, Sue Burke, John Phillip Johnson, Mary Soon Lee, Denise Clemons, and Alan Stewart (author website included where I could find it).
Several of the SFPA crew were also on the Science Fiction Aesthetics panel that followed immediately after the reading. I was able to pop in for half of the panel before running off, but enjoyed the discussion while I was there.
The first night I came home from the con, my roommate stared at me in confusion. “Where’s your usual stack of new books?” she asked.
I laughed. “What do you mean? It’s only the first day! I’ll have plenty of books by the end, I promise.”
And I certainly lived up to that promise. Here’s what I grabbed.
- My Life, My Body, Plus… by Marge Piercy
- The Atheist in the Attic, Plus… by Samuel R Delany
- Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger: An Isle of Write Anthology, edited by John Appel, Jo Miles, and Mary Alexandra Agner
- The Strange Case of the Alchemistâ€™s Daughter by Theodora Goss
- The Long Way to a Strange and Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
- Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic, edited by Eduardo JimÃ©nez Mayo & Chris N Brown
- The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison
- Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys
I’ve been slacking, so there are so many things to announce!
Every Girl Becomes the WolfÂ is now available!
This chapbook explores the received images of the feminine in fairy tales. The women and girls in this collaborative chapbook resist the common tropes of red riding hoods, gilded mirrors, and iced palaces. Every girl becomes the wolf because every girl has the power to tear apart the cultural conceit of wicked stepmoms, heartless mothers, and voracious monsters. Witches, hags, and mothers of damaged creatures from myth, movies, and lore prowl through this poetry. Lilith settles in to enjoy the county fair rib-off, Grendelâ€™s mother holds her son close, and the Sphynx bears the weight of mythic secrets. Mothers demand their own freedom, daughters refuse gendered expectations, and wives leave what spoils with rot behind. As they wrestle with their place in these stories, they transform into figures outside of the victims or villains they have been perceived to be.
I’m so proud of this chapbook of monstress poems Laura Madeline Wiseman and I coauthored and its been a delight to see that friends, family, and strangers have been receiving the book.
I received my author copies this week â€” with their gorgeously smooth textured covers â€” just in time for WorldCon 76 this weekend! If you’re going to be there, consider stopping byÂ Room 212C to hear me read some poetry-type things along with someÂ fellow Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) members.
Two gorgeous new anthologies have also entered the world in recent weeks.
They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing, edited byÂ Simone Muench andÂ Dean Rader, includes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as hybridized forms that push the boundaries of concepts like â€œgenreâ€ and â€œauthor.â€ Each piece is also presented with a afterward in which the collaborators describe their process for working together.Â The anthology includes “A Gathering of Baba Yagas” cowritten by Laura Madeline Wiseman and I.
Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghosts, Ghouls, and More, edited by Bianca Lynne Spriggs and Katerina Stoykova, offers over seventy contemporary poets contending with a time-honored topic: what lies beyond â€˜the great beyond.â€™ It showcases poems ranging from deceased relatives and celebrities to other undead entities such as, vampires, automatons, angels, and yes, zombies. This anthologyÂ includes a reprint of my poem â€œBeware of Atticsâ€
In other poetry news,Â Laura Madeline Wiseman and I have some new poems out in the world â€”Â “Reflection of the Blind” appears theÂ Eye to the TelescopeÂ Issue 29 â€“ The Dark, and “Pouring the Pennyroyal,” “Fish Bone Wishes,” and “Cento of the Golden Key” are upÂ atÂ Priestess & Hierophant.Â
The latest edition of my newsletter is out, if you want to check it out!