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My Mother the Rain Magnet

My mother has a problem. For some unearthly reason, when you put her and a tent together, it always rains.


Not one of her pictures…this was just a pretty search result.

Once or twice? A coincidence. (If you believe in coincidences.) But multiple times with multiple victims people? It starts to become clear that Someone Out There doesn't like her.

 

(Apologies for the bad picture. I lightened it a little, but don't know why the person taking it didn't tell everyone to take their hats off. L-R: my mom's coworker [whose name I can't remember], her son, me, Mom and Wayne [Mom's boyfriend from 2004-8]) (I need a name, so I'll call the coworker Rachel and her son Ben.)

Our first trip camping together was to South Manitou Island in 2006. Since Wayne was retired, he'd come by and grab me and my bag and take me back to his place about an hour before Mom would get off work, so that I could help finish packing and we'd be ready to load my mother's car when she got there. Since this was twelve years ago, my memory is a little fuzzy, so I don't know if my body threw much of a fit1, but it was an otherwise lovely ride up to Traverse City on a summer Friday evening. We overnighted there and drove the remaining half hour to Leland, where we had breakfast (or rather, I attempted it2) and met up with Rachel and Ben at the dock to board the ferry for our weekend of camping.

That night, it rained.

This wasn't your average summer shower—it rained so hard, Wayne's tent flooded3, thunder shook the island, and the wind gusted through the trees so hard that…well, it didn't sound like a tornado was coming, but it sure sounded eerie!

Fortunately, it was just Saturday night, so—outside of the hardcover book that was ruined (shouldn't have brought it with me) and not having a shower between Saturday morning and Monday night—it was okay.

Well, I thought it was just going to be Saturday.

 

(Big Sable Point lighthouse, Ludington. I love Ludington so much that I sighed happily when I saw that picture.)

Fast forward to 2007. This year's destination, the new Jack Pine hike-in campground at Ludington State Park (about two hours south of Traverse). When I was little, it had been a site for large groups, but they'd recently converted it to ten tent-only lots and my mom—being an avid backpacker by then—was eager to try it. Other than a slightly rainy setup and a damp first morning; this, too was a good trip. (Even more so for me, as I was able to persuade my mom to walk to the showers in the main campground with me at least once and didn't have to be dirty all weekend.)

No, the problem was the tornado that swept in before we left. (Photos here.)

Having spent my childhood with grandparents that would call every time a major storm rolled in (to check on us and to remind us to go to the basement if there was a risk of tornado), I was antsy when my mom arrived because a warning had been issued and Wayne hadn't showed me where the door was to his basement. My mom must have pointed it out shortly after her arrival, because not ten minutes later, I decided I didn't like the sound of the wind and was slipping on my flipflops. Apparently, she felt the same way, because she was hot on my heels!

When the wind cleared, we went outdoors to find corn leaves, foam, leaves and other debris in the yard—even someone's report card!

We debated whether we should still go to Ludington—and we did in the end, much to my discomfort—but it was scary coming back and seeing the devastation, realizing we'd been a mere three miles away from the tornado. (My dad lives six miles away from where the tornado touched down, so I'm sure I was anxious about leaving him behind, too.)

 

(The Viking Arms in Ludington, where my mom and I stayed during our annual Labor Day Weekend trips. I thought they were cool back in the day because they had a big library of videos that you could rent for a buck each. Wonder if they switched to DVDs or just got rid of the whole concept with the advent of streaming on Netflix?)

You think I would've cottoned on to my mother's issue by August 2010, but it still hadn't occurred to me that something might be wrong. Between my anxiety acting up (which we didn't yet know I had) and no Wayne to mediate between us (he'd dumped my mom in 2008), it was the worst camping trip I'd ever been on. (Yes, even worse than that final one with my grandparents where my preteen bitchiness4 put an end to everything.)

It wasn't a bad trip in the daytime…we went hiking at one point, went to the beach (where I played so hard with some kids that I could barely stand up for exhaustion afterwards), ate at House of Flavors at least once…but the rain just had to come back!

I don't know if it's walking to the bathroom in the rain.

I don't know if it's because rain makes the tent stuffy.

I don't know if tents trigger claustrophobic feelings.

All I know is that I cried when the storm came in and did not want to be in the tent!


Watching this come in was fun…sitting in a tent while this comes in? Nightmare!

Even when it wasn't raining, I had a hard time sleeping—probably because of cars driving around at all hours5 of the night! One of us had Advil PM in our bags (maybe it was both of us), but it turns out that diphenhydramine (the sleep ingredient in APM and other OTC pills) makes me nauseated above a certain point, which made the situation even worse. By Sunday, Mom was upset with me and I was unhappy in general, so we went home a day early. She must have calmed down after we were on the road for a while, though, because we played a few word games, and that what how I found out uglifruit existed!

Would I be happier now that I have klonopin on my side? Probably not…I can still see myself longing for my childhood trips in a travel trailer!

 

Next Page: Sorry, Mom—it's not me, it's you!

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1If you're not familiar with the nature of my health problems, feel free to ask.

2I haven’t been able to eat a proper breakfast since I was a junior in high school. As a senior, I imagine it was anxiety…and in the years after, more anxiety, given that I would often be up for breakfast only because I had a job interview.

3They brought a single for me, but it was so small that even with the screen uncovered, it gave me a bit of claustrophobia. (Like those two were going to Do It on the hard ground, anyway!)

4Okay, maybe one part bitchiness and one part “my parents are divorcing and even though they’re miserable together, it still hurts!” (I don’t remember if we stopped going when I was eleven or twelve, though.)

5When I was young, each campground had gates that they’d close at the end of visiting hours; but I have no way of knowing if they stopped after determining it was a safety violation, or if it was just the DNR patrolling hourly.

I Latinx You Ought to Jump in a Hole

Everyone rants about “irregardless”, “to/too”, “your/you’re”, “its/it’s”, and “there/their/there”, but what really needs to be happening is bitching about the new non-word “Latinx”. I acknowledge that grammar evolves and changes over time; but unlike English, Spanish and Portuguese have already provided for trans and neutral folk simply by having gendered language. We’re going to focus on Spanish here, though, as I know squat-all about Portuguese1 and there are too many other languages the rest of the way down the Latino food chain.


Try not to have too much fun on your way down.

How the hell are you supposed to pronounce that, anyway? “La-tinks”? “La-tinsh”2? I’m not even sure, because from what I’ve seen, X shows up primarily in Mexican and Central American Spanish and Catalan. Not that it matters whether it shows up in American Spanish, because LATINX IS NOT A WORD!

A group of males is “Latinos”. A group of females is “Latinas”. A mixed-gendered group is also “Latinos”, because a mixed-gendered group of anything always carries the masculine ending.

What if I’m trans?
Estoy pensando en cambiar mi género. | Estoy trabajando en cambiar mi género.
“I’m thinking of changing my gender” or “I’m working on changing my gender”.

How about gender neutral?
Soy neutral en género. | Prefiero no elegir un género.
“I’m gender neutral” or “I prefer not to pick a gender”.

What about being bigender/genderfluid?
“Prefiero no elegir un género” still works, or you could go with, “Mi género cambia con mi estado de ánimo”. (“My gender changes with my mood.”)

What if—
Stop. Just stop. Now you’re just trying to piss me off.

I’m done trying to correct people on this one—it’s just too damn tiring and too easy to hit the block button. If you’re going to continue to purposefully remain ignorant, that hole is waiting.


1Yes, I’ve tried Duolingo. Last I knew, the reader for Portuguese had an incredible case of word vomit. x_x (Which is a shame, because I’m shortly to get a Brazilian cousin-in-law.)

2X has an sh sound in Catalan, which is where the suggestion of “La-tinsh” comes from.

 

Sorry this lacks my usual venom—my heart just wasn’t in it this time.

Fanfic Makes Us

I've never read Seanan McGuire's work (until this thread, anyway), but this tweet essay is fantastic, so I thought I'd take advantage of my sudden, inexplicable popularity to share this with the wider world.

I don't know where the paragraph breaks would be, so I'm breaking it off by tweet, except for where a sentence runs across two.


All right, y'all: we're going to take a moment to talk about my last retweet. Specifically Sarah saying "Every time I talk about writing fanfiction, I get hatemail." I am not tagging her in because I don't want to dogpile her mentions.

Buckle in. It's going to be long one.

 

I started writing fiction, so far as anyone can tell based on excavation of my old papers (Mom kept everything), around the age of six. In these stories, I went off to Ponyland to play with the Ponies and hang out with Megan. Everyone loved me, naturally. I got to ride unicorns.

Most of the kids I knew were making up the same stories; I was precocious only in that I was already writing them down. The boy three houses over had a very close relationship with the Care Bears. His sister was the best mechanic the Transformers had ever known.

Was most of it self-insert wish-fulfillment? Well, yeah. FUCK, YEAH. We were kids. We were learning how to make up stories, and the best stories were the ones that had a place for us in their centers.

As we got older, most of the boys I knew stopped telling–or at least stopped sharing–those stories. They had discovered that the majority of media centered boys exactly like them, which meant they could move from self-insertion to projection without a hiccup.

(Projection is also an important step in learning how to make believe. If you can't BE the main character, you can let them be your avatar, carrying your essence into the story. Here's the thing, though: it takes time to learn to "ride" avatars that you can't recognize.)

Everyone who grows up on a diet of Western media learns, on some level, to accept The Default as their avatar, because we historically haven't had much choice. Want to be the hero, instead of the love interest, the scrappy sidekick, or the villain? Embrace The Default.

Bit by bit, the number of girls* who would admit to making up their own stories also dropped off. The rest of us, well. We learned that "I had an adventure…" made people laugh at you. We started writing avatars. (*Parts of this thread are very binary, because they are based on my childhood experiences, and I grew up, as many of us did, in a very gender binary world. I am fascinated to see how these experiences with story change as we move into a more fluid and accepting world.)

Only writing avatars also got us laughed at, when people found out about it, got us accused of Mary Sue wish-fulfillment bullshit. We stopped making up original female characters. Many of us stopped making up characters at all.

If we used only existing characters as our avatars, we didn't get laughed at as much. If we used only existing MALE characters–characters we had all been trained to view as The Default, capable of anything, not just of being The Girl–well.

Suddenly we could write ANYTHING WE WANTED. Suddenly we were GODS OF THE FICTIONAL WORLD, and we could finally start telling the stories the shows and books didn't want to give us.

I honestly think that the reason so many fanfic writers are women/girls is a toxic combination of social stigma ("ew, fanfic is a GIRLY thing, ew, it's all PORN, and most of it is GAY PORN") and seeking a way to empathize with The Default.

So you have generations–literal, multiple GENERATIONS–of female authors growing up steeped in fanfic. Making our own stories from high school on, if not before. Trying to find our way to a schema of story that actually fits us.

(You also have generations of queer authors, trans authors, and gender-nonconforming authors, all going on their own journeys. My sexuality definitely influenced my attraction to fanfic, because finally, I wasn't being judged for it.)

This means that you have, again, GENERATIONS of female authors who have gone through the most rigorous writing school in existence, going pro and starting to publish.

Yes: THE most rigorous. FIGHT ME. Fanfic taught me pacing. Taught me dialog. Taught me scene, and structure, and what to do when a deadline attacks. Fanfic taught me to take critique, to be edited, to collaborate, to write to spec. FANFIC MADE ME.

An MFA takes three years. My path from fanfic newbie to published author took me more than a decade.

It's not a structured school. There aren't classes, or finals; you don't get a degree. How fast you learn is tied to how fast you listen, and you can stop whenever you find the place that makes you happy. "Going pro" is not the brass ring for every fanfic author.

But.

A [considerable] number of us started writing fanfic because we wanted to live the stories that we loved, and then discovered that we loved telling stories. We wanted to do it always and forever and maybe…maybe we wanted to tell OUR OWN STORIES.

Maybe we wanted to CHANGE THE DEFAULT.

Can you imagine?

The audacity!

Graduates of a school that doesn't cost money, with a "student body" made of mostly women, CHANGING THE DEFAULT.

Because here's where I'm going to pivot a little, and tell you a filthy, filthy secret: men write fanfic too. They just call it "homage," or "public domain," or "licensed work," and get on with their bad selves.

FUZZY NATION? Fanfic.

WICKED? Fanfic.

Every X-Men comic written since Claremont stopped? Fanfic.

Your beloved HAMILTON? Real-person fanfic. Songfic, even.

When men write fanfic, there is a tendency for the media to report on it as "transformative" and "transgressive" and "a new take on a classic story."

When women do it, the same media goes "hee hee hee she wrote about dicks."

Am I blaming the men who tell the stories? Fuck, no. But when the conversation is always framed as "HE makes LITERATURE, SHE writes TRASH," that is the schema people seize upon. That is the narrative we live.

The Default, now, is that a man who writes fanfic is uplifting and transforming, showing us the pearl within the oyster, whereas all the woman wants to show us is the "pearl" in the "oyster," in the Victorian sense.

AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE VICTORIAN SENSE. But this is just an updated version of the "men write erotica, women write pornography" conversation that's been going on since I was a wee small Seanan sneaking my stepdad's Playboys.

Women who admit they wrote (or still write) fanfic get shit upon, over and over again, because we keep saying, and allowing the media to say, that fanfic is trash, and that by extension, we who write it are garbage people.

It gets used as a "gotcha." I have experienced it directly, the interviewer who drops their voice, leans in conspiratorially close, and asks if the rumors that I used to write…those stories…are true.

They always look so damn shocked when I respond with a cheerful, "Oh, yeah, my agent initially contacted me because she really enjoyed my BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Faith/Buffy porn!"

[Cue Dayanara rolling her eyes on Seanan's behalf]

I am supposed to be ashamed of my past. I am supposed to repudiate the school where I learned to hold an audience; I am supposed to bury the bodies of all the girls who made me.

I refuse.

Fanfic is a natural human interaction with story. Children do it before they know its name. People who swear they would never do it all the time, retelling fairy tales and Shakespearean dramas and family anecdotes in new lights and new settings. FANFIC WILL NEVER DIE.

We need to acknowledge that fact: we need to accept that fanfic is never going away, and that it would suck a sack of wasps through a funnel if it did, because we need it. We need to center old stories in new ways, to update The Default, and yeah, to see some vampire peen.

So if you know someone who wrinkles their nose at fanfic, or who would tell a former fanfic author that their original fiction is somehow worth less because of their roots, or who is just generally an impacted asshole with legs, remember:

They are wrong.

Fanfic is beautiful.

Writing fanfic teaches you important storytelling skills.

I have a funnel and access to wasps.

 

Thank you for coming to today's episode of Seanan Gets Mad About Shit.


And thank you for accepting my choice to repost this.

Now I must go…my fingers hurt from the copypasta. 😛

Aside

Quick Follow-up

Heard back from the President of Grape, who smirkingly claimed I was “threatening” him.

What?

Since when is, “I know we can solve this quickly and easily and don’t have to get copyright attorneys involved” threatening?

Just to ensure we’re all on the same page, I said (in part):

Please tell me that you care enough about your site that I don’t have to file a lawsuit against you. I don’t want to spend the time and money on something that should be solved by a simple email.

“Please tell me” is a request; a simple desire to know that your users are…I don’t want to say “overzealous” because that might be misconstrued, but you get the idea. The next line is just a suggestion that the whole situation should be able to be solved quickly and painlessly, without getting out the big guns on either side. But this guy is too busy smirking like Martin Shkreli to realize that.

 

You know how when you accuse someone of raising their voice, they say, “that’s not yelling”, then raise their volume and say, “THIS IS YELLING!“? Here’s me actually yelling…er..threatening:

I was asking nicely, not threatening. But if you can’t tell the difference, it’s no wonder you permit copyright violations.

I’ve changed my mind about the lawsuit–I don’t want to see your smug face in court. I’d be too tempted to beat the stupid out of you and infantile minds like yours are not worth going to jail over.

“Copyright violations” is a touchy subject in this circumstance, especially since no one is actively using my work, and it would be more than mine (more about that in a minute). I don’t know if I would actually try to punch him in court since I’m a bit of a goody-goody, but he at least promoted himself to the rank of “I want to reach through the computer and strangle you”, so there is that.

 

As for “not my copyright”? No paper trail means no proof that the near-casting agreement ever existed. (Probably why I was angling so hard for a contract–besides the fact that I [naively] thought back then that contracts can hold people to their word.) Which means Disney would happily take me down for copyright violations. And if I go down, I’ll take President Grape’s smirking ass with me.

P.S.: You’re well aware that the books in question would essentially be fanfiction, right? They’d be books that tied into my debut novel, which is based on a tenuous agreement I had with Marvel pre-Disney. If I go down for copyright violations, everyone associated the least little bit with me goes down with me. I’d like to see you smirk your way out of it in front of Disney’s attorneys, but I imagine they wouldn’t allow me access to a television while in jail.

 

In the words of Katniss, if we burn, you burn with us.


Related: Book Murder

 

Belated P.S.: as I was emptying my email trash, I discovered a quick note back: "Copyright isn't what you think it is–duplicate titles are allowed. Maybe you're thinking of trademarks?" Maybe you're so fucking dense that you missed "not even my copyright" and "I'm going to enjoy watching you squirm when Disney fries your ass alongside mine."

Book Murder

or: How My Decision was Made for Me


When I'm debating whether to get rid of a potential book (or two), I generally like to make the decision for myself. But sometimes things get so out of hand that you have no choice but to let it go.

 

There are quite a few book cataloging sites out there, with Goodreads probably being the most famous. One I haven't heard of until a few months ago (I'm going to call it "Grape" out of laziness) when someone on one of the Not Always sites told me about it. (I wish I could remember who it was, because it probably would've saved a lot of the drama I'm about to share!) It seemed pretty easy to join Grape and get my stuff listed, so I did, and was loosely involved in the site until yesterday.

When this person (let's call her "Amanda") found out about my work, she (helpfully) made a page for my debut novel, then made pages for two books I hadn't written yet–Emmeline and Elizabeth.

It didn't bother me at first. There was always the chance I'd write them myself, or pay for a ghostwriter to do them as I mentioned in Prequels, Sequels and Problems.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn't a good idea. It's one thing to make pages for books I'm fairly certain I'll write (Dark and Dirty Games is an excellent example); it's another to make pages for books that I've publicly stated are low on my priority list, as it's not likely they'll ever be written.

After poking around in Grape's FAQ section and its help pages, I decided to ask for help in the forums.

Big mistake!

To summarize the responses, the pages can't be deleted, and it's not permissible to ask Amanda to delete them, either.1

"But it's my work and my intellectual property! I'm the one that has control over it, not Amanda!"

"It doesn't matter if they're your books," the users argued. "Amanda posted the pages, they're her work, you have no rights to them and no right to contact her and ask her to remove them." (One user said that Grape isn't a bibliography, it's a catalog of books belonging to people on the site. But that makes no sense, because how can you claim to own a book that's never been written?)2

While I'm sure copyright law doesn't protect books I haven't written, I do know that you can contact sites and ask them to take down pictures and information they have of yours–that's why services that clean up your web presence exist! Which means that the whole "you can't contact Amanda" premise is bullshit.

You're right–I can't contact Amanda, but I can contact "Lambda", who I believe owns the site!

 

I told Lambda what was going on, argued that I should have control over my intellectual property, and asked her nicely to remove the pages, as I didn't want to file a lawsuit over something that could be solved with a simple email.

Her response? [*crickets*]

While I would've preferred a short response along the lines of "sorry for all the problems–the pages are deleted", not getting one means I don't have to worry about my anxiety being triggered. (Not to mention not having money for an attorney, should it go that far.)

 

As for the dead books? Why should I write something with so much negativity attached to it?

(I was going to go into detail about the ideas I had for the dead books, but I don't have the energy anymore. I’m just glad this is all–pretty much–over.)

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1I honestly don't care about Grape's etiquette–if Amanda wasn't listed as a private user (thereby rendering her unreachable), I would've contacted her and saved myself a headache or seven.

2One user actually had the gall to say, "No one is going to read your books after you threw a hissy fit like this!"
"Ooo, big fucking threat! No one reads my books anyway!"
(They might not read my books, but I noticed an uptick in visitors on my site! HA!)

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