gretchening: picture of my face, looking mischievous, with dyed red hair in front (Default)
Hello, welcome to my journal!

A bit about me under the cut. )I'm always happy to meet new people, so please don't be shy to offer an opinion or comment here.
gretchening: picture of my face, looking mischievous, with dyed red hair in front (Default)
Last night, two blocks from my home, Madison police shot and killed a 19-year old unarmed Black man named Tony Robinson. Here's a local news report about it.

It can and does happen here. It can and does happen where you live.

I went to the rally up the block from my home. I had been home sharing some beers and conversation with a friend when I heard about it. I'd say about 100 people were gathered there. Police presence was stoic and still. As we passed a white officer at one point he jovially said 'hello!' to us, which filled me with rage.

My area of town in particular and White Madison in general has this Thing where we've become something of a protest culture. There are certain chants, drums, systems to the rallies. Someone had vegan lentil soup to pass around, which is thoughtful I guess but just felt weird. I witnessed two young white women jovially dancing along with one of the chants at one point. People were greeting one another and introducing each other. That pissed me off. White protesters were leading chants of 'Fuck the police!'. It felt... appropriative and strangely unfocused/general for a little while there.

Then some of the Young Gifted and Black Coalition members took the mic and led chants about Tony Robinson and one woman gave a prayer which I couldn't make out very well b/c I have poor hearing and also a train was going by, but it sounded really good from what I was able to make out. At around midnight the crowd was asked by the YGB organizers to move to the City County Building to stage a sit in to get two witnesses who were being held without attorneys or being charged out of jail. I did not feel able to make that trek in the cold with no transportation, and as I'd been drinking before I heard the news it didn't seem wise to join them there.

I don't know anyone's names who were speaking. I tweeted some of the chants and some on-the-ground impressions from my locked and unlocked accounts (unlocked acct is [twitter.com profile] gretchening).

Today I am at work while Madison activists gather at the behest of the YGB Coalition to discuss the incident and Madison's response. I have just learned that there is a rally at noon today at Madison police headquarters on Wilson St. I am very grateful for the group's leadership, as I worry that activist Madison will fall into its typical trap of privileging White liberal voices over those of the community most affected by this death and the institutional systemic racism that led to it.

I am angry and sad.
gretchening: picture of my face, looking mischievous, with dyed red hair in front (Default)
I have been reading a mess of comics lately. Here are a few I've recently enjoyed.

Cut text to spare your flists )
gretchening: Cover art for Stars Are Out Tonight, a creepy black-eyed sculptured alien/androgynous bust in black and white (Bowie Alien)
Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars ed. by Nisi Shawl

I recommend this anthology unreservedly. It's a collection of stories by writers of color who have been recipients of the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship, and it really showcases the variety of talent the scholarship has supported, and, I hope, gives these writers a strong platform for future work. Plus, it's an $8 ebook whose donation benefits the scholarship fund, so it's a win all around.

I tend to have a difficult time getting through anthologies and collections of short stories, as I can't help but compare the stories to one another. In this case, I did have some standout favorites but I definitely enjoyed all of the stories enough to finish them easily, which is unusual for me. I think that's a hallmark of a strong anthology and the organization of the stories within the volume really worked for me.

As a meta-aside, I really appreciated the two non-fiction pieces that opened the volume and sandwiched the reprint of Butler's "Speech Sounds". Hopkinson and McIntyre give personal accounts of Butler and give context for her legacy, both in terms of her work and in terms of her contributions in supporting other writers in the SF/F field. I cried reading each of these pieces, and was stunned at how much of an impact "Speech Sounds" has when read in this context as an introduction to work by talented up-and-coming writers. "Speech Sounds" is in so many ways a story about having no voice/ability to express oneself and feeling one's way in a bitterly dangerous world, only to find and nurture a new generation who are just beginning to find and develop that voice. This especially played against Hopkinson's introduction, in which she talks about being a young reader of color seeking "African diasporic culture, our aesthetics, our histories and lore, our speech stylings, our experiences and understandings of the world, our humor..." Hopkinson talks about how Butler was one of the first authors to do this for SF/F, and she went on to help protect and support other writers' voices to help expand the field further. To me, that is the work that the Octavia Butler Scholarship seeks to do for writers of color in the SF/F literary world, and that is the work Butler herself began before her untimely death. It was well-chosen and powerful, and it really prepared me as a reader to look with even more interest on the stories that followed, and to read them each as a representation of a *new* voice.

I think it's a grave mistake to compare all writers of color in SF/F to Butler (I have seen it happen so often on panels at conventions and in online discussions), and I'm glad to see this anthology --it's frustrating and does a disservice to their work. I think Shawl did well in curating examples of each writer's work that stood out from one another in a way that really enhanced their differences in structure, theme, voice, perspective. The anthology is arranged chronologically in terms of when the author received the scholarship, but it ends up working internally--the story placement worked for me most of the time, too.

I talk a little about my response to each story under the cut, including some spoilers. )
gretchening: Cover art for Stars Are Out Tonight, a creepy black-eyed sculptured alien/androgynous bust in black and white (Bowie Alien)
Okay can we talk about the new David Bowie video??? [personal profile] turtlesoup sent me the link, thank goodness, and now I AM HERE TO HAVE FLAILINGS.

Cover art for Stars Are Out Tonight, a creepy black-eyed sculptured alien/androgynous bust in black and white



From the strangeness, the not-quite-normal of their normalcy... the broken window of the house, the carpeting that's just a little too electric blue (like Swinton's eyeliner), the dead tree... the hairless woman Bowie from Man Who Fell To Earth on the cover of the magazine, which is called 'Pantheon', a bit unusual for a tabloid rag...And that's just the opening credits.

The lyrics about fear of celebrity...the disjointed movement such a hallmark of Bowie videos in the 90s (Hello Spaceboy <3 <3 <3)... Bowie's former selves as androgyne models, the specter of haunting, the seduction and literal ghosting effect of the lens, the final replacement and becoming strange, all of them turning finally to stare at/through us (as the stars do behind their shades in the lyrics)...his alternate universe 'nice' life with Tilda who LOOKS LIKE HIM.

If I had more time before work I'd try to talk about the androgyny, the ways he's deploying gender and normalcy and celebrity, but... damn. That scene where Tilda cuts the raw chicken on the table and he just sits there, frozen...wow. Ugh I love it. I'm going to watch it twelve more times.
gretchening: picture of my face, looking mischievous, with dyed red hair in front (Default)
On Sunday, my gym buddy and I had just gotten back from the gym, where I'd added weight to my lateral pulldown routine (up to 110 lbs, from 50 when I started working out a few months ago) and realized I'm starting to get a tiny bit burly in the arm and shoulder area, a realization that, combined with other recent developments, filled me with awe that maybe I can *do something* about my gender, and my body, and can actively move towards something that feels more right, and take pleasure in the sweat and sensation of it while I'm at it.

We got back to her house and started heating up some chili, and I checked the emails that had accumulated on my phone while we were at the gym. I boggled at what I found there, an email from Debbie Notkin that made me gasp out loud. I told my gym buddy what it said, and she laughed and high-fived me. For the rest of my visit, we buzzed my hair and I erupted in random giggles of awkward, disbelieving happiness. Was this really my life?

Tonight I pulled up my senior honors thesis, because it's been about five years since I wrote and submitted it, and a lot has happened in five years--my perspective and access to knowledge and wisdom has increased dramatically. I wrote it with no knowledgeable support--my advisor knew nothing of science fiction and little about feminist theory, and I think she just gave me an A because it's kind of the thing you do for seniors.

I titled my thesis 'Humanity on the Edge of Gender', and I wrote it because feminist science fiction was important to me, WisCon had already become important to me even though I was a terrified wallflower who spend most of her first couple of years at WisCon behind the registration desk, just because I didn't know what else to do and I was shy and in awe of everyone around me. I spent hours and hours scurrying around Memorial Library and tracking down titles referenced in bibliographies to try to get a sense of the extant scholarship on feminist science fiction, especially as it relates to sex and gender, bodies and power and relationships. So much of it pointed back to WisCon.

Today I re-read the introduction of that thesis, and it's maybe not that interesting to me now, it's a bit quaint and irrelevant, and I'll probably never show it to anyone but I will keep it as a sort of nostalgic reference point for my own history, the way I try to save old journals and major projects. The relevant thing about this thesis is that I devoted a half a page of my introduction to talking about the Tiptree Award and how important it is to promulgating the conversation and aspiration of sf/f that pushes us to think critically about gender.

For the next five years, through book clubs and conventions, online discussions, long chats into the night, conversations with new and old friends and lovers, to thoughts that strike me when I am about to sleep, I have come again and again to rely on that conversation as not only important to the genre, but important to my sense of self. Even when I haven't actively engaged the conversation myself, I listen to it and am reassured by its process It's not an abstract conversation--its existence, the way we talk and think about gender both in fiction and in our lives, is necessary and life-saving for many of us, including me. It helps us live and react in our bodies in hundreds of tiny ways, that make life not just bearable but, often, livable and even, sometimes, personally *normal*. That multifaceted, varied, sprawling, often fraught conversation has real value to my life.

So. Now it is 2013, not 2008, and, unless the Motherboard comes to their collective senses and rescinds the invitation I accepted on Sunday, I'll be on the actual Tiptree Award jury.

Logically, it shouldn't surprise me, but emotionally... it feels like an enormous recognition from a community that is so important to me. It's an incredible honor to me, and it's been a few days now and I'm still hovering somewhere in disbelief about it. I know once it gets going, just like anything, it'll be plenty boring and frustrating and full of normal humans being human and arguing about their opinions and perspectives, and I will be a professional in my field and bring my expertise to bear etc. And that's good, I actually love that, and I feel pretty confident that that's a thing I can do, in this context, reasonably well. I know the Tiptree Award has a relatively small audience of interest for a literary award, but it's so hugely important *to me*, and right now I get to savor that enormity and feel good about it.

Now, as if I'm not feeling emotional enough, I'm going to go read Bloodchildren and think about my oankali tattoo.

Anyhow. Alice... here's to you.

black and white picture of Alice Sheldon aka James Tiptree Jr writing with great concentration
gretchening: picture of my face, looking mischievous, with dyed red hair in front (Default)
On the recommendation of [personal profile] bibliofile, who stopped by the store last night, I picked up Cristy Road's graphic novel pre-teen memoir Spit & Passion

Cover of Spit and Passion - Ink drawing of a woman with a Rolling Stone magazine with Green Day on the cover and the top of her head through her backward FL Marlins cap is an exposed brain with the Golden Gate Bridge bursting form it

I enjoyed this book, with some minor stylistic quibbles )

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