Two of these things I’ve mentioned on Twitter, but not during the high traffic hours, and one is brand new. I will tell you them properly now!

Starting Wednesday and going through February 26, I’ll be taking over Charlie Stross’s blog for the month. I’ll still post personal stuff here, but it’ll be essays and commentary over there. So if there’s an SF/futurist or writing process or genre or cultural or feminist/race/queer issues thing you’ve wanted me to take this is a great chance to tell me about it. It’s a completely different audience there, so I expect the sparks to fly at least once or twice.

Also! The Bread We Eat in Dreams has been chosen for Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2012! I’m so excited about this because I love that story, and also because I guess 2011 was just a spectacular short fiction year for me. I now have four different stories in four different Year’s Best anthologies. (The others are White Lines on a Green Field, The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland, and Silently and Very Fast.) This is unheard of for me, especially since one is a novella! I’m still amazed.

And lastly, I am over the moon to have been asked to teach at the Alpha Workshop this year–a writing workshop for teens held at the University of Pittsburgh right around Confluence time of year. (End of July.) I’ve wanted to be involved for awhile! And they asked me! I’ll be joining Tamora Pierce, Kij Johnson, and John Joseph Adams, so it should be a pretty spectacular workshop. Yay!

Now I drag myself to coffee and productivity. Autoaudiography post on the way.

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So there’s this singer named Lana Del Rey*. She has this beautiful, sad music video that changes her song Video Games into some kind of awful, gorgeous love song to bygone America, and by bygone I mean my youth, the 80s and 90s. I happened to see it about two weeks ago and downloaded the song because damn, it’s just so full of atmosphere and unspoken sorrow and I dig that all the way.

Then, she went on Saturday Night Live. And sang–some say not very well, which would certainly be SHOCKING for SNL, where musical guests always bring their A game? I guess? I’ve always been profoundly bored by the musical segment of SNL, because even acts I love seem to be phoning it in and nobody rips up pictures of the Pope anymore.

Anyway–boy howdy, the internet has decided to shit on her with the fury of a million Rebecca Blacks.

And here’s where the asterisk come in. As far as I can tell, the anger–and it is anger, the indie music kids are screeching through their hipster veneer of not caring in utter hatred of this woman–is on account of three things. One: she comes from money. Two: she wasn’t very good on Saturday Night Live. Three: she changed her name; her birth name is Lizzy Grant.

Thing is, I look at all this and I wonder why she is deserving of such loathing–a woman who was clearly not ready for SNL, not because she isn’t a good singer, but because she’s clearly painfully nervous and terrified, as she seems to be in most of her live shows, and yo, I can understand that. I bet she’ll be less terrified now that the internet curses her name! (And you know who else isn’t ready for SNL? Like half of the SNL cast, and many of the nameless flop-haired mumbling guy bands they have on there.)

So, her dad is rich. Well, so is Norah Jones’ dad (born Geethali Shankar, btw), and half of the mainstream entertainment industry is the children of the wealthy and the famous, whether you, the internet, know it or not. We love to tell the stories of a poor child Madonna or the Beatles in Liverpool, but come on. You know damn well why Kate Hudson got her shot, and why Wilson Phillips got their shiny record deal so young. This does not mean Lana Del Rey is the devil. I would prefer that everyone start on a level playing field, too, but in our capitalist paradise it just ain’t so. And if you hate Lana Del Rey because of her father, you need to also hate every artist, actor, musician who comes from money–so you won’t be consuming very much entertainment, I tell you what. She has a team behind her. Oh no! No one else has that! No one in the history of SNL has gotten there by means other than their beatboxed bootstraps!

And the name thing. Jesus Christ. I cannot believe the vitriol over the fact that this woman changed her name to a stage name. Like this makes her an inauthentic succubus to be stabbed and set on fire.

Ok, I’m going to tell you a secret. Don’t tell anyone! Shhh!

Bowie isn’t David Bowie’s real name! Likewise Lady Gaga was born Stephanie Germanotti! Also Meatloaf, Sting, Bono, The Edge, Flea, Prince, Jay-Z, Vanilla Ice, Englebert Humperdinck, Bob Dylan, Patsy Cline, Ice Cube, Billie Holliday, Queen Latifah, Marilyn Manson, Nico, Cat Power, and even little Dweezil Zappa (who was born Ian) changed their fucking names because that’s what rock stars do. (Oh and guess what? I changed my name too. Sometimes our names suck and we hate them.)

I’ve run into this idea that a pseudonym makes you inherently inauthentic before in my own line of work and it always baffles me. Because the list of famous writers who used pseudonyms is even longer than rock stars. Names are not a window into your true soul, people! (Oddly enough, unless you changed it to reflect your soul more accurately.) I write the same books as Catherynne Valente that I’d write as [birth name]. Names are not graven on one’s bones. Also, we all use handles online so GET OVER IT. Lana Del Rey is an objectively better name than Lizzie Grant, which makes me think of Amy Grant and yucky mid 90s veiled Christian pop. That snotty music bloggers insist on calling her Elizabeth Grant (not even Lizzie!) with this holier than thou tone is beyond gross and sad. You’ll notice they don’t call Bowie David Jones, or Bob Dylan Robert Zimmerman, or Nico Christa Paffgen. So why is it ok to sneeringly refer to an artist by her birth name which she has clearly disavowed? People have tried to do this to me and it results in absolute rage. It is infantilizing and condescending: you think you can define your own identity? Not while I’m around!

I keep coming back to Nico because she’s an interesting example–beloved by indiehounds, changed her name, an odd beauty (folks say Lana’s had plastic surgery which, whatever, it’s her body) and a breathy, non-conventional, untrained singing voice that is nevertheless lauded all over town. Lana, actually, kind of sounds like her. Honestly, I think half the shock over her voice is that everything is so autotuned now that real human voices sound terrible to most people. But Nico is an icon and Lana Del Rey could get run over by a truck and half the music blogs would cheer.

I have this feeling that if it were Lester Del Rey, nobody would care about any of these things. Not the name, not the parents, not the voice, not the looks. (Though even Jezebel has gotten in on the thrashing with glee–and it is glee that I see infusing all the rage. Delight in being able to shoot this woman down, in having power over her.) She inspires rage because she looks like an easy shot, and instead of an actual class war we’d rather just yell at Lana Del Rey on the internet. If being shitty on SNL were such a crime the jails would be full of comedians and singers. I don’t even remember Ashlee Simpson’s lip syncing debacle causing this much vitriol. What is it about her that makes the music commentariat see red? Is it because she looks like such a wounded lamb, like she might blow away at any moment, that she showed her nerves and fear in her face while she sang, fear we’d all feel singing in front of millions, so we see that blood and just go for it? This hipsterindie quest for authenticity means that it’s critics/blogs who are determining what is authentic. And then they tell the internet, and the internet dutifully sneers at anyone with a manager. But not being very good at instruments or singing is fine if you’re either super poppy (most people who are not omgindiecred will say Timberlake is pretty good these days even though he is crazy packaged for your consumption) or super underground/punk, and that raw sound everyone hates in Lana Del Rey is what they look for in pretty much anyone else.

I don’t know. I don’t know why this girl gets no mercy and no quarter. I liked her song. I liked her strange, off-kilter voice. She sounds like she means it. I thought her duck lips looked funny, but every mainstream girl in my generation seems to do the duck thing the minute a camera is trained on her, and half the boys too. I’m not going to go all Leave Lana Del Rey Alone on you–well, no, I guess I am. Unless you’re willing to jump down the neck of every singer who changed his name or came from a wealthy background.

She’s not the greatest singer of all time. Not by a long shot. But she’s not a punching bag, either.

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I’m still battling off my Christmas Cold, so over the weekend I decided to do a Round Robin and play an hour or two or three of every game I’d been gifted over the last couple of years and not gotten a chance to play. I mean, really–some of them I got two years ago and have been on tour too often to even crack the plastic seal. Bad gamer.

And lo, in my Lost Weekend of Xbox and Golden Grahams, I did learn something! A universal truth about human life on Planet Earth, true across time and cultures, so important that a game is nigh unto unplayable without stating this truth in the intro. What did I learn, you ask?

Girls are the worst.

It was most noticeable in Sonic Generations and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Girls were merely absent in what I played of Epic Mickey and gender is pretty egalitarian so far in Skyrim and Dungeon Siege III–though the Great Boobs of Fantasy Art are present in force. Portal 2 takes the Metroid route, though it’s full of inexplicable fat jokes. It doesn’t escape me that of all my weekend games, Sonic and Zelda are the ones aimed at kids. (And holy cats, playing a Sonic game again made me feel like I was smoking actual crack. I think I might have discovered the viral source for ADD–we played this game as kids and thus it began, spreading out from us like a contagion.) Who of all of us need to know how terrible girls are as soon as possible, so they don’t make the mistake of having anything to do with them.

In the FMV intro to Sonic Generations, everyone is having a picnic to tell Sonic how awesome he is, because he has Protagonist Superpowers and that’s what second-tier PCs do with their spare time, I guess. One of Sonic’s friends is a girl. We know this because she is pink and because unlike all the other sidekicks who have cool action names like Knuckles and Tails, her name is…Amy. (Though honestly, both I and my husband had always read Tails as a girl in the original game–smaller, with a graceful fluffy pair of tails, a vaguely sexually suggestive name and light orange–why not? You take what you can get as far as playable girls. But it’s long been explicit in subsequent titles that Tails is a boy. I mean, he isn’t pink, so OBVIOUSLY AMIRITE.)

Amy is in love with Sonic. Sometimes she tries to kiss him. When she attempts this at the picnic, Sonic shoves his hand in her face and holds her physically away from him with a look of disgust on his face. He turns toward Tails and puts an arm around him, all the while crushing Amy’s face with his paw.

And of course, Amy continues to be the worst as the game goes on. At one point Sonic brings her the Red Ring hidden on a level, to which she responds: “Tee hee! That’s not the kind of ring I was hoping for!” She is not playable in this game and Sonic repeatedly expresses his loathing and revulsion of her. Boys rule, girls drool! And they want to get married and stuff! They like pink! So weird and yucky, little kids, don’t talk to them! And hit them in the face if they try to kiss you!

Zelda cracked me up hardcore, because I, like many of you, I think, remember the Legend of Zelda animated TV show. In which, at the end of every adventure, Link tried to get Princess Zelda to kiss him and Zelda was so not into it. Not so this time! Girls are miserable harpies now, no one wants to kiss them! Ahahaha, ew.

Link has his revenge in Skyward Sword! Link wakes up on the morning of his coming of age ritual (AGAIN) and a letter from Zelda arrives (AGAIN) reminding him that he has to fly his big bird thing in the ritual today, and that he promised to meet her on the roof beforehand. Link makes this face like OH MY GOD YOU GUYS NOTHING IS WORSE THAN A PRINCESS WHO WANTS TO HANG OUT WITH YOU.

At which point he dicks around for awhile before going to the roof and meeting up with Zelda, who is naturally concerned because Link is a lazy shit who hasn’t practiced flying his giant bird even though he has a SUPER SPECIAL ONE and has known he’d have to do this bird flying ritual test for a long time. Zelda tells her father that Link is definitely going to die because he sucks at flying. This is a valid concern! Her father goes on this weird rant about Link’s SPECIAL BIRD ZOMG and how Zelda was so jealous when Link and the bird bonded! LOLZ. He clearly means that Zelda wanted to “bond” with Link, though I prefer to think Zelda was jealous because shitty lazy Link got an AWESOME RED GIANT BIRD and she was stuck with the magical psychic aviary equivalent of a Dodge Dart.

So Zelda fusses over Link LIKE A GIRL and then kicks him off the roof to sink or swim with his bird and clock some damn sky hours, goddammit, but the special fabulous bird doesn’t show to snatch him out of his fall. At which point Zelda scores fair cool points by zooming down to rescue Link in mid-air and cradles him in her arms while trying to make sure he’s ok post-nearly-plummeting-to-his-death.

And Link gives her the Sonic look like: FUCK GIRLS ARE SO GROSS AND WEIRD EW GOD SHE’S TOUCHING ME and immediately jumps up so she won’t infect him with her girl cooties.

Ok, so they’re not into girls. That’s ok, right? Progressive, maybe?

Thing is, I would love to see a gay protagonist in a game. It’s high time for a Samus-style switch where you’re actually a boy saving a prince at the end of the game. And especially with Sonic, I think it’s fairly clear that he and Tails are More Than Just Friends. It’s not even coded when the hero is physically shoving a girl away in order to cuddle a boy. Though in my happy world of gay video game heroes, being a gay hero would not give you license to be a towering dick to the half of humanity you’re not interested in fucking–and that half would not be reduced to a stereotype and flung at the hero at high speeds so that he could show his awesomeness by crushing her. (Or him.) Wild dreamer, me.

But of course neither Link nor Sonic is canonically gay, and I think the programmers would be horrified at the suggestion. So given that they are mostly marketing these games to young boys and men and the Default Corporate Consumer is usually straight, why do these avatars hate girls so much? Why does Link no longer even want to tolerate the presence of the chick it is The Legend of?

Well, it is because girls are the worst. Their view is supported by Amy and Zelda being all up on the heroes’ junk and babbling about rings like disgusting, stupid girls do because they can’t kick ass or be awesome like a boy can.

This all came together for me because after my eyeballs and meds could not take Sonic’s fever pitch anymore, I watched Patrice O’Neal’s last comedy special on Netflix. And wow, it’s just nothing but “women are terrible, lolz” from start to finish. With such hits as “men don’t want anything but sex from relationships, but women don’t even like sex!” and “why can’t I harass women in the workplace? I’m a hunter/predator/caveman, it’s natural! PS You can harass me any time, ladies, as long as you’re not an uggo or a fatty because that is gross.” and my favorite Chris Rock cover: “allow me to demonstrate the act of physical intimidation I like to perform in lieu of hitting a woman, which I wouldn’t do because I am a Nice Guy.”

In this case, the act was “mushing,” which is grabbing a woman’s face and shoving her. And the audience laughed and women cheered when he asked who had had this done to her. At which point O’Neal breaks into a long set about how all men everywhere fantasize about killing their wives and girlfriends specifically because women are so awful killing them is an act of self defense, and asks people in the audience for their plans on how to murder their spouses.

Wow.

And all through that stand-up act was the message: there is no point to a woman except to have sex with her. She is useless unless she is actually having sex right now, willing to have sex in the very near future, or caring for the results of sex. No man would ever want to talk to or engage with a woman unless she is going to have sex with him very soon, and even then she should be careful to not talk or do anything to displease her man or else he might shove her or KILL her, but in the end, he’s still such a Nice Guy, and she is a Bitch.

So Sonic was mushing Amy. Fantastic. And since Sonic doesn’t want to have sex with Amy, either because he has a boyfriend or because he just isn’t interested, she has no purpose and can be mushed with impunity. I’m especially glad that this information is being imparted to young gamers, who are obviously all boys so there’s no need to even pretend like a magical supersonic hedgehog could be a girl and accomplish the same retina-searing feats of ring-collecting. Hey kids, girls are unnecessary and gross and whether you’re hetero or super into your best slender orange hedgehog buddy but conflicted about what that means for your identity, you should feel totally free to ignore, belittle, and assault them for showing the smallest affection or interest toward you. Now run out and play!

The sheer screaming balls-out hatred of women and displays of female affection shown in these games baffle me. I thought men were supposed to want sex from women? That’s what Patrice told me! But even worse is the straw-cartoon-man set up by showing any female NPC or PC as marriage-obsessed, pink, weak, and irritating. See? THEY TOTES DESERVE IT.

When I was a kid, I remember being so happy that I could play the Princess in Mario Bros 2–and she wasn’t really lesser than the other PCs–sure, she didn’t have much upper vegetable-hauling body strength, but she could fly. And she wasn’t shown as punishably useless or constantly throwing herself at Mario, even if she was pink. If I get into how Princess Peach is currently portrayed this post will never end, but the point is I was a little girl gamer. I am an adult female gamer. And when I see this regressive, ugly gender war crap laid out in the very latest games, I don’t understand how the world of late 80s gaming could have let me be a Princess who could fight, a girl who could wear the Metroid suit with no one the wiser, could let me believe Tails was like me, when the kid games of 2012 make damn sure that their audience knows being a girl is a sad, regrettable, even villainous thing, and if a male is even vaguely irritated with one, he should treat her as a low-level enemy and stomp on her face.

Grumble, grumble, as the Moblins say.

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Autoaudiography was just a giant hit with you guys that I haven’t had a chance to go through all the songs and pick my favorites yet! I’ll try to do that by Wednesday, but I wanted to give you this week’s theme on time–consistency! It is not my middle name. But I try!

Also it is late in the day because I was being ProfessorCat today. (Not an actual professor. Or an actual cat.) and coaxing one of my Stonecoast MFA students out to the island with brunch and mangoes and booktalk. Back when I was going to be an Actual Professor instead of a writer, I always wanted to be like Dr. Schwartz in my medieval studies program, who had us over to her house for Ye Old Timey Food and spirited discussion and sometimes madrigal singing. Now I get to be, a little! I has a proud. I’m really looking forward to this semester, now that I’m not on tour, as I was last year while trying to teach.

Anyway!

I hope you’ve all been reading the comments as much as posting music–there’s some awesome stuff in there, and I am getting a kick out of learning little things about some of my long-time commenters based on their choices.

This week’s theme is Turn It Up. What song gets your blood going, makes you sound barbaric yawps and dance like a fool? What song constitutes and entire happy place of its own in your head? What makes you glad to be alive the moment you hear the first notes?

I couldn’t find a free/legal online source for the first song that came to mind, which was Baz Luhrmann’s version of Let the Sun Shine In, so I’ll hit up Gogol Bordello, my reliable fountain of awesome screamalong life is good music. Also the source of my default icon, which if you did not get, you wi
ll now.

And really, I must put up s00j’s amazing anthem, which I first heard whilst stuck in a snowstorm in Pennsylvania, and it thrills me now as then.

Post yours in the comments, keep the links free and legal, and peruse for your own pleasure. Simple!

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Few things have depressed me more recently than this post by Charlie Stross. In fact, the night I read it I stayed up til 4 am having a full on panic attack about, um, the future of the world I guess. Which sounds stupid. It is not a reason to lay in bed making dramatic lemur eyes at the ceiling.

And yet, there I was.

Five years ago I was so much more optimistic about the state of the world and the future than I am now. Which is insane, because Bush was in power and things were shitty then, too. But I had such confidence in my generation and the power of awesomeness to win out. Is it just because we had, I don’t know, A GODDAMN DEPRESSION in there? That I’m over 30 now, so contractually obligated to be miserable about everything and pessimistic and want everything to be how it was when I was in my mid twenties? I don’t know.

It sucks to live at the end of a world. And we are–this is the end of industrial culture, kids. The tail end of the revolution. We live in the Shire, a hundred years post-Saruman’s Patented Electricalfantastik Oppression System. Industrial life has given the developed world all it had to give, and now we’ve offloaded the horrible parts of it to parts of the world we don’t like to think about and I don’t even know what we’re moving toward instead. I’m not that good a science fiction writer.

What I see in that post and in many other futurist predictions is that the only job in the future is Robot Maintainer. I simply believe our (American) government would rather see us all rot and die than take the smallest step toward a post-wage (ZOMGSOCIALIST) economy, and if everything can be automated, well, that 1% will have no reason to tolerate the rest of us as much as they do. And since I’m one of those assholes the internet says has no worth at all and deserves to starve because I got a LIBERAL ARTS DEGREE OH NOES (possibly I should stop reading reddit?) well, it seemed obvious to me at 4 am with my ceiling for company that my job would vanish into the black pit of WhoEvenReadsAnymore in the next few years. At least my husband has some Robo-Relevant Skillz?

It feels like dystopia is our only option. No wonder everyone’s writing about it. One of the comments on that post talked about replacing teachers with AIs to instruct kids and my brain just screamed INSTRUCT THEM TO DO WHAT? If even teaching, that most human activity, is offloaded to AI, and it will be, because AUTOMATION IS TEH BETTERZ and also current American culture has never met a job it didn’t want to get rid of or pay someone in a developing nation a penny and a half to kill themselves doing, what can we possibly educate kids in EXCEPT liberal arts if all the real world applicable stuff isn’t applicable at all because anything a human can do Apple has made an i____ to do?

Dmitri says I’m crazy, the post wasn’t dismal and he can’t understand why it would upset me so much. I’m not sure I understand. We fear change? Shit, even the cornerstone of my internet activity, long form blogging, is dying incredibly fast. I don’t like what’s replacing it, microblogging and UGH Facebook, which apparently people think is a permanent public utility now? And fairly soon I’d bet even microblogging will die off, so people can just be advertised to and play Farmville until they’re dead. I miss the days of the internet feeling absolutely positive to me, rather than something that has destroyed a scary amount of industries (and yes, made some, too) and given us once more, bizarrely, a monoculture. Entire, well-followed Twitters do little more than spout internet memes like a gross shallow fountain, and half of television just culls from YouTube for programming. I was happier when I read more Livejournal and less reddit.The internet is a beast, it owns our world, and the best is good and the beast is bad. But you can’t avoid the beast.

AND THIS IS OLD PEOPLE LAWN TALK. I hate myself for even saying it. Yes, yes, be the change you wish to see. Except that most of everything I as an individual have no control over. That’s been one of the biggest lessons of being an adult for me: the system does not care, and you can’t really affect it except in small ways. Climate change has happened already. It will keep happening. Even if I never eat tuna again that fish will go extinct in my lifetime. There is fuck all I as a person can do about that. And this is what keeps me up. Everything changes and you can’t even know if you are changing sufficiently with it. I started playing Skyrim, the game everyone says is the MOST AMAZING EVAR, and I got bored after a couple of hours and knitted instead. I am an old lady. I would rather cook in the real world than in Skyrim. I even got excited to snow shovel this morning because it makes me feel alive rather than numb in front of a screen, which is probably the ideal state of a human as far as companies and culture is concerned.

Maybe I take it hard because I grew up in the 90s, when the internet was new and briefly we thought everything was going to be pretty great for the forseeable future. Smile, we were all on Candid Camera.

Or did we not think that? Am I doing the thing, the Boomer Fallacy, where I think that when I was a kid things were good and easy because I was a kid and I didn’t know anything so the SHUT UP THE FIFTIES WERE THE BEST LET’S COSPLAY THEM FOREVER?

And maybe it’s not so bad. I come to my blog to wriggle out of my anxiety and it kind of works. I worry about 2032, and 2052, and will there even be such a thing as a “university” or a “job” for our kid, or even “winter” or “peacetime.” I think Occupy Wall Street was pretty much right about things and no one cared. I try to think that every generation despairs but things keep going somehow. And I try to hold on to this silly thing I wrote a few years back because it’s all I’ve got at 4am when the lemur eyes have settled on open, open, open forever.

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