by Michelle Patricia Browne
With recovery on the way and good changes starting to happen in my life, I managed to finish a draft of The Meaning Wars today (42 note: epic book is epic). I'm sure major time will elapse before its final draft and the publication of the book, but it feels good to make forward momentum.
In my personal life, I recently finished a skirt pattern that's taken years - inspired by Katniss Everdeen's fire dress in The Hunger Games, making the triangular tiered fringe work was tricky as hell.
Of the Dungeons and Dragons and roleplay campaigns I'm currently playing, one is coming to a close, one is nearly done a major plot arc, with a character's death being very imminent, and yet another is about to begin.
In the world of pop culture, the seventh season of Game of Thrones also started recently. I read spoilers, because George R.R. Martin seems to have no intention of finishing the books and I am curious about what happens to the characters. Meanwhile, The Doctor's 13th incarnation has been revealed as a Time Lady, and the trailer for Ava DuVernay's vision of A Wrinkle in Time swept me off my feet. Just as importantly, The Adventure Zone podcast's final arc is in progress.
All of this is to say that I'm in a mood to finish things. With Instagram and fashion shoots putting me in a mood for summer adventures, I've been crafting and uploading beadwork for the first time in months and years.
With that momentum, I am thinking about new stories and new characters - which have only been alluded to in passing, and in private, with friends. Stories I have in my backburner files. My beadwork put me in a salvager mood, and made me want to work on my long-abandoned Nightmare Cycle.
The Old is becoming The New is becoming The Thing.
Now, I suppose there is a whole cycle of life thing one could go into here, but I'm still hoping that transhumanism will help me avoid having to die at all, so I'm going to dodge that particular topic. Regardless, a life has to be marked by periods of change and renewal, and it's impossible to get something new started without ending something else.
Maybe that means you, as a theoretical writer, gotta let go and write something inspired by a story rather than focused on the main characters of an arc. Maybe that means moving onto a new world and storyline altogether. But it's deeply important to let things end rather than sucking the joy and goodness out of them.
Even the deservedly maligned Supernatural is setting up a spin-off; the show is a living cautionary tale of how to ruin a story. While it can be scary to let go of characters, it's better than holding onto them forever, sucking out every drop of joy from them like a food dehydrator making meat into jerky, and wondering why the story is nothing but a dry, leathery husk of what it used to be.
So give yourself permission to finish that draft, writers. Give yourself permission to change something or re-schedule it if necessary, too. Don't worry about Making The Thing Good Enough. There are only so many revisions that can happen before a story goes from juicy grape to raisin of sadness. And the more you finish, the more you can do, and make, and be.
Michelle Patricia Browne
is (1) an author/editor of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books, (2) currently working on the next books in her series, (3) editing other people's manuscripts, (4) drinking as much tea as humanly possible, while finding the time to (5) make All The Things.
by Robyn Bennis
If condescension can be measured as the ratio of assumed superiority to actual accomplishment, then the fellowship I have recently joined is perhaps the most condescending class of creatures the Earth has ever known. I am speaking, of course, of debut authors.
My debut novel, The Guns Above, went on sale May 2, which makes me infinitely better than you. That is, unless you're also a published author, in which case I grudgingly admit that we're roughly equal. Don’t bother appealing to your years of incredible sales, your shelf full of bestsellers, or your prestigious awards. Currently, I may have none of these things, but that's just another way of saying that my upward potential is limitless.
If you also happen to be a debut author, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You may deny it all you like, but deep in your heart, you love the fruit of your newfound condescension. Your first taste came when you crushed the hearts of your critique group by announcing your book deal. Oh, of course your group was all smiles and congratulations on the outside, but inside they were a seething mass of bitterness and envy, held together with hot tears. Especially that one who called you on one of your writing tics the week before. I mean, if she's such an expert on active voice, where's her book deal?
I'm happy to report that it doesn't have to end there. With the proper practice, your condescension can reach the sky. You'll never be as condescending as I am, of course. You don't have the knack for it, and your book is all wrong for the contemporary market. However, if you follow these helpful tips, perhaps you can become the second most condescending debut author, which is all someone of your limited talent can really expect.
The first thing you'll have to remember is that your writing style is the only correct writing style. It naturally follows that any style which deviates from yours is wrong, or at least on its way out. The finer logic of this proof is unimportant, because you're a published author, and that should be quite enough proof for anyone.
For your second lesson, repeat after me, "Oh yeah, I came up with that years ago." In the literary universe, every fresh idea, every engaging new premise, every creative genre mashup, and even every scrap of witty dialogue is something you thought of first. You just didn't bother using it, because it wasn't up to your high standards. If anyone doubts you, just remind them that you're a published author, and that ought to shut them up.
At this point, you may be wondering whether this advice applies only to traditionally published debut authors. Well, of course it doesn't! Notwithstanding the snobbery that self-published authors still have to put up with, going it on your own is often the smartest choice for someone with the talent to oversee their own marketing and production efforts. The condescending author readily acknowledges this fact, whether her debut is self- or traditional-published.
This may come as a surprise, for shouldn't the condescending author, if traditionally published, take this opportunity to join in the snobbery? Or, if self-published, shouldn't she be equally eager to mock the overconfident dinosaurs still clinging to the sinking ship of "legacy" publishing? Of course she should! But why would she settle for only looking down her nose at some of her fellow authors, when, with a little care, she can look down her nose at all of them?
You see, because the choice between traditional- and self-publishing is a highly personal one, the condescending debut knows that everyone but her has made the wrong decision for their individual circumstance. In this way, she can condescend to traditional- and self-published authors at the same time, and often in the same sentence.
And now, finally, we arrive at the hardest lesson. The most difficult part of achieving your maximum condescension potential is to master the art of appearing just magnanimous enough to drive your condescension home. That is to say, you have to make an effort to lower yourself to the level of the dregs around you, then fail just enough for them to see how vastly superior you are. This is trickier than you think. If you don't fail enough, they'll start to believe in egalitarianism among writers, which would be a disaster. If you fail too much, you'll give up the game. But if you get it just right, your magnanimity will not only add to your natural condescension, but magnify it several-fold. Then, when you laugh and say, "Oh please, I'm just one of you, really I am," they'll feel like the pond scum they truly are, and look at you as if gazing upon the face of a god.
And if they don't, it's just because they're jealous.
*actual debut novel
*for you to look upon
*stop it now, don't be that way
lives in Mountain View, California, where she works in biotech but dreams of airships. This is a work of satire, and does not reflect her actual views. She's just one of you. Really, she is.
by MK Martin
You are born, and cannot choose to be so. And then, you begin.
You grow, kid, having been told here and there what a brilliant bit of potential you are. You look at your reflection and wonder what part of your expression shows it, before running off to scrape a knee. You wonder if this potential will kick in, or what? Your body is angles, or overflow, your dimples no longer cute, but something to squat away. Your intelligence needs to find a use, not just be there. Your head does most of the talking for you, before you can intervene. You begin to write things down, just to get the words out of your head. The world around you is thrilled: you have produced.
You wander, youth, looking for whatever parts of you that might have been scattered to the ends of the earth, when the star-stuff you were exploded upon impact. Being in one place with yourself all the time has become intolerable. Shiny bits of glistening gases, forlorn wishes and songs alight your path, but which is a shard of your golden heart, and which is the fool's gold strewn about to confuse you? A pack strapped to your back splits, the sky opens and halcyon hail pelts you in the head, knocking you to the sand. Heart, how can you do this to us? You did not choose this adventure, but then, you always did do things the hard way.
Cry, rattle, ruin, rail. React, reflect, release, wail.
You arrive, 'adult', at the time you are allowed to be respected. What choices you've brought along with you, in your bag, settle comfortably in the cobwebbed corner and repetition comes to call. At first, its notions are breathy, easy. Then louder, longer, sweeping sobs of echoing motion: the moaning ourobouros of maintaining life. Outside, the calming strum of nature mentions your name, and suddenly you take up walking. Each step pounds out a thought into the dirt, lightening your layered cranium; freeing it of sound and sinew and sorrow which were slowly burying the fossils of your motivation.
The days cease to scream for their lives, and a figure you never expected to see casts a slight shadow against your endless horizon. She is shorter, somewhat bent and frailer than you. But the steel of her eye catches the waning light, and its reflection sears its beam into your own retina: three more crow's feet to mark the occasion. She is smiling readily, and you wonder what it's like to do that. Her hands are busy At Work, and the deep creases in her forehead move with her, their geometric design belying her thoughts: which are at rest. At rest.
writes from the hip, the heart, the tree and the old fashioned pen. She resides somewhere on a hill in Canada, while belonging to three other humans, two cats and one thousand plants. As for the rest: who knows?
by Ofeibea Loveless
What was that?!?”
I’m jerked awake by the question, bleary-eyed confusion giving way to panic when I see the look on Mandisa’s face. Her round eyes are wide, her lip trembling, as she stares in the rearview mirror of Mirabella’s SUV.
I turn around to glance through the back window and see garment bags, strewn about I-75, being run over by small cars, SUVs and semi-trucks. OUR garment bags.
We’re six and a half hours into the trip to Atlanta for DragonCon...and some of the costumes we’d spent months planning and working on are getting demolished on a crowded Georgia highway.
“Pull over!” I screech.
Mandisa whips the SUV over to the side of the road and slams it into park. She immediately hops out of the vehicle and starts running along the median toward the busted garment bags. When she reaches them, she becomes Player 1 in a human game of Frogger, darting out into traffic and snagging pieces of clothing here and there, and then darting back to the median.
For a second, Mirabella and I are stunned into inaction before I go nearly apoplectic.
“OH MY GOD! GET OUT OF THE G*DD@MN ROAD!” I roar.
Semi-truck horns blare loud enough to burst eardrums and cars are whizzing by us and I’m stomping toward Mandisa to get her to stop running out into traffic. This is NOT worth anyone getting hurt. They’re just costumes…certainly not worth anyone’s life.
A fellow cosplayer was kind enough to come to a complete stop and block the far left lane so that we could collect most of what hadn’t been scattered to the wind.
“I’ve been there,” she says, smiling solemnly.
We eventually made it to our hotel, tired and sweaty from running and crying. But we ended up with plenty of photos and memories to show that the TREACHEROUS DRAGONCON GARMENT BAG INCIDENT of 2016 didn’t stop us from having a good time.
These days, we can laugh about what a disaster that trip down to DragonCon was. It was a test of our mettle, a story we recount to our friends and family, one that has come to define how much we care about cosplaying…and each other.
However, the idea of putting anything in a carrier strapped to the top of a vehicle will always make my eye twitch.
is the mechanic for Airship Ashanti, a steampunk group that focuses on multiculturalism and philanthropy in the steampunk community. She is also the co-founder of the Midwest Black Speculative Fiction Alliance. Ofeibea Loveless' airship laughs at borders.
Life, the universe, and everything creative
Towel Photo credit: EvelynGiggles via Foter.com / CC BY