Author Archive

Cold Weather Tips from Yukoners for folks in the US   10 comments

Happy Nonetheless-- by Amanda Graham

Happy Nonetheless– by Amanda Graham

A friend of mine in Kentucky asked for any tips I might know about dealing with cold weather since I lived in the Yukon for nine years. I told him I’d share what I could. Not definitive, and many other Yukoners have great strategies too. These are just my thoughts, presented humbly from my own experience. Not a cold weather expert at all–just someone who went though ten winters, down to -50C once and made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of advice and help.  Fellow Yukoners, feel free to add your advice in the comments. I know I missed important tips! And you are all awesome at cold weather living. Please add any advice for your Southern brothers and sisters.

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Hey Graham. I’d be happy to share what I know. Personally I learned that cold is a game you play with the outside. Dress in layers. One cool sweater over a shirt won’t do. Better to have multilayers that will trap pockets of warm air. I suggest three. And a good down-filled coat (lots of pockets of warm air there). Gloves are important to always keep on. Hands can get really chapped and stiff very quickly. I learned that even a short walk to the car and back in -20C would chap my fingers quickly. I liked those black ninja masks with air holes that skiers sometimes wear. Allows you to cove half your face and still breathe.

Pace yourself. Don’t go so fast as to breathe hard. You don’t want -20C air in your lungs. Always breathe in your nose. Your mother was right. Your nose hairs will freeze at -20C and below. But it just feels prickly. There’s no damage. It’s actually a cool experience.

Cover as much as your face as you can–but a furry hood can set your face back far enough that it will help.

Take breaks in your shoveling. Warm up. Don’t run your cars if the temps falls below -30C. Unless you plug them in every night and a heater under your oil pan keeps your oil warm. Or you keep them in a garage. But still, Yukoners knew that operating most cars after -30C was extra wear and tear. We’d all take the bus or ski to work. Lol.

Hiking boots are fine with warm wool socks. OH long johns are priceless. I wore mine for the whole winter in the north. They make a huge difference. Polypropylene longjohns are awesome and thin by Terramar and other companies. Well worth the 30 bucks or so.

If I think of more ill let you know. I’m just planning on spending more time inside the house. If you dress warmly, in layers, you will be fine. And playing in the snow is great, but probably not below -20 unless you are used to it. And if there’s a strong wind, I’d advise hot cocoa and watching a movie.

* Just a note, many Yukoners did drive after -40C. Had to get to work. But most all would say it’s not good for your car. But Yukoners take pride in being able to function fully in cold weather. Nothing is closed because of cold weather–few events are ever canceled. I once got in trouble for canceling class when I taught at Yukon College when the temp was to drop to -50C. “We are the standard,” I was told. “If the Yukon closes things, it must be horrible.” And -50, though rare, wasnt horrible. Lol.

Good luck in the cold! It doesn’t have to stop your fun, but while the Yukon had roads cleared in an hour, because we were ready for it, and had extra crews, and because we had drivers used to winter driving with their winter tires, roads were safe for us. For everyone else, maybe think twice about going out. Your drivers aren’t used to winter driving, your road crews may be overwhelmed because your cities have more roads to clear. Your city will be doing the best it can. Stay in and watch Netflix while the world goes through the Ice Age until Wednesday. Good luck and enjoy experiencing a little bit of Yukon*.

Hope this helps.

*PS  The Yukon isn’t responsible for cold weather, even though the weather people keep saying that this “cold air mass” is brought to you by Canada, or the Arctic…. they aren’t made in the Yukon.  They ARE, however, first enjoyed in the Yukon.

Again: Fellow Yukoners, feel free to add your advice below. I know I missed important tips! And you are all awesome at cold weather living. Please add any advice for your Southern brothers and sisters. I titled this “Yukoners” for that reason.  Thanks!

Posted January 5, 2014 by jstueart in Yukon

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Gays Will Save the Church: my story in Queer Story Archives   Leave a comment

As a science fiction/fantasy writer, I just want to remind folks that we aren’t all alike, and we don’t live in just one bubble. My blog has always been about the experience of being a science fiction/fantasy writer and not just reflecting the genre/writing parts—but about my whole experience of being a Yukoner, of having a faith, of being gay–AND being a science fiction/fantasy writer. So this is part of it.

The Queer Story Archives came up to Whitehorse–Lulu from OnMyPlanet.ca–in July 2013, recording stories of Yukon Queers, and we recorded this right before I was to leave for Dayton, Ohio. I think it’s turning into a positive story so I’m sharing it. Ultimately I’m suggesting that including gay people can save a rapidly diminishing Church population. To do that, I tell my story. Some of you have heard it–either through the Yukon News, or through DNTO. Both sources were good but heavily edited. This is me telling it in less than ten minutes. It feels better in my own words, complete.

We grow from hard times in our lives and this was a good growth for me. Eventually, I’ve come to retain and re-establish many friendships from the first church. I hope my story still helps others. I’m placing this over on Talking Dog too.

Depicting the Divine in Epic Fantasy via Tor.com   3 comments

From Brian Stavely comes a thoughtful post on depicting the divine in Fantasy over on Tor.com.  I’ve included a short beginning here, but read the whole thing at this link to the whole article. Essentially Stavely counts off the ways one can describe a god in epic fantasy fiction–and there are five options.  I was thinking through his list, and it’s good, but I think there are at least three more ways to depict a god in epic fantasy, and I humbly offer them up:

Option 6: Use other people’s understanding of the god as description.  They might not all be alike, but the confluence, the overlap of them, will give a mosaic feel to your god.  It will also create character development for the characters who have seen/or believe in this god, as we tend to see what we desire in our gods.  A god’s description in the mouth of one character as a “god of vengeance” is a very different character than someone who calls him “a god of protection.”  May be same god.

Option 7: Use tales of the deeds of a god to describe him or her.  Actually what a god does says more about him than his/her description.  And again, people have tales. If you can gather up the tales of a god, you can capture a character description that readers can fill in as they go.  Then if and when the god shows up in your text, it may already have a pretty firm description in the mind of the reader, based on what it has done in the world.  God is rarely described in the Bible, but his deeds let you know exactly what kind of God he is.

Option 8: Every culture uses Art to talk about its gods.  Can you pull together images of the divine from a culture’s art?  That will help form a picture in a reader’s mind through the cultural depictions of the gods, telling you a hell of a lot about the culture, as well as the god.  Michaelangelo’s God touching Adam who seems curly headed and benevolent, and other depictions of God as a fiery, anger-filled rage monster.

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Depicting the Divine in Epic Fantasy

by Brian Stavely

There’s a striking moment near the end of the twenty-first canto of Dante’s Inferno, one that almost all readers tend to remember, when the demon Barbariccia “avea del cul fatto trombetta.” It’s hard to put it delicately: he turns his ass into a trumpet. Not the kind of thing you expect out of a writer recording the steps his salvation, but the image stays with you.

Likewise, readers of the Divine Comedy remember Ugolino, who, for the sin of eating his sons, is forever frozen to his neck in ice, gnawing on the brains of Archbishop Ruggieri. In fact, Dante has no trouble at all depicting sinners in the various postures of their suffering, and for seven centuries readers have kept turning the pages. Corporal violence sells. Electronic Arts even has an eponymously titled video game in which Dante looks less like a poet and more like a Muay Thai Knight Templar. The EA people are no fools—they understand that there’s a ready market for brain eating and ass trumpets.

When it comes to the celestial realm of heaven, however, Dante runs into trouble.

READ MORE HERE.

Thanks, Brian and Tor.com!!

Hopefully these suggestions help YOU when writing about Faith in your Fantasy or Science Fiction.  Let me know what you think.  And don’t forget, you can write about Faith in Fantasy and Science Fiction for the Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods anthology, open for submissions right now over at http://www.tesseracts18.com!

Writing Faith Writing Workshop starts tonight   Leave a comment

Jerome-WritingFaith(web)

If you’re in Ohio, there’s a new workshop of Writing Faith starting up at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton.  A collaboration with First Baptist Dayton and Temple Israel, the workshop is going to be 13 weeks, Tuesdays, 5:30-8:30.

The workshop is designed to teach you how to write about Faith–a tricky subject to begin with–but with a long history.  Come explore your faith and learn techniques found in Annie Dillard, Langston Hughes, Donald Miller, Thomas Merton, Andre Dubus, John Updike, Frederika Mathews-Green, Kathleen Norris and others.  While the core may be Jewish and Christian based, there will be readings from other faiths.  We hope to create a lasting workshop of multi-faith writers who will continue to write and workshop together.

Follow us on www.writingfaith.net where I’ll be posting short articles about “How to Write about Faith” as we go.

Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods open for submissions   1 comment

Very proud to announce the new Tesseracts 18 is open for Submissions.  We’ve built a website for it at Tesseracts18.com  Come check out our conversations about faith and science fiction and fantasy.  This anthology is open to Canadian citizens, landed immigrants of Canada, longtime residents and, of course, Canadians living abroad. Yukoners, I hope to see you write a story and submit.

IMG_1094Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods — Faith in Science Fiction & Fantasy

Well this is an all new topic for Tesseracts!  And possibly a completely new topic for an anthology: a multi-faith, creative faith anthology of science fiction and fantasy.  Who would have thought?

Here’s our thoughts on that kind of anthology:

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Jacob wrestled with an angel in the night, earning him the name “Israel”, which means “struggles with god.”  Buddha wrestled, and the hero of the Mahabarata wrestled too.   Wrestling is a part of faith.  Having a faith can help immensely with struggles in our lives, but we also must struggle against the rules, the boundaries, and the very doctrine at times.  We all wrestle with our cultures and our gods, whether we believe in them or not.  Faith is not passive.  Human progress has relied on brave souls willing to challenge convention through their beliefs.  And faith is not separate from Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Fantastic elements are integral to all major faiths–they have their gods, fantastic creatures, miracles, blessings, power and magic.  We continue that journey into space, possibly encountering worlds with their faiths.  Since our cultures all began with fantasy and struggling with faith, Tesseracts 18 will continue the Science Fiction and Fantasy tradition of wrestling with Faith, without declaring all-out war.

The anthology will include a diverse representation of both real-world religions and faiths of fictional cultures.   Instead of looking to pass historical or cultural judgement, it will feature character-driven stories including faith, doubt, miracles, spiritual journeys, and diversity of opinion within a faith.  It will avoid blanket stereotypes of faith-based cultures.  We’d love to see faith surprise us, and surprise science fiction and fantasy readers.

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Some questions we think naturally come from this:

How does Faith inform a culture, change a culture?  What does it mean to really believe?  What kinds of religions and faiths are out there in the universe?  How does faith play out already through established fantasy cultures?  How can people keep believing, sometimes with very little evidence?  Or is there evidence that is so personal, it is never shown to others?  How does faith effect an individual, a family, a city, a society, a race, a conflict, love?

Starting soon, we’ll start posting conversations about how science fiction and fantasy has dealt with faith and religion in the past—just to be able to talk about where we’ve come from, how those representations challenge the genre or challenge readers and writers.

Mostly we just want to create a conversation about faith in fantasy and science fiction–in all its diversity!  PLEASE join us.  We’ll talk a blue streak with ourselves, but we’d just as soon have as many voices as possible in this conversation.

TO SUBMIT: Borrowed straight from EDGE BOOKS.

SUBMISSION DETAILS:

    • This anthology will include as diverse a representation of both real-world religions and faiths of fictional cultures as possible. Stories should not be looking to pass historical or cultural judgment, instead they should feature character-driven plots that include faith, doubt, miracles, spiritual journeys, and diversity of opinion within a faith.  Please avoid blanket stereotypes of faith-based cultures.  The editors want to “see faith surprise us”, as well as “surprise science fiction and fantasy readers”.
    • The Tesseracts Eighteen anthology will reflect as broad a spectrum of stories as possible; highlighting unique styles and manners.
    • Submissions must be speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, magic realism, slipstream, supernatural horror, weird tales, alternate history, space opera, planetary adventure, surrealism, superheroes, mythic fantasy, etc.
    • Submissions may be either short fiction or poetry.
    • The maximum length for stories is 5,000 words, with shorter works preferred.
    • The Tesseracts anthology series is only open to submissions from Canadians, landed immigrants living in Canada, longtime residents of Canada, and Canadian expatriates living abroad.
    • Canadian authors who write in languages other than English are welcome to submit an English translation of their work, provided it otherwise falls within the parameters of this anthology. Translation into English is the sole responsibility of the author. Please supply details of original publication for any submission that originally appeared in a language other than English.
    • Deadline: December 31, 2013 (midnight).
    • Do not query before submitting.
    • Email submissions to: tesseracts18@edgewebsite.com
    • Emails MUST contain the word “submission” in the subject line, or they will be deleted automatically by the server. Please also include the story title in the subject line.
    • Submissions MUST come in an attachment: only .RTF and/or .DOC formats are acceptable.
    • Emails MUST contain a cover letter in the body of the email; for security reasons, email attachments with no cover letter will be deleted unread and unanswered.
    • Cover letter: include your name, the title of your story, your full contact information (address, phone, email), and a brief bio. If you do not live in the place where you were born, please also include your place of birth.
    • Do not describe or summarize the story.
    • If your address is not within Canada, please indicate in the cover letter your status vis-à-vis Canada.
    • Reprints (stories having previously appeared in English in any format, print or electronic, including but not limited to any form of web publication) can be considered but will be a hard sell; reprints must come from a source not easily available in Canada. If your submission is a reprint, please supply full publication history of the story. If your story appeared previously, including but not limited to anywhere on the web, and you do not disclose this information to the editor upon submission, you will be disqualified from consideration.
    • Submission format: no strange formatting, colour fonts, changing fonts, borders, backgrounds, etc. Leave italics in italics, NOT underlined. Put your full contact information on the first page (name, address, email address, phone). No headers, no footers, no page numbering. DO NOT leave a blank line between paragraphs. Indent paragraphs. ALWAYS put a # to indicate scene breaks (a blank line is NOT enough).
    • ALWAYS include your full contact information (name/address/email/phone number) on the first page of the attached submission.
    • Payment for short poetry is $20.00. Payment for short stories is prorated as follows: $50 for stories up to 1,500 words, rising to a maximum of $150 for stories up to 5,000 words (longer stories are paid a slightly higher fee, but in order to exceed the word length limit of 5,000 words, the editors must judge a story to be of surpassing excellence.)
    • Rights: for original fiction, first World English publication, with a two-month exclusive from publication date; for all, non-exclusive anthology rights; all other rights remain with the author.
    • Spelling: please use Canadian spelling, as per the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.
    • Response time: initial responses (no / rewrite request / hold for further consideration) will be prompt, usually within fifteen days. Please query if you’ve not heard back within 30 days. Final responses no later than 15 February 2014.
    • Submit only one story or poem. Multiple submissions will not be accepted.
    • Simultaneous submissions will not be accepted.
 

*Image is from a Chihuly glass exhibit in Seattle, WA

Bullying the Met Opera is not a way to treat a gay ally   20 comments

 

Most Americans already agree that the new law banning gay expression and propaganda by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is draconian, oppressive, discriminatory and against the human rights of the LGBT community.  The United Nations yesterday (August 19) issued a statement to Russia and Moldova to repeal those laws. Leaders of countries, including Pres. Obama, have made strong statements against those laws.  Countless individuals have taken stands.

 

Which brings me to the MET Opera, and the current controversy over a petition that is trying to force the MET to turn their production of Eugene Onegin into a political statement for gay rights.  The gist of the argument is that:

a. Tchaikovsky is a Russian composer–a gay one–and Eugene Onegin is a Russian story

b.  Anna Netrebko (soprano) and Valery Gergiev (conductor) are Russians who have vocally supported Putin in the past.  Let’s make them prove their loyalty.

c.  The oppressive law from Putin needs a huge American venue to vocalize our anger at Russia.  The Met looks dandy.

Some have already pointed out that the MET is not a battleground for arguing a composer’s beliefs and opinions.  Who would perform Wagner if his beliefs were paramount to enjoying the music?

Just because a) Tchaikovsky is a gay Russian composer doesn’t mean the MET has to take a political stand.  The nature of Art is that it is in itself a political stand.  Let Eugene Onegin speak for itself.  It’s a powerful work.  Onegin’s disrespect for a whole group of people makes him pass up true love and end up alone.  That speaks volumes.

The petition names the conductor, Gergiev, and the diva soprano, Netrebko, as “supporters in the past of Mr. Putin”.  In the past, I have been a supporter of US policy.  Does that make me a supporter of Bush?  Or current laws produced by Congress?  No.  Does that make me like everything that Obama does?  I can’t go to Canada and tell them that I agree with how Obama is treating Canada economically.  Netrebko, the soprano, has voiced her LGBT support (prompted by the threat of LGBT backlash!).  Are we requiring a show of loyalty to gays?  Prove to us, we seem to say, that you support gays by denouncing Putin and dedicating your performance to LGBT people.  That’s like asking Obama to wear a flagpin to PROVE he’s patriotic and that he loves America.  Why can’t he just say he loves America?  Because some people want him to bow to pressure.  It was silly then; it’s silly now.  Punishing Netrebko and Gergiev based on PAST support of Putin–when they have said nothing in support of those current anti-gay laws–is wrong.  It’s bullying.

The Met Opera c) is not a handy vehicle for your political expression.  It can be a vehicle for political expression by the director of the Opera being produced, or by the MET itself, but it doesn’t have to be.  It’s their choice to show support, not our choice.  If it’s forced, it’s not real.  Further: The Art itself is powerful.  Adding statements to the art diminishes the art.

But what have you done for me lately, Met Opera?  What the MET already does for LGBT people:

The Metropolitan Opera gives LGBT people the opportunity that Russia never gave Tchaikovsky: the ability to be an out performer, an out stagehand, an out composer, costume designer, etc.  It gives LGBT people jobs and freedom of expression.  Russia still DOES NOT offer this.

The MET has performed operas with gay themes:  Billy Budd for example.  Sure, I’d love it if directors substituted men in women’s roles to shake things up a bit (as easily as those who direct Shakespeare do), but composers have written for ranges, not genders, specifically.  Music must sound harmonic and beautiful.  You just can’t have, usually, a man replacing a woman in a role.  However, the opera does often cast women in male roles that sometimes require higher vocal ranges–and so, onstage, one gets to see what looks like a lesbian romance (see Anna Bolena, for example, where the man in love with Anna Bolena is played by a woman, and Mozart’s Clemenza di Tito, and multiple other operas I have seen).

At the MET, they would have no problem staging and performing a well-written opera WITH gay themes.  Write a Billy Budd.  Write a lyrical, thoughtful version of the AIDS crisis, or of Fred Phelps, or Greg Louganis, or Ellen…. the MET might produce it on its artistic merits.  Try that in Moscow.

They are already a gay ally.  Forcing them to dedicate the night to gays in Russia, or turning over proceeds, or making Netrebko and Gergiev meet and greet with LGBT people to prove loyalty is too much.  It’s like saying, I don’t believe GLAAD cared enough for Katrina victims.  I’m going to require them to turn over proceeds of GLAAD events, verbally show support, help out in the clean-up of Katrina, etc.  Or maybe I should start requiring all American opera singers to denounce the oppressive economic foreign trade policies of Obama whenever they perform in an international venue.  Will that be enough?  Are performers required to make political statements before every performance?  No, they are required to be artists and to be damn good at what they do, not appease the morals of majorities or minorities in the causes they have.  I’m happy if Sting says something in support of a cause I care about, but I won’t stop buying Sting’s CDs if he doesn’t verbally say something I want to hear.  I want to hear him sing.  I want to hear Anna Netrebko sing.

Bullying

I find the current culture of celebrity/organizational bullying (especially by the LGBT community) to be unacceptable.  We have far more effective means at our disposal besides bullying.  We have targeted a Latvian producer of vodka, Stoli–whose CEO is a gay ally–to dump in protest of Russia.  This neither hurts Russia, nor does it hurt an anti-gay supporter.  It hurts an ally.  The argument that this raises the issue in the consciousness of your average person is unproven.  No one can say that the dumping of Stoli is solely responsible for raising awareness of the anti-gay Russian policies.  The news has reported on this quite a bit.  And they got it from Twitter or from their reporters or from other sources.  They didn’t have to watch someone dump Stoli to suddenly become a capable reporter.  It’s a argument fallacy to say that one thing causes another if there is no direct proof.  (see post hoc ergo proctor hoc in any English textbook)  A graph of awareness is not proof of direct cause.  Anymore than I could say that Dan Savage’s tweets alone caused the awareness to shift.

Yes, I know it’s a petition, not a law requiring compliance.  But there’s been talk of booing the performance, of holding the MET accountable, of withdrawing support, and right now creating a lot of bad media about the MET.  Asking me to help is one thing: berating me when I say no is not.

As a gay man, I appreciate vocal support.  I do not require it from every person who comes on TV, every ad, every organization.  Sometimes, organizations show support by BEING supportive.  Not by wearing a rainbow pin.  Opera has given us music, story, relationships, history, comfort, excitement, Art in the highest form, allowed LGBT artists to be themselves (in this country, definitely)–it has done more to transform LGBT lives for hundreds of years than one gala night of verbalized, forced support could ever do.  And if the MET is forced to comply with the oppressive tactics of some in the LGBT community, then our community will become the dictatorship, limiting freedom of expression, and forcing compliance and obedience in everyone around us.  If we become those who judge others based on whether they promote and shout out their support of us, then we have proven that we are a fragile community, reliant on fear and intimidation to get our way, always insecure even inside of a country that is on a steady march to full equality.  We will have proven that Bush adage: “If you are not with us, you are against us.”  That brought us a war.  In that moment we force idelogical obedience, we become the Putins.

Posted August 20, 2013 by jstueart in Mishmash

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Jerome in the Yukon Writers Festival   Leave a comment

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A really nice article by Dan Davidson appeared in the Whitehorse Star on Friday, April 19. Alistair Maitland did the photo. I appreciate them both. I think this Festival will be a lot of fun. It’s always good to get to teach Yukon high school students as part of the Young Authors Conference as well.

The Festival starts with a big reading at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre Tuesday night at 7pm. The Young Authors Conference is held the next two days after that in FH Collins Library and then we head off Friday to Haines Junction for a reading.

Organizer Sara Davidson has done a great job at gathering diverse writers together. Yukoner Dennis Allen, as well as Drew Hayden Taylor and Carrie Mac and Beverley Brenna.

If you can, come and enjoy the readings with us.

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