Awards Eligibility Post, 2019

I only published one thing this year, 2019, but it was a big publication for me. “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” was a novelette (8000 words) published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the March/April 2019 issue and is eligible for Canadian and American writing awards. It is Fantasy. It’s about the power of music, music mentoring, about the courage to go on after loss, and features jazz-playing fauns. The character is queer and disabled. He stays queer and disabled and alive through the whole story.

Below you’ll find a link to the whole story here online, or you can read an excerpt from it.

*I am a Canadian and American writer, holding dual citizenship.

Thank you for visiting my 2019 year round up page, and I hope you enjoy my story.

Excerpt:

________________

Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Mr. Dance couldn’t keep his eyes off Eric’s clarinet. From the moment the young football player opened the black case and revealed the instrument, Mr. Dance knew that what he thought had been broken– as his legs were– or lost–as he felt–had instead been hidden for a hundred years.

He dropped his music.
“Where did you get that?” Mr. Dance asked from his motorized wheelchair.
The boy picked up the older man’s sheet music. “The clarinet? Oh, my aunt gave it to me.” He ordered the pages, and placed the music on the man’s lap. “It’s nothing special.”
Oh, but it was. Probably the most powerful magical instrument Mr. Dance had ever held.
“Who,” Mr. Dance asked carefully, “is your aunt?”

______________________

They met through the State of Missouri’s Masters/ Apprenticeship Program. Eric and Mr. Dance had been paired because Mr. Dance wanted to teach again, and Eric wanted to escape football in his junior year at college. Mr. Dance had no idea what Eric was bringing into his house where he’d been living for the past, well, maybe for a hundred years, hidden by a horde of vines that covered the front. He was an older man now, and his house was full of things that people had brought to cheer him a long time ago, and packages that still came in the mail that accumulated on the tables, unopened.
It was a storage facility, storing Mr. Dance, and the memories of his better days, and the friends who had finally let him be alone.

But after watching another documentary on famous musicians, a brochure for the Apprenticeship program had found its way from table to table to his chair, and made him remember what LeRoi had told him before he left for good, “You may not ever be able to do magic again, but you can teach someone else to do it.”
Now here sat the most unlikely “apprentice”, Eric Elkridge, a handsome football player who didn’t want to be a football player anymore. He’d said, when asked why he was there, “No one can see the possibilities in me outside of football. I want to make my life music.”


Mr. Dance repeated the question. “Your aunt?”
“Oh, my Aunt Helen from Indiana..” He started putting the clarinet together. “I played band 7th to 9th grade, but eventually, well, I just got into football. But I heard about this program. I wanted to try it again, work under a Master.”
A Master. Eric had no idea who Mr. Dance was. Why would he? The older musician had been out of the music scene since the Accident. But he had been the inspiration for Debussy, and had helped start the Jazz revolution in America.

The boy fit the parts of the clarinet back together. He fumbled with the bell, his big boy hands too rough with it. It made Mr. Dance catch his breath.
“Can I–” his hands reached out. If he could just touch it once, it would remember who its master had been, it would remember who he was, and maybe, he could become that person again. “—hold it?”
“Sure,” Eric passed the clarinet to him.
In his hands, the clarinet had a heaviness he could not account for. It did not glow for him. It felt like a piece of wood. Stiff but not alive. What was wrong? He was sure this was his clarinet.
“It’s a very old clarinet. I’m sorry about that,” Eric said, scratching his red hair. He had a farmer’s boy face, wide, round cheeks, but very kind eyes. “My aunt got it for fifty dollars back when I was in junior high school band. She didn’t have to replace anything though. I mean, if it’s twenty or thirty years old, it sure doesn’t show it.”
“Things can be older than they seem,” Mr. Dance said.
He checked it in the three places he knew it would reveal itself: the E flat key should have a mark, a depression in the metal, like a cut–from the incident at the railroad tracks where it fell from his hands; there would be a chip on the barrel just peeking outside the ligament where he and the men fought over it; and there would be a signature inside the bell. Not his signature. But the signature of the man who stole it from him.
He turned it over, peered into the darkness of the clarinet. There, scrawled a little too elegantly, branded, was the name Billy Sunday, wrapped in darkness. “I put my name on everything I own,” Sunday had said that day. “This isn’t yours anymore. I won it in a fight. A fair fight.” Three men held Mr. Dance down on the floor of the warehouse. “This country will not belong to your kind anymore. I’m going to save their souls–all of them–and there’s nothing you or your friends can ever do again to stop me.” And then they crushed his legs.
Billy Sunday. 1913.
Mr. Dance looked up from the clarinet. He turned it over, tried to smile. The clarinet lay dead in his hand. “It’s very beautiful. I think–” he handed it back to the boy. “I think you’ll get a good sound out of it. So let’s see what you can do, shall we.”
The boy played “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
“The Benny Goodman version,” the boy said before he started playing.
“The only version,” Mr. Dance said, closing his eyes.


The clarinet did not want him. The clarinet did not seem to want Eric either.

________________________ end of excerpt__________________________

For the rest of the story, please click on this link to download a WORD (docx) file. Or you can go to the Nebula Reading List at the SFWA site.

Clarion Write-A-Thon 10, June 23-Aug 3

Alumni and friends of Clarion come together every summer now online to participate in a 6 week writing spree—to see what we can get written, while the new Clarionites are in San Diego (La Jolla) with professional writers teaching them how to be the writers they want to be.

Our job–as alumni and friends–is just to write alongside them at home and help raise money for Clarion’s scholarships for next year.

I’m working on two projects that need to be finished. You can help writers by donating per word to their word goals. Someone has funded me at .000010 a word already! Which will net Clarion a grand total of $40 from that person—but it helps us push ourselves to raise as much money for Clarion as we can.

I’ve written about my Clarion experience, (and Nostalgia, thy name is Clarion,) which changed my life in 2007. It started me on the road to being the science fiction/fantasy writer I wanted to be. It was also the same year I drove up to the Yukon to move there! So lots of changes at once.

Clarion has helped a lot of writers. You might recognize the names of graduates: Kim Stanley Robinson, Jeff Vandermeer, Cory Doctorow, Octavia Butler, Carmen Maria Machado, Vonda McIntyre, Kelly Link, Nalo Hopkinson, Robert Crais, Bruce Sterling… the list is long. These 2019 writers—you’re going to read their stuff soon too.

Come drop by Clarion Write-A-Thon and choose some writers to pledge along their way, help push them to meet their goals! Clarion gets all the money–actually, the students get the money through scholarships. But we get the encouragement of someone rooting us along!

I’d love to have you come by and sponsor me per word for .00001 or more or less. Come by and see what people are writing!

UFO Sightings in the Yukon Territory

Look! It’s a young ME!

Everyone got excited about a light in the sky after sunset tonight, here in Dayton, OH.

We all went outside and it looked to my eye like it was moving, drifting, changing its brightness. Someone said it might be Mercury or Jupiter, so we all looked—and sure enough, that was where Mercury was supposed to be (though a little high). I’m sure now it was probably a weather balloon… shiny and drifting in the breeze… so bright.

We had a debate online about what it was, and it reminded me of this article I wrote about 10 years ago when I lived in the Yukon Territory (Spring, 2010 issue of Yukon North of Ordinary).

It was probably the best article I ever wrote–certainly one of the most fun–and it was for the magazine Yukon North of Ordinary, the in-flight magazine of Air North. I was asked to write it as a science fiction writer looking into sightings of UFOs. Everyone who commissioned this article thought it would be funny, light-hearted, and that I would have a great time talking aliens with folks, but that I would know the difference between fact and fiction.

Well. That didn’t go as anyone planned.

Continue reading

A Response to Those Who Think Avatar Repeats a Racist Motif

Well, it actually does repeat that racist motif, Jerome.

I wrote a post in 2010 trying to make an argument that Jake Sully and Avatar were not repeating the “white savior” motif and, you know what, it just sounds hollow and naive now.

There is no reason why there couldn’t have been a brilliant Na’vi fight against the outsider corporation movie except that we “needed” to teach white men why others were worth saving, why other cultures have value, especially cultures that may treat technology differently than we do.

Sure, it’s valuable to teach people things! I do like the idea of taking a group who is having trouble understanding or accepting you (hello, conservative evangelical Christians) and using a story to teach them how to understand people (LGBTQ people) better. But The Birdcage isn’t about the straight Senator saving the gays. It’s about the gays saving the Senator–and he learns. The N’avi could have EASILY saved Jake Sully AND fought back against the evil humans.

Do I think Avatar could have been a better movie? Sure, but with all the changes that this writer mentioned:


If Sully had spent more time with the Na’vi, wasn’t responsible for destroying their home, showed some conviction before a last second attempt to warn the Na’vi, and included more scenes of his body’s decay, Cameron might have avoided some of my problems.  Of course, this is based on my reading of the film.  If Sully was believably a part of the Na’vi to you, you may not have so many problems.  Of course, I still stand by my assertion that we didn’t need Jake in the first place.

Avatar: “Totally Racist, Dude” from the Filmsmith

I’m writing this now because I’m sure a few others read my blog from 2010, some as recent as yesterday, and my attempt to argue away the “White savior” problem from Avatar brought up brilliantly by other reviewers, but I was wrong. It’s better to acknowledge that it’s in the film, and support those who are trying to help us see the inherent problems in tropes and storylines that may be incredibly popular and still be incredibly dangerous. We/I still need to make better choices as writers and reviewers.

I loved Avatar so much that I didn’t want to see its problems. And that’s the danger of my privilege, to not have to see the problems. But when I talk about films being homophobic, or using homophobic tropes, and I’m upset about them, and others are like, “It’s not that bad” or “I still enjoyed it” that is the danger of their privilege to not have to see the messages that hurt me, or hurt others, or that perpetuate a way of thinking that leads to harm. It’s a blindness. Educating ourselves and others about racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, ableist tropes should be/could be the baseline level of living together.

I think about how mental health is portrayed on screen now, how LGBTQ people are portrayed in films, how bad tropes are perpetuated. Usually tropes lose their attraction when we explain how they are dangerous. But even then, folks, it took me 9 years to find this old blogpost, know it was a problem, and rip it down. I just forgot it was here till I saw that someone read it, and then I reread it and, well, I saw it as problematic. I was deeply embarrassed, and ashamed, and just wanted to kick 2010 me for not having a better understanding then.

Changing your mind, learning from your mistakes, and doing better is more important than how you believed yesterday. Repairing damage is also important. So I write this tonight. But I think we are all learning things together. If I held everyone accountable for being homophobic sometime in their past, I’d not be speaking to 80% of people over 30. But I’ve watched people “evolve on these issues,” as my favorite President said. And I see myself evolving and learning and growing too—just as everyone is supposed to do.

All the Perks from my Patreon Page

As many of you know, I was an adjunct teacher (former lecturer, visiting professor, etc) for many (20+) years, and I’ve decided to go back to grad school to pick up more skills for commercial illustration. It’s a practical application of something I love anyway, but it allows me to illustrate my own works and the works of others.

While I’m in grad school, I have taken out some more loans to live on (and pay tuition and fees)—which add to my debt. It’s a gamble I’m taking on myself. I’m excited about winning this bet on me! I believe this is the right choice for me right now.

But I have no false ideas about how the next two years will go financially–they may be bumpy, but probably no worse than they’ve been. I have secured at least one teaching gig for the fall, and hopefully more will come if they like what I do. But money will probably still be tight, and after the two years is over, I lose all that funding.

I’ve decided to start up a Patreon page for those who want to get special perks and help out an artist/writer while they retrain/ expand their skills and as they make a transition into their industry.

On that page, I will be offering not only news and excerpts from writing and art, but at different levels you will be able to:

  • see all my art I produce at CCAD
  • read a serialized, illustrated space opera created just for Patrons.
  • watch writing videos that answer questions you have about writing
  • purchase critiques of your writing, up to 20 pages a month from me
  • get reading lists and recommendations of people to read and follow
  • signed copies of my books
  • have portraits painted of people you love (up to 4 a year)
  • I give 10% of what I earn back into the Patreon pages of other queer artists/writers. As I rise, they rise. And I will post blog posts here about those I support on Patreon.

If you are interested in joining my adventure, please click on the picture below and it will take you to my Patreon page where you can sign up!

You do NOT have to support my Patreon to be my friend. Following me on Facebook you’ll still be able to follow my life and work, but Patreon offers many specific, special perks for those who do want to help out. I will not be upset at all if you can’t afford to help, or don’t want to participate in a Patreon. No worries. I’m so happy to have supportive friends who give me cheer, love, companionship, and a good ear when I need them! That’s what’s most important to me.

If you would like the perks from this Patreon account, consider clicking on the image above and becoming part of this journey in Columbus with me!

Back to School–Art School that is.

The Columbus College of Art and Design have accepted me into their MFA program, and my curriculum is all about Illustration (digital and traditional). I start in the fall. They have also offered me a chance to teach the History of Comic Narrative as an adjunct course while I’m in grad school and I said yes! So I’m very happy to be moving to Columbus for a couple of years, exploring my painting, my drawing and illustration. I’m hoping to acquire more skills to use for jobs—in illustration or portraiture–but also to illustrate my own works.

The program is two years long, is project based: you propose three projects, one a semester, and then one that covers a whole year. They have strong ties to industries that support artists: Disney, Wizards of the Coast, Hallmark, etc. I’m very excited about the chance to improve my art skills over the next two years.

The hard part is that it will go SO FAST. I plan on learning all I can. I have five or six projects in mind–most of them connected to a writing project. I have to narrow them down! LOL.

I won’t stop writing and, hopefully, publishing, but instead of full time teaching, this allows me to survive for a couple more years, learning skills as I go, and allowing me to get more writing done. My goal is still to emerge in two years with more skills, more publications, ready to take on any jobs that I can get.

Illustrating Our Lives Together

As part of my show Communion, with its portraits of different church members drinking coffee, I included several illustrated scenes of life together–multiple figures doing stuff together.

Usually I took photographs and drew from them, but sometimes I cobbled photos together to get everyone in that may not have been there. So they can sometimes be composites. I thought that drawings might evoke something more than the photos they are taken from… a sense of community, of living together. I used pen and ink and then watercolor pencils (brushed with water) to create these.

Think about the things we do together that give us a sense of community, of communion with each other. I should take some pictures of the Post Office on April 15th to show how we as a community turn in our taxes! I used to love being there with everyone else before midnight! Now we mostly do them online. But I bet there are many who do them through the US Post. Theatre events, restaurants, sports events, concerts—all these things that bring us together and let us experience life together.

I’m hoping to do more with this style. CultureWorks asked me to do a live drawing inside of Premier Health’s cafeteria area, and so I stood there for four or five hours doing the one below, showing the different patrons who come to eat there (and I threw in a bear for fun).

Premier Health’s cafeteria when everyone’s eating and talking and being together

I hope CultureWorks asks me to do more of these because I had a great time and I would like to do more of them, celebrating life and work in Dayton, OH. If you know of a business in Dayton that would like to have their very own portrait of their customers, clients, employees, or just the life of the business—please contact CultureWorks by clicking on their logo below and they’ll be happy to set something up with you!