What I Learned From Making Your Beasts Come Alive

img_0018When I went to World Fantasy in Columbus, Ohio, we debuted my book, The Angels of Our Better Beasts, and as a bonus, I offered to draw a free beast of your own creation.  Many people took me up on that!   They described to me beasts and I drew them, and here are some of those beasts.  If I drew a beast for you and it isn’t present, it could be because I didn’t have a photo of it, but if you send it, I will add it to the collection of beasts.

What I learned: that we all have a favorite creature–and that we have imagined them before.  Very few of you made up something on the spot.  You were ready.  You had a Beast in Mind.  As part of our childhood, as part of our parenting, or as just something we’ve longed to see as real.  At different times as a child, I used to walk around with an invisible Pegasus, an invisible Lassie, and I can’t tell you too much more about the werewolf I thought would come for me when I was a teen–except that he was there, on the fringes of my consciousness.  I was a creative kid.  You are too.  Your beasts travel with you.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in having your Beasts.  They are often playful, sometimes scary.  But the scary ones even bring a smile to people’s faces, as if the very badass-ness of the Beast they’ve created is wonderful.

I know one man, Alex, said that he created Uber-Corgi for his son, and that they told stories of Uber-Corgi.  Maybe you’ve made up a beast for your kids too…

Most of the beasts were Whimsical which I guess means that we see furry creatures as part of a fantasy, not a horror.  I know online RPGs enjoy giving you “pets” of exotic beasts and people love collecting those.

I’m glad I could be a part of making your beast come to life!

 

So if you have a beast not pictured here, and you send me the picture of it, I’ll add it here.

I know we did about 25-30 beasts in Columbus, about ten in Toronto (one I can’t put online–you know why, Stephen!). I didn’t have a chance to capture them all–but maybe you know where the fantastic beasts are and where to find them… hehe…

Just a note: I’m not running the free beast with a book program right now.  All of you I’ve promised a beast to are still getting one, if you don’t have it already… but it was a great promotion for the launch and for the Toronto Launch too.

I will start this up as a promo later in the year with ChiZine again so watch for the chance to get your Beast realized.  Until then, please enjoy these beasts!  And let me know where to find the rest!

 

 

What have you done with 2016?

12715744_10153895453277095_8059101292263897684_nMany folks are writing up their last year’s work for possible awards eligibility, and since I did a compilation of work, I want to distinguish what’s new and what’s not.

But first can I say:  Finally, after years of writing, I published a book!  YAY!  It feels good to get something out and in a finished form. Needless to say, I’m very proud of this book.  Whatever it does in the world is fine with me.  It is a record now of what I’ve done.  I hope you like it.

For your consideration:

Collection of Stories: The Angels of Our Better Beasts, from ChiZine.

This collection pivots around beasts–the animal kind, the monster kind, and the kind we turn into with those we love–and asks questions about the influence we have on each other.

The Lemmings are really researching the Arctic biologists, the werewolves sing sweet Christian praise songs, and the signing gorilla just wants someone back in the cage for a minute or two. The Gryphon can fight your war for you, and there isn’t really a problem when the man you’ve been online dating turns out to be a bear, is there? No worries. Those old lions in the canyon aren’t up to something, are they? The doctors in the red coats just want to cure you of a terrible blood disease. Trust them. In the forest, the sasquatch has fallen in love with the cryptozoologist who follows him, while the god of the Brazos River courts the young, pretty Texas college students.

Four of the stories in this collection were new in 2016 and are eligible:

“Sam McGee Argues With His Box of Authentic Ashes” (a narrative poem)

Sam McGee is famous for his appearance in the Robert W Service poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee” so famous, that the real Sam McGee was once offered a bag of his own ashes when he came back to the Yukon.  This poem is him in sudden conversation with his own “famous” ashes….

“Heartbreak, Gospel, Shotgun, Fiddler, Werewolf, Chorus: Bluegrass”

Always loved werewolves but wanted to play with the trope.  This werewolf is hiding in a gospel bluegrass band as the lead singer and banjo player.  The other members know, and they keep him shackled on moonlit nights, but they won’t kill him because the band is the best-selling, triple platinum soul-winning force for Jesus.  And though he’s killed two people, they are saving souls and doing good in the world and maybe that balances out two murders…

“You Will Draw This Life To Its End”

Auguste Rennault is an older  painter famous for his depiction of our human advance throughout the solar system–but he wants to retire to a mining colony in Jupiter-irradiated space around Ganymede to be with a man he loves.  The art community and his funders resist so he creates a great work to paint the miners, living with them, knowing it will be his last.  Instead of retiring, he starts using his fame to change the balance of power between miner’s unions and corporations, illustrating the Miner’s Strike,  trying to see how far the corporations will go to protect the famous painter in a dangerous place.  But it’s not easy to ascribe fame onto others, or use your fame for social change, and there are limits…

“Awake, Gryphon!” 

A young prince awakens to find his Holy City under siege, his father and brothers and sisters dead in a battle and himself as the recipient of the crown and the “great wisdom” that is said to pass from King to oldest surviving heir.  But are all his choices now coming from “the wisdom”?  And is it wise to awaken the unpredictable Gryphon to save the Holy City?  Everyone seems to have a plan on what to do for him, but none can really trust a prince who wants to wake the Gryphon.

I wrote one flash fiction piece, “Your Weird Aunt Pollymorph Says Hello,” that appeared inflight-full-cover FLIGHT: the Queer Scifi Flash Fiction Anthology from Mischief Corner Books and won first place in the contest they had.

It’s about a sentient holographic computer interface that can take on the shape of the person best suited to work with you, but who is struggling to understand who to be for a ten year old girl whose mother has taken her from her friends and brought her on the ship.

I also was able to write a couple of good blogposts, namely “My Mother, My New Club, and the Swastika On My Shoes” and “Wealth has always been the greatest (unspoken) superpower”

Since I’m both American and Canadian, my work is eligible for Auroras and Sunbursts as well as World Fantasy and LGBT awards.

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Overall, this year was a production year of getting the book ready to be published and then getting it in front of as many eyes as we could.  I moved Dec 30-31 of last year to a new place–so I was in Kettering when this year began.  An upstairs lofty, quirky kind of bedroom and outer-room that became an office.  From January-February, I was packaging the book together to give to Andrew Wilmot, my amazing editor, working at the behest of ChiZine.  I wrote two of the stories then–the long ones.  We had to make decisions at the end to not finish a couple I’d have loved to have in there, but they were long and they were taking a lot of time to get finished and would have made the book unbalanced.

I taught a class for the Lifelong Learning Center on Jesus in Science Fiction, which went over really well, and was also a guest speaker for the Fantasy And Science Fiction Appreciation Club on the University of Dayton campus and started a Science Fiction Writing Workshop Club on campus after being a guest speaker at LitFest in April.  I teach there as an adjunct.

After Andrew sent the manuscript back with edits, I worked on it even more through April.  Then in May I moved back into IMG_2923my friend’s house in Vandalia and drew 15 illustrations for the book.  My banjo playing werewolf from “Heartbreak” is one of them:

 

 

 

Once I sent those off, I went off to see my birthmother in Daleville, IN, some friends in Chicago, and then off to a novel-writing workshop in Kansas–met Kij Johnson, Andy Duncan, Chris McKitterick and a lot of wonderful new writers.  It was a hot, muggy, but informational two weeks where I learned a lot about myself as a writer and what I was prepared to do to write a novel.

img_3237When I returned from that, I taught a six week research writing course at UD and then moved into my new place in August in the Fairview area of Dayton.  Sept-Dec was teaching, teaching, teaching, and grading, grading, grading and taking on a new job as a Marketer for ManCo Property Services.  I market their property and work on their Salem Avenue Peace Corridor newsletter.  In October, my book came out!  I took it to World Fantasy in Columbus and launched it there (even though it wouldn’t be available in the US till Dec 13, another two months), then went to Toronto for the Canadian book launch of AoBB, and Texas for Thanksgiving to see my folks, followed quickly by a long trip to Whitehorse, YT and Calgary AB to see friends and recuperate from a long year.

In September I did an overhaul of this website, but will do another in a few days.  I’m making a promise to use blogging more this year and Facebook less.  Facebook is ephemeral and it’s hard to recapture what you did unless you want to scroll back through everything slowly….

2017 will be a huge production year too as I get One Nation Under Gods written and finished by the Fall for ChiZine, as well as a couple of stories that have been waiting a long time to be done.  I want them done by February.  I take on a new editing project–more on that in April–and some new changes in the Fall of 2017 for me, most likely.

In all, I got work to do.

So this was my year!  It was a good one.  We’re gonna make another one like this, but better for 2017.  Thanks for being a part of it!

My Mother, My New Club, and the Swastika on my Shoes

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I first saw this picture through Natalie Laurel on Facebook.  She advocates turning the swastikas we are seeing into other things. 

It was 1978.  I was in fourth grade. I wanted to belong to something so badly. I was invited into my first club at school. Now, understand, our family had been Navy for 20 years, so in my young life, we moved around a lot–every year, sometimes. I had already lived 6 places on two coasts, and I was 9. So being invited into a club was a huge thing! It meant I was accepted–even as an outsider–even in a new small town in Missouri. A beautiful town.

I don’t know if it was a joke played on me, or not, this club–this acceptance. If it was real, then it gives me chills now. “Yes, you can be in our club,” an older boy said, someone who was in seventh grade, maybe. He was so tall. And I was so hungry for acceptance. He knelt down and he drew something on the front of my shoes. The new symbol for our club, he said.  When I went home that day, I said, “Mommy, I’m in a club! I’m in a club!” And I must have been beaming with that acceptance.

My mother took one look at my shoes–the only pair of shoes I had for school because we didn’t have a lot of money. And it was in ink, this thing. The boy had drawn a swastika on each of my shoes. I thought it was a cool club symbol because I was young, but my mother saw it for what it was.  She was shocked.  She knelt down to look at it.  She could not erase it–she must have known it would show up anyway. So she carefully made it a box, a four squared box. I was upset that she had done that–at first. I don’t remember if I cried, or tried to stop her–She was ruining the club symbol! She was marking on my shoes! — I’m sure I put up a little fight. “No honey. Not this symbol,” was what she said to me. “I don’t want you in that club.” I don’t know if she explained to me what that symbol meant–I think she must have tried.  But I can’t remember.  I did it for my mom more than for my fourth grade understanding of hate symbols.  It meant so much to my mom, that I didn’t pursue that club.  I don’t even remember if the club was really a club, or some cruel joke they were playing on me. I never saw any club meetings, any groups with swastikas on their arms or shoes. Never.

My shoes had a foursquare box on them for the rest of fourth grade. I made up a new club for people with glasses, and I forgot about the old club. We had three guys in the glasses club.

It’s our job to not let little children (or anyone) have to see that symbol everywhere.  Even if they don’t understand why.  This symbol is getting a revival.  If you see it, be vandals and change it.  Don’t let that symbol stay.  It’ll burn into the walls.  It’ll burn into our minds.  Turn the swastikas into boxes, Windows Logos, or brightly-colored boxes. Turn them into pinwheels, gift boxes, chessboards.

Turn them into windows that look out onto a better America.

*thank you, Mom.

 

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(this post was inspired by Natalie Laurel’s Facebook photo of the Windows logo shared by many. I know the original might be photoshopped, but buy a can a paint anyway, eh? )

Wealth has always been the greatest (unspoken) Superpower

money-superheroI just saw Doctor Strange in theatres.  It’s a good movie, but this is not a review.  I went into the movie not knowing much about Doctor Strange.  His was not one of the titles I followed in 80s.  But when I saw the movie, I recognized something familiar about his origin story: like most superheroes, he starts rich.

I guess I started to realize something was up with the economic distribution of superheroes when I thought about all the gadgets Iron Man and Batman both had.  Unlimited weaponry, endless supply of toys.  But it was when I was teaching a class on Superheroes, Social Justice, and the Principle of the Common Good (the kind of class you develop at a Catholic Marianist University like University of Dayton) and as a class we started to see a pattern in the heroes.  While each of them manifested different powers—most of them, most of the famous ones, had something each of us did not.  Most had sources of wealth and positions of elite privilege before they got superpowers.

This is important to think about when we think of Superheroes and Power—that power is often not given to those who have no power before, but is given to those who have always had power.   With a few notable exceptions, becoming a superhero requires money.  This means that the average person doesn’t become a superhero without money—just like they don’t become a lot of things in the real world without money.  And that is an interesting thing to think about when you think about superhero escapist fiction.  We have all these possibilities!  We can choose ANY storyline.  We think it’s about a redistribution of power—that ANYONE can become a superhero–but analyzing origin stories, the results say something different.

The Net Worth of Superheroes

Those who have power in the superhero universe and who have the job of protecting citizens are often unacquainted with most of the 99%, are used to being wealthy and powerful, and are often living far removed from common society in Fortresses of Solitude, atop penthouses, or in private academies on large estates, or in mansions or whole buildings in downtown NYC (there are exceptions—I can hear you already, bursting to say names—but I’m talking about a surprising majority of the major superheroes we have today).

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Some Peace and Community for Queer Ghosts: Queer Ghost Hunters Series

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I’ve been charmed by a Youtube docu-series: Queer Ghost Hunters. It is unlike anything else in the genre of ghost hunting reality series.

Yes, it’s remarkably well-produced and edited.  It’s funny, and it’s poignant, deeply moving at times.

The Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunters accomplishes these things because it’s doing everything so differently than other ghost hunter shows.

  1.  They aren’t reacting to a disturbance or a sighting.  The ghost hunters don’t (so far) go to a place because they’ve been called by folks disturbed by ghost activity.  They are seeking out where they believe queers would have gone in cities and rural areas.  Theatres, prisons, convents.
  2.   The goal is not to get the ghost on tape, or to prove that ghosts exist.  The show takes as a premise that ghosts exist.  Their goal: to provide a safe space for queer ghosts to talk about what it was like living queer in different moments of history.
  3. They’re looking for QUEER ghosts specifically.  Their focus drives their narrative.  They are looking to bring a safe community to a group of queers who can’t move out of their places to find other queers. ( It’s not like ghosts can pack up and go to San Francisco or Greenwich Village.)  The show’s aim is to chat amiably with queer ghosts who may not have had anyone to talk to in their lives about being queer.
  4. All of the ghost hunters fall on the Queer spectrum: genderfluid, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, pansexual, even a bear. 🙂   This is about diversity in the cast as well as diversity in the ghosts, but they are talking about LGBT issues.
  5. This is MORE than just ghost hunting: it is an examination of the history of LGBT people and, in some ways, how people lived, hid, coped with being queer in different places.  In that, it is a reflection–and a chance–for people to talk about what it is to live as queer in any time.

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The Book of Birmingham: Adding Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to the Bible

Minister Martin Luther King, Jr. preaching at an eventI would like to see Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) added to all new Bibles.

I don’t propose this lightly.  Three times in the Bible, in three different places, listeners (and they wouldn’t have been readers) are exhorted not to add to, or take away, from specific books.  One is about Revelation, one is specifically to the Israelites in Deuteronomy to listen to the law, and the other is in Proverbs: “Every word of God is true….do not add to his words, lest you be proved a liar.”  I think it’s safe to say that I won’t propose adding any new words of God to the Bible.  I’m advocating something less radical.  If we can have letters from Paul, we can have letters from Martin.

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Pat Rousseau Fought Hard for Everyone

img_2912The woman in the middle is Pat Rousseau and this past Sunday, she died. This photo was our first, with Mary Malone, and only meeting of the Sunday Afternoon Neon Movies Watching Group, called The Neon Nexus, which was going to be a summer long movie watching group.  But Pat went in and out of the hospital for most of the summer, and then quite unexpectedly to me, and to many, she didn’t recover from this last trip. She’d come to me a month ago with her wishes for me to sing at her funeral, and I was appalled that she was talking like that, especially since she seemed fine after one of her hospital visits–but she said, “I just have a feeling.”

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