#BlackLivesMatter— At the end of my statement there are Columbus area black artists to follow, and a long list of video links to the Columbus Police using violence on Peaceful Protesters. #WeBearWitness
Normally I do joyful paintings about queer heroes and monsters, about large hairy men in love, or portraits of friends and family, but last Friday, protests for racial justice began in Columbus, Ohio during a worldwide pandemic. The combination of these two things prevented me from participating in the protest, as I’m immuno-compromised. And so, like for the last two and a half months, I was sheltering in place but watching the videos of my friends and fellow Columbus-residents as their peaceful protests were met with violent, overreactive police retribution. They were sprayed, gassed, shot at, beaten, arrested during a peaceful protest meant to highlight the problem with police brutality. Well, nothing highlights police brutality like more police brutality.
For one protester who made a video, there was a moment all the violence started: when a police officer socked a protester. When the protesters objected to being assaulted by shouting, they were all sprayed with pepper spray. (Bryan Battle Jr video is also linked below)
Video after video surface from the #columbusprotest showing the Columbus Police using excessive force and assaulting citizens of Columbus (whose taxes pay for police and whose right it is to protest injustice–and whose taxes pay out the settlements in law suits made against the police.)
Infuriated by the videos and my inability to be there to support the movement, I did what I could. I took a screenshot of the video and created this painting.
Very happy and honored to tell you that my novelette, “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Mar/Apr 2019) is a finalist for the 2020 Eugie Foster Memorial Award!
The Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction (or Eugie Award) celebrates the best in innovative fiction. This annual award is presented at Dragon Con, the nation’s largest fan-run convention. Starting with the 2020, we will add a video presentation of the award online, along with a reading of a section of each finalist.
The Eugie Award honors stories that are irreplaceable, that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. We will be looking for stories that are beautiful, thoughtful, and passionate, and change us and the field. The recipient is a story that is unique and will become essential to speculative fiction readers.
I’ve had a wonderful two days just telling people that I became a finalist and receiving so much positive feedback. I kinda feel that being a finalist with all these cool authors and stories is its own reward! It’s really filled my soul with love in this very tumultuous time.
There are still many changes to make in the world. We will make them! Today, it was nice to feel loved.
PS. Yes that is my illustration for the story. It was something created way after the story was accepted and in print… but it was fun to doodle.
Today I want to share with you work that I completed while at the Columbus College of Art and Design, and which would have been part of the Columbus Arts Festival 2020 in June (but WILL be part of the festival in 2021!)
I fell in love late in life with a character from a Christmas special: Yukon Cornelius, created by Romeo Muller as part of the 1964 Rankin/Bass production of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”–a stop motion special that is shown every Christmas. You might recognize the character:
Burly, positive, full of helpful asides “Bumbles Bounce!” and “the fog is as thick as peanut butter!”–Yukon helps our heroes realize their dreams by a) saving them from the Abominable Snowmonster, b) taking them to the Island of Misfit Toys to carry a message to Santa to come get these toys and pair them up with kids and c) reforming said Abominable Snowmonster and making him tame, and cool for Christmas Parties.
I don’t know why Yukon stayed with me. It might be that I went to live in the Yukon for nearly 10 years. I mushed some dogs (tbh, only as a one-day fun thing in Inuvik, NWT–though I attended and watched the Yukon Quest as much as I could), and spent time out in the wilderness. But I also lived in the great city of Whitehorse being a friend and misfit to a lot of other friends and misfits, who are also great musicians, artists, talented amazing people.
Maybe it was that Yukon was very burly, and I was attracted to him, or even attracted to the kind of man he represented–a big “bear”. He seemed like a better version of a male hero than I had previously encountered. Though he had a gun, I don’t think he ever shot it. He was practical, helpful, encouraging. He had a lot of knowledge about Abominable Snowmonsters! And he was much more interested in saving people than in killing monsters. In the end, because Bumbles bounce!–Yukon and Bumble somehow come to an understanding. Bumble is just another misfit that needs to find his right place… and he does, next to the Christmas tree.
In another post, I will tell you more about that Queering the Hero journey I made–and continue to make. But here are my paintings, extrapolating three things:
Yukon Cornelius could be gay. People have commented before on the queer undertones of the show–read the articles here from Vulture, and KQED and in 2019 The New York Times opinion page—- about themes of bullying, about being different, about being rejected, about finding acceptance for your unique qualities. Romeo Muller was himself gay. It’s not a stretch to see the queercoding in the show. Making Yukon Cornelius gay is not a stretch either, since he doesn’t make mention of a wife, and reads as what we would call a “bear” today–a burly, bearded, slightly overweight, slightly hyper-masculine man.
Yukon has a way of charming beasts. His expert past knowledge of the Abominable Snowmonster speaks to prior run-ins with “Bumble”—and then he is able to tame and speak to the Bumble (who miraculously grows back his teeth in the final few minutes of the special!)
Yukon deserved more of an adventurous life.
So, I created that life for him–and for me. The copyright on characters from this movie had a misprint in it, making all characters in public domain (outside of Rudolph who had prior copyright). So I adopted Yukon as my hero and gave him a life of meeting cryptids (Bigfoot, Mothman, sea monsters, etc.) Using acrylic and myself as a reluctant model–or at times a stand-in, I painted these paintings. (side note: I’d planned to have several cooler guys than me become Yukon for these paintings–but planning photo shoots was not easy.)
So if you’ve always wanted a rollicking adventuresome gay hero, I offer you Yukon Cornelius–rescuing, negotiating, protecting, singing, reading, allowing himself to be loved.
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.
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.
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!
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, 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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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!