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!
UPDATE: These paintings and more are going to be hanging up at Christopher’s Restaurant in Kettering, OH in June! So happy! You can see them in person if you come by Christopher’s in June!
March 26, 2019
Ever feel like one of the best times at church was actually AFTER church at the coffee fellowship? Where you all caught up with everyone’s lives? Where you shared the good news about your new job? Your new apartment? Or shared the loss of a relationship? Things that you may not be able to do in a service—and you receive things here that you may not be able to get in a service either. You get to share something with family, receive praise, encouragement, sympathy—become a community together.
So, I made a set of paintings picturing our church members having coffee together, as part of our regular coffee fellowship that happens after formal church services. I wanted to talk about how the informal coffee we have together is very much like Communion, in that it fosters community. While Communion is a very theological concept of remembering the life and death of Jesus, communion is also a way that a group commits to a larger mission together–to care about each other. My church members went along with my idea by sitting for photographs that I then turned into paintings.
I’ll probably add a few more to this set. I am going to try and shop around this show to area cafes and restaurants to see if anyone would like to show it. (Yeah, like Christopher’s! See Update!)
I also painted our church as a welcoming and affirming Baptist church, so the Pride flag is there…
Prints are available if you would like to have me make them. Just DM me here in the comments or contact me through my email on the About Me page and I can make a print. Email me: email@example.com
My story has been published in F&SF for the March/April 2019 issue. I’m so happy about that.
An old jazz-playing faun has the chance to get back everything that was taken from him a hundred years ago, if he can take it from his only student. The story has Jazz, Mentoring and Hope as themes. It also asks the question: how do you change your own life?
My two characters, a young college football player who wants to become a jazz musician, and an old faun who just wants to be a part of the world again, struggle and fail and attempt again this massive turn in their lives, together. At one point, one of the characters says, “I feel like I’m this tiny tugboat trying to turn this massive life around.” And that’s one of the questions I wanted to pose–how do you do that? I hope you find these characters as inspiring as I did.
As most people know, on June 1st, Netflix decided not to renew Sense8. Fans of the Wachowski Sisters + J Michael Straczynski show, a show that weaves a global narrative to tell a very human story of eight people sharing their minds, knowledge, and empathy, were devastated that the story would not have a third season. Many knew that it only had one more season of story, but Netflix decided not to renew. Then the fanbase rallied and wrote and tweeted and called out! and helped show-writers garner a 2 hour special for Sense8! Amazing!
I am so happy that we get 2 hours to wrap up Sense8, and don’t take this blogpost here as less than gratitude for that 2 hours. But I’d like to make a bigger case for you–a case you haven’t heard–about giving Sense8 a whole season based on what might be good for Netflix, not just for fans.
While there has been speculation as to why the show was not renewed, that’s speculation. Netflix spends a lot of money trying to find hit series, and sometimes a good series doesn’t find the right market. When the cancellation happened, there was plenty of anger towards Netflix, and, in the moment, I even threatened to dump Netflix. But I love Stranger Things, and I watch Star Trek, Daredevil, Luke Cage, etc. It would be hard for me to dump Netflix for good. I know, they’re counting on that–they’ve made us LOVE this service. Okay.
Instead of eight negative reasons to renew Sense8, I want to give 8 positive reasons to renew Sense8 for a whole last season. I want to give them something they can go to the marketing table with and say—“Let’s do one more season.” (Please especially consider #7)
Ultimately, right decisions aren’t made because of negative consequences but because the positive consequences are stronger. We aren’t charitable because of Fear of Hell or Fear of Bad Publicity. We are charitable because we want to help.
Why Netflix Would Want to Complete a Third Season of Sense8
1. NETFLIX IS COMMITTED TO COMPLETION: Sense8 has exactly ONE more season. It’s a three season arc. You renew that last season, you are a hero, and the story is complete, and people bingewatch the three seasons for years afterwards on Netflix. They will come to Netflix for those three seasons. You’re not having to commit to an unknown number of seasons, or risking anything AFTER this season. You already committed two seasons and they were amazing, and fans loved them, and they are almost home-free. You create NEW fans by following through on your series. But MORE people will become afraid to watch or commit to a new series if the series could be cancelled before it’s finished. The more unfinished series, the more Netflix becomes untrustworthy for a new viewer. The positive spin: you complete series, and they can be assured that when they watch a series on Netflix, especially with the millions of fans this series has created, that it will have closure–that series runners will know ahead of time that their series must establish closure. This one is close to being finished.
2. NETFLIX EDUCATES ITS VIEWERSHIP ABOUT VIEWERSHIP. You teach Netflix viewers about Viewership using Sense8. Part of the shock of this announcement was that viewers thought that their fan base was enough. We don’t get to watch the Viewership numbers like you do, so we can’t tell when to rally, or how we’re doing, or if we’re about to fall. It’s a bit unfair to a very large group of fans to say that their numbers are not enough. What kinds of viewership help make your decisions? Do you need a certain number every week? And how do you calculate when you drop 10 episodes over a weekend? How many times should we view it? How many tweets do you need? How many blogposts analyzing the show? If you give us those numbers, WE CAN HELP SAVE THE SHOWS WE LOVE. I guarantee that the fanbase for Sense8 is the most dedicated fan base you’ve ever had (more on that below). But telling us to love a show and then, when it’s not good enough, taking it from us without telling us how to celebrate and support it correctly can be very bad in the long run–it leaves a bad taste in fans’ mouths. Netflix needs to teach its viewers what matters to save a show–how can we love a show enough to keep it if we don’t know what you need? If not, fans won’t try a show till a second season is guaranteed…or may just not try it unless you do what you did with The Crown, and guarantee 6 seasons to tell that arc.
I’m late to announce this, but no less thrilled. On May 29, 2017, the Sunburst Award Society revealed their longlist for novels/short stories in the running for the Sunburst Award. The Angels of Our Better Beasts was on it. Well, I was completely taken by surprise, and deeply honored at the same time. A friend told me “Congratulations!” and I had to ask why. I quickly went to the website to see. The list is full of amazing works by writers in Canada–and there I was among them. The Sunburst Award is given for “excellence in Canadian literature of the Fantastic.” Five judges read all the submissions and make their longlist. Later they will make a short-list of about five works per category, and in September, they will announce winners. I’m so stoked even to make the longlist with my debut book, that I’m going to revel in this for a long time! I want to buy all the other books in the Adult Fiction section and read them! And put them on a little shelf in this order, because I’m cheesy that way. And because, if you like great lit of the fantastic, you’ll love what’s on this list Sunburst has made for us. Thank you, Sunburst Award Society, for making lists like this, for loving literature of the fantastic, and especially, right now, for choosing my book for your longlist. It means a lot to me as both a writer and a Canadian.
From February, author and artist SE Lindberg reviewed my collection on Booklikes and did an interview with me about “Art and Beauty in Weird Fiction”.
About The Angels of Our Better Beasts, he says, “The variety is great, but Stueart’s keen sense of humanity, and the role art plays in our relationships, is the key strength. Few times have weird fiction actually evoked real emotions.”– SE Lindberg. Read more of his review here.
Seth also interviewed me for his blogsite–a fun interview about the role of the artist in writing, as well as art in fiction. I get asked if I’m more a changeling or a chimera! Also some insightful questions for me as an illustrator.
Thank you, Seth, and to everyone who reviews a book publicly. It’s about the best gift you can give a writer you enjoy! Your reviews turn are not just kind words, but they help lead others to our books, and this reassures publishers that we are worth publishing. That people are reading us and liking our work. Thank you, thank you, thank you.