I was thrilled to discover Monday night, July 27, after my Twitter started rumbling with good news, that my little story about fauns and jazz and mentoring and hope was included on a fantabulous finalist list of authors for the World Fantasy Awards! Completely unexpected!
I was and still am overwhelmed by the fact that I’m on that list! And so grateful for the happy texts and good thoughts and congratulations that came from everyone! It was a wonderful time in the midst of America’s Midlife Crisis, and I am eternally grateful for the kindness and joy I received.
I congratulate all the finalists on the whole ballot! But especially my compatriots on the Short Fiction list: Siobhan Carroll, Maria Dahvana Headley, Sarah Pinsker, Rivers Solomon, Genevieve Valentine! It is a strong ballot and I am honored to be on it!
It is difficult to know how to address the current situation, how to speak out against the police violence and purposeful escalation of violent action against peaceful protesters, angry protesters, and protesters in the street speaking out against police brutality. They are often met with police brutality.
I’ve watched too many videos where police drag a protester into the middle or catch one on the side and physically assault them while they are “arresting” them. All the other officers crowd around the officer beating someone to make sure no one else interferes. They all cover each other.
It’s protected assault.
Officers have “qualified immunity” from work related violence that they do as part of their job. If they can say they needed to do it, then they can do it. They never have to be held criminally liable. Oh they MAY get fired, but then transferred to a new precinct, a new city, ready to start the abuse over again.
The Blue Code, the Blue Shield, Blue wall of silence, or other names, is an unwritten code of conduct that police officers buy into—protecting each other’s abusive or illegal activity. Even if they go in with the best of intentions, they will end up following the code and not turning in other officers, not speaking out, for fear of what might happen to them.
THANK YOU FOR COMING TO MY WEBSITE! This is just my blogsite, but a link is below to go to where I sell my art.
I’m so very honored to have been selected as an Emerging Artist this year at the Columbus Arts Festival. While we are all sad that we can’t be physically together, I have created a site to sell my art, and to take commissions.
If you want to view my original art for sale, follow this link:
If you would rather have a print, a mug, a phone case, or were just thinking of more affordable purchases, please see my Redbubble site, where some of the designs are available right now. I hope to have more designs up soon.
Thank you again for coming! If you want to come back and check out my blog—I am a writer and artist —feel free to come again.
#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.