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Too Many Men Can’t Handle Being Told No

Content warning for discussion of mass shootings and domestic violence.

Teen Vogue recently published an article about the link between dating violence and gun violence.

But calling it “dating violence” misses a very significant factor. I dug through a list of school shootings from the past few years and tried to pick out every story that seemed to involve any sort of dating/romantic relationship, either real or desired on the part of the shooter.

Anyone want to guess what I found? In every single case, the shooter was male, and the target was female.

Remember last week when I talked about needing to teach kids to hear and accept “No” for an answer? Let me be more specific. Being able to set and respect boundaries is important for everyone. But we desperately need to teach boys and men to respect “No.” That male sense of entitlement is literally killing people.

The whole “incel” thing is another example where we see a guy committing murder because he feels the world owed him sex. Yet, despite the fact that both men and women can be “involuntarily celibate,” it’s only the men lashing out with violence, killing people because they’re unwilling to accept women telling them no.

As a society, this is exactly what we teach men to do. We teach them to be persistent, to never accept no for an answer. The entertainment industry is flooded with stories of men essentially wearing down the target of their desire until the woman says yes. We teach them that women aren’t people, but things to be won and used.

Again and again, we see where those lessons lead:

Santa Fe High School. Texas. Kole Dixon, 16, a sophomore…said that friends told him that the gunman first entered an art classroom, said “Surprise!” and started shooting. The suspect’s ex-girlfriend was among the people shot in that classroom, he said.* Sadie Rodriguez, the mother of Shana Fisher, 16, told the newspaper that her daughter rejected four months of aggressive advances from accused shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis… Fisher finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, the newspaper quoted her mother as writing in a private message to the Times. “A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” she said. “Shana being the first one.”

*Per the second link, it sounds like Fisher wasn’t the killer’s ex-girlfriend, but a girl he’d been aggressively pursuing.

Great Mills High School. Maryland. All indications suggest the shooting was not a random act of violence. Rollins and the female victim had a prior relationship which recently ended.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Florida. Student Victoria Olvera, 17, said that Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and that his expulsion was over a fight with her new boyfriend.

Italy High School. Texas. Shook said the girl who was shot had moved to the school district a few months earlier. She said the girl had briefly dated the suspect, but that she did not know much about her.

Rancho Tehama Reserve. California. The wife’s car was still there. Her body, shot several times, was hidden beneath the floor. “We believe that’s what probably started this whole event,” Tehama County Asst. Sheriff Phil Johnston told reporters.

Mattoon High School. Illinois. [T]he teen targeted a female student at Mattoon High School who he said called him gay.

North Lake College. Texas. He had been stalking her for quite a while but she didn’t make anything of it,” her mom said. The family says witnesses told them Torres had approached Janeera in front of an art exhibit and yelled at her saying, “You know who I am and you know why I am here!” The family also says the two never dated and were not even friends.

North Park Elementary School. California. The slain teacher was identified as Karen Smith, 53, who police said was Anderson’s estranged wife.

Antigo High School. Wisconsin. A school administrator said he does not believe Wagner targeted the victims. Instead, interim district administrator Donald Childs told The Associated Press he believes Wagner planned to enter the prom and start shooting randomly. A student who did not want to be identified told FOX6 News Wagner had been depressed following the break-up with his girlfriend.

Rogers State University. Oklahoma. Sources said a woman was studying in a music hall when she spotted her ex-boyfriend, Fees, outside. Fees shot through the window at the woman, but she was able to run to safety and call authorities, reports say.

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We see the seeds in the way so many men lash out with threats of violence when a woman dares to tell them no. We see the statistics showing that the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she tries to leave.

I know, I know. “Not all men,” and all that. Most men don’t go on killing sprees when a woman turns them down. But the list of men who do is too damned long.

So many guys are so obsessed with being “real men.” Here’s a thought. Maybe a real man should have more emotional stability and maturity than a toddler throwing a tantrum when he doesn’t immediately get everything he wants. Maybe he should be man enough to hear the word “no” without having to whine, curse, threaten, and/or kill. Maybe that’s what we should be teaching boys and men.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday has seen the final cover for Terminal Uprising, and looks forward to sharing it soon! 🙂

 

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Boundaries, Part Whatever

Sometimes I think two of the most important things we can teach kids are that they have a right to say no, and that if someone tells them no, they have to respect that.

I know some Very Clever People will point out that there are exceptions. If I tell my five-year-old child to stop shoving his LEGO Star Wars figures into the garbage disposal while cackling and saying, “In its belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years,” he’s not going to have much luck telling me no. If my boss gives me an assignment and I tell him no, that’s probably gonna end badly for me.

(On the other hand, if that same five-year-old doesn’t want a kiss from Aunt Rose? He has the right to say no. Maybe today Aunt Rose will have to settle for a fistbump.)

But I think most of us are able to understand and discuss this without having to derail for those “whatabouts.”

You have the right to say no.

If you’re on the receiving end of that “No”? You don’t have to be happy about it. You can feel hurt or angry or whatever. But you still have to accept it.

You have the right to say no, even if you said yes in the past. You’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to decide that today you want to set this boundary, regardless of whether you set it yesterday or not.

You have the right to set rules and boundaries in your own space. You decide who can and can’t be in your home. You decide who can call you, text you, talk to you online, and so on. You have the right to tell someone to leave you the hell alone, and to block their ass if they can’t respect that.

If someone tells you to stop talking to them? Stop talking to them! Don’t argue. Don’t whine about how it’s unfair. Don’t keep coming back to explain yourself, or to try to get the last word. Grow the hell up and get on with your life.

To put it as simply and clearly as I can, you don’t have a right to another person. Even if you disagree with them. Even if you hate them. Even if you’re attracted to them. Even if you’re married to them.

That sense of false entitlement to another human being is at the core of so much dysfunctional societal rot. Rape and domestic violence and the epidemic of men physically hurting or killing women for telling them no…

Learn to say no, and to respect it from others. Teach kids the same. Expect the same from the people in your life. Demand the same (when it’s safe for you to do so). Support people’s right to set their own boundaries, and help push back against those who would ignore them.

This post brought to you by someone who may end up being an object lesson for a future post, depending on how things go.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

A few nights ago, my wife woke me up at about three in the morning. Through the open windows, she’d heard what sounded vaguely like a velociraptor from Jurassic Park making that chirping/rattling/growling sound they make right before they eat your face. For a countermelody, something else — or maybe it was the same thing — kept screeching.

She’d already checked to make sure all of our animals were inside, so we knew it wasn’t our cats/dogs/guinea pig getting eaten by a genetically modified dinosaur.

I’ve lived in Michigan for about four decades, and I had no clue what was out there. So I grabbed a flashlight to check it out. Then I put the flashlight back and grabbed one that worked.

This wasn’t a terribly powerful flashlight, just a little LED light. But it was enough for me to avoid any dog “gifts” as I walked through the back yard. By now, I knew the sound was coming from a large tree on the other side of the fence.

I shine the light around, and quickly spot three sets of shining eyes watching me from the branches. The flashlight wasn’t strong enough for me to make out anything except the bright, glowing eyes. My brain was now alert enough to run through a quick checklist.

  • Dinosaurs are extinct, and Seanan McGuire lives on the other side of the country, so these probably weren’t real velociraptors.
  • The eyes were on the front of the head, not to the sides. Ergo, probably predators of some non-velociraptor variety.
  • They were about twenty feet up, suggesting either birds or maybe large cats?
  • Oh, cool — we have owls!

I hung out for another minute or two, hoping I’d be able to see more, but the darkness mocked me with its…darkness.

And then, right before I turned around to come inside, some long-dormant instinct made me raise the flashlight and look up. The beam illuminated a fourth pair of eyes in the branches directly above me. Just…watching.

Jurassic Park Gif: Clever Girl

I was tempted to grab my camera and try to climb up onto the roof to get some long-exposure shots with the zoom lens. Then I remembered it was three in the freaking morning, so I went back to bed.

The next day, I spent a little time online listening to different owl calls. It might have been a group of barred owls, probably feeding their young.

They haven’t come back, which makes me a little sad, but helps everyone in the house to sleep better.

But the real lesson here is that if we ever are attacked by mutant dinosaurs or whatever, I’ll be one of the first to be ambushed and eaten.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Project Updates

TERMINAL UPRISING is sitting with my editor. My agent called yesterday to share a few comments on the manuscript. Overall, he thought it was a good book, and a strong follow-up to TERMINAL ALLIANCE.

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After spending a year on that book, I needed a break. So for the past week, I’ve been planning out a completely different project, something unrelated to any of my current series. The next Janitors book will be my priority, since that’s under contract and I don’t want to leave people with 2/3 of a trilogy, but I’m really excited about this new thing.

I normally start with a rough outline, then leap into the first draft. This inevitably leads to the discovery that my outline is broken. It’s not until after the first or second draft that I start to pull everything together and figure out how the book is going to work.

This time, I tried something different. I wrote the rough outline, but then tried writing what I called Draft Zero. It’s somewhere between an outline and a proper draft. It’s broken into chapters and scenes, but each scene is very sparse, between 50 and 500 words.

As always, I discovered problems with the outline. But I’ve been able to find and fix a lot of them in Draft Zero. It’s possible (probable) (inevitable) that I’ll hit additional potholes as I start writing Draft One, but I’m hoping there will be fewer, and I’ll be able to finish this project more quickly.

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For now, though, I need to turn my attention back to Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse III. I planted plot seeds in the last chapter of TERMINAL UPRISING, and it’s time to start thinking about how the heck I’m going to turn those seeds into a story.

I’m also expecting to hear back from my editor soon, at which point I’ll need to dive in on final revisions to TERMINAL UPRISING. I’m actually looking forward to that. This feels like part of the payoff for the past year’s work — I have a book that, hey, I think is pretty good! And now I get to go through with advice from very smart professionals to make it even better!

(Also, I get to see cover art. Will share as soon as I can, but Dan Dos Santos has once again done a lovely job.)

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So that’s one book to revise and two more to write. Along with three pitches my agent sent out for Potentially Fun Thing that may or may not happen.

That should be enough to keep me busy and out of trouble…mostly…for at least the next year.

 

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Infinity War (Spoilers)

We don’t make it to opening weekend for most movies, but I figured with as much time as I spend online, this would be my only chance of seeing Infinity Wars before stumbling over spoilers.

Speaking of which…spoilers after the cut!

Get This Man a Shield Meme

Read the rest of this entry »Collapse )

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Cool Stuff Friday

Friday made it through the week without getting called in for jury duty!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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I sent the manuscript for Terminal Alliance to my editor and agent on Sunday, which means I am now allowed to stop and breathe and catch up on a little of what’s been happening in the world recently. I wanted to start with the discussion about the Writers of the Future contest that’s been making the rounds.

I was a first prize winner in the context back in 1998, and attended the 1999 workshop. My story was published in Volume 15. At the time, I knew L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the contest, was also the founder of Scientology. We were told the contest and its finances were completely separate from the church.

In 2012, I talked about some of the reasons I no longer believed the “firewall” between the church and the contest was as strong as we’d been told.

That was six years ago. Since then, I’ve learned more about people’s experiences, how the contest operates, and the alleged firewall between the church and the contest.

The Writers of the Future trademark is registered to the Church of Spiritual Technology. As of 1994, Scientology owned the WotF trademark. Ownership was transferred in 1997 to the L. Ron Hubbard Library…which has the exact same address and correspondent as the Church of Spiritual Technology.

The workshop is taught using materials from Dianetics. J. W. Alden posted a thread with one of the first handouts the writers receive at the WotF workshop. I remember that particular worksheet from my own workshop week. What I didn’t know until Alden pointed it out was that the text of that worksheet comes directly from page one of Dianetics.

Transphobic edits. Keffy R. M. Kehrli was a WotF winner in 2011. His story “Bonehouse” was, to the best of his knowledge, the only story to receive any edits that year. The edits in question? Removing references about a trans character who was transitioning.

The anthology sells poorly…except to Scientologists. Jason Sanford investigated the Bookscan numbers for previous WotF anthologies. He found sales to be relatively low, but with an unusual anomaly:

“Across this three week period sales match up extremely well with related Scientology locations, which would suggest more than 90% of total sales are bought in locations with a large Scientology presence.”

This would not be the first time the church encouraged or forced members to buy books with Hubbard’s name on them.

The publicity machine has gotten much more intense since 1999. Winner Anaea Lay wrote about her mixed feelings after the workshop. One quote that jumped out at me was, “The winners are not real people to ASI. It’s not malicious. From ASI’s perspective, there are no real people, just pawns in their great publicity machine designed to sell books with L. Ron Hubbard’s name on them.”

WotF Staffers are all Scientologists. This point was made by ex-Scientologist Dierdre Saoirse Moen, and affirmed by contest director Joni Labaqui in a letter to Frank Wu (see Edit 4 in the linked blog post).

  • Why does this matter? I see two things here. One is that it undermines the idea of any real barrier between the church and the contest. The other is various reports of unfair labor practices within Scientology, and whether the people working at WotF are a part of that.

Winner speeches are allegedly used at Scientology ceremonies. Former Scientologist Mike Rinder writes that the winners’ speeches and photos are used at weekly Scientology “graduation” ceremonies, as a way of bestowing legitimacy on both L. Ron Hubbard and the church.

WotF Presence at the 1987 Worldcon. Conspiracy Theories, edited by Chris Evans, is a chapbook discussing the presence of Author Services Inc and related manifestations of L. Ron Hubbard at Conspiracy, the 1987 World SF Convention in Brighton, England. I’m not sure how much weight to give events from more than 30 years ago, but it’s part of the history, so I thought it worth including the link.

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None of this makes me any less proud of my winning story from 20 years ago. The judges are not Scientologists, and they chose my sword and sorcery piece as one of the best stories they saw that year. I enjoyed the workshop, made some friends, and had a wonderful experience.

Did it kickstart or provide an irreplaceable boost to my career? Nope. I can’t see into alternate timelines, but I’m 99% sure I’d be in the exact same place if I’d never won. (Everyone’s experience is different, of course. I know the contest was much more of a springboard for at least one now-big-name author. But as a rule, a single story sale/publication will not make or break your career.)

I’m not interested in shaming winners or people who choose to participate, or the judges, some of whom are people I have tremendous respect for. But I want to make the information available so people can make more informed choices about whether to participate.

If I’d known then what I know now? I would have removed Writers of the Future from my submission list and sent that story to another market, somewhere without the transphobia, with a bigger audience, and without the close connection to a religious organization with a long list of alleged abuses.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday missed his deadline, but is on the very last chapter of this rewrite!

 

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Cool Stuff Friday

My friend Edric is launching a treasure hunt with a $100 cash prize. It begins tonight, April 6, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time at http://happinessboard.com/TreasureHunt.html

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Cool Stuff Friday

Friday needs to review the orbital mechanics discussion notes from Launch Pad.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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18 Days to Deadline

Haven’t been blogging much lately. TERMINAL UPRISING is due to my editor on tax day. I therefore need to finish writing it.

I also need to finish doing our taxes, for that matter.

Anyway, blogging will likely continue to be minimal for the next few weeks. All of my words need to go into my manuscript. (I’m doing this blog post with leftover words that didn’t make the cut. Like “moist” and “very” and “that” and “elocution.”)

I’m happy with how this revision is coming together. Added two bits today I really liked — one a moment of awe and wonder, and the other an alien snot joke. So, you know, typical Jim book.

Hope you’re all having a good week!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday has about three weeks to finish and turn in this novel, so blogging may be sparse…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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“I’m not invisible in science fiction, just insulted by being a symbol of inadequacy. I have no wish to glorify my physical or mental problems. They cause me constant pain and if I could get rid of them I would do so in a heartbeat. But that doesn’t mean I can only exist as a symbol of a society’s failure to fix me.”

Invisible 3 CoverCarrie Sessarego is one of the contributors to Invisible 3, which includes 18 essays and poems about representation in science fiction and fantasy. You can order the collection at:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play

Three other essays from Invisible 3 are available to read online:

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind folks that the collection is eligible for the Hugo Award in the Best Related Work category…

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Lost in Space: A Messy Voyage Through Fictional Universes

In Which We Prepare for Launch

In the past year I’ve struggled with managing increasingly serious symptoms of arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as other symptoms of Noonan Syndrome. These issues affect my daily life and make me question my identity. Does having the kinds of problems I have mean I’m disabled? Lately I’ve settled on my own word to describe myself: ‘messy’. I do not intend it as pejorative term. Many wonderful things are messy – babies, Jackson Pollock paintings, glitter, and my house, for example.  I chose the term because I tend not to fit neatly into a category, I look unusual, and my problems defy simple solutions.

With my new favorite word in mind, I decided to take a tour through a few of the fictional universes I love to see where my messiness might fit in. In science fiction, we explore the notion that technology will cure all or most conditions which are perceived as detrimental. This sets up a treatment of ‘messy’ conditions as one in which the presence of mess is a sign that a planet or society is poor and otherwise backward.

This is why I am most likely to be represented in franchises such as Star Wars and Firefly, which show a clear line between the planets that are part of the establishment and planets that remain outside the establishment. It also means my appearance in those franchises would be derogatory. My uncorrected droopy eye and my limp signal, “This planet is poor.” My existence signals that a society is failing to care for its own. However, it might also be a sign that a society is willing to tolerate difference – a positive trait that is undercut by keeping messy people in the background instead of allowing them to shine as main characters.

In Which We Visit the Star Wars Universe

The Star Wars Universe can be split into two types of settings: tidy and messy. I’d never be found in the more prosperous cities of the Empire, or the Empire’s ships and stations. The Empire’s look is polished and perfect, unlike the more rough, dirty, used look of the Rebel Alliance. Even Darth Vader, who is profoundly disabled, has an exterior façade of physical strength and health, thanks in part to Vader’s glossy suit. By presenting a perfect, clean, shiny world, The Empire positions itself as an institution of order versus chaos. In the Empire, everything is under control – in many senses of the term.

The iconography of the Empire conveys power but also conformity. It echoes Nazi propaganda, with high-necked uniforms for officers and faceless, elite soldiers called “stormtroopers.” Troops stand in formation to hear speeches set against the backdrop of red flags. It seems highly unlikely that anyone messy would be tolerated in the Empire’s most militaristic strongholds. Someone with my odd gait and appearance would be an embarrassment – a blot on an otherwise perfect presentation of physical power.

The less developed a planet is, the more likely it is to be friendly towards the Rebel Alliance. Like most frontier lands, the inhabitants of these planets dislike rules and like most frontier lands they seem to be much more hardscrabble than the Empire – these are places where perfectly polished steel is replaced by rusty spare parts. For example, in A New Hope, Tatooine is clearly under the Empire’s dominion, and yet people speak quite openly of joining the Rebellion.

These planets are impoverished, yet they are also havens of non-conformity. Look at the residents of the rougher neighborhoods of Tatooine or Jakku, and you could easily find me limping down the street. My very “messiness” would serve as a sign that this planet is Not Up To Par. It would be a sign that The Empire does not serve all planets equally as well as a sign that the Rebellion is not doing well. We know from Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader that incredible medical technology exists. It seems likely, however, that the Rebellion-friendly planets don’t have access to it.

On the plus side, while the outer planets may not have the ability to fix problems, they do seem to be willing to tolerate every possible level of appearance and behavior. It’s even possible that my odd appearance would not block me from becoming one of the central actors in a Star Wars franchise film. After all, Yoda is even shorter than I am, and unlike me, he’s green. However, The Star Wars main cast spends a lot of time running and fighting hand-to-hand. Unless I develop an affinity for The Force, there will be no trips in the Millennium Falcon for me. I’ve been trying to use The Force on things since I was six and nothing has happened yet, but maybe I’m a late bloomer! Till then, I would be relegated strictly to the alleys of some dusty town, evidence that no one has the resources to fix me but also that no one has an interest in eliminating me.

In Which We Survey The ’Verse (Firefly and Serenity)

Here’s another example of the link between disability and class. Someone like me could easily be located in the ports of the relatively impoverished Rim planets. The Rim Planets and their inhabitants are allowed to be ‘messy,’ but the prosperous cities (the Core worlds) are not. The Core worlds, dominated more closely by the Alliance, rely on a very similar aesthetic as the cities dominated by the Empire in Star Wars, for the same reasons. An optimistic soul might say that the medical technology on Core worlds is so advanced that physical impairments are easily cured. A more cynical soul might say that those who can’t be cured are ‘encouraged’ to seek life out of sight of others.

It’s theoretically possible that I could be part of the main Firefly cast if I had a special skill to offer that did not rely on physical strength. For instance, Wash, Simon and Kaylee are all physically fit, but their use to the crew is due to their skill sets (pilot, surgeon and mechanic, respectively), not their physical fitness (I realize many people with disabilities are extremely physically fit, but I am not). Additionally, there’s the fact that anyone can be a passenger if they have enough funds – presumably even short arthritic women.

Unfortunately, given my slow walking speed and non-existent running speed, it’s doubtful I would survive the events of the movie (Serenity). The other barrier to my being part of the Firefly crew is that the crew is, as Mal might put it, “So very pretty.” Indeed, an abundance of good looks is possibly the only common denominator of the ship’s passengers and crew. I have many lovely qualities, but a Hollywood standard of “pretty” is not one of them.

In Which We Transport Ourselves to Star Trek

Star Trek has been quite ambitious in trying to portray people with disabilities in a positive light. In the Original Series, Miranda Jones is blind (“Is There in Truth No Beauty”). In the Next Generation, Picard has an artificial heart, Geordi is blind, and several individual episodes deal with disabilities.

However, there is still no place for messy in Star Trek. Disabled characters have a single issue (blindness, for instance). This issue is dealt with in a way that does not impair the attractiveness of the actor (although Geordi’s visor does conceal actor LeVar Burton’s eyes) and it gives the characters an advantage – both Geordie and Miranda Jones are able to sense things that others cannot, although in very different ways and through different means. On other occasions, a disability can be cured or treated by a single, though risky, operation or drug, one which patients undergo rather than stay disabled (“Ethics” and “Too Short a Season”).

The one character who might be truly viewed as ‘messy’ is Commander Pike of The Original Series. Pike was injured in an accident and became scarred, paralyzed, and unable to speak (the idea that The Federation can’t come up with a better way to help him communicate is the most implausible part of the episode). In “The Menagerie,” he is returned to the remote planet Talos IV, where he can live with an illusion of being his younger, pre-accident self.

Over and over again, Star Trek says one thing but shows another. When Worf demands that Riker kill him after Worf is paralyzed, everyone tries to talk him out of it. Geordie is a vital member of the crew with or without his visor. No one supports Admiral Johnson in “Too Short a Season” in his attempts to de-age by popping alien space pills.

Star Trek SAYS people with disabilities have value. But Star Trek SHOWS a society in which only tidy forms of disability are allowed. There are no captains in wheelchairs. Characters who are not cured or fixed or blessed with extra useful technology disappear.  While Star Trek SAYS that people with disabilities can still contribute to society, in practice characters choose to risk their lives lest they become disabled and therefore “useless.” The exception is Troi, who realizes that she can still be useful after she loses her empathic powers, but she gets them back, tidily, at the end of 45 minutes.

If I could be found anywhere in Star Trek, it would be on Deep Space Nine, that frontier outpost no one wants to be assigned to. Here. class distinction strikes again. The characters in this show are experienced with dealing with mess in terms of assisting travelers and the survivors of war. Deep Space Nine also has a wheelchair user named Melora who refuses to be ‘fixed’ and who insists, correctly, that she can be a useful, adventurous, active person despite her inability to walk in “normal” gravity (“Melora”).

Alas, Melora leaves the station after only one episode, and once again we are left with a cast that is either non-human or human/human-like and very pretty and athletic. If I were on Deep Space Nine, I would be a mess for the crew to deal with, a “Very Special Episode.” There’s still no allotment for messy among the crew.

A Quick Read in the Spaceport: The Vorkosigan Saga

FINALLY! Miles Vorkosigan, of the beloved book series by Lois McMaster Bujold is the essence of messy! He’s short (we are the same height!) and oddly proportioned! He has brittle bones, which means his physical abilities and pain levels change constantly as various parts of him break and heal. He has scars. He struggles with mood disorders. None of this stops him from living a life of adventure and daring, and he has a happy romance.

This book series has a huge and loyal fan base, many stories and sub-plots, an abundance of world-building and fascinating characters, and yet it has never been adapted to screen. Could it be that it’s simply too messy for Hollywood to contemplate? For the sake of brevity (I know, too late) I’ve confined our trip to stories that made it to the screen. This book series is a hint of how much diverse representation is possible if Hollywood were more daring.

Reflections from Home

After such an exhausting trip, I need a nap. But first, my conclusion: the world of television and film, especially large franchises and series, likes things to be tidy. The problem is not that there are no disabled people in science fiction. The problem is that disabled people are so often relegated to a Very Special Episode and/or a guest character role, and they are made so tidy that they do not resemble the messy reality that many of us experience.

Frankly, I’d be thrilled if my conditions could be cured. But that doesn’t mean that our fictional worlds should be without mess. Mess is part of life. People who have complicated physical and mental issues are part of life, and they are vibrant and capable. Why couldn’t I be an interplanetary historian for the Enterprise, or a Rebel Alliance pilot in Star Wars, or a traveling storyteller in Firefly? Why should I hide in some smoky corner of a Cantina when I could be at the Council table plotting the rebellion?

When storytellers banish people like me to the Cantinas and the alleys of backwater planets, they are telling us, “You are undesirable. You are a sign that things have gone wrong. You are not nice to look at and you can’t get shit done.” Yet I know any number of messy people who get shit done all the time. If they worked on the crew of The Firefly, they’d make the protein packs taste good and the jobs run smoothly and in their spare time they’d knit everyone blankets. That’s the kind of universe I really want to visit.

I’m not invisible in science fiction, just insulted by being a symbol of inadequacy. I have no wish to glorify my physical or mental problems. They cause me constant pain and if I could get rid of them I would do so in a heartbeat. But that doesn’t mean I can only exist as a symbol of a society’s failure to fix me. I can also be a symbol of determination and resilience and resolve and the kind of beauty that is only noticeable when one is paying close attention. Perhaps on my next tour, I’ll find someone like me standing for better things than failure.

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Carrie Sessarego is the resident “geek reviewer” for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, where she wrangles science fiction, fantasy romance, comics, movies, and non-fiction. Her first book, PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND POPCORN: TV AND FILM ADAPTATIONS OF PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, AND JANE EYRE, was released in 2014. Her work has been published in SEARCH Magazine, Interfictions Online, After the Avengers, The WisCon Chronicles Vol. 9, Google Play Editorial, and Speculative Fiction 2013: The Year’s Best Online Reviews, Essays And Commentary. When not reading and writing, you can find Carrie speaking at conventions, volunteering for the Sacramento Public Library, and getting into trouble with her mad scientist husband, Potterhead daughter, mysterious cats, and neurotic dog.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

“I’m not invisible in science fiction, just insulted by being a symbol of inadequacy. I have no wish to glorify my physical or mental problems. They cause me constant pain and if I could get rid of them I would do so in a heartbeat. But that doesn’t mean I can only exist as a symbol of a society’s failure to fix me.”

Invisible 3 CoverCarrie Sessarego is one of the contributors to Invisible 3, which includes 18 essays and poems about representation in science fiction and fantasy. You can order the collection at:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play

Sessarego is the resident “geek reviewer” for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, where she wrangles science fiction, fantasy romance, comics, movies, and non-fiction. Her first book, PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND POPCORN: TV AND FILM ADAPTATIONS OF PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, AND JANE EYRE, was released in 2014. Her work has been published in SEARCH Magazine, Interfictions Online, After the Avengers, The WisCon Chronicles Vol. 9, Google Play Editorial, and Speculative Fiction 2013: The Year’s Best Online Reviews, Essays And Commentary. When not reading and writing, you can find Carrie speaking at conventions, volunteering for the Sacramento Public Library, and getting into trouble with her mad scientist husband, Potterhead daughter, mysterious cats, and neurotic dog.

#

Lost in Space: A Messy Voyage Through Fictional Universes

In Which We Prepare for Launch

In the past year I’ve struggled with managing increasingly serious symptoms of arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as other symptoms of Noonan Syndrome. These issues affect my daily life and make me question my identity. Does having the kinds of problems I have mean I’m disabled? Lately I’ve settled on my own word to describe myself: ‘messy’. I do not intend it as pejorative term. Many wonderful things are messy – babies, Jackson Pollock paintings, glitter, and my house, for example.  I chose the term because I tend not to fit neatly into a category, I look unusual, and my problems defy simple solutions.

With my new favorite word in mind, I decided to take a tour through a few of the fictional universes I love to see where my messiness might fit in. In science fiction, we explore the notion that technology will cure all or most conditions which are perceived as detrimental. This sets up a treatment of ‘messy’ conditions as one in which the presence of mess is a sign that a planet or society is poor and otherwise backward.

This is why I am most likely to be represented in franchises such as Star Wars and Firefly, which show a clear line between the planets that are part of the establishment and planets that remain outside the establishment. It also means my appearance in those franchises would be derogatory. My uncorrected droopy eye and my limp signal, “This planet is poor.” My existence signals that a society is failing to care for its own. However, it might also be a sign that a society is willing to tolerate difference – a positive trait that is undercut by keeping messy people in the background instead of allowing them to shine as main characters.

In Which We Visit the Star Wars Universe

The Star Wars Universe can be split into two types of settings: tidy and messy. I’d never be found in the more prosperous cities of the Empire, or the Empire’s ships and stations. The Empire’s look is polished and perfect, unlike the more rough, dirty, used look of the Rebel Alliance. Even Darth Vader, who is profoundly disabled, has an exterior façade of physical strength and health, thanks in part to Vader’s glossy suit. By presenting a perfect, clean, shiny world, The Empire positions itself as an institution of order versus chaos. In the Empire, everything is under control – in many senses of the term.

The iconography of the Empire conveys power but also conformity. It echoes Nazi propaganda, with high-necked uniforms for officers and faceless, elite soldiers called “stormtroopers.” Troops stand in formation to hear speeches set against the backdrop of red flags. It seems highly unlikely that anyone messy would be tolerated in the Empire’s most militaristic strongholds. Someone with my odd gait and appearance would be an embarrassment – a blot on an otherwise perfect presentation of physical power.

The less developed a planet is, the more likely it is to be friendly towards the Rebel Alliance. Like most frontier lands, the inhabitants of these planets dislike rules and like most frontier lands they seem to be much more hardscrabble than the Empire – these are places where perfectly polished steel is replaced by rusty spare parts. For example, in A New Hope, Tatooine is clearly under the Empire’s dominion, and yet people speak quite openly of joining the Rebellion.

These planets are impoverished, yet they are also havens of non-conformity. Look at the residents of the rougher neighborhoods of Tatooine or Jakku, and you could easily find me limping down the street. My very “messiness” would serve as a sign that this planet is Not Up To Par. It would be a sign that The Empire does not serve all planets equally as well as a sign that the Rebellion is not doing well. We know from Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader that incredible medical technology exists. It seems likely, however, that the Rebellion-friendly planets don’t have access to it.

On the plus side, while the outer planets may not have the ability to fix problems, they do seem to be willing to tolerate every possible level of appearance and behavior. It’s even possible that my odd appearance would not block me from becoming one of the central actors in a Star Wars franchise film. After all, Yoda is even shorter than I am, and unlike me, he’s green. However, The Star Wars main cast spends a lot of time running and fighting hand-to-hand. Unless I develop an affinity for The Force, there will be no trips in the Millennium Falcon for me. I’ve been trying to use The Force on things since I was six and nothing has happened yet, but maybe I’m a late bloomer! Till then, I would be relegated strictly to the alleys of some dusty town, evidence that no one has the resources to fix me but also that no one has an interest in eliminating me.

In Which We Survey The ’Verse (Firefly and Serenity)

Here’s another example of the link between disability and class. Someone like me could easily be located in the ports of the relatively impoverished Rim planets. The Rim Planets and their inhabitants are allowed to be ‘messy,’ but the prosperous cities (the Core worlds) are not. The Core worlds, dominated more closely by the Alliance, rely on a very similar aesthetic as the cities dominated by the Empire in Star Wars, for the same reasons. An optimistic soul might say that the medical technology on Core worlds is so advanced that physical impairments are easily cured. A more cynical soul might say that those who can’t be cured are ‘encouraged’ to seek life out of sight of others.

It’s theoretically possible that I could be part of the main Firefly cast if I had a special skill to offer that did not rely on physical strength. For instance, Wash, Simon and Kaylee are all physically fit, but their use to the crew is due to their skill sets (pilot, surgeon and mechanic, respectively), not their physical fitness (I realize many people with disabilities are extremely physically fit, but I am not). Additionally, there’s the fact that anyone can be a passenger if they have enough funds – presumably even short arthritic women.

Unfortunately, given my slow walking speed and non-existent running speed, it’s doubtful I would survive the events of the movie (Serenity). The other barrier to my being part of the Firefly crew is that the crew is, as Mal might put it, “So very pretty.” Indeed, an abundance of good looks is possibly the only common denominator of the ship’s passengers and crew. I have many lovely qualities, but a Hollywood standard of “pretty” is not one of them.

In Which We Transport Ourselves to Star Trek

Star Trek has been quite ambitious in trying to portray people with disabilities in a positive light. In the Original Series, Miranda Jones is blind (“Is There in Truth No Beauty”). In the Next Generation, Picard has an artificial heart, Geordi is blind, and several individual episodes deal with disabilities.

However, there is still no place for messy in Star Trek. Disabled characters have a single issue (blindness, for instance). This issue is dealt with in a way that does not impair the attractiveness of the actor (although Geordi’s visor does conceal actor LeVar Burton’s eyes) and it gives the characters an advantage – both Geordie and Miranda Jones are able to sense things that others cannot, although in very different ways and through different means. On other occasions, a disability can be cured or treated by a single, though risky, operation or drug, one which patients undergo rather than stay disabled (“Ethics” and “Too Short a Season”).

The one character who might be truly viewed as ‘messy’ is Commander Pike of The Original Series. Pike was injured in an accident and became scarred, paralyzed, and unable to speak (the idea that The Federation can’t come up with a better way to help him communicate is the most implausible part of the episode). In “The Menagerie,” he is returned to the remote planet Talos IV, where he can live with an illusion of being his younger, pre-accident self.

Over and over again, Star Trek says one thing but shows another. When Worf demands that Riker kill him after Worf is paralyzed, everyone tries to talk him out of it. Geordie is a vital member of the crew with or without his visor. No one supports Admiral Johnson in “Too Short a Season” in his attempts to de-age by popping alien space pills.

Star Trek SAYS people with disabilities have value. But Star Trek SHOWS a society in which only tidy forms of disability are allowed. There are no captains in wheelchairs. Characters who are not cured or fixed or blessed with extra useful technology disappear.  While Star Trek SAYS that people with disabilities can still contribute to society, in practice characters choose to risk their lives lest they become disabled and therefore “useless.” The exception is Troi, who realizes that she can still be useful after she loses her empathic powers, but she gets them back, tidily, at the end of 45 minutes.

If I could be found anywhere in Star Trek, it would be on Deep Space Nine, that frontier outpost no one wants to be assigned to. Here. class distinction strikes again. The characters in this show are experienced with dealing with mess in terms of assisting travelers and the survivors of war. Deep Space Nine also has a wheelchair user named Melora who refuses to be ‘fixed’ and who insists, correctly, that she can be a useful, adventurous, active person despite her inability to walk in “normal” gravity (“Melora”).

Alas, Melora leaves the station after only one episode, and once again we are left with a cast that is either non-human or human/human-like and very pretty and athletic. If I were on Deep Space Nine, I would be a mess for the crew to deal with, a “Very Special Episode.” There’s still no allotment for messy among the crew.

A Quick Read in the Spaceport: The Vorkosigan Saga

FINALLY! Miles Vorkosigan, of the beloved book series by Lois McMaster Bujold is the essence of messy! He’s short (we are the same height!) and oddly proportioned! He has brittle bones, which means his physical abilities and pain levels change constantly as various parts of him break and heal. He has scars. He struggles with mood disorders. None of this stops him from living a life of adventure and daring, and he has a happy romance.

This book series has a huge and loyal fan base, many stories and sub-plots, an abundance of world-building and fascinating characters, and yet it has never been adapted to screen. Could it be that it’s simply too messy for Hollywood to contemplate? For the sake of brevity (I know, too late) I’ve confined our trip to stories that made it to the screen. This book series is a hint of how much diverse representation is possible if Hollywood were more daring.

Reflections from Home

After such an exhausting trip, I need a nap. But first, my conclusion: the world of television and film, especially large franchises and series, likes things to be tidy. The problem is not that there are no disabled people in science fiction. The problem is that disabled people are so often relegated to a Very Special Episode and/or a guest character role, and they are made so tidy that they do not resemble the messy reality that many of us experience.

Frankly, I’d be thrilled if my conditions could be cured. But that doesn’t mean that our fictional worlds should be without mess. Mess is part of life. People who have complicated physical and mental issues are part of life, and they are vibrant and capable. Why couldn’t I be an interplanetary historian for the Enterprise, or a Rebel Alliance pilot in Star Wars, or a traveling storyteller in Firefly? Why should I hide in some smoky corner of a Cantina when I could be at the Council table plotting the rebellion?

When storytellers banish people like me to the Cantinas and the alleys of backwater planets, they are telling us, “You are undesirable. You are a sign that things have gone wrong. You are not nice to look at and you can’t get shit done.” Yet I know any number of messy people who get shit done all the time. If they worked on the crew of The Firefly, they’d make the protein packs taste good and the jobs run smoothly and in their spare time they’d knit everyone blankets. That’s the kind of universe I really want to visit.

I’m not invisible in science fiction, just insulted by being a symbol of inadequacy. I have no wish to glorify my physical or mental problems. They cause me constant pain and if I could get rid of them I would do so in a heartbeat. But that doesn’t mean I can only exist as a symbol of a society’s failure to fix me. I can also be a symbol of determination and resilience and resolve and the kind of beauty that is only noticeable when one is paying close attention. Perhaps on my next tour, I’ll find someone like me standing for better things than failure.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Signal Boosting Some Friends

Lots of folks doing cool/interesting/nifty stuff lately. I figured I’d put some of them together into a convenient blog post.

1. Stephanie Burgis and Tiffany Trent have been coediting an anthology called THE UNDERWATER BALLROOM SOCIETY. If you sign up for the newsletter, you can be entered to win one of fifty advance review e-copies. Authors include Laura Anne Gilman, Jenny Moss, Cassandra Khaw, Patrick Samphire, Y. S. Lee, and more.

2. Kristen Britain is doing a Kickstarter for the Green Rider Book Soundtrack. This is part of the 20th anniversary celebration for the book, and it looks like she’s close to hitting her goal. The music is composed by Kristina A. Bishoff.

3. Robert V. S. Redick wrote a blog post about the creation of his new epic fantasy, Master Assassins, which just came out. He talks in part about how feminism influenced the writing, including this line: “Being a feminist means always asking myself what those demons are up to. We all like to be ‘woke,’ but a white man can get away with nodding off any time.”

4. Juliet McKenna does a cover reveal and talks about the inspiration for her forthcoming book The Green Man’s Heir.

Feel free to boost your own friends and their awesome projects in the comments! No self-boosting, though. At the very least, make a friend come over and do that for you 😉

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is closing in on the end of this rewrite!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Mass Shootings and Mental Health

This is a repost and slight expansion of a Twitter thread from a few days ago.

::Taps microphone::

For the record, I have a mental illness, and have never committed a mass shooting.

Research shows that “the overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms.

If you’re looking for a more telling correlation, consider this finding from an FBI study of 160 active shooter events between 2000 and 2013: “Only 6 (3.8%) of the 160 cases involved a female perpetrator.” (p. 85)

I mean, please, PLEASE, do improve mental health care in this country! But don’t expect it to have any impact on mass shootings.

One argument points to a Mother Jones article claiming mental illness is frequently a factor in these shootings. So I downloaded their data set.

Factors they listed in the mental illness column include:

  • History of domestic conflict
  • Violent criminal history
  • Family said he was mentally ill (no illness/diagnosis specified)
  • Cousin said he was depressed and “going through a lot of things”
  • Experimented with pot and hallucinogens

They also listed some actual mental illness diagnoses. But counting those diagnoses right alongside things like “stalked and harassed a colleague” completely undermines their research and conclusions.

One individual was upset I argued against blaming mass shootings on the mentally ill, then turned around and pointed out that almost all mass shooters are male. I mean, I guess I’m sorry he felt upset or attacked or whatever, but the facts are pretty straightforward:

  • Most mass shooters are not mentally ill.
  • Mass shooters are almost always male.

Yeah, we know most men aren’t mass murderers. But since mass shootings are committed almost exclusively by men, don’t you think maybe it’s worth asking why? (Don’t #NotAllMen me, bro!)

We could also look into the significant correlation between mass shootings and domestic violence.

I’m not the first to point any of this out. There’s plenty of research out there, and people have been challenging the “mass shootings are a mental health problem” refrain for years.

At this point, if you’re still beating the “mental illness” drum as a response to mass shootings in the USA, I have to assume it’s because you’re uninterested in addressing the real problems.

TL;DR – I’m mentally ill. Please stop blaming this epidemic on us. Thanks.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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