tried to eat the safe banana
29 March 2015 @ 11:30 pm
I read Brenna Clarke Grey's post on why she quit Goodreads and decided to write up my own recent unfun experience there. (I haven't quit the site, but I'm on hiatus from it. Again.)

In January 2015 I was hungry for fiction and had run through my friends' recommendations, so I started looking through Goodreads. I found a book called Flight of the Silvers, by Daniel Price. The reviews were largely positive and the summary seemed interesting. I downloaded a sample and decided it was engaging enough to buy.

Trouble began shortly thereafter. At the 20% mark, I knew this book and I would never be friends. The story wasn't right for me for many reasons, ranging from Science Doesn't WORK That Way to These Women Are Like No Human I've Ever Known to Please Stop Using That Word Please Stop PLEASE JUST STOP. The pacing fell off as the author tried to manage more characters and a more divided plot than he knew how to handle. There were long chunks of text that desperately needed editing. And I was frustrated by the fact that one of the characters, Hannah, was described pretty much only by her boobs. Her characterization could be summarized as "the attractive one with the giant hooters." Her plot role was "the mobile boobs that everyone either admires or is jealous of." The obsession with her breasts was like a dripping tap: ignorable right up until it becomes all you can think about it. I read distractedly, waiting grimly for the next mention of Hannah and Her Boobs. (As there were typically multiple mentions per page in any section she was in, it was never a long wait.)

From 25% on, my notes in the ebook consist of:
  1. Increasingly sarcastic comments on some of the mentions of Hannah's boobs (they come too often to note all of them).
  2. Complaints about overuse of the word "shined." (Three months after reading the book, I'm still flinching when I see it. It was really overused.)
  3. Lengthy strings of question marks after some of the seriously, um, interesting word choices in the book. (After a while, I started to slip some exclamation points in these, too.)
Here's an example. At one point, one of the characters describes a pseudoscience substance as "both airy and dense." A male character (one of the good guys, of course; misogyny is a noted good guy trait) responds, "Huh. Just like Hannah." The next part, a direct quote: "More people laughed as the actress irreverently narrowed her eyes at Zack. He shined a preening smirk." Okay, so I think we can see that this is, just in general, really bad writing (he shined a preening smirk?), but what the hell is irreverently doing in that sentence? It makes no sense. My note on this one: "????? wtf wtf wtf EW also shined NO." As you can probably tell, the book was getting to me.

We all know how this goes. The bad writing distracted me from the, you know, actual story. (I probably missed a lot of it, which is what bad writing does: it gets between you and what the writer is trying to convey.) The pacing, already flawed, entirely stopped carrying me. I reached the point where I was looking for things to do instead of reading, which is weird for me. I'd read a page, spend five minutes on twitter, and come back and realize I had no memory of what I'd read, also very weird for me.

I should have walked away. I didn't.

When I was done (so very done) with the book, I went to Goodreads and reviewed it. I have to either adore or truly despise a book to churn out a 3000-word review of it. Flight of the Silvers didn't seem worth that, so instead of detailing all my problems with it, I wrote a description of what reading it felt like to me. The word "boobs" is featured very heavily. And that was it. Two people read my review, I think. No one really pays attention to that stuff.

All of this is textbook standard reader behavior. I bought a book, I read it, I didn't like it, I complained about it to my friends. And that should have been the end of it.

Except. Then Daniel Price read my review. And he got mad, which is totally understandable; someone slamming your work is always tough to swallow. (I'm going to guess that most authors know better than to read one-star reviews for this reason.) And then he decided to respond, which was probably not the best choice he could have made. His response makes me so embarrassed on his behalf that I've never read it all the way through; I get maybe a quarter of the way through skimming it and my brain just shuts down. But, basically, as far as I can tell, he was trying to be funny. He missed that mark for me, but maybe that was because I was, you know, writhing in secondhand embarrassment. Or maybe that's because I was his target rather than his audience. Hard to say.

And then a few of his fans got involved, which was inevitable -- they love his work, they saw him doing this, they assumed it was okay. (Guess how many comments it took before someone accused me of being his ex-girlfriend. GUESS.) He also started complaining about me on Twitter, which encouraged more of his followers to comment angrily on my review.

In response, I did a Dumb Thing (because not responding is the only way to deal with this stuff) and complained about this situation on Twitter myself, which meant that my friends started reading my review and Price's response. (This is how my review ended up the first one on the book's page on Goodreads. Authors, if you're looking for motivation not to get into it with a reviewer, there's a point to consider.) My friends also started searching through the other reviews. And noticing stuff. Several of them pointed out that while other reviewers complained about the boob fixation, Price only got publically mad at the lady who did. This may not be a coincidence.

The commenters on my review got personally insulting (remember, folks, it's not that you disagree with the reviewer, it's that the reviewer is a terrible person and a troll or simply a bitch) and kind of gross. I stopped visiting the page, which kept me from getting notifications about further comments. My friends kept on following them, though, so I got occasional updates on the situation. It apparently took Price a week or two to stop complaining about me on Twitter. (Or, I guess, for my friends to stop looking.) It took longer before his fans stopped insulting me on Goodreads. (If they ever have.)

And here's the thing: this is, by itself, a minor incident. But it isn't fun. It isn't how I want to interact with a community, or something I want to deal with. And I realized that using Goodreads meant accepting a chance of this kind of bullshit every time I posted a less than five-star review. There is a lot I like about Goodreads, but I am not that invested in reviewing in that space, not enough that it's actually worth being harassed by an author and his fans. So I finished my self-assigned challenge (rate the first 24 books I read this year) in February and started avoiding Goodreads again. I'll maybe try again next year. Who can say?

Is there a way to avoid this? I don't know. But Goodreads doesn't seem interested in trying. And, in the end, this part of the internet isn't important enough to me to wade through the sewage.

Wanted: a mostly sewageless place to review and discuss books.

(Also wanted, always wanted: recommendations for great books you've read lately.)

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
tried to eat the safe banana
24 February 2015 @ 04:13 pm
Last year, I went to a con in Chicago. On Saturday morning, I took the elevator from my room (fourth floor) to the con suite (second floor). Also on that elevator: a dude taking it to the first floor. As soon as I pressed the button, he said chidingly, "Two floors! Should've walked it." And then he literally, actually tutted at me. "Tut tut tut" went the arbiter of everyone else's body and abilities. Just so I'd know for sure that I'd been bad and been judged for it.

Now. There were a couple of conversations we could have had at this point. I could have told elevator dude the truth: that I have lupus (please please don't make the House joke; you have no idea how many times I've heard the House joke, and I promise you that sometimes it is in fact lupus), so I keep an eye on my energy and pain levels and try to save some of whatever ability I have for later. That I'm especially careful to do that when I'm at an event or traveling, because I don't want to be in my room exhausted or in pain when a thing I really wanted to do is happening two floors away, and I really don't want to be in pain and out of energy while traveling in modern American airports (apparent motto: "If you can't stand for four hours and run two miles full-tilt while carrying two weeks' supplies, lol no go fuck yourself"). So I'm careful. I don't push it. In the mornings, I might take the elevator, which the hotel did, after all, install for people to use.

I could also have told elevator dude to go fuck himself, which is the other honest conversation we could have had at that point. It is seriously none of his business whether I use the stairs, or the elevator, or rappel down the outside of the building, or maybe just dissolve into primordial ooze and drip down the walls.

But, you know, confrontation is another energy burner. I wanted to save my energy for having fun with my friends, the people I came to see. So I said something non-committal. Elevator dude wasn't done, though. "You should always find the stairs, first thing when you check into a hotel," this dude who was maybe ten years older than me and in no way my father said. "Did you know you're not allowed to use the elevator during a fire? Whenever you check into a hotel, you should think: what if there's a fire?"

Indeed, elevator dude. What if? What if, in my second decade of staying alone in hotels, you had not come along to tell me how to do it? I might have done it wrong, and then I would surely have burned to death in a fiery inferno, just as I have at least once a year throughout my adulthood, despite my mother giving me pretty much exactly those instructions back when I was seven and actually needed them.

Fortunately, at that point, we arrived at the second floor. I headed to the con suite and settled in. Some minutes later, I mentioned the mansplainer in the elevator and his profound concern for my well-being in case of fire. I didn't complain about the "should've walked" comment, largely because I didn't expect any support for it; I know an apparently able-bodied (and fat!) woman taking the elevator is cause for judgment in this world. (In some places, going by the general response, it's borderline actionable.) And most people at that particular table didn't know the details of my medical status, since in general, when given the choice between talking with my friends about lupus or talking with them about people banging, or being unicorn space eagles, or both, I tend to choose the pointy space birds and their sexytimes.

"Why would anyone say that to you?" one of the women at the table asked, in that mystified dudes-why-are-you? tone. "How does that even come up?"

So I explained about how we got on the topic of elevators. As soon as I said, "He said I should've taken the stairs," ten women around the table looked up and angry cat hissed in unison. It was like they'd rehearsed it for weeks after months of watching angry cats and studying their motivations. Truly a beautiful moment.

From this experience I learned some things:
  1. Support matters. Those women and their instinctive and audible anger didn't just make me feel better; they actually changed the way I remember the event. They became what was important about it rather than elevator dude. His judgment has become small and insignificant to me, and in fact I smile when I think about him, because he's inextricably linked to that moment ten people became Team Angry Cat for me.

  2. A lot of times, I don't reach for support because I don't expect it. I don't talk about the random elevator dude type aggravations of life, because I assume there's a good chance most people will side with the elevator dudes of the world. It's worth it to find the places where that isn't true. And it's worth it to reach for support when I can.

  3. I need to look for more chances to be on other people's Team Angry Cat. I don't need to know about that person's life or judge their worthiness; if they've experienced harassment or microaggressions, I'm gonna try to support them.

  4. I'd pay significant money for a YouTube series that was just ten women angry cat hissing at ability enforcers and mansplainers and dudes shouting "smile, baby!" at random ladies and so on.
Oh, yeah, and to the ten members of that particular Team Angry Cat: thank you. You're the best, and I will hiss for you anytime.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
tried to eat the safe banana
14 February 2015 @ 09:42 am
It's Valentine's Day, so I would like to share a Cautionary Tale for the Youth of Today.

Once upon a time, my wife and I were teenaged college students who did not think before we got together, and by "got together," I mean "had sex for the first time," because did I mention we were teenagers in college? We did not bother with dating. So, you know, we let our passions overwhelm us, and didn't think before we had sex, and guess what happened? We checked the calendar the next day, noticed it was 2/15, and realized we had had sex for the first time on Valentine's Day.

Obviously this creates serious lifelong problems in terms of celebrating our anniversary. All because we were careless. Don't be like us.

"But TFV," I hear you saying. "You said she's your wife. Why not celebrate the anniversary of your marriage instead?"

Now, I could give you all kinds of excellent reasons, like that we couldn't get legally married until long after we were de facto married, because of governmental concern that allowing two people of the same sex to get married might cause a small black hole to form at the center of our planet and end the world. (Their caution is understandable considering the grave risks.) But that's not actually why. Let me tell you about our wedding.

We had a baby the year we got married, and also we are the least romantic people and least party-oriented people on earth, so we selected the "cheap courthouse wedding" option. We had a limited choice of dates, because we could only get married in the registrar's office on Fridays, and the election at which California voters would take away our civil rights was coming up fast. So we took the single reservation slot that was available when we got our marriage license.

On the day, we drove to the courthouse, met up with my mother, sister, brother-in-law (who had to be there to hold our baby), and oldest nephew, and had a five-minute civil ceremony conducted by a dude who finished with "and don't forget to file as married filing jointly on your state taxes next year." And then we left and the next couple and their friends and family came in.

And they were all in Viking costumes, because Best Beloved and I got married on 10/31. Our wedding anniversary is on Halloween.

What I'm saying is, youth of today, if there is a single message of wisdom I can share with you, it is check your fucking calendar before you fuck for the first time, and if it's a major holiday, wait. Otherwise you might end up like us, celebrating an anniversary that is not actually on any of the major dates of your relationship. (If you're really entirely like us, you will also never remember exactly what day you picked out to celebrate your pretend anniversary, but that's another story.)

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
tried to eat the safe banana
31 December 2014 @ 09:57 pm
You guys YOU GUYS I have been the recipient of a Yuletide miracle! Let me tell you my awesome Yuletide tale.

Okay, so some months ago I started playing 80 Days, the amazing interactive fiction game (on iOs and Android, not that I am suggesting you go download and play it immediately, except of course I totally am), and it was great. So great. So so so great.

I tried to convince all my friends to play it, as is the custom of my people. Most of them were like, "Well, uh, it sounds…interesting. I will definitely play it. Sometime." But that's mostly what happens when you try to persuade people to try the things you love, so I wasn't downcast. I just waited like a sea lion (although I hope I was slightly less annoying), ready to casually insert 80 Days into any conversation that seemed even marginally relevant. (I was probably not actually less annoying.)

One of the people I thought would love it immensely was [dreamwidth.org profile] norah. I've known her since I was just getting into fandom, and she is my real-life and fandom BFF, and I know her tastes, just as she knows mine. But, sadly, she did not bite on my delightful hook, baited with inclusive steampunk and robots and joy.

Well, she's very busy. Later, I figured. Someday I'd persuade her. I vowed not to give up. (Being friends with me is awesome, folks.)

A couple of months later, I requested 80 Days for Yuletide. And I got it, and it was amazing. I think I got two paragraphs in before I said to Best Beloved, "Wow. This is really good." Halfway through, I corrected myself: "This is really, really, really good. This is great." It was. Also it seemed tailored for me, well beyond Yuletide typical, as I noted in my incoherent and flailing comment to my Mystery Author.

There was much Yuletide joy in my heart.

And then. And then. Today, at 4:25, I got a text from Norah. She said, essentially, "Hey so stories are revealed and GUESS WHAT I WROTE YOURS."

I texted back, entirely coherently, "UM OMG WHAAAAAAAAT EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" (Text with me and get all the extra letters, free of charge!)

See, Norah and I exchange assignment emails every year, and support each other through Yuletide, and generally are all up in each other's Yuletide-y business. (One year we ended up co-writing both our assignments.) So I knew she was writing Moby Dick this year. I knew her recipient and everything! Her recipient wasn't me!

Except I did not know. She got a fake assignment from the Yuletide mods so she could conceal her true one. And then she spent two months pretend-complaining to me about her pretend assignment while actually writing her real assignment. And -- seriously -- sending said real assignment TO MY WIFE.

About two months ago, my wife apparently got a phone call at work from Norah. ("At first I thought someone had died," BB told me today.) Norah said, "Hey, I have TFV as my Yuletide assignment, so can you alpha-read?"

BB said, "I don't keep secrets from her! I'm really bad at keeping secrets from her! But -- okay, yes, I will. I will do my best." AND SHE DID. For two months, as she read and my actual Yuletide gift and cheered on my actual Yuletide writer, she gamely acted like she had no idea who was assigned to me or what I would be getting. (She even emailed Norah a play-by-play of me reading the story for the first time. Recruit your recipient's spouse(s) and profit, Yuletiders.)

Tl;dr: TWO OF MY MOST FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD CONSPIRED TO MAKE ME THE PERFECT YULETIDE GIFT AND I AM SO HAPPY.

It's a great story. I mean, it's lesbian robot airship pirates, which is, honestly, basically everything I look for in fiction and also would be my entire bucket list if I had one. (So far I've only managed the lesbian part, but look out, airships. I'm coming for you.) And now, every time I read it, in addition to reveling in the gorgeous story, I'm going to remember that I am loved, and by amazing, talented, kind, and generous people.

Truly, it is a Yuletide miracle, wrapped in secrecy, with a sweet and chewy lesbian robot pirate center.

My heart grew three sizes today.

Beside me singing in the Wilderness (15998 words) by norah
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: 80 Days (Video Game 2014)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Characters: Behiye bint Kasim, Bulbul, Manussiha
Additional Tags: Steampunk, Robot Harm, Character of Color, Action/Adventure, Misses Clause Challenge, Pirates
Summary:

The adventures of Behiye bint Kasim, Captain of the pirate ship Canavar, and her engineer and companion Bulbul.



Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: yuletide
 
 
tried to eat the safe banana
25 December 2014 @ 09:45 pm
I am the luckiest Yuletider, because I got a story featuring ROBOTS and AIRSHIP PIRATES and SWASHBUCKLING and I am basically swooning over its amazingness.

And you totally don't need to know the fandom to read this! The canon is 80 Days, an interactive fiction game that reimagines Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days in an inclusive, non-England-centered steampunk universe. There, now you know everything you need to know to read the story, and you totally should, because it is great.

Beside me singing in the Wilderness (15992 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: 80 Days (Video Game 2014)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Characters: Behiye bint Kasim, Bulbul, Manussiha
Additional Tags: Steampunk, Robot Harm, Character of Color, Action/Adventure, Misses Clause Challenge, Pirates
Summary:

The adventures of Behiye bint Kasim, Captain of the pirate ship Canavar, and her engineer and companion Bulbul.



Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: yuletide
 
 
tried to eat the safe banana
17 October 2014 @ 11:16 pm
Dear Writer Person,

We matched! So basically know that I am extremely fond of you already, because clearly you are a person of taste and discernment, loving one of these small fandoms as much as I do.

I am, as always, going to provide you with all the details, because that's what I always hope to get from my recipient. But if that's not you, please tap out of this letter now. Just know that I really, really cannot handle child or animal harm or death, and I love you for volunteering for one of my tiny fandoms. See you on the 25th!

Or, if you want to know more, read on.

Me!Collapse )

80 Days, ManussihaCollapse )

Retired Basketball Player RPF, Magic Johnson/Larry BirdCollapse )

Tour of the Merrimack -- R. M. Meluch, Augustus/John FarragutCollapse )

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: yuletide
 
 
tried to eat the safe banana
01 April 2014 @ 06:58 pm
Recently, I started thinking about the moments of being openly gay that I never see in fic. This was supposed to be a list of those.

It isn't.

~

Ever since we moved to this house, I've gone to the same pharmacy several times a month to pick up prescriptions. In the beginning, the earthling was with me in the sling, and later he'd accompany me walking on his own feet. There was a cashier, Maria, who always talked to him and me, who was friendly and remembered us and grabbed our prescriptions before we even got to the front of the line.

One day about a year ago I went to the pharmacy after the earthling was in bed. "Oh, where's your son?" Maria asked.

"He's at home with my wife. It's after his bedtime."

"…Oh," she said.

Since then, when I go, she still recognizes me, earthling or no, but she's all business. No chat, no talking about how big the earthling has gotten, no asking me about my day. There are a thousand possible reasons for this. At least. Most of them have nothing to do with me. Maybe she got yelled at for chatting with customers too much. Maybe she's been having a bad year. It could be anything. I know that.

But I will always wonder if it's because I'm queer. I can't not wonder. My queerness inflects every interaction I have like this, whether I acknowledge it ("my wife") or avoid it ("my partner"). And because queerness is not visible, cannot be known until I make it known, I often have situations like this, where there was a before and there is now an after and things are different. This is one of the minor costs of being openly queer: the voice in the back of your head that is always going, is this because I'm gay?

~

Coming out is supposed to happen in One Big Moment. Usually your One Big Moment involves coming out to your parents; sometimes, especially in fiction, it's coming out at a press conference or in front of an audience or something. But wherever it happens, the concept is the same: in that moment, your whole life changes. Before, you were closeted and ashamed, and after, you become open and honest. You have chewed your way out of the cocoon of secrecy to emerge as a beautiful gay butterfly!

My family doesn't do big moments well. I was in college, I was 19, I was in the apartment I shared with Best Beloved. And my mother called. After some chat, she got around to the purpose of her call.

"Last year," she said, "you told me you'd never get married. And I'm worrying about that. You're young and I don't want you to be alone forever."

"I won't be alone," I said. "I just won't be married because it's not legal for me to be. But I already consider myself married."

I should, at this (big and momentous!) point, mention a few things: this call was taking place in the morning, and my sister, Laura, was living with our mother at this time.

"Oh," my mother said. And right then, Laura, who is not and never has been entirely human in the mornings, came into the room.

"Is there milk?" she said crankily.

"In the refrigerator," my mother said to her. To me, she said, "Who are you married to?"

"[Best Beloved]," I said, honestly bewildered. (I thought they knew! Like -- why did they think we lived together? I assumed we'd been on the same page for years.)

"Oh," my mother said, reaching for a suitable reaction.

"No, there isn't," Laura said, attaining new heights of crankiness. "Are we out?"

"Your sister's a lesbian," my mother snapped at Laura. I think she meant: shut up about milk for a second. I'm trying to have a significant conversation and you're making it difficult.

Laura has never given a shit about anyone's sexual preference first thing in the morning. "That's nice," she said, summoning up every single fuck she could give about something before breakfast. "Are we out of milk or what?"

And at that point I think we all gave up on pretending this was a significant moment and just kind of moved on with our lives. I accepted that "That's nice. Are we out of milk or what?" would be my family's main reaction to my sexuality. Later that day, just to be sure we were all in the loop -- since my parents seemed strangely slow and clueless about these things -- I told my father in email. The paragraph dedicated to that revelation took a backseat to four paragraphs of discussion about my stupid physics professor. Those were my priorities.

He probably read it and wondered if he was out of milk.

Just to top things off, that night I realized to my eternal embarrassment that this all took place on National Coming Out Day, a "holiday" I don't even support. (Come out. Don't come out. Whatever you want, on your own terms. I'm not going to pressure you and no one else should, either. It's a bullshit concept.)

So my One Big Moment was -- not. It was not big. It was not dramatic. It was, to be honest, pretty comical. The most emotion experienced by anyone was Laura's sincere and honest anger about my mother using the last of the milk without even considering whether other people had had breakfast yet. It didn't even manage to be a single moment, since I spread it over most of a day.

This was probably much better preparation for the rest of my life than I thought at the time.

~

"Are you sisters?"

"No. No, we're… not sisters."

"Oh. Haha! You look just like each other."

~

In college, I fainted outside the student union building during finals week and ended up at student health. The nurse practitioner had only one question for me, phrased two dozen different ways: "Could you be pregnant?"

"No," I said. "I can't be pregnant."

She was already starting her next question before I finished my answer. "But did you have sex recently?"

I hesitated. Back then, coming out still felt like a big thing every time I did it. And, yes, I'd had sex with Best Beloved many times that month, but I knew she meant sex that involved a penis in my vagina. Did I really need to get into my current sexual history in detail with this woman? "No," I finally said, but my hesitation had convinced her.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Not at all?"

"No."

"Not even a teeny weeny bit?" she wheedled.

I just stared at her, trying to figure out how you have a teeny weeny bit of sex.

She moved on. "Did you black out, or take any drugs, or wake up and not know where you were at all recently?"

She'd accurately described most of my high school career, but those days were long gone. And I didn't think accidentally falling asleep after midnight in the bone lab counted. Dead people can't get you pregnant. "No."

We went around and around. After fifteen minutes, she was still finding new ways to ask if I might be pregnant, and I was watching time tick by and just yearning for a diagnosis already. Finally, she said, "What are you using for birth control?"

I gave up. My desire not to come out to her had lost out to my desire to be done with this question forever. "Lesbianism," I said. "I'm using lesbianism for birth control."

She nodded but did not deviate from her script. "So you're not on the pill? Did you have sex this month?"

"I only have sex with my girlfriend," I said, trying to make this whole lesbianism thing clearer. "She can't get me pregnant."

She sent me to get some blood tests. One of them was for hCG: a pregnancy test. I got it then and I get it now. The number of college girls who claim they can't possibly be pregnant and are wrong is greater than the number of college girls who have stress-induced fainting.

But I came out! It was an effort! And… she didn't even listen to me. Back then, it didn't matter to her the way it mattered to me.

~

After a while, it stops mattering. You do it so many times that it just gets old and dull and meaningless. But you don't get to stop there. Coming out is endless. I've done it thousands of times by now, each moment of coming out blurring together in my head until it's just a lifetime of saying over and over: "I'm a lesbian. I have a wife. I'm queer. I'm not straight." I don't play the pronoun game anymore, I don't reach for the careful, neutral phrasing, and so I'm coming out all the time, without even thinking about it. And it's so boring that I sometimes forget that it's new information, and sometimes a brand-new experience, for the person I'm coming out to.

"Is your husband Jewish?" the earthling's friend's mother asked me.

"My wife, actually. No, she's not."

And I was ready to move on, but she was freezing up. I've done this so many times I can monitor people's thoughts as they have them -- I can read them like thought bubbles.

She's a lesbian.

Wait. What do I say?

Oh no, I've waited too long and she thinks I'm a horrible bigot, even though I'm Canadian.

"Oh," she said, clearly wishing she was saying something else. But what? But what?

The earthling's friend, David, looked up at me. "Girls can't have a wife," he said confidently.

David's mother made a tiny horrified noise. I didn't even need to look at her to know that she was thinking now she thinks my children are horrible and bigoted too.

But children are easy. Children are never any problem. "Yes, they can," I said to David. "Men can marry men and women can marry women, and I'm married to [earthling]'s mommy." (Straight parents, a tip for you: The key is to sound blandly confident. Use the same tone you'd use to say, "Actually, the capital of California is Sacramento.")

David took the conversation back to what matters to small children: themselves. "My mommy is married to my daddy," he informed me, and he and the earthling went back to playing with leaves and sticks.

A minute later, David's mother, having processed her horror and figured out what to say, chimed in with, "Of course women and women can be married!" She pretty clearly had a whole speech ready, but too late. Small children learn hundreds of new things every week, and they just don't have a lot of time to spend on any single irrelevant, unimportant new fact, like that women can be married to women. David had already filed this away, and he wasn't listening anymore.

David's mother left the conversation embarrassed and worried. She was the only person involved who had any feelings about it at all. These days, it doesn't matter to me the way it matters to other people.

~

My family is pretty basic: two adults and a child. But even now, when we can legally be married, legally file taxes together, legally be co-parents -- even now, forms almost never have room for us. There's the basic ones that assume that each child has a mother and a father, of course, but recently we filled out some for the school distract that had a ton of options: mother/grandmother/legal guardian/caregiver/foster parent/other. And father/grandfather/legal guardian/caregiver/foster parent/other. The only possibility that seemed not to have occurred to the school was two parents of the same sex.

I always cross out "father" and write "mother" over it. I cross out "husband" and write "wife." Often, this leads to unhappiness on the part of a receptionist or records keeper somewhere. "But the computer doesn't have a place for that! Can I just put sister?"

"She's not my sister, and she is responsible for my medical bills if I die."

"I'll just put sister."

But then sometimes I pick up a form that says Parent 1 and Parent 2, or Spouse 1 and Spouse 2, or something along those lines.

As soon as I see that, I look behind the desk, analyzing. Who works in this office who is queer? I want to ask. Because we only ever fit on forms designed by people like us.

~

"Are you sisters?"

"No, we're not related."

"Oh, just really good friends then, huh? You look so much alike! You must get that a lot."

"Yeah, we get it a lot."

~

In college, I had a therapist. One day, she asked, "Are you still together with [Best Beloved]?"

"Yeah," I said, confused. I mean. I'd been with BB for years. Surely it would have come up in therapy if we'd broken up? I figured I'd have some feelings about it and all.

"Huh," she said. "I'm surprised. I guess I just see lesbian relationships as more ephemeral than straight ones." She continued on thoughtfully, "I don't know why that is. You'd think I'd know better; my sister's been with her partner for a decade, after all. Well. I'll have to do some work on that, won't I?"

For the record, she was a very good therapist.

This week, I took the earthling to his pediatrician, Dr. G. Dr. G has known him since he was born, and she's known us since I was six months pregnant. BB and I met her together at the pre-birth interview thing, and BB was there in the hospital when the earthling was born, and BB comes to appointments when she can.

As Dr. G entered some data about the earthling into her computer, she asked, "Are you still with [BB]?"

I blinked at her. "We just celebrated our twenty-first anniversary," I said, after a moment's pause.

"Oh! Wow! Congratulations," she said, and we moved on.

I really doubt she's ever asked my sister, whose kids also see this doctor, if she's still married to her husband. I've been married longer; BB was at my sister's wedding. But, hey, my marriage is ephemeral, right? It could end at any time. Unremarked upon, even.

For the record, Dr. G is a very good pediatrician.

~

"Are you twins?"

"…What?"

"You look like twins!"

"No, we're not related."

"Wow! You look just like each other. How crazy is that, huh?"

~

It's just a reflex by now.

We were checking in for a spa day that my mother schedule for us: me, my sister (except technically not my sister, who is always late), and Best Beloved. "Oh, are you all Ruth's daughters?" the receptionist asked.

"No. Laura and I are. [BB] is my wife," I said.

And I could, of course, see her thoughts as they happened:

Oh, they're lesbians!

I am entirely and sincerely pro-gay, and so is my workplace. I voted against Prop 8! Yay, gay people!

…But what do I say now?

"Oh," she said, straightening up a little.

Wait, that sounds dismissive. Say something else! Say a better thing! Say the right thing!

"That's great!" she said.

I glanced up at her. "Yes, it is." And then I went back to texting my sister to find out where she was.

~

"Are you twins?"

"No. She's my wife."

"…Oh. Um."

~

Straight people, I will tell you a secret: there is no right response. Just listen and get on with your lives. I've learned to.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
tried to eat the safe banana
12 November 2013 @ 10:40 am
A long time ago, I had a lot to say in rants about how people were DOING IT WRONG and should NOT WRITE THIS WAY but rather THIS OTHER WAY. (And, if I'm gonna be honest, those rants are all still there, just waiting for me to type them. Let me tell you about the Should You Use the Pluperfect? flowchart I made the other day. Or not, because honestly, TFV, nobody wants to hear that.) I was all, "People! Write better!"

Sorry, past me -- you were wrong. What I should have been saying was, "People! Write more! (Even if it's really bad!)"

Because, yes, I still think the word sensitized needs to be left to lie fallow for a decade. Where it can maybe cavort with its friend, lave. I still sometimes want to ban thesauruses. I still feel like maybe those weeping cocks should see a doctor, or perhaps a therapist.

But these days, I also think we're lucky to have those stories. I probably won't be reading them, but I'm happy they exist, for three reasons.

Writing is good. People are writing! For fun! Good news! Seriously, if I had spent more time writing down the hideously painful Mary Sue fan fiction I dreamed up when I was a wee teen, I might have spent less time on, you know, drugs and sucking the cocks of random strangers without protection. I'm always happy to see someone making better choices than I made.

Maybe you're now saying, "Okay, fine, but do they have to post those Mary Sue stories where I can see them?" If so, you're being a dick. Cut it out. The Archive of Our Own is not the Archive of Just What You Want to Read. It's the Archive of Fanworks. Is it a fanwork? Then it belongs there! And if you're incapable of scrolling past something, it's not that the Mary Sue writers are in the wrong place, it's that you are. (Also, I'm sorry, but I don't know where would be the right place for you. Everywhere is going to have stuff you don't like, because tastes are individual and all that. Maybe the internet just isn't for you.)

Crap is important. Sturgeon's law is right, but it misses the point. Ninety percent of everything has to be shit. That's how you get the 10% that's good.

Your favorite writers, fan fiction, published fiction, published fan fiction, whatever -- they didn't start out writing that way. There was a time when they wrote unspeakably awful crap. Writing unspeakably awful crap is how you learn to write only moderately awful crap, and then eventually maybe decent stuff, and then, if you're lucky, actually good things. There are not two classes of people, those who are good writers and those who are bad writers, so that all you have to do to have only great stuff is scare away all the bad writers. There are people who used to write bad stuff, and there are people who are currently writing bad stuff, and there's a lot of crossover between the two. Some of the second category will one day be the first category. (Also, tomorrow some of the first category will move back to the second. No one hits it out of ballpark every time.) If you want to read new good stuff tomorrow, encourage the people writing bad stuff today. (And also maybe help them get betas. Betas are great.)

And, no, those people don't have to hide their work away until it gets better. They can share it with anyone who wants to read it. If they want to post it, they should. Wanting to is reason enough. (Although if you want another reason -- posting is how community happens. Which is how things like betas happen. People who share their work get better faster.)

Crap is a sign of life. New bad stories are a sign that this genre -- fan fiction, the genre I adore the most - is alive and well. Bad stories mean new people are trying to write in it, and people are trying to do new things with it, and maybe new people are joining the audience, too. When only the best and most popular are writing in a genre, it's on its deathbed. (See: Westerns and Louis L'Amour.) I want this genre to be here forever, because I want to read it forever. So I'm happy that teenagers are posting Mary Sue stories to the Archive of Our Own.

Does that mean you have to be happy? Nope. I can't make you do anything. (I can think you're wrong, but hey, being wrong on the internet is a time-honored tradition among our people.) But when you start making fun of a writer and bullying her in the comments of her story, simply because she's writing something you think is bad and embarrassing, well, that's when I say: shut the fuck up or get the fuck out. Because she's not a problem. She's just doing what we're all doing -- having fun, playing with words, throwing something out there on the internet to see if other people like it.

But you. You're trying to stop someone from having fun. You're trying to shame people into not writing anymore. And that, folks -- that is the definition of shitty behavior. (Mary Sue fantasies, on the other hand, are just the definition of human behavior.) It's bad for people, it's bad for the future, and it's bad for the genre. So you're a problem.

Please go away, problems, and let all of us write out our ids out in peace.

(And, yes, this was triggered by one specific story and some of the responses it's getting on the AO3. But it applies to all of them, all the fan fiction we don't like out there. Okay, I'm done.)

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: [rant]
 
 
tried to eat the safe banana
23 October 2013 @ 10:35 am
Okay, this is totally self-interested. Shinny Studio is considering printing a run of t-shirts with this on them:

Steel City Penguins


And I really, really want one. But she can only print them if she gets enough orders. So if you're a Penguins fan (or, I guess, just a fan of helmeted lowercase penguins), check out the order information post. (More pictures there, including an actual shirt on an actual person!)

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
tried to eat the safe banana
This story was written for [dreamwidth.org profile] pentapus's Treehouse Reversebang challenge - she drew artwork for me, and I wrote a story inspired by it.

The unicorn came as a mild surprise. The length - the story was supposed to be a thousand words long - came as a more major one, and I'd like to thank pentapus for being patient as I battled my way to the end of this.

This was an incredible challenge, delightful to do, and even if you don't read the story, you should at least visit to see the artwork, which I have mentally titled "Sidney Crosby Confronts an Unimpressed Unicorn."

Highway Unicorn (20133 words) by thefourthvine, pentapus
Chapters: 4/4
Fandom: Hockey RPF
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin
Additional Tags: Urban Fantasy, Treehouse Reversebang
Summary:

He saw the horn poking out from the pony's head, golden and straight and somehow delicate-looking despite the empty tuna can hanging off of it. The unicorn horn. "The fuck," Sidney said out loud, his eye skipping from the horn over the greyish-white body to the graceful gold-toned hooves.



Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.