Monday, 27 October 2014

Photo Contest (Bees)

Earlier in the year, I stumbled across one of National Geographic's photo contests. It had a small entry fee, which I couldn't pay. So though it looked fun, I didn't enter.

Roll on some months and I've sold stories and earnt money. With a little time to go on the current contest (as it ends on October 31st), I entered a photo. I think this is my best photo of the year so far. The bumblebee was caught on the flower after getting soaked by the rain, so there's a little story behind it too. I doubt a bee picture has much chance in the nature category, but I figured it'd be fun to enter, and you never know unless you try.

The official entry page is here, where people can like it on Facebook or post it to Twitter. That doesn't have any impact on the contest itself, but it's there if you want it.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Requires Only That You Trust

The content of Requires Hate's criticism was often spot on, but the delivery had issues. Namely that death threats aimed at marginalised people really aren't a joke, even if they're intended that way. Because the last person to make that threat meant it, which means seeing the threat is triggering. And knowing who means it and who doesn't is not easy, so any threat is frightening. Following up a bad review by attacking anyone who liked the book also shuts people down, especially other marginalised people. I can think of a lot of problematic books I liked. Some I really liked, because I saw someone like me in them, no matter how stereotyped I realised the portrayals to be. I got better at criticism because I had space to work through that. I wouldn't have if I'd been shut down at the start.

This was made harder because people in privileged positions, who rarely received death threats, constantly minimised it. It can't be that scary, she really doesn't mean it, etc. Easy to say when you've never been the target. Or you've only been the target in a few cases like that, where there's never been a real risk of it being followed through, so it's not that worrying.

That meant the criticism was a lot harsher on anyone marginalised - usually women of colour - than it was for the privileged authors, with their legions of fans ready to defend them.

I liked the commentary, so I linked to some of it. I disliked the associated behaviour, so I remained cautious. Both from the point of view of the impact it had on targets, and knowing there was always a chance I'd be next. Not the negative reviews, as those are fine. But the attacks that went with them. If RH had turned around and said she wanted to be my friend, I'd have remained very cautious. I'd hope it's understandable why I'd have been so cautious.

I didn't get that option of caution, because she was someone else. Someone who acted in public as a sweet person, who wouldn't consider attacking someone else or using the things they said against them. Previously she'd said that people were only nice to each other in the SFF community to get ahead in their career, so it's hard for me to take that as sincere. Either way, it stepped over my boundaries, because I didn't know who I was talking to.

She also said her criticism wasn't an attack on the competition, because she wasn't a writer. Except she is a writer, so the women of colour in the firing line could be seen as competition.

The result is I feel two things. One is sad, because there are very few people in my corner. I stopped blogging my own commentary because it was whispering to the wind. I don't sell many books. So to find out someone I thought was rooting for me probably wasn't is a sad thing. But the other is more of an issue, because I'm also worried. I'm no one's competition right now, but what if I start to do better and sell more stories? What if one of my books suddenly takes off? Then I'd be competition, and I might have said something in private that could be twisted. Plus, at least one of her close friends has my home address. So I'm worried. If I was anyone else, I'd probably be angry and frightened, but I don't usually feel emotional extremes and can't feel anger at all. This doesn't mean my worry is invalid. It just means I'm probably underreacting.

But the thing that's bothered me the most in this isn't really Requires Hate. It's how others have reacted. The support in her favour is speaking out against harassment and doxxing. I completely agree with this part of it. Harassment isn't acceptable. Revealing someone's identity has its place when revealing the alias of a predator, but this situation was clearly more complicated, and posting her name publicly on the internet threatened RH's safety. Take this as me also speaking out against that part of it. But that doesn't mean anyone who is unhappy with the situation is a terrible person who supports harassment, has no justified reason to feel anything negative about what happened, and deserves to be banished from the community. There are reasons why people might feel unsafe now they know the truth.

There's also been a distinct lack of criticism of the person who posted her name publicly (reason given for doing it: because it'd be amusing; reason for having her personal details: being her editor). Am I the only one who finds it horrifying an editor would use someone's personal details this way*, given that we have to include them from our first submission?

All round, it's left me not knowing quite what to do**. I wish I'd be told by RH, so I could make an informed decision. But I wish even more that the community wouldn't dismiss the feelings of those who were upset when they found out. Bad behaviour doesn't stop being bad because you like the person it comes from. It doesn't stop being bad because someone is a good writer or editor. It doesn't stop being bad because the person is also the target of bad behaviour. It's actually possible to have sympathy in all directions, rather than one person having to be the bad person and one having to be the good person. I can sympathise with why Requires Hate felt she had to hide, but I don't think a whole lot of community would sympathise with me, out of this idea that who you can only sympathise with one person.

Why am I talking about this? I don't know. Sometimes I like to talk to the wind. There's a certain amount of closure in discussing it, so I can move on. And the wind is the only person I trust right now.




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* Standard manuscript format has real name and mailing address on it by default. I've missed my mailing address off sometimes, but a lot of markets reinforce they want this information in submissions. Maybe it's time we changed that, so only places who need it for contract purposes get the information. Not that it would have helped in Require Hate's case, but at least it'd give a second line of defence before deciding whether to disclose it to an editor. It's a pretty sad world when we can't trust editors with our details, but there you go.

** Right now, I'm still following people as I did before on Twitter. I don't know if my friendship was ever valued, but I'll stay around and see what happens. If people want me unfollow them, they just have to say. But right now, I don't really trust anyone, so probably there's going to be a whole lot of worried silence for a bit.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Writing Diary: Art and Books

Quick bottles painting

I talked short stories last time, due to a bunch of acceptances. But now, 'tis the season for longer and more painterly project discussion.

Intersections (the blog essay book) is getting there. I'm not happy with the introduction and have some formatting left to do, but it's not far off. The Deathwish List (cozy mystery novel) is most likely going to be early next year. I did provisionally say late this year, but I need time to focus on my art.

Conduit (the second Bigfoot Mysteries) is on track for late next year. I've actually got a fair chunk written, but it's put aside due to low sales of the first book. That said, sales have been rising in the last few months, which is great. I've also picked up some reviews. Maybe by the time the second one is done, it'll have a bit of momentum going.

Which brings me back to art. I'm in the second year of my A-Level now. I won't be able to afford to go on to the degree, but I could in terms of skills. So once it's done, my cunning plan is to get a portfolio sorted, so I can apply for illustration work. I'm never going to be a photorealist, as that's just not my thing. But some markets want stuff closer to what I do. Also, I'd like to work on my children's style, to query as an author/illustrator for picture books (one reason why my plan to get a picture book portfolio together went a bit quiet, as I figured if I worked a bit longer, I might get the drawings up to scratch too).

My current thought is I'll need some black/white stuff, like a book interior might have. Which as I still want to do interior pictures for the paperback of Rainbow Lights, I can feed two birds with one coconut. And some colour mixed media stuff for online illustration and possibly covers (for the most part, my art isn't typical cover material... but I used it for my own covers, so there might be authors with similar tastes).

It's a longer term goal, as it'll take a while to get a strong portfolio together. But I think it'll complement the writing nicely. Any advice from people who've gone that route is welcome. (Some of my A-level work is here and here, for those interested.)

Monday, 29 September 2014

New Fighter Fish - Shimmer

The tank I mentioned in my last writing diary now has a resident. Shimmer is a female fighter fish, and is probably between six months and one year old. She's white, with iridescent blue highlights on the fins and tail. As it's her first day, I didn't hassle too much with photographs. The best I got was this one:

White female fighter fish by an anubias plant

I also took a few videos, which I'll likely put together later in a setting-up-a-tank video series. But here are a few still shots from them. The last shows how blue her tail can look as she moves:

White female fighter fish with light shining through her

Back view of white female fighter fish, with her tail shining bright blue

She's generally settling in well. She's clamping her fins a bit (not so much in the shots, but other times), which is usual after a scary day moving to a new tank. She's really enjoying picking off little critters from the driftwood and plants, so I can recommend spending a little extra time on setting up a proper soil-based planted tank. It's not that my previous fighter tanks were bad, but this one is much more awesome for the fish.

In about a month, I'll introduce amano shrimp. The place I get my fish keeps the fighters in with other fish, so I've had a chance to see how she deals with tankmates. She had some very tiny fish in with her and was ignoring them, which is a good sign for being a tankmate-friendly fighter.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Story at Strange Horizons

A cartoon bird

My story "Never the Same" is up at Strange Horizons. It's a science fiction mystery. I wrote it about the time I started my cozy mystery novel, so it's a play on some of those tropes... but in a less cozy way.

Also has birds and terraforming!

Never the Same