Category Archives: Instrumentality of Women

Instrumentality of women 600 x 900

How Did I Get 14 Science Fiction Stories About Women in One Book?

I wrote them!

Instrumentality of women 600 x 900You can read stories about women in love, women’s problems, or women’s issues. Or you can read stories about the future of women…

Fourteen sci fi and fantasy stories all about women by FEMALE SCIENCE FICTION WRITER author Amy Sterling Casil. This collection contains the Nebula Award-nominated story “To Kiss the Star.”

In the Nebula Award-nominated “To Kiss the Star,” gravely disabled Mel Armstrong gets the chance to explore the stars, but doesn’t want to leave the man she loves behind.

In “The Renascence of Memory,” nanotechnology returns 80 year old Alzheimers patient Carol Meyers to her former youth and beauty — but everyone she knew and loved is dead, except her former young lover — he is now too old for her.

Famous female film director Helene Bacon will be the first woman to win an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award — but she’s dying of cancer and her daughter is the best donor. How will she choose?

The Lady, the only daughter of the last great ruler of Copan, wishes to be a man, so she can save her father and her city.

Dr. Vi Elliott believes she’s discovered Early Man in the Southern California Desert — maybe she has, and maybe she has not — but she does run across a couple of mint-addicted intergalactic eBay traders in this sequel to “Mad for the Mints.”

And lawyer Lori Johnston is happily married to insurance guy Jack — until he tells her he’s committed to gender reassignment to save his job. What Jack doesn’t know is that Lori appears and is female, but her biology is male: born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.

Available directly from Book View Café Publishing Cooperative (EPUB and Mobi), as well as Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple and GooglePlay.

“Amy writes like Ray Bradbury on real sci-fi …” Tom Easton, Analog Magazine

“‘To Kiss the Star’ was up for the Nebula Award, but didn’t win. I haven’t read the work that did win yet, but, again, it must have been absolutely unbelievably fabulous to beat out “To Kiss the Star.” This is a beautiful, poignant, moving story of a soaring mind trapped in a damaged body. Read it.” – Hugo, Campbell and Nebula award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer, author of Flashforward and other bestsellers

This is my own personal website so I may answer this question: What did win? It was about teenage boys. One critic said about “To Kiss the Star,” — “It’s like a Lifetime movie.” Why YES – YES IT IS.

The Instrumentality of Women
First eBook Edition Book View Café 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61138-584-7
$4.99
Trade Paperback Chameleon Publishing 2016
356 pages
ISBN: 978-1-46380-239-4
$15.99

Don’t Mistake What I Am Saying About Women …

First off, I just finished doing some work I really do not have a lot of extra time to do, but I did it anyway. Second, I doubt too many male writers would share my experience of having to slack off to go get some items for dinner. It’s cooking right now. Of course there are some: single dads and others.

So hell I sit around and way more often than I should, I feel sorry for myself. I just counted up all the Nebula Award nominated stories and authors since this award began in 1966. I wanted to make the case that “who the story is about” is more important than “who wrote the story.” I discovered that my betters, Joanna Russ, Kate Wilhelm, Nancy Kress, Connie Willis, Vonda McIntyre, Nina Kiriki Hoffmann, Carol Emshwiller, Lisa Tuttle (who has ethics – she did not want her award, the only person to so-decline to date), Esther Friesner, Ursula Le Guin, and Jane Yolen – had all written stories with female protagonists who received the award.

I only dealt with the short story category. It would drive me insane to deal with all the other categories. And then there’s the Hugos, with which there is some, not a lot, of overlap.

So here’s who these babies are about – by year:

1966 The Harlequin and the Ticktockman
1967 Geology assistant/WWII Vet (“The Secret Place”) and “dead boy’s sister”
1968 Neutered Spacers (Chip Delany)
1969 Dr. Darin (male), monkeys, mentally deficient boy (Kate Wilhelm)
1970 A man (“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg – first person narrative)
1971 – no award –
1972 A man (“Good News from the Vatican” by Robert Silverberg – first person narrative)
1973 Janet Evason – this story is “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ about an all-female planet
1974 Moggadeet – an alien who is eaten by his female mate (by “James Tiptree, Jr.” – “Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death”)
1975 Laia Asieo Odo, an elderly woman (aka Odo, in male form, in “The Dispossessed” – by Ursula Le Guin)
1976 Dolf, a man running out of time, who must catch that Zeppelin
1977 A man (“A Crowd of Shadows” by Charles L. Grant – first person narrative)
1978 Jeffty – he’s five. He is always five.
1979 Rob (a guy, a musician)
1980 “An old scientist” and “young female reporter” and giant ants.
1981 Boyd, a male archaologist who discovers his acquaintance Luis is an immortal
1982 An unnamed woman (Lisa Tuttle “The Bone Flute” the only author to refuse the award, due to problems with another author campaigning)
1983 A girl and her dog (Connie Willis)
1984 A young boy who survives a global flood
1985 An old man and a young boy (Williams and John)
1986 Sally Gourley, a truck stop waitress of indeterminate age (by Nancy Kress!)
1987 Pal Tremont, a Korean boy
1988 Gordon Sills (male), Avery Roda (male), love object “Anna” (female)
1989 Sheila, a prostitute rescued from the Biblical Flood, and mother
1990 Male physicist who discovers time travel
1991 Guy who observes that bears have discovered fire
1992 Vietnam guy, Charlie
1993 Three women discuss menstruation (Connie Willis!)
1994 Vietnam guy, first-person narrative
1995 Anli (female) and Derren (male) (Martha Soukup)
1996 The Librarian and Death (Esther Friesner!)
1997 A woman who has the day off for her virtual child’s birthday (Esther Friesner!)
1998 Sister Emily (Jane Yolen!)
1999 Vietnam guy (my dear friend Bruce Holland Rogers – but this theme is starting to look like “Never go full-retard” as stated by fake black guy Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder)
2000 Professional (female) victim (Leslie What)
2001 Investigator of Victim Rights Closure Statements (anti-death penalty story by Terry Bisson)
2002 Maria, African albino women
2003 Mother with a creature for a child (Carol Emshwiller who is better than all)
2004 Female narrator hunting gorillas (Karen Joy Fowler “What I Didn’t See”)
2005 Daughter coming to terms with elderly dying father
2006 A succubus-type of indeterminate gender who lives with a typical middle-aged working woman
2007 An abandoned mistress
2008 17 year old, formerly youngest female resident of Always
2009 Alanna and Ylva (by Nina Kiriki Hoffmann)
2010 “Nameless female survivor” of spacewreck
2011 A man who creates a tiny man
2012 A little boy with a paper tiger
2013 Quy an “older sister”
2014 A narrator of indeterminate gender
2015 Grandma, Eva, a Jackalope wife

Now, nerds and dweebs and geeks – this is who I am. The majority of these winners are either my friends or friendly acquaintances. Some of them have been my teachers and mentors.

I started feeling unholy sorry for myself. Some of my friends, acquaintances, teachers and mentors have unbelievable Publishers Weekly reviews for their work. They have loving retrospectives, and in-depth reviews, story-by-story, of collections of their work. And I saw book after book, whether single, standalone story or collection, with one, two, or three reviews on Amazon. I saw the same b.s. (maybe not the same “quality” as me – but I am “special”) on their work — two star reviews, etc. Judging by Amazon, my dreadful crap has even outsold some of their outstanding work.

So, what I wrote about was this:

To Kiss the Star
Mel Armstrong – 17 – wheelchair-bound, blind, spastic, chosen for spaceflight
The Renascence of Memory
Carol Meyers – 80 – Alzheimer’s patient, former wife, mother, college professor
This Monster
Grendel’s Dam – ageless
Jenny, With the Stars in Her Hair
Jenny Julian – 35 – addicted to extreme cosmetic surgery
The Color of Time
Gia – 21, Nana – 81, Faith – 31
Smiley the Robot
Miss Gia – 85
Everything I Have is Yours
Helene Bacon – 50 – famous film director, Sarah Bacon – 16 – her daughter
Heart of Jade
The Lady – 30 – daughter of 20 Rabbit, the last great king of Copan
Shakespeare in Hell
Emilia Bassano – 35-ish (actually died at age 74) – reputed “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets
The Ruined Gods
Ginger – 28 – a cat woman; Rikki/Roxane/Roksana – 73
The Gods That Men Don’t See
Ginny Baumann – 33 – primatologist
Digger Lady
Vi Elliott – 73 – paleontologist
Incandescent
Paperwhite – a newborn
Her Name is Jacqueline
Lori Johnston – 36 – attorney

The thing is, I might not write very well. I might be crude and maybe not very talented.

Instrumentality of women 600 x 900But I think I am honest. And I listen. So.

Disabled people really will go to the stars, once it is time. Women will continue to use extreme cosmetic surgery to get what they want, although it doesn’t work. There will be a sub-cellular level treatment for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases – even a reversal of the aging process. People will come to understand that time and space are artifacts of our sensory perceptions. Some day, a robot will fall in love with and care for an old lady, because he knows no better. A woman will one day win the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award as a film director. Some day, a woman will write better than Shakespeare. A woman likely did co-found today’s Mayan community. Some day a woman who lives only a short time will travel faster than the speed of light and save many lives. There probably were early humans here in North America 100,000 years ago. The Mayan howler monkey god is real. Gender reassignment will become much more common and complete. People will so seriously clone for companionship and then – some – the scummy few – will use for organ donation.

There is a hot trade in Altoid mints, intergalactically-speaking.

“Don’t write about your little life,” said Toni Morrison. Open your ears, open your eyes, open your heart –

FREE YOUR MIND

I didn’t know this advice over the years. I know it now, and I’m glad I took it, instinctively. As I say to students, why should we become so upset about abortion, when medical science can and will solve this? Why should we become so angry about the death penalty, when the crimes to which it is the penalty will cease due to evolution?

You think I am wrong? I am an optimist; I am a listener.

Are you?

Introduction 2015: The Instrumentality of Women

My perspective has broadened a bit since 2014.

Introduction

When I was 13, one of the most popular songs was “At Seventeen,” by Janis Ian. I had a record player. There was no such thing as an iPod. If you played a vinyl record enough times it got a grayish tinge and started to crackle and pop. After a few months, I could hardly play Janis’ album any longer and it was gray as hell. I not only idolized Janis — her “look,” her fashion, her voice, her poetry – I related to this song just like every other teen girl. It turned out, later, that the song really was about Janis at age 13, my exact age.

I learned the truth at seventeen

That love was meant for beauty queens

And high school girls with clear skinned smiles

Who married young and then retired …

I had no sense I was “beautiful,” and as far as future career path, I pictured being the secretary to a wealthy and powerful man. I wanted to marry a handsome, strong man. My ideal wedding dress was an “empire” dress — but I didn’t know what it was called back then. I wanted two children: a boy and a girl. Sure, I wrote storylike objects and I painted pictures and I made things. I “whittled” and woodcarved and banged stuff together with old nails. I foraged and hunted and hiked and explored with my dog. I shoveled the manure out of my pony’s stall —

It had been nigh upon three years since I’d gotten a copy of A Wrinkle in Time from my aunt Donna.

The summer I was 13, as I listened to “At Seventeen” over and over, I read Lord of the Rings front to back four or five times. I got the “pancake tan” (didn’t want to turn over so brown in front, white in back). I read Dune. I read Warm Worlds and Otherwise, stories by James Tiptree, Jr. I read through all of Ray Bradbury. I read England Swings edited by Judith Merril. I read Dangerous Visions, and Again, Dangerous Visions. Those were edited by Harlan Ellison. He looked like a handsome guy, judging by his picture. But I wouldn’t have said anything like that to anyone. Admitting I was reading this stuff was beyond weird and nerdy.

Nobody told me I couldn’t be a sci-fi writer. Somewhere in the back of my head this idea took root. I liked to imagine things. I couldn’t help it. I imagined things whether I wanted to or not. These things: they were stories. Not about me. About people I didn’t know, lots of the time. Places, sometimes very far away in space and time, from where I was.

Then my grandfather died and my grandmother didn’t talk to me for a year, and then I moved away to Hollywood and then I came back to Redlands.

I was a different person; I’d lost a year. The normality of my life before was gone. I no longer imagined I’d marry a wealthy, powerful man, although that seemed like a pretty good plan if it ever did happen. I just wanted to survive from day to day.

And so it goes.

This is my third collection of short fiction. Three stories are fantasy; eleven are science fiction. All are about women. Although the fantasy stories are told with male viewpoint characters, their linchpins are the women.

The degree of prior professional publication and recognition on these stories is directly graphable by age. The younger the protagonist, the easier the sale — in fact, “To Kiss the Star,” the first story, was a cover story of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and nominated for a Nebula Award. Its protagonist, Mel, is seventeen, just like Janis Ian’s song. And I realize now what song I heard when Mel looked in the mirror after the ISA “cowboy” doctor gave her sight. In stories I have written, the older the female protagonist, the less likely the story would be to appear in a top publication. At best, these appeared in small press or anthologies edited by friends.

Now, these stories about women age 30 and over are in a book that is published in e-book form by Book View Cafe, the first, largest and most-successful author publishing cooperative, and in trade paperback, by Chameleon Publishing, the publishing company I founded.

Instrumentality of women 600 x 900Here are the stories and who they are about:

To Kiss the Star

Mel Armstrong – 17 – wheelchair-bound, blind, spastic, chosen for spaceflight

The Renascence of Memory

Carol Meyers – 80 – Alzheimer’s patient, former wife, mother, college professor

This Monster

Grendel’s Dam – ageless

Jenny, With the Stars in Her Hair

Jenny Julian – 28 – addicted to extreme cosmetic surgery

The Color of Time

Gia – 21, Nana – 81, Faith – 31

Smiley the Robot

Miss Gia – 85

Everything I Have is Yours

Helene Bacon – 50 – famous film director, Sarah Bacon – 16 – her daughter

Heart of Jade

The Lady – 30-ish and thought barren – daughter of 20 Rabbit, the last great king of Copan

Shakespeare in Hell

Emilia Bassano – 35-ish (actually died at age 74) – reputed “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets

The Ruined Gods

Ginger – 28 – a cat woman; Rikki/Roxane/Roksana – 73

The Gods That Men Don’t See

Ginny Baumann – 33 – primatologist, unmarried

Digger Lady

Vi Elliott – 73 – paleontologist, never married

Incandescent

Paperwhite – a newborn Vogue girl

Her Name is Jacqueline

Lori Johnston – 36 – attorney, married, male genes, female nature

For many years, I did not know that nobody wanted to read a story about a woman over age 30, or a story with a female character over age 25 who wasn’t a “black widow,” a canny elderly detective or nosy old lady next door.

Of course I know that now.

Of course I know there should be romance stories for women, men and transgendered people. There should be stories about crises of conscience for men. How stupid is it, for example, for there to be a story about Helene Bacon, the first female film director to receive an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award? There’s some sci-fi for you. Imagine that this successful, powerful director never had time to get married, but she did have a daughter, Sarah — a daughter very much like her. And right when she has achieved the height of her recognition and power, Helene learns she’s dying of lung cancer. Only a total lung transplant will save her. And Sarah’s not just her daughter: she is her clone. Oh, what to do? God, what a ridiculous, idiotic story. Its mate (architect dying of cancer learns that only his cloned son can save him) was a Writers of the Future winning story. When people questioned that a man would consider using his son that way — what about a mother? — the story was born.

“Digger Lady” has not so much been rejected, but rather – lost, three times, by three different editors of two major sci-fi/fantasy magazines. It is inspired by a lady I got to know at age 17 — some coincidence? — Ruth “Dee” Simpson, the archaeologist at the San Bernardino County Museum. That was my first real job — the “intern” at the museum. The character inspired by “Dee,” Vi Elliott, is explicitly said to be 73 in the story. She is being forced into retirement. There are few women who can claim to have discovered Early Man in the Southern California desert along with world-renowned paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey. Ruth “Dee” Simpson is one of them. Nobody wants to read about someone like that.

I think they’d rather read about a naive 3-day old genetically manipulated prostitute who is bound to save the world from an alien plague, all the while being beaten to a pulp by a vicious, burned-out case who learns at the end, the value of what he valued so-little. I did write that story and it is in this book; I will not continue to write dozens of them.

It makes me sad when I think of the stories I was given to read while in school (this includes college and graduate school). “The Yellow Wallpaper” – a classic by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The husband’s name is John; the young female narrator has no name. This story was written well over a hundred years ago.

My life, oddly enough, was not over when I turned 25, nor 30, nor even the dreaded 40 and unholy, impossible, “no man will ever want you!” 50. Such adventures I have had – and still have.

The best stories are those which tell themselves. It isn’t “who writes the stories” that is so important; it is the stories themselves.

These are the stories that came to me, as they came to me. For a long while, I didn’t realize that I was, as far as getting paid or getting anybody to read the work, literally wasting my time even attempting to write stories outside the conventional genres (romance, mystery) and genre conventions (like Ellie Sattler in the Jurassic Park movies – she retires, is married, has children and becomes a children’s book writer) about women. Now I do understand that.

I’m writing them anyway. I’m publishing them anyway.

At 13, at 17, at 53, it was and is my job to listen.

Amy Sterling Casil

Aliso Viejo, CA

December 2015

 

The Instrumentality of Women: January 19

 

 

Instrumentality of women 600 x 900 instrumentality-of-women-wrap-cover (1)

You can read stories about women in love, women’s problems, or women’s issues.
Or, you can read stories about the future of women.

In the Nebula Award-nominated “To Kiss the Star,” gravely disabled Mel Armstrong gets the chance to explore the stars, but doesn’t want to leave the man she loves behind. In “The Renascence of Memory,” nanotechnology returns 80 year old Alzheimer’s patient Carol Meyers to her former youth and beauty — but everyone she knew and loved is dead, except her former young lover — he is now too old for her. Famous female film director Helene Bacon will be the first woman to win an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award — but she’s dying of cancer and her daughter is the best donor. How will she choose? The Lady, the only daughter of the last great ruler of Copan wishes to be a man, so she can save her father and her city. Dr. Vi Elliott believes she’s discovered Early Man in the Southern California Desert — maybe she has, and maybe she has not — but she does run across a couple of mint-addicted intergalactic eBay traders in this sequel to “Mad for the Mints.” And lawyer Lori Johnston is happily married to insurance guy Jack — until he tells her he’s committed to gender reassignment to save his job. What Jack doesn’t know is that Lori appears and is female, but her biology is male: born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.

The Instrumentality of Women

First eBook Edition Book View Cafe
18 January 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61138-584-7
$4.99

First Trade Paperback Edition Chameleon Publishing
4 April 2016
ISBN: 978-1-46380-239-4
356 pages
$14.99

This is the original introduction: it will be changed now but probably will still include the information about Asimov’s.

How Men Assure Their Posterity

I can no longer remember when I got the image of lifting a rock to find the creeping, twisting multi-legged creatures beneath scrambling to escape the light, nor under what circumstances I realized its analogy to seeing something painful, disgusting and true about human nature and behavior.

I’ve spent the last two or three years on a journey to understand why, although I really am not 100 times worse a writer than David Weber, nobody reads my crap.

Constitutionally, I’m just not capable of writing “the expected.” It only happens “by accident.” I was born a woman, so the things that drive men to tell stories are not what drives me. I now base stories on real people I know, which makes matters worse.

So I lifted that rock this morning. And out squiggled the Genghis Khan creatures, with thousands of legs and hideous, multifaceted, evil red eyes. Out wriggled thick-skinned, pasty earthworms, with open, slime-dripping toothed maws, like Shaka Zulu and Sultan Moulay Ismaïl of Morocco, “The Bloodthirsty,” who reputedly fathered a thousand children from hundreds of wives and concubines.

The greatest number of children any woman has ever had was 69, sets of twins, triplets and quadruplets born to the mind-boggling Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev — first-nameless Vassilyeva delivered babies 27 times to achieve this total.

I wrote about A Song of Ice and Fire, the “Game of Thrones” stories by George R.R. Martin, this a.m. These incredibly popular, addictive stories are as misogynistic as popular storytelling can get. Perversions abound. Sure, everyone “gets it” sooner or later, but the way they portray “humanity” is in its way, worse than any true WWII examination of Nazi psychology or Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. People say “the stories aren’t the writer.” No.

George RR MartinBut George R.R. Martin truly has done “The Sultan of Schwing” (Sultan Ismaïl). In this day and age, he cannot realistically father a thousand children. He cannot manage to ensure that 20% of western Civilization has his DNA, as Genghis Khan seems to have done in his genocidal, pillaging career of conquest and domination hundreds of years ago.

But he has successfully assured his posterity.

Hundreds of babies are now named after “Game of Thrones” characters. There are plenty of Khaleesis, Daenarys’s, Aryas, and even Sandors — for “The Hound,” a true douchebag of a guy. The fact that Sandor Clegane has somewhat of a sympathetic storyline speaks volumes about the relative “humanity” of the Game of Thrones stories. If he were a real guy, he’d be in Pelican Bay.

“Khaleesi’s” little romance with Khal Drogo (portrayed in the TV series by incredibly hot, cool Jason Momoa) is pretty hot unless you “get” that the character herself has just begun to menstruate – Khaleesi herself is played by the beautiful young adult Emilia Clarke. Everyone knows by now that the TV series had to be cast with adult actors, although the books themselves depict children and young teens in the adult situations (murder, mayhem, porn – violent and non-violent). In case you’re wondering, Theon gets his dick cut off by a total perving monster. In real life, that’s Jeffrey Dahmer.

Oh, but Amy — that’s the way it was in the “old days.” Women were traded like chattel and they totally got married or had babies as soon as it was physically possible.

It’s not like that now.

Guys that look like George R.R. Martin just get to have thousands of kids named after their characters ensuring their long-term posterity.

I guess the pen really is mightier than the sword.

Wish I had not lifted that rock. Wish I hadn’t seen what I’d seen. But just like some horrible scene in a show or movie — you can never “unsee” it.

 

 

 

Massively Self-Indulgent

massively self indulgentMaybe in 2007 or so, after I realized that an old negative online review from “Randolph Calverhall,” was actually written by a pseudonym for the deceased and notorious neo-Nazi/white supremacist William Pierce, I undertook  a project to look at online reviews of books by women authors to see if this was “just me” or some other force at work. I coincidentally looked first at books by Octavia Butler, noticing that she had a number of anonymous, “drive-by” reviews by people who’d obviously not read her work and who were more motivated to slag a female author just for the fun of it … with extra bonus points because she was black.

Then I looked at the work of Ralph Wiley, one of my favorite writers, an African-American sports and culture writer who had passed away. Ralph, unable to defend himself, had racist reviews from anonymous jerks slagging on a dead guy. Then Toni Morrison. I kept going. There was hardly a female writer who was writing outside of the “traditional”/ok for women topics like romance, relationships, cooking, beauty and fitness, who didn’t have at least one of these types of reviews. African-American? Phew – these appeared to be organized, sophisticated, and in the case of authors like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker who are assigned in school — aimed at convincing kids not to read their books.

I thought “at least I write mostly short fiction” so I don’t have to worry about this type of thing. I figured “Randolph” was a coincidence, attracted potentially because my first novel featured a concentration-camp type scenario (except … the camps weren’t presented favorably, nor were the eugenics plans of the book’s villain). So this a.m., I looked at Alan Rodgers’ Amazon author page because Alan’s brother Scott is now maintaining and working on it. To help Scott out with his questions, I looked at my own author page. And lo and behold!

On the Audible page of Female Science Fiction Writer I see this gem:

FSFW driveby review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gee whiz, I’m sure they listened to the audiobook. Gee willickers.

And by cracky, yes I am self-indulgent, Amazon Customer. I just ate a whole bowl of organic chocolate pudding made with almond milk. Mmmm-mmmm.

Like Amazon Customer bought it? Oh, so sure he/she did (not).

Here’s the thing. This is somewhat organized. And apparently, acceptable.

So yes, Amazon customer, I am self-indulgent. Despite your allegations, however, not “mediocre.”

The only way to write well is to be self-indulgent. That is a lesson many women find to be very difficult, as we spend our whole lives serving others.

 

 

Unwise, Profligate and Passionate

Ah, but I am a passionate writer. There is no reward if there is no risk.

just another self published author

And nothing if one does not believe in the work.

It isn’t all right if a woman says such things. It is lauded if gentlemen like my mentor and friend Harlan Ellison flame pathetic individuals. I have an old Galaxy Magazine from the early 70s in which Harlan wrote one of his 5-page missives destroying a critic who dared criticize his work. In that very issue is one of the saddest, most incompetent stories I’ve ever read — by the very same “critic” Harlan flamed. A Harlan classic.

Bad reviews are one thing. Taste is taste, and one may not please all readers.

Dishonest, untrue ones — quite another.

The common wisdom is that one must not respond to negative reviews. Well, I have been seldom wise and hardly ever, in accordance with the “common wisdom.” Assumptions are the enemy of all rational thought.

It’s not that this review made me angry. It made me laugh. It’s that the reviewer seems to have sped through, looking for ways to flame the work in question. She appears to have hardly been able to contain herself from noting the work was “unedited” (untrue) and “self-published” (also untrue).

Well, here’s the provenance this scholar, critic and writer apparently missed.

Because I do believe in this story. First, the story was written inspired by academic study I was undertaking while a graduate student in literature at Chapman University. This study included a seminar in the work of Oscar Wilde, during which I was privileged to read Oscar’s original typescripts, faxed from the UK by his grandson Merlin Holland. It also incorporated a desire to defend Edgar Allan Poe from the second-rank status he’d been accorded in some literature texts edited by Francis X.J. Kennedy (a well-known poet and pedogogical authority), and my study of Shakespeare’s works, having received the ability to visit the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, as a visiting scholar.

As is usual for me, I thought about heaven and hell. I thought about the egos of writers. And most certainly I shall be found in the “Cave of the Writers,” disputing with all the rest. Let us hope I shall not, like Hemingway, be trapped forever in the permanent critique group.

I thought about love. How it both damns and redeems.

“Dream you other wise.”

That’s what the story is about. We may write our own lives if we have but the courage to do so.

So I write my own life as a woman born out of time, but in no time, for time is not real, only place.

I don’t just respect Shakespeare, I know he is the master of us all. Born he was to be as he was, and his words made him so. And “Shakespeare in Hell” is about how Shakespeare dreamed himself out of hell. And so may we all dream, have we but the courage and fortitude.

And these also I have, madam. This isn’t just the company I founded, it’s about taking writers out of slavery to freedom. It’s about setting the heart and mind free for all those who speak better in the written word than with the mouth.

So set you down this. Whatever you think you are, and what I am, you misjudged. You misapprehended. For 30 years, live you this life. Take you the word and the discipline and the passion and the heart. Write you something of merit and of meat. Think you of the spirit and the heart and the blood these great writers had. I do not pretend myself to that; I know what I said was true, all the same.

And then, perhaps, you may meet me where I stand. Where I live, where I am.

Some of us were born writers; others, perhaps are made.

Harlan Ellison would have told you off differently, as he is a different, passionate, profligate man. I am profligate with my word, with my time, with my heart — to those who need it.

Do you want to go? Because I will go. Come on. Take it off. Let’s go. Lights out. You take me on. You write a sonnet, villanelle, ballad. 5 minutes, sonnet. Ten minutes, villanelle or ballad.  Let’s see who the “self-published writer” who needs an editor is. Let us see who has the most to say. Let us see – who has the word. Let us do it now. Let’s settle it.

More poor fool who thinks they can take this 30 years and a life of pain on. Like that. Just like fucking that. Please, do be my guest. You took the risk of taking on a streetfighter. So let’s go.

PS: yes, Harlan inspired me. Of course he did. “My bright star, ever pointing upward.”

PPS: from a reader and friend, noted the reviewer is a lawyer – “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” (Henry VI Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2)

 

 

 

She is Me: Intro to INSTRUMENTALITY OF WOMEN

I’m working on a new collection of stories with all female protagonists, THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF WOMEN. The book contains previously-published and never published before work.

Here’s the intro as it stands …

SHE IS ME

Mothers Day hiking

More than a decade ago, I noticed that the quality of the stories I wrote featuring female characters, especially those older than 18 or 20, must have been terrible.

I couldn’t sell them for the same professional rates to the same publications where I’d sold stories about doctors taking care of little disabled boys with pumpkin-shaped heads, real-life clown boys, dads with liver cancer considering harvesting their cloned sons’ livers or thinking about murdering their genetically-modified teen boys, or aliens who cost Mad King George “the Colonies” due to their raging addiction to curiously-strong peppermints. And then there was the talking horse, and the vampire who spontaneously combusted due to an overabundance of blood cholesterol.

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