Tag Archives: women in science fiction

Like Fire is a Medium Novel: Where I’ve Been

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It’s not like I quit writing or anything. I have spent the past two years, and most intensively, the last year, learning how to most-effectively use Medium. You can find me on Medium here. I am using it because of its ease of access to any and all readers on any device.

Why am I publishing the work I most believe in for free on Medium first?

Many reasons.

First, because everything published on Medium can be read on any device at any time. It also looks great on any device.

Second, because the recently-completed U.S. election has made it crystal clear that money is not the answer to anything.

And third, because we already know that many people are shut out of the careers, education or jobs they would like to do because of racism, gender bias and class bias. This book is what I most want to do, have most wanted to do, and believe in with 100% of my mind, body and soul.

It’s who I am, and it’s what I did. As I recently commented on Medium regarding a person’s unwarranted criticism of writing by a diverse author, “I don’t care if only one person reads my work here on Medium. It is what I believe in, it is what I want to do, and I know it is the right path for me.”

As recently as early 2015, I believed that if I just worked hard enough, I would have sufficient opportunity to pay my basic bills and earn a basic living as a writer. In the past, I have absolutely paid my basic bills and provided many things for my daughter through my writing. I believed that the self-publishing revolution was a good thing, and that it enabled people to reach an audience. I knew there were some problems; for example — I could see that self-publishing worked best for people who were writing a type of already-recognized or popular fiction. I saw that the “successes” were those associated with established fan or other types of internet communities.

If you think “Mainstream Media” is messed up and not working, reporting only what corporations or the wealthy .00001% want the rest of us to see and hear, the same is true of popular “Entertainment” from books to television to movies. And then some.

Up until this past year, I spent my entire life thinking if I just worked harder and “got good enough” I could be “successful” like other writers I knew who had $20,000 book contracts, or who had large empires “selling” instructional material, newsletters, e-book omnibus editions, and so-on. I had stopped believing the common wisdom that “getting good enough” was a matter of copying other writers’ work or known formulas years ago.

Is She Available HardcoverI built a whole publishing company and motivated others. Years ago, I agitated with my writing friends that we could combat the collapse of the midlist writer and other egregious problems in the publishing industry that seem quaint in hindsight, and was a co-founder of Book View Cafe (I am still the treasurer). I convinced Igor Goldkind that his poems were good and motivated him to get all of his friends, the best comic artists of their generation, and unbelievably gifted fine artists like Mario Torero together to make the beautiful, groundbreaking e-book Is She AvailableIgor and his friend Addie printed a fantastic hardcover version and had two big presentations at the San Diego ComicCon.

I did everything humanly possible to send Igor’s legitimately spectacular, groundbreaking book out to reviewers. Two major publications reviewed the e-book, both in Chicago. Igor got mentions from various others in the comic industry. Nobody reviewed the hardcover. The Washington Post was among many publications to sell the hardcover to used book dealers. Igor is a new poet, but the art is by Eisner-winning artists, one of the founding members of the Chicano movement in America, and the e-book had music by a British album of the year Jazz artist. It wasn’t an unprofessional “self published” book.

It was new, different, unusual, represented a man’s voice and journey that didn’t include war, death and destruction but love for family, heritage and history (and there is an anti-war, gorgeous comic panel in it).

So it was sold to used book dealers and not even looked at. I have two downloads of the e-book by reviewers and I know who each of them are. Joe Wikert featured us on his industry blog. Other than that? Jack Diddley. If you are reading this as a second-language speaker, this means “nothing” happened.

We do learn more from our failures because instead of my best work and Igor’s best work, and the best work of award-winning, influential artists who have made millions for their corporate masters, but whose own work of their heart is hidden in back of their studios or must be given away free –

We have this.

Kindle Worlds

The whole system is broken. Book sales were down by 4% during the recent U.S. election not because of the election directly, but because of this picture I show above. This type of repetitive, derivative, unoriginal material that purposely encourages UNORIGINALITY for a quick buck isn’t going to bring new customers through the door.

As I pointed out previously in articles read by no more than 1,000 people, and to audiences at writing events numbering no more than 500 people total, 20% of North Americans regularly buy and read books. 80% do not, yet 100% of people are literate, and can read, and DO consume written content on their mobile devices. Before you Corporate Media Troll me, everything I learned about that I did through independent market research, relying primarily on the Pew Center. People also discuss and interact with each other through, primarily the written word, on social media. There are more texts sent than voice or video calls.

It is about the content. It’s about what is provided.  Sales are down because the content doesn’t meet the needs of the people who currently buy and read books who are good with the corporate media slant: violence, certain types of sex, certain types of “addictive” content, and simply reinforcing the current status quo in any imaginable way.

The current publishing system cannot create books to meet the interests and needs of the 80% of people who don’t regularly buy and read books; it is increasingly failing the 20% who do.

I’m not telling you “I am the content provider.” As I said; I am happy if only one person reads what I have written for free on Medium and enjoys it.

I’m telling you that I, who have written under the “old system” for a lifetime, who believed in it, who did everything “right” –

  • I have a BA in Literature from Scripps College, where I won the Claremont College writing prize not once, but twice, a blind-judged contest.
  • I was admitted to, but chose not to attend, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the UC Irvine MFA program.
  • For reasons of time, cost, and wanting to be a sci-fi writer, I applied to, was admitted to, and successfully completed the Clarion Sci Fi Writers Workshop in 1984.
  • I gave up writing as “impractical” about two years after that. I did not write for another eight years.
  • I returned to writing in 1996, and applied to and attended the nearest MFA program to my home (Chapman University in Orange, CA). I completed this program in 1999.
  • I published my first sci fi story professionally in 1996 (“Jonny Punkinhead, F & SF).
  • I did the usual drill with short science fiction and published my first novel in 2001.
  • I was also nominated for a Nebula Award that year.
  • Now – where I am today is related to my not going the route of $5,000 novel “advances” and selling 4,000 to 6,000 books and so-on.
  • I worked with Alan Rodgers as he established Alan Rodgers Books (and there wouldn’t be Chameleon Publishing if Alan hadn’t spent the last 10 years of his life doing that).
  • I worked with the others to set up Book View Cafe, the largest author publishing cooperative.
  • In between all the rest of that I am sure I’ve published well over 2 million words, about 75% of it nonfiction.

A troll on Twitter said, “anybody can publish a book these days.”

Until we can somehow reinvent the system of publishing as it stands, an unhealthy, struggling system, the books will be selected and published for that ever-dwindling 20% of readers and never, never will get beyond that. And above all, they won’t be written by people who are generally willing to say and do what I have:

I do not care if only one person ever reads what I’ve written. That is enough for me because I have done what I believed was right, what was right for me, and what is the best path for me and best work I can do.

That person has read what I have written. Others I am close to also have read it. I am okay. I know I have done my best.

It shouldn’t have to be that hard. People shouldn’t have to work for free for a lifetime just to express a story with emotional truth, of meaning and worth to at least one other person.

Storytelling is important to people at a level beyond money and more than momentary “entertainment.” It helps us imagine our world and future. It helps us to make choices about ourselves, and it helps us to understand people who are different from us.

Our society and economy has now made it so it is the province of a very limited group of people.

And — it’s creating things like this:

Kindle Worlds

I’m not saying there is not a place for commercial genre fiction, fan fiction or related work. Of course there is. Just not to the exclusion of there being something new, different, and individual or expressive of individual human creation and nature. The majority of what is out there right now is similar to these “Kindle Worlds,” not to things like Alice in WonderlandDavid Copperfield, or War & Peace. Of these three books, each author was male, each author was white — in Dickens’ case, he was a poor boy and self-made man. The other two: they had some money. Leo Tolstoy was Russian nobility.

Imagine what stories the young woman who did his laundry may have told.

This is what I’m saying and as I have in the past few months told others “I was at some time, the one who did the laundry.” And as she told her friends, so now I tell others.

You can start reading Like Fire for free here. (Medium Publication with additional information and links to all chapters – I will also be putting some short fiction suitable for kids and young adults by request).

Direct link to Chapter One is here.

If you like it you can join Medium and follow the publication. Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, got me on that damn thing in the first place.

Dear Individuals on the ASD Spectrum and Others: I am Sorry

I am sorry that my manner of expression indicated to you that I do not want to understand or respect what you experience and feel, and think that people who state they are “normal” should have accommodations rather than those who have lacked them for so long. I am sorry that what I said was interpreted to mean a very direct expression that the experience of those our society commonly identifies as “normal” or “non-disabled,” have the same experiences as people who experience the vast array of barriers, disrespectful situations, assumptions and general awful behavior experienced by those with any type of disability, self-identified, or identified by others.

I also did not say what I said to indicate that those with painful physical disabilities, chronic illness, and other barriers to pain-free lives are experiencing something “good” that should be encouraged and increased.

My thought process is different to others. I thought I indicated that but obviously I did a bad job. My manner of expression that is legitimately mine, may be and apparently is, misunderstood.

I DO understand that people on the ASD spectrum are as diverse in their thoughts and experiences as those who are NOT. They may well be moreso. I understand that those on the spectrum have deep feelings and are incredibly empathetic to others. I learned that people who state they have autism, have had similar experiences to me, possibly much stronger and more intense. I did not know this before, and now I do.

That said, what goes on with me does not mean I “understand” everything, including others’ thoughts and feelings at all times. It means I am frequently overwhelmed by the thoughts, feelings, desires and motivations of others. This can include strangers encountered while shopping, but of course much more so – close family and friends.

So, people interpreted the story I told about the young autistic man who asked me if there would someday be a cure for autism. I wrote in shorthand, because as I stated in the beginning of the article, I was going to do it differently: my way, the way I am learning for my self. Obviously since people who are formally identified to be like me are no more than 1% of the population …

There ya go. Nobody understands what the fuck I say so I usually don’t say anything. For years and years I made stuff up copied from what others thought and felt.

So the statements that made autistic people angry and made them think that I thought autistic people had no feelings or empathy: those were my thoughts in my circumstance at the time. I could tell how fearful he was and I sensed he feared I would not respect him or his perspective. My mind interpreted that as the statements I wrote in the article. I thought at the time, “He won’t care your baby had Down Syndrome.” The reality of the situation, I realized over time, was – he was afraid that I would not care about what he had to say and his situation. The best I could do at the time was, “God means for people to have autism.”

Now – what I genuinely believe, and what I think, has a chance of being for real, true – is that nature and humanity does have a purpose and need for those with autism and many other cognitive differences and physical differences and what are often termed “disabilities.” People in the past have been so twisted that they called some far on one side of ASD spectrum, combined with abilities that seem “miraculous” to many, “Idiots Savants.” These words alone show the level of respect others had for Blind Tom, described in An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. To this day, some who are called “savants” sometimes “perform” for others who exclaim how miraculous they are. I just don’t like this. I’m sorry. I do not like people being viewed as performing animals. I don’t think animals should be viewed as performing animals either – but you already knew I was C*R*A*Z*Y and making shit up, right?

And that’s the case for me. I’m not a “great empath” – though I have been at times, somewhat shrewd. It isn’t just that I don’t know what to make of 90 percent of what comes in this door. It’s that it overwhelms me. Overwhelms me to the point that for most of my life, I didn’t know who I was. Like many others, I reeled from situation to situation, job to job, project to project. I took on things that I should not only never have taken on, they were things I could not change nor improve. All I could do was hurt myself and expose others I cared about to potential harm as well. One person described today they had stuck with a sociopathic college friend who treated others horribly because they didn’t want the friend to be totally alone, to the point where they almost had to drop out themselves. Like that. This person’s experience has validity, right? Mine does not.

In terms of “unwanted perceptions” or feelings from others – one aspect that’s been identified in isolation is called hypercacusis or hyper-acute hearing. Two people I am very close to experience this. I only experience it if I’m very close to either of them, and then immediately go out and hang around with others. It is terrible.

As to all the rest, the statements that people who say they are “empathetic” aren’t, and there is no problem of this nature, everything I said is a lie, they are certain of this –

I have heard many similar things, for many years. I was told, when I was raped 11 days after my 21st birthday, “Just pull yourself together. It happens to a lot of women.” I am 53 years old. I am 10-10 on the ACE scale (Adverse Childhood Experiences). I was treated to a nice web page that asserted I had murdered my baby with Down Syndrome. It was as a result of Alan Rodgers’ decade-plus custody battle, nothing to do with me, really; our family and son just caught in the nasty crossfire. Anthony died in an accident at home. He died in my arms before the ambulance, which went to a wrong location, was able to come back the right way and try to help. When I disclosed that a well-known writer had slapped my face, groped my ass, and announced “With an ass like hers, you just know she loves to be spanked!” I was told I was lying and besides, there was no independent corroboration, I hadn’t pressed charges, it could only be found anonymously told on the internet (by me): I wasn’t even saying his name!

Doesn’t this sound crazy? Oh my god, how could someone have so much go on with them? What a liar, she just wants attention.

Please tell me I do not hear other people’s thoughts.

There are far too many of these types of statements made about others who express many different truths about themselves. Each is saying “Please hear me, Please understand me.” That is 100% what I was saying. There are so, so many people whose go-to is to put somebody else down, blame them, or try to shame them for whatever cause.

My situation is that I had 10-10 on the ACE scale and that these unwanted and overwhelming perceptions of others’ thoughts and emotions  ran in my family on both sides, just as did many other things.

I teach from the book An Anthropologist on Mars by Dr. Oliver Sacks. Dr. Sacks writes, in the introduction, of realizing that the human brain, including his own, as his right arm has been injured and is immobilized, forcing him to use his left hand and even foot, was so flexible and malleable. He writes, movingly, of observations by many neurologists that individuals with “disabilities” in fact, had strong abilities as well as the deficits they faced. Current neuroscience is now discovering that theoretical “disabilities” are in fact present among nearly all people in a variety of cognitive areas. If we valued the ability to listen to others and put one’s own self aside as much as our society values those who can economically, socially, and physically exploit others, we would have a different world. Yes, that is what I am saying.

I was diagnosed with complex PTSD in June 2007 as a final result of four precipitating causes. The death of my son in my arms, the death of my stepmother where I could not help or change the course, being raped and thinking he was going to strangle me to death, and the least, last cause: the false web page accusing me, my daughter, or Alan, of killing my son.

This paints me as a “victim.”

I am not. Concurrently, reeling, confused, all unknowing, I have written all these things I have and done my best at them. There are hundreds of formerly homeless families with decent homes and good jobs that I was able to raise funds to help. There are buildings built with funds I raised, and education and economic programs employing people and improving communities in places that otherwise, might not have accessed them. Hundreds of former students have had encouragement, education and above all, respect for who they are, their voices and their words.

There are many writers I have worked with and encouraged to excel and achieve. I do not wish to draw other friends into this because my purpose was and remains to help make things better economically for other writers – in particular those who are economically and socially marginalized.

I overtly stated that in my article, right up front, that I just couldn’t do what others expected any more. I stated as clearly as I could, “I can’t express myself like what others say and you are used to reading.” It’s part of figuring out who I am and what is important to me. My cognitive situation means that is very hard for me.

So, formally, I do not believe that individuals with self-identified disabilities or medically-diagnosed disabilities are the “same” as those who do not identify as disabled or present to others as “non disabled.” I do not understand a lot of terminology used but I try to speak in ways using terms that I do understand. My understanding of reading what others have said and listening to them is that some people are working to help others to understand that there are “invisible disabilities.” I have been a college teacher since 1998 and I know there are many students with learning disabilities: they do NOT want to be visible to other class members as “the learning disabled student.” I am not writing about that, but I can understand learning disability as well as other illnesses being categorized as “invisible disabilities.”

Because I do know what I have faced and what those I love also face: I do not care if you make fun of my stating I have empathic traits or telling me those are not disabilities. I would be interested to hear why PTSD is no problem. I need education on this because it was a big shock to me when I applied for new insurance and they not only stated it was a “pre-existing condition,” it was also regarded as a permanent disability.

Yeah, I think I will definitely state publically on the internet that I was diagnosed with PTSD. It’s so helpful in obtaining medical insurance or interviewing for executive jobs. Then to make things more positive, I’ll state publically on the internet that I have empathic perceptions and even sometimes hear what seem to be “others’ thoughts” they do not intend and I might not really understand. Nobody ever diagnosed anyone with a different mental illness and gave them things like lobotomies and shock treatment because they said they heard voices – especially ones that the supposed speakers vehemently denied. Nobody many generations ago EVER burned people at the stake or gave them the drowning test due to similar statements.

I could just copy what others say and do. Then I wouldn’t have any trouble.

Like Shane.


I came to understand while learning about Tourette’s Syndrome, that Alan Rodgers, whom I loved, who died, likely had a mild form of the Syndrome. He was not aware of this, nor was he diagnosed, as he soon had other illnesses that took precedence, for which he was treated for the last three years of his life. He was not only viciously mocked for the “Touretty” things he did and said (and some of them greatly upset me in terms of echolalia and similar behaviors), part of this was used in his nightmare custody battle.

The way I was treated growing up was designed to 1) make me into someone I wasn’t, including forming and guiding my statements, movements, posture and appearance; 2) enforce my speaking, when permitted, what others wanted to hear. Because of this, I am highly attuned to others’ expectations, while at the same time, my default is to assume no one wants to see me, hear me, or even could or would. That’s part of the ACES. No I was not saying “bad things” about the young autistic man and what was important to him. It was about me.

What do you think?

The Path to Publication May Take Many Forms

Shannon Page is putting a book together covering different writers’ “paths to publication” and I told her — I’ve got one!

If you’ve read my essays about the Writers of the Future Contest, you’ll recognize parts of this story, but I tell the complete tale here for the first time!

FSFJUN96I didn’t change any of “Jonny Punkinhead,” my first professional science fiction sale, which appeared in the “New Writers” issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1996. Yes – here it is – the infamous “Nazi Clown” issue. The painting is by my now-friend Kent Bash, who also did the cover for “Chromosome Circus” – somewhat of a sequel to “Jonny” (a much nicer clown!).

So here is a draft of my “Path to Publication” …

My path to publication would have been very different, and may never have happened, if I hadn’t entered the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest between 1995 and 1998. Eventually, I ended up winning two prizes and attending the Writers of the Future events in Hollywood in 1998 and 1999. But my first professional publication wasn’t a story entered in the contest, it came as a result of it, especially help from the head judge: Dave Wolverton (who also writes fantasy novels as David Farland). Another judge of this contest, Kathy Wentworth, was a writer and editor beloved by many. Kathy suffered from cancer and died in 2012. At that time, Dave Wolverton returned as the head judge, so he is also currently the judge of this contest, which continues to help new and aspiring writers and artists.

Back in those long-ago days, we still sent work in the mail, whether on submission to a print publisher, or to a contest like Writers of the Future. The idea of “simultaneous submissions” was very important. Most publications didn’t want them. What if you sent a physical story to six different publications, and more than one of them agreed to publish the work? You ran the risk of “being banned” if editors learned you were trying to save time and postage by taking a “simultaneous submission” shortcut.

The preferred method was to laboriously put the printed story in a manila envelope and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the response – you could either include a large manila envelope in which the editor could return the actual manuscript, or a small, regular white envelope, which would be big enough for a form letter response. The understanding with the small envelope was that the editor could throw away or recycle the manuscript you had sent and just return a note or form letter.

Think about the cost in time, effort, postage and paper!

So, why was I doing this? Starting in Junior High, I had the crazy idea I “wanted to be a science fiction writer.” By the time I was in college, I read an article in Asimov’s Magazine urging young writers to apply to the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop – at the time held at Michigan State University. I completed a storylike document by mixing and matching what I understood (not very much!) of a literary story by the well-known author Paul Bowles with the plot of one of my favorite Star Trek episodes. I sent this thing to the workshop and they let me in!

Many of the others at the Clarion Workshop were writing fantasy or horror, so I decided, “I want to be a horror writer!” Stephen King was very popular at the time – it seemed like the thing to do. This outstanding thought process resulted in my “Pudding I left in the refrigerator came alive and ate everyone!” phase.  One of my Clarion classmates convinced me to send my stories to the high-paying, and to me – very intimidating – Twilight Zone magazine. I sent three stories to them. I also sent several others to less-intimidating, low paying publications and all were rejected. Considering these tales were mostly about deadly pudding, I can’t blame these editors. I got used to seeing a big manila envelope in the mailbox that I had addressed to myself. Rejection, rejection, rejection.

Because I knew no other writers to talk to after Clarion, I didn’t know that I was “getting close” and receiving personal rejections even for malevolent pudding tales – so when I got a rejection card from Twilight Zone editor Alan Rodgers*, I decided, “You don’t have what it takes, Amy – just forget about it. Devote your time to a real paying job and your family.”

I quit writing for eight years.

After my daughter Meredith was born, her father Mike encouraged me to start writing again since it seemed like my life was consumed 100% by our daughter, my ailing father and grandmother, and job/household duties. I needed something to take my mind off of these heavy responsibilities. Mike reminded me, “Didn’t you want to be a science fiction writer?”

“Yes,” I told him – that was true. I had and did.

Mike pulled out some of his old paperbacks, including Tales of Known Space by Larry Niven. As I read, I realized I remembered reading most, if not all, of these stories from the old days. I discovered the ability to complete an actual story text – and I didn’t have to combine a literary writer’s tale with Star Trek, either. I plugged along, writing from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m. before it was time to take Meredith to school.

Rejection. Rejection. Rejection.  42 of them. But they were “personal” – i.e. written notes from various editors. I knew enough by this time to know that this meant my work wasn’t completely abominable.

I also learned about the Writers of the Future Contest, and the prizes looked great. A lot of writers I respected and admired were either judges, or had won the contest. So I developed a policy: I’d send a story to all the high-paying professional sci-fi markets in order of which ones I thought had the best potential of buying it. If, by the end of this laborious procedure, the story still hadn’t sold – then I’d enter it in the contest.

The first story that fit in this category was “Jonny Punkinhead.” This story is also my first professional science fiction and fantasy sale.  It appeared in the “New Writers Issue” of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in June, 1996.

When I finished “Jonny Punkinhead” in early 1995, I knew that I’d “done something.”  From what I could determine at that time, it was “publishable.”  Inside, I knew that I’d done the very best that I could do.  Through this story, I began to learn what I was really good at as a writer.  It was about a subject very close to my heart:  inspired by the homeless, desperately poor children I worked with through my day job at that time — the director of a charity devoted to helping people in need.  I invented the idea of “changed children,” and did much research on slow viruses and genetic mutations to come up with a scenario by which such a disaster might occur.  I left all of this “background information” out of the story and instead wrote about what might happen if somebody . . . oh, somebody like me . . . had to try to take care of these kids who were throwaways — the unwanted, the unloved, the bizarre.  Kids with heads like pumpkins and three eyes.  Kids like “Jonny Punkinhead.”

For reasons that are clear to me today (but unclear to me at the time) I made the protagonist a male doctor – Dr. Hedrick Arlan.  But at the time, I didn’t really understand what I was doing although I knew the doctor’s problems with “taking his job home” were similar to challenges I also faced in my real-world job with homeless, very low-income people.

I put “Jonny Punkinhead” in a big manila envelope, along with a self-addressed, folded large manila envelope for its return, and sent it out (one at a time) to every reputable science fiction and fantasy magazine that existed at that time.  Guess what happened?

Yeah – same as the Malevolent Pudding stories. Two of the editors, who shall forever remain nameless, actually used these words: “This is an award quality story, but . . .”

But – they still rejected it.

“Jonny” was rejected by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, at that time, the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

After all these rejections, I entered it in the Writers of the Future contest. One day, I went to the mailbox and here was another big manila envelope.  I trudged back inside and put the envelope on the kitchen counter. I figured, “Another rejection.” The same thoughts I’d had eight years before flooded my mind. “Just quit. You’re no good. You’ll never sell a story.”

I cleaned the kitchen before opening the envelope, quickly recognizing “Jonny Punkinhead.”

Then a letter fell out. It was pretty long—several pages and typed, single-spaced!

The letter was from Dave Wolverton, head contest judge.  “Fred Pohl and I both thought that this was the first prize winner,” he wrote.  Dave went on to discuss my story in detail, my writing in detail, and by the time I finished, I could hardly breathe.  Even then, though, I was still thinking, “You didn’t win anything and they’re sending the story back, unpublished.”

Dave said that the story was “publishable.”  That was great! He urged me to send it to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, where he felt it would be a “good fit.”

He had no way to know that the story had already been sent to that magazine and rejected.

Keep in mind this was before regular use of the internet and I didn’t know what to do. How could I send a story “back” that had already been rejected even if Dave Wolverton said it was good and right for the publication?  Then I read Fred Pohl’s letter.  You may not know who Fred Pohl is, but if you love science fiction, he was the author of The Space Merchants, Man Plus, and the Gateway novels. He was also the editor of Galaxy magazine, and considered to be the best editor in the field for many years.  As I read this letter, I knew that Fred Pohl had picked a number of incredibly successful, wonderful writers of short science fiction out of his editorial “slush pile.” Among them, he had “discovered” Cordwainer Smith — and as far as I was concerned, Cordwainer Smith (real name: Paul Linebarger) was a genius.

Fred Pohl’s letter was much shorter than Dave Wolverton’s, but he said, “Being able to read stories like this is why I have continued to judge this contest over the years.”  He called my story “award-quality” and my writing “beautiful,” and I believed him.  That was when I decided not to quit.

As far as my “but the story was already rejected” dilemma, I wrote Dave Wolverton back. Following his guidance, I put the story back in an envelope, wrote a new cover letter that said, “Dave Wolverton suggested I send this to you,” and sent “Jonny Punkinhead” back to the editor Kristine Rusch at the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Honestly, I didn’t change a word though the cover letter probably said “I revised this with Dave’s advice” (in fact, I’m certain I said that – he told me to!).

And this time, she bought it.

I kept writing.  It took me a long time — two years, probably — to recapture the feeling I had when I wrote “Jonny Punkinhead.”  I wrote competent, even moving stories in the meantime.  But stories like “Jonny” don’t come every day.  Stories like that come from heartfelt honesty, caring, and sincerity.  How many words had I written before I wrote “Jonny?”  I’m not sure.  It wasn’t the “million words” that I heard bestselling author Harry Turtledove speak of — he said that writers had to write “a million words” before they became publishable, professional writers.  I racked up a total of eighty rejections before my next professional sale.

No one can take “Jonny Punkinhead” from me, or tell me that he’s “not a winner,” because I know that little boy is a winner, even if he lost hope in his own story.  Even if he smashed his own head against the wall just the way I wanted to do back then.

My grandfather always told me, “You have to take the bad with the good.”  When I was growing up and reading science fiction, my ultimate dream was to be a part of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which was the place where all the writers I most loved and admired published their work.  Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Daniel Keyes, Walter M. Miller.  Writers like that.  My writing has been sandwiched in issues between writers like Ursula K. Le Guin and Joyce Carol Oates.  That’s not “the bad.”  That’s “the good.”

And that *asterisk? *Alan Rodgers, the Twilight Zone editor? I met him in 1998, not realizing who he was until quite a while after he and I had fallen in love. We were either a couple, or very close friends, until his untimely death after a series of strokes in 2014. I had kept the little card he’d sent as a rejection – the one that convinced me to quit writing way back when.

When I showed it to him and told him the story of how the terse, small card had inspired me to quit, he said “Amy, I only wrote 6 or 7 of those the whole time I was at Twilight Zone. That was meant to encourage you.

If you had sent another story as good as that one, I probably would have bought it!”

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.

Heinlein Fans Will Believe Anything

Occasionally File 770 will feature something about Chameleon Publishing or something I might write. I have always gotten a lot out of my conversations with generous and gracious readers – I think the run-downs and countdowns of different posts and information on File 770 are extremely informative.

A bunch of HowiesSo there’s the crazy uproar about the World Fantasy award changing to something other than a stylized head of H.P. Lovecraft, known to those of us in the field as a “Howie.” I don’t know about most others but I can speak from personal experience that on the few occasions I’ve shared the look of a “Howie” with those who do not know what the award is, reactions have been less than enthusiastic. They’ve ranged from “WTF???” to “He’s so ugly!”

One author who is new to me, Gray Rinehart, wrote his opinions about the situation. He said he had run for political office in his local community and also been nominated for a Hugo Award. Gray’s website notes that he is “the only person to have commanded an Air Force satellite tracking station, written speeches for Presidential appointees, had music on ‘The Dr. Demento Show’ and been nominated for a major literary award.”

So, Gray wrote about the Howie situation and noted that Heinlein had written in Friday that “Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms . . . but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” Gray’s position was, I think, that people in SF/F fandom are being horrible to each other. Fair enough.

But if we’re talking about real cultures and societies … i.e. let’s say … well we just went to see Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks, which is about Brooklyn attorney James Donovan’s negotiation of a Cold War spy trade — one Soviet for two Americans — one famous (U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers), and the other, less-famous (economist and then-student Frederick Pryor). So let’s say we’re talking about a culture like early to mid-20th Century Germany. Most of these folks in the film were very concerned about being polite with each other while segments of their government were plotting each others’ deaths due to global thermonuclear war. Very politely, teachers were teaching students how to duck and cover in case of nuclear attack. Donovan’s young son in the film politely showed his father a drawing of the effects of an “air burst” 10,000 feet over the Empire State Building, which would definitely cause some damage at their Brooklyn residence. I estimate the young man was about 9 or 10 years old.

BLACKSTONEFriday500So this is pretty much the time period when Heinlein wrote a lot of his work (Cold War), although I think Friday, which I know as the “busty lady” book, was published rather later (1982).

So, about this “loss of politeness means cultural death” thing —

It might mean “loss of control” but it hardly means “cultural death.”

I don’t think hardly anybody talked back in Nazi Germany. I think they mostly were very polite to each other unless they were taking part in officially sanctioned impoliteness like Kristallnacht.

I think a lot of women were pretty afraid to be impolite back in pre-19th Amendment days, before they got the right to vote. Many students today don’t believe me when I ask them to read and paraphrase Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments (1848) which is based on Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. “What do these things mean?” they ask. What is “deliver chastisement?” they ask, among other things. I ask them to write down the list of things that Stanton and the signatories listed.

“They are so many,” they say.

Women were extremely polite in 1848 when this Declaration was written. They were pretty darned polite when I was a little girl. I remember us being quite polite when I was in college. To this day, I consider myself polite. It takes great force of will to call someone a name or mock them in public.

So I’m not going to make fun of Mr. Heinlein or call him a name when I say this statement is absurd and prima facie, false. Somebody speaking up and being perhaps in your opinion, impolite, isn’t the nicest thing in the world; neither is it a sign of cultural death worse than a riot.

This is my friend Kalev Leetaru’s GDELT Project (Global Database of Events, Language and Tone). It tracks things like riots worldwide and the “tone” of official reports in an ever-growing group of nations, media (including Twitter) and languages. It begins in 1979. It is big data, all right. It has been compared to Asimov’s “Future History.”

GDELT proves Heinlein false, in that it can accurately predict wars and uprisings based on patterns of riots, unrest, and increasingly, “language and tone” related to such things. See, it’s the riot part that’s the problem, and the accuracy part — “impolite” is cultural death? How about threats prior to violence?

It probably can predict b.s. too –

 

 

 

 

 

lufo and the looking glass

If This Film Does Not Spark Your Imagination …

maybe you don’t have one!

That was courtesy of the Los Angeles Film Review and I agree with them. The Looking Planet is an incredible short science fiction film by USC film school grad Eric Law Anderson that is real, honest-to-goodness science fiction.

lufo and the looking glass

Bruce and I were part of the audience at the Laguna Film Festival yesterday and of all the short films by talented filmmakers that we saw, The Looking Planet was …

Well, ya don’t see stuff like that every day! Fantastic! Amazing! More uplifting and enjoyable than pretty much anything that I’ve subjected myself to in a theatre for a long, long time.

I’d like to say that maybe this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego would be notable for showcasing panels about things that are mind-blowingly excellent: The Looking Planet had a panel there (in addition to Is SHE Available?).

Wonderful and entertaining need not be mutually exclusive. And I find it hard to imagine anyone, of any age, not being enthralled and entertained by The Looking Planet.

Did I mention, “It’s real sci fi”?

The Looking Planet [trailer] from Eric Law Anderson on Vimeo.

I’m not going to sit around like a slug myself, but there are fewer “likes” on this unbelievable film’s Facebook page than on my piece-of-you-know-what FSFW page.

Quit gazing at your own navel, quit complaining and grow some imagination. Somebody else already did: Eric Law Anderson. I guarantee you if you ever enjoyed one minute of an actual real, good sci-fi film or liked a real sci fi short story you will adore this. If you have a heart and are breathing you will enjoy this!

Lufo! Time to go! Better luck next universe!

(The Looking Planet is in some ways a meditation on the special relationship between the earth and moon and where that may have come from).

 

Let’s Do This Different

The Hitler Channel (AHC) has been showing documentaries about “The Evolution of Evil.” These cover such perennial favorites as Hitler and Stalin. Both gentlemen rose to power following the breakdown of monarchies in Europe/Russia and the first World War.

evolution of evil nazi brandBoth, interestingly, were young men from relatively impoverished backgrounds — “outsiders” who rose to power in the chaos following the fall of prior Imperial structures. Hitler was a German-speaking Austrian; Stalin a Russian-speaking Georgian. Both were educated in traditional religious schools prior to becoming involved in revolutionary movements.

Russia’s “Man of Steel,” Stalin, had a lot longer run than Germany’s Fuhrer, Hitler.

So in recent months I’ve had a bit of contact with younger people who desire change. Some reminds me of my great time working with Policymic. Others — maybe not so much.

I put my experience working with Policymic in the 100% positive column. I think many of the Policymic former and current writers are doing incredible things and that they want nothing but good for other people. They want, and are working, for positive change. I was really glad to see Laura Donovan writing for Attn:, for example.

I find a number of younger people who seem to be locked into a cycle of complaints, the same type of aggressive online attention-getting we see from many male media personalities, and the same lack of respect for older generations or diverse cultures and values that is typical of the Tsars, Kaisers or “American Titans” of the past.

Like Stalin became Tsar-Plus, worse than any Russian Tsar of prior generations, once his opportunity came. Like Hitler became Kaiser-Plus, worse than Kaiser Wilhelm ever thought of being.

Stalin has been commonly called a brute and a pig. What he was, was murderer to millions. He alone took the former Soviet Union back decades. People wanted freedom and opportunity after Imperial Russia and its abuses. They got the “Man of Steel.”

I now understand in all regards how and why my grandmother was one of the six founding members of the American Communist Party. It was at this time that women had barely achieved the right to vote in America. She was a first-time woman pharmacist in New York (Hell’s Kitchen) and California. She certainly would not have been welcomed by either U.S. established political party at that time; the Communists were the only ones who would have either welcomed, or listened to her.

My Grandma Mary was probably the most humane person I have ever met, and insightful enough about human nature to have easily repelled a serial rapist who broke into her small Fairfax District apartment when she was up in her 80s by saying, “Young man, if you touch me, you’ll get the worst disease you ever heard of!”

Like Stalin, some of these young militants today respect power — what they perceive of it. After watching the AHC documentary, which detailed some of Stalin’s consolidation of power — perhaps they are like Trotsky, who little understood the consequences of his snubbing Stalin. Average people “get” that you get back what you put into something, and the way you treat others is generally how you are yourself, treated in return (i.e. “The Golden Rule”).

These days, most people’s basic needs are met. They also get basic entertainment, comfort, and sexual needs met fairly easily.

Our intellectual and spiritual needs: not so much.

So, it is my hope that as we pass from one era to the next, we do not have the same circumstances as occurred with Hitler and Stalin, where higher-class hereditary monarchs and dictators were replaced by lower-class, non-hereditary, power-mongering ones who made their predecessors look like amateurs in oppression.

If you think you’re “left out” today and want to be the dominant voice of tomorrow, having no respect for those who came before you is hardly the way to make a change and make a difference.

American Genius

I’ve gotten a lot of insight from Temple Grandin. Toward the end of the filmed version of her life, she (portrayed by Clare Danes) tells a group of all-male, highly skeptical chain-smoking slaughterhouse owners why her humane system, which one comments is “like an airport for cows,” is an improvement over previous brute-force systems. “I – I’m like Edison or Tesla,” Temple says. “I see the way it will work. I can run through it all in my head.”

Temple GrandinAlthough we all eat safely today thanks to Temple’s human animal processing systems, and millions of children with autism and their families have gained inspiration and real-world skills thanks to Temple’s education and advocacy, she’s not an “American Genius” according to National Geographic. No woman or non-white person is. This show irritated me, but not enough to say anything about it until today.

There is a small Tumblr which allows safe, anonymous reports of gender-biased comments to women writers; it’s a fraction of the size of the “Shit People Say to Women Directors” film industry Tumblr which has helped to support the ACLU investigation into hiring practices in Hollywood. So, today the Tumblr about bad comments toward women writers has a 2-year old pandering post* by male internet celebrity writer Chuck Wendig, which pushed a legit Twitter meme started by Chocolat author Joanne Harris into second place. Because most of the readers of this Tumblr are female, fortunately yet more coverage provided to Wendig was *not* as heavily shared as Joanne’s project (4 notes to 19 last time I checked).

*Pandering Post: As my best friend Cathy always said, “When you live in crazyland, crazy seems normal.” So therefore the tradition of white males getting tons of attention by “sponsoring” complaints of females seemed “normal” to me, until about a year ago, I had just plain had enough. I don’t read them, I do not share them. Some exemplars of this genre include Jim Hines’ crusading for anti-sexual harassment policies and of course, Wendig’s extremely lengthy post of who knows how many reasons why women endure gender bias in publishing and how wrong guys who disagree are. Hundreds of comments, most from gushing females. There’s no links here because these “right-doers” (AKA attention whores) don’t need extra boosts. Now that I’m aware of this, I see these *everywhere*. For every legitimate statement by a female entrepreneur, woman in tech, or author, there’s at least 2-3 of these “pandering posts” or videos where a man gets attention for being “cool” and on the woman’s side. The magnitude of attention/”sharing” is always like 10:1 – 10 to the male/1 to any female. These men are nowhere to be found whenever actual work, money or real projects are under consideration.

I want to say Temple Grandin is lucky because she doesn’t care about this stuff. But Temple is acutely sensitive to injustice. Her filmed life story illustrates this over and over, as does her own autobiography. Once she figured out that people were biased against her, she persevered, using her own steady, persistent gifts and talents and plenty of creativity, to accomplish her goals.

As to me, I was born with a sense of injustice … to others. Poor treatment of others always resonated with me. It’s only taken 53 years for me to “get” poor treatment of my self.

So, back to the “American Geniuses.” I wrote about Maria Goeppert Mayer in my first appearance in Analog this past month. Maria is the second woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. She identified the structure of the atom itself. She worked on the Manhattan Project and many other critical atomic projects, often for free. She wouldn’t have been able to do as she’d done without the support of her husband Joe Mayer, an accomplished chemist. Joe lost at least one position (University of Chicago) for his support of his wife’s research.

As far as this “American Geniuses” show is concerned, Maria holds not a candle to “real geniuses” like Colt and Smith & Wesson, the firearms competitors, or media magnates like Hearst and Pulitzer. Out of the group of “geniuses,” probably only Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (competitors, LOL) and Edison and Tesla quality as actual geniuses who accomplished something positive for others. Maybe Philo Farnsworth. The rest are like Thank You For Smoking’s “Merchants of Death”.

People say Tesla was crazy, he was a monomaniac. Edison, like Temple Grandin, had a disability that made his interactions with others more limited (he was hearing impaired). Temple, of course, has autism and yes she’s like Edison and Tesla — yes she’s a genius! So again, even though she is objectively, verifiably one of the most influential, positive people of the 20th century, there are a fraction of the articles about Temple than there are about someone like Steve Jobs or … Chuck Wendig. No joke. But this 2012 article describes how her work to change slaughterhouses and animal treatment was a “long term project.”

If I may speak for myself, I have never cared about “being famous” or “attention.” I shy from it. I was thrilled to be able to operate the laptop at Comic-Con Thursday. If cameras come around, I will run.

But I know what we are doing is important. Temple would say “nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be” to explain why it was important to design human animal slaughter facilities. She explained her autism to others by saying she “thought in pictures.” She spoke simply and straightforwardly at all times.

So.

The Problem With Books

Everybody who’s rotating around the current publishing industry is smack dab in the middle of the 20 percent and that is the way they like it. Everything they say is devoted to supporting themselves: the same as Edison and J.P. Morgan were stone-committed to direct current before Morgan threw Edison under the bus. Neither saw a problem with DC being able to serve only wealthy urban dwellers, whereas crazed Tesla’s AC could serve everybody.

When I thought about people who exclusively read certain authors, or who only read certain types of books, and are very reluctant to deviate, I would picture Temple in her aunt’s house or college cafeteria, announcing, “I only eat jello and yogurt! I – I only eat jello and yogurt!” Well, these are “Temple-Type Readers,” I would think.

So, there are all those folks who didn’t get to attend a wonderful country boarding school like Temple did. Whose wonderful, humane, brave mothers did not have the privilege of graduating from Harvard. There’s all those folks who don’t have internet platforms, who are not James Altucher, who could write fifty fantastic articles and get less than 5 views on “Medium.” There’s all the people who don’t “know anybody.” There’s people serving time for crimes they didn’t do, or for crimes that should not be crimes at all. There’s people working jobs they hate just to put food on the table, and people who work 2-3 jobs for minimum wage who can’t put food on the table at all.

There are people who’ll never get a vacation. There are people who will never leave their home state. There are people who will quietly work and serve their whole lives long.

I think an awful lot of those people are “American Geniuses” too.

And they deserve books made for them. Books that affirm, instead of deny. Books that uplift, instead of downgrade.

I found my 45+ heroine in a bestseller/not a romance this morning: “Jack” Daniels. She’s a 48-year old pregnant detective trapped by a serial killer. The book opens with a “popular” serial killer who’s been featured in prior books murdering an innocent young woman with impunity and cruelty. He tells her he’ll “make her famous.” Instant best seller.

And people think more of this is the answer. It never crosses their minds that it’s not just like it would never cross Chuck Wendig’s mind that he’s actually being a giant douchebag by writing another of his long “splaining” articles. It’s like the cattle in Temple Grandin’s dip system. You can’t hang things on the walls. They will walk smoothly down the steps into the water. No chains or shadows to alarm them.