August 7th, 2007

muppetology need bears fozzie & kermit

(no subject)

Book report #69: Phil & Kaja Foglio, Girl Genius Vol 4, Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus of Dreams
Book report #70: Phil & Kaja Foglio,
Girl Genius Vol 5, Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess
Book report #71: Phil & Kaja Foglio, Girl Genius Vol 6, Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite

I have to admit, by the end of book six, the cascading misunderstandings started to seriously get on my nerves, and I think the slapstick was working too hard, and getting in the way of the story.

Still, this is hard to resist:

"He was killed three years ago by some bad clams."
"Bad clams?"
"Yes. They had axes."
rengeek brahe

universe is shaped exactly like the earth. go straight long enough you end up where you were.

What science fiction writers talk about in their spare time (with free Buckaroo Banzai quote):

[20:11] matociquala: The concept of a quantum eraser hurts my head.
[20:12] matociquala:
[20:13] stillnotbored: yeah....
[20:13] stillnotbored: I don't understand any of that
[20:14] matociquala: I kind of understand it.
[20:14] matociquala: but it hurts my head that it works.
[20:14] stillnotbored: I think I used all my brain power at work today
[20:14] matociquala: Okay.
[20:15] matociquala: first, you turn one photon into twins
[20:15] katallen: is pretty
[20:15] matociquala: an entangled pair
[20:15] stillnotbored: OH
[20:16] stillnotbored: got it now
[20:16] matociquala: then you send one to a detector and the other through the classic double slit experiment
[20:16] matociquala: where it generates an interference pattern.
[20:17] matociquala: because according to qunatum mechanics, your one photon went through both slits.
[20:17] matociquala: right?
[20:17] matociquala: right.
[20:17] stillnotbored: right
[20:17] matociquala: Okay, so. Now you take a polarizing plate and put it between the slits and the target
[20:17] matociquala: so you can tell which slit the photon went through
[20:17] matociquala: and the interference pattern vanishes
[20:18] matociquala: because now it only went through one slit.
[20:18] matociquala: In other words, you retroactively erased its path through the other slit.
[20:18] matociquala: THAT is the part that hurts my head.
[20:18] stillnotbored: yeah
[20:18] matociquala: And if you put the polarizing plate BEFORE the slit?
[20:18] stillnotbored: wow
[20:18] matociquala: interference pattern remains.
[20:19] matociquala: because now it went through both slits after you detected it.
[20:19] stillnotbored: wow
[20:19] matociquala: Thus the non-bogus part of the quantum mechanics in Undertow.
[20:19] matociquala: *g*
[20:19] stillnotbored: is this part of the observer effect or what ever its called?
[20:19] matociquala: You really can change the universe by looking at it.
[20:19] matociquala: This is the observer effect
[20:20] stillnotbored: then I did get it *g*
[20:20] matociquala: *g*
[20:20] matociquala: You can change what USED to happen in the universe by looking at it NOW.
[20:20] stillnotbored: and it does twist my head around backwards, but how friggin cool
[20:21] matociquala: It's so damned neat
[20:21] stillnotbored: it really is
[20:22] katallen: I am all about the QM
[20:23] matociquala: You know, I swear I can handle everything except the retroactivity part.
[20:24] stillnotbored: it makes me think time travel
[20:24] matociquala: Yeah
[20:24] stillnotbored: changing the past by looking at the present
[20:24] katallen: well if it helps... you can always work with a different time paradigm
[20:24] matociquala: Actually, I think they have gotten particles to travel back in time
[20:25] matociquala: Well, yeah, it's just a direction.
[20:25] katallen: (and I do not want Kickback and Taya muttering at me)
[20:25] matociquala: But I am a flatlander trying to grok up.
[20:25] matociquala: yanno?
[20:25] katallen: well you can always consider that everything is actually happening simultaneously
[20:26] katallen: and linear time is just the way that a flatlander can reduce the information to a comprehensible level
[20:26] matociquala: *g* Which is why the snide thing about "time is what keeps everything from happening at once" is really a profound bit of wisdom.
[20:26] matociquala: Much like "wherever you go, there you are."
[20:26] katallen: ::grins::
[20:28] katallen: you know... physics just isn't as hard a science as it used to be
[20:28] katallen: it's gone all wishy-washy and feminine ::grins::
writing carnival

it's been the ruin of many a poor girl and me oh god i'm one

It is, as many have noted, International Blog Against Racism Week. 

This is a blog. I am against racism. Therefore, we are observing the week.

I waited until Tuesday to observe it because I figured it would be a nice idea to make one really good post rather than a series of slipshod ones.

My entire life, I have lived in mixed-race* communities. My best friend in first grade was Renee, my next-door neighbor, who was black. (We didn't have African-Americans yet.) As a little girl, I was given a dark-skinned babydoll (of the real eyes that open and wets herself when you feed her from a bottle variety) by a person of color who was a friend of the family. The reason my middle name is Bear (and the reason I use it as my nom de plume) is because it is the name I was given by a Metis friend of my mother's when I was in grade school, and I have adopted it into my legal name. I have had good friends and acquaintances who were Cambodian, Chinese, and Japanese; Trinis and Jamaicans; Indians and Nigerians--immigrants, and good old mongrel-Americans. According to DNA analysis, something like 90% of persons of American southern heritage are of African descent. My grandmother was from a proud old antebellum Alabama family, and I know there's Cherokee back there; I can only assume that, statistically speaking, by the one-drop rule, I'm "black" as well. (Although I can't claim to be of mixed race because I am acculturated white, working-class, Yankee/immigrant; I'm a third culture kid, but it's because I was raised queer/pagan.)

I was raised in the Lesbian counterculture in the 1980s, in a time when women of color were placed on a sort of pedestal of political correctness. Carel Bierce is modeled on a real person; so is Jenny Casey. Though none of the details of those characters lives are similar to the women I knew growing up, their personalities and their appearances are strongly influenced by these things.

I find it impossible to write a novel in which persons of color do not appear, unless there is some very good reason for it. (The book being set in not-Iceland in not-940 AD is a pretty compelling reason, say.)

I still manage to be a clueless white person more often than I'd like. There is no shame in being a clueless white person.

There is a fair amount of shame in willfully remaining one.

Kameron Hurley recently blogged about how "writing colorblind is writing white." I'm not sure this is entirely accurate, having not-too-long-ago read Neil Gaiman's sly Anansi Boys and smirked cheerfully when, two thirds of the way through the book, I realized that while there are black characters and Asian characters, the only time anybody is ever specifically identified by their skin tone is when they are white. That, I thought, was a lovely and subtle reversal, and a very nice way to point out the base assumptions of the reader and get them reassessed.

On the other hand, I can attest that characters of color are often mistaken for white people unless somebody specifically points out that they are not, you know, [default.] In my own work, I've experienced this a couple of times--with Elspeth Dunsany (she's Creole, if you missed it) and Vincent Katherinessen. (Apparently, the idea of an auburn-haired, freckled black man is outside of many people's default experience, even when his skin tone is described as reddish-brown. And, yanno, nanites. Ate all the white people.)

And that seems to me a huge part of the problem. The stereotype, the default, the assumption. We (the clueless white people) assume that black men don't have freckles. (Some do.) We assume that Creole women don't have hazel eyes. (Some do.) We assume all sorts of things. This despite the description of Vincent's cornrows, of Elspeths' corkscrew curls (and her ironing them) and "bronze" skin. This despite the fact that she jokes at one point about the inadvisability of falling for white boys.

The base cultural assumption is to not see black people until it is pointed out that they're black. As the base individual is assumed to be male ("he" is the neuter pronoun), the base individual is also assumed to be white.

Some of that is laziness. Some of it is institutional. Some is ignorance. Some is ingrained reflex. Some of it is growing up around a lot of other people just like us.

Well, wait. Let me try to explain by example.

Of the seventeen novels or mosaic novels I've sold (Jesus, seventeen? *checks* Erm. Yep. Seventeen.) in nine of them, there is at least one protagonist or major character who is non-white. (Yes, I'm on my website bibliography counting now. I do not actually keep a list.)

Three more (the Jacob's Ladder books) are mostly devoid of racial cues, because the important color difference is between the blue people and the not-so-blue people. ("Are you bluish? You don't look bluish.)

One has no white people at all in it. (All the white people were eaten by nanites. So sad. I hear there was a party.) This one is already included in the above count, though.

Two of the remaining ones are set in not-Iceland and two are set in Elizabethan England, both of which were mostly if not entirely devoid of nonwhite people (although there were a very few blacks in Elizabethan London), and one is set in contrafactual upper-class New York.

Number of my books with identifiably non-white people on the covers?


Carnival. Which has Michelangelo Osiris Leary Kusanagi-Jones on the cover, with distinctly African features (despite the name (there are reasons for the name) he's from Cairo, and he's of subSaharan parentage) and if you look in the crevices of his mask, you can see very dark eyes and skin tone. And which has Lesa Pretoria on the back, looking more Brazilian than Asian/First Peoples (In my head, she looks a bit like Karin Lowachee). (That's Angelo over there in the icon. Man, I love that cover.)

Whiskey didn't even make the cover of his own book, alas. (If you're wondering, his human form looks a bit like Colin Salmon and a bit like the lead singer of the Fine Young Cannibals.) In fact, none of the people of color in that book made the cover. Jenny got bleached (she also got her head cut off, because she's over forty).

Admitedly, seven of these books do not yet have cover art. But...

I do not yet know what the covers for All the Windwracked Stars or The Sea thy Mistress will look like, although I have hopes we might get a brother on that last one, since the two main POV characters are both people of color. (I still need to flip a coin and see if the younger one is male or female.) 

By the Mountain Bound, all Vikings. No hope there. Ink & Steel is going to be Elizabeth I, and Hell & Earth is going to be the Queen of the Faeries.

So if you, like me, are a clueless white person, and you ever wondered why people of color feel as if they are still marginalized, ignored, not the default, invisible?


Maybe there's a reason for that after all.

*I'm very uncomfortable with the word "race" as used to describe people. But then, part of the problem here is that words are slippery and we don't really have the right ones.