October 2nd, 2012


Seeds of Science

So I'm working on a Llewellyn article tonight, and I came across this in an article about mustard: "The Jewish philosopher, Nahmanides, mentions the universe expanded from the time of its creation, in which it was the size of a mustard seed."  And I was reminded of the pea instaton

The world talks about itself  to people who listen.  It never shuts up, really.  If you know this, you can find these amusing little parallel references in the most amazingly discontiguous places.  I love science, and history, and religion.

Female Characters and Victimization

Here's a discussion about female characters and victimization.

It started when a male fan asked when one of the female characters would get raped.  Not if, but when.  Okay, that's creepy.  Author said never.  That's her option.  It was pointed out that this is unrealistic.  That's really creepy.  It is also true.  If you write an analog of modern America, and you have more than 3 female characters, then statistically speaking one of them has experienced sexual violence.  For military women or Native American women it's 1 in 3.  If you have a whole story full of women who've never had that problem, okay great, they're empowered.  They're also kind of eclipsing the really huge fucked up mess of sexuality that is what modern American women have to deal with.  A majority of fantasy settings are patriarchal, just because it's what most writers are familiar with, consciously or not.  The numbers elseworld are rarely going to be more than a stone's throw away from the local ones, unless the author deliberately changes them.

Sometimes, there is no right, safe, easy, polite way to write that harms nobody.  Maybe sexual trauma isn't your thing to write about, maybe you think writing about it makes it worse.  But not talking about problems almost never leads to solutions, and it can make people who do have those problems feel excluded or erased.

Me, I'm a representational writer.  There are things I write less, or not at all, because they're just not my territory.  But for the most part I write life, I write experiences, I hike through the light and the shadow alike.  I look at what breaks characters, and what somebody thought would break them but doesn't.  So I include a lot of stuff that many people won't touch, as faithfully as I can.  Sometimes it upsets people; that's why I use warning labels when necessary.  

I have characters, female and male, who have survived various sexual attacks.  (For males, the percentage is about 1 in 9.)  I also have characters, including some very strong women, who don't have that experience.  I've even written cultures where it pretty much doesn't happen.  (All crimes have a spectrum, they're worse in some cultures than others; and the low can approach zero.)  There is variety.

The one thing I won't do is railroad my protagonists, because a protagonist needs agency.  Bit characters and villains don't always get this protection; I'm not above arbitrarily belting a bad guy over the head now and then, for plot or personal gratification.

When we write, we tell stories about how the world is, or could be, or should never have been; our hopes and our hates are all in there.  It reveals what we choose to see, or not to see, to uphold or wipe away.  And how  we write it matters too.  I won't tell you what to choose, to write or to read.  I will tell you to choose mindfully.  I will tell you that your choices matter, sometimes in ways you may not even realize.

Poetry Fishbowl Open!

The Poetry Fishbowl is now CLOSED.  Thank you all for your enthusiasm.

Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  Today's theme is "horror: demons."  I will be checking this page periodically throughout the day. When people make suggestions, I'll pick some and weave them together into a poem ... and then another ... and so on. I'm hoping to get a lot of ideas and a lot of poems.

Watch for the linkbacks perk to go live.  Click to read "To Attend a Ball" (The Steamsmith, 20 verses).

What Is a Poetry Fishbowl?

Writing is usually considered a solitary pursuit. One exception to this is a fascinating exercise called a "fishbowl." This has various forms, but all of them basically involve some kind of writing in public, usually with interaction between author and audience. A famous example is Harlan Ellison's series of "stories under glass" in which he sits in a bookstore window and writes a new story based on an idea that someone gives him. Writing classes sometimes include a version where students watch each other write, often with students calling out suggestions which are chalked up on the blackboard for those writing to use as inspiration.

In this online version of a Poetry Fishbowl, I begin by setting a theme; today's theme is "horror: demons." I invite people to suggest characters, settings, and other things relating to that theme. Then I use those prompts as inspiration for writing poems.

Cyberfunded Creativity

I'm practicing cyberfunded creativity. If you enjoy what I'm doing and want to see more of it, please feed the Bard. The following options are currently available:

1) Sponsor the Fishbowl -- Here is a PayPal button for donations. There is no specific requirement, but $1 is the minimum recommended size for PayPal transactions since they take a cut from every one. You can also donate via check or money order sent by postal mail. If you make a donation and tell me about it, I promise to use one of your prompts. Anonymous donations are perfectly welcome, just won't get that perk. General donations will be tallied, and at the end of the fishbowl I’ll post a list of eligible poems based on the total funding; then the audience can vote on which they want to see posted.

2) Swim, Fishie, Swim! -- A new feature in conjunction with fishbowl sponsorship is this progress meter showing the amount donated.  There are multiple perks, the top one being a half-price poetry sale on one series when donations reach $300.

3) Buy It Now! -- Gakked from various e-auction sites, this feature allows you to sponsor a specific poem. If you don't want to wait for some editor to buy and publish my poem so you can read it, well, now you don't have to. Sponsoring a poem means that I will immediately post it on my blog for everyone to see, with the name of the sponsor (or another dedicate) if you wish; plus you get a nonexclusive publication right, so you can post it on your own blog or elsewhere as long as you keep the credits intact. You'll need to tell me the title of the poem you want to sponsor. I'm basing the prices on length, and they're comparable to what I typically make selling poetry to magazines (semi-pro rates according to Duotrope's Digest).

0-10 lines: $5
11-25 lines: $10
26-40 lines: $15
41-60 lines: $20
Poems over 60 lines, or with very intricate structure, fall into custom pricing.

4) Commission a scrapbook page. I can render a chosen poem in hardcopy format, on colorful paper, using archival materials for background and any embellishments. This will be suitable for framing or for adding to a scrapbook. Commission details are here.  See latest photos of sample scrapbooked poems: "Sample Scrapbooked Poems 1-24-11"

5) Spread the word. Echo or link to this post on your LiveJournal, other blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon, or any other social network.  Useful Twitter hashtags include #poetryfishbowl and #promptcall.  Encourage people to come here and participate in the fishbowl.  If you have room for it, including your own prompt will give your readers an idea of what the prompts should look like; ideally, update later to include the thumbnail of the poem I write, and a link to the poem if it gets published.  If there is at least one new prompter or donor, I will post an extra freebie poem.

Linkback perk: I have a spare series poem available, and each linkback will reveal a verse of the poem.  One person can do multiple links if they're on different services, like Dreamwidth or Twitter, rather than all on LiveJournal.  dreamwriters has volunteered to post the verses this month, so you'll need to notify her of your linkbacks in a comment to her post, in order for them to count.  "To Attend a Ball" belongs to The Steamsmith series and has 20 verses.

Additional Notes

1) I customarily post replies to prompt posts telling people which of their prompts I'm using, with a brief description of the resulting poem(s). If you want to know what's available, watch for those "thumbnails."

2) You don't have to pay me to see a poem based on a prompt that you gave me. I try to send copies of poems to people, mostly using the LJ message function.  (Anonymous prompters will miss this perk unless you give me your eddress.)  These are for-your-eyes-only, though, not for sharing.

3) Sponsors of the Poetry Fishbowl in general, or of specific poems, will gain access to an extra post in appreciation of their generosity.  While you're on the Donors list, you can view all of the custom-locked posts in that category.  Click the "donors" tag to read the archive of those.  I've also posted a list of other donor perks there.  I customarily leave donor names on the list for two months, so you'll get to see the perk-post from this month and next.

4) After the Poetry Fishbowl concludes, I will post a list of unsold poems and their prices, to make it easier for folks to see what they might want to sponsor.

5) If donations total $100 by Friday evening then you get a free $15 poem; $150 gets you a free $20 poem; and $200 gets you a free epic, posted after the Poetry Fishbowl.  These will usually be series poems if I have them; otherwise I may offer non-series poems or series poems in a different size.  If donations reach $250, you get one step toward a bonus fishbowl; three of these activates the perk, and they don't have to be three months in a row.  Everyone will get to vote on which series, and give prompts during the extra fishbowl, although it may be a half-day rather than a whole day.  If donations reach $300, you get a piece of bonus material for a poetic series.

Feed the Fish!
Now's your chance to participate in the creative process by posting ideas for me to write about. Today's theme is "horror: demons."  I'll be soliciting ideas for demons, fallen angels, clerics, innocent bystanders, lost souls, mistaken identities, holy symbols, sacred or profaned weapons, dimension-traveling devices, seals and sigils, ancient tomes, symbolic locations, dimensional gates, mythic places, churches, underworlds, summonings or banishings, escapes from hell, deals with the devil, exorcisms, conversions, infernal or celestial languages, and poetic forms in particular. But anything is welcome, really. If you manage to recommend a form that I don't recognize, I will probably pounce on it and ask you for its rules. I do have the first edition of Lewis Turco's The Book of Forms which covers most common and many obscure forms.

I'll post at least one of the fishbowl poems here so you-all can enjoy it. (Remember, you get an extra freebie poem if someone new posts a prompt or makes a donation, and additional perks at $100-$300 in donations.  Linkbacks reveal verses of "To Attend a Ball.") The rest of the poems will go into my archive for magazine submission.
Fly Free

Poem: "Two of a Kind"

This is today's freebie.  It was inspired by a prompt from kelkyag.

Two of a Kind

There are demons,
and then there are demons.

There are fallen angels,
and there are devils made from scratch.

Fallen angels are bittersharp,
like cider that should be sweet gone off instead.

Devils are acrid,
like burnt tar that was never wholesome.

There is nothing so terribly corrosive
as love turned to hate.

There is nothing so hideously innocent
as hate that has never known love.

They sit side by side,
black-feathered wings against leathery membranes.

They are two of a kind, fallen angels and devils,
but nobody would ever mistake each for the other.