Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

How Not to Run a Book Signing

19 May 2014

For those of you not tuned into the romance world, you may have missed the big kerfluffle over the RT Booklovers convention signing.
Like some of the smaller pro-heavy cons in SF/F that are open to all, namely World Fantasy and the SFWA Nebula Weekend, there’s a huge signing called the Giant Book Fair. At 1200 people, RT isn’t that much larger than a typical World Fantasy, but it does cost about three times as much and is far more program heavy.
I’ll tell you something: on the whole, no one buys books like romance readers. No one.
Furthermore, most of their favorite authors go, and most of them want to buy and get books autographed there at the con. A lot of the writers have giveaways (like samples of a new book or glossy cover cards for indie authors), so it pays to visit all the writers you care about.
I’ll tell you that, as an author, I’ve loved these kinds of signings. They can be awesome fun. Worst case, you wind up sitting next to an interesting writer you didn’t know before, give a couple of autographs, and talk to some people.
The problem: with there being more and more romance writers, and not enough space to set them all up in. So how did they divide them up?
By whether or not the books purchased were returnable, as Courtney Milan explains.
Now, if you were looking for a book in the computer section, would you think to look in an entirely different room because O’Reilly books aren’t (or at least weren’t, back when I worked in a bookstore) returnable?
Multiply that times 1200. Now add the fact that a significant fraction of the people who are writers and signing for people publish for both kinds of presses and therefore it’s not going to be clear to the average reader who is going to wind up where.
Worse, authors had to pick whether they were going to sign one kind of book or the other. So, if like Courtney Milan, you happened to have a number of books published traditionally, you had to decide if you wanted to be in that room or the other. The one where you might be perceived as not playing for the team with your traditional publisher, or where you’re not playing for yourself or your small press for your other works. It’s a horrible situation to put authors in, let alone trying to have readers find them.
Also, to give you an idea of the size of the rooms, one writer I follow on Twitter tweeted that her signing was in row 38.
There are no easy solutions on this one. I get that.

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Myofascial Pain: What Trigger Points Are Like

15 May 2014

Posting this because that occasional random pains you may have may respond to this technique. Myofascial pain is chronic inflammation where a nerve enters a muscle, but you can have acute pain from temporary inflammation. If you have a random sore muscle, it probably wouldn’t hurt to look up the trigger point and see if rubbing there would help.
Tuesday, I had an appointment with the pain doc. One of the things I have to do is a pain check, recording all my pain. I happened to gently grab my upper arm—and yelped.
Most of my upper arm, on a line roughly tip-of-shoulder-blade to outer-point-of-elbow, was incredibly sore, and along that line. Not, you know, where I’d normally touch my arm.
Myofascial pain is experienced in a different location from where the source of the pain actually is. The source is, as a general rule, closer to the spine and often closer to the head. I visited and found the page that showed where I was experiencing my pain.
The pain maps to the A on that page, which shows several trigger points on the scalene muscles. I feel with my fingers for the inflamed lump of muscle I’ve learned that corresponds to a trigger point, and pain starts shooting down my arm in the area where I felt the pain earlier. Bingo!
Note that this is one of those places you have to be really careful about: you can use a lot of pressure in some places, but not this one. There’s an artery right there, so you can safely use only gentle finger pressure.
Then, because I have fibro and the shooting pains irritated one of my fibro tender points, later I get another reoccurrence of the shooting pain, which kept me awake Tuesday night. 🙁
I woke up with incredibly, unbelievably sore shoulders after sleeping 9 hours, so it must have been good. It’s like relieving a bit of tension in that one spot happened to cause all other nearby muscles to have to renegotiate their place in the world.

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Why I Love Frequent Flyer Miles

14 May 2014

In one simple pic. This is a business-class ticket. Granted, it’s a one-way business-class ticket for a single person, but still…try getting that kind of value in a US domestic coach ticket redemption.

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Exes and Cutoff Culture

14 May 2014

If the expected added benefits exceed the expected added costs, do it. If not, don’t. — Marc McNeil, my econ prof

Several people have responded recently to a guy’s failure to understand why his ex-girlfriend wants no contact. I was particularly moved by Ferret’s response.
I have something of a secret: I’ve never actually dated in the traditional sense. I always went out with people I’d gotten to know already, so it was more a “Hey, I don’t just like talking with you, I’d like more” thing. Given that, cutting people off was (and is) really hard because it typically meant straining my social group, too.

Tale the First: I Got Cut Off

When I was in college, I dated a guy. Around Christmas that year, he seemed to be reluctant to make plans. I found out he’d started seeing someone else before ending it with me. I called him repeatedly to try to figure out what was going on before I knew that.
He, rightfully, cut me off.
He wanted to start a relationship with someone else. Granted, he handled it badly (he did not communicate that he wanted to see other people, plus we had made tentative plans then he went radio silent about them), but so did I. I still have no idea what happened from his perspective. Would I like to know? No one likes that kind of a mystery hanging. But if that’s the kind of person he was, it wouldn’t have worked out even if I’d been more perfect. Clearly, from his perspective, I wasn’t what he needed.
As it happens, I was wondering what happened to him the other day and googled. I found out his mom had died a few years ago, and the description of her in her obit made me smile. She’d been into surfing until late in life, and made Hawai’ian shirts and ran a beachwear shop for a living after I’d known her. It made me wish I’d known her better.
On the off chance he ever reads this: L, I’m sorry I was an ass.

Tale the Second: I Cut Someone Off (but too late)

This one’s really hard to write because there’s so much to it.
I was working for Scientology when I met X (not his initial), who was working as tech support for a program I was using at Scn to write our payroll software. (Scientology payroll is its own weird beast.)
X was, and is, a born-again Christian. So, let’s put it this way: the fact that we were not compatible in that respect was known at the outset. However, X was lapsed, so we started seeing each other. Then, when we started getting serious, he stopped wanting to have sex. He’d realized that his faith was important to him. Suddenly, it was crucial. So to speak.
So then I started going to church with him for a while, and there was a moment that made me realize that I definitely wasn’t in the right place nor with the right person. We were at his church, and they were singing Old Rugged Cross. He was crying.
I was trying hard not to laugh.
I’d never heard it as a hymn. But I’d heard Leslie Fish’s filk (“Stone Dance”) set to the tune; the chorus is:

So we’ll dance ’round the stone menhir ring,
‘Till the flames and the fire have died down.
We’ll emote, slit a goat’s throat and sing,
Then get dressed and drive back into town.

That was the moment when I accepted that I was just never going to fit in anywhere—and that was okay.
It was a few weeks before I ended it. He really genuinely never understood. He thought that if I’d just convert to Christianity, it’d be all better. What he never seemed to get was that the person he wanted wasn’t me.
So we remained friends, after a fashion; we’d started a business together and I still wanted to make a go of that. I started dating D some time later, and he was mean to D, and I just snapped at X.
The problem with that kind of behavior is that it fed who X was.
As a born-again Christian, X had bought into the idea that men should be the head of household and the wife should submit to the man. Catch is, X was a sub and into humiliation. (And I am not a domme—or a sub—but that’s another story. I will say that probably the most common BDSM practice I genuinely don’t get is, in fact, humiliation.) So he had an intractable problem in that his choice of faith was at odds with who he was, and his preferred life partner was at odds with his choices and needs. His life started a downward spiral at that point.
Because it was intractable, he wasn’t dating. Also, he hadn’t given up on me yet. The only way to get his needs met was to have a significant female in his life chewing him out.
Which led to bad behavior (e.g., how he treated D) and my response to it. Meanwhile, I can be a mean person, and I was all too happy to have an outlet for that. Except that he was creating drama and I was feeding off of it.
This went on for years. I moved across country, had several significant relationships, and married. Then was suddenly widowed. After that one-year period when you’re not supposed to make significant life changes, I decided to move back to Orange County and got a job offer.
I did, but then I needed a place to stay. X had a room available. He was living alone in a 3-bedroom house at the time. His hoarding had gotten so bad that he wasn’t able to live in his bedroom any more. (Later, it got even worse.)
I got him a job interview at the company I started at. He was hired.
His parents invited me over for Easter dinner that year. It became obvious that he’d told them that he expected us to resume our relationship and that he was going to ask me to marry him.
One morning, I found him outside my bedroom door hovering. I woke up suddenly. It was creepy.
I was in an awful situation. I’d paid out everything I had for my late husband’s final medical bills after his stroke (and there were more bills than money), I’d just moved across country, and I had $60 left when I arrived. I couldn’t afford to move again.
I wound up asking my employer (who’d already given me a signing bonus that I used to get out of my lease and move everything) for an emergency advance so I could afford to move again. I spent my work days pretending that my ex hadn’t been inappropriate so I could demonstrate that I could work with the ass. I did, however, tell my closest work partners (and my boss, embarrassingly enough) so that they would have my back.
It didn’t end then. I wish I could say it did, but it didn’t.
A few years ago, I realized that, for many, many years, there’d been nothing positive for me in the relationship. I missed the good parts of who he was back when I met him, but I have other friends who share those things with me now, and I don’t need that from X any more.
Instead, a flaw in my character exploited one of his needs, and he also took advantage of that. Unlike a true domme, though, I wasn’t doing it out of a place of respect or control. I had no intention of taking the relationship further, but he kept not giving up hope. In that sense, cutting him off would have been kinder to him.
I don’t miss his racism. He’s one of those Limbaugh-listening Republicans, so I don’t miss that either. (This was not how he was when I met him, to be clear.)
Clearly the reverse isn’t true. I’ve gotten LinkedIn requests, Facebook requests, and follows on Google Plus.
No. Just no.
If I’d cut him off at some appropriate point earlier on, I’d have been in a better place. I should have, and I didn’t. Lesson learned.

Tale the Third: I Get Cut Off

Between the time when I left X and moved back to the area, I dated a guy I had a total crush on. We’ll call him P.
In my “I’m not thinking about the implications of what I’m saying” moments, I said something that, truly, is the kind of thing no one should ever say to anyone. Worse, when he angrily called me on it, I got defensive and made it worse.
There was something about him that changed my life. It truly was an inflection point of my life, and I have no idea why. It wasn’t, however, an inflection point for his.
That’s another valuable lesson, though: just because someone is that person who can reach in past your boundaries and cause your little house of cards to shift irrevocably does not mean you do the same for that person.
Should he ever find this: I’m sorry I was a total jerk. I’m sorry I made it worse. Thank you, you really did change my life for the better. I hope yours has worked out.

Tale the Fourth: I Cut Someone Off After Finding them Again

I’ve also talked about a fourth case where I cut someone off. The other point: in terms of longevity over years, he’s the person I dated the longest apart from Rick. I even dated him around X and P. Which—should tell you something. He never was that person in my life. If he were honest, he’d admit that I was never that person for him, either. I wish that we’d been able to be friends and talk about things we enjoyed, but we can’t be.

Possibly the Most Relevant Points

The me of today would date exactly zero of these four people, though I’d be most tempted by P.
If you can actually genuinely be friends with an ex and that works for you, then go for it. But realize that there are two (or more) people involved, and those people may have different answers and for different reasons. Respect that.
No one owes you an answer.
No one owes you insight. Corollary: The insight you have about why is likely wrong.

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The Seventies: Getting into Programming

14 May 2014

Note: this is part of a much longer piece I’m writing, which I’ll announce later. I thought you’d enjoy this first draft excerpt.
I took my first programming class in the summer of 1975; I was 15 when I started. The programming lab was in the math and science building of Saddleback College. Back in those days, they had a Data General Nova 3 minicomputer with 64K of core memory (not RAM) and 64K of floating point core. Now, those of you who’ve never seen core memory, each bit is a magnet on a larger lattice framework and 64k of core took up a significant amount of space, though what we had, both floating point and regular memory, probably fit into less space than that photo I linked to.
Saddleback’s Nova did have a hard drive that was about the size of a washing machine, with one fixed platter set and one removable one. I don’t remember exactly how much drive space it had, but let’s just say it was a handful of megabytes.
I grew fascinated with the computer lab. The smell of the oil on the paper tape drives, the sound of the hard drives seeking, the gentle clicking of other switches and relays, the drama when the multiplexer melted over 4th of July weekend. I loved every bit of it.
My dad had said, “You like puzzles, you’re good at math. You’d be great at this, and you might actually enjoy it.” Back then, programming wasn’t a big industry, so he didn’t actually expect it to be a field I’d really go into. It was more one of those parental “hey, check it out” things.
At the time, I was extremely shy, and screwing up in front of other people, or where other people could watch, was my least favorite thing ever.
So, even though I considered it impersonal, that was precisely why programming worked for me. If I couldn’t figure something out right away, the computer would tell me I was wrong and I’d suffer in silence. I’d work at different approaches to the problem until I understood it well enough that I’d have the solution worked out.
Because of my immersion into computers and programming, when there was an opening for a lab assistant the next term, I was offered the position, and accepted. I learned more about the Nova minicomputers and read the entire thick manual on operating it, trying to understand the relationship between assembler (which I had not yet taken, but could read through simpler bits of) and the binary it translated into.
The minicomputer took up about half a rack, and its hard drives cabinets were about the size of a modern washing machine. The entire thing needed enough power that it had to have a raised subfloor, quite common in computer rooms of the day.
When booting the Nova every morning when the lab opened, someone had to hand-check the paper tape driver in binary using the front panel switches. Now, one of the beauties of core memory is that it’s non-volatile, so that usually translated to three things: 1) checking that the sequence was still correctly in memory, fixing it if necessary; 2) going to the memory address where the driver started, then 3) start the system running from there. Eventually, I memorized it enough that I could check the entire sequence without thinking. It just became a familiar pattern of numbers.
Saddleback offered a single class in Basic programming (that everyone took first) plus one in Assembler and another in Fortran. All three were taught through the Math department. You had to do the lab work for Fortran at UC Irvine, which was about 15 miles away. The fourth class offered, Cobol, was taught through the Business department, and you had to do the lab work at Cal State Fullerton. This was the one class I never took, though.
That’s it. Four total classes, plus any independent study opportunities.
At the time, there were zero Computer Science degree programs in the United States, so far as I knew. You could get an Engineering degree with a Computer emphasis (EECS), or a Math degree, or a Business degree, but no standalone degree in Computer Science that wasn’t primarily about another discipline. That had yet to be invented.
So if this happened to be your thing, as it was mine, it was a tough field to enter back in 1975. You didn’t really learn enough at the community college level to do it full time in industry, but how else would you learn enough? The four-year programs weren’t much better.
These days, you’d buy a computer and work from home on various projects, perhaps open source ones.
Back then, a computer cost on the order of a year’s rent (at least by the time you got enough doohickeys to make it actually useful for anything) and required being soldered together. Of course, this was the kind of project that friends would help you with. In fact, four of us did exactly this for my high school physics project the following year. Having helped my father solder together the parts on a Heathkit oscilloscope, I did an awful lot of the soldering on that project.
Effectively, the price and difficulty barriers meant no one had a computer at home in that era. Computers like the original Apple I were just starting to become available.
One day, the lab got a request for a job interview from a local business, BasicFour, headquartered on the Irvine/Costa Mesa border near South Coast Plaza. They’d asked to interview a more senior lab assistant. He was 17, had a few months more experience than I did, but he’d also recently accepted a job offer.
The lab manager handed the information to me and said, “This could be a great opportunity for you.”
I called and got an in person interview. I was so excited that it wasn’t until after I’d gone home that I realized no one had asked me any programming questions. I was given a tour and offered an alternate, lesser position.
“Normally we start women out in a data entry position,” the man in the suit said. It paid less than half as much money. Since data entry positions have largely gone away—the position was for a glorified typist, still very much considered “women’s work” at that time. If nothing else good ever came of the Internet, at least women don’t have to put up with men feigning being too good to type their own crap.
I turned it down, but gave no reason.
Dejected, I almost didn’t go back to the Saddleback lab the next day. I considered calling in sick. When I did go in, I reluctantly walked over to my boss’s office.
“How’d it go?” she asked.
I told her what they’d said, then I told her that I’d turned them down.
“Good,” she said. “They shouldn’t have done that.” She asked me what I wanted to do, ensuring that I knew that I could report what they’d said.
“Find a job with a company that treats people better.”
“Good idea,” she said, then said she wouldn’t be sending anyone else to interview there. Ever.
At that time, I wasn’t willing to write off BasicFour, even though I probably should have. They were a local employer. They gave me an interview. It didn’t matter that they screwed up so badly. I figured—perhaps correctly, perhaps not—that they may change their minds later. Given limited opportunities at the time, I didn’t want to alienate them. It hadn’t occurred to me then, but would now, that some of the people in charge of that policy would later become involved in other local ventures, so that was probably a wise choice. Unfortunate that I had to even think about that, then or now.
I was sixteen years old, I hadn’t even had a programming job yet apart from some work I’d done for my father, and I was already worried about being blacklisted.
Heck of a way to start a career.

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Ahh, Hugo Voting Packet Politics

13 May 2014

Note: I later changed the rule below due to the Amazon/Hachette tiff, putting Orbit books first.
Essentially, my policy is one Rick uses for other things: make it easy for me to help you. Orbit isn’t.
John Scalzi discusses Orbit’s decision to only include previews of their three nominees here.
This year’s kind of rare—I spent my year reading out of genre and have read exactly zero of the nominated novels.
My usual rule for book-length works is:
If it’s not in the Hugo Voter’s Packet, I don’t vote for it.
This year, I need to modify that:
If it’s not in the Hugo Voter’s Packet in complete form, I don’t vote for it.
Why? Because not providing a nominated book says to me that the Hugo Awards aren’t perceived as valuable by the publisher. Why should I reward that?
Meanwhile, this weekend attendees at RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans are getting a thumb drive with 349 books. Self-published books, granted, but who has more to lose (or gain) than they do? (I have one of those, fwiw, Felt Tips: Office Supply Erotica, edited by Tiffany Reisz.)
There are a few modifiers to my rules:

  1. I’ll consider voting for a work if I already own the book. So, of the Hugo Nominees for Best Novel this year, what do I already own? But, if I haven’t read it yet, it goes in line after the provided books.
  2. If the book’s not supplied in EPUB format, it’s not in the packet. None of this PDF shit.
  3. If the ebook’s on sale during the award reading period, I might consider purchasing it. (I will read the sample first, though, so providing one actually does help. I guess I should thank Orbit for that.)

If I read a book in a Hugo packet and I love the book, I will buy it if I hadn’t already. So, in that sense, being nominated already means I’m more likely to a) read the book and b) buy the book than any other random book published last year.
I no longer read print books, and not being a Kindle person, I don’t do ebook library loans.
In general, there are 1-2 Hugo-shortlisted novels per year that I’d buy. Stross wrote my favorite book, and the nominated book is the third in a series (and I haven’t read the first two in that series). Ann Leckie’s been getting a lot of buzz, I just hadn’t gotten around to buying and reading her book yet. And I’m so far behind on Mira Grant books that it’s not funny (though this one’s in a new series, so there’s that). All three are affected by Orbit’s decision not to put entire books in the packet. Here’s the joint post by the three affected Orbit authors.
I’ve already established that I’ll be putting Larry dead last. (Edit: to clarify, I mean in reading order. Since I haven’t yet read his book, I’m not sure where I’d rank it on the ballot, but I can say it’s unlikely I’ll get to it during the voting period.) Why? I don’t mind hearing people say, “I liked this, it’s eligible, I think you could check it out,” but I think that putting together a slate crosses the line. (This is aside from any issues of what he did or didn’t recommend.) So he goes after the whole Orbit crowd.
…which leaves…
(cue dramatic music)
I guess I’ll go about finally reading The Wheel of Time then. (Those books on the shelf? Rick’s. I almost never read incomplete series.)
Tentative reading order, possibly to be modified later:

  1. Wheel of Time
  2. Stross
  3. Leckie
  4. Grant
  5. Correia

If Orbit provided full books, my reading order would likely be:

  1. Leckie
  2. Grant
  3. Stross (as I want to read the other books too)
  4. Wheel of Time
  5. Correia

Mini-PDF Rant

I was asked on LJ what the problems were with PDF:

  1. I can’t read it in my font of preference.
  2. I like to read in white text on black because I read in bed (on an iPad) at night. I can’t control that with a PDF.
  3. I like to read it at my text size of preference.
  4. Which, if I do that, the page is significantly larger than the screen, so every single fucking sentence involves scrolling left and right.

Total pain in the ass.
I honestly can’t get into a book that takes that much attention just to read. I’ve tried before, and not voted before. The last time I tried was a Cat Valente nominee (Palimpsest).
No more.

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Breaking: Fibromyalgia & Gluten Sensitivity

12 May 2014

Fibromyalgia (FM) syndrome is a disabling clinical condition of unknown cause, and only symptomatic treatment with limited benefit is available. Gluten sensitivity that does not fulfill the diagnostic criteria for celiac disease (CD) is increasingly recognized as a frequent and treatable condition with a wide spectrum of manifestations that overlap with the manifestations of FM, including chronic musculoskeletal pain, asthenia, and irritable bowel syndrome. […]
This observation supports the hypothesis that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be an underlying cause of FM syndrome.

Link to abstract.
I must say, that’s interesting, but it doesn’t really address the fact that a) I have been diagnosed (and recently re-diagnosed) with fibromyalgia, and b) I’ve been on a strict gluten-free diet for years.
I have noticed for quite a few years that errors in compliance do lead to whole-body flare pain, so I can definitely see how that could happen for others who weren’t on a gluten-free diet.
As always, I’m an outlier.
Hope this helps some of you, though!

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Vernacular & Literary Tricks

12 May 2014

Dante caught shit for writing in Italian instead of Latin.

My native vernacular comes across less in writing than it does in speech, but for those who have spoken with me and know the area, it’s totally obvious where I came from.
I’m a Valley Girl.
I can excise those speech bits when I wish to, and my accent has mellowed over the years, but it is still my “native” accent. Because a lot of Valley Girl is adverb usage, I’ve never really been aboard the adverb minimalization train.
My Valley Girl tendencies are modified by two other aspects of the time and place I was raised:

  1. I’m of Irish descent, and some aspects of Irish (not Irish English, but Irish Gaelic) remain. For example, there are no words in Irish for yes or no. If you ask me a yes/no question, you’ll probably get a 2-3 sentence answer that doesn’t contain either word. This frustrates Rick at times.
  2. I was born when there were 49 states in the US. During my childhood, Southern California was a walking tribute to Disneyfied Hawai’iana (e.g., Waltah Clarke), and that’s affected my speech, thought, and culture. So I have this weird relation to Hawai’ian culture despite not being of Hawai’ian descent.

The pressure to conform to “Standard English” in both writing and speech was very strong in both my father’s side of the family and in my education. The usual way this was done was insisting that non-standard usage is “illiterate.”
I still have non-standard usage that persists. In speech in particular, I’ll often muck up subject-verb agreement in longer sentences with this format: “one of the people who are.” I usually use the subjunctive in formal writing, but often don’t in speech, though I will admit that Gwen Stefani’s “If I Was a Rich Girl” really grates where “If I Were a Rich Man” does not.
When I first started hearing AAVE being given respect by literary and academic communities, I’ll be honest: it grated.
The thing is, I don’t want to sound like an academic with a Ph.D. in English. On the flip side, I actually like to feel comfortable enough with the rules that I know when I’m breaking them vs. when I’m not.
I like stories with a strong sense of voice. I like stories with a strong sense of place, which sometimes ties into a strong sense of voice.
As a fiction writer, I’ve learned that vernacular really can be about unusual (to the average white English speaker) speech patterns. In one story I wrote one character’s dialect using Irish Gaelic syntax, which is verb first and uses extra words for emphasis.
I got back one critique that said: “Sounds like Yoda, she does.”
Which is exactly Irish syntax. What bothered me more about the critique is that Yoda’s syntax was not consistently Irish, but at that time, that’s how most Americans had heard any such usage in English. One of these days, I might actually get the story back out and rework it, but part of that is just going to be affirming, “That’s how she talks. Deal with it.”
I remember, for example, Rick and I driving around Tahiti, noting that their usage of French was unfamiliar. Understandable, but different words were chosen than other places we’d been. I’ve seen this in English, too. I remember puzzling over a sign in Indonesia.
It is exactly those differences in usage that tie us to places. I recently read a romance novel that had every Irish English usage correct—except the one mistake I’d made myself, and was therefore very aware that her hero used the wrong word. It threw me out.

Not Our Kind, Dear

Some years ago, Rick and I went up to Petaluma for some Linux thing. We wound up having a long conversation with a woman there, and wound up talking a lot about the rules enforced on women.
For example, no white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter. Sure, you can wear “winter white,” which isn’t really white at all, but not white white (unless you live in Florida).
If you dared to do such a thing, you were “not our kind, dear.”
That kind of policing every detail is what I (and many other women) grew up with, and it’s toxic to everyone. Maybe I want to wear white shoes in February. If you’re so small a person that you can’t accept fucking shoe color (or, worse, straps around the ankle) as an acceptable variant in dress, I don’t want to be your friend.
Which leads nicely into AAVE.

What makes AAVE so dramatically different as a political issue from, say, Spanish (also spoken in Oakland, by up to a quarter of the population) is its close relation to another language of much higher prestige. Most speakers of Standard English think that AAVE is just a badly spoken version of their language, marred by a lot of ignorant mistakes in grammar and pronunciation, or worse than that, an unimportant and mostly abusive repertoire of street slang used by an ignorant urban underclass. (link)

I was that person ridiculing Ebonics. There’s probably evidence of same somewhere in the bowels of Google.

And Then I Grew Up (At Least Imperfectly)

You know what? I’m allowed to have been wrong.
I still have difficulty feeling that my own (white privileged) vernacular is “acceptable,” and it’s a recognizable (albeit ridiculed) variant of SE.
I can’t imagine what people who speak non-SE dialects feel when they’re minimized because of their native dialect.
So when @djolder posted links to this Storify version of his responses to this Strange Horizons review, I was horrified.
Strange Horizons reviewed a book, Long Hidden, specifically about marginalized cultures in SF/F stories. Then the reviewer calls out AAVE as “a literary trick”?
Writing in your own dialect is never a literary trick.
Saying that is othering and dismissive of the entire premise of Long Hidden. Rose Fox, one of the editors, said, “It’s an ethical and cultural error.” I concur. Strange Horizons has apologized. tweet one, two, and three.
I’m not even convinced that writing in another dialect is a literary trick. To me, “trick” implies deceit above and beyond the usual call of fiction. Sure, there’s the alternate meaning of “trick” as being clever without being deceitful (e.g., somersaulting on a skateboard), but that clearly wasn’t the meaning here.

So What Is a Literary Trick?

For me, a literary trick implies leading the reader to expect one thing, then delivering another. The classic “red herring” is a literary trick. “Who is Kaiser Soze?” from The Usual Suspects is a literary trick (sadly, I figured that out 15-20 minutes into the film). A wonderful quote from that link:

Kevin Spacey claimed that Bryan Singer managed to convince all of the major actors that they were Keyser Soze. At the first screening, an angry Gabriel Byrne stormed off when he realised the truth.

That’s a literary trick on an entirely different level.
Writing an unreliable narrator such that she tells one story on a literal level and a completely different story when you realize what way she’s being unreliable—that’s a literary trick.
But being honest and true about your own dialect? Nope.
I learn a lot from meeting people and reading stories by people who are quite different from myself. I love it when people take me unexpected places.
I think this bears repeating: Writing in your own dialect is never a literary trick.
See also: this great post from Troy L. Wiggins.

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Those Clubhouse Doors Are Tricksy Sticky

12 May 2014

Below is a video of a panel called “Opening the Clubhouse Doors: Creating More Inclusive Geek Communities” panel from C2E2 2014, April 25, 2014. It happened in Chicago.
At about 5 minutes in, one of the panelists tells the opening tale about an experience asking about diversity in comics:

“What is the percentage of female readers?”
And he literally said, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

Hat tip to Kameron Hurley.

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