My reviewing has slowed down to a bare trickle, as has my reading. Multiple health issues are keeping me away. Don’t know for how long.
Category Archives: Writing
It’s been almost two years to the date of being locked down due to COVID. How many damned times have I had to use those word?
I’m still leery of going without a mask, getting on a plane and many other little things I once took for granted.
Two years is a long time. A really long time and while I want to believe the world will soon be able to treat COVID-19 and all its cousins as endemic instead of pandemic, I believe we’re in for more.
I’ve watched the world lose its everlovin’ mind. Please, someone, explain to me how requiring shots and masks for the public good is government overreach. Explain to me how those who enter the military are required to take a list of shots from A-Z, children entering school are required to get vaccines, and people who travel may be required to get shots in order to be allowed entry, have done all that without batting an eye but absolutely refuse to get another vaccine. Please explain how covering our mouths to keep our germs from reaching someone else is a bad thing. And please explain how convoys of trucks think they’re going to make any change in policy designed to keep us healthy while scientists research the best way to fight this thing. Please. Anyone?
Explain to me how people think it’s right and proper to invade the US Capital, spread feces on the walls and claim President Joe Biden’s election wasn’t legal and correct.
Now, as I type this, Russia has invaded Ukraine and is lobbing bombs like candy and beads from a Mardi Gras float.
Thankfully, I have been able to continue working. Thankfully, we’re now work from home permanently. Thankfully.
All of this, of course, has put a crimp in my writing. We’ve all lost so much and while my personal losses are more along the lines of, “I thought we had a plan,” instead of people I love dying, I’m still pained by those losses.
It also took a toll on reading. That was a really big loss.
Around the end of 2021 the realization hit that I really missed being around people who read. I’d lost my mentor, my editor and contact with anyone who would even notice I always had a book with me.
So, I’m working to resolve a lot of that. I’m back on LibraryThing with peoples who loves books as much as I do and who go crazy for lists almost like I do.
So far this year, I’ve read 14 books, right on track for 75 or more by the end of the year. Which is a huge relief to me. I’m on a book buying diet, no books are purchased unless there’s a necessary, compelling reason. I laughingly tell people I’m cleaning house one book at a time because I’m reading out of the boxes and boxes of books I already own.
I’ve also been going through said boxes and cataloging, purging and annotating the collection. That’s been satisfying as well.
Being on LibraryThing has also loosened whatever blocked me from writing reviews. There will be some changes there too. My friend Richard turned me on to Nathan Burgoine‘s Three Sentence Review which I’ll be using as starter fuel. There’s an entire box of books waiting for me to get on with the reviewing already!
2021 Gratitude List
Laundry Care Express – in 2019 when I couldn’t do my own laundry, I found Laundry Care Express. It is the best way I spend my money.
Al’s Backwood Berrie – Sweet baby Jesus! Small batch jams and jellies in rich flavors. Try the rhubarb!
Sunshine Sisters Be Kind tie-dyed shirts and accessories
Collectorz – online databases to store you (book) collections. Easy to use, robust, personalized data. Download the CLZ Barry app and scan ISBN’s with your phone. Export data in multiple formats.
Jango – “… a free online music streaming service that allows you to create custom radio stations. You choose your favorite band or singer and Jango will start playing music from that and other similar artists.” I mashed up a bunch of preexisting stations and have interesting music from tango to disco all work day long.
To Do List: The Memoir of 7Stillwell
A memoir has been chasing me for years and I’ve kept running. Recently, like the last three years or so, it keeps popping up in writing assignments or conversations with mentors and teachers.
Today’s revelation by Billy Porter that he’s been living with HIV for 14 years wasn’t stunning. The things he had to say about shame, and hiding his status because of that shame was stunning. Little electric thrills ran around my brain.
Then things really clicked for me when he spoke about figuring out why he was still alive to tell the story. I was brought to tears at the bravery and vulnerability he showed.
My journey for several years has been to understand myself and what feminism means for me. You might recall I wrote about Kameron Hurley‘s book The Geek Feminist Revolution making me ugly cry and having a profound affect on me. After realizing I can only look at a book through the lens of Feminist theory made me decide to go all in and declare I specialize in SF/F feminism.
There’s a gaping hole in the SF/F community where good critical theory would fit nicely. There’s an even bigger hole where equal rights should go. I want to be a part of the fight to make things better for everyone in the community.
Every day, there are little revelations and realizations about the gaping holes in my emotional structure. The trauma and dysfunction that I somehow survived, and managed to come through. Healing and understanding is a lifetime process. It is slow, frustrating, and terrifying.
Given the state of women’s rights around the world, the not so creeping misogyny and sexism, I realized I can’t run anymore. My memoir insists on being written, and so it shall. Slowly, frustratingly, and very terrifyingly.
I have much to be grateful for, and today I give a big chunk of it to Billy Porter for being the light.
Writing: Life Gets in the Way
It’s all a bit much right now. I know you know. Everything is in constant flux as though 2020 is the biggest, twistiest roller coaster morphing at every turn into something worse. Nothing fits any more and all we can do is try to hang on and not fall off.
It’s not easy for me to admit my reading and writing have fallen into an abyss of 2020 proportions. Rectifying it feels Sisyphean. But every once in a while, something happens which drives me to the keyboard, ’cause I gotta share it.
From what I’m reading, ConZealand was an epic cluster of celebrating old white male authors both living and dead. A gross old white man who fancies himself a bestselling author couldn’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce the names of Hugo award finalists, and turned the ceremony into a “let’s talk about me” nightmare. SF/F twitter is pretty lit up about this.
It’s heartbreaking, and infuriating, to hear about this year after year after year. I left fandom once because of the gatekeeping, but I’m back now, and since I don’t give a fuck anymore about what the keepers think they’re doing I’m going to do my thing. This latest fiasco made me decide to work harder on getting my writing jam on and to lift up the really excellent work I consume.
The pain I see from those given such utter disrespect at the Hugos sent me running to FIYAH Literary Magazine screaming, “Take my money!”
Partway through issue #13 and … FIYAH, I’m glad I met you.
On Writing: The Drink Tank #421 We’re Still Here
My article “Reading From the List” is in this issue of Drink Tank
On Writing: The Drink Tank #420 – Reading in the Time of COVID 19
My article on boundaries during COVID-19 is in this issue of Drink Tank
Review: Cinderella Liberator
Title: Cinderella Liberator
Author: Rebecca Solnit
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Publisher Blurb: Rebecca Solnit reimagines a classic fairytale with a fresh, feminist Cinderella and new plot twists that will inspire young readers to change the world.
Fairytales made no sense to me. Even as I tried to fit myself into what society believed girls should want, which included some fairytale version of finding a husband and having children, it didn’t make sense. And I didn’t understand why.
I mean, why should Cinderella want to go to the ball so much, and why would she want to marry a prince? Did that really mean happily ever after? What if she – what if I – wanted something different?
The appeal of being rescued is certainly be understandable, especially when growing up in a dysfunctional, unpredictable environment. When your whole life feels hopeless, rescue seems like the best chance. When one wants to be rescued from misery, there is no understanding about agency. So, in some ways, Cinderella’s traditional gambit of marrying the prince and leaving behind her wicked steps makes a tremendous amount of sense. If only there was another way ….
Rebecca Solnit’s Cinderella Liberator begins with the familiar story. But when the lizards become stagecoach women for Cinderella’s carriage, one sits up and takes notice. And when Cinderella asks if the lizards want to be human, the reader understands this isn’t the same Cinderella of childhood.
At its base as a political structure, feminism is about the right to make choices based upon personal agency. Women get to choose what they want to do, or should be allowed to, anyway. Solnit takes that one step further. Not only does Cinderella get to choose, but so do the animals who help her get to the ball. The entire cast gets a makeover.
This more equitable story in which Cinderella opens a cake store and become friends with the prince who wants to work on a farm is one everyone should read. Especially those with small children entering the world of make-believe and fairy tales.
Solnit’s version is more hopeful and happier, giving children (and adults) space to learn about equality and choice. It certainly gave me happiness and hope.
Review: Berkeley: The Student Revolt
Title: Berkeley: The Student Revolt
Author: Hal Draper
Published: 2020 (Haymarket Books edition)
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Publisher Blurb: “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels … upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!”
Brimming with lessons still relevant for today’s activists, Berkeley: The Student Revolt is a classic of on-the-ground historical reportage.
There’s something about this period of history which fascinates me deeply. I can’t go to Berkeley or San Francisco without being aware of the history I walk through. Reading Hal Draper’s Berkeley: The Student Revolt written in 1965, is on the ground “I was there” reporting.
Draper brings together all the minute by minute details to explain how the Free Speech Movement exploded on campus one day in September, 1964. Although, as most historians will tell you and Draper certainly does, things don’t happen overnight because there are mitigating factors. The history leading to the Free Speech Movement is rich and dense, filled with many factors.
Draper writes of the peaceful student protests demanding to be able to express their opinions, political or otherwise, on campus. To be able to raise money and recruit volunteers for off campus events. Many had spent the previous summer in the Deep South working for civil rights.
To have their own rights stunted in the face of an unpopular war (Vietnam) and the treatment of African-Americans caused deep anger and resentment. In the face of a dictatorial Chancellor who had been hired based on his research about labor movements which should have made him sympathetic but didn’t, student unrest grew.
Draper was there, amongst the students as a library employee, his knowledge of the inner workings makes this an excellent resource in the body of work still evolving about dissent, protests in the face of bureaucrats who use might makes right to get their rules obeyed.
Over the fifty years since, this very scenario has played out more times than I like to remember. In 2019 during a deadly global pandemic, government leaders are using the same playbook to shut down the rights of us all to be healthy and safe.
Confusing, contradictory, obfuscatory dictums fly through the media. Responses to any common sense calls for reasonable actions on the part of leaders are met with ridicule and often threatened violence.
What amazed me as I read was how very young these students were, how mature and deeply committed they were to their cause. They understood it was about something larger than themselves. Mario Savio’s thoughtful speeches give an insight I hadn’t much thought about because I have reaped the benefit of their protests.
At the same time, I was saddened to understand that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Change is always met with resistance, those in power backed by those with greater power and money will always clamp down. Their actions invariably lead to some sort of police action.
Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement opened the door for peaceful protests and thoughtful discussions about the First Amendment and its role on college campuses. A discussion which continues now, and is especially important as an ill-informed citizenry continues to misunderstand the power of the First Amendment and try to use it in support of their *-ist rhetoric.
But I have hope because things have changed, the citizenry is allowed to express themselves. Students are allowed free and open discussion of unsavory topics. And the discussion about what First Amendment rights mean continues unabated. Without the student protests and strike at Berkeley, none of this would be possible.
Review: Things That Can and Cannot be Said
Title: Things That Can and Cannot be Said
Author: Arundhati Roy and John Cusack
Publisher: Haymarket Books
In this rich dialogue on surveillance, empire, and power, Roy and Cusack describe meeting NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden in Moscow.
In late 2014, Arundhati Roy, John Cusack, and Daniel Ellsberg travelled to Moscow to meet with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The result was a series of essays and dialogues in which Roy and Cusack reflect on their conversations with Snowden.
In these provocative and penetrating discussions, Roy and Cusack discuss the nature of the state, empire, and surveillance in an era of perpetual war, the meaning of flags and patriotism, the role of foundations and NGOs in limiting dissent, and the ways in which capital but not people can freely cross borders.
I’m not sure about the point of this slender book. It’s 100 pages of large font transcriptions of conversations between Cusack and Roy, recollections of an “UnSummit” facilitated by Cusack featuring Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg in Moscow.
What I’d hoped for was a deeper discussion of the effects of Ellsberg’s and Snowden’s espionage. What led them to the conclusion there was no other way than to be whistleblowers? I wanted to know more. I was hoping for something more unfiltered .
Do I know the world’s governments aren’t what they want us to think they are? Of course I do. Do I think corporate governance of charities and NGOs is a bad thing? I don’t know enough to make an informed opinion. But if what Arundhati Roy thinks is what we’re all supposed to think, we are indeed doomed.
It is the utter hopelessness of Cusack and Roy of any government, any people doing good in the world which got to me. This paranoid, pseudo-intellectual view of the world, especially from a white man of privilege, is what brings out the despair. If this is what they think is important, and it gets published, what chance do the rest of us just trying to get through our day have?
It is utterly maddening that an opportunity for two of the most famous whistleblowers to meet was so censored. For readers to not be privy to any of the conversation beyond niceties is hardly better than fanning the flames of a global game of Chicken Little.
The security concerns addressed in Things That Can and Cannot be Said are serious, but there’s no real substance in discussing them. I chose not to be scared simply because two activists who have the resources to walk freely through the streets or sit in cafes and talk tell me I should be.
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