MUSIC: Todd Tobias & Chloë March – Hauntology & Glossolalia.

Amialluma/ Chloë March and Todd Tobias

amialluma

A collaboration between musicians Todd Tobias and Chloë March, Amialluma is an album’s worth of atmospheric ambient music that desultorily drifts between a whimsical and eerie tone. All ten compositions have a distinct hauntological ambiance. The soundscapes have the feel of the soundtrack to a forgotten children’s movie. Music box melodies, echoed bell-like tones and 60s Sci-Fi sounds are woven together, mostly in a halcyon mood that gets disturbed by the occasional dark chord progression. March sings, purrs, trills, murmurs and chants words in an invented language that manages to be both soothing and disturbing, like a feral child raised by nature. The resulting suite (which is how it is supposed to be listened to) reminds of me of the work of the English band Pram, (who share a similar tonal palette crossed) with the Cocteau Twins at their most tranquil.

White Like Me

Google finally graced me with an author profile placard. Yay! But they got one thing wrong….

Not Craig Gidney
The fellow in the wrong portrait is a fellow author and also went to my college. I’ve never met him, and he’s as confused as I am.

So much for #ownvoices, amirite?

I’m more amused than anything, but I have contacted Google to see if they can rectify this situation.

Reading Log: Books by Gabriel Squailia and Sonya Taaffe

Viscera by Gabriel Squailia

I’m really  enjoying this novel, which would best be described as New Weird fiction. The world is dank and decayed and full of factions with really odd nomenclatures. The mood is one of the blackest gallows humor. The magic (here called ‘enchantments’) is bloody and messy. But don’t be fooled by the baroque grotesqueries. This is a character driven novel, full of memorable weirdos, such as a knife-crazy poppet, a drugged addled transman, and a mysterious trans enchantress who has a dead bear as a sidekick. It’s funny, gross and full of dark wonder.

Forget the Sleepless Shores by Sonya Taaffe

Taaffe and I run in the same circles but it was only last year that I found out that she is a massive Tanith Lee fan. Her new collection was graciously sent to me by Lethe Press (the publishers of my debut). I’m not far into this large collection of short fiction, but Taaffe has a dense opiated prose style (reminiscent of Lee), and her plots mines darker mythopoetic tropes. It’s rich writing, something to be savored.

Your Problematic Faves: The Terry Gilliam edition

Damn, this one hurts.

When I in junior high, my favorite movie was Time Bandits. It was a darkly surreal (bordering on absurd) take on Time Travel Tropes. The hero/protagonist was a pensive boy, Kevin who was the child of two rather crass, materially-obsessed parents.  Kevin meets a group of time-traveling little people. The boy and  the troupe time-hop from the Napoleonic Wars to the Middle Ages to Ancient Greece to the Age of Legends, having adventures that mingle action, grotesquerie and humor in equal measure. It had a bleak, Roald Dahl-like undertone, unique in a movie ostensibly for kids. I saw the movie many times. I was obsessed. The kid who play Kevin was even name Craig (Warnock)!

I never got into the love for Brazil, but Gilliam’s expansion of La Jetée, 12 Monkeys, was a revelation. It was a taut horror film masquerading as a sci-fi political thriller, and convinced me that Brad Pitt was more than just a pretty face.

I wasn’t exactly a Gilliam fanboy, but his movies and his aesthetic opened up what speculative storytelling could be for me. It could be dark, brooding and stylish.  Then, Gilliam began saying some problematic things. First, his statement on #MeToo was disturbing victim-blaming claptrap. And now, he has joined Lionel Shriver in pushing that hoary canard that encourage Diversity in art is somehow produces diminishes quality.

“Gilliam said: “It made me cry: the idea that … no longer six white Oxbridge men can make a comedy show. Now we need one of this, one of that, everybody represented… this is bullshit. I no longer want to be a white male, I don’t want to be blamed for everything wrong in the world: I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian… My name is Loretta and I’m a BLT, a black lesbian in transition.”“(From the Guardian)

There are many things wrong with this statement.

Once more, for those in the back, Diversity Initiatives seek to address past exclusions and give a seat at the table to under-represented populations. No-one seeking out incompetent or untalented people of marginalized communities and giving them a show/book contract. Being talented and competent is a pre-requisite. Quotas are a reactionary fiction/strawman. Expanding the field in no way, shape or form damages “white men from Oxbridge.” There’s no committee of comedians saying, “Wanda Sykes’ mere existence on the scene invalidates and unpersons Monty Python,” or “John Mulvaney is no longer funny now that Kate McKinnon is in town!”

Also, making “Black Lesbians in Transition” the punchline of a joke kind of underscores the importance of Diversity Initiatives. To Gilliam, black lesbians and transgender folk aren’t real people. They certainly aren’t passionate artists whose perspective and stories haven’t been told. 

I doubt he could name even one black or trans lesbian artist. I doubt he imagines that a black gay boy loved Time Bandits. When people make statements like that, they are sending a message to their non-white, non-straight, and non-cis audiences. The message is, you don’t matter.

Gilliam:Shriver

 

 

Reading While Black: The Kids Lit Edition

When I was a child of ten or so, I wanted to be a writer (and illustrator) like the authors idolized. I decided to read as many “classic” children’s books as possible, mostly using the Newbery Award Winners as a reading list. One of the books on that list was Doctor Doolittle, by Hugo Lofting. I had seen the (1960s) movie and assumed that the book would be similar, if not the same. Not only wasn’t it similar, it came with a heaping dose of open racism. In one scene, the good doctor bleaches a black man white so that he can marry a white woman. I was so disturbed by this scene that I did not finish the book. At ten, I wasn’t “woke,” so I just filed the racism away and lowered my expectations of becoming a Famous Author. I learned that Famous Authors were white people.  I also learned that Famous Authors could get away with blatant racism.

220px-Cover_of_The_Water_Babies

Doctor Doolittle, of course, was not the only book that had blatantly racist messages. There was the Victorian fairy tale novel The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, which outright stated that black people were ugly and stupid. (I hunted down this book after reading Alistair Gray’s novel Lanark, which references Kingsley’s book). There was a passage in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel The Secret Garden where the spoiled brat heroine blithely claims that people of color aren’t even people. (I loved the Burnett book anyway). I had to stop reading A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden because one Asian character spoke in pidgin English. (By the time I encountered that book, I had read Laurence Yep and could spot harmful stereotypes).

The Association for Library Service to Children recently removed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from its award because of racism in the Little House books. I never read the Little House books; I did like the television show with its plucky tomboy protagonist and her nemesis, the campy villainess Nellie Olsen. Apparently, the books have some moments of severe values dissonance, with racist portrayals of Native Americans (who were displaced from their land by the Homesteading Act) and in one scene, Pa and a bunch of his friends put on a minstrel show, complete with blackface. Of course, naysayers are screaming about how such an action is on the slippery slope Book Banning and Burning, and how this is tantamount to censorship and another attack by the Tyrannical PC Snowflakes.

I think about all the Native and black children who come across these stereotypical portrayals, and the racist message they absorb.

 

On Cons and Social Anxiety

I just came from Balticon, where I had a great time both as a panelist and an audience member. It was great to be among a group of people who were enthusiastic about the various genre fandoms. The con did a good job of making a welcome atmosphere for LGBTQ and POC folks, and had a robust harassment policy posted prominently. My panels were evenly spread and not back-to-back, and I had plenty of time to chill out. In fact, my Saturday schedule was basically empty! But I noticed something: I was exhausted by 10pm each day, even during the light schedule days. And by exhausted, I mean fatigued. Bone-deep tiredness, the type where your eyelids feel like they have weights on them. When I got in bed, I immediately fell asleep as if I had done strenuous exercise. It was beyond just the normal con fatigue.

Socially Concious

And that’s when it dawned on me—I was experiencing the physical toll of social anxiety. I have a mild form of anxiety, one that I am finally addressing in treatment. I never feel like I belong. I am awkward in crowded social situations (such as room parties!) and find that I need some time alone after being social. I will often go up to a con’s Green Room just to be alone.

I am writing this for a couple reasons. One, to apologize for any aloofness/unapproachability  vibe I radiated. Secondly, I want to kind of raise awareness about this issue. Much of the reason I go to cons is for networking. And networking is one of those things you must do as an author. Face-time with editors and authors are as important as submission in this business. And I know that I have missed connecting with other people because of this condition of mine. Finally, I think this is an important signal-boost the issue. I tweeted that “Networking for the Socially Anxious” should be a panel topic.