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.

On the Hugo Award unpleasantness.

The Rabid Puppy brigade have gamed the Hugos again. At least this time, there was some humor involved—see the Chuck Tingle entry. But for the most part, it’s underwhelming and sigh-inducing, rather than shocking and hateful. I’m reminded of a quote that Toni Morrison made about racism (see below), though you could substitute just about any bigotry/ism in for racism.

Morrison Quote

I’m just going to focus on creating my weird, diversity filled fictional worlds, and reading and supporting the same. The Puppies’ antics are just a distraction. So much good fiction—some of it written by Straight White Men, no less– is coming out now. We are in a Golden Age, with tons of stories and many unique voices being heard, both in the large and indie presses.

Let’s keep our focus there, and away from immature provocateurs.

Cloaking Device Off: Homophobia in the SFF Community

When you are queer, you have the option of being invisible. Sometimes, there are times when being Out is pointless or irrelevant. (For example, a job interview—my sexuality has nothing to do with my ability to do a job). But other times, you can’t stay silent. Silence in the face of bigotry is dangerous. The bigot, facing no opposition, brays on, continuing to say hurtful and abusive things. The bigot believes, erroneously, that silence = agreement.

When I volunteered at the last World Fantasy Convention, one of my co-volunteers was L. Jagi Lamplighter, wife of John C. Wright, who has become more famous for his unhinged, overheated and overlong rants on queer people than he has for his fiction. (There a plenty of places online to read his various epic tirades). The family resides in the DC area, so they are local to me. I didn’t come out to Lamplighter, for a couple of reasons. First, it was irrelevant to the work we were doing (cooking, cleaning, setting up and dismantling the con suite and bar, etc). Second, I didn’t want to make waves. I was initially nervous, though. Surely, she must be as over the top as her husband.

She was not. She was perfectly lovely and friendly. Maybe if I had come out, she would have turned on a dime and become vituperative. But my instinct is that she still would be friendly. It is difficult to reconcile the warmth of Ms. Lamplighter with the hatred of Mr. Wright.

To him, I am perverse monster, an affront to his marriage, family and religion.  My very existence invites, to paraphrase one of his statements, being beaten with tire-irons and ax-handles. Here’s the thing: I have been assaulted for being gay. (Ill share the story another time, maybe). And the times I’ve been called slurs (both racial and homophobic) are too numerous to recount. I’m very familiar with how religiosity masks and justifies hatred. Those words of his have consequences, often lethal ones.

But, in the light of the politics of resentment that have recently come to light (vis a vis the Hugo kerfuffle), silence is no longer an option.In retrospect, I wish I did come out to Wright’s wife. It could have gone disastrously, of course. But maybe, just maybe, knowing his wife worked with a Real Live Homosexual might have mitigated some of the rhetoric thrown our way. Maybe it would be just a tad more difficult to type a post excusing the violence I have actually faced. The Gays are an abstraction, a boogeyman to real against. Craig Laurance Gidney, however, is a real human being, known for his talent and his sense of humor.

I’ve turned my Cloaking Device off. I am here. I’m black. I’m gay. And I’m not going anywhere.

(Comments are closed because I have neither the time or energy to deal with bigots).

On Diversity & Dogwhistles

A couple of years ago, the online zine Expanded Horizons published a short piece of fiction that I’m immensely proud of, entitled “Conjuring Shadows.” The story is about a transgender conjure-woman in the Harlem Renaissance.  Expanded Horizon’s mission statement is this:

The mission of this webzine is to increase diversity in the field of speculative fiction, both in the authors who contribute and in the perspectives presented. We feature speculative fiction stories and artwork, as well as essays about speculative fiction and fandom from diverse points of view.

So that is my dog in the current fight.

I hate drama. I really, really do. It’s toxic to me. I don’t like confrontation. But there are times when you have to take a stand. Every now and then in the speculative fiction world, some person will write an article about how Diversity/Political Correctness etc. is horrible. They think they’re taking a stand against didactic Aesop-styled fiction. What they are really doing is dog-whistling, save that the dog-whistle is as loud as a klaxon.

What I, and other minorities hear is: “You don’t write good fiction,” or “Why are black/gay/feminist/trans people harshing my squee?” Is it any wonder that POC don’t go to cons? I’ve pretty much stopped going to cons BECAUSE of the lack of diversity. And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way. THAT is the effect of these jeremiads.

Pic: Library Display of Black Speculative Fiction Authors

Today, at Martin Luther King Library (in DC) there was a display featuring books by black science fiction and fantasy authors. It included books  by Nalo Hopkinson, Octavia Butler, Steve Barnes, Karen Lord, Nnedi Okorafor, Ben Okri and Samuel Delany–most of whom I’ve met!

MLK picture

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