Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Litquake - Join Me in Palo Alto August 17!

It's a Bay Area tradition - LITQUAKE, where books rock the landscape. I'll be participating at Litquake Palo Alto on a panel moderated by Aaron Shurin about LGBT Redefining Mainstream during the afternoon sessions on Sunday August 17, along with Jason K. Friedman and Toby Bielawski.

The rest of the day includes:
  • Author “fireside” readings
  • Writing workshops
  • Salons on topics from emerging authors to memoirs and from LGBT writers to New Yorker cartoonists
  • A closing Keynote with Marcia Clark interview by Michelle Gagnon (nominal fee for this event only)
  • Famous Blues, Booze & Schmooze after party
 I hope to see familiar and new faces there!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Benefit for Homeless Youth - Pre-Order Books for GCLSCon

The short version: Want to be sure that I have the books you want at GCLS in Portland? Pre-order them now. Plus, a portion of the sales are going to support Portland homeless youth through Outside In, a local youth resources organization that helps over 9,000 people every month find food, jobs and hope.

All The Details

It's just a few more weeks to GCLSCon, my favorite reader event of the year (Golden Crown Literary Society 7/9-7/13/2014). Look for me at the Bella Books tables in the vendor area during the Meet and Greet on Wednesday evening, during breaks and certainly during the Author Autograph Session on Friday afternoon. I will sign body parts, your book collection, laptop - anything. Though, generally, it's helpful if the books are ones I've written because I've found the other writers get a little testy about it when I've already taken up the space on their title page. That KG MacGregor - no sense of humor, ask anyone. 

It's always a busy, fun event:
  • Wednesday afternoon I'm making a brief appearance at the Writer's Academy with Lee Lynch and faculty to share some insights into the writer's life and thoughts on issues facing new writers today.
  • Wednesday evening is the Meet and Greet. Please say hi! Get a hug, pick up your books if you've ordered them, have me sign books you've brought from home, enter the Bella drawings.
  • Thursday morning, I Wish I'd Written That! moderated by KG MacGregor. Katherine V. Forrest, Georgia Beers, Lori L. Lake and I will be talking about books we love and elements in them that we outright envy. 
  • Friday afternoon, Author Autograph Session. More hugs, perhaps you sense a theme...  
  • Saturday morning, Eat Your Heart Out, moderated by Lynn Ames. Food in our books is the subject. I have not a clue why they thought of me or Mary Griggs, Georgia Beers or RG Emmanuelle.
  • Saturday afternoon I get to introduce six new writers in the annual So I Had This Idea* panel: Heather Blackmore, Marie Castle, RG Emmanuelle, Sandra Moran, Cindy Rizzo and SY Thompson.
  • Saturday closing Clown Car Author Chat, what is sure to be a riot with moderator Mercedes Lewis, I'm joined by Erica Abbott, Salem West, Erica Lawson and Ann Roberts.
  • Saturday night - The Goldies! This year servicemembers and first responders will be in uniform as we celebrate the demise of DADT and the rise of visibility of our community heroes - it'll be a night to remember.
So as you can see, it's sort of a "try and get rid of me" situation.

Ordering the Books

The upside of writing a lot of books is that in all of these sessions I have plenty to talk about. Though it's possible the other writers might wonder if I'll ever shut up, and sometimes readers ask me about a book and I have no recollection whatsoever of that particular element. An undeniable downside is that there's no way I can bring a couple of copies of every book and leave room on the table for anyone else.

So I'm only bringing a few copies of my latest few, and books that are specifically pre-ordered for delivery at the Con. This is the time to stake your claim to the books you want, and I've added an incentive, as you'll also be helping a local Portland youth resource group at the same time.
For every order between now and the Con I'm donating a portion to  Outside In based on the order total.
$0 - $20 -  15%
$20 - $39 - 20%
$39+ - 30%
To access my shopping cart you can look at the full English bibliography and click "Add to Bag" for any book, or open the catalog to browse.  Check these other language lists for titles in those languages: Spanish, French and German.
Be sure when you check out to pick "Bring to GCLS in Portland!" as the shipping method so I know not to ship your books to your billing address! I'll bring the books to Portland and sign them for you when we meet. All you need to do is leave some room in your suitcase for the trip home.

Questions? Comment at the blog, on Facebook or Tweet me. 

Thank you for considering joining the support of the youth in Portland. Thank you also for reading this blog! As always, a "like" or "share" or "tweet" to spread the word is very much appreciated.

Don't need any books right now? Consider donating directly to Outside In. You made it and you know it gets better. Pay it forward. Not going to GCLS and want to order a book? Yes, I'll still give a portion of the proceeds as above to Outside In, until July 2, 2014.

* Dr. Pol Robinson

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Art and Monsters - On Not Looking Away

Trigger warning. This blog deals with child rape and a writer you probably loved.

Marion Zimmer Bradley was a rare talent as a writer. Unfortunately she was also something even more rare: a female pedophile. How do people with the power of art inside them commit monstrous acts? The emerging truth about MZB irreparably soils my love of her work. I can only imagine the state of mind of the many, many writers who got their start through her zines and anthologies. For so many lesbians, Thendara House was the first time we saw ourselves in a mainstream book. She saved lives and these documented revelations taint the wonder.

Of course, perspective is important. She abused children, including her own children, and she enabled her husband to abuse more children. The children’s ruined lives matter far more than the loss of regard for the writer and the diminishment of the magic of her books.

Before you say “What the hell?” here you go. Trigger warnings. The Importance of Books and the MZB Timeline and Marion Zimmer Bradley - It's Worse Than I Knew. In the latter, I found Moira Stern's Mother's Hands - in “honor” of my mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley incredibly moving. Truly only for the strong stomach: Breendoggle Documentation Now on a Wiki . But please note this quote, it is important:

Many of us have been through some really dark times, and we have the pieces that spoke to our hearts that got us through those times. It genuinely gives me no joy to know that, for those whom MZB’s works were those pieces, I’ve dislodged that for them. – Dierdre Saoirese Moen

Writer Ari Marmell expressed his anger at this revelation (and more) and also a need to do something more productive than just be angry. It was through him that I first saw the full MZB story after seeing only hints of some shocking news. I considered my own heartbreak and anger, and decided it made absolutely no sense to engage my own energy with people who are refusing to see (you can go looking at comments, but it’s much like reading comments from rape statistics deniers). That is the first and hardest thing to do: Whatever venal behavior it may be we have to learn to see it. And then learn not to look away.

In this case, which I am just absorbing myself, it is easy of course to cast the abusers into the depths where they belong. But that is not the whole job. As those writers who worked with Marion Zimmer Bradley (On doing a thing I needed to do - Janni Lee Summer) deal with complicated emotions, this blog by Natalie Luhrs' (Silence is Complicity) points out the greater danger, and one we see around us in groups of all kinds: Abuse is allowed to flourish because it finds a social setting where the rules make an exception.

Stuebenville did not happen in the 1970s. Penn State did not happen “in a different time.” In both cases, people committed monstrous acts. Some people refused to see it while it happened. Some people saw it and looked away. When facts became undeniable, some people excused the monstrous acts because the perpetrators were somehow exceptions.

What Luhrs' blog addresses within the Science Fiction Fandom - and is applicable universally - is this: We are the exceptional/persecuted, therefore we allow/ignore deviant behavior lest we become the unexceptional/the persecutor is the atmosphere that abusers exploit. This atmosphere is how coaches and priests prey upon children and teens, how rape culture permeates sports, why people who report abuse are shamed and ostracized, and how, in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s home, adults did nothing to stop public displays of adults sexually touching children and caregivers ignored long-term child abuse.

There are people who defend or excuse Bradley based on her tremendous artistry, or that the drain of great art engendered a kind of mental illness which manifested as abuse. Incest practitioner Paul Gill has defenders, after all. (Marion Zimmer Bradley - The Ethics of Artists I call B.S. on that too). Did I want to find out this information about an admired writer, one who also had a part in The Ladder? No, I did not. But I will not look away.

No special talent, gift or oppression can ever have been so great that we say rape is okay or abusing children is an eccentricity – and any whisper within a group that this is the case should be, at the very least, a red flag. 

To answer Ari Marmell’s call to do something with his anger that is productive, I think the call to action is to examine our own personal bank accounts of privilege and power and spend our balances in resistance. Refuse to be part of saying "we" get a pass on the basic rules of decency because "we" are somehow an exception. When you see this presumption developing around you, name it, call it out, because you can. Because people younger, newer, weaker than you can't. Be the hero that these kids didn't have in rooms full of people who wrote about heroes. That's the irony that breaks my heart.

Closer to Home

In my own corner of the world, based on accounts after the fact, it appears that a man masquerading as a lesbian penned several lesbian romance-adventure books that included kidnapping, torture and rape followed by the victim professing love for her rapist. This “rape her, then marry her” plotline was standard fare in straight romances until feminist critique called out writers for using “rape is okay when it's love” plots. Unfortunately, when I investigated reviews for myself, there were few criticisms of this writer's plots voiced until after the writer’s identity deception was known.*

Rape as a prelude to romance, in my opinion, is always worthy of ridicule regardless of the author’s gender or sexuality. Was this "lesbian" writer allowed so much leeway with rape as a getting-to-know-you device because of the lesbian fiction community’s wariness of turning into persecutors? We have been oppressed, so we must not oppress? To be very clear, I am not equating failure to call out a writer over “rape is okay if they fall in love” plots with being silent about actual child rape. But my mind immediately drew a parallel between the silence that was afforded "one of us" that was withdrawn when the perpetrator was found to be not one of us. I see a red flag and I don’t want to look away.

I am heartsore at the loss of Mists of Avalon, of Darkover, of Thendara House. And this is, at least right now, what I am doing about it. Let’s be sure to keep our own house in order. Rape is never okay, no always means no, in life and in our books, no matter who writes them.

*I have no wish to reveal this writer's name or in any way promote this writer, so I ask that any comments respect that.