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On the matter of Southern pride

I’ve seen a lot of reaction in the news to the events in Charleston, and in particular to the growing outcry to take down the Confederate flag from various places–South Carolina and Alabama being the ones I immediately noticed. I’ve also seen reports that Amazon and Walmart are removing merchandise with the flag on it from sale, and I’ve even heard that merch involving the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard is taking the flag off the car’s hood.

But, this being the contentious issue that it is, of course there are people shaking canes and yelling about this. I saw one particular report going around Facebook of an individual loudly pontificating about how removal of the Confederate flag from public display is tantamount to “cultural genocide”.

For the record: speaking as a Southerner born and bred, cultural genocide my ass. I mean honestly. Have you met the South?

I am for the removal of this flag. There are a whole host of reasons to be proud of being from the South, and that flag ain’t one of ’em. I posted about this on the social networks yesterday about several of my favorites, and got a flood of responses from others as well.


Elvis freggin’ Presley. That man right there is singlehandedly responsible for most of my pride in being a Kentuckian, thanks to his “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “Kentucky Rain”. And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: he’s also responsible for the vast majority of my lifelong tastes in music. So damn straight I’m proud of that.

But it would be remiss of me to not mention the rest of the awesome musicians that hail from the South–white and black. Here’s a roundup of the names that came up in my Facebook thread! Johnny Cash. Loretta Lynn. Dolly Parton. The Oak Ridge Boys. Jerry Lee Lewis. Ray Charles. Aretha Franklin. Nat King Cole. Fats Domino. Charlie Daniels. The Big Bopper. Little Richard. Hank Williams. Buddy Holly. The Everly Brothers. Asleep at the Wheel. Austin City Limits.

There are many, many more I’m sure a lot of you out there could name, thanks to bluegrass and country music in general, not to mention rockabilly and the early days of rock and roll and zydeco (special shoutout for zydeco because hell yeah, Cajun and French \m/).

Also honorable and noble mention to the entire O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

Mmmmmm Key Lime Pie

Mmmmmm Key Lime Pie


The South: land of food that is very, VERY bad for you but OMG SO TASTY. Kentucky Fried Chicken. Chicken fried steak. Okra. Key lime pie. Pecan pie. Sweet tea. Popeye’s Chicken. Cornbread. Crawdads. Catfish. Grits. Peaches. Sweet tater casseroles. Gator tails. Gumbo. BBQ. Tex-Mex food.

‘Cause yeah basically, if it looks like food, the South deep fries the hell out of it.


There’s a lot of Southern literature. Being, well, me, I’m specifically interested in the science fiction. Cherie Priest and Alex Bledsoe come immediately to mind as awesome SF writers from the South whose works I have deeply enjoyed–Cherie Priest’s Eden Moore books in particular, and I’ve rhapsodized in depth about Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver.

Shoutout to Rachel Caine as well, hailing from Texas! ‘Cause y’all should know I love me some Rachel Caine, too.

And my aunt Teresa brought up Fannie Flagg who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! (See below re: frying things being a critical part of Southern cuisine!)


It was pointed out QUITE CORRECTLY that New Orleans has Mardi Gras. And while we’re on the topic, let us note that the Kentucky Derby was brought up repeatedly on my Facebook thread.

Also, while I historically have favored going to Worldcon, it is important to note that the South DOES have DragonCon–and a lot of other science fiction conventions as well. We DO represent in geekdom!

Places to Visit

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Fort Boonesborough State Park in Kentucky. Bernheim Forest, also in Kentucky. Dollywood (see previous section on Music!). Busch Gardens in Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. DISNEY WORLD, f’r chrissakes. What cultural heritage wouldn’t be proud of Disney World, I ask you!


Kennedy Space Center. Astronaut training and mission control in Houston. Because SPAAAAAAAACE.


Y’all know I’m a language nerd. This includes Southern-isms! “Criminitly”. Describing large quantities of anything as “a big ol’ mess o’ <whatever>”. If you’re in a reasonably good state, being “fair to middlin'”. Just off the top of my head–there are, of course, countless more examples.

And more…

Dogwood trees. Thunderstorms (because I do miss good and proper Kentucky thunderstorms, though I do NOT miss Kentucky tornadoes). Fireflies–or, as we called ’em when I was a kid, lightning bugs. Pussy willows. The chirp of crickets.

In other words…

All of this is just barely scratching the surface of the rich culture of the South–none of which will be threatened in the slightest if states stop flying the Confederate flag. If anything, hopefully it’ll help Southern culture take stock of itself and realize that it wouldn’t be what it is today without both white and black Southerners–because yeah, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.? SOUTHERNERS.

Go back and look at that list of names under Music further up the post, too. Lots of black artists there–and I wouldn’t be a truly conscientious Elvis fan if I didn’t acknowledge how he was influenced by the black artists who came before him.

Fellow white Southerners, I put to you that we should not be this guy:



Because let’s get this straight: racism has stained the honor of the South for long enough.

And pulling that flag down from being publicly displayed is a good first step to fixing that. Let’s keep it up.


Thoughts on toxic bigotry

I was going to point and laugh at the Puppies some more today, after seeing this post yesterday reporting that they’ve called for an official boycott of Tor. Now, I am NOT pleased with Tom Doherty’s throwing Irene Gallo under the bus the way he did–but on the other hand, several of my top favorite authors are published by Tor, and I’m fully cognizant of how trying to boycott an entire publisher pretty much only hurts the authors involved. Dara has additional commentary about why this boycott is doomed to fail, and me, I feel some solidarity with Mr. Hines: “I’m disinclined to acquiesce to his request.”

But then the Charleston news exploded over Twitter last night, and suddenly pointing and laughing at Puppies seems rather less important.

Except for this: there’s a thing that the Puppies brouhaha has in common with Charleston, with Ferguson, with Baltimore, with the pool party in Texas, and with every other horrific shooting this country has experienced in the last few years.

That thing is toxic bigotry.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads people to sniff that SF novels with non-white people on the cover are clearly “message fiction” and aren’t as deserving of awards as books with white people on the cover. That exiles those books to minority-only sections of bookstores, thereby gutting those books’ chances of actually selling in reasonable numbers.

The kind of toxic bigotry that also erases non-white protagonists from covers and whitewashes characters, in the name of trying to make them sell better to white people.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads people to believe it’s somehow okay to hurl screamingly racist insults under the aegis of an official genre author organization, and then to get pissy when that organization boots their ass out. Pissy enough to then turn around and orchestrate sabotage of the most revered award in that genre.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads people to believe it’s somehow okay to bitch about non-white people showing up at a science fiction convention–because maybe, y’know, they like science fiction–because they preface their remarks with “There’s no way to say this without sounding racist…”

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads school systems to believe that it’s okay to teach their children that black slaves were “happy”.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads otherwise rational people to feel threatened because somebody who doesn’t look like them lives near them. Or works with them. Or gets elected to political office, including the White House.

The kind of toxic bigotry that would rather destroy any chance of poor Americans getting health care they desperately need than allow a black President to succeed at something. Especially if the poor Americans in question are also black.

The kind of toxic bigotry that consistently vilifies black victims of shootings in the media, while at the same time refusing to call a white supremacist shooter what he is: a murdering racist terrorist.

The kind of toxic bigotry that can lead a young man to invade a house of worship for the express purpose of killing people who don’t look like him.

It’s all bigotry. It’s all toxic. The only difference between all of these examples is degree–whether the victims are only a little scarred by the acid or have been pushed into a roiling pit of it. It all still causes pain. And when you have to deal with an existence of constant little scars, eventually, it’s just as bad as being pushed into the pit.

And it needs to stop.

I saw this tweet on Twitter this morning:

CAN DO. I denounce it, and the culture that has allowed it to take place. And I will also say these names: Rev. Clementa Pinckney and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. For them, and for the rest of the victims in Charleston, I denounce the ugly act of racism that has caused them to lose their lives.

Toxic bigotry kills.

And it needs to stop.


On Google/YouTube–and Kindle Unlimited

Dara has a post up today with an analysis of Google/YouTube’s new music streaming service–and why its terms are a very, VERY bad idea for independent musicians. Her analysis, in short, is that this is aiming to make it utterly unnecessary for your listeners to come to you for any reason–because YouTube will already have all your stuff, and at a streaming quality that is essentially indistinguishable from CDs.

If you’re at all involved in independent music, you should go read what she’s got to say.

And if you’re an independent author, you should definitely keep an eye on this, too. Nick Mamatas reshared Dara’s link by noting, quote: “Imagine Kindle Unlimited if it weren’t optional and if Amazon were trawling physical libraries and scanning every book or story you’d ever written because you have one item up on Kindle.”

Because yeah. I’ve already seen reports that Kindle Unlimited is gutting ebook sales for participating authors–and may even be impacting sales for authors who aren’t participating. Dear Author noted on this post at The Digital Reader with reports to that effect, and links to further reading on the matter.

All of which, for me, continues to add up to deep reluctance to commit my work to any one channel. At the end of the day, I’m not seeing any evidence that signing up for KDP Select, for example, will do any more for me than distributing myself out to Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo, and Google Play too–not to mention selling the print copies of Faerie Blood and Bone Walker.

John Scalzi has said repeatedly on his posts about Amazon and other big-name vendors of books that they are not an author’s friend. They’re there to make money, and if they think you can make them money, sure, they’re going to dangle shiny enticements in front of you to try to get you to commit your work to their exclusive systems. And anything that chokes off the due flow of money to you for your work should be treated with all due caution. I’m not saying indie musicians should never sign up for this new service, or that indie authors should never join Kindle Unlimited–but if you do, do it with your eyes open, and be aware of what it’s likely to do to your ability to sell your work.

In music and in writing, money should flow to the artist.

Read everything very carefully, and find out what will happen to that flow before you commit.


Some important Ferguson signalboosting

As I’ve periodically posted before, I’m a member of the Outer Alliance mailing list, a mailing list for queer authors and queer allies. One of our members, Dennis Upkins, is a gay man who also is black. And as you might expect, Dennis has been paying very hard attention to the events that have been taking place in Ferguson over the last many days.

He’s put up a post called Your Ferguson Resource Packet, which is pretty much a roundup of a lot of critical reading, especially if you’re a white person who might need to make sense of the massive shitstorm of FAIL that has been Ferguson’s handling of this entire affair.

Go read what he has to say. And if you’re a white person and you find yourself getting angry or defensive, read it anyway.

Because here’s the thing. You may not be a racist yourself. Your friends and loved ones may not be racist. You may personally know and love honorable members of your local police force. But you need to recognize that this isn’t about you. Or about people you personally know and love.

This is instead about the bigger picture of how the justice system in our society is massively skewed against anybody who isn’t white. Ferguson has been an all-too-graphic case in point about this. So was the entire Trayvon Martin case. So was the Marissa Alexander case–which, notably, was a black woman trying to defend herself against an abusive husband, which should have been a legitimate defense for Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and yet SOMEHOW was not applied to her. GEE I WONDER WHY.

And there are dozens of other examples. Dennis points at only some of them. Google. Educate yourself.

Recognize too that even if you yourself are also a member of a minority (e.g., you’re a woman, you’re queer, you’re cisgendered, you’re poor, etc.), if you’re a white person, you are not exempted from experiencing white privilege due to being any other kind of minority. And what does your white privilege mean? It means that chances are really good you’re never going to experience the kind of shit from the police that Ferguson citizens have been enduring from theirs.

Likewise, it means that if you stand up and say “this is bullshit and it needs to stop”, chances are likewise really good that your voice will be given more weight simply because you are, in fact, white.

This is what privilege means. It doesn’t mean you have to feel guilty for being a white person. It means that you simply need to recognize that by default, having white skin will give you more power in our society than being any other color will. It’s the same principle in play that gives straight people more power than queer people, rich people more power than poor people, the cisgendered more power than the transgendered, and men more power than women.

And if you also think that is bullshit and needs to stop, if you want to know what you as a white person can do to help, then again, go read what Dennis has to say. And seriously listen to what he’s saying, and think before you reflexively try to engage him or any other PoC in counterarguments. Pay particular attention to what microaggressions are, and learn to recognize when arguments you may want to put forth to people of color are in fact microaggressions that they hear day in and day out, ad infinitum, and which are way, way more common than you may think. Because I guarantee you that a lot of the counterarguments that may spring to your mind are ones they’ve heard before.

(And if you’re a member of any other minority, try the mental exercise first of seeing how you’d feel if a hypothetical other person tried to wing the same counterargument at you–about women, or the poor, or the transgendered, or what have you. If it would piss you off if somebody said that argument to you, that would be an indicator that maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t say it.)

And don’t stop there, either. Here is a roundup of campaigns and fundraiders to help Mike Brown’s family and the people of Ferguson in general. If you want to put your money where your mouth is, that would be an excellent place to start.


For Mike Brown

I have been reading the reports of what’s been going on in the last few days in Ferguson, and I don’t have much to say that isn’t getting eloquently said in a lot of other places already. Like this article in which Seattle’s own former police chief raises concerns about Ferguson. Or Jezebel’s writeup on the situation. Or this report and this one from Daily Kos.

I’ve been mulling over what if anything I should say. Or at least I was until this morning, when I saw this link go up on Black Girl Nerds. And I realized that yeah, I had to say something.

Because here’s the thing. I’m very cognizant that I am in a position of privilege here—as a middle-aged white woman in a pretty decent income bracket, I’m pretty unlikely to face the same aggression that’s happening to the citizens of Ferguson this week. But it’s because of that very privilege that I need to speak, and what I want to say is this:

The aggression that the citizens of Ferguson have been facing from their own police force is reprehensible. It has no place in a civilized society. It has no place in America. It is flat-out wrong, period, full stop, end of story.

These people are entirely in the right to demand justice for Mike Brown. There is no excuse for shooting down an unarmed young man. None. NONE. And the very police force that is supposed to be protecting and serving the people of Ferguson are instead treating them no better than oppressed populations in other countries—to the point that I’m now hearing secondhand reports that people in Turkey and Egypt are tweeting offered tips in complete solidarity and earnestness to Ferguson citizens on how to handle tear gas.

I am disgusted. I am appalled. And while I want to be hopeful that reports of a pending federal review of police tactics will actually bear fruit and curb this insanity, I’m not willing to be soothed yet. It is only a small step in the right direction to bring justice to Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, and every other young man who’s been murdered, at the end of the day, because he was black.

I feel helpless that there’s little I can do besides pointing and raising my voice, but this much, at least, I can do.

I’m listening. I’m watching. I care.


RIP Jake Lake

The science fiction world is grieving today with the passing of Jay Lake. I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him, and I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading the works of his that are on my ever-mighty, ever-growing To Read list.

But I do know people who did know him. And I read people on the Internet who knew him. And I’m part of a fandom community that was definitely impacted by him, and who is now diminished by his passing.

I’ve posted before about not only my own low-grade fight with cancer, but also by the recent passing of my young cousin Phillip. When Phillip went into hospice care, that was the signal to me that his end was coming. And while I didn’t follow Mr. Lake’s posts regularly, I have seen several of them–and I’d seen the similar announcement on his site. I’ve lost two family members to cancer, and have had to fight it off myself. It’s a familiar enemy. So while I don’t have direct experience with the level of the battle that Jay had to fight, I have a pretty damned good idea. And I definitely know what it’s like to be in a family who loses a loved one to that kind of battle.

So yeah. Many, many condolences to all in the greater SF/F community who knew and loved this man, and to his friends and family.

Link roundup–because yes, big impact on the SF/F community:

News, Publishing

Thoughts on current events, racism and sexism in SF/F, and #YesAllWomen

I’m not a well-known writer by any stretch of the imagination. In any given month I’m lucky if my sales numbers crack two digits. This means, Internets, that every time a reader reaches out to me, it’s a rare and special occurrence.

I mention this because I was contacted on Goodreads by a reader who thanked me profusely for Faerie Blood, specifically because she’s a reader of color, and it meant a lot to her to see Kendis, a heroine of color. She told me that she talked the book up to her friends as well, because she was so excited to find a book with a heroine like her.

Now, y’all, I’m a white woman. And I’ll say straight up that I was a bit nervous about making Kendis a heroine of color–because since I am a white woman, by definition, I’m not going to be able to write about a PoC with the same perspective and experience that writers of color can. It’s very likely that as I continue to write Kendis (because Bone Walker IS on the way, I swear!), I’ll probably screw something up in that regard.

But on the other hand, I felt like it was important to make Kendis non-white. As with a lot of aspects of my writing, this grew out of my love for Elfquest and the simple fact that I saw the Sun Folk–elves of color!–so vividly portrayed on the pages of that series. I’m also very aware, after a lifetime of reading SF/F, that protagonists of color are still pretty damned thin on the ground. The ones that do get written about run the risk of being whitewashed on their covers if they’re written by white authors–or of being exiled to non-SF/F sections of the bookstore if they’re written by authors of color.

And I’m aware that as a white author, I have a certain level of privilege that may get my book looked at twice when an author of color’s book might not be. The same applies to Valor of the Healer, where I also have a distinctly non-white heroine (and I’m grateful to Carina for making sure that’s clear!). At the same time, I acknowledge that yeah, I might screw something up, and that I need to listen if a reader of color comes and tells me “hey, you wrote this wrong”.

I hope I have the grace and sense to listen when that happens, to learn, and to do better next time.

But for now, I want to send a public shout-out to Colette on Goodreads. Thank you, Colette!

* * *

Along the same lines as above, some links y’all should be aware of if you haven’t seen them already.

N.K. Jemisin gave an excellent GoH speech at Wiscon this past weekend, and posted the transcript of it on her site here. Jemisin is calling it like she sees it in re: racism in SF/F, and she’s not wrong. It’s ongoing, it’s horrible, and it needs to stop.

Likewise, I’d like to call out Hiromi Goto’s GoH speech from the same convention. Pretty much her entire speech resonates with me, especially the closing where she talks about the Japanese word kotodama. We are, in SF/F, writers and readers. Words are powerful to all of us. They can effect change, and as both Jemisin and Goto so passionately proclaim, there’s much our words can do if we let their spirit move us.

Just before Wiscon, too, Mary Robinette Kowal put up an excellent post on the need for diversity in SF/F over here. I’d particularly like to point out the discussion in the comments, wherein the question is raised by a straight white male writer about what he can do to promote diversity. It is very, very important to note that in the replies he got, one of the big points made was that diversity does not mean that straight white men have to shut up or stop writing. Or that they even have to stop writing about characters like them, i.e., straight white men. Diversity includes SWMs too.

Diversity isn’t a zero-sum game. It doesn’t mean that just because minority writers are getting more of a voice, majority writers have to stand down. It does mean that those of us who enjoy majority privilege–whether because of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or whatever–need to have the grace to let others have their say too.

* * *

And this also applies to sexism. Like many of you, I’ve seen the horrible news going around about the shooting in California, and the virulently misogynist motives of the shooter. I’ve seen the response of #YesAllWomen springing up on Twitter, and roundup posts like this one on The Mary Sue, featuring some of the most powerful tweets with that hashtag.

I have seen men I know posting their bemusement about what “rape culture” means, and what on earth they can do in the face of such vicious hatred. I’ve seen other men I know, however, posting their sentiments that they need to stand up and say enough and this is not okay. They’re right. Because women keep screaming this–and mind you, we’re not going to stop–but the simple bitter truth is that there are a lot of men out there who aren’t going to hear us simply because we’re women. Men need to say it too–and turn their gender privilege into a force for good.

I’ll close this post with a pointer over to this post of Vixy’s, in which she lays down a lot of words of wisdom on this very topic. Go listen to her.

Then go speak, too–because we’re all stronger when we’re speaking together.

ETA: Adding this link because thank you, Arthur Chu. Who uses his aforementioned gender privilege as a force for good.