Monthly Archives: September 2010

Prostitution Isn’t Going Away

This week an Ontario court struck down a law that had made certain aspects of prostitution illegal, citing that it jeopardized the safety of the prostitutes by forcing them onto the street. (I’m paraphrasing.)  There are many laws about prostitution. In Canada it’s not illegal to be a prostitute but depending on where you are it could be illegal to sell sex, buy sex, live off the avails of prostitution or run a common bawdy house (known as brothel). I think pimping falls under human trafficking laws.

Harper’s government may fight this change because of right-wing religious views, but when it comes down to it, and with William Picton torturing and murdering various sex trade workers, there is strong evidence that sex trade worker lives are jeopardized by these laws. The arguments on both sides have already begun and will never end.

There are those that say that these changes open the doors for pimps and human trafficking. However, I would think there are already explicit laws about trafficking other humans that makes pimping illegal. Others argue that many women are forced into the sex trade, and at an early age, and this is true. However, the laws do not allow anyone under the age of 18 to be a prostitute anyways.

The moment that people started civilizing themselves (and I use the term loosely) by making laws and rules for living in communities, was the moment prostitution began because men could not just take what they wanted. I should point out that various cultures and religions today still turn a blind eye to men taking what they want even if it’s other people’s rights and livelihoods. And as long as we have men on this planet we are going to have prostitution. That means forever.

No matter how one makes laws against this aspect or that of prostitution, or shames the johns or imprisons the sex trade workers, it’s still going to continue. The more laws against it, the more it will be driven underground, but never away. I have a problem with this, like many aspects of laws that are meant to not keep people safe from each other but limit a person’s rights.

What harm would there be if prostitution and buying it was legal? Just think, the government could make money off of it, like it does with cigarettes, and alcohol (also once outlawed). Women could work in brothels or establishments where there was protection from murderer and other abusers of people. The workers could have regular health inspections, as well as the establishment so that the johns were likewise safe and the women were healthy (I use women here as the most common sex trade worker but understand that this can affect men as well). Prices could be controlled. Pimps would be eliminated. Sex on the streets, including the used condoms, and the violence would be lessened. And if a prostitute was found on the street, she’d probably be underage, unhealthy, addicted or something else that would identify quicker a solution for helping.

Prostitution exists and men use it. Some are single, some are married. The ways a person cheats won’t go away if there are laws against it. Legalizing prostitution would protect everyone better and the money the government made through licensing could go back into the system for education, health, addictions programs and other ways to get women out of the trade who are there more by circumstance and less by choice. And courts and prisons could be used for the true crimes.

This is such as win-win situation that I cannot understand why countries don’t implement it, except because of religious views. And the problem with someone’s religious view is that it’s not everyone’s. False morals just don’t make sense to me and if anything this creates a system where resources are used needlessly in the wrong direction, and the government can’t make statements about having wars on crime, even when the crime rate is dropping. Hype for using money where it could be used better elsewhere? Absolutely.

I’m hoping that this case in Ontario might be the first step towards a saner look at prostitution, the laws and the rights of the people involved. Because when it gets down to the nitty gritty, everyone is entitled to live their life how they wish as long as they do not hurt others.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/09/28/prostitution-law028.html

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Writing & Life

Last night I did, not my first reading, but my first reading at the Vancouver Public Library. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a reading and the last was at Orycon, Portland’s science fiction convention, last November. Strangely, I was nervous all over again but since I’ve done enough acting and readings in front of people I reminded myself to take breaths and not rush. My most common nervous issue in reading is to start talking too fast. It must have worked because my friends didn’t notice I was nervous.

I read part of “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” from the Evolve anthology to a moderate sized audience. Rhea Rose, Mary Choo and Sandra Wickham also read from their works. Since we had a time limit, I chose the beginning of the dinner scene and the mounting conflict between some of the guests and my main character Buer, who wants to rekindle a relationship with his old flame.

If anyone ever asks, the names are significant in the story. Beside Buer, there is Camiel, Sammael, Ronobe, Arkon and Jeanine. Except for the very human name of Jeanine (the person who is bucking trends and the equivalent of a vegetarian in a vampire world), the rest are names of angels or archangels, or fallen angels. And yes, this does refer to the title of the Fallen, for in this world the vampirii call themselves the Fallen and their religious system is rooted in this belief and that God is the Great Deceiver. Some of the names have specific meanings, while others don’t in reference to my story. I will often use some subtle symbolism of names in my stories, if I think it’s important, though the reader may never know.

The Barnes and Noble reviewer thought I should be writing novels on vampires but I’m not sure I could do one in this world. Perhaps I could but I would have to tread carefully, not because of religious leanings of the vampirii, but to make sure this does not replicate the Planet of the Apes scenario. That’s been done and I’m aware of the similarities of that world and mine. However, whereas Planet of the Apes was a social comment on racism and black suppression (just as District 9 was), my story is different with humans as food. But both have a hominid as a lesser being.

“Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” which went to press yesterday and should be out in Horror Library Vol. 4 in the next month, is quite a different story. If “Ember” is a morality tale, then “Exegesis” is an amorality tale. It is a story of otherness and the alien. Not aliens but alien. I’ll be interested to see what people think of this one.

In the meantime, VCon is this coming weekend, Oct. 1-3. It’s Vancouver’s SF convention (gaming, media, costuming, writing) and unfortunately it’s often plagued by disorganization and a lack of communication with the local writers. Despite that, some people have managed to get us down for a reading on Sunday (somewhere around 2 or 3). And considering I wasn’t invited to attend and they never answered my emails, I’ll be at the book launch on Friday at 7 pm. More info can be found here: http://www.vcon.ca/

And I will most likely be at Orycon in Portland on Nov. 12-14. “Exegesis” will be out by then so perhaps I’ll read from that. And in the meantime, I am determined to finish off this Mary Magdalene story, so I can start on another, darker story that might be vampire and might be something else entirely. I’m working that out, and I think it’s time to visit Ireland in a story since I’ve been there and the setting is needed.

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Writing: Sunburst Awards Announce Winners

SUNBURST AWARD ANNOUNCES 2010 WINNERS OF ITS $1,000 LITERARY PRIZE

Below I’m just printing verbatim the press release for the Sunburst Award. Although there could only be one winner, all of these people are excellent Canadian writers and worth a read. Congratulations to Alyx Dellamonica and Hiromi Goto for their wonderful achievements.

Toronto (September 27, 2010) The Sunburst Award Committee is pleased to announce that the winner of its 2010 adult award is Indigo Springs by A. M. Dellamonica (Tor, ISBN 0765319470) and the winner of its 2010 young adult award is Half World by Hiromi Goto (Puffin Canada, ISBN: 0670069655).

The Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is a prized and juried award presented annually. It is based on excellence of writing and awarded to a Canadian writer who has published a speculative fiction novel or book-length collection any time during the previous calendar year. Named after the novel by Phyllis Gotlieb (1926-2009), one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian speculative fiction, the award consists of a cash prize of $1,000 and a hand-crafted medallion which incorporates a “Sunburst” logo, designed by Marcel Gagne.

The Sunburst jury said: “When Astrid returns to the town of Indigo Springs and to the house she has inherited from her father, accompanied by Sahara, the girlfriend she has a crush on, and Jake, her platonic buddy who has a crush on her, she finds that, far from being the dissipated drunk the town thought him, her father was a crafter of magical objects called ‘chantments,’ using the power of the mysterious spring of blue waters beneath the house. When Astrid and Sahara learn to use the power for themselves, they discover the magic is both addictive and transformative. As their power grows, their experiments escalate into an ecological crisis … and open an unbridgeable chasm between them.

“Original, passionate, lyrical and powerful, entertaining and terrifying at once, Dellamonica’s debut novel examines how both good intentions and good people can be overthrown by the temptations of power.”

About Half World, the Sunburst Jury said: “After her mother suddenly disappears, unpopular oddball Melanie Tamaki accidentally discovers that she is a refugee from Half World, a  Boschian third dimension between the worlds of Spirit and Flesh where dead people work out their karmic issues through chaos and entropy. Beyond the hypnagogic wonders of the Half World setting and the clever yet unobtrusive cosmology of its concept, this is a mother-daughter story, a fact which of itself sets the novel apart, for few such are written. Most YA novels focus on peer relationships; Half World does too, but Melanie’s best friend is a shape-shifting jade rat pendant.

“Goto’s style is gruesome rather than gory; neither horror nor dark fantasy but entirely original and unclassifiable. Richly imagined phantasmagoric scenes decorate every iridescent page. Goto’s stylish incendiary prose lifts Half World above the YA category; this novel crosses age boundaries and could just as easily be categorized as a book for adults.”

The jurors for the 2010 award were Don Bassingthwaite, Gemma Files, Susie Moloney, Ursula Pflug and Edward Willett. They selected five adult and five young adult shortlisted works as representing the finest of Canadian fantastic literature published during the 2009 calendar year.

The other shortlisted works for the 2010 adult award were:

The Mystery of Grace by Charles de Lint
Makers by Cory Doctorow
The Sunless Countries by Karl Schroeder
Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson

The other shortlisted works for the 2010 young adult award were:

Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
Amy By Any Other Name by Maureen Garvie
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
The Hunchback Assignment by Arthur Slade

A. M. Dellamonica lives in Vancouver. Hiromi Goto lives in Burnaby.

The 2011 Award jurors will be Julie Czerneda, Kate Freiman, Mark Leslie, Christopher Roden, and Alison Sinclair.

For additional information about the Sunburst Award, the nominees and jurors, as well as previous awards, eligibility and the selection process, please visit the website at www.sunburstaward.org.

Contact: Rebecca Simkin, Secretary at:
The Sunburst Award
2 Farm Greenway
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M3A 3M2

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Rape: It’s Just a Social Media Trend

Our civilization is truly sliding into the cesspool and presumably will meet its Waterloo in the next hundred years, if it makes it that long. I talk about a rape that happened recently in what we call Greater Vancouver, actually being an outlying city in the Greater Vancouver metropolis. Unfortunately rapes happen far too often but there are several things that made this one different and indicates an even more frightening trend toward a disintegrating society.

The girl (sixteen years old is still legally a girl in this country) was given a date rape drug, taken out to a field and raped by at least five men. If that wasn’t bad enough, one news report said that up to 500 people at this rave stood around and watched.* Five hundred! Just watching. Not one of them called the police on their numerous digital devices. Not one of them seemed to think there was anything wrong with this scenario. Perhaps some did. Perhaps another girl did and she might have felt if she said anything she would be the next one raped. But really, five hundred of our up and coming generation had no respect for a person, let alone a sense of morality or right and wrong.

But this is not the only terrible aspect. Someone, if not several someones, took pictures of this rape and then posted them to Facebook. Hooray for social (or should I say antisocial) media. As fast as the police tried to move through and get these images down, they were re-posted. Not only was that young woman repeatedly victimized that night but she is victimized over and over again in social media. And the police seem to only be able to threaten people who re-post these images by saying that since she was underage it is considered pornography. Which really makes me wonder, is it then okay to post pictures of the rape of an adult woman? Can no one else see what’s wrong with this picture?

Our society has become so in-your-face with trashy reality TV shows of everyone’s drama (whether real or not and I doubt it is) and knowing what someone is doing every minute of the day through Facebook, texts, Twitter, you name it, that we can’t seem to separate true reality from the fake. And not only that, but morality has slid out the window.

While I do believe a healthy dose of reality, proper upbringing, conscience and a perspective of right and wrong will make most people discerning individuals, I also believe that we can blame the visual media for much of the blase attitudes and continuing (if not increasing) denigration of women, and people in general. Girls Gone Wild, and numerous other porn shows on TV or the internet show a free screw-anything-in-sight attitude that usually makes the women look like sluts and the men look like studs…or that’s what many believe. Add to that numerous shows that show sex only in a perverted or violent way, coupled with every form of violence and murder shown explicitly for almost any age and we have a society numbed to indifference.

rape culture, rape ad, sexual assault

Dolce and Gabbana thinks it’s sexy to show symbolical rape.

How bad is it? Am I just crazy? Well the few images on this page make a statement of how people might start to get confused as to whether rape is good, bad or sexy. Dolce and Gabbana thinks it’s cool to make it sexy, while others just think wearing a T-shirt is a funny ha-ha. A search of the internet shows spoofs of motivational posters with Rape in the title and some sick comment below. I’m not posting any here because I’m not aiming for adult content and I’m not willing to give one site any more traffic because of its complete disregard for the seriousness of this crime. Some of the captions say, just consider it surprise sex.

Unfortunately it is not sex of any kind for the person being assaulted. It’s pure and simple violence and an assault on a person’s life. Those that laugh would not be so free if the same happened to them, and the men who raped this girl, should they go to prison, might end up on the receiving end. Perhaps it really is time for women to be able to wear vagina dentata and if you don’t know what that is, all the better. I’m getting pretty sick of various crimes and supposed societies, cultures and religions that treat women as chattel, second class citizens or otherwise as something to be used.

I really hope the police charge every single person who stood around in that field watching, as accessories after the fact or accomplices. It’s a pretty sad state that supposed civilization has sunk to.

Update: According to the news today, (09/23/10) it was not 500 people at the rave but maybe only a dozen watching and maybe not 5 or 7 men raping her but just several. This does not lessen the severity of the crime at all but maybe still gives a faint hope for humanity that there weren’t 500 ghouls.

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Movie Review: The Train Wreck of “I’m Still Here”

I got to see the preview of I’m Still Here last night, another in a long list of reality, documentary, “real life” stories on film. So it’s shot with a handheld video and is grainy and old looking, as well as bad to incomprehensible sound quality in parts. Just like Blair Witch Project and all those other made-to-be-real stories. But it’s a documentary, sort of. Joaquin Phoenix, the star, or anti-star, of this documentary was filmed by brother-in-law Casey Affleck. Now in a way it’s unfortunate that Affleck let the cat out of the bag so early that in fact this is a mockumentary and not really Phoenix’s plummet into eccentric weirdoness. We sincerely hope–though stars going crazy, or doing too many drugs or booze is an old story and Phoenix seems to have had his brush with this in the past.

Joaquin as crazed hip-hop wannabe (from x17online.com)

In some ways, this reminded me of the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which had grainy handheld images by a novice videographer, for part of it. But let’s look at I’m Still Here as if it were being filmed as a true documentary. First, if Casey Affleck was revealed as the director at the beginning we then have to wonder, why does an actor with money and names at his disposal decide to use the lowest level of technology available to make this film about his brother-in-law? Only because it will look more like reality, but already I’m suspicious because it’s not some no name Joe and at least the filming should be a little more even, and the framing and sound better. That’s my first raspberry to the film.

Let’s not forget that for Affleck’s directorial debut it does keep production values and costs pretty minimal, and producing a film can be very very expensive. Not to mention paying those high price actors of which Joaquin Phoenix is one. But hey, he’s in on it and he’s Affleck’s brother-in-law and we know the Affleck boys are talented. So let’s do this badass hoax.

Phoenix, as always, is such a consummate actor that he’s believable as the tripped out, pot-smoking, coke-snorting, beer-drinking crazoid who wants to give up acting and become a hip-hop artist. However…through this increasing train wreck of two years, Joaquin gets fuzzier with a big untrimmed beard, uncombed hair, massive sunglasses held together by duct tape, sometimes a torn toque or shirt on his head and generally a slovenly appearance that radiates negative sex appeal. I kept wondering if they put a fat suit on him but it looks too real as he gains weight. Now there are many actors who have put on weight, starved themselves or gotten buff to play a role and I don’t doubt that Phoenix would do this.

However, I find it unbelievable that anyone who actually cared for the man, including presumably his brother-in-law and a sister somewhere (or the brief cameo of his father) would let a man slide for so long without wanting to stage an intervention, and that Affleck would put that in the video. Phoenix is crazed,  he’s drugged, he mumbles, he rants and is basically so fucked up that he’s unappealing to anyone but the sycophants/aids/assistants who are paid to follow and help him. But no one, not publicist nor marketing people nor agents ever say, “What the hell? You need serious help.” They just let him ride and let him slide, and that to me is unbelievable and missing from this mockumentary, hence making it a noticeable fake documentary.

As for the film itself, well there are funny moments because Joaquin is so crazed and the way he dresses so bad (because we know he’s a famous star) that you just have to laugh. His home doesn’t look anything like what a star would live in and seems half unpacked with his assistants living in bare bedrooms with no pictures on the wall and only a single size bed (also unbelievable–no one can love him that much). So yeah we laugh at his crazy looniness and at the lame-ass attempts at hip-hop, which, because the sound is never mastered in any way is hard to hear at times.

But those amusing moments don’t warrant a nearly two-hour film. It’s slow and drags and whereas Exit Through the Gift Shop moved along, had tension, humor, drama and a good story on several levels, I’m Still Here falls flat. So flat in fact that I kept trying to see what time it was when I wasn’t closing my eyes. An hour would have been long enough to document this style of train wreck life, whether real or not. Some judicious cutting would have helped.

If Casey Affleck hadn’t revealed that it was a mockumentary so quickly I’m sure that the critics would debate its veracity for months, (and more people would see the film) but probably Joaquin Phoenix is truly worried that people will believe it and that his movie career will plummet. Plus, he’s gotta get back in shape now. But like the phoenix Joaquin is named after, I’m sure this star will rise higher and that the only truly good thing in this film was the caliber of his acting.  As for Casey Affleck’s directing, well, with the right money and people in the right place, I know I could do as well if not better. I’d only give this film four stars out of ten. Watching my cat groom itself is about on par for the excitement in this film.

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Writing: I’m a Rock Star

Okay, really I’m not but I’ve received a rock star review, the creme de la creme in reviews that have been good so far. Now a review is really just one person’s opinion, whether informed or not but it’s so nice to get reviews. I’ve written stories for anthologies before where it seems no one noticed, either my story or the anthology/magazine. And yes, I’d rather get a bad review than no review at all. But of course I’d rather get a good review.

From the first story I ever published (I was publishing poems before that but really, no one does reviews of poems unless you’re Margaret Atwood) the media has changed. Or I should say the supporting media has changed. It was magazines, newspapers and trade journals at first and then with the proliferation of the internet there were a host of sites, blogs, web pages, where people could leave their opinions. There were more forms of marketing as well, and now with social media like Facebook, it has made the word of mouth aspect much larger. So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise how many reviews that Evolve is getting. However, other stories that have come out in the last year or two have not received the same response.

I attribute the number of reviews to two things: one, vampires are popular, even before the sparkly shiny Twilight vampires, even before The Vampire Lestat. Two: Edge’s marketing strategy. I actually don’t know all of it for the publisher but they have been setting up readings and signings across the country and obviously giving out review copies and spreading the word through digital media.

Now all of these things do not a good review make or even guarantee reviews, but Evolve has been receiving a majority of favorable reviews, and likewise my story is mentioned in most of those reviews and again mostly in good regard. So I’m stoked. I’m a pretty small pea in the speculative fiction pod so it’s good to get mentioned. The icing on the cake was the Barnes and Noble review by Paul Goat Allen (and I’m really curious how someone ends up with that middle name) who loved my piece.

Colleen Anderson’s “An Ember Among the Fallen” was simply a visionary masterpiece, envisioning a world ruled by “vampirii” and where humans were nothing more than mindless cattle kept in pens and fed specific diets to enhance the vintage of their blood. The vampire’s scripture, The Book of the Fallen, forbids “cruelty to or treating cattle as more than the meat and blood for which they were bred.” And in a wildly indulgent society where essentially anything goes, the one lone taboo is having sex with an animal, especially a hominid. The punishment for being a “meat mater” is nothing short of death. After an emotionally draining dinner party where a male vampire, Buer, realizes that he has lost his ex-girlfriend forever—a curvaceous vampirii named Camiel—he gets drunk on bloodwine and  does the unthinkable: he plays with his food…

It’s rare to ever have a story called a visionary masterpiece and this might be the only time so I’ll take it. He also encourages me to write some sort of bloodsucking novel. If only it were so easy. I have one novel written and unsold. It’s not about vampires though there are a few in there. And I have a second, unrelated novel that’s been long in the works. But perhaps he has something: vampire fiction is immensely popular and I could probably sell such a book. I’ve somehow managed to write several vampire tales. “Lovers Triangle” takes place in a future time, and “Hold Back the Night” takes place in India with a member of the cult of Kali. I have another story that’s not sold that deals with a vampire but not as the main character. So perhaps I should see if I can become the next Charlaine Harris or Laurel Hamilton.

In the meantime, here are a host of new reviews on Evolve. As well, there is a short interview with my alter ego up on Alison Tyler’s blog to do with my story in Alison’s Wonderland: http://alisontyler.blogspot.com/ (Sept. 15th entry). Oh and if you live in Greater Vancouver, I’ll be reading at the Vancouver Public Library on Sept. 27 at 7:00 pm with three other Evolve authors: Rhea Rose, Sandra Wickham and Mary Choo.

Barnes & Noble Review

http://mondovampire.blogspot.com

http://templelibraryreviews.blogspot.com

http://anovelapproachto.me/book-reviews-2/

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My Religion’s Better Than Yours

Religion, ain’t it grand? Everyone can use it to feel righteous, superior and special. In fact, people can use it to preach tolerance, yet in the same breath turn around and show bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

Nine years after September 11 and what have we learned? Place the blame elsewhere and stoke the fires under the fetid brew of religious intolerance. I speak of some Qu’ran burning putz in the US and the masses of protesters screaming against a mosque being built near ground zero in New York.

The masses, as has been shown again and again, are mostly ignorant, easily swayed and influenced by hype. If there is a complete intelligence amongst them, they hide it in the mob mentality. Notice I don’t say the Christian masses or the Hindu masses or any specific religion, because a mass of people (as opposed to the Catholic mass) is just that; not necessarily an unthinking organism but a lower thinking one.

The problem with religion is that it’s open to interpretation, interpretations of interpretations, offshoots, branches, sects and other views of the same religion, let alone all the different religions out there. Take just one, even Buddhism, and you have moderates, those who are orthodox or who adhere to the most stringent rules, and those who are liberal. One extreme end holds the fundamentalists. It makes no difference if this is Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam or one of the host of many religious practices. Fundamentalists are sometimes raised in the tradition but just as often (if not moreso) they are brought to this view as adults.

Fundamentalists are often recognized as being stringent and unbending, narrow-minded, and resistant to truth and facts. They like going on tirades, performing highly dramatic proclamations and at the worst, killing people in the name of their religion. A fundamentalist, whether a Taoist (Are there fundamentalist Taoists? Probably),  a Wiccan or some other religion is annoying at best and downright threatening to life and liberty at worst.

Who is a fundamentalist? The Taliban subjugating men and women, the Holy Roman Empire feeding Christians to lions, the Spanish Inquisition toasting witches, and southern Baptists burning religious texts. This is only a small sampling of pointing the finger at another group and ostracizing them for their beliefs. Sometimes this religious prejudice has been wholly one group against another and that’s not necessarily fundamentalism (really, the Roman Empire was a state religion and not fundamental beyond that) as it is the tenets and interpretations of the era and culture, such as various pogroms against the Jews in Medieval Europe. But fundamentalists will loudly proclaim the right and might of their belief system, then put their hands over their ears so they do not hear anything which would make them doubt. And they just as loudly denounce everyone else of not being on the “one true faith.”

Most religions preach love, compassion and turning the other cheek but it seems it doesn’t run to your neighbor if they are of a different ilk. It’s okay to tell your wives to stay home and raise babies if you’re a fundamentalist Christian but it’s not okay if you’re a fundamentalist Muslim and tell your wife to wear the hijab.  It’s okay to guilt trip people into being of a particular faith but then not let homosexuals into your church. It’s okay to convert by the gun or the sword because that will really give you more believers but it will only be lip service. Oh and do I even have to mention that should you start burning, breaking or otherwise destroying one group’s symbols of faith, that that won’t make them go away but will have them in your face. But if it’s war you want, in your religious peace, then it’s war you’ll get.

I’m not sure when the world is going to grow up. I have little faith it will be anytime soon as religious superstition, suspicion and intolerance seem to be on the rise. And people, no matter their faith, should be willing to listen to another person’s belief system. If they’re threatened, then they’re already insecure in their beliefs. If they change to another path, so what? Spirituality is always an individual journey and coercing or forcing people is not the way to spirit and belief.

Blaming all people of one faith for what some men did of dubious and most likely fundamentalist beliefs is the same as saying half of the species (say, women) is inferior to the other half. It’s the same as saying, Joe killed someone; therefore all of humanity should be punished. It’s the same as saying, my great grandfather raped someone so all the men in my family line are rapists (and this is a what-if and not indicative of my family). It’s the same as saying all Christians are good and all Muslims are bad. Switch the nouns and names around and it will sound as ludicrous.

Anyone who supports such wholesale bigotry should not be surprised when vengeance is wreaked upon them by the group they denounce. Look at the individual and do not use that wide brush to paint all of any group with it. There are evil Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists (Burma/Myanmar is run by Buddhists), pagans, agnostics, atheists, Hindus, Sikhs, etc. all over the world. And there are many more people of all faiths and none who are compassionate, charitable, giving and willing to let each person live, as long as they do not damage or subjugate another person in any way.

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Writing: Kiss of Death Acceptances

Perhaps the only thing worse than not getting a story or poem accepted is to have it accepted but to watch the magazine fold, the anthology be canceled, or the supposed publication fade into the ether, never to be heard from again. This probably happens to everyone at some point, but I have had it happen at least seven times. I then begin to wonder, do I have some sort of  superhero (or villain) power where I cause the publications to die? The moment they accept my piece, the end is near–the kiss of death.

Of course that’s sort of a reverse ego thing and if I really did have that power there are a few publications I would like to use it on. Not for rejecting me, mind you. That’s part of the business, but in the past when editing and writing, I was cheated out of money by one magazine, and got so much BS from another, along with a lengthy battle to be paid, that they deserved to fold (and I believe have by now).

But the truth is, especially with the proliferation of the internet, that it’s easier and cheaper to run a magazine (such as online), but it still takes skill, knowledge and consistency. Perhaps the best nonpublication I had was  a magazine called Offworld Magazine. If you’ve never heard of it it’s because they didn’t even get number 1 out the door. They did pay for the story (called a kill-fee in some mags should they choose to not publish, though this one did not have that caveat). However, when I received the letter that said my story had been “excepted” I thought it had been rejected, not “accepted.” To except is to exclude. Hmmm.

Then there were the Tampa marketing anthologies, a list of themed anthologies by this company I had not heard of before. These days, there are many many publishers and small start-ups and new ventures so sometimes it pans out to try something new, after carefully reading the guidelines. It was low paying but still seemed worthy. As can be seen here there was little response from the company and the first anthologies were supposed to be out in June of 2009. After no response and several query emails you tend to chalk these things up to yet more unfulfilled pipe dreams. Then last November I received an email from someone who was asked by the head honcho to get the project done and he was accepting my piece. I asked which piece as I had submitted several, and when was this going to be published. I didn’t wish to pull my piece from other possible submissions unless I had some guarantee. He said he’d ask the big guy…and I never heard from them again.

I’ve sold several poems that were subsequently unaccepted because the magazine forgot they had them or lost them or changed their minds in the next two years. I had a story accepted to a noir erotic anthology and then it was held because they were splitting the anthology into books 2 and 3 and I would be in book 3. And then the publisher canceled book 3. I did get a kill fee on that one too. I’ve had a magazine say, “We loved this poem and would have taken it but we’re closing our doors.”

Sometimes there are odd little anthologies that pop up like “Quantum Planet of the Arts,” a collection of surreal (or something) fiction that was supposed to be published last year. After several emails to the editor who said they were delayed but still planning to publish, (and that she would send my email to the publisher) I heard nothing. My last email this year was a note to her saying, I will presume this venture dead. I heard no response so I think I presumed correctly.

There have been a couple of erotic magazines with the same result, communication dropping off to nonexistence. Circlet Press, always a slow mover fell into that realm in my books. They never replied and I presumed them dead. But instead they win the prize of the slowest rejection letter every–seven years! By that time I had sent the piece out many times (maybe published as I don’t remember what it was). After a certain length, really, a why bother should probably be the best plan. But it is frustrating when publications don’t bother to tell you they’ve rejected your stories, or they’re way behind or they’re folding. It’s part of the biz. I do have two stories languishing in magazines that seem to have dropped off the face of the earth, though I’ve had some private communication. I send those pieces out in the meantime but leave them with the magazine in case they ever get through their slush. It’s been nearly two years with some of them so I’m not exactly holding my breath here.

I recommend www.ralan.com as the best place for speculative markets with updates and the grave of dead magazines. I can say at least that my superhero power of writing and getting pieces published is better than my kiss-of-death power. I’ve had more accepted pieces published than not and that is a relief.

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Traveling in India: Toilet Terrors

Ancient Greeks had it rough but not that rough.

I have had some pretty interesting toilet adventures when traveling. Mexico City didn’t flush their toilet paper but had open garbage cans beside the toilet for people to put the soiled pieces into, which was especially disgusting. Singapore required you to squat in the right direction and if you didn’t flush they would fine you. Britain used something akin to parchment paper with the absorbency of stone. But India was perhaps the place where I experienced the most travails. I was there for two months and on top of that, contracting dysentery meant I had many intimate moments in the can.

Toilets (or ditches, troughs, or trenches) could always be found but if you’re of a culture used to sitting, the other style can be a challenge. Squatting is something that takes more work if you don’t continue to do it from childhood. The muscles and tendons shorten and it’s not as easy to even achieve a full squat without having the feet jutting out at 45 degree angles. In Nepal, while on the bus, we’d pass people on the side of the road, just squatting right down, arms wrapped about their knees and doing their business, watching the cars go by. I presume they used their hands to wipe as they do in some Arab countries but I never asked. And after seeing one man walking along and blowing a booger into his hand and then flinging it, I didn’t want to know, nor shake anyone’s hands.

On one trip, there was a little shack where they served up rice and dhal bat (some sort of lentil stew that I can’t eat because of food sensitivities.  Behind that brick shack was an old piece of cloth over a very short vestibule. At the back of this was a thin culvert (about six inches wide) of water running through. You squatted over that culvert of water and did your business. Toilet paper isn’t something the locals use and they probably shake their heads at our finicky ways.

My time in Meghalaya was fine since every home had flush toilets with seats and the Khasis tend not to squat at home though I’m sure they’re used to the squat version too. By the time I made to Delhi I was desperately sick with dysentery. I didn’t know if I would puke or have diarrhea or both at the same time. The worst version of toilet is the one that combines the squat with the Western style. These were porcelain toilets with no seats that people squatted over. It’s much easier to squat full to the ground, than halfway as if you’re skiing. And if you’ve ever been so sick that you just want to lay on the floor and hang onto the toilet, well, there was no way to do that with this style of toilet. The floors were filthy with everything including the grunge from using a toilet. And the porcelain rim, without seat was just as mucky. What to do (as they said in India). Try being steady when you feel like fainting and vomiting into the fecal void. I hated this toilet style most of all.

The most adventuresome one was taking a train from Delhi (it might have been Varanasi) to Calcutta. It’s a long train ride and eventually you’re probably going to have to use the toilet. I waited as long as I could, partly because I didn’t want to leave my pack alone. But eventually I had to go. I wore long skirts a fair deal in India because they were cooler and because it was culturally more acceptable. On the train, the toilet is only a hole in the ground, where you can watch the tracks shooting by beneath. In fact, you’d never want to walk along the tracks there because everyone defecates onto the tracks. I can’t imagine it being pleasant at all.

So here I am in this darkish metal box, bunching my skirt up about my thighs and squatting down. What does a train do when it moves? It rocks, so there was a bar to hang onto. But being a Western person I also used toilet paper. One hand is holding up my clothing, one is hanging on to the bar. How do you wipe yourself? It took some judicious bunching of fabric and balance. My fear was I’d fall onto the disgusting floor and contract a disease.

But I managed. And I brought my own toilet paper know it’s not something used by all cultures and it’s a good thing I did or I would have been using my hands. And after seeing the Ganges River, with ashes from the burning ghats, dead cows, marigolds, people washing clothes, themselves and doing spiritual ablutions, there was no way I was going to touch the water. I was raised in the cushy Western society and I’m not used to other styles of toilets. But if I had grown up in Asia  I would probably sport a limberness that aid me in other ways. I still wonder what happens when a person gets too old and rickety to squat though.

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The Outsider Syndrome: Feeling Alone

I’ve been on holidays so I haven’t posted for a bit, but a conversation with a friend got me thinking about this phenomenon that I’ve experienced, and others have as well. I’m not a psychologist but I do like to delve into the whys and wherefores of the human psyche and some life experience has taught me a few things about the way we think and behave.

outsider, being alone, loneliness, the other, personality

Sculpture Niobe (1951) by Constant Permeke in sculpture park Kröller-Müller Museum

The Outsider Syndrome is my name for the feeling that you don’t belong, no matter what. That somehow, even if you’re doing the same activity as everyone else, that you just don’t fit in or they know you are different. Sometimes the feeling is real and sometimes it is our own perception.

My feelings of being an outsider began (as I suspect they did for many of us) in childhood. When church was something everyone did, we didn’t attend (except for a brief spate) and this was still when we recited the Lord’s Prayer in elementary school. The teacher would ask us what we did in Sunday school that weekend and I felt different because I couldn’t answer the question. It made me embarrassed, and as a child I was quite shy. Shyness and being picked on because of it did not help with the Outsider feeling.

I also came from a home where my parents divorced at a time when  most of my friends had both parents at home. So yes, I felt different there too. I’m sure there are studies that show people have this Outsider feeling if they are teased, are shy, have broken homes, or are somehow different from the crowd. And of course there are psychological or personality dispositions to all of these feelings.

I felt different for various reasons but those were the ones that shaped me. I felt different because my body wasn’t quite in the norm as everyone else’s, that I was poorer than many of my friends, that I somehow didn’t relate. At times I’ve realized that other people, almost everyone, is different or unique in their own way. In that essence we are all outsiders trying to fit in to the social organism.

This weekend I was at an event, a group that might just be made up of Outsiders; people who find the norm boring, who might be more strongly individualistic, who might like to roleplay, who might geek out over medieval history and things of the Middle Ages. It’s called the Society for Creative Anachronism and it has its share of social misfits as well as artisans practicing crafts that were once done hundreds of years ago. I haven’t been to these events for a while so I was feeling like an outsider again, not quite fitting into the whole game. Another friend was there who hadn’t been at an event in about eight years. He too felt even more acutely than me that he didn’t belong. People go on with their current interests and they’re not sure how to fit you back into their lives either.

This feeling isn’t particular to one group but any established group to which a new person tries to belong may cause this feeling. People like to stay with the familiar and if someone you don’t know walks up to your group you might completely ignore them, and continue talking to your friends. You might turn your back, making a circle and physically excluding them. We are inclusive…of those we know but we can exclude too without realizing it. If the group or event is one meant for people to meet, share and mingle something as small as turning slightly away can cause a person to move off and feel alone.

The world is rife with stories of Outsiders and sometimes they choose to be so. As I entered art college with all those other people who try to push boundaries, move beyond the envelope and think outside the box I found I fit in, because there were many like minds. At the same time I began to embrace my otherness. If people are going to treat me as other or different, than I shall choose to like my difference and be proud of it. People in the arts and sciences are often moving beyond the norm in trying to explore new things or make over old ones.

Being an Outsider can be an isolating experience. If you find there is a new person in your social or working group, or someone who lives farther out, then a little extra attention can help both of you transition and fit in. Long ago, when I moved to Vancouver with a turquoise streak in my hair, a woman who I worked with took a chance to move past the preconception about people who did such things to their hair and got to know me, becoming a very long-term friend. If you’re feeling an Outsider too, even if you have chosen it in some way, it may be harder to find people accepting, but being open and receptive can eliminate that feeling of being alone. Outsiders really are just people you do not yet know

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