J.M. Frey

And who am I now that I'm not who I was?

Posts tagged writing

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I SOLD A STORY!

I am very pleased to announce that my short story “The Moral of the Story” will be published in Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods — Faith in Science Fiction & Fantasy. It will be released FALL 2014.

View the PRESS RELEASE and follow the #Tess18 hashtag to celebrate with us and find out more!

About the Tesseracts Anthology series:
(From the website)

The first Tesseracts anthology was edited by Judith Merril. Since its publication in 1985, 299 authors/editors/translators and guests have contributed 502 pieces of Canadian speculative fiction, fantasy and horror for this series. Some of Canada’s best known speculative fiction writers have been published within the pages of these volumes - including Margaret Atwood, William Gibson, Robert J. Sawyer, and Spider Robinson (to name a few). Tesseracts Eighteen is the forthcoming volume in the series. The entire series includes Tesseracts One through Seventeen, plus Tesseracts Q, which features translations of works by some of Canada’s top francophone writers of science fiction and fantasy.

About Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods

Jacob wrestled with an angel in the night, earning him the name “Israel”, which means “struggles with god.” Buddha wrestled, and the hero of the Mahabarata wrestled too. Wrestling is a part of faith. Having a faith can help immensely with struggles in our lives, but we also must struggle against the rules, the boundaries, and the very doctrine at times. We all wrestle with our cultures and our gods, whether we believe in them or not. Faith is not passive. Human progress has relied on brave souls willing to challenge convention through their beliefs. And faith is not separate from Fantasy and Science Fiction. Fantastic elements are integral to all major faiths–they have their gods, fantastic creatures, miracles, blessings, power and magic. We continue that journey into space, possibly encountering worlds with their faiths. Since our cultures all began with fantasy and struggling with faith, Tesseracts 18 will continue the Science Fiction and Fantasy tradition of wrestling with Faith, without declaring all-out war. 

This anthology will include as diverse a representation of both real-world religions and faiths of fictional cultures as possible. Stories should not be looking to pass historical or cultural judgment, instead they should feature character-driven plots that include faith, doubt, miracles, spiritual journeys, and diversity of opinion within a faith. Please avoid blanket stereotypes of faith-based cultures. We’d love to see faith surprise us, and surprise science fiction and fantasy readers. 

Preview of my story, The Moral Of The Story

Her fingers brush the soft skin, the small smooth of bone under thin flesh behind my left ear, brushing back through wiry hair to where I’ve got it pulled back in preparation for hard work. Lake water, brackish here where it mingles with the St. Lawrence, slides down the side of my neck, summoning goose pimples in its wake. The slick, cool brush of membrane kisses the lobe of my ear and I feel my eyes slide closed, involuntary, as natural as the slight gasp that parts my lips, inflates my lungs, brushes the taste of water and breeze and sunlight across my tongue.

"You came," the woman in the water says. Her voice is sibilant and filled with nearly inaudible clicks and hard-palate burrs, an accent never before heard in the lower plains of Quebec. 

Never heard before the Melt caused all the water levels to rise. Never heard before the Great Dark came and killed all the technology. Never before the Daniel-Johnson dam stopped working, the regulating of the Manicouagan became too much and the river broke through its cement prison. Never before Baie-Comeau was overborne and drowned.

Possibly, perhaps - and maybe I flatter myself a little - never before in the whole of human history. But then, how could we have stories of things like her, if I’m the first to converse with one? 

Arrogance is a sin. It’s one of the sins brought the Great Dark.

"I came," I say, opening my eyes. Sunlight on water dazzles like diamonds. I squint. It’s a comfortable gesture. The lines beside my eyes folding into place is familiar, nearly soothing. "How could I stay away?"

"But did you come for me?" she teases, dipping her chin into the water in a gesture I’ve learned is meant to be coy, flirtatious. Dark hair slips and pools along the surface, shifting and curling like squid ink.

I sit back in the boat, take up my nets, and fling them over the side that she doesn’t occupy. She whistles and clicks, face in the water, summoning fish. This is our deal. She fills my nets, I fill her mind, and we neither of us attempts to harm the other. Actively.

#

I had more hungry mouths to feed than fear of rumours, and that is what initially drove me out onto the unnatural lake. The stories said that there was something in the water that feeds on manflesh. But I am no man, and we needed the fish.

For the first few weeks, it was subtle. An elongated shadow too far down to see clearly, too solid to be a school, but too large to be any breed of fish I had ever caught before. Sometimes, it was a splash on the surface of the otherwise calm lake. Once, my little rowboat lurched under my feet, against current, violent, wrong.

I was being hunted, I realized. Even as I harvested fish, something else sought to harvest me. The rumours were not just stories.

I stayed away for three days. On the fourth my youngest brother patted his stomach morosely and cried, unable to understand why he hungered so. Defeated by his tiny misery, I fetched my father’s harpoon from the hunting shed, and made the short walk back to the rocky shoreline.

My little boat was tied up where I had left it, undisturbed. But, no, see — there were four long scratches in the wood of the stern, naked against the dark stain of tar sealant, brackish water, and age. I bent down, breath caught in the hollow of my throat, and splayed my palm against the slashes. They were finger-width apart from each other, come from a humanish hand.

There was a Creature in the lake. And it was mad at me.

Mad because I dared to fish? Or mad because I did not come back?

I nearly turned away then, abandoned the boat, and the lake, and went to find another way to contribute to the supper table. I am old enough to go to the steam-driven factories, now, but then who would care for the littles? 

I could spare a few hours each day to go onto the lake, but I cannot leave them for eight or more hours each day to work, and then shop. My parents would be furious. And I cannot hunt, I have no skill with a bow and arrow, we have no gun and ammunition is too expensive, and the Mayor Creature has not given us express permission. That is courting disaster.

No choice. I had to go back onto the lake.

I hesitated, but I could still hear the little ones’ frustrated wails ringing in my ears. So I gathered up and solidified my courage. Die of hunger, or die on the water. 

Those were my only choices.

___________

Image Source: A model floating in the water at Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida. The image by fashion photographer Toni Frissell was published in Harper’s Bazaar in December 1947

I SOLD A STORY!

I am very pleased to announce that my short story “The Moral of the Story” will be published in Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods — Faith in Science Fiction & Fantasy. It will be released FALL 2014.

View the PRESS RELEASE and follow the #Tess18 hashtag to celebrate with us and find out more!

About the Tesseracts Anthology series:
(From the website)

The first Tesseracts anthology was edited by Judith Merril. Since its publication in 1985, 299 authors/editors/translators and guests have contributed 502 pieces of Canadian speculative fiction, fantasy and horror for this series. Some of Canada’s best known speculative fiction writers have been published within the pages of these volumes - including Margaret Atwood, William Gibson, Robert J. Sawyer, and Spider Robinson (to name a few). Tesseracts Eighteen is the forthcoming volume in the series. The entire series includes Tesseracts One through Seventeen, plus Tesseracts Q, which features translations of works by some of Canada’s top francophone writers of science fiction and fantasy.

About Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods

Jacob wrestled with an angel in the night, earning him the name “Israel”, which means “struggles with god.” Buddha wrestled, and the hero of the Mahabarata wrestled too. Wrestling is a part of faith. Having a faith can help immensely with struggles in our lives, but we also must struggle against the rules, the boundaries, and the very doctrine at times. We all wrestle with our cultures and our gods, whether we believe in them or not. Faith is not passive. Human progress has relied on brave souls willing to challenge convention through their beliefs. And faith is not separate from Fantasy and Science Fiction. Fantastic elements are integral to all major faiths–they have their gods, fantastic creatures, miracles, blessings, power and magic. We continue that journey into space, possibly encountering worlds with their faiths. Since our cultures all began with fantasy and struggling with faith, Tesseracts 18 will continue the Science Fiction and Fantasy tradition of wrestling with Faith, without declaring all-out war.

This anthology will include as diverse a representation of both real-world religions and faiths of fictional cultures as possible. Stories should not be looking to pass historical or cultural judgment, instead they should feature character-driven plots that include faith, doubt, miracles, spiritual journeys, and diversity of opinion within a faith. Please avoid blanket stereotypes of faith-based cultures. We’d love to see faith surprise us, and surprise science fiction and fantasy readers.

Preview of my story, The Moral Of The Story

Her fingers brush the soft skin, the small smooth of bone under thin flesh behind my left ear, brushing back through wiry hair to where I’ve got it pulled back in preparation for hard work. Lake water, brackish here where it mingles with the St. Lawrence, slides down the side of my neck, summoning goose pimples in its wake. The slick, cool brush of membrane kisses the lobe of my ear and I feel my eyes slide closed, involuntary, as natural as the slight gasp that parts my lips, inflates my lungs, brushes the taste of water and breeze and sunlight across my tongue.

"You came," the woman in the water says. Her voice is sibilant and filled with nearly inaudible clicks and hard-palate burrs, an accent never before heard in the lower plains of Quebec.

Never heard before the Melt caused all the water levels to rise. Never heard before the Great Dark came and killed all the technology. Never before the Daniel-Johnson dam stopped working, the regulating of the Manicouagan became too much and the river broke through its cement prison. Never before Baie-Comeau was overborne and drowned.

Possibly, perhaps - and maybe I flatter myself a little - never before in the whole of human history. But then, how could we have stories of things like her, if I’m the first to converse with one?

Arrogance is a sin. It’s one of the sins brought the Great Dark.

"I came," I say, opening my eyes. Sunlight on water dazzles like diamonds. I squint. It’s a comfortable gesture. The lines beside my eyes folding into place is familiar, nearly soothing. "How could I stay away?"

"But did you come for me?" she teases, dipping her chin into the water in a gesture I’ve learned is meant to be coy, flirtatious. Dark hair slips and pools along the surface, shifting and curling like squid ink.

I sit back in the boat, take up my nets, and fling them over the side that she doesn’t occupy. She whistles and clicks, face in the water, summoning fish. This is our deal. She fills my nets, I fill her mind, and we neither of us attempts to harm the other. Actively.

#

I had more hungry mouths to feed than fear of rumours, and that is what initially drove me out onto the unnatural lake. The stories said that there was something in the water that feeds on manflesh. But I am no man, and we needed the fish.

For the first few weeks, it was subtle. An elongated shadow too far down to see clearly, too solid to be a school, but too large to be any breed of fish I had ever caught before. Sometimes, it was a splash on the surface of the otherwise calm lake. Once, my little rowboat lurched under my feet, against current, violent, wrong.

I was being hunted, I realized. Even as I harvested fish, something else sought to harvest me. The rumours were not just stories.

I stayed away for three days. On the fourth my youngest brother patted his stomach morosely and cried, unable to understand why he hungered so. Defeated by his tiny misery, I fetched my father’s harpoon from the hunting shed, and made the short walk back to the rocky shoreline.

My little boat was tied up where I had left it, undisturbed. But, no, see — there were four long scratches in the wood of the stern, naked against the dark stain of tar sealant, brackish water, and age. I bent down, breath caught in the hollow of my throat, and splayed my palm against the slashes. They were finger-width apart from each other, come from a humanish hand.

There was a Creature in the lake. And it was mad at me.

Mad because I dared to fish? Or mad because I did not come back?

I nearly turned away then, abandoned the boat, and the lake, and went to find another way to contribute to the supper table. I am old enough to go to the steam-driven factories, now, but then who would care for the littles?

I could spare a few hours each day to go onto the lake, but I cannot leave them for eight or more hours each day to work, and then shop. My parents would be furious. And I cannot hunt, I have no skill with a bow and arrow, we have no gun and ammunition is too expensive, and the Mayor Creature has not given us express permission. That is courting disaster.

No choice. I had to go back onto the lake.

I hesitated, but I could still hear the little ones’ frustrated wails ringing in my ears. So I gathered up and solidified my courage. Die of hunger, or die on the water.

Those were my only choices.

___________

Image Source: A model floating in the water at Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida. The image by fashion photographer Toni Frissell was published in Harper’s Bazaar in December 1947

Filed under jmfrey J.M. Frey scifi sf science fiction fantasy anthology canadian canlit writing liana k. tess18

106 notes

Anonymous asked: Hey Gail, I was wondering, what did you think of the new Hobbit movie overall? And more importantly, what do you think of Tauriel, her role in the movie, and the stink that dumb sexist fanboys are raising about her?

gailsimone:

I may be in the minority here, but I am a big Tolkien fan, they are likely my favorite books ever, and Jackson earned a lot of goodwill from me by making the LOTR movies, which I felt were pretty close to perfect, and wildly inspiring.

But I admit, I was very skeptical about the changes to the Hobbit. Every new piece of info just seemed odder and odder to me. I was concerned they were ruining a classic.

But I was completely charmed by the first movie and loved the second just as much. I was more bothered by the constant call-backs to LOTR than new and expanded characters, to be honest. I was more fine with Tauriel than Legolas having SUCH a large roll.

Looking at the novel, I think people may forget how SPARSE it is. The dwarves are barely given any personalities at all, Bilbo is tricked into going, there’s barely a female character in the entire thing…I am just not sure a strict adaptation would have worked. As much as I love it, the book will always be there, there are wonderful audio adaptations, as well.  

So they made some big changes and choices and I would say most of them paid off handsomely. Some didn’t, but the spectacle of Smaug really makes the little things seem insignificant in comparison. When I read the book as a little girl, I thought that we were never going to see a film version to match what I imagined. They did that and more.

I am not aware of what ‘sexist fanboys’ are saying about Tauriel, but I liked her story and character, and hopefully her arc pays off in the final film.

And, if I may butt in a bit…

Well, I haven’t seen TH: DoS yet, but there are two things that sprang to my mind when I heard about all the additions and fleshing-outs that Jackson, Boyens and Walsh were doing.

a) The screenwriters of LotR were aligning the events chronologically in The Hobbit like they did in The Lord of the Rings. In the LotR novels, events aren’t presented chronologically for the whole of the narrative, but broken into chunks that follow certain groups during certain sections of the narrative. To make the films of LotR successful, they had to break apart the chunks and realign the timeline and cut between all the different plots to form a coherent film-friendly narrative. (I don’t have a citation for this, but I remember there being a segment about having to do this in the extras included in the LotR Extended Edition Box Set).

So, I don’t feel like the writing team was padding The Hobbit - they were doing the same thing as they did on LotR by showing what else was happening in Middle Earth at the same time as the events of The Hobbit, drawing these episodes from unpublished stories and The Simirillion, and even a bit from LotR itself.

(Though, I’ll admit some judiciouseditingmight not have been amiss. I think the first film was a wee bit self indulgent in terms of length and which episodes of the adventure should have as much screen time as they did.)

b) Tolkien made up the tales of Middle Earth because he felt that England was lacking the sort of culturally important mythic narratives that had shaped other countries and cultures. He mourned for the loss of the stories that the numerous invasions, takeovers, and genocides that littered the history of the British Isles had robbed from his people.  (Again, I don’t have a specific citation for this, but I recall hearing this on several different documentaries and read it in articles and interviews. If someone has a specific citation, I’d love to see it, please.)

The Tolkien estate, and it seems J.R.R. himself, do not condone unauthorized sequels and the like, but I feel that the writing team behind this authorized filmic adaptation were staying true to the spirit of Tolkien’s creating stories where there was a void by adding Tauriel.

As Gail points out above, there’s barely any female voices in the entirety of Tolkien’s work, and save for those who are passive, willowy, or make a quick, rare appearance. I applaud what Jackson, Boyens and Walsh did with Eowyn and Arwen, because how is it any different from what Tolkien did to the myths he based LotR on?

On top of all that, LotR is famously also partially Tolkien’s response to Shakespeare. He invented Ents because he was annoyed that the woods didn’t actually walk in MacBeth, and Eowyn because he felt Lady MacBeth could have been a more agressive character who has agency over her own plans in the end. What else is that but Fix-It Fan Fic?

So how can Jackson, Boyens and Walsh have the right to do any less than Fix It themselves?

I think it’s awesome.

Filed under the hobbit tauriel lord of the rings writing

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Words for Writers: Should I Take A Class?

Last night was quite gratified to be included in the Brockton Writers Series reading at Full of Beans.  There were four authors as we all read for about ten minutes (I read from my new anthology HERO Is a Four Letter Word. Natch)After the reading, there was an open Q&A, and some private discussion, and something that came up more than once is if I, as a published author, thought that taking a writing course was a good idea.

Whoa nelly.

How’s that for a can of worms? The thing is, there’s no wrong or right way to answer this question. I, personally, don’t know the asker’s skill level, nor read their work, nor do I know what they’ve already taken or not.

There’s simply no blanket answer for a question like “Should I Take A Writing Course?”

Well, did I take a writing course? I did take some. I took a short story writing, and a playwriting course while in school. My undergrad major was Dramatic Literature, so there was a lot of script writing and analyzing in those classes. I also did a self-directed screenwriting course, and had a TA oversee the creation of a play from concept to public workshop reading to performance.

On top of all that, I was writing scads of fanfic, and engaging in the community there to learn more about storytelling, editing, beta reading, and characterization. I also worked with a writer’s group when I lived in Japan, and I try to be engaged with NaNoWriMo when I can.

So what are some Pros of taking writing courses?

·         Skills and Drills: Each week your teacher/seminar leader/ will probably ask you to read and write something. Just like drilling and learning new skills in a sport, doing so in writing will teach you how you prefer to engage in the physical and creative act of writing. You will learn what kind of spaces you prefer to write in, what kind of time frame you need to carve out, how quickly you can produce something if you hate the story and if you love it, how you need to approach edits for yourself, and of course, you’ll be practicing your punctuation and grammar skills with each piece.

·         Practice: They say that you have to write 10 000 crappy words before you can write any good ones. It may not be an exact science, but I firmly believe that the more you produce, the more you understand how you, personally, prefer to tell stories, and that makes each subsequent work easier to create, to bring into reality.

·         Networking: Creative Lit teachers are usually agents, writers, or publishers. It can’t hurt to know them, learn about their worlds, and get their advice or mentorship. And your classmates might one day be the very people who help guide your career.

·         Learn from others: Every person reads stories and tells stories differently. It’s amazing what you can find in a tale, or produce in your own when you really engage with people of differing genders, sexualities, cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, languages, and hobbies than you. And if they recommend a book or author, it could possibly lead you down the trail to a wonderful world of books you might have otherwise ignored or never even known about.

·         Learn new skills: In working with your classmates, you might learn something you never knew before: a different storytelling technique, a structural idea, a different way to build characters or plot. And of course, if it’s a course for beginners, you ought to also be learning the foundations of punctuation, grammar, and manuscript formatting.

·         Produce some back catalogue: Maybe none of the work you create while in class will ever be published, but you’ll probably have a stack of writing that you can submit to agents, publishers, anthologies, or collections, if it’s quite polished and ready.

·         Gain confidence: There is honestly nothing more thrilling than  a classmate’s response to your writing. A great note, a scrawled smiley face or a checkmark, a gasp, a small sob, a shout or a yelp, a “No, you can’t end there! Then what?!” These are all gold, and they’ll help you feel confident about yourself and your work.

·         Learn about grants, contests, groups: Or maybe form your own writing group out of your peers.

·         Can workshop submission packages: You can learn to write and hone a query letter, log lines, synopsizes, and pitches.

·         Honesty: Hey, this is a group of strangers. If your work is crap, they’ll tell you so. Hopefully in an encouraging, constructive way, but they’ll still say so. You’ll get a lot of practice with editing, taking constructive criticism, parsing a note to see what the real problem is, working with restructuring and overhauls, and maybe even dealing with haters and trolls.

Of course, there are also cons to taking writing courses:

·         General skill level of those around you may be lower than yours: You may be above the basics, or you may find their storytelling ability less advanced.

·         Can’t tell straight off if your prof will be a good teacher. Not all professors have taken teacher’s school, or are natural pedagogues. It can sometimes be infuriating if they’re a crappy teacher, or just a self-important windbag. Worse, it’s a waste of your time and money.

·         Might kill your passion for writing: Either by boring exercises, mean teachers and classmates, or just oversaturation and too much focus on the writing.

·         Storytelling is not entirely a skill that can be taught. It’s something that you have to find within yourself and hone, and develop. You can’t just go into a class and expect to come out a master storyteller in six months. It’s something that never stops evolving, a skill you never stop honing and exploring and learning. (I’ve been writing for 20 years and I don’t think I’m a master storyteller yet. I don’t think anyone thinks they are).

·         Imagination is not entirely a skill that can be taught. You need to learn how to play, to twist, to envision and debate with yourself.

So, in the end, I think taking some courses can be great to help you get a good foundation and a set of tools to teach you how to be a good, solid, technically proficient writer. But I don’t think any piece of paper or GPA will be able to teach you how to be a good storyteller.  That is something that only practice and sharing your stories with others (both to critique and to praise) will teach you.

Do I think that you should do an entire degree in creative writing? Well… no.

I’m sure I’ll be lynched for this, but I’m not certain what merit there is in doing just creative writing for four years. You need to learn other things, experience and live other things. Writers are not just writers. Writers are biologists, like Julie Czerneda, and scientists like Erin Bow. They are mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, engineers and painters, playwrights and actors, dancers and secretaries, personal assistants and fast food cashiers, janitors and archeologists, activists and bakers.

But maybe that’s just my fear talking. I feared taking a full degree in creative writing because I feared coming out the other side hating it. I feared it would stop being fun and start becoming a chore, like all my other homework. I’ve known plenty of phenominal artists who chose not to get MFAs for the very same reason. But then there are also lots of phenominal artists and writers who did do a full degree, came out loving it and producing amazing work so…

Really, it’s your choice. You know your own opinions and habits better than I do.

So, here’s some actual advice about Writing Courses:

I think they are important. I think they need to be taught and they need to be taken to ensure that you, as a writer, as fully educated in the technical, professional, and skills-oriented foundation of being a storyteller that you can be.

I think the best way to do it is to take courses in the sorts of writing you don’t do normally. Take a class on play or screenwriting if you’re a novelist. Take a class in novels if you normally write poetry or shorts. Take a class in poetry or comics if you write for the screen. The cross pollination of your skill set will teach you many and various ways to tell stories, and perhaps help strengthen your primary story telling set.

Part of the reason The Hunger Games is such a well-received series is the pacing. You start reading the books and you just. Can’t. Stop. Suzanne Collins was a screenwriter as well as a novelist, so you can bet she knew bunches about the three act structure, dialogue, action and narrative pacing, setting up scenes, and things like Chekhov’s Gun. These are all skills that you drill and hone in a screenwriting class. And they are skills that are transferable to novels, poems, short stories, and plays. And fanfiction.

And if you can’t afford a writing course, there are many many books and online tutorials, writing groups (in person or online), communities like NaNoWriMo and AO3, and other resources that are available to you where you can get the same experience and education as you would in your writing course.

I hope this has been helpful!

 

Filed under words for writers J.M. Frey jmfrey writing

58 notes

Can We All Just Take a Chill Pill and Be Respectful, Please?

I feel like I need to talk about this.

I’m probably going to get a hundred million anonymous hate notes, and some people jumping down my throat, but no pain, no gain, eh? But I feel like I need to try to express this, and I hope I manage to do so clearly.

So here it goes.

I am both a professional creator (novelist and screenwriter, though only with publications in the former), and a fan creator. Before I began to write original fiction, I wrote fanfiction as Losyark/Vega on ff.n and Livejournal. Before I was signing autographs and giving readings at conventions, I was attending them in cosplay.

So, I know about passion. I know about a desperate dedication to a world, a show, a character, a ship. I know about literally dreaming about the stories you want to write. I know about the fun of playing at being a character in a show and goofing around with your friends and a camera. I know about RPGing.

I still read fanfic. I still cosplay when I’m not being all ‘respectable and professional’ at a con (and I always dress up for the Saturday night dance). I still squee (usually deep, deep inside) when I get to chat with fellow guests in the greenroom and have dinner with actors, artists, writers and creators I respect and admire.

I have entered, won, and judged both fanfiction and professional novel awards.

I ship McShep and Johnlock, even when I lived a few doors down from David Hewlett and patted Mars on my way to work. I re-read fanfics when I’m feeling creatively drained like some people gnosh on comfort food when they need to feel warm and fuzzy. I like being silly, and making up stories, and talking about my favourite fanfics in public and online.

I am also an academic. I have a Bachelors in Dramatic Literature and a Masters in Communications Culture. I am a social anthropologist,  a fandom scholar, and am versed in film/theatre critique, critical theory, and both queer and feminist studies.

I am also in film. I act. I voice act. I am an extra. I have been a PA, a set-gopher/dogsbody, a driver, a handler, an assistant.

So there’s the context.

TL;DR – I occupy the spaces which I will now talk about.

*

Okay, so. Why are there some people being assholes to Amanda Abbington and Steven Moffat?

Seriously. Why?

So, yeah. I’ve said that I don’t like some of Moffat’s writing. I’ve said publically that I take umbrage to the fact that Moffat doesn’t seem to understand how to respectfully write female characters. I’ve said publically that I am saddened that there are no female creatives on Doctor Who, and that I think Joss Weadon’s brand of feminism is dated and he needs to take the next step in his works now. I have said publically that the quality of wordcraft and narrativecraft in Twilight and  50 Shades of Grey frustrates me, especially since the standard should have and easily could have been higher. I have publically stated that I feel 50 Shades of Grey is a dangerous novel because I feel that it is Kink Colonialism and not respectful of the lifestyle. I’ve mused publically on how I feel that Moffat is a much better writer when he as a rigorous editor or showrunner working above him.

I’ve said publically that there are shows I no longer watch because I just can’t stomach the writing or the acting or the premise any more. I’ve said publically that there are books I’ve stopped reading, authors I don’t respect as people, and creators that I would never want to be in a room with because their personal views clash very strongly with my own and I don’t know if I could be civil if certain topics about which I am passionate arose.

I have acknowledged what frustrates me about many media texts, and sometimes about the personal views and choices of the creators.

But you know what I have never done?

I have never attacked the creator. I have never told a creator to kill themselves and spare the world. I have never threatened a creator. I have never sent them hate mail, or blogged horrible things about their sexual orientation, marriages, skin colour, genitals, perceived education, or lifestyle. I have never sent them letters or cornered them at conventions to expressly tell them why, to their faces, they are a waste of skin.

It is simple to consume.

It is slightly harder to engage with what you consume. It is a bit harder still to engage critically with what you consume, and even a bit harder than that to have opinions and understand patterns and theories in what you consume.

But that is NOTHING compared to what it takes to CREATE.

You think it’s so goddamn easy to create something and then put it out there for people to consume? Then you fucking do it.

You’ll have the right to call creators horrible names and bully them on social media, and talk smack to the actors who are playing characters that you perceive ruin your OTP when your TV show/film/book series is making you the same kind of money and you have the same kind of fame, and it receives the same kind of critical acclaim. Hopefully by then you’ll have realized that you’re behaving like an entitled little shit and that creating something is fucking hard and there’s always way more cooks in the kitchen than you realize and that sending death threats to actresses playing characters that get in the way of your game of make believe is bloody childish.

And if you haven’t by then? I hope you enjoyed doing that one creative project you did. Because nobody else in the biz will ever willingly work with you again.

And before you say, “But J.M., you can’t know what that’s like!” let me correct that assumption.

I mostly got out of film acting because I have been told that I am fat. I’m not fat, I’m pretty on par with the average, if short and curvy. But it’s a very thin-aggrandizing industry. And you know who keeps telling me I’m fat, have a bad nose, am a no-talent hack?

Not directors. Not casting directors.

Audience members. Yup, the very people who I hoped to touch with my ability to inhabit a character and share a story with have all but bullied me out of the profession. Because I decided that I didn’t need to put up with being shamed in order to be able to participate in making art.

I still voice act, and I would love to do more film/TV/webseries acting, but it’s hard to want to put myself out there, to expose my own body to ridicule.

In 2011 I published my first SF novel, and it was named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly, was nominated for two Lambda Literary awards, and was nominated for a CBC Bookie. Sure, some people didn’t like it. They wrote reviews on Amazon that disappointed me. But they were critiquing the story, and that’s fair. Not every narrative, not every writing style, and not every writer will resonate with every reader. That’s expected.

But then a blogger decided that I was a shitstain of a human being.  She pulled apart my book, yes, but she also did laughingly shallow research into my life (i.e. as far as I can tell, glanced at my website for about seven seconds), and then proceeded to tell everyone on her blog about how I am, personally, a waste of human flesh and my publisher should burn my work, and that my parents were assholes and I should have been aborted, and that my friends should brain me with blunt instruments and … yeah.

She said such horrible, hateful things that I actually started to have a panic attack. I got paranoid about stalking. I had terrible flashbacks to the bullying I suffered in high school and university. I couldn’t sleep for the nightmares and I felt nauseous all the time. Though I wasn’t clinically diagnosed with it, I actually checked all the boxes of PTSD. I had to take time off my dayjob to get my head back together, and it made me stop writing for a while. I just couldn’t do it without feeling like I was going to vomit all over my keyboard.

And worse still, embedded in all the vitriol and bile and calls to kill myself, there were actually some pretty salient critiques of my writing. She pointed out places where I unknowingly made errors that I was ashamed to have found, and places where I overlooked things where I should have been more clear, or had missed opportunities to be more respectful of ethnicities, cultures, and sexualities.

I learned from those critiques, but not without suffering. And it would have been better all around for both of us if her review had been respectful, compassionate, and professional. Because I read most of what she said (I had to stop eventually, because my hands were shaking to hard to manipulate the mouse), I did take a lesson away from it.

But how many of the hundreds of authors has she abused and bullied and hurt read her blog? How many hundreds of creators who could have engaged in a dialogue with her instead turned their heads away and refused to learn?

Do you see what I’m saying here?

If you don’t like how show-writer X or novelist Y is choosing to tell his/her stories, how, in any way, do you think being an entitled, screaming child about it is going to encourage them to grow and improve? How is bullying, sending death threats, stalking, harassing, and terrifying these people going to turn the media text you are upset and frustrated over into exactly what you want it to be?

This is not a trick question. Here is the answer: it’s not.

The only thing this behavior does is makes a creator stop creating.

You will never get more episodes, the last film, or the final book that way.

The creator will not rewrite their story for you. They will not fire an actor, hire a new one, cut out a character, create a romantic relationship between characters that they never intended to get together, or change the ending just for you.

Even if there’s thousands of you screaming at him/her. That is not how this works, folks.

They make something. You can choose to consume it or not. You can choose to like it or not. You can choose to engage with it or not. You can choose to make fic/art/cosplays/RPGs/fantasies about it or not. You can choose to critique it, discuss it, debate about it, mull over it, and attend conventions devoted to it, or not. You can choose to write to the creators or not.

But you know what? That’s ALL you get to do.

You don’t get to dictate. You don’t get to demand. You don’t get to bully. You don’t get to punish. You can boycott and abstain, vote with your ratings and your dollars, but that’s it. You can write letters or emails respectfully explaining why you didn’t like the media text. You can write reviews. And that’s the extent.

But in dictating, demanding, bullying, threatening, punishing, and acting like an eintitled, passively-agressively consuming little brat, you turn our community into a non-safe-space. And wasn’t the whole POINT of this community to be a safe space for people who want to discus, converse, create, fantasize, wank, play, giggle, sew, dream, and make friends?

In doing those abovementioned horrible things, YOU are the reason actors fear Q&As and conventions. YOU are the reason directors don’t go to symposiums on their own work, or don’t teach at universities. YOU are the reason writers don’t read the fanfic you send them, fear to go on Twitter, live in terror of Facebook and Goodreads.

 You make the spaces where we, the community, get to engage with the creators we love unsafe for THEM.

 And that STILL won’t make them not tell their stories the way they want to.

 So here’s what you CAN do, as a fan:

  •  You Can Not Like Something
  • You Can Create Fanworks
  • You Can Have Fantasies
  • You Can Let Fandom Be The Place Where You Feel Safe To Explore Your Self, Your Kinks, Your Sexuality, And Your Creativity
  • You Can Have Issues With A Creator’s Work (and choose to stop loving it, or continue loving it while acknowledging and possibly discussing said issues, either publically or not).

 

What you CANNOT Do:

  •  You Cannot Tell The Creator How To Tell Their Own Damn Stories
  • You Cannot Harrass or Bully Creators Into Doing What You Want Them To Do With Their Own Damn Stories
  • You Cannot Expect Your Heroes or Creators to Owe You A Thing

 What you CAN Do As A Creator:

  •  You Can Train To Be A Creative Professional
  • You Can Work Your Way Up And Eventually Get A Professional Career As A Creator
  • You Can Create Things, and Tell Your Own Story However You Damn Well Want To.

 *

 (And while I’m on this topic, can we talk about chat show hosts who try to use erotic fanart to shock and titillate guests? Fuck that, okay?

They have no right to take work out of the safe-space in which it was created. It was made for the community, not for shock tactics, and that’s not fair. It’s not fair to expose those artists to bullying, it’s not fair to take the work without sourcing, it’s not fair to force the art out of the context in which it was presented, and it’s not fair to invite the audience and the actor/director/writer to ridicule the artist and by extension the community. Lastly, it is not fair to force that onto actors/directors/writers, to try to ambush and shock the actor.

Some of that stuff could be potentially triggering to the guests. Some of it could be scary to them. Some of that stuff could make it really hard for them to be professional on set the next time they see their collegues. Those are thier FRIENDS and COWORKERS they’re being forced to see in those situations.

They have the right to peruse the fanwork that is made about their show/film/book, and they have the right to comment and engage with fancreators if they so choose, but they also have the right to choose to not to engage with it and chat show hosts are forcing it on them.

And that is humiliating for the creator and the fanartist both, and it is goddamn disrespectful to the fan community. End of.)

*

TL;DR – So here’s what I’m saying:

 Be respectful, okay? Just be respectful. PLEASE.

If you don’t like something, that’s fine. If you want to critique a media text, or a writer’s style and preferred methods of building character and narrative, that’s fine. If you want to discuss publically the problematics you encounter in your media consumption, that’s fine. If you want to tell people why you feel that a media text is flawed and not worth consuming, that’s fine too. If you want to create fantasies and fanworks, if you want to wank, or explore kinks, or just have a laugh using the media text as your foundation, that’s fine. If you want to meet a professional creator and engage in a dialogue about their work (either what you loved, or hated, or what you wish they had done, or wish they hadn’t done) that’s fine.

 But please, please do it respectfully.

 Don’t scream at the creators. Don’t cajole. Don’t threaten. Don’t embarrass them. Don’t shove your fantasies onto them.

 Because you are not the creator of that media text.

 You consume it. You love it. You use it as a springboard for your own creativity and that, my friends, is fucking incredible.

But you are not the creator. So back the fuck up.

 They made up the media text. They get to tell their own damn story however the fuck they want and you don’t get to scream at them for doing it in a way that doesn’t match what you want.

 If you want something different, then make your fanwork or make something original, and enjoy that.

 They have worked hard to be where they are. It is not easy to be a professional actor, a show runner, an author, a publisher, a director, a filmmaker, a speaker, an artist. It is not easy to convince people to pay you to make art. It is damned difficult and at every turn there are gatekeepers and higher-ups who are going to critique and demand and snip and add and change. That’s the nature of the business.

 But the creators are the ones making it. Not you.

 And if you don’t like how they do it, then there’s a very simple solution.

 Stop watching. Stop reading. Stop.

 Just stop.

 And if you are able to accept that it’s not exactly how you wish it was, and still enjoy it anyway, then do. Enjoy it.

 And write. And draw. And cosplay. And paint. And play. And have fun. And critique. And discuss. And debate. And speculate.

But do it with some goddamned respect, okay?

Remember Wheaton’s Law: Don’t Be A Dick. 

Thanks.

Filed under J.M. Frey jmfrey sherlock doctor who moffat amanda abbington mark gatiss writing creating acafan Don't Be A Dick please no really

39,294 notes

I think fanfiction is literature and literature, for the most part, is fanfiction, and that anyone that dismisses it simply on the grounds that it’s derivative knows fuck-all about literature and needs to get the hell off my lawn.
Most of the history of Western literature (and probably much of non-Western literature, but I can’t speak to that) is adapted or appropriated from something else. Homer wrote historyfic and Virgil wrote Homerfic and Dante wrote Virgilfic (where he makes himself a character and writes himself hanging out with Homer and Virgil and they’re like “OMG Dante you’re so cool.” He was the original Gary Stu). Milton wrote Bible fanfic, and everyone and their mom spent the Middle Ages writing King Arthur fanfic. In the sixteenth century you and another dude could translate the same Petrarchan sonnet and somehow have it count as two separate poems, and no one gave a fuck. Shakespeare doesn’t have a single original plot—although much of it would be more rightly termed RPF—and then John Fletcher and Mary Cowden Clarke and Gloria Naylor and Jane Smiley and Stephen Sondheim wrote Shakespeare fanfic. Guys like Pope and Dryden took old narratives and rewrote them to make fun of people they didn’t like, because the eighteenth century was basically high school. And Spenser! Don’t even get me started on Spenser.
Here’s what fanfic authors/fans need to remember when anyone gives them shit: the idea that originality is somehow a good thing, an innately preferable thing, is a completely modern notion. Until about three hundred years ago, a good writer, by and large, was someone who could take a tried-and-true story and make it even more awesome. (If you want to sound fancy, the technical term is imitatio.) People were like, why would I wanna read something about some dude I’ve never heard of? There’s a new Sir Gawain story out, man! (As to when and how that changed, I tend to blame Daniel Defoe, or the Modernists, or reality television, depending on my mood.)
I also find fanfic fascinating because it takes all the barriers that keep people from professional authorship—barriers that have weakened over the centuries but are nevertheless still very real—and blows right past them. Producing literature, much less circulating it, was something that was well nigh impossible for the vast majority of people for most of human history. First you had to live in a culture where people thought it was acceptable for you to even want to be literate in the first place. And then you had to find someone who could teach you how to read and write (the two didn’t necessarily go together). And you needed sufficient leisure time to learn. And be able to afford books, or at least be friends with someone rich enough to own books who would lend them to you. Good writers are usually well-read and professional writing is a full-time job, so you needed a lot of books, and a lot of leisure time both for reading and writing. And then you had to be in a high enough social position that someone would take you seriously and want to read your work—to have access to circulation/publication in addition to education and leisure time. A very tiny percentage of the population fit those parameters (in England, which is the only place I can speak of with some authority, that meant from 500-1000 A.D.: monks; 1000-1500: aristocratic men and the very occasional aristocratic woman; 1500-1800: aristocratic men, some middle-class men, a few aristocratic women; 1800-on, some middle-class women as well). What’s amazing is how many people who didn’t fit those parameters kept writing in spite of the constant message they got from society that no one cared about what they had to say, writing letters and diaries and stories and poems that often weren’t discovered until hundreds of years later. Humans have an urge to express themselves, to tell stories, and fanfic lets them. If you’ve got access to a computer and an hour or two to while away of an evening, you can create something that people will see and respond to instantly, with a built-in community of people who care about what you have to say.
I do write the occasional fic; I wish I had the time and mental energy to write more. I’ll admit I don’t read a lot of fic these days because most of it is not—and I know how snobbish this sounds—particularly well-written. That doesn’t mean it’s “not good”—there are a lot of reasons people read fic and not all of them have to do with wanting to read finely crafted prose. That’s why fic is awesome—it creates a place for all kinds of storytelling. But for me personally, now that my job entails reading about 1500 pages of undergraduate writing per year, when I have time to read for enjoyment I want it to be by someone who really knows what they’re doing. There’s tons of high-quality fic, of course, but I no longer have the time and patience to go searching for it that I had ten years ago. But whether I’m reading it or not, I love that fanfiction exists. Because without people doing what fanfiction writers do, literature wouldn’t exist. (And then I’d be out of a job and, frankly, I don’t know how to do anything else.)
“As a professor, may I ask you what you think about fanfiction?” (via meiringens)

(Source: onlyalittlelion, via seananmcguire)

Filed under Applause fanficiton writing books

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So Why Not Just Pirate Ender’s Game?

Since posting my response on why I choose not to support Orson Scott Card, I’ve recieved a few emails and comments that all ask, essentially, the same question:

If you don’t want to support Card, why not just pirate the book/film?

One commenter, who I will keep Annon out of courtesy, politely suggested this:

Have you thought of looking into pirating pdfs of books by authors you wish not to support? You may be one of those people who prefers hard copies of books, but as a last resort, pdfs are readily available on the internet in ways that let you avoid supporting the author.

Here is my reply:

Thank you very much for your suggestion.
 
Yes, I know what pirating and torrents are. I used to use them when I was young, before I realized I could stream TV shows legally from the broadcaster’s websites, and that there were cheap, quick ways to get ahold of digital copies of media legally. (Or, in the case of many libraries, for free. I know the Toronto Public Library lends ebooks, emags, and films/TV shows for free. And using the library means that creators, at least in Canada, get Public Lending Rights cheques.)

 
Pirating sometimes can have a positive effect – in situations where the media text is being passed on because it’s unavailable in a certain region, it introduces a media text to audience members who would otherwise have no access or idea that the text exists. In that way, I see it as no different than handing your friend your copy of a book and saying “Read this, I know you’ll like it.” When passing around a digital copy happens like that, I think that’s fine, because it’s a personal interaction and it’s meaningful. It comes with a reccomendation, a word of mouth endorsement, and the potential for an expanded audience and readership for the creator. Often the pirated media text is later bought, or inspires the reciever to buy other texts by the same creator.

 

But more often than not, pirating happens in situations where there are many legal means of acquiring a media text, and usually for very little cost or for free. This sort of pirating is the kind that takes money out of the pockets of the Little Guys of Hollywood, or the publishing industry, or the Boots-On-The-Ground jobs in television.

 

I especially cannot condone pirating as I am a professional creator who relies on people buying my art so I can pay off my student debt, buy my medications and groceries, and keep a roof over my head. And I am friends with other professional artists who require paycheques to pay their mortgages, feed their kids, and take care of their health bills.

 

 I cannot in good conscious pirate films, books, music, or other creative media. Anyone’s.  Even Card’s.

(“But JM!” I hear you cry, “These corporations have millions of dollars! They can afford to get pirated!”  The answer is – yes, they have millions. And they use that millions to pay the wages of everyone who works on a film/TV show/Book. Which means their pockets are essentially empty when the media text launches. If they don’t recoup that money at the box office/in sales/in residuals and royalties, then they don’t have enough money to make the NEXT project. Which means people having no jobs, or losing the ones they have.

 

"You hypocrite!" I also hear you cry. "You complain about piracy and yet you want us to boycott Ender’s Game!"

 

It’s not hypocrisy. The failed box office of one film sends a corporate message to studios, and does not endanger anyone’s job or position except, perhaps, Card’s. Everyone else who worked on that project has been paid and moved on. It’s a bummer for the studio, but now they know that the rainbow dollar is not impressed with Card’s work, and that it might not be a worthwhile investment next time. Every film comes with failure risks and, in fact, insurance in case it fails.

 

But pirating hundreds of films, shows, albums, and books means thousands of people not getting paid, and not getting paid regularly. Which means they have to stop creating for a living, because they’re not MAKING a living, and have to take a different job to get by.

 

You love your favourite band/author/filmmaker/TV show/artist? You want more of their work? Pay for the work they have out so they can keep creating. End of.)

 

TL;DR - So, while I may not choose to buy Card’s work, I will not steal it. I don’t like the jackass’ views, but I’m also not going to break into his house and steal jewelry from his bedroom, or steal the car from his driveway.
 
Theft is theft. I know how much effort goes into creating an artistic work and I cannot reward the creators whose work I love by robbing them of their rightfully earned dollars, viewing statistics, ratings, and sales. Especially when I want the artist to be able to afford to create more.
 
In the case of Card: I’m perfectly content to just not read it.
 
And, forgive me, but now I have to address what a lot of people seem to be saying without actually saying it. What they are saying is this:
 
“But how can you possibly be okay with such a large and important gap in your reading history. You HAVE to read Ender’s Game. How can you not? How can you hate the book? The book is so good. The book is WORTH READING.”

 

And… well… no.
 
Everyone who has commented about how I can read the book and still not support Card if I steal it is MISSING THE POINT.
 
I don’t WANT to read it.
 
Everyone seems to be a bit hung up on the idea that I would really like Ender’s Game if only I read it, if only I gave it a chance. Everyone seems to think that it’s a book worth reading, that one MUST read. That I, and every other person who considers themselves a geek HAS to read.
 
And while that might be some people’s opinion, I don’t share it.

 

I don’t believe that there is a SF/F cannon of books that one ABSOLUTELY MUST READ OR ELSE.

 

There are books that are good, and have become championed classics for a reason. Books that are worth reading, worth recommending, worth passing on to younger generations. We all have those books, but there’s nothing saying that all those books will be the same for each person, nor that they SHOULD be.

 

I believe in the power of a good book to touch many people, but do I believe that there are books that you MUST read in order to become a proper geek – like articles you must understand to get your PhD? No.

 

Everyone’s personal taste is just that. Personal.

 

And I personally do not like military SF. I don’t like reading it. Even if Card wasn’t an abominable human being, I would not choose to read Ender’s Game.  In fact, before I ever knew about Card’s views, I read one of his books, “Enchantment”. It was good enough that I wanted to find more of his work to try out, but when presented with Ender’s Game, I declined it.

 

The number of awards it’s won, the number of people who enjoy it and recommend it will not change the fact that it is still militaristic SF and I don’t like reading things like that.

 

I haven’t read Dune, I haven’t read Starship Troopers. I just barely like Star Trek, and my favourite episodes are the culture-based ones.  I stopped watching DS9 when the war started because I lost interests. It’s just simply, and honestly, not my bag.
 
There are many books that I feel that people MUST read (Shapechangers by Jennifer Roberson, The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley) but would I ever pester and condemn and shame people for choosing not to read these books because they just don’t match people’s taste.
 
Not every book will appeal to every reader.
 
As an author, yes, I hope I write a book that appeals widely to a vast swath of readers; as a professional writer whose paycheques pay my rent, yes, I hope it hits big so millions of people buy it. But as an artist I understand that all I can do is create something that speaks to me and hope that it touches at least one other person. 
 
So yes, thank you for your suggestion but I do not want to read Ender’s Game, and I certainly will not be pirating it to do so.

Filed under skip ender's game Ender's Game Orson Scott Card J.M. Frey jmfrey pirating books writing reading copyright

470 notes

Sethrial: the-real-seebs: scifrey: So I got a comment on my personal blog post...

the-real-seebs:

scifrey:

So I got a comment on my personal blog post on why I’m Happy To Skip Ender’s Game.

Here it is:

you’re a sci-fi author… you haven’t read Ender’s Game… weaksauce. very weaksauce.

it isn’t as bad as say, a fantasy author having never read Tolkien, but it’s…

If people would like to choose to buy the book (new, so the money goes to Card, or used so the money goes to a local business), then I don’t see why they can’t.  If people want to continue to read and enjoy the content of his work, I don’t see a problem with that.

I would PREFER that they didn’t, because of my above stated reasons, but the thing is, I’m not going to police their behaviour. I will not tell people what and whom they are allowed or not allowed to love. That would make me no better than Card.

It’s their personal choice, their personal views, and their personal taste.

And I, personally, don’t think I could ever enjoy reading his books because what I know now of Card will taint the experience.  And I never picked up the Ender’s Game series before because I really dislike reading space opera miltaristic SF. It just doesn’t float my boat. So why would I subject myself to a book that I won’t enjoy because of the author AND because of the content?

I’m not trying to tell people what to do. I’m not coming down on the content of Card’s work. I’m not attacking his talent, or his wordsmithing, or the kinds of stories he chooses to tell, and how he chooses to tell them. Skip Ender’s Game has absolutely nothing to do with the subjective, qualitative “goodness” of the stuff between the covers of the novel, nor between the trailers and credits of the film.

I’m just asking that people make a fully informed choice about business practices.  And explaining why I made the choice I made.

And hey, if you liked Ender’s Game, cool. I will never discourage people from reading. Reading is magic. If you can turn off the part of you that knows that Card is a douchewaffle, and enjoy the tale for what it is, then also cool. If that’s what makes you happy, then okay.

I just can’t.

Filed under J.M. Frey jmfrey Orson Scott Card skip ender's game Ender's Game science fiction writing quiltbag lgbtq

470 notes

So I got a comment on my personal blog post on why I’m Happy To Skip Ender’s Game.

Here it is:

you’re a sci-fi author… you haven’t read Ender’s Game… weaksauce. very weaksauce.

it isn’t as bad as say, a fantasy author having never read Tolkien, but it’s in the ballpark.

in related topics, since you identify as queer, how would you feel about a large groundswell internet movement trying to get people to not purchase your books based upon your worldview as a queer author?

Because I feel like it’s worth stating again, here’s my reply:

 1) There is no required reading to become an author.

There is no university syllabus, no degree, no certificate. Many people come to it in many different ways. I simply did not come from a family of readers; what books and authors I discovered, I did so on my own with very little guidance beyond the odd less-than-apathetic teacher librarian. The back history of my reading list and what is or is not on it, and my individual personal taste in art, doesn’t make me a good or bad writer.

The only defining factor that makes me a good science fiction writer is if I write science fiction books, and they’re good. Period.

And no amount of disappointed headshaking, finger wagging, or muted tutting from people who think that they have the right to define what makes a good SF/F writer beyond the single above stipulation will change that.

 I could probably spend time reading all the great classics now, but there are so many books out there that I “should” be reading, and so many books out there that I want to be reading, and so many books that I want to write. And speaking honestly, the ones that I write will pay my rent.

So, when it comes to occupying my free time, I know where my choice lies.

2) I also haven’t read all of Tolkien. I found it dry. It was a fascinating series of text books with excellent wordcrafting and worldbuilding, but rather poor in terms of character identification and a compelling narrative.

You may disagree with me. There’s lots of people who do. Peter Jackson is one of them. (I would never have found my deep love for Middle Earth if it wasn’t for the film adaptations). But that’s the joy of personal taste. It’s personal.

Also, I believe I stated quite clearly that I DID begin to read Orson Scott Card’s work. And that I’m sorry my morals won’t allow me to read Ender’s Game, because I hear it’s quite good.

However, after really enjoying the first book of his I read and researching him to find more, I learned what he thought of people like me. I therefore made a deliberate and conscious choice not to pursue anything else from his bibliography. Not because of his lack of talent, but because I couldn’t in good conscious support his career in any way, shape, or form once I read his personal thoughts on why I, a queer woman, am a shitstain on the panties of the world.

3) If at any point in my career I use the money awarded to me from my royalties to support organizations that strip any of my fellow human beings of their civil rights and their definition as persons under the law, I should damn well hope that there is a groundswell against me.

If there’s anything LEFT of me after my friends and family gets through chewing me out.

Look, the boycott isn’t because Card is a meanie-poo, or because he says bad things about people, or because he is a cisgendered heterosexual Mormon male.

The boycott is not about Card’s personal worldviews. They boycott is not about Card’s personal choices. The boycott is not about Card’s religion, or his marriage, or his gender.

The boycott is because Card takes the money he receives from his work (from books, from films, from speaking engagements, whatever,) and donates that money to charities that support legal actions to deny the queer people of America the right to marry whom they love, to have the same civil rights and liberties of their straight counterpoints.

And anyone who gives Card money is inadvertently funding those organizations.

The boycott is about being fully informed about where your money is going, and on what it is being spent.

If anyone wanted to know which charities I support, and therefore where a portion of the money they give me in royalties goes, they can ask. In fact, I’ll tell you – I donate to Sick Kids, because my brother’s friend died of cancer quite young and it was devastating to us; I donate to Little Geeks, because I feel that access to the internet and therefore information and education is a human right; and I donate both money and time to The Office of Letters and Light because I feel that the arts are important to the development of compassion and understanding of our fellow human beings and that NaNoWriMo is a positive influence on young people who would like to use writing as an art therapy or creative exercise.

I do NOT donate to the Salvation Army because of their policy on queerness. So why would I put money in Card’s pocket so he can spend it on similar charities and organizations? I don’t buy Tony Harris’ work anymore either, even though it pains me because I adore Brian K. Vaughn’s writing and want to know how Ex Machina ends.

Card can say that I was raped and beaten and shamed into being queer all he likes. THAT’S his personal opinion, and he can spend his hard-earned money however he wants. (I wasn’t, by the way. My family is wonderful, and intelligent, compassionate, supportive, and I was raised Presbyterian.)

So while I may not agree with how Card spends his money, I can’t force him to change his mind and change his stance on the definition of marriage. I can’t make him stop supporting organizations that would see me and people like me in the United States corrective-raped, stripped of my civil liberties, or sweep hate crimes under the legal rug.

What I CAN do is NOT put my money into his hands. THAT is what the boycott is about.

What I CAN do is tell people what he’s doing with their money and let them decide for themselves if giving him their money, (so he can donate it to causes that spread hate, slander, and such vitriolic lies about being queer,) is a choice they’d like to make. What I CAN do is encourage people to spend their money elsewhere so that other artists, other writers, who treat queer people like the human beings they are, get it instead of Card. What I CAN do is encourage people to donate to organizations that work towards helping change laws and pass bills in the USA that will allow people like me to live and love openly and fairly.

I am not American, I can’t vote on bills or lobby my elected officials to legalize my lifestyle, to grant people like me personhood with all the advantages and liberties that entails. But I can spread the word and hopefully change some minds, so that the people who DO have that kind of power understand what they are capable of doing with it.

As for the event itself: Skip Ender’s Game was about more than just NOT putting money in Card’s pocket. It was also about sending a message to creators in Hollywood – the rainbow dollar has power. We’re paying attention, and we’re being choosey.

It was also about providing alternatives; each SEG night featured LGBTQ and Ally artists and their work. It promoted them to whole audiences who might otherwise never have heard of them. It celebrated and exposed to the mainstream art and artists who are queer, or create work where queerness is represented and accepted.

So, in conclusion:

Your choice is your choice. If you want to judge me for failing to read what you, whomever you are, state that I have to have read in order to qualify by your personal definitions of what it means to be a good SF/F writer/geek/human being/whatever, then fine. Judge away.

It makes absolutely 0% of difference to me, my career, or my ability to write. But if it makes you feel better, go right ahead. Might as well call me a Fake Geek Girl while you’re at it. I’m super not interested in proving that I have all the right qualifiers to you. I don’t need to. I have science fiction books published, and people read them, and seem to think they’re good enough to give awards to, so I guess that makes me a real SF/F writer. Your judge-y-ness is pretty superfluous.

And also, your super obvious attempt to shame me back into my place was lame, dude.

This blog post is about my choices, why I’ve chosen to support some causes and not others, and why I, personally, made them. If you don’t like my personal choices, or my work, or anything about me, then you have a really easy way to fix that:

Don’t read my work, don’t buy my books, and don’t see my films.

Oh, hey. That sounds familiar…

Filed under skip ender's game Orson Scott Card fake geek girl fuck you and your attempt to shame me for not fitting your narrow view of what it means to do what I actually do j.m. frey jmfrey science fiction writer writing quiltbag lgbtqa

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Where I Write: Advice for NaNoWriMo

With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I decided that my “no dedicated work space in my home” shennanigans must come to an end.

I mean, I’ve been in my apartment for three years now. Time to get a desk, right? Especially since I’ve written three novels and a dozen essays/short stories, etc. while in there.

No more kitchen table/counter/sofa/bed/credenza nonsense.

In the summer, it was okay, because look at how comfy that outdoor space is! But in the winter? In November? No siree, I will not be writing out there!

So, with the help of friends, I cobbled together a desk, put up a whiteboard wall, organized my fanart, and reorganized/made room in my filing cabinet for all my notes, contracts, and important documents.

My favourite part is that any time I get a plot bunny nibble, or an idea, but don’t want to stop what I’m doing, all I have to do is reach into my pen-cup and write the idea on the wall. It stays there waiting for me until it’s ready, and there is an enormous satisfaction in getting to rub it away afterwards.

(But I still edit in pubs).

My recommendations for setting up your own writing routine:

  • Carve out physical space where your work can stay. Figure out if you prefer things to be filed, in boxes, behind glass doors, or if you prefer to have a corkboard, or a chalkboard, or note paper taped everywhere? Designate a home for the unit you write on, at least for the month of November. (That way you don’t have to pack it up and away every night, and therefore you will not be disuaded from writing by the chore of getting it all out and set up again)
  • Carve out time and mental space for work. Be it weekly or daily, know in advance when and for how long your writing time will be. Schedule it in, and tell people it’s on your schedule in order to both make yourself free then, and accountable to them.
  • Figure out how you work. Can you sit and write for hours and hours? Or do you need ten minute sprints? Do you prefer to rain the words onto the page in small doses as you go through your daily routine, or do you need a dedicated time in which to splash down a torrent?
  • Figure out your rhythms. Do you need to write every day? Can you? Is it a realistic goal or does real life just not allow for it?
  • Set goals and meet them. Tell yourself you have to do a certain amount (either in time or word/page count) and then do it. No excuses. But at the same time…
  • Learn to forgive yourself. Sometimes you just don’t hit your targets. It’s okay. Take a day off, watch a film, go for a walk, play with some kids or pets. There’s always tomorrow.
  • Write for fun. Don’t forget that while you may be treating this like a job, it’s meant to be pleasurable. Do another project for a while if you need to give yourself a break. Write a poem, a silly song, some fanfic, a blog post, anything. Read a book and remember why you love writing – because you love it.

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Read more about establishing a routine and location for writing here.

Filed under fanart triptych J.M. Frey nanowrimo writing space writing books novels national novel writing month

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Anonymous asked: Do you have anything up about what writing routine you use? Do you even have a particular routine or do you just write whenever you have the time? I've been trying to find a routine that will work for me so I've been looking around at what other writers do.

No, I don’t think I’ve spoken about this before.

I try, really, really hard to be a good professional and have a routine but right now I’m hampered by two things: lack of good work space and lately, a crazy schedule. I used to be much, much better when I had a dedicated desk and I didn’t have a full time job.

Right now I write piecemeal – in the space I can scrabble out, and in the time I have free.  I actually do feel like this is a detriment to both my focus, my productivity, and my creativity, and I certainly see a difference in the output I had last year, and this year’s output.

When I was unemployed/job hunting, I wrote an average of 4000 words per day, and I could leave my computer on my wee writing desk all the time.

But that was because I had the free time. I spent the morning submitting resumes, and then after lunch I would sit down and write. Once I finished my personal goal of One Chapter Or 4000 Words (Whichever I Hit First), I would then focus on social media stuff like updating my website or interacting on Goodreads until my then-roommate got home. The evening was freetime/socializing, etc. On that schedule, I got a novel done in a month and a half, and a handful of short stories in the month that followed.  The novel also went through the editing process pretty quick, and I had it to my agent and ready for submissions within three months of beginning it.

This is the schedule I’d use if I were free to do so.

I started to plow into the next book, deciding to write as much as I could while I had the space to do so, and got 30k into it before I got my current full-time job. I saw my productivity slide way down when that happened.  I had hoped that I could write during lulls at work, but the office is so open concept that it’s not possible.

My horrible excuses:

Well, I got a job. So there’s 9 hours a day minimum that I’m not able to devote to being in front of my manuscripts. That also means that now I can only write on evenings and weekends. And unfortunately that also means that the social/marketing things I was doing in the evenings/weekends (such as being a guest a cons, going to pub nights and networking events, or even just playing boardgames and having wine nights with my friends) now suddenly conflict with my writing time.

My job is also filled with walking. I have a desk but I think I’m actually sitting at it for about 3 out of the 8 hours per day I am at work. So I also come home exhausted and a bit frazzled. By the time I’ve chilled and got my head into a place where I could write, it’s darn near midnight and I’m struggling to just stay awake.

And my apartment, while larger than my last one, doesn’t really have any place I can set aside and designate “work space”. At first I didn’t think this would be a problem. I wrote on the sofa, on my deck, on my telephone table, at the kitchen table, wherever I wanted.  It was freeing! But the problem with that is that I have to pack everything up when I’m done with it. I can’t just leave my computer on, the document up, my notes taped to the wall or scribbled on the chalkboard above my monitor.

Things can’t stay set up. Whenever someone comes over, or when I have another project that I need to pull out (such as sewing), I have to pack things away. Which means I find myself less inclined to grab those few minutes to jot something down or do up a scene because it means I have to unpack my work space. So instead I make yet another note on the chalkboard (it’s starting to look like kindergartener’s scribble), and return to whatever else I was doing.

So, there’s my really horrible excuses about why I have a rubbish routine.

But, here are the things I am trying to be proactive about:

·         I may not have the architecture that allows for dedicated work space, but I’ve bought a giant chalkboard that I use to keep notes on, and I’ve recently acquired a little wee bedside table to sit beside my writing desk where I’ve set up a monitor and a keyboard. It’s not a perfect set up right now, but until I’m in an apartment with a nook or actual second bedroom I can use as an office, it is at least a home for my writing.

·         I have a tablet to take with me to conventions and to events, which means my computer can stay in its home-space and ready for me to use. I’m working on finding a portable keyboard to go with the tablet so I can jot down notes and scenes when I’m in transit and email them back to myself.

·         I keep lofty word count goals in mind, but I am more realistic about what I can achieve in one weekend. I aim more for One Short Story than my former 10k/Three Chapters goal.


·         I’m a bit more of a social hermit and hoarder. I say no to more invitations and I stay home more often, and I keep my laptop on while I’m watching films and doing chores at home incase inspiration strikes.


·         I keep a list of all the ideas and half-begun stories/novels/projects I have in a visible place. I’ve got them taped to the fridge so I can see them when I’m cooking; this usually gives me a mental jolt, a little “Oh, yeah, I was going to do that thing with the cannibal lawn gnomes, wasn’t I? Hmmm, I’ll think about that while I’m frying up breakfast. Let’s see where this goes…”

·         I carry a notepad and pen, but I also use my smartphone to compose scenes in my email program while I’m on transit, so I can just send it to myself and not need to transcribe it when I get home.


·         Carry my writing USB key everywhere, so I can snag time at work on my lunch if the opportunity of having the office to myself arises. I back up the USB key every weekend, and I back up my whole archive every few months on CDs. I also email myself manuscripts and hold them in a folder in my email, and use Dropbox. It seems excessive, but it gives me great peace of mind, which allows me to focus.

My recommendations for setting up your own routine:


·         Carve out physical space where your work can stay. Figure out if you prefer things to be filed, in boxes, behind glass doors, or if you prefer to have a corkboard, or a chalkboard, or note paper taped everywhere? Designate a home for the unit you write on.

·         Carve out time and mental space for work. Be it weekly or daily, know in advance when and for how long your writing time will be. Schedule it in, and tell people it’s on your schedule in order to both make yourself free then, and accountable to them.

·         Figure out how you work. Can you sit and write for hours and hours? Or do you need ten minute sprints? Do you prefer to rain the words onto the page in small doses as you go through your daily routine, or do you need a dedicated time in which to splash down a torrent?


·         Figure out your rhythms. Do you need to write every day? Can you? Is it a realistic goal or does real life just not allow for it?

·         Set goals and meet them. Tell yourself you have to do a certain amount (either in time or word/page count)  and then do it. No excuses. But at the same time…

·         Learn to forgive yourself. Sometimes you just don’t hit your targets. It’s okay. Take a day off, watch a film, go for a walk, play with some kids or pets. There’s always tomorrow.

·         Write for fun. Don’t forget that while you may be treating this like a job, it’s meant to be pleasurable. Do another project for a while if you need to give yourself a break. Write a poem, a silly song, some fanfic, a blog post, anything. Read a book and remember why you love writing – because you love it.

Work Space

For each writer it’s different, but for me I need:

  •          Silence (with a preference to being alone in the house)


·         Tea or wine or water.

·         Twilight lighting – a bright task light on my workspace, but the curtains half-closed or the other lights dimmed. It helps me focus on the screen, and not the distractions of the room around me. (Like the dirty dishes or the unmade bed).

·         Several hours after work or upon waking in order to get zen, have tea, have a meal, have a shower and do some light reading (magazine, newspaper, fanfic on my smartphone); only then has my writer-brain had time to bootup and come online. Once that happens I can focus.

·         An hour or two to really get a bunch of the brain-vomit on the page. Usually I don’t go back and edit until a) I have a complete first draft or b) I’m stuck and I need to go back and reread in order to digest then recapture the tone/momentum of the book.

·         Scrivener and Final Draft for composing; Microsoft Word and Celtx for editing/finessing

·         A self-imposed deadline (for example: “There’s a pub night Monday evening. Today is Saturday – you can go to the pub night if you get a whole short story written and one draft of edits done on it before then.”)

Resetting my Calendar:

I think I’ve spoken to this before, but usually my year in writing goes like this

·         October – spend the month writing character sketches, wee scenes, doing research, and generally preparing to write a new novel

·         NovemberNational Novel Writing Month; write the first 50k of the new novel.

·         December – complete the novel. (Usually adding another 50-90k.) I generally use a few days around Christmas when I don’t have to work to do the final torrent.

·         Holidays – Sleep. Let the novel lay fallow.

·         Late January – Edit the first draft on my own.

·         February – Send the novel out to my crit partners and beta readers.

·         March – wait for crit on the novel back; pick up the slack on other projects I’ve neglected like screenplays, short stories, reading other people’s books, or edits for other novels

·         April – edit novel based on crit’s/beta’s suggestions. Either send it out again to a different group of people, or send it to my agent.

·         May – August  - From there it gets a bit wibbly-wobbly. Either more edits are required, or we start putting together a submission package, which may include writing synopsis, pitches, loglines, short stories to accompany the novel, letters, asking for other authors to offer blurbs, etc. Meanwhile I am still catching up on everything I let slide, am writing short stories for anthologies, working on screenplays or audio dramas, and generally trying to get everything I thought up over the year and put aside in favour of concentrating on the novel done and tidy.

·         September – finishing up any other projects that might be lingering, generally clearing my plate in preparation for having a clean slate come November 1 and the new start of NaNoWriMo (this year will be my 11th year participating!); get caught up on my reading.

If I were to be writing full time, I would probably try to do two novels a year, or at least a novel and a half per year. But it would depend, of course, on how involved the research on the novel would be, and what happened with other novels/projects. Sometimes you just gotta put something aside and focus what needs your attention now, no matter how much you want to work on that first thing.

(I swear to you that one day there will be a novel version of “The Maddening Science”.)


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More WORDS FOR WRITERS Posts

Choosing to be a Writer: Why Write? & Self Confidence and Starting & Refilling the Creative Well

Getting Started: The “What If?” & Don’t Stop. Don’t Ever Stop & What You Need To Know to Get Started

First Drafts: My Advice for NaNoWriMo: Be A Bit Crap

Revisions: Unhooking, Tough Choices, And Raising Your Manuscript Up Right & Killing Your Babies

Hard vs. Soft SF: The Balance Between Science-Telling and Story-Telling

Self-Marketing: What I Do To Self-Market (make sure to read the comments, too) & Book Trailers

Agents: I Have A Publishing Deal But I Still Want An Agent & How Do I Get An Agent? Why Do I Need One? & Publishing Sans Agent

Genre: Why Do I Write Sci Fi?

Format: How To Structure A Story

World-Building: Culture-Building, Character-Building, and Finding The Story

Finishing a Manuscript: Keeping Momentum & The Emotionally Blocked Writer

Queries: You Might Have to Work At It & That Middle Place

Abandoning A Manuscript: Bidding Farewell

Copyright: Protecting Your Work

Have a question you want me to answer?

Filed under words for writers J.M. Frey writing