Thursday, March 14, 2013

Read This! Read It!

I have some writing philosophy that I try to live by these days. Mostly it's this: the world is too much dominated by straight white men, and can we try to make it better though our writing? That is, try to represent other viewpoints: women, people of color, differently abled people, sexual minorities, culturally different viewpoints. Not all at once, maybe, but at least one at any given time?
So I'm pretty thrilled by The Summer Prince, the new book by Alaya Dawn Johnson. It hits all my sweet spots without looking like it's trying. There's effortless queerness (that's just how it is); everyone's a person of color (hurrah!); our viewpoint character is a young woman confronted with her own privilege for the first time (yes!); and on top of this, there's a top notch story being told to the reader. I will say, there's a span of the book where I thought Johnson was going to fail to follow through on her premises. I was wrong, though: she had the courage to write what needed to be written, no matter how bitter it must have been to do it. This is one of my favorites of the last couple years for so many reasons, and I look forward to seeing if there's more to come in this beautifully depicted future Johnson's created.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Francis, First of his name

There's a new Pope. He's different than the old Pope, because he's from Argentina. Oh, he's still white, and male, and old, but he's from Argentina. Doesn't that make a huge difference? No? Well. It's still a first, and it's interesting. I also find interesting that he's committed to the idea of apostolic poverty: he lives (lived) in a small apartment, he takes (took) public transportation, he cooks for himself (maybe still he'll do this?). He took the name Francis, after Francis of Assisi who was a similarly devoted follower of poverty. And that, at least, is pretty new. Sadly, he's still got the same old problems: anti-gay positions, anti-women positions, pedophilia cover up issues (even if he's not as compromised, probably, as Benedict was on that issue). And he's not going to have very long to make any impact, because he's 76. So is this important? I wish it wasn't. I wish nobody cared who the head of the Catholic Church was, because he was just a gentle influence to the good for his followers. But he's not, really. He's a world figure, and traditionally much of his power and influence has been used to suppress freedoms and stifle dissent. And this, for the vestigial impression that it's something new, is really just more of the same.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Epically Fantastic

I'm between "important" projects, which is what I call things that I'm being paid for. My first book is already with the publisher, complete and ready to go; the short story that I'm lucky enough to be able to work on for their sister house is not yet back to me for revisions; and my next book is still being considered. So I'm at loose ends. I can do whatever I want. And what I want to do, what I always want to do, is write more, so that's what I'm doing.
In this case, I'm writing the first book of a series. A fantasy series, which I'm trying to make into an epic fantasy series, but, you know, how does one reach "epic"? A matter of scope, one could say. A big world, big themes, big stakes. That's epic fantasy. Hell if I know, really. It's like obscenity, in that one knows it when one sees it. For now though I'm doing what I can to make it epic in all those ways, the world, the theme, the stakes.
I'm trying to do things a little differently. I don't much favor standard fantasy anymore. Hate this if you will, but I find it to be too patriarchal, too European centered. So while I have a male main character, he's both homosexual, and shrimpy, and uncertain about everything except his blinding faith. And the setting launches from a base of the Islamic world, instead of a base of medieval northern Europe. And women are important, strong figures not dressed in chainmail bikinis, not oppressed by some gloomy dictate of their (imaginary yet still traditional for some reason) culture.
I don't know if any of that makes it more epic. I do know it makes it more fantastic, in the sense of amazing if not magical. And I do know I mean to keep doing it.