Feb. 14th, 2017

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redacted/condensed from multiple asks cont’d below:

So, the Sled Dog AU, it’s, well, it’s good of course. But, there are a few parts that I don’t think you should be writing. Not that they shouldn’t be written, or that you shouldn’t write, but that you shouldn’t write this particular thing. Before, you haven’t really addressed racism in modern AUs, and the Galaxy Far Far Away is, well, far away and you didn’t write about anyone experiencing racism from the pov of the character themselves. But now you’re writing about what it’s like to be a Pakistani-British man in small-town America. And, please please don’t take this as a personal attack, but I think that’s crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed. I know your writing comes from the best possible place. I know you’ve seen stuff like what happens to Bodhi happen to people and you know it’s wrong and you want to reach out and you want to help and you want to understand and you want to fix it. But I think this is a bad way of doing that. I think this is the sort of thing that should be written about by actual Pakistani people, by actual brown people, by actual Muslim people. And we as allies should uplift what they have to say. I think, writing about what life is like for them, is a form of speaking over them. For context: I don’t want to see cis men write about what it’s like to be a woman and experience sexism. I don’t want to see allistic people write about what it’s like to be autistic and experience ableism because of it. I don’t want to see non-asexuals write about what it’s like to be ace and experience aphobia. Because no matter how hard they try to understand, no matter how many times they talk to me or other people like me about how it feels, they haven’t lived it. There is always going to be a little bit of understanding missing. So them trying to live in my skin, writing what they think are my thoughts about being the thing I am and they are not, feels, well, uncomfortable. I don’t think you shouldn’t write the thing! Please write the thing! Aside from those little parts it’s wonderful! But, when it comes to Bodhi experiencing racism and islamophobia, please find another way. Maybe switch pov to a white coworker who sees/hears it happening? Put out a search on Tumblr for a cowriter with lived experience who can cover those parts?

So there’s a fine line in writing anything, really. You have to write outside your own immediate experience, you just do, because memoir is a very specialized and tiny genre. That’s a given.

It’s also important, when writing, to try to reflect reality in some ways. The more abstractions you put in between reality and your vision, the more you lose.

Especially when writing about marginalized identities, of course one must exercise care. This is crucial. Of course you don’t want to speak as an authority on a topic that you can’t be an authority on. You certainly don’t want to speak over marginalized voices.

But that doesn’t mean you should avoid having any kind of representation in your writing. And your suggestion that this would somehow be less offensive if I did not give Bodhi’s perspective on it is downright appalling to me. Somehow this would be better representation if I did not let Bodhi speak for himself?

No. I respect you a great deal, I have enjoyed your perspective on many issues in the past, but on this issue I must firmly and powerfully disagree with you. Taking Bodhi’s perspective away and not letting him have a voice in this situation does not somehow make it more respectful.

There is a line, I’m not disagreeing with you, but POV is not the line.

Here’s where I draw the line, and this is something I’ve given a lot of thought to, as all authors should. I’m not going to write a story whose primary plot centers around the oppression of a character of color. I’m not going to write a story that features extended scenes dealing with it in great detail. I’m not going to try to write The Story about the topic. And that’s why I put in the disclaimer that I just wasn’t prepared to address the reality of the current political climate, and was going to put the story into a little bubble of the way things were when I began it: I don’t see how to tell a story set right now, in today’s confusion and terror, without having that be the central focus.

(And, given that fact, if I were going to publish this story for money I would seek out some kind of expert beta or collaborator. I have a side rant about that sort of thing, though– I haven’t sought a specific racism-beta for this project because I’ve done so in the past for other projects and it felt very strange and not-right to me after the fact; I had to do a very strange balancing act and I haven’t squared it in my mind. Asking even a willing volunteer to do that kind of labor for me, and then afterward using their approval as a kind of shield– It’s not that there’s no place for that, but it’s really important to do properly. I’ve instead done research and tried to avoid Problematic stuff for this project, at this stage in its development. [if anyone does want to offer that kind of reading, I would love to discuss in more depth. I may write a separate post on the topic.])

I can write a story that has racism in it. I can write a story from a character’s POV where he experiences it. But it is not up to me to tell The Story, to focus my entire work around that.

 Ignoring it would be irresponsible, and would unwarrantedly let both myself and my white readers off the hook, let us pretend that such things don’t exist. That’s not only unhelpful, it’s actively harmful. But neither is it up to me to focus on it.

In an earlier draft of the story, I went into more detail about the issues Bodhi faced; I’d come up with an idea for a really vivid scene that was gonna be super emotionally-fraught and give us this great window into The Mystery of Bodhi’s Past. But I pared it down, never wrote that scene, cut out much of what I’d written already. I chose to present it in summary in a flashback as I did, and not lavish attention on it beyond an offhand example of Bodhi dealing with it and moving on with his life. (And at the last minute I softened it even further, because no, it’s not my story to tell.) It’s plot-relevant, but not plot-defining; it’s setting-relevant, but not setting-defining. Most importantly, there’s not a ton of screen time devoted to wallowing in it, because that’s a kind of suffering porn it’s pretty gross to get into.

I think it’s a crucial component of the character in canon, in fact. You say that A Galaxy Far Away lets us ignore these issues but I think that’s very much not the case. (And if you think there was no POV present-tense experience of racism in Home Out In The Wind… there most certainly was, and it was mild, but it was there. I know there were a lot of credits on that one, I had a lot of people help me in the beginning, but that’s the one I did seek out a Latinx-issues beta reader for– which was an excellent experience, don’t get me wrong, and it went beautifully, and I’d do it again, it just needs a slightly different framework I think.) 

The makers of Star Wars made a very deliberate choice in this character, first in casting Riz Ahmed, with a well-known role in The Road To Guantanamo, and second in spending such crucial screen time on showing imagery of him shackled with a black fabric hood over his head, subject to torture, pleading his case to deaf ears– it is absolutely a direct reference to Earth events, basically a verbatim quotation. Maybe you aren’t old enough or American enough to have Abu Ghraib seared onto your consciousness as I do (my brother-in-law was at that very moment serving in Iraq guarding prisoners in a very similar facility, don’t think I wasn’t personally glued to that coverage), but I gasped out loud in the theater when I saw that imagery. We are absolutely meant to catch that and think of it, specifically, just as surely as the Hugo Boss uniforms are meant to make us think of Nazis.

TL;DR: I can tell a story where racism is an element– and in fact, it’s important that I do. I can’t tell a story where it’s the subject, because that’s not mine to do.
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This is actually from the other night but I just remembered it and has to post it. Dude with cat and double laptops, it bears commemorating. I forget why he has two computers but I promise he’s genuinely using both.
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A video posted by Baron (@baronthegerman) on Jan 25, 2017 at 5:54am PST



If you can’t beat them, lick them.

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AWWWW! Babysitter pups! I love it. 

I lived in the middle of nowhere and we took the dogs with us on hikes too, but they weren’t like… good babysitters. One was sort of small, she’d always take herself home like five minutes after we left the house, and then she was pretty old by the time I was really adventuring. The other was a German Shorthair and she’d just take off running and we’d barely see her. But we DID see her put up a coyote once, and chase it, and that was the only time we ever saw coyotes on our property– though we heard them plenty.

Now that same property is absolutely rotten with coyotes but my folks don’t have a dog anymore so the coyotes do what they want. 

When my mother was a teenager/college student, she had a German Shorthair, and she’d take her on hikes with her up big mountains. There was one time I guess her mother had driven her there but dropped her off (in the Adirondacks, some of the great hiking trails start right from parking lots) and went shopping or sightseeing or something [Gram had bad knees by then]. She came back and was waiting in the parking lot for Mom, and was keeping tabs on her location by asking every party that came down if they’d seen a girl and a dog. Every one of them had seen Mom and Kuchen (that was the dog’s name) and happily filled Gram in on her progress.

a related but non-dog story i’ve told before behind the cut, about hiking and disasters and family

Decades later, my own mother was having problems with her ankle, and so dropped three of us daughters off to hike up Prospect Mountain while she drove up to meet us at the top. Unbeknownst to her, the previous night the youngest (FarmSister before the farm, then about 13) and I (about 18) had snuck out and gone night-hiking with some local hooligans, as was our wont at the time, and it was hilariously innocent but still, we’d been up until 5am and gone about ten miles overnight so we were EXHAUSTED. Oldest sister, home on leave from Army training, had no idea (she was a square, we weren’t going to tell her!) so she’s trying to Drill Sergeant us up this hill, and Farmsister and I are dr a g g i n g. And there’s no dog in this part of the story.

So we get lost. There’s no trail marker, and a worn path where people have taken unauthorized side-excursions, and we follow it, and we realize we’re not… on… the trail. And ArmySister is getting really mad because Farmsister and I are like, useless, and she’s yelling at us and we’re realizing now we’re not sure how to get back to the path, and following the slope upward doesn’t work because this is a lower peak of the mountain. There we are, at the top of this lower peak, in thick woods, can’t see anything, and we can hear the ice cream truck playing the Entertainer down in Lake George, and we’e cry-laughing because FarmSister and I are on the verge of collapse and ArmySister doesn’t know what the hell is wrong with us, and we’re going to die here, in earshot of the ice cream truck.

ArmySister and I fall down a small side-cliff trying to get back to the path, and she sprains her ankle and I scrape the everloving fuck out of my shoulder. So now she’s limping and I’m bleeding everywhere, and FarmSister has started to cry because she thinks we’re dying. 

We find the road eventually. Did I mention, this is the kind of mountain that has a road going up it? It goes right up to the top, you can just drive. It takes like ten minutes, our mother’s been up there for like two hours waiting for us. We stumble out onto the shoulder of the road, and only then do we think, um, we should decide what to do. Well, if nothing else, we can just walk up the road. 

We’re debating it when the very next car that comes by is our mother, who has now driven up and down the mountain five times and interrogated a number of people as to whether they’ve seen three girls together, and there were some who had, and then there was one group who said “oh yeah they were ahead of us, but then where are they?” !!! But there we were, limping, bleeding, and crying, her darling idiot little moppets.

Anyway. Mom never made us do anything like that again. Sure, we grew up in the woods, but orienteering, it turns out, when you’re used to a predictable terrain where every stream flows from east to west, kind of doesn’t prepare you for real wild terrain. (I kept being like, well, where are the streams? Turns out there weren’t any, it’s a mountain, the streams are down in the valley part. Duh.)



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