On “Thanksgiving” and Being Thankful in Dark Times

Two weeks ago, the votes were tallied — not completely, but enough for those who are generally right about these things to guess at where the votes would end up — and the election was called for Donald Trump, making him the presumptive President-Elect.

It took no time at all, not even a full day, for him to start using that position  to line his own pockets, and for his alt-Reich supporters to come out in force, claiming his election as a victory of Nazism all across the land.

It’s pretty fucking hard, then, to look at Thanksgiving — a day when we traditionally celebrate that my white ancestors stole America from the indigenous population, by eating a giant turkey and a dessert made with orange squash — with any kind of thanks in my heart.

I’m not thankful that the President-Elect continues to treat his new position mainly as a way to make more money no matter who suffers, or that he’s appointing actual white supremacists, xenophobes, Islamaphobes, and homophobes to positions which mean that these vile, hateful, people will be making policies that affect all of America. I’m not thankful that centuries after we stole their land, the American government still can’t be bothered to treat Native Americans with the bare minimum of courtesy or respect, if there’s any way to gain by stealing from them again. I’m not thankful that of the hundreds of new reports of hate crimes across the country, the largest percentage is against immigrant children.

Children.

With all of this, what can I possibly be thankful for? What’s the point of being thankful at all? I think there is one, and it’s this: finding any joy at all, in these times, is a balm for the heart and mind. A day, or a moment, of peace and love refreshes us. So, if you have a reason to be thankful this week, go ahead. Enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty. Use it, the way we use sleep to energize us for the next day. Be armored by it. Be strengthened against what’s coming next. And when you’re ready, use that strength to keep fighting.

My thankfulness this week is that I have a bright, funny, healthy, beautiful child, who tries his best to navigate his disability, and who loves us. It’s that I have a brilliant and brave partner who’s just as committed as I am to standing up for what’s right. It’s that my family might be small, and far away from everyone else this time of year, but we’re together, and we’re good.

Follow Friday Five: Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong, Gay YA

#SFWAPro

I realize that I’ve been lucky to know some incredibly talented people in publishing, at all stages of their careers. People that you should be familiar with, too. For at least the next few months, I’ve set up regular posts to go out on Fridays (coinciding the with the popular #FollowFriday movement on Twitter) to highlight people and projects I want you to know more about.

Last week, I recommended: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, and Don Pizarro.

This week? Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong,  and the Gay YA project.

It’s not enough to say we want more diversity in SFF, or genre fiction, or literature — we have to actually seek out and read authors and educators who write from a perspective that isn’t “middle-class white suburban America”. Today’s Follow Five can help you to do that.

Barbara Jane Reyes is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, award-winning author of numerous poetry chapbooks, and professor of Filipina American Literature. She was born in Manila, and raised in the SF Bay Area, where she got a B.A. in Ethnic Studies (U.C. Berkeley) and a M.F.A. from San Francisco State.

Reyes is constantly working to increase readership of Filipino — particularly Filipina — authors. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA), is an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, and co-editor of Doveglion Press. She’s given numerous readings, lectures, and interviews (you can find some of them on her YouTube channel here), and she regularly writes comprehensive blog posts detailing authors, lit movements, and cultural history. For example, she’s recently shared several lists of Filipina American Lit Authors that should be required reading not just for students of Filipin@ authors, not just for literary students, but for readers in general.

Filipina American Literature Reading Recommendations: List 1 | List 2 | List 3 | List 4 | List 5

You can find her online at barbarajanereyes.com and on Twitter @bjanepr

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Mexican-Canadian author and editor whose creations include Innsmouth MagazineInnsmouth Free Press, and The Jewish Mexican Literary Review (with Lavie Tidhar). She also co-edits The Dark with Sean Wallace. She was also the original fiction editor for People of Colour Destroy Horror, a special issue of Nightmare Magazine. As editor, her anthology She Walks in Shadows — highlighting Lovecraft’s mostly-ignored female characters — was nominated for a World Fantasy Award this year. As an author, she’s published dozens of short stories since 2006, and has two collections out now. Her novels (Signal to Noise, 2015, and Certain Dark Things, 2016) focus on the supernatural from a Mexican perspective, and have been widely praised.

Moreno-Garcia has long been a fan, and scholar, of horror — including exploring and expanding on the work of HP Lovecraft. (In fact, her 2016 MA thesis is available online: “Magna Mater: Women and Eugenic Thought in the Work of H.P. Lovecraft” and has my vote for a “Best Related Work” Hugo next year.) Her Strange Horizons article on the history of Mexican Science Fiction is a must read — though I wish it were longer — and her Fantasy Magazine article on Pre-Columbian Cultures in Film recommends work you probably would never have heard of otherwise.

Start with those three pieces of nonfiction, move on to Moreno-Garcia’s stories and novels, and then keep an eye out for anything she publishes as as an editor.

You can find her online at silviamoreno-garcia.com and on Twitter @silviamg

Dr. Adrienne Keene is the writer behind “Native Appropriations“, professor of Native Studies, and member of the a Cherokee Nation. Hers is a tireless voice, active online (particularly Twitter), discussing and dissecting stereotypes of indigenous peoples. She frequently highlights cultural appropriation, and shares news stories you probably missed. On the Native Appropriations site, she writes long posts which thoughtfully and kindly — often, much more kindly than we deserve — explain in detail exactly what’s wrong with the lack of Native representation in Hamilton, or why polls claiming Native people don’t mind racist sports team names are probably very wrong.

In short, she educates the public. If you’re wondering whether she’s constantly the target of abuse and harassment for that effort, the answer is yes. Yes, racist white dudes flood her mentions on the regular, defending their team mascots, and entitled white women active insist on their right to dismiss critiques of their “native-inspired” Coachella headdresses. Keene educates us anyway.

You can find her online at Native Appropriations and on Twitter @NativeApprops

Alice Wong is a writer and activist, and founder of the  Project. She shares and discusses news to foster a greater understanding about the intersection of disability stories, culture, politics, public perception, and the individual people living with the experience of disability.

Wong is an organizer of , to encourage discussion of disability issues during the 2016 election season (which is still ongoing), writes curricula for home care providers and caregivers, and is a Staff Research Associate for the Community Living Policy Center. Her Twitter is full of insightful conversation about the variety of barriers faced by people living with disability, and their struggles against institutional ableism — and she contributes greatly to the discussion.

Wong also a contributor to The Nerds of Color and Model View Culture, so you know I’m following her for those things, too. (Geeks of the world, unite!)

You can find her online at disabilityvisibilityproject.com and on Twitter @SFdirewolf

The Gay YA project isn’t a person, but is an excellent source of news, information, and discussion about QUILTBAG+ characters in YA novels. They host a book club, share links, point writers at agents who are open to repping diverse authors, and moderate Twitter chats on various related topics. If you write YA, want to read YA, or are involved in any other aspect of publishing and want to stay on top of current trends in fiction, follow Gay YA. (So, basically, anyone who reads and/or writes. Yes, this means you.)

You can find them online at gayya.org and on Twitter at @thegayYA

I Read Craig Strete’s “The Bleeding Man and Other Science Fiction Stories” (1974)

The Bleeding Man and Other Science Fiction Stories (1974) is a fascinating blend of genre-bending ideas, outsider perspective  and misogyny. I simultaneously loved and rolled my eyes at these stories, and while you absolutely must go into Strete’s work aware of his bias, I still think it’s worth reading. A quick look at each story:

“Into Every Rain, a Little Life Must Fall” –  bored cop doing surveillance on a rainy night finds a man he can’t arrest because the system doesn’t recognize him. Prescient, for the early 1970s. Sparse, quick writing.

“White Brothers from the Place Where No Man Walks” – I liked the recursive storytelling beats in this myth. It’s strange and won’t appeal to everyone, which is part of what I like about it. You’re not going to read a story like this every day.

“When They Find You” – My favorite piece in the collection. It’s sad, callous, and innovative in turns. Probably the best written story in the book.

“A Sunday Visit with Great-Grandfather” – about the power of not believing in science. If you imagine that magic only works if you believe in it, then perhaps technology works the same way.

“Mother of Cloth, Heart of Clock” – sad, first person perspective tale of a zoo animal (an ape, most likely) who’s about to be put down. Second best story in the book.

“The Bleeding Man” – The government emissary is a heartless woman who doesn’t understand drinking, gambling, or storytelling, and therefore deserves to be cut into little pieces. Oh, and something about a god-being who might be Jesus.

Overall this collection deals with themes of otherness, magic vs. science, and the oppression of living in someone else’s society. Ironically, Strete creates stories of oppression of Native American men which are meant to show how wrong that oppression is, but does so by substituting women as acceptable to denigrate instead.

The main characters are all male, and though females (human, alien, and animal) appear in most of the stories, they’re all one-dimensional. Grandmother, mother, bitch, fuck toy – each woman has a role to play, that of an object that the males move around and influence. There are no women in the first story at all. The mothers in “White Brothers” and “Bleeding Man” are there as containers of a baby and no more – and both are subsequently killed without having uttered dialogue. They’re also named for the men in their lives: “Old Coat’s daughter” and “my sister by law” (also called “the mother” and “his wife”). The Grandmother in “Sunday Visit” is a repetitive caricature, kicking the shins of her cantankerous husband while also making sure to be there in case he has a coughing fit. The narrator’s mate in “Mother of Cloth” is taken away to be experimented on and then put down when her personality changes to violent.

The Riyall woman that Gantry buys for a mate in “When They Find You” is called “Bkaksi” once, by her father, when he’s selling her in exchange for a shirt. (The father doesn’t even wear the shirt; he folds it up and sits on it.) Bkaksi doesn’t speak, is the perfect lover and servant, empathically knowing Gantry’s ever need, but he never falls in love with her. He barely learns not to hate her for being human. She doesn’t complain when he takes her into town to get a surgery that will allow her to bear his children, though he doesn’t ask if she wants it.

Miss Dow, the only named woman to get dialogue in Strete’s stories, is mean, stupid, and might have been attractive if only she’d smile, according to her coworker in “Bleeding Man”. It gets worse from there, as if her insistence on being a person who makes decisions – or at least, enforces them – proves her unworthiness to be cared for or kept alive. I saw what the author was trying to do with the tale but couldn’t get invested in it.

Interestingly, the forward – written by a woman, author Virginia Hamilton – skips over Strete’s treatment of women entirely.

All of that said, the book is still worth reading. Blame the era, blame the author, blame … whatever you want, the book is awful to women and there’s no ignoring that. But the stories are still mostly innovative, and at times uncomfortably emotional. They push the boundaries of genre, remind us that there are more than white Anglo writers in the US, and suggest new ways that we can tell a story. I will look at my own work with new eyes after reading this collection, and I would be very surprised if I didn’t incorporate some of Strete’s ideas about structure into my future writing.