Author Archives: Shannon Barber

About Shannon Barber

I am a strange little woman who likes pie.

Yeah Write #184 entry- Star.

 

Star

by

Shannon Barber

No one needs to tell the Matrons when the time comes. As a group they are a whisper of rainbow pastel wimples and the susurrus of silken fabric as they move.

I can hear them under the soft bleating of the metabolic unit hooked to my belly. It whirs, it feeds this body and keeps it comfortable.

Here in their House of Passing Time the Matrons attend to dying star prophets.

I am dying.

I open my eyes when the pink wimpled Matron comes to perch on my bed. Her brown face reminds me of dimly of my Mother, the deep Cupid’s Bow of her pert mouth.

“Do you dream star?”

Her voice is distant bells and pinpricks of light behind my eyelids when I let them settle.

“I dream and see nothing.”

The me who lived- raving and flaming with prophecy- would hate to sense the Matron’s disappointment yearned for laughter and freedom. I am too tired to gladly comply.

I’ll not have my last days spent dreaming and desperately trying to prognosticate for the smiles of any Matron, even a pink wimpled brown skinned beauty.

After so many years of being ridden by time and used as the mouth of madness, I am content to die quietly here in the House of Passing Time, I will only be passing.

The Matrons come, pale blue, lavender, buttercream yellow. Faces brown and ivory, eyes bright with expectation. There must be some renown among the Matrons to be the sister who holds the last prophecy of a dying star in her palm.

After so many years of madness without mirth, as my time draws near I know what to do.

Mint green wimple, this one older than the rest of them, my time is too close for the youngsters. Her wrinkled hands are soft and warm, her fingers curl around mine tenderly as if we were sisters.

“Do you dream star?”

 I open my eyes, yes she is a lovely old creature.

“I dream, I see. Come listen.”

She releases my hand and whips out her tablet. She leans down until her ear hovers above my dry lips.

“Speak your dream star and go home.”

My eyes close, the metabolic unit clicks off as it reads my body readying for death.

I take a few deep breaths ready to go home, my whisper reaches her ear as I am released to go home.

“When did our elephants leave?”

Linking to the HOST


Thoughts on Transgressive writing.

I’m reading the (affiliate link ahead) Burnt Tongues. This is the love child from Chuckpalahniuk.net.

The anthology is okay. Even if I didn’t know it was Palahniuk related I’d know inside two stories. If you are a fan of that style you’ll like it.

I don’t really feel too strongly about the actual work in the anthology. Most of the stories so far rely fairly heavily on the gross out mode of transgression, I’m halfway in and so far vomit, obsession, some kind of mental deficiency. The sort of things that are SHOCKING OMG GROSS OH NO.

Overall none of the stories are particularly memorable for me. The gross factor is a bit tired to me.

Which brings me to my thoughts on transgression.

If you’ve read me for a minute you know I am very into transgression and exploring that in my work. I think my issue with the stories in the anthology aren’t really the stories, they are very obviously workshopped in that fan base really hard. Some of them have some nice moments. But the transgression as rooted in the gross factor doesn’t really do it for me.

I do enjoy that CP (Chuck P) style of that tight first person, present tense.

But as I read more of his work and that anthology I find it lacking in a certain kind of depth.

Or not depth, maybe a certain adventurousness.

I don’t really feel a sense of danger in the gross out mode of transgression or the something fucked up happened but everyone is pretty, or scars etc.  It feels safe. It feels both as a reader and writer that the only real risk involved is in maybe turning someone off or making them feel a bit icky in the guts.

That doesn’t turn my crank generally speaking.

I really want transgression that takes nose dives into dangerous territory.

But what’s dangerous?

The most powerful transgressive writing to my taste comes from a place of otherness or if not otherness than a place that is not comfortable for normative cultural tropes. The challenge in my eyes is the most powerful when it makes the world being written, not a comfortable place.

One of my favorite modes of exploring transgression is female desire and sexuality.

Not just on terms of erotica but consider female desire in terms of how it is generally written about in literature. Safe is demure, occasionally “bold” (as in making the first move), numerous romantic tropes, but there is so much more.

When women are written as not adhering to cultural expectations of how they experience desire or lust or have sex, there is space to explore transgression. For instance, writing female desire that is outside of and ignores heterosexual cis white dudes. Lesbians or Queer women written by and for their like.

It’s not transgressive to write those women because they are queer but because they exist and live outside of the norm which in the case of literature is White Cis Men.

Essentially I want my transgression to work harder. Go deeper.

Part of this is that gross outs just really don’t move me at all. I have worked with/been around babies and animals so there’s not enough poop or vomit in the world lovingly described chunk by chunk that will make me remember a thing or a story in particular.

I have the same problem with some of the contemporary horror I’ve read.

From the writing end, this is one of the things that moves my work regardless of what I’m writing. It is in the back of my mind. I work to hold onto the thread of what I desire out of transgressive writing and make it.

Okay yeah that.

Now that I’ve got my brain functioning, (I have had a hellacious cold) I’m going to go write some things.

So there.


Welcome To Bordertown the review.

I finished (sorry this is an affiliate link, I know it sucks, but I like extra book money) Welcome to Bordertown.

Okay so the short version is I enjoyed it for the most part. Good stories, I like the world of Bordertown.

Now okay here is the deeper longer thing.

For extra background see here, the history of Bordertown.

And okay.

So immediately within two stories, I realized a couple of things were going to be a problem for me as a reader. First thing, did you know Elves are White?

Honestly through most of the book there is that hammer of Whiteness that is magical creatures. I had to put it down fairly often while rolling my eyes. I get booted right out of the story and needed a lot of time outs.

As a reader I am really pretty done with lore that is still so rooted firmly in Whiteness. This is another urban fantasy that I kept feeling booted out of. I can’t suspend my disbelief that there are only silvery skinned White elves, or as they are known as True Bloods (the last story addressed this and I’ll get to that) silvery skinned White golden/silver eyed, dreadlocked tall thing and oh yeah, they are white….it is tedious.

So there was that. Just like in about every other genre book/story I’ve read in the past two years.

This book came out in 2011.

And I see such a hugely missed opportunity to actually do diversity beyond inclusion of some POC friendly/written by stories.

If the lore itself is still the same, by the way the True bloods, they are white, I’m just going to glaze over as a reader. If I was a kid reading this, by the way I would have been super into the whole idea until the Whiteness made me put down the book, why is there no magic for the brown kids?

As we know, I find this tiring.

Now in terms of some of the stories in the book specifically.

The audiobook version had a “rap” in it.

Um. All I want to say is that rapping is more than rhythmic talking and I made a terrible face of distaste and sped ahead.

The whole reason I got interested in Bordertown was Nalo Hopkinson’s piece Ours is The Prettiest. Maybe hearing/reading this piece first was a mistake on my part. This story was that moment of me squeeing like a super hyped up kid because HOLY SHIT MAGICKY BROWN PEOPLE AWW YISS.

That story had enough of an impact on me. On re-reading/listening I still just love that story so damn much.

The other huge standout to me was Charles de Lint’s story A Tangle of Green Men. I think you can read a bit of it here. What a beautiful story. I really really love the end of the story. It was perfect to me. I particularly loved the mention of True Blood feeling icky to a brown person, I really appreciated that.

Overall given that I don’t read a lot of YA I think this anthology works both YA and adult. A lot of the stories deal with some really heavy stuff, immigration, domestic violence, drug use and lots of stuff.

On the flipside though, if I had been reading it when I was a teenager I wouldn’t have gotten to Nalo or Charles’ stories because I would have put it down.

I suppose part of my disappointment is that as happens in almost every piece of genre fiction I read, the lore and the myth stays rooted in European myth and Whiteness as the cultural literary norm. And it’s boring.

Readers and lovers of fantasy who are also POC are just unsafe.

Even someone like Ursula K. Le Guin isn’t safe from the whitewashing. Remember this?

Or this?

See also this article.

Shit like this?

I guess I am at that point where my hopefulness that some of these issues that turned me away from SF/F/H in general were not going to hurt me as much as they did when I was  a kidlet.

it is so much worse now.

Now I know that the talent it out there.

Now I know that it is possible and amazing to engage in mythos while yes knowing/remembering where it came from but expanding it.

Now I know that mother fucking elves can be Black.

It is so beyond frustrating to be a reader with this hope and a burning desire to see other talented people wriggle out of the Whiteness and it being such a struggle to find.

It’s infuriating because as I mentioned before, all the recommendations for stuff to read tends to be a smallish list.

I will probably not read any SF/F/H for a while after this. I’ve got some non fiction, an anthology to read and Nalo Hopkinson’s book to savor.

So overall yes, pretty good collection. Interesting world. But don’t go in expecting diversity break throughs.

Don’t be me.


Books and things.

I’m almost done with the Borderlands Anthology.

I’ll review it when I’m done. Essentially (thank you for clarifying for me Nalo  H.) I was mistaken about the stories being more interactive with each other. So that disappointment is kind of whatever. The rest. Well yeah. It’s been a struggle.

It is the same struggle I have with 90% of the genre reading I do and yeah I’m gonna talk about it more.

What else?

Um there’s more bullshit happening regarding Alt lit and it’s pretty fucking awful and I think I’m just yeah. First read this. TW for sexual harassment and assault.

Link 1.

Then read this response (note how the comments are closed) on HTMLGIANT.

This comes after they posted (now deleted) yet another fuck list type thing. This is the cached version.

Previously there’s been a lot of discussion about sexism in both Alt Lit and at HTMLGIANT and frankly, who the fuck is driving the bus here?

As i keep seeing more lit micocosms exploding because men can’t behave like civilized human beings when they are criticized (I am referring to horror stories I’ve been hearing from female writers who have had the audacity to post less than glowing reviews or not fuck indie darling boys) or in the name of art, or because OMG FREE SPEECH, it exhausts me.

As for HTMLGIANT in particular there have been times when as a sort of community member (as in I used to comment fairly often) I felt unwelcome because female, Black, opinions. I got over that sort of but as this shit keeps happening I’m just exhausted and sad. I love so many of the book reviews. I’ve been introduced to some stellar work but it’s not worth the uh, well shit i feel like I wait every time I visit to see some bullshit so that’s another lit site that I have run out of can with.

I know it was discussed that changes would be made or something but yeah.

My personal literary world citizenship is important to me and as I’ve gotten older I really enjoy meeting and interacting with other writers who write stuff I don’t or that I wouldn’t be aware of if it wasn’t for spaces like HTMLGIANT but, the constancy of the emotional danger is not okay for me.

I think it’s the time of year to clean out my lit links folder and find some new shit to read.

What else?

Two Jenny’s I know have two awesome pieces up. First Jenny Haye’s piece here. Fuck go read it. Just…just read it. Then go read this tiny beautiful piece by Jenny Forrester. 

I’m still doing the Ink Node like a real poet. I’ve started posting the first in a series I’m calling Thots. Find them here.

I picked up a copy of Burnt Tongues and as expected it is pretty dude heavy. I couldn’t resist though.

Speaking of Nalo Hopkinson (ALSO  NH I am sorry i am probably doing something weird to your google alerts of you get them, I’m creepy sorry) I finally dug into Midnight Robber. I read the first ten pages twice because the writing is just so pretty and makes me rally happy.

I think that’s all for right now. I’m still feeilng some type of way about my decision regarding freelancing. It’s a weird combo of guilt, inadequacy and failure.

Processing is a mother fucker y’all.

Okay now I have work to do and hopefully I will get my shit together to do a big ole link round up of awesome stuff I want to show you. I’ve just had not enough focus to get it done.


Well I’m just not good for that thing.

I had the most wonderful beautiful conversation with my friend and publisher Milcah.

My decision to partner with her and become a Self Caring couple of boss ass bitches power couple was definitely sound.

I feel like I can say this now but quite a while back I had some nibbles of interest from more mainstream outlets and frankly, what they wanted was the generic watered down Shannon and I said no. I’m so glad.

This is what’s right.

After our conversation I laid in bed and ate a sandwich and thought more about some stuff our convo stirred up.

One of the things that I have been tussling with is trying to do more freelance work. Insert heaved sigh of sadness here.

Thing is, I just don’t work in that way. I feel some type of way about that. I have this pressure I’m putting on myself to do the thing, but I don’t particularly like doing the thing.

I felt like I really wanted to be fancy and do a lot of freelance work but the whole process just makes me miserable.

I find these times where I am evaluating what I want as a writer/growing pain things not super cool.

I do still feel a little uh, failure flavored in that I think I could bring in some more freelance income but at what cost? I can do things I hate well but feel miserable doing them.

I realize I’m nowhere near famous enough for this to be a big deal for anybody but me but, it feels like a good moment. Realizing that I’m not good at this type of writing/to or on spec etc is freeing. Frustrating but ultimately it will serve me.

I can’t write when I’m so stressed out about not being able to do the thing I’m trying to do.

Now that I have that somewhat off of the table/my consciousness I can concentrate more on what I do well and what I enjoy.

Also I have more to say about urban fantasy/genre fiction in general. Beyond the fairly limited list of authors and magazines I’ve been recommended and have already been reading I’m going to try to search out stuff that essentially doesn’t make me want to put it down every two minutes to wash the Whiteness out of my eyes.

To be honest I feel like that is a bigger task than I can actually accomplish. And going through the tons and TONS AND TONS of things while feeling like a let down frustrated reader/little kid who can’t go to Narnia will also be taxing.

What else?

My dear friend Sarah Katherine Lewis has put out her book on being in rehab and you can check out Rehab A Go Go right here on scribd. I seriously suggest picking it up, she’s a fantastic writer and I love her.

That is about it for right now. I’ve got stuff to write and rejections to get.

What’s new for y’all?


Some thoughts on Genre Fiction, the reader who also writes edition.

Okay for my purposes and thought processes, when I say genre fiction I’m including Horror, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, SF, Spec fit etc.

I started reading the last in the Borderland series of anthologies this week. The whole reason I wanted to read it was because I heard Nalo Hopkinson’s piece in it via Podcastle and wanted more of that world.

I also did some research and whatnot and I’m having a problem with this book already.

I learned a bit more about the background of this world and everything and was really looking forward to it.

Going from the impression I got in Nalo Hopkinson’s story, I thought there would be more POC. Four stories in, there aren’t really.

I realize this is supposed to be YA but I had to stop at one point while a White character was giving a character from India the ever charming “but where are you really from” type speech.

I’ve also been sighing with the number of white coded halfies/elves with dreads.

And just like every other fantasy related thing save for the story I already know, everything is White coded for the most part.

I’m sad.

I’m not saying any of the stories are bad. They aren’t really. I also (four stories deep) see that within this framework of interconnected stories and locations, I have yet to see any of the other stories characters interact in a meaningful way with the characters from Nalo Hopkinson’s characters and that feels low key gross to me.

Again my ability to enjoy a fantastical world is pretty broken up because I do feel like there isn’t anything ground breaking about White Elves, with Blonde Hair who are super slim and beautiful and wait REMEMBER THEY ARE WHITE.

Now I have been expanding my reading a bit and doing some study on “Urban” Fantasy.

I’ve been comparing some of the feedback about my own urban fantasy with what I know about the genre.

Several people have said that one of my stories ‘relies too much on horror’ (though it deals wit mythos, Gods, and yes some violence) yet, when I read about the history of the genre and read about the conventions used in the literature, I see a lot of vampires and distinctly horror conventions being included.

Further, I don’t do romance. So there is that.

I thought that writing Urban Fantasy means for me that I can explore the way culterally divergent mythos can blend, how I can use mythos and conventions in a way that is not so firmly rooted in the European/Norse/etc canon.

When I hear the same type of feedback from various sources, I tend to work on whatever it is by researching, reading, rewriting etc.

What I’m finding as I’m doing that with my genre fiction is a pretty strong message that a lot of genre fiction can stand stepping outside of the conventions including those Euro/White roots only so far.

Even when I have conversations about what I’m writing about with a few folks, I have felt the discomfort surrounding my ideas and execution of those ideas.

Also a bit of pushback because this is genre for grown folks. Strippers, street life, in cities, unitalicized Spanish (watch the linked video it is great), etc etc.

I have been spending some time asking for recommendations to read here and there.

Out of four spots with different readers/authors I’ve asked for SF/F/Horror/Spec fic recs for books, magazines and writers.

Every list of recommendations I’ve gotten is the same.

The list of recommended authors is the same give or take one or two. They are all authors, magazines, books I like and some I love.

But is that really all?

My parameters are as follows:

  • POC friendly
  • Not necessarily romance focused
  • Queer focused/friendly.

That is pretty much it.

Given that what I’ve been writing does not really fit into what I’ve been reading in the genre world, as time goes on I am pretty sure I will put some stuff out myself because granted there are a few literary oriented magazines I know of who like the slipstream and genre flavored but most of the literary world shits itself if something is too genre.

I don’t know.

The other side of this problem is that as a reader, I’m just so disappointed so often. If  I’m rolling my eyes because all the Whitey White White WHITE creatures have dreads or give a nod to brown people, or every time there is the Most Magical of Negroes, or whatever it is that just reinforces the idea of the box that genre likes to sit in like an angry cat, I’m just not really reading as much as I want to.

Shit is hard.

I’m disappointed and tired.

That said I am going to keep working on my genre shit. Playing with Gods who step outside their Pantheons (somehow totally okay when Gaiman does it right?), Elven mythos that is not tall white and skinny.

Black fairies.

Shapeshifters trying to live in the modern world.

Yanno.

That shit I like.

Okay that’s all. I’m tired and want to write more.

 

 


Dear Former Fan.

I’ve mentioned before that I occasionally get long missives about my work and awfulness.

Over the weekend I got one that is very long and from a lot of the “critique” this person is at least superficially aware of my work and they are now as they put it, a former fan.

Put your goggles on I’m going in. I’m not quoting the whole thing because it was hurtful and I rage deleted it but some key phrases have stuck with me.

Consider this an open letter to Former Fan and anyone else who believes that if I’d just be a good Negress I’d succeed.

Dear Former Fan,

First of all, I appreciate you having some knowledge of the body of my work. If as you said you’ve been a supporter since my first ventures in getting published online, most of those being erotica thanks. I do appreciate the ride or die type.

However.

Your objection to the changing of my voice and the tone of my work is fucking bullshit.

Given that you went to some lengths to conceal your identity and used a fake no longer functional email address. I’m going to assume you are sitting back reading my blogs through an anonymizer and that’s fine. So listen because I’m talking to you.

How dare you put your racist feelings on me. How. Dare. You.

You took the time to quote me some passages of my own work as examples of how “brain washed, ” I’ve become in terms of how I talk about race, racism etc. You quoted this piece as the penultimate example of just how far I’ve fallen into what I can only assume is a type of Blackness and Black expression that makes you uncomfortable.

One of the things that I have learned about the nonfiction I write is that when people are the most uncomfortable or buck the hardest are probably the people I’m talking about. You are the people I am talking about.

If the only way you can find value in my work is if I am expressing a type of racialized pain, or erotica that is just queer or non white related enough to seem exotic to you-you are a fucking racist.

Let me explain you a thing.

As I have mentioned in this very blog previously if you cannot look beyond your own Whiteness (and don’t front like you didn’t lead with “I”m White and I think”) to understand that Whiteness is just not ever going to fit me or my expression and that is okay it is natural and real; I am not for you.

If you “agree with other commenters on XOJane” that my writing is terrible and harmful, it is not for you.

If I am not the kind of fat bitch you fucks with, don’t fuck with me.

Don’t contact me again.

If you are really serious about making sure that folks know that my work is “against White People” as you put it, go ahead and leave me the fuck out of it.

If your goal is to somehow shame or hurt me into silence. Nice try. You tried but that is just not going to work.

Let me confess something here. I have a terrible need to accept people at face value for what they have said. Including when people don’t like my writing. In the case of some of the commentary on my XOJane series I have taken the time to talk out some of the points that folks have had because I couldn’t see it and find a lot of the constant cherry picking and nit picking disheartening and hurtful.

I had a few very important realizations after talking to others about it. In spite of how invested in being of service especially in terms of that particular subject matter, I can feel about the useless commentary the way I feel about it in my real life.

I don’t have to explain things that are pretty clear to a lot of other people.

I don’t have to sit and be hurt because I feel like regardless of what I do or don’t say, the same three points are going to be made over and over again.

Also as this article says about trolling:

“Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun and the Internet is their playground!”

This applies to you Former Fan.

You seem to be deeply concerned for my well being but only if I behave and write in ways that make you feel good about how racist and shitty your behavior is.

Wrong. Negro.

As I have gotten older, I am exploring being more vulnerable in my writing. It’s fucking hard. It hurts. And knowing that there are “fans” who wait for me to be vulnerable and then use that vulnerability to attack is fucking awful.

You are fucking awful.

So 800 some odd words later it boils down to this.

I will say again.

Don’t buy my shit.

Don’t read my shit.

Don’t fucking contact me again.

Don’t contact my friends/peers.

Don’t come here proffering your hurt fucking feelings couched in, I was just trying to help.

Understand that I do not ever want to be in a position where my “success” is defined by my proximity to and acceptance of Whiteness as rightness.

Not. Fucking. Ever.

If you want to hold that against me, tell potential publishers on me or follow me around so you can have proof of my malfeasance come the fuck on.

I’m fucking tired of you and your ilk.

Find a new hobby or just don’t talk to me about your shit cause ain’t nobody got time for that.

And no, lastly I will not cease code switching in both my speech and writing.

You have fucking google.

Okay that’s all.

There is your response Former Fan. I hope it hurt your fucking feelings.

 


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