Category Archives: Uncategorized

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?


Because sometimes it just comes out.

For reference I’m going to talk about this essay of mine that is up at Nailed Magazine right now. It’s small and intense so go ahead and read it.

I wrote the above essay a few weeks ago in the middle of having fallen down a hole reading about Black victims of various crimes.

As difficult as I find writing the tear your heart out shit, sometimes it just happens. What’s on my mind right now is the fact that I felt such a strong need to write that. Also that as opposed to say five years ago, I would have maybe submitted it somewhere obscure gotten rejected and tucked it away.

Not because of the subject matter but because that is my fucking heart right there.

I bled to say that.

I cried and shat myself stupid.

It hurt while I was writing it, it hurt to edit it it hurt to get it ready for submission.

Today I’m pretty okay. I am proud of my work. I am happy to share my heart, bleeding and raw with the world.

But y’all, this shit right here is hard as fuck.

It really is.

Thanks for reading.


On Being hate read, processing and engagement.

So y’all know I’ve been doing a series of self care articles over at XOjane. You can read the most recent one here.

One of the things that has surprised me is how much pushback there’s been. Among the reasons:

  • My tips about make up don’t count as self care for anybody ever.
  • My budget / strategic spending tips are telling everyone to blow their rent money.
  • My mention of smart budget friendly shopping is consumerist.
  • I “stole” the idea from DBT (to tell y’all the truth I didn’t even know what that was until yesterday) therapy.
  • I’ve been told that my responses to criticism (we’ll get to that) is passive aggressive.
  • I should grow a thicker skin.
  • ALL my articles are just not full of ALL the information and therefor anything I have to say is invalid.

Etc.

Something I’m having a hard time with is the idea that because I’m not writing the articles in the broadest manner possible nor am I tackling ALL the issues about poorness and self care, that I’m doing it wrong, I find that tack to be exhausting.

I wonder how or if those people do that in other spheres of life? Do they comment on advice columns that don’t cover every scenerio?

Admittedly given that the same things get said on every article so far it gave me pause.

I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t talk about my poor skills, or that I should make every article involve the nitty gritty of being poor and doing self care.

Two things were pointed out to me by a friend.

First that some of these things are because people are hate reading me. They hate my writing, they hate the subject matter because I’m writing what I know/like in this case. I think when people go to hyperbole (literally saying that I’m encouraging people to buy everything and skipping the parts where I mention that these things are suggestions/stragegy) I don’t really need to listen.

Second thing is, who cares? Because really, I don’t know these people nor do they have any ream impact on me/my life.

As a writer and as I am doing this series I have made the effort to look at responses and what people ask about (unoriginal according to one commenter) and I did need to take these criticisms and think about them.

I’ve come to the conclusion that some of these folks are hate reading. I tried to engage but I realize that there’s no point because I just don’t understand that behavior. I don’t understand why if some advice isn’t for you, you’d go out of your way to be sure EVERYONE knows how much you disapprove?

As a reader I don’t get that at all.

Sure there are a lot of writers I don’t like out there. I think where I’ve had trouble is the idea of it being criticism or critique to just follow someone’s work to tell them how much you don’t like it.

It is just beyond me why that’s fun.

Anyone?

It’s one thing to me to say, so so’s writing is a problem for x reasons. I’m not reading it anymore.

Maybe I’m off about this.

I did feel the need to think about it though. Being that XoJane is my first regular column and the subject matter is near and dear to my heart, and shit I actually know about I took some time to really think about what I might be doing wrong.

The format has been I have a subject related to self care for poor folks and write about it.

I feel like that leaves a lot of room for everything from budgeting to buy a thing, to thinking about finding resources for things or as I’ve got coming up feeling like you deserve the thing regardless of how people treat you.

We all know I’m a thinky process queen and I realized earlier today that, well I don’t -have- to deal with that type of criticism if I don’t see the value in it. I think part of the process of writing a regular thing has been figuring out managing the line between what people ask me for and what I wanna do.

Whoa right?

I mean after 20 years and publishing things that have garnered me death threats, rape threats, cavalcades of die nigger messages being hate read is not all that bad.

I’ve come to the conclusion that for my purposes there, I can stick to my ethos that if you don’t want/need/like it, it’s just not for you and be okay.

I also think part of my worries about how much some folks hate the series and my work in general was due in large part to my ideas about harm. I have very strong feelings about being mindful if I am doing things that are harmful in certain ways and a lot of the negative commentary has pinged that button. It’s probably not on purpose but, it has been difficult to work through so I can write.

I like to hope it’s not personal even though it really feels like it.

The series will continue until either Xojane gets tired of me or I can’t write it anymore.

In other news I’ve joined the poets at Ink Node and put my first poem up today. Find that here. I have some feelings about it but I’ll save that for another time.

Okay later this week I’m doing a big ole link round up of stuff y’all should see and I’ll have a review of the book I’m reading about Aileen Wuornos as well.

Later taters.

PS I have some new non fiction coming out soon and it is a doozy.


Dragons, Wights, Giants, White Walkers yes! Brown people Not so Much.

First read this where George R.R Martin sort of addresses his franchises race problem.

This jumped out at me:

In June, a fan asked Martin: “There are a white race, a black race in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, and many other races. Why there is no Asian race (Chinese-like, Japanese-like) in the Game of Thrones show and ASOIAF books?”

Martin replied:

Well, Westeros is the fantasy analogue of the British Isles in its world, so it is a long long way from the Asia analogue. There weren’t a lot of Asians in Yorkish England either.

That is not to suggest that such places don’t exist, however. You will want to get THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE when it comes out in October. In the “Other Places” section you will find a lot of material about Yi Ti, the island of Leng, and the plains of the Jogos Nhai, which you may find of interest,

Wait..hold up.

So in a fantasy realm that is an analogue of the British Isles…that if you do non racist research you’ll learn is not the fantasy bastion of pure whiteness. We have:

  • Dragons
  • White Walkers
  • Giants
  • Gigantic Wolves
  • Children of the Forest
  • Krakens

ETC

That totally works because well, what is fantasy without fantastical creatures.

But it is so hard to not erase the POC or to use them in deeply racist and problematic ways in the books?

Thinly veiled Latina (hot spicy slutty) stereotypes, people coded as Black referred to as “mongrels” by one of the Whitest White Savioring (Mother) slave lover/dehumanizer, rape rapity rape rape RAPE…all that is completely perfect for an Analogue of some time period in the British Isles that doesn’t fucking exist and that’s all okay BUT it is not okay to put Asian or Black folks in the story?

…………really?

Yes really. It is something I have heard from White fantasy readers since I first wanted to talk about fantasy with other fans when I was a kid.

POC make the story unbelievable.

Even if the people (problematic or not) in the story are described as Black or Asian or Latina they are read as White or if the thing is moved to a visual medium they are magically white or as we found out when the Hunger Games came out, people are disappointed that a character is of color.

Look White authors, white readers this is why POC fans can’t trust you and why we are pissed off.

Look.

If you are going to rely on stereotypes that are harmful to actual readers because you can’t look at POC as full humans or you just won’t, don’t bother.

Stop.

A lot of White authors wring their hands about how “hard” it is to write POC. Look it’s not really that fucking hard if you look at people of color as fully functional human beings. If you don’t actually do that and seriously honest with yourself, I question your motives and everything else.

One of the fundamental ideas about character is that they are in essence fully made beings and if you are a pretty good author you write them with depth.

If you write every other character (even to the non human) with depth and feeling and reduce your token POC to bed warmers, tongueless slaves, slaves or other two dimensional characters I don’t trust you.

As readers if you can legit believe in the perils of White Walkers and that winter is fucking coming and having non white fully formed characters in a story ruins it, well as they say you might be a racist.

Being both a fan and a creator let me show you how I feel about this in a nutshell:

OFFTOFUCK

God damn it.

We live in the fucking future.

It is 20 mother fucking 14 and White people still often act like POC are aliens and there’s no way to actually hear us speak or learn about us without colonizing or assimilating.

Come on now.

Try the fuck harder.

That’s all.


Dear Authors an Open Letter to Writers

Dear Authors,

I recently finished reading Ghost Story by Peter Straub.(This is an affiliate link sorry)

Overall it was an entertaining yarn. I’m not super familiar with his ouevre but some of what I’ve read was pretty good.

And then this.

Okay look, can we stop with the mystical magical negro?

Also can we not denote said mystical magical negro with some heavily antiquated shuck n jive, minstrel (yeah the one Black man in this book…minstrel..you know) every old black man is a blues man who speaks in raspy jazzy baritone with a lot of I be’s and shit.

Fuck.

Really?

REALLY?

I just, y’all.

Can you not?

Just don’t bother if that is the only thing you can think of. Even for a novel with a timeless ageless mystical magical negro, there are other ways of expressing blackness even antiquated blackness.

White writers this is a problem.

So really if you’re not even going to really try to do something outside of the mystical magical shuck n jive I be playin dem blues boss negro, stop.

Maybe I have too much expectation. Or faith in writers who have made more money than I have ever seen in my lifetime that they could (Straub, King, I am looking at you two) think of something else to do.

Mr. Bunny…Bones…whatever his name was from this book was the evil version of the Black man in the book he did with King.

Literally the same rhythms and cadences and manners of speech.

Authors at large, y’all know there are many different accents and types of Black people speech right?

Frankly anything written after the year 2000, come on now.

I feel like these things are again ruining my love of horror.

Ruining it.

I mean okay if you can build a world within the modern world where there are ancient mythological beings who will fuck up your whole life only because they can and they are bored, and you can populate an entire town with interesting people, and you can research enough so that behaviors from specific time periods make sense why is there only that Black man in so many horror stories.

I feel the same way about fantasy stories.

I got two books into the Shannara series and had to quit.

Not too long ago I went on a mission to check out some online horror/sf/f zines.

So much with the Whiteness. To the point where I wonder if classic horror tropes treated outside of European roots would be understood? Accepted?

What is even…ugh.

I’m so frustrated. I want to read shit I like and not feel shitty about it.

Something outside of Whiteness or nah?

Apparently nah.

I don’t want to read another mystical magical minstrelized blues playing shuck n jive negro.

So a lot of stuff is just out.

I am seriously feeling some type of way about this right now. I have a lot of horror/sf/f/ related stuff on my writing bucketlist but I feel like there is no place for me in genre fiction and it hurts my fucking heart.

So really, dear other authors can you not?

Sincerely,

Shannon Barber


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,017 other followers