Musings on Default Whiteness.

This post is brought to you by me having to navigate the Default and Correctness of Whiteness in my literary life this week.

A few things.

I’m very low on spoons. I will not link to any of the trash I discuss, you’ll have to google first. Also if you don’t know what I mean by default Whiteness, or Whiteness as a concept and destructive construct, do not comment and be mad. Either google or go watch this puppy video cause shit is about to get real.

brace-yourself-shit-just-got-real
[image description: photo of character Ned Stark from the TV show Game of thrones, text says Brace Yourself Shit Just Got Real]
There are a few articles going around that are anti-sensitivity reader and I’ve been involved with three very distinct (as in zero overlap) conversations about it with White people who have all made the same assertions that sensitivity editors/readers are:

  • Looking to profiteer off of censorship.
  • Will change the voice of the original author.
  • Don’t know what they are doing.
  • Are “forcing” identity politics into writing.
  • Are actively trying to as a whole rook poor White people out of money basically.

AGAIN for the cheap seats. Some things are censorship other things are not. Things that are not censorship*:

  • Being told no.
  • Being critiqued and dare say I fucking DRAGGED and publicly read for filth due to writing, editing or publishing fuckshit.
  • Being told that you’ve written, said, produced or published something actively harmful.
  • Being called an asshole (taken from a real comment to me by someone RE: the Paris Review post/s I made way back).
  • Not being given primacy in writing about a thing.

These are things that come up constantly in my lit life. Most of the time cries of censorship begin when White authors feel threatened by POC talking to them about their use of their Whiteness when it is a problem.

By that I mean things like, saying hey just because you can write about something, doesn’t automatically make yours the voice. This is what I was talking about in this entry. And in saying it, I spent months being harassed and often the first “criticism” was that I a writer am pro censorship because I said they could have used the opportunity to feature a Black Poet during such a time of historic Black action.

Here’s the thing. I am against censorship. Censorship as enacted by religious concerns and the government.

Publishing is not magic, it doesn’t happen by vote and publishing companies are not the government. Nobody is entitled to publishing. Nobody is entitled to be the primary voice on an issue just because they can talk.

I go on at length about this because over the past, let me be generous and say five years specifically, it is only White people who apparently lose all ability to think critically and if I a Black person, dare to correct or instruct them, or even just talk about Weaponized Whiteness (and by extension using Whiteness as both Correctness and the Default) suddenly, it is censorship. That is not how censorship works.

Now in the context of a sensitivity reader, the conversations I was a part as if the very idea that they, Paragons of Correct Whiteness they were, could ever fuck up writing something.

Um.

Okay look. I fully believe that you and everyone else in the world can write what the fuck they want, when the fuck they want.

I also believe that is you say, write a children’s book that portrays a slave child as a happy little worker yeah, you deserve to get dragged.

Now, what amuses and frustrates me in these things is the assurance that oozes from the assertions of how terrible “identity politics” are and how, if only those people could see, Whitey Whitepants writer didn’t mean to write a racist polemic that would give Lovecraft a boner, GOSH.

Of COURSE a White writer or a straight writer etc who is trying to create or delve into the world of marginalized peoples is going to likely not always do a bang up job. No wait let me put it into a different context.

If you are a nerd like me, you probably see stuff in TV or movies are like, WHO THE FUCK GREENLIT THIS SHIT, THAT IS NOT HOW THAT WORKS…

That’s reasonable right? It’s reasonable to expect that something presented as a professional thing, was researched beyond wiki.

So why would it be any different than writers who are writing say Black folks in their stories to check in with real live Black people to see if they are doing things wrong?

If your voice is so fragile as an author, it can’t withstand something like:

Hey Whitey Whitepants writer, here in chapter 4 you have X character seeming to have an “urban” meltdown calling the one Black character homie over and over again and doing their MTV showed me what Negroes be doin schtick and it is not great for these reasons:

  1. BLA
  2. BLA
  3. BLA.

That is how it works. This is a professional service, that is not designed to censor or ruin your precious work. It’s to help you uncenter yourself and your experience and have a moment to connect with your readership on a far deeper level.

The other problem I have is this.

Ahem.

Aside from perambulating around for about 40 years in a Black Queer body, I have been studying, writing about, talking about, dealing with racism for about that long. Depending on who I’m talking to, sometimes (as y’all know if you read me regularly) I use very academic language, sometimes I don’t. I code switch like a mother fucker.

That said, for the last two weeks or so here’s how those conversations have gone. Without rancor on my part.

Person posts link to shitty article about the terrors of Sensitivity readers/editors or posts a link to a blog post by a semi famous White lady writer: OMG They are going to censor us and ruin our work! How terrible! We can’t stand for this.

Me: That is not what sensitivity readers/editors are for. They do (insert examples of stuff they do) nobody -has to use them- dude you’re fine.

Random other White people: fall all over each other to “correct” me (not that they use or have acted as sensitivity readers), explain to me how having this option is automatically censorship, how it is an attempt to co-opt or otherwise fool innocent White writers into being SUPER PC.

Me: ………..no it is just like asking an expert in a field you’re writing in.

Them: NO IT IS NOT.

Me: *retreats*

The problem isn’t the arguments. The problem is that even in instances where I am/have shared my work/thoughts on these things, Whiteness is always given the immediate trust that they are correct. Even when they are loudly proclaiming something that is dead ass wrong.

Then, regardless of what I say or how it is said, it takes another White person to come along and occasionally repeat what I’ve said verbatim and then, OH WOW I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT THAT WAY.

I’ve spoken with MANY poc about this. 90% of the time, we are thought to be wrong. People say things like: knee jerk, bullying, mean, trying to “turn” someone PC, that we’re silencing, pro-censorship.

If the people speaking up happen to be Black women, the language is carefully not overtly racist but, the impression is always either that Black women are mean and aggressive or liars or otherwise are the perpetrators of violence even when what’s actually happened is that folks have been given some high level major education on anti-Blackness.

Intent and impact are vastly different and White folks, men especially if your first instinct is to “prove” someone wrong, maybe it’s time to examine that. More so if part of your remarks are to say that you don’t actually know about the thing and don’t use it.

Now, I could have posted this in the spaces I was talking about but it is easier for me to leave them. As I’ve said many times in the last year, y’all I have written about this shit so fucking much.  And you know what the actual worst thing is?

It’s not the Default and Correct Whiteness.

It is the fact that it doesn’t matter how I talk about these things, because I am Black and use words, I’m put into the ANGRY NEGRO corner and then White folks who don’t like what I have to say can be like, oh well you’re so angry I can’t listen to this/take it in.

Tone policed to fucking death.

And I’m not mad. It’s painful.

It hurts to be dismissed out of hand because White is Right.

It hurts because writing and literature have been my driving passions since I read a book about a pregnant dog when I was 3 years old. It is my blood and my bones. It gets me through bullshit ass days at my dayjob. It has led me to meeting some of the most important and most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life. It has led me to my chosen family and to a place in my actual soul that feels free. It is my passion and my companion and the work of my heart and I love it so much.

And my love of literature and writing is the only reason why I keep talking about these things. I don’t try to change shit I don’t care about.

And yet, all this passion and there have been moments where I’ve literally said hey, person you are causing me harm right now or I’ve said that I’m hurt and you know what?

I’m not a White woman so White folks are relentless. Harm to me doesn’t exist because I’m always perceived as angry, aggressive and scary.

And after so many years of trying so hard to be a good literary citizen and use my knowledge about these issues to help- I’m just kinda done.

This entry wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have a migraine and need to keep my brain busy at work and I needed to get out some hurt without yelling at folks.

The take is this.

When used as the only measure of calm, competency Whiteness will fail. Not only will it fail but in the context of the literary community, will drive folks out and if that’s the point hurrah! If that’s not the intended consequence, then think about how you interact with POC before you decide they are wrong about the thing you don’t even know about.

That’s all.

woosah
[image description: Photo of Martin Lawrence from the film Bad Boys rubbing his ears, the words say “woosah…woosah” on top and WOOOSSSAAAHHH!!! on the bottom.
*There are times when these behaviors are rooted in the spirit of censorship and are actual censorship as in done by the government but we’ll talk about that later.

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Musings on Patronage

After a really great month for my Patreon, Like the best month ever and I celebrated with some stickers for my planner, a couple of thrifted books and a double credit card payment. I also got a nice lil tip in my Venmo that netted me a couple of coffees and some time to sit down and make some plans.

This morning, I got a long rambly angry note from an anonymous person at a throwaway email address all about how they KNOW I take advantage of people and how I am a (this phrase is verbatim) Welfare Lady in Waiting and how I’m just fleecing people because my writing is not good enough to get the big bucks and shit from publishing.

Now, aside from the sheer saltiness and the fact that they cherry picked things I post about freely on social media as examples of how I’m rooking folks into funding my lavish lifestyle, I noticed that what came across was that this person is bitter as fuck but follows me closely.

Obviously their welfare lady in waiting thing is a racist as fuck, sexist as fuck and comes from what I think is probably a place of hurt that I, a Black person has dared to carve out an artist life of sorts.

Let’s use a super famous and successful White person as an example here. Now, I cannot stand her for many reasons, but Amanda Palmer is gonna be our example.  She literally makes more money per thing than I do in a year.

Cruising through the top writing creators, most of them make anywhere from 1200$ up through 12,000$.

The thing is, there is a very long and rich tradition of patronage to artists. All kinds of artists, writers, painters, singers etc. Folks giving people money to live so they can create is something that has gone on forever. What I find interesting about modern life is that in reality, often the argument I hear from people against my own search for patronage is wrapped up in age old stereotypes about Black people.

The uppermost layer revolves around the idea that unless you are extraordinary, if you don’t have ties in the world you work in you have zero access. If you are not the right negro, often the gatekeepers want nothing to do with you unless they are tickled by you.

If you can be an exotic pet for them to talk about to their friends. Or they will fuck you or display you or, at worst steal from you.

Some of those things have happened to me. Way back when, I had the “opportunity” to deal with some mentors who were older White men with money and pretty much they wanted a literate fuckdoll. They wanted to be the one to say they bagged the next Maya and I wasn’t having it.

I have read a lot of artist bios and in so many, patronage of one sort or another was the way through. It provided what we as humans need and what we creatives often need to make our work great.

Stability.

Less stress.

Time.

Now, Whiteness alone doesn’t necessarily protect an artist from being taken advantage of but often it protects against the insults and accusations.

You can even be an actual fraud and frankly, if you’re white enough a lot of people won’t ostracize you. Granted, some fare better than others, but, I think history shows us this is pretty true.

I think I’ve been painfully aware of these things since I was a baby potato writer dreaming of having patrons. I remember reading Henry Miller when I was 14 or whatever and after jerking off, I’d dream about mailing pages to publishers and getting wired money and having beautiful places to visit, having that life and writing wonderful broken things.

I outgrew thinking that was my path, but looking back, I see where Blackness became the thing I believed would keep me from having that access and support because I didn’t know about any living Black creators who had it.

I couldn’t have said it at that age, but I felt it.

I think that’s all. This topic/area has been on my mind because I’m writing about things that intersect with Blackness, patronage in the arts, fraud, etc.

So to wrap up, if you really follow me closely enough to know when I last was published by another person, when I bought new boots etc you know that I hustle.

So fuck off.

Before I go, later this week or next I am going to make some announcements about things. And for right now, you can read a free Daiyuverse story I posted on Wattpad. I will probably post more there as I write them if I don’t submit them places. You can follow me. Enjoy.

 

Staying in my Lane- Patreon reprint.

Enjoy a reprint for free from my patreon. To get the file referenced, click here.

 
First, please have a look at this amazing blog post
I was directed to it by K. Tempest Bradford  and have had it bookmarked because the questions in it for non-native authors really got me. Inside my ongoing project the Daiyuverse, several of our main characters are native. I have yet to get into their personal cultures/where they are from because I have plans for it. 
That said, I also am very concerned with staying in my lane. I want to talk about one of the questions from that post. 
Why did you select this particular tribal nation for your story? 
Without revealing too much I want to talk about why I chose X people from the PNW as the tribe of my Crow family. 
First up, it took me sitting down and comparing dates and plot elements and quite frankly location. I have a bit of knowledge about Indigenous people from the PNW. I really wanted to focus one of the Coast Salish peoples because geographically, it works with my needs in creating this work. 
Now, specifically what are those needs? 
  • Representation in an urban fantasy setting.  
  • To explore the impacts of colonization and assimilation on magical POC.  
Those two are uppermost in my thoughts. While I was doing research on creating my native characters, I started to look at the late 1890’s and the forced removal of Native children from their homes during that time. I had read an article about Native boys being forced to cut their hair last year and something clicked for me. I want to go back to that period in time in WA and (we’re getting to it in the verse) follow the fallout from being a victim of that practice to the creation of a space to counteract it. 
I come back to the original question quite often. The way I am working with my native characters, I feel that because I am not working from the perspective of trying to be an expert or speak for these peoples, I can tell this particular story. On one hand, I worry very deeply that I’m on entirely the wrong track here. I in no way want to position myself as an authority or one of those bhole types who thinks just because they can, they should. 
That said, I do want to talk more about why a large part of my cast is native. I really felt like in this world, creating The Institute would play a vital role in the idea of reclamation I thought who that I might meet in the Meat World, would benefit from that here in Seattle. I thought immediately of native people. I was partly inspired by a man I met who is native and we had a really great conversation about how so many of his own relatives were still cut off from their culture and how so many of us Brown folks just don’t have our cultures and myths close to us. 
With that conversation in mind, as well as having followed a lot of the fails of (generally speaking) White authors who decide to write a culture and position themselves as an authority and knowing how terribly that often goes, I am treading carefully and working to stay in my damn lane. My goal with these characters is to have them going through the entirely human struggle of reconnecting with their own roots and using The Institute (in this iteration of the ‘verse we are JUST getting to it) as a counter to assimilation. 
Writing extra-culturally especially when it comes to my fellow POC, is something I am still not sure is the best idea. On one hand, my plot arc for these characters is (at least so far) human first and foremost. They are whole living beings who are not trapped by the Mystical Native (or Negro) tropes. They have some foibles, we don’t know the whole of their history yet but, it is coming. 
I want to quote further from the blog post linked up top: 
The Devil is in the details . . . and the overall tone. Authors can have all their facts historically correct according to accepted sources available. But it is the interpretation of the facts into a story that makes the book harmful or helpful. I’ve seen a number of books that get most of the ‘facts’ correct, but the overall tone is that of stereotypes (which may be difficult for non-Indian writers, agents and editors to see when that has been the prevailing mode of American Indian representation). I’d highly recommend that agents and editors read the Revised Criteria from How to Tell the Difference: A Guide for Evaluating Children’s Books for Anti­-Indian Bias. Reading a manuscript through that lens and thinking deeply about Eurocentrism and colonialism will make all the difference. You can find guidelines, suggestions, statistics and a number of resources here at Writing
About Native Americans. It is a long post (as was this).  
Bolding for emphasis. 
My decisions as I work in this ‘verse are deeply influenced by the bolded. I am very mindful that I have the potential to cause harm and am doing the work not to do that. As I get further into the lives of the Crow family, I will start to include more specifics. Where they come from, how they got their names, what the curse on their family is about. I don’t want to spoil things but, most of the hardship they have gone through is a direct result of one of those forced boarding schools. 
I’m being a bit vague because we’re not quite there yet in terms of the story and I don’t want to give too much away. I am getting into some of the back history (before our heroine Daiyu is born) and honoring my native characters and their histories and culture has been uppermost in my mind. 
I’ll revisit this again when we start going back in time some more.  
For now, how about a peek at who I’m talking about here? 
First up Papa. Who along with Daiyu is as far as characters go, essential and part of the backbone of this whole universe.  
I’m keeping a neato spreadsheet with my characters, their full names, associations, list of magical abilities and other notes. I’m not going to give you everything but here’s a taste:
Papa Crow- 
Magical Abilities (so far, subject to change) Cursed-Prolonged life. Powers: charm, tactical aggressive magicks including but not limited to: elemental control, telekinesis, low level telepath (possible mentalist)- 
Nick Names- Papa, Old Crow, Crow, Bird, Nathan
Misc- Daiyu’s God father, estimated age between 180-300 years old, very good liar
Father Crow-
Magical Abilities- Lesser prolonged life curse. Summoning, Apothocary, traditional herbal healing, elemental magics, seer, demonaic tongue
Nick Names- Crow Jr, Black Wing, Joshua
Misc-Papa Crows grandson, inheritor of the Institute
Maria Crow-
Magical Abilities- Demoniac tongue, World walker
Nick Names- Maria- TBA
Misc- Father Crow/Joshua’s biological Mom
~
That isn’t everyone in the family.  
To wrap up, I am still so excited about this world I’m creating. I am very mindful of the temptation to just write what the fuck I wanna write and damn what anybody else feels but that’s not really who I am as a creator.  I am challenging myself here and putting a lot of trust in my readers to let me know if I’ve fucked up.
Does this tickle your fancy?
How about a bite from the current iteration of the Daiyuverse?
Download the PDF to get a context free look at some stuff happening in the Daiyuverse. Want to read more?
One buck a month gets you access to the full novella in progress, usually a love letter or an essay or an extra goodie.
Also, your contributions are real live, tactit change. Your support helps actual human beings and that’s pretty cool.
Can’t donate? Please boost my signal. Share the link all over. 

But okay so like..I have questions.

I just read yet another super Anti-Black piece of trash in a “well regarded” supposedly venerable publication.

Okay I have fucking questions.

So, in the past few years I’ve not been trying to get as involved with lit world fuckery. That said, I see it. I watch publications publish and pay for boldly Anti Black, racist, transphobic shit and y’all just…

I have mother fucking questions.

Nobody can ever tell me why these are the voices folks choose to put forward. Or why aside from mealy mouthed declarations of freedom of speech, that those things need space.

And then so many of those pubs turn around and brag about their commitment to diversity.

Y’all.

Can I be honest?

Shit like this, is what propels me out of the lit world.

In 2016 I made less than 30 submissions. And most of them were rejected.Most of hte stuff I’ve gotten published that I haven’t done myself has been solicited.

It’s not for lack of done work. It’s because I don’t want to have to wade through the ugly shit to see if I even should submit. I don’t want my name associated with venerable well paying publications that like to post racist or whatever shitty shit without comment except, oooh freedom of speech.

Man.

I have to deal with that.

I have to deal with sooper seekrit lady writer groups where I’ve opened my big ass mouth about injsutices, and said no to whiteness and worry about being told that editors will tell other editors that I might be a problem or hard to work with. I have to deal with the very real thing (that has happened but not lately) of having my ideas stolen and fucked up because I asked my “peers” for advice.

And I have to be able to actually write the shit and not have it come out only FUCK FUCK FUCK MOTHER OF FUCK.

Maybe it is getting older or maybe it is the fact that this election has pretty much destroyed any chill I had left but I just don’t want to do it.

I have SCLAB to do and that is my heart. And I can’t do that if my heart is torn to shreds because the lit world is a burning garbage fire on the regular.

I am so frustrated.

I am angry.

I am so tired.

I feel like my opportunities in the lit world are shrinking.

I have a submission almost ready because someone told me I should submit to their thing. I have a few more like that.

What I don’t have is the strength or girded loins to do deep market research anymore because I keep running into this bullshit.

I dunno y’all.

2017 might be the year I go full indie because I just can’t deal with this AND do my art.

I just don’t know.

Imagining the rest. Thinking about #blackspecfic

I have been scribbling away on a couple of way out of my comfort zone pieces.

In one I’ve created an origin story for a myth no one has heard before. It started out as an entire other thing, I wanted to practice finding a very particular voice to put on a narrator and as usual I started with a little character sketch to try and hear it in my head.

What’s interesting to me right now is that after reading this piece from Fireside when it came out, I’ve done a lot of looking at my body of work both published and unpublished. I’ve been looking at what interests me in terms of the new fiction I want to create.

It is all fucking speculative fiction in one way or another.

Wiki says this about speculative fiction:

Speculativefiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements, notably science fiction, fantasy and horror. The popularity of the term is sometimes attributed to Robert Heinlein, who referenced it in 1947 in an editorial essay, although there are prior mentions of speculativefiction, or its variant “speculative literature”.

Well, yeah. That’s everything I write these days. Looking back, I can see points in my writing life where I’ve done my level best to not do spec fic. I’ve spent time trying to be straight up literary or horror or whatever.

I have found a comfortable *for me to create in* space that is both speculative and slipstream.

This is what wiki says about slipstream.

Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. The term slipstream was coined by cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, in July 1989.

In terms of my work, I’ve found a freedom in living in this place because I don’t feel the pressure to do any particular type of performative Blackness in my work. In these worlds that are our world and other worlds, their Blackness is not othered they just are. They can be created without me being distracted by all the other bullshit that happens when you write to represent yourself (because that’s great advice if you’re a creator) and shit gets difficult.

Okay, now that I’m thinking about what I’ve been writing and potentially getting back into submitting to places that take stuff that lands on the spec fic spectrum, and I still have some trepidation.

I’ve seen some magazines, etc. try to respond.

I don’t know how I feel about it. If I’m going to be real about it, there are probably four magazines that take the more spec fic/slipstream stuff I think I’d even have a shot at. Not necessarily because of the quality of my work, but because the Blackness in my work has just been there. It’s not part of a larger point, these are just the people who populate these worlds. And that isn’t necessarily the type of work by POC that a lot of places feature.

I want to believe that the industry has heard the call and will start getting itself right. I don’t want to spend time reformatting (because how I work visually means I always have to overhaul when I submit to genre mags because so many still only take manuscript format..that’s a whole other thing), researching, editing, etc. etc. to submit to places where, I might feel like my work would be the token nod to “diversity”.

I don’t know. I guess I’m just suspicious.

I’m suspicious of the genre industries because I feel like I can’t turn around without seeing some kind of racist fuckery. I don’t mind being aware of it, I find that important, but as a writer who will be submitting, like I don’t want to fuck with it. Sometimes I wonder if I do gain traction in any of the genre areas I like, am I going to wind up as a target of the raging puppy types?

I have a lot of complicated feelings about it.

On one hand, I have come to understand that I will not be able to sell my fiction directly to my readership. This isn’t a plea right now it’s the plain truth. That particular adventure is pretty done. It was a grand experiment, but I need to shut it down because it’s been mostly stressful and cost me money. I don’t have money to spend like that.

So what now?

I think I’m ready to get back into the swing of submitting fiction around. I have been thinking about #blackspecfic and I want to be in it. I want to be part of it. I got my hard hat and big girl boxer briefs on, I’ve got stories to tell and I’m ready.

It feels kind of nice to have that particular ambition again. I have my new and shiny submission tracking spreadsheet started up and I’ve clocked in some nice rejections already.

Aside from the failure of my indie authoring, the other thing that has drawn me back into the industry this way is that I have hope. For every racist fuckery filled comment section or twitter tantrum or attempt to sway awards, I see people fighting for the things I believe in and I can’t completely resist.

All this is a very roundabout way of saying, you could likely start seeing my name again around in magazines. And it feels good.

That’s it for now. I have been doing my author loveletters *newsletter but whatever* and this weeks is a good one. Come check it out here and subscribe if you like. New one every Saturdayish and never any spam.

#BlackSpecFic Feelings.

First, please go check out the work Fireside Fiction put in on this. 

Ahem.

For our purposes here today I’m gonna use this definition of spec fic from wikipedia:

Speculativefiction is a broad umbrella category of narrative fiction referring to any fiction story that includes elements, settings and characters whose features are created out of human imagination and speculation rather than based on attested reality and everyday life. That encompasses the genres of science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, horror, alternative history, and magic realism.

If you’ve read me for a while, you know this is an area I love to live and play in. Also, please read this. 

My own experiences mirror a lot of those N.K. Jemison talks about. When I was a wee baby writer, I did not allow my Blackness in my work in a lot of ways. From the writing perspective my earliest lessons both overt and not were like so:

  • Anything involving Black characters would likely not be “believable” if they weren’t hood caricatures or portraits of racial uplift. That cut across all the genres I like to work in.
  • Blackness regardless of subject matter, genre, etc is often treated as a wee tiny box where ALL the Black stories must go.

I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t find all the links. There is a problem when as a writer, you do your due diligence and study the places you are submitting. For me personally if I go back more than 5 or so issues and see no POC or if the masthead headshots are all White men, if the stories are all in one vein under the guise of aesthetics and “goodness” those are not places I’m going to feel welcome.

A problem I (and I’ll venture to guess a lot of POC and especially Black authors) run into every now and then is when White editors are very obviously uncomfortable with Blackness or anything not White centric. Often this isn’t anything blatant, it can be felt in email exchanges where an editor doesn’t understand a phrase that isn’t “proper English”, or suggestions to do certain things (in my case it was an Orisha) more “mainstream”. The suggestion was to change the goddess/Orisha in this story to Aphrodite or, you know, a White one. Being questioned about not italicizing my Spanish. Being questioned about how “unlikely” (in a firmly spec fic story) it would be to have the protagonist be a little Black girl.

The first story I referenced, was published at Expanded Horizons and was my first publication in a spec fic magazine. That story (I just went a looked) was rejected 15 times. There was one nibble of interest, but the editor backed off when I said I would not rewrite to make it a Euro/White story.

The next story isn’t really spec fic (though my inspiration was) but the tiniest bit of unitalicized Spanish made it “difficult for most readers”.  (I can’t get to youtube but go there and search Daniel Jose Older and Italicized Spanish, it’s worth it)

The last story (it was Pushcart nominated) was rejected 16 times. The first nibble of interest, I spent about two weeks going back and forth with an editor who couldn’t see or understand how a little Black girl who is a shapeshifter would ever exist in a world where there are shapeshifters. This person also mentioned how my names for my creatures, Children of Apep, Daughter of Sekhmet etc would be too “esoteric” for “most” readers. I actually went back to read the exchange. Yes, references to Egyptian gods/esses as the names of shapeshifters is too “esoteric”. My references to Hyena and Crow were “not really relatable”.

For a lot of years, this is what I had to wade through when submitting so as I’ve mentioned before I just stopped.

This isn’t exclusive to spec-fic. The problem of overwhelming whiteness is one of literature in general. For me, the constancy of the racism in lit has just been exhausting. When I decided to start writing genre fiction again, I again found myself being unable to bear interacting with the community, reading fan stuff etc because shit always gets real racist real quick.

These are many of the reasons why I started self pubbbing my genre fiction. These are many of the reasons I stopped reading genre fiction too.

For the cheap seats. As a White person in a position of power in the lit world, you can’t just say you’re all for inclusion and diversity if you can’t demonstrate it. Words in this matter are useless. You have to act. As I’ve said many times before, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that using Whiteness as the measure for what is “good” is a problem. Even if you don’t mean it.

Understand that there will be things and elements of work that don’t resonate with you and that is okay.

You have to do the work or you’re part of the problem here.

There are SO many easy ways to find authors of color to approach to feature their work, editors you can talk to. It’s not that fucking hard. It is 20 mother fucking 16. You probably have a computer in your pocket.

Listen to what POC have to say.

Read work by POC.

If you are totally into inclusion, be that shit. Don’t just say it. Do it. Do the work.

We exist.

If you’re a reader. Find the stories and books. Buy them, read them, check them out at the library, talk about them.

As a creator of things, I’d also like to say this.

Stop pretending that the statistics are shocking. Stop it. We all know racism is a real thing and permeates everything. Including literature. Including speculative fiction. Including SF and horror and everything else. Stop. White folks, you are not helpless here. There are tons and tons of articles, stories, etc. written by and about POC so maybe start reading them.

Do the work.

That’s all for now.

On Rejections and Thangs

Behold first a list of places I’ve been rejected from in the last few years. These culled from my Submittable (OH sidebar: if you ever need help with your Submittable account their CS is FUCKING STELLAR. Like really great.) account.

I MADE THIS.

Publisher *Interrobang Magazine*Bone Bouquet*Portland Review*Two Serious Ladies*Corium Magazine*Black Fox Literary Magazine*Menacing Hedge*kill author*Quickly*Jersey Devil Press*Looseleaf Tea*MUD LUSCIOUS PRESS*Red Bridge Press*d.ustb.in*Cease  Cows*Wyvern Lit*The James Franco Review*The Butter*Storyglossia*Necessary Fiction*Atticus Books*Knockout Literary Magazine*Girls with Insurance*Linden Avenue Literary Journal*The Molotov Cocktail*Word Riot*Camroc Press Review*SmokeLong Quarterly*Vending Machine Press*The Rusty Nail*Side B Magazine*Curbside Splendor Publishing*Used Furniture Review*fwriction : review*Word Riot*Belletrist Coterie*The Offing*Specter: A Curated Literary Website*The Offing*A-Minor*Word Riot*Bloom*The Midwest Coast Review*Leodegraunce*Eclectic Flash*fwriction : review*Stone Highway Review*Specter: A Curated Literary Website*Metazen*tNY.Press*ExFic*wtf pwm*[PANK]*fwriction : review*Camroc Press Review*Used Furniture Review*Unshod Quills*BLACKBERRY: a magazine*Gravel*Birdfeast*Necessary Fiction*Slit Your Wrists! Magazine*Wilde Magazine*10 000 Tons of Black Ink*Monkeybicycle*Counterexample Poetics*deactivated TOSKA Magazine*Little Episodes*Gertrude Press*ABJECTIVE*Battered Suitcase*The Monarch Review*Out of the Gutter Online*[PANK]*freeze frame fiction*Publishing Genius*Menacing Hedge*The Citron Review*Dark Sky Magazine*DREGINALD*Behind Closed Doors*Barn Owl Review*decomP magazinE*Necessary Fiction*Word Riot*The Rumpus

So if you get through that, you’ll see some repeats. Places that are in my mind big swing and miss type submissions.

I’ve been reflecting about the process lately since I don’t submit on such a rigorous schedule anymore.

I was reading something about rejections and I frankly refute the idea that it is always the writer.

The thing is that if you are writing from a perspective or about marginalized people in a way that is not the accepted (generally when it decenters Whiteness, heteronormativity, etc etc) there is an uphill battle, whether people who are closer to acceptable want to recognize it as part of the process or not.

After doing the submission thing and research things and reading thousands upon thousands of pages of what journals/mags publish, the struggle is real. I look over this little rejection list and this one from my race to 100, there are some I can point to as having probably been based on how I was telling stories about Black folks or Queer folks, rather than just my shitty writing.

Of course, there are times when I look back and cringe because things can always be better, tighter, more perfect, etc.

However, after going back through a lot of that work (and many of those pieces found homes eventually) and looking at the language in a lot of rejections (not just from this list but over a ten year period) I can say that I’ve seen some patterns and the patterns have fit in with my research.

Here is where I invite editors to pay some full attention, marginalized writers too:

  1. If I go through say five back issues of your thing and I see no POC, no stories about anyone other than White people in whatever form, I’m 99% sure if I submit a story about POC/other marginalized people you won’t take it. I often envision the, we love your work, but no fit yadda yada. For me, over the years, this has been a thing a lot.
  2. If you have words like diversity, inclusion or anything related and you haven’t done the work in your previous however many issues, see #1.
  3. If I’ve been reading and following your thing and you have a few POC or other marginalized folks and tend to only publish certain types of narratives, whether fictional or not, or the only POC you interview fall into a few distinct categories, see #1.

Etc.

One of the habits that has been ingrained in me since I was a wee baby writer age 19 in 1996 carefully copying addresses out of the back of Poets&Writers, I read where I want to be. At one point after I had my own computer (I think I got my first one in like 2001?) I had dozens of pages of individual notes on publications. I transcribed them from PW, from websites, from notebooks. I had a system. I spent two months writing like a motherfucker as much as humanly possible, I spent a month editing everything and then a month submitting.

This habit has remained with me, though I have learned to use trackers (GODS damn I wish someone had told me to do that back then) and figured myself out in terms of the truth of what I do, I’ve learned to read more closely and that is how I’ve figured out my system for parsing rejections and figuring out where to submit.

There have been times where I’ve spoken with editors, I can think of a few who really went to bat for me because I did not fit their standard narratives. That is gratifying.

Experience informs how I deal with my rejections.

In this phase of my writing life, I’m not as interested in trying to blaze trails.

I’ve got a big fucking mouth and I do indeed talk a lot of shit and occasionally name names. I’ve decided that rather than hold that in, I’m letting it out. I’m sure that will cause me rejections over time. It’s fine.

I realized during AWP and some subsequent interactions with lit world folks that I just don’t have the energy or mental health reserves to be one of the brick wall busting types.

I’ve hit fuck it.

I’ve figured out that I feel okay being a terrible self-published author.

I’m fine trying to hustle fiction out of my Etsy store like a literary pusherman.

I don’t hold out hope to be raised up by the loving hands of some literary agent.

I don’t really care if I get the Big Book Deal.

I’ve discovered the depths of joy I feel when small indie bootleg ass presses tell me if I do X thing, they want first look.

I’ve discovered the joy of putting something from my heart out that is flawed but touches other hearts.

It still fucks with me that people don’t buy my shit when I sell it.

It still fucks with me when I read things and I don’t see myself or other marginalized folks represented.

It still fucks with me when the literary community is largely a burning tire fire of racism and bullshit.

After all this, the real lesson is this.

This is a grind. Rejection alone won’t be the end of you. It is up to you as an artist to decide how to deal with it.

Now if y’all will excuse me, I have anxiety to deal with and shit to do.