I awoke to this. I'm assuming the shootings actually have nothing to do, directly, with all the idiotic Batman Rising internet kerfuffle. More likely, the movie simply served as the inevitable catalyst and a handy, high-profile resource for the shooter's "captive" audience.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,105 words on "One Tree Hill (The World As Cataclysm)," a new story, which occurred to me just as I was beginning to get very nervous about having no ideas for Sirenia Digest #80.
Have you heard Chelsea Wolfe? Neither had I, until last week. Now, I have both her CDs and am utterly amazed. Check it out.
I don't have time, just now, to write this. What follows. I'm writing it anyway. So, well, I hope someone reads it. Sounds a little like a message in a bottle, that. Never mind. One year ago today I wrote in this LJ: You know, I am aware that if this blog were more – what's the word? Political? Controversial? Confrontational? None of those are the right words. Let's say, more like catvalente's. If it were more like that, there would likely be many more comments. Well, perhaps. And were I a much younger beast, I might still have the energy to write those sorts of entries. But I'm not, and I don't.
And yesterday, on Twitter, I "learned" that Silk is a "racist" novel*, which I suppose would make me, by extension, a racist. Were it true. Actually, the person (no names will be named) who started this didn't come right out and say that Silk was racist. They said "...which reminds me that the one novel of hers I did read was racist, lol." Yeah. The "lol" was there. Following that was some banter between this individual and another about my "racefail" and so forth. I asked the person who'd made the original comment to please tell me which novel they'd deemed racist, and received no response. A fourth and friendly party informed me, "It was Silk. [blank] gave you racefail for 'exotic stamps' and saying Niki still looked exotic in Cure t-shirt." Oh, and yet another person called me a "troll" for being angry at having been called a racist (and having said so on Twitter).
So...it's as if I requested the worst sort of case in point, and it was then summarily served up to me. The novel is labeled racist because a Caucasian girl looks at a Vietnamese girl and envies her, thinking of her as exotic, and because that same Vietnamese girl, who's never been to her home country, thinks of stamps from Vietnam as "exotic." Here are the two passages in question**:
1: "Caught there in the last glory of the day, Niki's skin seemed to radiate its own light, perfect silken complexion, balanced somewhere lustrous between almond and ginger. Daria knew her own skin was as unremarkable as her face, not pale enough for goth, despite her vampire's hours, but certainly no color to speak of. A few poorly place freckles scattered beneath her eyes, and she got zits on the days before her periods. Niki was wearing a ratty Cure T-shirt she'd pulled out of her bubble-gum colored gym bag, frayed sleeves cut off at the shoulders and the color stretched shapeless and she still looked exotic."
(Don't ask me why the words ginger and silken didn't also hit the "racefail" buttons. I don't know. Maybe they did.)
2: "Neither of Niki's parents had ever made a habit of talking about their lives before New Orleans. They kept themselves apart from the city's tight-knit Vietnamese community. Always seemed to struggle to answer any questions Niki asked about their lives before America in as few words as possible, as if bad memories, bad times, had ears and could be summoned like demons. There had been letters, exotic stamps and picture postcards from halfway around the world, messages from faceless relatives written in the mysterious, beautiful alphabet that she had never learned to read. Her mother had kept these someplace secret, or maybe she'd just thrown them away. Niki had treasured her rare glimpses of this correspondence, would sometimes hold an envelope to her nose and lips, hoping for some whiff or faint taste of a world that must have been so much more marvelous than their boxy white and avocado-green house in the Metairie suburbs."
(Also, no idea why mysterious didn't "trigger." Whatever.)
So, we have 1) the subjective view of Niki from a white girl with very low self esteem, and 2) we have Niki's longing for a homeland she's never seen, which she could certainly view as exotic, in comparison to her life. And, for what it's worth, here's a dictionary definition of exotic: Intriguingly unusual or different; excitingly strange.*** Like Daria and Niki's perceptions, the definition is relative to one's point of view. A Vietnamese, for example, can easily find American stamps "exotic."
I will also point out that the individual who considers Silk racist also made statements like "goddamn 99% of white people should break their keyboards and their hands period unless they promise only to write about whites." No, truly. I'm not making this up. "jesus white people really can't write China for shit. or Thailand either." And "white people writing fantasy China give me the creeps." Okay, so. If I am of whichever many, many Caucasian lineages (many of which readily qualify as people of color), I should never, ever write Thai or Chinese characters, unless I want my hands and keyboard broken. Because, by this person's estimation, in so doing, I shall inevitably commit "racefail." Does this mean they advocate torture and censorship? I don't know, but it wouldn't be an outlandish conclusion to draw, based on their comments. Should Caucasian Americans never write about any other people in any other country? Or an American member of a race other than one's own?**** Is that forbidden?
Flashback to an old episode of M*A*S*H, and something Hawkeye says about the McCarthy trials ("Are You Now, Margaret"): "Testify before the committee? You've read about the committee. They make it very simple for you. You can either hang yourself or your friends. Or both. Whatever you do, just showing up can cost you your career." To me, these lines are eerily prescient of our current situation with the self-appointed guardians who decry cultural appropriation, "racefail," sexism, homophobia, etc. over...well, for example...one word in a rather long novel. People who would have one race never speak of another. And so forth. Don't agree? You can stay quiet and be branded. Or you can speak out and be branded.
We're not talking about Orson Scott Card or John Wright's evangelical homophobia here, or Dan Simmons and Elizabeth Moon's openly Islamophobic attitudes. We're talking about one word, used positively to describe a character I care for deeply. That's how bad this mess is. We're talking about nitwits who think writers are better off breaking their hands and keyboards. And the truth is that it is those people who have failed, to understand art, to understand the process of art, and even to understand the nature of the struggle for equality in this and all nations, for "whites" and all other races.
I do not want to waste my life fighting these people. I genuinely do not. I do not want to risk my career (such as it is). But I am killing my fear. You will kill yours, or you will not. To quote Peter Gabriel, as I did yesterday on Twitter, Turn up the signal. Wipe out the noise ("Signal to Noise"). This is my fight, too, as a transsexual and a lesbian and someone who struggles daily with mental illness and as an artist. And I will not stand by quietly and watch it made a mockery of by idiots who cannot tell the difference between the "good guys" and the "bad," between literary criticism and shrill screeds (of 142 characters).
I do not want to call these people out. It's the last thing I have the time, patience, or health for. But I have, because response is warranted, and now I deal with the consequences.
Also, I hereby coin a neologism of my own: readerfail.
Tired of This,
* By the way, I was not stalking or spying on this person. Assume anything you say on any corner of the internet will be read by the individual of whom you are speaking. It's the nature of the beast.
** Taken from the heavily revised 2008 text.
*** The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
**** In a marvelous Catch 22, I was once accused of "whitewashing" because there were no people of color in The Red Tree.