Instructions for the Age of Emergency.

Some fascinating comments on dystopias in science fiction, restructuring societies, and the Age of Emergency (which I now need to go read a lot more about).

monica byrne

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Halbert W. Hall Speaker’s Series on Science Fiction and Fantasy, Texas A&M University

February 2, 2018

Full Audio

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Thank you so much to Texas A&M for hosting me, and especially to the Science Fiction Archivist, Jeremy Brett, who invited me and orchestrated everything. He’s been a supporter of my work for years, and I’m so delighted to finally meet him, and to have the chance to address all of you. I’d also like to thank TAMU Libraries, the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research and its Science Fiction Studies Working Group, the Department of English, the Department of International Studies, and the Department of Visualization. I’m so honored by such an intersectional effort to bring me here. So thank you.

As Jeremy said, I write a lot of things, but when people ask me what I am, the first thing I say is that I’m a science fiction writer. I gave…

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Interpretation

One of my favourite pairs of earrings is “Deciphering As Art“, by Elise Matthesen (whose other jewelry you can currently find on Etsy). They’re pretty simple; tiny squares of striated grey stone, with a grey fiber-optic bead dangling under them. They’re a beautiful, simple reminder of the process of taking something you’re actually presented with that  has a quality or a tendency,

I have been thinking about this a bit lately. I had a very long discussion about reconciling  Deadpool’s Rule (thank you, Foz Meadows) with calling out queerbaiting recently. The two points which came out of it were:

  • It’s reasonable to look at a character’s actions and interactions and draw the conclusion that said character is not straight without them explicitly naming themselves as such. (Deadpool’s Rule)
  • It’s reasonable to look at a creator (or creative team) that consistently refuses to give non-straight characters or interactions commensurate page time, screen time, and/or validation, and get frustrated and angry.
    (You might feel like you want to throw something at the interrelated shows which have a couple hundred episodes between them and have had canonically gay characters for nearly three years and have two married gay couples and still haven’t ever managed to have two guys kissing onscreen. Just as a for-instance.)

I generally assume interpretation of a character is going to be done in good faith. I may not agree with it, and in certain extremely rare cases[1] I may conclude that you are bringing some very specific preconceptions to the text, but I will assume it is being done in good faith. But just because you read a character as having a marginalized identity, it doesn’t mean you can’t want the work in which you found them in to do better.

Seeing something in a work that resonates with you doesn’t mean that the creator stood behind what you’re seeing. (It can! It often does! But it can also mean you’ve picked up on something the creator didn’t intend or didn’t want to showcase.) It doesn’t mean you’re endorsing the creator. And it’s okay to call out shortcomings, and to expect better.
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[1] Like the time someone told me I should keep in mind that Gregor Clegane had been bullied as a child for being the biggest and the strongest.

Taking stock

(This is a very carefully circumscribed post, because that is what I need at the moment.)

Slowed down on getting rid of books. On the other hand, making progress on reading them, which is always nice.

Since it generally leads to a lot of people I know talking about writing and encouraging each other on wordcounts, trying to do NaNoWriMo. The Story Hospital has an excellent post on that.

Worried for people right now, and hoping everyone is doing as well as possible.