davidgillon: Illo of Oracle in her manual chair in long white dress with short red hair and glasses (wheelchair)

I finally wrote the blog on the Me Before You controversy I've been intending to write for several weeks.

'Finally' because I thought a lot about how I should do it, as the obvious approach to take as both disabled writer and disability activist collides head-on with the advice to us as baby writers to never do anything remotely controversial on the net (given agents and publishers will hunt your web-presence down as a form of due diligence). In the end I went with the obvious approach, because not taking apart how the writing and filming process systematically failed disabled people, and especially wheelchair users, seemed like a betrayal.

There's a lot of embedded links, so I'll link to it in place rather than reproduce it here: Rather You Than Me

CW for extended discussion of euthanasia and disablist fuckwittery

davidgillon: Text: You can take a heroic last stand against the forces of darkness. Or you can not die. It's entirely up to you" (Heroic Last Stand)
Fairly sure I forgot to mention this when I came across it a couple of weeks ago. It's discussed here, though I first came across it in a piece by Foz Meadows.

It's a parallel to the Bechdel Test, but covers some areas it misses:

Does the story include
a) at least one female character;
b) who gets her own narrative arc;
c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.

Mako Mori is a character in Pacific Rim, which fails the Bechdel test as she's the only significant female speaking role,  but she does have a full narrative arc of her own (and gets to beat up the male lead).
She's played by Rinko Kikuchi, the actress everyone was pointing to as the obvious choice to play Major Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell when Hollywood claimed no Asian actress could carry off the part a few weeks ago.

I don't think it completely supplants the Bechdel Test, but it's definitely got a point WRT character agency.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
By the time I was three tweets into #WhitewashedOUT I wanted to beat my head against a wall.

The initial focus was Hollywood's whitewashing of several recent prominent Asian roles, Scarlett Johanssen as Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange, as a symptom of a wider problem within the movie industry, but it turned into an outpouring of experience of racism. @BethPhelan, who just organised #DVpit,  tweeted about her experiences as a child, and that really struck home because of the parallels with disability related bullying I experienced as a kid. Different otherness, identical hate.

The number of people tweeting about trying not to appear Asian as a kid was heartbreaking.

And the number of writers/screenwriters tweeting about being told to white out asian characters was truly disturbing.

There were the usual handful of idiots railing against it. and proving its point, but two things about them disturbed me. (I looked at a bunch of profiles, you usually find about half are blank, pointing at professional bigots running pure attack accounts, but half weren't). First, the number identifying as Trump supporters, second, the number who seemed to have some link to fandom. That 'social justice warrior' tag beloved of the Puppies was very prominent.
 

George Takei has a good take on Marvel's defence of their Doctor Strange casting: They must think we're idiots


davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Literary agent Beth Phelan's #DVpit twitter pitching event  is happening tomorrow, details here.

The idea is that if you have a submission ready manuscript with diverse characters and/or are yourself diverse, then this is your chance to pitch to a bunch of agents (over 50) looking for diverse authors/stories. You have a single tweet to sell your manuscript to watching agents, so it really hones your precis skills!  (You're actually allowed one tweet an hour over the 12 hours it runs).

I'll be taking part with my Pitchwars novel, and I also blogged about #DVpit, SF/F Disabled Voices and #DVpit on why it's so desperately needed for SF/F and disability. (TLDR: no one has a clue how to do a decent job of it, or to recognise when they don't/)

Sadly #DVpit has become somewhat controversial. While the initial rules made it clear you could be non-diverse, but submitting a diverse manuscript, some people have set out to police those people out of the running, and as a consequence, some people on the margins of diversity, e.g. those with invisible disabilities, and LGBT folks who aren't out, are being driven away. It's sadly ironic when the pro-diversity camp adopts the "you aren't genuinely disabled" tactics of the forces of oppression. ETA: Beth Phelan seems to have come out in favour of own voices only, but the tweet wasn't exactly clear, I read it the other way around, but seem to be in the minority.

And then there's the non-diverse writers with non-diverse manuscripts whining because they can't enter. Tough, enter the next #pitmad or #pitchwars, there's no shortage of pitching events

We had #Mockpit earlier today, a trial run for your tweets, which was valuable as it turns out people can't work out what "w/chair user" means, and some were even unhappy with 'wheelchair-user". I very politely explained why "wheelchair bound" is not an option (because I'm not writing 50 Wheels of Grey!)

Jami, my #Pitchwars mentor, came up with a couple of good tweets for me:
"#DVpit Adult UF #Own. When forensic sorcerer Laura's husband is shot and her daughter stolen, she'll face down demigods to get her back."


" When a necromancer with a grudge targets wheelchair-user Laura's family, he pisses off the wrong forensic sorcerer #DVpit Adult UF Own" - This is the one people had problems with, no one could parse "w/chair using forensic sorcerer", not ever after I expanded it to wheelchair-using. *Headdesk*, long way to go....
 

While mine are mostly variations on the theme of:
"Laura's many things:CSI, wheelchair user. witch, but mother first. God help the man, or demigod, who threatens her 3yo #DVpit Adult UF Own"

Now to go finalise my 12 tweets.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

I picked up on Ellen Oh's Dear White Writers a couple of days late, so missed most of the unpleasantness. I agree with what she's saying, we as white writers shouldn't be suddenly writing non-white protagonists just to jump on the diversity band-wagon. But as a diverse writer who happens to be white, being exhorted not to write diverse protagonists is a bit problematical.

The problem isn't her message per se, I get what she's trying to say and agree with it, it's that her point is applicable beyond ethnicity and her terminology wanders all over the place. Half the time she uses 'diversity' where she specifically means 'ethnicity', and that's a problem because a good two thirds of the stuff published about We Need Diverse Books makes the same mistake, and when that message is repeated often enough, it risks further excluding the non-ethnicity based diversities, and convincing people that if you are white you can't be a diverse author. Normally the core WNDB team have been pretty good about getting this right, this time Ellen Oh seems to have taken her eye off the ball, and other people are being misled by that, such as the literary agency that blogged under the title White Writers: Don't Write Diverse Books. Instead, Read Them. I challenged them on that on Twitter, they admitted it could do with clarification and they would get onto it, and did nothing (so I went to the blog and commented).

That there might be an issue with how Ellen Oh said stuff, is lost in all the sturm und drang of various white people being furious at what she said and unleashing a storm of hate at her for daring to suggest white writers might be trying to treat WNDB as a cash cow. I tried making my point on twitter, but 140 characters is a bit limiting for that kind of nuanced message, so I gave in and blogged about it tonight.

Dear Non-Diverse Writers

(I bit my tongue and refrained from addressing her "There’s a whole lot of angry people on twitter losing their collective minds")



davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Storify of Foz Meadows tweeting what she called a rant, but which I call eminently good sense, and which I've been trying to put into practise this afternoon.

On Tragic Queerness in SFF

TLDR: Stop killing your gay characters
Slightly Longer TLDR: If you're writing queer characters while straight, for god's sake read some queer fanfic where being queer is normal.

So, given the backburner WIP has a lesbian couple as protagonists,  I went to Foz's tumblr, where she has a list of favourite fanfic, and I've started reading.

I 'm not sure it makes all the points Foz wanted, but I really enjoyed this MCU piece about all the Captain America films that got made before his reappearance, and what happens when Cap and Bucky find out about them:

Steve Rogers at 100: Celebrating Captain America on Film


And I also found this on Foz's blog: The Politics of Presence, which has some very wise things to say on the necessity of having diverse characters in your novel.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
This is one of the best speeches on diversity I've ever seen, though specifically aimed at diversity in the creative arts, and he delivered it to Parliament

I'm not here to talk about black people;

 

I’m here to talk about diversity.


And he keeps up that refrain throught the speech, that diversity is about everyone having an equal chance, and that it is far wider an issue than simply race.

Not bad for a tyre fitter from Dagenham ;)

(For non-Brits, the 'Oona' in the speech is presumably Baroness Oona King, the second ever black woman MP - until she was unseated by that unspeakably self-serving arsehole George Galloway in one of the most calculatedly racist campaigns on record)

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
[personal profile] oursin  pointed out Kamila Shamsi's Guardian article suggesting we only publish books by women for a year. I'm not certain how bad the comments are as I didn't get past the first half-dozen (you can probably imagine), but I did put up a reply of my own, about what I think is a risk in this proposal, and in Tempest Bradford's thematically similar proposal to only read books by women for a year. I'm trying to knock any inadvertent privilege out of this argument, with thoughts of it feeding into a wider piece on disability in SFF, or at least using it to develop my thinking, so I'm copying it in below and, please, point out any equality fails in my thinking (It's specifically framed as a response to the Guardian piece at the moment, I'd rewrite it before trying to use it independently of that): 

"I'm the proverbial straight, cis, white male. I'm also diverse, a member of a discriminated against minority group. No, not straight, cis, white males, I'm fully aware of my privilege there and have nothing but contempt for the men's rights movement, but I am disabled, and I wish the failure of publishing to reflect my personal diverse group got a fraction of the attention failures to adequately reflect ethnicity and gender do.

I'm going to take a stance against this proposal, but probably a different one to most. I'm going to object because I don't think this serves diversity.

I've been an active voice in supporting We Need Diverse Books for as long as I've been aware of it. There's a selfish motive buried in there, I'm a disabled writer talking about disability in a genre (SFF) which has historically handled it appallingly, but it also ties into my activism both about disability and beyond. As I said above, I'm also the proverbial straight cis, white male, and I couldn't help noticing that the only SFF book I read last year that did a decent job of portraying disability (and disability discriminaton especially, which is so, so rarely written about) was also written by a straight, cis, white male, and a non-disabled one at that (John Scalzi and Lock-In if anyone's interested)*. Is that lack of diverse voices healthy? Of course not, but compounding that lack with a lack of authors willing to approach diverse topics, even if non-diverse themselves, would be even worse.

In reading articles talking about We Need Diverse Books over the last year (and specifically excluding WNDB themselves as they've always been explicit about no diversity left behind), I so often see people framing WNDB, and the wider issues in publishing which it challenges, as solely about ethnicity, or solely about gender, LGBT issues show up significantly less frequently, disability rarely, and other diversities almost never (this isn't simply a statistical fluke from a limited sample, I'd guess I've read well past a hundred articles on WNDB in the last year - I started searching them out when I realised this was a problem). We have a problem in that even people actively campaigning for diversity in publishing, but especially those who are on the periphery of the campaign, often have a limited view of what 'diversity' means. And the danger we face is making progress in limited areas, and then having people say 'but we've already done diversity,' excluding all those forms of diversity that never got attention, because they actually face even more complete exclusion. Initiatives that frame the issues solely around a single diversity, such as this one, or Tempest Bradford's challenge to only read female authors for a year, risk reinforcing that limited view of diversity, and leaving those most poorly served by the publishing industry even worse off than before.

And yet it's simple to reframe this challenge as an inclusive one by changing it to say: 'Lets only publish books by diverse authors, or which feature diverse topics, for a year.' That way we aren't solely addressing one form of diversity fail, we aren't reinforcing misconceptions about the extent of diversity fail in publishing, we're challenging them all. "

*I realised after posting at the Guardian that I should have specified novel length, there were several good disability related shorts in Kaleidoscope. There were probably others out there, but Lock In was the one I saw, and I was so hoping it would make the Hugo shortlist (bloody Puppies!)

Squee

Mar. 31st, 2015 04:42 am
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
The inarticulate squeeing from my direction this afternoon was me discovering that the first seven chapters of the next Rachel Peng novel by K B Spangler are out as a free sample,

For those who don't follow the series, they're near future techno-thrillers/police procedurals, Rachel is the liaison to the Washington DC Metro PD for the Office of Advanced and Complementary Emerging Technologies, which mean she's not just a Fed, she's a Fed who's a cyborg with a quantum chip in her head that allows her to make any database anywhere sit-up and beg, gives her reception across the complete EM spectrum, near telepathy with the other OACET agents, and so on. She's also half-Chinese, gay, and blind - the only reason she isn't the Federal poster child for diversity is the fact she's blind is a secret among a handful of her friends, the chip lets her mostly pass, though she has trouble with the simplest of things - reading and faces.

The first two books in the series are Digital Divide and Maker Space and the new one is State Machine, which involves a murder at the White House and a missing maguffin (I figured out what it is very early, though the narrative hasn't quite confirmed that yet), and as a side arc that'll likely please a few people around here, three of the secondary characters are now in a poly relationship.

And of course K B Spangler also draws the A Girl and Her Fed webcomic which shares a universe with Rachel, in fact she's in the current story arc, which is interesting for letting you see the author's imagining of her.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Malinda Lo, one of the major voices behind We Need Diverse Books, has produced an essay looking at how US trade reviews (i.e. meant for booksellers, librarians etc rather than the general book-buying public) react to diversity. The examples are YA, as that's her field, but I suspect things are probably even worse in other genres. Some of the examples will definitely make you wince, and the suggestion of a 'diversity ceiling' - that major parts of the industry don't believe a book dealing with more than one minority is viable - is particularly disturbing. Definitely worth a read if you're interested in diversity, intersectionality and/or publishing.

Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews 
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Friend just pointed this out over on FB, Info Commissioner's Blog on

Changing your name and gender: the data protection implications

which should interest a few people here. Unfortunately both this and the linked EHRC page on trans terminology seem to treat gender as solely binary.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
DiversifYA's interview with me on living with Hypermobility Syndrome, being disabled, and writing disabled characters is now up here.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
 Good analysis by David Perry (@Lollardfish), who is absolutely worth following for his writing on disability and wider equality issues, but who is also a medievalist in his day job, and a fan:

Viking Women Warriors and Diversity in Literature

Summary: probably not warriors per se, but still stands perceived wisdom on its head as it suggests the Viking first wave came as colonisers, not raiders, but then spins it into a discussion of how we approach diversity in fantasy, and how much or how little history limits us.

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