Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review: Pumpkin Teeth

Pumpkin Teeth
Tom Cardamone
Lethe Press

'Lo Peoples,

For me, a stimulating short story anthology makes me want to start writing. I dunno. I guess imagination is catching. I should probably add absurdity and a penchant for pushing the barriers of reader comfort to my extremely communicable fiction list. The only item that left me perplexed about some of the stories were some endings in medias res. I found myself scanning the page for more words that simply didn't appear. Take this as evidence of Cardamone's ability to create immersive story worlds rather than a slight. Thirteen different times, I floated down the rabbit hole. I don't think one can fall into a Pumpkin Teeth story.

These were the journeys that I found most delightful in a wicked sort of way. I'm sure you'll choose your own.

Bottom Feeder presents a first person narrator who has evolved or devolved into the kind of "retirement community" that could be best described as a human version of Flipper or Namu engaged in proctophilic activities and singing.

In Suitcase Sam the first person narrator allows the reader a view into an oddly logical development of the ultimate in sexual submission and objectification. Paraphilia anyone?

Some mythical time ago, in the Far East, the first person narrator in Royal Catamite undergoes a transformation due to the imbibing of too much divine seminal fluid. Now there's a thought.

River Rat features a multi-person POV. IMHO, this is the sweetest of the stories. For those of us who adore outlandish comic book type characters, zaftig women, and free love between humans and former humans are in for a distinctly cupcake-with-sprinkles-shaped treat. I read, I chuckled and cooed in delight, and then I raided the refrigerator.

Since I already believe in the veil between the worlds of the Living and those who have passed on, Cardamone did not have to sell me. The Next Bardo brings its first person narrator "back" to another era filled with regret. What's so wonderful about this piece is the details of travel writing, gay marketing, the isolating effects of being closeted, all set against the loss inflicted by the appearance of AIDS.

Dare I say I look forward to reading the next Cardamone collection?


Her Tangh-i-ness

Note: This copy of Pumpkin Teeth was an electronic ARC acquired from an editor upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Review: A Handful of Pearls

A Handful of Pearls
Beth Bernobich
Lethe Press

'Lo Peoples,

I am rather fond of short story collections. So it was no struggle at all to read Beth Bernobich's A Handful of Pearls. I finished it in two sittings which is one of the wondrous things about short stories. For a reader with plenty of time, there is the fun of plunging into a fully-formed world, and then coaxing oneself onwards for a few pages more until one has missed one's bus stop, or the phone rings, or one can't keep one's eyes open any longer.

First, as a writer I must appreciate James Patrick's Kelly's Preface. He makes some observations about the themes Bernobich deals with in her work, namely, secrecy. He has "called it" as some Black people say in urban circles, so I almost have nothing to add there.

I will turn my attention to what I felt were the strongest of the nine stories. Five times, I found myself swept past my critical purview and delivered straight to the land of emotion. And that is simply what memorable stories do. They drop you somewhere and the rest of the world vanishes save for what comes next upon the page. Poison, Remembrance, Marsdog, the title story,A Handful of Pearls, and Jump to Zion paraded characters struggling with the weight of their desires. Daksa, a true hermaphrodite, and Kate, a soon-to-be grieving lover, could have been crushed by theirs but find new beginnings. Jimmy AKA Danu-vil-fa (the Talëdi spiderchild) starts with one desire and ends with another desire he had not given much thought to. Yan Dei moves from desire to desire to desire in his relentlessly self-absorbed manner. The herbalist Adjua desires to save her child, meet the demands of a former lover and a secret benefactor and to pay the price that the god of La Trinète requires from her.

I am delighted when a writer whom I do not know to be a lesbian, a devotee of the Orisha, nor a child molester, nor an alien from Jafal can write a character who is lesbian, or a child-molester, or an Orisha devotee, or an alien, and none of the characters can be stacked upon another the way one might do with Russian nesting dolls. I am as testy as one can get about the portrayals of People of Color and the LGBTQ communities. As ambivalent as I am about someone who is not from the Orisha tradition writing about my religious beliefs, I bristled and prepared to find something in Bernobich's work to grate on my nerves. I found only the word Orisha itself used in a milleu where the word Loa would have served more specifically. It is with great relief that I report this.

On an ending note, I am very much for inclusion of the erotic amongst the experiences characters and readers might share in the course of any fiction. I am grateful that Bernobich carries on the fine tradition of including sex (however delicately) in her work.

Note: This copy of A Handful of Pearls was an electronic ARC acquired from the editor upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Author Interview: Resa Nelson on Our Lady of the Absolute

'Lo Peoples,

Her Tangh-i-ness has been hanging out with other writers. I'm lucky I have so many interesting peeps.

Sooooooooo, we're talking with Resa Nelson the author of Our Lady of the Absolute. Ms. Nelson already has a published novel The Dra
gonslayer's Sword available. Our Lady of the Absolute will be her second title appearing in print from Mundania Press. See link for purchase info.

It's available now direct from the publisher as a PDF ebook and a Trade Paperback.
Amazon and Barnes and Noble will also offer it and you may see Ms. Nelson at upcoming New England events. Let's get right to the juicy questions.

Have you ever been to Egypt?

Yes, a couple of times. I've spent a total of four weeks in Egypt, spending time in Alexandria, Cairo, Giza, Memphis, Luxor, and Aswan. I've been to major attractions like the Egyptian Museum and the pyramids, and I've been to tiny villages to see examples of mud-brick architecture. I've visited the major temples located up and down the Nile. While in Egypt, I traveled by plane, train, automobile, bus, horse-drawn carriage, felucca (small boat), riverboat, and camel. There was one site that was accessible only by trekking through the Sahara by camel (it only took an hour or so), and it was about 112 degrees that day. But the desert heat is a dry heat and it was actually very doable. And very much worth the experience!

There a saying that all roads lead to Rome but does your book seem to be suggesting everything leads to back Egypt?

In some ways, yes. I think a lot of people all over the world are drawn to ancient Egypt. Because it was a civilization that lasted for thousands of years in a part of the world where the climate makes it possible to preserve everything from painted surfaces to sandals made from reeds, we're blessed to have a lot of artifacts in great shape. Scientists still don't know how the pyramids were built or how ancient Egyptians created paint that's still colorful and vibrant today, thousands of years after being created. And the ancient Egyptians documented a lot about their life (for example, receipts and records) in stone, and that reveals a lot about them and their daily life. Not to mention that everyone's lineage ultimately goes back to Africa.

What genre does this book fit?

Technically, it's a fantasy about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. It's a fantasy in the sense that there currently is no country where people dress like ancient Egyptians and worship their gods. But because I'm a big fan of mysteries, that influences my work. There are mystery/thriller elements as well as action/adventure in Our Lady of the Absolute. Right now my favorite authors are Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane, and reading their work makes me think about my own.

Who is the suggested audience for this book?

I always write for adults, but bookstore managers and owners tell me my work is appropriate for ages 14 and up.

So why shoot your own book trailers and post them on You Tube?

I've studied screenwriting for many years and have been a huge fan of movies since childhood. I watch at least two new movies each week. I study what other people have done so I can learn even more. I wanted to find a way to promote my new book in a way that was fun and different. I wanted to try something I've never done before, which is making my own book trailers. However, several years ago I participated in a project of making three short independent movies, which was the equivalent of student filmmaking. It gave me the opportunity to learn by experience in addition to the courses I'd already taken in screenwriting. For that project, I wrote two screenplays and was a producer. My pre-production work included running casting calls, set design, blocking scenes with the director, and getting sponsors. During production I was on set and helped out wherever I could, including a little bit of camera, lighting, and sound work. It was a tremendous learning experience, and I realized I already had enough experience to make my own book trailers quickly and efficiently and I already knew the resources available to me and how to tap into them.

You wrote the book but what about writing a screenplay for Our Lady of the Absolute?
I'd love to do that. Ironically, soon after I wrote the book I kept seeing it as a stage play. I saw it as a musical, and kept seeing scenes of the characters singing. It gave me chills. I've already studied play writing, so who knows?

Why did you present these four characters from the novel?

Three of the four characters in the book trailer go on huge individual journeys, which intertwine. The fourth character is a somewhat minor character, but even she learns and grows and changes by the end of the book. I wanted to give people a glimpse of who these characters are and what they're facing.

What did you intend for the viewer to take away from viewing all four trailers?

There's a story behind the story of these four trailers, which you won't understand until you read the book. My intent is for each book trailer to be like a piece of a puzzle. When you see all four book trailers, you can probably figure out how these characters are related to each other. Seeing all four book trailers will answer some questions while raising others. I hope I'm giving viewers enough to pique their interest in reading the book.

Do you have a specific "ethnic look" that you wanted for your characters?

Yes. A lot of my characters are people of color, and I was really hoping to cast to match the ethnicity of the characters in the novel. It's not as easy as you might think. First, I have a tiny budget and have asked actors to work for no pay -- that eliminates a lot of actors right off the bat. I'm hoping the experience and exposure will benefit my actors, but many actors won't work for free and I respect that choice. But it gives me a smaller pool of actors from which to choose. Second, I didn't want to specify race in the casting call because I've learned from experience that it's a really bad strategy to limit yourself. If I ran the risk of specifying race or color, I would end up with an even smaller pool -- and what if no one auditioned for one or more of the roles? Then I'd have to cancel the entire project, because I've written the scripts so they interweave and depend on each other. There was no way I was willing to take the risk of canceling the project. I'm not willing to waste that kind of time, energy, and money. It's a good thing I made that decision, because the worst happened. For one role, no one of color expressed an interest -- that meant my choice was to cast someone white or cancel the project. For another role, the only actor of color (who looked perfect) for another role scheduled to audition and then backed out at the last minute. I'm not going to give the part to someone who doesn't audition. For yet another role, a few actors of color either auditioned or contacted me after I'd already cast the role. Those who auditioned were talented but didn't have enough experience to grasp the role or the script fully. This is what my experience of casting has been like: when an actor who's right for the role auditions, it's as if the heavens part and a spotlight shines down on that actor. To put it another way, after completing a casting call, I can't remember the vast majority of actors I've seen. I only have a vague memory of what their auditions were like. But when the right actor comes along, I can't forget that actor's audition. It stays in my head like a movie that plays over and over again. Frankly, none of the actors that I chose looks like the way I envision my characters. But they ACT the way my characters act. In other words, the right actor captures the personality of the character. Without that, you have nothing.

Why use ancient Egypt as an example of a utopian community that turned dystopian?

Thematically, this novel says a couple of things. One is that the root of all evil isn't money -- it's the desire to control other people. Another is that nothing in life is black and white -- it's all shades of grey. One of the things I wanted to write about is that it's not always a good idea to embrace rules and regulations without thinking about them and maybe questioning them. I think this is especially true when it comes to organized religion. But I knew that if I wrote about any religion that exists today, many people would be likely to misinterpret the whole point of the book. So I wondered if there was a religion I could make up or an ancient religion I could write about. That's when it dawned on me that I've been a huge fan of ancient Egypt and have studied it all my life. I have my own opinions about the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt and what I think the religion might have been like. So in that way, the book is speculative.

How do readers stay in contact with you?

My email address is, and my website is at, where people can sign up for my monthly newsletter. In that newsletter, I talk a lot about writing and the decisions I make and why I make them. My intent is that I would have loved to have had this kind of information when I was first starting out as a writer, and I'm offering it to anyone who's interested.

End of Interview

Soooo that's it folks. Break out your beaded collars and your party sandals. Check out the trailers on You Tube for Our Lady of the Absolute and be sure to grab yourself a copy of the novel. Mine will be autographed.

Our Lady of the AbsoluteTrailers



Her Tangh-i-ness

Monday, June 28, 2010

Proud of Pride in June

'Lo Peoples,

So this year I got to march at Boston Pride for the second time in my life. The first year I ever marched, I went with an employer group. This year I marched with the New England Leather Alliance (NELA) who went sandwiched between Machine and the Ramrod two well-known nightspots. Believe me, I felt thrilled to represent for the beautiful, leather people. The Kink and LGBTQ communities share members. So I just did my part as a straight, cisgender ally. LGBTQ folks have always been friends and family to me. I stuck two Pride flags in my dreads and wore my finest black leather for the event.

It rained on Saturday, June 12th, but people still turned out en masse for the parade. Monsoon heavy rain fell at times. Watchers choked the street along Tremont at some points and along the final stretch from Park Street leading to City Hall Plaza. I found a new use for my 8"x 11" Pride flag. As I held up one end of the NELA banner, I used my Pride flag to wave the crowds back. Directly behind me and my fellow banner-holders, a group of hunky leathermen held aloft a NELA flag. Link
So if you don't want to take my word for how fabulous Pride was. Take a gander at this slideshow by a kind soul named Bill. You'll see me in my leather with the rest of the NELA crew.

A writer friend of mine often mentally takes her characters along with her on excursions.

As I marched, I imagined a contingent of my LGBTQ characters trotting alongside me at Boston Pride or cheering from the sidelines. First up would be Gypsy, the gay, Negro hero of my dark fantasy novel. Gypsy would cut quite a figure with his suede suit, his pierced ear, and his satyr-headed cane. Back in his day, where Boston City Hall now stands would have been Brattle and Cornhill streets. The once-infamous Scollay Square would have faced Pride Festival and beckoned revelers inside to catch minstrels shows and other vaudeville acts. Gypsy stares around himself bewildered by the changes to the city he knew but at the sight of a lesbian family, an elderly gay couple, and the drag queens towering upon their platform heels would restore the grin to his dark face once again.

An African, albino, intersexed person who currently goes by the name Fielding would be the next of my creations to find his/herself swept up in the parade. Fielding hails from an alternate Boston called New Shawmut. Fielding would furrow his/her pale brow at the goings on. Fielding would be concerned about the five pony persons in the NELA contingent who brave the rain to pull male and female trainers along in carts. I'd assure him that the pony persons do so willingly. Everyone marches at Pride because they want to celebrate.

Finally, a lioness-headed and female dog-headed couple gesture Fielding over to their Pride accessory stand. This would be Qaset and Tsemweret who hailed originally from a very sunny land called Ta Netjeret. They load the albino intersexed person with rainbow beads and wrap him up in feather boas until Fielding breaks down under the weight of so much mirth and good cheer and smiles.

Yup. Yup. Yup. Those are some of my LGBT peeps. I march for them just as much as I march for their readers. Happy Pride everyone!


Her Tangh-i-Ness

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May is For Mutterings

'Lo Peoples,

My fellow speculative writer, Resa Nelson, has taught me to Google myself every few months and see what comes up attached to my name or my work.

Somewhere in the educational wilds of Wisconsin, my published short story, The Skinned, can be found on a syllabus for an Afro-American Studies class. Right on! I document this with a pang of regret that I can't be privy to what the students and their instructor might have to say about it. I know when I wrote The Skinned I was thinking of a particular experience I wanted to create. However, once a writer publishes anything, that writer lets go of her/his idea about what s/he was saying and it moves into the province of the readers. So, I must let the matter rest, but I did find it amusing for about forty seconds and then promptly devolved into a panic.

I am an African descended person; it is true. There are some less obvious elements of my heritage that I would be challenged on, for instance, say if I were to stake my claim as a member of Clan Boyd based upon my ancestor James Cloud Boyd's presence in my bloodline. No, it is not politically correct to talk about the "one drop rule" but I wonder why it is okay for my work to be categorized as an example of what "Afro-Americans" are thinking. Am I speaking for Afro-Americans? Am I a female, cisgender, pro-LGBTQ, speculative writer who just happens to be African descended? Why should it matter? Why am I even ambivalent about it?


I wish Samuel Clemens were here so he could say something completely off-the-wall and funny to me. Perhaps, I shall sit in front of my computer today and try to tap into his wise-ass spirit. I wish Octavia Butler were still only a phone call away so I could ask her what she thought about this issue.
Perhaps they would both gang up on me and tell me to just forget it.

Enough whining.
Back to my regularly scheduled writing life.


Her Tangh-i-ness

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Magazine Review: The Future Fire Issue 2010.20

'Lo Peoples,

Any reader can sample these narrative goodies for themselves at the following URL:

My participation in The Outer Alliance has exposed me to some emerging markets and voices that make being alive and reading fiction during this period of time exciting. The Future Fire's manifesto draws upon Nietzsche, but requires all submitted works to offer beauty in addition to function. The editorial staff also likes their fiction dark and edgy. As a picky reader, I can appreciate a literary standard like that. LGBTQ-friendly fiction is always a deciding factor for my reading list.

The Future Fire offers free online fiction to speculative fiction lovers. The magazine pays its authors, but not its editors, yet keeps its issues coming. Be a literary hero and make use of the Paypal Donate button. Yes, the reviewer already did. Now, onto the stories featured in The Future Fire's Queer Science Fiction themed issue.

Silence by Alex Fleetwood- In the last days of the world, a lesbian judge upholds her oath of serving justice for her fellow human beings. The story suggests what matters most to being human is the instinct towards interdependence. Silence raises questions of how far would one go to observe one's principles in the face of sheer annihilation. Well-placed as the introductory story of the issue, Silence's title refutes the oft-quoted T. S. Elliot poem's exit line: instead of the expected whimper, the story rests with a line or two of dialogue and a scene of people and animals snuggled together. Beautiful.

Titanium and Silk by Nick Poniatowski- A tortured female prisoner meets with a compassionate female android during a war that requires participation or persecution for refusing. The author Nick Poniatowsk is an Outer Alliance member. Rho, the gynoid, may have lost her memory, but not her ability to decide for herself. Cindel, the human, provides Rho with a reason to abandon the brutal penal work colony where the two find themselves in one another. Extrication in their world is a euphemism for execution. Yoga postures double as protest art and a form of self-soothing. My sole quibble with this stark, romantic piece is not that I ever doubted Rho's change of heart, but the author took such pains to establish Rho's unwillingness to do harm that evidence of her ability to do so took this reader completely by surprise. Read Titanium and Silk to see if you disagree.

Merlin's Dolphin by Erika Tracy- A gay crewman and a wizard bunk together at the captain's behest and face off against Somali pirates together. Attention, Homoerotica fans, Merlin's Dolphin does not fall into the boy meets boy; boy sleeps with boy category. Rather, Merlin's Dolphin is about sheer acceptance for those who are different and the wisdom in standing up for one's shipmates. Jack London's adventure stories share the same rough and tumble minus the magical, shape-changing elements. I especially appreciated the unexpected twist with the female Somali pirate. As an African-descended person, this reviewer is very sensitized to portrayals of other dark-skinned peoples. At the end of the day, Merlin's Dolphin seems to indicate that what matters is less where one's sexual preference lies but to find a place where one can be oneself without incident.

Lastly, Guest Editor and a co-founder of OA, Natania Barron, gives an account of the genesis of LGBTQ advocacy group: The Outer Alliance. One of the general editors, Djibril Alayad, from The Future Fire is also a member. Keep in mind, membership within The Outer Alliance is open to speculative writers and friends for whom positive inclusion of a LGBTQ presence within the genre is a common passion.

Note: This was a pro bono review. Other than OA membership, this reviewer has no affiliation to The Future Fire magazine.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Review: 12 Burning Wheels Review

12 Burning Wheels
Cesar Torres
MBrane SF
© 2010

Microfiction. Read it. It's easy. Highly consumable. It's like chewing on gummy bears or a Hershey's kiss (you can't eat just one) except that this kind of literary candy can make one as tense as a rollercoaster drop, and just as queasy, but then, as you wobble away, you realize that you could do the whole damned thing over again. Don't believe me? Try 12 Burning Wheels. Nibble from the middle if you like, wolf down the last story, or begin at the start and you'll find yourself scrolling onwards. Wonder to yourself—so then—what happened next?

A story a day straight for twelve days, now that requires an author certain of his powers. You try teasing twelve, consecutive stories from your gray matter sometime. Perhaps a sub-theme of 12 Burning Wheels is infection. Author infects reader with curiosity. Characters infect one another with desire, fear, and death. Fellow writers may be infected worst of all and compelled to try their hand at a similar challenge. In 12 Burning Wheels, Love often consorts with Death, the Erotic sometimes wears the face of a ghoul, and well...isn't casual violence absurd? Let me mention there is reccuring cannibalism. Yummy.

This reviewer delights in the following stories, but I'm sure you'll have your own favorites.
Machina appeals to my MacHead leanings. The customer reviews were hilarious! Made me wish the application was actually available. Can't argue the ninety-nine cent price either.

Mantis Love is the most upbeat tale for the quirky romantic in me. Two gay High School Seniors dare to go to their prom in style. Yaoi Nation are you reading? Even the pain of the brutal reception the lovers receive and the loss of a grand, old artifact: the Mantis vehicle itself, melt in the face of youthful passion. Love rules! I cheered at the end.

A Conversation With the Elephant reminds me of my own experiences with audiocidal music. Whoa, Dude, India is a serious reaper for the cause. I am ever sooooo grateful the Rhinoceros concert took place in my imagination. It reminds me of the "I Survived the Mok Concert T-Shirt" line from the animated, cult classic movie Rock and Rule.

Dig Your Own Hole I adored because Mr. Torres managed to defy my expectations and simultaneously preserve the marriage of myth, magic, and traditional people's contract with the world they inhabit. It is as darkly beautiful and compelling a tale as Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.

Victoria and her job made me grin. Protein JLTC-19-47 and Ambrosevia stands shoulder to shoulder with the other infamous human flesh-derived product: Soylent Green. Why am I not surprised at their exclusivity and their benefits?

Lastly, I'll mention Honey. I'm quite fond of Circe and always wondered what became of her after Odysseus dumped her. I see my girl has been hard at work extracting revenge in pounds of human flesh. I bow to her continued awesome wrathfulness.

The End.

Note: This copy of 12 Burning Wheels was an electronic ARC acquired from the author upon the reviewer's request.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Marriage Equality and Me

'Lo Peoples,

I'm an independent Black voter in MA, but I'm no Tea-bagger.

Barb Davis-White doesn't speak for me. I've been fuming since what she said hit the headlines back in February. Rosa Parks isn't here to challenge anything said in her name. Using the word sodomy in a sentence like that is a cheap shot designed to stir furor. Sodomy is avidly practiced by more than just a few "straight" folks. Newsflash: the legal definition includes oral as well as nether visitations.
Think about that one, hetero folks, before you get too comfortable.

Very rarely do I get up on a political soapbox, but keeping my peace isn't happening this time. A lot of Black people bristle at the linking of LGBTQ rights and Civil Rights. I'm not one of them. I have LGBTQ people for friends and family. Every time someone like Ms. Davis-White says something hurtful like that they are automatically condemning fellow persons of color who are also LGBTQ.

I am also one of those out-the-box thinkers who includes "white" amongst People of Color. White is a color is it not? As sensitive as I am to issues of race, the idealist in me believes in the solidarity of the human race. Yeah, we are all one. Until we act like it, I'm going to capitalize on being Black.

Years ago, a Latino, gay male couple I knew got married in MA before it became legal. I enjoyed my status as a member of the wedding party. The grooms wore matching vests. I and the white mother of my bi-racial godchild represented one groom's side of the family. We were it, I'm sorry to report even though we weren't blood relatives. The happy grooms later moved to CA to create a new life together. Once a marriage like theirs became legal here I teased them about coming back to MA to do it all over again. I never saw Prop 8 coming.

This year, my Black, lesbian godsister is getting married to her longtime, Jewish female partner. When my godsister's blood kin couldn't overcome their objections to my gorgeous godsister's being who she is—her partner's family stepped in and gave her the missing love and support. You bet I'm going to party down when I go to the community wedding celebration afterwards.

So check out these next two in the following link. Aren't they a dreamy couple? I didn't have the privilege of knowing Peter but I know Steve. Can you imagine on top of having to deal with a partner's loss—being penalized when it comes to dealing with the IRS each and every tax season? Damn straight, it ain't fair! I dream of a world where all that matters when two human beings vow before the justice of the peace, a celebrant, priest, minister, or rabbi is that they hold to their vows. Let them enjoy the same Federal recognition and benefits awarded to all married couples. I'll say a few words of power in Yoruba to that end: Ashe. Afoshe. Let it be. Let it be. Let it be. Modupe.

In closing, I'll state for the record that I wanna be able to attend more LGBT weddings! Jump that broom! So I can throw that rice... and maybe catch... a bouquet.


Her Tangh-i-ness

Sunday, March 28, 2010

If Not Avatar...then What?

'Lo Peoples,

Saw Avatar finally. There's so many reviews online that can sum up my reaction to the movie far better than Her Tangh-i-ness can ever express. The site io9 basically sums it up in their review's title.

Thank you for going there. Next.

I'm standing solidly behind the overlooked Battle for Terra which handled a similar "gone native" storyline in a manner that didn't leave People of Color like me from feeling ripped off. I just enjoyed a movie and didn't feel sick afterwards. I spent a good part of Avatar identifying exactly which traditional cultures had been appropriated to give the Na'vi their look. I suppose I should be happy that People of Color voiced the "alien" natives. They all had acting jobs that year.

But it smacked of my long-standing issues with Disney. The Lion King had been the most recent project where the African descended voiced characters but hardly ever appeared onscreen. (Yes, I remember there was an onscreen African descended character in Atlantis: the Lost Empire.) That is, until The Princess and the Frog came out. Eventually, I'll see the P & F so I'll be outlining my issues with that film. I refused to see it in theaters.

My Mom, after watching Avatar with us, simply said, "This is why you have to tell your stories." My Mom has a point. I and my sister both write. We're trying to convince my youngest brother, The Lemurian, that he should get back onto the literary horse too. I'm telling my stories, but in telling my stories, I could have happen what happened to Dragonball, the Last AirBender, and let us not forget the true-life "21." Even Ursula Le Guin decried what had been done with her Earthsea series once it became a cable television property and a dark-skinned Ged became white.

This makes me leery of releasing stories featuring African descended, American Indian, Asian, and Latino characters to movie options. I'm wondering where to find an agent who is savvy enough to strike out boilerplate that would endanger my much needed visions. I write for those people who look non-white and who also want to read about themselves doing cool things.

No one dared recast "Precious" as blonde and blue-eyed? Wonder why? I did read Push when it came out back in the day. I've seen Precious and I'm thrilled for Mo'Nique's Oscar. Yet, I'm left in an uncomfortable space when I recognize the existence of the reality of dysfunction in African descended households, but I know the imagery in Precious is being used as part of an unsubtle campaign to keep negative depictions of the African descended front and center. Meanwhile, it isn't fashionable to make positive depictions of darker-skinned People of Color unless a white person figures prominently, or y'know turn us blue and well...Na'vi.


Her Tangh-i-ness

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Writer's Army: Supporters

'Lo Peoples,

I grew up in a housing project in Boston. No, it wasn't always rough. But sometimes, just stepping out of your door meant heading into some kind of confrontation, so you'd probably avoid the struggle if you had reliable backup. I'd occasionally get into scraps when I walked alone, therefore, I've come to appreciate having somebody at my back so I get on with taking care of business.

Writing can be like a war. It's a war with laziness, with doubt, and with the internalized naysayers who range from the Highschool English teacher to a form rejection letter. Damn straight, I need me some backup to deal with all that.

So, I got me a posse. I'm dating myself by referring to the Old School lingo for my backup. They range in age, ethnic background, gender, sexual preference, and experience. I'm taking a moment to be grateful for them because they make it easier for me to put word after word together. I'm naming them in no particular order but as they pop into memory.

First, I'd like to thank B. Findlay-Cordova, my sister, an amazing writer in her own right. We dealt with our adolescent trauma by lying around and making up stories so realistic that our Mom routinely questioned us as to whom were we talking about. B- relinquished one of our shared worlds to me so I could go about adapting it for novelization. B- took out a loan so I could go to Clarion West. B- is an excellent plotter while I suck at plotting. She understands motivation like nobody's business.

Next up, I'm going to thank the late Joanne Street Amartseff. Joanne met me through a women's creative group called Spitfire and later encouraged me to join a writer's group she belonged to. Joanne loaned me money to go to Clarion West, no questions asked. I repaid her, in full, two weeks after I returned. I felt so grateful someone helped me who wasn't even blood related.

That brings me to the also deceased Octavia Butler. The whole reason I went to Clarion West 2001 was because of the first African-descended, female science fiction writer I had learned of. Octavia was teaching that year. Ms. Butler once spoke encouragingly to me in an M.I.T, auditorium because she and Chip Delany were my literary heroes. Black people writing about space, aliens, same-sex love, and fantastic cultures? Imagine that! I still can't bring myself to friend Chip Delany on Facebook. I once misspelled his name. For shame, Jarla!

I'm going to thank The Lemurian, my youngest brother, the only family member who ever requested to be put into one of my stories. Realize that writers cannibalize their own lives all of the time. The Lemurian lovingly indulged me. The Lemurian can also tell me when I've gone overboard in upping the body count by slaying innocent characters. Now if I can ever convince the Lemurian to actually finish his Magnum Opus, I will have repaid my debt.

Creative Writing Graduate student, Lisa Vaas, started off as a landlady and evolved into a member of the family. She kindly provided housing while I penned some of my novels and stories, until I finally got a day job that would allow me to co-sign on my own home. Lisa introduced me to the world of public readings for I'd never read my work aloud before.

Jen Johnson, my voluptuous fellow Libran and fellow Spitfire, whose lush and challenging work reminds me that I'm sometimes a poetess. Maybe, someday, I'll get be as facile with the craft as she.

Marya Wolfman is the woman I insist should be my biographer. Marya participated in the same writing group with me and Joanne. Every time I submitted something for crit. Marya understood instinctively what my narrative intentions were, even if I didn't always understand them myself.
Go Marya!

I'm going to shout out at my Big Sister, Nalo Hopkinson. Nalo included me in Mojo Conjure Stories my first professional publication credit. I'm delighted to have shared space with the man of color I call my Sensei in her same anthology: Steven Barnes.

Novelist, Screenwriter, and Handseller-Supreme, Resa Nelson, first met me back in the 90's through Spitfire. Unbeknownst to me, Resa had founded the writer's critique group that I later joined along with Joanne. Resa has demonstrated to me how to stretch and try other mediums or genres in service to one's own technique.

Tom Sweeney, my favorite Big Dude, modeled action-packed, minimalist narratives for me. I met him at the above-mentioned critique group. As an engineer, Tom has a pragmatic mind. I think of him as my canary in a coal-mine. My style of writing used to be dense and required lots of processing power. If Tom was left clueless as to what's going on then I'd know my story failed.

Jack Womack and Ellen Datlow are mentioned together in their debut as Literary Papa and Faery Godmother. I'd never read the Ambient series until Clarion West and then it inspired love from then on. I am a proud owner of two hand-signed, Datlow-edited Anthologies which also propelled me into Clarion West.

I give props to CW2K1, the 2001 Clarion West class that I keep in touch with via Facebook and privately. The years are growing longer and longer between when we see one another, but the love's still there.

Jeff Hecht has to be acknowledged because he started my love affair with used Macs. He sold me my my first Apple computer after members of writing group complained about reading my blotted and fading typewritten manuscripts. Her Tangh-i-ness somewhat entered the brave new computing age!

The case of Lewis Gannett is an example of admiration pursued to a fond extreme. I read a gay Gothic novel called The Living One, wrote an unpublished homage of sorts, then felt duty-bound to locate its author in my hometown. Curious, no?

Lastly, Agnes Novak, ma âme soeur et mon âme frére, David Mynott, also receive mention as a pair. I met them both during my wild years at Mass Art. I once thought I'd be an accomplished painter. Agnes lead Spitfire and David managed the gallery during our shows at the Piano Factory. They are two of my very, very oldest friends. They never blinked when I switched mediums either.

And so, I close my humble and heartfelt thank you to all my backup. Her Tangh-i-ness welcomes new applicants as well. Tobias Buckell and Catherine Lundoff already made the cut. If I forgot somebody, I'm sure I'll hear about it on FB.

Peace...we can never have enough of that either.

Her Tangh-i-ness

Monday, February 1, 2010

Manifesting As Another Creative Art

'Lo Peoples,

I'm taking a moment to acknowledge the importance of "deliberate creation" in experiencing life the way one wants. I've successfully manifested many personal goals when I'd reached the point of faith that aligns everything around me in service to my desires. This will be another recurring theme of mine.

For example, I work with different languages in my short stories and novels. I'm not a Native speaker of any of these languages, yet I managed to find free translation help simply because I stayed focused upon my need and having it met. It's not like I sat down and created a list of all the multilingual people I knew. Rather, in the course of conversations with people, I piped up with my language help request and found there are people who were willing to provide just what I needed.

If I told you, I'd found assistance with French that would probably not raise many eyebrows. There are plenty of online resources, library books, and self-study courses and media productions for French. In my case, I'd become fascinated by Egyptian Arabic. Not just standard street speech which is polite, but also the kind of speech that would make any Native Speaker look askance before answering. I don't read Arabic either. I use transliterated English to represent the nuances of Egyptian Arabic pronunciation and phrasing.

As a genre writer who insists upon including the erotic along with the expected science fiction, fantasy, or horror flavors, surely one can appreciate the sensitivity required in approaching a translator. Egyptian Arabic is thought of as being closest to historical Arabic. I'd agonized privately over being able to find a translator who could handle the prurient nature of some of the subject matter I work with.

Nevertheless, I have been successful. I've been successful too in attracting a plastics expert when I wanted to write about the impact of sound upon plastic for plot reasons. Most recently, an ER doctor kindly pointed out loopholes in some of my medical scenarios. I didn't set an exact timeframe for these research questions to be answered, but I know that I kept mulling over them. Since I kept them in mind, it does not surprise me that sooner rather than later, I would encounter their real-time answers.

I could have made an affirmation to speak specifically to those needs, but it wasn't necessary. I use whatever "deliberate creation" technique I think will get me a desired result. The utmost important technique is to expect a positive and welcome result in the first place.


Her Tangh-i-ness

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hot for Werewolves

'Lo Peoples,

Don't know if I'll get into theatres to see Avatar. It's doing well in the box office without my dollars although I'll probably see it once it comes to Netflix or DVD. I am mighty curious about the upcoming remake of The Wolfman with Benecio Del Toro though.

Her Tangh-i-ness has been avoiding the Twillight craze. I have issues with idealizing a boyfriend who can potentially kill his girlfriend at whim being part of his allure. That's a dangerous thought to influence young girls. However, I admit to watching True Blood and Underworld because both of those series feature some of my favorite supernatural beings—the much reviled shapechangers—the werefolk.

Yeah, Vamps are sexy. Yawn. Gimme the primal energy of the werefolk. Raze and Lucian from Underworld, Remus Lupin from Harry Potter, and even Sam Merlotte from True Blood evoke that pheremone-laden reaction within me.

The actor David Naughton years ago convinced me that werewolves are one of the best excuses ever to get away with showing off a male body in the raw. Lon Chaney Jr. I mooned over because despite being the Wolfman, I felt convinced he still remained a gentle soul. Jack Nicholson versus James Spader has to be one of the best were-on-were battles ever. The werewolf doesn't always have to be a deranged animal that has to be put down. He or she can take that passion and channel it into something screenworthy. I am fond of a film called Skinwalkers (This isn't the Hillerman inspired title) for that reason.

If I'm not writing, it's easy for me to get out of sorts with myself. I really love pushing characters around on a computer screen, if not on paper. I'd been having a writing dry spell. It wasn't a block. I found myself greatly distracted with online dating. You see it's the huntress in me that gets the werewolf. I don't have to think about it. I know. I thought I'd have to write some more slash to further horrify male gamers who cringe at the idea of their fave videogame alter-egos boinking one another. No need, the werefolk came to my rescue.

So I started with a dream. Werewolf meets girl and boy. Werewolf bites boy so he can move in on girl. Werewolf messes around with boy. Boy likes it. Girl decides to den with both of them. Throw in French Slavery, Métissage, the time of La Révolution Française, and you have it. It might not be the greatest ménage à trois ever penned, but at least it's currently two thousand words more than I'd written before.


Her Tangh-i-ness