Monthly Archives: September 2014

Reflections on men and feminism (long and rambly)

The short version of this particular set of musings is: it’s complicated. My feminism is inflected and informed by a 60’s childhood raised in contradictory but powerful influences. I’m the product of at least two (and most likely more) generations of strong and opinionated frontier farm women (Grandma was a chicken farmer; Mom could grow one heckva garden, can, and raise a good flock of layers and fryers). I also got exposed to a particularly toxic form of fundamentalist Christian repression of women in my late teens through school Bible groups and the Christian college I attended–Basic Youth Conflicts, one of Bill Gothard’s groups (go here for the Wikipedia TL:DR version). However, I never quite fell within the lure of Basic Youth, especially after I went off to college and discovered Ms. Magazine. Various adventures with conservative religious boyfriends which usually ended up with me being handed things to mend also had an influence, plus growing up in Springtucky and getting hassled by men for being blond and big-busted.

My family followed rather traditional roles that I viewed with a jaundiced eye as I got older. It didn’t help that during my high school and early undergraduate career, any boyfriends I had soon got chased away when we decided it would be romantic to take classes together. Um. Yeah. The first time I got a better grade than boyfriend did, it was bye-bye. I had three boyfriends in my college years who took me seriously as an intellectual; I married one of them nearly thirty-three years ago.

But there was more to the man I married than just taking me seriously as a thinker. One of the light entertainments of politically oriented students at the University of Oregon during my era was engaging with the different right-wing preachers who ranted at U of O students as part of their ministry. Of course, what they didn’t know is that about half the students arguing were liberals from the neighboring Christian college who were honing their theological arguments…but I digress. The man I married took extreme exception to one of these preachers personally threatening me by getting into that preacher’s face. He also did things like cook for me when I was working as an organizer on the previous boyfriend’s campaign. He wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but he “got it” (in the terms of a recent internet discussion about men and feminism) at an early age, in part because, like me, he was the son of a working mother who carried quite a bit of weight in the family economy. The personal was political for him at a very early age. He had a personal stake in understanding feminism because he saw it on a daily basis.  Was and is his feminist awareness perfect? Nope. Neither is mine, and I don’t think anyone can make that claim about themselves.

Way back when my son was little, we attended an indoor park for toddlers. It was all female, until a single at-home father started attending with his daughter. Many of the women were feminist. Did all of them embrace his attendance? Um. No. But enough of us did that we banded together over the others’ attempts to exclude the father and got ourselves elected to the governing board. I remember being heartily annoyed by complaints about insensitive spouses, but then the rejecting shoulder to a father walking the talk.

As part of the upbringing my husband received, he’s a nurturing male who has no qualms about doing housework. Our housework divisions in past years have fallen either into skill areas (yours truly doesn’t have chainsaw skills and arthritic hands mean if I do, it will be with a light saw; I still end up doing the sewing) or allergy areas (water used to irritate my eczema and dust irritates his sinuses). He likes cooking, while I like baking and canning. Our son was raised to be nurturing and with the model that the men do the housework. He likes cooking, and when he’s had a partner, part of what he does is cook.

That’s one reason why I get grouchy with those who complain about men who apparently don’t Get It about feminism until injustice touches their wives, their daughters, their sisters. If you look back far enough, every man who Gets It had that little spark of feminist awareness fanned by some sort of personal stake, whether it was watching his mother struggle or his sisters struggle. Somehow, somewhere, personal connection fueled awareness. That’s how people learn and develop politically. That’s why consciousness raising is such a crucial task in developing and maintaining a movement, and sitting back to think that it’s all done is folly. That’s why, no matter what the issue is, dear God, we have to have basic Feminism/Racism/Ageism/Ableism/etc 101, because there will always be someone new who Doesn’t Get It, until the personal becomes political and awareness flares into being for that individual. It would be nice if people were born with their consciousness raised, alleluia, alleluia, but by golly, unless we all suddenly get raptured into some sort of progressive heaven, it ain’t happening (Let’s listen, for example, to how men talk about what they’ve lost by never being able to express their nurturing sides due to traditional male roles. We have to be honest and listen to that oppression as well).

Until we reach the understanding that we are all people together, and that we should respect each other, we’re not going to get anywhere. Slamming folks for not immediately developing advanced awareness is foolish. Awareness is a learning process. We don’t expect kids to enter school reading at a twelfth grade level (at least not yet), nor do we expect to be immediately proficient in a new language. The same is true for all forms of awareness. So yes, there will always be a need for Basic Consciousness Raising, and excluding or condemning people because they are insufficiently advanced is just another form of exclusionary arrogance. It’s acceptable to be annoyed about it sometimes, as long as you take a deep breath and acknowledge that learning is hard for both student and teacher.

And with that, I’m not only tired and have probably bored everyone, but I wanna go play with my new sewing machine. Curtain-making awaits. I’m gonna go be creative in a new way.

Have fun, y’all, and remember to pay it forward. That means being patient when it’s time to trot out the 101 learning. Everyone had to start there sometime.

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Writerly musings

It’s been a productive writer and editor week. I finished the first round of edits on a freelance job and sent them back to the author, then got my second round of edits on Seeking Shelter at the End of the World (projected to come out from eTreasures Publishing in October), went through that, and sent it back. Ironically, finishing the first round on someone else’s book and having to go through my own second round happened within 24 hours of each other. Not that this is an issue. I found that I learned a lot from doing that edit on someone else (which is one of my patterns) and working on the other MS made it easier to edit my own. FYI, I’m not banging the drum pretty hard (yet), but I am available for editing services. I find that I like editing. Not surprising, since one of my favorite teacher times was working one-on-one with kids and their writing.

I’m in the homestretch for getting Shadow Harvest ready for October publication, and clearing the decks to start writing Netwalk’s Children (at long last). Whew. It’s been a long, hard struggle with both these works. Shadow Harvest started out as Andrews Ranch, but that title really didn’t work. I’m still not happy with my latest cover design, but that’s a skill set I also plan to keep working on. This one is really hard to put together because I have to figure out how to combine both SF and Western elements, and, well, that’s tough.

However, since the ebook of Shadow Harvest is going to have illustrations, I’m having fun planning the photos I’ll use. While I took some useable pix last weekend in the County, there are still a bunch more I need if I’m going to insert 2-4 illustrations per chapter. At ten chapters, that’s a lot of pix. As I go through my edits in Scrivener, I’m either scrounging through my collection of digital photos or listing the new photos I have to take–and that’s fun to contemplate as well.

Once I finish this pass of Harvest, and get to work on the pix, then it’s time to tackle the outline and writing of Netwalk’s Children. This is a tough book to plan and write, but it’s one that I absolutely have to structure before writing. It’s the middle book of the series; it’s a transitional book between generations; and there’s big stuff that happens. I’ve been advancing and retreating from it for a couple of years now, but it’s going to happen this fall.

I’m also planning on expanding and releasing another illustrated short novella in November, called Alien Savvy. It has some connections to the Netwalk Sequence universe but it’s a prequel to everything. Then in December, I’ll release an omnibus of Dahlia, Winter Shadows, and Shadow Harvest. Title yet to be determined.

Then I got a pleasant little egoboost when I searched my name during a break. Outside of the unpleasant reality of having to issue a takedown notice to a pirate site, I also discovered that a couple of my professional articles have been copied as references. The one which really tickles me is one that was included in the National Association of Special Education Teacher Special Issue on Learning Disabilities–link is here. I didn’t know about this but it makes me feel good. Alas, unless you have a membership, you can’t see it. Sigh. But it’s about the Patterns of Strength and Weakness identification model for learning disabilities, which is something I strongly believe in.

A good day in the writer life. And now for lunch, then barn.

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Another Farpoint weekend–Hat Point

As this summer that just won’t die winds down, it’s been a good time to not be driving forty miles one way to work. Between smoke from the big Estacada fire and the heat (I can just imagine how hot my classroom would be getting), I’m grateful. It’s still taking time to recreate structure and routines, but I’m getting there.

We did a flying trip to Farpoint for grouse hunting and house business this weekend. DH ended up with a bad attack of food poisoning which was really nasty; mine was thankfully much milder. Nonetheless, the two of us were healthy enough to go on one of those long all-day hunting drives out toward Hat Point with a friend. It had been at least twenty-four years since we had been out there; nearly thirty for our friend.

Hat Point is not necessarily an easy drive, even with a four-wheel drive rig. The road has improved by quite a bit so that it’s feasible to take a passenger car out there, but it is still a rugged gravel road with some long single track passages winding up steep canyon walls.

Like this:IMG_1093

Not the best pic. Basically, that line between the burned and unburned canyon wall? It’s the road. There’s about five miles like this early on, and there’s always a possibility of encountering trucks with trailers carrying wood or horses. That can make life somewhat exciting. However, the road was significantly improved from the last time we had driven it. Much more gravel, but it’s still going to be iffy there because of the big fire in the Imnaha canyon this summer. You don’t get burns like this above and below the road without risking some nasty washouts in the rains.


But it wasn’t all fire at Five Mile Viewpoint. I also got a few stunning pix of the Imnaha River canyon.


Though my best pic was from Granny View, further along.


And then there was Hells Canyon and Hat Point. The road has been redesigned so that it ends at Hat Point with a nice picnic area. You can climb sixty feet up into the lookout tower, which gives some stunning views of Hells Canyon, Snake River, and the Wallowa country…or it would if there weren’t a few fires around.

IMG_1192IMG_1195IMG_1204IMG_1198IMG_1207 Pictures–Hat Point fire lookout tower–I hiked 60 feet to that platform. Easier than the Arc d’Triomphe, even at 7,000 feet. We spotted several jet boats and rafters cruising down the Snake River, though it took binoculars to pick out the rafters.  The others are pretty much self-explanatory.

On the way back, we went out to Cyuse Flat (no, I don’t know why the “a” is dropped but that’s the usage). Friend and I hiked it to kick up grouse, plus we investigated an old barn and line cabin. Gorgeous stuff, but way too many pix. I got some good pix for later writing reference. But here’s a shot of Cyuse.


It’s a big, wide flat on top of a long ridge, full of native grasses and some introduced timothy. We poked around an old cabin and barn and I got lots of pix. Gonna be writing a lot of cross-genre spec fic stuff with these pix. Breaks my heart (not!). This is pretty typical country for this area, high elevation pasturage that gets snow in the winter.

On the way back home, we kicked up a small herd of elk just above Five Mile Viewpoint.


They weren’t particularly worried about us, though they didn’t hang around, either. After that, friend and I bushwhacked down a draw and shot four ruffed grouse.

On Sunday, we primered the molding around the new windows, visited with a friend, then drove home. Quite a full weekend.


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First round on Shadow Harvest Cover

So I’ve just been playing around in Gimp, trying to get this:


to look something like an SF Western cover.

Well, this is what I’ve got so far.

Shadow Harvest

It fits the mood, at least. But I’m not as excited by this cover as I was by the Winter Shadows cover. I want to convey the desolation that is a factor in Shadow Harvest, as well as the chill mood. This does that, I suppose…but it’s kind of meh.

Ah well, I suppose it will work for e-book. I do have other pictures similar to the Winter Shadows cover–for reference, below.

winter shadows cover

But mostly, I’ve got to get up to speed on Gimp. Grrr. Just one more thing to do. Feh. Oh well, I need to not muck around too much and get into turning out the books.

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A ranty morning

What is it about today? Already I’ve gone off on someone about Patrick McLaw (the Maryland African-American teacher detained allegedly because of the themes in his self-published sf books), and now I’m all ranty from a pompous interview in the Guardian with Ian McEwan. Since I’ve exhausted myself with McLaw (let’s just say I’m pissed, pissed, pissed), I’ll just rant a little bit about the McEwan.

Keep in mind that he’s a mainstream writer considered to be writing about family and drama. I think it was the subplot of his newest work that set me off originally, with the 60-year-old husband wanting “one last go” at a grand affair. Grrr. I’m afraid that these days, I wouldn’t make it past the first few pages of a work with that subplot element. I’m sick and tired of the glorification of the male sexual fantasy, especially in a work where the author is allegedly trying to think like a professional woman with homelife drama who encounters a big ethical challenge. Dear God, take me now. Ugh. Can we just say cliched, overdone, trite? Quite frankly, I think “spouse fed up with his work and wanting to retire” or “spouse dealing with onset of illness” is probably more realistic as homelife drama, unless one happens to be part of a particular rich and privileged class. Affairs? Jesus, John Updike did that to death. I don’t care what genre it is, if there’s an affair involved, I’m probably going to throw the damn book against the wall. It’s why I don’t spend much time on the literary genre. Male infidelity is just so done in fiction, in my opinion.

Maybe I’ve just had too many other family dramas in my life to be able to engage with the egotism involved in a man’s desire for an affair. I don’t know. The concept of “one last go” is somewhat offensive to me. Either you’re monogamous and you both agree, or else you’re poly and the rules and structures exist for how you engage with others and it’s No. Big. Deal. To be monogamous, and then have this one last desire for a fling with someone else is profoundly so much a violation of the original relationship (in my opinion) that the other person is justified in chucking the whole relationship and ripping the man to shreds in the court system.

Yeah. So please slap me if I ever decide to write such a thing.

There are aspects of McEwan’s interview that I like. He’s unapologetically placing himself in “what he calls the ‘family division’ of English prose.” I like his advocacy for bringing work back into contemporary writing. I just–I don’t know. Something about the tone of the description of the latest work set me off. Probably it’s more an argument with the character in the latest book who feels himself entitled to ask for permission to have an affair. It’s the male gaze issue

And probably a huge chunk of it is that the sort of sf and fantasy I want to write is more of that sort of family interactions and dynamics stuff. The as-yet undisclosed heart of the Netwalk Sequence involves some very dark and horrible stuff that happened within the Stephens family. It was kept successfully hushed up for over a hundred years. It explains a lot of Sarah’s dynamics, and her star-crossed relationship with Francis Stewart. Only I also bring in gadgets and tech and other stuff because, well…I like boom today. Boom tomorrow as well, but boom today is good. Anthony Trollope in space is fun. So is Jane Austen, the Brontes, and etc.

But it’s not taken as serious writing within the genre, unless you get very, very lucky and you write about the male protagonists. Me, I like playing with multi-generational female protagonists, including the additional drama of reproductive realities. So yeah. Probable obscurity.

However, I intend to have fun doing it. And now my ranty mcrantypants rantage is done. Whew. That’s enough for one day.

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