ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
 [personal profile] finch has written "Triage" based on my prompt in her Birdcage event.  I asked for a supervillain with a problem that can't be solved by hitting.  This definitely qualifies.  But Mary Sand is trying a supervillain approach anyhow.
ysabetwordsmith: (muse)
Here is a wonderful article about what it really means to be Pagan, and indeed, what Paganism is for.  Some of the quotes are by people I know, like Anne Niven -- it's always fun to cross paths that way.  For my part ...

I do magic because it works.  I am a devout empiricist; I don't care what other people say, I care what I can observe.  What I observe is that I get better results from behaving as if magic works than as if it does not, as if there are divine beings than as if there are not, and so forth.  I'm always looking for the model that delivers the best results.

Hence Paganism, doing science to magic and magic to science, and often annoying people on both sides of the field.  But to me it's not a pair of pigeonholes.  It's a torc, bent so that the two ends face each other and sparks dance across the gap that holds things like quantum mechanics.

One thing I've noticed is that climate change is changing how magic works.  This is not actually new, same thing happened when the Ice Age conked out, and wow was changing the climate inside a human lifetime something I did not  need to see again.  But at least I know how fast Gaia can move when she feels like it: quite a lot faster than most humans think.  Anyhow, it used to be the case that weather was fairly amenable to human input, if one had the relevant talent, skills, and/or knowledge.  Moods, yes, but mercurial ones; the clouds might ignore a request sometimes, but most of the time would mind a good weatherworker.  Now, not so much.  Trying to talk to the weather spirits now is like trying to talk to someone on a rampage beating cars with a bat.  O. Kay. Then.  0_o  So I learned, partly with input from some Pagan friends, to nudge the weather in less psychotic directions by asking the land spirits to intervene.  "Hey, could you ask them to tone it down enough to avoid tearing loose the trees?"  It helps.  

Another thing is thinking about context.  I've landscaped the yard for wildlife and human benefit.  Much of it is modeled after ecosystems -- the prairie garden, the savannah, the forest.  So too the magic is built into it, layers of shields for protection, and one other thing.  I created a kind of large-scale deadman switch, so that if civilization collapses, it will pull the handle on what amounts to an ecological life-raft.  Energy comes up from the node, hits the tight package of biodiversity, and then spreads outward carrying the plants and animals with it into what is currently barren monoculture. Hopefully we won't need it, but it's there just in case. 

Even in its dormant form, that kind of magic has influence.  One day a storm snapped a tree about 20 feet up from the ground.  I did a little quick research, discovered that standing snags are useful, and decided to leave it.  But there was all the rest of the tree in the way.  So we had that cut into firewood and reduced to wood chips.  Yay, mulch pile!  And here's where it gets interesting.  The mulch pile came into existence, and then it rained for two days straight.  On the third day, I went out to look at the new mulch pile.  It was already fully inhabited.  I could see webs of fungus spread over it.  There were pillbugs, beetles, centipedes, and spiders crawling through it.  Curious, I poked the chips with my trowel, and out hopped a toad.  The detritus food chain here at Fieldhaven is three days to apex.  Three days,  mind you, not three weeks or three months.  That interfaces with the macro food chain through small vertebrates such as toads and birds.  The whole process worked in miniature as soon as a situation called for it.  Great job on the storm drill, folks.

A lot of what I do with magic just comes down to making things work better, faster, more focused.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here is a clever first draft checklist.  I'm not sure I've ever written a story that simple, but it seems like a useful graphic.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here's another good post about trigger warnings and why they are valuable.

When you include notes about content, and your policies, that helps people make more informed and mindful decisions about their lives.  When you include tools -- you may ask for an alternate assignment, here is the quiet room, this is a handout of coping skills because this class handles historic atrocities, if you are having lots of trouble please visit in my office so we can discuss it, etc. -- that teaches people how to handle challenges in effective ways that build resilience.  There are rocks, but you can climb over them.  Here is a rope.

When you do not include notes, you deny people the chance to select the classes that are the best fit for them and to cope with materials presented in progress.  There are rocks and people are dropped on their heads.  If you sustain a concussion it is because you are a pussy, not because the rocks are sharp.

When you include notes but not tools, and allow people to dodge material without compensating in any way, that  is coddling.  The rocks are taken out of the way.  Now nobody can learn how to climb rocks in a relatively safe environment.

The complaints about trigger warnings basically say: "It is okay to hurt people.  It is not okay if you want people NOT to hurt you.  Just get used to being hurt, you pussy."  Because really?  If you have triggers, there is no getting away from them.  The world whacks them all the time.  Especially if they are about sex or violence or both.  And pressuring people to remain silent about being hurt just gets more people hurt, which is also not okay.

When you put content notes or trigger warnings on a class, story, or other material it says: "I am choosing to deal with controversial topics.  I want to understand what happens in the world and hopefully that will help make it a better place.  I want to make it as accessible as possible so that more people can deal with these topics in a safe way."  You don't go into shop class and NOT have safety goggles, I hope.  If you're talking about things like rape or mass murder, and especially about some crackpot thinking those are jolly good ideas, then folks need to know that appropriate safety measures are in place.

Seriously, look around: If there are women, about a quarter of them have experienced sexual violence personally and the rest have at least fended off smarmy approaches. Probably at least one or two of the men are survivors too.  If there are Jews, they will be sensitive about the Holocaust and probably Israeli politics.  If there are black people, they will be sensitive about slavery and racism.  If there are poor people, they will probably be touchy about some money issues.  And if the group is a monoculture, that's likely to cause problems on its own and is not an ideal learning environment.  Explaining the parameters for handling challenges is just part of running a smooth class or other activity.  It is not fun for anybody if somebody has a panic attack because they got blindsided.  It is not effective if people blank out because the material is ghastly and no coping methods are available.

Of course, not everyone is equally good at listing triggers, and it does take time.  So if that's expected at college, you have to allow the extra time and make sure there's a backup person for teachers who aren't good at it.  (Inaccurate warnings are worse than useless.)  If you're doing it as a writer, you can just ask your audience to tell you if they think more warnings are advisable.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
This is an advance announcement for the Tuesday, September 1, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. This time the theme will be "yarn, thread, and string."  I'll be soliciting ideas for spinners, weavers, other people who do fibercrafts, puppeteers, storytellers, sheep and other fiber-bearing animals, spinning, weaving, other craft activities, cutting the cord, pulling strings, following threads, being strung out, telling yarns, stringing along, tying knots, getting strung out, untangling strands, puppet theaters, fibercraft factories, sewing rooms, laboratories, craft stores, looms, Gordian knots, spinning wheels, the red thread, family ties, cosmic strings, loose threads, macrame, and poetic forms in particular.

I have a linkback poem, "Ramping Up the Fun" (22 verses, Polychrome Heroics). 

If you're interested, mark the date on your calendar, and please hold actual prompts until the "Poetry Fishbowl Open" post next week.  (If you're not available that day, or you live in a time zone that makes it hard to reach me, you can leave advance prompts.  I am now.)  Meanwhile, if you want to help with promotion, please feel free to link back here or repost this on your blog. 

New to the fishbowl? Read all about it! )

ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem is spillover from the May 5, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by [personal profile] redsixwing and[personal profile] stardreamer. It also fills the "forced to rely on enemy / rival" square in my 11-25-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, this time featuring Shiv.

WARNING: This poem contains intense material which some readers may find disturbing. Highlight for more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features maladaptive thought patterns, petty rulebreaking, racist and other vulgar language, gossip, smoking, a nanotech terror weapon, flashbacks, traumatic amputation, an understandable but misguided violent response from the guards, graphic description of injuries and treatment, extreme discomfort with vulnerability, nonstandard response to pain, PTSD and acute stress reaction, and other challenges. Various people offer all kinds of support, Shiv's receptivity is patchy at best, and he is slowly improving. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether you want to read this right now.

Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here is a detailed analysis of some proposed changes to the Hugo Award rules as regards nomination and voting.  The intent is to discourage a repetition of slate voting which the sad/rabid puppies used to tamper with this year's voting.  Looks like there's some potential for improvement.

What annoys me is that a small number of people have caused problems for a large number of people, and disrupted an established award, just to promote their own limited agenda.  Seriously, if you want to bark up some group of writers or works, you should really just launch a new award for that.  This is why we have thematic awards like the Tiptree, Lambda, Chesley, Pegasus, etc.  It's why I looked at early crowdfunding and put up the Rose & Bay Awards because at the time most others banned or were hostile to crowdfunded works and I didn't want to wait around for someone else to start one.  Trying to hijack an existing, general award to promote a narrow theme is not just rude, it's lazy.
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem came out of the June 2, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] mdlbear. It also fills the "socialize" square in my 5-20-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Danso and Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, this time featuring Cassandra and Groundhog.

Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem came out of the June 2015 Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "torture" square in my 7-31-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest, and the "worry" square in my 6-1-15 card for the June Relationship Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Pain's Gray thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem is heavy-duty hurt/comfort with content that some readers may find disturbing. Highlight to read the more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It contains betrayal by a friend, interrogation by means of crude physical torture, kidnapping, nonconsensual bondage, traumatic manifestation of a superpower, uncontrolled use of a superpower which winds up hurting several people, temporary resistance to desired help, some messy medical details, a crappy non-apology, deliberate use of a superpower for harm, revenge, angst over potential drawbacks of the change in power status, and other challenges. Conversely, once the backup arrives there is some really sweet aid-and-comfort. If those are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
My partner Doug forwarded me a review of a novel from the perspective of an autistic man. 
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem is spillover from the July 21, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] moongoddessgirl. It also fills the "families" square in my 6-10-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It belongs to the Danso and Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, somewhat inspired by conversations with [personal profile] technoshaman. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] lone_cat.


"Light the Match"
-- a villanelle


Light the match and step away
Supervillains know the game
Live to fight another day.

Strike a pose and make them pay
See your future in the flame
Light the match and step away

Even in the hottest fray
There's no need to kill or maim
Live to fight another day

Always there's another way
Of recourse on those to blame
Light the match and step away

Let them chase you as they may
In the end it's all the same
Live to fight another day

Doesn't matter what they say
Choose your target, take your aim
Light the match and step away
Live to fight another day

* * *

Notes:

In entertainment, this pattern appears as We Will Meet Again.  In nature, it's a dominance fight.  The point is to win a conflict which grants access to desired resources, not usually to maim or kill anyone.  It's why so many superheroes and principled supervillains pull their punches, use equipment that nerfs their powers, and/or otherwise stop short of total annihilation. 

Not part of the original inspiration, but absolutely apt is the song "Black Swan Blues" as referenced by [personal profile] technoshaman.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
... are in, with commentary on implications. The sad and rabid puppies have been whacked on the nose with a newspaper, and hopefully will not piddle on the carpet again.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
 Sunday is the last day of the half-price sale in Polychrome Heroics.  So far there's been some activity, though not as much as we hoped for.  (Due to some cashflow challenges, our budget is tight here through early November.)  If you're still thinking about buying anything from the sale, now's the time.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here's an essay that defends two of the greatest purposes in literature: to show the ugliness that humanity can manifest, and to make people think  about it.  This is true throughout art, whether it be genre literature or great paintings or whatever.  It's not supposed to come with a canned meaning.  It's supposed to provoke you, make you feel things, sometimes dark and sometimes light and quite often both at the same time.

I like exploring intense topics.  Some of them are bright, like building intimacy.  Some of them are dark, like when characters give in to base impulses and really hurt someone.  You can usually tell which things are good or bad ideas as you read them.  But the characters  don't always know that.  Sometimes what I write is disturbing precisely because it depicts something horrible through the perspective of someone who thinks is a grand idea.  Officer RAT, for instance, thinks that his prejudices make the world a better place by coming down hard on bad guys.  I rarely come right out and say something like, "Don't murder people; that is bad and wrong."  If you look at the action, however, you'll see that murder tends to have undesirable outcomes.  A lot of my characters are very mixed.  Look at, say, Steel and Dr. Infanta -- they can get incredibly violent if you trigger them.  But that happens because of how badly other people have torn them up in the past.  With people they care about, they're both quite protective.  That invites readers to think about where they draw the lines of what is justified or unjustified, who is a hero and who is a villain, and why.

Don't ever let anyone take that away from you.
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem is spillover from the May 5, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] stardreamer and [personal profile] moongoddessgirl. It also fills the "respect limits" square in my 5-2-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Danso and Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem is spillover from the May 5, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] curiosity. It also fills the "walking" square in my 5-2-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Cuoio and Chiara thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem is spillover from the August 4, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] librarygeek and [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "do something new" square in my 8-1-15 card for the As You Like It fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
A donation from [personal profile] janetmiles has added 84 (yes: eighty-four) new verses to "With Your Brain and Your Resourcefulness." Find out what Velvet does with Lawrence now that she has him in her clutches.  It does not really go as anyone planned. 
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem came out of the August 4, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] rix_scaedu, [personal profile] mama_kestrel, [personal profile] siliconshaman, and [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "eating disorders" square in my 7-31-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest, and the "baking / cooking" square in my 7-1-15 card for the Winter Fest in July fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: This poem contains references to past maltreatment and resultant eating disorders.  Subsequent environment is safe and supportive.

Read more... )

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