ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the July 5, 2016 poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron and LJ user Ng_moonmoth. It also fills the "finding home/family" square in my 6-1-16 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest, and the "happy ending" square in my 7-1-16 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by LJ user Ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Astin thread of the series An Army of One.


"With the Gravity Off"


Astin knows what it is like
to walk around weighed down
by the expectations of other people.

It is like air; it is like gravity.

It is 1,034 grams per square centimeter
by the shore of an ocean xe has never seen,
echoed faithfully in every life support system.

It is 1G, 9.8 meters per second per second,
at the surface of a planet where xe has never stood,
replicated by thrust or spin or graviton field.

Astin carries it around with xyrself,
an invisible closet enclosing a sense of self
that differs from what society demands,

something tangible yet forgettable,
like the shell of a tortoise carrying
its particolored house on its back.

It is a barrier between Astin and
everyone else, through which touch is
reduced to dull thumps and conversation
to a muffled drone, as if xe is wearing
a spacesuit that can never come off.

So Astin goes through the motions
of socializing without ever feeling sociable,
wondering why other people seem to enjoy
what xe finds a tedious chore that leaves xyr
feeling exhausted and withdrawn, because
it is so much work to project an image
that does not match the hidden core.

That weight drags down everything
that Astin does, but xe persists,
because there is no alternative
but to carry it onward.

It is ubiquitous; it is inescapable --

until it isn't.

In the Lacuna,
the easy acceptance
puts Astin at ease, which
makes xyr more energetic.

The freedom to express xyrself
makes Astin feel more open,
which naturally leads to becoming
a part of the culture xe inhabits
more than ever before.

This is how Astin comes to accept
invitations to gatherings at Sargasso Base
with anticipation instead of dread,

laughing and dancing without regard
to what people will think, speaking freely
and listening to everyone else's wild ideas,
trading bites of strange new foods, and
actually enjoying xyrself for once.

This is how xe winds up crammed into a corner
quietly panicking because all of a sudden
there is no weight holding xyr down
and Astin has no idea what to do
with the gravity off.

Freefall is as terrifying as it is liberating.

It is Shuttlecock who finds xyr
and gently coaxes Astin
into a quiet room.

There is nothing inside
except for a large plastic panel
softly shedding star-blue light
and a single bench warped into
an interesting wave pattern.

At last Astin can relax,
clinging to the edge of the bench
which is bolted to the floor of the room
with hardware of reassuring solidity.

Xe no longer feels cut adrift,
scrabbling at suddenly weightless air.
Docking clamps engaged; safety; security.

Home.

"Too many people?"
Shuttlecock asks gently.
"I can leave you alone,
if that's what you need."

"Stay," Astin manages to say
through xyr dry mouth.
"It's just ... so new."

"Oh, that," says Shuttlecock,
nodding so that her hair sways
in the breeze of agreement.
"I think it hits everyone,
sooner or later."

The novelty of not being alone
is a fresh force that sends Astin
tumbling again, but this time,
xe stabilizes sooner.

The motions are familiar,
even if the need for them is
in the context of feelings
instead of freefall.

Eventually Astin regains
enough confidence to stand up
and move around the room,
feeling out the changes.

Xyr party outfit is all new,
a long shirt-dress-tunic thing of
heathery linen cut to sway with
the motion, over leggings in shades
of gray from ash to charcoal.

The boots are Carinan military gear,
black and heavy, with secure latches
and soles full of electromagnets
in case the gravity goes out.

They make Astin feel safe.

The watch is Orion, though,
a monster nearly as wide as xyr wrist,
its vacuum-proof face set with multiple dials
to show what a trader needs to know.

Astin's fingers tap, tap against
the clear crystal case but
the readings do not change.

Xyr feelings stay the same, too.

In another room, the party is still going
and Astin's thoughts twitch back to it
like a compass needle drawn
toward a planetary pole.

Astin knows who xe is
when xe is alone, and
the mask xe has made
for being around people
in the Galactic Arms.

Xe does not know
who xe is with people
who make no demands
of gender or conformity.

Xe is water, weightless,
silver and quick in the spatial air.

"I want ..." xe breathes,
but is unable to name
the desire, the feeling,
as formless as mercury
with nothing to measure.

"If you want to try the party again,
that's fine," Shuttlecock assures xyr.
"Plenty of people come and go."

Astin feels inside xyrself
and is startled to find only
confusion, not exhaustion.

Xe remembers a science experiment,
long ago, watching oobleck dance
on top of a loudspeaker.

Form without function;
shape without containment.

Astin wonders what xe will become
if xe sets emotion into motion
and gender into expression,
if there can somehow be

grace with the gravity off.

"Yes," Astin says,
holding out xyr hand.
"Let's go back to the party."

* * *

Notes:

Atmospheric pressure expresses the force exerted by air. On Earth, it's about 14.7 pound force/square inch [psi] = 1033.5122800981967 gram-force/square centimeter. I used a converter to get the metric version.

Gravity is the force that draws objects together. Learn how to calculate it on Earth. 1G is the standard Earth gravity. Acceleration can increase the subjective gravity, called "pulling Gs."

Graviton refers to a hypothetical particle which mediates the force of gravitation. Once you know what they are, you can start figuring out ways to use them. This is the basis of graviton technology, which is about as diverse and important as technology based on electricity. You need it to make genuine artificial gravity -- that is, a tractive force based on manipulating gravity itself, not faking it through some other means like centrifugal force -- and most of the better types of stardrive. Of course, the Massacre of Cascabel demonstrates the scope of disaster than can result from mishaps with this level of technology.

People can feel overstimulated for many reasons, and it includes both sensory and social aspects. It's a prevailing complaint of people with autism, sensory processing disorder, or brain injury. However, it's also common with transfolk, and in fact, anyone faced with major life changes. Overwhelm is simply what happens whenever someone's environmental demands exceed their coping ability. Everyone has a threshold of overwhelm; some people just have a lower one than others, while people whose mental energy is tied up dealing with major issues won't have the fault tolerance left to handle "minor" challenges. These videos simulate sensory overload so you can get a glimpse of what it's like. A society with many neurovariant people recognizes the threat of overstimulation, creates resources to deal with it, and quickly learns to watch for the early warning signs so as to direct people to those resources when needed. Here are some ways to reduce sensory overload.

Quiet rooms offer a safe refuge with mild, pleasant sensory input. The one on Sargasso Base that Astin uses is very spartan -- just a light panel and a wavery bench. Right now, they have a lot more room than stuff, so they're tending toward quiet rooms as an unoccupied space. Later on they'll probably develop rooms with things they find pretty or reassuring, such as mobiles are plants. Nothing relaxes a spacer like sensory confirmation of life support!

Astin's style is evolving to combine items that code for different genders or that lack gender markers. The long tunic is one of the maybe-colors that xe likes, has enough skirt to flare, but has pockets which most women's clothes do not. The leggings are unisex, in mixed shades of gray. The boots have a masculine tone, although they're pretty much the same for men and women in the Carinan military. The watch is marketed for men; female spacers need similar features, but may seek a smaller watch face. Astin likes the big one because it's easier to read a lot of data that way.

Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid. You can make some to play with, or watch it dancing to music.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-12 03:20 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Yay poem! Astin is finding a home, bit by bit. I enjoyed the hint that the quiet room, like so many other things, is a work in progress...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-12 04:02 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
As an ambivert, a creative type with acute hearing, and a borderline HSP (highly sensitive person, wiring-wise), I empathize with Astin here oh so very much.


Edited to add: Long skirts or tunics with pockets (and sturdy belt loops), yes please! Best of both traditionally-gendered worlds, and then some. And you don't have to carry assorted gear in a bag over your shoulder all the darn time, either.
Edited Date: 2016-07-12 04:05 am (UTC)

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2016-07-12 05:39 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Pockets are enormously popular in space, because you need a secure place to put things.

With closures, such as velcro, to be secure with the gravity off.
Edited Date: 2016-07-12 05:42 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-12 03:47 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
*LOL* I know that style of boot all too well! They look cool, and they're well armoured, but turns out they're a pain in the arse to get on and off.... those cam buckles are fussy, and nearly impossible to undo with gloves on.

Not that in several hundred (thousand?) years people couldn't come up with improvements. Maybe a magnetic latch instead of a friction lock?

If I were in space, where I didn't have to worry about a whole lot of wear and tear on my soles but needed a good solid pair of boots, I'd go for these (http://www.danner.com/striker-ii-ems-8-black-nmt.html)... waterproof, oilproof, skidproof, puncture-proof, bloodproof, metal-free, and, the piece de resistance, side-zip entry. Lace'em up the way you want once, double-knot them in place, unzip the side, and you're out in a trice; when the klaxon goes and you need to be in your battle station NOW, grab it by the bootstrap, shove foot *thunk* grab zipper *zip* and done.

(I wore the soles off mine in a year and realised that I needed to be getting recraftable-soled boots (http://www.danner.com/quarry-usa-8-black-at.html) to save money over the long haul... *and* these are made in Portland. But money and efficiency and politics no object? That first pair, every time. COMFY.)

Oobleck is big fun! I often end up inadvertently making it when thickening something...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-12 05:32 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Nice. Captures the feeling rather well, I think.

Thank you!

Date: 2016-07-12 05:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad this resonated with you.

These are the words for that feeling

Date: 2016-07-13 01:59 am (UTC)
ng_moonmoth: The Moon-Moth (Default)
From: [personal profile] ng_moonmoth
The weight, the work, the tortoise shell -- the energy-sucking demands of maintaining cover -- and the relief when I'm able to be myself in an accepting environment and don't have to do that any more -- feel just like this.

Neat little bit at the end there. I could see Astin coming to see the good that would come from an Astin/Shuttlecock romantic relationship. (Palmer can definitely continue to help out with Astin's touch issues.) Still wondering what emotional needs Astin might fill for Shuttlecock. I'd like it to actually work, and it needs to be two-way for that to happen.

Re: These are the words for that feeling

Date: 2016-07-13 03:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> The weight, the work, the tortoise shell -- the energy-sucking demands of maintaining cover -- and the relief when I'm able to be myself in an accepting environment and don't have to do that any more -- feel just like this. <<

I'm glad I was able to capture that accurately. :D Though it sucks you've had such crushing backgrounds. :( Everyone needs a place where they can be themselves. That's a theme throughout much of my work.

>> Neat little bit at the end there. <<

Yay!

>> I could see Astin coming to see the good that would come from an Astin/Shuttlecock romantic relationship. <<

I think it has potential.

>> (Palmer can definitely continue to help out with Astin's touch issues.) <<

Agreed. There are ways to smooth down physical issues, and just being in a more tolerant environment will help settle the social ones.

>> Still wondering what emotional needs Astin might fill for Shuttlecock. I'd like it to actually work, and it needs to be two-way for that to happen. <<

Maybe some of my neurovariant readers will fill in what they think Shuttlecock would enjoy in a romantic relationship, and whether they think Astin would make a good mate for her.

Re: These are the words for that feeling

Date: 2016-07-14 12:19 am (UTC)
ng_moonmoth: The Moon-Moth (Default)
From: [personal profile] ng_moonmoth
>> Though it sucks you've had such crushing backgrounds. :( Everyone needs a place where they can be themselves. That's a theme throughout much of my work. <<

Crushing? When the backgrounds so may other gender-variant people have been poisonous enough to leave those who manage to survive them with lifelong damage? I've never seen it that way.

It's more like I have chosen to exchange what for me is a hazardous and unforgiving emotional environment for much better access to resources I valued, which were concentrated there. The personal cost of that access has been high. It was when events caused me to reassess that cost, and the cost of denying myself other resources that were not available in the environment that did not suit me, that I realized it was time to explore other environments.

>> Maybe some of my neurovariant readers will fill in what they think Shuttlecock would enjoy in a romantic relationship, <<

I'd love to see that, too.

>> and whether they think Astin would make a good mate for her. <<

*Astin develops a seriously pained look, turns quickly and almost bolts toward the exit door, and -- stops.* Whoa! I wasn't saying anything about "mate"! Careful, podner, that word's loaded -- it might go off!

Right now, Astin seems to barely have enough cope to handle people interacting with xyr on an emotional level at all -- let alone at a level that would survive months and parsecs of separation. Xe's bright, though, and recognizes that it might be possible -- and that was what kept xyr from dashing back to xyr ship. It's still going to be a long, difficult haul -- but being able to plan and execute successful trading runs of that nature is a specialized skill Astin has developed.

Once xe gets enough of a background to be able to work out what Shuttlecock is going to want from a relationship with xyr, and what xe wants from a relationship, they can both decide whether it ought to happen. After that, mate in how many months/years? The position looks still too fluid to tell.

Re: These are the words for that feeling

Date: 2016-07-14 01:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Crushing? When the backgrounds so may other gender-variant people have been poisonous enough to leave those who manage to survive them with lifelong damage? I've never seen it that way. <<

I'm glad it doesn't seem that bad to you. But then I look at this ...

>> It's more like I have chosen to exchange what for me is a hazardous and unforgiving emotional environment for much better access to resources I valued, which were concentrated there. The personal cost of that access has been high. It was when events caused me to reassess that cost, and the cost of denying myself other resources that were not available in the environment that did not suit me, that I realized it was time to explore other environments.<<

... and it sounds a lot like "Well, at least he never hit me." 0_o It could have been worse. But that doesn't stop it from being pretty awful in its own right.

>> I'd love to see that, too. <<

:D We can hope.

>> and whether they think Astin would make a good mate for her. <<

>> *Astin develops a seriously pained look, turns quickly and almost bolts toward the exit door, and -- stops.* Whoa! I wasn't saying anything about "mate"! Careful, podner, that word's loaded -- it might go off! <<

*laugh* That is probably just what will happen!

Native to the Lacuna, I have found one relationship thus far, Weavercreep and Operetta. Bottleneck had a wife back on Cascabel who has since joined him at Sargasso Base. There was at least one couple among the refugees. But for the most part, people in the Lacuna are single and not the most socially fluent. Discussions of potential connections are likely to leap to that conclusion.

>> Right now, Astin seems to barely have enough cope to handle people interacting with xyr on an emotional level at all -- let alone at a level that would survive months and parsecs of separation. <<

Astin already has ongoing relationships in several places. They're not intimate ones yet, but xe's laying the groundwork by choosing anchor locations. Trade relationships are important to traders, those are meant to long-term on an established loop, as contrasted with people who travel randomly. That will all help set up for more personal relationships, whether platonic or romantic.

As for the separation, that seems negligible in the Lacuna. They're used to being scattered around and interacting primarily over the ciphernet. Sure, a handful of people are starting to coalesce in a couple of places, but they all still have experience making and maintaining long-distance relationships. It just doesn't seem to be causing problems for them.

>> Xe's bright, though, and recognizes that it might be possible -- and that was what kept xyr from dashing back to xyr ship. <<

That's good.

>> It's still going to be a long, difficult haul -- but being able to plan and execute successful trading runs of that nature is a specialized skill Astin has developed. <<

Sooth. Ideally, they'll have time to work up slowly from where they are to where they want to be. Figuring out that goal, however, could pose a challenge. Astin has next to no experience being free to be xyrself, and Shuttlecock is pretty messed up from parenting and therapy largely aimed at making her fake normal. 0_o

>> Once xe gets enough of a background to be able to work out what Shuttlecock is going to want from a relationship with xyr, and what xe wants from a relationship, they can both decide whether it ought to happen. After that, mate in how many months/years? The position looks still too fluid to tell.<<

Agreed.

Re: These are the words for that feeling

Date: 2016-07-14 11:06 pm (UTC)
ng_moonmoth: The Moon-Moth (Default)
From: [personal profile] ng_moonmoth
>> But then I look at this ...

>> It's more like I have chosen to exchange what for me is a hazardous and unforgiving emotional environment for much better access to resources I valued, which were concentrated there. The personal cost of that access has been high. It was when events caused me to reassess that cost, and the cost of denying myself other resources that were not available in the environment that did not suit me, that I realized it was time to explore other environments.<<

... and it sounds a lot like "Well, at least he never hit me." 0_o It could have been worse. But that doesn't stop it from being pretty awful in its own right. <<

I appreciate your empathy. It's been the least awful awful alternative for me. But for so many gender-variant people, it not only *is* worse, but all the alternatives they have are much more awful than my own condition. I recognize my good fortune in having options that are comparatively good, as bad as they are -- and the ability to have some agency in choosing my path. And even though I have no influence that would permit others to have the options and agency that have been mine, I hope that my acknowlegement will encourage those who do have that influence to make it possible, and would not feel like I had done my part without at least trying.

>> Native to the Lacuna, I have found one relationship thus far, Weavercreep and Operetta. Bottleneck had a wife back on Cascabel who has since joined him at Sargasso Base. There was at least one couple among the refugees. But for the most part, people in the Lacuna are single and not the most socially fluent. Discussions of potential connections are likely to leap to that conclusion. <<

And now that's got me thinking about to what extent neurotypical assumptions built into erotica and porn interact with neurovariant folks. Does the Lord of Pr0n know anything about that? Or what erotica or porn for neurovariant folks might look like? <thinly-veiled-threat>I can't promise a prompt like this won't show up on Tuesday...</thinly-veiled-threat>

>> Astin already has ongoing relationships in several places. [...] That will all help set up for more personal relationships, whether platonic or romantic [...] Astin has next to no experience being free to be xyrself <<

All good points.

I believe I've got a handle on how Astin has been dealing with sexual gratification and xyr body issues. Xe hasn't been talking about it, but I get the impression there's a drawer with some toys he's found useful somewhere near xyr bed. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the food-grade silicone stim toys wind up there at some point. Erotica/porn, not so much -- they don't align with xyr sexuality or gender identity. Xe's got an active imagination, and freely uses it in service of his sexual pleasure.

Re: These are the words for that feeling

Date: 2016-07-15 04:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I appreciate your empathy. <<

*hugs offered*

>> It's been the least awful awful alternative for me. <<

I know how that goes.

>> But for so many gender-variant people, it not only *is* worse, but all the alternatives they have are much more awful than my own condition. I recognize my good fortune in having options that are comparatively good, as bad as they are -- and the ability to have some agency in choosing my path. <<

Fair enough.

>> And even though I have no influence that would permit others to have the options and agency that have been mine, I hope that my acknowlegement will encourage those who do have that influence to make it possible, and would not feel like I had done my part without at least trying.<<

I hope it does inspire people to try improving their situation.

>> And now that's got me thinking about to what extent neurotypical assumptions built into erotica and porn interact with neurovariant folks. Does the Lord of Pr0n know anything about that? Or what erotica or porn for neurovariant folks might look like? <<

Yes. The Lord of Pr0n is fascinated by what excites people. Some of that is fairly typical sex. But some neurovariant people like very specific, rather unusual things. (Any pr0nstore can show you that.) For example, someone who likes deep pressure might enjoy a squashing video. Someone with hyperactive senses might like mummification or other bondage with sensory deprivation. Less-verbal folks might be into animal roleplaying. So he has a collection that ranges from vanilla to pistachio caramel crunch. :D And then there are other categories of things that are not quite pr0n but elicit a similar fascination, like the food videos that started the whole discussion about how the Lacuna was going to supply itself.

>> I can't promise a prompt like this won't show up on Tuesday... <<

Prompt it if you want it. I write erotica too.

>> I believe I've got a handle on how Astin has been dealing with sexual gratification and xyr body issues. Xe hasn't been talking about it, but I get the impression there's a drawer with some toys he's found useful somewhere near xyr bed. <<

Good idea. Many neurovariant people, and even acefolk who like orgasms but not with anyone else, prefer toys.

>> In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the food-grade silicone stim toys wind up there at some point. <<

Yep, those are suitable.

>> Erotica/porn, not so much -- they don't align with xyr sexuality or gender identity. Xe's got an active imagination, and freely uses it in service of his sexual pleasure. <<

That's fine, but ... LOL Rule 34. If it can be imagined, there is pr0n of it.

Re: These are the words for that feeling

Date: 2016-07-15 08:53 pm (UTC)
ng_moonmoth: The Moon-Moth (Default)
From: [personal profile] ng_moonmoth
>> *hugs offered* <<

*gratefully accepted, and returned*

*imagines a time when our paths will cross and we can do it in person*

>> I hope it does inspire people to try improving their situation. <<

That will help for some, but I'm hoping for more than that. Way too big a chunk of the improvement for people who need it the most is not under their control. Trans-exclusionary radical feminism will retain its poisonous influence as long as it is allowed to fester in the communities it infests. Transgender women of color will continue to need to fight for what should be theirs while people find it difficult to look past the "transgender" and "color" and see the woman.

Yet, independently of my birth-assigned gender, I know that I am not a woman, and therefore have very little influence in those communities. Recognizing the benefits that have derived from one's good fortune is a significant step in understanding that extending those benefits to others less fortunate improves everyone's lives.

>> Yes. The Lord of Pr0n is fascinated by what excites people <<

OK. I know where I'm going with this now. More Tuesday in the Fishbowl.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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