ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the December 6, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron and [personal profile] lone_cat. It also fills the "Gives You Hell" square in my 12-1-16 card for the iPod Shuffle Music Fest, and the "frighten" square in my 11-1-16 card for the Fall Festival Bingo. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Calliope thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. Two trans characters, Hyperspaceman and Calliope, struggle to shut down wayward equipment in a mad science lab following a well-planned raid. In the process, Hyperspaceman travels from Terramagne to local-Earth, observes the racist and transphobic political situation, and comes back with a full-blown panic attack. Emotional First Aid ensues. The temporary connection, and the dissonance between T-America and L-America, may be unsettling for some readers. Also, this poem is dated November 2016, which sets it considerably later than most of the content. There's a hint of Calliope and Vagary being in better tune. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Changing the Conversation"


Calliope answered an emergency call
from SPOON to cope with a lab incident.

A planned raid on a supervillain lair
had gone great, with fluent teamwork
between superheroes and police, until
they realized that the mad scientist hadn't
shut down his equipment properly and
now it was creating vortex problems.

So Calliope wrestled with the writhing air
and tried to keep it somewhat contained, while
Hyperspaceman helped the super-gizmologists
deal with the spinning whirlpool of doom that kept
snaking out pieces of itself like a hydra's heads.

Hyperspaceman finally managed to hit one
of them straight on, disappeared briefly, and
then reappeared through another. Both of
the tentacle-tubes collapsed into thin air.

"It's a dimensional portal," he said.
"It's also unstable -- if I travel through it,
I can steer under my own power, and that
collapses the structure. Don't let anyone else
try it, though, they might not come back."

"Roger that," said the techs, and
then passed the word up the line.

"Be careful," Calliope said. "You're
a good friend and a great soup --
I don't want to lose you, Hype."

"You won't," said Hyperspaceman.
"Also, I have a working hypothesis about
why we're getting mini-tornadoes in here:
it's the pressure differential between
this dimension and the other side."

"That makes sense," Calliope said.
"Okay, I'll be ready for the surges
when you collapse the tubes."

That kept her busy, but at least it was
easier now that she had some idea
what caused the turbulence and
when it would spike or drop.

The vortex grew smaller and weaker
as each pair of tentacles collapsed.

The pauses in transit got longer, though,
stretching from instant to seconds to minutes,
which made Calliope worry more about Hype.

"We're almost done," said one of the techs.
"A little more and we'll have this thing
small enough to drown in the bathtub."

Just then Hyperspaceman stumbled
out of a tube, crashed into Calliope,
and then clung to her like she was
a life preserver in a tidal wave.

Behind him, the paired portals
popped out of existence, which
left only the motherlode and
two pathetic little threads.

Calliope held onto Hyperspaceman
with her left hand, raised her right hand
to fingerspell E-F-A, then pointed down at him.

One of the support crew darted out the door,
hopefully in search of the first aid crew,
while the techs buckled down on the vortex.

"I can't go back," Hype gasped.
"It was awful. I won't go back."

"Okay, you're done for the day,"
Calliope said, stroking his back.
"We'll find someone else to finish
closing the rest of the portals."

"We don't need to," said a tech.
"Hyperspaceman cut it down to size.
We can finish the job on the console."

"See, it's all taken care of," Calliope said.
"Do you want to tell me what happened,
or would you rather not talk about it?"

Hyperspaceman dug his fingernails into
Calliope's back, but she didn't protest.
"I was jumping from one dimension to
another, and the longer the lagtime got,
the more I started looking around for
landmarks, you know, in case I ever
went back to the same place."

"That sounds like a good plan,"
Calliope said cautiously. "So
what went wrong with it?"

"That last one -- there was --"
Hyperspaceman hiccupped a sob.
"It was such a mess. I checked the news,
because it's easy to gauge location if you
can pin down divergent events. They had
refugees spewing everywhere. One country
just elected an internet troll as the president!"
He shuddered in Calliope's grasp.

"How awful," she said.
"No wonder you're so upset.
I wouldn't want to go there either!"

"That wasn't the worst of it,"
said Hyperspaceman. "Yeah,
it was bad, but I could've coped.
Then I hit this list of nasty quotes
about transfolk and I just -- I couldn't
cope with that. So I punched through
early and took the rough trip instead."

"Oh," Calliope said. "Oh, buddy,
it's okay now, you're home safe.
We know you're a real man, and
anyone who says otherwise
is just a gigantic dick."

Most of his family, for starters,
but good friends made up for them.

"I know," said Hyperspaceman.
"That whole dimension was like
one giant bottom-ten country.
It's still hard to talk about.
It hit too close to home."

"Sometimes this job really
gives you hell, doesn't it?"
Calliope said. "It's hard
to talk about it, but if we
don't, things stay the same."

"Yeah, I guess," he replied,
though he didn't seem convinced.

"Just being alive, being together,
and supporting each other is an act of
defiance when people want us not to exist,"
Calliope said. "So when we speak up, then
we thwart their goals. We take the world
in a new direction, a better one. We are
changing the conversation right now."

"Thanks, Cal," said Hyperspaceman.
"You always make me see things
in a different light. It helps."

"I'm glad to hear that," she said.

That's when the Emotional First Aide
arrived with a yellow Microfyne blanket
and a comfort doll of blue flannel.

Hyperspaceman stopped squashing
Calliope and took hold of the doll instead.

The vortex finally collapsed with
a flatulent noise and a blast of wind,
which Calliope quickly muffled.

The super-gizmologists burst into cheers.

Hyperspaceman started crying, probably
from relief, and the Emotional First Aide
led him toward the staircase.

Calliope flopped into a chair
and put her head in her hands.
It had been a rough day, and she
hoped that Hyperspaceman would be
okay, but she was pretty fried herself.

Turning her attention inward, she
touched the link that connected her
with Vagary, just to remind herself
that it was still there and she was
here in her home dimension where
things might be dicey for transfolk
on occasion, but mostly it was okay.

A world where even a supervillain
saw her as a real woman.

Calliope felt his ripple of concern
and tried to reassure him that she
was fine, but he wasn't fooled.

Well, all right then. They could
both go to the Blue Spruce and
drown the horrors under a cup
of strawberry frozen yogurt
topped with lots of walnuts.

Plan in mind, Calliope sent
a vmail message to Vagary
telling him to meet her, and then
logged herself off-duty with SPOON.

Outside, the autumn air was clear
and crisp. Hyperspaceman waved
to her from where he was sitting on
the back bumper of an ambulance.
He looked considerably better.

Calliope spared a moment's gratitude
for having such good teamwork and EFA.

Then she took flight with a flick of her mind.

* * *

Notes:

Calliope (Calvin Sanna) -- Calliope comes from Oklahoma; the father's family is Greek-American, while the mother's family is American. Calliope has light olive skin with gray eyes and short hair in shades of lighter and darker blond. Cal is demiromantic demisexual. She speaks English, Greek, and Esperanto.
Origin: Sucked into a tornado.
Uniform: Feminine-styled costume of dexflan and capery in dusty shades of pink, blue, lavender, and cream.
Qualities: Good (+2) Consideration, Good (+2) Flexible, Good (+2) Handiwork, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Word Puzzles
Poor (-2) Distractible
Powers: Expert (+4) Air Powers (meta-power including Flight, Phasing, Sonic Blast, Tornado Straws, Whirlwind, Windtalking), Average (0) Empathy, Average (0) Shapeshifting
Vulnerability: Air Powers are opposed by Earth Powers. Some Air abilities do not work on an Earth-powered opponent, and vice versa, typically those meant to affect a person directly. Others gain an upshift on damage, typically attacks.
Limitation: So far the Shapeshifting only works to switch between Calvin and Calliope. As the power improves, additional shapes may be gained.
Motivation: Self-discovery.

Hyperspaceman "Hype" (Dennis Després) -- He has fair skin, gray-green eyes, and short wavy brown hair. Hexagonal dot-matrix tattoos cover most of his left shoulder. Dennis was born female (and named Denise), but eventually he became uncomfortable and sought the help of a healer for sexual realignment service. He has a daughter, who was born during his female years. He still has the "tiger stripes" from that pregnancy and refuses to give them up.
Hyperspaceman's superpower allows him to bend time and space, so it can act as Super-Speed, Teleportation, etc. He can even route a vehicle around obstacles by morphing the route. He is often called "Hype" for short. Between the superhero work and the sex change, his family life is a mess; only his daughter really loves him for who he is instead of resenting him for abandoning the expected motherly role. Also, Hyperspaceman is struggling to adapt his work at SPOON to accommodate the new abilities, but hasn't yet developed a new specialty based on transit.
Origin: Dennis used to volunteer as a dispatcher for SPOON at a small office. One day a supervillain bombed the office. He woke up clear across the country without a scratch on him, no memory of exactly what happened, and superpowers.
Uniform: His work uniform consists of navy blue dexflan thickened with leathery krevel armor at knees and elbows, piped with silver and with silver threads through the main fabric. Off-duty he wears men's clothes and likes to leave his shoulders bare.
Qualities: Good (+2) Climbing, Good (+2) De-Escalation, Good (+2) Dispatcher, Good (+2) Doll Collector, Good (+2) Existential Intelligence
Poor (-2) Family Dynamics
Powers: Master (+6) Timespace Warp
Limitation: The consensus timespace continuum has a very weak grip on Hyperspaceman. This means he has a poor sense of navigation, so he needs adaptive equipment with a compass, GPS, and map functions. It also means that if he's distracted, sometimes he bends spacetime without meaning to do so, making it easy for other people to lose track of where he is, or even where they are.
Motivation: To gain acceptance.

* * *

“Trans women supporting and loving each other is a revolutionary act… We are changing the conversation right now.”
Laverne Cox

Fingerspelling is used in various sign languages; it's handy for acronyms.  American Sign Language uses the American manual alphabet as shown in this guide.

Transphobia is an irrational fear and hatred of gender-variant people. Donald Trump's statements indicate that he despises the entire QUILTBAG. This makes survival more precarious for an already-threatened group. Understand how to deal with transphobia and fight against it.

Emotional injuries benefit from prompt care to reduce the chance of turning into serious problems. Know the basics of emotional first aid for yourself and others. You can also make an emotional first aid kit full of comfort items.

This is Hyperspaceman's comfort doll. Stuffed animals, dolls, and other toys are used to soothe upset children and adults. In T-America, emergency services customarily carry these. Here are some patterns for knitting comfort dolls. Waldorf dolls are good for this purpose because those meant for toddlers are soft and squashy. They sell kits, such as this flannel one, to make your own. You can also buy them.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-11 06:39 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
<3 <3 <3

Glad Calliope (and Vagary!) and Hyperspaceman are going to be okay. We need them to do their best in their dimension, while we struggle along in ours...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-11 07:52 am (UTC)
fyreharper: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fyreharper
!! Link to Vagary being seen as a reassuring/positive thing! And voluntarily spending time with him?!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-11 04:38 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Ouch!

I'm glad to see things lightening up between Calliope and Vagary. That's hopeful.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-11 10:19 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
That was painful to read -- largely because I agree with everything it says about our timeline. Having Calliope actually reach out to Vagary as a touchstone of reassurance at the end helped a lot, though. It says, "Yeah, maybe I don't like this, but there are worse things." Perspective is always good.

Noting, because now I feel that I should, that just because Thing Y is worse than Thing X doesn't mean that Thing X isn't a problem. Would it help their situation if Vagary could get to the point of becoming a blue-plate special instead of a supervillain? Because it seems to me that their two worst points of conflict are the non-consensual nature of the bond and him being a supervillain, in that order.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-12 06:09 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Aw, Hype. I'm glad he got some good EFA - what a bell-ringer, to stumble into L-America and get an eyeful of the local crap.

(If he slips into this general area, I know a good yogurt shop, just sayin'.)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-11 06:59 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Dr.Whomster)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
You write, «Fingerspelling comes from the American Sign Language.»

(As a preface to this comment: I wrote my doctoral dissertation in linguistics at UC Berkeley on American Sign Language. I am nothing like fluent in ASL and never have been, but I am fairly familiar with many aspects of the language.)

Many sign languages use fingerspelling to greater or lesser degrees, and there are a number of manual alphabets, most of which belong to one of a few families. It is notable that British and American fingerspelling use totally different manual alphabets, and that BSL and ASL are unrelated.

I'm afraid the page you link to for fingerspelling is a poor guide. For instance:

«G. Stick out your thumb and index finger about a centimeter apart and hold it sideways. Your palm faces yourself.»

No, your palm does not face yourself. That would present the back of your hand to the person you're speaking to,* who wouldn't be able to see the configuration of your fingers-- as well as being uncomfortable and rather difficult. Wikipedia describes it accurately: «signed with the hand in an ergonomically neutral position, palm facing to the side and fingers pointing forward.» That article describes ASL fingerspelling well and clearly. So does this page at Handspeak.com; the note at the foot of the page says:

> This site is made of authentic culturally Deaf **people and codas who speak ASL and other signed languages as their first language. The creator is an ASL instructor and native signer. This work is a labor of love and passion for our language and culture ...

("Coda", more commonly written "CODA", is an acronym meaning "Child Of Deaf Adults", i.e., a Hearing person who speaks a sign language-- in the US, ASL-- as a native language.)

* When using English to discuss signing, we commonly use verbs like speak, talk, say for signed communication if there is no chance of confusion.

** "Deaf" with a capital "D" is sociological, referring to alignment with the culture of the Deaf community, while lowercase "deaf" is audiological, referring to the sense of hearing.
Edited Date: 2016-12-11 07:04 am (UTC)

Okay...

Date: 2016-12-11 07:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Thanks for the references. I have updated the footnote accordingly. Does it work better now?

Re: Okay...

Date: 2016-12-11 06:33 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (Dr.Whomster)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
This is fine. Thank you.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2016-12-11 07:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Yay! I really appreciate the reference assist. I try to find good ones, but it's hard to fact-check everything when I'm going fast in a fishbowl. I was looking for clear hand images rather than checking precision of descriptions. Last thing I want to do is use crappy references.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2016-12-12 05:09 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (smiley)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
I'm very happy I could help, especially as the subject is one I care deeply about.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-11 09:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daisiesrockalot.livejournal.com
Very much ECR, so this might just end up being a lot of rambling.

On one hand, yes. Seeing the police work with the capes and knowing that they all can trust each other and if something goes wrong it will be addressed. Seeing limits being stated and then immediately respected. Having EFA and competence and acknowledgement/validation of feelings. All of that feels so nice.

On the other hand, ow. There is this universe where I wouldn't have to worry about my friends ending up dead or injured or anything like that and there being nothing done about it. And there was a connection between the universes. (Before I had only thought about it in terms of "I'd really prefer living there", somehow this ended up being different) But then also, I would hate it if I switched places with Hype or anyone there without them having a choice and a way to switch back. At least I'm used to dealing with this, being dumped into it, well, this happens. And this was only for a couple minutes.

Slight side note, I'm not sure it would be worth updating the warnings over or even how you would. I just noticed that it sort of blindsided me and I think the main component of that was the direct comparison between T-America and here, showing some of the specific things that go ow. I guess I usually think of the two universes as pretty separate and hadn't compared specific parts so much before, just their effect on the universes?

Anyway, so much ECR, thank you for writing it!

Thoughts

Date: 2016-12-11 09:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Very much ECR, so this might just end up being a lot of rambling. <<

That's okay. It's a very intense poem.

>> On one hand, yes. Seeing the police work with the capes and knowing that they all can trust each other and if something goes wrong it will be addressed. <<

:D I try to show the different ways of dealing with challenges. While there's been little progress on official collaboration between the police and SPOON, for various reasons, there has been plenty of unofficial collaboration. It is much safer to plan a raid and make sure you have both combat-capable superheroes and naries trained in policework, than for either group to try handling it alone. Of course, no matter how careful you are, mad science labs are inherently dangerous. It's not rare for them to have stuff that will cause problems if not shut down properly, the mad scientist usually won't do that, and you don't always have someone else who can. I think they did pretty well here.

>> Seeing limits being stated and then immediately respected. Having EFA and competence and acknowledgement/validation of feelings. All of that feels so nice. <<

Yay! This is why T-America doesn't have whole asylums full of supervillains or superheroes who snap and smack each other around for 2 hours.

And I just had the creepiest idea: a nation making L-America's mistake with de-institutionalizing people, and in the process, releasing a bunch of supervillains. 0_o

>> On the other hand, ow. <<

Yep.

>> There is this universe where I wouldn't have to worry about my friends ending up dead or injured or anything like that and there being nothing done about it. And there was a connection between the universes. <<

Lots of people wish they could move to Terramagne.

>> (Before I had only thought about it in terms of "I'd really prefer living there", somehow this ended up being different) <<

I can see that.

>> But then also, I would hate it if I switched places with Hype or anyone there without them having a choice and a way to switch back. At least I'm used to dealing with this, being dumped into it, well, this happens. And this was only for a couple minutes. <<

That would definitely suck.

>> Slight side note, I'm not sure it would be worth updating the warnings over or even how you would. I just noticed that it sort of blindsided me and I think the main component of that was the direct comparison between T-America and here, showing some of the specific things that go ow. I guess I usually think of the two universes as pretty separate and hadn't compared specific parts so much before, just their effect on the universes?<<

Yes, that can happen. I'll update the notes.

>> Anyway, so much ECR, thank you for writing it! <<

*hugs* I'm glad you liked it.

Perdóneme, no comprendo

Date: 2016-12-11 06:40 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (question mark)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Eep!

What does ECR stand for? 
https://www.allacronyms.com/ECR
254 meanings of ECR acronym and ECR abbreviation.

ECR - Definition by AcronymFinder 
www.acronymfinder.com/ECR.html
79 definitions of ECR.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECR (21 definitions/articles, none helpful)

Help, please?
Edited Date: 2016-12-11 06:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Perdóneme, no comprendo

Date: 2016-12-11 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
ECR = Emotionally Complex Response. I was introduced to the concept by a fan who was also into Shadow Unit.

Re: Perdóneme, no comprendo

Date: 2016-12-13 12:34 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
If I recall correctly, ECR stands for
Emotionally Complex Response

AKA, a more proper version of the fannish *feels*

Re: Perdóneme, no comprendo

Date: 2016-12-13 12:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
"Feels" is about intensity -- the impact of an emotion strong enough to dampen or disable logical thought.

"Emotionally complex response" is about contradiction -- the ambivalence created by experiencing multiple feelings at the same time, often from opposed directions.

A similarity is that both effects tend to limit a person's ability to form a plan on how to handle the situation. Feels causes overwhelm; ECR obscures decision-making due to opposed directives.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-12 01:53 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
I *think* I remember reading this one? But it doesn't seem like I commented.

Yeah.

Just, yeah.

The horror often - but not always - looks worse from the outside. Inside, you're often too busy trying to survive.

Poor Dennis

Date: 2017-06-22 10:35 pm (UTC)
bairnsidhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bairnsidhe
I wouldn't wish our dimension on anybody, let alone a perfectly nice transman superhero. Poor guy, I wish he hadn't had to see that. Although now I sort of want to mix Schrodinger's Heroes with Terramagne so that Calliope and Vagary can go to the source and give the Cheeto-in-Chief a massive talking to.

Although that might not end in any form acceptable to publish, as I get the feeling that some of the things coming down the pipes here would constitute valid reasons to tell at least a few Charlies to go home for quite a number of the better principled and scarier black capes. Dr. Infanta strikes me as the type of person who would be massively displeased by the coupling of racism, fanaticism, and disregard for the safety of children evident in so many places in Local-America. I guess it may stay a dark little fantasy for those times I turn chipped plates into mosaic supplies. The OrangeFührer trembling in fear from a grade-school girl as she calmly lists the reasons he just can't be allowed to use up valuable air anymore. Okay, maybe it's too dark even for me.

Re: Poor Dennis

Date: 2017-06-23 08:08 pm (UTC)
bairnsidhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bairnsidhe
>>Calliope especially doesn't need the Almighty Orangutan lambasting her over her identity, which don't forget, is plastered all over her uniform.<<

Oh I didn't forget, that's why Vagary goes with. He'd stick up for her. I think it says something that I like most of your super-villains more than I like the least offensive of the current bag of rotten apples. Mostly that your villains have class and a certain degree of moral compass even when being quote unquote evil.

>> I don't think the men in black need another reason <<

Allow the image to be amusing and then don't write the story down. I'm more interested in keeping my favorite authors safe than in getting art at the expense of their safety. I'm sort of along the line of thought I see in how you write the Marionettes, if I break my toys, I don't get to play with them anymore. Not to call you my toy, it's just, that's how I view the common sense of why you don't act like a jerk to people (especially people who make good and interesting things).

May you always find the helpful hands that you need, dear author.

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