Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wednesday Factoid: Dreams

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What's the last dream you can remember having?

Wow, I'm about to make myself sound really insecure.

I had a dream that I was in an art class for some reason and I was singled out as the one person who didn't have enough artistic ability to be in the class. Haha.

Everyone else there was a "real" artist and the instructor (who was an older man with a really condescending disposition) came up to me during class and kept making comments about how my work was a good example of someone who thinks they're an artist but will never measure up, and how you can tell that's the case from what I was drawing, and how I was basically wasting his time by taking the class because this instruction is for people who actually hope to work in the field.

What's awfully weird about this is that I have absolutely no interest in being a professional artist and do not fancy myself to have professional level talent, and I don't tend to be apologetic about this in my work (which is absolutely amateurish by my own estimation). I know that being a "real" artist takes work--the kind of work I am willing to put into my writing, and the kind I HAVE put into my writing--and that I don't have the patience, dedication, or drive to do the same for visual art. So I wonder why the heck I had a dream about that? Maybe 'cause I was about to go to Drink and Draw and most of the people there are better artists than I am and I was anticipating feeling judged? I dunno. :/

I'm better at art than people who don't do art, mostly. I like to doodle and since I do a lot of it I can enjoy drawing my characters or making visually amusing pieces, but for the most part it is always about the message or the representation, not really about the art itself. Sometimes if I put a lot of time and energy into something I'm drawing, it comes out pretty nice. But I don't really have a naturally artistic brain, I don't think--not the way some of my friends and family do. I guess I'm all about the words, where you can just trust that the light is playing in the way I say it is without me having to prove it to you. ;)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dragons Are People Too by Sarah Nicolas!

Hi everyone! Guess what? Sarah Nicolas's book Dragons Are People Too is out TODAY!

I know the author through Pitch Wars (huzzah mentors!) and I thought I'd help out with a little plug for her baby. Check out this info:

Sixteen-year-old Kitty Lung has everyone convinced she’s a normal teen—not a secret government operative, not the one charged with protecting the president’s son, and certainly not a were-dragon. The only one she trusts with the truth is her best friend—and secret crush—the ├╝ber-hot Bulisani Mathe.

Then a junior operative breaks Rule Number One by changing into his dragon form in public—on Kitty’s watch—and suddenly, the world knows. About dragons. About the Draconic Intelligence Command (DIC) Kitty works for. About Kitty herself.

Now the government is hunting down and incarcerating dragons to stop a public panic, and a new shape-shifting enemy has kidnapped the president’s son. Kitty and Bulisani are the last free dragons, wanted by both their allies and their enemies. If they can’t rescue the president’s son and liberate their fellow dragons before getting caught themselves, dragons might never live free again.

Here's some stuff about Sarah:

Sarah is a 30-something YA author who currently lives in Orlando, FL. She believes that some boys are worth trusting, all girls have power, and dragons are people too.
She's a proud member of the Gator Nation and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering, but has switched careers entirely. She now works as an Event Coordinator for a County Library. She also blogs at YAtopia.  
An excerpt of the book you can read:

And all the places you can check out the book or follow the author:

The book on iTunes
So happy to see another successful release from our little crew. Best of luck to you, Sarah!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Wasting time

Just a minor whinge to get your Monday started off right.

Time is precious. I talk about that a lot.

Sometimes when things are tight, I struggle to find time for everything I want to do and need to do, and I don't think that's unusual (except that a lot of the goals I prioritize are self-imposed). And sometimes--especially when other people are imposing on me expecting my attention or my contributions--I complain about that struggle.

Only to occasionally be met with criticism or condescension.

Because, you see, sometimes I do things that others rank as unimportant, unnecessary, or "a waste of time."

Why don't I stop spending so much time on drawing comics? Why don't I opt out of mentoring in Pitch Wars? Why don't I just relax my standards on keeping my sites up to date? Why don't I hold off on making videos for a while? Why don't I quit reading so many books?


It's sort of baffling how often someone will target one of the activities I've chosen as worthy of my time and opine that it should not be important. And it's also odd how they never criticize, say, spending time with friends/family or stuff like enjoying (ahem) television shows or movies. I can consume visual media and be social, and people understand why I might want to do those things. But if I read or create a lot of stuff, I'm frequently told that those things are unworthy of attention and are nothing but a waste of time. Or sometimes people will say you know, you don't HAVE to do that, or will "reassure" me that I don't have to do whatever I'm doing as much or as thoroughly--as if I just needed someone to step in and tell me not to drive myself so hard.

I like doing those things. They are not wastes of time.

So no, it is not hypocritical of me to, say, spend a bunch of time pounding out reviews for books and then turn around and complain that someone who wants my attention is wasting my time. I am incredibly protective of my time. But other people don't get to look how I'm spending it and independently decide that I do indeed have time to help them. If I've said I don't have time to do something, I'm not literally saying I was booked for other things through circumstances beyond my control. The circumstances are often explicitly in my control, though that's not always the case, and I am the one who has chosen to order my life with the priorities you see. In other words, "You said you didn't have time to do X but I saw you doing Y which I think isn't as important" does not work for me. And if you ever say such a thing to me, you probably will lose any opportunity you had for your issues to become my priorities. If there's one thing that irks me, it's other people deciding what I should value and then judging me by those standards.

I can "waste" my time if I like. Chances are that I don't consider those things a waste in the first place if I'm devoting time to them, but that's beside the point.

The point is that it is in fact my time. Not someone else's.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Personal Digest Saturday: April 18 – April 24

Life news this week: 
  • I sold another story! WOOHOO! My short story "On the Inside" has been accepted by James Gunn's Ad Astra. They only publish one issue a year and I got in. :D It's an alternate-world fantasy and the protagonist is a trans girl, though I don't use that terminology in the story. I'm happy it got picked up because this is only the third time I've sent it out. :X
  • Over the weekend I made a little video contribution to help Asexual Outreach with their funding for the upcoming conference. I'm still undecided about whether I'm gonna go to that though. :(
  • I wasn't very productive this week because I've been knocking out some behind-the-scenes stuff for my trip and also watching far too many cartoons. Still catching up on some Adventure Time episodes that I hadn't seen and I watched Bee and PuppyCat with Jeaux which was . . . incredibly weird and highly recommended.
  • Jeaux and I ate at Flippers and I had not pizza and not pizza, which is weird because it is a pizza restaurant. (Jeaux also did not have pizza.)
                Places featured:
                        • Please read the Invisible Orientation: I just thought this was cute. Someone on Tumblr was enthusiastically recommending my book and they got really excited when I made a comment sort of acknowledging and thanking them.
                                    Reading progress:

                                    New singing performances:

                                    Here I'm singing "This is What It Feels Like" by Armin van Buuren. It was requested by Reeny. :)

                                    New drawings:

                                    Webcomic Negative One Issue 0519: "Check For Smiles."

                                    Webcomic So You Write Issue 46: "Know Your Audience."

                                    New videos:


                                    New photos:  

                                    My victory cupcake for getting a short story published.
                                    I'm picking up a five-gallon water bottle at work. 'Cause I'm a superhero.

                                    Social media counts: YouTube subscribers: 4,506 for swankivy (12 new this week), 449 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 641 for swankivy (2 new), 924 for JulieSondra (12 new). Facebook: 279 friends (befriended Brayn) and 160 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 546 likes for JulieSondra (3 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 104 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 1,937 (48 new--I don't know why).

                                    Thursday, April 23, 2015


                                    I've been thinking about how much I love being an adult.

                                    I understand and agree with the folks a generation behind me who are hitting the big bad world yelling "ADULTING IS HARD!" . . . because in some ways, it is. You have to make your own money, clean your own clothes, and take care of your own self. And then, for a lot of adults, "adulting" means sacrifice--caring for someone else if you have children or other people dependent on you, realizing you have to do a LOT of un-fun things like work long hours if you want to make ends meet, making some hard choices about what freedoms you give up so you can survive or enjoy your life. Sometimes that's what growing up means--accepting reality and understanding your place in it.

                                    But somehow, being an adult has led to very little sacrifice for me.

                                    I've discussed the particulars of my life with people a few times lately and used the phrase "I'm basically living the dream."

                                    Um, well a more ideal version of "the dream" also includes my writing career taking off in fiction as well, but other than that, my life is pretty much exactly what I always wanted.

                                    And one of the things that's made me think about that lately is that I have been watching a lot of cartoons.

                                    I haven't just been watching them, though. I've been watching them until 5 AM if I want, or watching them again with a friend to discuss a plot element, or laughing about them on the Internet, or checking out related materials made by other nerds. And I can do this while eating ice cream sandwiches, or while choosing to do so over other responsibilities. These are all choices I can make because I am an adult and I have no one shaking their finger at me to go to bed or stop "obsessing" because it's unhealthy, and if I screw up, I know I'm the one who will suffer, so I don't screw up.

                                    When I was in high school, I got hit hard with probably the biggest cartoon obsession I ever had, which was my explosive love for Animaniacs. I taped all the episodes and made a handwritten episode guide in color-coded pens. Drew pictures of my favorite scenes. Bought nearly twenty tee shirts featuring the characters. Had tons of toys, and comics, and the music cassettes, and knew all the songs by heart. I even bought food items if they had the characters on the box, and I'd cut the art out and put it on my wall later. And I also took a lot of shit for it, with plenty of folks in my life questioning my maturity.

                                    I wasn't mature then, of course. I was a teenager. But the cartoon silliness wasn't what made me immature, and it wasn't necessarily a symptom of being immature either. There's a common misconception that your interests or certain choices you make render you less "mature" than other adults, but I think "mature" is a murky, sometimes poisonous word. And it's often used by people who don't approve of someone else's behavior as a manipulative tactic to shame them for what they want to do. It's similar to how some misguided people use "that's not for boys" or "only girls do that" to push gender roles on people; if you're told that what you're doing isn't appropriate for who you are or how you want to be seen, you'll feel like you should stop.

                                    But why do other people want to take stuff away from us if we love it? Because it's "for kids"? (How so, if we like it too and we're adults?) Because it's interfering with our adulting? (How so, if we're demonstrably fulfilling our responsibilities at no one's expense?) Because they don't understand the appeal? (I don't understand the appeal of alcohol, but I don't try to tell people they're not really adults if they like it, even when it DOES interfere with their ability to function.)

                                    I went to college fully immersed in my lovely little cartoon obsession. I decorated my college room with Animaniacs stuff and had my entire collection of tee shirts with me. I hosted a chat room with AOL's community leader program which let me monitor the chat in the Warner Bros. online area, goofing around with little kids about the shows on the network (especially my favorite). It eventually kinda ran its course when new episodes stopped coming out. But I still love the show, would still sing along to the songs, would still love to show my favorite episodes to people who would be interested--though now it would be considered "old cartoons," haha.

                                    I did pretty well in school, by the way. I received my diploma and ended up with a GPA of 3.56. (Not bad especially since I changed majors three semesters in and still graduated in four years, and none of my initial credits were transferable.) And I didn't have to drop what I enjoyed to get through college or move on to my adult life.

                                    After that, I spent six years working in a bookstore. I never called in sick the entire time I worked there; I was rarely late and got a reputation for one of the best kids' specialists in the region; I generally worked about 36 or 37 hours a week and enjoyed an active creative and social life outside of work. And I watched a lot of anime.

                                    At the tail-end of college, I started going to an anime club where we'd watch various shows together, and I really liked some of them. Before the days of the club, I had gotten really, really into a particular anime called Tenchi Muyo, and it was one of those things where I was just really on fire to see all of it that existed. I loved the characters and their interplay--it reminded me a lot of the kind of feelings I'd have for the relationships between characters in my own writing--and I liked (again) drawing the characters, introducing the show to my friends, and purchasing clothing that featured art from the show. I went to a convention as one of the characters once, even, and got a few cute toys and comics. It wasn't an incredibly long obsession, but it was a pretty good one. I had a few more favorite animes that I consumed very quickly and went to weird amounts of trouble to get additional episodes to (DiGi Charat, Kodomo No Omocha). I supported myself as a pretty decent grown-up while pursuing aggressive baking hobbies and gardening interests and lots of reading. You know. Adulting.

                                    I quit the job in 2006 and moved to Tampa in search of administrative work. I was tired of retail and wanted to make better money, and that worked out pretty well. In the meantime, my friend Jeaux, aware that I had a soft spot for both anime and inspirational sports movies, said to me one day, "I have something for you. It's an inspirational. sports. anime." And then Eyeshield 21 happened. I have no idea how they made a story about American football so appealing, but they did.

                                    After watching as much of the anime as I could get my hands on, I turned to the manga because the story was ahead of the show in Japan (and was different in some important ways). I was so into it that I read scanlations--copies of the Japanese comics that translators would scan and translate so English-speakers could read them. They were unofficial and imperfect, of course, but since no English version was available, that was what I had to do to find out what was happening. (I bought the English versions when they came out in my country.) I blabbed on a forum and discussed it with Jeaux and got really excited when my friend Jessie actually found merchandise for me (since it was nonexistent in America).

                                    And then one time when the next issue came out in Japan and the quarterback broke his arm during the big game, it kind of wrecked my whole day, and someone I was hanging out with told me not to get so involved with a pretend football game, which wrecked my day worse. I mean, people get really invested in real sports even though they're fighting a "war" that's completely made up for entertainment; it's kind of weird to me that if you get invested in fictional happenings and let them affect you, you can be condescended to and snotted at. C'mon now. I write things. I've always written things. It makes sense that I'd get pretty into it when other people write things. I seem to have managed to get really into this thing and spend a lot of time on it while continuing to write books, make content, and hold down a job--which is a much better job with fewer hours and higher pay than my last one.

                                    I'm still pretty in love with this franchise but the run is complete. There are no more comics. Nothing else to see, you know? So it's hard to maintain enthusiasm when there's nothing to talk about anymore and nothing feeding the fire. I still get really excited about it when I get to show it to someone else, though. Over my birthday vacation, Meghan was interested in the actual football games going on, and somehow we ended up watching cartoon football too. I was so happy that she got really into it too and wanted to watch more than just the first couple episodes. I've seen the first few many times while showing it to people, but it's always really exciting to get to watch it with another person who hasn't seen it before.

                                    Since Eyeshield, I've had a couple little minor jaunts into cartoon fandom; Adventure Time was a pretty big one. I marathoned a bunch of the episodes after references my friends were making on Facebook made me think this was a show I needed to see, and, well, you know, the rest was history. As I've mentioned before in other posts, I love that there is implied queer content and some gender weirdness amongst other kinds of weirdness. I also let Jeaux get me into Avatar: The Last Airbender a while back; we'd watch a few episodes every time he came over, and went through the whole series that way. When a second related series came out--The Legend of Korra--we watched that as it was coming out every week, and we were both really into it.

                                    I know people who are really into live-action shows. Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead are two extremely popular shows that I've never seen because I think the violent content would really upset me, but holy crap, like everyone I know watched those! And nobody seems to question their maturity when they are really into shows that involve a lot of killing and a lot of swearing and a lot of sex. Weirdly enough, other live-action shows with a science fiction or fantasy theme, like Doctor Who and Firefly, have a huge following but mainstream society still likes to tell those people that they're childish because they like shows about things that don't/can't happen. (I don't know why this doesn't apply to The Walking Dead, which is a show that involves a lot of zombies.) I don't watch Doctor Who or Firefly--I couldn't get into it for some reason--but I've noticed this weird assumption that people who like SF shows or animated shows are less mature and less acceptable people than those who like the realism-based shows.

                                    But what exactly is this maturity thing that people seem so obsessed with telling me I can't possibly have if I devote time and energy to consuming cartoons? What milestones or achievements, exactly, have I failed at when it comes to adulthood?

                                    I don't drive a car and I don't have a partner or kids. Those are things people generally expect adults to do, though attitudes vary. At least by my age--thirty-seven--some people are starting to acknowledge that maybe the choices I've made are deliberate life choices rather than inability to grow up enough that another adult would want to start an "adult" life with me.

                                    But what's especially interesting to me is that maturity is often discussed in terms of independence; that you have achieved "maturity" if you are supporting yourself on your own terms (with or without a partner) and making responsible choices about the future. This doesn't work very well when it comes to, say, people with illnesses or disabilities who need help to live their lives and who by these definitions can never be mature. Yeah, I'm pretty sure you can still be mature and yet need help to live. There's also the fact that when elderly people lose the ability to take care of themselves and need assisted living, they aren't called "immature." Independence isn't the same thing as maturity. What exactly is it, then?

                                    I have no idea. Because I've mostly only heard it weaponized to tell people they're not doing it right.

                                    Is it about foresight? Realistic assessment of what you need to survive, and being willing to put aside selfish or impulsive desires to meet your needs and the needs of those who depend on you?

                                    Maybe, but rich people get to eschew those expectations all the time. They can indulge because they have the extra padding that lets them take vacations or buy expensive toys or take risks or not work as hard sometimes (in some cases). They're still considered "mature" most of the time--it's assumed to be the right of the very successful to play more than the rest of us.

                                    But when my version of playing involves getting really into a cartoon, I'm probably not really an adult. Certain kinds of entertainment are considered inappropriate for adults to enjoy, and if you DO enjoy them, you actively lose grown-up points.

                                    I propose that we start deducting maturity points from people who weaponize maturity.

                                    The latest full-scale plunge into cartoon madness that I have undertaken has been, of course, Steven Universe, as anyone who follows me anywhere has probably figured out. I've seen all the episodes (and get super excited about new ones as this is an ongoing series); I bought the video game for my phone and played it to completion; I downloaded the songs and put them on my mp3 player; I'm collecting the comics; I now own two tee shirts. (I like buying shirts of stuff I like. It's part of the cycle.) And I like seeing what the other fans are doing. I'm not into reading fanfiction or creating fan art for this, but I've been having fun with, say, reaction videos on YouTube. It sounds kind of mind-blowing that anyone might want to watch a YouTube video about someone else watching a show, but it was really entertaining for me (plus I got to see the episodes again); it's so much fun watching the ones where something really shocking happens and people flip out. (If you watch the show, you learn which scenes cause people to lose their minds, and it's really funny.) Plus it's sort of like you're watching it with a friend, even though you don't know each other. I've already kinda dragged a bunch of my friends into this (Mike, Victor, and Jeaux started watching it because of me, and now they've seen all the episodes too and are really jazzed about it), but I didn't actually get to watch it WITH them. Boo. That's part of the fun--sort of making it a social activity.

                                    People are noticing how crazy good this show is, which is kind of nice because in the past I used to feel like I was enjoying my favorite things sort of in isolation (except for the few friends I had who liked what I liked as much as I did; sometimes I scared people off). People are posting videos that discuss stuff like "holy crap why is this show everywhere now? THIS IS WHY" and even a PBS video about how important this show is to presenting alternative versions of family for today's kids (and, like, maybe the rest of us?). But I don't think a television show (or comic, or book series, or movie) has to set itself up as a message-dumping contribution to society before it's acceptable for people to enjoy it without people who don't enjoy it rolling their eyes at the supposed immaturity of its fans.

                                    One of the reasons I really like being mature and being an adult is that I can now give the finger to those people. I don't have to listen to people who are older than me or in control of some aspects of my life and just accept that someone else's limit should be my limit. I'm not eight years old begging to spend my allowance on Pocket Popples anymore. I'm not eighteen begging for a ride to the Warner Bros. store so I can spend my part-time job's paycheck on Animaniacs merchandise. I'm thirty-seven, and yesterday I threw my paycheck at Season 8 of House, M.D. on DVD just because I could, and last night I read a John Grisham book and then watched a bunch of Adventure Time on the Internet until I fell asleep in the chair, and last month I dumped a decent amount of cash on a tee shirt website so I could walk around with Steven Universe characters on my chest. It's really interesting to me that I spent my youth hearing messages about how I needed to drop certain interests if I wanted to earn respect and be regarded as mature, but really for me growing up was about learning that what I wanted was okay.

                                    People who like cartoons (or other things they liked as children) can actually come into maturity bringing those interests with them. I did it. And I consider myself to be living the dream. I've had the same great job for eight years but I only have to work there 28 hours a week, I make what I consider to be very good money, I have enough time for my personal projects (like writing a book that sold and will also lead to more money), and my interpersonal relationships are satisfying and enjoyable and pretty much everything I could have imagined when I was a kid. I love having my own place and making my own rules and being in charge of nearly all of the choices that affect my everyday life. I love that adulting for me has not led to accepting that the rest of my life won't be very fun.

                                    My adulthood is ABOUT fun. And it's festooned with cartoons and nonexistent bedtimes. 

                                    Most of the people who roll their eyes at that can keep doing so for as long as they like. They're not going to convince me that adulthood is about letting others control you in slightly more insidious ways than they did when you were a child. I love my adulthood. My childhood self would be thrilled with who I am now.

                                    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm about two and a half hours away from a new episode and I gotta go watch people screaming and vibrating on Tumblr.

                                    Oh, and maybe getting some work done. It's not all fun and games over here.

                                    But most of the time, it is. ;)

                                    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

                                    Wednesday Factoid: Internet Friends

                                    Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Would you like to meet any of your Internet friends in person?

                                    Too late!

                                    I meet Internet friends all the time. And I have been doing so since 1996.

                                    My first Internet meeting was with my friend Victor. We met on MuMu Land, a telnet talker, and though he was from Philadelphia, he was going to college in my state and decided to take a bus to my place over the holiday break. We had a great time.

                                    (We don't have any Actual Photos Together because I only had an analog camera and didn't know how to set it up to take pictures, but we have some really old video too. Many years later we finally got real photos together.)

                                    I have met more than fifty individual Internet friends over the years, and more if you count stuff like going to gatherings that were arranged through Internet communities (like when I went to a picnic for OKCupid locals and made several friends there who are still my friends more than five years later).

                                    1997, Laura and Jessica from Virginia!

                                    1998, James and Chris from Alabama!
                                    1998, Fred from California!
                                    1998, David from Malta!

                                    1998, Ronni from Ohio!

                                    1998, Jim from Ohio!
                                    Michael-Thomas--we met when I was still in college, but dunno when exactly.
                                    2001, Jeaux from Citra!
                                    Brendon. Ah, Brendon. We both lived in Gainesville when we finally met.
                                    2001, Ian from Gainesville!
                                    2003, Jeremy from Missouri!
                                    2004, Brent from Georgia!
                                    2006, Jessie from Michigan!
                                    2007, Mike from Sarasota!
                                    2008, Rob from, uh, somewhere nearby.
                                    2008, Avi from Lutz (basically Tampa).
                                    The Kari gang; I met Kari online when I was still in college, so these folks are Internet friends by association sort of.

                                    2008, Kevin from nearby somewhere.
                                    2009, Eric from nearby
                                    OKCupid people trick-or-treating with me in 2009
                                    2009, Derek, from nearby
                                    2010, finally met Cara from Michigan (plus more Jessie!)
                                    2010, party at Mandy's, all Internet friends!
                                    2010, Richard from California!
                                    2011, Pedro, Gary, Cynthia! From 'round here.
                                    2013, Joy from Largo (but not our first meeting, haha)
                                    2013, asexual group all met through the Internet--M., Hannah, Rin, Sara Beth, me, David
                                    2013, Tristan, we were in Georgia!
                                    2014, Ryan from New Jersey! (Pitch Wars rocks!)
                                    There are actually a lot more than this because I don't have photos of everything I ever did with Internet people and there are quite a few who are super important to me with whom I did not happen to get photos, but hey, it happens. ;)

                                    I do have a couple Internet friends whom I would really like to meet in person but haven't gotten to yet, like my first Pitch Wars mentee Whitney, and my Australian friend Reeny. I imagine both of these meetings will happen someday. I'm such a globetrotter these days. But yeah, I think it's safe to say I would like to meet my Internet friends in person . . . because I do it all the time!

                                    Monday, April 20, 2015

                                    Character names

                                    Fantasy names!

                                    We see a lot of fantasy and science fiction authors choosing names for characters that are literally out of this world. Sometimes they're just weird made-up names and sometimes they're attempting to reflect nature/symbolism and sometimes they're "futuristic" or something. Sometimes I see folks online--usually people who don't like to read SF/F--mocking or rolling their eyes at fantastical names and laughing at the authors for the choices they make. Some of them seem to think the far-outness of the names indicates immaturity or silliness or wish-fulfillment author fantasies--like we name our characters weird things to make them mysterious, majestic, exotic, and cool. And that's kind of irritating to me.

                                    I write a lot of SF/F. About half the time, I give the characters unusual names. I don't do it just because. I do it if it makes sense. Basically, if you have characters on another world or in another dimension who have never met people from our world and don't speak our language, they're not going to use the same names, but then of course critics might say "well, if you're translating their moon language into an Earth language, why not translate their names to the equivalent? In other words, if you have a character whose name is common in their language, what's wrong with naming them Bob?"

                                    Indeed. What's wrong with naming your alien characters Bob?

                                    Here's what I think. Unlike most words, names are specific labels for individual people. They almost always have a history--very few names are just an island of cool-sounding noises--and giving a name to a person (or, in fact, a place) indicates a connection to that history. Bob isn't just Bob. He's Robert, whose name has Germanic roots. If you don't have a Germany in your fantasy land, Robert doesn't really come from anywhere. And while it's fine to base a fantasy world on ours and therefore have some shared names, it's also fine NOT to.

                                    I considered this a lot while naming characters in my fantasy worlds. In Bad Fairy, there's a fair amount of crossover between my made-up world and our world, but they're not the same world. It's kind of a mish-mash, and they have some of the same gods and goddesses from our mythology, but others are completely made up (or, rather, they're maybe recognizable deities that have been renamed). Similarly, there are plenty of names we'd recognize in the story--nearly everyone has a name that would work in our world--but a few are made up but still digestible by our aesthetic standards. There's the protagonist Delia and her mother Gena, her friends Fiona and Drake, and her rivals Chloe, Livia, and Beatrice--but there are also a few people in her class with names like Leahan, Kagen, and Briony. I think it kind of gives you a reminder that it's a slightly different culture in a slightly different time, even though they aren't important characters.

                                    In a short story I sold last year (which still hasn't been published), my characters have symbolic names. There aren't many named characters and names have a really important meaning in the culture of the fantasy characters because when they partner with others their partners give them new names. My protagonist, oddly enough, does not have a name. Her daughter, the focus of the story, is named Iris; I picked a flower. A boy in the story is named Briar. New names for people in the story after partnering include Grace and Laurel. Nature names made sense for the world.

                                    And in a story that I just got an offer for (yay!), everyone, without exception, basically has a nonsense made-up name. And their names aren't even particularly intuitive to pronounce by English standards. So why did I do that?

                                    Yes, there was a reason. I had created a culture that's strongly gender segregated, and the protagonist is transgender (though I don't use the word "gender" anywhere in the story). Now, you spend the entire story in the protagonist's head understanding her as a girl, but her culture understands her to be a boy and reads her given name, Lihill, as a boy's name. She also wants to do things girls do in their culture and has to deal with a LOT of pushback, but we don't have the same "NO THAT IS NOT FOR BOYS" attitude toward the things she wants to do. I thought the whole thing would acquire a more sympathetic vibe from the reader if we had no knee-jerk feeling that this is a boy's name and those are a boy's things. I have to wonder if the average person would be as willing to set aside preconceived notions about her gender if I'd named her Bob.

                                    Probably not.

                                    Names are way more than a jumble of sounds. And as writers, we're supposed to be word artists. We make choices about how we use names, and though most of the time when I set a story in the real world my characters have pretty ordinary names, there are times when ordinary names would be way weirder in context.

                                    Saturday, April 18, 2015

                                    Personal Digest Saturday: April 11 – April 17

                                    Life news this week: 
                                    • Well the big event was going to Minnesota and presenting my talk on asexual/aromantic/demi/gray inclusion in LGBTQ+ spaces. Now there's a video! But to be honest I don't think I did that good a job. There were a bunch of things I meant to talk about and I just skimmed over them because I was tired. I wrote more about the whole trip here in this blog entry.
                                    • Finally got to see my dear Mommy again on Saturday. She came over and we ate GrillSmith food (because we're predictable), and we just hung out chatting and I showed her some photos.
                                    • I watched some more cartoons that other people have been recommending to me. I caught up some on Adventure Time (which I already liked), saw the rest of Gravity Falls (which I liked but was kinda disappointed in), and a couple episodes of Over the Garden Wall. Still haven't found something I'm in a weird rut about like Steven Universe though. That show is incredible. :D
                                    • I read one and a half books on the plane rides and also got several frames done on my webcomic. I felt like I used my traveling time wisely!
                                    • Going back to work was kind of a bummer because we had been competing for two big projects and it turned out we'd lost them both. Ugh. Well, back to the drawing board.
                                    • Jeaux and I ate at Moe's and listened to Night Vale, and we talked a lot about cartoons because he's as big a geek as I am. Also he got me some Steven Universe comics from the comic store and I'm gonna die. :D They're so cute!
                                    New reviews of my book:
                                                  Places featured:
                                                                      Reading progress:

                                                                      New singing performances:

                                                                      Here I'm singing "As Long as You're Mine" from Wicked. I tried to make it a solo version even though it's really a duet song.

                                                                      New drawings:

                                                                      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0518: "That Person Now."

                                                                      New videos:

                                                                      "Ace/Aro-Spectrum Inclusion in LGBTQ" talk at University of Minnesota

                                                                      New photos:  

                                                                      Here's me right before I took the trip to Minnesota, watching people swimming and thinking about going someplace cold.

                                                                      Airport coffee: a necessary evil.
                                                                      The Spring Pride flier in the queer student cultural center room.
                                                                      Flags in the center!

                                                                      More flags--the asexual flag is there!
                                                                      Lots of queer books!

                                                                      They seem to have a great queer library.
                                                                      I was wearing a shirt with Steven Universe characters on it and everyone there kept complimenting me on it and stuff so I was like . . . I'm not gonna change into my other more professional shirt now. :D (I should have figured that the queer kids would like these gals.)

                                                                      Giving my talk here.
                                                                      Happy in my hotel room.
                                                                      And here are my haircut comparison photos.

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