Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Racism: By a Conservative White Woman

So apparently it's Blog Against Racism Week.


What I want to know is when are we going to stop talking about racism, and actually stop being racist?

My answer: Not during my lifetime. Possibly never.

First, because I have my doubts that those who in positions of power on the race issue really WANT to stop talking about racism. It's an attention getter. It gives them press to be able to shout racism, even when it's not justified. Look at Gates-gate. Gates shouted racism, President Obama shouted racism, but as the facts come out it appears racism was not at the core of it, or at the heart of it, or on the surface of it. But we racist humans assumed that it was, didn't we. All of us. Of every race. Did we want it to be about racism? On the outside you might say, "NO!" But somewhere deep inside were you perhaps hoping that a white racist would get his comeuppance? In my own sphere, I have a beautiful story I wrote four years ago. I watched a dear friend of mine cry as she read this story. A noted author critiqued it and praised it highly. However, it is unlikely I will be able to sell it because it is a story of a Pre-Civil War American male slave, and I, the author, am a white woman. Never mind that the story is less about slavery and race than it is about being human and wanting desperately to be loved and accepted. It is not uncommon for such stories to be rejected by publishers simply because the author is white. Or because the author is a man and the main character a woman. Is that right and good? To discriminate in THAT way? If the author was black, and was rejected for her race, would that be right and good? The answer to both questions SHOULD be no.

You might say that a white person can't possibly understand being black well enough to write about a black person. But to say such a thing is nonsense. It's racist. It's the opposite of what those who seek an end to racism purport to be after. I am human. I can write about the human experience in any shape or color. It's the author's enigma. If I can only write about my own narrow experiences of being, then my stories will inevitably have to be peopled only by white women. In which case I would be branded a racist for NOT including people of 'color,' possibly a sexist by men's groups seeking a reversal of the destructive radical feminist prejudice against males of our species, for doing exactly what those seeking to end racism demanded that I do. And what other ways might I have to narrow my 'field of acceptable subject matter?' Only religious women? Only women who were virgins at marriage? Only women with three children? Only women who live in Utah? Only women who graduated with a degree in Fine Arts? Only women whose parents never divorced? Only women with sibling? What happened to freedom of expression? What happened to being color blind?

Racism can only end when everyone, of every color and creed, is willing to lay aside the past, let bygones be bygones, and replace prejudice with compassion, replace exclusivism with inclusionism.

But the second and most important reason is simply that it is part of human nature to be racist--and sexist, and religionist, and culturalist, and classist, and on and on and on. To NOT be one of these we would have to rehardwire the human brain. Even infants, before they can possibly be influenced by society, react differently to different faces--in color, shape, features. It is a fundamental of the human experience to be wary, though I tend to think 'wary' is too hard a word, of people who are different from ourselves. We can't legislate or punish it away. Even compassion can't entirely eliminate a tendency that is part of our humanity, to be conscious of the differences in others. Some like to dream of a 'color blind' society, in which our differences magically disappear. Well that could happen, I suppose, if we all wore masks, and identical clothing, and did the same things, and lived in the same houses, and worshipped the same god, and, ate the same food, and watched the same television programs... Oh. No. Never mind. That would be 1984, wouldn't it? Is that what we want? I, for one, tend to enjoy the differences in others. I sometimes wonder if those who shout 'DIVERSITY!' don't really mean 'CONFORMITY TO MY WAY OF THINKING!'

I'm certainly not espousing hate, though I believe hate to be protected under the Constitution. We can't and shouldn't legislate what someone thinks or feels. We can and should punish people for the crimes they commit. But should we make racism a crime?

Of all the liberty-robbing slippery slopes we've slid down in past 150 years, that one feels like the slipperiest of all.

The answer is not to force an end to racism. It's not to whine and complain and shove the 'racially oppressed' in the spotlight while they prove themselves to be racist in their own rights. It's not to feel guilty over our own self-perceived racism. It's to accept that we see others who are different from ourselves as, well, different, and we can't change that. But what we CAN do is rise above our natures and seek love and understanding, AND be equally compassionate toward those who choose, by their God-given free will, to hate.

When Christ said "Love your enemies," he meant it. In loving, we soften hardened hearts, change angry minds, change enemies to friends, and change the world in way that PRESERVES our liberties, instead of destroying them.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I've read my fair share of horror (I've even written some), but I don't necessarily like it all.

Besides, what can be more terrifying than reading the newspaper?

But that's kind of the crux of what makes really good horror really good. It's plausible. The vampires and werewolves (besides being hijacked by romance writers *rolling eyes*) are all good fun, but not hugely scary because there ARE NO vampires or werewolves. Sorry fans of Stephanie Meyers.

I go in for really good psychological horror, the kind that explores the darker side of humanity and leaves you not double checking the doors at night to keep it out, but taking a look at your own heart and mind and trying to convince yourself that YOU could never do something like that.

I present, as an example, the profoundly chilling "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," by one of the powerhouses of speculative fiction, Harlan Ellison. You can find it in several volumes, including:

1. Bad Moon Rising, edited by Tom Disch
2. The American Fantasy Tradition, edited by Brian M. Thomsen (which I highly recommend as a good collection of dark fantasy and horror from American authors)
3. The Essential Ellison: A 35 Year Retrospective and the expanded 50 Year Retrospective
4. Deathbird Stories, by Harlan Ellison

Several other. Just Google the story title.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Baby Dies From Rat Bites

I read about this in our local paper yesterday, and have since hounded out a few online articles and read a couple of forums.

Most are quick to condemn the parents, like this:

Not checking on a three month old for " Several hours" is neglect. I wish they could sterilze people like these "parents" so they could never again expose a baby to harm.

Actually, it's pretty typical not to check on an infant for several hours while it's sleeping. They tell you when you come home from the hospital that when the baby sleeps you should rest and try to get some sleep yourself.

But really, how many young parents have been taught they should 'teach' their baby to sleep by letting them 'cry it out' in their crib? Loads--by their own parents, by their doctors, by wise friends. Is this the wisest course? Depends on who you talk to. You can find arguments for everything from the strict 'cry it out' method to never separating baby from mother for the first six months of life. I tended toward the latter with my three children. All seem to be turning out just fine.

But the fact of the matter is, babies scream. They scream bloody murder over every little thing. Some babies--especially babies in the 2 to 15 week range--just scream because that's what they do. We call it a 'colicky baby.'

Sometimes parents just need to put the baby down and let it scream to preserve their own sanity.

A little screaming never hurt a baby. A frustrated and exhausted parent certainly can.

I had read in one report that the father was planning to buy a video monitor. Could it be that this baby was just a screamer and he was going to buy that monitor so the mother would be able to ease her own anxieties by keeping a visual watch over the baby while she cried herself to sleep? Hmm.

Could it be that little Natalie screamed for 20 or 30 minutes--a perfectly reasonable amount of time for a colicky baby in the evening--while her mother stood outside the door listening and wanting to go in, but heeding the advice of some 'wiser' authority, or giving herself a much needed break from her own struggle with exhaustion? Could it be that the rats hit a major artery in the baby's leg and she bled out quickly? Could it be that Natalie's mother breathed a sigh of relief from the other side of the doorway when the child finally fell silent, believing with all her heart that the baby was safe and sleeping in her crib?

I don't know. I don't have all the answers. But I, having been there, having struggled with crying babies and the draining exhaustion of new motherhood, can't condemn these parents as quickly as others might.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Editor Schmeditor

I have now received two rejections from a particular high-profile editor.

Both (and this is the funny part) had the author name incorrect.

Dear Margaret...

Uh, Sir, my name's not Margaret. Thanks for so clearly advertising--twice--that you use a form rejection.

I have to admit, the first rejection was well-deserved. My computer printer was acting up, spreading blotches of ink all over the page. I had had my story printed elsewhere, but had forgotten to have a cover sheet printed. So, OOOPS! (If you are a new author, submitting by snail-mail, DO NOT make this same stupid mistake.) I handwrote the cover letter. Yeah. Seems trivial. But in the publishing game editors are looking for any possible excuse to toss your story in the trash. I deserved an obvious form rejection, complete with the wrong name to make the point.

The second time, however, I did everything right. Clean manuscript, perfect margins, brief cover letter, the whole schlameel. Still, the form rejection with the wrong name. I don't mind the form rejection. Hell, I send enough of them out myself, and even occasionally make a mistake on them--like neglecting to type the title of the story in the little spot in my form that looks like this--> "."

Did the story suck? I don't think so. I've submitted it to several other markets, and from all but one (two now, who sent form rejections) have received positive personal comments and invitations to submit with them again--but, I admit, no sales. Still, crappy stories don't get those kinds of rejections from noteworthy markets--like IGMS and Abyss & Apex.

So one time I can chalk up to editorial error. But twice?

Is he trying to tell me something? Did I, in some other life, pee on his wheaties?

This Facebook Thing

I'm not so sure about it.

I've been facebooking now for about a month. I don't know. Is it worth it? Does it just eat up more of my valuable time? It seems to be eating up blogging time for some participants--friends who no long update their blogs and such.

But it's not the same thing as a blog. If I do a Google search for information on some particular topic, Google isn't going to point me to a facebook page. But it will point me to any number of blogs with relevant facts and links.

In many ways it's fun to facebook. I'm having conversations with distant friends and relatives that I certainly wouldn't intentionally pick up the phone to have--like chatting with nieces and nephews who I rarely get a chance to speak to unless we're attending the same family function. So, in that respect, I can certainly see the value of it.

But in other ways it's an annoying distraction. My facebook homepage is stocked with comments and activities of friends and family that I'm not hugely interested in. I don't really care that one facebook friend is playing a particular game, or that another facebook friend is hungry and leaving the computer to get a bite to eat. But all that shows up on my facebook page. All of it. It's like standing in a room full of people, trying to listen to each little cell of conversation that's going on. It's a little schizophrenic.

But I'm there. I have a few fairly illustrious friends, too. Like Campbell New Author Award winner Mary Robinette Kowal and multi-published author Dave Farland. Mary and I have been friends for five years or so. Dave I've never met, but he invited me. It's publicity, I'm sure. Authors want to get their faces out there as much as possible, in every way possible. That's why I blog. That's one reason I facebook. Slowly, over time, your name gets out there.

I suppose actually getting stories published helps too.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


My 17-year-old daughter scored a 31 on her ACT!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

VERY Rare!

My DH and I spent a day at the Grand Canyon this week, and while there we experienced a very rare atmospheric phenomenon--a Fire Rainbow or Circumhorizontal Arc.

What is a Fire Rainbow?

It's a rainbow producing light refraction that can only occur during the summer months, and only in mid-latitudes, and only when cirrus clouds are present, and only when the ice crystals in those cirrus clouds are perfectly aligned to produce THIS:

This is a faint one, but it is there for certain in that small patch of cirrus clouds just above the trees. It lasted for about 3 minutes, then was gone.