Monday, April 30, 2018

The Distance that Is the Past

Sacchi Green

I almost forgot that I'm supposed to be up today. I could plead a whole day missing from my week due to spending it in a hospital watching a family member get a blood transfusion (not because of symptoms, but a decreasing red blood cell count) but in fact I should have taken advantage of that day of sitting to get some writing chores done.

In any case, my mind has been very much on the distance that is the past, contemplating the coming necessity of selling the house where I grew up and my father lived until four months ago. I have complicated thoughts about that distance between the past and the present, but I'm not up to digging into the subject when I'm already late in posting, so I'm going to punt by offering a look at my not-yet-published (and without official final approval) superheroine novel, which involves a link between a very distant past and our almost-present.

The Shadow Hand, Chapter 1
Sacchi Green

Tremors underfoot alerted Cleo before she heard the growl of distant engines and saw plumes of dust rising across the desert. Motorcycles, not on the road, but racing in leaps and jerks across rough terrain.
Lieutenant Ashton saw them an instant later. “Cleo! Ours?”
“No. Not ours.” Cleo and engines shared a common language, learned when she was raised above her uncle’s automotive repair shop.  She shaded her eyes against the unrelenting sun. “Coming too fast for us to make it back to the jeep and get it going.”
She’d disabled the vehicle herself as an excuse to drop behind the convoy and have an hour or two exploring the ancient ruins of a walled palace built over a thousand years ago and deserted for centuries. The Lieutenant had read about El Ukhaidir when she’d studied anthropology and archaeology in college, knowing she’d be deployed to the Middle East and figuring she might as well know something about its history.
The turrets in the walls and the graceful, elegant arches within, some crumbling from the weight of years, were fascinating, and the courtyards still showed traces of great clay pots where flowering fruit and nut trees might once have grown, probably almond and apricot, according to Ash. There were even remnants of a low wall that would have encircled a shallow pool.
A place well worth visiting, exploring, even fantasizing about, although Cleo’s fantasies ran more to envisioning harem girls lounging beside the pool, while Ash kept talking about a famous woman who’d discovered and mapped ruins like this, an eccentric British explorer who’d become an expert on the desert and its tribes, and been called by some “The Desert Queen.” Cleo had listened, but more to the point as far as she was concerned—even more than imagined harem girls—was the chance to be together with Ash. Alone. A chance they’d taken as much advantage of as they could in the limited time they’d dared to stay.
 But now enemies were approaching, and Cleo and Ash were less than halfway back to the jeep. As easy as repairs would be, no way could she do it fast enough to be gone before the oncoming motorcycles arrived.
Damn! Cleo knew better than to believe morning reports that a sector was secure. Why had she chosen to believe them today? Hope overriding skepticism, that’s why.  
The stone ruins were already too far away to reach before they could be seen. Besides, that would be too obvious as a hiding place.
“This way!” Ash ordered. She veered from the path and bolted across sand and gravel toward the dry wadi that must once have provided water for the palace in the brief rainy seasons. Cleo gripped her rifle close and slid down a steep bank behind her. No need for Ash to look back to make sure she followed; they both knew by now that Cleo would follow her Lieutenant anywhere, even to the depths of hell—which this might very well be.
The undulating wadi was wide and shallow, the bank just high enough to hide them if they stood erect, but not from an observer on the edge looking directly downward. There were overhangs left by erosion in many places, some deep and cave-like. One hollow, where the dry streambed turned sharply, looked big enough to hold them. They scrabbled inside, making it still deeper and higher, clawing desperately at the packed soil and gravel, glad of the dirt that collapsed behind them across the entrance and provided more concealment.
“Behind me,” Ash panted, wriggling so that Cleo was shoved further into their burrow. “That’s an order, Sergeant Brown!”
“I’m the one with the rifle!” Not to mention the one with sharpshooter rating. But when the Lieutenant called her “Sergeant” in that tone, arguing was out of the question, so she crouched behind with the gun angled across Ash’s shoulder. If they were discovered…
By the noise and clouds of dust there were too many cyclists to defend against. Cleo knew what the fate of two captured woman soldiers could be. Her own skinny ass might have no more than propaganda appeal, if they even noticed her sex before shooting to kill. She’d been mistaken for a teenaged boy often enough. But Lieutenant Ashton, an officer and most definitely a woman, for all her tall, strong frame, would be a rare prize.
The growls of engines rose to a roar, louder, closer, closer—Cleo estimated a dozen machines—and stopped.
They’d found the disabled jeep.
Ash shifted in the confined space, trying to draw her sidearm. The slight movement triggered a shower of sand and stones from above. Cleo felt Ash flinch as something struck her right hand. Body pressed hard against Ash’s back, head against her thick, dark hair, cheek against her face, Cleo steadied her. Enough light came into their hiding place to show a trickle of blood along Ash’s hand, already beginning to crust over with the dust that covered every inch of them. Sweat trickling down their faces turned into gritty mud. Ash reached down with her left hand, groped for the stone that had hit her, and stared at it in the dim light. Cleo strained to see it, without success.
Voices carried through the dry desert air, shouts, questions, orders, too far away to make out individual words. The convoy Ash and Cleo had lagged behind left plenty of tracks, so the newcomers might conclude that the jeep’s occupants had gone on in another vehicle. Or they might not. The women’s own boots wouldn’t have made much impression on the hard ground, but a really skillful tracker might notice something. Cleo herself would have noticed.
The voices came gradually closer, paused for some sort of discussion, then moved on toward the arches and turrets of the ruins. Ash and Cleo dared to draw a few breaths, then froze as boots, more than one pair, crunched over pebbles until they stopped not far away near the rim of the wadi.
Two voices, arguing. The others must have gone on to search the interior of the fortress while these men checked out the wadi. One of them cursed and moved off to follow the rest, but the other could be heard starting down the bank and then, after the first step or two, setting off an avalanche of dry soil.
Under cover of the clamor outside Ash tried again to get at the holstered sidearm at her hip. Cleo’s leg was pressed so hard against the pistol that it bruised her knee. There was no room for her to shift—but suddenly the gun wasn’t there at any more. It was in Ash’s injured hand. A hand that hadn’t moved, and couldn’t possibly have reached for the pistol.
The sound of boots on gravel moved away. “How…?” Cleo murmured. Ash’s hand began to shake. Lieutenant Ashton’s hands never shook! They’d been in tight spots before, with their whole squad in danger, and she’d stayed cool as an October breeze in Montana.
The faint quaver in her whisper scared Cleo. She didn’t let it show. “Later. It’s okay. Hold steady.”
Cleo felt Ash brace and take command. “Sergeant. I’ll save two bullets. You know what to do, if it comes to that.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” One for each of them. They would not be taken alive. Cleo’d be the one to do it, as she’d promised once before, when it had not quite come to that.
The sound of boots approached again. No more time for talking. Maybe no more time for living. Cleo drew in a slow, silent breath, and held it, a breath filled with the aroma of Ash’s sweat, the lemon soap she used, and an essence all her own that only Cleo knew. If there’d been rumpled lavender-scented sheets beneath them instead of acrid desert, it would have been almost like her scent in that tiny room in Paris where they’d spent a glorious secret week of leave. Add in the musk of their lovemaking, just Ash and Cleo together, no barrier of rank, no sense of shame; and their reflections in the wall mirror framed by carved wooden curlicues and cherubs, with Ash’s dark tousled hair just long enough to brush her jaw and Cleo’s cropped coppery head pressed against her cheek; a memory to cling to. All the more if it would be the last memory ever.
A breeze had sprung up outside, sending little puffs of dust through the slit at the cave’s entrance. Anyone looking there directly would notice that opening. Cleo let her breath out slowly and drew another one.
The pistol appeared suddenly in Ash’s other hand while the fingers of her right hand tightened around the stone that had cut her. Bit by bit, with quiet rustlings and scrapings, the entrance to their hideaway changed form to allow them both a better view—and yet Ash hadn’t moved.
Cleo tensed. She must be hallucinating. Stress, heat, dust-filled air, fear for Ash, all screwing with her mind. Focus! Concentrate! Brace for whatever you have to do!
 There was a hint of movement outside. Now she could see, clearly, the man pausing just beyond them under an overhang that jutted out like the prow of a ship.
He began to turn. Ash’s hand didn’t move, just tensed even more, and a tremor shook the overhang. She raised a finger, and a clod fell. Another twitch of her finger, and a bigger clod fell from the overhang, then another, and another. With a loud crack the whole formation began to capsize, stones and dirt pelting down, almost hiding the man. He yelled and struggled, lurched as though he’d been shoved from behind, and managed to stumble away before the full brunt of the landslide hit. When the noise and dust subsided he could be heard some distance downstream scrambling up the side of the wadi.
The returning silence felt louder than the turmoil just past. What had happened? What had Ash done? And how?
Ash kept on staring at the object in her hand. Cleo, with no idea what to say, said nothing. Eventually the men who had been searching the ruins could be heard on the path back to the road, but it was a while before they revved their engines and roared away. Cleo knew all too well what they’d probably been doing in the meantime.
At last, desperate to move her aching joints and feel more air and space around her, she lifted the end of her rifle and began to knock bits of dirt and pebbles out of the small opening in front of them. Ash looked up, and all at once great gaps appeared, as though some giant hand was punching through the wall.
Ash lurched forward and scrambled out on all fours, dropping the pistol along the way while favoring the hand still holding the hidden object. Cleo tumbled out behind her. They sat a few feet apart in the dry streambed, gulping fresh air, dazed, but not so much that Cleo wasn’t on the alert for any sign that someone had stayed behind.
“Cleo,” Ash said at last. She hesitated. “Sergeant Brown.”
This was serious. Cleo waited. Usually when Ash shifted into full Lieutenant mode her clear gray eyes took on a steely glint, but not now. This time her eyes begged for reassurance.
“Sergeant Brown, what…what did you just see?”
“I saw you save our sorry asses, Ma’am. I don’t claim to understand what happened, how things moved the way they did, but I saw it.”
“So if I’m hallucinating, so are you.”
Cleo could get away with a lot when it came to most folks, but she could never lie to the Lieutenant. To Ash. “We’re not hallucinating. Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I know plenty of things for sure without understanding them. Objects moved, and from what I saw, you made them move. How did it feel to you?”
“It was…strange. Things happened because I thought about them, but it wasn’t just me. It was this.” She opened her right hand at last and showed what she’d been holding; what, Cleo was pretty sure, had fallen on her in the cave and drawn blood. “Her.”
Not stone, at least not any kind Cleo had ever seen. Ivory, maybe, yellowed by age. Whatever it was made of, the carved figure was clearly, extravagantly female, four or five inches high, with three pairs of full breasts springing from her torso. Some kind of ancient goddess. She wore a sort of high crown that must once have been even higher but had been broken off. Her legs were obscured by a skirt incised with unidentifiable designs. Her face had lost part of its nose, but was otherwise intact, with a regal look about the chin and the direct gaze. Her arms, too, were mostly missing, although you could see where they’d been, and there was enough left of one of them to form a sharp point where it had broken—a point stained with recently shed blood.
Ash’s blood. All that mattered to Cleo right then, besides the unlikely fact that they were still alive, was Ash. The Lieutenant was…shaken. Not scared, not confused, not angry, exactly, but struggling with something made up of all of those, and more.
“She’s stuck in my mind,” Ash blurted out at last. “Trying to control me. She may have saved us, but I want her out. I get all the orders I can stand from my commanding officers.”
Defiance! Cleo nearly shook with relief. Ash was going to be all right.
“Toss her to me, Ash. See how you feel then.”
She held out her hand, then tried to duck when the figurine shot up and hurtled toward her head, stopping with a sudden jerk just before it hit. Ash’s face was taut with strain. A fierce heat flowed from the hovering figure, feeling as though it would sear Cleo’s skin, but all at once the goddess, or whatever she was, vanished. A few pebbles could be heard dropping inside the cave. Maybe she’d burrowed back into it.
Cleo’s whirling mind took refuge in crude humor. “Guess I’m not this particular Desert Queen’s type. Just as well. She wants somebody like one of those Hindu Kali statues, with a bunch of extra arms and hands to do justice to all her extra boobs.”
“What she wanted,” Ash said, standing somewhat stiffly, “was to hurl herself right through your head. I struggled to stop her, and I won. Now she’s gone. I made her go away. It’s over.”
Cleo got to her feet with an effort. It seemed like they’d been scrunched up in that cave in fear for their lives an hour or more. “So it was only your ass she intended to save, and mine was just collateral non-damage? I can live with that.”
“If you’re lucky,” Ash said. “She may be bound to this place, not to the palace over there—that’s only about 1300 years old—but to something much older. Astarte, Ishtar, Ashtoreth—many names for more or less the same goddess. Maybe some temple was here thousands of years ago that left no trace—except for Her.”
“A real Desert Queen, then? But ‘Ashtoreth?’ Really? That name?”
“Don’t go there! It’s just a coincidence. Besides, in this area her name would most likely be Ishtar.” Ash’s irritation was an improvement on worrying about possible hallucinations. “A hundred years ago the clerks at Ellis Island didn’t bother with figuring out how to spell immigrants’ names. My great-grandfather’s name became ‘Ashton’ instead of ‘Athanasiou.’ Greek. A whole different crew of goddesses.” Her expression warned Cleo not to mention her actual first name, Athena. “Anyway, enough of that. She’s gone now. End of story.”
“Sure.” Cleo watched Ash bend down for the pistol she’d dropped, now half-buried in gravel. The gun rose to meet Ash’s hand. “If you say so.”
“It’ll wear off,” Ash muttered, still looking down.
Cleo groped for words. What must it feel like, some impossible, unnatural power being thrust into you without your consent? Something that couldn’t be explained by experience, or training, or instinct? For that matter, was Cleo herself suffering from shellshock, to willingly believe in a stone goddess controlling her commander?
Right now it didn’t matter. She found some words. “Whether it wears off or not, you’re still you.” She reached out, and Ash’s hand met hers in an entirely natural grip.
“We’re still us,” Ash said.
What flowed between them when they touched needed no explanation at all. Ash rested her gritty cheek against Cleo’s until a stronger breeze sprang up, signaling the lowering of the sun toward the vast desert horizon.

That's not the end of the chapter, but I've gone on too along already, so I'll stop before the part about throwing a jeep through the air just as it explodes in flames.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Bent Double

by Jean Roberta

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.”

These are the opening lines of “Dulce et Decorum Est,” an anti-war poem by Wilfred Owen, a British soldier who was killed in a gas attack a fortnight before the Armistice that ended the first World War. The title comes from “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (It is sweet and fitting to die for your country), a line from a poem by the Roman poet Horace, which schoolboys were taught in the early twentieth century – and of course, ancient Roman patriotism translated easily into “modern” British patriotism.

Why am I quoting this here? Because this is one of the poems I taught in the winter semester which just ended. With virtual piles of student essays (sent on-line) still waiting for my attention, I feel as if I am trudging towards my distant rest.

In reality, the semester officially ends on April 30, which means that all my marks have to be submitted by then.

And of course, May 1 is the deadline for Twisted Sheets, the multi-partner erotic anthology that our Lisabet will be editing for the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, and for which I hoped to revise a story. At this point, I don’t see how this could be done.

May 1 is also the deadline for a call-for-submissions from Lethe Press for “The Decadents,” historical gay-male stories. I don’t often write about male-on-male, but I discovered the thinly-disguised gay sensibility of Oscar Wilde as a teenager, and loved it. I had a good (IMO) idea several months ago for a story based on the actual acquisition by the British Museum of a large fragment of a statue of Pharaoh Ramses II (also called Ozymandias, his Greek name) in 1816. (This event inspired Percy Shelley to write a sonnet.) I haven’t had time to write this story, though I still have the notes.

And I’m still coughing like a hag, which is an unflattering term for women of my vintage.

Last week, I was diagnosed by a doctor with Influenza B, which kept me in bed, exhausted, while the secretary of the English Department supervised one of my exams. I’m feeling better now, but the tickle in my lungs won’t go away.

So far, I’ve discovered two plagiarists among my students. The standard protocol is to send proof of the plagiarism to the Associate Dean, who hands down a sentence (usually a grade of 0 for the essay). Today I have to bring the second student’s essay and the book review he plagiarized to the relevant office.

At the other extreme, I had a small, intimate class of talented young writers for Expository Prose (non-fiction) in the Creative Writing program. As much as I enjoyed their company, their work is demanding in its own way. They wrote a lot, and they deserve more advanced editing than do the unwilling first-year students who hated having to write anything. I’m tempted just to give all the creative writing students top marks and say “Excellent!” on all their essays (files), but this would be unfair to those who want to know how they could improve – and I think all ten of them do.

The creative writing class had a workshop format, so they all critiqued each other’s work. So I already know that one of the major projects is by a disabled student who wrote about contemplating suicide, regularly, in his teens, and why he ultimately decided not to do it. This piece is emotionally demanding.

Thank the Goddess (or Whomever), I have no classes scheduled for the spring or summer, though the head of the English Department is following the advice of a Dean in “volunteering” me for more committee work because apparently I don’t do enough for the university!

So I feel as if I’m trudging towards my distant rest in a smoky landscape. I’ll report back from there the next time it’s my turn to post.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Dark Days and Brighter Ones

by Giselle Renarde

When BBC World News mentions the city you live in, that usually isn't a good thing. Usually it's because something horrendous has happened. Such was the case on Monday, when a van mounted the sidewalk on Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch in north Toronto. The driver proceeded to brutally and deliberately run down pedestrians, leaving 10 dead and 15 injured at last count.

The area of the city in which this atrocity occurred, the very core of the former borough of North York, is close to my heart.

In the early 90s, my choir performed our concerts at the newly-constructed theatre there.

When my sister became a concert pianist, one of her first public recitals was in Mel Lastman Square, where a vigil will be held on Sunday for those who died this week.

But the biggest reason I hold that neighbourhood in my heart is that I met my girlfriend when I got a job along that stretch of Yonge Street. She'd been working there a year or so. We didn't really notice each other, at first. It certainly wasn't love at first sight. In fact, neither of us remembers the day we met, what the other was wearing, none of that stuff. Doesn't matter. Once we started talking, it grew from there.

Hard to believe we met over a decade ago.

Our 10-year anniversary (the anniversary of our first date) is coming up on May 1st.

While our first date was in the cemetery near my house, during the first few years of our relationship we spent most of our time in the Yonge and Sheppard area. Some of that time was spent working together, sure, but when you work with a new love, getting up in the morning is a joy. I always looked forward to seeing her when I got in.

During our lunch breaks, we'd go to one of the restaurants along Yonge, or grab a bite at Tim's, or bring a packed lunch and eat in the sun at Mel Lastman Square. We had some very serious conversations in that square.

We took many walks through York Cemetery, too. I've always loved cemeteries. Last year, for our 9th anniversary, Sweet took me to visit her mother's grave. It was the first time I'd been. I was very moved by the gesture. As we were leaving, we saw deer just inside the gates. Two of them. Sweet stopped the car and took out her camera.

Any time I see deer in a cemetery, I always think it means something. They probably just like the stretches of open grounds.

You would think this week's atrocity on land that holds so many beautiful memories would taint those memories, but that's not the case. If anything, the outpouring of grief from all corners of the city, all corners of the planet, has bolstered my love of the neighbourhood where I met my girlfriend. Where we had our first kiss. Where we walked together, talked together, fucked in a storage closet--you name it, we did it in North York.

As our 10-year anniversary approaches, the place where it all began is on my mind and in my heart. This whole week, I've reflected on the spaces we occupied in those early days. And the people we met, people who lived and worked in the area.

It's a solemn time for Toronto. We are wounded, but every day we heal a little more by showing each other a level of kindness I've never seen in this city. Torontonians aren't exactly known for being kind--just ask any Canadian who doesn't live here. I'm hoping that, in the aftermath of tragedy, we can hold on to the insight we share today: the recognition that we all deserve to be treated with dignity, with kindness, with respect.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wanted: Writing Partner A Story from the distant past

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wanted: Writing Partner

The Lonely Prince

By C. Sanchez-Garcia
Once upon a time there was a wealthy and handsome Prince. As his last dying wish the King asked the Prince to find a beautiful Princess and be married and have children. The Prince traveled to the Kingdom of Whiz and asked the Princess Margarita to marry him. Now Princess Margarita was the most clever and beautiful woman in all the world, without peer. "Fuck you!" she said I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last asshole Prince on earth. I'd rather marry a magic frog!"

The King died and the Prince became the new king, but still the lonely Prince had no wife. So the poor, unmarried Prince spent all his time and his money any way he wanted and went hunting and fishing with his friends as often as he pleased and took yoga and gourmet cooking classes, and studied American literature and poetry and made wild love with hundreds of exciting and interesting women from all over the world and lived happily ever after.
 The End

The Lonely Prince

by Daddys Bad Grrrl w/ C. Sanchez-Garcia

1ce tme ts lonly Prnz. Like OMFG KG - "new BFF" Hello? ((!!!)) :-O PrnzS Mrgrta PILTF shld mrry.

W2HU? sd Prnz. LOL!

STFU sd PrnzS. FO! >:-P

WTF?? U2 sd Prnz. FTS! :-(

Prnz hptt evr afr. No Prbm.

Th N

The Lonely Prince

By Ernest Hemingway and C. Sanchez-Garcia

The prince stood outside the King's chamber. He knocked on the door. There was no answer. He knocked again. He's in there all right, thought the Prince. The King opened the door and the Prince went in.

"You must get married." said the King.

"I want to be a bull fighter." said the Prince.

"There aren’t any bull fighters’ anymore." said the King.

"Who must I marry?"

"There is a Princess in the Kingdom of whiz. She's all right."

"I'll see what I can do." said the Prince.

The Prince left and the King shut the door after him.

In the Kingdom of whiz the Prince was introduced to Margarita. It had been a hot day. He had walked. It had been a good walk and he was not ashamed. The Princess was in her room with her chambermaid. "What do you want, bright boy?" said the Princess.

"He stinks." Said the Chambermaid.

"She says you stink, bright boy." Said the Princess.

"My father says I should be married." Said the Prince. "You have a sweet can."

"Bright boy is just full of bright ideas, ain't he Molly?" Said the Princess.

"He's not. He's dumb." said the chambermaid.

"She says you’re dumb, bright boy." said the Princess.

The Prince shrugged. He lit a cigarette, but did not offer one. He waited for her.

"I am having an affair with a bull fighter." said the Princess. "Juan Belmonte."

"He’s a good kid." said the prince.

"He stinks too. All men stink." said the Chambermaid.

"So tell me, bright boy. Why the hell would I marry you?" said the Princess.

"You might be good with a husband." said the Prince.

"I wouldn’t." said the Princess.

"If that's the way you want it." said the Prince. "It's all right."

"You think its all right?" Said the Princess. "He thinks its all right."

"He stinks." said the Chambermaid.

"You're a funny guy, bright boy. Still think I have a nice can?" said the Princess.

"Sure," said the Prince. "Why not?"

"Take off, bright boy. That's the way I want it." said the Princess.

"Okay." said the Lonely Prince.

After the king died, the Prince took up fishing. He had no luck in him for the fishing. He was a Prince who fished off the Gulf in a yacht and had gone eighty days now without taking a fish. He went lion hunting in Africa and shot a 500 pound male on the third day. "Damn fine lion." said the Prince over a whiskey and soda.

The End

The Lonely Prince

By Ray Bradbury and C. Sanchez-Garcia

"Marriage!" cried the King. "Babies! Grandchildren clambering, clinging, dropping like ripe fruit!"

"But Dad. . . " whined the Prince.

"Run! Feel! Dash! Live! Feel your life slipping through your fingers - feel it damn you."

"But Dad - "

"When I was your age, why I had conquered half the world!" The old King slapped his knotted oak knee with a mahogany hand. His ancient eyes glowed in his skull like a Jack A lantern. "The Princess of Whiz is waiting. No - pining! Go to her before her heart beats another beat!"

"I don’t see the rush." said the Prince, with a sigh of October leaves blowing down midnight streets. “And I’m shy.”

The old king was no longer listening. Skinny skeleton fingers were snaking like spiders through a wooden steam trunk. "Ah! Ah ha!"

A magicians flourish.


A pair of ratty black sneakers dangled from his fingertips. "There you mayst behold child, the enchanted sneakers of Merlin. See! Wings for your feet. These are the shoes that bestow - invisibility!"


"But to do so you must be naked! It will not make your clothes invisible, only you yourself."

But could this be? To be invisible as midnight smoke, to pinch pretty girls bottoms, steal apple pies from farmer’s windows, steal the sleep from eyes of maids, sneak through windows like a succubus.

The Prince dropped his clothes, naked as the sun and naked as the moon. He tied on the sneakers and held up his hands waiting. "How do I look?"

The King spun like a top. "Where are you, child? Where have you gone? You've vanished! Oh, it reminds me of the old days!"

"I'm off, Father." Said the naked and lonely Prince. The magic sneakers of Merlin carried him over hill and dale with the sound of green grass and the rush of summer running.

The Kingdom of Whiz - and there! The Princess' open window. He climbed in.

She was there.

The Princess was alabaster and soft vanilla ice cream.

"It is I!" cried the Prince. "Come to sweep you off your feet and be my bride!

"You're as naked as a rock!" She cried.

"You're much deceived." said the Prince. "I'm invisible. You can’t see me."

"I see the white of your eye, the bats in your belfry, the lust in your heart. And - oh my." The Princess gazed at his mighty organ. "You're a loony. But you're hung like a horse."

"I'm invisible!" said the Prince, stamping his bare foot. "All you hear is my voice."

"All right," said the Princess doubtfully, but taking the measure of him with growing excitement. "What would make you visible?"

"Uh . . . a kiss!" His Father hadn't said so yet the Prince felt it to be true. The Princess's gaze stirred his manhood so fiercely the Universe seemed to crouch like a black cat.

"Is one kiss enough?"

"Try." Said the Prince. He stepped to her and held out his arms. She touched her lips to his.

"I see your head." she said. "But that's all."

The Prince became afraid. "Only my head?"

"I think I have to kiss you for each part to be visible."

"Kiss my hand." he said.

She kissed his hand.

"I see your arm!" She kissed his other hand, noting his mighty manhood had become extremely visible and had begun to radiate heat like a desert wind. "I see your other arm." She kissed his chest. "I see your chest." She dropped to her knees and clasped him around the waist. She kissed his leg with hummingbird lips. "There's your leg." With the rasp of a tigress tongue she kissed the other leg. "And there's its fellow."

"Don’t leave me this way." he pleaded.

"It’s better to be invisible than only half visible." She kissed his feet.

"Am I visible yet?" The Prince staggered, silver stars and crimson flowers bursting in his fevered brain. "I'm going to explode! Burst like lightning, all hell fire and fourth of July thunder!"

"Only the middle is left to be kissed." she said. "Lay down over there and we'll take care of it now." He lay on the bed and the Princess dropped her clothes on the floor. She completed the process of restoring his visibility on the bed though she lingered much longer over the middle than the rest of his body. Complaining how the Prince kept undoing her work and becoming invisible she repeated the process over and over and lived happily ever after.

The End

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In The Distance (or the best laid plans...)

I’m not a planner. Not by a long way. In the past I’ve had jobs that called for ‘strategic leadership’ and long-term planning, and I suppose I must have blagged it because I never got sacked.

And rarely, as far as I can recall, did my long-term plans come to fruition. And if they did I probably wouldn’t notice because I forget my plans ten minutes after I make them and just do whatever seems the most sensible course here and now.

Some people are just wired differently. That’s okay, it wouldn’t do for us all to be the same. I’ve worked with colleagues who can peer into the distance and see it unfolding, their future (or that of others) all neatly laid out. They are good at making plans, setting goals and objectives. If we do this, then that will happen. The next step will be…, and then…

I’m rubbish at all that. It seems like some weird branch of alchemy to me but I worked in the public and voluntary sector for thirty years so that type of thinking was meat and drink to us. Public funding is doled out to those with the most convincing plans, the best worked out strategies for solving this or that ill.

It was always my observation that the only strategy guaranteed to work whatever the problem was to throw money at it, but suggesting this would have gotten me nowhere. No, my best bet was to get alongside the natural planners and schemers and try to pick the one most likely to get it right. Maybe that was my unique skill, my version of blagging – I was hopeless at coming up with plans myself, but I could spot a good one when it was dangled before me.

In all seriousness, though, I defy anyone to predict more than a few months ahead. Those clever souls who claim to be able to cast their imagination forward into the distance, three, four, five years from now – well, they live in a different world from me. Theirs is a world where governments don’t screw up and do ridiculous things for no apparent reason, economies don’t crash, key figures don’t post something outrageous on Twitter or worse still, get caught out telling lies. John Lennon was spot on when he observed that ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’

In my writing I adopt a similar attitude. I rarely plan a story from start to finish. I usually know exactly how it stars (the near bit) and I may have some notion of what could happen next. But the bits in the distance, the ending … well that’s often as much a surprise to me as it might be to the reader. We authors often talk about characters taking over and telling their own story, and I tend to rely on that. Thank goodness they don’t let me down as a rule!

Monday, April 23, 2018

From a Distance - #compassion #suffering #revolution

Earth from space

By Lisabet Sarai

From a distance you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting’s for....
~ Bette Midler, “From a Distance”

Just before I entered my senior year in high school, humans walked on the moon for the first time. With my long-time love of both science and science fiction, I was jubilant. The stars beckoned. Anything was possible.

Only months later, the Ohio National Guard fatally shot four Kent State University students protesting the Vietnam war.

Looking back, I cannot recall how I reconciled the elation and the horror stemming from these two events, though I know both affected me deeply.

We believed, back then, in the inevitable revolution. Things would never be the same. “The time’s they are a-changing,” Dylan sang, and we believed. We looked to a new world of love and peace, freedom and justice and moral responsibility. The Age of Aquarius.

Things didn’t quite turn out that way.

Well, the times did change. They always do. We impeached a president. We waited in long lines for rationed gas. We danced to Saturday Night Fever. We watched the stock market crash, rise and crash again.

Hijacked planes toppled the twin towers and claimed three thousand lives. Nightmare waves scoured the coasts of the Indian Ocean, killing two hundred thousand. Having finally quit the jungles of Vietnam, U.S. soldiers occupied the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.

We elected a black man to the Oval Office—twice. We cloned sheep, transplanted hearts, sequenced our own DNA and that of our animal cousins. We haven’t walked on Mars yet, but our robots have. We know there’s certainly water on the Red Planet, and probably some form of life.

My siblings had kids, who grew up, graduated high school, went to college. My parents left the earth, after bountiful lives no one could call short. A dear friend succumbed to ovarian cancer at fifty two. Two of my former lovers committed suicide.

Technology followed the science fiction of my youth. Computers shrank to the size of match boxes. It became more and more difficult to distinguish fact from deliberate fabrication.

My spirituality is eclectic, but I do believe the Buddha’s teaching that everything is transient. Suffering derives from attachment, the attempt to resist changing circumstances.

Through the distance of six and a half decades, I find comfort in the constant cycles of change. No matter how horrible things appear right now, they’ll be different tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Of course this also means more hard times may be coming, but they will eventually fade away as well.

The only reality (again according to the Buddha), the key to breaking the chains of illusion, is compassion. That’s my focus now, in these latter days of my life. I am trying to release the hate and anger stirred up so effectively by today’s media. I don’t want to sweat the small stuff, but to do justice and love kindness and refrain from judgment if I can. I am trying, with mixed success, to be a center of peace, radiating to those around me.

Really, that seems to be the only option.

To quote Paul McCartney, another prophet from my youth:

And in the end
the love you take
is equal to the love
you make.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Understanding Risks, Context, and Power ( #Appropriation #BDSM #HawaiianCulture #Writing )

By Annabeth Leong

This conversation has been going for almost two weeks now, so I’m going to try to add things I don’t think we’ve fully addressed yet. One key part of the discussion around appropriation, in my opinion, is an awareness of the power dynamics involved.

When we write and read BDSM, we become aware of how delicate and explosive power dynamics can be. Loving BDSM can produce a sense of ecstatic trust, of giving to each other, of deep connection, of power manipulated for ultimate arousal. BDSM performed carelessly and harmfully can break as much as the first kind can heal, push buttons, reopen old wounds, and cause lasting damage, both physical and emotional.

I would argue that writers have a similar sort of power, and that it’s our reponsibility to use it well. With BDSM, I’ve heard two competing accounts of how to behave responsibly--SSC, or safe, sane, and consensual, and RACK, risk-aware consensual kink. I sympathize more with the second description of BDSM, so I’m going to use that to talk about how writers use the power we have.

Those who object to SSC say that many of the activities BDSM practitioners engage in are not properly described as safe--they are too explosive, and there is undeniable potential for injury. That said, there are ways to be aware of the risks, to mitigate them, and to be responsible about how one is engaging with them.

Writing about other cultures has some similarities, I think. It isn’t “safe,” in that there is potential for misunderstanding and injury, both to the writer and the reader. But it may be important to do anyway, and in that case, risk-aware consensual kink provides a model. The writer should make the effort to educate themself on the potential pitfalls of writing about the culture. Are there harmful stereotypes flying around? All too often, it’s easy to engage with those unthinkingly, and I think this is one of the greatest potential harms of appropriation.

Stereotypes are like earworms--they get stuck in the head, and they present themselves easily, especially to the lazy imagination. It is all too easy to write a story full of Hispanic gang members, flamboyant, fashion-forward gay men, and tricky, duplicitous trans people. The reason is that these (twisted) ideas are floating around culture, distorting people’s views of each other, reinforcing themselves through repetition.

The same principle applies to a person writing about, say, Hawaiian culture. It’s all too easy to write a vapid piece about thick-thighed, sexually free women on an island paradise, blundering right into longstanding wounds that come from the complex realities of the situation. Growing up on Hawaii, as a part-native woman, I felt the pressures and condemnation associated with that image of sexual freedom. I experienced men who felt it was there for them for the taking. I lived in “paradise,” which was undeniably beautiful, but also full of poverty, injustice, and domestic violence.

I don’t think anyone serious is saying that white people should never write about, say, Native Hawaiians. I think the objections are that it’s easy for dominant cultures (in this case, white people) to have the louder voices, so they get to tell the stories that define people, even if those stories are twisted or incomplete. So, for example, when the United States illegally annexed Hawaii, there were many stories (told by white people) about savages and paradise--which distorts the details of what really happened. It’s amazing how many people I’ve met who have no idea of the way the United States took Hawaii, and I think that has something to do with the way that stories about Hawaii, at least the ones that have gotten the most distribution, are usually not told by Hawaiians themselves.

In talking about appropriation, I believe people are mostly asking for a seat at the table. Hey, when we’re talking about Hawaii, could you let Hawaiians talk, please? Could you cast us in movies that purport to be about us? Instead of having a supposedly native woman played by the likes of Emma Stone? (This really happened.) When we’re talking about LGBT people, maybe let LGBT people have some say in how we’re seen and defined.

So to me, the idea is not to silence but to ask for room to be made. Don’t go to an old Hawaiian lady, listen to her story, and then retell and resell it for your own profit without sharing with her. Is there a way to lift her up? To help her voice be louder?

To me, this is about being aware of the risk--that when a member of a dominant culture tells a story, that’s easily seen as more definitive, even if it’s less authentic and less correct.

At the same time, I believe there’s a request for due diligence. Please don’t read three travel brochures and try to write about Native Hawaiians. Don’t make one trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center and decide you’re all set. Read Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen. Do your research. Have some respect.

Part of the reason that this is necessary is because, while we may be able to get away with cursory research in the case of things that are common in the dominant culture, there are a lot of risks of cursory research when it comes to minority cultures. In particular, stereotypes and distortions present themselves quite easily.

So when people talk about cultural appropriation and writing, I don’t think most people are telling writers not to use their imaginations or not to write about other cultures. In the same way I wouldn’t tell you not to try knife play if that’s what you want to do. But before you try knife play, I’d certainly strongly suggest that you make yourself aware of the risks and context. And cultural appropriation is no different.

(And I’ll take a moment here to apologize for my absence the last 2 cycles. I’ve had a lot of chaos in my life lately, but am working through it. I miss you all and am going to stick with you. I hope you stick with me! <3 )

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Appropriation with a purpose

By Tim Smith

I must admit that this blog topic confused me at first. I know that appropriation means “to set aside for a specific purpose,” and is most often used in reference to a budget (i.e., an appropriation bill to fund the military). I was perplexed by how appropriation would apply to romance topics until I looked up the verb tense, appropriate. Meaning: to take by force, or to take control of.

Aha! We’ve drifted into “Fifty Shades” territory! Unfortunately, that didn’t do me much good because my erotic romances don’t bend that way. If I did undertake the domination theme, I could never write it as well as our own Lisabet, or many other erotica writers. I’ve read a few of these, and some of the goings-on actually turned me away. Inflicting or receiving pain for the purposes of sexual gratification has never appealed to me.

I’ve only used this character quirk a couple of times in my romantic spy thrillers. Each time it was applied to one of the villains. My two lead characters in that series are former CIA spooks named Nick Seven and Felicia Hagens. Both have left the spy game to settle in the laidback anonymity of the Florida Keys, where Nick owns a waterfront club in Key Largo. Installment number two in that popular series, “Never Look Back,” featured an unusual nemesis, a female former CIA co-worker named Terri Halloway. She and Nick had a fling once upon a time, but he didn’t stick around for an encore because, as he explains it to Felicia, “Terri likes to play rough and I don’t.”

I made this character a sexual sadist for a reason – to show that a female villain can be just as deadly as a male. Perhaps deadlier, given the right circumstances. Terri Halloway actually experiences a sexual climax when killing someone with a gun and gets off by making her bedmates suffer. I included a scene to highlight this trait. It starts out innocently enough, when she picks up a young stud by the hotel pool and lets him think he’s seduced her. They go to her room, and the guy quickly figures out that he got more than a casual pick-up on a hot afternoon. It was probably the leather belt tethering his hands to the bedframe and the hot candle wax dripping onto his chest that gave it away. Or possibly Terri giving his scrotum a painful squeeze so she can achieve orgasm by hearing him scream.

In another Nick Seven thriller, “The Vendetta Factor,” I reversed things. This installment had Nick taking on the Miami mafia, and there’s a bodyguard/enforcer working for one of the Dons, with a rather quirky character trait. He beats up and kills people for a living, and he thoroughly enjoys his work. So much so that it has crept into his sex life. After several graphic beatings, the pressure mounts and he must do something about it. I showed him going to a hotel room to meet an escort, who proceeds to physically degrade him. He reaches the point of no return and ravages her on the bed. Afterwards, he contemptuously throws $1000.00 at her then leaves, his needs having been fulfilled. All of this is done without a single word of dialogue or internal thought.

Appropriate THAT!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Coming Out Against Appropriation

I don’t have cable TV, so I’m often behind on knowing about TV shows and what the latest buzz is about them. It didn’t escape my attention, thanks to Twitter, that Roseanne re-launched with a new season and got really high viewership numbers. (So high that President Trump called her to congratulate her. *eye roll*)

From clicking around on Twitter, I’ve learned that Roseanne Barr is Republican and super conservative. That’s fine, I mean, everyone has the right to their own political beliefs and values. I do have trouble, however, with how she uses her platform as a tool to spread animosity and hatred, including denigrating the Parkland shooting survivors and spreading unfounded conspiracy theories about them.

But what really gets me is that on Twitter (did I tell you I spend too much time there?), a newspaper (can’t remember which one) tweeted their article about how Roseanne is helping conservative women “come out of the closet”. I came across this because another user on Twitter was complaining about the appropriation of the phrase “come out of the closet”.

I don’t think it’s unfair or wrong to use the phrase “closeted” or “come out of the closet” in a non-queer context. After all, I use it myself. I regularly accuse my sister of being a closeted Star Trek fan. (While she hates the show, she knows all of the names of the ships and captains, as well as a bunch of the alien species.) When my husband tells new friends that I’m a writer, I usually make a quip that he’s outed me and my career when I wanted to keep it on the down low.

In a non-queer context, “closeted” and “coming out of the closet” can be an apt description of someone’s interest in something. However, I do see the point of that Twitter user’s complaint.

Here’s the difference created by different contexts:

If a conservative woman comes out of the closet about her conservative political stance, the world doesn’t end. There isn’t some big to-do. There isn’t a risk of being kicked out of the family. There isn’t a risk of murder. And it’s really a “once and done” thing.

In a queer context, coming out can have serious consequences. We often hear of and celebrate the instances where coming out goes well — the movie Love, Simon was about that — but we often don’t hear of where it has negative consequences. Young people are sometimes kicked out of the house and forced to live with a friend or live on the street. There are organizations that pray for us to die horribly (from extremist factions in the Mid-East to the Westboro Baptist Church in the USA to evangelical Christians who "love the sinner, but hate the sin" who might not want us to die horribly but still hate our existence). We’re often labelled as deviant and wicked. We can lose our friends, our communities, our families, our churches, and our support networks. A close friend of mine has had multiple attempts on his life before leaving his home country.

And coming out as queer is never a once-and-done thing.

I’ve been out to my friends and family for seven years. Though I knew it would go well with everyone I felt I needed to tell, it was still a terrifying experience, one I would never wish on anyone, but one that all queer folks have to go through at some point. I was an adult and in a relationship with my then-boyfriend/now-husband, so I had stability and support if I needed it.

I’ve been out for seven years. Yet, it’s only last year that I told my doctor I’m gay and married to a man; that took years of building up the courage to tell my doctor, the one person who should absolutely know. Several months ago I ran into an old school classmate and he asked what was new, I nervously told him I was married to a man. And just last week I came out to a few women I know at the local grocery store — and even then, an instance where there’s no relationship at risk of ending, it was intimidating to come out.

It never stops.

Super supportive straight people are wonderful and amazing, but even they sometimes lack the understanding of how vulnerable it makes a queer person feel to have to come out on a regular basis. My mom talks about me and my partner just as enthusiastically as she talks about my sister and her opposite-sex partner — and, really, that’s a great thing — but it sometimes means my sexuality is put in front of people when I might not want that aspect of myself to be out in the open. One day, same-sex relationships will be entirely normalized, but we are still a very long way from it.

I generally don’t take offence very easily. If I come across an insensitive comment, I usually do a mental “meh”, shrug my shoulders, and move on. But that tweet about the appropriation of the phrase “come out of the closet” has sunk in. While I’m still not offended by the general use of the phrase, I’m finding it harder and harder to do the mental “meh” and shrug my shoulders and move on.

In that particular newspaper tweet describing how Roseanne has helped conservative women “come out of the closet”, I do now take offence at that one. Conservatives (not all conservatives, of course) don’t want people like me to exist, succeed, or be happy — and so for conservatives to be the ones to appropriate the phrase is really starting to get to me.

But my mental shift has gone further than that. With the whole President Trump fiasco — his unfolding legal issues and the divisive nature of American politics — I’ve come across tweet after tweet after Facebook comment after Facebook comment where people attack Trump’s supporters with gay sex references. With Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, in particular, I’ve seen so many comments about how he’s sucking Trump’s dick or licking his flabby taint.

These social media commentators, who are both straight and gay, are appropriating gay sex acts to insult or humiliate the people they dislike. And that bothers me.

Over and over throughout my life, I’ve heard gay sex terms used as insults — cocksucker, felcher, bottom, etc. — which implies that gay sex is something that is disgusting, perverted, and shameful.

If you’ve never had gay sex, let me tell you that it’s the complete opposite of those things. Gay sex is wonderful, intimate, passionate, and deeply connective. It doesn’t matter if you’re the top or the bottom of if you’re covered in cum or if you come out of it squeaky clean — all aspects and roles are part of the whole amazing experience.

It’s all the things that (I assume) straight sex is. Yet if someone is using a sex term to insult someone, nine times out of ten it’s a gay sex term. Our sex is being appropriated and mis-used to hurt and harm others.

We like to think we're getting better or more inclusive as a society — I mean, how many times have I heard "You've got gay marriage, what else do you want?" Equal marriage was a big accomplishment, yes, but it's not the end.

With my first novel, Autumn Fire, the main character has a crush but doesn't want to act on it because he's not out and isn't sure he believes in gay love. One critical review I received said that the reader felt the book wasn't realistic — she said that gay marriage is legal in Canada, so why wouldn't the character be out already and just follow his heart. To make a statement like that means there's an obvious lack of understanding of how complex and terrifying and still-possibly-dangerous the act of coming out is.

The ongoing fight for equal rights is far from over.

Just last week, I was told by someone that they'd been watching the news about the serial killer in Toronto that's taken the lives of several gay men over the last couple decades — and then this person said that someone needs to do the same thing in our city and take out all the gays. Yes. They said that. To me. Knowing I'm gay.

As long as being queer is looked upon by so many people as shameful, disgusting, and sinful — and as long as people wish we'd go back in the closet or wish we'd stop flaunting our sexuality at Pride or wish a serial killer would take down every last gay person — then there is still more work to do.

Is Roseanne Barr helping conservative women come out of the closet? No. She might be helping conservative women be more open about their political views — I can totally accept that — but she's not helping anyone come out of the closet about anything.

Coming out, for most people, is painful, awkward, and never-ending.

Don't appropriate our experience for stupid things like that.

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Autumn Fire. He is publisher at and co-founder of Deep Desires Press, member of the Indie Erotica Collective, and hosts two podcasts, Deep Desires Podcast and Sex For Money. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit

Monday, April 16, 2018

Damned if You Do, Damned If You Don’t, So Just Carry On

Sacchi Green

There is no one final, all-encompassing view of appropriation as it applies to “borrowing” aspects of another culture. For that matter, these days the lines of demarcation between what we think of as separate cultures are permeable and so blurred that they’re often hard to find.

I have my share of kneejerk objections to criticisms of appropriation, but I can get over some of them. I’m willing to go along with the stance that appropriation is bad when it involves a dominant culture plucking out the shiny bits they like from other cultures that they otherwise despise and oppress. I trip up when it comes to defining all members of any culture along lines of who’s dominant and who’s oppressed, but from an historical perspective I have to agree that “white” western European culture as it has spread to North America is pretty clearly in the dominant column.

I also have to reluctantly admit that, for instance, Halloween costumes portraying other cultures (usually very badly) aren’t as good an idea as they seemed like when I was a kid with a thing for what I thought were Gypsy clothes. And then there was dressing in a kimono, which I loved, for a junior high school presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. Yes, that operetta was a satire on a whole culture that the British Empire knew little about and had little respect for. The fact that other G&S operettas satirized British culture just as sharply doesn’t make it okay, but I can’t help feeling that the world would not be a better place without Gilbert and Sullivan.

Let’s skip over the whole issue of appropriation of cultural costumes and traditions  such as Native American feather head-dresses and mis-understood spiritual rituals, although those are certainly high on the list of the worst kinds of appropriation. Ours is in general a writing-related discussion group, so I’ll move along. But it just occurred to me that one of the best examples I know of disputed appropriation is the work of writer Tony Hillerman, whose mystery series was centered on Navajo and Hopi characters, traditions, and territory. I’ve seen criticism from another Native American writer who didn’t write that sort of thing, and reluctantly admitted that the books were well-done and appreciated by some members of those tribes for the way they recognized the humanity and intelligence (and education)  of the characters, and were also good for tourism. But the other writer still thought, and said that many others felt, that a white man shouldn’t have been writing those books.

This is where the disapproval of appropriation comes up against the benefit of representation.  Nobody denies that seeing people like one’s self portrayed positively in books is a good thing, and should be much more widespread. But I don’t think that many people would deny that publishers as whole have been less receptive to books about minorities because they doubt that they will sell. The question of whether they have to be written by members of those minorities is a thorny one, as is the question of whether members of those minorities should always include a political/sociological theme in their work.

As an editor of anthologies, I always hope to be able to use a good diversity of stories, including cultural diversity. I never get as many as I’d like, and I’ve seen a few reviews criticizing that. But I also don’t choose stories just on that basis. Well, okay, maybe if it’s a toss-up between two of equal quality and equal fit into the balance of the book as a whole, although I can’t remember any cases like that. I had my hopes way up for my new anthology coming out in December, because a writer of color I greatly admire emailed me that she was planning to submit a story even though she writes mostly novels, but my hopes were dashed when she couldn’t manage it after all due to complications with her current novel. Yes, I felt guilty to be hoping for a relatively big name to add to the diversity I wanted, and I can certainly sympathize with the travails of novel-writing.  So out of seventeen stories, only four have more-or-less central characters who are clearly POC, and that fact doesn’t always emerge very soon in the story, or is particularly emphasized. I pondered asking two writers to frontload that information, but decided against it. And one story, set in a very specific historical period and setting, with reference to actual occurrences, may turn out to be one of the few my publisher has ever objected to.

Sometimse, in fact often, I have no clue as to whether an author considers herself a member of a minority culture. I remember one New York reading that included a writer I’d never met, whose story gave no indication at all of the ethnicity of her characters, and it didn’t matter, but when I did meet her I wished that she’d written about characters that looked like her (and not just because she was quite attractive.) I didn’t have the chutzpah to say that to her.

I think the current wave of rage about appropriation comes from legitimate anger about historical oppression as it extends into the present. And, as with so much these days, the rage is amplified by the growth of the social media grapevine, which tends to favor vinegar over wine. But there are plenty of people from all ethnicities who aren’t particularly offended by examples of appropriation that light the fuses of many others. And there are, or may be—how would we know?—plenty of readers who want to see themselves represented in the fiction they enjoy, and don’t get bent out of shape if it’s written by someone of a different background, as long as the characters are shown in all their fully relatable and appealing humanity. I wish I could say that there are plenty of people in the mainline culture who enjoy reading about characters who represent ethnicities different from their own, but I can at least hope that the number is increasing.

There’s no pleasing every one. And there’s no denying the social oppression that still goes on. The situation is what it is, and we just have to live with it. I’ve written about characters from a different ethnicity, but just in short stories, which don’t get much attention, and mostly in historical settings. I think very few people would get in a tizzy about my portrayal of female South Asian pirates during the build-up to WWII, or a fantasy piece about a Chinese girl with a masculine side set in some distant era, published well before the current upheavals. I did get deserved disapproval from a good friend with Asian forebears when I included, in an anthology of historical stories of women in warfare, a story set  during the Boxer Rebellion in China that featured a royal concubine who was, as my friend said, far too exoticized. Mea culpa. I was so desperate to get something that wasn’t set in the western hemisphere that I overlooked things I shouldn’t have. It happens. But we’re still friends.

I do have a story, though, that I don’t think will ever be published, and probably shouldn’t be. The characters (heterosexual) are both veterans of the Iraq war, and members of the Abenaki/Penobscot tribes of New England. The setting in NH is one I’m intimately acquainted with, and I’ve done plenty of research, but I’m not Native American (beyond the usual sort of fuzzy family legend) and I don’t know anyone personally that I could run it by. That’s just the way it goes. Moving along.

That’s all we can do. Move along. Write what you want to, let those who’ll enjoy it, enjoy it, and duck if the slings and arrows of the outraged come your way. This storm, too, will subside, and if we’re lucky, the next one won’t be any worse. But don't bet on it.