the thought police are after our vocabulary: the progress of dirty words

How did feminism become coupled with misandry? There seems to be a notable misunderstanding, a missing of the point. Feminism isn’t about proclaiming superiority of one sex over another, it’s about insisting upon equality. And no, things aren’t equal, despite what some may wish.

Racism is not eradicated because we have a black president. Homophobia isn’t a thing of the past because marriage equality has been reached. Anti-religious and spiritual phobias, hatreds, and mistrusts are still firmly in place, in spite of the many steps forward that have been taken. And acknowledged. And achieved.

Women are not on equal grounds with men. Consider that nearly 100% of women have been sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted in one form or another. Nearly 100%. Consider that there are barriers to careers, to religious orders, to physical and psychological respect granted to more than half of the human population. Think about that.

Now consider feminist strivings and goals and gains, and losses throughout recorded time. Consider the right to vote, the sexual revolution aided by reliable birth control. Gains, yes. The end of the conquest? No. There is no end, and there is no sense in pretending we have reached the close of our prejudices. And even having to point this out is one more barrier in the way of progress.

Feminist is as misunderstood and reviled as atheist. Declaring one’s self a feminist does not equate to “I hate men” any more than atheist means “I hate morals,” yet both seem to raise the same fears of destruction of society and a frightening new world order. Finger pointing would be so easy at this juncture, because the source of these unfounded fears trace back to the same rule keepers. But I don’t want to add fuel to the fire by pointing out difficult truths that the world seems as yet unable to confront. No need to encourage further digging in of the heels – we’re unable to move as it is.

Do I sound angry? Yeah, I am, just a little bit, yeah. Angry women – that goes against every projection of Mother we’ve had to fulfil since the start of the human race. Sex and child rearing don’t go off well with angry women, now give us a smile make yourself amenable, please – there’s a good girl.

…Why is it not okay to take a position against this warped view? The answer to that should be clear. And it is very much not okay. It is at the crux of this issue, and of most other prejudices, too. Superiority against inferiority, right against wrong, quite literally white as opposed to black. Unquestionable declarations made by the ancient authorities on everything. Aren’t these antiquated proclamations beginning to sound a bit outmoded? Slowly, we’ve been crawling along toward the realization of yes, they do. That Yes has only really picked up true forward momentum in mid twentieth century, and when thought of in that light, we begin to see how daunting this is, and why.

The forces that be are very good at vilifying the words that define opposing ideology. So effective, that 20 year old women seek to distance themselves from the word Feminist. Marriage is so sacred that even the word was sought to be divided from nonhetero unions, and now is qualified with the word Gay. Black Lives Matter somehow is twisted to imply that all other lives do not. Words are powerful, and can be used as very effective weapons. Against progress, against ideas, against us.

Words are essential in communicating our views and experiences. We can’t allow them to be taken and distorted and used to block progress. The words aren’t dirty, nor are the thoughts behind them. Take them back and use them proudly, and without hesitation. We very well might make our voices heard after all.

meet mega, the antihero

character introduction: mega

character introduction: mega

I’ve said I have to fall in love with my characters to write well for them, and that’s true. Sometimes it’s love at first thought, sometimes it takes a little while to form an attachment. Every character I write for more than just a scene deserves this love, the ability to see them from all sides and write compassionately about their faults as well as their virtues.

Mega is a character I fell in love with before I wrote one word about him. He reveals himself in Becoming, book II of Secrets of the Senses, and he is my badass. I won’t call him a villain, because he has my empathy – he’s not a one-sided character there to muddy the waters; he has his own path to travel.

He is a bad’un, unquestionably. He’s dangerous, hungry, manipulative, selfish. I love him so much. He might even rank as my most favourite character, and he shows up in more than one book. In book three, Echo, which I’m working on now, his background is revealed. You get to see how he came into being, and what motivates him. I see him as a sympathetic character, because he genuinely has some very valid complaints against the sabball. He has his place in the world, he plays an important role, and he has been unseated from his throne, a seat of respect he rightly earned through virtue of his worth.

I don’t have a physical image of Mega that I can show you, and perhaps that’s all for the better; he’s very much a unique person, based on nothing but his own nature. He’s beautiful, because it’s a necessity of his craft; he’s clever, alluring, funny, menacing. He seduces easily, and those he pulls in do his bidding. He uses them for his own means, and discards their broken bodies. He needs what they have, and has no compunction in taking, because he desperately wants his throne back.

There are a few things he doesn’t understand about his quest, and these are the things that make him a likeable character, because we all do it; we all refuse reason, and pursue and covet and seethe with rage when we’re denied the things we believe we are owed. He’s in each and every one of us, and he’s misleading, and indispensible.

Mega is my boy, he is such fun to play with, and so rewarding to write. Come and meet him in Becoming, won’t you? Let him lure you in, toy with you, adore you, bite right into your flesh. I promise, it’ll feel so good.

penny dreadful: so damn wonderful

Penny Dreadful promotional shot

penny dreadful promotional shot

I spent the whole weekend binge-watching seasons one and two of Penny Dreadful. It’s been a long time since I was so into a show, it speaks to my little black heart. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do.

I hadn’t had a chance to see it before this weekend because I don’t have Showtime, but they offered a free weekend of shows on Hulu, so I dove in. I wasn’t so sure I’d like it as I got into the first episode – it seemed they relied a lot on the big blood sprays for impact, and I hate that. I don’t want the whole budget spent on gratuitous effects, you know? Shock value is not my thing, I much rather have a great script and intriguing plot. Luckily, those things came through enough for me to stick with it, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I love that it plays with all those primal, mythical dangers and fears that keep us tense and looking over our shoulders – vampires, werewolves, mad scientists and monsters, god, the devil, witches, and ill wishes. It respectfully references classics like Frankenstein and Dorian Gray, and stories based on fact like that of Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Báthory, while remaining true to the character of the original stories. It doesn’t over do, because these things have impact enough in their primal state without beefing up from over-enthusiastic writers and directors who don’t have faith in their audience’s appreciation of well-told tales. In fact, the stripped down impact of these stories are what make them that much more believable, and keep our senses on alert.

Penny Dreadful has very good actors, interesting and fully developed characters, wonderful sets, and great atmosphere. The language is not dumbed down, and they do their research. These aren’t the cheap, melodramatic stories of the original penny dreadfuls, these are classic and classy. It’s just so much FUN! I’m looking forward to season three.

And I think I’ll add an appreciative little post script here for one of the most beautiful, most sensual and real lovemaking scenes between two beautiful boys that I have ever seen.

quickie

First post of the new year, and it’s going to be a shortie, a very quick summary of what’s on my mind so far in 2016.

David Bowie – NOOO!

Alan Rickman – NOOOO!!

State of the Union Address – finally, some content!

Presidential race – fuuuuuuuck.

Theism – see above.

Fear Mongering – stop.

Echo – better.

Telly – documentary bingeing.

Weather – BRRRRR

Friends – new.

Father – steady on.

And that’s about it.

classic film for halloween: rosemary’s behbeh

ruth gordon as minnie castevet

ruth gordon as minnie castevet

I’ll be up front: 90% of my love for Rosemary’s Baby revolves around Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet. She is glorious in this movie. She’s a fantastic mix of batty old auntie/scary witchypoo, with her ham-fisted makeup application, gregarious manner, and off-handed impositions – absolutely believable, which somehow makes her even more sinister and yet, you can’t help but LOVE her. I wish Minnie was my neighbour; I’d just avoid taking anything from her, and make sure she didn’t take anything with her when she went.

Another 5% of love is due to the amazing interiors of the famous – and infamous – Dakota apartment building in Manhattan, which features gorgeous and labyrinthine architecture of the 1880s. Such a perfect setting for a story that ends up swallowing the innocent hopefulness of the newlywed Rosemary into its dark woodwork and imposing structure.

The last 5% is devoted to the aesthetics. I adore the 60s fashions and sensibilities, with Mia’s little babydoll maternity dresses and cheery yellow bedroom, yarn flower and white daisy throw pillows, and that horrid olive/rust upholstery. And there are some great casting choices – who knew that sweet old Clara Edwards of Mayberry was a Satanist? Or that Charles Grodin could be such an asshole? Even William Castle makes a cameo outside of a phone booth, and Tony Curtis has a voice-over. There’s a lot of playfulness in this movie, which is pleasantly unexpected. Or maybe I’m unusually gleeful about this genre, and it probably did come across as a lot more sinister in 1968, when the fear that very ordinary people held very dark Satanic secrets was a real thing.

Now, the confusion between witch and Satanist is a bit of a stumble. Very much not the same thing, as witches are pagan and Satanists evolved from Christian tradition. But it was the 60s, Satanism was the big bad back then, and witchcraft was interchangeable in the eyes of the general public. It’s easy to let it go.

minnie castevet gives zero fucks

minnie castevet gives zero fucks

But Ruth Gordon. Ruth Gordon, sloppily serving cake to her guests using her own fork, donning some perfectly horrible hats, and orchestrating the coupling to bring forth Satan’s spawn in a very no nonsense manner – “As long as she ate the mousse she can’t see nor hear she’s like dead now sing.” – is everything in this movie. Indulge in a bit of mindless Minnie fun on a dark and stormy night, preferably while eating chocolate mousse. Just make sure to have your gloves with you when you leave.

hello adele, we’ve never met before

With media being the way it is, it’s both very easy, and very difficult, to see what you want to see, hear what you want to hear. Certain people are constantly shoved into our faces, but happily, we don’t have to listen to a word they say.

I haven’t heard one pop song, not one. Well…okay, I’ve heard two from a certain group my friend loves, and she works hard to spread that love. Through her, I know every little thing about this group without having heard a word, or a note. And because I love her, I finally gave in and listened to a song she was sure would convince me, but it was just as I expected. Not to be defeated, a few months later she encouraged me to listen to a second song from this same group, with the same motivation, and it had the same outcome. Case closed. Some children are best seen and not heard.

My relationship with music is primal. I want to feel it, not just hear it. Consequently, I’m stubborn about my musical tastes; I know what I like, and it’s definitely not being sung by the ones who saturate the media.

But then there’s Adele. A true vocal talent, pretty much everyone agrees. And I loved the video of her being awarded an MBE at the Palace – cute as a bug as she walked across the room, giggling giddily after receiving the honour. So when Hello hit the airwaves today, I thought, why not? Why not give this a try, see how it feels.

If I hadn’t been laying on my back first thing in the morning, I would’ve been brought to my knees. I was chilled, I was slack-jawed. I lay there with tears flowing inelegantly into my ears when that chorus hit me. Whoa. This is what I love, this is what I want. Visceral.

I’m still stunned. Not all accolades are meaningless, there are some who deserve the recognition they receive. She takes it like a pro, too. After knocking everyone out with her talent, she disappeared for 5 years to live her life, not display it. And she came back with this. Damn, girl. Hello, this is how it’s done.

dorian gray is gay (and edward larson betrayed us all)

dorian gray as portrayed by hurd hatfield in the 1945 movie

dorian gray as portrayed by hurd hatfield in the 1945 movie

I’m re-reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I do every so often. In a scant few pages are packed philosophy and idolatry, a cautionary tale, a revelation of adoration, an abundance of clever wordplay, all wrapped up in gorgeous prose.

The book also was infamously used as evidence against Oscar Wilde during his trials. Using books as legal stichomancy is disreputable; but if certain passages were selected to condemn him, others can be pulled to defend him, and perhaps all artists.

In the story, Basil Hallward tells Lord Henry Wotton that he doesn’t want to show his painting of Dorian Gray at an exhibition because he’s put too much of himself into it. Basil says he has unintentionally revealed his artistic and personal worshipful admiration of Dorian, things he especially doesn’t want Dorian to know. If others were to see it, “…the world might guess it; and I will not bare my soul to their shallow, prying eyes. My heart shall never be put under their microscope.”

Basil goes on to say that artists should put nothing of their own lives into their work, and that art should not be treated as a form of autobiography. But of course we all do to some extent. Wilde did, too.

In order to create something beautiful and meaningful, revelations will occur. Some things can be cleverly concealed with a bit of creative manipulation, but artists will uncover parts of themselves, it’s inevitable. And, it’s intentional. Artists want to generate stories as experienced through their personal lenses. They create the path, and we navigate using our own perception. Neither has complete control of the exchange, and that’s what makes art beautiful, and imperative to human experience.

Those who hold nothing back willingly subject themselves to scrutiny, but the audience has the responsibility to scrutinize with the expectation of no absolutes, and refrain from censorship and misapplications. Without the synergetic relationship between art and audience, there can be no meaningful exchange.

As for those who try to use art against the artist, against others, and for dogmatic gain, they reveal an ugly image not of the artist, but of themselves. An idiot extracts what they please to uphold their own beliefs; a philosopher takes the opportunity to question beliefs. Why pander to ignorance, even to save judgement? At times, there may be little solace in knowing your own heart and head, but there is great dignity. In the end, that is what Wilde exemplified, and it has made him a champion as well as an artist.

becoming

becoming_ryalwoodsFriday was an amazing day. Kind of an understatement – it was a landmark day, historic. I woke up to the news of the SCOTUS affirming the right of all citizens to marry whom we love, wherever we live. Then President Obama delivered a moving eulogy in honour of slain Reverend Clementa Pinckney, so personal and touching and managing to touch on points about the things that divide us, like holding onto weapons and past shames, the symbols of our shortcomings, without politicizing it, yet bringing forth in the wake of tragedy the call to re-examine views and stances with the grace of compassion and positive action.

Oh, and my second novel was released. Which left me standing there, wondering how it fits into all of this – if it fits in at all. What a day for it, yeah? Kind of left me in a lurch. Do I say something, do I keep quiet out of respect for the things that deserve to take precedence? I decided to tweet about it, and leave it at that.

But now, today, I want to say more because it is an achievement for me, and I don’t want it to pass unacknowledged. And yes, upon reflection it does belong, it does apply. The message of Becoming is clear: embracing the inborn yearning of humankind to become more than we are. The fear connected to change, and the will to push through that fear, creating a greater understanding, a richer experience. That is us at our best. We’ve witnessed a huge stride forward as we collectively said yes, it is the will and right of all people to share the greatest gift of our human experience, the inherent ability to love and to express empathy for one another, and to offer the selfless wish of loving kindness for every heart that beats.

Yes, there are those whose fear is so great that they are unable to reach inside for the best of themselves and openly share with their fellow human beings; that is their personal sorrow, a sad burden of ignorance to carry around. But the majority celebrated our step forward to becoming.

At its heart, my series, Secrets of the Senses, is a tribute to our natural super powers: our ability to see ourselves and one another, hear our individual voices, taste our collective passions, feel our personal joys and sadness, our fears and hopes, and breathe freely in the purity of understanding one another. We have five gifts to guide us, and it’s only by engaging fully and opening to our senses—common sense, the sensibility to reason, the knowledge that sensation is how we process and communicate and share in the mutual experience of life—that we advance. When we learn that we can part with the fear and open to fuller engagement, we find our individual lives are part of a whole, and our personal sensations are richer for it.

On Friday we became closer, we united in compassion and strength and joy, and didn’t it feel wonderful? It felt like Becoming.

Please accept this little offering as my contribution to the celebration.

prurient poppers: poetic prose

john clare, painted by william hilton in 1820

john clare, painted by william hilton 1820

Poet John Clare (1793-1864) was committed to asylums for the last 24 years of his life, diagnosed with insanity caused by an addiction to poetical prosing. So naturally, I’m quite fond of him.

He was definitely depressed, with no money, six or seven kids to feed, and a powerful thirst. He also claimed he was Shakespeare and Lord Byron, so the diagnosis perhaps wasn’t incorrect, but the suggested cause is ridiculous. He wasn’t thought to be much in his own time, but later (because of course it’s always later), when his original work was restored to him, he became considered an important poet of the 19th century.

He’s one of those nature-loving romantics and big on rhyme, though he gets extra points for using odd, archaic, dialectic words, like rhyming lost with tost. I don’t even know what context he’s using, because he “lives with shadows tost” could simply be tossed, or the Gaelic word for silent, or a sort of Latin-y, French-y mash-up meaning early or soon, or the Polish definition, toast. Tossed shadows, silent shadows, early shadows, shadows of toast. It’s probably not that last one, though I’d like to think so.

He reminds me of an ersatz Thomas Hardian Jude, a poor, moderately literate romantic who dared to reach for things considered outside his wheelhouse. In fact, his work was edited, dumbed down to appeal to the ladies who lunch crowd, who had adopted him as their pet. His “slang,” saucy expressions and political statements were considered more than could be accepted from a common poet. Was, in fact, what made him common. He was allowed to have humble origins, that’s partly why he was such a charming little bauble pass around. He wasn’t allowed to express his experiences, because that’s not charming, it’s untidy. This censorship could be what kept him from receiving the recognition he was due in his own time, and is perhaps what pushed him over the edge. Unable to publicly reveal himself in his writing, he began to babble out loud, and sealed his fate by spewing things such as, “Why, they have cut off my head and picked out all the letters in the alphabet. All the vowels and all the consonants, and brought them out through my ears!” Madness? Sounds like poetry to me.

Prose is communication, poetry is art.

I came across that opinion quite a while ago, and have been pondering it off and on ever since. I think it’s a load of tost. Once again, someone tries to banish prose to the realm of conventional transmission, negating any attempt to experiment with sentences as a means of something more than directing the way down a straightforward path from point A to point B. Circuitous routes – that’s something we’re not supposed to attempt. Remain staid, remain undemanding, remain obscure. “Why, they have cut off my head and picked out all the letters in the alphabet. All the vowels and all the consonants, and brought them out through my ears!” Poetical prosing. It’s dangerous stuff, it’ll drive you insane.

Personally, I enjoy a little insanity.

“a way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” What a fantastic playground that creates!

“imagination is not to avoid reality, nor is it a description nor an evocation of objects or situations, it is to say that poetry does not tamper with the world but moves it—It affirms reality most powerfully and therefore, since reality needs no personal support but exists free from human action, as proven by science in the indestructibility of matter and of force, it creates a new object, a play, a dance which is not a mirror up to nature but—.” But what? But what, but what, but what? Go ahead, finish that sentence in any way you choose—the author left it up to you.

“I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Square Station, vault a turnstile and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown A train…” Well that’s candidly evocative, yes?

“Morning. Frozen rime lusters the grass; the sun, round as an orange and orange as hot-weather moons, balances on the horizon, burnishes the silvered winter woods.” That’s lovely, that is.

If this demonstrates an addiction to poetical prosing, I willingly commit myself.

Quotation 1 from “Finnegans Wake” by James Joyce Quotation 2 from “Spring And All” by William Carlos Williams Quotation 3 from “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs Quotation 4 from “Winter Woods” by Truman Capote