IWSG – NaNo Time Again!

Published November 1, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Convenient that the first Wednesday of the month is also the first of the month; I only have to do one post to say I’m gonna be gone for November to do NaNoWriMo again!

As to this month’s question, I’ve almost always finished my NaNo project, during NaNo, but I’ve never published anything.  (Though I went half-way twice.  My first NaNo project (2011) I briefly self-published through LeanPub, but I’ve since taken it down because it was just utter rubbish.  And then last year’s project was fanfic, which I’ve posted on AO3, which is as close to publishing as fanfic gets without having its serial numbers filed off.)  The one NaNo project I never finished was 2015’s.  I didn’t finish it during November (despite hitting 82k) and though I tried to limp along with it in December, I eventually realized that the leads, who originated in the previous year’s NaNo as dead backstory characters, just didn’t fit the novel, as I was setting the interesting displaced in time/sci-fi story aside in order to focus on a rather tepid and unrealistic romance.  Once I came to that realization, I decided the thing to do was to stop, to move the characters to (another) new work that would be focused on their love story and almost nothing else, and to re-write the sci-fi story with new leads who were already a couple.  I was doing pretty well on the almost-nothing-but-the-romance book, until I saw Velvet Goldmine, and descended into the fanfic pit from which I have not emerged until, well, today.  (Because my NaNo project this year is not fanfic.  Even if the story idea originally started out as a steampunk Velvet Goldmine alternate universe fanfic…)

So…yeah.

I’m gonna be gone for NaNo until December.  Like always.

I think I won’t even bother keeping up with the Missing Letter Monday posts.  They’ve been pretty lame lately, anyway.  Better to just set them aside until I have some time to work on them properly.

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MLM No “V” – Another Author’s Oracle Tag

Published October 30, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

So, in trying to decide what to post for my last Missing Letter Monday until December (yeah, it’s going away for NaNo), I looked through to see what I’d done in the past with this letter, and found this post with a series of questions for an author to answer about their current WIP.  And I decided that hey, I could just answer the questions again, only this time for the project I’m going to work on next month.  These questions were initially encountered on Sara Letourneau’s blog, in an open-ended “consider yourself tagged if you’re reading this” kind of thing.  So I guess that means I’m re-self-tagging?

Er….anyway…on to the questions, though (as before) I used some * in the questions when this week’s forbidden letter came up.


The Author’s Oracle Questions

The answers this time are going to be NaNo prep, for next month’s project, which I am planning as the first in a series.  (Who knows what I’ll actually end up writing, but…)  I keep putting off filling out the cool character sheet I found on the NaNo forums, so maybe this will help me with that.  It’s a genre-ignoring project with elements of the fantastic, elements of steampunk, and an LGBT romance.  And giant eagles.  Because all things are better with giant eagles.

0. The Fool: Which of your characters is the most intuiti*e?  The worst decision-maker?

The best decision-maker would be Ouden, the 12 year old girl on the crew of the airship.  She considers herself the one who keeps Cal, the captain, from dying all the time, and she’s pretty much right about that.  As to the worst…hmm.  That’s a tie between Cal and Elliot (the romantic leads), but for different reasons.  Cal is extremely passionate, and short-tempered.  He acts on impulse, but he’s also slow to trust, so he’ll do dumb things because he doesn’t trust someone yet, only then once he does trust them, he’d bend the fabric of reality if he could for someone important to him.  He was hurt horribly not too long before the book starts, so he’s become more slow to trust than before.  Elliot, on the other hand, is the ultimate naïf.  I mean, the guy took a madam’s word for it that she was just sheltering him out of the goodness of her heart, and had no idea she was charging the men who were also just taking shelter in the same room with him and who just happened to want to sleep with him.  (In his defense, he is quite young (about nineteen) and recently ran away from his sheltered home on the family farm.)

I. The Magician: What character, location, or object has the most positi*e influence in your story?

(OMG, I skipped this one last time!)  Probably Cal’s airship, the Audacity.  The cast would be utterly lost without it.  Although Cal wouldn’t be hunted without it, so maybe it’s not all good. Read the rest of this entry →

MLM No “U” – Ack

Published October 23, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

I need to be reading instead of writing posts — or anything else, for that matter.

I’m reading Xenophon’s “On Tyranny” right now.

Like with everything else, Xenophon spoils the party.

Think ya know how the Ancient Greeks felt regarding same-sex love?  The ideal that was Patroclos and Achilles, all that?

Along comes Xenophon, with his near-homophobic views, insisting that they were only friends, and that proper men never do more than like other men.

Think ya know how the Athenians felt re: Sparta?

Don’t read Xenophon, then. (Spoiler:  he didn’t feel the same way.)

And now he’s got a tyrant — a real, historical tyrant of Syrac– a place I can’t say today — saying how terrible life is for tyrants and generally acting like a Platonic ideal character.

Will ya stop it, Xenophon?!

Please?

Yer totally spoiling my research here.

Honest.

I’m gonna hafta totally retool my whole thesis for the semester if ya keep the same tone for the whole dialog.

Please don’t make me do that, man.

Pretty please?

I’m too far behind on this project as it is.  I can’t stand the idea of having to retool now…


 

And this is why we study History, kids.

Published October 17, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

This semester, my class is “directed research,” which (as I may have said before) largely means “self-directed research.”  I’m cool with that; if I can’t direct myself at 42, I have problems.  (Okay, admittedly, I do have problems, but they’re not academic in nature.)  The problem with it, of course, is that I’m getting no strong guidance as to how to focus my vague notion of a research topic into a proper thesis.

I started the semester with the plan to study ancient Greek and Roman gender role definitions and attitudes towards transgressions of their societal gender role definitions.  Way too broad, and can only give a literature review, so that was no good.  Narrowed it to just gender role transgressions, with the expectation of comparing Greece and Rome.

Only that’s no good, for several reasons:

  1. Many works of modern scholarship (especially when treating with a field as narrow as gender role transgression) treat the cultures as at least partially interchangeable.
  2. Some of the primary sources treat them as being basically the same culture.
  3. Some late Greek sources were written in the Roman Imperial period, and were partially or entirely tainted by Roman values, leaving it unclear what’s truly Greek and what’s actually Roman.
  4. Aside from a few fine points, on the subject of “proper” roles for men and women, the Greeks and Romans largely agreed.

But one of my modern sources gave me a lot of interesting ideas of different angles from which to approach the problem, and I decided to focus on the connection between (the perception of) tyranny, and gender role transgression, as it was not uncommon for those described as being tyrants to also be described as effeminate, or to be accused of intentionally trying to cross gender boundaries, particularly by cross-dressing.

So I decided that my paper for the semester would ask the question of why the ancient Greeks and Romans connected tyranny and gender role transgression (I really need to come up with a more succinct way to put that) and in general just what it was about men (and women) behaving outside the gender norms that upset and even frightened the ancients so.  And I figured that secondary sources weren’t going to cut it for that research question, and began my dive into primary sources.

But after reading through a few pertinent Plutarch Lives, I felt like I was still approaching it all wrong, and would never get any insight just by reading; I had to start applying the same level of critical thought that I did in reading the modern scholarship.  So I started just turning over the question in my head, thinking about the patterns I had already seen.

The Romans were much more unforgiving of these transgressions, more quick to apply the dreaded ‘effeminate’ label, and as the Empire wore on and it became more common for the Emperors to behave in non-standard ways, they got more upset by it, rather than less.   So something was changing as time went on.  And then it hit me, just like that.

The world was changing.  The narrow old definitions of proper and improper were being left behind.  And, whether consciously or not, some people simply could not handle the fact that times were different for them than they had been for their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, etc, and they retreated into a knee-jerk conservatism that barked insults at anyone it perceived as not fitting into its perfect world view.

Just like certain people in the modern world.

It’s not (just) that failing to learn from History dooms one to repeat it.  It’s (also) that History teaches us to understand our modern world more fully.

(I realize most people probably already know this.  But it only just crystallized for me, and I felt like posting about it.  And since I’ve been rather quiet of late, I thought it was best not to resist that urge.)

MLM No “T” – Impossible

Published October 16, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Impossible

So much in life feels impossible.

Making a difference.

Succeeding w/my novels.

Cleaning my house.

Doing a really good job in my class work.

Learning languages, life lessons, all of ’em.

I should focus on possible goals:

…um…

…like…

…uh…

….inhaling and exhaling.

Yeah….maybe a bad idea.

I should keep dreaming of impossible goals.


 

IWSG – Not Missin’ THIS Month!

Published October 4, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Yup, pre-writing this two weeks ago, to make sure I don’t miss it!  (Because of course nothing will change between then and now, right?)

I’ll probably tack on an actual post at the end of this, but in the mean time, I’ll just real quick answer the question of the month for October (which oddly has nothing to do with Halloween!):

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Hmm.  I have surprisingly little personal information.  (LOL, that sounds crazy!)  But, really, by nature I’d spend all day hiding at home and doing whatever I pleased (reading, writing, gaming, toy collecting, shopping for more toys), and that means that’s what I tend to do when I have free time, so I have very little that’s the sort of thing they probably mean in this question:  no romantic ties, no children, etc.

On the other hand, the main character of my July CampNaNo work was essentially a self-insert into my current fandom obsession, so there’s a lot there that’s me:  total lack of social skills, asexual/aromantic, doll collector, museum employee, easily compelled into strange obsessions (but not in a creepy way), gamer, anime fan, Vocaloid fan, totally ignorant of 90% of popular music past and present, resident of this city, and 42 years old.  So, yeah, I guess I’ve slipped a lot of my personal information into a character on purpose!  But I doubt the work will ever be read.  I’m going to admit that she’s a self-insert in the (likely to be copious) author’s notes at the beginning, and probably in the summary, too, and self-insert characters are the Kryptonite of most fanfic readers.  (I find it highly amusing, possibly even ironic, that as I write these words, I am listening to a song “performed” by three Vocaloids produced by a company called Crypton Future Media.)  Of course, those notes will also explain that she’s just the vessel through which the readers are taking a tour of the 2017 edition of the slightly dystopian 1984 in the movie (and just like in reality, 2017 is infinitely worse than 1984) and hunting for clues as to what’s happened to the characters we know and love in the intervening decades, so maybe a few open minded fans will read it, but…heck, my stuff is only read by a few people anyway. Read the rest of this entry →

MLM No “R” – NaNo’s Coming!

Published October 2, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Announcing my 2017 NaNo novel-to-be.

It doesn’t have a title yet.

It’s a bit steampunk, a bit fantasy (well, it has alchemy and enchanted objects, but no magic spells), and it has tame political conflict between about a dozen fictional nations.

Mostly, though, it has a beautiful young man (19ish) falling in love with a handsome 20-something man who’s still hung up on his ex, the king’s only son.

That and ships that fly.  Lots of ships that fly.

The lead’s ship is held aloft by giant eagles.  (A la Tolkien.)  Many have types of pegasi.  Oh, and giant bats.  One of them has giant bats.

Because awesome.

(And now I can claim a badge on the NaNo site!  Yay for pointlessness!)

Book Report: Two Boys Kissing

Published September 29, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

I managed to finish reading my book for Banned Books Week after all!  Largely because in addition to being relatively short (it is YA), the last section of the book is one of those things where I couldn’t close the book again after I reached it until I’d finished reading the book.  Anyway, allow me to introduce you to one of last year’s top ten most banned/challenged books:

The cover photo is actually pretty misleading, in that one of the two boys is visibly taller than the other, and the text makes a point of saying that they’re the same height, making their challenge easier.  Oh, wait, I should talk about the book, not the cover!  It’s just something that really struck me suddenly about the cover image, and I had to point it out.

All right, so the book itself.  Probably the first thing anyone says about this book — though it’s not in the official blurb on the dust jacket, interestingly — is that it’s narrated by a Greek chorus of gay men who have died of AIDS.  And it really is, except that in a true Greek drama, the characters on stage can and do interact with the chorus, and the chorus has no idea exactly what’s going on in the characters’ heads.  The “we” narrating this novel — and I think this is the only work I’ve ever encountered with a first person plural narrative voice, btw –know what the characters are thinking and feeling, not because they have some omniscience, but because they’ve been there, having lived through so many of the things these boys are going through, but no matter how much they shout at the boys, no matter how much they try to interfere, they can’t, because they’re dead.  It’s both a mournful narrative voice and also a supremely powerful and even rejoicing one, because while they’re gone and so many of their friends are gone with them, some of their friends are still around, and — much more importantly — the new generation is starting from a better place, with more chance of being accepted by their family and friends.  As to why these men are narrating our tale, I’ll let them give you an idea of that in their own words:

We no longer sleep, and because we no longer sleep, we no longer dream.  Instead we watch.  We don’t want to miss a thing.

You have become our dreaming.

While our narrators can turn their gaze at anyone they want, they choose to show us a handful of gay teens over the course of a weekend.  The two boys of the title, Craig and Harry, are preparing to break the World Record for longest kiss, which will require them to kiss for 32 hours, 12 minutes and 10 seconds.  Because they’re doing it to make a statement — both defiant and naïve, typically teenage — they got permission to do it on the front lawn of their high school, with their friends running cameras to livestream it onto the Internet, and teachers to act as witnesses.  There are also Neil and Peter, a close couple, Ryan and Avery, who only just met at the beginning and hit it off right away, and Cooper, whose story may have grabbed me more than anyone else’s, along with Tariq, a friend of Craig and Harry and whose story gets largely subsumed into Craig and Harry’s.  Some of these boys are out to their friends and family, a few aren’t, and one of them is a trans boy, making his life infinitely more complicated.  Some of the other boys get sucked into the drama around the big kiss, and others remain oblivious to it, caught up in their own lives as most people are most of the time.

Read the rest of this entry →

Book Report: TransAntiquity

Published September 26, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

I should be reading the next of the ten gazillion (seemingly) library books I have out for this semester’s research project, but I’m going to write this report on the first one instead, in the hopes that discussing it will help me to process the information and figure out exactly what my topic question is.

So, as you can see, the title of this book is “TransAntiquity:  Cross-Dressing and Transgender Dynamics in the Ancient World,” a title which is actually a bit misleading, as the modern concept of transgender is, well, modern, only a few decades old.  So this is more an approach from the modern perspective, with full understanding (and acceptance) of transgender.  (And this is, of course, the kind of book you don’t want to buy:  it’s priced for library purchases, not individual purchases, over $100 a copy.)

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I didn’t actually read this book cover-to-cover.  I’m researching a paper that’s going to be on the definitions of gender (and behavior towards transgressors of those definitions) in ancient Greece and Rome, and so I skipped over two of the essays in this book, because they really did not apply:  one was about Pharaonic Egypt, and the other was about a period I’d more consider to be the early Middle Ages than late Antiquity (y’know, post-600 AD) so it was actually concerned with Christianity’s reaction to gender transgressions, which is a completely different topic.  (Technically, one of the ones I did read also included a lot of discussion of early Christianity, but it also talked about pre-Christian Rome.  Plus…well, I’ll get to it in turn, and you’ll see why I had to read it.)

I’m going to talk about each essay in turn, but I’ll address the book as a whole first, briefly.  This grew out of an academic workshop held at the University of Pisa, and most of the contributors work at universities in Italy and Germany, with a few UK universities thrown into the mix as well.  Consequently, the authors and editors pretty much assume that if you’re reading the book, you must speak all the major European languages, and they don’t translate their French, Italian and German quotes.   (And I always seemed to be reading it in a time and place where I couldn’t just use Google Translate to get a rough idea of what was being said; all I could do was guess based on cognates and my rusty-to-the-point-of-not-really-existing Latin and German skills.)  The constant reminders that I’m just an ignorant American were kind of painful.  (I do want to learn other languages!  I just suck at them.  And have too much else going on in my life to take proper lessons.)

Anyway, as scholars of the ancient world, the authors are hampered by the existing evidence, and can only address what information survives, so behavior that would actually be identified as trans by modern standards is conspicuously absent for the vast majority of the book, because there just isn’t much surviving data to support a discussion.  There’s a lot of talk about cross-dressing, and about men who were labelled as effeminate, and some discussion of women who were labelled as masculine, and what function those labels served in their society.  So it was really useful to my project, but might not be so useful to other research endeavors.

Okay, so now I want to talk a little about each essay, to give an idea what’s in the book.  (Also to help me process the information properly.  What can I say?  I think better via fingers on a keyboard.  That’s just the messed up way my brain is wired.)

Read the rest of this entry →

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