May 15, 2011

Important Info!

Okay, guys.  It's crunch time.

I currently cross-post to three blog spaces.  Here at Blogspot, over at Livejournal, and usually to Facebook.  Two of those three, aside from the occasional DOS attack and buggy html, work like a dream.  But Blogger?  Oh man, Blogger.  I wish I could still love you.  I have been having so many damn problems with this site, even before I went offline for Lent.

So I've finally made a decision on this frustrating matter, because in the end, a blog host is supposed to be a simple and easy way of getting one's words onto the internet, and I am not feeling that with Blogspot.  I haven't felt that for a while.

If Blogger doesn't eat this post, then all the info is here:

I'm leaving Blogspot, but I'm not leaving blogging.  Obviously.  You can find me on Facebook if you know me personally, or at the Livejournal of the same name.  I'll be doing all my posting there.  While I am a little sad that I may lose what readership I have left after my Lent stunt, I just can't deal with the bugginess over here any longer.  Most of my old readership catches the new stuff on Facebook, so I don't think I'm losing much but comments.

I'm going to save a copy of this post on my computer, and I'll repost it up to three times if necessary, when Blogger inevitably eats it like it's been doing to 75% of the things I try to post.  After that, I'll just give up, and will probably delete the blog itself.  All the posts up to this date are archived under the same tag on Livejournal, so they won't disappear forever.  (I also have hard copies of my blogs from 2006 to the present, if you're really desperate.)

Goodbye, Blogspot!  I shan't miss you.

May 13, 2011

100 Things

I posted this yesterday, but between then and now, the internet mysteriously got hungry and ate it.  WTF, Blogspot?

At any rate, here's the 100 Things Meme.

1.  One of my favorite things in the world is to read aloud to people, even though I'm not terribly good at it unless I concentrate.  I have a fantasy in which I read a book to someone I love, page by page.

2.  I am absurdly pee-shy.  Public washrooms give me the screaming mimis.

3.  I genuinely love Gone With The Wind.

4.  I abhor the "sequel" with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.  My geek.  Let me show you it.

5.  The greatest disappointment of my childhood was finding out that I couldn't be an astronomer because I was bad at math.

6.  The second greatest disappointment was finding out that I couldn't be a priest because I was a girl.

7.  Related: I love the Anglicans for being exactly like Catholics except not retarded.

8.  I often forget that I have a tattoo on my stomach because I avoid looking at myself in the mirror when I'm naked.  Sometimes it will actually startle me when I'm in the shower.

9.  I like tarot history and theory more than I like reading the cards.

10.  I used to live at the base of a mountain in the Okanagan Valley.  I fell asleep every night to the sound of coyotes.  A cougar came right up to the front window, once.

11.  If I could pick any language in the world to instantly learn, it would either be Hebrew or French.  My second choices would be Welsh or one of the Northern European languages.  Or maybe Arabic.

12.  If I could do nothing but write, read, knit, and lift weights for the rest of my life, I would be deliriously happy.

13.  I really like lifting weights, but I can't afford a gym membership, and every set we bring into the house mysteriously breaks or goes missing.

14.  I can sing along flawlessly to Lady Gaga when she comes on the radio.  And Nickelback.  And Madonna.  And a number of other performers generally scorned.  That's not because I worked in a Dollar Store for a year -- it's because I actually listen to them.

15.  I do homework to Madonna's "Confessions" concert.  It makes me obscenely productive.

16.  I think the truest and most beautiful piece of prose in the world is Desiderata.  I will probably get it tattooed on me some day.

17.  I have three freckles in a perfect triangle on my left thigh.

18.  I was in the fetal position for a couple months when I was an adolescent, when I was going through the worst of my psychosis, and my body hasn't forgotten.  My default posture is knees-to-chest, hands curled at my collarbones.  I have to consciously force myself out of it.

19.  I like knitting in theory more than practice -- it hurts my hands just to do basic rows, let alone purling or lacework.  But I can't stop coming back to the needles every few months.

20.  Every sexual proposition I've ever received has been abnormal.  If it wasn't D/s, it was a threesome.  Thus the ongoing joke that I can't seem to have a boring request.

21.  I have odd hearing quirks.  Sometimes, it's like I'm wearing earplugs and I have to ask everyone to repeat themselves, but most of the time I can hear a pin drop in the next room.  Part of the reason I have trouble sleeping is because the slightest sound will jerk me awake.  (Oddly, I usually sleep through my father and sister leaving the house in the morning, despite that.)

22.  I don't think that rape or racism are ever funny.  The fastest way to lose my respect is to make a joke regarding either.

23.  For a few weeks when I was a pre-teen, my irises were yellow, just like a cat.

24.  Although I don't even have the words to express how sick I am of school, a part of me knows that my life would look very, very different if I hadn't dropped out and had graduated when I was supposed to.  And not in a good way.

25.  I have to be very careful about listening to certain songs.  "Into The West," for example, destroys me.  Every time.  It takes a lot of distraction and a good amount of willpower for me to hear it and not cry.

26.  I've become more emotional, the older I get.  I used to only weep when I got angry enough -- now certain movies make me burst into tears for no good reason.  I can't watch "Brother Bear" in public because of this, and I have no idea why.

27.  I have a vampire story that I'm not writing because I know the market is saturated with them right now.  It's still one of my favorite stories.  I hope to share it, one day.

28.  I don't read mainstream novels or watch television, mainly because I don't see the point.  I know what Earth is like, I know what family drama is first-hand -- why would I want to read or watch more of the same?

29.  The only non-SF/F books I tend to read are published or set before 1930.  Either that, or books that are so far from my understanding of the world that they feel like science fiction, like the Dirk Pitt novels.

30.  My only really awful habits are A) ripping the skin off my lips when I'm bored or nervous, and B) procrastination.

31.  My two favorite colours are Mediterranean blue and pumpkin orange.  I also love lime green, but only on certain things.

32.  My obsession with pumpkins goes far beyond the colour.  It's a story thing.

33.  We shall not speak of the Pumpkin Incident, for it had less to do with pumpkin-love and more to do with being-drunk.

34.  The Pumpkin Incident was the first truly illegal thing I ever did.  Until a few years ago, the idea of disobeying authority figures or doing anything that would conceivably get me in trouble was enough to give me a coronary.

35.  I never skipped school without parental permission.  Not even once.  (And by parental permission I mean missing a day for travel, or medical appointments, or funerals, etc.)

36.  However, I did miss whole weeks of class because I was either mentally ill or physically ill.  Yes, I really am one of those people who was Sick As A Kid.

37.  Once I got over my fear of cars, I discovered that I love being in a moving vehicle.  Car, bus, train, whatever.  Especially trains.

38.  I don't like buses because of the crowds, but I do like riding on them.

39.  It took me only one day to remember how to read sheet music for the piano, despite not having touched one since I was five years old.

40.  Hilariously, my refusal to remember the correct finger placement persists too.

41.  I'm not one of those people with natural musical talent, but the years in which there were no musical instruments in the house were some of the worst.  I like making pretty noises.

42.  The biggest regret of my adult life was cutting my hair.  The biggest regret of my childhood was throwing away several hundred sketches because I'd improved a little and didn't want to see my early attempts any more.  If I could change one thing about my childhood, it would be keeping those sketches.

43.  Someone once asked me why I collect skulls, since my worst fear is death.  Weirdly, I had never thought of it like that before they asked me.  I actually find them oddly comforting and don't really associate them with death at all.

44.  People ask me about the skulls' names a lot.  The truth is, I'm just obsessed with naming the things I collect.  Within half an hour of owning one, they usually pop out a name without rhyme or reason.

45.  I name my technology, too.  The iPod is Lovecraft, the phone is Cthulhu, the laptop is Sascha (Russian diminutive of Alexander), the jump drive is Kingston, the external hard drive is Persephone, and the camera is Yuki.  Dad's computer is Freud.  The new PC is Shakespeare 3001.  Don't ask me, I just live here.

46.  I've looked into purchasing a human skull.  I'm still undecided.

47.  I used to hate word searches because I thought I was bad at them, but I've recently discovered that I really love them.  If you want to entertain me for a few hours, bring me some of those.  Works wonders.

48.  I really don't like anime, but I do deeply enjoy well-written fanfiction, even for animes I've never watched.

49.  I think fanfiction fascinates me in general because, for the good stuff, you get this interesting effect where a particular character is different in every fic, but at the same time, they're all recognizable as themselves.

50.  I unrepentantly read Trigun, Yugioh, and Due South fanfiction.  I don't know what this says about me as a person.

51.  But I don't care what anyone says, RPS (real-person slash, as in fanfiction about real living people as opposed to characters) squicks me the hell out.  When I figured that out, I realized why historical fiction kind of makes me uncomfortable.  It's RPS with dead people.

52.  Some authors I Buy On Sight -- like Sarah Monette, China Mieville, Tom Spanbauer, Catherynne M. Valente, and Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant.  But with some authors, I fervently love one book or series from, and absolutely can't stand anything else.  Elizabeth Bear is one of those, and Julie Czerneda.  It's almost always one or the other.  Love 'em all, or hate most of 'em.

53.  The sad irony of my life is that I'm an author and artist, and desperately want my products to succeed -- and yet I hate people and social interaction.  But what is an audience but people?  Ergo, I'm trying to get over it.

54.  It's hard to get over something that appears to be a part of my DNA.  My father is exactly the same way: polite and business-like when he needs to be, but otherwise, would be fine living on the moon for all he cares for socializing.

55.  My father is still my hero.

56.  I hate modern women's clothing with unbridled passion.  If I could dress like a Victorian (male or female) every day, I would be ecstatic.

57.  I really, really hate cell phones.  Especially the implication that if I have one, everyone has the right to contact me anytime, anywhere.

58.  Abbreviating or shortening text messages in order to fit them into 145 characters actually causes me physical pain.  For some reason, I never seem to have this problem on Twitter.

59.  I write informal essays like they're going out of style, but formal essay formats give me the crawling horrors.  I loathe them like Indiana Jones loathes snakes.  Still doesn't mean I can't write a damn good one if I set my mind to it, though.

60.  Being a west-coaster, I don't have a stereotypical Canadian accent.  I do notice quirks about my speech, though.  I say "ain't" only when I'm feeling snarky, and often graft "Oh," "Well," "So," or "And" onto the beginning of sentences.  I can't make my mouth differentiate between "cool" and "cruel," or "are" and "our."

61.  If I have nothing else to do, I can read two 700-page novels in a single day.

62.  I can't multitask.  Like, at all.  I have to reserve time slots, and sometimes entire days, to get a single theme-of-task done.  (If it's the same theme, I'm fine.  Clean, dust, vacuum, and reorganize room?  Fine, give me six hours.  Math in the morning and English in the afternoon?  I will lie twitching on the floor.)

63.  When I was a child, I had an irrational fear of spontaneous combustion.  If you ever wanted to know where my habit for taking cold showers started, there's your answer.

64.  I think the time I made my mother laugh the hardest was when I finished the last assignment of my AP course, stalked into the kitchen, and yelled, utterly deadpan, "SOMEBODY FETCH ME A MINSTREL TO EAT."

65.  All the novels (and some of the short stories) I write have soundtracks.  Flipping through my iPod some days is like taking a walk through a store stocked with my books.

66.  I'm a tiny linguistic sponge, in that I know little enough of several languages to be useless and just enough to be offensive.

67.  Most of my scars are self-inflicted, a legacy from my teenage years, but my biggest scar is one you can't even see because it's under my left eyebrow.  When I was three, I took a header into the edge of a chair and needed six stitches.  I have a vivid memory of calmly watching the doctor sew up my face.

68.  I think scars on other people are ridiculously sexy.

69.  No matter how mature I get, I think I'm always going to giggle at this number whenever I see it.

70.  I don't like any of the Big Three Dystopian Classics, partially because they all read the same and get mixed up in my head.  Some days I can't remember what elements are from Brave New World and which are from 1984 and which are from Anthem.

71.  We all have our preferences -- some of us slaver over redheads, and some of us go nuts over a pair of green eyes.  Me?  I have a thing for people with albinism or vitiligo.

72.  When I got my first dyke haircut at around age 15, someone told me I looked like David Bowie.  That's how I discovered his music.

73.  Now, with the long shaggy perm, when I take my glasses off I'm told I look like a glam rocker from the Led Zepplin era.

74.  All of which points to the fact that I am secretly a rock star at heart.

75.  I love writing LGBT fiction, but really, it's all GBT.  I've never seriously written anything about lesbians.  Partially this is because I'm paranoid about doing it badly, due to not being a typical lesbian myself.  This is, of course, ridiculous, especially since I have no fears about writing gay men, etc.  And something I'm trying to fix.

76.  I think LGBT couples are basically the most adorable thing in the world.  Second only to kittens.

77.  If I came across an LGBT couple holding kittens, I would probably die on the spot.

78.  Whenever I hear my straight friends complaining about how hard it is to find a date, I remind them that it could be worse.  They could be queer, asexual, and polyamorous, like me.

79.  On that note, I've had a surprising amount of opportunities to enter into polyamorous relationships -- but I always called it off because of my insecurities.

80.  People are always amazed to hear that I'm insecure and un-selfconfident.  I'm good at hiding it.

81.  Despite that, in another universe, I'm a professional actress.  Being good at hiding your insecurities also means that you're a pro at taking on roles and acting.  In fact, I write most of my novels by acting out the scenes.

82.  I greatly dislike my first name and will eventually publish under a pen name.  Nothing fancy, just a spin on my real name.

83.  My mother says she wished she named me after her grandmother, and I agree: Katerina, pronounced the Russian way.  Short forms: Katya or Kat.  I'm also partial to Katushka.

84.  I really, really like Russian names.  And Russian history.  Must be my Galician blood.

85.  A good swath of my family tree traces back to Galicia, a country that no longer exists.

86.  Someday I'll write a story about that.

87.  I was raised on the Beatles, the Bee Gees, the Eagles, and songs like Woolly Bully and Hair.  My aunt tried to improve my education with Yanni, but I wouldn't have any of it.

88.  This means that I'm of the firm opinion that modern music needs more saxophones.

89.  Also less sex, but that's just me being old-fashioned in general.

90.  I may have written (wrote?) more sex scenes than I can count, including the entireity of Whispers In The Dark, but I'm still a straight-laced Victorian spinster-aunt when it comes to sex in public, music, and television.  Books are fine though.  I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't think so.

91.  I hate the Romantic poets, especially Shelley (with the notable exception of Ozymandias).  Not much fonder of the Restoration poets, either.  My love belongs to the Elizabethan and Jacobean bards.

92.  Among the things I wasn't introduced to until I was eighteen or older are pickles, sausage rolls, prawns, curry, milk (as in drinking, not as an ingredient), cranberries, olives, croissants, scallops, macaroons, and dessert truffles.  Sheltered life or something.

93.  I've grown out of a lot of the things I didn't like as a child, but I still loathe asparagus, rabbit, red onion, and goat cheese.

94.  My nails grow at a ridiculous rate, fingers even more so than toes.  I can have manicure-perfect long nails in a few weeks, without any effort.  Unfortunately, this also means that no matter how short I make them, my girly hands give me away when I cross-dress.

95.  I love writing long letters and emails, but I fear that in these days of text messages and Twitter, the art of the long, lovingly crafted missive has been lost.  I wonder if it will ever be resurrected.

96.  The most complex flavour experience I've ever had was in this form.  Take a brandy snifter.  Put one shot of amaretto and one shot of Grand Marnier in the bottom.  Place a lemon wedge on the lip and a whole cinammon stick inside.  Pour peppermint tea over the cinammon stick.  Drink.  Trip balls.

98.  I don't just have theme songs for my novels -- I have them for life events too.  I can't listen to "Had To Say I Love You In A Song" or "I Think We're Alone Now" without thinking of the people I was in love with when I heard them for the first time.

99.  I think that moral relativism is the most frightening philosophy of all.

100.  I'm a sucker for interesting memes.  But if you've read this far, you know that already.

May 9, 2011

Story: "Eight Things About My Death"


It started with a hunger.  It always does.

They took me to the doctor as quickly as they could, and they were expecting me to be taken away to containment and destruction.  What they weren't expecting is that I came back.

I think what made the difference, in the end, was that I asked them not to kill me.  You have to understand, zombies mostly make animal noises at the infection point I was at, and if they have words left, they mostly cajole.  I asked.  I remember the doctors looked at each other and somebody ran to a computer to make sure they weren't exterminating a healthy kid.

They weren't.

If the readings were right, I should have been trying to kill everyone in sight, but I wasn't.  I was just a scared kid expecting to be led into the gas chamber at the end of the hall.  I technically died there.  Hook me up to monitors and I give the same reaction as a corpse.  It's good as a party trick and not much else.

As far as I know, I'm a medical first -- the only one who started turning but didn't finish.  Who kept her mind.
Initially they tried to treat me like a normal human being, but that didn't work out so well.  I got hungry all the time.  I had cravings -- you know, the way you want ice cream when you see it in the freezer, even if you're pretty full and you know it's not good for you.  And then I started to rot out, which was when they started treating me like a case instead of something to ignore.  A lot of tests later and we figured out that I needed the same food that the rest of the zombies needed, or else bits would start falling off and I'd probably lose my powers of rationality.  I'm lucky.  All I lost was a few toes. 

Of course, knowing didn't make it any better.  What I needed was meat.


They brought me braindead patients, then.


It wasn't all that hard.  They taught me how to be careful, to kill them humanely and butcher them cleanly.  I cooked what I ate; I'm still human enough for that.  I don't need to, but it's better that way.  It feels less like sacrilege.  Sometimes the family would want to have a burial instead of a cremation, so I'd just take the brain, like I was an Egyptian priest preparing a king.

The first few were tough, though.  I was, what, fifteen?  I told myself I had to cry over all of them until all the crying rotted out something in my ducts, and I started crying blood instead of tears.  It sort of hurt, so then I told myself that I could respect them without tearing myself apart.


I live in a cabin, fairly close to one of the biggest remaining cities.  I won't tell you where it is.  I don't want you to come and find me.  I'm not in the sideshow business.

I sort of lied about being a medical first -- I'm the only human I know of who survived like I did, but plenty of animals did.  As long as you fed them enough human flesh, they wouldn't act up or go crazy or rot.  So I have a couple of cats that they gave me, one fluffy white queen who thinks she really is royalty, and a mangy-looking tortoiseshell whose tail fell off when he was a kitten.  They're good company, since I don't get many human visitors.  Well, visitors who actually want to be nice and social.  I get a lot of undesirable traffic, as you might imagine.

My mother visits, sometimes.  She says she likes what I've done with the place, and tells me about the news I don't read, and we never talk about my father.

I think he accepted too deeply that I was going to die, that night, and never quite got used to the idea of having me come back alive.


A therapist comes every Wednesday.

I don't know what she really is -- counsellor, psychiatrist, whatever -- they won't tell me.  But she's very nice, and always brings me tea samplers because her daughter sells them.  She calls me Miss Lake and I always call her Ma'am.  We talk about death and god and ethics and physics and how it must have been ten years ago when there were twenty billion people, and how now there's only a billion or two and how it's funny that we ever worried about overpopulation.  We joke about the end of the world, a lot.  About how the olden-dayers though the world would end every few years, from the poles shifting or the crust breaking or gods coming down to earth, or how most of the horror writers got it right, at least a little.

They say she's there to keep me from cracking, or going crazy, but I think I have less to worry about than most people.  Sometimes we joke that she's wasting her time with me, but we don't mean it.  Friendship is never a waste.

I'm really a very congenial monster.


When things were really bad, for a couple of years, everyone was talking about how we needed to pare down the population so that only the able would be able to collect resources.  Otherwise, folks said, the infirm would make the rest of us starve.

Of course, I didn't have to worry about that.

So for a while they brought me cripples as well as the comatose ones,  and sometimes very old folks who needed care that couldn't be given.  Some of them fought, of course, because no one really wants to die that badly, especially when they know they're going to be eaten.  I got very good at calming people down.
I remember one time, though, when it worked in reverse.

See, there was this old guy they brought me.  Really old.  And he stopped me before I could reassure him or just end it, and he said, "I know what you're going to do, and I know what's going to happen, and I'm not going to stop you.  But could we sit and have a talk, first?"

I tried to think of something to say, but he just winked at me and said, "I'm ninety-eight, kiddo -- I'm tuckered out.  If it isn't you, it'll be something else.  And you know, I always kind of wanted to talk to my death before I met it.  You ever hear the story of Koschei the Deathless?"

I had, sort of, but I said no because I wanted to hear him tell the story.

So he told me all about Koschei and how he hid his death in an egg, and then we talked about mythology for a while, and then he asked, "Do you believe in God?"

"I don't know.  Maybe," I said.  "If there is a god, I'm pretty sure he isn't too fond of what I'm doing out here, even if the government told me to."

"I'm pretty sure He'll understand," said the old man, and helped me kill him when my hand shook.

I told them not to bring me any more conscious ones, after that.


I'm not very pretty to look at, anymore.  That one rot, before they figured out what it was that I needed, did a bit of a number on my meat.  My skin's got a green tinge and my eyes are always a bit yellow and bloodshot.  My hair never really grew back after big clumps fell out.

I do like keeping up appearances, though.  It feels important, like I shouldn't sacrifice personal grooming just because I don't need to go outside.  So I wear a long wig that looks like something out of a shampoo commercial, with all the curls that never get tangled because it isn't real hair, and I put on dark red lipstick every morning without fail.  On Wednesdays I put on more makeup, because the therapist likes to see me make an effort.  I don't mind.  It feels like I'm a business-woman, or a character in one of the olden-dayers books, preparing for an interview.

There're some things to be said for whatever I have.  I don't get colds, for one.  My nails don't grow and I never have to shave.  But I tried piercing my ears and the earrings would always get pushed out eventually.  Cuts take a really long time to heal.  Sometimes I don't notice if I've hurt myself, because the nerves don't quite work in some places.

Sometimes I feel like the prettiest leper in the colony, but then I remember I'm the only one.


Don't get the idea that I'm maudlin.

The world's a great place, you know?  We've mostly got the plague under control.  There's only been one recorded case in six months.  Within a few years, maybe there won't be any more outbreaks.  All the people that are left have immune systems like steel.  I'm not even sure if I can die, so long as I can eat a brain once in a while.  I get a little lonely sometimes, but that's not the same as being depressed.

I am a little scared for the future, though, with all these improvements.  One day there might not be anything for me to eat.

I might lose my mind, then.


I don't need to breathe.  Once the economy settles, I've heard talk that they'll let me go to the moon and walk around up there.  Maybe one day, I'll get to go to Mars.  Maybe I'll find fossils there, or underground cities, or just a lot of red rock.

Maybe the first contact aliens will have with humans will be through a dead girl.

I'd like to meet an alien someday.  I think we'd have a lot in common, she and I.

Maybe she'll be a dead girl, too.

May 6, 2011

Friday, Friday

Hello, my internet.  I'm still finishing up some edits on the to-be-posted essays, so I figured I'd do a news post -- more for my own benefit, probably.  Either One Hundred Pieces or The Elitist Minority will be up next.  I'm not sure how I want to work the schedule yet... an essay twice a week and news posts the rest of the days?  We'll see.  Monday and Thursday seems like a pretty even distribution.

  • The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is The Universe Just Right For Life?  Paul Davies.  Very readable introductory physics book.  I admire him for acknowledging that while string theory is a beautiful and extraordinarily promising piece of mathematics, it's not truly a science until we can test it... which, given the parameters of string theory itself, may be never.  Good read.  The only pages I've had to skim were the ones in which I already knew the stuff he was setting up for layman readers.
  • The Trouble With Physics, Lee Smolin.  Some exceedingly good points slightly marred by a writing style I can't quite get into after the smoothness of writers such as Brian Greene and Paul Davies.  But I forgive him that because he's being honest and controversial and very smart.  Again with the skimming-stuff-I-already-knew, though.  That's one downside to the physics books you can buy outside of universities -- they, of course, have to set up the basic explanations for things in case someone with no prior physics experience picks up the book.  Understandable, but a little tedious.  Good thing I apparently have the ability to never get bored by physics.
  • Blood and Iron, Elizabeth Bear.  Not as polished as some of her other books in my opinion, but smart and readable nonetheless.  I've heard that, like her Stratford Man duology, Christopher Marlowe pops up in either Blood and Iron or the sequel, Whiskey and Water, so I'm sticking around for that.
  • The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, Lewis Hyde.  Is a classic.  Was recommended to me by an artist friend.  Have no opinion yet.

  • I'm tentatively working on There Is A Door Below The Sea for my mother, but I'm also working on a painting for her at the same time, so it's a toss-up over which one I'll get finished for her birthday.  There Is A Door Below The Sea is a sort of journey-to-Oz bildungsroman set in Hawaii.  Not as weird as my usual stuff, because, hello, for my mother.
  • Eliseo's story.  It's growing exponentially in my head and it's all I can do to remember to write stuff down so it'll still be around when I start work on it again in 2012.
  • Starting to think about NaNoWriMo -- I want to do something non-commital and silly and fun this year, to relax after graduating, and I've got a couple of choices.  My top choice is Toni's story, which is a ridiculous novella about a homeless girl with no special powers who gets caught up in a vampire war.  It's absurd and I love it.  It takes all the stupid tropes about urban fantasy and twists them till they bleed.  Very fun.  Another option is The Tangled Web We Weave, which is also patently ridiculous and involves a houseful of genetically engineered kids figuring out how to live semi-normal lives after the experimental government program that created them is decommissioned.  Folks who've known me long enough may recognize this one as a complete rehaul of the first and only fanfiction I ever wrote, which was even more ridiculous and involved hospitals and Christmas antics.  I'm probably going with Toni, though.

  • I did a whole bunch of little thank-you paintings recently for the folks who filled out a little survey for me, and they really stretched me artistically.
  • I also finally scanned the visual journal I finished a while back.
  • I'll have a post that collects all of that artwork very soon.
  • I'm starting work on the pin-up colouring book project soon.  Watch this space!  If there's a particular pin-up or costume theme you'd love to see, wing me a comment and I'll add it to the list.

  • I love this math course, but oh my god, I wish they would tell me what the equations are used for.  It's so much easier to learn something if you know how to use it for a practical (or impractical) purpose.  Three guesses why I love physics.

  • Nothing of note.  I missed a week due to being stupid and getting a minor concussion.  Obviously I've been hanging around Sister too much.  (Love you, dear.  Just stop leading with your face.  :P)

  • The bedroom is starting to look at little bit more professional every day.  I've got a wonderful L-shaped desk divided into computer-zone and art-zone, and the bedframe should be here in the next few weeks.  We're still a little messy in here, mainly because there's one section of books that doesn't fit on any of the shelves, but after I go to the big book fair next weekend I'll be doing another big cull anyway.

  • The thing that happens when you've just surfaced from a really stupid, awful dream but aren't awake enough to realize it was a dream, so you keep going over it in your head for hours until you wake up fully.  I think that's worse than insomnia.
  • Unexpected vet bills.

  • Sister and I getting our utterly ridiculous costumes ready for a friend's Ke$ha themed party.  Sister is wearing a florescent orange shirt with blue tights and a tiny poofy skirt, and I've got a long, tight black shirt with a rainbowy image of Miami on it, and hot pink tights.  Also stilleto-heel shoes.  If we can stop giggling long enough to get to the party, our friend is going to pee herself laughing.  I promise we'll get pictures.

    May 2, 2011

    Venom: A Clarification

    I want to start by addressing something that came up after my last rant on religious controversy: I do not, by any means, consider atheism to be the inferior choice or lifestyle.  I firmly stand by the statement that atheists have just as many rights as religious people to express opinions about their beliefs, or lack of.  Muse had it right when he talked about ethics in a blog post about this sort of thing -- I don't condone prejudice against someone for being Hindu, or atheist, or what-have-you, but if I think that under the guise of religion someone is practicing unethical or immoral behavior, that is what I will be "prejudiced" against.  Things like Jesus Camps (and I mean the over-the-top creepy cult ones here, not things like laid-back bible camps), or child marriage, or instances where religious belief has an effect on human rights (such as the gay marriage laws in the USA).

    I think dialogue needs to happen.  I even think arguments need to happen.  But... okay, I'm going to link something here, and I really want you all to click on it before you read the rest of this blog post, because it's integral to my point.  Don't worry, it's only a couple of paragraphs.  Done?  Okay, continue.

    So, I've made it clear that I want discussions.  Religious folk, atheist folk, agnostic folk -- if they want to stand up and dialogue (in the Socratic sense), then I am all for that.  But, see, the discussion has to be intelligent and even for it to even matter.  If you take a teenager who's grown up religious, with no experience of other religions or viewpoints, and then take that teenager and make him talk about why he thinks religion is important, that's cool.  But if you stick him in a room with a thirty-year-old atheist woman with a doctorate in logic and philosophy, who's trained to indulge in very complex theoretical discussions, and have them discuss things -- obviously the woman is going to "win" (note quotes) and the teenager is going to be very discouraged, because one has an obvious leg-up on the other.  I'm not saying that discussions have to be competitions or arguments, or that people with vastly different levels of training and experience shouldn't dialogue, but they often turn into such unfair things.  We're human, and human means varying and competitive.  Nowadays, when a discussion between religious and antitheist often ends up as a stalemate between "science says you're wrong" and "god says I'm right," we need to come at these discussions in a new way.

    I have a minor issue with a lot of the more vocal atheist writers, and it's the same issue I have with a lot of the more vocal religious writers: Pot, Meet Kettle.  While fundamentalist religious writers claim moral superiority on the basis of stubborn literalism, they do it in the name of god, while fundamentalist atheist writers do it in the name of science.  Neither viewpoint is more honorable than the other, in my opinion.  I sneer at both.  Saying that science is better, or that god is better, is like saying that one food choice is better than the other.  One person may love pizza while the other isn't too crazy about it.  One person may love broccoli while the other actively despises it.  One person may love peanuts while the other is deathly allergic to them.  The one who likes the food isn't morally superior to the person who dislikes it -- they both have equal rights to their opinion, and to express that opinion.  But when the person who likes it tries to force the other to like it, or when the person who dislikes it tries to force the other to dislike it... then we have a problem.  What works for Person A doesn't necessarily work for Person B, and it is possible to have too much of a good thing.  The need to intervene only comes into play when the food item in question is seriously, unambiguously unhealthy.

    A famous atheist writer (I believe it was Dennett, but it's been a while) asserted that you had to pick one or the other: science or religion, but not both.  I fundamentally disagree.  I'm a deeply religious person, albeit currently detached from any religion in particular, but I'm also a fervent lover of science.  I have as many books on physics as I do on religious history.  Is there something wrong with that?  Absolutely not!  In fact, if I could venture an opinion, I would say that my way is robustly positive.  Belief in God does not trump belief in science, or vice versa.  It still amazes me that I can shock people simply by saying that I'm a religious person who knows that evolution is a fact.  Just because I believe in a higher power doesn't mean that I'm forced to believe that the world was made in seven days by the Judeo-Christian Lord six thousand years ago.  And therein lies the problem to the fundamentalist argument -- fundamentalist atheists focus all their attention on religion at its absolute worst, mostly the really grimy alleys of Christianity and Islam, and fundamentalist religious persons focus all their attention on society as a whole at its absolute worst, both parties ignoring the logistical holes in their own arguments (Christian fundamentalists proclaiming the evils of Islam while ignoring the Crusades, for example).  I think that we need to point out evils wherever they fall, be it in religious or nonreligious history, because ignoring history is a sure-fire way to repeat it.  Repressing things only makes them come back with extra bile.  Should we persecute people simply based on the fact that they belong to groups that did bad things in the past?  By that logic, we should persecute people descended from Nazi officers, Russian revolutionaries, and Cuban communists.  Sins of the father, right?  Wrong.  What it does mean is that we need to think with our heads, not our ideologies. 

    I have a long-distance friend who is firmly a religious conservative, and disagrees with the concept of gay marriage -- but she understands that homosexuals are human beings, people with rights, and treats them with all the respect she gives to anyone else.  If I were to tell her that I had just become engaged to a woman, she would congratulate me sincerely, despite the fact that it goes contrary to her beliefs.  It doesn't compromise her ethics or threaten her personally, so she doesn't confuse theory with practice.  Like many ideologies, it's sodium and water -- no plan survives contact with real humans, and she's cognizant enough to understand that.

    I think that, more than simple tolerance (be it religious tolerance or antitheist tolerance), we need to learn how to discuss things without taking personal offense or turning it into a battle.  We have tolerance already, to a certain extent, and varying in levels around the world.  But it's easy for anyone to assume that "I disagree with your beliefs" with "I disagree with you as a person," because for many of us, our beliefs (or lack of) are integral to the way we interact with the world and see ourselves.  It's easy to confuse disagreement with invalidating, especially when the discussion is skewed toward the atheistic side.  I'm going to hell if I don't agree with you?  Fine, whatever, big deal.  I'm not an intelligent and rational person if I don't agree with you?  Ouch, man.  That hurts.  Sure, it's aggravating to get into a discussion with someone who is convinced of their moral superiority based on divine grounds, but in my opinion it's much more painful the other way around.  I already struggle enough with knowing that I'm intellectually slow -- it's painful, being told that despite my conviction and great love for scientific truths, the minor fact that I happen to leave open the possibility of a god automatically disqualifies me for the Rational Human Being award, in some atheists' opinions.  It's silly and unnecessary -- just as silly and unnecessary as the kind of things televangelists spew.

    Of course, I'm talking about extremes here, but that's generally what's dragged through the dirt when fingers get pointed, so I'm being mildly absurdist to prove a point.  But I feel like I did too much "one-sided rant" and not enough "gentle explanation" in my last posts about this subject, so I'm trying to explore where I'm coming from.  I've been on both sides of the playing field; I've been scorned by Christians when I was pagan, by atheists while I was Christian, and by both when I was agnostic.  I still think that dialogue between all sides is necessary, but I also feel that until the arguments can become more rational -- until religious people stop relying solely on religious texts to prove theological points and until atheists stop equating nonbelief with superior intelligence -- until both sides stop drawing a line between science and religion where there doesn't need to be one -- then I think dialogue is still going to be stilted and unfair.

    The dialogue needs to happen anyway, because that's the only way to make progress, but I'm still saying there needs to be improvement, and thicker skins on all sides.  In "Venom," I said that I believed spirituality should be on some levels a private thing, but that doesn't mean I believe we should be silent about it.  In an interview, Morgan Freeman was asked questions about a racism awareness event, and replied that the only way to get rid of racism is to stop talking about it.  Like many others, I disagree.  Silence is the same as accepting defeat.  It's never possible to be silent, anyway, because someone will always begin the argument anew.

    I firmly believe that religion needs to change -- as it stands, many religions, and religious ideologies, are harmful and unhealthy.  While many people are intelligent enough to understand that religious texts are not meant to be taken literally and other similar cognitive leaps, many are never exposed to the idea that there's another option beyond literalism.  Religion isn't the enemy, even though it certainly contributes to the quote-unquote-problem, whatever that problem may be.  I'm against extreme prejudice and irrationality no matter where it comes from, whether religious or not.  Religious leaders will continue preaching intolerance towards others, just as atheists like Sam Harris continue to say things like "most Muslims are utterly deranged by their religious faith" ["Letter To A Christian Nation," italics his].  It's not a you-first matter -- we can't go around saying that we'll stop the hatred when the other side does.  It shouldn't be a "he started it!" matter either.  We're adults, we should be above that sort of prepubescent baiting.  (We're not, but we should be.)

    The more religious texts I read, and the more I study the fundamentals of science, I see the correlations between them.  Mathematics, to me, is just as beautiful as Sufi poetry.  I wish more people could see the way I see -- no need for division between the two "sides."  I wish there weren't sides at all.  I find the opinion that forces people to choose between science OR religion, rationality OR mysticism, us OR them, to be dangerous and unfortunately very prolific.  It doesn't have to be a binary.

    Several hundred years ago in India, one of the kings once brought together a conference consisting of one member of every religion represented in the country.  His aim was to find out if a consensus could be reached, and failing that, to ascertain what all these religious leaders could agree on.  I don't remember the specifics, but predictably, they all concurred that the respect of their fellow man was the highest priority.  Instead of antitheist creeds and religious dogma, that should be our ideal -- the one thing that every truly moral person in history has agreed upon.  George Carlin famously said that there should only be two commandments, one of which was, very simply, don't be a dick.  When we begin to reach out into the world of rational dialogue and inter-religious discussion, that's the one rule we should keep at the top of the list.