Looking towards Dysprosium: an open confession

Here’s where I admit to suffering from a serious bout of pre-convention anxiety. I’ve been to Imagicon and that went well, but it was a convention based in the Netherlands and I went there knowing that most of the folks I’d meet have no connection to anything that went on last year. For a while I considered backing out of going to Dysprosium–and as the convention drew near I’ve vascillated between extreme moments of anxiety and trying to hide in my bed while trying to maintain the household. It’s just that I’m taking my eldest son to Eastercon for the first time and I know the con experience has given him the confidence boost that he’s sorely needed–it’s like he’s found a space where he’s free to be the person that he is.

But anxiety…it haunts me. Regardless of the fact that I know I will be surrounded by friends who care for me, I have heart palpitations and am filled with the same kind of terror that I had when I was preparing for Nine Worlds last year.

There’s this thing about having experienced hostility in places that you once felt at home in. During my sessions with my therapists, I talked about the struggle I’ve faced as I try to prove wrong all the stereotypes leveled against third world women in a relationship with a white person. It’s a damned hard struggle because I’ve already been confronted with it–because some folks have judged me as being that third world woman who latches onto a white person for economic gain. And that isn’t even counting the in-your-face racism where people tell you exactly what they think of people coming from your part of the world–but “oh, I don’t mean you.”

The greatest source of my pre-Dysprosium anxiety comes from this being a London convention. It comes the possibility of being in the same area as people who have judged my right to my choice of friendships and my right to form my own opinion and my right to support what I wish to support–for not being angry enough or outraged enough–for being robbed of the choice when to speak and how to speak. This outright act of racism, coupled by the experience of knowing that I am “a piece of shit” to certain people–it’s what makes me feel anxious and unsafe.

Why now? People may ask. Why write about this now?

In writing this, I want to bring home the truth of what it feels like to be a person of color who has been treated like “the shit” certain people think I am simply because I did not fall in line with some unwritten party policy.

At the height of last year’s incident, someone questioned my right to write what I have been writing–after all, I am not a person with academic credentials, no MA’s no doctorates–only passion. Today, I grab hold of courage and remind myself that I am not here because I have the right degree. I am here because I have something I want to say and regardless that I’m not considered a “proper scholar”, I am committed to change in my lived life, in the society I occupy, and in the field I work in.

There are those who’ve questioned too, the depth of my relationship with Tricia Sullivan. Holding up this relationship and using it as an excuse to say I identify as white. What people don’t see and what people have never seen is how during my second year at Eastercon, when I still knew nobody and when I was barely anybody, Tricia Sullivan opened herself to me and treated me as an equal–not because I had attained something but simply because she saw me. It’s hurt me deeply to see Tricia vilified and made to appear as someone who is a villain–but in all these things, I have always seen Tricia’s heart and that she’s been made to feel unwelcome and unsafe where she only sought to create a wider space–that the beloved friend of my heart should be treated as if she were nothing more than trash–I cannot put into words how it’s made me feel.

I find myself wondering how people cannot see the double standards that are applied in this case. How is it that people do not understand that it is possible for a woman of color to stand up and choose to stand by a white person? How hard is it to comprehend that I would rather be hurt, because I know my own heart and I would rather take that hurt than to see my loved ones harmed? My choice. My decision. My stand. To me these are the things that have been on the line–my right to be a self-governing person who makes the decisions I make and to be treated as an equal when I choose to speak and to say what is on my mind.

I think it’s hard for most people to understand this pain and I am writing now from a place of pain and deep grief and I have to put this out there because to paper over this pain, to pretend it isn’t there–that’s something I can no longer do.

For some, deep friendships between white folks and people of color seem an impossibility. I will tell you, it’s not. It’s not impossible to love a white person so much that you see their flaws and their faults–to see their heart–to understand and embrace that person flaws and all because love sees and embraces all things and understands.

I think too of how narrow our vision is if we cannot see that.

I certainly can not and could not have come this far without my beloved friends, without my companions, without kadkadua and dear ones who have embraced me as I am, flaws and all.

So yes, I am anxious–terribly and incredibly anxious. But I am going to Dysprosium. I will be there. I will be doing barcon and will be sitting and catching up with beloved friends and companions on the journey. I will be there because I am doing what every woman of color has done before me–I’m facing down the dragon of anxiety that comes after you come to realize that not all those who call themselves ally truly see you as a person in your own right.

I refuse to become invisible. I refuse to be erased. I refuse to go away. No matter how anxious I may be, I will be there. I will not be silent.

Signal-boosting: House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

Today was the cover reveal day for the US edition of Aliette de Bodard’s upcoming novel, House of Shattered Wings. I remember Aliette talking about this novel before it was the novel and I remember thinking–that is the novel you have to write. It’s wonderfully written, evocative and deep and the concept is mindblowing and original. As Aliette writes on her blog: A book about devastated Paris, fallen angels and the ruins of a once great House.

houseofshatterewings

From Aliette’s Blog:

“In the late Twentieth Century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins. The Great Magicians’ War left a trail of devastation in its wake. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.

Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.”

Jump to Aliette’s blog for more info on pre-orders and such.

On the road to recovery

A lot of things have happened since my last post on this blog. I am slowly but surely regaining strength and energy again. Not as quickly as I want to, but there is progress. I consider it a gift that I have a wonderful mental health carer and that social services considers my situation one where I am in need of more support. Recovery would have been slower than it already has been otherwise.

These past weeks, I’ve been working hard on the extended story set in the world of the Body Cartographer. I had originally intended this story to be one novella, but it’s grown far beyond the minimum length. So far, I’ve completed work on part one which is comprised of 17700 words. An immersive and cathartic experience. I had to laugh a bit because just this month I attended an event at the American Book Center featuring Jeff VanderMeer, Ann VanderMeer and Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

Jeff talked about the process of novel writing and how when he’s immersed in a novel, he’s so engaged with it that even food becomes an afterthought. At one point–close to the end of part one, I had to stop because it was time to prepare dinner. I opened the fridge and stared at emptiness. I had forgotten to pick up groceries and so I had nothing to cook. Thankfully, eldest son offered to go for groceries and that evening we had french fries for dinner.

Then there was the time I wrote a scene replete with food goodness. After writing it, I was so hungry, but we only had Chicken Tonight. At least it was warm and there was steamed rice, but I would have rather had the dish I was writing about. It happens.

After finishing part one, we went off to grab ice-cream and cake, and when I came home, it was to find a message from Jaroslav Olsa, who is the Czech Republic ambassador to the Philippines. Harinuo’s Love Song, which appears in Alternative Alamat, was picked by PLAV’s team of editors for translation and inclusion in an upcoming edition. To say I’m gobsmacked is an understatement. I mean, I’ve been working towards resuming work on the translation project, but I never dreamed I’d have work getting translated into another language. How cool is that? :)

This afternoon, I did a bit of tweeting after I came home from speaking at the International Women’s Day celebration held by an organization I do volunteer work for. It was a lovely celebration. I spoke about the challenges we face as migrant women in the Netherlands and the effect of being uprooted. That we exist in a structured society that is meant to favor status quo but we are not without means and it is possible for us to think of strategies that will allow us to grow and to thrive in this environment.

I’m struck by how the conversations we have around the structural challenges migrants face, mirror the conversations we have around the structural challenges that marginalized writers face. It’s not exactly the same, but these two things speak to each other and strategies that work within one structure could also work within the other. The important thing is to see which ones work best and to find the support we need to thrive and take hold of our dreams.

It’s also been made clear to me that in conversations around race, we often fail to consider nuance. That race is not a black and white conversation. It’s more complicated than that.

This week has been full of things that I need to digest and I don’t doubt that some of it will find its way into story. For the next two days, I’ll be taking a break before immersing myself again in the writing.

I am thankful for friends and for loved ones, for the kadkadua who continue to walk with me and who remind me of what it is that matters most.

Salamat.

**PS. I think nonny is a really cute word. It might show up in one of my works someday. ;-)

Writer’s Journey: doing the work

I have been silent for quite a while as I moved through the necessary steps towards full recovery. Sometimes, we have our hands so full with the business of trying to make it from one day to the next that we don’t have much energy to think of much else. I deeply appreciate the kadkadua, the friends and comrades who have sent me encouraging notes even when I had no strength to answer.

What follows are things that bubbled up as I worked on the columns that I want to see published next. Fellow traveler on the journey, this is for you too.

. . . who  know what it is to be afraid to speak because to speak is a matter of life or death.

… who know what it is to hunger or to be anxious about where the next day’s meal will come from.

…who know what it is like to turn over every coin as each coin spent means a balance between what is needful and what is less needful.

…who have not been cushioned by the luxury of wealth, not owning anything more than what your two hands can hold.

…who do not own the privilege of position or class.

…who have not been shielded by the color of your skin or gender or sexuality…

…who know what it is like to go to sleep praying that you will not wake to the sound of guns in the distance.

…who know to lock the doors at night because there is no safe place…there is no safe place…there is no safe place…

…who stubbornly remain vulnerable in the face of fear because there is no safe place…no safe place…no safe place…

…who know the cost of dissent, the price of resistance, the punishment for rendering criticism.

…who know what it’s like to always be judged based on the color of your skin, the flag to which you pledge allegiance, the country of your origin…(fill in the blank)

…who know what it is like to be reviled, rejected, judged, ridiculed, belittled, cast out, ignored…(choose your own synonym)…

…who know what it’s like to hunger for words…to fight over words…to want to own words…to chase after glimpses of story in whatever form because there are never enough words to speak the stories that have grown and grown and grown…

…who understand what it’s like to dream of one day being that adventurer, that star traveller, that explorer, the one who discovers, who charts, who lays claim, who takes hold of–planets, countries, kingdoms…becomes ambassador…becomes forger of peace…savior instead of saved…redeemer instead of redeemed…

…who reach out in anxiety…who having found voice speak tentatively…because you have never had that freedom…to speak…to speak without anxiety…to speak without fear…to render criticism and not be cut down or imprisoned or taxed or punished or sent into exile…

…Oh who have fought not to be silenced….and having won…struggle not to fall into silence…do not fall into silence…do not allow yourself to fall into silence…do not…do not…do not surrender…do not give way.

Speak on.

2014: updates and lessons learned on the journey

I have been rather quiet online as I’m going through a seasonal dip. It sometimes feels like I have to wrap what little energy I have around myself in order to make it through the day. My apologies for the radio silence.

2014 has been one of my most challenging years. I am thankful for those I’ve come to know this year. For true friends, for kadkadua, for comrades who walk beside me. I would not have been able to make it through without the presence of these dear ones.

I’ve started work on a new group of columns for Strange Horizons, the first of which was published a little while ago. Anyone interested in reading it can find it here. I also took part in the Smugglivus celebration over at The Booksmugglers. This is my look at 2014 and some of why I’m excited about 2015. I see movements towards nurture and positive change and that always heartens me.

I believe in a principle that recognizes how people who write and create art embrace vulnerability. I also believe that hardening ourselves is not the solution. I believe that it is to us to create the environment in which we want to create and if we create environments that support and nurture the vulnerable, we are allowing the creation of mindful work–we enable visionary and emergent work as we remember that the writer writes from a place of vulnerability.

This doesn’t mean that there is no room for criticism or dissent. I believe that criticism and dissent are vital to living and dynamic art. I also believe that it’s possible to practice criticism and dissent in a spirit that protects what is vulnerable.

I have learned so much about my work and about myself as a writer in this past year.

The stories I’ve written are part of the journey I undertake towards becoming the kind of writer I want to be. To write from a deep place, from a place that recognizes the effects of history but also chooses to envision a place where we are not shackled or tied down by that history–to be liberated in every sense of the word and to become a person who inhabits a world of my own making–we create our own histories and it is to us to decide what kind of record we wish to leave behind.

I am thankful for teachers and guides whose works and whose spirits have accompanied me throughout this year. I am grateful for the work of Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, Leny Strobel, Barbara Jane Reyes, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Gloria Anzualda–there are so many that I cannot name them all in this one post.

I am still in the process of learning and reaching for more understanding and more knowledge. I do not know everything, but I am grateful for fellow travelers who open my eyes to the realities that I don’t see–I am grateful to you who teach me understanding and love and what it means to be a citizen of the world.

Here’s to a 2015 and the vision of a future that is home to all of us.

Some quotes I’m thinking on

“I use the term Indigenous to refer to the self that has found its place, its home in the world. Emptied of projections of “inferiority”, “third world”, “underdeveloped”, “uncivilized”, “exotic and primitive”, and “modernizing”, it is the self capable of conjuring one’s place and growing roots through the work of imagination, re-framing history, and re-telling the Filipino story that centers our history of resistance, survival and re-generation.”   -Indigenous Filipino Knowledge as defined by Leny M. Strobel-

“Unlike the English word ‘Other’, Kapwa is not used in opposition to the self and does not recognize the self as a separate identity. Rather, Kapwa is the unity of self and others, and hence implies a shared identity or inner self. From this arises the sense of fellow being that underlies Filipino social interaction.” – Leny M. Strobel –

“In the way I experienced Kapwa, I found that people would seek acknowledgement of a shared bond by trying to find a connection that ultimately widened the sphere of the self.”  – Margarita Certeza Garcia, Towards a “Kapwa” Theory of Art, Working towards Wholeness in Contemporary Practice

And then, this Tony Hall quote that I picked up from Nalo Hopkinson’s twitter feed: “The arts are really oxygen for the community, creating breathing space. If we don’t breathe, we die. We need oxygen.”

I am thinking of oxygen–the need to breathe–the need for connections–the need for air and how we need each other in creating space so we can breathe. I’m thinking of community and I am thinking of love. I am thinking of the importance of dialogue and conversation, the necessity of keeping lines and doors open. I am thinking of how this thing is true, that we are always at risk, that we put ourselves constantly at risk. That trust is hard and pain is inevitable.

I remember my Father reminding me that what matters is not how others see me or how others judge me–I remember him saying: “what matters is how you respond to others. Your actions–what you do next–that’s what you’re accountable for.”

It is a risk to remain vulnerable, but if that’s what it takes to help build a stronger community, I’m ready.

Why Are We Here?

RCRuiz:

Dear Friend and fellow revolutionary, Tade Thompson has put up a blog in response to the call for spaces for PoC to express themselves.

Originally posted on Safe:

Welcome.

Recently, there have been a number of ructions in the SFF community involving PoC. I’m not going to rehash them, but you can look here for some overviews and opinions:

http://laurajmixon.com/2014/11/a-report-on-damage-done-by-one-individual-under-several-names/

http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2014/11/06/may-i-draw-your-attention-to-the-posts-of-elizabeth-bear-laura-j-mixon-and-rochita-loenen-ruiz/

http://www.elizabethbear.com/?p=2506

http://rcloenenruiz.com/2014/11/06/standing-up-and-speaking-truth/

http://www.starshipnivan.com/blog/?p=9077

http://vacuousminx.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/on-pocwoc-as-an-identity-category-its-different-from-the-inside/

It kind of goes on and becomes recursive, especially if you get lost in the comments thread.

In all these discussions one constant refrain has been the lack of PoC-led spaces for discussion and exploration of these matters. I think that’s a fair point.

 ‘Safe’ is a direct response to that.

I’m well-aware that the term PoC is problematic and that there are factions and sub-factions and all kinds of subdivisions. All are welcome provided they come in peace.
My friend Rochita Loenen-Ruiz sent me this excerpt of an essay-in-progress and I think it’s relevant:
“In the Philippines, there is a concept called Bayanihan which involves an entire community moving a house from one place…

View original 330 more words