I am more than that

I’m going to have to start this with something unfortunately unrelated.

Hi, if you’re here because of a quote taken out of context, you are likely being used by Yama the Space Fish, also known as Yamamanama, aka Andrew P. Marston. Please refer to the Yama Stalker PSA and the list of various pseudonyms. This is a man living in the US who has been stalking me since 2009 and has been attempting to get people to attack me online as well as trying to defame me as ‘anti-woman with internalized misogyny’ or ‘homophobic’ or paint me as a bigot of some stripe or type by taking my words out of context in often what are several threads deep discussions, quoting them in other websites with parts removed (like my mentions of Yama being a stalker of women). His deep hatred and misogyny has been long documented, and he has a years-long vendetta against me that includes his threatening my children for my disagreeing with him in a discussion, a threat he has repeated again and again over the years. Lately he has been trying to drag other people into his vendetta, or trick them into doing the kind of behavior they condemn.

 

Larry Correia fisks and dissects very neatly how racist and exclusionary the call by someone I shall refer to as Princess Teacup Tempest to ‘read only (insert racial/skin color/sexual/sexuality-based minority / non-hetero / male) writers is. It’s worth a read, especially if you are sick and tired about radfems/tumblr feminists. For the record, I’m an equalist and value meritocracy. And before someone decides to dismiss me as white and male, with all due (dis)respect, I’m not either of those.

The funny thing is, the comments themselves observe that the list of such writers would include Larry himself, as well as Sarah A. Hoyt, along with a number of authors mentioned in the comments to be female, or black, or well, not Caucasian, or not Christian, or not heterosexual (C.J. Cherryh is a lesbian? News to me… and I honestly don’t care because booooooks) – heck, I myself, if I wanted to, could tick the non-white box (I’m Filipina), the non-male box (I’m female – in fact I gave birth only last month) and quietly am not Christian (I consider my religious beliefs and practices personal and have nothing to do with my writing). By those criteria, we’d all be on the list of ‘approved authors worthy of approbation’ and Princess Tempest in a Teacup would be recommending our works to everyone!

But I don’t want to tick those boxes. I’m more than ‘just’ female, Asian, non-Christian, heterosexual. Those are only facets of what make me as a whole, and not the entirety of who I am. I am a fan of fun, inspiring, exciting stories, who wants to write stories in the hope that other people enjoy their visits to my imaginary worlds, that my readers want to know ‘what happens next?’, who dreams that young readers pick up my stories and enjoy reading, maybe outgrow me and move on to other stories by other authors, their love of reading growing with them. If anyone could accuse me of a dastardly plot, “I want people to have fun reading” is the extent of it.

When I’m writing fiction, the fact that I’m female has nothing to do with the story – after all, it’s not my vagina typing out the tale, is it? Neither does my not being an American, or ‘not white’, since it’s my brain, my spirit, my heart, working together to create the plot or shape the character. All my melanin does is affect my skin color when I’m exposed to the sun. My ethnicity has served on occasion to have other nationalities mistake me for one of their own and try to strike up conversations in Japanese or Chinese; and while I have encountered racism and bullying associated with it, this does not have me believe that I am ‘less’ than any one else, that I need ‘help’ because of my ethnic background, or sexual organs.

For the record, I absolutely despise ‘– of color’ – that’s just ‘colored person’ backwards and I fail to see how the former is ‘not racist.’

I don’t want that people praise my work for my ‘being female and Asian’, but I’d rather they like (or not like) the work for the work itself.  And if someone doesn’t like the work, I just go with “Must not have been to their taste,” because that’s subjective, and well, that’s fine. If there’s actual valid critique there, I’ll pay a bit more attention, but “you aren’t writing about minority lesbians leading a global revolution” isn’t a valid critique, it’s a barely veiled demand that I write that ‘plot’.

That’s not what I like to write, and complaining that about say, Sparrowind is silly because the story of Sparrowind has nothing to do with sexuality or racism; the central theme was ‘fun, humorous story of overcoming difficulty’. Also, Sparrowind is meant to be aimed at parents who want something they can read out loud to their kids that isn’t assuming the children are emotionally and mentally frail, and isn’t intent on infantilizing the reader / listener. I tailor my work according to the audience, and I prefer not to assume my readers are idiots.

But if someone else wants to write that sort of tale, have at it. Nothing is stopping (insert tickbox characteristic identifier) from writing the kind of story if they want to. I’m certainly not going to say that you can’t have a gay hero if you want to have one, but I do hope that you make the character more interesting than just ‘s/he is homosexual’ – even if it’s a character for an erotic short story, because there has to be something there for the reader to identify with or see as part of the character’s personality. ‘Gay’ is this hypothetical hero’s sexuality – a characteristic, not the summa totalis of that character. It’s not going to be an important characteristic, for example, if say, this hypothetical gay character is a bounty hunter. His preference for having sex with men (or her preference for sleeping with women) won’t have anything to do with their skills as a bounty hunter. Let’s play with this idea further.

For the sake of this exercise, I create a dark-skinned lesbian beastwoman with bunny ears whose job is bounty hunter, who has a cynical, jaded exterior but has, buried beneath the tough exterior, an admiration for noble deeds,  high ideals and principles. Her martial skills are matched by a quick, sharp wit that have helped her to survive from a very young age.

Totally inspired by the Viera race, I'll admit. Image from the Final Fantasy Wikia page, via Google.

Totally inspired by the Viera race, I’ll admit. Image from the Final Fantasy Wikia page, via Google.

One day she is hired to ‘bring back the kidnapped princess’, and tracks down the princess but discovers the princess is unhurt, and indeed, seems to have no problems with her supposed kidnappers; she isn’t trying to flee at all. So instead of simply snatching back the princess and getting the bounty, my rabbity bounty hunter approaches the camp and chooses to talk, in the hopes of convincing the princess to return. The princess commends my bounty hunter for not opting for a surprise attack, because things aren’t what they seem.

What if, say, I had it that the reason for the ‘kidnapping’ was actually arranged by the princess’ brother, out of his love for his sister and wanting to prevent an unhappy marriage that could bring peace to two kingdoms long at war, and appeals to the rabbit-woman’s love for his sister to help them? The plot thickens…

My rabbit-woman might be initially attracted to the princess’ beauty, then fall in love with the princess for her own various admirable characteristics, such as a desire to find a solution to the predicament she is in without making the tensions between the two kingdoms worse.

Yet, if I were to stick with just ‘rabbit woman has to be gay, and dark skinned’ as her major defining characteristics, I… wouldn’t have that to work with. Thus the problem with defining a character by characteristics that realistically, are part of the ‘shallow’ section of the character sheet, which don’t give me much in the terms of ‘what will the character do in this situation?’

Similarly, that’s my problem with being defined solely by my gender/sex/who I sleep with/ethnicity/skin color. Everything else that makes me a person is arbitrarily stripped away so that I ‘fit’ into someone else’s presumptions about me, and not acknowledging me as a whole person. Thus, arbitrarily picking my works to be read simply because I’m Asian and female strips away the worth of my efforts and hard work in producing a story, because how do I know then that the enjoyment of that work is honest, as opposed to placating the demands of political correctness? Yet it is for the censorious reasons of political correctness that if Princess Teacup Tempest had her way, my ethnicity and gender would be my only qualifiers for ‘read this author’, not “This author writes engaging, entertaining stories, I like her stuff!”

And there’s the urge by Teacup Tempest to ‘avoiding’ the works of ‘Caucasian men’ for ‘a year’. That is a very hollow and frankly, sexist and racist set of criteria. This is the heart of the criticism by Larry Correia, and frankly I agree. Why? How would people react if a man said that ‘readers should avoid reading books written by Asian women’? They’d be decrying that hypothetical man as a bigot and misogynist. Why then is the urge to avoid the works of white men not racist and misandrist? It speaks nothing whatsoever to the truth of that person’s ability or skill, or personality or character, but reduces that person to nothing more than meat and organs. In other words, I am automatically dismissed as a person, by focusing on my skin and sexual organs. In fact, the person who does this has already reduced me to non-personhood. Last I checked, this is supposed to be WRONG AND BAD, and it doesn’t stop being so if the person doing it is female, black, and not straight.

I do not wish to be treated like a non-person, thank you very much. Don’t reduce me to nothing but my skin and sexual organs. Don’t praise my work based off of my skin and sexual organs, nor criticize my work because you don’t like my ethnicity or my sexual preferences. I can’t change my ethnicity, and since I’m not sleeping with anyone except my husband, my sexual preferences are nobody else’s business and affect nobody else.

I am not mere meat.

If someone doesn’t like my work because they didn’t like how it was written, or didn’t like the characters or story, they can freely choose to not read it. I’ve no interest in bullying them into shouting praise either. They can read whatever the hell they want to, but let’s not dress up the racist, sexist bigotry as open-mindedness; it’s really ‘don’t read works of authors she doesn’t approve of.’ In an incredibly failed attempt to make it not sound as horrible and arbitrary as that, Teacup Tempest uses a list of characteristics that in the twisted, demented world she sees in the warped lens of race theory and radical Marxist feminism, are of ‘groups’ that perpetually ‘need help’ because ‘they are seen as less capable/crippled/victims’ in some bizarre manner. True feminism and ends to racism mean that, ideally, there is no difference in the treatment of a female author from a male author, nor is there a difference between the gay/lesbian from the straight person, or the non-white ethnicities from the white ethnic groups, in what they should be able to aim for or dream or work toward, as long as they have the skill and capability to do what it is they want to do.

I am not limited by my ethnicity, or sex, in writing stories. I have never been, nor do I see why I should limit myself in any way with those criteria. Nor does my heterosexuality grant me magical advantages when it comes to how my readers perceive my work, and realistically it shouldn’t because I’m having sex with them.

And this is where my puzzlement of Princess Teacup Tempest’s exhortation to take a year excluding ‘white male’ authors’ works and replace them with ‘non-white, non-male, non-hetero’ authors kicks in.

What makes her think that I’d want to limit myself to just those lists? In fact, I probably am way ahead of her in reading works created by people who tick at least one of the boxes of her list of requirements on a regular basis. The fact that I read manga and watch anime kind of ensures that, and I don’t pick those creators of entertainment based on their non-US postcode or the color of their skin, or who they wanna consensually have sex with, I pick those things because they look like they’d be interesting or fun.

Larry Correia says:

The mainstream market buys books based on the following criteria:

  1. This cover looks cool. I will pick it up/click on it.

  2. The back cover blurb/description interests me.

  3. It has good reviews/word of mouth.

  4. I will purchase it with my money.

  5. If I liked it, I may purchase other books from this author.

That’s how I’ve always done it. That’s how my friends have done it, and unsaid is a number six: “If I liked it, I may recommend this author to my friends who have similar tastes”, which I guess is part of the ‘word of mouth’ but happens after point 5. This was especially true for high school and college, when books of the sci-fi/fantasy bent were scarce for us, and often expensive. National Bookstore (for those unaware, I lived in the Philippines for part of my life and I’m Filipina) and Comics Alley, and Goodwill Bookstore (a secondhand bookshop) and a few other small stores were the only places where we could get those few precious volumes, and it was often a race to get a copy since they were stocked only in very limited quantities. I remember we’d scour through the various branches of those stores, treating each volume as a treasure that we shared. (This changed when Fully Booked bookstore came in, and the Philippines discovered ‘oh hey, our people like to read’ and National Bookstore started stocking more books.)

And I remember that for a long time, my friends and I didn’t really care about the author beyond the name being a mental tag for ‘we like this person’s writing and work’ and we didn’t know much beyond the ‘about the author’ if there was one in the book. Cover art served to catch our eye, and if the artist was someone who did art for that writer/series regularly, spying that familiar art style on an unfamiliar book would make us pick it up. (Parkinson, Rowena, Whelan, Elmore, just off the top of my head).

This still is pretty much true for most of the people I know.

If I decided to go ahead and ‘play’ Teacup Tempest’s game, and, for a year, ‘read only’ authors / creators who are ‘not white’; or ‘female’, or ‘from outside the US/In Translation’ my list would include in no particular order:

Kaoru Mori (Female, Japanese) – Otoyomegatari, (A Bride’s Story) Emma: Victorian Romance, Shirley. Strong, beautiful, traditional women are one of her hallmarks, as are romance, lovingly rendered illustrations, and intense amounts of research for her settings.

CLAMP – Japanese four women manga creator circle, started out as indie boys love fantasy doujinshi artists. They’re some of the mainstay/gateway mangaka for many readers, thanks to RG Veda, Card Captor Sakura, Chobits, XXXholic and more stories than I can remember off the top of my head.

Matthew Reilly – Australian sci-fi thriller author whose works I often describe as “If Michael Bay and John Woo and J.J Abrams decided “Let’s write a book” Reilly’s work is the result. His latest books, The Tournament and The Great Zoo of China have delightful, intriguing, fast-thinking and well-fleshed protagonists who happen to be female. He ticks the ‘outside the US’ box, so he totally counts; so does

Greig Beck, whose excellent Beneath the Dark Ice actually gave me nightmares, but he’s a bit harder to find than Reilly. (shakes fist at local Aussie publishers)

Anne Bishop – Her latest fantasy series, The Courtyards of the Others has a book out this March, Visions in Silver; and I’ve worn out copies of her Black Jewels series and Tir Alain trilogy by rereading them so often that I will need to buy new copies again soon. Her works feature both strong female and male characters that she cheerfully traumatizes.

Larry Correia himself – I’m still working on getting the anthologies he published stories in and still have several books of his I haven’t gotten

Sarah A. Hoyt – Kindle’s app finally works for me so I can buy off of Amazon now and download the ebooks!

Yana Toboso – Black Butler manga / anime, with strong female characters and interesting twists to her storytelling accompanied with GORGEOUS art

Neil Gaiman – British, is of Jewish descent thus ticking the ‘non-American’ and ‘minority’ boxes; Trigger Warning is on my list since last year.

Kazuo KoikeLone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Executioner, Lady Snowblood, Crying Freeman. Beautiful artwork thanks to the artists he works with and incredible characters and impressive, cinematic storylines.

… that’s just a random selection because I had to stop and think about the ‘characteristics of the authors that I don’t concern myself with’. Pretty much Teacup Tempest’s list of ‘what we should consider more important’ than skill. I consider the works of the people listed above as fun to read – which, really, when I am looking for entertainment is what is what I’m buying. If I do not find the work entertaining, then I’m simply not going to buy any other works from that creator.

The color of my skin or my appearance, or my sex, or sexual preferences are completely irrelevant when it comes to my writing. I don’t want to be known as ‘just’a ‘Filipina author’ to the exclusion of all else. I’m not ‘just’ a heterosexual woman, nor do I identify solely by my reproductive organs. I’m a whole person, who happens to be a Filipina, who happens to be female.

Ending this here with a picture of Morgan Freeman talking about racism.

blackhistory_morganfreeman

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply