Aug 13, 2016

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Writing while multilingual: Marraskesi

Marraskesi: Tarinoita iholta ja ihon alta Edited by Maija Haavisto and Juha Jyrkäs

Yesterday, I got the final proof of my first ever publication. I started looking at it and promptly burst into tears. Which I was not expecting at all. But the sight of my name and the name of my story was just too beautiful to do anything but. Despite all the work I’ve put into the story over this past spring, it hardly seemed real until I saw that table of contents and my name in it.

This story was a prime example of writing while multilingual. I do more or less all of my writing in English. This is mainly because I do almost all of my reading in English. That, in turn, is very much a factor of me liking to read science fiction and fantasy. For a long while there, the translations were often poor in quality and rarely made of authors that I wanted to read. I got into the habit of reading in English and then I found audiobooks. I was hooked from the first one, which I’m pretty sure was Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. Again, audiobooks in Finnish are not really a thing. When you add to these the fact that I’m a programmer by day, which means that all my professional literature is in English. It means that I need to go out of my way to read in Finnish and when there are so many books to read, it just does not happen.

When I write, I write in English. So it was with Jo huomenna kaipaan sua (originally Tomorrow I’ll Miss You). I wrote it in English and then translated it into Finnish myself. Thanks to editors Maija Haavisto and Juha Jyrkäs it didn’t actually end there. We went through six editorial passes for structure, story and most of all, making my Finglish actually readable Finnish. Even my mother helped with that last part. Then, finally two more rounds of copy edits. A lot of work went into this story is what I’m saying.

And yet… it was all worth it and more besides. It resulted in a better story overall and the story that is about to go into print is my heart on the page. It’s something that will remain, something that will be read, and hopefully loved. And around seven years ago when I realized that my writing would have to come in English, I never would have guessed that my first publication would come in Finnish. I’m indescribably happy that it is.

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Aug 6, 2016

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My schedule at Worldcon

I still feel very weird doing these posts but I know that some of you who read this blog will be joining the frolicking at Worldcon. So come see me! You can find me at:

Extreme, but Workable Societies

Thursday 12:00 – 13:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)

From the anarchist society in Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic The Dispossessed to the multiple outlandish cultures of Kameron Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga, some SF societies are constructed to challenge constructed norms. What are the advantages and disadvantages of showcasing radical alternatives in this way — as opposed to starting with something familiar and then dismantling it? Is “plausibility” actually a meaningful or useful goal for such stories? Is there a limit to how much writers can change in one story?

The Steampunk Explosion

Friday 14:00 – 15:00, 3501H (Kansas City Convention Center)

Steampunk is one of the most popular and fast growing sub genres in fandom.  From costuming to films to comics.  Is there more that spurred its the rapid growth than “it looks cool”?  Can Steampunk maintain its primacy in fandom?

We Deserve Better: Lesbians and Bi Women for Change

Friday 15:00 – 16:00, 2209 (Kansas City Convention Center)

TV SPOILERS! TW: Character Deaths.
In March 2016 The 100 killed one member of an interracial female couple. Fans launched a Twitter campaign (http://wedeservedbetter.com/) that became mainstream news. They objected to the “Bury Your Gays” trope, referring to the disproportionately high number of lesbians and bisexual women killed on TV (143+). Two weeks later, one of The Walking Dead‘s only lesbian couple was killed. We discuss this disturbing pattern and ask how audiences can help prevent it.

Reboot! Changing Up Comic Characters

Friday 18:00 – 19:00, 2204 (Kansas City Convention Center)

Spider Gwen, Amadeus Cho, Thor, Captain America. We’ve seen a lot of rebooted characters in the the last couple of years with dramatically altered social and cultural backgrounds. The panel discuss how these ‘new’ old characters have changed the Marvel Universe, for better and worse.

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Jul 9, 2016

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Chasing the Dream

Today, I have fulfilled a long time dream of mine; I am now living in downtown Helsinki, close to the in-city amusement park, Linnanmäki. There was a time when I would have thought today beyond even my wildest dreams, which makes the view I’m looking at over my laptop screen all the more precious. But since the actual move only happened yesterday, I’m still shifting boxes. Which means that I haven’t really had time to process this thing that keeps making me happy enough to cheer periodically. Instead, I’m just going to ask you, dear reader; what have you done today, or are planning to do today (depending on your time zone) to make your dreams come true?

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Jul 2, 2016

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Clutter of life

Today, I am at Finncon in Tampere talking about fairy tales (except I’m not; I’m at home with bronchitis, kicking myself for having missed this). Back home my partner is getting ready to move house. We’ve been working hard at reducing the amount of stuff we have in order to have as little to move as possible. In the process we’ve been assessing the things that we want to keep in our lives. And also thinking about the people we are today versus the people we have been over our lives.

I am, unfortunately, a person who likes my things. I’ve been fairly poor at one point in my life and that has left me with some mild issues about getting rid of stuff. Mild in the sense that I, my partner, or our dog are none of us at danger of being killed under a pile of stuff. I’ve been fairly well off for just over ten years now and yet, even now, every time something breaks, my first instinct is that I should be able to fix it. Hole in my jeans? I can fix that. Zipper broke on a sweater cheaper than the new zipper would be? I can just sew a new one in there when I magically manage to get rid of the need to sleep 8 hours a day. Clothes that haven’t fit me since I was a teenager? I might be able to fit into them again some day, despite the fact that I was still growing, underweight and several cup sizes smaller in the chest area. I have a whole huge vacuum bag filled with clothes that no longer fit me, that I’ve barely even looked at since the last time we moved, seven years ago. Last weekend, we singled out some 700 movies to get rid of before we move because it’s either unlikely that we’ll ever watch them again or won’t be sorry if we can’t stream them.

This is what's staying behind for us to move. #hoardertendencies

Kuva, jonka Nina Niskanen (@nina.niskanen) julkaisi

So saying I have a problem with getting rid of stuff that isn’t explicitly broken beyond repair would be stating it mildly. I’m well aware that there’s nothing rational about it. But the thing is, I’m not cut out to be a minimalist, no matter how much I try. I can’t help it. I need a bit of clutter around the place to make the place feel lived in and like home. As life goes on, I’m becoming more and more okay with this fact of myself. The trick is in figuring out what part of the clutter is necessary and wanted and which part of it is being kept just as a remnant of me being afraid of never being able to afford a thing again. The trick is in keeping down the amount of clutter in the house to a level so that it won’t turn into full on hoarder mode and consume our entire existence. Which, to be honest, I’m not that great at.

What about you? Do you share my hoarder tendencies or are you one of those lucky minimalists?

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Jun 25, 2016

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Finncon schedule

A week from now, Finncon is happening in Tampere, Finland. I am on the programming on Saturday 2.7!

My solo thing 11:00- 12:00 in hall D10a:

Beyond Once Upon a Time

From princesses to evil fairies to a whole host of the well-known fairy tale characters, we’ve seen them all on the big screen and the smaller one. Sometimes without entirely realizing that’s what we’re seeing. As we watch, the stories are changing to suit the audience and the culture, in ways that the Brothers Grimm could hardly foresee. Nina Niskanen will take you on a tour of fairy tales adapted to TV and movies over the years, focusing on the last 30 years in an effort to discover changing trends. Trigger Warning: the talk will discuss sexual assault.

I’m also moderating a panel with Guests of Honor Anne Leinonen and Catherynne M. Valente 16:00-17:00 in hall D10a:

Sex, drugs and Puss ‘n Boots
Beneath the sweet, Disney exterior of fairy tales often lies a roiling underbelly of lust, abuse and unfulfilled desire. Modern reincarnations often put the subtext of the originals out for anyone to see. In a panel moderated by Nina Niskanen, Anne Leinonen and Catherynne Valente discuss the topic of sex in the context of fairy tales. CW: may contain discussion of sexual abuse.
Do come see me if you’re nearby! Attendance is free!

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Jun 18, 2016

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Non-compliant

My grandmother wanted me to be the perfect picture of womanhood. She wanted me to cook and clean and bear children and stay silent while men did the speaking. She wanted me to do all this without complaint. Needless to say we never really did see eye to eye on that front. But on the other hand while we were butting heads on just what I was meant to do with my life she also in many ways showed me that she wasn’t herself a perfect picture of womanhood. At least not the kind we saw in movies and television shows. She was hardheaded with a dark sense of humor and when shit needed doing she just did it. No matter what she said she wasn’t the type to just cringe in the background while some hero took care of her business. In other words, while telling me to comply she showed me what it meant to be non-compliant.

I find myself thinking about my grandmother whenever I read Bitch Planet. We disagreed on so many things but in the end we were both non-compliant and both of us would’ve found ourselves on Bitch Planet, incarcerated for different crimes.

If you’ve never heard of it, Bitch Planet is a recurring comic, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, about a world very much like ours except that they have colonized the another planet and turned it into a prison for women. The reason they need a whole planet as a prison is that the society back on Earth has turned being a female non-compliant into a crime. And there are so many ways of being female and non-compliant, just like there are now. There’s the dutiful wife whose husband cheats on her and she gets angry enough to threaten him. She gets sent to Bitch Planet so that the husband can start his new life with the younger, more compliant mistress. The overweight girl, too angry by half for the society that wants its women silent and fading into the background. That’s a particularly nasty touch of world building that took me several re-reads to see; the fashions of the society have evolved so that most fashionable women wear fabric-based versions of a Scold’s Bridle when out in society functions.

Finland is fairly egalitarian as countries go and yet I have found myself being stopped on the street by men, and it’s always men, just so they could berate me for being overweight, just so they could tell me to smile. As if my body or the way I presented myself was any concern of theirs while they were passing me by never to be seen again. Most often the ones who berate me on being overweight are not only overweight themselves but usually also possess some questionable hygienic habits, to say the least. It seemed so unfairly hypocritical to me until I started reading Bitch Planet.

bitchplanet_1The concept of the Bitch Planet is all about making women prioritize other people. Their comfort as well as  The implication in that being, of course, that women aren’t real people. You don’t have to spend a long time watching the news to see how we could find ourselves in that situation. We’re not there, thankfully. And most years we keep making progress away from that place. But sometimes… Sometimes it also seems inevitable.

And those times? Those are the times I take my keyboard and start writing non-compliant women. We exist. We always have and always will. The internet allows us to use our voices in ways unprecedented in history. And amazing creators show us both the road to revolution as well as the possible dystopic future that many today would consider their own, personal utopia. We can either comply or we can rise up. I know which I would rather do.

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Jun 11, 2016

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The year of the first hustle

City Metro Rail,motion blur

We’re nearly at the halfway point of 2016. It seems surreal and also tremendously unfair. Like just yesterday it was January and suddenly we are closing in on Midsummer. Many of you reading this will know by now that I went to Viable Paradise in the autumn getting in and actually going has had a huge impact on the way I view my writing career, or rather my aspirations of a writing career. Instead of seeing it as a someday maybe proposition I have come to realize that in a very real way it is happening right now. As a result I started to hustle in a way I never did before.

Since the start of the year I written eight new short stories, released a new podcast episode more or less every other week, worked on outlines for two different novels, completed round after round of edits for my first short story sale, started seriously looking into starting in Etsy shop for knitted goods that I’m making anyway, and somehow found myself on the social media team of Worldcon 75. Listed one after another like that it seems like I’ve been working on a lot of things. In the moment it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like I’ve been spending a lot of time watching TV shows and movies, and trawling Facebook. And what I’m beginning to realize is that this is the first year I’ve had to hustle for myself. Probably ever.

There are a lot of ways in which talent matters, but not all that surprisingly hard work matters more. I’ve been seeing some things come to me that I didn’t expect. For example, I’m moderating a panel with guests of honor Anne Leinonen and Catherynne M Valente at this year’s Finncon because I signed up for programming. I have publication coming up because of a blog post that I wrote and because the editors had the fortitude to work with me through my atrocious grammar and the weird mix of Finnish and English that always seems to come up when I try to write Finnish.

Universal Mind series. Visually pleasing composition of human head and fractal clouds to serve as background in works on mind dreams thinking consciousness and imagination

These are tiny little victories in the grand scheme of things but they are victories nonetheless. They give hope of bigger victories to come. Which makes it that much easier to hustle more. It’s part of the reason why I have this blog, even though I am, essentially, a nobody. Part of it is connecting with people who may or may not become readers of mine in the fullness of time, part of it is learning to put together a compelling essay/blog post one post at a time, and still another part of it is working to form my own thoughts into coherent and hopefully entertaining or useful bits of online content.

I have come to realize that though this year may be a year of hustle, it is to be the first of many of what will hopefully be a long and successful writing career. Whatever that means. But the definition of success is another post entirely.

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Jun 4, 2016

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I’m ready to stop punching myself in the face

beautiful sun rising sky with asphalt highways road in rural scene use land transport and traveling backgroundbackdropThis week Kameron Hurley’s enthusiastically awaited essay collection Geek Feminist Revolution came out. It’s an awesome read and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone. But it’s not exactly what I want to write about today. After reading it, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my life and my writing. And I’m fast coming to the conclusion that I’m ready to stop punching myself in the face. Or at least stop going to places in which I know I’ll get punched in the face. If you cannot parse those sentences, go read Ann Leckie’s excellent post It’s not a real heart, it’s a real artificial heart. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Done? Good.

 

I haven’t really been able to get excited about a movie since I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ve been slightly sad about that, being ridiculously enthusiastic about things has long been a defining character trait of mine and I love movies enough that my wedding was movie themed. But ever since Fury Road, movies have been kind of a “well, if I have to” -type of experience. There have been a few that I’ve actually gotten enthusiastic about after the fact (Crimson Peak and Deadpool spring to mind). There have been some movies positioned as blockbusters that I flat out decided aren’t worth my time. I doubt I’ll ever see Gods of Egypt or Batman vs Superman. This never used to happen before. I mean, I’m one of the people who went to see Sucker Punch in the theater the first week it opened for goodness sake.

Drought landThen I went to see X-Men: Apocalypse. I still wish I had walked out when the metaphorical face punching started. But I was still hoping that at least they were going to tell a story that was something more than cardboard characters with a villain whose motivations would have made silent film makers say he was far too flat to be on screen. While I was watching I thought about all the amazing people writing non-face punchy bullshit getting their voices silenced. I thought about this third installment of a series whose makers have stellar careers making at best mediocre movies and shows like Agent Carter getting cancelled. I thought about Hunger Games nearly not getting made because it had a female lead. I thought about all the movies with female leads making more or less the same bank as similar movies and getting reported as failures and proof that women can’t lead while male actors and directors can be involved in spectacular failures of both story and box-office take-home and still go on to have careers. And I got tired. Weary to the bone of the double think and the double standards that are involved in creating and maintaining the status quo.

Just over a week after that Geek Feminist Revolution came out. I started thinking about all the time I was spending taking myself to places where I already knew I was very likely going to get punched in the face. I thought about what else I could be doing with that time. I started noticing all the bullshit micro-aggressions I encounter on a daily basis. The guy who feels it necessary to explain to a science fiction writer the existence of one of the most celebrated works of science fiction. The guy who deliberately misreads an article to make the point that women are not angels. The guy who, out of sheer lack of a clue decides that women are going to the gynecologist to get a routine examination without so much as bothering to ask women about their lived experience. The guy who decides that a woman having a crisis about turning thirty absolutely needs to be reassured by him that she’s still hot. It’s a deluge out there and frankly, not very likely to get better any time soon.

Portrait of a female vampire over black backgroundSo why do I feel the need to not only spend hours on but also to pay for getting punched in the face? Just because everyone else is enjoying it? Some things are part of our cultural consciousness. Stuff like Star Wars and superhero movies. Some things deserve the spot and others… don’t. I’ve read Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey and Songs of Ice and Fire and Wheel of Time because they are a part of the cultural consciousness. For whatever reason they reach a point of popularity that leaves an imprint on this moment in time. So I’ve read them in an effort to understand. Our society, our moment in time, my own sensibilities. Well I’m done. At this point I’m just perpetuating the cycle. I’m done with the women getting killed or depowered to motivate a male character into action. I’m done with gratuitous plot point rapes. I’m done with the narratives of women being trophies given to the male lead, even though he’s an asshole and not fit to lick her shoes clean, just because he got to the end of the movie. Fuck those. I have better things to do with my time. Like write stories where women are actually people in charge of their own destinies.

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