Announcements.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Obviously, I’m not updating on anything like a regular schedule here. I’m not going to apologize for it this time either; I realize I’ve been making the conscious choice to focus my energies elsewhere, and I stand by it. I only have so much time and energy. I need to be picky about what I invest it in.

So, the time has come (the walrus said) to move on yet again! The secret collaborative project I mentioned in my previous post has been unveiled for over a month now, and I’m going to be spending a lot more time and effort over there instead of over here. It’s called The Octopus Society of Evil Authors. There’s a lot of ways to find us, which I’ll also list at the bottom of this post. Please come join in the fun! We focus on various aspects of writing, of course, but we’re very entertaining about it and quite a few things we discuss can be applied to non-writers as well (including an informative and helpful introduction to creating a secure and private internet, which is a very timely subject…).

As for this blog, I’ll be leaving it up and may even post something new now and again, but for the most part I’m considering it on indefinite hiatus. It’s so far on the back burner it’s not even on the stove anymore.

Because honestly, there’s a lot of moving parts to keep track of in my life right now. Quite a few of them are voluntary undertakings, but they feel important and even essential in other ways beyond the strictly literal. This blog just isn’t one of them anymore, at least not without completely overwhelming myself with commitments and having something else — something less deliberate — falling by the wayside instead. I’m on the constant edge of being stressed out, and doing everything I can not to tip over. The only way I can keep all the other things going is if I can give myself a little breathing room every once in awhile; caring about my personal blog is one of the things I’m sacrificing to do that. It might be the wrong choice, but at least it’s my choice. I can change it later if I so decide, and meanwhile it means I’m not losing my grip on something else.

Besides the O.S.E.A. project, I’m still writing fiction, still trying not to spend too much of my money on cool new habits like fountain pens, and still working my seasonal job. There’s a bunch of other things going on too — like trying to maintain friendships; needing to travel more; taking care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally; needing to find a less stressful living environment and trying to decide if that means a new line of work and what that line of work might be; trying to figure out how to live my life and find a job more in line with my values of greener and more sustainable living, with a gentler and more healing touch on the earth; and on, and on, and on… And, of course, trying to decide what turning 30 in about two months means to me (if anything).

While I could use this blog to try and figure out these things “out loud” so to speak, I’d rather just focus on the time and energy I’d spend writing posts on actually doing something about all this instead. Don’t get me wrong: writing it out in the blog has been beneficial in the past. It’s just not the approach I’m using this time. Time to give something else a try, you know? See if I get different results, and all that.

So thank you, my lovely cyber-friends, for sticking with me this far. Please do join us over at The Octopus Society of Evil Authors, and if something huge happens in my life I’ll serenely try to post about it here. In the meantime, be well, take care of yourselves, and make deliberate choices.

Love,

GeGi.

PS: here’s a list of the O.S.E.A. links –

WordPress: octopussocietyofevilauthorsblog.wordpress.com

Twitter: @OctopusSEA

Tumblr: octopussocietyofevilauthors.tumblr

Email: OctopusSocietyofEvilAuthors @ gmail

Still Alive.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Yes, I am still alive — despite not having updated this blog in how long?

In my last post, I was trying to decide what to do and where to go with my life. Well, I guess I did because by the end of summer I’d told my boss I’d come back for winter! I spend the autumn off-season driving back to Seattle, telling The Mansion folks I’d be moving out, finding a new storage unit, packing up all my stuff again, moving it into the storage unit, and basically being stressed out and worried that I wouldn’t get everything done in time. I also managed to fit in a quick trip to Portland to stay with my writer friend, AND FINISHED MY NOVEL. So, all in all, it was a pretty epic off-season.

Then it was back to Montana. It’s been quite the season, best illustrated by two phrases I’ve been saying a lot this winter: “Never a dull moment.” and “This place runs on Alice In Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass logic.” Despite that, I’ve actually had a pretty good season (helped by the fact my boss made a point to get me a private room for housing). I got some truly magical cross-country skiing in, too, which involves not only gorgeous scenery and great full-body exercise, but is also fantastic for getting perspective and losing stress. I’ve also made a point of attempting a healthier diet, which isn’t always easy in this line of work, but I think it’s been helping with everything else to keep me slightly more level in my moods.

So it’s actually been one of the best seasons I’ve done so far. I think I’m starting to get a handle on my chosen lifestyle or something. Maybe I’m just getting better at life in general. But I’ve told my boss I’ll be sticking around indefinitely — or until something better comes along — and she’s pretty happy about it. I am too; it’s nice to know that after the off-season, I know what to expect from my next job, and I don’t have to even apply for it! The pay and the perks are both pretty good here, it’s hard to imagine someone better than my boss to work for, and personality-wise I’m well suited to my job. I’m basically set until I decide it’s time to shake things up again.

Various other good news:

  • This coming spring off-season, I’ve already bought tickets to visit my family in Hawaii, after far too long apart, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!
  • I’m participating in a NaNo event for the first time (finally), using the April NaNo Camp to work on and hopefully finish the research and editing to my first novel that I’ve been putting off.
  • My writer friend and I are collaborating on a new project together that we’ll be metaphorically unveiling soon, and I’ll post more here about it when we’re ready to share it with the world.
  • I’ve become a full-blow fountain pen convert (not good news for my savings, but fantastic and fun and so pretty and all the other things anyway).

And that’s pretty much it! The past half a year or whatever summarized. I’ll try to post more often than that; at least regularly during off-season travel and anything especially cool or interesting I do during my work seasons. Maybe I’ll aim for once a month updates, with “specials” extra posts for anything else…? We’ll see.

I have a lot of projects going on right now, and unfortunately I’ve let this blog get pretty low on the priorities list. Hopefully that’ll change, because once I actually sit down to write a post I always remember how much I love blog writing! My “voice” here is really different from my novel writing voice — much closer to how my constant inner monologue narrates my thoughts and life — and it’s so much fun to do this kind of writing once in a while as a break from the fiction writer struggle of consistent characters’ voices.

In the meantime, stay safe and stay alive.

–GeGi.

Seriously, I live in a mansion now! (…with 8 other people…)

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Since I’ve managed to yet again let an entire month slip by without a single blog post, I figure it’s about time I update you all on what’s been going on in my life lately…

First off, yes, I’m still alive. Yay!

Job situation: March: I attempted something that didn’t work out, and it ended with a serious of intense panic attacks that had as much to do with work as it did with my…

Living situation: March: Staying in the guest room of an aunt and uncle who hadn’t expected a long-term guest when they say I could stay with them “anytime”. Desperately searching for a tolerable situation I can afford, because I’m getting kicked out at the end of the month.

Then came April. Or more accurately, the end of March into April.

Mum put out the call on her Facebook, to rally people into helping me find a place to live. An old friend of my brother’s from our hometown, who happened to be living in Seattle too, puts me in touch with a woman he’s been sleeping with because she’s good people too and happens to be in a similar situation of needing to find people to live with by the end of the month. She and I hit it off. I meet her current roommates and other potential future roommates, and I get my first tour of the Mansion, the place we’re all hoping we can move to.

Built in 1919, three stories including the fully finished basement, pretty well maintained, with picture window views of the sound and the Olympic mountains. There’s a sun room and a window seat and wood panels and inlay wood patterns on the floor and old light fixtures and a dutch door to the porch off the kitchen and a telescope that comes with the house and a huge yard and a huge laundry room and basically it’s most of my childhood ideas of a dream home come to life. It also happens to be in a really nice neighborhood, with a park and a library in walking distance. The only way we can afford to live here is to fill at least most of the ten bedrooms.

Eight of us sign the year-long lease, and move in. Only four of the eight knew each other and had lived with each other prior to the week before we signed. It was a total leap of faith based on gut reaction and hope and a little desperation. The adventure begins…

Meanwhile, I’ve basically quit the job that was triggering panic attacks, and am living off my savings. To justify this, I’ve also accepted an offer to return to the Montana ranch for the summer. I’ll be gone from the end of May into “sometime in October”. I’ve also managed to somehow end up with a regularly reoccurring gig helping a woman clean out her apartment, and even more recently cover for the housekeeper of an AirBnB studio/guest room while she takes off to support her daughter giving birth to a new grandkid. Oh, and I’ve started working on my novel again (hence my accidentally-on-purpose writing mostly in present tense, since my novel is present tense first person.), after not being able to write for two months due to stress and panic. Plus I’m working out almost every day, and working on changing my diet to something healthier than the stress and panic eating I’d been doing.

So basically, my life has done a 180, and I’m pushing myself to maintain this positive momentum right into heading to Montana for work this summer. It’s kind of exhausting, but much more satisfying than the exhaustion of everything falling apart like it was before. I still don’t know what I’m doing with myself in the long term, but I have all summer to figure it out. And I have a place to call home when I come back from the summer job, and people to support me in all forms. I’ll (probably) be okay. And hey, even if I can’t figure out a long-term picture for myself again (and seriously, how often do those really work out for me anyway?), I’m not doing too bad with just focusing on week-to-week and day-to-day; I’m getting a novel written, I’m reading a lot, I’m contributing to a household, I’m building a work reputation and connections, I’m creating a healthy lifestyle with working out and eating, I’m taking daily walks, I have social time with housemates, I’m a ten minute drive away from one of my best friends… That’s kind of a lot of good stuff happening for someone who has no idea what they’ll be doing in six months or a year.

Wish me luck, my friends. And since it’s not midnight yet as I’m writing this… May the fourth be with you! ^_~

Love,

G.G.

Let’s talk about another taboo.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’ve talked before a little bit about my own dealings with depression, but I don’t think I ever really touched on one of the causes that kicks off the endless up-and-down cycles I go through with no end in sight. It comes down to simple biology. Not a genetic presupposition for depression, although it’s possible that’s a factor too. I’m talking about the basic biology be being female-bodied.

Being female-bodied in society has a lot of baggage already attached to it. Things are pretty messed up, to understate the state of things. Everyday in the news there’s new reasons and examples of how much life sucks for the female-bodied and female-passing, and it’s hard to ignore just how little we’re valued as equal people. The issue I’m talking about today is one of the first basic taboo subjects we’re all taught to avoid and ridicule from adolescence: our periods. The time of month we cry and bleed and hurt and rage, and around expected to either hide it or be teased about it.

For at least a quarter of every single month of the majority of my life, I can expect my own body to put me through a personal hell of physiological and psychological warfare. Every female-bodied person experiences this time of the month a little differently. For me, starting a little over a week from when the blood comes, I start feeling overwhelmed and helpless and stressed out. I get depressed, I can’t focus mentally, I cry at the slightest frustration or emotional response to anything, I just want to stay curled up in bed so I don’t have to face anyone while I feel raw and vulnerable and flayed open by my own mind. It’s impossible to my usual optimistic and cheerful self. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde; I become dark and cynical and sometimes suicidal, feeling hopeless and distracted and unable to cope with any kind of interactions.

This is every month, for one week out of every four. No matter what I do or try.

Recovering from this kind of mental flogging is bad enough, difficult and painful and slow. Usually I have about one good week a month, because I’m beat down by my own body and worn out trying to recover for that long every single month. On top of this, I also get beat up and worn down by the things which are usually called ‘cramps’, which in my opinion doesn’t even come close to describing the endless twisting aching stabbing pain which, lucky me, isn’t effected by any pain relief, over-the-counter or prescription. This is the kind of pain that makes me feel like I’m going to throw up all day because it runs so deep in my body, that makes life unbearable while it lasts, that leaves me faint and ill and pale and hunched over if I have to stand up or walk anywhere. This is the kind of pain I’m expected to work through without showing it, because it’s the pain of being female-bodied and comes every month and “everyone has to deal with it” so I shouldn’t expect special treatment. This is the kind of pain that usually lasts about 24-48 hours, and leaves me weak and shaky for a day or two more after it leaves. Every. Single. Month.

This is considered within the realms of “normal”. Oh sure, having some kind of weird immunity to painkillers isn’t typical, but that’s just a bit of random trivia to other people, a point on which to show a little extra sympathy while still telling me to tough it out and keep working, don’t slow down, we all go through this so why are you so weak as to ask for a day off?

There’s a lot of messed up expectations in society. Despite people not admitting it, the fact of that matter is that having a menstrual cycle is a lot like having a mental illness with physical symptoms, complete with a lot of the same stigmas, belittling jokes, and daily struggles. The difference is, there’s a lot of fight happening right now to increase awareness and understanding about a lot of mental illnesses, and effective or not, there’s at least some forms of support networks for a lot of them, too. Not so much so for the things I’ve been facing and fighting on my own, and I bet that a lot of other female-bodied people are, too. It’s a conversation that just isn’t happening, and I don’t think a lot of people are even aware it’s something that should be addressed, because it’s so deeply ingrained that periods are normal (yes, they are), and that there’s nothing to do about it except put up with it (wrong wrong wrong).

In a perfect world, female-bodied people who suffered through their cycles like I do would be given the support and help they need to take care of themselves during this time. They wouldn’t be forced to try and hide the impossible battles they faced. Instead, they would be encouraged to do whatever helped them survive it, up to and including simply not going to work when necessary, or being given options of different tasks they could actually perform during the times they were unable to fully cope with their normal duties. I don’t think of this as “special treatment”; I think of it as basic human compassion. If people with physical differences and people with mental differences are worth fighting for to get equal treatment, then so is over half the world population who happens to have both a quarter of their lives because of their biology.

Society has conditioned us all to accept that we don’t deserve consideration for the acts of our biology simply because it’s something we all experience to various degrees, and that giving in to it is weakness and we must hide it to be considered ‘equal’ to male-bodied people.

That’s utter nonsense.

Hopefully by now you can see how utterly nonsensical it is, and how very far from any kind of real equality it is. I don’t have answers on how to fight this battle, or advice on creating awareness and change, or channels for building support. All I have is this blog and my words and my outrage. All I have is the hope this is message will resonate and spread, and that somehow, eventually, the world might become a place where I don’t feel like life isn’t worth living because of having been born into this body that I mostly try to love.

Keep fighting. Maybe someday a real equality for everyone will be achieved. Until then, we can keep whispering the dream of it into the darkness, a prayer and a wish to attract the sun and a new day into this endless night terror.

Love,

GeGi.

Writing! All the writing…

Dear Cyber-Friends,

So, you might have noticed an absence of new posts recently. This is just a quick update to let you know that 1) sorry about that, 2) I will eventually have proper new posts again, even if it’s just the Goodreads Crossovers, and 3) tell you why I haven’t been blogging.

The past two-and-a-bit weeks, I’ve been visiting a friend of mine in Portland. We’re both basically unpublished writers, and we’re both working on our first novels, and have been encouraging each other towards this endeavor for, I think, about the past two years. We keep in touch on Twitter a lot, but getting to hang out in person to bounce ideas of each other and cheer each other on is so much better. While I’ve been here, my friend has finished their first draft, and I went from zero words to around 30k words for my second draft/kind of major rewrite.

It’s been amazing and unreal and so very very productive (for novel writing), but it also means I’ve done very little besides write a ridiculous amount of words every day and then tried to recover from the feeling of my brain starting to ooze out my ears a little. On a really good writing day, I have to recover enough to even form proper sentences and find the correct words when I’m talking out loud, because I’ve used up all the words I have for the day in my writing. Those are the days we pretty much end up sitting around laughing at the cat for an hour or so because the cat is hilarious and we don’t have the energy to do anything requiring more concentration. In fact if I seem a bit silly or rambling right now, it’s because I’ve already written over 2k words for the novel, as well as note for the plot. For comparison, NaNoWrMo says to average just over 1.6k to finish a novel-length in a month. I’ve been averaging well over that for less than two weeks.

The thing is, I don’t know how much longer I’ll have this much free time, and I know I only have a few more days here in Portland with my friend, so I really want to get as much done as possible while I have those advantages. Ideally, I think my goal is that by the end of the year I’d like to have this novel done and have started working on getting it proof-read and edited and looking into publishing. It’s been a long time coming, and I’d really like to see this story out there–at least on a small scale, but who knows?

Anyway, I’m not proof-reading this post or anything, and it’s already about twice as long as I expected, so I’m just going to sign off now and go to bed.

Keep chasing those dreams, friends, and stay safe out there.

Love,

GeGi.

Catching Up: A Quick Review of 2015.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

My first non-book-review post of 2016! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written about my own physical life adventures, so I thought I should take a moment today to write a post I’ve been putting off.

2015 was really hard. I started out last year having really high hopes. I was living and working in a beautiful snow-covered Rocky Mountains winter wonderland, learning and loving to cross-country ski, and having a job I pretty much enjoyed. All that fell apart pretty quick; the snow melted early, I stopped having the time and energy to ski, my housemates were mostly various kinds of awful, and I worked with half of them on a daily basis. I tried to make the best of it, but depression hits pretty thoroughly sometimes, and I spent the rest of the time basically gritting my teeth and waiting to escape at the end of the season. It sucked, because I wanted so hard to be able to appreciate the amazing place I happened to live it at the time, but all I wanted to do was hide until I could run away.

My spring road trip has been, eventually, fully detailed in the blog, as have parts of the following summer drama in Colorado. Suffice it to say, summer was basically a repeat of winter, but with added “fun” of getting injured in my right shoulder and unable to work the majority of my time on the ranch. Cue depression and alienation, with the side bonus of lost wages and extra paperwork.

I clung to plans of escape when the season was over, and left as soon as I could, leaving the ranch for the final time in the early dawn light and not looking back. Shortly after my return to the Northwest Coast, the region I’d been daydreaming about with nostalgic feelings of being as close to home as I can get these days, Mum came over from Hawaii to visit.

As glad as I was to escape the people and politics of the Mid-West, seeing my Mum was incomparably better. I played the driver, and took Mum up and down the northern part of the Washington coastal region while we visited her parents. We got to spend the last few days together, just the two of us, and getting to spend all that time with Mum…well, my heart is aching and I’m getting an about-to-cry feeling again just thinking about it, I miss her so much. If I could stand the bugs and the weather and the job market and the housing issue and all the rest of the stuff that comes from living in one of the poorest parts of the jungle side of an island in the middle of the biggest ocean, well, I won’t hesitate to be closer to my Mum. My sister is pretty astonishingly lucky that she managed to make it work.

Anyway. Mum left and according to my plan I should have started immediately to figure out the details of moving to Portland. I didn’t. I tried, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to be in Portland eventually, but over the course of about a week I realized what I need to do first was give myself time and permission to just STOP for a while. Stop running from one thing to the next, stop pushing myself to keep going so I can’t feel how burnt out I’m getting, stop trying to fake being okay so hard. I needed time to wallow, to hurt, to distract myself, to be lazy and indulgent, to get to do all those things in a place where I was safe and not judged for it. I needed to let myself let go of the past year so I could finally start to process and heal from all of it. I needed to do those things before I could have my fresh start.

So now it’s 2016. I just left Seattle finally, and am staying with an Aunt and Uncle in Tacoma while I gear myself back up to really actually for-sure-this-time start to act on my plans for Portland. I’m less hurt emotionally than I was before I took time off from being a “responsible adult”. I still feel the wounds of the past year, still have the new battle-scars, the aches and wariness, the depression and lingering suspicion. But I also feel more confident, more self-possessed, more me. It’s not perfect, but then, life never is perfect. The trick is to learn how to embrace the messy bits and make them into a new kind of perfect. Not the all-encompassing kind; the quiet contented kind that creeps in during the little moments.

I’m typing this upstairs in the guest bedroom, warm orange-red walls reflecting the soft yellow glow of the overhead light down onto the desk. Outside it’s overcast and has started to rain enough to hear it through the window and on the roof. This morning I woke to the smell of baking bread. Right now I can hear the rain, and muffled traffic, and the music I’m playing very quietly, and voices from whatever my aunt is listening to downstairs. The house has a faint and constant scent of incense and essential oils that’s saturated into the walls and the paint and the rugs over the years. There’s nothing big or flashing about this moment. But when I stop to notice it, I feel a sense contentment and home-y-ness that’s as close to perfection as I ever really need out of life.

Now I just need to figure out how to create and support this for myself in Portland…

Wish me luck, my friends, as I wish you luck in finding your own kind of perfect in the New Year.

Love,

GeGi.

Storytelling is a superpower, and other thoughts.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’ve said (written) a lot of positive things on here about fanfiction. I stand by everything I’ve said before, but due to some recent discussions I’ve been seeing on Twitter lately, I wanted to add a little complexity to my position on some of the issues surrounding fanfic.

Storytelling is important. How we tell the story, what we choose to focus on, and what we do with it afterward, all matter very deeply. These things effect people in a very real way, with very real consequences to their lives. This post is going to talk about some topics that you might not want to expose yourself to right now. I talk about them in pretty general terms, but if even hearing (reading) the name of an issue will adversely effect you, please take care of yourself first and not read this post until/unless you’re in a mentally and emotionally safe place to do so.

The discussions that sparked my own thoughts into wanting to write this post was about toxic shipping in fandom and fanfics. The release of Jessica Jones on Netflix is starting lots of very awesome powerful dialogue due to the incredible handling of PTSD, abuse, rape, misogyny, and other relevant topics for today’s culture. It’s also brought out some less awesome behavior with those people who seem to see romantic tragedy where others see abuse, manipulation, and rape. These are people who ship Kilgrave/Jessica Jones, ignoring all evidence that that’s about the most sickening and unhealthy thing they could possible do. That’s not even touching on the fact that shipping an abusive one-sided relationship is triggering for survivors of such, and also the fact that it’s showing support and/or excusing that kind of behavior in the real world.

The things we create in fiction don’t live in a vacuum, safe and away from all “real world” consequences. It doesn’t matter if we’re creating TV shows, best-selling YA fiction, or internet-only fanfic. All it takes is other people, even just one other person, seeing it. The moment that happens, it’s effecting the real world. It has become part of the world, released into the wild to spawn and grown and change in someone’s mind, becoming part of their thoughts and ideas. So us storytellers must, MUST, be responsible about what we say. But we also have to let go after it’s out there. The time for us to make sure we’re getting it as right as we can is while we’re creating it. After that, it’s too late. It’s already out there, and we don’t get a second change to fix our mistakes.

So when the story is about an abusive relationship, it needs to be called out on being an abusive relationship IN THE NARRATIVE. This is something Jessica Jones did. My skin crawled seeing Kilgrave, despite how much I adore David Tennant. They never shrank away from the fact he was a horrible awful person, even when they gave him complexity and backstory and explanations (and please note: these were NEVER framed as excuses except by Kilgrave). Not all narratives do this; in fact, very few of them do at all. They turn abusers into someone misunderstood, broken but fixable through love and sacrifice. That’s the lessons learned by people who ship Kilgrave/Jessica, because like Kilgrave, they learned about love by seeing it in movies and TV shows. That kind of narrative about love not how the real world works, and survivors of abusive relationships know it.

People who buy into the toxic narrative and defend it are hurting the survivors. They’re also hurting themselves and anyone else who listens to that narrative, because it makes it easier for the myth to perpetuate. They’re giving confusion and uncertainty to people who won’t always recognize abuse because it’s been dressed up as romance. They’re giving excuses and justification to those who will use romanticized abuse to get what they want from other people, consciously or not. They’re supporting a culture that doesn’t acknowledge rape, abuse, misogynist, violence against women. They’re supporting a culture that can’t tell the difference between what’s okay and what isn’t. They’re supporting a culture that devalues the abused and their experiences.

I’m not saying the people who ship these things are bad, necessarily. They might be. I don’t know, because I don’t know them at all. All I can tell is that they’re certainly misinformed and in desperate need of some feminist education. I’m sure a lot of them would disagree with me and call me a lot of horrible things if they read this. I’m sure a lot of them wouldn’t even realize the irony of doing that, how it would in fact prove my point better than my own words can. This happens all the time, both on the internet and in the “real world”. Despite all progress, we’re still living in a toxic culture, one where just telling the truth about it on the internet can, and often does, lead to death threats, rape threats, and verbal abuse.

Which is why storytelling is so desperately important. The real world hurts, and a lot of us use escapism to survive it — I certainly do. The thing is, it isn’t really escapism. It’s just a different way to change and explore the very same narrative we’re living in day after day. The way that narrative is framed will either make our wounds bleed more, or help them to heal. If someone is telling a story with toxic relationships, framing them as tragic romance is adding to the very thing that’s hurting us in the first place. But framing them with in-your-face honest realism, showing just how bad and awful and insidious they are, makes them become something we can then point to and say, “See, this is what’s really going on. This is what it feels like to be stalked and manipulated and trapped and then survive. It’s not romantic. It’s not something you get over by the next episode. It’s scary as hell, and it changes you for life. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you strong. It’s awful, and it’s happening every day. But we can still fight back.”

There was another conversation happening a few days ago. It was about how J.K. Rowling was continuing to tell people the right and wrong ways to interpret her characters. These people were talking about how hurtful it was for an author to do that. They had bonded with the people in these stories because the characters resonated with real life experiences and people. The characters were real to them, like all our favorite fiction characters are real to us. They had claimed them, had written and read fanfiction about them, had created their own narrative and framing about them, both by using what was in the text and by going beyond it. These people were offended and outraged at the author telling them they were wrong in their own interpretations.

So how are those people different from the people shipping Kilgrave/Jessica Jones?

They’re different for a very simple reason: the framing and narrative created by toxic shipping is ADDING to a toxic culture. But these outraged fans are creating interpretations to DISMANTLE toxic culture. They’re creating narrative to add POC, to add queer relationships, to call out abusers, and other important issues that were overlooked or deemed unimportant in the original text. No work of fiction is perfect, even Harry Potter, and it can certainly be hard to tackling every issue at once. So these people are taking something they love, something profoundly important to our generation, a touchstone of our culture, and they’re adding this framing to it. They’re doing it because they love it, and because they have the real life experiences and knowledge to understand where the failings and shortcomings are, and they have the passion to try and fix them. This is something I love and adore about fandom, by the way.

J.K. Rowling coming along and telling them that no, those things are wrong, is hugely upsetting. Harry Potter and co are her creations, but as soon as she published the stories, their names and experience became ours, too. They’re part of everyone who reads the books or watches the movies or listens to the audiotapes. They’re part of our culture, a lexicon in our ongoing dialogue about the world. She doesn’t get to invalidate that by telling us we’re doing it wrong. She can and does try, but it doesn’t mean we have to listen to it. She had her chance to tell that story, and now it’s our turn. Which means the responsibility in how the story is framed falls to us, too.

A storyteller gets one shot to get it right. And, regardless of if they do or not, everyone who received that story then gets their own shot to get it right. And on, and on, and on. Stories never really die or go away. They keep mutating, traveling, forming and breaking apart and reforming, over and over and over. Stories are alive, even the ones pinned down with print or film or tape. They’re alive in our minds, as soon as we read them or watch them or listen to them. They never leave us, and they never stop changing our thoughts and feelings and actions. They get passed on, warping themselves through the lens of our perceptions and experiences, and again through those same things of the ones who receive it from us.

How we tell the stories is so important. They can literally change the world for someone, for good or bad. The moment we’ve told the story, we’ve lost the chance to tell it better. So we’d better get it the best we can the first time, because that’s all we get, and with that one chance we can heal or break someone else. It’s scary and huge and real, and it’s powerful and beautiful and magic. Storytelling is the ultimate superpower. It doesn’t matter if you think you have an audience or not. Chances are, someone somewhere is still listening. You’re touching their life. So you can either add to the toxic culture that’s probably already hurting them, or you can use that superpower to help create dialogue to dismantle it, and let them know they’re not alone.

We all have our own experiences, our own truths and struggles and wounds and insights. Storytelling is how we can share those things, finding the common ground with others and opening the eyes and minds of those who never realized what life was like for us. It’s a chance create understanding, compassion, empathy, outrage, revelation, and a myriad of other things that are extremely hard to pass on without the wonder that is storytelling. Storytelling is how we learn about other people, it’s how we can grow to understand the world, how we remember the past, and how we can shape the future.

That’s one reason why I think fanfiction is so important. Not everyone has the same experiences (obviously), so when someone can take a beloved narrative like the Harry Potter books and flesh it out even more by drawing on their own unique view, that adds to both the story as a whole, and to my own views of other people. I can become a little more aware of other peoples’ realities in the real world, and the world of Harry Potter gets a little closer to being complete because more than one voice is adding to it. The more voices and the more diversity gets added to it, the better it gets at breaking down toxic culture for more people. No one is going to get things 100% right, but the more people who add to it, the better the chances get for the overlap to make up the difference. Not to mention how cathartic it can be to add to that narrative and framing yourself, which is exactly what I experienced the first time I venture into writing fanfic as an angsty teen.

I’m a storyteller myself. Not just in this blog, either. I recently finished a first draft of a novel I hope to actually publish in the next year or so, and I’ve started on a sequel already. I’ve been world-building fantasy and sci-fi worlds for stories since I was about twelve or so, and do it by playing Let’s Pretend for as long as I can remember. Saying I love it is kind of a “does not compute” understatement moment for me, because it’s just part of who I am. It’s not something I’m passionate about, because it’s synonymous with passion for me. I breath, I blink, my heart beats, I create people and worlds and scenarios in my head. It just is. Obviously, thinking about getting to share one of those worlds and some of those characters is exciting and cool. But you know what the thing I’m most excited about is? It’s seeing what other people will do with them.

I want to see my own stories get out there, because I want to see how they grow and change with each new interpretation. I want to see what other stories get told with these characters who are real to me, because that means they’re real enough to someone else to inspire those other stories. I want to see what will happen when someone else uses them to tell personal stories, uses them to explore other issues, uses them fulfill other dreams and hopes. I want to see how someone else thinks the story should end. I want those things because seeing them will make me a better storyteller, and a better person. Those are the things that will help me understand someone else, and help me to understand the world and the cultures and all those other things I’m not going to experience as myself. I don’t know what it’s like to live the world as someone else, but using stories like this helps me get closer to that. Especially if they’re using the power of storytelling for good.

Stay strong, cyber-friends, and keep telling stories that help to heal and dismantle those toxic cultures.

Love,

GeGi.