Biting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face: #OwnVoices

Hands of many colors
Image Source: https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/agents-renew-call-diverse-books-ownvoices-submissions

Many blog readers know that I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Well, really its a mostly love-dislike relationship. I know that social media can sometimes be a positive force–alerting us to injustices, uniting us against unfair situations, or keeping each other informed (especially where family members and friends are far-flung and this is the only easy way of keeping in touch). However, in many of my own personal use cases, the toxicity of social media and the results that play out in real life often discourage me from adopting it with any great zeal.

However, I’m not a Luddite and I recognize that sometimes various memes and platforms can be a touchstone for change, but after an encounter with it in the field of writing, I still find myself ambivalent, even when the social media movement benefits me.

#OwnVoices: Pros

So, on Saturday, I was trying to find a place to send out a story that I revised: Starlight, Starbright. And one of the markets that I came across was one that wanted stories by authors of the same race/group as the main character–and they were looking for authors of traditionally marginalized groups (People of Color, etc).

Now the main character for Starlight, Starbright is an African-American male, and as I am an African American male, it (at first) seemed like a perfect fit. Here was a market that was looking for the stories that I was writing. So, the pro is that I have (at first glance) a ready-made market for my story. So I sent it to them, right?

No, I didn’t . . . and I don’t think I will.

#OwnVoices: Cons

Well, why the heck not? Weren’t whinging on about not being published/not having enough markets to submit to about 2 years ago on this very blog? Well, yes, that’s true, but the more I thought about it, the more something about the #OwnVoices movement doesn’t work for me.

You see, The Independent has an African American female as the main character, so even if they took Starlight, Starbright, then they’d never take The Independent as they would assume that I, as a male, don’t have the qualifications to write the female point of view and I just don’t believe that to be the case.

Setting aside for the moment that I’ve had several stories published with a female lead (Skin Deep, Sister-Knight, and by the nature of the story, Moon shares equal billing with Hawke in HawkeMoon), the main character in The Independent is an African American female based on my grandmother.

As I lived with my grandmother for my entire life until she passed away in 2013, I feel more than qualified as a writer to base the main character on her–in fact, it is more than just qualification at this point, it is an honor–but I digress. The point is, while I was not her, I listened to her stories, to her dreams, both fulfilled and unfulfilled, her aspirations, and her relating history, both how it affected her, as well as her own personal history, and this makes me uniquely qualified to write from a woman’s POV in this case as the main character shares a couple of very important character traits with my grandmother.

Now, to be clear, Ryn, my main character, only shares a couple of traits and is not a recreation of my grandmother in story form, but to assume that I’m not qualified to sell the story to this magazine that adheres to the #OwnVoices paradigm because my gender is wrong, just feels wrong as (to be honest) The Independent fits that magazines’s mission statement even more than Starlight, Starbright does.

Biting Off Your Nose to Spit Your Face

So, this is probably an expression that won’t travel well. I know it from my grandmother and I (assume) that it is a Southern US saying that basically encapsulates the idea of doing something that ultimately hurts you when trying to hurt someone else or a larger group/context/etc. Unfortunately, I think this is what the #OwnVoices movement is doing. They’re trying to be helpful, but ultimately, they are either doing harm, or no good at all. Yes, I’ve read stories where I know (from the author’s picture) that wasn’t an African American male even though the main character was and I remember how inauthentic those characters were (more ciphers than characters), but I’ve also read moving and touching stories by authors of different races and genders that have affected me deeply.

To refuse a writer the opportunity to explore the richness of characterization by limiting that writer’s choice of subjects doesn’t really seem to be in the best interests of the art, even if it opens up avenues for publication for those who might not publish otherwise.

In the end, #OwnVoices just isn’t for me. While I understand the appeal, I feel that since my grandmother can no longer speak for herself, so it is up to me, her grandson, to articulate what she wasn’t given the chance to articulate in her lifetime.

To deny me the opportunity to do that, is to (in my way of thinking) deny the very voices that movement claims it wants to hear.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

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Enjoying the Holiday

Image Source: http://moderndayms.com/2017/11/thanksgiving-with-ms-enjoying-a-healthy-holiday/

So, regular readers of the blog will realize that I’ve been spotty (at best) for the past couple of months.  I apologize.  I’ve wanted to work on it, but to be completely candid, I’ve managed to fall waaayyyy behind (on pretty much everything).  I wanted to take time away to catch up, but there never seemed to be enough time in the day.  Then the Thanksgiving holiday (in the US).  I thought that would be the perfect time to catch up (on life, universe, and everything).  Sorry, that’s a Douglas Adams joke–sometimes I think I’m much funnier than I really am–again, apologies.  Anyway, I had hoped to catch up on blog entries, grading, reading for school, etc., and pretty much everything, but I decided to just “take the holiday off” as it were except for some light reading for class.

All Things in Time

Rather than try to do all of these things at once, I decided that it is simply a matter of time.  Right now, grades & grading come first.  I will try to work on the blog daily, but for the next three weeks, I’m not going to make any guarantees.  I have a list of topics that I want to cover on my iPhone.  I hope that I will have time to work on them as I do have an hour each day that I currently haven’t been utilizing for that purpose.  Luckily, December 17th is the day that grades are due, so even if I’m spotty over the next weeks, it will only be for a short period of time.  This blog entry is being written in hopes of getting back on track–I personally love writing these entries daily as it helps me to be inspired to write creatively at night.

Short Update on Projects

I’m running low on time,  so I wanted to give a quick update on my writing as I haven’t done that in a while.

DSRV: Ship of Shadows: Graphic Novel–This is the project I’m actively writing.  I’m on page 32 of the graphic novel.  I will be working on it until I reach page 56 (basically all of December) and then I’ll switch to finishing The Indpendent.  

Project Star: Finished the “Rough” draft a couple of weeks ago.  I need to go back and write a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd draft for the story.  This will probably take place next semester (Spring 2019).  I probably need to change the name though–there is already a graphic novel with the name I want to use as well.

The Independent: I haven’t quite finished the 2nd draft, I would like to finish the 2nd issue of DSRV before finishing the 2nd draft–I intend to leap-frog the two projects (drafts of The Independent and DSRV).  I really enjoyed working on Ryn’s character and I’m having fun putting her in the story.  During the 3rd draft, I hope to improve the setting and the problems of the story.

I have several other projects in the works which will make an appearance from time-to-time, but right now I’m focused on my Preliminary Exams–and I pass them, my dissertation is next.  I’m so glad that I enjoy the writing process as I will be doing a lot of it both creatively and for school over the next year or so.  That’s all I have time for today–have a good day!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, Part Deux

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Image Source: https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writers/advice/84/preparing-for-submission/query-letter-and-synopsis/how-to-submit-your-manuscript-to-the-professionals-is-email-ok

So, I just wanted to say that I did send a story to Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores for this submission period.  I doubt seriously that they will accept it, but I really wanted to have something out to them as I have missed three or four submission periods.

Citizen X

I sent them one of the stories that I finished a while back–Citizen X.  I don’t expect them to take the story as it is an Alternate History story with Sci-Fi elements.  The story has caught the eye of several “slush” readers and been passed up to market editors (at least three separate times), but in each case, the editors decided to pass on it.  However, it was the only story that I haven’t sent them that I’ve worked on recently.  All of the other stories, HawkeMoon, Silence Will Fall, and Here Be Monsters, among others, they didn’t really like (although they did suggest changes to HawkeMoon and asked for a resubmission of it, but I chose not to do that because I felt the changes would have impacted the story that I was trying to tell.  Perhaps that was wrong, but I really try to follow a “hero’s journey” for my stories, but I remember that the changes would have impacted this journey negatively.  Unfortunately, Cosmic Roots and Landscapes allows you to “clear” you feedback and once its gone, its gone.

Compelling Science Fiction

The next major market that I’m writing for currently is a smaller market that’s been closed for the past year (maybe longer) and its called Compelling Science Fiction.  They are actually opening again from October 1st – December 1st (at least, that’s what the email said when I signed up for email notices of their next opening date).  I’m currently working on the Independent and that’s the story that I intend to submit there first.  I’m going to have to do a 3rd draft of the story–I’m concentrating on character for this pass, but I”m already over 1,000 words in and I’ve not yet even hit the inciting incident (which should probably happen in the first 500 words).  So this draft will be the longest draft and the 3rd draft will be me finding places to cut the story down and adding in a little more setting/description (not a lot, but I feel that it is a little bare bones at the moment).

Rotating Projects

The reason why I’m not finishing projects as fast as I was over the summer is that I’m trying out rotating my projects.  I’m working on 3 projects at the moment: Ship of Shadows Graphic NovelThe Independent (2nd Draft), and Project Star (Rough Draft).  Once I finish one of these, I’ll move onto another.  This ensures that I’m never bored and the projects never grow stale, but it also means that it takes much longer for me to actually “finish” a project.  Still, this seems to be working and a lesson that I’m constantly having to re-learn is “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Well, that’s all for now/  Have a great day!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

 

The Independent = Project Independence (aka Space Truckers)–Finished a First Draft of the Story

BOATS

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 12
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)

Goal = 3 Pages a week.  Working on Rough Drafting a Graphic Novel Page on one day and then writing the page on an alternate day.  250 Words a day on the Whale Song Revision–focusing on the characters this time.
Actual =

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: I started this a while ago as a book that I was reading just before bedtime, but I didn’t really make much headway.  I restarted it and I’ve just finished the introductory character generation section and I’m now moving on to the skills section and will be soon moving into the “lore” section.  This is a revamp (rules 2.0) of an old school British RPG from the 1980s.  Updated for modern times, this fairly short book still gives a great set of rules, game system, and lore that I hope will serve as inspiration for new sci-fi works in my own writing life.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

The Independent = Project Independence (aka Space Truckers)!

So I finished a First Draft of a story!  I finished Project Skye earlier this year and I thought I was out of the wood in terms of creating new stories.  However, when I tried to finished Project Poet (the First Draft), it fell apart.  I think I know what happened (a fantasy story with NO magic–just lost interest in it), but the 250 words goal and the “gamification” of Scrivener’s Writing Goals, I finished the story on Friday (July 6th) and t is out to my “alpha” readers.  While I intend to do an in-depth project notes (Author’s Note) posting sometime after the 3rd Draft, I feel that it was huge WIN for me to finish this story by my own “self-imposed” deadline.

250 Words a Day (Mostly)

So, I mostly wrote and stuck to the 250 Words a Day goal that I set for mysef.  Actually, before school started in June and a little into the first week of June, I wrote more than 250 Words a Day.  I discovered that I could write about 650 words in a writing session before I started to get “fatigued.”  As I’d written so much earlier, when I finally got behind in school work and couldn’t do the full 250 words, the Scrivener goal system was only requiring about 150-175 words, which worked out just fine.  I did miss a few days, but never more than 2-3 days in a row.  I also discovered that I don’t write on Saturday nights or Sunday nights, just on weekday nights, but I do tend to brainstorm new ideas on Saturday afternoons/nights, so there is that.  So, it looks like drafting will happen on weekdays and brainstorming/creating will happen on the weekends.

What’s Next?

I’m working on creating some sort of schedule–drafting a new story and revising old stories.  Apple used to work on a “Tick-Tock” cycle.  Tick = new product, while Tock = Revision.  That’s sort of the methodology that I’m working with right now.  This month will be a “Tock” cycle where I revise two works: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novels and Whale Song Revision (which I work-shopped last year at the University’s Writing Center and have been meaning to revise for a while).  This will be a Second Draft, so I will try to apply the lessons that I learned with The Independent to finish this new draft and I will be focusing on characterization of the main characters.   This is where editorial feedback was pretty consistent–the main character just didn’t resonate for most readers so I will be radically changing that character (fingers crossed).

That’s all I have for now!  Have a good day.

Sidney




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