So I had my first professional photoshoot last week, thanks to the very wonderful and capable J.R. Blackwell. No more cell phone snaps for me! Instead, I have professional quality, well-lit pictures like this one:

And even enough outtakes to make two outfit posts for my fashion blog! See more picspam here and here. Thanks a ton, J.R.!

Signal Boost: We See a Different Frontier

We See a Different Frontier is an anthology of colonialism-themed speculative fiction from outside the First World perspective that Fábio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad are putting together. They are raising funds for it at Peerbacker, so everyone can contribute to this great endeavor! I hope everyone does, because this is an important book and an important perspective.

We often talk about lack of diversity in SF/F, but often it translates to white Westerners writing about other cultures, an enterprise generally fraught — especially since there are many cultures which are not commonly seen in the West through their native representations (such as translated books etc), and the risk is of course that for cultures not commonly seen a writer from a dominant culture may become the voice of that culture. Djibril offered this quote by Salman Rushdie that nicely sums up some of the issues:

“If you want to tell the untold stories, if you
want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language.
Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as
autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.”

In some cases, the so-called “voiceless” many philanthropists are so fond of turn out to be not so voiceless after all, at least not on Twitter (witness the Kony 2012 fiasco); in others, marginalized cultures remain marginalized. I say the time has come to stop privileging Western descriptions of the rest of the world — and to do so, we need more representations of different cultures written by the natives.

I spoke to Djibril and Fábio about their expectations for the book. Here’s what Djibril had to say:

“We’re very keen to pay fair professional rates to the authors and
artists involved in this anthology, especially since some of them may
not have had much exposure in the Anglo-American SF publishing world
yet. We’re perfectly happy to raise more money than our $3000 target,
for that reason: we can certainly use it!

Aishwarya posted an interesting blog the other day about reading
Western fiction as a brown reader
and the potentially patronizing attitude of an ally calling for more
diversity “on behalf of the poor Brown/Queer/ThirdWorld child”. ”

Fabio added: “What I would like to see most are works
written by people living in their own cultures. For instance, an
Angolan writing about Angola, be it in the past, the present, or in
the future; the same applies to a Nepalese, a Birmanian, a Sudanese,
an Uzbek.

I am looking forward because I am CURIOUS to know things that I
don’t know about OTHER PEOPLE of our OWN planet. Isn’t that strange
that, in Internet days, we still know so little? How can we be so
ignorant of each other’s cultures? I strongly suspect that that’s
where the future is today – not out there as in other solar
systems (as much as I like space stories), but in stories on Earth,
dealing with ourselves.”

Bloody Fabulous — The Definitive Post

BLOODY FABULOUS, the anthology of urban fantasy about fashion, has an Amazon Listing!

And a cover:

Table of Contents:

“Coat of Stars” Holly Black
“Savage Design” Richard Bowes
“Bespoke” Genevieve Valentine
“Dress Code” Sandra McDonald
“The Anadem” Sharon Mock
“The First Witch of Damansara” Zen Cho
“The Faery Handbag” Kelly Link
“The Truth or Something Beautiful” Shirin Dubbin
“Waifs” Die Booth
“Where Shadows Meet Light” Rachel Swirsky
“Capturing Images” Maria V Snyder
“How Galligaskins Sloughed the Scourge” Anna Tambour
“Avant-n00b” Nick Mamatas
“Incomplete Proofs” John Chu

And here’s my Introduction to this wonderful collection:

My last two anthologies have been about shapeshifters and werewolves, so when I talked to people about editing an anthology dealing with fashion, the reaction more often than not has been puzzlement. But is it really so much of a stretch? We talk about shapeshifter stories being the means for manifesting our secret selves to the world. But is this so different from fashion?

We pay attention to what we wear because style and fashion are among the means of nonverbal communication. And we tell the world what we want to be today. It’s not a secret that we use the sartorial signifiers in fiction – we know the noir detectives by their fedoras and trench coats, we recognize paranormal investigators by their skin-tight leather. Princesses wear yards of chiffon and ballerinas have tulle; pirates enjoy ruffled shirts, and businessmen have their Brioni suits. So why not write a few stories in which the outfits themselves, the aspirational skins of our inner selves become the characters? Why not let those who create those garments for us tell their stories? Because who is better to explain how important our clothes are than those who spend their days immersed in creating them and imbuing them with meaning!

I think it was Ru Paul who said (and I am paraphrasing) that we come into the world naked, and everything else is drag. I want to agree with that, but I also want to think that this drag is not coincidental but magical in a way. We cannot turn into predators, even if there is a full moon outside – but we can wear jackets with metal spikes on the shoulders to feel a little bit more dangerous. Our clothes give us some shape-shifting abilities – from ethereal to tough to glamorous in a single day! They give us the means to tell the world who we are today (or who we would like to be) without uttering a word. And they let us play and pretend, manipulate our gender presentation as well as other aspects of sartorial personas: clothes are the ultimate disguise, alluring enough to bring a shapeshifter out in all of us.

So I hope that these stories will inspire you to look at your clothes with new eyes. There are so many characters here – from sales clerks to designers to fashion bloggers, from fantastical to historical to mundane costumes, from fashion magazines to fashion accessories; and every story offers a new way to look at what our clothes are, where they come from, who decides what is fashionable anyway… but most of all, how our clothes cast such a spell over us – and how we can use them as faery glamor, to cast a spell of our own, and to pretend to be our secret selves. Be your clothes shapeshifting or disguise, these stories will be your co-conspirators as you offer the world a sly glimpse of your sartorial heart.

Quick Drive-By

Got back from Denver. Had a great time meeting writerly friends and exploring the city a bit. Hopelessly behind now, so important things:

WILFUL IMPROPRIETY has a cover! This is the US version — the UK one will have “Wilful” spelled like so. The art, however, is amazing, and I love it.

Anomalycon in Denver

This weekend, I’ll be at Anomalycon. On Friday, I’ll be mostly in the dealer’s room, possibly crashing Steampunk: Alternative Sexualities in Alternate History panel at 6 pm. On Saturday, it’s a full day:

9:00 AM Breakfast with Brilliance: Donuts and Authors
3:00 PM Latest Steampunk Fiction: Readings
4:00 PM Author Free For All
5:00 PM Multicultural Steampunk
6:00 PM Class Issues in Steampunk

Please come by and heckle and buy books. I may or may not be wearing fancy clothes.

Bloody Fabulous ToC and Writerly Updates

First of all, BLOODY FABULOUS, the anthology of urban fantasy about fashion, now has a Table of Contents!

“Coat of Stars” Holly Black
“Savage Design” Richard Bowes
“Bespoke” Genevieve Valentine
“Dress Code” Sandra McDonald
“The Anadem” Sharon Mock
“The First Witch of Damansara” Zen Cho
“The Faery Handbag” Kelly Link
“The Truth or Something Beautiful” Shirin Dubbin
“Waifs” Die Booth
“Where Shadows Meet Light” Rachel Swirsky
“Capturing Images” Maria V Snyder
“How Galligaskins Sloughed the Scourge” Anna Tambour
“Avant-n00b” Nick Mamatas
“Incomplete Proofs” John Chu

I so love all of the stories collected here, and cannot wait for this one to see the light of day. And hey, fashion bloggers! Email me for a free review pdf, ok?

Second of all, the very amazing Asengard Edizioni, the Italian publisher of The Alchemy of Stone, revealed its cover:

And finally, I am being interviewed at Airship Ambassador, where I finally explain myself about Heart of Iron. Stay tuned for part two!

Circus reprints needed!

I’m in need for stories themed around circus for my new reprint-only antho. Please suggest stories in comments, and feel free to let others know!


On Beauty

I know I talked about this before — this impossibility for a woman to opt out of the sex object thing; and many people agree and yet the beauty ideals are still… difficult to discuss. So let me start with a few thoughts and see how they congeal. Also, I want to make it clear up front: I understand why and how women absorb and internalize the demand for beauty. In this case, I feel that the onus is on the society to stop demanding those things rather than on women to simply get over the demand.

“Every woman deserves to feel beautiful”. I saw that sentiment expressed on FB and in general media, and I kind of hate it. Because what they mean to say, I think, is that “every woman deserves to feel worthy”. It’s just that we only allow women to have one kind of worth, and this is the limiting part, not the narrow beauty ideal. (NB: One deeply problematic area of narrow beauty ideal is its whiteness that has spread way too much due to the Western cultural imperialism.)

And yes, the beauty ideal is narrow. It has always been! I’m not exactly comfortable with people rebelling against the limiting view of beauty as very thin and tall by proposing no less limiting version of curvy Christina Hendricks and Marylin Monroe, often sprinkled with a dose of body-hate and misogyny in the form of “Bones are for dogs, meat is for men”. Leaving aside that Christina Hendricks’ body shape is no more achievable or inclusive than that of Kate Moss (or any less white, for that matter), I object to the idea that women are object for consumption. “Meat”, really? And that’s the cry of empowerment?

Female competition sadly often goes back to the patriarchal divide and conquer mentality. If they convince women that their only worth is as objects of beauty, to be consumed by men, and that women have no worth outside of this realm, than arguing who’s the fairest of them all is understandable although no less problematic. The struggle should be not to make the beauty ideal different, but to tell the world that we are not obligated to feel or be beautiful. Because when they tell you “every woman deserves to feel beautiful”, they mean “You MUST try to be beautiful to prove your worth to us.”

So then there is a whole ridiculous thing about models. It is often interestingly lumped with other things, like demonizing of eating disorders and transphobia. Take this article for example:

“To me, selling women’s clothes using a teenage boy’s body is the ultimate cynicism. It’s as if the fashion industry is saying, ‘Here is the perfect woman for our clothes: a boy!’ ” says style guru and “Project Runway” mentor Tim Gunn in his forthcoming book “Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet.”(He is talking about Andrej Pejic, pictured above.)

(Because clearly non-binary gender constructs have no place in the world today. Androgyny boo.) Also, showing clothes on a certain body type really says little about who should wear their clothes. If you want to encourage more body diversity in fashion, it is easily accomplished. Here: HEY DESIGNERS! CUT YOUR CLOTHES IN SIZES BIGGER THAN 8! Here, done. Lack of body diversity in fashion is not to be blamed on models but lack of sizing ranges.

I don’t mind that models look the way the do, as long as it is not expected of ME to look that way. I hear women complaining about magazines with models and actresses and how hard it is to not get jealous and to not hate your own body. And sure, it is hard if the expectations of beauty has been internalized, and I am not blaming them. And yet I wonder, if you see an article about a doctor, should you hate yourself for being unable to do surgery? Of course not. Different jobs, different requirements. Actresses and models are paid for looking a certain way. Just don’t expect EVERYONE ELSE to want to look like that for FREE. (Because to do most other jobs? I can be the most hideous troll and a successful scientist! Or a teacher! Or a construction worker!)

And beauty is an imposition. It requires a lot of maintenance, lifestyle changes, expenses. Demanding that an average woman engages in all this extra activity and expense just to prove her social worth is unconscionable. And the irony of course is that people like Tim Gunn, who lament the anti-woman stance of fashion industry are also the same ones who engage in the whole advice regarding body flattery and creating socially acceptable shapes rather than telling women, “You know what? You are a human being with inherent worth not tied to your appearance or style or weight or interest in fashion. You can love clothes and makeup, but you are not required to; you can make yourself beautiful, but you are not obligated to, and we won’t think less of you if you are ugly, fat, indifferent to fashion and not seeking male approval every waking minute.”

So on balance, I feel that people who tell fat women to “create a waist” with a belt (looking at you, Tim Gunn!) or to never wear short skirts if over 40, can shove it. So can people who complain that models are too thin (their body type is certainly not common, but neither are Marylin Monroe’s) and say clever things about men liking meat (because this is what you are, ladies: a product for male consumption). And maybe, just maybe, everyone should just stop telling women what to do, or be, or aspire to. Because the tricky thing about humans is that we all have our desires and interests and inherent worth, and in 2012 I think we can all agree that women are a part of humanity.

Russian Language Harry Potter Fandom is Awesome

So blades_of_grass linked to this amazing Table of Contents, posted here, and authored by (c) sadcrixivan, frau_derrida, _palka. This is meant to be a ToC for ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FEMINISM ACCORDING TO HARRY POTTER. Of course, as it’s third wave, there are quite a few intersectional articles. What I want to know is why is this not real!

Anyway, blades_of_grass kindly asked for permission to translate this gem on my behalf, because I feel everyone should see this. With many thanks to the talented authors, here’s my translation:


The Practice of Female Separatism in Daily Life of Luna Lovegood

Hermione Granger on Liberal Feminism

Female Empowerment in Academia Through the Eyes of Minerva McGonagall

Women in Politics: The Dilemma of Dolores Umbridge

Women in the Military and Psychological Violence: The Case of Bellatrix Lestrange

Consequences of Limiting Abortion Rights: The Tragedy of Lily Potter

The Death Toll of Unpaid Labor: The Duel of Molly Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange

Replication of Violent Family Practices: Family Strategies of Nymphadora Tonks

The Duality of Economic Strategies for Women: Narcissa Malfoy

The Internalized Misogyny Among Successful Women: Rita Skeeter

Woman as a Scapegoat in Political Processes: Marietta Edgecombe

Forced Marriage as a Conduit of Classism: Pansy Parkinson

Fatphobia: Millicent Bulstrode

Ridicule of Victims of Violence as a Form of Demonization: Moaning Myrtle

The Founders of Hogwarts, or Men are Always in Charge: False Equality

Hufflepuff and the “Virtue of the Working Class”: The Silent Majority

Cho Chang: The Relations with Racial and Ethnic Minorities as a Casual Entertainment

The Marriage of Ginny Weasley: “Woman Exchange”

Good Homosexual is a Well-Educated White Men with No Sexual Liaisons: Albus Dumbledore

Polyamory and Childfree Lifestyle — Self-Positioning of Bellatrix Lestrange

Ariana Dumbledore: Murder of a Disabled Person as a Social Necessity

Argus Filch: Even Harry and Ron Can Laugh at the Handicapped

Goblins: The Apotheosis of the British Antisemitic Tradition

Flitwick and Hagrid: Ethnic Minorities Will Always Clean Up After You, or Uncle Tom in Hogwarts

If the Protagonist is Fed, Slavery is Awesome: House Elves

Only Stupid Girls Fight Slavery

Hermione Granger: A Good Woman Defends Others’ Rights and Provides Others’ Lessons

Alcoholism and the Esoteric: Coping Mechanisms under Conditions of Discrimination

House Elves: Just Like Women, Only Ugly and Invisible

Pomona Sprout: Good Girls are Liked but not Noticed

Professor Vector, or Anonymity of Women in Mathematics

Poppy Pomfrey: a Subservient Suffragette, or the Outcome of Courses of Higher Women’s Studies in St Petersburg

Bellatrix Lestrange and Luna Lovegood: Psychiatric Disabilities and Ableism in Hogwarts

Luna Lovegood, Tom Riddle, Harry Potter: Good Children Don’t Get PTSD

Luna Lovegood: Forced Acceptance into the Family Strategies of Psychological Repression

Conventional Man is Allowed Anger but not Grief. Harry Potter: The Masculinity Trap

Remus Lupin and the “Good Cripple” Archetype

Rolanda Hooch: Professional Women’s Athletics as Deviation

Molly Weasley and Fleur Delacourt: Differentiation Between Women as a Tool of Oppression

I hope you all enjoy!

Con or Bust!

Con or Bust is an annual auction, which helps fans of color/non-white fans attend SF conventions. This year, I have three items for auction:

1) A signed copy of The House of Discarded Dreams;
2) A signed copy of Heart of Iron;
3) and a Wardrobe Refresher, where you have a chance to hire me as a virtual personal shopper.

Bid, and raise money for a great cause!