WisCon 41 Schedule

This weekend is WisCon and as usual, I’ll be there. I’m keeping my schedule super light this year for reasons, but here’s where you can officially find me:

Friday, May 26, Caucus Room 4:00 – 5:15p
Love Love Peace Peace: What Makes a Fun Story?
As opposed to beautifully-crafted stories that tell powerful tales are funtime stories that we tell to amuse ourselves. We don’t always talk about them because they are “low-brow,” and we’re afraid we’ll be seen as less intelligent somehow. But while fun stories that make people laugh and give readers a joyride might not seem relevant, they are still important. Let’s talk critically about what makes a story “fun” while considering the perspective of the marginalized for whom these stories are often laid with landmines of microaggressions and stereotypes.

Sunday, May 28, Conference Room 4 10:00-11:15a
Reading Group: Personal Demons
What haunts us, what scares us, what makes us tick. Works that deal with metaphorical and actual demons. I’ll be reading from my yet to be published novella “Memphis Minnie and Sister Rosetta Tharpe Sing the Stumps Down Good”.

Either Saturday or Sunday at some point
Spontaneous Programming: Gaming for Janet Elle Plato
I am putting together a short DnD game to honor the memory of Janet Elle Plato, who attended WisCon numerous times and died last summer. If you gamed with her or knew her at some level, connect with me either through social media or at WisCon. I’ll post final details on the Spontaneous Programming board in the lobby.

Yes! I’ll be at the POC Dinner on Friday night. Outside of that, you can catch me either in the lobby, the ConSuite or the parties. There may be times though that I’ll need to introvert, so I’ll disappear for a bit. Again, if you want to hang, message me on FB or Twitter. I should be around.

News: Guess who’s reviewing books over at Lightspeed Magazine? Me!

If you’re a Lightspeed Magazine subscriber, maybe you noticed a familiar name listed in the nonfiction column section of the February ebook edition. I am happy to announce that, starting with the February issue, I will be joining Amal El-Mohtar and Andrew Liptak in reviewing books for Lightspeed Magazine!

Four times a year, I’ll review the latest fantasy and science fiction books that will be released around that time. This month, I review Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley and A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. It’s available in Lightspeed’s ebook edition now, and will be going live on Lightspeed’s website on 2/21.

If you like what you read and want to support Lightspeed Magazine, subscriptions are just $35.88/year.

And yes, this is now my second gig with Lightspeed after slushing for them from 2009 through 2013. Guess I can’t stay away, huh?

New story up, 2016 Writing in Review, and Blog Thinky Thoughts

Bunch of shorter announcements for you today:

New Reprint Flash Story in Fantastic Stories

Back in October 2015, I wrote a flash story for the Vintage Podcastle Flash Fiction Extravaganza (PodCastle Episode 384). Well, now you can read that story in its entirety online for free! “The Summation of EvilCorp Subsidies HR Meeting Agenda Minutes, Compiled by Olivia Washington” is now up at Fantastic Stories! Not only is that the longest title I’ve ever made for a story to date, but I can vouch that the Peanuts mug mentioned in the story is real.

Okay, it’s more a thermos cup than mug, but still. Also, you have no idea how much this cup kept me sane. So did writing that story. Speaking of which…

2016 Year in Review

I barely submitted anything for 2016 other than a poem that will be printed I think later this year. So I got nothing for 2016 award eligibility. And I’ve just started reading books again, because there was a period in 2016 that I wasn’t reading at all.

But, 2016 was the most focused I’ve ever been writing-wise.  The main thing is that I made great progress on my novel, Weeping of the Willows, to the point that I have about ten chapters left to revise. I will need one more revision draft to fix some plotting inconsistencies, but I’m finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My hope is to finish this draft by April. I just need to figure out how I’ll hit that deadline.

And oh! I wrote a novella and submitted it! That sort of happened out of the blue. I had meant it to be a short story, but well, like all my stories, it just got bigger and bigger. We’ll see how far it goes.

Other blog thinky thoughts

I’ve been also thinking about doing more blog posts on faith and theological matters, but I’m not sure if this is the right place to do it. For the most part, it used to be easy to keep my writing and matters about my spiritual life separate. But the past couple of years have shown the two intertwining. I’m thinking of creating a space to process that, but I don’t know if I can do it here at the Cafe. At least, not yet.

::sips tea from Peanuts mug::

So, thinking of options. Do I hop back on LiveJournal? Filtered posts on Facebook? Is there a way for WordPress to do locked blog posts, and if so, how? Old fashioned mailing list? Thoughts and suggestions appreciated.

And oh! I’m starting to keep a bullet journal. I’ll blog more about that once I figure out what the heck I’m doing…

Sestina for a Star: A Christmas Poem

Last year, I wrote a sestina for the first time for my dayjob’s Christmas party. I meant to post it, but never got around to it, so doing it this year. Enjoy!

A sestina is a six-stanza poem, each stanza composed of six lines, which end with six words that repeated throughout the poem in a fixed sequence, ending in a 3-line triplet that contains all six words.

Sestina for a Star

By the time you set forth your light

the earth was still being formed in joy.

Sin had yet to erase our hope.

Your light spanned eons, centuries across

history, until it finally reached our world

where it sat silent, waiting, in the dark.

Since Eden, man had fumbled in the dark

robbed of their peace and joy.

In money and power, many put their hope

while others simply forgot the light.

Because of this, you went across

cultures to make yourself known in the world.

The first ones to see you in this world

would be considered foreigners, seen as Other, across

Jerusalem. Seeing you gave them joy

for they were familiar with your light.

So, skin tones ranging from pale to dark,

they set forth tracking the sign of their hope.

Your news would be received well, they hoped.

Herod heard and his mind grew dark.

Months later, he’ll kill to get his point across

that he was the only rightful ruler to the world.

So he asked the magi if they would enlighten

him of this child, who was to bring much joy.

He didn’t understand; this child wouldn’t enjoy

the material riches found in this world.

He had come for those who had lost hope,

for those fumbling for answers in the dark,

to pay off sins, to make burdens light:

the son of man, born to die on a cross.

God has placed you to shine across

the fields to shepherds filling them with hope,

to the magi filling them with awe and joy

as they reached a village quiet and dark,

to kneel before God’s son, given to the world

to banish fear and bring us back into the light.

Christmas Star, bring your light into this sad and broken world.

May it illuminate across the land, into our hearts hidden and dark,

comforting those who needs its hope, and lifting them up into joy.

 Copyright © 2015 LaShawn M. Wanak 

Do not copy without permission

November 9, 2016

I gave up on sleeping.

I am going to sit here and write.

I’m just going to outright say it. 2016 is well and truly fucked.

Where is God in all of this?

There is so much fear. There is so much turmoil. I’ve lost too many people. There’s been too many changes. And now Trump.

Where is God in all of this?

It is obvious that yesterday is the culmination of a backlash that started 8 years ago. I have received so many messages last night from friends, dear friends of mine, who are terrified. And I fear deeply for so many of my friends. Because the backlash will not only continue, it will just get worse. For my Muslim friends. For my queer friends. For my friends of color.

For my family. For my son.

God, where are you in all of this?

I sit here, in the dark, and I remember.

“I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;” (Psalm 77)

I sit, and think of my ancestors who were brought over by slavery.
I think of all those who marched for the freedom we have now.
And I feel the Holy Spirit gather me close.

It hasn’t changed, the mandate from Him. To act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.

If anything, this is the time where it’s needed most.
It is time.

I think of earlier this year, when I visited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s grave.
I think of legacy. Of following in footsteps of those before me.
I think of stories.

The need for stories has never been any stronger. And the Holy Spirit uses stories to knit people together.

Where are you? I ask God.
Here, he says. In the margins. In the fight for justice. In the caring for others. In the listening, and the silence, and the creation of safe spaces. And in the stories.

If we truly believe God is Love, then the God I serve is the God of the marginalized. Of the persecuted. Of the disowned. Of the ones who don’t fit in.

This is where the fight begins…
…except the fight has always been happening.
History has shown this.

My job is simply this:
to continue to fight for unity.
to continue to fight for equality.
to continue to tell stories
to treat people with dignity
to show God’s love and grace
to love
to love
to love

Come, Holy Spirit.
Because we will need you now more than ever in these following days.

It is morning. November 2016. And I am awake.

Rest in Peace, Jack Chick?

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/october/died-jack-chick-cartoonist-controversial-gospel-tracts.html

Today we learned that Jack Chick, Evangelical Cartoonist, died at the age of 92. 

I could’ve sworn I’ve written about him before. I remember doing so. It was a long post about horror and taboos and fundamentalism. Maybe it was on a reivew, or maybe it was on a blog post. The point is, I can’t find it. So I’m putting it here, again. 

I grew up on Chick Tracts. My church had them in their bookstore growing up, and I used to read them all the time. There were the “This Was Your Life”, with the protagonist more bleah on his faults until he gets tossed into hell. “Somebody Loves You”, which was a pretty grim about a street urchin, who is told by a girl that “Jesus Loves You” and then the urchin dies because, well, the girl gave the urchin books for a pillow and a jacket for warmth, but didn’t like, take the urchin to a shelter. But that’s okay because Jesus took the urchin in the end, so yay? 

It hit me even at that early age that Jack Chick did not like Catholics. Or drunks. Or sinners. Or atheists. Or people who played Dungeons and Dragons (which I never understood). Or anyone, really. And neither did Chick’s God. He was always faceless, shining so bright, but faceless. An angry, angry God that would readily condemn you for doing anything, anything wrong.

 

Jack Chick also did comic books, which went beyond putting the fear of God in you into, well disturbing. The comic books was where I learned Jack Chick really, really hated Catholics. There’s an image that’s been burned on my brain of some people (can’t remember if they were the Inquisition or not )torturing a young pregnant woman. They had strapped her to a chair, pried her mouth open, and forced her to swallow some sort of bristly cloth by dripping water down her throat. 

It was a grisly image, and I don’t think our parents ever knew such a thing was right there among the bibles and story books. 

Looking back on it now that I’m older, I’m realizing that what Jack Chick did could be considered horror. There’s always a feeling of dread that almost bordered on demonic when you read his works. I got a stack of them now packed up with the rest of my books. I can’t read them for long before feeling sick. Maybe it’s because he saw anyone who wasn’t Christian as a villian, so they became these sneering caricatures that made you wonder why God would be trying to save them in the first place. And if they did become Christian, in a way, it was worse, because they became these grinning, dead-eyed dolls praising God. It was really creepy. Even the art was always this ugly 60s-era grotesqueness, sort of like Mad Magazine back in the day, but eviler. And over time, it just got worse and worse.

Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t bother me to write horror sometimes. Jack Chick certainly had an impact on me growing up, and it shows in some of my work. And I’ve grown enough theologically to know that there’s always something deeper to my faith. But still, I also recognize that there’s a side to my faith that yes, can be brimstone and fire. It’s a dark place, something to wrestle with.

I’m pretty sure though, that when it comes time to unpack my books, those Chick Tracks may stay in their box just a little bit longer. Maybe a year. Or two. Or ten.

Thoughts on the Fireside Fiction Report (Because everyone else is talking about it, so I guess I should too? Maybe?)

Antiblack Racism in Speculative Fiction – Fireside Fiction – Medium

I’ve been meaning to get around to writing about this-oh, hold on…

::goes to pack books to get ready to move in two weeks::

As I was saying…oh…hold that thought…

::goes to stand in sister’s wedding…::

So, yeah, this Fireside Fiction Report about black writers and–ughhhh…dang it…

::goes to handle a crazy thingamajig at work::

SIGH WOULD LIFE JUST STOP BEING SO GOSH DARN BUSY FOR ONCE SO I CAN DO THIS STUPID BLOG POST? 

I’m busy. Like really busy.

Obviously I don’t speak for all black writers, but I can tell you why I haven’t been submitting. The past two years I’ve been coping with longer hours at work, and other stuff. but you know that. It’s wasn’t until this year that I finally got off my duff and started submitting again. For me, the biggest reason I don’t submit is time. 

Oh, I can do the writing. That’s no problem. That whole time I was not submitting, I was writing. I worked on my novel…and then from last November I took a break to write a novella totally by accident (no, really. I was aiming for short story and I made a novella instead. How did that even happen?). And then I submitted it.

Granted, it wasn’t something that happened within a week. The novella, from creation to submission, took about 9 months.

There was an article not too long ago from a writer who wrote her first novel, then promptly went broke. I had meant to share it on Facebook because I was like yeah! I also want someone to pay me to write on a full-time basis. But then I did some thinking and realized…actually…wouldn’t that happen anyway? I write, I submit, I get paid. Write. Rinse. Repeat. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. And if a writer really wants to be paid to write, there’s Patreon, which a lot of writers are doing now. But even with Patreon, you still need to show some sort of output. So, yeah, sorry, Tierce, actually you can get paid to write. You just need to put in the work. And that doesn’t mean quitting your day job first. Now, yes, I do wish I have time so that I could write more, but if I want that to happen, I need to start laying the groundwork for that now. Which means treating writing seriously, and pulling the bits of time I do have together to focus on writing.

Tierce did have a point where she said that her dayjob took away her headspace for writing. That there were days where she felt less of a writer and more of a postal worker. Yeah, there were many times when I felt that way too. But that was where planning my writing day came in. I learned how to write in between the cracks of my dayjob: breaks, lunch, etc. Scribbling thoughts on a notepad, my phone. Learning how to write anywhere—in the car, waiting for dinner to cook. I stopped beating myself up for only writing things for five, ten minutes at a time. It all still counted towards my output anyway. And sometimes, those brief minutes primed the pump for longer periods of writing in the evening. Slowly, gradually, I began to really feel like I was a writer again. (Of course, not going on social media so much also helped.)

But back to the Fireside Report. The whole reason I’m writing this post…Look, I’m going to be straight up honest. I’m not really dwelling on it all that much.

That doesn’t mean it’s not true, nor that it isn’t pertinent. I’m very much aware of how the markets are. I’m aware of the statistics. But responding to a report like that takes time, and frankly, I don’t have time. 

And perhaps that’s one of the symptoms in the report. Not many black writers have oodles of time at their disposal. If I’m going to fight against the conditions that are outlined in that report, the best way for me to use that time is write. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I want to write and submit more. I want to get some more stories under my belt, but what I really, really, really want to do is finish my novel. So..here’s what I’ll do.

This month there’s a couple of writing pieces I want to finish. A couple of things I promised some people. I also plan to re-establish myself in the novel. And then, starting November 1, I will focus exclusively on getting this revision of the novel finished. I’m about 60% done with revisions in the current draft. I’ll give myself to the end of April 2017 to finish this draft. That’s six months. 

You realize, in telling you all this, I want you all to hold me accountable, right?

Because that’s the other thing I fight against when it comes to submissions. Thinking that my work isn’t good enough. Nisi Shawl wrote an *excellent* essay called “Unqualified” in the January 2015 issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone that I think is a great reply to the Fireside Report, and it sums up my own feelings as well. Encouragement helps. Fighting for diversity helps. And creating a space for black writers like me really, really helps. Go read Nisi’s essay. It’s that good.

I don’t think I’m ready to do a Patreon this year. I’m still dealing with dayjob stuff that promises to lighten up within the next year. (I know, that was promised to me last year…oh well). There’s also the matter of buying a house (ha! See? When I started this blog post, we were just starting to pack and now, voila, we sold our house). But I’ll continue writing. I’ll do my part to get more stories under my belt. And next year, I’ll revisit the Patreon idea. 

In the meantime…I got a book to finish.