April 2016 Iphigenia @AlinaMeridon

Iphigenia

The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, by François Perrier

The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, by François Perrier (1594–1649)

Artemis, having been deeply offended by the arrogance of Agamemnon, demonstrated just why you should never risk the wrath of the gods. At the moment of Agamemnon’s greatest triumph, the assembled armies of Greece under his command, ready to set sail across the wine-dark sea to sack and loot their great rival Troy, and incidentally ‘liberate’ the beautiful Helen, Artemis calmed the winds. The greatest army ever raised, including in its ranks such incomparable heroes as Achilles and Odysseus, was forced to wait in increasing desperation for favourable weather, precious supplies eaten up amidst growing certainty that the gods would not bless their grand venture.

to a hero wed
but not at Hymen’s altar
blood of innocence

golden-haired princess
born of an ignoble king
Iphigenia!

discord in brooklyn
this classical sacrifice
brings tears to the eyes

And it was all Agamemnon’s fault. The seer, Calchas, said so. Indeed, so furious was Artemis that she demanded the impossible from the Mycenaean king: the sacrifice of his first-born, Iphigenia. But Agamemnon’s ambition as leader of the Greek armies was greater than his compassion as a father. Following the advice of Odysseus, ever the trickster, he lured the girl from her home under the pretense that she was to be married to Achilles – no less! – but when she was led to the altar it was not marriage that awaited her there but death.

But a deal is a deal. The winds blew, the armies sailed, and we all know the rest of the story. Achilles sat around sulking for nine years, Odysseus’s passion for wooden toys got a little out of proportion, and Helen eventually got married for the fourth time.

Iphigenia in Brooklyn by P. D. Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) - performed by Ensemble Monterey

A musical joke: Iphigenia in Brooklyn by P. D. Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) – performed by Ensemble Monterey

I have long had a fascination with the story of Iphigenia, and this month I was inspired to write some poems, but also I learned that Iphigenia appears in Dante’s Paradise, and discovered the fantastically funny cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn – that’s not a great recording, but the performance is excellent.

For more about Iphigenia and also my personal quest for her, see these earlier posts:

Finally, I wrote this science fiction poem a long time ago:

Latest News

Title page of failed haiku Vol. 1 No. 4

April has been a busy month, and an exciting one. To start with, literally, my first ever acceptance of haiku/senryu submitted to a journal: Issue No. 4 of Failed Haiku features three of my senryu, along with 100 pages of senryu from other, very talented poets.

My novelette I Like It Hard is now available for pre-order from the excellent Less Than Three Press. I’m currently proofing the galley (making the ship’s kitchen impervious to water? seems logical…) and the expected release date is June 8th.

A couple of poems this month on the theme of I Like It Hard:

And some with an aromantic theme:

Also an aromantic drabble:

Starship Pegasus designed for Alexis 5-1-8

Alexis 5-1-8: Starship Pegasus

The ill-fated Alexis 5-1-8 returned from Publisher No. 3 with its tale between its leather-booted legs: “the story does not fit our current list needs”, which translates roughly as, “Your synopsis sucks.” Maybe it does. I’m thinking it’s a mistake to target LGBTQ+ publishers and next time I’ll try a SciFi publisher.

On a brighter note: How do you like the Starship Pegasus?

Three poems this month on the theme of A.I., sexbots and Alexis 5-1-8:

National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo)

This is the third year that I’ve attempted NaPoWriMo. In 2014, NaPoWriMo was the birth of my Supergirl obsession, and in 2015 I attempted to do it with a steampunk theme but faltered halfway through. This year I didn’t have a theme, and didn’t quite manage to blog a poem every day, but it has been fun and varied:

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I Like It Hard

My new novelette now has an official cover (very cool – many thanks to Natasha Snow), an official release date (8th June), and an official blurb:

After her brother Dan loses in the final of the XXX-rated Reality TV show I Like It Hard, Helen Arnold finds new purpose in life: enter the show herself—and win.

But no amount of training, or advice from Dan and his lovers, can fully prepare her for naked interviews, two weeks in a porn-studio villa, and weeks of nerve-wracking live sex show—all while dealing with the capricious nature of the judges, who wield absolute power over the show and its contestants.

Being both bisexual and aromantic, Helen is used to dealing with people who don’t like or approve of her—and she’s never been the type to back down when life gets hard.

~ ~ ~ ooh! ~ ~ ~

This is not erotica. It is certainly explicit in places, and hopefully erotic in places, but the essence of I Like It Hard is two-fold:

  1. Television these days is full of reality TV of one sort or another, with lots of X Factor and other talent shows that have celebrity judges and audience voting; couple that with the easy availability of porn on the internet and the ever more unclear line between romance and erotica in all media, and is it such a stretch to imagine that one day contestants will be having sex on stage for public entertainment? It’s a completely daft idea, and by itself would not make for a terribly interesting story, but…
  2. I have for the past few years been writing stories and poetry with aromantic themes. The idea of romantic attraction is so thoroughly ingrained in cultural norms that the idea that someone does not experience it is baffling, even threatening. Falling in love makes us so vulnerable that of course we’re terrified by the idea that the person we love cannot reciprocate. People who seek sexual intimacy but reject romantic intimacy are seen as predators – and unfortunately there all too many sexual predators out there. But there are also allosexual aromantics who may desire sex as part of an emotionally intimate friendship.

These two ideas combine very nicely to provide a setting where sex without romance is the norm, and where therefore an allosexual aromantic person might thrive. It’s interesting to look back at my originally proposed blurb, which finished with:

Helen’s bisexuality makes her a slightly unusual contestant in a show that divides itself into the binaries of male-female and gay-straight, but for the first time in her life she is able to form relationships based on sex and friendship, without the minefield of romance that has so often made her life as an aromantic difficult.

Caveat: Of course, this should not be taken to imply that allosexual aromantic people are porn stars, or vice versa. People are not all the same. Allosexual aromantics are not all the same. Helen Arnold does not represent all allosexual aromantic people, any more than James Bond represents all men.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

Innocent she seemed at first, her blushes red as wine
Fans adored her guileless ways and judged her quite divine
Once each week upon the stage, on TV too, she starred
Asked just what she thought of it, she said, “I like it hard!”

March 2016 Yanty’s Butterfly @AlinaMeridon

March has been a good month, not least because of an excuse to eat dark chocolate and Easter eggs…

Haiku Nook Anthology Yanty's Butterfly

Major news this month is the official release of Yanty’s Butterfly: “Yanty’s Butterfly consists of over 600 poems, spanning the variety of haiku forms: three-line haiku, two-line haiku, one-line haiku, four-line haiku, traditional haiku (5-7-5), concrete haiku, tanka, and haibun. Featuring haiku from Yanty Tjiam, George Klacsanzky, Fei Zhan, and award-winning poet, Alan Summers, Yanty’s Butterfly is an essential addition to the haiku literature of the 21st century.”

Yanty’s Butterfly is an anthology put together by members of the Haiku Nook Google community to commemorate Yanty Tjiam, who passed away last year. Yanty wrote beautiful haiku and her death affected us deeply. The anthology includes some of her poems, and is dedicated to her. Proceeds will be donated to Yanty’s family and to the charities ActionAid and The Hunger Project.

My upcoming novelette, I Like It Hard, continues its creeping progress through the publication engine. Still no sign of a cover, but this month I received the line editor’s comments. Most were minor, such as disagreements over the need for a comma here or there – I suspect no two editors will agree completely over commas – but there was one interesting point. During the story, there is mention in several places of a ‘man in a headset’. Now, while writing originally, I was thinking of this ‘person’ as being generic, anonymous, probably even several people defined by a specific role. But the reader doesn’t quite get that impression, and that has bothered me a little for a few months. The editor picked up on this point too, so I have amalgamated these ‘men in headsets’ into a single named character.

alexis in heels
walking into the future
from a thoughtless past

imagine a thought
where no thought has ever passed
and be reverent

the first face we see
is the face that teaches us
the truth of beauty

As for my science fiction novelette Alexis 5-1-8, which has been rejected now by one publisher and simply ignored by another, I have finally found the enthusiasm to try again. (‘Third time lucky,’ he mutters, blood from the sacrificial goat pouring into a clay vessel as the smell of burning barley fills the air of the temple. ‘Third time lucky…’) For now, here is a trio of haiku inspired by Alexis.

In connection with this, Discover Magazine’s Jeremy Hsu reports in What Women and Men Want from Sex Robots that “both women and men generally agreed that using sex robots was more appropriate than hiring a human prostitute.” Also, take a look at this fantastic video:

Dark side of the Moon with the Earth behind, both in crescent form

See the dark side of the Moon, looking towards the Earth…

Supergirl

A few more Supergirl poems this month, including one that’s really just about Mistress X.

even in disguise
her feet never touch the earth
memory holds her

Kara eats Baci
‘Can I have a kiss?’ Cat asks
and gets more than one

For two of these I was experimenting with a new structure in which every line has nine syllables and sequential pairs of lines rhyme. It resists any rhythm, but also reads comfortably in four-line stanzas, and the resulting mood is a little unsettling – which works well for poems with a darker theme, such as horror or despair.

Cover of Codename Night Witch in The Girls from Alcyone by Cary Caffrey

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Suzie and the Monsters

It is now almost exactly four years since Suzie met Cleo in a London nightclub, and to mark that anniversary I have, this week, dropped the price of Suzie and the Monsters – a fairytale of blood, sex and inhumanity… – which, if nothing else, gives me a great excuse to talk about Suzie and her novel.

Suzie and the Monsters started as an attempt at vampire erotica while stuck bored in a hotel room in March, 2012. I expected to give up very quickly. I have, over the years, spent altogether too much time thinking about vampires, and sometimes I feel like a grumpy old man complaining about all these newfangled inventions, but I’m not really. It’s true that I’m a lot more flexible in my enjoyment of vampires in film and television, but even there I want the vampires to be more than blood-drinking zombies. I’ve watched and enjoyed some extremely low-budget nonsense over the years, while glossier stuff can be tedious.

It was impossible for me to write a vampire story and not take it seriously. What I wanted was a female vampire who didn’t have amazing superhuman powers because I genuinely believe that the more powerful the vampire the less human (and less interesting) the character. Also, I wanted her to drink blood from the source – and not rely on blood substitutes! And not have an urban fantasy environment providing a whole service industry to take care of all the day-to-day details of paranormality.

Suzie is a vampire, one who is all alone and without great superpowers. She looks human but isn’t, but nor is she a walking corpse (or shade) with an illusory humanity. She drinks wine and tea, although they’re no substitute for what she really needs. She loves the smell of coffee, enjoys curling up with a good book, finds happiness through dance, and has a large collection of films and music…

When I was growing up, vampires were always dangerous, bloody and sexy, at once wonderful and terrifying. There was, of course, a huge amount of sexploitation influencing that, and vampire stories have always been littered with negative tropes, predictable clichés, absurd plots and entirely unnecessary sex. The past twenty years have seen the urban fantasy and romance genres give birth to paranormal romance in which valiant heroes are no longer merely handsome and rich but also imbued with phenomenal supernatural powers. As escapism, it’s all harmless fun – or mostly harmless, anyway – but as story it’s utterly disconnected from reality.

I have always been drawn to stories of vampires and assassins – especially, but not exclusively, female vampires and assassins – and the common theme is a hero who is also a killer. In a world of black and white / dark and light / good and evil, the vampire and the assassin must be both. But whereas an assassin can step into the light, the vampire can never escape the dark. Worse, the vampire is immortal, and the struggle to resist the dark has no end.

‘My husband liked to make me kill, and I don’t think a month went by without a life taken. I quickly lost count. Forty years? Could easily have been five hundred people, mostly young women, sacrificed for my lust.

‘Travelling around sixteenth century Europe may sound romantic, but mostly all I can remember now is blood, death and hatred. Later on, free from my husband, the killing didn’t stop, but it was killing for self-defence, or for food, or vengeance. There was always a reason for it. I made a determined effort not to kill unnecessarily, but…’

I shrug. ‘Thousands have died at my hands. What right do I have to judge human predators? What right do I have to exist?’

How much blood must a vampire take before the light is forever out of reach? How many lives must be taken? How many crimes must be committed against humanity, before the vampire passes beyond forgiveness?

Suzie and the Monsters poses this question. Suzie may well be beyond forgiveness, though she aches for it. But all the suffering she has caused, and all the suffering she has endured, are nothing compared to the suffering she has witnessed – suffering inflicted by humans on humans. And sometimes it takes one monster to kill another…

Curious about Suzie? Click here.

February 2016 Romance and Aromance @AlinaMeridon

It’s February again, and romance is in the air – and aromance is in the ir, because hot on the heels of the compulsory happiness that is Valentine’s Day is Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week. And how better to celebrate than with a romantic poe– Er, than with aromantic poetry…

banish the sunset!
aromance is in the ir-
idescent twilight

Apart from the usual dolly mixture of haiku, it has been a quiet month over on Alina Meridon. There are two short poems with an aromantic theme, and a short poem about Supergirl – which isn’t romantic or aromantic, but if you’d like an aromantic Supergirl, here’s one I wrote earlier: An unsought kiss

Her life of aromantic bliss
Was shattered by an unsought kiss
The gloss of fuchsia kryptonite
Instilled confusion and delight
That lessened slowly over years
The poison washed out by her tears

Pink kryptonite turns Superman gay.Coincidentally, pink kryptonite was used once, in a satirical way, to make Superman gay – although Superman and Batman do seem to have an enemies-to-lovers thing going on (or did I imagine that?) so maybe Superman’s bisexual (or just bi-for-the-bat? is that a real thing? after all, Supergirl and Batgirl – ‘SuperBat’? – get together so often it’s practically canon). Er, anyway…

On the subject of Supergirl, this month I have been watching, over and over, this video by Heroesaz. It’s a cool video, but it’s the voice of Connie Lim that makes it so compelling.

Supergirl and Cat Grant video set to Connie Lim singing AngelsConnie Lim singing Angels

Seeking Krypton

Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson explains how he helped Superman find his home planet of KryptonDuring a roundtable discussion with journalists, Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson explains how he helped Superman find his home planet of Krypton. Tyson appears as a character in the recent DC Comics’ ACTION COMICS #14, “Star Light, Star Bright.” In real life, he consulted a star index and found a real star that supported the backstory of the comic.

It’s unfortunate that parallax measurements of LHS 2520 indicate a distance of 42 light years rather than the 27 light years estimated from photometric estimates that, presumably, Tyson’s maps were based on. Although you could argue that the superluminal journey took 17 years, during which Kal El aged only two years, as a consequence of relativistic effects associated with acceleration up to and beyond light speed.

The same argument could be applied even if Krypton is ‘thousands of light years away’ or even in another galaxy, although I don’t think the journey is supposed to take so long – if it did, all those stories of returning to Krypton would make little sense.

Sense8 & Deadpool

I watched Season 1 of the Wachowski’s Sense8 on Netflix. The diversity of the cast, characters and story is amazing. In fact, it’s so aggressively diverse it feels like a political statement – but it’s the kind of statement that needs to be made, and once you get past that there’s a thrilling story being told. There are eight primary characters whose minds are linked telepathically. Four are men (one in a gay relationship), four are women (one of whom is a trans woman in an interracial lesbian relationship). The story is set in the U.S., the U.K., Mexico, India, Korea, Kenya, Germany and Iceland, and very often a character in one part of the world is interacting with another character in another part of the world, and the cinematography realises all this brilliantly.

Scenes from Sense8

Sun Bak (Doona Bae), Korean businesswoman and kick-ass fighter, in Seoul, Nairobi and San Francisco.

Sense8 has its faults – what doesn’t these days? – but it’s fun, sexy, romantic and dramatic, AND it has the wonderful Freema Agyeman, who never really got what she deserved as Dr Martha Jones on Dr Who, in a brilliant supporting role.

Ryan Reynolds and Morena Maccarin in Deadpool.Finally, still on subject of fun, sexy, romantic, dramatic and wonderfully diverse, with a definite emphasis on the fun, is Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin. A perfect movie for Valentine’s Day.

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January 2016 Bicycles and Corsetry @AlinaMeridon

My publisher has given a tentative release date of June 8th for I Like It Hard, and it has been sent to a cover artist. We all have our superstitions, and I’m reluctant to believe it’s real until I have something to see, like a cover… so, fingers still firmly crossed.

Discovery Channel - Large Asteroid Impact Simulation - Video at YouTube

Discovery Channel: Large Asteroid Impact Simulation (2008), set to Pink Floyd “The Great Gig in the Sky”. Hauntingly beautiful destruction of the Earth.

Fatal Attraction

There’s something so addictively wonderful about this video of the Earth being destroyed by an asteroid. It’s terrifying from a human perspective, but from a cosmic perspective it’s… spectacular. And the music is a perfect fit.

1896, and All That

There’s a popular belief that the phrase ‘loose woman’ originates in the nineteenth century, describing prostitutes who didn’t wear ‘tight’ corsets and were thus ‘loose’. It makes sense, sort of. The popular image of Victorian ladies with wasp-waists, contrasted with the popular image of saloons in the Wild West wherein lingerie-clad women draped themselves over gunslingers, does lend itself to this interpretation. But the association of the word ‘loose’ with immoral behaviour predates the Victorian era by centuries. The phrase ‘loose women’ was used by Samuel Pepys in the 17th Century, and by John Adams (a Founding Father and later the second president of the United States) in the 18th Century, to refer to prostitutes; and ‘loose ladies’ is used in The Faerie Queene in the 16th Century, although not specifically to refer to prostitutes.

Despite repeated warnings about the danger of tight-lacing, there were always women who would tight-lace their corsets, in much the same way perhaps that women today will wear high-heeled shoes. The corset is blamed for many evils, and certainly the mass-production of cheap corsets combined with poor and ill-conceived designs and over-zealous mothers turned a fashionable article of clothing into an instrument of mass torture, but a well made corset worn properly has its uses. Far worse for Victorian women was the culture of repression that kept women as close to home as possible.

destructive cycle of feminine symmetry and poise

The bicycle changed everything. With the advent of the safety bicycle and pneumatic tyres, women everywhere were riding bicycles, travelling great distances to visit friends, getting lots of exercise in the process, and discarding their corsets for trousers. The demand for bicycles had a huge impact on the economy, much of the spare cash that had previously been spent on a variety of miscellaneous things was diverted to the purchase of bicycle parts. Even doctors felt the impact, their patients curing themselves through regular exercise and fresh air.

The height of the bicycle craze for women was in 1896. This month I have been hunting through newspapers from that year, looking for three specific phrases; so far, I have found only one. The search continues…

  1. Loose ladies and lascivious boys, The Faerie Queene, and the search for loose women,
  2. The perilous lack of corsetry, Rational Dress – loose women on bicycles
  3. Loosing my mind, more definitions and a hunt for a phrase
  4. Feminine Symmetry and Poise: Marguerite Lindley’s Advice to Wheelwomen, the discovery of a phrase
  5. Wheeling to Perdition – Rescuing Women from the Bicycle, salvation from the Woman’s Rescue League
  6. No More Worlds to Conquer, Oh, how the mighty are fallen!

Supergirl

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December 2015 Supercat @AlinaMeridon

I’m away for a few days, so a slightly premature Happy New Year!

I’m not a great believer in resolutions, but this year there is an urgent need to both make and keep them, so please wish me luck in improving my health and fitness – just as I wish the world to become a healthier and fitter place.

No news on the publishing front, and it has been a quiet month over at Alina Meridon, apart from a couple more episodes of Supergirl and Mistress X. The new Supergirl TV series with Melissa Benoist is excellent, although not as tightly and tensely plotted and edited as, say, Smallville or Daredevil, but the relationship between Kara and her boss Cat (Calista Flockhart) has led to some very entertaining shipping on Tumblr under the tag Supercat. Here’s a little contribution from me:

said Cat to young Kara, “Take off your specs
and show me your naked face
Too long you have hidden, enough’s enough,
now give me the girl from space”

“Ms Grant, you’re mistaken,” poor Kara said
“I’m merely a girl from Earth
what little resemblance you may have glimpsed
is an accident of birth”

but Cat smiled her smile of deadly intent
“I will see your face, my dear
and whether or not my suspicions are proved
I’ll see a lot more, no fear”

her fingers instilled with confident strength
she teased the pink cotton apart
revealing a trembling superhero
with an ‘S’ protecting her heart

“Ms Grant,” whispered Kara – “It’s ‘Cat’” said Ms Grant
“though ‘Mistress’ will work just as well
your secret is safe, my beautiful girl
so trust me, I never will tell”

If you wish, you can add an Owl and the Pussycat chorus to each verse, e.g.:

but Cat smiled her smile of deadly intent
“I will see your face, my dear
and whether or not my suspicions are proved
I’ll see a lot more, no fear
no fear, no fear!
I’ll see a lot more, no fear”

In a way, it makes my saga of Supergirl and Mistress X seem rather irrelevant, but I still like the dynamic of hero-and-supervillain, and fan fiction’s a tricky thing. I have had brushes with it in the past, having written something about Xena: Warrior Princess once, and my novel Kings of Infinite Space was originally half-intended one day to be the third volume in a trilogy, where the second volume was set in the Star Trek universe. But the trouble with fan fiction is that you never have control over the universe in which your story is set. There’s always danger that the next episode of the series will invalidate your unofficial contribution.

So I don’t have any enthusiasm for shipping. Much as I love the idea of Supercat, I can’t really see a major TV network allowing a bisexual Supergirl to be anything more than a possibility. The romance of Supergirl and Mistress X is separate from all this – set in a parallel universe, perhaps.

Global Seesaw

Double stranded necklace made of 100% recycled glass beads

Pharaoh’s Daughter by Freedom Stones: “This piece comes to you from Ghana where it was lovingly handmade by survivors of human trafficking.”

During an internet search for handmade paper for a Christmas present this year, I stumbled across Love Calcutta Arts (“Love Calcutta Arts has arisen out of a desire to break the cycle of prostitution by bringing freedom to young girls who are otherwise at risk of abuse.”) which took me to Global Seesaw (“All our manufacturing partners are social enterprises who reinvest their products and measure success in terms of human lives changed rather than pure profit.”).

beauty emergent
free the phoenix spirit soars
from a shattered life

I ordered a variety of soaps, notebooks, Christmas cards and the beautiful Pharaoh’s Daughter necklace shown here. Despite this being the 10th December, everything was dispatched the same day and delivery was very quick. All in all, a very satisfying way to do Christmas shopping…

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