The End 2017 Gender and Politics @AlinaMeridon

Gender and Politics

Early in December, there was discussion of a questionnaire to be sent to school children asking a variety of questions. Amongst them were questions related to gender, i.e., whether they feel “comfortable in their gender.” Naturally, this caused a backlash. Parents were horrified, no doubt fearing that just asking the question would traumatise their poor children and start them on the long lonely path to a different gender. Even Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory MP whose not-so-secret superpower is privilege, disapproved: “These questions are not likely to be helpful. The child is too young – if they have these sorts of issues, the parents are the right ones to discuss it with, not a state survey.”

Parents. Right. Like Tina Traster who wonders how to talk to her ‘daughter’ when she clearly refuses to listen to him. (That whole website – transgendertrend.com – makes my skin crawl with its insistance that children’s beliefs about their own nature should be denied. Stephanie Davies-Arai, the Founder, is clearly very resentful of trans women.)

It’s not just parents and politicians that are transphobic. The comments sections on newspaper articles and all over Twitter are vile, a seething morass of bile and hatred. TERFs like to say that trans women have male privilege, but however justified they think their anger is, the reality is that trans women have to endure an almost constant stream of abuse – even from prominent feminists such as Julie Bindel and Germaine Greer.

This is why safe spaces are important. For trans women and for many other minorities that mainstream society would prefer to ignore. Environments in which it is possible to debate important and challenging ideas, without having to keep defensive shields at maximum. Public speakers whose established views threaten these safe spaces should not be surprised at being no-platformed. This is not about creating echo chambers; it’s about creating an environment in which new ideas can flourish.

Ideas that terrify the Establishment. “Special snowflakes!” they cry. “Huddling stupidly in their safe spaces and no-platforming anyone that might disagree with them…” And meanwhile these snowflake politicians try their hardest to no-platform all new ideas, and to make the schools a safe space free from any real education.

Pods & Poetry with Freya Pickard

Freya Pickard has been very kind to me recently, giving me a spot in her Escape Pod series: What five things would you take with you if abandoning ship in deep space?

And in November, I was a featured writer for Freya’s haiku series on the theme of ‘Monster’. This is a theme that speaks to my heart – after all, I wrote a novel called Suzie and the Monsters in which vampires are the lesser of evils – so I was delighted to have all five accepted. I wrote blog posts to give each haiku some context:

  1. Monstrous Haiku, the fragility of consent
  2. The fair maid’s breast, the vampire’s prey
  3. These words, a forlorn hope
  4. The Feather of Alt-Truth, the real monsters
  5. Rise of the Robots, the horror of the machine

Fractals

Mandelbrot set

I have all my life (well, from mid-teens, I guess) had a passion for programming computers, and whenever I have learned a new language or a new operating system I have set myself the challenge of learning how to create the graphical image of the Mandelbrot set.

Mathematically: The simplest and most traditional form (that I use) of the problem goes:

  1. Choose a constant number. Let’s call it C.
  2. Take another number – start with the number zero. Let’s call it Z.
  3. Multiply the number Z by itself, and add the specified constant C.
  4. Repeat Step 3 until Z is bigger than two.

It’s a very simple sequence. Now, obviously, if C is big, then there will be few if any repetitions. If C is very small, then there will be lots of repetitions. Where it gets interesting is if you let C be a complex number with real and imaginary parts – represented in the image by horizontal and vertical respectively, with zero somewhere in the middle of that largest black region – then sometime the repetitions go on forever. And that black figure represents all the values of C for which that happens.

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May 2017 Fairytales @AlinaMeridon

infinite haiku: silk caught in flies caught in silk ...The Enchanted Forest

After last month’s perverse and slightly disturbing foray into sexbottery, this month I wrote a lesbian fairytale romance between a bard and a warrior (hmm, what does that remind me of?), the warrior (a trans woman) being a knight on a quest and the bard being a singer of spells and a fugitive slave. Let’s have a blurb:

When fugitive slave Kari dares to enter the enchanted forest that her mother disappeared into years before, she stumbles across a wounded knight and uses her skill as a bard to heal. The pair find themselves trapped by the forest, and their only hope is to find the Silver Queen whose tears are the last hope for a dying princess.

Written in thirteen instalments (adding up to approximately 13000 words), it is written as a lesbian romance, but it’s also a fairytale fantasy with fairies and giants and other magical creatures.

  1. The Enchanted Forest: 1. Blood in the Water
  2. The Enchanted Forest: 2. What’s in a Name?
  3. The Enchanted Forest: 3. Hot Water
  4. The Enchanted Forest: 4. Waking Up
  5. The Enchanted Forest: 5. Knitting Needles
  6. The Enchanted Forest: 6. A Guide Book
  7. The Enchanted Forest: 7. Shining Armour
  8. The Enchanted Forest: 8. The Silver Knight
  9. The Enchanted Forest: 9. Dragon Slayer
  10. The Enchanted Forest: 10. Baby Blues
  11. The Enchanted Forest: 11. The Oracle
  12. The Enchanted Forest: 12. The Silver Queen
  13. The Enchanted Forest: Epilogue

I had fun trying to distinguish between different sorts of magic, with the bard singing rhymes to call on nature’s magic, while the wizard meddles with other-worldly stuff, and so on. Maybe one day I’ll explore this world and its magics properly. (The best books I’ve read for magical details are the trilogy by Lyndon Hardy.)

The Loveless Princess – An Aro/Ace Fairytale

Lilian Bodley’s The Loveless Princess, published May 2017, is a fairytale with an aromantic heroine. A heroine who is a princess, and a princess must love her prince. Everyone knows that…

Not all fairytales are romances. Fairytales often have very poor characterisation, and they’re mostly about a scenario and its consequences. There’s a lesson of one sort or another to be learned about life, and the obsession with true love winning the day is a very modern one. Cinderella is the classic modern fairytale (see Aromancing Cinderella) of the good-hearted girl being rescued by a prince, combining tropes such as True Love and Love Conquers All and Love at First Sight, leading eventually to a Happily Ever After.

But maybe it’s propaganda, much like the Catholic Church saying, “No matter that you suffer in this life, be good (and obey our authority) and you will be rewarded in the next.” Cinderella the fairytale is saying, “Be a good girl and obedient, and maybe one day a prince will carry you away to a life of bliss.”

It is the voice of patriarchy: “Be a good girl, and obedient, and you will be rewarded with marriage. Of course, if you are spectacularly pretty and have a godmother that can introduce you to high society, that may help you catch the eye of the prince – and a pair of stripper heels wouldn’t go amiss.”

Such is the power of our modern fairytale romance, that we demand it in real life too. Charles and Diana – how perfect! How tragic! How could he not love her? How dare he not love her!

The Loveless Princess starts with a fairytale wedding. Yes, it’s a political marriage, arranged without the happy couple ever actually meeting, but the expectation is that the handsome prince and the beautiful princess will fall truly, madly, deeply in love and be blissfully happy for the rest of their lives. If this were a fantasy instead of a fairytale, the bride’s mother would be saying, “Look, maybe you won’t love him, but try to make the best of it.”

But in a fairytale it has to be love. Even if he’s gay and she’s aromantic and the chance of either ever falling in love with the other is smaller than a fairy’s freckle.

It’s a little confusing the way The Loveless Princess uses “love” to mean essentially romantic attraction and “desire” to mean sexual attraction, because that gets in the way of a more subtle exploration of love and desire. On the other hand, this does reflect characters who barely understand themselves and feel utterly alone in a hostile world. I enjoyed the story, but I do feel it could have been done better. There is more world-building and character-development than a fairytale normally gets, but not enough to make it work as a fantasy.

Valentina Lisitsa playing Liszt's el Contrabandista while waiting for a train at St. PancrasAnd finally…

A couple of music videos for your entertainment: First, Valentina Lisitsa playing Liszt’s el Contrabandista while waiting for a train at St. Pancras.

Leontina Vaduva and Placido Domingo singing Caro Elisir from Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore at the Gold and Silver Gala at Covent GardenAnd second, Leontina Vaduva (a beautiful Romanian soprano whose voice I adore) and the incomparable Placido Domingo singing the delightful Caro Elisir from Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore at the Gold and Silver Gala at Covent Garden.

that I had such wine
to summon the wrath
of a goddess

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