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[personal profile] owlectomy
Another library with a "boys only" program is getting attention thanks to a tweet from Shannon Hale; the same day, a library student working on a research project asked me my opinion on programs only for boys.

I understand getting anxious about boys not coming to library programs! I understand being concerned when boys have lower rates of pleasure reading and lower grades in school! (Although to be fair a lot of that reading discrepancy goes away when you look at all kinds of reading, including nonfiction, comics, and web content, and not just things like novels.) It does sometimes happen that a specific clique comes to dominate library programming and anyone on the outside feels unwelcome, and it's conceivable that programs like this one were created to disrupt that dynamic. BUT. Once you are literally saying "no girls allowed" you have crossed over to the dark side. You need to figure out some solutions that do not depend on excluding people who often already feel excluded from STEM-related stuff.

And you really have to think about what message you're sending to trans kids, non-gender-conforming kids, everybody who gets marginalized just by the fact that there's this barrier between 'girl things' and 'boy things.'

Sometimes librarianship is frustrating because you can't fix THE WHOLE CULTURE but it feels awful to just submit to it: not just this heinous divide between 'girl books' and 'boy books,' but also things like this past weekend's "Star Wars Reads Day," when I am all curmudgeonly and no matter how much I like Star Wars I feel really weird about corporate synergy with a giant media conglomerate. At some point you have to make the case that part of librarianship SHOULD be standing up against what's broken in the culture instead of just going along with it because it makes your attendance numbers look better.
[syndicated profile] w3c_dpub_ig_feed

Posted by Ivan Herman

See minutes online for a more detailed record of the discussions. (The headers below link into the relevant sections of the minutes.)

Portable Web Publication publication and outreach

Following the discussion last week the PWP Editor’s draft has been updated. Ivan Herman gave a status report; the participants unanimously decided to publish the document as a First Public Draft. The plan is to publish on the 15th of October.

There was a discussion on the outreach following the publication. It has been agreed that the outreach activities should not be huge (e.g., press release) and that a set of blogs and home page news at W3C and at IDPF should suffice. Some points of necessary emphasis in the outreach message came to the fore:

  • explaining the process, i.e., what is a WD, how to provide input, etc
  • what the relationship of the work around PWP is with the EPUB3.1 work at IDPF
  • background both for publishers (who may not know about W3C) and the Web community (who may not know about publishing)
  • position of W3C relative to the rest of the publishing community

Because this is the Frankfurt Book Fare week, it is probably better to set the dates for the outreach sometimes next week. There will be a regroup of volunteers about this by the end of the week

F2F planning

The agenda of the F2F meeting at the W3C TPAC meeting is shaping up. The group spent some time on working out some details, plan for some more meetings (if possible) and determine session chairs.

A Window Into All Things Scary

Oct. 12th, 2015 03:48 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_ya_feed
The Jumbies is a middle grade novel, which is geared a bit younger than what I usually cover here. I’ve given it a pass for a few reasons, but the most important one is this: I like to cover scary stories in October, and this one has some of the creepiest, scariest, sometimes grossest sequences that I’ve read this year.

In honor of Electronic Records Day

Oct. 10th, 2015 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tufts_dca_feed

Posted by Margaret Peachy

In the last few years, it has become the norm for archival repositories to accept hybrid collections – that is, collections that have both paper and digital records. The digital records may come in on legacy media such as floppy disks or zip disks, in the form of a network transfer from administrative offices that have to transfer records to the archives on a regular basis, or as an entire computer, where the computer and its contents can sometimes be of equal value (see what Emory University did with Salman Rushdie’s computers).

Here at Tufts DCA, I am in the process of updating and creating policies and procedures around stabilizing legacy media, preserving the digital records, and providing access to them through finding aid description. A few months into being the new Digital Archivist, I have already set up our FRED (Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device) and established workflows for using FTK Imager and Library of Congress’ Bagger tool, all of which allow archivists to recover data from physical media without changing anything about the files (like the last modified date), and package it for long-term storage.

DCA's FRED and monitor

DCA’s FRED, ready to capture some forensic disk images.


In the near future, DCA will be exploring ways to provide access to born-digital archives to as wide an audience as possible. In the meantime, researchers interested in Tufts history can explore the many resources available in the Tufts Digital Library, including over 25,000 photographs, or contact us directly at archives@tufts.edu.


McIlroy Fluid Network Analyzer analog computer, 1958


A Book to Wrap Your Arms Around

Oct. 9th, 2015 04:58 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
When you’re engaging a young child in early literacy, it can be so much fun for both you and the child that you hardly realize you’re doing it. Children are naturally drawn to rhythms and rhymes and word play, the building blocks of literacy and even poetry, and when you find a great collection of poetry and verses for wee ones, it’s a pleasure for all involved.
[syndicated profile] aotus_feed

Posted by davidferriero

The core mission of the National Archives has always been to make the holdings of the U.S. government available to the public. As the number of views on our website and social media platforms continue to grow each year, we are reminded of the importance of providing access to those holdings in a variety of ways to ensure that all citizens have the information they need to learn from the past, ensure their rights as citizens, and to participate in the civic process.

This post is the first in a series for American Archives Month exploring the impact the National Archives is making through our increased efforts to foster engagement with our nation’s history.

Web and Social Media infographic

According to Google Analytics, in Fiscal Year 2015, our websites reached more than 24 million people who collectively viewed more than 80 million pages on archives.gov. (That’s up from 19 million people and 69 million pages in FY14, a 26% increase and 16% increase, respectively.) More than one third (33.6%) of website sessions are from a mobile or tablet device. This is a growing trend (a nearly 18% increase over the previous year) and we’re currently working to improve the user experience of our websites for smartphone and tablet users.

While the number of people visiting our websites is impressive, Archives.gov is just one of the many platforms we use to make access happen online. Across the country, more than 200 National Archives staff are actively contributing to our 130 social media accounts (including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and others). In FY15, almost 250 million people viewed content posted to those social media platforms, which is up significantly over the previous fiscal year (141 million).

As an example of the power of social media outreach, we recently uploaded nearly 3,500 September 11-related photos from the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney to our Flickr account in response to a FOIA request. Photos like this one of Vice President Cheney with Senior Staff in the President’s Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) were picked up by national news sources and quickly became some of our most highly viewed records on Flickr (this image alone received more than 516,000 views). With new social media platforms and apps launching all the time, our staff are constantly on the lookout to ensure we are leveraging their power to share our records where the people are.

Vice President Cheney with Senior Staff in the President's Emergency Operations Center (PEOC). National Archives Identifier 20932904

Vice President Cheney with Senior Staff in the President’s Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), September 11, 2001. National Archives Identifier 20932904

Stay tuned throughout October for more posts in this series exploring our efforts to make access happen and connect with our customers.  Coming soon: connecting with customers to meet researcher needs and our digitization efforts.

erika: Reboot!James T. Kirk, Anne Taintor style lettering:  I should come with a warning label. (st aos: warning label (jtk))
[personal profile] erika
For awhile, my life's been literally a crime scene.

I find it retrospectively horrifying how I started to expect the depression, like its cold inhuman limbs walked besides me always, somehow. My body was unable to forget that onetime perch upon a tree where I did nothing but read, in a desperate attempt to ignore, while simultaneously looking down on everyone.

Then here I am again, darling PTSD, I knew you so well once but then I forgot how that experience of forever-in-pain differs.

Trauma resolved feels like the memory of that friend everyone had, at one point—the one who drifted away, got sent to reform school, military school, Catholic school, moved, started doing drugs—where you kinda wish you knew how they were doing but don't care enough to add them on Facebook. Just glad they stayed away.

But in the moment, trauma feels overwhelming, serendipitous, debilitating. It's the gut-wrenching internal despair of serious emotional damage and everything in your mind re-centers around fixing the gaping hole.

And PTSD is reliving it over and over in my brain so I can fix it. It's nearly impossible to believe that I could have forgotten how much better I'd absolutely gotten, but then, here it is again: the encroaching depression renders everything meaningless, disgusting, lifeless.

Ah. I believe again, validating my own experience.

but a moment of despair:
How many unique agonies have been stifled, rejected, ignored? Why must I—why do I remember them now?

Friends are for conversation: fucking reparteé and discussion, half-formed thoughts and thinking out loud, not these fucking broadcast headlines, endless unsupported arguments shouting through the distance.

Réspondez, s'il vous plaît to my text, my IM, my email; reassure me my presence is desired, required, delighted.

I find tumblr, twitter, facebook, vine, youtube——absolutely enthralling but——
Long form personal journalling online is a relic, somehow, and I, at 30, am a dinosaur. A wizened crone. Fabulous. I find this completely hilarious.

I feel, if anything, slightly less intelligent than I did when I started this and only much, much more human.

Less intelligent, less quick, the way intelligence was always described to me, the only way I knew to understand it.
More human, more understanding/compassionate/actually capable of recognizing other points of view (AND the fact that the other people in question believe just as strongly that they are right as I do that I am)—it turns out recognition of consequences has its own consequences.

I can follow a chain of logic, and understand how it's possibly to emotionally believe in it, almost no matter what it is. Turns out that helps me believe I'm worth something because a hell of a lot of abusive bullshit falls down when I could finally see that I'd been programmed to emotionally reject almost everything that was difficult to hear.

The definition of "difficult" seems to differ as an adult.

To myself as a child, I was incapable of believing in things that didn't agree with the other ideas my predominant influences had ... coaxed me into believing. Encouraged. And finally demanded.

They had to be right. They said they were, and they were, from what I saw, at least about the hot stove and the fact that I was smart, that's the only thing anyone ever praised me for, so they had to be right.

I didn't see the consequences of their beliefs; here, in my childhood, it'd probably make more sense if I called those consequences by their true name—contradictions.

The contradictions made things difficult.

When I was a child, I spake as a child. But a teenage girl's fears, hopes, and dreams are a different thing entirely. Nearly that of an adult, from my experience, so I feel uncomfortable comparing childhood directly to adulthood.

Lord, has my internal experience been well documented. I could excoriate myself, could probably make it funny, even, but that's what happens when your inner fantasies are the only places you can conceive of hope existing.

Those inner fantasies feeling like the only place I was loved, little wonder I turned inward while simultaneously feeling like I couldn't bear to examine myself further. I tried to please everyone and no one (myself) at the same time.

As a teenager, they called it lying. Difficult was telling the truth. But I was so good at lying, and if I could just be good at something, anything, the pain would stop, yes, and then——my thoughts became a blank and I would reset. The objective was so crystal clear: finish yr adolescence & stop the pain.

Lying—that stain on my supposed soul, a soul which had always seemed damned to me anyway—was a small price.

I didn't comprehend the consequences. I didn't see how hurting others was hurting myself, how isolating myself and demanding the perfection I had always, always failed to deliver could be the wrong move——schooled by years of my mother's incessant anxiety and my father's instinctive misogyny—and god, how very smart I felt I was.

The contradictions were still there, but hidden. I didn't believe that I could feel bad as a result of other people's actions——I was simply meant to feel bad, and so I did. Why was I meant to feel bad? Because I did.

I didn't understand the connections—the consequences.

At this point in time, I feel like I have to do two contradictory things... start writing more jokes and start taking the abilify.

Concurrently, writing as a supposed adult—I feel I must have faith to get up in the mornings. At this point, I can only define faith as hope in the outcome of my actions.

I suppose you could call that faith the natural result of admitting my previous mistakes, seeing that there is something outside of myself which I hadn't previously accounted for, but I prefer not to think of consequences now the way all adults seemed to when I was a child and they were claiming I didn't have it: common sense.

Wisdom, when they needed to sound mysterious for a child they sensed would buy it. The word nearly fits this Comprehension, excepting that I disbelieve I'm capable of retaining such a vaunted commodity.

Acquiring, well, I'll try anything once.

Then again, after I forget.

Gary D. Schmidt

Oct. 9th, 2015 05:16 am
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
On a Maine organic farm, 12-year-old Jack must adjust to a new normal when Joseph—a young man with a violent past—comes to stay as a temporary foster brother in Orbiting Jupiter, the latest from two-time Newbery Award–winning writer Gary D. Schmidt. Joseph’s entry into Jack’s life raises new, potentially disturbing questions about many adults in Jack’s world and also pushes Jack to explore bending a few rules of his own.
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
[personal profile] owlectomy
I think, as a Canadian who moved to the US at the age of twelve, it was inevitable that I become really cynical about American patriotism and a lot of the baggage around it (especially the whole "we can never have sensible gun laws because of an ambiguous sentence written over 200 years ago" thing); there was a whole lot of "you are not as great as you think you are, you know!" in my head. When I was in ninth grade (we were assigned to read Ayn Rand!) we had to write an essay on freedoms that you have as an American that you wouldn't have elsewhere, and, like, I grew up elsewhere. If you don't want to own a gun, it's not much of a freedom differential.*

And my attitude about the American revolution was fairly colored by the fact that Canada continues to be part of the British commonwealth and, you know, it's fine? I can't remember if I have any Loyalists in my family tree or not, but if you're an Anglophone from Quebec, it's fairly likely that you have ancestors who said "Revolution? Nah, let's not." I think I never learned a way of engaging with American history that wasn't based on a kind of unnuanced, unquestioning cheerleading of the revolution and the constitution and the founding fathers -- the most you could do was put in a little footnote there to say "Oh, yeah, slavery, that was bad."

So, I was joking before about listening to the Hamilton cast recording while filling out my citizenship application, but it was also kind of serious, because besides being some great music, I think it's actually provided me with a different way to engage with that history -- as rap battle, as soap opera, as the kind of thing where you care deeply about these people making TERRIBLE LIFE DECISIONS and it's not about passing judgment on these people as Good People or Bad People, but you can't help but be kind of impressed with all of them. It's total sincerity without the hagiography. And it's a story that feels suddenly really close -- Alexander Hamilton went to Columbia (as Kings College is now known)? I've been there! The Hamiltons are buried at Trinity Church downtown? I've walked past there! I kind of actually want to arrange a little American History Walking Tour for myself (which I might actually do because I have a 4-day weekend coming up?)

I still joke that I'm not actually a Shakespeare person, I'm just a Slings & Arrows fan -- well, I probably will continue to have lots of Complicated Feelings about the US and citizenship, but at least I can be a Hamilton fan?

* There is also some free speech stuff, but if I had been aware of that in ninth grade I definitely would not have wanted to write an essay on the right to hate speech and hardcore porn!

(no subject)

Oct. 8th, 2015 09:52 am
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
[personal profile] owlectomy
Did you think, while listening to the Hamilton cast recording, "If this were a manga, Aaron Burr's kid and Alexander Hamilton's kid would end up together"? No? Just me?

Anyway, magneticwave wrote a modern AU in which 10-year-old Philip Hamilton is a little too quick to defend his honor at school... and luckily, Olivia Pope gets called in.

Beginners' bugs masterlist updated!

Oct. 8th, 2015 01:09 pm
kaberett: A sleeping koalasheep (Avatar: the Last Airbender), with the dreamwidth logo above. (dreamkoalasheep)
[personal profile] kaberett posting in [site community profile] dw_dev_training
This fortnight I've got two new issues for you (relating to state selection and silent truncation of tags when renaming), bringing us up to nine unclaimed issues! Questions welcomed and encouraged :-)

Interview With Rainbow Rowell

Oct. 6th, 2015 02:10 pm
[syndicated profile] diversityinya_feed

Posted by Malinda Lo

By Malinda Lo


Rainbow Rowell’s newest novel, Carry On, tells the story of Simon Snow, a boy wizard at a British boarding school — with a twist. Carry On is about characters that Rainbow first created for her novel Fangirl, but Fangirl wasn’t about those characters (well, not exactly). In Fangirl, college freshman Cath Avery spends much of her time writing fan fiction about Simon and his roommate Baz, who come from a Harry Potter-like series of novels written by the fictional Gemma T. Leslie. Cath’s magnum opus is also titled Carry On, but Rainbow’s novel isn’t Cath’s novel; it’s Rainbow’s version of the Simon Snow books.

Confused? Then forget about my attempt to explain Carry On’s meta origins, because you don’t have to understand any of that to enjoy this book. Carry On is a fantasy novel about a boy wizard named Simon, set in a fantasy world that is much like our own but with several key differences (magic being one of them). It’s about Simon’s identity as a chosen one, and how he struggles with that responsibility. It’s also about Simon’s first love, his roommate Baz, who happens to be a vampire. Their love story is a central element in Carry On, and it’s their love story that makes it clear that this is a Rainbow Rowell book.

Recently I had the pleasure of reading Carry On and asking Rainbow a few questions about her latest novel.

Malinda Lo: How would you describe Carry On?

Rainbow Rowell: Carry On is a chosen one story that’s also about chosen one stories. I think my UK editor Rachel Petty summed it up better than anyone else so far: “It’s is a love story to love stories and the power of words — it’s an homage to every ‘chosen one’ who ever had more on his mind than saving the world.”

ML: Carry On is your first full-length fantasy novel, though you wrote several Simon/Baz scenes in Fangirl and you’ve also written fan fiction based on fantasy novels. However, you’re best known for your realistic fiction. What did you find to be the biggest challenges in writing fantasy instead of realistic fiction? And what aspects of fantasy came most easily for you?

RR: I’ve always read more fantasy and sci-fi than realistic fiction, but I never thought I could write it myself. It seemed too much to get my head around. When you write realistic fiction, all the walls are already built, in a way. The laws of gravity apply. Plus I was a newspaper journalist for so long that even realistic fiction felt like too much lying at first.

I think that the Simon Snow scenes in Fangirl were a way for me to experiment with writing fantasy without risking too much. To splash around in the water without leaving dry land.

But those were my favorite parts of the book to write. And the first six months of writing Carry On were the happiest I’ve been as an author.

I have read so much fantasy in my life. I realized that there were so many tropes and magical situations that I wanted to play with. Carry On was supposed to be a short story about Simon and Baz falling in love, but it quickly became this whole big story with eight different narrators.

The most challenging part was definitely the plot. This book reads like one of my books; it’s character driven and relationship-driven. But I wanted it to have a big plotty engine under the hood. And I wanted the plot to make sense. (Even though I love so many fantasies with plots that disintegrate when you look at them too closely…)

ML: Obviously, one aspect of fantasy that is not present in realistic fiction is magic. In Carry On, rather than turning magic spells into Latin words the way J. K. Rowling does in Harry Potter, you use everyday English phrases that are heavily weighted with meaning. The students at Watford in Carry On even take a class called Magic Words to teach them how to construct their spells with phrases ranging from “U can’t touch this” (only relevant if the target of the spell knows the song) to nursery rhymes. How did you develop this idea? It seems so ingenious and I wish I had thought of it! Words do have power, even in our world without magic.

RR: Thank you! Well, it’s a familiar idea, I think, that there’s magic in belief and recognition. In Peter Pan, it’s our belief in fairies that keeps Tinker Bell alive. And in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Bill Willingham’s Fables, regular people give gods and fairy tale characters power by telling their stories.

I don’t know how I came to this exactly — the idea that certain phrases would be more powerful the more that normal people say them.

It was so freeing to build the foundation for Carry On — the magical rules and the way the society worked — while I was writing Fangirl. Because there was no pressure! I felt like I was playing.

Once I had the Magic Words idea, it was so much fun to come up with the spells, and to think about what would make a powerful magician in Simon’s world. Like, one of the reasons Simon is such a crap mage is that, even though he has infinite power, he trips over his words.

Probably it’s not that surprising that someone like me would imagine a world where words are the most powerful currency. They’re my only currency!

ML: If the World of Mages existed and we lived it and you could do magic, what spell would you use to get through a difficult writing day?

RR: Ohhhh … Maybe “Coin a phrase!” That would be a super powerful spell. Like a wish for more wishes.

ML: You’re well known for the romances in your realistic novels, which are all heterosexual. The central romance in Carry On is between two boys. Did you have any worries (writing craft-wise or otherwise) about writing a same-sex love story?

RR: Well, I wanted to be thoughtful about it. I knew how I didn’t want it to feel: like a homoerotic tease, all subtext and nothing real; or fetishized.

But mostly I just wrote Simon and Baz falling in love the way I always write characters falling in love. I want my love stories to feel real. I want them to have depth and texture.

ML: As you and probably everybody out there knows, same-sex love stories hardly ever make it onto the bestseller lists. David Levithan and John Green’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson did, but only for a short time. Given your fan base, Carry On really does have a shot at making it onto those lists, and if it does, it certainly is poised to change a lot of publishers’ minds about same-sex stories. How do you feel about this?

RR: I hope it’s successful, of course. (I mean, of course.) And I’d love for it to be part of a huge wave of bestselling books about queer characters. But I try really hard not to think about the lists.

I wrote my two most popular books when I was in a place of not caring at all what would be successful — and not having any hope for success. After my first book, Attachments, didn’t do anything sales-wise, I wrote Eleanor & Park and especially Fangirl, feeling like I may as well write whatever I wanted because I couldn’t afford to keep going. I’d used up all my spare time and money and my family’s good will, and it felt very final.

Only later did people say things to me like, “Eighties stories don’t sell” and “Asian characters don’t sell” and “Fanfiction is a dirty word in publishing.” I wasn’t thinking about any of that when I was writing!

So the publishing lesson for me has been: Keep your head down. Don’t listen to conventional wisdom. Write the book that you want to spend a year of your life on.

Carry On was that book for me.

ML: Carry On isn’t exactly fan fiction since you created the story, but it is definitely a metafiction of some sort. So I have to ask you a meta question. Fandom often generates a lot of love for secondary characters — Draco in the Harry Potter series is one of the biggest examples of this. If someone were to write fan fiction based on Carry On, which secondary characters do you think would generate the most (and unexpected) fandom love? (My money’s on Ebb. Honestly, I’d like to read some fanfic about her.)

RR: Yes! I love that about fanfiction! I really think people are motivated to read and write fic because of what they don’t see in the stories they love. It’s about filling gaps and exploring the unexplored.

And, oh, I’m glad you like Ebb! I loved writing the adult characters. And I’ve already thought about writing more about Baz’s aunt and her ex. Like, how they hook up again and become vampire-hunters.

I’d also like to write a story about Ebb’s true love, and how that person reacts after the events of the book. (That was a hard sentence to write without spoilers.)

ML: Oh, I would so love to read that story! Will you be writing more fantasy in the future, or is it back to realism for you?

RR: Oh God, I don’t know. This is the first time in my writing career that I haven’t had at least the first draft of my next book written when my book was coming out. The future is wide open, I guess.

But my next project is a graphic novel. I have two outlines — one fantasy, one sci-fi.

I think I’d like to stay flexible, writing about teens sometimes and adults sometimes, and moving between genres and media. I want to keep feeling completely engaged by whatever I’m working on.

ML: I have one more question, and it’s a selfish one for me. You now write across adult and YA, fantasy and realistic fiction. I think that genre and category boundaries are useful for readers in terms of finding books, but how do they affect the way you write, if at all?

RR: I agree, they are useful for readers — and useful for marketing; you don’t want people to be confused about what you’re selling. Unfortunately, categories and genre don’t seem to be useful for me as a writer.

When I get done writing a book, the last thing I want is to start something similar. I want fresh air and a new challenge. And my ideas are all over the place.

So I’ve decided to just write what I feel driven to write, and to hope that my readers follow me — or that new readers find me.

I think I’m going to be a sharper creative person and a happier person if I keep moving.

Some of this comes, I think, out of my career so far. I was a newspaper columnist. Then I was an advertising creative director. I’m really glad that I kept taking risks and trying new things.

I’ve been lucky to work with a literary agent and editor who support and encourage me on this path.


Visit Rainbow Rowell’s website or follow her on twitter. Carry On is now available.

[syndicated profile] diversityinya_feed

Posted by Malinda Lo

This month for Fantasy and Science Fiction Month, we’ve invited Asks about writing diverse fantasy and science fiction. This answer comes from writer and DiYA co-founder Malinda Lo.

* “Diverse” = a book with a non-Western setting or inspired by a non-Western culture; or with a main character who is non-white/non-Western, LGBTQ+, and or disabled


iwouldrobabanktosavemylibrary said: Hi! Thanks so much for doing this. What suggestions/resources do you have for a white writer writing other races? I’ve found the writingwithcolor tumblr, know I need to find some beta readers, listen and process, and do more and more research, but do you have some great resources that are almost sure to help? Especially ones that have intersectionality? Most of my MCs are not white (and I am), so I’m trying to find everything I can to write as genuine a character as possible. Thanks!

daybreaksgaze said: In regards to writing diverse sci-fi/fantasy, how does one go about researching cultures other than their own (if they’re using other cultures)? And how do you know when ‘enough is enough’ in regards to research?

Questions about how to do research are among the most common questions I hear when it comes to writing books based on non-white cultures. Often the questions are like the first one: “do you have some great resources that are almost sure to help?” (emphasis mine) The answer is: no. There is no guarantee that any resources will be universally seen as true and right. The first thing you should do is forget about hoping for a 100% accurate resource. The second thing you should do is forget about the word “genuine” when it comes to writing a character, because “genuine” implies “authentic.” It implies that there is a true way to be something (e.g., an “authentic” Chinese person), and in reality, everybody is different. You should aim to write a character who is multifaceted, complex, and human.

That said, it is certainly very important to research the cultures you’re writing about, and although many writers know that they need to do research, they often seem flummoxed by how to do it, as the second question illustrates. That’s why I’ve put together this beginner’s guide to How To Do Research. It is truly a beginner’s guide, so if you feel like you have a handle on how to do this, the post may not be for you. Toward the end of the post there are some more advanced research ideas, as well as links to further reading.

One thing I want to stress is that this is a long process that takes a lot of work. If you want to write about cultures you know little about, you have to put in a lot of time. You cannot expect to get all your answers from one person or one website or even one day at the library. There are no shortcuts to doing research properly. If you’re not willing to put in the time, then it might not be a good idea for you to write this kind of book.

A second thing I want to say up front is this: If you’re interested in writing about a culture different from your own, do you have any friends who are from that culture? I mean relatively close friends — someone you can talk to about your families. If not, then why do you want to write about that culture? I fear that if a writer has no personal knowledge of that culture via at least a close friendship, they may have a difficult time seeing the culture as a living experience. Research can tell you a lot, but shared, personal experiences between you and a close friend can tell you a lot more.

Because this post is quite long, I’m putting the rest of it behind a cut.

Stage 1: General Research

The first stage of your research is about getting to know the general history and cultural practices of the culture you’ll be writing about or are inspired by. If you don’t know much about this culture to begin with, it’s OK to start (start!) with a general source such as Wikipedia. For example, if you’re interested in writing an Asian-inspired fantasy, you can totally begin by googling something as broad as “Asian culture.”

You will learn within a few seconds that Asia is giant, and there are many cultures within that continent. You will need to narrow your search down by country. Let’s say you’re primarily interested in China, so you then google “Chinese culture.” You might go to the Wikipedia page (there is one for Chinese culture), and you’ll see that there are 17 different subcategories ranging from “Identity” to “Fashion” to (the most important one) “References.” I suggest that if you’re at this general stage of your research, go ahead and read the Wiki page about whatever culture you’re researching. Notice when you’re drawn to a particular subject within that page, and follow links to subpages, making notes about subjects that you find interesting.

Read the References for those pages. See what is being cited, and click through to those other sources. It’s OK to start at Wikipedia, but it can’t be your only reference. Wikipedia’s references are often full of well-researched articles or books that will tell you much more about the subject you’re interested in.

The point of this stage of research is to give you a general overview of the culture you’re researching, all in preparation for diving deeper into the research. You should be taking notes already, brainstorming questions that come up for you, and thinking actively about which subjects seem relevant for your book. This process can take some time, but there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how long it takes. You want to do this kind of general, surface level research until you’re ready for stage 2.

Stage 2: Asking Specific Questions

It’s impossible to research your book properly unless you have specific questions you need the answers to. For example, a question I often hear is, “Are there stereotypes about Asians that I should be aware of since I’m writing an Asian fantasy?” (Substitute any other cultural group in there for “Asian,” and I’ve heard those questions too.)

There are several problems with this question. First, it’s a yes/no question. You don’t need to ask whether stereotypes exist, because they undoubtedly do. What you’re truly interested in is: “What stereotypes about Asians exist?” But even this question, which is a bit better because it’s not a yes/no question, still has a problem. The term “Asians” is extremely broad. As I noted above, Asia is giant, and you’ll need to narrow down your focus. Which country specifically are you interested in? Additionally, what kind of stereotypes are you interested in? Do you mean stereotypes that white Americans believe about Chinese people? Do you mean stereotypes that other Asians, maybe Japanese, believe about Chinese people? Are you referring to stereotypes about Chinese women or Chinese men? What time period are you researching? Are you interested in contemporary stereotypes about Chinese people, or stereotypes from the late 1800s in the United States?

As you can see, there are countless nuances to a question about stereotypes alone. It’s important that you spend some time thinking carefully about what you need to know. You may need to do more general research in order to narrow down your questions. You’ll also need to think carefully about what your book is about, and allow the story to guide the way you narrow down your questions. If your book is set in a preindustrial fantasy world, you probably don’t need to research stereotypes of Japanese girls in twenty-first century Tokyo. You may be more interested in representations of girlhood in Meiji-era Japan.

Once you have collected a bunch of specific questions, then you’re ready for stage 3.

Stage 3: Going to the Library

As I mentioned earlier, it’s OK to start with Wikipedia, but there is no substitute for good old book research. The internet is a vast playground of shiny objects, many of which seem super accurate, but it’s important to be discerning about a site’s credibility. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet! And besides that, there are a ton of references that are not online, or that you need to access through a library’s own network.

So, once you’ve put together some specific questions, take them with you to the library, go to the reference desk, and ask the reference librarian to show you how you can research the answers.

One thing to remember: The reference librarian is not there to answer the questions for you. They’re there to show you how to use research tools at the library so you can research the answers yourself. Those tools include databases of academic research, archives of newspapers, and the book catalog itself. It’s your job to do the research, and you probably won’t find your answers right away. It will take some time.

If you’re a student at a high school or college, you should go to your school/college library first. Many colleges have websites that also explain how to do research, generally for research papers, but these tips are still applicable to researching your novel. If you’re not a student, you should try your public library first. Many public libraries have excellent research resources and can also access other materials via inter-library loan. The librarian can tell you about this. Additionally, if you find that you need resources that are only available at an academic or university library, many public state universities allow members of the public to use their libraries for free. You may not be able to check out books (though sometimes you can), but you can often go to the library in person and read the stuff there. You can google your local public university’s library website to find this information.

Now that you’re at the library and digging deeper into your research, you’re ready for stage 4.

Stage 4: Researching Like a Novelist

Many people recommend talking to people from the specific culture you’re researching, and while this is a great idea, you should not start there. You should start by reading. This is because you want to have a solid background in general knowledge about a culture so you can ask the person specific questions. You don’t want to waste their time by asking general and possibly offensive questions that you could have answered by reading a book.

There are many kinds of books that can give you insight into the way people in a culture live their lives: memoirs written by people from that culture; nonfiction about a culture’s history or culture; travelogues about visiting a culture (but be aware that it may be written by an outsider); even fiction set in those cultures can give you wonderful insights, especially novels written by authors who are also from that culture. On the internet, you might also find personal blogs about a person’s experience with a culture. Newspapers are also a great way to familiarize yourself with a place, and online you can find newspapers from pretty much anywhere in the world. Read their reporting on local news and local cultural events to get an idea of what life is like there. If it’s in a foreign language you can’t read, that could be more difficult, but sometimes there are English-language newspapers that focus on a particular area.

The point is: You want to gain insight into how it feels to be a human being living in the culture you’re researching. Aim for resources that give you a taste of that lived reality, and read more than one of them. You need to develop a broad view of the culture and get a feeling for how different people in that culture experience it differently. There is no single, “genuine” experience. There are many.

In this stage, you’ll also be reading books about other aspects of a culture: their food, religious beliefs, political systems, etc. You should be finding yourself increasingly interested in specific elements that tie into the book you’re writing. For example, if your main character is a pilot (in addition to being, say, Chinese American), you’ll need to research how to fly planes and ships. You may want to read memoirs by pilots, or watch documentaries or movies about flying. You don’t need to know everything about the subject (and you can’t!), but you’ll need to know enough to put yourself in the pilot’s seat (virtually) to share that imagined experience with a reader.

Stage 5: Digging Even Deeper

There are other things you can do to add verisimilitude to your books. Two primary options are: (1) talking to people from the culture you’re researching, and (2) visiting the specific location or locations that are similar to places in your book.

(1) Where do you find people to talk to? There are many internet forums (e.g., Reddit) where you can ask strangers questions about their lives and many obscure subjects. I think that many times asking on an internet forum can feel like a great solution, but keep in mind that you may know next to nothing about the person answering these questions. You can certainly try this route, but remember you’re a total stranger approaching a total stranger for personal information. I recommend only using this method for very specific questions, and then I would try to get more than one person to respond so that I could see the variety of experience and check for accuracy.

You can also email subject matter experts — the folks who wrote the books and articles you read in stage 4. Many academic researchers have their email addresses listed online, and if you have a specific question about an obscure piece of research, you can send them an email asking respectfully if they have the time to help you. Keep in mind, again, you’re a total stranger asking for their help, so they may say no or not respond at all. However, many scholars welcome interest in their work, and if your question is specific and shows that you’ve done your background research, they may be happy to help or pass on your question to a colleague.

In my opinion, the best person to approach with specific, detailed questions about a culture is your close friend who comes from that culture.

(2) What about location research? This is one of my favorite parts of research, because I think world-building is much more realistic when you can describe real places. If your book is set in Tokyo, obviously you could try to visit Tokyo if you have the financial resources to do that. But think more broadly: Maybe there’s an art museum in your local area that has a Japanese art or architecture collection that you could visit.

If your book is set in an imagined secondary world, you have to extrapolate from the real world. Let’s say it’s set in a thickly forested area. That means you could find a forest near you to visit. If it’s set in a castle, there are many castles and castle-like buildings that are open to the public. If it’s set in a spaceship, you might see if your local science museum has a space exhibit that can give you some insight into living in space.

Location research is about gaining a sense of the physical realities of a place so that you can describe it with all the senses in your book. Touch and smell things, sit there and listen to what it sounds like. And always take notes, photos, and videos to refer back to later.

Stage 6: Stop Researching, Already!

When do you know when to stop researching? Again, unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast rule. If you enjoy research, it’s all too possible to tumble down a research pit that goes deeper and deeper until you’ve lost sight of why you’re doing this research at all. However, I believe that if you’ve gotten yourself to Stage 5 and are putting together questions to ask individuals, you’re ready to start writing.

You should remember that you will continue to do research as you write your novel. Questions will arise as you tell the story, and you’ll need to find out the answers to those questions. You’ll even continue researching once you’re revising the book, and while you’re working with an editor. Research continues all the way to the end, often narrowing down to tinier and tinier questions. What you’re doing with the initial research is giving yourself a strong foundation on which to start writing. Little details can be filled in later, but without a strong foundation, you won’t even recognize when the details are missing.

Last but not least, remember that there is no guaranteed way to know that you’ve researched all possible things that might be problematic. No matter how much research you do, your book is sure to offend someone. This is because human beings are all different. You have to make peace with this. Do as much research as you need to feel that you’ve given this your best. Once you’ve given it your best, that’s all you can do.

There are no shortcuts. Have fun!

Further reading:

Malinda Lo is the critically acclaimed author of several young adult novels, most recently the duology Adaptation, a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of 2013, and Inheritance, winner of the 2014 Bisexual Book Award. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA, a project that celebrates diversity in young adult books. She lives in Massachusetts with her partner and their dog, and her website is www.malindalo.com.

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Posted by Malinda Lo

This month for Fantasy and Science Fiction Month, we’ve invited Asks about writing diverse fantasy and science fiction. This answer comes from writer and DiYA co-founder Malinda Lo.


gogglor said: Suppose your sci-fi universe is more accepting of people with marginalized identities. Does portraying a universe like this run the risk of downplaying or erasing the prejudices that people with marginalized identities today have to face? For instance, if a black character faces very little racism in this future-society, is that in a way an insult to black readers today who face a great deal of prejudice?

writingandbooksandthings said: I’m having troubles with deciding how I want LGBT+ people to be perceived in my fantasy world. I want to show the struggle/issues so it would be relatable to people, but part of me wonders if it would be better to show a world where sexuality, gender, etc. isn’t seen as an issue by almost anyone. I feel like doing so would make readers see it really can be considered “normal” by a society and with no consequences. At the same time, I feel obligated to acknowledge real issues. What do you think?

These questions, like many questions about writing diversity, are framed in a way that hopes for a yes/no answer. However, the answer to the vast majority of questions about writing diversity is maybe. There simply are no black-and-white answers to writing fiction with characters who are traditionally marginalized, and the first thing writers should do is accept this. Whatever choice you make as a writer can be questioned by readers and critics, especially when it comes to writing diversity, which has often been done poorly and thoughtlessly. Again, whatever choice you make can be questioned, so it’s important to think carefully about why you made those choices, keeping in mind that your book is yours, and your duty as a writer is to be true to the story you want to tell.

It is not inherently insulting or wrong to write a book in which people of color and LGBTQ+ people are considered normal. It is a choice you can make as a writer of science fiction and fantasy — a choice that writers of realistic fiction simply do not have. If a book is set in the real world, people of color and LGBTQ+ people are not considered normal by the majority of people. Any realistic book that includes characters with these marginalized identities has a responsibility to incorporate that inequality in some way.

However, in fantasy and science fiction, things are different. That is one of the reasons that fantasy and science fiction can be so liberating and wonderful: We don’t have to create fictional worlds that are exactly like the real one. We can imagine a world in which it is normal to be non-white or LGBTQ+. I dare say that would be a better one.

One thing I find extremely frustrating about a lot of fantasy and science fiction is that many writers don’t seem to realize that everything in a secondary world is up for re-imagining. If you’re going to put unicorns or faster-than-light spaceships in your book, you can certainly also have equality for people of color and LGBTQ+ people.

Sometimes folks believe that equality for marginalized identities is unrealistic. When my first novel, Ash, was published, I was on a panel at a fantasy convention in which an audience member commented that it was unrealistic to have a fairy tale in which lesbians were normal. I responded, “There are also fairies in the book. Do you think fairies are more realistic than lesbians?”

That said, creating a fantasy or science fiction world in which people of color and LGBTQ+ people are normal does not mean you can simply wave your magic wand and everything becomes a shiny happy rainbow of equality and perfect joy. You have to build this equality into your world from the ground up.

For example, let’s think about a fantasy novel set in a preindustrial past, before the advent of modern science. If LGBTQ+ people are normal, you have to consider very basic biological things, such as how do LGBTQ+ people have children? Do they adopt others’ children? Do they have children with the assistance of magic? Do they not have children at all? Is there a place in this society for childless queer people? If you’re writing about rulers in this fantasy world, one of the most important thing to think about is heirs — how would a gay king choose an heir, if he hasn’t fathered any children? Additionally, if LGBTQ+ people are normal, how will you describe them? If it’s normal, would people even discern between those in same-sex relationships and those in opposite-sex ones? Will you use the word “gay” at all, especially because “gay” is a very specific English word with a clear history?

In a science fiction novel set in the future, other questions may also arise. If people of color in your futuristic world are normal, would they remain in separate racial enclaves (Black people in this part of town, Asians in that part of town), or would they have interracial relationships? And if they are in interracial relationships and have children, that does not mean their children all become a nice shade of tan; nor do they necessarily act like contemporary white people. Children in mixed race families do not always look the same, and you need to consider genetic inheritance and what a mixed race population would realistically look like. Additionally, cultures are passed down through generations and undergo changes. People always will have ancestral practices, so even if Chinese people are normal in the future, they probably are still going to retain specific Chinese cultural practices. Those practices also may have seeped into the wider popular culture. How would they be practiced by people who don’t have ancestors of that heritage?

Basically, normal does not mean white and straight. It’s very important to remember that, because if you normalize people of color and LGBTQ+ characters and then essentially turn them into white and straight-acting characters, that would be an insult. But if you normalize these marginalized identities in a thoughtful way that is built into the world itself, I think it can be a truly liberating experience to read.

Marginalized people in the real world don’t get very many opportunities to read books in which their identities are normal — and not erased. It is totally possible to do that in fantasy and science fiction, and I think that’s one of the best qualities of this genre.

Further reading:

Malinda Lo is the critically acclaimed author of several young adult novels, most recently the duology Adaptation, a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of 2013, and Inheritance, winner of the 2014 Bisexual Book Award. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA, a project that celebrates diversity in young adult books. She lives in Massachusetts with her partner and their dog, and her website is www.malindalo.com.

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Posted by Diversity in YA

By Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith


Everything I write stems from personal experience, even if it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world where people have mutant powers and the trees can eat you. When Sherwood and I first created the world of the Change, we wanted it to feel real and be true to our own lives and experiences. Fiction often shuts out people like us—old women, Jews, people with disabilities—but our actual lives have contained plenty of excitement, adventure, and romance. We wanted to write about heroes who were more like us and the people we knew.

In the Change series, we created some rules of thumb about disabilities to express what we believed to be true. One was that there are no miracle cures. There is a doctor with a mutant power that he uses to heal, but what it actually does is speed up time, to heal a wound quickly. If it’s not the kind of wound that could be healed with nothing more than time, his power won’t help. When young prospector Ross Juarez badly injures his wrist in the first chapter of Stranger, Dr. Lee saves his life but can’t fully restore the function of his hand. Ross spends the rest of the book doing physical therapy and learning to adapt; at the end he acquires a prosthetic gauntlet. And then he spends the entire second book learning to adapt to the prosthesis. Sherwood and I have both done physical rehab for various reasons, and we wanted to depict how long and difficult that can be.

Another world-shaping rule we had is that disability and accommodation to it is common and normal. We don’t normally think of nearsightedness as a disability, but it would be without glasses. (We both are so nearsighted that without glasses, we can’t recognize people from across the room.) So we have characters with glasses. We have characters who use wheelchairs. We have homes built to accommodate family members who can only see ultraviolet. We have characters who are disabled via injury, birth, life experience, or mutation, and show how they adapt and how society accommodates them—or chooses not to.

We also wanted to avoid certain types of narratives. Sherwood has a particular loathing for the cheap sentiment of the inspirational story, where the disabled hero does something heroic and is then exalted as extra-special. It tends to make the disabled person into a symbol rather than a character. We also didn’t believe that one heroic act is enough to get all prejudiced people to drop their biases. In real life, they’re more likely to keep their prejudices but decide that one person is an exception to the rule.

I especially dislike the disability tragedy stories, in which people with physical or psychological issues are ruined forever, typically dying at the end while everyone wrings their handkerchiefs and says it’s for the best because they were suffering so much. Apart from just being the flip side of the glurgy sentiment of the inspirational story, it sends a terrible message to people who do have those disabilities. Do we really want to tell readers that if they have Disability X, their life is ruined and they might as well kill themselves?

I can attest to the pernicious effect of the disability tragedy narrative. In my life, I’ve had severe depression and PTSD. Unlike some disabilities, those have a lot of inherent pain and suffering attached. In my own experience, those are not conditions of life, like being dyslexic or nearsighted, but illnesses that require treatment. So that’s hard to begin with. But you know what makes it ten times harder? When almost everything you’ve ever read with a character with depression or PTSD concludes with either a fake miracle cure, or with them dying and all the rest of the characters saying they were better off because no one who has been through the trauma they’ve endured can ever recover, let alone find happiness.

I did eventually find some exceptions to that narrative, and I treasured them. They gave me hope that it’s possible to go through terrible things, but to survive and find happiness, even if you do have scars. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo can’t find peace on Middle Earth and must sail into the West for his healing. But Faramir and Eowyn, who were also deeply scarred by trauma, find healing where they are. Several of Robin McKinley’s books, such as The Hero and the Crown and Deerskin, also offered the possibility of hope that I could believe in.

In my own personal experience and also in my work as a PTSD therapist, I have found that healing is very possible and very real. It’s not easy, but what worthwhile thing is? So I wanted to show that process in fiction, rather than the fake and cheap choices of miracle cure vs. death and despair. The other thing I wanted to show, in regard to trauma, is that it affects different people differently. Not everyone who goes through a traumatic experience gets PTSD! And for those who do, everyone’s PTSD is different and everyone’s path back from it is different.

In Stranger, our five POV characters all fight in the same battle. But they don’t all emerge with a cookie-cutter set of flashbacks, nightmares, and depression. One focuses on the life she saved, and remembers that with joy and pride. One gains insight into himself and his place in the world. One uses it to reaffirm what she already believed was true. One finds insight and still yet more trauma in a life that was already full of it. And one spends the entire next book quietly falling apart inside.

But in the end, for all of them, that battle and its effect on them was just one piece of their entire lives. PTSD has a huge effect on Ross, but it’s not all he is; trauma will always affect him, but it doesn’t ruin his life. Much like the linguistic shift from “disabled people” to “people with disabilities,” in our books, we tried to put the people first.


In the mid-eighties, a conversation with Jane Yolen crystallized my thoughts about a great deal of writing about disabled people. She wished writers would stop submitting variations on “The Special Little Animal With The Broken Tail”: well-intentioned but sentimental tales about an animal that has some kind of disability but whoa, it develops a special power or does something extra heroic, that makes everybody cheer about how special they are!

Those stories have been around for a long time. I read some when I was a kid, half a century ago and more. The “feel good” didn’t feel good past the ending of the story, even to me, as a not-very-savvy kid reader. Once you turned away from the story, the kid in the class who had some kind of problem still had the problem. And what does it say if the only way anyone will like a disabled person is if they get special powers or leap into a burning building and save a family? Even worse, the stories seemed to be saying that one’s ability issue was one’s identity.

Years later, my twenties, I knew people with various disabilities. In those days, society began to experiment with various terms, including differently-abled. A lot of people scorned that as pablum, but the verb that seemed the most appropriate to me was “adapt.” People with various types of issues (including us lefties in a world that is largely oriented right-handed) figured out workarounds. Some small, some awesome, like the paralyzed painter who used her toes. When you saw the end result, you weren’t thinking Blind! Wheelchair! Missing Fingers! Club Foot! You saw the result of the person’s skill or art or inspiration or wit.

One of my regular crowd during those days was a guy with albinism who was also legally blind, who I’ll call Pat. His eyes were also super-sensitive. His thick glasses had plastic extensions that fitted around his face so that no air could get to his eyes. Pat had been a chess champion in high school, and he was a math whiz, carrying everything in his head. If Pat heard it, he remembered it, and he navigated by memory, knowing pretty much the entire bus route of L.A. He fell into our group when brought by another science fiction enthusiast, and he loved the same sick puns and jokes and was also a dedicated Jackson Browne and Bob Dylan listener.

We were all barely out of college and still struggling to find jobs that paid minimum wage, so we all either got rides or drove junkers that were constantly breaking down. One day one of the group, I’ll call him Bob, came storming in to say he needed a ride. He turned to Pat and said, “Hey, if you can drop me at X, then swing by and pick up Y …” Then his mouth dropped open—he was appalled at his own insensitivity. The room went silent until we all saw Pat shaking with laughter.

That moment was proof to Pat that people saw him as Science Fiction Loving, Pun-Cracking, Dylan Quoting Pat, and not Blind Guy With Weird Glasses Pat. He was one of the crowd who happened not to drive because of his eyes, just like Bob was a rotten speller, and Tina was diabetic, and I was dyslexic. (We didn’t know the word “dyslexia” in those days, but everyone knew I could never dial a number correctly, ever, nor could I repeat numbers correctly or do math. So I had to repeat numbers several times, and even then everyone knew to double-check.) Nobody in our group was identified solely by their physical or medical or neuro-wiring issues.

I took that to heart when I became a teacher. Nobody wanted to be the “special kid” … unless they were playing us, which is a coping mechanism like any other. So I never gave talks about “specialness” or let anyone define anyone by whatever their issue was. And I refused to write variations on the Little Animal With The Broken Tail.

When Rachel and I began developing Las Anclas and its denizens, we let the characters define their identities. This was easier because we’d designed a world in which all kinds of variations on human life were seen everywhere—variety was everyday.

Early on in the first book Ross, who has some severe emotional issues, also gets wounded in one hand, which becomes a permanent disability. The other characters don’t see Ross The One Handed Guy, they see a guy who struggles to use a hand that used to be deft. One of the ways he and Mia Lee cement their friendship is her delight in finding ways to engineer workarounds for him.

Jennie’s mother is deaf, and reads lips. Everyone is used to making certain that Mrs. Riley sees them face on when they talk to her, but she is not defined by her deafness. She’s kind, and skilled with horses, and Changed, and African-American, and loves her family, and is deaf. No one attribute makes up all of a person’s identity.

As for Jennie, she’s always been a leader, but being a leader causes her some devastating emotional fallout. Afterward Jennie herself begins defining herself by her emotional issues, until she can slowly get a handle on herself.

Out of all categories of identity, the one that people in our books are most likely to use to define themselves is the Change, which is human mutation. It’s one of the few identities that’s still the focus of prejudice, so people often react to that by either hiding their Change out of shame or fear, or embracing it in defiance or pride. It’s also the identity most likely to have other people perceive as the only important thing about that person. They’re not seen as a complete person, they’re seen as That Changed Girl. Probably Las Anclas has stories about “The Special Little Animal With The Change.”

But we’re not going to write them.

sherwoodsmith-smallSherwood Smith (left) writes fantasy, science fiction, and historical romance for young as well as old readers. Her latest story is “Commando Bats,” about old women getting superpowers.

rachelmbrown-smallRachel Manija Brown (right) is the author of all sorts of stories in all sorts of genres. She has written television, plays, video games, poetry, and comic books. She writes urban fantasy for adults under the name of Lia Silver, and lesbian romance for adults as Rebecca Tregaron. In her other identity, she is a trauma/PTSD therapist.

Stranger and Hostage, the first two books in The Change series, are now available. Rebel, Book 3 of The Change series, is coming in January 2016.


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