Daily Archives: February 4, 2013

My Thank You Gift to Everyone Who Pledged to the Counteract a Bigot Drive

As you know, I recently had cause to launch a pledge drive to send money to organizations working to better the lives of women, GLBT folk, people of color, and those who have been sexually assaulted. In three days, starting from my initial pledge to commit up to $1,000 to these organizations (if certain conditions were met), over $50,000 has been pledged by folks who wanted to stand with me. I’m deeply honored and humbled by this, both by the show of support for me, and rather more importantly, by the show of support for organizations focused on women, GLBT, people of color and those sexually abused. Thanks, folks.

As a way to show my appreciation, I commissioned a piece of art.

Now, as some background, out there in the stupider parts of the Internet, there are dudes who think of themselves as “alpha males.” My experience with these fellows is that they tend to be ignorant, status-anxious and undersocialized; they tend to mask their various panic attacks about race, gender and sexuality by maintaining those panic attacks are in fact a sign of their superiority. They disdain those who are comfortable with a world in which diversity is respected and encouraged — especially those who are men — and call them “beta” or “gamma” males and/or describe them as “rabbits” or some other species which they presume to be frightened or prey.

With that in mind, for those of us who are comfortable with diversity, who try not to be racist, or sexist, or homophobic, who don’t see the world as an apocalyptic zero-sum battle to the death between ourselves and whomever we try to hide our confused fear of by considering them as lesser beings, who aren’t in fact appallingly ignorant bigoted shitballs every single waking hour of the day, may I present to you an avatar — an icon, if you will, of who we are and how we choose to live our lives:

Yes, Gamma Rabbit, who likes people as they are, fears no one no matter how they live their lives, and who is comfortable with himself and his own personal values of kindness, tolerance and diversity. Sure, there are some who look down on him and his ways, but you know what? Gamma Rabbit knows that those people are kooky, silly, wacky racist sexist homophobic dipshits, and aside from looking forward to the day when they might pull their heads out and join the rest of the human race, lets them alone to do their own thing. Because Gamma Rabbit has other, better people and things to think about.

So to everyone who pledged so far, and to those who might pledge in the future: Here, have a Gamma Rabbit. My gift to you, with thanks.

(Artwork: Joel Watson)

Update: People are already clamoring for t-shirts in the comment thread. Okay, quick poll:

I would note that if such a t-shirt were produced, my cut of any net profit would go off to a charity (probably RAINN).

Update, 11:42am, 2/4/13: Another interpretation of Gamma Rabbit, from author Kirby Crow:

I think we may be on to something here.

Authors and Others: Con or Bust Needs Auction Items

My pal Kate Nepveu reminds me that it’s time again for the Con or Bust auctions, which serve to help folks of color attend SFF conventions. The auctions are the main (and I think, only) source of funds for Con or Bust, so it’s good to have good stuff in them. Here’s a blurb Kate gave me about it:

Con or Bust helps fans of color/non-white fans attend SFF cons. It’s administered by the Carl Brandon Society, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. Con or Bust isn’t a scholarship and isn’t limited by geography, type of con-goer, or con; its goal is simply to help fans of color go to SFF cons and be their own awesome selves. And with the money from last year’s annual online fundraising auction, plus some donations from cons, over the last twelve months Con or Bust was able to help 25 different people of color attend cons 28 times (three people received assistance twice), which I am very proud of.

So: If you’re an author, or someone who is crafty/creative and/or happy to offer your talents and services, and you want to donate something to the auctions, now is an excellent time to do that. Here’s the page that tells you what you need to know about offering up something for auction. The auctions themselves will go live this Saturday, February 9.

(And yes, I’ll be donating something myself, namely, a signed ARC of The Human Division. So if you wanted one of those, here’s your chance. But this post is really more about other people submitting stuff for auction.)

So authors and creative types, if you’ve got something to donate, you know what to do. Thanks.

The Big Idea: John Hornor Jacobs

Normally, when someone approaches a writer with the words “I have a great idea for a book!” the writer reels back in exasperation and fear. But in the case of John Hornor Jacobs, there was this one guy he just had to listen to. Who was this guy and how does he relate to Jacobs’ latest novel The Twelve-Fingered Boy? Here he is to tell you all about it.

JOHN HORNOR JACOBS:

I got the idea for The Twelve-Fingered Boy from my father. But don’t tell him that.

My dad’s a funny guy. He’s seventy-four and seriously cranky. My kids adore him but call him Grumps.

He’s a man of contradictions. When I was a kid, he introduced me to The Illiad and The Oddyssey, Frankenstein and Dracula, The Hobbit and Dune, possibly to get me to stop pestering him but really because of a deep-seated love of all things fantastic. When I was sick, he brought me The Savage Sword of Conan and Batman comics and ginger ale. He told me once, “You can have any book you want, I’ll buy it.” Two weeks later he brought me my first library card, saying, “I’m not made of money, son.”

But he could (and still can) be a tremendous dick. He made me a bookworm but then he forced me to do so many things that directly contradicted that bookworm nature. From eight to thirteen years old, I was in some boat every weekend, somewhere in Arkansas, Mississippi, or Louisiana, fishing for bass, or crappie, or gigging frogs, or freezing my balls off shooting ducks, or ass-high in scrub-brush hunting turkey. I had to play football because, goddamn it, no son of John Jacobs was not going to play football. (Yes, we have the same name…and yes, I have heard “John Jacobs Jingle Heimer Schmidt” about 17,235 times, give or take. That is why HORNOR is in there.)

He’d often make me arm-wrestle him. Or he’d ask if we needed to get some boxing gloves. He stopped asking that question when I got older and said, Yes, yes we do.

Eventually, there was a break. Bet you saw that coming. Nothing dramatic—no tearing of hair, no rending of clothes. No fistfight. (Well, not really.) But at a certain point, it became obvious I was tired of being his hunting and fishing companion and wanted to do whatever the hell fourteen-year-old boys did in 1985. Play Dungeons & Dragons and talk about girls and pick at our acne and masturbate furiously in the privacy of our bedrooms. Stuff like that.

But there was this other side to him. The one that loved The Lord of the Rings. He gave me that, and I’ll always be grateful.

As I’ve aged, my dad and I have become closer. Every Monday night, my daughters and I go over to my folks’ house and have pizza. Mom and Dad are well-to-do (Grumps was a fairly successful Southern lawyer, owning TWO seer-sucker suits) so we drink good wine and sit in their immaculate kitchen and catch up.

Invariably, a conversation like this will occur:

GRUMPS: Son, you’re the writer. You know what would make one helluva book?

ME: No, what?

GRUMPS: A vampire that works for the government. He’s old and bored so he offers his services to his country. And, of course, he’s the most badass hombre they’ve got, like a one-man swat team. Shit, that’d be a good book. You should write that!

ME: I think that one has already been written. It’s called The President’s Vampire. It’s pretty good.

GRUMPS: Well, shit on a shingle. I got another one. Was thinking about it when I was reading Harry Potter the other day—

ME: You’re reading Harry Potter again? How many times is that?

GRUMPS: Goddam it, I’m in my seventies. I’m not gonna waste my time reading crap. I want to read the Harry Potter series again before I die. [shakes his head, sour look crosses his face] That woman.

ME: Don’t start on Rowling again.

GRUMPS: I could die tomorrow! There’s so many more damned adventures she could tell in that world!

ME: [Clearing throat] What was your idea?

GRUMPS: Okay, picture this. There’s a family graveyard up in the Ozarks. The government’s putting an interstate right smack-dab through the graveyard. Imminent domain. So when the family begins to move the graveyard, they discover Grandma and Grandpa aren’t totally dead. They’re witches!

ME: That’s a little Harry Potter-ish. Might be something in it, but I’m working on this Lovecraft meets Southern gothic thing now—

GRUMPS: Lovecraft? Southern gothic? Nobody gives a shit about Southern gothic.

ME: Well, I do.

GRUMPS: People want more stories about witches and wizards, goddamn it. And one of the kids, a descendant of these witches, he’s got the power to shove things away from himself.

ME: Shove things away from himself? That’s kinda puny.

GRUMPS: You’re a writer? He does it when he’s angry. Use your damned imagination. Think of the possibilities!

And so I did. I thought out some of the possibilities. I scuttled the witch idea (though I reserve the right to return to it, just FYI) and thought about this explosive ability more as a superpower and pondered what might give someone that power. Genetics and a catalyst, maybe? I began searching the web for real human mutations. I’d been aware of polydactylism and the title sort of popped out at me in one of those ah-ha! Moments. Like in all my books, I mashed up many of the things I was interested in at the time: juvenile detention (and, snort, rehabilitation), prison escape stories, superheroes, physical and emotional abuse and how it tends to be passed on, generation to generation. “Man hands misery onto man. It deepens like the coastal shelf…” the old poem goes.

I realized I wanted to tell a superhero story, but without the superheroes. Just kids trying to figure out what to do in a morally ambiguous world with supernatural—or extranatural—abilities.

Thematically, I was interested in exploring the cages we all live in, both figuratively and literally. My protagonists are physically caged, both in space and in their own bodies. They’re isolated and alone—isolated by the knowledge of their own differences. What kind of bonds form in juvenile detention? What does having a real obvious physical “deformity” in a juvenile male society mean? What kind of coping mechanisms will boys develop to survive in a world poised to grind them up?

A constant word I use in this novel is incarcerado, which takes on a larger meaning as the boys learn more about their extranatural abilities.

In the end, I wanted to tell an adventure story my dad might enjoy. It’s weird, but he’s always my first audience.

Too bad he’s so cranky.

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The Twelve-Fingered Boy: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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