Monday, February 29, 2016

The Egalitarian Fairy is Well and Truly Dead

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. -- George Santayana

It's time for Americans in the SF/F community to admit that the great Egalitarian Experiment has failed. 

Stop. Wait. [deep breath] Let's start with the beginning...

Substantive change happens in waves. It cycles--particularly when that change involves larger, more complex, more entrenched issues like oppression. From the outside, this looks like humanity takes three steps forward and two steps back. We seem to be repeating the same mistakes. That's disheartening when you work for positive change. However, I've come to realize that progress is not a straight line. Progress is a loop. This is an important aspect of the learning process, and since we're discussing painful, harmful, problems, it's important to the healing process as well. Why I think this has to do with some of my core beliefs.

I choose to believe the Universe is beneficent and wants humanity to grow. (Think of it as enlightened self-interest.) Therefore, life is school, and the Universe is the teacher.  Each person has unique and valid lessons to learn in life.[1] Humanity learns best via trial and error. As a result, mistakes are an invaluable part of our education.[2] When we don't learn it the first time, the lesson is repeated. That repetition comes in a slightly more powerful form each time, until the Universe sends the Mac Truck of DOOM. And let me tell you, that truck can and will kick into reverse gear and back over you if you still refuse to learn. And that's why I look for patterns in my life and in the lives of others. I prefer to avoid DOOM.

Pattern recognition is essential to the function of the human brain.[3] As I see it, if I recognize the pattern, I can learn the lesson faster, and thus, avoid the DOOM. (No one likes DOOM.) I used to think I could see the pattern once and avoid repetition. Sadly, it doesn't work like that. The more complex and important the lesson, the more often it will repeat. This is because there are multiple distinctions to be gleaned--multiple layers surrounding the problem. And in my experience, sometimes that lesson will re-appear even after you're sure you've learned all there is to know. Sometimes the Universe checks your homework to make damned good and sure you remember what you were taught.

This learning process doesn't only happen on an individual level. It happens on the topmost level too. This is why history repeats itself. I used to think it was only because of the stupid people in the back of the class who didn't get the fucking memo.[4] I was wrong. Humanity is learning important distinctions. Progress is a loop. 

One of the lessons humanity is working on right now is oppression. Oppression is a system. As I've said before, it's not even a terribly creative one.[5] This leads us back to  the SFSignal post about Edgy SF. You know what's missing from that list? Every novel and story ever written by anyone who is not a white CIS male. That is a huge problem--not just because I'm a woman who writes and is sick of watching women who write and POCs who write and QLTBAG folks who write be dropped off these lists. I mean sure, I am angry about that but this is a bigger fucking problem. Let me repeat the statement at the very start of this post.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

That's the bigger problem. 

The larger issue isn't about one lone white dude with a beard who wanted to be seen as an expert didn't care enough to notice that his attempt to write about fiction he enjoys is filled with personal bias. It's a part. Sure. But it isn't a whole. The problem isn't only about how SFSignal failed to curate the post and fact-check it and that maybe it should start doing that.[6] Again, it's a part. But it isn't the whole. It's about the environment in which that post happened. It's about how Wikipedia has a bias. It's about how that bias is dangerous because Wikipedia is seen as an authoritative source among those who don't know any better.

With influence comes power and with power comes responsibility.

And this is why we have these creatures called 'professionals.' This is also why all information and entertainment can't be free. I know American Libertarianism worships the concept of self-starter voluntarism. "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!" You know what? I'll steal a retort from Donwon Song--that phrase used to mean doing the impossible. Since when did we start demanding the impossible as a matter of course? The first response from supporters of Wikipedia is "Don't like it? Volunteer! Change it yourself!" But creating positive change is hard, scary work. People who say that shit know it, otherwise they'd do the work in the first place without being asked. Doing things very, very well is hard to do--even things that one loves to do, and maybe now you see why there is a need to pay people for their work. Maybe now we can admit that this is why amateurs cannot hold the same level of respect as professionals. The work of expertise is too exhausting to do for free.

There's another, more awful, problem. One I'll point out now. The response: "Got a problem with it?! Fix it yourself!" puts the burden of change on the shoulders of the oppressed. It's a particularly vile variant of blaming the victim. This is why the traditional response to that statement is frustration, anger, and [gasp] NO CHANGE. The truth is, the oppressed group has enough on their hands merely coping with a system every day that is weaponized against them. They're fucking tired. They do not need the oppressor to sit on top and scream down about how they must work harder. That's like riding a platform being propelled by underlings and screaming that they belong under the platform because they can't both carry the platform forward AND work for their own freedom at exactly the same time. That's lazy, privileged, CRUEL, bullshit.

Egalitarianism does not exist without effort, regulation, and strict care from a neutral power. It's time to admit that. Sure. It should. But it doesn't. And pretending it does exist only makes the inequality worse whether you intend it to do so or not. This is why quotas were created. It isn't a perfect solution, but it is a hell of a lot better than nothing as we are relearning nowBias exists. It's time to not just admit that--it's fucking time to remember that. 

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Wikipedia and sites like it are part of the collective memory. They have a responsibility to remember the truth.

One more helpful link, but I'm going to stop here and give credit where credit is due first. Charles Atan is my source for the main links for this post. He's one wise human. I recommend listening to him. Now, the last link for this post. It's called the Parable of the Polygons. Read it all the way through. Play with it. Think. Stop. And think some more.

We're all smarter than this. We all can get the memo. Our community doesn't need the DOOM. We need to make this change now. You know what? All the grumbling? That's the sound of the Universe's Mac Truck engine revving.
[1] My lessons may look like your lessons, but they are not exactly the same. Therefore, while I can learn from your lessons, and we can share helpful information, I cannot learn your lessons for you, nor you mine. 
[2] This is why it is unethical to take away a person's choice. You cannot stop people from making mistakes, nor should you. Life-threatening mistakes? Sure. Put a guardrail there. But any attempt to create 100% safety by outlawing all mistakes will inevitably end in evil.
[3] Don't believe me? See the science of perception.
[4] And this is why the Internet is such an important tool, y'all. We're getting the memo faster. We're sharing information in larger numbers.
[5] Keep in mind that the same philosophy about mistakes applies here. Individual groups are unique. Their individual group lessons surrounding oppression are valid and distinct. Dismiss that at your peril.
[6] Yes. They're volunteers. However, the piles of important rewards demonstrates that SFSignal is not just a small group of people playing around. IT'S BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY. And with that respect and POWER comes responsibility. It's time to own up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Ghosts of Mugu Rock

Now that the second book in The Dark Cycle, DARKNESS FAIR, is out I get to talk about more of the research adventures I've had in creating the tale. I'm obviously in love with ghost stories and there are several of them related to the famous rock near the Naval Base at Point Mugu of Pacific Coast Highway where the finale for Darkness Fair takes place.

The tales begin with a story fit for faerie tales, where the legend of Princess Hueneme was born, a young Chumash girl who was the daughter of a great chief. Her beauty was well known and so, of course, many men fell in love with her. But she chose the young man who was already wanted by another woman. Needless to say, this angered the other girl and revenge was sought.

The rival went to a sorcerer to learn a spell in order to curse the couple. She became so talented at working magic that she was able to enchant the man to run away with her, and when Princess Hueneme followed, the evil girl made sure the curse would last. So, even though Hueneme took the man back with her to the village, she never regained his love. She soon became so distraught from the loss that she tossed herself off the cliffs of Mugu and turned to stone, becoming the rock we see in hundreds of car commercials today. Her horrified husband was at last free of the evil girl's spell, but once he learned of his wife's death he grew so hopeless that he followed his wife into the sea, his hair becoming the kelp that wraps around the stone made from the spirit of his wife.

Over the centuries more stories emerged, creating The Lady of Mugu Rock, who is the ghost of a poor native girl that was brutally murdered by a rich landowner. She has been seen many times wandering the area of the rock (and she is the ghost that makes an appearance in Darkness Fair). There have also been more suicides in the recent decades, as well as a plane crash which killed everyone onboard; 88 souls.

When you go to the spot today, you can only stand on either side of the rock as the initial highway from the 50's has been washed away by the tide (if you watch Mad, Mad, Mad World, you can see it whole). Now it's been fenced in and only rebels climb around to peek over the small cliffs. I won't say if I may have perhaps been naughty and pretended not to see the signs. ;)


Rachel A. Marks is an award-winning author and professional artist, a cancer survivor, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. She was voted: Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but hopes she'll never have to test the theory. Her debut novel is DARKNESS BRUTAL, the 1st installment in The Dark Cycle (Skyscape). Book 2 was released February 2nd, 2016 and is titled, DARKNESS FAIR.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chinese New Year - Monkey Magic is Back

Monkey Magic

Hi Everyone,

Welcome New Year of the Fire Monkey!

February 8th, the second New Moon after the solstice 2016 marked Chinese New Year of the Fire Monkey and oh boy, what a chang-a-roony.  

This is the year of the Cheeky Monkey. A blockbuster shift, moving from two years of Wood element (Green Horse and Green Sheep) to Red Fire Monkey.

Contemplative becomes assertive.

Reflective become proactive.

Stuck becomes rocket launching, fire works and who cares about the slippery slope!

Monkey years have an abundance of energy, enthusiasm and spark. In FIRE, all the MORE dynamic.

This sign shares some of the intellectual and quick-silver qualities of western astrology's sign of Virgo including a love of friends, witty dialog and analytical capabilities. It's mutable, and again, with added fire, think Sagittarius enthusiasm.

Monkeys years are about lofty challenges and high sighted goals--we actually thrive when they have something way out there to reach for. With a hefty dose of curiosity, Monkey years bring a deal of information so we can turn what we learn into wonderful stories we can share with others. 

Our monkey year is all about communicate--be it through phone, internet or face to face. The main thing is we all feel connected. Social, sensitive and full of life, Monkey years can turn trouble into fun, gloom into a sunny day, low returns and results into high octane YES.

Happy New Moon and Chinese New Year of the Monkey! Set sky high intentions! Let us know how it's all going in the comments!

AriesARIES: Chinese New Year of the Monkey is a social time with plenty of goals and fuel for the fire. Friends mean the world to you and come through with great support and insight. Seek success with confidence, but note the difference between a goal and an agenda. You don't make it happen. You let it . . .
TaurusTAURUS: 2016 is all about your career, mission and connection to others. You'll want to be productive on a practical level as well as show the world a whole new, playful, carefree side. Think of it as a time to get yourself 'correct.' That means recognize your worthiness, see your perfection, love yourself unconditionally.
 GeminiGEMINI: Monkey year is an adventure for those born under the sign of the twins. Think expansion, excitement, travel via mind, body, spirit, and a whole lot of dreams come true. Your best approach? Use the power of the 'pre-thanks.' The strength of your words, written and spoken, blossoms before your eyes! 
  CancerCANCER: The year of the Monkey invites you to be an energy connoisseur, to pay attention to the play of power between you and others, friends, associates and love interests alike. That means you tune into what you are flowing, without judgement, so you can line up with what you want. Think awareness and fun!
 LeoLEO: Single, mated, looking, hiding, complicated or no strings, 2016 is about getting your love life really happening. This opportunity is pure gold, so put some energy into activating the dream come true relationship you always wished for but never quite manifested. Clean house, inner and outer. Company's coming!
 VirgoVIRGO: Whether you want to drop a few extra pounds, gain muscle-lose fat, get into your best shape ever, heal an ongoing issues or boost your magical manifesting skills, the year of the Monkey supports it big time! This is how it works. Get your vibration, AKA your thoughts, there first. Drop judgment!
 LibraLIBRA: Year of the Monkey holds a special place in the heart of Libra, one that will bring forth a pot of gold you had no idea was waiting. Probably didn't see this rainbow coming! But here it is, abundance city! All you have to do is activate 'Life is Good,' and you're following the creative magic. Holy wow!
 ScorpioSCORPIO: You have a lighthearted connection with the year of the Monkey and to honor it, think about the one thing you really want but are too (afraid, busy, denying, ignoring, projecting on to others) to create. This is you chance to awaken true desires and make them so, by putting your focus there. You go for what you want. Period!
 SagittariusSAGITTARIUS: All forms of communication lighten up in the year of the Monkey, amplifying everything from dissertation skills to writing, speaking and publishing. It's 'spread the word time', and all you have to do is feel worthy. Boost self-esteem and positive self-talk for major 2016 joy, happiness and success!
 CapricornCAPRICORN: Monkey years can amp up your goals and hone your focus, making 2016 a fast track to abundance. How to fuel the engine? Re-think your relationship to FUN. Seriously! The motto is, as long as you're having a good time, there's no such thing as wasting time! Play. Delight. Take up a hobby. Muse. Cruise.
 AquariusAQUARIUS: The New Moon in Aquarius heralds the year of the Monkey with personal significance for Water-bearers. This is a powerhouse year, one in which you get to decide how things go. It's all about your perspective so start fresh, drop judgements and open you mind. Motto: There is no spoon. Now go after what you want.
 piscesPISCES: The year of the Monkey can be just the fun and fulfillment you've been hanging out for. Are you ready? With the New Moon in your solar 12th house, it's all about 'the dream'. Feel free to muse your way through the year because the power of transformation lies in you ability to relax and chill out! Allow, allow, allow!  

Happy Chinese New Year xxxKim! 

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Thumbs up for getting lost in a book

Year of the Like: Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

I write very nervously about the following subject, not wanting to incur the wrath of the television gods. My second favorite book of all time is being turned into a TV series by STARZ. My first favorite book of all time is being turned into a movie and a dash of Zombie thrown in. Makes Kim Falconer's post from last month, "Why Zombie," rather hit close to home.

My second favorite book of all time is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. My entire notion of storytelling was tilted on its axis when I read this book for the first time. I'd grown up on fantasy, but never one like this, never one that was tangible and everyday. Piers Anthony and Robert Jordan didn't make me take a second look at the mundane around me searching for the divine.

There is no basic way to describe the book. Its a travel guide to the hidden wonders of America, its a story of redemption and resurrection, its a textbook on ancient mythologies and a commentary on the American culture by a person who moved here as soon as he could. It is everything: blood, violence, humor, love, and coin tricks.

This book is my bible. This book made me want to write. This book enraged the voices inside my head until they rioted and spilled out on the page. This book was the making of me. Of what I would do and not do, what I would sacrifice to and what I was not willing to let go of. I have read this book at least ten times, and each time, I glean something different from it. The first time I read it, I was so in tune with Shadow's wanderings. This time as a mother, I read it with the keen sense of sacrifice and which 'god' I am giving my time to.

It was also my introduction to Neil Gaiman in general. His Sandman series was next, and then I got lost in Neverwhere and Good Omens and the radio plays of both. His short stories, his children's books, all of them are the interworkings of my brain on the page with better grammar.

Even if he is not your cup of tea, he is an advocate to strong females who can rescue themselves, searching for your true story, and the power of the imagination. He is a muse for our muses.

So for my Year of the Like, I would like to give a double thumbs up to Neil Gaiman. He reminds us that "you will learn more from a glorious failure than you will from something you've never finished."

And he keeps me true to my story, wary of sacrificing to the wrong goals, and keeps me searching in the smallest of places for a glimpse at something divine.
Now go do it! Be the Like you want to see in the world!
Amanda Arista

Monday, February 1, 2016

Enter, "Daughter Of Blood"!

Yes, that's right -- on 1 January  I told you how much I was looking forward to seeing Daughter Of Blood published.

And now it is published: how cool is that?! (Pretty durned cool, I reckon. :D )

Daughter Of Blood has already had some nice attention from the pundits, too:

Publisher's Weekly:

“Returning fans…will delight in Lowe’s intricate worldbuilding and keen eye for politicking. The introduction of new characters and prophecies adds some depth of intrigue to Lowe’s impressive epic.”

Romantic Times: 

“The world of Lowe’s Wall of Night series continues to expand exponentially, and this third installment is sprawling, vividly detailed and consistently intriguing…the result is a heady, imaginative tale full of Lowe’s haunting prose and bold characters, that builds to a startling climax that will leave readers anxious for more.”

Kirkus Reviews: "Can't Miss Spec Fic Round Up"

“This third book in The Wall of Night series (you have been reading this Gemmell Award–winning series, yes?) is a richly drawn and imaginative as its predecessors.”

And now Sharon Stogner at ismellsheep has chimed in with 5 "Blood Sheep" -- woot!

"There is constant action and I was absorbed in the complexity of the story and watching as all the pieces Lowe has been putting into place since book one start to fall into place ... The writing is amazing and I'm captivated by the world Lowe created."


"But what," you quite rightly cry, "about the story?"


Last month I gave you two 'taster' excerpts: this month I'll introduce you to the Daughter of Blood herself, aka Myr the Mouse:

"Outside, the latest Wall storm had blown itself into a brief respite of calm weather, but inside the Red Keep the storm that had been raging between the ruling kin for weeks continued to generate acrimony and raised voices. Although, Myr thought, wrapping her arms around her drawn-up knees, “raised voices” was only her former governess Ise’s way of being polite. Anyone else would say shouting, usually over the top of whoever else was yelling at the same time.

She stared out over league on league of cloud wrack and bitter peaks toward the dark smudge that concealed the farthest limit of the Wall of Night. Sometimes, when the sky was more overcast, she caught the flicker of lightning through the smudge and would shiver, thinking about all those who kept watch over that dark boundary. Today, though, the sky was as close to clear as it ever got on the Wall of Night.

Peaceful, Myr told herself, thinking of the dispute that still rumbled in the keep below her..."

To read more, click on:

Lady Mouse 

To read the first three chapters in order click on:


Chapter 1: Lady Mouse

Chapter 2: The Serpent Prince




Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) was published on January 26, 2016. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, occasionally on SF Signal, and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we