Going Places, Doing Things

Those of you attending the Melbourne Writers’ Festival or Worldcon 2010 might be interested in the events listings that will follow.

The rest of you can admire this picture of my brand new hairstyle.

I got it cut after I watched Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

I know, right? I can barely wait to see what it looks like with my natural curls.

Melbourne Writer’s Festival

Thursday Sep 2, 12:30-1.15, ACMI 2

I am speaking with veteran and FABULOUS YA writer, Carole Wilkinson, on “The Lure of Ancient Magic”.

Then I am toddling on over to:

The 68th World Science Fiction Convention

This promises to be ludicrously awesome.

Sat 1100, Rm 211: Capes and Skirts: the Plight of Female Superheroes.

As you know, internets, I have much to say on this topic.

With Tansy Rayner Roberts, Peter V. Brett and Seanan McGuire.

Sat 1200, Rm 207: Karen Healey and Russell B. Farr, READING READING READING

I am going to read to you from SUMMERTON, my New Zealand set YA urban fantasy coming out next September. It has some murders in it. You know I like those!

Sat 1500 Rm 210: Crisis of Finite Publishers

Is it possible that this cultural artefact of the 20th century doesn’t have a future any more? With a shrinking market come increased difficulty in creating and launching new characters and fresh titles: what are the best new superhero comics of recent years, and how did they succeed or fail?

With Alan Baxter, Paul Cornell and James Bacon.

Sun 1500 Rm 210: The (Haunted) Streets of our Town: YA Urban Fantasy

An exploration of the attractions of Urban Fantasy for YA readers.

With Seanan McGuire, Faye Ringel and Foz Meadows.

The question, internets, is whether I am stalking Seanan, or if she is stalking me.

Mon 1000 Rm219: Writing Strange Lands: Other Cultures in YA Speculative Fiction

This panel will discuss the impact of dominant cultures in writing YA Speculative Fiction.

With Gillian Polack and Helen Lowe.

When I am not in panels, I am likely to be 1) in the hallways 2) at parties 3) in the bar. If you see me, feel free to say hi!

Bringing It On

The excellent women at The Book Smugglers asked me to round out their five week Young Adult Appreciation Month.

ANA AND THEA: “We would like you to write about awesome female characters in YA fiction.”
ME: “You know, I have an awful lot to say about that topic!”

So I did. The post features eleven must-read books with excellent young ladies, my girlcrush on Teal Sherer, a question as to why “strong female characters” are still considered some sort of remarkable feat, my thoughts on prizing many kinds of strength, a link to this excellent vid on awesome women being awesome, and cheerleaders.

You know, my typical Saturday night*.

So if you shoud like to read that, click here: Karen Healey on Awesome Female Characters.

* Actually not a lie.

Help Pakistan

Hello internets. I usually like to discuss awesome things here, but sometimes! The world is not awesome.

Let’s discuss Pakistan, where 20 million people are in awful conditions after the catastrophic Indus River flooding. Help Pakistan is running a fundraising auction for various services.

I am donating a critique of any novel-length work of fiction, up to 80k words, by October 1st.

I normally only offer critique to close friends (and even then I can be very slow about it), so this is a rare opportunity. The recipient of my last critique to raise money for charity was pleased with my work.

I will also be matching the winning bid, up to $80.

There are also lots of lovely other things to acquire at Help Pakistan, so even if a critique from me is not your style, I encourage you to head over there and poke around.

If you do want to bid for the critique, please bid at that link, and not in comments here.

I Believe In A Lot Of Things, Redux

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post welcoming critique of Guardian of the Dead on social justice terms.

At feminist pop culture critique site Hathor, questions were raised about whether I had actually read and responded to existing critiques of aspects of my work, or if I was indulging in the white, straight, non-marginalised-for-being-fat, privileged lady discourse of “educate me in my own space! I can’t be bothered seeking out what you have to say in yours.” Some discussion ensued, and then the original poster asked if I would make a response, as she was interested in the thought process of white allies trying to do a thing.

So here we are!

Yes, I actively seek out critical responses to my work. I am aware of three extant public critiques of Guardian of the Dead on social justice grounds. I responded and apologised to the writers of two of them – one publicly, as she was a close friend of a close friend and there was substantial commentary to which I also wanted to respond, and one privately, as we are only acquainted vaguely through others and there wasn’t much in the way of public comment.

The third I judged, with consultation with other allies, as being an outpouring of pain to which my apology might only add further grief, so I kept my mouth shut and my fingers still.

I will admit that this was hard, because apologies make me feel better about inflicting pain on others through my work. But it is not about me. The work and the pain are still there, and if an apology is not going to address that, then it is worthless to the affected party. So the best I can do in that situation is a private vow to do better next time.

I then posted asking for further critique, and not because I am not willing to read it in other spaces. I asked so that if there were other critiques by readers who did not have blogs of their own, or who had thoughts they had not yet voiced, or were reluctant to critique in case the author showed up and acted like a jerk, they would have a space to make them with some reassurance that I welcomed them.

I tried to make the space for this critique as safe as possible, aware all the time that it was my space, and thus possibly intimidating. I tried to lay out clear guidelines:

1) No one would see the comments except me (to prevent possible defenders of my honour leaping in, or potential critiques being isolated in a number of comments by people wanting to praise me for making the post in the first place)

2) No response by me would be made unless requested (so that if people didn’t want to engage past that first point they could know I wouldn’t press engagement)

and 3) If a response was requested, it would be made via email, after consideration (to ensure privacy for their part, and to prevent kneejerk reactionism on mine)

I possibly should have included all of the above in my original post, and I apologise for the potential confusion. I didn’t want to make the post unwieldy or overly wordy (like, um, this one), and I was trying pretty hard not to ask for cookies. I’m aware that “Look! I did talk to people! Isn’t that great of me?” can give that impression.

I sometimes stumble in the execution of ally behaviour. My dedication to its principles is sincere, but that of course is irrelevant when I do stumble. Here are posts by me on cultural consultancy and the original Australian cover, which may provide further context on me-as-ally.

Okay, one further note.

You will have noted that I have not linked to any of these public critiques I mentioned, nor described them in sufficient detail that they may be identified without links, and neither did I do so in my original post.

That is because I have fans.

I like my fans! They make it possible for me to continue writing. But I do not know all of them, and I cannot guarantee that they will respect the space of others. Moreover, since all three critiques were things that fans have specifically praised me for, I really did not want to highlight critique on those points – critique, by the way, that I think entirely valid – and then have people rushing in to defend me and my work. That leads to stuff I think we have all seen before; derailment, personal attacks, but-I-liked-it-therefore-your-take-is-invalid, the argument towards intention rather than effect, etc, etc. Those things are not cool. I did not want to encourage them, even slantwise.

I guess my point is that I think an important part of being an ally is being aware of context. A private discussion with my mates where I point them to a critique and say “what do you think? I’m thinking of this response; do you think that would hurt or help?” is not the same context as me making a public post wondering the same thing where anyone can read it and follow the link, and I think it would be disingenuous to pretend so.

THAT SAID. Here is one of the critiques, on descriptions of Ellie as a fat character, by Marianne Kirby of the Rotund, with my reply. Marianne is a noted fat acceptance activist, author, blogger, and all around awesome lady, and I value her response to my work. I am linking it here not just because it is relevant to the discussion at hand, but because I think it is a fantastic piece of progressive critique of a cultural product. Marianne evaluates a personal response, links it to wider politics, and considers the possible responses of other readers without either devaluing her own reaction or hinting that alternative readings would be Wrong. It is super great.

Marianne gave permission for me to link her post here. She notes that she has a spam filter and is not afraid to use it. I hope and beg y’all that she will not have to. Please, please, please don’t go to her space and employ any of the myriad tactics that impede progressive voices.

I am allowing public comments on this post, but I am screening them.

Love Will Tear Us Apart

Internets, what up?

What is up for me is that I have spent the week since I got home being an adult and dealing with boring adult things, like taxes and doctor’s appointments and osteopath appointments. Also, fun adult things, like buying a new iMac.

Oh yes. A desktop, after seven years of working on laptops. I am freaking delighted. No more craning miserably over my wee screen! I will get it sometime later this week; happy birthday to me.

Unfortunately, the osteopath had less good news.

ME: Oh yes, I have shoulder tension and lower back pain and sore arms.
OSTEO: Well, hop up on the bed and we’ll have a look. … oh my god.
ME: Um?
OSTEO: This is NASTY. Nasty, nasty, nasty. What have you been doing to yourself?

It turns out that “living on the internet” and “having two jobs where I write a lot” are not actually good for my body! Who knew. So now I get to have a lot of very painful treatments in the hope of warding off TOTAL DESTRUCTION.

I am not a fan of pain, but neither am I one of TOTAL DESTRUCTION, so this is good! Sadly, I will be doing much less living on the internet. My shameful habit of seldom replying to comments will become even more shameful, and I suspect I’ll be updating here less often, at least for a while.

You may wish to follow my twitter at @kehealey. 140 characters, less likely to lead to TOTAL DESTRUCTION, and I can do it on my phone!

I Believe In A Lot Of Things

Internets, as I may have mentioned ONCE OR TWICE, I wrote a book, Guardian of the Dead, which, among other things, has an asexual character, a number of characters of colour, and deals with Māori mythology, as well as doing some stuff with gender tropes and having a fat female main character.

These things were deliberate; I was consciously attempting to portray a diverse world.

I have been told I did well in those things by various readers, and I value their responses to my efforts. However, readers are a multiplicity! And I have also seen various critiques of, among other things, aspects of my portrayal of Kevin as an asexual person, my portrayal of Iris as a Chinese New Zealander, and my portrayal of Ellie as a fat young woman. I value those responses too.

So this post is for readers of Guardian of the Dead who want to note things they think were done poorly, or could be done better, in terms of social justice*. You know, if they want to. No one is obliged to tell me stuff!

I am not going to stop writing diverse worlds, but I would like to write them better. And I would like to provide a hopefully safer space in which people may make these responses to my work without fear of derailment or further hurt.

All comments will be screened; I will be the only one reading. I will not reply to anything unless a response is requested. If you would like a response, please include an email on which I may contact you. I may take a few days to process and reply, and I ask for your forbearance while I get my ducks in a row.

ETA: Further discussion on why I made this post and other responses I have made to criticism.

* ie, don’t tell me about the missing comma on page 273 or tell me how Iris/Ellie is OBVIOUSLY the best pairing**.

** Even though it totally is.