Half Sick of Shadows; a review, in which I am half sick of this book (okay, more than half)

This book does not deserve this great cover

I forced myself to finish this. I honestly don’t know why.

**This review contains spoilers**

God. God I hated this so much.

Okay, so here’s the setup: Elaine is an oracle (cool). Elaine is being emotionally abused by her evil depressed mother, who is the only mentally ill character in this book (somewhat less cool). Elaine then goes to Avalon, where everyone is liberated and wears skimpy clothing and is neo-pagan in sixth century fantasy Britain for some reason! (GO BACK GO BACK I WANT TO GO BACK) Yeah, suffice to say that this book impressed me with an interesting first scene and then took a swan dive off a cliff. At least my expectations weren’t that high? …Still though, I was foolish enough to at least have some expectations!

Clearly, I need to stop doing that with modern Arthuriana.

I’ll get into all the ugly stuff later, but let me start off by saying that I was super confused about the plot for most of the book? Elaine’s visions led me to believe that this was going to cover all of Arthur’s reign from his rise to his fall, because she kept having visions about the arthurpocalypse and How It All Fell Apart (ooh). And then I was at the middle of the book and Arthur hadn’t even married Guinevere yet? I honestly had to rack my brains to remember if this was really a standalone. Anyway, yeah, I could have done with a few less visions! Or at least put something in the blurb to make it clear that this is about Arthur’s rise to power? Maybe?

So yeah, the plot was really boring and I honestly don’t know why I was supposed to care. Oh no, Merlin is supporting Mordred, who is now Arthur’s half-brother for some reason and also in love with Morgause because this book decided to devote its existence to making me want to throw up! Why is Merlin doing this (especially when supporting Mordred goes against everything he stood for in the legends)? I don’t know! Elaine wants to stop this, because Mordred will run the kingdom into the ground! At least in an unspecified vision Elaine had, anyway. Why couldn’t we have seen that vision? It would have given such a better sense of the stakes if we could have seen what would have happened to Albion. Elaine is all-in for Arthur for…reasons I guess! I don’t know why! Why can’t she grab power for herself and be queen if she can literally see the future? She’d do a better job of it than either of those two schmucks.

I couldn’t help but compare this to Nirvana in Fire as I read this, not because it was anywhere NEAR as good as Nirvana in Fire, but because both stories had a protagonist who puts their life on hold to get some other guy on the throne. But Mei Changsu had a clear reason for wanting the current emperor off the throne, because the emperor was responsible for the death of his family. I get why that would drive you to do really extreme things! And I also understand why he would think Prince Jing was the best guy to be on the throne. Prince Jing is a guy who REALLY cares about justice, and the corrupt royal court doesn’t have a lot of guys like that. I just…wasn’t convinced about Arthur? It’s not that he’s bad, it’s just that I don’t understand why he’s good, let alone the best guy to be on the throne. I don’t know why Elaine cares so much about this guy, other than that Nimue told her he would bring some vague ‘golden age’ or whatever. Sure, I…guess he’s better than Mordred? Were there no other options? Why are my only two options ‘evil weasel’ and ‘stale chunk of white bread?’

Also, like…Nihuang was more of a girl power icon than any of the women in these books will ever be.

Speaking of girl power! The way feminism was handled in this book was so simplistic, heavy-handed, and sometimes…just plain dumb? Probably the most egregious scene was with Morgana and the tapestry. Okay, okay, get this. Morgana walks into the room, points to the unicorn on the tapestry and asks Elaine if she knows what the unicorn represents. Elaine answers that it represents virtue, and Morgana responds that it represents virginity, and the men don’t want to tell her that because they don’t want to seem too interested in what goes on between a girl’s legs (her words, not mine). I…

POLICING WOMEN’S SEXUALITY IS THE WHOLE POINT FOR THESE PEOPLE AND THAT ABSOLUTELY EXTENDS TO HOW THEY TREAT TEENAGERS. Oh boy, I wish this were how the world worked! I sure WISH that men would pretend not to care too much about a teenage girl’s sexuality! Someone take me to this fantasy world, please! *bangs head against a wall* I have literally read an article in which a girl’s parents pulled her out of the swim team at age TEN because the swimsuit she had to wear was too tight (fitted swimsuits are required for competitive swimming)! I have heard of young teenage girls getting lectured for being a ‘stumbling block’ to the older men in their church because the young girl wore a shirt that was too tight or something. Please explain to me again how these types of men will act so bashfully around young women that they don’t even want to mention virginity in front of them.

Anyway, this was all a lead-in to Morgana’s sex joke, because of course it was. Arthur is RIDING the unicorn? Get it??? *waggles eyebrows* If your sex joke has to be explained that much in order for it to make sense, it isn’t a very good joke. Kill me now.

And then Morgana proceeds to burn the tapestry #ForTheLols, which makes me want to kill her. Embroidery is so hard and those girls worked on the tapestry so much. Just because Elaine hates the tapestry doesn’t mean all the girls who worked on it do. It must have been some of those girls’ pride and joy. That was the moment I decided I hated Morgana.

The feminism would swing between being about historical issues no modern woman would have to face and modern issues no historical woman would likely face. And sometimes issues NO woman would face, ever (see the tapestry). The corset represents female oppression!!! Get it, because the boning in a corset is like a cage?? Sort of like how real women are in a metaphorical cage?? DO YOU GET THE SYMBOLISM??? And the pooooooor women, not being able to practice archery and having to wear corsets and all that. Because medieval women absolutely wore corsets and didn’t practice archery.

A medieval woman hunting with a bow and arrow in a cute pink dress

…Okay, look here. Medieval noblewomen practiced archery because oh, look at that! They went hunting! They absolutely didn’t wear corsets. My God. The author just lifted a bunch of stereotypes about the 19th century in order to write her book. At one point the heroine wears a dress that has cap sleeves, which. I’m pretty sure would not have been done in the medieval period? All the women in paintings that I’ve seen have their arms covered up to their wrists, which would have been a pretty nice thing to mention if you want to talk about modesty! Oh, and at one point, Elaine literally says ‘not all men,’ to which Guinevere replies, ‘not all men, Elaine……but enough of them,’ and I’m sorry, did I stumble onto a twitter conversation somehow? Because I would like to get off. Like. Are you writing about 19th century–oh, I’m sorry, medieval oppression of women, or are you making commentary on how they’re oppressed in the present day? Or are you going to look at the ways in which the treatment of women stays the same throughout history, discussing how while times change, some of the ways in which people treat women remain the same, and–oh, you just steamrolled past that option. Didn’t even notice it. Never mind, I’m not sure what else I expected.

You know what, I give up. I’m going to have Mordred say “yes all men” and shove a guy out a window. If Laura Sebastian can do it, so can I.

(A quick note: I don’t think Arthuriana has to be historically accurate at all! It’s basically impossible to write historically accurate Arthuriana, if you want to get down to it. But my personal preference is for the world to feel more medieval than this? And I really just don’t understand why we’re segueing into 19th century women’s issues.)

I also think the feminism in this book doesn’t address a lot of women out there? The liberation in this book is found in wildness. Avalon, with its sexy sexy bonfires and women who wear skimpy clothing, is liberated. THEIR women do stuff. They can do magic and be fighters. Lyonesse is liberated. Their women are werewolves and they wear short skirts and kill people! They’re wild and they run and fight! Camelot’s women…

…Um, they’re just not mentioned? Elaine’s mom is mentioned. She’s evil and abusive. Morgause is mentioned. She’s evil because she wants power for herself, unlike good and sweet Elaine who wants power for a man. And worse, Morgause is too feminine, unlike the heroine, who is just the right amount of feminine! Morgause cares about her appearance and stuff, which makes her an evul harpy who is evul! Seriously, Morgause is such a negative female stereotype. I do not understand why you would pretend to write a feminist novel and then treat your female villains this way?

To be fair, Elaine is from Camelot, but she spends most of her teenage years on Avalon, and she has Avalon’s values. I’m not counting her. Even though she is more ‘normal’ than her friends, she still seems like an exceptional woman to me, with her powers as a seeress that allows her to influence the rise and fall of kings. What of the normal women? The women who aren’t werewolves, or sorceresses, or kingmakers?

Anyway, we never hear about the women who do fit in and what they go through. We also never hear about the women who don’t fit in in different ways from Elaine and co. The feminism is just not very intersectional. There are a few women of color, but they’re either relegated to relatively minor roles, or, uh…We’ll get to that later. The closest thing we get to queer rep is Guinevere and Elaine jokingly flirting, but don’t worry, folks! They’re very straight, they’re just flirting because they’re not homophobic and women flirting is funny or…something? I guess? Seriously, they had more chemistry in that one scene than either of them EVER do with their trash boyfriends. We never hear about any disabled or mentally ill women. Oh wait, I almost forgot! We do hear about one mentally ill woman, who is mentally ill and abusive. Can’t forget Elaine’s mom.

Look, I don’t mind mentally ill abusive characters. In fact, I think there’s absolutely a place for them. Not all mentally ill people are good, that’s stupid. We’re people, not just an identity, and sometimes people are very bad. And I do think that since mental illness affects all parts of your life (or it can, anyway), it makes sense that someone’s toxic or abusive behavior would be influenced by their mental illness. But does she have to be the only mentally ill character in the story? Does Morgana have to say “She’s touched in the head” and imply that that is the reason why Elaine should leave her? I know the author said she had depression, and I respect that she probably had a reason for portraying depression in that way, but I also have depression, and personally? It didn’t sit right with me, and I’m just a little bitter. Why can’t Elaine have depression and struggle to get out of bed and leave her tower sometimes? Why can’t Lancelot draw her out–not cure her, but make things a little better–and convince her to brave the dangers of the real world, a place that’s confusing and sometimes harsh and not at all as simple as her tapestries? Why is that not the heroine the 21st century needs or whatever?

(Like…giving her depression would have given her a connection to the Tennyson poem that she absolutely did not have lmao.)

There are a few women of color, but I don’t think they were handled well? Nimue is Black, and I don’t have too many problems with her–sure, she’s not that interesting, but it’s not like she stands out for that in that cast. Morgana and Morgause, though?? They’re both described as having ‘bronze skin,’ and the way it’s written, is, uh…

She was beautiful in a cruel way, with luminous bronze skin, long, wavy hair the color of jet, a hawklike nose, and a wide mouth painted red as blood.

I just! I don’t like how she’s described as ‘beautiful in a cruel way’ and then it goes on to describe her bronze skin and aquiline nose! This rubs me the wrong way! I hate this so much!

Oh, and Mordred has a ‘hooked nose?’ And, if I remember correctly, Morgause does, too? I…*slowly slides into the dirt* If you’re wondering why this upsets me, hooked noses are something Jewish people are often stereotyped as having. (TW for discussions of antisemitism in the link.) I’m not trying to cancel the author and I’m not trying to argue that she’s a bad person, but I wish she or her editor had googled ‘antisemitic coding’ before publishing this.

Random little things that annoyed me:

-There were places where the writing just…did not make sense? “Relief falls over Arthur’s expression like a velvet curtain.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN.

-Mordred has ‘sand-colored’ hair in one scene and black hair in another. I refuse to believe this book was edited.

-Everyone in this book swears using the words ‘Maiden, Mother, and Crone,’ which, while I’m pretty sure it comes from beliefs about Hecate, is still a very modern phrasing? Honestly, though, the fact that half the characters in this book practiced a modern religion is the least bad thing about this book. (Nothing against neo-pagans or anything like that! I just don’t understand why the characters happen to believe the exact same thing as neo-pagans in the 21st century when they supposedly aren’t time travelers lmao?)

-The magic in this book is SO hokey. At one point Morgana literally pulls down the moon from the sky and threatens to destroy it. Okay Admiral Zhao. Admiral Zhao did it better, tbh. What even was this book.

-Morgana has purple eyes?????

-The worst thing? LANCELOT KEPT CALLING ELAINE ‘SHALOTT.’ THAT IS LIKE IF SOMEONE KEPT CALLING ME BY THE NAME OF MY HOMETOWN. WHAT PARALLEL UNIVERSE HAVE I ENTERED INTO THAT THIS BOOK EXISTS. I WANT OUT.

The ONE thing about this book that I liked is that the heroine understands the need for propaganda, and in general, the political intrigue wasn’t awful. That was the one thing. Everything else? Throw it away. Preferably somewhere far away from me, please.

Anyway, this was an awful experience! I possibly enjoyed reading Yu Wu more, and I didn’t even finish that one because the hero was a burning dumpster fire full of toxic waste. A burning dumpster fire full of toxic waste is still better than watching paint dry, though, which was what reading this felt like.

The Camelot Betrayal; a review, in which I finally accept that this series is not going to get better

I realized I wrote a (very long) review on The Guinevere Deception and then forgot to post a review of the sequel to the blog. Oops. I kept meaning to get around to cross-posting my review from Goodreads and then I kept forgetting, but whatever, it’s done now.

The Camelot Betrayal was both…a better and a worse reading experience than the first one in the series. It was better because my expectations were way lowered after that small disaster of a first book, but. I mean, less Mordred? Mordred’s the best character, why is he barely in this. Even though the first book was kinda sorta aggressively mediocre (sorry), I still think the author really could have turned it around in the second book! As it is, though, the trilogy didn’t get worse, but it also very much did not get better.

**This review contains spoilers! And also a little bit of cursing, just in case you’re uncomfortable with that**

I probably spelled some of the names differently from how they’re spelled in the book, because Arthurian names tend to have ten different variants each and I didn’t want to look up each character lmao

I feel like I should knock off a star for making Morgan Mordred’s mom and whatever the fuck this trilogy did to the Pendragon family tree, but you know what? I will put aside my pettiness for today.

(BERTILAK IS GAWAIN’S BOYFRIEND. NOT MORDRED’S DAD. WHAT THE FUCK. LOT IS A CHARACTER THAT EXISTS, HE’S MORDRED’S DAD IN QUITE A FEW VERSIONS OF THE LEGENDS, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE. MAKING BERTILAK MORDRED’S DAD INSTEAD OF GAWAIN’S BOYFRIEND IS HOMOPHOBIA. SEND HELP.)

After thinking about it for awhile, I realized my problem with this book is that it has no fucking plot. (Okay, I also have problems with Arthur and Gwen’s missing personalities, but that’s a rant for another time.) Yeah, sure, there’s some stuff about the Dark Queen–love of my life and I want to kiss her–but she’s a distant threat at best. Arthur occasionally rides off to the cursed lands to do…I don’t know what he does, actually. Guinevere occasionally ties knots. Everyone is concerned, but no one’s really doing anything about the villain? And the villain doesn’t really do anything to them? Villains who aren’t active in their own stories CAN work, but usually only when there’s another, more prominent villain to do their dirty work. Imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader, LOTR without the Ringwraiths and the orc generals. And before you ask, no, Mordred does not fulfill the role of the more active villain. In fact, let me make a list of the things Mordred does:

  1. Convinces Guinevere he doesn’t, actually, want to kill her (this is not a trick to gain her trust and then betray her, in case you were wondering)
  2. Makes out with Guinevere in a dream sequence/vision (was this really him though? Should I count this?)
  3. Helps out Rhoslyn and her girls
  4. Helps Guinevere out when she wanted to leave Camelot at the end

THAT’S IT. He’s not evil, okay? Yes, he may have committed a small act of eco-terrorism at the end of the last book, but if you’re not going to keep up those villainous acts in the second one, my memory of why I’m supposed to feel conflicted about this guy is going to fade real fast. Besides, as mentioned above, the Dark Queen is the love of my life and I want to kiss her. In my eyes, he did me a favor. Mordred just wants to resurrect grandma and then kick back in a cottage in the woods with his cute not-girlfriend Guinevere and you can’t convince me otherwise.

None of the subplots feel naturally woven into the main plots, because there is no main plot to really weave into. It’s just…Oh hey! I should save that dragon! Oh hey! I should save Iseult now! The story jumps around SO bad. Guinevere doesn’t do anything! Sure, she saves Iseult, but as far as for the main plot? What does she do?? Mordred doesn’t do anything! Arthur might do some things, but he sure as hell won’t tell Guinevere anything about that, because this is a Healthy Relationship in a Feminist Book! A feminist book that lowkey defends persecuting witches, I guess. (Yes, I’m still mad about this! ‘Oh, persecuting witches is bad, but also we aren’t going to call Arthur out for this, because that might make him feel bad.’ Cry me a river.)

Pardon me for assuming that a book with Gwenhwyfach in it might flesh out Lancelot and Guinevere’s relationship with each other a little. I was expecting Gwenhwyfach to trick Arthur into betraying Guinevere and then Lancelot would save her and Guinevere would have to deal with the fact that Arthur doesn’t actually trust her, and she would realize that she’s currently falling for Lancelot and it would be very cute and gay and–I’m getting carried away. Just. Anything but Gwenhwyfach being the annoying little sister who likes party-planning. (I mean, points for not villainizing her, though, I was getting tired of the girl hate.) Guinevere and Lancelot hardly ever have any in-depth conversations, and they don’t really seem to be on the same wavelength. I never have any idea of what they mean to each other. This isn’t even a developed friendship, let alone a romantic relationship.

I realize I accidentally make it sound like Lancelot and Guinevere have a romantic relationship in this book. They don’t. I don’t really know what they feel for each other in this book, tbh? I do think their relationship should have been WAY more fleshed out, whatever it is.

And what is up with how the story portrays Blanchefleur? She does literally nothing wrong in the legend that she’s in, from what I remember. Why is this story so bent on portraying her as an evil harpy? I believe I said this in my reading updates on Goodreads, and I’ll say it again: it’s not very feminist to turn a perfectly fine woman into a misogynist stereotype. I’ll admit I never paid Blanchefleur much mind before, but I love her now. I’m contractually obligated to love every mythological woman who gets portrayed in a shitty way for no reason.

Also, while I do definitely appreciate Brangien and Iseult’s relationship, I can’t help but feel like the story didn’t explore as many opportunities for diversity as it could have. Which is to say, STOP WRITING PALOMIDES OUT OF THE TRISTRAM AND ISEULT STORIES, DAMN IT. If Iseult can have a relationship with Brangien, why can’t Tristram have a relationship with Palomides? That’d be cute. I ship it. Palomides is suspiciously missing from a lot of retellings of Tristram and Iseult, despite the fact that he plays a prominent role in their story in the legends. He’s a Middle Eastern character, and I can’t help but wonder if that has something to do with him hardly ever showing up in retellings. Idk, it just doesn’t sit right with me.
And Gawain’s potential bisexuality hardly ever seems to get explored in mainstream retellings, either. This man made out with a faery knight. I’ve heard that at one point in the Lancelot-Grail cycle, he literally told Lancelot that he wished he were a pretty girl so that Lancelot would fall in love with him. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he’s straight. I wanted MORE from this character, but alas! He was doomed to be a bit-part role in this book. (For the record, I don’t think Lancelot’s straight in the legends, either. He and the half-giant knight Galehaut definitely had something going on)

(This is COMPLETELY off-topic, but speaking of queer retellings, I want someone to write the Guinevere/Iseult epic one of these days. They were such bros in Le Morte D’Arthur ❤ I have SO many ideas for Arthurian retellings that I’m never going to write. It’s getting worrying.)

And also?? Enby Lancelot seemed to be hinted at at some point in the first book (it’s been a while, but I remember she expressed discomfort with women’s clothing, and I seem to recall that Mordred referred to her as being in a grey area gender-wise), but it’s NEVER mentioned again in this one.

I’ll keep this part brief, because this review is already getting long, but the prose was pretty inconsistent. There were some parts that were legitimately really good, and a lot that…wasn’t. There was a LOT of telling instead of showing, and not in a particularly effective way. I also wish the worldbuilding had been better? I was super confused on how much fantasy!England diverged from real England. The setting never ended up feeling that real.

I know I’m complaining a lot, but I will say that the story was very cute. It was an entertaining read if I turned my brain off! I do like reading about Guinevere and the girls going on adventures! Mordred was also very cute and kept me from DNF-ing ❤ He’s the light of my life and the only reason I rated this more than two stars.

Something that a lot of medieval literature gets and a lot of modern retellings don’t: It’s actually kind of hard to make Arthur the most interesting character and if you can’t do that, PLEASE don’t make everything in the story revolve around him. Like I recently read a retelling from the point of view of freaking Elaine of Astolat that had her revolve around Arthur. Why would you do that. Why. (And when I say ‘read’, I mean read part of and didn’t finish. I’m going to try to finish it so I can review it on the blog, though.)

The Camelot Betrayal might be the one that finally gets me to sit down and finish a fanfic. Mordred and Guinevere were done so dirty by these books.

The Jolly Genre Jubilee Tag; in which I prove that I only ever write in one genre

Eheheh I already know how this is going to go (there’s no way I’m not answering fantasy to almost every question), but Kenzie’s post was so fun and I wanted to join in anyway? Why not? Talking about writing is easier than actually writing, anyway. I see no drawbacks here.

And yeah, I should probably address the elephant in the room. I took a long, unplanned hiatus. I’ve been having kind of a rough year, dealing with college burnout, depression, and two of my pets dying? The dog was expected even though it was really sad, because she was really old, but oh man I did not expect the horse. I loved that little man. He was a black Arabian who was an absolute drama queen. He was sometimes very mean (not to me though) and he loved going fast. I miss him.

Anyway, enough about sad stuff! I want to get back to blogging, because I do really like it, but I probably will do it intermittently without a consistent schedule? I want to gradually get back into it, though!

The rules

  • thank the blogger who tagged you, and leave a link back to their blog–Heh, I wasn’t tagged. I stole it off of Kenzie’s blog.
  • leave a link back to the creator of the tag >> (I mean, technically this bit is optional, but I’d really appreciate a link back, especially if you enjoyed the tag!)–Already done!
  • answer the questions honestly, and include at least one (1) gif of a pelican >> it’s in the rules, folks. you have to do it.
  • tag 3+ friends to do the tag on their own blogs! >> and make sure to give them cookies. because that’s always fun.–I will not be tagging anyone, as most of the people I follow are on hiatus right now?? And I’m barely posting either? 2021 has NOT been a good year for my blog feed, understandably.


What is your favorite genre of fiction to write?

Historical fantasy fairy tale retellings. I’m not actually much of a worldbuilding person, but I really like researching and writing historical time periods? I don’t hold myself to being super historically accurate, but it’s nice to have a historical framework to work with! (Although one of my personal pet peeves is when authors try to write about a social issue while having literally no idea about the era. I’ve read a lot of bad ‘feminist’ hist-fic and I hate it here.) And I love fairy tale retellings because I’ve always loved fairy tales in general and they’re so fun to reinterpret? And also plot is not my strong point lmao, so it’s nice to have something already in place to jump off of!

(If you’re wondering, I’ve always considered my strong point to be characterization, but it varies from story to story)

Okay, more specifically, fantasy that’s not super heavy on plot but rather is probably more character-driven, and then throw in some vaguely unsettling vibes. Creepy magic stuff going on. The house is probably sentient. Etc.

What genre would you NEVER get caught writing? . . .EVER.

I, an asexual who has literally never cared about sex outside of ‘oh look, it’s that thing that other people like doing!’, would never write erotica. And also I would never write hard sci-fi, like imagine being into science unironically?

This pelican doesn’t care about science. Neither should you.

(I’m kidding, I don’t understand science, but I respect the people who do.)

What fictional genre feels most like home to you?

Definitely fantasy. It’s what I grew up reading, and it’s what I grew up writing. It’s hard to explain the specific vibe, but I think it’s whatever Howl’s Moving Castle, Beauty by Robin Mckinley, and the Squire’s tale have in common? Those books were all pretty much my childhood.

In general, I’m not picky about fantasy subgenres, but I’d say my favorite is historical fantasy/historically-inspired fantasy (when it’s done well. I hate bad hist-fic so much.)

If you could transform your real life into any genre of your choosing, which would it be?

This is not a sane answer, but I’ll admit it’s really fun to imagine myself in some political intrigue fantasy or whatever. My personal daydream is being competent and having good social skills. Also Ladies of Grace Adieu got me into writing as a kid and I wouldn’t mind living in the world of those short stories? They were so whimsical and vaguely creepy.

(The prerequisite to me living in a story world, obviously, is that I am competent in ways that allow me to survive in my respective circumstances. I want to be the final girl, if you will.)

What genre does your real life most resemble at the moment?

Honestly, probably a fantasy about the fey. But like, a chill one, not whatever YA fairy books have going on lmao. I will not elaborate ❤

What’s a genre you’re interested in writing, even though you’ve never written it before?

I’ve only ever picked up a couple of superhero comics and I’ve read like…two novels about superheroes, but I’d like to write about them all the same? I have no plot bunnies currently though, lmao.

What genre is your most recent plot bunny, and where did it come from?

Arthuriana! I started reading an Arthurian retelling and got very mad lmao. It was called Half Sick of Shadows and it just. So many bad takes??? It didn’t really feel like an Arthurian retelling either, which…I kind of sympathize, because Arthuriana is very hard to write. Arthurian legends are absolutely sprawling and I feel like it’s hard to capture the absolutely chaotic feel within a normal-sized book? So then a lot of authors end up oversimplifying things until the book just feels like something else entirely.

But anyway! Enough ranting! The point is, I read a book I didn’t like and decided to get back into writing in the same genre! It’s from Morgan’s POV and has absolutely no plot ❤ It’s stressful to write even though it’s also a just-for-fun project because I’m fun like that! (And I wonder why I have so much trouble finishing stories…)

How many genres have you written thus far in your writing journey?

Uh. Probably quite a lot if you count subgenres?

  • Historical fantasy
  • Fairy tale retellings
  • Urban fantasy (yes I write urban fantasy. yes I still carry scars from the bad urban fantasy I read as a teen. We exist ❤ )
  • Vampires! Only ever short stories, but they are legitimately fun to write about if you wipe the bad memories of the Twilight copycats from your head
  • Arthuriana
  • Dystopia but we don’t talk about that one because it was really bad
  • Writing about Celtic fairies literally got me into writing
  • Historical fiction. I don’t write a lot of it, but I have written one or two short stories!
  • I’ve also written a short story about superheroes?
  • I’ve written mysteries if you count the halfhearted attempts when I was seven that I didn’t finish lmao
  • I’ve written contemporary sometimes! It’s not the genre I most commonly write in but I do really like attempting to make ordinary life feel magical? It’s very fun and nice?
  • I remember I wrote one flash fiction piece about aliens when I was fifteen

I can’t think of anything else but I’m quite possibly forgetting something.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my exhausted rambling! Please tell me about your favorite things to write and/or favorite plot bunnies in the comments, I want to know. Also, even though I didn’t tag anyone, feel free to steal it if you want!

Fantasy Fandom tag

So I had a wild week. First something very weird and probably magical happened to me (no, seriously, I walked into the campus gym and ended up in a completely different building and I’m pretty sure I was put under a glamour), I came out to my parents as nonbinary which did not go extremely well but I’m mostly okay, and my counselor told me I’m autistic and have ADHD (absolutely not the worst thing that’s happened to me this week and I’m pretty happy with this, actually!). But yeah, it’s been a lot.

Anyway, I got tagged by Jenelle to do a wonderful tag she created about fandoms!

  • What’s the first fandom you remember becoming a part of?

I read Fellowship of the Ring at age seven, which makes it my first novel! I don’t remember it being that hard for me, and my theory is that I read lots of saint stories written in a more literary style, so I already had a large vocabulary from that. Anyway, Lord of the Rings holds so much nostalgia for me, and Pippin is my favorite character and has so many ADHD vibes (yes I WILL celebrate finally going to a counselor by dumping all my headcanons on you)

  • What’s the newest fandom you’ve come to enjoy?

I legitimately have no idea. My fandoms all exist in some gelatinous space in my brain and I do not know when they enter or when they leave.

I’ve been watching a drama called Mr Queen lately though, and I’ve been enjoying it so far! It’s about a playboy who gets sent back in time to Joseon–but he’s in a girl’s body, and then things take a turn for the bisexual. I think it’s a remake of Go Princess Go?

  • What’s a fandom guaranteed to give you feels?

Untamed 😭 I really got into all the queer stuff with chivalric vibes at age 17. (If you know of any stories that fit this description, please! Rec me some stuff!) This story…It is epic fantasy, but it takes time to really get into the little stuff too. Like yes, Wei Wuxian is solving mysteries and trying his best to stop the Wen sect from taking over, but also Lan Zhan likes rabbits and that is also very important.

Anyway, the relationships set up in this story (not just the romantic ones!) are so well done and so beautiful and…

If I die, at least I will die by your hand, Hanguang-jun.

*SOBS FOR ETERNITY*

Also, Wei Wuxian has ADHD and Lan Zhan is autistic. I don’t make the rules. Like it’s not canon because they’re in ancient China but they REALLY feel like they’re coded that way to me.

  • What’s a guilty pleasure fandom of yours?

Pfft. I don’t have guilty pleasure fandoms. I don’t feel guilty about anything–

Okay, maybe I have one guilty pleasure fandom.

  • What’s the weirdest fandom you’ve heard of/are a part of?

I’m not going to get into the weirdest fandoms I’ve ever heard of, because that’s a conversation that would go on forever (probably Supernatural, though), but the weirdest fandoms I’m a part of is a conversation that would go on forever, too.

Let’s see, Untamed is obviously deeply weird (*coughTortoiseofSlaughterisagirlbosscough*), Twilight is deeply deeply weird, My Country is weird in that none of the writing decisions make sense but it somehow manages to hold together by the skin of its teeth, all of Arthuriana feels like it was written by people on shrooms…You get the picture.

  • Favorite popular/widely-known fandom?

…Probably Arthuriana? Not everyone knows the nitty-gritty details, but most people (in America, at least?) know SOMETHING about it.

  • Favorite bookish fandom?

I can’t make choices, send help!

The one that’s fresh on my mind is We Hunt the Flame, though, because I just finished the sequel and it was Very Good. It’s not a perfect book–some dumb stuff happens in places–but it’s so beautifully self-indulgent and the writing style is so good. People call Nasir the Prince of Death, because that’s not overdramatic at all. And let’s not forget Nasir’s slutty, perpetually done brother. This book has everything. Angst. Found family. Stupidity. I could go on.

  • What do you consider your ‘homebase’, a fandom you can always come back to?

Arthuriana, so much. I love those idiots and the absolutely insane things they go through.

But also probably Untamed. It feels so nostalgic for me, even though I only got into it a couple years ago.

  • What’s a fandom you know all about…but aren’t actually into it?

*slides you my essay-length posts on Every Popular YA Novel because I am a grinch*

No, seriously, I had negative hyperfixations on some of these books. (Does anyone else get that? Where it’s exactly like a hyperfixation but you hate the thing? It’s honestly annoying to experience.)

Oh, also Redwall when I was nine but let’s not talk about that.

REDWALL MADE THE FERRETS AND FOXES EVIL. HOW DARE THEY. ONE TIME A FOX CAME UP TO ME AND TRIED TO CUDDLE AND IT WAS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. REDWALL IS PRO-MICE PROPAGANDA. DON’T LISTEN TO IT. #FriendsNotVermin

  • Which fandom has the best characters?

i am dead

pls don’t ask me to make decisions

It’s Untamed. I will answer Untamed for every question and you can’t stop me

  • Name your all-time favorite ship.

Uhhh Wei Wuxian/Lan Zhan? Gawain/Lancelot? Hua Cheng/Xie Lian? Seon-ho/Hwi? Xuanji/Sifeng? Emma Woodhouse/Frank–(*gets shot by Jane Austen fans before I can finish the sentence*)

  • What’s a fandom you’re curious about joining?

The Gothic literature fandom seems like it really has it going on. I too want to fantasize about committing crimes against humanity and swanning around in medieval castles.

I tag:

Weez

I have no idea who all would be interested in doing this. If you’re interested, go ahead!

Of Notebooks and Love Letters–a whole COLLECTION of flash fiction (warning: it’s very long)

Greetings, ladies and gentlefolk! I have not been editing the stories I put online lately very much, so I’m sorry if this sucks please don’t kill me ahhhh

I realized I sometimes had trouble writing sapphic stories (@ internalized homophobia), so I wrote a ton of flash fiction in order to try and fix that! And they are all set in uni because I am in uni and it’s terrible! I also made picrews for most of my characters because I found a cute one. And then I made them all with different pride flag backgrounds because pride flags are pretty and I love stripes.

I’m kind of starting to come around to contemporary as a genre. Fantasy is still my favorite, but there is something about the romanticization of everyday life that I love. I do have a hard time finding contemporary stories that I like, but! There are a lot of great contemporary authors out there! And I have a hard time finding stories I like in general. Contemporary romance is honestly a pretty cute genre, and I feel like I’ve been kind of unfair to it in the past (internally, not on the blog).

Anyway, I got the list of prompts from a tumblr blog I stumbled across

  • prompt: “hey i’m late on our first day and oh no, the only free seat is next to you. wait do you have a pen?”
  • This has a swear word in it but I’m pretty sure that’s the only content in these?
  • Also, I love my absolutely bizarre descriptions. ‘handwriting like a 19th century scholar’s if that scholar were really drunk.’ I don’t know what tf that means but it made me laugh. so

The girl next to Miyeon yawned and stretched her arms out. The professor sent her a withering glare, which she answered with an off-center grin. “Sorry for being late,” she drawled, having come in twenty minutes after the start of class. She did not sound sorry at all.

She had wild red hair and dark eyes. She did not look like she gave a fuck about anything. Miyeon was not sure if she should be annoyed or in love.

“You have a pen?” the girl muttered. It took Miyeon a moment to realize she was talking to her. “I forgot mine. I forgot my entire bag, actually.” She was currently taking out a large stack of post-its from her pocket.

Miyeon blinked twice, suddenly not hearing the professor’s lecture on Latin verb endings. She took a pen out of her backpack, fumbling it twice, and slid the pen over to the girl, her ears slightly pink.

“Thanks,” she said, writing down her notes. Miyeon pushed down a smile.

A minute later, the girl slid a post-it note over. “You’re cute,” read the note, in impossibly scrawled handwriting.

Miyeon picked it up in her hands, unsure how to answer. Should she say that she wasn’t currently looking for a relationship? That wasn’t necessarily true, and moreover, would have been presumptuous. It was just a comment. Should she tell her that she thought the girl was cute too?

What’s your name?” Miyeon’s handwriting looked like that of a disaffected 19th century scholar, if that scholar was really drunk.

“Katherine. God. Call me Kate,” she muttered, looking up at the teacher to see if they had noticed them talking.

Miyeon smiled a bit. She tugged the post-it over and scrawled her phone number down. She supposed it wouldn’t hurt.

She turned toward the professor, determined to listen now, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kate give a quiet fist pump under the table.

  • prompt: “we got paired up for a presentation but we’ve never really spoken and you’re pretty nice despite what other people say”
  • Oh, wait, this one has another swear word. These are the only ones, though! I double-checked. This story was the hardest for me to write and also the one that veered the farthest away from the prompt
  • Okay I reread this and wtf is this you can tell i wrote it at like. 3 am

Deryn coughed as she slid into the seat beside Nehama. Nehama’s short black hair fell into her pale face as she stared at her phone with enthralled intensity. She was pretty. Or at least Deryn thought so. She had a soft spot for aquiline noses.

“They say you’ve gotten into a fist fight over ten pounds,” Deryn noted. “And that you’ve singlehandedly stolen the girls of half the men in our dorm. Of course, I don’t believe that one, because Simon is a fucking liar and I don’t believe the girls who would date the men in our dorm have half such good taste.”

Nehama looked up. “Well, you’re right there,” she said. To Deryn’s annoyance, she didn’t seem to register it as a compliment or flirtation, but rather as simple fact. “Tell Simon that his girlfriend is straight and he drove her away all by himself. Of course, I’m not saying I didn’t help.” A rather ferocious grin cut across her face. “In the form of advice,” she added, in response to Deryn’s raised eyebrow.

Deryn nodded slowly. Well, she had not denied the first one. “My roommate tried to tell me all about how you stole her microwave platter when she lived with you,” she said, a smile beginning to crack through her expressionless face. “I remain unsure what she was going on about.”

Nehama threw her head back in a sharp laugh. Deryn couldn’t help but laugh along with her. “She was a–” she paused, lost for words. “Strange. She was strange.” She looked down, almost seeming pensive. “Why are you telling me this?” she asked, her voice casual.

Deryn looked down. “I like to get a good idea of who I’m dealing with,” she said happily.

Nehama crossed her hands behind her head. “And do you have a good idea?” she asked. It was a challenge, but it was a playful challenge.

Deryn looked up at the ceiling, thinking for a minute, and then nodded. “An idiot,” she said. Nehama’s face slowly settled into a scowl. “I like stupid people,” Deryn protested. “Let’s get a coffee together sometime.”

Nehama leaned back slightly, opening her mouth and closing it again. “You mean—” she said finally. She didn’t respond for a moment.

“Yeah,” Deryn said. She crossed her arms. “You aren’t so bad. People are ridiculous. And I think you’re cute.”

“It’s not the weirdest way someone’s asked me out,” Nehama said, a reluctant smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “So sure.”

They shared a mutual, evil smile and returned to their respective tasks.

  • prompt: “so i totally didn’t spend that entire lecture doodling/on my phone and i had no clue what i was being taught pls help”
  • I literally love this one so much
  • The images are a little blurry but I give up, WordPress has defeated me

“Uh.” Gyeong-Suk coughed awkwardly.

“Go away,” Ha-Yun said. They sat on the floor in their apartment that smelled of mold. Ha-Yun’s brown hair was twisted up in a high bun, and she wore an over-sized sweater that she had sewn herself—a dusty pink sweater that she had copied from a 300 dollar one in a magazine.

Gyeong-Suk sat in the center of  a notebook circle, looking like she had been summoned from hell in a strange ritual. “Please,” she said. “The lecture was so boring. I couldn’t listen to it. It melted my ears.”

Ha-Yun rolled her eyes. “You were on your phone.”

“Eonni,” Gyeong-Suk said. “You’re so smart. Please let me read your notes.”

Ha-Yun hesitated and slid her the phone with her lecture notes. “I love you. You idiot.”

“Thanks so much,” she said. The full sentence finally hit her. “Oh.” She coughed. “I love you too,” she replied, blushing.

Ha-Yun bit back a sarcastic reply and a smile.

  • prompt: “it’s 3am and the library is pretty empty but you’re sat there stressing at your laptop, so i brought you a coffee and a bag of chips from the vending machine”
  • Are any libraries open after 3 am???
  • This was the first one where things just really clicked for me, which you can tell since it’s about 300 words longer than the other ones
  • I named a lot of these characters by randomly picking names from Nameberry

Kathleen bit her lip, deeply focused on whatever-it-was on her computer. Probably something for her organic chemistry class. She’d been ranting about that class the most lately.

Mahaila leaned her head into her hand, watching her. She could study Kathleen’s hands for hours. They were long and delicate and spidery, hands that belonged to a pianist or a craftsman. Kathleen’s skin was deep brown, and her eyes were large and expressive. She was the most beautiful girl Mahaila had ever seen, except for herself, of course.

She coughed slightly, but Kathleen didn’t so much as glance at her.

Mahaila was, in general, widely considered to be charming, both in platonic and romantic contexts. Sometimes, in fact, she could be a little too charming and create trouble for herself. It was a trait that had gotten her places, though, and she wouldn’t have traded it for the world—but she would have traded it for Kathleen. She didn’t think Kathleen had ever looked at her as anyone more than someone to study with.

She didn’t think Kathleen looked at most people as much more than someone to study with, but that didn’t take away the sting.

She sighed and shook her head, looking at her. No one else was in the library. It was now three in the morning, the windows pitch-black outside, and no one else was desperate enough for a grade or a friend to be here.

“You should sleep,” Mahaila said finally. “You’ll get better grades if you sleep.” She sent Kathleen a teasing smile that was lost on her, for Kathleen did not once look up from her notebook.

“You can if you want,” she said. Her voice was hoarse. She hesitated, her hand held in suspension above the page. “It’s not like I’ll be able to sleep anyway.” The statement was a raw admission of guilt, and Mahaila couldn’t for the life of her figure out what she’d just wandered into.

 “I think you can talk to doctors about that,” Mahaila ventured—

“Don’t have enough money.” There was no sound for a moment but the clatter of the keyboard.

“Oh,” Mahaila muttered. She stood up and stretched. Well, at least she could do something for the poor fool. She wandered outside to the library entrance and got a coffee from the vending machine. She came back and placed it next to Kathleen’s keyboard.

Their hands brushed. Mahaila froze. Kathleen jerked back, too. Mahaila wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad one.

She decided to pretend it hadn’t happened, and Kathleen seemed determined to do that, as well. “What are you majoring in?” she asked.

“Astrophysics. You?”

Mahaila looked down to hide a smile. “Nothing half so difficult,” she said. “Although it is hard, I guess. Literature.”

They didn’t speak for the rest of the night, but it was enough. It turned into a ritual for them, over the next week. They stayed up late at the library. Mahaila brought Kathleen a coffee when she started to look too tired or frustrated. Mahaila pulled one small conversation from Kathleen each time. Kathleen liked foxes. Kathleen could spend hours staring at the stars. Kathleen could be a bit spiteful. Kathleen was wonderful.

“My chemistry project’s almost done,” Kathleen said carefully one morning, taking a sip from her coffee.

Mahaila glanced up, her gaze guarded. “Oh, really?” she asked. She attempted a smile. “Congratulations.”

Kathleen nodded and thumbed through her notes. The morning sun streamed through the window. “So I guess I won’t be coming here as often,” she muttered. Mahaila fancied she sounded disappointed.

“I guess not,” Mahaila said, subdued.

Kathleen stared intently at the floor. Her eyes had never been as expressive as they were now. She looked flooded, overwhelmed. “I don’t want to finish my project,” she said finally.

Mahaila chuckled to herself. “Weirdo,” she teased, shaking her head.

“No, that’s not true,” Kathleen said. A frown creased her forehead. “I want to finish my project. I don’t want to stop spending time with you.”

Mahaila’s breath caught. She looked up and stared. Had they finally become…friends?

“I never thought I’d feel this way for anyone. There hasn’t ever been anyone I wanted to spend this much time with.”

Mahaila flicked her eyes upward and prayed for patience.

“I want to spend…a lot of time with you,” Kathleen said, her voice as raw as when she confessed that she could not sleep. “Mahaila, do you want…do you want to get a coffee together after class?”

Mahaila took a moment to gather herself together. “Are you…asking me out?” she said, before she could think better of it. Of all possible outcomes, she hadn’t expected this.

“I guess,” Kathleen said, her voice suddenly watery. “I’m asexual. That doesn’t matter, does it?” She stared up at her. Mahaila couldn’t help but feel her soul was being dissected.

“Of course not, of course not.” She waved her hands. “I’d like to get a coffee together.”

They stared at each other for a moment, both of them fragile and unsteady. They sat down. But now Mahaila sat next to her, and they did not flinch away from each other when their hands touched.

  • prompt: “you came over to hang out but i fell asleep while you were playing video games and two hours later you’re still here”
  • personally, i think this story is pretty cute

Bahira woke up with a start and rubbed her eyes. “Dreamed I failed all my college coursework,” she muttered. She took a moment to orient herself. She was on the couch. The leak on the ceiling was still dripping into a bucket—an old emergency, already taken care of. Clanging came from the general direction of the kitchen. That was new. She should probably check that out. She sat up.

Someone was humming loudly and offkey. If someone had broken into her house yet again, Bahira was going to commit crimes. She grabbed a broom from beside the door and slammed the door open. The person in her kitchen dropped a pot lid with a yelp.

“Oh, it’s you.” Bahira’s shoulders slumped in relief. “You haven’t left yet?”

Finian shrugged. “Did you want me to?” She stirred the pot, which currently contained unidentifiable brown stuff. It didn’t smell too good.

Finian was a fat girl, with apricot-colored short hair and fair skin. She was beautiful, a god in a dingy apartment with a flickering lightbulb. Bahira’s lips quirked.

“Of course I want you to stay,” Bahira said with a yawn. “But I thought you would have gotten bored and gone home. I’ve been asleep for a while.” She checked her watch. “Two hours.”

“I got kind of caught up in the video game,” Finian admitted. “I wanted to make you dinner before I left. Sometimes you forget.”

Bahira nodded. That was true. She was not, however, looking forward to Finian’s cooking. “I’m sure your dinner will be wonderful,” she said.

“Mm-hm.”

Bahira leaned back in her chair, staring at the dying lightbulb until she had spots in her vision. She hated to bring things up and disturb the peace. She hated to let things stay as they are and rot.

“You like me, don’t you?”

Finian’s hand slipped on her spoon. She cursed, nearly dropping it. “Of course I like you,” she said comfortingly.

“I mean like like,” she said. Oh, she might as well say it. She didn’t move a muscle. “Love.”

“Uh—” Finian was starting to sound more and more panicked, and Bahira cursed herself for bringing it up. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess I do.”

Bahira blinked several times. She told herself it was to get the spots out of her vision. “I—I like you too,” she said, her voice quiet. “I guess.”

“I mean, we always knew, right?” Finian asked. She started to spoon the glop into a bowl. She paused, looking at the floor. “Let’s start seeing each other,” she said in a rush. “Make it official or something.”

“That sounds like a good idea to me too.” Bahira reminded herself to breathe.

She’d eat Finian’s cooking every day of her life if it meant that Finian would be there every day of her life. She’d give anything for her.

Finian cracked a smile. “That—That’s wonderful.”

  • prompt: “wow my lecture sucked ass, i’m stressed asf and here we are at the on campus bar at 11:59am waiting to buy a drink because it’s been that kind of a day already”
  • haha i accidentally put in a lot of my feelings about college and dysphoria and made this way too personal oops haha
  • I’m lowkey regretting my decision to mostly not edit these

Cole slumped onto the seat beside Abigail, downing her margarita before saying anything. The bar was dead quiet aside from the occasional clink of a glass from the employees. The lighting was dim. Cole nestled into a corner. It was a perfect place to hide.

“Bad day, huh?” Abigail asked with a quirk of her lips.

Cole grimaced. Everything felt uncomfortable. Her name, her clothes, people’s perception of her. “Kinda,” she said. She shook her drink around, enjoying how the ice clinked together. “Nothing makes sense.”

“Nothing ever makes sense,” Abigail said comfortingly. She chewed on her lip, considering her. “This is probably a bad time to bring up…what I wanted to, then.” She coughed.

Abigail showing any sort of foresight was rare, so Cole made sure to thank her. They sat still in silence that grew heavier the longer it went on.

“Look—” They finally both said.

“You can go first,” Cole said.

Abigail waved her hand at her in a motion to continue. Cole sighed and rubbed her forehead. She didn’t really want to explain…anything.

“I don’t feel like a guy,” she muttered. “I don’t get it. I’ve started referring to myself as a girl just because it makes me feel better. My teachers suck. I’ve been barely able to stay on top of my homework and now more is just piling up. I literally hate it and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to graduate.” She took a deep breath. “Sorry. What were you going to say?”

Abigail opened her mouth, changed her mind, and took a long sip of her beer. “That’s a lot. So you’re trans?”

Cole had never really thought of herself that way. “Yeah, I guess.” She shifted, stretching out her legs. There was a squirming sensation in her stomach. “This is like when I found out I was asexual because I accidentally clicked a Wikipedia link,” she muttered. “Except more painful.”

“How come you wouldn’t be able to graduate?” Abigail sank into her seat and leaned forward, looking like she was resisting temptation to grab Cole and physically shake answers from her.

“Well, I don’t…” Cole scratched her ear. “I don’t know,” she admitted.

Abigail nodded, hanging onto her every word.

“I guess I kind of exaggerated that part to myself,” Cole said, coughing.

“Do you still like the name Cole?” she asked.

“Uh…” Cole hated having to make snap decisions. “I guess,” she said. “I might change it later, but…” She shrugged. “It’s fine.”

Abigail patted her hand. “If you have problems with your homework, I can help,” she said. “I’m not as busy this semester.”

Soft jazz music came on the radio.

“Thanks,” Cole muttered. “So what were you going to tell me?”

A pink flush spread over Abigail’s cheeks. “Well, uh…” She coughed loudly. “It’s fine, I can tell you later.”

Cole tilted her head almost imperceptibly.

“Well, I was going to ask you out,” she admitted. “I always pick the worst timing on these things. One time I asked a guy out and it turned out his dog had died that morning. It was the worst experience of my life.”

Cole almost cracked a smile. “If you’re interested in girls, I’ll accept,” she said.

Abigail laughed. “Honey, I’m bi as—” She coughed. She’d said a little while back that she’d been trying to cut back on swearing, but she rarely followed through on those kinds of things. “AF,” she said instead. There was room for all things to change.

Cole gave her a fistbump. “I like having a girlfriend,” she said, with a smile. “Thanks for helping me get things worked out.”

“I like having a girlfriend too,” Abigail said, with an absolutely devoted smile. “You’re welcome.”

Hopefully this wasn’t too terrible! I don’t really mind showing my practice stuff, though

My sister refused to read through my stories before I posted them, so I’m cyberbullying her now. [Edit: I meant to edit this sentence out, I–oops]

Beautiful Brown Eyes–a fairy tale

I come to you today with a beautiful West African folktale! This one is a tale from the Yoruba people. I found it from this book called African-American Folktales For Young Readers, in case you wanted to read more. I haven’t read it all yet, but I really liked this fairy tale!

A girl with beautiful brown eyes lived beside a river in Benin. Every boy who saw those eyes was sure to fall a little bit in love, and the old folk in her village often talked among themselves about who she would marry, and what beautiful children she would surely have.* But when she grew up, everyone had more on their mind than her marriage. A drought had struck the village, withering the plants and drying the river. The hot sun beat down upon the earth, and there was no water to be found except for small muddy pools where the river had been.

*(As a side note, it always annoys me when old people do that. WHAT IF SHE GROWS UP TO BE A LESBIAN, CHARLES.)

The girl made many trips back and forth from the river, carrying water that saved the lives of the villagers. She always seemed to find more water than everyone else, but it was only because she was so dutiful and resourceful. But the drought continued, and eventually, even she could find no water to bring home. She sat down in the dry riverbed and began to weep.

Her tear hit the ground, and out of her tear came a fish.

The fish had beautiful dark eyes. “Give me your jar, and I will fill it for you,” he told her.

She was frightened at first, of course, but the fish’s voice was gentle and kind, and she had no other choice. She lowered the jar in front of him. The fish put his mouth to the opening of the jar, and spewed clear, sparkling water into it. The girl could hardly believe her luck.

The people at her village wanted to know where she had gotten such clear water, but she didn’t tell them, because she did not think they would believe her. Which, yeah, can’t say I’d blame them. This story is a drug trip and I love it. It’s a very beautiful drug trip.

She came to the fish for water the next day, and the next, until a week had passed. The fish had a gentle voice, and beautiful, colorful scales that reflected the bright light of the sun. She grew to love the fish, for his kindness as well as his beauty. And so the girl became the bride of the fish.

Yeah, the real horror of reading fairy tales is finding out your ancestors were all furries. ALL of them. They all sat around the fire and told stories about some boy with a beautiful seal-wife, or a girl with a fish-husband. I do not know for the life of me why this is such a common fairy tale trope, but it is.

I, for one, am supportive of fish-husband!

The girl’s parents were as in the dark about how she was getting the water as anyone else. They sent her youngest brother to follow her down to the river in secret. As he watched her from his hiding place, the girl got the water from the fish as always, and bent down to give the fish a kiss. The brother slipped away and told his parents what he had seen. The parents were angry, because now there would be no wedding, and the village would consider her an outcast. Additionally, the village might ostracize her family, as well, because apparently fish aren’t considered to be respectable in-laws. Who knew.

Okay. Okay this is hilarious. You live in a rural area where everyone knows each other and whenever something big happens, people talk about it for a while, you know? Anyway, you’re just peaceably living your life when suddenly, out of nowhere, you get eternally labeled as ‘that guy who’s daughter married a fish.’ I don’t know how I’d show my face again.

Anyway, the parents decide to take matters into their own hands. Of course, since they’re parents in a fairy tale, they do this in the most traumatizing way possible. They stopped the daughter from going down to the river, and sent the brother instead. The brother took a knife and a jar, carrying the jar the same way that the women did. When the fish came up out of the mud, the brother stabbed him. He took the fish’s body back home and gave it to his father, and the father tossed the body at the daughter’s feet. To the dad’s credit, the story does say that he thought the fish was an evil spirit. But still! That was her husband! Put some thought into how she must feel!

Also, like…the fish was providing the village with water, so exactly how evil a spirit are we talking here

The daughter took the fish in her hands and carried it through the village and down to the riverside. And so she stood in the empty riverbed and wept. As the tears ran down her face, the riverbed began to fill, until the water was up to her waist and the currents tore through, sending her skirts billowing. But still she cried, until the water rose over her head, and she drowned in the river. But instead of sinking to the bottom, she was transformed into a water lily, and all the water lilies in the river are her descendants.

Anyway, the moral of this story is to not come between your daughter and her furry lifestyle

I’m kidding, I think it’s a beautiful story and I love how brave the heroine is. I guess you could interpret the ending as a suicide, but I think you can also interpret it as her sacrificing herself to save the same people who killed her husband, and that’s kind of how I prefer to interpret it? She just comes across as a loving, kind person who honestly deserves better. I really like her.

Birthdays–A short story

So I had an awful week. First I see some super acephobic stuff on Goodreads (seriously be normal, people, it costs you literally nothing) and then right after that I found out that a bunch of far-right people broke into the capitol, with the encouragement of our president (it costs people NOTHING to be normal, but here we are). Currently I would like to live anywhere except America.

The Uyghurs are currently undergoing a cultural genocide in China, so here’s some a Tumblr post about that. It lines up with what I know, and includes some ways to help, too.

Anyway, this is just a short story I wrote about a girl and her brother, set in Joseon. It was mostly written as a way to use the phrase ‘war criminal husband.’ Hopefully you like it. I dunno if it’s good or not. It was mildly inspired by a drama I watched, My Country, but it’s absolutely its own thing. I got the idea from a prompt.

Text reads, "you kidnapped me."
"Course I did, It's your birthday. No fun unless I ruin it."
"Dad didn't remember."
Yeah, they were well aware of that  fact.
From the-modern-typewriter.tumblr.com

I let out a long, long sigh and slumped down onto the ground, my skirts spilling around me. Dirt smudged the yellow silk. It would be murder for the servants to clean. If the skirt was ruined, I was killing my brother.

The trees blazed with color above me, red and green and yellow. The forest smelled of the sweet scent of damp earth and greenery. The tension eased from my shoulders. Anything was better than being stuck in my house. I was still murdering him.

“How’s the war criminal husband?” I asked him. It was a low blow. He deserved it.

Beom-Seok waved his hands. “He is neither a war criminal nor my husband,” he assured me. “All I wanted is to spend time with my sister on her birthday. I didn’t come here to get attacked like this.” He crossed his arms and tilted his head, giving me a look that suggested I was being unreasonable.

“You kidnapped me, orabeoni.” My voice contained immeasurable disappointment. “And he’s not your husband? I guess you must have just eloped with yourself.” I glared daggers at him. What kind of idiot did he take me for?

Beom-Seok sat down next to me, stretching out his legs. He threw an arm around my shoulders. I wanted to shake it off, but decided against it. “Would it be your birthday if I didn’t ruin it?” he asked. “And yes, my war criminal husband is doing just fine,” he added with a sigh.

I looked at my hands. “Father didn’t remember,” I said, too quickly. “His servant had to remind him.” I coughed.

I didn’t have to say it, I guess. We both already knew that Father would not care. That was the real reason why Beom-Seok did something stupid on each of my birthdays. But he’d never do the stupid thing I wanted him to do, which was come home. Father would probably refuse to see him if he tried, but sometimes I still almost resented him. I was not able to leave, and Beom-Seok was not able to come back.

The wind blew through the trees, creating a whistling sound. I paid attention to that, instead.

“Yes, well.” Beom-Seok coughed, too. “He’s always like that, isn’t he.” It wasn’t a question. He fumbled with his sleeves, looking for something to do with his hands. “I brought soju!” he remembered. He produced the bottle. “Does this make up for accosting you in the street?” He cast me a teasing smile.

“No,” I said, grabbing the bottle. I downed the contents, savoring the sting the alcohol left in the back of my throat.

“The idea was that we would share it,” he said patiently. I wiped my mouth and shrugged. He sighed.

I shook my head. “You can tell your husband he’s now my favorite family member by default.” Not that my other family members made that extremely hard. I scowled at the bottle.

“I’m sure he’ll like that very much,” Beom-Seok said, patting my shoulder. “How was your birthday? Before the kidnapping,” he added before I could say something else sarcastic.

“Boring,” I said. My fingers dug into the damp dirt. I looked away.

“I imagine so,” he said drily. “You never seem terribly disappointed to see me despite all your harsh words, Ye-Won.”

I let out a little laugh and rubbed the back of my neck. “Maybe not,” I admitted.

He squeezed my shoulders in an approximation of a hug. “Let’s go to town,” he said. “We’ll think of something to do there.”

“What will I tell father?” I asked, wrinkling my nose. “I don’t know what he’ll do if he knows I met you. He’ll either jump for joy or die of apoplexy.”

“Probably die of apoplexy,” he murmured. He grinned at me. “You are a very good liar, sister. You’ll think of something.”

I nodded and stood up, brushing off my skirts. “Let’s go see a play. Or go to a gibang,” I said with a wink.
“I’m not going to a gibang with my sister,” he told me, rolling his eyes. He gave me a hand as we walked down the hillside. I ignored it. “Let’s go get something to eat.” He patted my braid.

I wished Beom-Seok would come home, eat dinner with our family, make up with father. I wished everything in our family could go back to normal. But until that happened, this was the next best thing.

I hope the rest of 2021 goes better, lmao. There’s no harm in hoping. So, while I’m doing this, I hope that the story wasn’t terrible, and I hope that it might have made some small part of your day better. All this may be too much to possibly hope for, but that’s the point

A roundup of all the books I’ve read this year 😱

In which I write mini-reviews.

You know how, despite loving books and writing a lot, I don’t tend to actually…read a lot? I can’t remember the last time I read more than twelve books in a year. Well, y’all. This year I read THIRTY-SEVEN BOOKS, according to Goodreads. I know that’s not a lot compared to some of you freaks superheroes who are out here reading 200 books a year, but it’s still way more than I usually read and I’m really happy about that! Getting an overdrive account allowed me to read SO many more books than I usually do. I have a feeling I’m not going to be able to keep it up next year, what with college and all, so…RIP my reading streak lmao. (Also I don’t think people who read 200 books a year are freaks, I’m just simultaneously impressed and jealous XD)

We Hunt the Flame, by Hafsah Faizal–Hafsah Faizal really said ‘f*ck it’ and wrote a self-indulgent hurt-comfort Assassin’s Creed fic that was the best thing I’ve ever read. She’s a wizard. Also STOP HURTING NASIR YOU’RE SO MEAN AHHH. This is the kind of book I wish I could write. I love fictional men in pain.

Muse of Nightmares, by Laini Taylor–*long, long sigh* Full review here.

The Guinevere Deception, by Kiersten White–Mordred deserved better. And Guinevere, light of my life, my queen, deserved a personality. Also Arthur sucked. The book kind of felt like it was jumping from plot point to plot point without bothering to connect them? Lancelot and Brangien were super cool, though! Full review here. I had fun reading it, but I probably wouldn’t read it again unless I was bored.

House of Salt and Sorrows, by Erin A. Craig–The character development wasn’t too great, and it wasn’t that memorable–also, a dead sister should have WAY more effect on the characters, please don’t use dead women as plot devices–but the setting and monsters were uber cool, so we’re still good.

Song of the Crimson Flower, by Julie C. Dao–🥺 So cute…So soft…The setting is amazing and the descriptions are so vivid!10/10 would live in this world. The characters are adorable. Anyway, y’all should all go read this. It’s set in the same world as some of the author’s other books, but it’s a standalone.

The Story of Hong Gil-Dong–Y’all are sleeping on this Korean classic. It’s kind of like Robin Hood? It’s VERY fun. And also pretty short.

Sorcery of Thorns, by Margaret Rogerson–A reread! I love this book so much. It has the same tone and feel to it that a lot of the books I grew up with had, so this fills me with nostalgia even though I only read it last year.

Tian Guan Ci Fu, by Mo Xiang Tongxiu–MY FAVORITE BOOK EVER. I READ IT IN A WEEK EVEN THOUGH IT’S LONGER THAN THE BIBLE APPARENTLY. NO I HAVE NOT READ THE BIBLE COVER TO COVER YET. (I am a bad Christian.)

This book is everything. It has a demon king who would burn the world for his loved ones but will content himself with fixing his loved one’s house and complimenting his bad cooking because he knows his loved one doesn’t want to burn down the world. It has a god who has seen the worst of humanity and been through the lowest misfortune and still chooses to do the right thing anyway. The world-building is so creative. The side characters are amazing. IT’S SO GOOD YOU HAVE TO READ IT. GO DO IT NOW, YOU CAN FIND FAN-TRANSLATIONS ONLINE. IN FACT LET ME LINK YOU THE ONES I READ. The translation I read was split into two parts.

The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo–I found this kind of forgettable, but it’s true that contemporary is not my genre, so take my opinions with a grain of salt. The abusive mom was forgiven way too easily, though. While I admire the effort it must have taken to write the story in verse, I think it would have worked way better in prose. The poetry created too much of a distance from the reader. Full review here.

Thorn, by Intisar Khanani–Not the best book I ever read, but pretty fun! I haven’t read a lot of Goose Girl retellings, and I liked what this did with the story. Full review here.

Ash, by Malinda Lo–This was disappointment in a book. Needed more lesbian fairies. 0/10. Full review here.

Avalon High, by Meg Cabot–This book enraged me. Yes I’m aware I hateread it and thus brought it on myself but it was so worse than I expected. I can’t encompass the breadth of my rage in a brief paragraph, so please see my review for my thoughts.

Into the Grey, by Margaret Killjoy–yeah this is a short story, but I’m including this here because I can! It was great. Carnivorous mermaid girlfriends are the best girlfriends. Also probably the first honest-to-God trans rep I’ve come across? (Don’t quote me on that.)

Lullaby for a Lost World, by Aliette de Bodard–another short story. This one was wild! Pretty fun though.

The Kingdom of Back, by Marie Lu–This one disappointed me so much. Nannerl kept making stupid decisions, the pacing SUCKED, and did I mention that Nannerl kept making stupid decisions? Did someone take her brain and replace it with a brick? Also, I’m not docking any points for this and I didn’t mention it in my review, but there’s a lot of speculation on whether or not Wolfgang was autistic and it wouldn’t kill you to write him as autistic. You know what I’m saying? Full review here.

Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar WildeWilde did it again, folks! I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did, but I was almost in tears by the end. So good. Also I went to AO3 to see if there were any OT3 fics about Lord Windermere, Lady Windermere, and Darlington and there WEREN’T. Internet I have never been so disappointed in thee.

Tales of India–a book of fairy tales. The illustrations were great and I loved the stories! 10/10.

We Should All be Feminists, by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie–So I will preface this by saying that I think the author might be a TERF? People were saying she was, at least, and I couldn’t really get to the bottom of it? But this book was still pretty good and I think you should read it. It’s short, to the point, and reasonable. The writing is really good. [Edit: Adichie said JK Rowling’s essay was reasonable, apparently? Which, I don’t know if we read the same essay, because bitch, where? Ma’am, I’m not a lesbian in denial desperately looking for straight acceptance, I’m a whole bi-ace enby. Leave me alone.]

The Lightest, Heaviest Things, by Weez Phillips–A sweet middle-grade about a young mentally-ill girl saving the giants in her hometown! It was really whimsical and charming. Full review here.

Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge–A reread! This book is legit hilarious. The relationships are all toxic, but it kind of seems more self-aware than a lot of YA, so I forgive it. I like toxic relationships as long as I don’t get the impression that the author thinks everything’s adorable and fluffy, you know? (To an extent, at least. It can be kind of hard to handle.) And I really like heroines who make hard decisions and aren’t always the most sympathetic. This is probably my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling, to be honest, although Beauty by Robin Mckinley is a close runner-up of course

The Art of Feeling, by Laura Tims— …

…One of my favorite reads this year was a contemporary????

No, seriously. This might be my favorite book ever. I think it’s because stuff actually happens. Like the main characters have to deal with bullies and the heroine’s drug dealer high school ex-friend is out to get them both. This book is HILARIOUS too, which helps. The characters are so good 😳 It also has great mental illness rep and both main characters are disabled, and–drum roll, please–ace representation that is actually really good! (fucking FINALLY.) Sam, the heroine, has a bad leg after a car accident and needs crutches, and Eliot, the hero, has a rare condition where he can’t feel pain, which sounds really great until you think about it and realize exactly what that would mean. (as in, he literally can’t tell when he’s injured himself and needs medical attention.) This book was so good. I swear I could read it over and over. Anyway, my full review

The Boy Who Steals Houses, by C.G. Drews–I loved the writing style! Really poetic and descriptive. I could have used a better ending and more of the hero’s brother, though. Also the heroine just felt…weirdly not 3d. And for the last time, I have no idea why I’m supposed to think Sam is so in the wrong for beating up the guys who harassed his autistic brother. We might not be able to go after the people who are mean to our siblings, but anyone would want to, and isn’t the joy of characters that they can do the things we want to do with little to no consequences? Full review here.

A Match Made in Mehendi, by Nandini Bajpai–This was dumb but so CUTE. I’m not linking my review because I wrote it right after class (which was a mistake) and I’m mildly ashamed of it.

A Good Man is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor–This was wild. Wow.

An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson–Another reread! This is such a comfort book for me 😭 I love it so much. One of the rare fairy YA books that really does it for me. Full review here.

With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo–I KNEW I would like Acevedo’s non-poetry stuff better. This was so good. Slight magical realism vibes? Just slightly? It’s about a girl who wants to become a chef and is raising her little daughter. I didn’t want to read it at first because I thought it was going to be a depressing book about the Hard Life of Teen Moms Living in Poverty (which is a valid book to write, but it’s 2020, you know, and I can’t do that right now), but this was actually really uplifting.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder, by Sara Barnard–This was okay! It’s a contemporary romance about a girl with selective mutism and a deaf boy. I missed the fact that it was a romance when I picked up, though, and there is way too much sex and kissing for my comfort. (They. Are. Teens. I am asexual. And also they are teens. There are several reasons I do NOT want to read that.) Full review here.

The Dark Lord Clementine, by Sarah Jean Horowitz–So cute 🥺 I do wish certain adult characters had been called out more on their actions, but I think they aren’t because it’s from the perspective of a child. As in, you don’t realize how messed up that is until you’re older. The child characters and the sheep are adorable, though, and the magic is really creative! I love stories about characters who are trying to be villains.

The Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee–This blew me away. I’ve never read anything like it before. It’s SO good. Full review here.

Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia–Meh. A ton of really good ideas ruined by poor pacing and underdeveloped characters. And WHY were the villain’s motivations hidden for 3/4ths of the novel. That was such a bad choice. If I have to hear how dumb and evil Martin is ONE more time I am going to bash my head into a wall. That being said, I loved the ending and Loray. Loray is my aesthetic encompassed in a character. Full review here.

Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia–I loved the ideas of GOJAS, even though it wasn’t perfect, so I thought that, surely, I would love her other books that she might have fleshed out more. And then I got hit in the face with *&#$* mushrooms.

I’m sorry, did I wander into a Star Trek episode? Is this where I ended up? This isn’t as fun as Star Trek, though. I need my Spock. My Uhura. My McCoy. At least the hero and the villains were more fleshed out then in GOJAS. I actually really like Francis, the hero. I just wish this hadn’t tried to take such a ridiculous plot so very seriously. If you’re going to go camp, then go camp. Don’t try to be artistic about it.

A Modest Proposal, by Jonathon Swift–I read this for school when I was exhausted, so I feel it isn’t fair of me to speak ill of it. I’m pretty sure I got a good grade on the paper, though! yaaay

Maimonides, by Ilil Arbel–a biography of Maimonides, a medieval Jewish scholar. This was really fun to read! I felt like I learned a lot.

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor–I wasn’t thrilled with this, but it was okay. Full review here.

I’m not going to get into my life because ahahaha. But at least my reading year was pretty fun! I hope I keep it up.

Candlelight–a short story

Hello, please enjoy this traumatized superhero Hanukkah story that I’m posting a day after Hanukkah is over, oops! Happy late Hanukkah. I don’t celebrate it, but I think it’s a really cool holiday.

Also I didn’t edit this story at all *cue deranged laughter*

Lucia leaned her head into Ezra’s shoulder, his wool sweater scratching against her cheek. He glanced down at her with an awkward smile and went back to sipping his hot cocoa.

The Christmas tree lights sparkled in the dim living room, and a lit menorah stood in the window—they celebrated both holidays, since she was a Christian and he a Jew. Warmth from the heater washed over them both. They sat together on the green couch, enjoying the rare moment of peace, one where Ezra did not have to be out fighting and where she was off work.

Or at least, they tried to. Ezra could not ease the tension from his shoulders, and she could barely breathe, sure that something was going to ruin the moment. Some supervillain was going to bash in the windows. He was going to get a text from his supervisor again. Or she was simply going to open her mouth and walk right into one of his triggers, and he would struggle to remember to breathe the whole night.

She leaned back. He copied her. Nothing was going to happen. They would be fine.

“I don’t really know how to do this,” he said, his voice quiet and hoarse. “Celebrating Hanukkah with my wife sounds easy, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” she agreed, studying the little bumps and knobs in the ceiling. “It does sound easy.” She shifted to better accommodate him. “A lot of things aren’t as easy for us as they should be. And it’s not our fault.”

He shrugged, munching a latke with his eyes closed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “This isn’t what you were expecting holidays to be like when you married me.”

“This is exactly what I expected,” she protested. “Ezra, I love you. I wouldn’t have married anyone else for the world.”

A smile tugged at the corners of his lips. “I love you too, Lucia,” he said.

“Then that’s all we need to celebrate Hanukkah. We’ll figure the rest out from there.”

She closed her eyes and leaned against his chest. This was peace. This was them, alone, away from the world and its prying eyes. Ezra’s heart, still functioning, beating away in his chest. She was still here, too. And whatever everyone else had taken from them, they had not been able to take their love for each other.

“I’m having a great Hanukkah,” she said, and it was true.

“I’m glad. I—I am too,” he said in surprise. He rested his hand on her head and exhaled.

They might not be there for next year, but they were here for this one.

Tell me what you think! Also this story is under 500 words. I’m usually so wordy.

Ramblings on writing outside your identity and how people approach Ownvoices fiction–a discussion post I guess

Hopefully this won’t get me cancelled. Heh.

Before I get started, I want to say that the Ownvoices label has done a lot for promoting marginalized authors and I really appreciate that! A lot of people (including people who are like me) wouldn’t have anywhere near the same amount of publishing opportunities if not for the efforts of people who promote these books. I’m really happy about the push for diversity in the book world over the last 10 years.

Also, I was inspired to write this post by Fadwa’s post on the Ownvoices label, and you should probably read her post instead. I know for a fact her post is better than mine is going to be. >.<

The way certain people approach non-marginalized authors writing marginalized main characters is really condescending towards marginalized people, in my opinion. Yeah that last sentence was a mouthful.

I don’t know, it’s one thing to feel that you’re not in the right place to write a main character with a different identity from yours at this point in time. It’s another to say that NO ONE could get inside the head of someone of a different identity unless the writer was part of those groups to begin with. I find it a kind of dehumanizing take. It can’t be that hard to use research and imagination to fill in the blanks, right? Marginalized people aren’t some eldritch beings beyond ‘normal’ people’s comprehension. That’s ridiculous. And yeah, a lot of people do have some unintentionally–or, God forbid, intentionally–dehumanizing takes when they write marginalized characters, but I don’t think the answer is to say that no unmarginalized people should write main characters who are minorities.

Funnily enough, I don’t see anyone seriously saying that male authors shouldn’t write female main characters, even though women both face discrimination and are often poorly written by hapless/creepy male writers. Maybe it’s because white women aren’t viewed as inherently other and they’re seen as more human, so it doesn’t really occur to someone that male writers would have a hard time getting inside a woman’s head, even though clearly they sometimes do. Just a thought, I’m not sure if I’m correct. Anyway, male writers SHOULD write female characters, but they should just not be idiots about it. There’s a spicy, controversial take for you. /s

On the other end of the spectrum, though, there are people who talk like this because they’re genuinely tired of being misrepresented, and I get it, but still. The take that people who aren’t mentally ill and queer will NEVER get what it’s like to be me makes me pretty uncomfortable. I gotta say though, white, straight, able-bodied people telling other white, straight, able-bodied people why they shouldn’t write diverse main characters will never not make me irritated. Sorry.

It takes research, empathy, and self-examination, but I think it’s definitely possible to tell a story with a character who has a radically different experience from yours. Come on. I want all the stories about mentally ill queers like myself, and if certain people feel like they ‘shouldn’t’ out of misplaced moral obligation, then I won’t get all the stories! Just do your research! (In fact, maybe I should do a post on writing queer characters one of these days. It’s a big topic, though.)

Some people argue that you’d be taking up space from a marginalized author in the publishing industry, because publishers have quotas for how many diverse books they put out each year. That’s probably a really complex topic and I don’t know a lot about publishing, but I will say that that sounds more like our responsibility as consumers to hold publishers accountable? We need to support Ownvoices books, absolutely. But I don’t get why that’s on authors to not write certain books? The publishing industry being mostly white and straight, discrimination marginalized authors face because of that, and publishing quotas sound like problems that require a more complex solution than telling authors not to write outside their identity. But again, I’m not an expert on publishing by any means. I can’t really tell you what the solution should be.

But again! You, personally, do not have to write a diverse story if you aren’t in the right headspace for it. But don’t assume that no one is in the right headspace. And also, um…if you DO write outside your own experience, please, please do your research and use your brain. This isn’t your endorsement to go out and regurgitate problematic tropes straight out of the 19th century.

Also, to be honest, I’m kind of confused on how the Ownvoices label would even work for me personally?? For context, I’m an agender biromantic asexual, which is a lot of words to say that most characters I write are only going to be a part of my identity and not the whole. If I write a female or a male bisexual character, is that Ownvoices?? But the experience of a guy or a gal who experiences sexual attraction is going to be way different than me, a not-guy-or-gal who does not experience sexual attraction. I don’t know, I’m just confused. Am I overthinking this? Probably?

As far as characters who don’t share my identity at all, such as non-white characters, I can’t say if I do the best job with them or anything, but I can say that I don’t regret writing those characters and writing them taught me a lot. so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Yes, Ownvoices books are most likely going to do the representation better than someone outside the community can. (I say most likely because I’ve heard of some wild-sounding Ownvoices books that maybe shouldn’t have seen the light of day. Those aren’t incredibly common, though, at least to my knowledge.) But that doesn’t mean people outside the community shouldn’t even try. Some of my favorite queer books were written by people who probably weren’t queer. And yeah, the books weren’t totally unproblematic, but I didn’t mind! The authors did a decent enough job and wrote REALLY fun stories. In the end, that’s all that matters.

And now for a different topic that Lais talked about way better here but I still wanted to complain about it a little bit myself

Ownvoices books aren’t supposed to necessarily represent you personally–actually, scratch that, diverse books aren’t necessarily supposed to represent you personally. (In similarly related news, I wish I could unread certain reviews.) I cannot begin to elaborate how weird it is when Goodreads reviewers complain about an asexual character being ‘problematic’ because the character isn’t Every Asexual, and I read their complaints, and…

The character is like me??? I’m a sex-repulsed asexual without a, you know, libido (no, seriously. There was a time when I literally did not know what sexual attraction was and thought it was a scam). I find faces aesthetically attractive but not abs. None of that makes a character problematic or means the author ‘didn’t do their research.’ Just because you don’t relate to one character because their experience is different from your similar experience doesn’t make the character problematic!! Why do we put pressure on authors to tell Every Asexual Experience and not on publishers to publish more stories with asexual characters? No book can tell Every Chinese Experience or Every Queer Experience, and authors–especially Ownvoices authors–shouldn’t have that burden put on them.

I don’t know, I just find it kind of hurtful when people call me a problematic asexual character. But also deeply funny. Anyway, it is such an alienating experience to read certain reviews.

On a serious note, let’s not speculate on authors’ identities just because they wrote something we didn’t like, and by that I mean stop assuming authors are straight and then getting in their face for writing queer fiction. Oh, and just a fun story: One time, on Twitter–a place I try not to frequent very often–I saw a debate going on about whether closeted authors could write queer characters, because (step one) closeted authors take advantage of straight privilege to (step two) get a book deal, and (step three) trick queer people into throwing their money at them, thereby (step four) profiting off of queer money. I just about lost it.

It can also get pretty hairy when someone (okay, white queers) approaches a book with an intersectional protagonist (read: a non-white queer) and thinks it’s going to represent them personally, and then gets really mad when it doesn’t. A ton of people have already discussed this topic in depth, so I won’t go into it too much, but. Like. Please figure out when a character is actually problematic and when they’re just different from you. I am begging you.

(God, now I’ve given myself a crisis that I am Every Reviewer that Annoys Me. I am, aren’t I. Oh no. I’ll be right back I’m just working some things out)

Oh, and one more thing

Writing Ownvoices stories is really hard and sometimes you just aren’t in the right place for it. That’s fine, honestly. You shouldn’t feel any responsibility to portray characters like you if you don’t want to. And you might be in the right space for it later! I say all this because I felt like I needed to write queer characters when I was dealing with a lot of internalized homophobia and, while I’m glad I did write those characters because I think they helped me, I also shouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself. The queer characters I write now are legitimately fun for me to write, which means I’m in a better place 🙂

So, I don’t know, tell me your thoughts on these topics. If you want.

This post is literally incomprehensible, my God. I’m totally going to get cancelled because of this.