I just got back from my cruise–a very long day yesterday flying back! Anyway, I ran across this article this morning on “sensitivity reader” to look for offensive content and was horrified that the industry is doing this.
It’s a form of censorship, plain and simple.
It starts with the simple thing of avoiding stereotypes, which sounds reasonable.
And there is a problem with that. Most of it, in my opinion, comes from the media. The news tends to focus on what sells and that often crosses into stereotype territory. Films, TV, and even commercials tend to use stereotypes as a shortcut because of time limitations. If you were, say, a soldier in an all-male company and grew up without any sisters, you might think the images of women being helpless victims on every TV show are true.
However, let’s suppose I create a nasty individual–character’s well-drawn and the motivations for the nastiness is obvious in the context of the story. It’s even something that’s the heart of the story. And maybe I decide to make the character a woman.
Enter sensitivity reader, who gets offended that I made this woman such a nasty person and publisher tells me I need to change the character. Yet, if I’d done the character as a male, no one would had noticed any problems. That’s just plain wrong.
People can be offended at pretty much anything. Maybe I get offended because someone mentions rabbits. Does that mean writers should jump and change their rabbits to cats because one person is offended at rabbits?
I grew up watching Star Trek, the original one, when it went into syndication. There was something magical about it, seeing a woman on the bridge in an important position. As good science fiction does, it slipped in issues that could be brought up in the context of a fictional futuristic story. And it pushed a lot of boundaries that made people uncomfortable (especially judging from Gene Roddenberry’s battles with the network). But suppose a sensitivity viewer said that Uhura’s mini-skirt was offensive and GR’s response was to change the character to male?
I know the sensitivity reader idea has good intentions, but it takes control of the story away from the writer. It takes away our ability to push boundaries that need to be pushed.
Time in stories was the subject of an Odyssey online conference. I hadn’t really thought of time before, at least not until I started putting light into every scene.
When I was in Desert Storm, time was strange. We didn’t have weekends off, so it was get up each morning, have formation, go to work. It was hard to keep track of what day it was because the war interrupted the natural pacing of a normal week. It also had the effect of making time seem like it was really long even though it was only five months.
From the writing side, time starts out as a function of setting and setting is interpreted by characters, so that’s also characterization. Even my real life Desert Storm time was a function of where I was (a war) and how I was interpreting everything around me.
When I added light to the story in some way, it immediately anchored a specific time. A character is turning in for the night, or starts out on a mission as the sun rises.
But then there’s also the feel of the setting, like if you’re outside and the sun is rising, it will get hotter as the day gets later and then the character gets all sweaty. I remember in Desert Storm, during the hottest part of the day, we would all retreat to the tents and try not to move too much.
Or walking on the beach during summer and seeing the sharply cut shadows of myself sprawl across the beach. Of course, that’s also seasonal time, since shadows don’t act the same in winter.
Then there’s food. Meals are a great way to show time. Breakfast makes it obvious it’s morning. I’ve seen some books where a character is a prisoner and they have no sense of time because the meals are served irregularly. Or they identify it as a frame of reference for time.
How about the type of meal? Turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie sets its own time of the year.
The Editor’s Blog had this interesting bit about how aware we are of time:
People are almost always aware of time in their daily lives—time of day or month or year; time in relation to a job or task that needs to be completed; time in terms of religious holidays or seasons; stages of life such as infancy or teenage years, school years, years of fertility, and old age; era, such as the Roaring Twenties or Regency England or the frontier years on Mordant Five; or time as it relates to anticipation of either a dreaded or an eagerly anticipated event.
It’s both a simple and a complex topic, depending on how it’s used.
Hope Delgado has only one goal: to be an old woman. But the ghosts have other ideas. When Galactic Command comes calling with an offer–a bracelet to block the ghosts–she realizes that it might save her life. But GALCOM wants her to travel in space to another planet to fix a ghost problem that is threatening the population. To save her life, Hope must do the one thing doesn’t want to do. Things are never fair, and it’s about to get worse …
Available from your favorite booksellers including Amazon.
The Marines Corps has some growing pains with regards to women living with the men in the field. Any one of the military services are notorious for being slow to change, and this particular change is pretty glacial.
“You’re going to have sex, you’re going to have love, you’re going to have relationships, and it’s going to overly complicate the command structure,” Marine veteran, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, told the Marine Corps Times.
Army was doing what the Marine Corps is fighting at least twenty-five years ago. When I deployed with my unit to Desert Storm, our platoon stayed together in one tent. Two women, the rest men (don’t recall how many, but it was not more than eight). It did not destroy the morale of our platoon, and we did have sex. It did not complicate anything. We just put up cloth walls for privacy, which everyone did, because there wasn’t a whole lot of privacy to start with.
Eventually, as we got more women assigned the unit from the inactive reserves, then we split off into two women only tents. The other woman and I were disappointed; it was much better being with our platoon.
Yes, we did have some issues with soldiers having sex and one who got pregnant–but it wasn’t because they were living in the same tent. It was because we were there under very stressful circumstances and also because we were there for a long time. It’s one part of the war experience that military tends to pretty much pretend like it doesn’t exist, then blame the women for being there, as if only one person was responsible not the stressful situation.
Uniform changes are always hard for the military personnel. It was something we wore every day, so a little change could be a big impact. We got the black beret at tail end of my time in service. The thing was awful. The previous hat was cotton and could be tossed in the wash when it got sweaty from work; the new one had to be dry cleaned. The new one also cost $40–do you know how easy it is to lose a hat?
This particular change the Navy did was bizarre. They wanted the all the sailors to look alike, so they declared everyone would have one uniform–with the default being the male uniform.
Which means with some women, they will have to be several sizes up and do some major alternations. And the Navy has a lot of different uniforms–they have the white one we’re used to seeing and its winter black companion; the camo uniform; the work uniform–all with different hats as well.
Not all women have the same shape, so some alterations are always necessary, even with regular clothes. But changing clothing made for a man’s body to fit for a woman’s body–that’s at least one, maybe two major alterations–on four different uniforms, each with multiple sets.
I spent $25 to have darts put on a shirt so it would fit me better. That was a minor alteration. Even though the enlisted get a stipend (Army was clothing allowance), I wouldn’t be surprised if it only covered the cost of buying the uniforms, not on alterations.
It also amazes me that the men are complaining that the women are being treated as special for asking for clothes that fit and don’t require extensive alterations.
Disclaimer: No political comments! Any political comments will be deleted.
The Inauguration is Washington, DC’s big party. The city fills up with people from all over and it’s a lot of pomp and ceremony. We’ve had hotels in the area booked up all this week and next week, at least as far out as Quantico.
One of the things that was pretty cool was when the new President reviewed the troops. I’ve been in parades before. When I was in the Army, it was nothing like the parades in downtown DC, which have far more spectacle and better uniforms.
The ones I was in were on the Fort Lewis parade field, which was a big grassy field around a mile all the way around. The uniform was the battle dress uniform.
We’d go out the day before and practice, because there was some special drill and ceremonies that were associated with it. Drill and ceremonies involves certain types of marching moves.
In this case, we had to do two wagon wheel pivots, with the soldiers closest to the edge of the field being the spoke. As we pass the viewing stand (bleachers in our case), the sergeant yells out “Eyes! Right!”
Snap! Our heads all turn to the right, facing that viewing stand until we pass.
I never saw much when I was in the parade beyond the person in front of me. So it was pretty cool to see the military review as they passed in front of the Capitol’s steps. If you see the footage again on the news, watch the heads of the soldiers as they pass. You’ll see very clearly that their heads are turned towards the President in an “Eyes! Right!”
My father sent this to me. It’s a camera inside the cockpit of one of the Blue Angels. Some stunning footage!
This video has celebrities identifying their favorite captains. Despite the number of series, it was primarily between Kirk and Picard, which an occasional Janewaway.
I like both Kirk and Picard, but for different reasons. Kirk fits the original series, and is very much of the cowboy era from when the show spawned. Picard is more thoughtful, ore educated, and fits how the next show was.
The other captains …
Meh. I want to like Janeaway. She’s the first woman captain lead on Star Trek for a show that has an unfortunate track record of leaving the women in the background. BBC’s been showing Voyager, and I’m struggling to stay involved in it. The scripts aren’t that good. The show might have suffered from the finding their way home premise. But also I think the writers struggled with how to do a woman captain. Janeaway was never consistent–she was either too hard, or too emotional.
And I get it’s tough to have a woman in command and write the character in a way that works. So many of the traits needed to be in command don’t come off as well with a woman (which is what women CEOs struggle with). I worked with a powerful woman, and frankly, most people did not like her and said worse behind her back. But we all respected her and her knowledge. And we did get occasional peaks inside the armor.
It might be that Janeaway shouldn’t have been on the screen as much and had another character–not necessarily the first officer–to balance her out. Hmm. This is where Star Trek’s lack of enlisted comes into play. That would have been a perfect fit for a Chief of the Spaceship senior enlisted to bring out Janeway’s the better traits to the audience. A senior chief could do something like this because he or she would have a lot of experience, probably as much as a Navy captain; whereas, it would be more difficult for a lower-ranking officer to do it.
Andrew Vaughn had a series of questions relating to productivity that I answered here. I know one of them is not a surprise to the people here, but I still get people (and in fact earlier this week) who are like, “Wait? You were in the Army.”
Yeah, that comes from being the least likely to join the Army …
I’m working on a scene in the next book in my GALCOM series (the first is Crying Planet, coming out this month). The main character is a civilian contractor recruited by the military because she can see ghosts. So she is serving on this big spaceship, the only civilian there.
And the subject of orders comes up. Most of everyone’s experience with orders is probably seeing Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation bark, “And that’s an order!” (or probably any movie with military officers), or soldiers answering “Yes, sir” like robots to a command they are told.
It is a such a different experience in the military from the civilian. If I got a cold, I can call my boss and tell him I’m not coming in because I’m sick (and he would probably be happy that I wasn’t there to give it to him). But when I was in the military, my only option was to go to Sick Call. If the doctor, or more likely medic for a cold, said I was fine, he would tell me to return to duty. If I was really sick, like with a virus, they might give me “quarters,” which are orders from a doctor that say “Stay in bed for 24 hours.”
But it does look strange to the civilian because they have the choice of deciding while the military does not.
It’s all in the military mission. We train with the expectation of going to war. That’s the daily life of the military. War is where orders become very important. Orders work hand in hand with the chain of command (that’s the officers) and the NCO Support Channel (that’s the sergeants). They will be in communication with other companies and battalions to know what’s going on. For example, they might know that artillery is going to be fired in a particular area and to keep soldiers out of that area. Obviously, me as the lower enlisted, am not going to know anything about that. Nor would I need to.
Because the leadership has this additional knowledge though, they are the ones who give us the orders. And if something goes wrong, they are also the ones who will give us new orders.
War situations cannot ever have a too many chief problem.
It’s chaotic and stressful to start with, so it needs one unified voice, and that’s how orders fit in.
This morning, we have rain, and it will be turning into sleet and snow later in the day. Kind of wimpy rain, considering what it’s supposed to turn into. Anything ice strikes terror in Washington, DC. because we’re such a commuter town.
By the way, Wednesday it was 72 (no, that’s not a typo). Any bets on what it will be like on January 20?
All the hotels are booked way out to Quantico at least, which is about 30 miles (and probably a 2 hour drive to downtown during rush hour). I was trying to help someone book a hotel, and nothing was available. I told her to start calling around because there might be cancellations, so hopefully she gets a room and not too far away.
New Things in Writing
This week, David Farland had three tips on writing on the senses, which is an advance level skill. Part 3 talked around something I hadn’t thought about: Light.
Non-appeals. The worst kind of non-appeal occurs when you simply neglect to show us something. For example, let’s say that you start a story and your character goes outside his house. You as a writer might imagine that it is dark, but you’ve never told the reader that it is night time. So when your character gets mugged and can’t describe his attacker, the reader might be confused. (This happens quite often in stories. Always let us know what the light source is in every scene.)
So something new to play with in the story!