Well, instead of packing for my summer vacation, or something.

I went to a protest thing.

I blabbed about it at twitter, and I managed to get it to thread more or less correctly I think, so I will just link the top of that. At some point I will figure out how to get there to be twitter autopost things here, I hear it's possible but I do not know hoooowwwwwwwwww.

Anyway, the link is https://twitter.com/kiya_nicoll/status/896902155470127105
kiya: (pondering)
( Aug. 13th, 2017 10:51 am)
Travel plan sorting, notes for self.

Mostly only interesting to me )

Mirrored from Kiya Nicoll.

I’m working on this story.

I have… nine tabs of reference material open, assuming I haven’t lost some somewhere, all of them about real-world culture and organization of the Marines (both US and Royal). That’s not counting the brief things I have opened, researched, and closed (“How would a Marine address their Navy corpsman?”).

Or the other things I’ve had open. Common world surnames, say, that’s one I keep having to pull up every time I get another speaking part. The aliens’ names are easier, there are only two of them in the platoon, and I can just make something up that’s in accord with their vocal apparatus. Trying to reach out for names that paint the suggestion that there’s a broad world full of human beings that contribute in the subtext, though, that requires some actual thought. And some thought, because just snagging ‘most common surname’ by continent or something is still lazy. Just a slightly broader lazy than before. But if the worldbuilding wants to include breadth of humanity it has to actually show it in the interstitial bits.

And then there’s more overtly political questions. I sit with this story, this story that I’m trying to root in a particular military experience, while proclamations are being made about trans people in the military, and I go, “… is there someone trans in this platoon?” Because that’s as conscious a decision as having women in the platoon, as having names for people that reach beyond European standards, and the odds are good that someone like Karou the hyenoid alien does not exist but I am damn sure that Chelsea Manning does. It’s easy to just grab the easy names, the assumed genders, the just-like-every-other-story bits, easy and lazy and anyway if it’s just like every other story why am I sitting and writing it in the first place?

And it goes on. Trying to articulate a plausible Space Marine ethos means spending a bit of time sitting with actual Marine expressions to try to figure out how that would translate, how to include it, how to express it in the story without sitting down and doing the “This Is What It Means” talk from people who are busy with their actual mission. It means coming up with story twists and angles that will let that actually show, rather than remain entirely invisible underneath the events. Which isn’t a different writing problem than questions of human diversity at all – it’s all about how to take the things that are true in the storyworld and make them visible and plausible.

I did a little mini-tweet-thread about this question of breadth of humanity, mostly talking about Cracked Pots, the novel in progress, but it holds here too. My gods, it’s full of PEOPLE. And figuring out the people means figuring out the things, the details that make them all real. All the effort into the little telling details and right moments.

This particular story is capped at 5000 words for the market I’m writing for.

Longer stories produce… notably more tabs.

kiya: (pondering)
( Jul. 7th, 2017 03:50 am)

Mirrored from Kiya Nicoll.

I wish I had more writing news, but it’s been hard to write lately for a variety of reasons, which means that it’s hard to have anything to say about how the writing is going. Instead, I’ve been doing a variety of other things, which include thinking about something of the nature of my relationship with writing, and with the communities that orbit around the sort of writing that I do.

Some of it comes down to upbringing – I was, after all, raised in part by the sort of parent who would read Tolkien to me, and whose shelves of various fiction were there for the raiding. (Sometimes illicit raiding on my part. I was, unfortunately, rather hard on books, and would occasionally have nicking them to read forbidden to me.) I was steeped rather thoroughly in a variety of forms of fantastic fiction when I was young – and I did not entirely comprehend the common markings of genre. Everything was strange people in unfamiliar surroundings to me, whether it was hobbits or the importance of having a chicken on the Mushroom Planet or Dr. Doolittle talking to animals or defecting Russian submarines or… well, I spent a long time wondering as a kid if the Black Spot was some sort of fatal curse of a magical nature, because the idea of the fantastic in my more or less otherwise realistically framed story was not implausible.

The world is a complicated sort of place, after all.

That same person who taught me the love of books would also be the one who introduced me to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – no, not the books, the radio series; who would pop a batch of popcorn and sit on the floor with that and some Dr. Pepper so we could chant “Cheap special effects!” at episodes of Doctor Who together; who talked about playing a version Space War with one of the members of the Grateful Dead. That he also knew people who could speak Sindarin was part and parcel of all these other things.

I’m of the console game generation, though my relationship with them is… complex. But my one actual encounter with a G*Gate sympathiser (he was not blatant about it, but the thrust was pretty obvious) ended in him slinking away in silence when he realised that I, an assigned-female type person, had been playing vidyagames since, I am guessing, before he was born. At the very least he didn’t have anything to contribute once I took the conversation sideways to talk about my old Atari system. (I was waxing something about Joust, and I’m guessing it put me a pixel above him and he turned into an egg.) All that rhetoric about how maybe women just weren’t involved in that sort of gamer thing sort of started looking silly.

I read. I wrote. I did all these things. But I also learned character arcs from Star Trek: the Next Generation, started thinking about the way language, culture, and species interacted from listening to Marc Okrand talk about Klingons, and did a whole lot of rummaging through the nature of story and how they go together from Infocom games and Myst. It’s all threaded through each other, and it connects up to other things.

I’m thinking, in the end, I’ll be doing some writing here about some of that. Not least because I just spent a while modding the heck out of RimWorld and am now pondering the shape of story in there.

Still need to work on Amber Eyes, which will probably wind up being a visual novel, unless I change my mind again.

kiya: (jade)
( Jun. 19th, 2017 10:43 pm)
It would be nice to work, but mostly I'm too depressed to do much more than listlessly flip through my Steam library and conclude that nothing is worth playing.

Fuck my defective brain chemistry.

(Also it is too hot and even if I weren't depressed I would be unfunctional.)

Mirrored from Kiya Nicoll.

When I write out of sequence things don’t always come out right and a lot of it is wasted work, but this bit was in my head so hard I had to write it down. And it’s wee, so I might as well post it as a maybe-teaser or something.

“You can get away with one thing outside of the expected,” said Constance, and then amended, with a slightly narrowed-eyed look at Margaret’s face, “maybe two, if you are lucky, and very, very skilled.” When it seemed there would be no immediate response, she gestured with the hand that was not holding the teacup. “Take a woman as a lover. Become a scientist. Marry a poor man you love rather than a rich man with prospects.” She grinned. “Become a beaconmaster in your own right, your own name. But you must pick one.”

Margaret frowned slightly. “But why?”

“Because one thing makes you eccentric, makes you curious, makes you interesting. It will make people gossip about you at parties, it will make people seek you out for your particular expertise and insight about some things.”

“But why only one?”

“Because with two, you will become scandalous; three, unsavoury; four, perverted. The further away from the expected you go, the more perilous it is. Consider [name].”

Margaret stared into her tea for a long moment. “All right,” she said.

Constance raised her eyebrows. “He liked to… push at social expectation in his art. Satire, cutting wit, the pursuit of pleasures as an aesthete. Sometimes to the extent that it pushed the scandalous, rather than the merely interesting. His feminine manner went the rest of the way to scandal for most, and into unsavoury for some. His choice in lovers….”

“Unsavoury,” said Margaret, quietly, “and some would say perverted.”

“Precisely,” said Constance.

Margaret swallowed and changed the subject. “What do you get away with, then, if you can only choose one or two things?”

Constance waited for her to meet her gaze, and said, “Being black.”

Mirrored from Suns In Her Branches | Kiya Nicoll.

Thiess the Livonian Werewolf had a very straightforward Hell to invade: a physically accessible place, located beyond a watery passage to the underworld (which seems likely to me to be a survival of something related to the Slavic myths of Veles, in which the chthonic cattle-lord god is ruler of the waters, and who, post-Christianisation, was partially recast as a Devil figure). It contained stolen things – field fertility, cattle blessings, and so on – which could be retrieved for the good of the community. (And indeed the earlier court conflict which made Thiess’s werewolfing more known in his village seems to have raised his status, possibly because people recognised him as someone who would go to great lengths for the common good.) For all that it was framed in Christian terms, it was not theologised in a Christian form – it was a thieves’ den staffed by the enemies of God, not otherwise made more complex with matters of sin, punishment, or even damnation. The nuances of orthodox theology were lost on Thiess, who claimed not to understand them.

It is less clear in what I know of this narrative what the Devil’s sorcerers got out of their end of the deal. Access to the food and resources stolen from the collective, perhaps, or magical powers inaccessible to ordinary folk – presaging, perhaps, the capitalist-imperial model in which certain forms of wealth and power render one immune to consequences. A guess might be that the sorcerers wished to be removed from the risks of community – when the collective status rose or fell, they did not wish to be bound to the same fate as others, and would make whatever deals it took to protect themselves and their families.

It is quite likely that they felt that those stored-up supplies were rightfully theirs – after all, they worked to bring the grain to harvest as well. Crop failure wasn’t fair, and wouldn’t anyone do what it takes to stave off starvation? “You wouldn’t want to see my children waste away, would you?” they might say. Security, certainty, the preservation of life itself, those were worth a deal with the Devil, who was, after all, only building a granary.

Perhaps the werewolves seemed to them the one on the Devil’s side. “I’ve done everything I can to protect my own, and here come these thieves in the night. They steal cattle and tear them apart to fund their burglary, they venture into the granary I helped build, they take the seed that I helped put there….” You can see it, right?

Here’s the interesting trick to it: regardless of whether or not I would place each of those people among the Devil’s partisans, all of them are opposed to this theological concept of Hell, this place into which the essentialities of life vanish and leave people bereft. For the most part, people have worked to close the gates of the Hell that they understand. Some may do it out of concern for whole communities, a more expansive care; others may do it to secure a better place for themselves, their families, because being able to provide for others gives them status and security, or whatever else. But the Devil’s party and those who steal back from them, whichever political faction one aligns with them, are agreed that their communities need food and there must be mechanisms to attain that end.

Hold that thought. (And I’m going to put a cut there, because this is going to get gigantic, I can already tell.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from Suns In Her Branches | Kiya Nicoll.

Once upon a time, existential threats were fairly clear and easy to see. Crop failure, disease, and war were clear and distinct, and joined by Death as riders of the apocalypse. They were obvious, inarguable. The forces that drove those happenings seemed part beyond human comprehension, but they also clearly had mortal allies, who could aggravate the problem or possibly even summon the supernatural to initiate the damage.

The case of the Livonian Werewolf is thus clearly responsive to that clear-cut world: there were evils, with human allies, who were acting to cause famine, and which could be opposed by mortal action. That action was direct, to the point, and necessary, because if the counter-actions were not taken, those evils would succeed unopposed.

“Ordinarily, [they went to Hell] three times: during the night of Pentecost, on Midsummer’s Night, and on St Lucia’s Night; as far as the first two nights were concerned, they did not go exactly during those nights, but more when the grain was properly blooming, because it is at the time the seeds are forming that the sorcerers spirit away the blessing and take it to hell, and it is then that the werewolves take it upon themselves to bring it back out again.”
The original trial record, 1691, as quoted in Duerr, 1985. (pulled from the Thiess of Kaltenbrun Wikipedia entry

Thiess’s cosmology, according to his testimony, was one in which the Devil and his sorcerous minions would steal away the very breath of life that blessed the grain and squirrel it away in Hell. Unless someone went in after it, defeated the guardians thereof, and retrieved the seeds from Hell, there would be no grain harvest, and there would be famine. (Thiess, prior to his more famous trial, was on the record at one point accusing a man of a neighboring village of breaking his nose while he was attempting to retrieve crops from Hell. The judges laughed him out of court, but did confirm his nose had been broken.)

At his later trial, the judges asked rather predictable and familiar sorts of questions. They could not conceive of someone going to Hell willingly without being allied with the Devil, no matter how many times Thiess explained that he was going where the fight was and, for that matter, where the stolen property (the field fertility) was stashed. Eventually they determined that in addition to his werewolfing, he did folk magic healings that were insufficiently Christian, which was enough to have him punished without having to resolve the baffling question of “How can a man go into evil’s lair without himself being allied with evil?”

To Thiess, famine was local. The enemies, too, were local, persons known or knowable, or the local conditions of weather which could be imagined as the sorcerous influence of the Devil and his minions. It might be within the realm of the possible that if the Devil were thwarted one place but not another that the famine could be partially alleviated, but that was hardly to be counted on. Everything was present in a fundamentally tangible, comprehensible form.

Of course, now famine is rather less local, in at least a substantial part of the world. If I go to my grocery store, I can find peppers from Mexico, greens from California, lamb from New Zealand (in season, at least). If the crops fail in one place, the flow brings them to me from somewhere else, at least in theory. In practice, Famine operates on a more abstract scale than it used to: Famine is the shadow of the way global climate change destabilises weather patterns, making predictable agriculture much more marginal, much more treacherous. And where Famine stalks, War follows, battles over water and access to that trade that would stave off Famine. And so it continues – much the same as it ever was, but under increasingly baroque levels of abstraction and distance.

It is that much harder to imagine that a small group of people could foray into Hell and bring back enough of what was stolen to save their village from doom. The Devil’s party is not a sorceror living in the next town over who could, in theory, be hit with a stick, but a powerful shadow in a corporate boardroom, confident in the knowledge that if someone were to hit him with a stick that person would be imprisoned, leaving him safe to let the Horsemen of the Apocalypse loose because they can be leveraged for profit.

It seems to me that a lot of pagan yearnings for a simpler time come down to a sort of constructed nostalgia for a place where, even if things were hard, the problems were simpler: will the crops succeed or fail? Is the person contributing to ruining everything someone one could identify and hit in the face with a stick? There is a lot of Agricultural Festivals Turning The Wheel talk and not a lot of addressing the ways in which the world has changed.

It is hard to hit carbon emissions in the face with a stick. All of the things at the scale of individual action are a drop in the bucket of what is going wrong, and are simultaneously used to construct a shame culture around “Are you doing ENOUGH?” with things that physically cannot be enough and provide things that keep people busy enough that nobody ventures into Hell.

Because venturing into Hell leaves you tainted. You went there.

But there, in Hell, is where the seeds are.

Nostalgia for a simpler time cannot make the present less complex. But we can, perhaps, find tools there and learn how to adapt those, too. Reconstruction – that idea that we can find those tools and give them meaning now – is not a process for artificial simplicity, but a process of recovering what was lost. Perhaps it is not lost in Hell, but it is lost somewhere, and needs to be retrieved.

Even if we cannot save ourselves by fetching out the blessings of our neighbors’ literal fields, we can still work to save ourselves.

The gates of Hell are no longer simple; their technologies have changed with the times. We cannot go under the water and across the way and find the gates open or closed. Hell’s gates are many and varied, now, lurking in corporate boardrooms and the halls of government and swirling cesspits on the internet. Tactics are more complex now. But the matter remains: the blessings of the world are enough for us all, but what belongs to the community as a whole has been stolen and stored up in Hell. We will have to build larger things, to breach those iron doors, where once a single wolf could wriggle through, but that does not mean that it cannot be done: those new walls were built by human hands as well.

And we know, from Thiess’s testimony, from his experience, that even people who believe in Hell will not believe in this fight. That they will laugh, and look for some way to get rid of us. And we know from now that casting healing charms, too, has evolved into a vast panoply of improprieties and deviances that can serve to have us flogged and banished.

We know that we will have to be shapeshifters, taking on new forms, looking at the world in new ways. We will have to walk perilous roads. We may have to answer for the cattle we eat to sustain us on our paths. We will have to keep handfuls of salt about us.

We know that the fight is metaphysical, that there is an ineffable essence we are seeking. That we are battling over what truth is, how the world itself can be seen. But we know that the fight, also, is real, tangible, conducted in the seen and material world, and that when we fight, we risk being hurt. We may die. Some of us certainly will.

And we know that if we don’t fight, we will die. All of us. Whether or not we believe that Hell is real and needs to be stormed to force it to give back what it has taken.

kiya: (uu)
( Jun. 5th, 2017 04:20 pm)

Mirrored from Suns In Her Branches | Kiya Nicoll.

If one chases the chain of causation far enough back, it was OWL that made me a UU.

I didn’t go through it myself; I have, however, had long and complicated ruminations about the state of sex education and the ways in which it (or rather its lack) contributed to other things. And I have a friend who was an OWL teacher, and who journaled the experience.

And I thought, “When I have kids, I want to find a UU church, so they can have this thing.”

Which feeling only intensified because Oldest is AFAB.

When I got past the initial exhaustion of the new baby, I started looking for nearby UU churches, figuring it was better to become a part of a congregation early on. I did a search for Welcoming churches and found two nearby. One of them stated on their site that they were primarily a Christian and Jewish congregation; the other was… rather broader in population, from what they said, and put an emphasis on a music program.

And given that I was not precisely raised Methodist, I do appreciate a good music program.

So I went there, to see what it was like, and I never felt the need to look anywhere else. I wasn’t always reliable about making it there because of my sleep pattern issues, but I went, I wallflowered, I felt comfortable. And every time I went, the sermon felt relevant, and real, and connected, and it was good to be able to go somewhere where other people were doing much of the heavy lifting for religious stuff.

Of course, then we moved, some half hour away from church, and that ten minute drive was now a whole lot longer and harder to manage, and we had another kid we were wrangling, and time passed. I kept muttering I needed to get back there, and I kept not doing it.

Then Oldest started asking philosophical and religious questions. Oldest who would come in and point out ritual candles and proclaim, “You put fire on it!” when she was a preschooler, now asking things like “What is a god?”

I gave up one of my precious days for sleeping in to recover from having to be up in the week and I started taking them back there. Because I may not be able to do it for me, but I could do it for them – not just Oldest, but I asked Second about ‘church school’ and got an enthusiastic “YEAH!”

So we went back, starting a year ago, and it was either our first or second service there that was Religious Education Sunday. And we talked about it afterwards, how the kids were running things, talking about what they’d learned, and asked if they would like to be involved with that.

We were regulars through the summer break, too, and then they were formally enrolled in Religious Education. They did things with UU (and Unitarian, and Universalist) heroes and famous people, they did a unit on race and racism that I made damn sure to get them to over the winter, even the Sunday I had an accidental medication overdose and spent the service literally lying down in a corner of the balcony trying not to whimper, they studied environmental things this spring.

A few weeks ago, I got a message asking me if Oldest would be willing to speak about what she’s learned at this year’s RE Sunday. I asked her, and she said, “I’d like to sleep on it. Can I tell you tomorrow after school?” I said yes. We talked about stage fright, and how I did forensics all through high school and got stage fright every performance, and other things.

The next day after school I asked her if she’d speak, and she said “Yes.”

We wrote a draft of her speech the next day, her saying things and me tweaking the sentences lightly (but leaving in her second grade phrasings like “the ocean would be much taller”). The speech got revised several times, and practiced.

Yesterday, she gave it. She talked about the importance of reducing carbon footprints, and doing things to reclaim carbon from the air. She talked about loss of habitat for polar bears and penguins. She talked about rising oceans. She exhorted the congregation to work on their “carbon handprint” – the things actually done to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – with reference to the line drawing of a hand on the order of service.

Oldest is like me – prone to sticking to the edges in large gatherings, with her one or two best friends, uncertain and shy about other people. And she got up in front of a packed-full church, and she spoke about something that matters to her, the topic she chose from everything she’d learned.

I am so proud of her.

kiya: (piece of the night)
( May. 29th, 2017 05:34 pm)

Mirrored from Suns In Her Branches | Kiya Nicoll.

I didn’t do anything in particular to mark the Beautiful Festival of the Western Valley this year (25 May on my calendar) because I am buried under so much of everything that I barely know what month it is, let alone when the holidays fall. It did strike me, yesterday, how interesting it was that it fell so close to Memorial Day this year.

I’ve long described the Beautiful Festival as “a cross between Samhain and Mardi Gras”: the Veil is thin, the dead walk among us; have a flower garland, drink the good intoxicating drink! I’ve been doing some reading, quietly: stories about loss, of the beloved dead, of fallen soldiers, of others.

I’ve been thinking about Portland.

I’ve been thinking about the ways in which the modern pagan movement and the products of Naziism are two branches off the same oh so complicated tree, emerging from the same zeitgeist. I’ve been thinking about an “anti-monotheist” with runic imagery pulling a knife on people who tried to stop him from threatening two young women of color, one of them a hijabi, killing two of them and severely wounding a third.

(And I’ve been thinking about a young black man murdered by a white supremacist. A homeless black man murdered by another one. Charleston. The “mysterious deaths” of several black judges. I’ve been thinking, thinking, thinking.)

I’ve been thinking about how, when it’s a white man who does the thing, people leap to “mentally ill” and “lone wolf”. And I’ve been thinking about stochastic terrorism.

I don’t have a lot of coherent thoughts about any of this.

There’s a bit of European folklore, that takes a number of forms depending on the region, which may derive from older polytheisms: this idea that the Devil steals from us, takes away our harvest, our fertility, our hope. The Devil steals from us, with the help of those of the Devil’s party, robbing life from the world, and if we are going to live, we must ourselves go into Hell and take it back.

I think about that a lot, too.

The veil is thin. The dead walk among us.

In Flanders Fields the poppies grow.

I am not sure I like this tradeoff.

Read more... )

I feel that the unlicensed street theatre militia group punching out aggressive oppressors is an excellent game scenario for something. Maybe I'll run it someday.
kiya: (pooka)
( May. 20th, 2017 07:11 pm)
I wish to make note of the existence of this amusing conversation I had with [personal profile] pameladean.
More terrible sleep, more dreamlog? This one wasn't substantial.

In dream #1 Captain America was fighting a giant purple creeper. Clearly I have been Minecrafting.

In dream #2 a group of people were playing complicated one-upsmanship games with bad sociology, and [personal profile] jenett and I were unimpressed and eventually turned the conversation to use of accidentals in Simon and Garfunkel tunes. (Hey hey *hey*.)
kiya: (akhet)
( May. 18th, 2017 04:56 pm)
Sleep was terrible last night due to dealing with toddler who kept waking up shrieking and inconsolable for reasons that are obscure to me, but possibly related to her apparent heat rash (now fading).

However, the 'constantly interrupted in deep sleep' means that I remember my dreamstate a bit, even now? So, yay?

Dreamlogs are cut )

Mirrored from Kiya Nicoll.

The table of contents for Death of All Things has been released and it looks like I’m capping off the book.

It’s slowly turning real….

I look forward to a future where a websearch on “Delayed Exchange Deferred” produces references to my story in addition to the Ruy Lopez opening (from which the title is drawn) and, apparently, bits of real estate law.

The book can be preordered here.

First session of a two-session ink completed.

Artist is Carly Menasco.

Images are cut as a courtesy )

Mirrored from Kiya Nicoll.

My experience of being a writer is basically like living in a portal fantasy. The Wood Between The Worlds resides somewhere in my cerebellum, and I wander it and occasionally peer into pools. I don’t know how to jump in them, though there are times in my life I have desperately wished I might, but I can watch, get to know some of the people on the other side, and I can take that and bring it back out onto the page. I can get it wrong, for sure, but the feel of the experience is ‘through a glass darkly’, not ‘I made up the wrong thing and now I’ve gotten stuck in a dead-end alley’.

I know not everyone writes like this, of course, but it predisposes me to a certain form of approach as a reader: if this is true, or can be seen to be true, what does it mean? (This is, arguably, a good chunk of why I appreciated Alternity – a seven year transformative performance art group fanfic in a Harry Potter dark AU – as much as I did, because dear gods there is so much fridge horror in the Potterverse.)

An interesting thing about stories that have roots in the real world, of course, is that one can dig into what that implies about those stories, and the people in there. (I’m doing a lot of this with Cracked Pots, which is a steampunk fantasy, and digging into actual things going on in Victorian London for my not-London that I still need to figure out how to name. See also: have not named Oscar Wilde expy.)

Which brings me rather inevitably around to Captain America.

(This is huge so I’m trying to figure out how to put in a cut. Forgive me if I fail.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Many moons ago I knew how to paint miniatures. I am attempting to remember how.

These are not finished but they are in a condition to show off a little, pardon my terrible lighting.

Read more... )


kiya: (Default)


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