Strong Female Characters Aren’t Always Armored

There’s been a lot of discussion in SF about strong female characters, clothing, and armor, and I agree with a lot of the points being made, BUT. There’s a big thing being missed. Armor seems to have become the cheap tack to portray a strong, independent person, much like a mouthy, rebellious woman is the only way to have a strong female character (see, for instance, the dismissal of Pacific Rim’s Mako Mori as a strong character).

Armor does not make a strong person. Lack of armor does not make a weak person. Defying authority does not make a strong, independent person. Being a mouthy ass does not make a strong person.

During the Crusades, the Crusaders, on their massive horses (the forerunners of today’s Shires, Clydesdales, and Percherons), in heavy chain armor, had their asses BEAT by mostly unarmored Arabic warriors on light, small, fast horses. It was the same logic that made Alexander’s cavalry so effective against elephants: maneuverability, speed, minimal reaction time.

In fact, MANY of the primarily horse-based nomadic cultures wore little to no armor–Native Americans, for instance, were deadly mounted warriors. Hell, the American cavalry didn’t wear armor. The warriors of the Middle Eastern steppes? Minimal to no armor. Some of them wore heavy felt coats as their main armor.

And no, this doesn’t excuse the chainmail bikinis, because those are still stupid, impractical, and beyond purposeless. (Sure, they’re iconic to some people, some people like looking at them, yay! Go for it. Just stop trying to pretend that there’s any damn use for them beyond ‘TITS! IN ARMOR!’.)

And all this boils down to a criticism about a piece of art, which shows a warrior woman based on thousands of years of rich, nomadic culture, riding a horse based on a breed the Chinese coveted and praised as ‘the horses of heaven’. But she’s not wearing armor, so clearly she’s just a helpless virgin waiting for the prince to save her.

Fantasy doesn’t mean ‘absolutely no reality gets to happen here’, or ‘we don’t have to actually think about multicultural things’. It isn’t all based on knights and maidens, on Joan of Arc and massive steeds with hooves the size of dinner plates.

Sometimes the warrior is dressed in silk. Sometimes her sword is sheathed. Sometimes strength isn’t in your face arrogance and violence. Sometimes it’s the quiet, respectful word of a girl harnessing her hatred for someone she respects, or the steel-jawed determination to ride through anything that comes without raising a hand in anger.

And that, honestly, is damn well something that we, as writers, should be paying attention to, and attempting to understand.

**Edit** As was pointed out to me on Twitter, Crusaders weren’t wearing full plate armor. However, they were still heavily armored and getting trounced by the lighter cavalry. Then again, they were doing a good job of trouncing themselves on a regular basis. But this post isn’t about how awesome Salah ad-Din and Richard the Lionheart were. At any rate, as a former hobbyist of all things Plantagenet/Crusades/Middle Ages, I am rather embarrassed. Too many movies/fantasy recently! BUT THE REST OF MY POINTS STILL STAND. :P

Military Science Fiction: Podcasts and Anthology Updates

I’ll be doing a pair of podcasts for SFSignal in March, on the subject of Military Science Fiction. Keep an eye on my Twitter account for posting dates. So far, we have a great list of participants: Jay Posey, Karin Lowachee, Richard Dansky, Kameron Hurley, Jack Campbell, Myke Cole, Karen Lord, and Chuck Gannon, who was just nominated for a Nebula for best novel.

War Stories is progressing beautifully. All but one story and contract are ready to go, Galen will be turning in the final art soon, and then it’s just the bits and pieces of constructing the actual manuscript after that. We’re really looking forward to showing people.

And I never announced it here, for various reasons, but I was the Production Editor for the revamped SFWA Bulletin. That just went to the printer, and there will be a big announcement on the SFWA blog about it tomorrow. Really excited for that to hit peoples’ mailboxes…and inboxes. First time in digital edition, man!

Status

Slowly clawing my way out of the debris of a summer of bouncing around the country, and getting back into operation.

I am currently available for consultations, and may have some room for a new client, as summer projects wind up. Query me at jaymgatespr (at) gmail.com for more details, or see my ‘Pricing’ page.

Also! The Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters anthology that I’m in has blown through all of its stretch goals on Kickstarter, so keep your eyes peeled for a new story from me. Alternate 1950s America, Nuclear Age Blood Pits monster fighting and revolution.

I should also have some big announcements here in the near future!

Dragon Con 2013

Schedules are in! I’ll be manning a table for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at Dragon Con. We did this last year, and it was a great success.

The table will be in the Hyatt, near the Comics and Artists Alley, same place we were last year. We’ll have someone there from 2-7 on Friday, and 10-7 Saturday and Sunday. Come by and see us, because Chizine, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and others have provided books for us to give away.

There are too many SFWA authors as guests and panelists to list, but be sure to take a look at the schedule to see where they can be found this weekend.

If you’re looking for me, here’s my schedule.

Panels

High Concept
Friday, 1pm, Embassy A-B, Hyatt
Gene Wolfe, Eugie Foster and I discuss the question of high-concept science fiction. More probably, Eugie and Gene discuss it while I sit in awe.

Podcasting Roundtable
Saturday, 10am, Hilton 203
We’ll be discussing podcasting. I’ll be nursing coffee and trying not to fall asleep under the table.

Z*Con: A Crowd-Funded Zombie Film for Charity
Sunday, 11:30am, Vinings 1-2, Westin
I’ve volunteered to help Mike with this again. Last year was a ton of fun, and audience members even got to contribute to the film’s audio track!

Table
I’ll be at it more often than not, but I’ve specifically scheduled myself for the following times. (I didn’t schedule myself lunch breaks last year, and ended up in pretty bad shape by the end of the weekend.)

Friday: 2-5. 6-7
Saturday: noon-2, 5-7
Sunday: 1-3, 5-7
Monday: noon-2

Dragon Con site: http://www.dragoncon.org/
Dragon Con Schedule: http://advertising.dragoncon.org/publications/pocket-program/
Dragon Con Guests: http://www.dragoncon.org/?q=featured_list

Gen Con 2013

Gen Con was, once again, amazing, cementing itself as my favorite convention. I got to see tons of friends and colleagues, some amazing new products, and the enthusiasm of the fans for the things we work on. I went in with the vague plan that I needed to pick up some more creative work, and left with an embarrassment of riches to choose from. (As well as a 30 lb bag of RPG books, only 2 of which are not research for projects!)

The entire five days was a whirlwind of meetings, panels, events, catching up, plotting, resolving, pitching, brainstorming, drinking (coffee or alcohol!), and enjoying. Anastacia Visneski´╗┐ summed up our schedules the best: “The only way to tell if there’s another person in the hotel room is that the food stores go down, and the swag pile goes up.”

Unfortunately, I went in with a voice wrecked by the Purgatory show, destroyed what little remained at the Diana Jones Awards, and by Friday morning, was mainlining cough drops. By Friday night, I was being mocked by my ‘friends’ for squeaking and occasionally just failing to make any sound at all, despite my best efforts. Here’s to actually being able to talk in something other than a Marlene Deitrich voice next year.

The Writer’s Symposium was not only fun to do, but is proving its worth as a workshop worth making the effort to attend. Marc Tassin is doing a phenomenal job, and it’s worth attending the con just for the Symposium. I had a chance to talk to Marc on Sunday, and while I can’t mention specifics, I CAN say that next year will not only be even more useful for the newbie writer, but it will be worth paying attention to for developers, business owners, and creatives who write things other than books or short stories.

If you’re an author or creative professional, consider volunteering for next year’s program, too. Marc is great to work with, and the attendees are excited, cool, and eager to learn. Plus, there are fun events almost every night, just for the people leading panels and workshops.

I even got in two games this year! I had about five scheduled, but Gen Con happened. Dungeon World was fun, wacky, and worth playing even in a ‘can-I-take-a-nap-under-the-table-when-you-don’t-need-me’ state of exhaustion. I was trying hard not to buy any more RPG books, but I may have to go to DriveThru RPG or IPR to grab that. 13th Age is GORGEOUS, and I also need that. And there are a couple of card games, and and and…

I also got to play the newest World of Darkness game, Mummy. I backed this on Kickstarter a while back, but got invited to play in a game run by the line dev. The game itself was great fun, but I have NEVER rolled so poorly. Unfortunately, no one else could roll for shit, either, so the entire thing turned into a comedy of errors. At one point, Ari rolled about 20 dice…with no successes. At that point, we just gave up success and started glorying in failure.

There were, as well, some downsides, but those were far outweighed by the good, and therefore will not be mentioned. (Except for the voice issues. Those, I will probably still be whining about next Gen Con.)

It was a particularly interesting year for me to be there. I’ve been in crisis mode since April, dealing with the Nebulas, BEA, a friend’s death, and the Bulletin/Beale issues, meaning I went in with a bit of tunnel vision and disconnect. I lamented to Lucian on Friday that I hadn’t gotten to schedule much of anything, and felt I was wasting the con a little by my lack of preparedness. In classic ‘be careful what you wish for’, the next two days were nothing but meetings, pitches, and offers.

One of the things I struggle with is a lack of feedback on my own position within the industry. Marketing and PR are the redheaded step-children of most industries as it is, and I often end up feeling as if I’m working in a vacuum. The last couple of weeks have been eye-opening on what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong, and what I’m just not doing.

Most telling was when someone said “I wish you would start doing RPG writing”, and I shamefacedly said “Well, actually, I’ve been clearing my schedule of some things so I could take on some projects”. Often, in my push to get others noticed, I forget to communicate my own availability, interests, and direction. That’s something I’ll be working on changing the next year or so.

I give myself some leeway because the SFWA issues have been consuming ALL of my bandwidth the past few months. I just haven’t known when that would taper off and allow me time to deal with things. As it is, I’ve got five places that want to see my portfolio, which tells me that I may be doing things right for other people, but I’m leaving a lot of money and opportunities on the table. Bad publicist. Do what I say, not what I do.

And now, I have just over one week to Dragon Con, which is usually less busy, but more nuts. SFWA will have a table there this year, which I will be running, with books and information from SFWA and its members. I also know plenty of people who will be there, so my social calendar is already overbooked. Between now and then, I have a trip to Ashville with my mom, a 1920s-themed swing class (apparently I’m going to be learning to dance, now…), clients to get caught up on, chiropractor and massage appointments, Gen Con follow-up, moving plans, several pitches to write, and a Kickstarter to plan for, as well as the usual maintenance work.

I can do all that in a week, right? Oh, and I can’t talk, because being voiceless at Gen Con is one thing, but being voiceless at Dragon Con is just stupid.

See? Will still be whining about it at Gen Con next year.

Times I met Matt Forbeck on a deserted street, after midnight, coming back from the Embassy: One. (Last year was…three?)

Notable Quotes:

“She’s rules-lawyering me over a cherry stem.” (I won, AND I got the cherry.)

“The tomatoes of misogyny.”

“Look, there was no half-assing that failure. I have STANDARDS about my failure.” (Also: tagline for Mummy game, I think.)

“Oh, look, he shape-shifted into a dead guy!”

“You have to tell us about these things!”
“You wrote this section!”
“That was more than a week ago!”

“Wait. When did I become the Stripper Whisperer?”

“We can’t operate a forklift. How are we going to operate a crane?”
“I hate to say it, but this Mummy needs new cultists.”
“But we’re very loyal! We’re like mentally-challenged puppies!”

“He’s sitting there, burning.”
“Courteous of you. Wait, I don’t think I like the idea of him burning to death willingly. Shoot him, will you?”
“Put yourself out so we can kill you properly!”
“I don’t trust the burning-to-death guy!”
“This is going to sound crazy, but can I intimidate the burning guy?”
“We can get popcorn!”
“And cook it on you!”

“That sounds weird.” ~beat~ “Wait, I wrote that, didn’t I?”

30 Pound Bag-of-Death (aka, RPG books and swag):

Ptolus (Monte Cook)
Hillfolk and Blood on the Snow (Kickstarter Rewards from Robin Laws/Pelgrane Press)
Mummy core book (thank-you gift for Jacob playing minion all week, which saved me a lot of time and stress)
Hunter: the Vigil
Monte Cook’s World of Darkness
Scion: Ragnarok, and Hero (Onyx Path)
Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved
Carolina Death Crawl (DtRPG card game from Bully Pulpit)
The God-Machine Chronicle (WoD, Onyx Path)
The Book of Nod (WoD, Onyx Path)
Scion: Yazata, the Persian Gods (This looks AMAZING, and sold me on Scion, a game I was unfamiliar with, immediately.)

Time to next convention: 8 days.

Gen Con!

So, I leave tomorrow for Gen Con. Besides being wildly behind on everything, I’m really looking forward to it. And, if you’re there, here’s where you can find me!

Wednesday
I’ll be at the DJAs, so if you’re there too, stop and say hi!

Thursday
Nothing but business meetings, so probably not a good time to find me.

Friday

The great and terrible day of panels! I’m leading a full publicity workshop, come by and maybe learn a thing or three.

10am: Online Presence. Come learn how to conduct yourself well online.
11am: Promotions, Sales, Publicity, and Public Relations. Pretty self-explanatory.

1pm: Networking, Not Name-Dropping. It’s a fine line. Do you know how not to be That Person?
2pm: Pitches, Proposals and Promises. We’ll talk about creating a perfect book pitch, and how to create a publicity plan that will catch a publisher’s eye.
3pm: Signings, Podcasts, and More. All about events as an author!

5pm: Religion in Gaming

Saturday

3pm: A panel with Geek’s Dream Girl on dating. No, really.

Sunday

VIP panels and critique sessions.

So, that’s my week! I’m going to be really busy, and running all over the con, so please don’t be offended if I wave at you while I run past. Long conversations aren’t likely this week.

Where’s Jaym?

Sometimes my life feels like a ‘Where’s Waldo’ game, except with somewhat better fashion sense and much more interesting locales.

Anyways, I’m getting back on the road again soon. In less than a week, to be specific. This time, it’s a 6-week round of mayhem.

First off to Portland, where the Cascade Writer’s Workshop has me teaching a publicity class, and participating on a panel about LGBTQ characters. I’ll be staying with the lovely Lee and Venetia again, and catching up with Ken Scholes and Wendy Wagner. (Looking at those names, I wonder what is in the water, as those are four of the most excellent people I know.) I intend for there to be at LEAST one visit to the acupuncturist while I’m there. This is essential.

From thence, to Seattle, for a couple of days with Ana, then, due to the vaguaries of airlines, back to Portland to fly out to Charlotte early the next day. The day after I get to Charlotte, it’s off to Raleigh for 2 days, then back to Charlotte for 5 days of full-speed preparation for Purgatory. Show prep and giving the company a stable system to support expansion should keep me plenty busy.

3 days after Purgatory, it’s off to Indianapolis for Gen Con. This, so far, is my busiest convention of the season. I have a full Publicity workshop on Friday–10am to 4pm! There’s also a panel on religion in gaming at 5pm, and then the Ennies, and a party invitation. Who needs food? Final official thing is a 3pm panel on geeky dating. Alas, I’m not allowed to bring props or example cases, so I’ll have to settle for toting a copy of Geek Love. I think I’ll leave Rigor Amortis at home, however.

And then, it’s 1.5 weeks in Charlotte, before heading to Dragon Con. I…have no idea what my schedule is there, so that will be exciting.

On the publication front, I can now announce the sale of “Under the Dream of the Gods, We All Weep”, to Broken Eye Books, for their Dark Fey anthology. The main character of “Dream” is a character I first wrote about several years ago. She’s a holy warrior in a setting heavily inspired by the Middle East, who gets in trouble by trusting family. This is her origin story, but there are a bunch more stories that can be told about her.

I’ve also sent in a reprint of one of the first stories I wrote, “Lord of Heaven and Earth”, to the Writers For Relief anthology. This is the story that spawned the Iron Gods world, and since I seem to be working on the first novel in that series, I figured I’d brush this up and get it reprinted.

And! The War Stories anthology is officially signed with Apex! Andrew and I are working on the Kickstarter now, and we’re getting so much interest in it that it just keeps getting more exciting.

Other than that…I’ll be accepting a couple of new clients for autumn, and I’m always open for consultations, so please feel free to get in touch with me.

Wish me travel luck!

Panels and Prose

So, first, the publication news!

I’ve sold several pieces of work recently.

1.) An introspective nonfiction piece on how gaming taught me to take the reins of my life, which will appear in Mad Norwegian Press’s Chicks Dig Gaming, edited by Jean Rabe and Jennifer Brozek. That’s supposed to be out sometime in November, and the TOC is amazing and humbling, and a bit squee-inducing.

2.) Origins Game Fair produces a souvenir anthology featuring the panelists from the Writers Track. My story–a blend of weird, post-apocalyptic, mythological, epic American fantasy–will be appearing in that. Really excited to get this story into print, not least because it was written and edited in 6 days, and STILL turned out halfways decent!

3.) I can’t announce it yet, but I sold another epic fantasy story to a dark fantasy anthology. It’s the origin story for one of my favorite characters, and I’m really excited to finally see her debut. I first wrote about her almost five years ago.

4.) I’ll be contributing to another charity anthology, too. More details on that later. Right now, I have to figure out if I have a story I can send in! Suddenly, I’ve gone from an embarrassment of inventory to some pretty empty shelves.

Panels!

The Origins schedule! When I’m not in one of these places, I’ll probably be in the bar. I remember this convention center with great fondness, as I attended my first World Fantasy here. My, how things have changed.

The Cascade Writers Workshop list of speakers, which I am on. I don’t know if I can post my schedule yet though.

The Gen Con Writers Symposium schedule! I’ll be on at least one other panel as well, but those details are still up in the air.

Updates and Appearances

The publications page is finally loaded! With excerpts! And links!

Also, I’m waiting for permission to announce some things, but I will be making some form of professional appearance at the following conventions.

April

Purgatory: 10 Year Anniversary, April 13, Charlotte
NC Speculative Fiction Night, hosted by Bull Spec Magazine, April 23, Raleigh
East Coast Game Convention, April 24-25, Raleigh

May

Nebula Award Weekend, May 16-19, San Jose
BookExpoAmerica, May 30-June 1, New York

June

Origins Game Fair, June 12-16, Columbus

July

Cascade Writers Workshop, July 25-28, Portland

August

GenCon, August 15-18, Indianapolis
Dragon*Con, August 29-September 2, Atlanta

Resources for ConVolution Attendees

Below is a starter list of resources for writers wanting to educate themselves on publicity and other elements of the business.

EFF: Legal Guide for Bloggers

Grasping for the Wind’s Mega List of Reviewers!

M.K. Hobson’s excellent post on marketing and more

Lee Moyer breaks down Kickstarter campaigns.

The mighty Inkpunks!

The suave members of Booklife Now.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.