Why Artists MUST Be Paid

Writers deserve to be paid. Artists deserve to be paid.

The reason is this: If you don’t pay people to make art, only those who can afford to will make it. Only those who have sufficient income to allow them leisure time, time spent not actively pursuing ways to ensure the survival of their family, will make art. Which is fine, until you realise that it’s playing into the very trap we modernly denounce history for: it’s privileging privilege. The reason we don’t know a whole lot about the lower classes of a lot of historical societies, not first hand at any rate, is not because these people weren’t educated/literate and thus able to write down accounts of their lives. That’s part of it, sure, but written literature is only one of a handful of ways of learning about a people.

Art is another. And art, historically speaking, was almost exclusively made by those in a position privileged enough to allow them the time to make it. No, these artists were certainly not always upper class; but when they were not, they usually operated under some sort of patronage system. The rich may not have physically, mentally made the art, but they sure as heck paid for it and dictated what was to be made. There are good reasons why Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Richard III, and others are they way they are, and every one of those reasons is political. He was paid by the rich to entertain them; you don’t cut off your nose to spite your face, not if you want to keep having a face. (Ha ha).

So. This is why we must pay our artists, and pay them well enough to live: that people from all walks of life may make their art. All walks, not just the privileged.

And if you can’t see why that is important, well… Eh, that’s a whole other post.

Fact: Gender Stereotypes are Stupid.

Son is 3 years and a double handful of weeks old. He never stops moving, loves throwing balls, kicking balls, catching balls; driving cars, trucks, buses, trains; makes dinosaur noises and squeals like a pig; would live in a sandpit if he could convince adults this was remotely plausible; and his current favourite colour is pink. Pink castle stickers, pink pencils, pink counters when we attempt to play Connect 4.

Gender stereotypes are the stupidest things in the world.

You Can’t Just Cut And Paste!

Urgh. Doing the last little bit of research for #FGU (more properly known as From The Ground Up: Building A World That Works) and I’ve been doing a bit of comparative work with some of the other worldbuilding books that are out there – and trust me, there are surprisingly few, which is why I decided to write this book in the first place. And not only are worldbuilding books actually far less common than you’d believe, every single one I’ve found so far suffers from one of two flaws.

Either it’s too technical and dense and only helpful if you’re the kind of worldbuilder who wants to know EXACTLY HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE to walk to those mountains over there on the horizon and what formula you can use to calculate it,

OR it assumes that worldbuilding is entirely a matter of chance. Pick one from column A, one from column B, two from column C, throw them together and you have a world.

Um, NO. Please. For the love of logic and sanity, NO.

See, what most people don’t realise is that worldbuilding, culture-building, is an inherently logical process. There are REASONS why tropical cuisines involve spices, why no society is born with a democracy, why populations with high tech usually have low birth rates, why population centres get spaced out the way they do – heck, even why elephant-sized mice are impossible. REASONS. Worldbuilding is LOGICAL.

And if you try to sell a book that claims otherwise, that claims you can just pick a climate and pick a style of government and pick a type of art and pick a type of economy and throw them all together and it’ll work fine   – and worse, if you try to claim that food, architecture, weapons, clothing and tools are just decorations – look, worse case scenario I’ll sit here weeping and gnashing my teeth at you, really, but PLEASE. JUST DON’T.

You guys, this is not the way populations work. It’s not the way worlds work. There’s a very specific chain of logic that leads literally from the plate tectonics of your world all the way up to what kind of food different populations will eat, how many children they will have, what their attitudes towards old people will be, how long they will be expected to work for, and so forth. Seriously.

And if you don’t believe me, just wait until From The Ground Up comes out. I defy you to read it and NOT recognise the truth: Worldbuilding is inherently logical. You can’t just throw it together piecemeal and expect it to make sense >.<

/rant. O:)

Reading Young Adult

So I meant to post this like a month ago when it was a Hot Topic, but we all know I’m less than timely when it comes to blogging, so meh. Better late than never. With the context that a top news site released an article essentially degrading adult readers of Young Adult (YA) fiction, the internet exploded – especially Twitter, where a lot of authors hang out. Shannon Hale, a well-known YA author, had a particularly lucid analysis of the situation, which I storified below for ease of access. I especially like what she had to say about caring about the teenage mindset and caring for teens in general; as a high school teacher, it hopefully goes without saying that I value teens and believe in the importance of nurturing them, validating their experiences, and helping them to process the world around them through increasingly-adult lenses. I don’t love all YA books; I don’t love all the books in any genre. But I do read a heck of a lot of YA (about 50/50 with adult novels in any given year), and it’s not because I’m mentally deficient, or wish to return to my teen years (heavens no, I’m good, thanks).

Anyway. Shannon Hale on adults reading YA. Hurrah.

Men Are Not Brainless Sheep (Shocking, I Know)

“Shocking? What? Why should this concept be shocking?” I hear you ask. To which I counter: why is it not? How is it not, when so many of the fundamental assumptions our society is based on are designed to tell men that they are wild, uncontrollable, savages to be tamed, creatures of undeniable violent instinct who, when confronted with a flash of skin, a hint of cleavage,  or – heaven forbid!! – butt or upper thigh, cannot help themselves; they MUST HAVE THAT FLESH NOW.

Yes, I’m talking about feminism. I’m talking about rape. I’m talking about ‘they deserved it’ mentality and slut-shaming and all those sorts of things, and you know what I’m saying? They’re disrespectful to men, too.

Dude, I KNOW that the primary victims of these patriarchal paradigms are women, but if we’re going to convince men that feminism – real feminism, not “femi-nazis”, not man-hating, not these things which are just as bad as patriarchy, only in reverse – no, real feminism – if we’re going to convince men that this is something they need to get on board with – and ladies, lest you think we can do it alone, never forget that while we make up about 50% of the population, so do men – we need, as a culture, to recognise why these ingrained narratives are damaging not just to women, but the whole of society.

Men are not brainless sheep. I have a husband who, shockly enough, is a man. While we don’t always see eye to eye on things, we have tremendous respect for each other and for each other’s opinions and individual lives. And my husband, whom I have been married to for seven years, whom I have been ‘with’ for over ten, whom I met and started dating at sixteen – sixteen! – has never, ever once touched me without my permission. Not once. Ever. Not before we were married; not after. Not when I was dressed in sweats, and not when I was dressed provocatively. Never. NOT. ONCE.

Please take a moment to absorb the implications of that.

My husband, you see, is not a brainless sheep. He is not a bundle of uncontrollable impulses, something that is triggered by the appearance of womanly flesh and cannot be reined in, denied, constrained. He has a mind, and willpower, and morals, and knowledge of right and wrong – and he understands – really, truly, deeply understands – that women – even beautiful, attractive, scantily-clad women – do not exist for his gratification.

Husband? I know you will never read this, but thank you. With all my heart, thank you.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for society. And I do mean society as a herd rather than individuals; I think most people in isolation are fundamentally decent (whether because I am an optimist or have a restricted circle of acquaintances, I leave to you :D). But the paradigm in which we’re operating is designed to bring out the worst in people. It’s a paradigm where someone can hit you in the face, and it can be your fault. It’s a paradigm that says humanity is foundationally brainless, that women are empty vessels and men are mindless urges.

This comes because I was reading Elizabeth Esther yesterday, and in a link-click-link spree, came across this:

Rick Warren came out and said that a battered woman was not allowed to leave or divorce her abusive husband. In the ensuing cries, he backpedaled and said a woman could leave her husband physically “in the heat of the moment,” (as if a man so crazed that he is beating his one-flesh partner whom he is supposed to honor and sacrifice his own life for would allow her to walk out on the beating) but must return when things have “cooled” and submit to his authority. At no time have I seen him following up with a statement, “Men, you cannot beat your wives for any reason. It is a sin and a crime.”

(Source).

I hope, if you’re reading my blog, you will find the above horrifying on many levels. Yes? Good. Actually, the source is a good article, discussing the recent phenomenon of prominent (male) Christian leaders going out of their way to emphasise the sexiness of their partner (wife), and how this is just wrong on so many levels (But it’s monogamous sexual objectification!! That’s practically Godly!). But the takeaway point for me was as above in that quote: while we are busy reminding young women not to ‘put themselves in risky situations’, society is doing very little by way of reminding young men that this kind of behaviour is not, actually, acceptible. We’re operating from the default position that men cannot control themselves and so it’s up to the women to remove all temptation, and if something goes wrong, well, we told you the boys couldn’t control themselves, what did you think was going to happen?

Men: our culture has been telling us for so long that you are the ones who deserve to be dominant because you’re smarter, stronger, faster, all the while pulling the rug out from under you, insidiously operating on the assumption that actually you’re just a bunch of dumb impulses. Society is lying to you, just like it’s lying to women. But now – now is your chance. Don’t buy into that crap. Of course you’re not a conglomeration of lusty, violent instinct; you’re an intelligent human being. I know. I married one of you. You can do this.

On the Cost of Making Art

Years ago, when I first started getting serious about writing, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who dabbled in photography. He was rather firmly of the opinion that artist should not charge for art, that no one actually has a right to make a living as an artist, despite being someone who spent a significant portion of his time making art.* At the time, I wasn’t sure what I thought: I was dabbling with the idea of ‘being a writer’, or writing seriously for publication, of choosing a career.

Now, I know what I think.

In the interim, I have written for publication, have chosen a career, have been ‘a writer’. I have wrestled with the idea of being paid to write, of having bills to pay and a day job infinitely better able to account for that than writing ever could (unless I was fabulously lucky). I have started many hobbies (as I am wont to do) and have tried to pursue several as an avenue for earning income, however small – and have mostly failed at that side of things.

But writers deserve to be paid. Artists deserve to be paid.

Tonight, I read this article by author Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments series; The Infernal Devices series) and although I was happilly nodding along with her reasoning – I invest time in this, I need to pay my bills somehow – it wasn’t until the end that I found the clincher, the ultimate, important reason why artists need to be paid. Because if your only argument for being paid as a writer is that you need it to compensate for your time, well then, go do something else. I don’t mean that categorically, harshly; just that if you want to be well compensated for your time investment, if you want to know for certain that all the bills will be paid on time, then writing – or any artistic lifestyle – is not the obvious first pick. There’s a good reason parents try to steer their young away from creative careers, and it’s all about stability.

No. This is all relevant, but it’s not the reason.

The reason is this: If you don’t pay people to make art, only those who can afford to will make it. Only those who have sufficient income to allow them leisure time, time spent not actively pursuing ways to ensure the survival of their family, will make art. Which is fine, until you realise that it’s playing into the very trap we modernly denounce history for: it’s privileging privilege. The reason we don’t know a whole lot about the lower classes of a lot of historical societies, not first hand at any rate, is not because these people weren’t educated/literate and thus able to write down accounts of their lives. That’s part of it, sure, but written literature is only one of a handful of ways of learning about a people.

Art is another. And art, historically speaking, was almost exclusively made by those in a position privileged enough to allow them the time to make it. No, these artists were certainly not always upper class; but when they were not, they usually operated under some sort of patronage system. The rich may not have physically, mentally made the art, but they sure as heck paid for it and dictated what was to be made. There are good reasons why Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Richard III, and others are they way they are, and every one of those reasons is political. He was paid by the rich to entertain them; you don’t cut off your nose to spite your face, not if you want to keep having a face. (Ha ha).

So. This is why we must pay our artists, and pay them well enough to live: that people from all walks of life may make their art. All walks, not just the privileged.

And if you can’t see why that is important, well… Eh, that’s a whole other post.

 

*It’s been a long time. I may be misconstruing his point somewhat. Nonetheless, the opinion, attributable to him or not, does exist.

The Education of a Witch

Which could also be titled, “The Education of a Large Segment of the Population Deemed to be ‘Bad'”. Anyway, you should really go and read this short story by Ellen Klages, who had been added to my ‘authors to investigate’ list because this story is just… intelligentheartbreakingrealhonesttrue.

Here’s the comment I posted to Ada Hoffmann’s blog, who initally linked to the story.

Yes, [Lizzy is treated almost entirely as a problem and not a person, and there seems to be no one willing to acknowledge that she’s feeling scared and abandoned,] although there’s almost a touch of understanding when Mrs Dickens goes ‘ah, new baby, of course’. I confess, I hoped at that point that Mrs Dickens would know what was going on and had isolated Lizzy in order to come talk to her about witches being real but that she had to be responsible with her talents etc etc… Mm, been reading too much Pratchett lately, I think. (Not that it is ‘too much’, just that my expectations were clearly set too high).

I feel ridiculously sorry for Lizzy; I love that she’s challenging the dominant narrative; I am annoyed at the parents for their blatant disrespect for that, and depressed because so many adults do exactly that.

I didn’t read the ending as intented murder, though. The narrative says she was angry at Mum and the baby and wotsie, the boy, so she made the boy’s nose bleed. She’s drawing up the fire at the end not to kill anyone (though granted that may be an unintended consequence) but to express her anger, something that no one has been allowing her to do before now.

Kids are not born knowing how to express their emotions. It’s something adults are supposed to teach them as they grow up. Poor Lizzy has no one even ACKNOWLEDGING her emotions, let alone showing her how to appropriately express them – of course she’s going to let them out any way she can.

But for me, this was not the least bit creepy, and was terribly, terribly sad. Horrific, yes, but not in the scary-creepy-horror story sense. Rather in the ‘that is so tragic it is horrifying’ sense.

Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. A very intelligent and commanding story.

 

Basically, it boils down to something it’s trendy to call ‘ageism’, which frankly as a term I do not like, simply because a lot of people (willfully) misunderstand it to mean that children should be given free rein. However, this is a misunderstanding caused by a conflation of the two concepts ‘rights’ and ‘freedom’, and a whole lot of nineteenth century notions about the supremacy of the individual versus society, etc and so on. Having equal rights does not entail being allowed to do whatever the hell you like.

Ageism, therefore, is not about treating kids the same as adults, i.e. never telling them what to do, not forcing them to do anything they don’t want to, etc (why? because frankly that’s stupid and unhealthy :P), but rather about giving children equal RESPECT to adults – which, ultimately, is what we actually mean when we talk about ‘equal rights’ anyway. Equal doesn’t mean identical, and there is no way that everyone on the planet ever CAN have identical lives – also, HOW BLAND. Rather, we want everyone to be equally respected, and have access to things based on that respect. Though, dude, clean water and food would be a nice way to begin with the ‘equal means identical’ thing.

Ahem. Sidetracking. My specialty. Ageism, therefore, is a concept that refers to the way that children are discriminated against not in the behavioural sense per se, but in terms of respect for their emotions. People who say ‘Oh, I wish /I/ was a baby again!’ (and with a currently-10-month-old, yes, I’ve heard that several times in the last year) MAKE ME MAD. OH, SO YOU’D LOVE TO BE UNABLE TO MOVE YOURSELF AROUND, TEND TO YOUR OWN BASIC NEEDS, COMMUNICATE ANYTHING BUT THE MOST BASIC OF CONCEPTS (smiling or crying), EXPERIENCE HORRIBLE PAIN THAT IS ALSO TERRIFYING BECAUSE HEY, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS FEELING THAT I HAVE NEVER EVER FELT BEFORE AND WHY DOES IT HURT AND WILL IT EVER STOP AND HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT DYING? (Also known as stomach upsets and teething). Oh YES, being a baby sounds FREAKING AWESOME. NOT.

And yet, there are people out there to whom I have said almost exactly that (though I promise, with less capitalisation), who still go – eh, they get to sleep all day and don’t have to do anything.

Way to completely dismiss someone else’s humanity, moron. A cow gets to sleep all day and do nothing too. Maybe you’d be better off bovine.

So. If you haven’t yet, go read the story. It’s a beautiful (if fantastic ;)) example of what happens when children’s emotions are dismissed as not real, or not real enough, or simply just not as real as adult feelings. Guys, I REMEMBER being a child. Compared to life now, sure, I had it good; most kids do. But at this time, being a kid is all you know, and pain still hurts. Give the little people* some respect.

 

* And yes, all of this is a large part of the reason why the 10-mth-old has been called Small Person and Small Boy his entire life. I feel awkward calling him a baby, because it’s too close to synonymous with ‘squidgy thoughtless blob’, and he is anything but. He IS a person – just a very small, very inexperienced one.