Punching Nazis

There’s been a lot of conversation about whether or not it’s acceptable to punch a Nazi. That, dear reader, is a matter for your conscience. However, if you find yourself about to punch a Very Bad Person, it might be a good idea to know how.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I used to teach women how. So here are half a dozen pointers:

  • Don’t hit bone on bone. If you absolutely must, make sure you use your strong bone (your elbow) on their weak bone (their nose) rather than, say, a fist to the point of the jaw. But it’s even better to use bone against soft tissue. An elbow to the neck, a fist to the kidney, a sword finger to the solar plexus, a forearm between the legs, a heel to the side of the knee. It’s good to go for something disabling so they can’t chase you afterwards. Knees and throats are very useful for this: if they can’t breathe they can’t run; they can’t run if their patella’s gone, either (unless they have a wheelchair handy—and perhaps I’ve just lived a sheltered life but I’ve never met a Nazi in a wheelchair).
  • Get close. You have to be a lot closer than you think. If you’re hitting someone you have to be right inside their space. Maybe even touching if they’re tall and you’re not. Try it with a cushion; if you’re not used to hitting things you’ll be surprised.
  • Hit on the out-breath. Preferably with a shout. Sound will make you feel better and them feel worse.
  • Hit fast. Power comes from speed and mass. So you could wrap your fingers around a roll of quarters, or you could hit faster. In a perfect world, you’d do both: whip that fist/elbow/knife-hand through space. (It’s very satisfying.)
  • Hit through the target. Imagine you’re swinging a baseball bat—right through the ball. If you’re going for that full-arm swing from below, imagine your target wearing their balls for earrings…
  • Hit more than once. One blow is rarely enough. I’d say three minimum, depending on the damage you want to inflict and how fast you want to get out of there. But my favourite strike is a one-two combo, so mileage varies.

There are all kinds of other things to remember—put your thumb on the outside of your closed first; if you use a weapon make sure it’s an ordinary object (a comb, a book, a key); and always have an escape route—but those six are enough to get you started.

Workshop waitlist

The one-day workshop I’m teaching for Clarion West on Sunday, 8 October, is full, but it’s still possible to add a couple of names to the waiting list. Given that there’s almost always a cancellation or two due to the vagaries of life, the first couple of people on that list stand a very good chance of getting in. Apply here for the waiting list.*

The workshop is called What Readers Like—And Why:

Why do readers respond more strongly to some fiction than others? How does a writer immerse a reader into the protagonist’s world and persuade them to feel as the protagonist feels, see what she sees? Using examples, you’ll discuss the neuroscience behind what makes a particular word, sentence, or paragraph more likely to evoke empathy in a reader. Then with writing exercises and discussion you’ll learn how to analyze fiction—yours and others’—to discover how to make it more powerful. Prepare for this workshop with assigned reading and viewing, and come ready to learn how to make your readers’ hearts beat faster.

Only a bit of the workshop will be neuroscience; there’ll be a lot of stuff about genre and reader expectations, about awe and joy and reversals, about the sense of recognition. Also many other things I haven’t figured out yet. Most of it will be learning what makes great fiction gripping, and how to check your own work to make sure you’re enticing your reader rather than repulsing them. So it’s not just about what makes great story but also what makes a reader think, Ugh! and throw the book at the wall. We’re all different, though, so I’m expecting some of the discussion to be, y’know, lively…

One more thing. Until Clarion West commits to a timetable for accessible summer workshops, this will be the last thing I teach for them. This may or may not have any bearing on whether or not you apply.

* There’s still space in two other workshops, taught by J.M. Sidorova and Kij Johnson.

Disability Literature Consortium

The Disability Literature Consortium (DLC) is a group of disability journals—Breath & Shadow, Kaleidoscope, Deaf Poets Society, Pentimento, and Wordgathering—who have come together to provide a booth at the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference to showcase the work of disabled writers. They plan to staff a booth at AWP 2018 in Tampa where they will display not only their own journals but books from other publishers.

In order to fund that booth, the DLC are raising funds on Generosity (the non-profit part of Indiegogo). I’ve already contributed. I hope you will, too.

If you want to know more about the missions of the journals that make up the DLC, take a look at the Storify of #CripLit’s Editor Roundtable held in January this year. Then go give some money!

More thoughts on women warriors

Here’s an interesting addition to the debate about the Viking warrior grave in Birka I discussed yesterday on Gemæcce. The author, Professor Judith Jesch, makes some good points about the overall gaps in the journal authors’ argument and presentation. Go read it. She is not wrong about many of them. I agree, from the supporting evidence offered (or lack of it), that there is no way to know for sure that the bones tested are the bones originally pictured. However, the evidence on balance suggests, in my opinion, that they are. I wish I were an anatomist; I wish I could assume that the original illustration is accurate. Perhaps then I could make a guess about the likely biological sex of skeleton pictured.

Of course I can make a guess—that, yes, it’s female—but I have no confidence in that guess. I’m an amateur. I can stare at pictures of brow ridges and mastoid processes until I’m blue in the face; I’m still just guessing. And Jesch is not wrong, either, when she suggests:

I have always thought (and to some extent still do) that the fascination with women warriors, both in popular culture and in academic discourse, is heavily, probably too heavily, influenced by 20th- and 21st-century desires.

I’m quite willing to admit that my perspective on the issue of women warriors in a heroic society is coloured by desire: I want it to be possible.

However, if the bones are in fact the ones pictured in the grave, and if at some point in the future more attention is paid to sword-grip circumference and bone development (were the hands large enough to grip the sword? were the wrists sufficiently developed to wield it?) and the consensus is that, yes, biologically it was possible for the individual to have fought with edged weapons, then either we say: It was a woman warrior, or we say: We should go back and delete all attributions to warrior status based on grave goods. Because we either follow one standard/set of assumptions or we discard them.

There’s a lot more to be said on this one, I think. I’ll look forward to hearing how the conversation develops.

Viking warrior proved to be a woman

A Viking-age warrior from Birka, Sweden, long assumed to be male was just confirmed by genomics to be female. See my post about this over on Gemæcce.


PhD thesis officially archived

My doctoral thesis, Norming the Other: narrative empathy via focalised heterotopia, has just been deposited in the Anglia Ruskin University digital archive, ARRO:

The link is a persistent digital identifier and won’t break.

However, if for citation purposes you prefer an actual DOI, I’ve also deposited it with the Humanities Commons:

Both are exactly the same archival PDF. It’s also available directly from this site:

If you have questions about the PhD you might find some of them answered in the five-part piece I wrote about the process.

If you still have questions, I’m happy to chat via email.

Join me and Kelley in San Diego Oct 5 for North American premiere of OtherLife

On Thursday Oct 5, Kelley’s beautiful SF movie, OtherLife, has its North American premiere at the San Diego International Film Festival. We’ll be there, and we want as many people as humanly possible to be there with us. It screens at 8:00 pm and Kelley will be on stage to do a Q&A afterwards. You can buy tickets here.

We’ll also be at the opening night party on Wednesday, wearing Filmmaker badges, because not only is OtherLife based on Kelley’s novel Solitaire (“A stylistic and psychological tour de force.”—The New York Times Book Review) but she’s credited as one of three screenwriters.* So this is a big deal for us; we are extremely excited. And I’m very proud. It would please us very much if you come help us celebrate.

As Kelley says on on her blog:

SDIFF is one of the best independent film festivals in the US, with over 2,000 submissions a year. So we’re thrilled And it’s our first chance to see OtherLife on a big screen with an audience. Will I be there? FUCK, YES. I AM SO EXCITED. I haven’t stopped dancing around the house since I heard the news.

Nicola and I will attend the screening on Thursday Oct 5 at 8:00 PM, and I’ll do a Q&A afterward. Please join us! It will be fun! And please help me spread the word. It would be wonderful to have a full house, see old friends, make new ones, and to hear from all of you what you think of our film.

It also screens on Sunday Oct 8 at 10:30 am, but we have other commitments and can’t be there. But if you can, go! It’s getting great reviews…

*Credits don’t always tell the whole story.