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.

Two rings: 24 years and 4 years

Today is our double wedding anniversary.


Photo by Mark Tiedemann

Image description: Colour photo of two white women’s hands wearing new gold bands, touching. White background with flowers out of focus.

On September 4, 1993 we got married in our back yard in Atlanta surrounded by family and friends from various countries. It had no legal force, but great emotional power. We took it very seriously: we were the first same-sex couple to register at Macy’s the first to be announced in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (and believe me, I have stories about both firsts). We thought it would be our only wedding.

Then, on the 25th anniversary of me and Kelley meeting, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down DOMA and same-sex marriage became real overnight.

Two months later, on September 4, 2013 we got married for the second and final time right here in Seattle. This time we had a judge.

Now we wear two rings:


Photo by Jennifer Durham

Image description: Black and white photo of one white woman using two hands to enfold the hand of another. Both are wearing two gold bands on their ring finger; the outer rings are new and shining.

Shut out: measuring disability and segregation in US cities

best and worst

Image description: A light-grey map of the USA against a white background with state lines marked. 150 major cities are marked for Best for Disabled People on a colour scale from teal (worst) to purple (best).

WalletHub ranks the 150 Best and Worst Cities in the US for Disabled People. They measure ‘Economy,’ ‘Healthcare,’ and ‘Quality of Life.’ They list their methodology, including weightings. The criteria they use to assess Quality of Life, which is what interests me most, include:

  • Percentage of disabled residents
  • Number of wheelchair-accessible restaurants per 1,000 residents
  • Number of wheelchair-accessible trails per capita
  • Presence of Lyft wheelchair accessible vehicles
  • Walkability
  • Percentage of buildings built in 2000 or later (much more likely to be wheelchair accessible)
  • The weather

The focus seems to be on mobility impairments. They don’t rank other accessibilities—presence of ASL interpreters, state funding for vocational resources, etc. But in their terms, the top three big cities for crip quality of life are Honolulu, San Francisco, and New York. Seattle ranks 23 of 150.

In terms of economy (which includes affordability and job discrimination) and healthcare, Seattle does much worse, ranking 111 and 42 respectively. But I have excellent healthcare (at least for now; don’t even get me started on next year) and I’m a writer, so employment discrimination doesn’t affect me much.

Seattle is a fine city: a bit pricey, a bit wet in winter, and eye-rollingly indecisive when it comes to decisions on transport infrastructure, but the best city I’ve encountered in this country. This is the place we chose more than 20 years ago when I finally got Resident Alien status because it has the best climate—politically, geophysically and economically—in the US. Also, it’s near the water, there are lots of trees, and people here know how to queue, which for me is a proxy for the kind of rules-based civility that I cherish. That civility sometimes crosses the line into after-you-no-after-you diffidence that can be dangerous (especially on the road) but if you add in the many pubs that sell British beer, the understanding of how to make a good cup of tea (and coffee), and the presence of excellent bakers and chocolatiers, staking our future on Seattle was a good decision. Admittedly it’s awful trying to travel from here—getting to any other major city involves flying for hours, or sitting on a train for days—but we knew that and it seemed a reasonable exchange for the good bits.

When we chose this city, though, I was not using a wheelchair; I was not using crutches; I wasn’t even using a cane. Now I am, and physical access is beginning to assume great significance.

Public transport is pretty good, mostly. Of course, you have to be able to get to the bus stop in order to use the fancy kneel-down or lower-the-lift buses, and then the nifty street-level streetcars or light rail, and without a car this is not possible from our house. We live at the bottom of a very steep hill, and even if I had superhuman arm power, there are no sidewalks, there are blind curves, and the city helpfully built an insurmountable berm across the bottom of our driveway. Perhaps if I lived in a condo in one of the denser city neighbourhoods, maybe everything would be groovy. That is, if I could get into the bars and restaurants—if I could levitate over this two-inch lip on the so-called wheelchair ramp, or open that supposedly ADA-compliant door, or navigate those narrow spaces between tables, then float magically up the flight of stairs to the bathroom and pass through the immovable-slab of a door like a ghost.

But the weather here does suit someone with MS: not too cold, not too hot (except for this week, which is going to be scorching); not too dry (except in summer) and not too wet (except in winter). Other cities that rank high in terms of accessible infrastructure mostly have terrible weather for someone like me—that is, they get way too hot for way too long. (Also: bugs.)

So unless Kelley or I get offered a fabulous job in Canada or New Zealand or Ireland, we’ll probably stay. At least for now.

8/6 #CripLit Twitter Chat: Writing Disability

Image description: A bright yellow background with an icon of a book on the left and a laptop screen on the right, flanking text: “#CripLit Twitter Chat, Writing Disability, August 6, 2017. 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern. Co-hosts: @Nicolaz and @DisVisibility.”

#CripLit Twitter Chat
Writing Disability
Sunday, August 6, 2017
4 pm Pacific/ 7 pm Eastern

Co-hosts: @nicolaz and @DisVisibility

You are invited to the ninth #CripLit Twitter chat co-hosted by novelist Nicola Griffith and Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project®.

We’re both writers of fiction and nonfiction. We’re both readers. We want to talk about the experience of writing about and from being disabled—how it feels, what we love, what we hate. We want to talk about all kinds of writing: fiction and drama, poetry and creative non-fiction, journalism and personal essays. We’re interested in why we want to write about or from the perspective of disabled characters, or perhaps why we need to. We want to look at the kind of narratives we’ve seen a lot—Cure narratives, Pity narratives, Outcast narratives—and the kind we might sometimes write ourselves: Wish Fulfilment, Coming Out, Triumph, Norming narratives. What are they? What are some examples of each? What’s good about them? What’s bad? Why do we want/do not want to write them? How can we learn to do it better?

Additional Links

How to Participate

Follow @DisVisibility and @nicolaz on Twitter for updates.

When it’s time, search #CripLit on Twitter for the series of live tweets under the ‘Latest’ tab for the full conversation.

If you might be overwhelmed by the volume of tweets and only want to see the chat’s questions so you can respond to them, check @DisVisibility’s account. Each question will tweeted 6-8 minutes apart.

Check out this explanation of how to participate in a twitter chat by Ruti Regan:

Check out this captioned #ASL explanation of how to participate in a chat by @behearddc:

Introductory Tweets and Questions for 8/6 Chat

Welcome to the #CripLit chat on Writing Disability. This chat is co-hosted by @nicolaz & @DisVisibility. Please remember to use the #CripLit hashtag when you tweet.

If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripLit”

Q1 Roll call! Please introduce yourself and share any links to your work or anything else about yourself. #criplit

Q2 Do you write about disability? What kind of #criplit stories do you write?

Q3 What are the joys/challenges (physical, emotional, mental/intellectual) of writing disability? #criplit

Q4 What are some disability narratives: Cure, Outcast, Pity, Triumph, Wish Fulfilment, Coming Out? Which do you love/hate? #criplit

Q5  What kind of stories are missing? How do we expand disability narratives? How do we get more #criplit on shelves and screens?

Q6 What’s your approach to writing about disability? #criplit

Q7 Should disabled writers write only stories with disabled characters, or about   issues? #criplit

Q8 Are you ever tempted to tone down the disability in your work in order to be ‘more publishable/marketable’? #criplit

Q9 Do you see parallels between #criplit narratives and those of other marginalised groups: #ownvoices stuff by queer, POC, immigrants, etc?

Q10 Would you want to take a class/workshop for crip writers? What would it be like? Are there any you’d recommend? #criplit

Thank you for joining our #CripLit chat. Please continue the conversation!

A Storify will be up tomorrow. Check the #CripLit hashtag. Feel free to contact @DisVisibility @nicolaz with any ideas/feedback 😀