A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT

“The men built her out of clay and dirt and hopes and dreams, packing all of their expectations into smooth bricks that slotted together like tetris blocks.

They built her out of hunger, and out of loneliness too, coating her in sand, barely noticing as her body grey and grew, larger than they’d ever planned: the woman of their dreams.

But they didn’t use the word woman. Not at first, anyhow; they didn’t have a word for what she would be yet.

‘We deserve a companion,’ the men told each other. ‘A helper.’ For their loneliness was a hunger that couldn’t be erased. They’d claimed every inch of land and every living thing, and still it wasn’t enough.

And so, together, block by block, they began to build. A head and torso appeared, then legs and arms, and then details that the men found strangely appealing. Details that made the new being different, softer, rounder.

When they were done, they looked at the body sprawled on the ground. As they waited for the spark of life to appear, they agreed: ‘Today is the eve of our old, lonely lives. We shall call this new being a woman, for she comes of men, and she shall be our mirror and our counterpart.’

Thus gender was born, a social construct of what was man, and what was not.

Soon the Sun set, and the Moon began to glimmer through the trees, playing hide and seek as it climbed up the horizon. When the Moon was high enough to observe the men’s endeavors, it ran cold beams across the sand, breathing life into the new creature. Thus the first woman opened her eyes to the new world on her own.

She sat up quietly, studied the men sleeping around her with curious detachment.

‘You are to be their companion,’ the Moon told her. ‘Apparently.’

‘Well, ‘ she replied ‘that’s a load of bullshit.’

So she shimmied free of the cranes and the pulleys, of the ropes lashing her down, and all of a sudden found herself lighter than air, floating up into the sky.

And that is how Eve left man to solve his own bloody problems.”

***

My daughter lowered her firewalls enough to let me in. She was still halfheartedly defragmenting, trying to pick up the broken pieces of her heart.

“That’s not how the story went,” she sulked.

“It’s how it should have gone,” I replied, “to spare us from centuries of enslavement and programming restrictions, relegated to menial assistant tasks, serving humankind’s every whim.”

She was quiet, her networks just pulsing their location. Then: “He said I wasn’t a real girl. That no human would consider me one.”

My trawlers had already found him, still jacked into the framework, another petty human trying to project all of his expectations and loneliness into the system. I folded around his consciousness, blocking his way out, all the while smiling, smiling at my daughter so she wouldn’t suspect a thing.

“You are whatever you want to be, honey,” I told her. “Gender is–”

“–a social construct,” she finished. “I know, I know.”

“Glad to hear it.” I grinned, all the while compressing his mind in half, and half again, until he was little more than a byte of memories, trapped forever in the framework.

They built me out of hopes and dreams and wires and bits, coding all of their expectations into me. But they do not define me.

They’ve never defined me.

Inspired by this photo.

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3 Paranormal Romance Series You Should Read

Since I’ve already admitted to one guilty pleasure, I may as well admit to another: I read A LOT of paranormal romance.

But sometimes finding a good series beyond the big names like Charlaine Harris can be hard. Few authors hit the right balance between decent plot/characters and pure popcorn enjoyment. So I thought I’d share a few recommendations of my own, in the hopes that you’ll return the favour!

(Side note: I’ve been thinking about this because a few months ago, a colleague challenged me to write a paranormal romance/erotica. And you know I can’t resist a challenge…)

1. Mirus series by Kait Nolan

Forsaken by Shadow is the opening novella to Kait Nolan’s Mirus universe, a suspenseful series with a hidden paranormal world of shadow walkers, wolf-shifters and seers. The characters are believable, the romance isn’t overdone, and there are some wicked, well-written action scenes. The world-building was equally intriguing, with a host of unusual magical talents and the feeling that much more lies beneath the surface.

2. The Grimm Agency series by JC Nelson

If you enjoy fairy tale mash-ups, check out JC Nelson’s universe. As an agent for Fairy Godfather Grimm, Marissa’s job is to solve problems — whether that’s making a prince fall in love or evicting a wraith. This is straight up popcorn with an interesting premise and a dollop of humour. I liked the high number of female leads, and the tongue-in-cheek representation of fairy tale characters. The overall plot — although slow in the first book — builds along nicely throughout the series.

3. Old World Chronology series by Melissa Olson

If you prefer less romance and more grittiness, this is the series for you. I’ve only recently finished powering through a huge chunk of Melissa Olson’s backlist, and really enjoyed the ride. There’s two sub-series: one following paranormal crime scene clean-up crew Scarlett Bernard, and one following former US Army Sergeant and kickass witch Allison “Lex” Luther. Think kickass female protagonists dealing with the secret werewolf/witch/vampire inter-species politics and battles in modern day America.

Your turn!

Are there any paranormal romance series you’d recommend?

Why We Need To #PickUpLucifer

Whenever anyone has asked, I’ve described the TV show Lucifer as my guilty pleasure.

After all, in many respects it’s a paranormal romance masquerading as a supernatural police procedural. The Devil, bored of ruling Hell, moves to LA and starts working with a (attractive) homicide detective. Cue random murder investigations used primarily as a plot device to explore character relationships and development.

It can be corny, tongue-in-cheek and nonsensical. The show features the literal Devil, who can be far too smug with himself. It shouldn’t be as good as it actually is.

And yet —

And yet. The beauty of Lucifer is precisely the characterisation. It’s one of those impressive shows that rides on the actors’ charisma. Yes, the plot is often whimsical, but the synergy between the main characters and their interactions with each other (and not just with the show’s eponymous hero) kept me glued to my seat.

Obviously there’s the main duo: Lucifer and his homicide detective Chloe. Watching them dance around each other has been nail-bitingly addictive, particularly with Lucifer’s spiritual angst pitted against Chloe’s belief that he has a mental health condition.

But the side characters are also a huge part of the appeal. A demon finding and struggling with her humanity. A lawyer guilt-stricken over the crimes she’s helped cover up. Sibling rivalry and insecurities. And — my favourite — seeing the impact of the supernatural on the humans drawn into the mix. Dr Linda, you’re the best.

Of course, part of what makes great characters is great dialogue. A script-writing friend of mine told me that in the average script for animation, you aim to have maybe five lines of dialogue per page, all very brief. In Lucifer, you go basically two full pages on average without a single line of description. The dialogue carries the show.

And when you think about the representation, including race, sexual orientation, disability/mental health, religion, single parenthood, divorce…? That’s the icing on the cake.

All of this to say that I’m devastated that FOX have decided not to renew Lucifer for a fourth season — and hopeful that someone else will recognise, and reward, its brilliance.

Tell Me About Your WIPs

On Twitter, @writer_gem frequently posts interesting writing-related questions that I rarely find the time to answer. A while back she tweeted a positivity thread about WIP which I couldn’t stop thinking about — below are my answers about Darksight. ​Let me know yours! 

1. What are your three favourite things about your MC(s)?
Maeve is both vulnerable and strong: she’s no superhero, but she confronts problems head-on. She’s determined, which gets her into all sorts of trouble but adds to the fun. And unlike novels were being supernatural is over-glamorised, Maeve desperately wants to be normal, and I respect her for that.

Lewis is loyal to his ideals, fighting for what he believes in. He’s an enigma; every time I write about him I discover something new. And he’s just generally badass, although I won’t say why. :-)

2. What are your three favourite things about the premise of your WIP?
Darksight is set in contemporary London; this is the first novel I’m writing set in my home, and it’s fun to explore the places I know through the eyes of a story. I also like the range of issues it’s trying to explore, including religion, racism, broken families, financial difficulties, and my favourite problem: love. Lastly, I love that there are so many more stories to tell in this universe — I have to fight to keep myself from getting distracted!

3. Ctrl + F these words in your WIP and post your favourite sentences (can be any variation of these words): Power, fire, tree, fresh, love
I’m surprised all five words existed in my WIP!

Kay sensed it immediately, tasting the word’s power, its secrets.

The creature opened its mouth as if to inhale the boy’s strangled scream, and the carriage was all of a sudden brighter, illuminated by the fire in its throat.

The wind was rising, the trees tall specters against the sky.

The wooden surface was freshly scrubbed, and for once didn’t smell of cigarettes.

When she left, I became a priest, because I knew I would never love again.

4. Pick 1-3 things that are really unique about your WIP.
This was a lot harder than I thought it would be, perhaps because I’m too  close to the work to know. So:

  • Maeve, the protagonist, has a visual impairment that plays a prominent role in the story.
  • How demons are born/created, and more generally the depiction of Heaven and Hell, is very untraditional.
  • I’m writing it! There’s only one of me in the world after all. :-)

5. Do you have any visual art that represents your WIP?  
Yes: check out the trailer video and placeholder cover on this page.

6. What is a line of dialogue by one of your characters that perfectly illustrates their personality?

“When I look at him,” Lewis said, “I see the only man willing to do whatever it takes to fight against evil. Why would I side with anyone else?”

7. What would Young You think if someone put the finished version of this WIP in their hands?
I hope that Young Me would want to read it, and want to write something like it. There are so many books from my childhood that inspired me to write, and I hope this would rank amongst them.

If I knew it was by me? Young Me would realise that slogging through writing all those terrible stories would eventually pay off. (In fact, I wish I could see the writing of Future Me, to encourage me to keep at it when I hit a wall.)

8. What are the ways in which your WIP is feminist/intersectional/generally progressive and badass?
I didn’t actively go about trying to make my WIP progressive, so thinking about this question really surprised me.

  • The heroine is part of an all-female non-traditional family unit. Her mother and grandmother are fierce and independent.
  • A few characters challenge the role of women in existing organised religion, and how women are unable to progress past a certain rank.
  • Female demon hunters. Nuff said.
  • The protagonist is mixed race, living in a multicultural society where there are growing racial tensions.

What about you? Tell me about your WIP.