Suggestion Saturday: August 18, 2018

Here is this week’s list of links from my favourite corners of the web. Last week’s list was a little sparse. I think I more than made up for that this time around.

Don’t Worry About Feeling Sad – on the Benefits of a Blue Period. What do all of you think of this idea? I know I’m intrigued.

How a Disabled Person Feels When Someone Stares at Them via SarahJBpoetry. This is a blog I’m going to be keeping my eye on in the future.

It’s Never too Late to Be a Reader Again. Raise your hand if you’ve ever regretfully stopped reading something. I like the idea of returning to a book later on in life to see if it fits you better then.

Sand Castle Marketing via cynthiaharriso1. If you have a mailing list or are thinking of setting one up, go read this. I love this blogger’s approach to marketing. If only more authors and other creative folks thought this way.

Losing Earth – the Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. Buckle down for a long read here. I’d be especially curious to hear the thoughts of everyone who clearly remembers 1979-1989. How much do you remember talking about climate change back then? Do you agree that we came close to finding a solution during that decade?

Broken Thoughts – The Story of My Two Broken Legs via sonzyb. Ooh, this made me wince. I also found it interesting because I’ve never broken a single bone and so didn’t know the details of how such an injury is treated. Keep in mind that there is one photo of her injuries and vivid written descriptions of them as well. It didn’t bother me, but I thought you all should know this in advance. If you like this post, be sure to click on part two at the end of it. There were four parts in all, and the author did link to the next one at the end of the first three parts in the series.

Inside the Very Big, Very Controversial Business of Dog Cloning. Seriously, how is this not the stuff of science fiction?

Beyoncé in Her Own Words: Her Life, Her Body, Her Heritage. I don’t normally pay attention to the lives of celebrities, but this article was interesting because of how private Beyoncé generally is. It makes me wonder why she decided to share such personal details about her family all of the sudden.

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Is Mary Sue a Sexist Concept?

Thank you to my friend Berthold Gambrel for coming up with the idea for today’s post.

For anyone who hasn’t already heard of this term, a Mary Sue is a (female) character who is so idealized that she’s honestly too good to be true. Picture someone who is good-looking, smart, athletic, talented, charming, and good at virtually everything she tries.

If she has any flaws at all, those weaknesses are trivial things that don’t make a real difference in her daily life or current quest at all. For example, she might have a terrible singing voice, but her storyline has nothing at all to do with whether or not she can sing.

You’ve probably noticed that I used feminine pronouns in those last two paragraphs. I did this on purpose. In all of the years I’ve been reading various fiction genres – including, and sometimes especially, the science fiction and fantasy genres – I’ve never seen a male character being accused of being a Mary Sue even when he meets all of the criteria for this label. The very thought of a Marty Stu existing is controversial in some circles.

Sometimes I’ve seen people use the term Mary Sue to describe an author’s possibly subconscious desire to be loved and admired by everyone they meet. There have been times when certain critics of various well-known series have insisted that a Mary Sue character was written as a projection of everything the author wished she could be.

Intention Isn’t Everything

While the original Mary Sue character was first written as a lighthearted parody of unrealistic characters in Star Trek fan fiction, she’s since evolved into something else entirely.

If we lived in a world where Marty Stu was thrown around as easily as Mary Sue, I’d say that both of them were intended to shed light on the dangers of writing flat characters. As someone who has written hundreds of reviews over the years, I have seen plenty of books whose characters never felt like real people. It’s not easy to create a character who appears to have all of the same hopes, dreams, fears, and realistic personality flaws that you’d find in any random person walking down the street.

When a term is created to criticize one group of people for doing something while ignoring other groups that do the same thing, the original intentions quickly become less relevant over time.

Double Standards

What bothers me the most about Mary Sue as a concept are the double standards it enforces and the disproportionate amount of hate Mary Sues receive when compared to their male counterparts.

Yes, stories that portray a female main character as someone who has few if any flaws and who is somehow good at everything she tries aren’t an example of good writing.

This applies to every single even vaguely humanoid protagonist who has ever been invented, though, as well as quite a few who were created to be as unlike humans as possible.

Which gender they identify as doesn’t matter at all. I’ve sat through far too many stories about Marty Stus who were just as unbelievable as any Mary Sue has ever been. Yet I can’t remember the last time I saw or heard someone use the phrase Marty Stu in real life or complain about how unrealistic his character development was.

If we lived in a world where this wasn’t the case, I’d be much more willing to use the phrase Mary Sue to describe characters who were poorly developed or seemed to be an idealized version of who the author wishes he or she could be.  These are issues that I occasionally see pop up in the books, movies, and other forms of entertainment I review, but they are in no way limited to one specific gender. They happen everywhere.

Yes, It’s Sexist

It is for all of the reasons listed above that I believe Mary Sue is a sexist concept even though I don’t think that most people who use that phrase are purposefully trying to be sexist.

Sexism – and many other forms of prejudice – are so deeply ingrained into western society that it’s easy to overlook the milder examples of them like this one. Honestly, I know that I’ve occasionally said things that rubbed other people the wrong way because I wasn’t aware of why a certain phrase or topic was a sore spot for a particular group.

I can’t and won’t speak for every woman here, but my reaction to someone using this phrase wouldn’t be an angry one. The first thing I’d assume would be that they’ve never thought about the different ways characters who behave in very similar ways are treated based on their gender or why it’s a problem to hold one gender to a much stricter standard than you’d expect from another gender. This would be a teaching moment, just like I’d hope that someone else would be willing to explain to me why they found something I said to be offensive if I accidentally crossed the line when talking to them.

Is It a Good Idea to Take a Blogging Break?

No, this isn’t my way of saying that I’m taking a break from blogging. I’ve done it once or twice in the past for various reasons, but I have no current plans to ever do it again.

(If that ever changes, I’ll take my own advice and let you all know in advance that I’m going quiet for reason X and expect to be gone for Y amount of time!)

The real reason why I’m asking is because this question came to mind recently after a new post popped up on a blog I follow that hadn’t been updated in three or four years. Honestly, I’d forgotten it was even still on my RSS feed because of how long the gap between posts had been.

As soon as I realized the owner of that site had begun writing again, my face broke out into a grin. I’d missed his stories, and I was eager to see what he’d been up to while he was away. He’d disappeared so quickly that I hadn’t had any idea what had happened to him. This was something that had made me feel a little sad even though I respected his right to fall silent.

This Is a Guilt-Free Zone

I know I could very well have readers out there who have abandoned their old blogs or other sites. If this applies to you, know that this post is a guilt-free zone. There are many different reasons why someone might need to stop writing, and in no way am I trying to make anyone feel bad for making the choice to step away from their site whether it was a temporary or permanent decision.

Quality vs. Quantity Content

Raise your hand if you’d rather wait for an excellent post, vlog, or other update than settle for a mediocre one that arrives sooner!

One of the things I wish I could change about Internet culture is its focus on churning out new content on a regular basis regardless of how well-developed that video, post, or other form of communication actually is.

I’m all for blogging on a schedule if you have the time and energy to devote to posting a certain number of times a day, week, or month for the long term. However, I also believe it’s better to not post anything than it is to post a half-baked idea simply to stick to a predetermined schedule.

From what I’ve observed with friends who had to take breaks from their blogging or other activities online for various reasons, your core audience is still going to be there when you return. Speaking as someone who considers herself a part of the core audience of a few different folks, I will still be around in a month, a year, and even longer than that if or when a favourite writer ever decides to return to his or her blog, Youtube account, or other online hangout.

If You Can, Say Goodbye

I do have one request for friends who find themselves needing to pull back from their regular posting schedules. If possible, I’d love to see some sort of message from them saying that they’ll be gone for a while. You don’t have to say why you’re leaving if you’d prefer not to (although I’d love to know if it’s due to something that might change again in the future if you don’t mind giving out enough details for this question to be answered).

Once again, this is not intended to make anyone feel guilty. Sometimes life makes it really difficult to leave that final update on a site or channel when you’ve decided to stop updating it for now or forever. I’ve known people who stopped writing after they received serious diagnoses of diseases that required the vast majority of their energy. Others fell silent after getting a new job, or having a child, or going through any number of major life changes that drastically altered how much spare time they had to share with the world.

Still, it’s nice to know a little in advance when a site is shutting down and if there’s any hope of it ever being revived. I find myself growing emotionally attached to some of the people I meet online. While I’d never ask any of them to share details of their private lives that they want to keep hidden, it sure would be nice to know why folks occasionally disappear and if it’s okay to reach out to them every so often to see how they’re doing (assuming they’ve become a friend and not just a blogger I follow).

When people choose not to do this, I always wonder what happened in their lives that made them walk away from the audience they’d built up.

  • Did they develop a mental or physical health problem?
  • Were Internet trolls bothering them?
  • Was it a bad case of writer’s block?
  • Did they say everything they had to say on the topic(s) they chose to talk or write about?
  • Have they finally discovered Okunoshima, Japan, and are they planning to live with the bunnies there forever?
  • Do they want to be checked up on, or do they not even have enough energy for that much interaction from the folks who care about them?

The possibilities are endless. If only we could have even the slightest clue as to what is going on in the lives of these people and if it’s okay to send a friendly message asking how they’re doing.

Respond

Have you ever taken a blogging break? Has one of your favourite sites ever stopped getting updated? Do you think content creators should alert their audiences when they need to stop publishing posts or uploading videos?

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Suggestion Saturday: August 11, 2018

Here is this week’s list of links from my favourite corners of the web.

Yesterday I met a nice man named George McNeese on Twitter who is looking for other short story writers to connect with. Click on the links in the last sentence and say hello if you write short stories in any genre or if you know of anyone else who does. I’m hoping we can form a friendly community online together in the future.

The Most Relaxing Vacation You Can Take Is Going Nowhere. Totally agreed. Staycations are the best.

How to Manage Chronic Pain Through a Minimalistic Lifestyle via achvoice. I never would have thought to make the connection between these two things.

My Voice Got Deeper. Suddenly, People Listened. Drop everything you’re doing and go read this now.

How Almost Dying Showed Me That I Wanted to Live via dlhampton. This link includes references to a suicide attempt for anyone who needs a trigger warning. I thought the author did a wonderful job of explaining what was going on in her mind at the time and how she’s changed since then.

From Default People via bjornlarssen:

The price I paid for being openly gay (as opposed, I suppose, to people who are openly straight) was high – I lost contact with a large part of my family. The reason? Wanting to bring my boyfriend to a family celebration.

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10 Pictures That Are Begging to Be Turned Into Stories, Part Five

It’s been a while since I wrote another instalment for this series. Either the world of stock photos is gradually growing less strange or I’m getting used to the wilder side of this world. Fewer things are surprising me these days, so it took longer than normal to compile this list.

If you’re looking for some inspiration today, keep reading.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I decided to start doing something constructive with all of the beautiful, haunting, bizarre, creative, and otherwise unique photos I kept finding on the various stock image sites I had on my RSS feed back in 2017. Every few months since then I’ve posted a list of the most unusual photos I’d found to see if any of my readers were interested in using them for any purpose.

Everything I share for this series is in the public domain. You don’t have to do anything special in order to use them.

In the past, I’ve written descriptions of how I’d use the pictures I share with my audience in this series. As much fun as it is to come up with theories about what could be happening in them, I think I’m going to leave it up to my readers to brainstorm everything this time around. My imagination is so strong that I don’t want to overwhelm your own theories about how these images can be used.

All I’m going to add to them is a brief description of what is happening in each photo for anyone who can’t see the photos I’m sharing for any reason. I look forward to seeing how you’d all react to this list and what you do with any of the images in it. Let me know if you use any of them!

A man wearing a wreath of flowers on his head and a pair of glasses that has a dandelion stuck to the middle of each frame.

A hand and forearm sticking straight up out the middle of a wheat field. It is still attached to the body of someone who is hopefully alive and well. 

 

A person wearing contact lenses that makes their eyes glow and makeup that gives their skin a blue, purple, and red hue. 

A person wearing a red hoodie, white gloves, and a mask that glows in the dark. 

A stylized and possibly long-exposure photograph of a city landscape and sky. Everything is arranged in a circle with the landscape being the centre of the shot and the sky being wrapped around it. 

A long, thin cactus poking out of a banana peel. 

A cattle skull sitting next to a decorated box filled with old-fashioned medicine. 

A long-exposure shot of a dancer. She has a pale, ghostly appearance due to how much she was moving during the shot. 

A bluejay sitting on a polished, wooden table and sticking its head into a metal saucer filled with milk.

 

A naughty grasshopper smoking a cigarette while sitting on a rock and staring out at a field of grass. 

Previous posts in this series:

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Two

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Three.

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Four.

Suggestion Saturday: August 4, 2018

Here is this week’s list of blog posts and other links from my favourite corners of the web. I did have a photo to include with it this time. There’s something whimsical about framing a shot in such a way that a cloud looks like a scoop of ice cream in a cone. Also, it matches… Read More

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What Should I Write About Next?

Once or twice a year I like to check in with my readers. What fitness, mindfulness/meditation, and scifi/fantasy topics would you like to see me blog about here? I haven’t been writing many meditation posts over the last several months because, frankly, my foray into unguided mediation hasn’t been going well. Even guided meditation has… Read More

Why Negative Reviews Can be a Positive Thing

Does anyone else find that their taste in movies is constantly evolving? Even when it comes to films I know I’m going to want to watch eventually, I still need to be in the right mood for certain genres. Sometimes I might be more interested in a documentary or comedy. On other days, something dark… Read More

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Suggestion Saturday: July 28, 2018

Here is this week’s list of comic strips and other links from my favourite corners of the web. There’s no photo this week because I couldn’t find one that went well with the articles I’d found for all of you. Dark Secret. I’ve shared quite a few comic strips from this site over the last three… Read More

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