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Able-Bodied People Speaking ABOUT Disabled People

Dis(abled) Embodiment

By Derek Newman-Stille

Far too frequently, able-bodied people feel that they have a place to talk about disabled people. They use different justifications for this act of narrating our bodies to us, but the bottom line is always the same. There is an assumption that our bodies are open to public debate, that we are resigned to expertiseism about our bodies not only by medical practitioners, but anyone who feels that they have a stake in narrating us.
I see this most commonly when it comes to medical practitioners, whose power to narrate our bodies is so strong that we have to depend on their assessment of our bodies to get access to basic accommodations. Our own narration of our bodies is never considered enough to guarantee that we will acquire everything we need. In university I observed this with the accommodation letters that I was forced to bring to…

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A Tragic Comedy: Chapter 18

Chapter 18: Not the North!

“Curses!” Shouted Susan MacThreatful, pounding her hand on the keyboard. “You told me her spirit was broken! This isn’t the FaceBook post of a broken spirit?”

In the darkness outside of the circle of light from her computer screen yellow eyes blinked fearfully. None of the minions dared to step forward. She turned to them, her voice a quavering hiss, “Unit 8, you will answer for this or face the consequences.”

Still no one stepped forward.

“Answer me!” Her coifed hair had come undone from her tantrum and sweaty strands stuck to her red, bloated face.

One of the figures was pushed forward by the others, he presented her with a clipboard with papers and pictures on it, “You can see from the records, we’ve done nothing to help her. Her will to live should be ebbing by now, we’ve run the numbers again and again… there’s no way anyone could continue to fight us. All we’ve given her is a heating pad. We’ve made sure to be months late paying for her medication…”

“Why are you paying for any medication at all?” She demanded. He bent down lower in front of her, his yellow eyes unable to meet her black ones.

“The courts… they forced us… we agreed…”

Her voice was quiet now and the room trembled, “and the heating pad?”

“You… you told us to allow that… as an insult… to show that we wouldn’t do anything for her no matter what doctors and occupational therapists said. It’s standard procedure to show them that they won’t get even a tiny percentage of the help they require…”

“What did you say?” Her voice was at full volume again, at the door there was a jam up of minions as the shadowy figures tried to force their way out the door.

“I, um, I said that you told us…”

“No. The last thing you said. Repeat that.”

“I said, ‘to show them that they won’t get even a tiny percentage of the help they require…’.”

“REQUIRE? You said require?! No one requires anything ever. Everyone is a liar and a faker. That’s standard IBIC protocol. I have it here in the papers, see, it says right here, ‘she’s a faker and a liar and she won’t get one cent from us.’”

“But you were the one who told me to write that, I’m not sure that it’ll stand up in court, Mistress MacThreatful…”

“Everything I say is real. Why don’t you understand that? We are a crown corporation and I won’t get a new BMW and you won’t get paid anything if the bottom line isn’t tucked up nice and small. Our job is to withhold money and to find a reason to do so. Now this woman Is going all over the place talking about our methods, exposing us, forming unions with other people who have been… what’s the word I’m looking for?”
“Intimidated? Abused?” He ventured. He looked around at the rest of Unit 8 for support only to see that they had all escaped out the door. He was alone with MacThreatful. A lump of pain in his throat made it impossible for him to offer more suggestions.

“No! You idiot! Treated perfectly fairly! So someone gets run over by a car, what does that really mean? Sure, they could be injured, but I think any movie goer will attest to the fact that people get run over by cars every day…”
“In the movies,” added the last remainder of Unit 8.

“It doesn’t matter where they get runover. This is what I’m trying to explain to you. You keep getting confused by bringing in what is reality and what is fiction. You need to realize that whatever we write down is reality and whatever we think is how much someone is injured is how much they’re injured.”

She attempted to smooth down her hair only to find it was flattened from her angry sweat to her forehead. Her expensive highlights were the color of old dishwater in the glow of the computer screen. A smiling face of a red-head looked back at her proudly, mockingly, thought MacThreatful. She ground her teeth, her work blazer fell to the floor beside her, her tight blouse was stained with rings of sweat.

The spokesman for Unit 8 was anxious to placate MacThreatful, “We’re doing all we can. We’ve printed up her author page and proven that she’s still writing. And look at her, she’s smiling… how can anyone who has been run over by a car be smiling?”

MacThreatful smiled gratefully for the validation, “Exactly. This brings me back to my earlier point. If she was actually run over,”

”Which will be hard to disprove with the hospital reports and because we already paid for the repairs of the cab driver’s hood where something the size and shape of a person left a considerable dent…”

 

“Oh, shut up.” She snapped.

“Of course, Mistress… may I go then?”

MacThreatful leaned back in her leather chair, the springs creaked mournfully under her. She rested her arms on the arm rests. She had earned those arm rests. She had earned the black leather that her sweat had soaked into by making sure that things like this never happened. She considered the face looking back at her from the screen.

“Discover what has left her spirit unbroken. Discover a tactic that will silence her and make her settle for whatever we will give her.  Most of all… you will SHUT HER UP. And almost as important, you will have a report on each aspect of this case on my desk in ten business days… or else. Also check into that dead boy’s family and see if they’re still whining to the newspapers about us not paying for their brats funeral.”

“Please, may I go?”

“In a hurt to go screw around by the watercooler, are you?”

“No, I’m in a hurry to secure the bottom line and file reports about the bottom line until we can bury enough things in paperwork so that no one will dare to argue with you or any of our other magnificent lawyers or other specialists ever again,” he attested fervently.

She eyed him up, she wished more than anything for a cigarette. She settled for taking out a second nicotine patch and tore it out of the package, letting the leader from Unit 8 worry while she did so. Worry. It was the sweetest taste in the world. Sweeter than that first breath of a cigarette, sweeter than a vodka martini with lunch, in fact, the only thing sweeter was the smell of desperation.

She savoured his worry, desperation and fear for the future while she wiped off a patch of her neck so that it had enough sweat off of it to put the patch back on, “Go then. Scurry forth and find me answers. If you don’t… I’ll send you up North myself.”

“No! Not up North!”

She relished his despair, “Yes, I’ll send you up North to personally get eyes on the ground, maybe that will clear some of this up.”

“But… it’s cold up there and there are few amenities!” He wailed.

“I have your identification number, get out of here. Do your job for once. And by that, I mean make sure that nothing happens for anyone that could possibly do them any good.”

“Of course, Mistress.”

He crept out, walking backwards, not out of respect but out of fear. MacThreatful was known to throw things at the back of people’s heads for a laugh when she was in a humor. He whimpered when he saw her reach for her Starbucks mug but she only flipped open the top and swiveled her chair back to the screen. He heard her angry slurping as he slunk out the door. It was going to be dogfood for dinner again tonight for Unit 8, they had displeased the gods of IBIC and no one would see pay until a lack of progress was made.

He scampered down the fluorescent lit hallway, the gray industrial carpet muffled the sound of his too-tight shoes. His only hope now was that someone had left something in the break room. Even a Danish with that nasty custard would do. They had to get this resolved fast.

 

Stay Tuned for Chapter 19: Nobody Like IBIC

This is a fanciful and fictional story. Any resemblance to any one living or dead is purely coincidental as is any connection to any corporation, public or private.

Being Derivative and Writing

When I wrote my first kid’s movie I was told: write it like a it’s a Harry Potter knock off. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to make something the same as what had already been done and ride off of someone else’s popularity. I didn’t write it like a Harry Potter knock off. Instead I wrote a kids movie about Nordic magic based off of a short story I had already worked on.

The script was handed over to Hollywood Producers who promptly sent me around 300 pages of notes on what to change; most of them were ways to make it more like a sexy (but still geared for children) Harry Potter movie. I wasn’t happy with the changes and backed away from the film industry but not away from writing.

This is a clear cut case of something that is derivative in design. The thing that I found sad about the order to make a clone was that the Executive Producer had wanted to make a kids movie since long before Harry Potter came out and he had idea of his own that he also stipulated be put in place in the script (I didn’t mind writing those in since it was a made to order piece of writing). Instead of pursuing his own vision or allowing me to pursue mine the result was a series of mangled half measures.

poe-boy

Is it parody or is it fan fiction? Know what you’re doing and you can be as creative as you want… but make sure you know what your own punchline is. 

This had been a conscious choice on behalf of the Producers and it was there to service the bottom line. I get it, making a movie is expensive and certain things have to be taken into account, but I believe that ideas must be strong enough to stand on their own in order to truly be successful. Consciously deciding to model a work and be the next, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, or the next,’Harry Potter’, or the next ‘Hunger Games’, isn’t going to get you very far. It might result in making a few bucks as you ride on the coattails of those that go before you, but is that really the only reason you want to be a writer? Really?

If it is, and I happen to pick up your book, chances are that I’ll probably toss it to the side and never pick it up again. Derivative is boring. Making a conscious, mercenary decision to be derivative is boring and sad.

A more insidious form of being derivative comes in the form of subconscious plagiarism. This is a sneaky one and I’ve learned from reading through slush piles that even if I’m not familiar with a movie/book or most often of all a video game that a plot and characters are hacked from, that these sorts of insertions follow a pattern. I like to believe the best of people and I’m not sure if I’m right or not, but I think that these really are accidental inclusions instead of actual plagiarism. Certainly the writers when asked about it seem shocked and dismayed. The more cynical part of myself wonders how much of that is an act and how much they damn well knew that they didn’t have an original idea and hoped that no one would notice the similarities.

I am generally of the belief that they are subconscious transgressions. Sometimes people even come up with an idea that they haven’t been exposed to before that exists already because there are limited permutations to the human experience and they are bound to overlap.

This is where the matter of being derivative becomes a dicey one. The first two examples, deliberately being derivative and subconsciously or consciously stealing another person’s world/ideas/characters are clearly wrong. I put subconscious theft into the wrong category because I believe that people should be aware enough of what they are doing to realize where their inspirations and influences come from. I also believe that we should respect the boundaries of those inspirations. It’s okay to be inspired, it’s not okay to steal.

But where is the line between inspiration and theft?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. An overheard conversation in a coffee shop can become the basis for an entire novel. Is this theft? No, because the author has taken something out of context and made it their own. A character in a movie can inspire someone to base their own life after virtues or even vices that they admire in that character. In the same way, an author can create a new character that contains elements of what they admire in another’s creation.

The common factor here is that they are making it their own. An example of how not to do this: I was reading a story. It was an interesting premise, I liked it. The style was awkward, the characters were stilted and the whole thing felt surreal and incomplete.

Awkward and stilted didn’t raise any red flags for me but surreal and incomplete did. I put in a few key terms from the story into Google and voila! I got the complete plot outline for the video game ‘Halo’. I also knew that this particular author was an avid video game player and she had mentioned playing Halo to me on several occasions. I myself have never played it. I didn’t know the plot, the premise or the characters but I did know the smell of someone writing in an incomplete world that was not their own.

The story was rejected, of course. I didn’t give the author detailed reasons for why their story was rejected, they got a standard form letter: Thank you very much, blah, blah, blah… Because I didn’t know if they knew how derivative their story was. This person had played Halo for untold hours, had it become so much a part of their internal landscape that they thought it was something of their own design? Is it part of my job to send snarky letters to writers telling them how their idea has already been done?

No. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that is my job for anyone but myself. I have to be aware of my own influences and how closely they border on other people’s creations. That isn’t my own editor’s job to tell me because we are supposed to be adults. Professionals who can see these boundaries for themselves.

Another example of this sort of derivative writing comes from people who watch or read historical fiction and confuse it for reality. A good example of this comes from the sequel to the movie ‘300’. I recently received a query from someone who wanted to write about the life of Artemisia 1 of Caria. The disturbing thing about their query was that their idea of her life was based off of the movie version of her rather than of the actual history of the real life historical figure. History had already drifted with the movie, which often happens. History is a subjective thing to begin with and it’s okay to take a bit of creative license. I find it an affront however, when an author doesn’t do their own research and relies on the research of secondary sources that have already taken liberties. At this point it goes from creative license to deriving a false reality.

If an altered fictional character inspires you I strongly suggest that you create a new character and don’t make aspirations to the idea that what you are doing is historical fiction. People who write historical fiction look at primary sources, they do a great deal of research before they start mucking about in history. Don’t steal that.

Someone or perhaps someones, said that at some point, everything is derivative. It’s true, there are parallels to be found in nearly any ‘original’ idea to other stories or events. The job an author of fiction has is of making those ideas their own. Endless, fading carbon copies, each more smudged and hard to read than the last does not make for good reading.

This is a way to track how derivative you are: sit down and make a list of all the media that you enjoy. Video games, movies, cartoons, songs, books- everything. Write down what inspired you as a child. Write down what frightened you as a child. Write down the same for you now.

Now comes the hard part. Identify what aspects of your inspirations are what truly inspired you. Now look at your own work, how close are the two? What are the essential difference between your creation and your sources of inspiration?

If you can’t find more differences than similarities then you have a derivative piece of writing and you might as well throw it out. Or hide it and rewrite it from scratch. Only save the original to compare how your rewrite changed from your derivative writing. Is it enough?

carry-on-being-stupid

Or don’t ask yourself these questions. Just know, you will be mocked. 

Ask yourself the hard questions about why you took it in the first place. What do you covet about the work you have taken? To my experience it is often because people are too big of fans of what they are writing about. It goes back to that inner landscape and how you ‘grew’ it from the time you were a little child until the time you sat down to write your first pages. This grows deeply psychological. Most people who write from an plagiarized inner landscape feel that those people and worlds are more real than anything else they could come up with. Sometimes they find them more real than the places and people in their real life.

Deep psychoanalysis of your own writing shows you where the gaps are in your logic. It shows you what you don’t want to face and what you obsess with. If you don’t take off the blinders and face your world anyone who reads your writing is going to notice it for you. They are going to point out failures in logic, similarities to other worlds/characters. Sometimes readers can be cruel and find connections to characters or worlds that you might not have even been exposed to. Sometimes it’s okay to have these similarities.

The important thing to take away from it is your own awareness of where your work is derivative and become conscious of when you choose to combine elements of your sources of inspiration. It’s a wonderful thing to be inspired and a dastardly thing to plagiarize and a very thin line that rides between the two.

StarkLight Press Safer Pedestrian Initiative

StarkLight Press

Keeping those who walk on urban streets safe is an important issue for those of us at StarkLight Press.

14894612_677835702384824_1591627698_o This high visibility tape display is available at 7-11 on 8th St. in Dawson Creek.

Following our editor-in-chief’s pedestrian vs. taxicab throwdown last July, we have taken a local step in Dawson Creek, B.C. to try to make sure that sort of traffic accident doesn’t happen to anyone else.

We have donated sticky reflective tape strips (and safety pins, if one doesn’t favor attaching it with adhesive to their clothing) to local businesses that are open late and all night. As much as we’d like to StarkLight Press cannot hold the drivers who cause mayhem on city streets accountable… but we can try to keep pedestrians safer through visibility.

While we thoroughly recommend that everyone carry a high-visibility safety vest to use when they walk, or at least wrist and ankle…

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Jenn Spaulding Adopts Maddy

StarkLight Press

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In our next Irregulars author interview, Jenn Spaulding talks about taking up the character of Maddy, the young girl with a voice that can change moods, minds and opinions. She also tells us a little more about her experience with life, and with writing.

  1. What is your experience as a writer?

My experience as a writer began when I was a child and penned my first poem. I have always been fond of words and the power they have. Actually I guess one can say I am infatuated with words. My poetry led me down a path into a poetry vortex where I met the most amazing people that altered my life’s course.

  1. What if any experience do you have as a writer working with other authors in a collaborations?

Over the past year I have worked with a plethora of talented authors on many different occasions. As far as…

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