Why I Switched to ClassicPress



Look closely at any of my writing sites. See any difference? Any breakage? No?

I switched everything to ClassicPress, a new hard fork of WordPress, rather than update to WordPress’ 5.0.x. (Here’s a footnote: WordPress is open source, which means that others can take the code and make changes to it and create something new. A ‘fork’ is what it sounds like: it’s an offshoot that forms when people start making changes in a different direction.)

I don’t know whether 5.0.x would have broken anything on my sites. After all, they’re pretty lightweight and straightforward. But given the many people who are, innocently and in good faith, following the oft-repeated advice to always keep one’s site up to date and are finding their sites broken… well, who can say what would have happened?

At issue here is Gutenberg, the new “block-based” editor that WordPress is forcing down the throats of users. More properly, phase 1 of Gutenberg, which is going to expand outside the editor into other aspects in the future. There are countless sites right now covering the flaws in Gutenberg, ranging from site breakage to being a difficult and buggy and non-intuitive editor. I’m not going to repeat them. You can find them. Depending on which part of the Internet you hang out in, you might not be able to avoid them.

I’m not a coder or dev or website designer. I’m a disabled ex-medical secretary and a fantasy writer. Want me to do transcription, filing, reception, data entry? I’m all over it. Want me to spin a story? Just try to stop me. But when it comes to the increasingly complex world of computer sciences and information technology? Uhm… I know the fundamentals of how a computer works and can generally do what I want to do on one. I know the fundamentals of how a cat works, too, and I can keep one healthy and happy, but that doesn’t make me a vet or help much beyond recognizing when something is not right. Cats, at least, do not typically need upgrades once they have core vaccinations and have been spayed or neutered!

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Wait, you write erotica too?

Yes, I do write erotic fantasy along with the non- (or at least less-) erotic sort. In fact, I’ve just started a new serial, Fair Trade, that is an urban fantasy but also distinctly erotic. And no, I see no reason at all to be embarrassed about that. This post is not an apology or an excuse. It is my personal take on the existence of, and frequent dismissal of, erotic literature.

First, we need to make sure we’re talking about the same thing.

WordNet defines erotica as “creative activity (writing or pictures or films etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire”. I do not agree with this highly judgmental definition at all, nor with declaring pornography and smut to be its synonyms. In fact, that’s pretty much my whole thesis here, that erotica can have entertainment, literary, and/or artistic value aside from its ability to stimulate sexually.

Wiktionary has the much less disparaging “Erotic literature, art, decoration or other such work” with a usage note of, “This word sometimes encompasses only material that is not pornographic and has or is purported to have artistic or social value, but also can include pornography, depending on the context and speaker.” Erotic is defined by Wiktionary as “Relating to or tending to arouse sexual desire or excitement.” As long as we understand “erotic” to include a broad umbrella of peripheral aspects that might not be sexual in the traditional sense but often interact with it, then I think we can go with that.

Sexuality, the erotic, and all the associated instincts, drives, and emotions are complex and powerful and common, although not universal, and while any given nuanced combination is probably unique, the individual aspects generally are not. The erotic incorporates body and mind, emotion and imagination, spirit and culture, all integrated into one–or with conflicts between that, unresolved, can be devastating. Few other aspects of our existence encompass so broad a range or reach so deep. The erotic can lend that power and passion to fiction, whether it’s incorporated as secondary layers or more centrally–as long as it’s used properly, and isn’t expected to stand alone.

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Gender-neutral Pronouns

Let’s talk about pronouns.

First-person pronouns are pretty straightforward: “I/me” and “we/us”. In English, since we no longer differentiate between second-person singular and second-person plural, using “you” for both, we get into a bit of trouble now and then. There’s a persistent sense that we need to be able to distinguish between the two sometimes for clarity, so we end up with “y’all” or “you guys” or any number of dialectical variants. We’re missing a pronoun that we clearly feel that we need. That’s more of an issue when speaking or addressing others directly, however. When it comes to narrative fiction, at worst a character may stumble over the ambiguity the same way it happens in real dialog, and need to clarify their meaning to their listeners in whatever way is appropriate.

At the end of that paragraph, I just ran into the big, and familiar to many, pronoun issue with third person. How to phrase it? His listeners? Her listeners? A character could be either. His or her listeners? There are two problems with that: it assumes that the character actually identifies as one or the other, and it gets really awkward-looking after a few repetitions. So I went with the singular “they,” as many now do. It works. Continue reading

Pansexual, not bisexual

I originally wrote this┬áback in Sept 2015 for a [now defunct] online magazine┬áto which I submitted a few short pieces. I’ve spent some time thinking about whether it really belongs here. I’ve decided that, while it isn’t specifically about writing as such, it does make a point about the importance of a single word, a label, in self-identity. This matters, or should matter, to anyone whose writing involves character diversity, and not only in regards to orientation or gender. Reposted here with a few small corrections.

When I first realized that I wasn’t straight, I took a look around me for an alternative description for myself. This being the early nineties, research was more complicated than looking online, and community and support more limited. I quickly concluded that “lesbian” wasn’t quite accurate, despite some lesbians occasionally choosing sex with men. When I stumbled over the idea of bisexuality, I seized on that: here was a term that wouldn’t try to force me to choose, and would allow me to acknowledge that I found people of many kinds attractive and desirable.

Life went on, and I ran into all the wonderful stereotypes that people have about bisexuality. Men I barely knew hit on me with descriptions of their wives. People assumed that I was non-monogamous because if I were monogamous, I would no longer be bisexual. I heard the bad jokes and the slurs and the put-downs: can’t make up their minds, sitting on the fence, want it both ways, in denial, too horny to care who they sleep with, and all the rest. I learned fast to stay away from lesbian events locally, because there was an unspoken rule that bi women were welcome only if they could be assumed to be lesbian–a kind of don’t ask, don’t tell. Having just come out of one closet, I refused to go back into another one. Continue reading

Short Story: Winterwood

Because I needed a bit of a break while trying to work out a plot snarl in Moonblood, I unearthed one of the very few short stories I like, gave it a bit of a polish, and posted it on its own page here.

A bit of male-male romance and some surprises, while on a little-travelled road in the middle of winter. (Other-world fantasy.)