Those annoying updates…

So I have been writing on my phone for years. It started when my laptop began to succumb to old age, which meant I started using my iPad to write, and then Pages became standard on iOS, which made it very easy to switch between iPad and iPhone via iCloud, and now at least half my writing is done on my phone. I had finally got every setting at optimum for my extremely bad typing, the system was working, and though I had a few issues that bothered me, I was more or less content with the experience.

Then there was a fucking update. At first it seemed like a good update. Some of the more bonkers autocorrect quirks got ironed out, which was one of my main gripes. Like. I write mostly fantasy, and it would take entirely too long for the autocorrect to realize that yes, I am in fact typing sorcerix, and aera, and all those other weird, made-up words deliberately, and yes, I do want to use the British spelling for colour, thanks, and why are you correcting this word, a real actual word, the one I meant, even, for another similarly spelled word that is completely nonsensical in context? Like, I know track record is bad because my typing is Bad, because there is an intersection of ADHD and dyspraxia and I got stuck at a red light there twenty years ago and I’M STILL THERE GODDAMMIT but please give me tiny soupçon of credit please because I do have a decent vocabulary and pretty good spelling most of the time. So that was a fairly useful improvement, as updates go.

But ye gods. The way they handle autocorrecting now. Used to, if you backspaced after an autocorrect, it would just bring up a little pop-up with the original thing you’d typed, which you could just ignore and type in the comma, plural, quotation marks, etc etc. But now, backspacing into the autocorrected word HIGHLIGHTS the fucking word and you have to tap the screen in the text to unselect it, and if you don’t, because you are used to just ignoring the pop-up with the misspelled word, it will just fucking delete the autocorrected word/s and I fucking hate it. Fortunately for my sanity, it only does this on iPhone, but since I still do a ton of writing on my phone, it’s become a huge damned annoyance. I scoured the settings, trying to find a way to turn this off, but it doesn’t seem possible and I’m just really irritated about it.

Happy New Year, 2024

So, it was kind of a weird year, what with starting on a massive depressive episode, the worst case of bronchitis ever, the descent of the anxiety in May, the damn near lethal heat wave that coincided with the struggle I had regarding my new anxiety medication, then being chronically short handed at work for weeks…

But my writing also, somehow, exploded? I wrote about 250k words this year, and I finished my third novel. And I think that’s something to be proud of. I think I’ve improved, too, since it’s easier for me to reread my own work now. What I need at this stage is a good critique group, but I don’t know where I’d even find one, considering how bad I am at online networking. There was almost a queer writing group started in my town, but typically, it didn’t come to anything. Sigh.

But still, looking back, my health issues have seriously constrained my productivity in 2023. I was only able to work on one project at a time, because of my work schedule changing over and over again (that always messes me up), and I did almost no other arts or crafts. There’s an argument for not focusing on the concept of productivity over mental health—I see this on Instagram all the time. But there’s a difference between forcing productivity for a thankless job (and I’m really over this, so that’s not my problem) and striving for a goal. And my eventual end goal is to be published, and my preference would be as a hybrid author, with trad pub for my more political works, and small press/self pub for my more niche stuff.

The ‘new years resolution’ is one of those weird social constructs that set us up for failure, and I don’t want to make one because historically I have a bad record of keeping them for two days and then adhding myself into a depressive spiral. (I seem to have started this a bit early this year lolsob) I do want to outline a few goals, though.

1. Finish the second volume of my Character Bleed fanfic. This one is a reasonably sure thing, since I’m about three quarters of the way through. I did give up on the goal of finishing it before the end of 2023, because if I learned anything from my NaNoWriMo attempt, it’s that yes, I can write 50k in a month (I actually wrote about 60k), but it burned my brain out and severely impacted my output in December. I work better if I mostly write on my days off, because it gives my brain time to recharge. I don’t know if this would be different if I didn’t have to work 30+ hours a week, but since I have that adhd brain thing where I either hyper focus and lose track of time, or can’t focus at all and waste the entire day doing nothing much at all, I doubt it. I probably need to have my brain meds changed, but I really don’t want to do stimulants, and Strattera didn’t really do much for me.

2. Finish Golden Wolf. I feel a little guilty for spending so much time and energy on the Tourmaline books, a project that could likely end up being entirely non-commercial. I do plan to ask KL Noone’s permission to try to get it published when the trilogy is done, but that’s not a given, and I don’t  want to go the ‘file the serial numbers off route’ either. I’m not a fan of that idea, especially if it’s done over a small creator’s work instead of a large franchise like Marvel or Supernatural. Not that I think GW is going to be terribly commercial either. The urban fantasy market is saturated with over-sexualized, trope-driven sensationalism, and GW is a fairly quiet narrative with no sex and my wolf shifters diverge from the popular alpha/beta patriarchal bullshit that is somehow so popular, despite being gross and inherently misogynistic, to say nothing of how inaccurate it is to actual wolf behaviour. GW is also queer MF which is…not a booming subcategory. This isn’t something that bothers me overmuch; I’d rather tell stories with less commercial viability but more thematic resonance and positive, diverse representation, than jump on the capitalist bandwagon of queer exploitation.

3. I want to get back into making art. I used to do watercolors, and I have accumulated a lot of acrylics stuff that I want to try. I also have a bunch of miniature projects that need finishing, boxes upon boxes of polymer clay, a graphics tablet gathering dust behind my computer, an enormous yarn stash, and tons of leftover jewelry supplies…like, J, what is the point of having a dedicated studio if all you do is nap on the futon in it.

4. Get a better job. This is pretty self-explanatory. My job is thankless and exhausting and has severely damaged my mental health due to chronic stress. Nuff said.

5. I want to try to be more social. I have become a hermit who only gets out for work and necessary chores like grocery shopping. This needs to change.

6. Do the research for that one humorous urban fantasy idea that is going to be more folkloric than the standard UF tropes. (Wait, didn’t you already complain about UF tropes up there in Goal #2? Yes, yes I did, let us all partake in the inversion of the shitty tropes that have accumulated in this genre.) I’m currently going through my werewolf and vampire resources, which right now is mostly public domain ebooks and YouTube videos on the various history and folklore channels I follow.

7. Read more. I have fallen into a major reading rut. It’s partly because I’m too broke to buy up all my fave authors’ releases, especially since so many of them have gone trad pub, and trad pub prices are frankly extortionate. But also, since 2016 I have been reading romance almost exclusively, and while this was nice and comforting at first, it is also a suffocatingly formulaic genre that is largely exclusionary to aro/ace/nonbinary folks, in that many of the tropes and genre standards follow and enforce allo-cis-het-normativity, even in the queer narratives that comprised the bulk of my reading. Also, see above point about capitalist exploitation of queer narratives.

Jelly Belly Boba Milk Tea Jelly Beans

I was shopping with my mother the other day and I found these.

A package of Jelly Belly brand jelly beans, boba milk tea flavored.

And, like many of the specialty flavors of Jelly Bellies, they were Not Good.

As follows:

Strawberry: I love strawberry flavored anything, but this tastes like they saved the strawberries in the back of a closet for a few years before they used them. Pass

Mango: I have never liked mangos. Mango flavor it depends, but like, every single mango I ever ate tasted like Pine Sol. These taste like Pine Sol by way of the mustiest corner they used the Pine Sol to clean.

Taro: I have never eaten anything taro before, but I would hope they don’t taste like purple dust.

Matcha: these were the least offensive, but as an aficionado of matcha candies, I am Not Impressed.

Thai Tea: True story, Celestial Seasonings used to make a Decaf Coconut Chai (Thai Style*) that was my favorite tea in the bag. It has been discontinued since about around Covid and I am sad. The flavor of these beans just makes me more sad, because it has none of the spiciness I remember enjoying at all. It just tastes like disappointment.

Check Your Sources, Bruh

So…I was a fan of James Somerton. If you don’t know who that is, he was a video essayist on YouTube who discussed queer media, mostly movies and television but with a few detours into comics, heavy on the history of queer folks in Hollywood.

I say was because Harry Brewis, known on YouTube as Hbomberguy, dropped a video yesterday utterly obliterating any semblance of credibility Somerton might have had. It was revealed that Somerton had heavily plagiarized nearly all his scripts from other, lesser known authors.

I was horrified. I had been following Somerton’s channel for over a year at this point. I had considered him a useful source of information, even if sometime he said things that made me kind of side eye my screen sometimes. But I try not to expect people to be perfect. I have my limits, but the older I get, the more I realize how complicated the world really is, and how some people deserve the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. I would hope other people offer me the same latitude when I fuck up, because I do. I have decades of fundamentalist upbringing that I’m still trying to overcome. Sometimes I speak before I think.

But something like this…this is not misspeaking, it’s not someone trying to unlearn our societal conditioning. It was exploitation, plain and simple, by someone who knew what he was doing. Within hours of Brewis’ video releasing, Somerton had nuked his socials, deleted his discord and Patreon, and removed commenting from all the remaining videos on his channel. Those are not the actions of someone who made an innocent mistake. The sheer volume of what he stole from other, lesser known queer writers and activists speaks quite clearly of his intentions.

The worst part of it is: this was apparently not the first time Somerton had been called out for plagiarism. It simply took someone with a better YouTube pedigree and a bigger following to make people actually listen.

It’s a terrible situation, but not a surprising one. We are all laboring under capitalism, and that means we don’t have the benefit of uncritically consuming anything, not even free media analysis on the internet. The Algorithm rewards quantity over quality every time, and we have seen time and again how people will do anything to game that system.

If there is a takeaway from this, it should be: always check the sources. In the current political climate, we do not have the luxury of accepting anything that is served to us on a digital platter as truth. Don’t be an unwitting perpetrator of misinformation and exploitation.

It fucking sucks to have to do that. I know. But if we do not hold the people who are disseminating our stories, our perspectives, and our history to a higher standard, we will continue to have people willing to bypass any standards at all in favor of slick production values, ad revenue, and societal capital.

Someone on Tumblr helpfully put together a list of the people and sources Somerton plagiarized. I reblogged it here. Brewis also posted a playlist of queer creators, at least one of whom was affected by Somerton’s plagiarism.

Reading Roundup, August 2023

First proper book for August is The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Book cover for The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

This was another friend rec—Kit Kat has good taste in books! This was such a cute, sweet, extremely queer-friendly fantasy. It occupies an interesting cross-section of genre: romance, and a kind of cozy-ish rural fantasy. A lot of found family, and inter-generational trauma, which is why I describe it as cozy-ish. (I have a weird relationship with the term ‘cozy’ since it seems to be targeted largely at middle class neurotypicals who don’t get triggered by things like feeling horribly othered by society, the constant fear of losing everything because you live in an extremely disadvantaged economic bracket, or the fact that a majority of my country’s states are currently trying to criminalize people like me while the seas boil and the weather is actively trying to murder us all to balance things back out. Also, cozy mysteries are 99% about murder, which is the most un-cozy thing imaginable. But whatever.)

I’ve finished my relisten to Boyfriend Material, which I remember being entertained by but finding the ending a bit unsatisfying. I forgot how clever and amusing the dialogue got between Luc and his friends; it made me laugh out loud a few times on this listen. Since the sequel is out, I can forgive the abruptness of the ending.

Husband Material was about as far from what I had imagined it to be as possible. I feel like Alexis Hall was trying to say something about the performance of romance and heteronormativity but perhaps a romance series is  it the best place to do that? I feel like I’d need to listen to it again to formulate a more coherent opinion. I don’t think it was a bad book, per se, but I totally get why there are people in my book groups on FB who don’t like it.

I’ve also reread a bunch of things. The Wes and Finn shirts by KL Noone, plus a lot of other shorter stuff from her backlist—I really needed some comforting fluff. I also finished rereading Jordan L Hawk’s Hexworld series. I have some mixed feelings about cop stories these days, but at least these stories portray police, both regular and magically inclined, as the problematic and imminently corruptible forces they are? It’s not exactly a nuanced portrayal, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the series. I heard that the second book in the spin-off series is finally in the works, so I might reread the first one soon.

My last real reading entry for august was probably Subtle Bodies by Jordan Castillo Price, the thirteenth installment of her Psycop series. It was interesting to see Jacob’s development! I have trouble keeping interest if series get too long, but I think I’m still interested in these guys’ stories enough to keep on, even if I have trouble relistening to the middle books .

I didn’t get much more reading done, I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump since the last week or so of August. Been going back through a lot of old fic I’d saved into my iBooks library. Some of that stuff holds up pretty well, even if She Who Must Not Be Named has totally ruined the Wizard School books for me forever.