The main character of Les Miserables is not Monseignuer Bienvenu or Jean Valjean, or Fantine, or Gavroche, or Marius, or Cosette, but the person who invents them and tells their story, this insolent narrator who keeps cropping up between his creation and the reader.

Mario Vargas Llosa, The Temptation of the Impossible 


(via pilferingapples)






can we take a moment to just think about how incredibly scary magical healing is in-context?

You get your insides ripped open but your friend waves his hands and your flesh just pulls back together, agony and evisceration pulling back to a ‘kinda hurts’ level of pain and you’re physically whole, with the 100% expectation that you’ll get back up and keep fighting whatever it was that struck you down the first time.

You break your arm after falling somewhere and after you’re healed instead of looking for ‘another way around’ everybody just looks at you and goes “okay try again”.

You’ve been fighting for hours, you’re hungry, thirsty, bleeding, crying from exhaustion, and a hand-wave happens and only two of those things go away. you’re still hungry, you’re still weak from thirst, but the handwave means you have ‘no excuse’ to stop.

You act out aggressively maybe punch a wall or gnash your teeth or hit your head on something and it’s hand-waved because it’s ‘such a small injury you probably can’t even feel it anymore’ but the point was that you felt it at all?

Your pain literally means nothing because as long as you’re not bleeding you’re not injured, right? Here drink this potion and who cares about the emotional exhaustion of that butchered village, why are you so reserved in camp don’t you think it’s fun retelling that time you fell through a burning building and with a hand-wave you got back up again and ran out with those two kids and their dog? 

Older warriors who get a shiver around magic-users not because of the whole ‘fireball’ thing but the ‘I don’t know what a normal pain tolerance is anymore’ effect of too much healing. Permanent paralysis and loss of sensation in limbs is pretty much a given in the later years of any fighter’s life. Did I have a stroke or did the mage just heal too hard and now this side of my face doesn’t work? No i’m not dead from the dragon’s claws but I can’t even bend my torso anymore because of how the scar tissue grew out of me like a vine.

Magical healing is great and keeps casualties down.

But man.

That stuff is scary.

shit just got creepy

Or maybe magical healing doesn’t leave scars or damage. It is magical, after all.

So after years of fighting, your skin is still perfect. Unmarred. In fact, you’re actually in better shape than regular people who don’t get magical healing when they fall out of trees or walk into doors or cut themselves while cooking dinner. You’re in such good shape that it’s unnatural.

And the really good healing magic takes away more than just the obvious injuries. You first start noticing it after about ten years when you go home and haha, you look the same age as your younger sibling, that’s funny.

Not so funny ten years later when they look older. Or forty years later, when you bury them still looking like you did at twenty. When do you retire from this gig anyway? How much damage is too much damage?

How many times do you glimpse the afterlife, or worse, how many times don’t you? What do you live through, get used to, show no outward sign of except a perfectly healthy body, too perfect for any person living a real life.

How many times are you sitting in a tavern with your friends and you hear the whispers, because the people around you know. How can they not know? Your weapons shine with enchantments and your armour is better than the best money can buy and there is not a damn scar on you. You hardly seem human to them.

How long before you hardly seem human to yourself?

And you find yourself struggling to remember the places where the scars should have been, phantom pains that wake you screaming, touching all the old injuries and finding nothing there. It’s all in your head. Was it ever anywhere else?

How long before you’re fighting a lich or a vampire or some other undead monster and you wonder…

…what makes me so different?

Here we go someone who GETS IT.


the older I get, the less patience I have for the idea that a story is inherently complex or #deep because it has a bittersweet or tragic ending, or that people who like for things to end on a happy note are simple-minded weaklings who can’t handle harsh realities and mature storytelling. 

Look, shit is fucked. Life is a mess. Sometimes it’s a struggle to even come up with a reason to go on. I respect that media should be realistic and true to life, but fucking sue me, for once I just want to see the bad guys eat shit while the good guys ride off into the sunset and never have anything bad happen to them ever again. I don’t care if it’s unrealistic or implausible, that’s why it’s a fucking story. I have enough tragedy in my real life, thanks.

Ableism in post apocalyptic fiction





I had an interesting series of thoughts at work today.I started off thinking of a solarpunk zombie apocalypse story – society has collapsed, survivours rebuild from the ashes with solarpunk tech and the like while dealing with zombies, marauders, bandits and other threats. I was enjoying the idea until I realised something:

The post apocalypse genre is inherently ableist.

How often do you see disabled people in post apocalypse fiction anyway? Not very – off the top of my head I can think of Eli from The Book of Eli, Tomonaga Ijiro and Joe Muhammad from World War Z (the book) and Davis, Jodie and Jennifer from Dead State. Everyone else, able-bodied and neurotypical, with nary a chronic illness in sight – anyone who isn’t 100% mentally and physically “normal” is left behind or dragged along with reluctance and openly considered “dead weight,” with no consideration given to that person’s skillset or other qualities they might have that could come in handy. Even people with PTSD – a perfectly understandable thing to have after the apocalypse – are often looked down on as being “weak” or “unable to handle it” and are rarely given any decent help or support from those around them.

The entire genre feels like it’s designed with this ableistic outlook in mind and while I acknowledge there is limited realism to it – a lot of people with chronic illnesses or disabilities do need support to work at their best ability, and most post apocalypse settings won’t have anything like this in place which will put many of them at risk – that doesn’t mean we have to drag it all along in our stories with no questioning of why. Just because some may not make it through doesn’t mean every single person who has a condition that isn’t 100% curable is going to vanish with them.

We can do better than stories that tell disabled people that they’ll be better off dead so they don’t drag everyone else down; that tell people with chronic illnesses that they are worthless; that tell people with mental illnesses that they are a drain on resources; that tell the neuroatypical that they are nothing more than liabilities. Even people that stay behind to care for their loved ones who have such a condition are seen as noble but naive and generally condemned by the narrative as unfit to survive unless they leave the person “holding them back.”

Given that (in my opinion) post apocalypse stories are about how we’d like to rebuild society if we had to start over, the fact that disabled and neuroatypical representation is so rare in the stories across this genre says so much about society, and none of it positive. Neuroatypical and non-able bodied people aren’t all magically going to go away just because society has, and their absence in your story just says more about your attitude than about any “harsh realities” of the setting you’ve created.

This is such a great observation, and I definitely think a big part of the appeal of post-apocalyptic fiction for a certain kind of reader and writer is that you get to wipe out huge swaths of human complexity with “They all just die but it’s not eugenics because the zombies did it.”

But I don’t think it has to be that way, and I think a solarpunk approach could be a great way to bring that out. It would be harder to write, sure, because if the nature of a setting is to say “any shortcoming is a justification for letting someone die,” then it’s got to be a much bigger deal to the protagonists to resist that kind of thinking.

But that also makes it a great kind of story to showcase exactly the kind of values it’s often used to condemn: to show a group retrofitting their friend’s wheelchair with a solar powered motor and all-terrain wheels, or using precious power and backpack space to keep a supply of insulin refrigerated, or all learning sign language to accommodate their deaf teammate. 

You could show people not failing because they chose compassion over pragmatism — maybe even succeeding because of it. All three of those accommodations have advantages, too: the group member with a powered wheelchair can probably carry more than other group members,* if you’re hauling a fridge you can refrigerate more than just insulin, and sign language is a valuable silent form of communication if you’re in a world filled with hostile zombies.

The important thing is to show groups choosing to stick up for their disabled or neurodivergent** members and not be punished for it. Those group members don’t need to ultimately be the climactic key to success — in fact, that’d probably be a problematic way to take it, because it would end up re-emphasizing the idea that their value comes from their ability to be useful.

But showing them as fully realized contributing characters in the story, whose teammates care about and support them (and vice versa), and showing them all make it out alive, flies in opposition to the ableist nature of apocalyptic fiction.

Of course, fiction where the world as it exists doesn’t have to end for things to start to get better is also important. But I can see a lot of value in post-apocalyptic fiction that isn’t a thinly veiled excuse to start gleefully describing the tragic deaths of everybody not optimally equipped to serve the new libertarian/military grim utopia.

* I’m not actually sure about this point — if anyone reading has personal experience with the physics and practical concerns of using a wheelchair re: carrying capacity, and wants to correct me, please do.

** I know I don’t actually have any examples of neurodivergence in the post. I’m gonna keep thinking about that aspect of this but I don’t have anything atm.

This is all spot-on and speaks to an understanding of the genre I’ve developed, having formerly been part of the problem. 

I used to be really into post-apocalyptic fiction, especially zombie-apocalypse settings. I actually had discussions with one of my coworkers about the suitability of our workplace for survival during such an event (conclusion: too many windows, we were probably screwed). From the perspective of where I was in my life at the time, it seemed like a good bit of fun and, hey, if it did happen, at least I’d be ready, right? 

Then I became medication-dependent. Now, when I thought about the logistics of survival in a post-apocalyptic situation, I had to consider where the hell I would be getting my anti-androgens and estrogen from. I didn’t think about it before, even though I knew I was trans, because I didn’t realize how fundamentally I needed to be on the right hormones. These meds doesn’t exactly grow on trees, and I’d hardly be the only trans woman who needs the stuff and, well… suddenly it’s not as fun as it used to be. 

Moving from one category to the other really soured me on the genre. I still watch it, read it, hell, I even write it, but it doesn’t have the same appeal to me that it used to. I think that’s the problem, really. Cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical people don’t think about this sort of thing because it doesn’t affect them personally, just like I didn’t think about it when I didn’t think it affected me. To them, survival is a bootstraps thing — if you’re HARD and MAN enough (but not TOO MAN, as Walking Dead’s perfectly shaven ladies helpfully illustrate), you are rewarded with continued life. At least, until the writers decide there’s too many black men on the show and whoops, time for one to get bitten. If you’re not HARD or MAN enough? Well, that’s your own problem! 

If we could get post-apocalyptic media to a less relentlessly heteromasculist and individualist place, I think that would improve things immeasurably. Right now it basically exists to soothe the fears of men that they are not, in fact, HARD or MAN enough, and if the world would just give them the chance they could prove it. I don’t think this is the cause of the ablism in the genre, but it sure feeds into it. 

All this to say that an inclusive community-oriented solarpunk post-apocalyptic setting sounds amazing and I would read the hell out of it. 

Self-reblogging to add that there’s an anthology about this very subject!

“Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring
disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the
“fittest” who survive – it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and
innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when
everything is lost.

In stories of fear, hope and survival, this anthology gives new
perspectives on the end of the world, from authors Corinne Duyvis, Janet
Edwards, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Gunn, Elinor
Caiman Sands, Rivqa Rafael, Bogi Takács, John Chu, Maree Kimberley,
Octavia Cade, Lauren E Mitchell, Thoraiya Dyer, Samantha Rich, and K L

It’s going to be out on the 30th of May (two days from now) and you can get it from Twelfth Planet Press or Amazon.

Fanfiction Written By Young People



  • Freelance worker lives in huge, gorgeous house/apartment in expensive area despite never seeming to be working
  • Characters work 8-5 office job with hour-long commute, but go to bed no earlier than midnight and get up in time for morning sex and long, leisurely cooked breakfasts every day
  • Do these characters even have jobs?
  • Single parent has way more communication with child’s teacher than is normal; leads to dating; administration somehow has no problem with this.
  • “I know I could never afford this mansion, but it’s OK I inherited it.  No, paying property taxes isn’t difficult on my salary.  I don’t even know how much the place is worth.  Are property taxes a thing?”
  • There are two levels of cooking skills:  gourmet food every time no recipe, and sets pot of boiling water on fire somehow.  No one is ever in between these two skill sets.  People on each level always end up dating each other.
  • Despite the gourmet meals described needing like seven pots to cook, no one ever does dishes.
  • Character shares a bottle of wine with their date (2 and half glasses each), and they both get falling-down drunk.
  • Later, one of them drinks an entire bottle of whiskey by themselves and does not die.

Oh my god



the politics of light and dark are everywhere in our vocabulary…psa to writers: subvert this, reveal whiteness and lightness as sometimes artificial and violent, and darkness as healing, the unknown as natural

Some ideas for bad things that are white/light:

  • lightning, very hot fire
  • snow storms, ice, frost on crops
  • some types of fungus/mold
  • corpses, ghosts, bones, a diseased person
  • clothing, skin tone, hair, etc. of a bad person
  • fur, teeth, eyes of an attacking animal/monster
  • bleached out deserts, dead trees, lifeless places
  • poison

Some ideas for good things that are black/dark:

  • rich earth/soil
  • chocolate, truffles, wine, cooked meat
  • friendly animals/pets/creatures
  • a character’s favorite vehicle, technology, coat, etc.
  • a pleasant night
  • hair, skin tone, clothing, etc. of a good person
  • undisturbed water of a lake
  • the case/container of something important
  • valued wood, furniture, art
  • velvet

Think to burn, to infect, to bleach vs. to enrich, to protect, to be of substance.


I know I’ve talked about this before, but I’m really sick of seeing writers who should know better say things like, “Tragedy is more compelling than stories where characters have a nice day and nothing bad happens!” without understanding why.

Tragedy is an effective story element when it’s a deviation from the norm. A character’s peaceful existence is disrupted by a catastrophic event that throws everything into chaos. The character now has to either develop so they can cope with the new status quo, or find a way to put things back the way they were. There’s a good story in that.

But when a character’s life is an unrelenting cavalcade of misery, another heaping dose of shit isn’t all that interesting. At that point, a compelling deviation from the norm would be said character having a nice day where nothing bad happens. And modern fiction is chock-full of misery porn, so by this logic, it’s no wonder the coffee shop AU is such a popular fanfiction trope.

Derek Hale getting a dog and putting his life back together is way more interesting than Derek Hale’s life getting worse for the 26th consecutive episode.

Creators like to hold up “everything is fine and nobody dies” as a sign that fanfic is bland and badly written, but if anything, it’s an indicator that mainstream fiction is bland and badly written. 

When I was twenty-one, I had my tonsils removed. I was one of those people who got strep throat every few minutes, and my doctor finally decided that I needed to have my tonsils taken out. For the entire week afterward, swallowing hurt so much that I could barely open my mouth for a straw. I had a prescription for painkillers, though, and when they ran out but the pain hadn’t, I called the nurse and said that she would really need to send another prescription over, and maybe a little mixed grill of drugs because I was also feeling somewhat anxious. But she wouldn’t. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She told me her supervisor was at lunch and that I needed to buy some gum, of all things, and to chew it vigorously—the thought of which made me clutch at my throat. She explained that when we have a wound in our body, the nearby muscles cramp around it to protect it from any more violation and from infection, and that I would need to use these muscles if I wanted them to relax again. So finally my best friend Pammy went out and bought me some gum, and I began to chew it, with great hostility and skepticism. The first bites caused a ripping sensation in the back of my throat, but within minutes all the pain was gone, permanently. I think that something similar happens with our psychic muscles. They cramp around our wounds—the pain from our childhood, the losses and disappointments of adulthood, the humiliations suffered in both—to keep us from getting hurt in the same place again, to keep foreign substances out. So those wounds never have a chance to heal. Perfectionism is one way our muscles cramp. In some cases we don’t even know that the wounds and the cramping are there, but both limit us. They keep us moving and writing in tight, worried ways. They keep us standing back or backing away from life, keep us from experiencing life in a naked and immediate way.

Anne Lamott, “Perfectionism,” Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (via pigmenting)




Okay, this is in incredibly petty nitpick, but: if you’re writing a fantasy setting with same-sex marriage, a same-sex noble or royal couple typically would not have titles of the same rank – e.g., a prince and a prince, or two queens.

It depends on which system of ranking you use, of course (there are several), but in most systems there’s actually a rule covering this scenario: in the event that a consort’s courtesy title being of the same rank as their spouse’s would potentially create confusion over who holds the title by right and who by courtesy, the consort instead receives the next-highest title on the ladder.

So the husband of a prince would be a duke; the wife of a queen, a princess; and so forth.

(You actually see this rule in practice in the United Kingdom, albeit not in the context of a same-sex marriage; the Queen’s husband is styled a prince because if he were a king, folks might get confused about which of them was the reigning monarch.)

The only common situation where you’d expect to see, for example, two queens in the same marriage is if the reigning monarchs of two different realms married each other – and even then, you’d more likely end up with a complicated arrangement where each party is technically a princess of the other’s realm in addition to being queen of her own.

You’ve gotta keep it nice and unambiguous who’s actually in charge!

Okay, I’ve received a whole lot of asks about this post, so I’m going to cover all of the responses in one go:

1. The system described above is, admittedly, merely one of the most common. Other historically popular alternatives include:

  • The consort’s courtesy title is of the same rank as their spouse’s, with “-consort” appended to it: prince and prince-consort, queen and queen-consort, etc. This is how, e.g., present-day Monaco does it.
  • The consort is simply styled Lord or Lady So-and-so, and receives no specific title. I can’t think of any country that still does it this way, off the top of my head, but historically it was a thing.

(Naturally, your setting needn’t adhere to any of these, but it would be highly irregular for it to lack some mechanism for clarifying the chain of command.)

2. The reason why the consort of a prince is historically a princess even though those titles are the same rank is basically sexism. This can go a couple of ways:

  • In many realms, there was no such thing as being a princess by right; the daughter of a monarch would be styled Lady So-and-so and receive no specific title, so the only way to be a princess was to marry a prince.
  • In realms where women could hold titles by right, typically a masculine title was informally presumed to outrank its feminine counterpart. So, e.g., kings outrank queens, princes outrank princesses, etc.

In either case, no ambiguity exists.

(Interestingly, this suggests that in a more egalitarian setting where masculine titles are not presumed to outrank their feminine counterparts, or vice versa, you’d need to explicitly disambiguate rankings even outside the context of same-sex marriages. Food for thought!)

3. It would also be possible to have two kings or two queens in the same marriage without multiple realms being involved in the case of a true co-monarchy. However, true co-monarchies are highly irregular and, from a political standpoint, immensely complicated affairs. If you’re planning on writing one of those, be prepared to do your research!

4. The next rank down from “countess” is either “viscountess” or “baroness”, depending on which peerage system you’re using.

(Yes, that last one actually came up multiple times. Apparently there are a lot of stories about gay countesses out there!)

I’d like to argue with this, but I can’t.


okay so hey let’s talk about something that bugs me in fanfic about artistic characters: not all artists will wistfully draw the dude they have a crush on’s face over and over in their sketchbooks. like, few of them. very few of them. 

i went to a visual arts school full of horny, lonely young people ages 18-28 and we were all constantly showing each other our sketchbooks, as is the traditional combat maneuver of the visual artist, and you know how many sketches of anyone’s boyfriend or girlfriend or love interest i saw? several hundred, if you count anime characters. maybe two or three if you only count real life people. mostly we just drew our friends. as anime characters. i’m an illustrator. i live with other illustrators. i know my roommate’s girlfriend’s cute anthro dog oc’s better than i know her face.

so like— is your character an artistic? do they like to draw? do they have a crush on someone? is it unrequited? they’re going to fill their sketchbook up with like, inu yasha covered in blood. or whatever the cool sad anime is for kids these days, but definitely someone sad and covered in blood. or like two faceless dudes fucking a cake, i saw that once. i knew a girl who only drew people fucking cakes, her whole sketchbook. your character also might just draw dragons everywhere, or really bad robots in smudgey pencil. your character is at some point going to draw a really skinny girl with really big boobs, holding a sword. 

but like, as a general rule, visual artists don’t casually or absent-mindedly render things that are hard or make them anxious. like, drawing realistically from memory a crush’s face. will your character draw maybe a wolf or a horse or a dragon that somehow symbolically represents the object of their affections? pretty good odds. absentmindedly launching into a whole portrait of their beloved without noticing because they are so romantically forlorn? very unlikely. drawing their crush’s favorite flower or food or animal or character or something? definitely

anyway, drawing from life is tough. drawing from life from memory is tougher. unless an artistic character is stated in canon to be good at portraiture, they’re really unlikely to fill their sketchbook up with wistful handsome faces.

feel free to reblog this post and add your own opinion, though, if you’re another visual artist.