The Importance of Masks

I’ve embraced our new mask-wearing present. The evidence is now overwhelming that they slow the spread of disease AND protect the wearer.

I’m immunocompromised. I don’t want COVID-19. I know people who’ve been left with an array of side effects from supposedly mild cases. It is a nasty virus we don’t know nearly enough about. No, thank you.

Since I’m following the law, medical evidence and common sense, and wearing a mask, I figured I’d have fun with it. I’m a fashion obsessive–just check out my alter ego Instagram, Dr Justine Fancy Pants–I had to have stylish masks and what better way to support local designers? Most of us can afford the cost of a mask even if we can’t afford a dress.

I’ve bought masks from local NYC designers/stores Emme, East Village Hats, Junny, Salvage Cloth and Indigo Style Vintage. Check out the masks by local designers in your region. Support them if you can. It makes a world of difference.

My doctor recommends turning your masks inside out after use and putting it in direct sunlight for an hour. If that’s not possible hand wash with gentle detergent or soap. Always dry completely before wearing again. It’s best to have at least two masks.

PS: I haven’t been blogging because I missed the community that used to be here. When this was a regular blog there was a wonderful conversation in response to almost every post. I’m finding blogging here to silence soul sucking.

I miss the community of the old days but I accept those days are gone. The conversations now unfold on social media.

I have found an engaged community on Instagram ready and willing to discuss the intersections of fashion and politics during this pandemic and there are no trolls. I’m loving it. So I post my mini essays there. I will continue to post longer essays here and will soon be updating this site with my fashion research.

I don’t foresee returning to Twitter anytime soon. It was too depressing. I miss those of you I no longer interact with, but my mental health is so much better since I left. So . . .

Photos of me were taken by Scott Westerfeld.

On Not Writing Fiction During The Pandemic

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I’m not sure I can write fiction anymore. I don’t know how to write a psychological thriller set here and now in this pandemic, this lockdown.

I think of those movies made during World War II that completely ignored the war. Were they set during a slightly earlier or slightly later time? Or an alternative universe?

Should I do that? I don’t think I can do that.

It’s Saturday afternoon in NYC. It’s 20c (68f) and the sun is shining, the air is crystalline, conversations and laughter (!) drift up from the street below, cars drive by, music blares. NYC sounds like NYC.

We’re in the sixth week of the lockdown.1 NYC shouldn’t sound like NYC. NYC shouldn’t be jumping. There shouldn’t be so many people out on the streets. Hundreds of people are still dying here every day. We’re supposed to be quarantining.

I haven’t been outside since Tuesday. My autoimmune disease has been in full flare. I was hoping to go out for a walk today. But, no, it’s impossible. There are too many people on my street.

It’s nothing compared to how busy the streets would have been pre-shut down. It’s our first sunny day after several days of cold and rain. Before the streets would have been jammed. The numbers that are freaking me out are tiny.

There’s no where in the USA it’s harder to maintain distance. NYC is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Our footpaths are too narrow, so we spill out onto the roads. Many of which are also too narrow. Especially today when there’s more cars cruising around than I’ve seen since this started.

It’s not that people are ignoring the lockdown. We’re allowed to go out to exercise, to shop for essentials. I look out the window: most are wearing masks, they’re trying to distance. But it’s impossible.

I’m hearing a lot of sirens today.

I stay inside and work. But I don’t turn to rewriting the YA psychological thriller or the adult one I’ve written ten chapters of. I haven’t touched either since before I spent the summer in Sydney. The summer of a million fires. The summer of having to wear masks to go outside because the air was unbreathable.

Back then I didn’t work on them because I didn’t know if I should include the fires, by which I mean climate disasters. Neither book, though supposedly set in this world, even touched upon how much hotter, more dangerous and unlivable our world is becoming. Leaving those realities out felt wrong.

The adult thriller begins on a plane. As did my last novel, My Sister Rosa. I love writing scenes on planes. It’s so contained, so intense. The characters are jammed in with hundreds of others, yet also in a tiny bubble.

But the airline industry may not exist the way I wrote it, after this pandemic is over. It may change as dramatically as it did after 9/11, or more dramatically.

I don’t know how to write fiction set in this world.

I work instead on non-fiction book proposals. Books that don’t ignore this world of bushfires, floods, tsunamis and hurricanes and all the other disasters made worse and more frequent by industrialization, by the steady rise in carbon emissions.

But these non-fiction books don’t touch on the pandemic, on this lockdown, on my world right now. That book can’t be written until this over, not well. Besides I don’t want to write that book. There will be a million such books.

When we come out of this pandemic, will we really want to read books about it?

I can’t even read too much about it now. I follow the immediate news, I read a few articles, I listen to the ABC’s Coronacast, but too much of that and I start to freak out. Mostly I read books about the history and future of the fashion industry and talk about it with folks on Instagram.

My account there is a huge part of my mental health regime. It’s where I found a worldwide community of people, who care passionately about transforming the fashion industry from one of the world’s biggest polluters and exploiters of workers, into a sustainable, clean, and ethical one. A deeply important mission done while wearing gorgeous vintage and responsibly made clothes. That’s my kind of revolution.

Maybe when this pandemic is over I’ll write a novel set in that world.

  1. Or is it the seventh? I’m losing track of time. I know it’s Saturday because we do the weekend quiz with the family back in Sydney every Friday and Saturday night. We did the first weekend quiz last night. Thus Saturday. []

The Problem With Making the Cut

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I did not love Making the Cut as I did not love Project Runway before it and for similar reasons: they favour the least interesting designers, who for some mysterious reason are almost always white.

I’ll admit straight up that I only watched two seasons of Project Runway and bowed out once they got rid of the interesting designers. So I’m not an expert on that show. Maybe it got better.

My reaction to Making the Cut was also coloured by having watched Next In Fashion shortly before it, which I loved. LOVED.

What was so refreshing about Next was that most of the interesting designers made it deep into the competition and the best designer won! Honestly, I almost fainted.

Also there was an episode on Next In Fashion where they actually discussed whether the judges might have some racial bias, and then they changed their decision because of it. I had to watch it again to believe it.

There were zero discussions of race or class or gender or anything else on Making the Cut. I felt like it’d gone back in time.

Next touched on issues around sustainability–not nearly enough–but Making never discussed fashion’s horrendous impact on the planet. The words organic, sustainable, circular economy, recycling, pollution were never mentioned. Unlike the seasons of Project Runway I watched which had a recycling challenge.

All the winning looks were available primarily in synthetics, which damage the planet in production, as well as every single time they’re washed. And those clothes were available for price points so low, there’s no way everyone in the supply and production chain were paid fairly.

The ethics of fashion was never discussed. On either show.

The winning collection from Next was also primarily synthetic and, while more expensive than Making, the prices were still too low for everyone involved to be paid fairly.

I loved that Next, especially in the latter episodes, showed far more of the process of designing and making the clothes, which is what these shows are supposedly about. I want to see more of them sweating the designs. I wanted more process. I wanted more of them dealing with one another. I really felt that I knew the Next contestants–far more than those on Making.

Making seemed to think viewers would be more interested in Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum fencing. This viewer was not remotely interested in the Tim and Heidi antics. Though I did enjoy watching Tim pack. I love seeing neat and tidy people being neat and tidy. Organisation is hot. I wish there was a show entirely devoted to different packing techniques from around the world. Ask me how I feel about Marie Kondo. #Swoon

Ultimately I don’t think Making the Cut knew what it was. It was looking for the next global brand and kept emphasising accessibility, but then designers would not make the cut for lack of originality.

Yet the show was won by one of the least interesting designers. Megan, who was cut, had everything they claimed Johnny had: her clothes were accessible, comfortable, and could be worn by a wide variety of body types. She was the one designer who fit the show’s unstated parameters: make clothes that look cool but not too intimidating. Be edgy but accessible.

I was not wild about Esther’s clothes. I don’t like all black. To me it screams arrested development. Leaven it with colour. You’ll look better. Truly.

That said, I thought her last collection was by far her best. She was robbed. As was Sander. Both of them deserved to win. And so did Megan.

In my reboot, Naomi Campbell is the only judge I’d keep. I loved her, not least for fighting for Megan. I’m not wild about Heidi, she reminds me of all the blonde school bullies I dealt with, but she redeemed herself by voting for Esther.

I’m waiting for the fashion design contest that looks for the most sustainable designs produced in the most ethical way. That lays bare the entire supply chain. We got to see that Johnny has his clothes made in Indonesia, but there was no discussion of why. That why is huge.

Watching these shows in the midst of a global pandemic, where there’s a huge campaign to get the biggest fashion brands in the world to actually pay their suppliers for clothes already made, so that garment workers in Bangladesh etc don’t starve to death, well, both Next in Fashion and Making the Cut seemed like they were set in Fairyland.

Vintage Style Not Vintage Values

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I’m not nostalgic. I don’t miss the days of my childhood, teens, or young adulthood.

I don’t love vintage because I long for white picket fences or white supremacy. For everything that’s terrible about the world now, there’s a tonne that’s improved. The past is mostly not a good place for indigenous people, people of colour, most white women.

There are indigenous TV programs on Australian TV. Representation is better in Australia and the USA than it’s ever been. (It’s a very low bar though.)

Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are in jail. Me too is a thing. Thank you, Tarana Burke, and so many other courageous women.

There are racist, misogynist, climate change denying, (wannabe) autocrats in power in too many places. White people still live longest and have the most wealth and power. Indigenous resistance struggles like the tremendous #ShutDownCanada movement is barely covered in the mainstream media. The world is still shit. Just not as shit.

I wear thirties clothes because I love the lines, colours, patterns–not because I’m hot for fascism.

I wear fifties sundresses because they’re comfy, flattering and gorgeous–not because I wish to be a modest Stepford wife. I don’t long for men to be men and women women. Whatever that means.

Like Alok Vaid-Menon, I know there are many more than two genders. I’ve known folks who were neither male nor female since I was little. I wrote my PhD about the absurd reductiveness of the binary.

#VintageStyleNotVintageValues sums up my vintage aesthetics: beauty, glamour, joy, and dresses for whoever wants them.

I will continue dressing up most days, even through this time of COVID-19 and social distancing, because that is who I am.

Wear what you want. Wherever you want. Whenever you want. (Unless it’s harmful.) It’s what Emma Goldman would have wanted.

(Except espadrilles because ewww! Don’t @ me.)

Where Do You Want Your Money To Go?

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One of my favourite newer(ish) designers is Clare Waight Keller, who is the Artistic Director of Givenchy for whom she produces some jaw-droppingly beautiful clothes, which I will never buy new. Because a) too expensive b) I don’t want to give LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Moet, Hennessy) my money.

It’s hard, but I try not to contribute to multinationals. I fail constantly. Pharmaceutical companies alone make it impossible.

It’s probably only fashion where I can avoid giving my money to the likes of LVMH or Kering (Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent. Alexander McQueen etc) or Richemont (Azzedine Alaïa, Cartier and Chloe etc). By only shopping vintage and small, independent, ethical, sustainable designers I avoid giving money to men in suits, who control fashion, and hire and fire some of the most creative people in the world.

I get why folks like Waight Keller go with the money. Making beautiful clothes is expensive. All the haute couture houses, and many of the high-end ready-to-wear brands, run at a loss, making up for it with perfume and handbag sales. Their top of the range clothes are an extremely expensive ad for accessories and scents.

Very few of the big-name labels are independent and/or still controlled by their original creator. When multinationals take over they often wind up firing the creators: eg Halston and Ungaro.

It weirds me out that since 2013 clothes labelled Ann Demeulemeester weren’t designed by her. Or that Christian Dior hasn’t been designed by Christian Dior since 1957 (though, yes, it would have been weirder if he kept on designing, given that he died in 1957). The revival of Elsa Schiaparelli’s and Madeleine Vionnet’s brands squicks me out.

Imagine if Jane Austen novels were still being published or Victor Hugo’s? Post-mortem creations shouldn’t be a thing and they definitely shouldn’t bankroll multinationals for generations, making the executives richer than the creatives, without whom the companies wouldn’t exist.

But if Christian Dior’s company hadn’t outlived him what would have happened to the women workers of his atelier? Writers typically don’t employ hundreds in our businesses . . .

When Dior was alive he wasn’t doing six or more shows a year, which leads me to the more important reason I don’t want to give my money to the fashion juggernauts: the ridiculous schedule the big brands’ creative directors are kept to. It’s not sustainable.

Do we really need Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter and Cruise/Resort and Pre-Fall and Pre-Spring collections? Not to mention the many capsule collections. It’s exhausting.

It’s terrible for creativity–that ridiculous schedule is why John Galliano1 and others have cracked up–and even worse for the planet. We don’t need that many new clothes every year. Especially when so many of them don’t sell.

The big-brand fashion cycle is deeply broken: from overworking designers to making clothes unsustainably and exploiting garment workers. I can’t support it.

  1. I believe Galliano’s crack up exposed the anti-Semitism he’d previously managed to hide. []

Women of a Certain Very Stylish Age

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I was inspired to start my public Instagram, @DrJustineFancyPants, by Sheryl Roberts of @indigostylevintage, Shelley of @fcfashionista, Jean and Valerie of @idiosyncraticfashionistas, and the glorious Lee Lin Chin and by the many other stylish women over forty, who just by being them, are putting paid to the lie that style and beauty are only for the young.

And by my mother, who is one of the most stylish people I know, and has always been the biggest style influence on me. She’s all about colour and comfort and has never feared mixing patterns.

It’s absurd that society keeps touting the stylishness of the very young. Let’s be real, most young people aren’t particularly stylish,1 and usually don’t feel they’ve found styles that work for them until later in life, if ever. That’s cool. I sure didn’t. But, hey, experimentation is fun.

When I was a teen, I didn’t always have the courage to dress how I wanted. I’d wear vintage and be laughed at for my “nana” dresses. It didn’t occur to me back then to point out that some of the most stylish women in the world are nanas. I swung back and forth between caring deeply about what my peers thought and saying, bugger it, and wearing what I wanted.

I’m much more confident in my sense of style, my sense of self, now than I was as a young adult. I don’t care about being the only one in the room who’s dressed up. I’m (mostly) not dressing to blend in; I’m dressing for joy.

I don’t care about arbitrary fashion rules. I will mix patterns. (You all need to check out the glorious Mis Papelicos for top-notch pattern mixing. She is the queen.) I will wear black and navy blue together, pink and red, black and brown. I will wear horizontal stripes (true fact: they actually make you look narrower, look up the Helmholtz effect–thank you @house_of_edgertor for that tidbit). I will wear multiple bold colours at the same time. I’ll wear red lipstick whenever I feel like it and no makeup likewise. I’ll mix gold and silver jewellery. I’ll wear clogs with evening wear, western boots with anything at all and eschew high heels altogether (except for the occasional photo).

There’s nothing I won’t wear because it’s supposedly too young for me. Mutton dressed up as lamb? Ageist, misogynist expressions like that are pathetic. I dress for me and for my fellow lovers of gorgeous clothes. We appreciate each other.

I’ll wear whatever I damn well please whenever I want. Including the occasional trip to the corner shop/bodega in my pyjamas and/or a ball gown. Because I can. Because it’s fun. Because it brings me joy.

  1. There are some fabulous exceptions. A friend’s son has been ridiculously stylish since he was, like, four. He’s given to wearing blazers and hats with striped leggings. []

I’m Still Not Active On Twitter; Come Join Me On Instagram

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This is for all the lovely friends texting me to ask when I’m coming back to Twitter. First up: Awwww! Thank you! I miss youse too.

I miss Twitter. I truly do. I miss the goofy convos. I miss tweeting cricket and basketball games live with other obsessives. I’ve met so many amazing people through Twitter. I’m so grateful. Twitter has given me so much. I’ll definitely be back.

But not yet. My mental health is so much better since I took this break. I don’t miss the trolls. I don’t miss the frequent petty and not at all petty fights. I don’t miss the drama. I’m not ready to return.

Meanwhile, there are lovely convos starting to happen on my brand-new vintage and sustainable fashion and mending instagram: @DrJustineFancyPants. Come join me there! We’re having a lot of fun.

Dr Justine Fancy Pants

Note: I’m not on Twitter. This is an automated tweet linking to my latest blog post. I will not see any of your replies. If you wish to discuss any of these blog posts with me, or anything else, leave a comment on my blog. I will respond.

I’m taking my obsessions with contemporary fashion, vintage clothes, and saving the world to a public Instagram account: DrJustineFancyPants.

You’ll be able to follow my journey through my various vintage finds, my latest designer, fashion historian, photographer, model and textile technician crushes, and watch (and laugh) as I learn to mend and embroider, and investigate what’s happening in the world of recycled, upcycled, organic, biodegradable, magic pixie dust, circular-economy fashion.

I’ll also be dispensing what-to-wear advice and railing against gladiator sandals, espadrilles, and other fashion atrocities.

Come join me, won’t you? (Apologies to Karina Longworth.)

On Packages and Space-Time Anomalies

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I’ve been having a surreal experience with Australia Post. They claimed to have delivered a package from the UK to me last Friday. There was no package. There was no card in my mailbox saying to pick it up at the post office. Yet there it was on the tracking info: delivered.

The nice man at the post office, when he couldn’t find my parcel, helped me put in a missing parcel claim. When he looked up the tracking number at his end it said my parcel had an incomplete address: it was missing the flat (apartment) number.

Hmmmm, I thought, but the UK tracking has the flat number. Why would it disappear from the package on its journey from the Royal Mail in London to Australia Post in Sydney?

On the way home, a charming man from Australia Post rang to assure me that they were on it, and that most packages were found. I imagined a crack team of Australia Post sleuths on the case. I was vastly reassured.

I woke to an email from Australia Post letting me know that the package had been returned to sender. I wrote to the sender in London warning them my package might be on its way back. They were all, “But how? There’s no return address on the package.” This was somewhat perturbing.

An hour later I got an email from Australia Post saying my package was either in my mailbox or at the post office. I checked. It was in neither place. I was beginning to feel like Australia Post was gaslighting me.

Then an hour later, I got a generic email from Australia Post assuring me they were on the case and would find my package. I was not reassured. I was starting to lose faith in Australia Post’s sleuths.

I decided to phone them, to find out if the parcel had a) been returned to sender despite there being no return address, b) been delivered to a Justine Larbalestier in a parallel universe, or c) was in a happy liminal space about to be tracked down by the valiant sleuths at Australia Post.

After thirty minutes negotiating the endless, confusing phone tree, I got through to the delightful Tracy, who looked at all the info from my claim no. and spluttered “ZOMG! This is ridiculous. It says it’s been delivered TWICE! There’s nothing here about it being returned to sender. Where on earth did that come from? It says there’s no flat number. THE FLAT NUMBER IS RIGHT HERE! It can’t be all these things at the same time! And there’s an update saying it’s on a truck on its way to you now. How could that be if it was delivered last Friday and this morning? Ridiculous! I will sort this for you! I will make this happen!” she said, typing furiously.

I admit that I was half way in love with Tracy at this point. I hung up and did various chores before receiving yet another Australia Post email claiming my parcel had been delivered for a third time. I confess that, despite the fabulous Tracy, I doubted this claim. My buzzer hadn’t rung and there’d been so many false alarms. I trudged down to the lobby, with little hope. But lo and behold, my parcel–with my full address–including the flat number–was there in my mailbox.

Hilariously, the vintage eighties silk shirt inside was made in W. Germany: a non-existent country. Maybe that non-existence disturbed the space-time continuum and created intermingled timelines in which all parcels were in all states of delivery?

Thank you, Australia Post, and especially Tracy, for tackling this space-time anomaly and making my parcel reappear. I’m most grateful and the shirt from the non-existent country is gorgeous.

Tweets I Would Tweet If I Were Still on Twitter

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I may not be on Twitter at the moment, but I still sometimes think in tweets. What can I say? I was on Twitter for ten years. It warps your brain. So here are some tweets that I’d’ve tweeted if I were still there. In no particular order . . .

The Conversation says those wombat are not heroes rescuing other critters from the fires, they’re just tolerating unwanted guests. Excuse me? Tolerating unwanted guests in your home is top-notch heroism.

What I miss most about Twitter is the conversations with folks all over the world; what I miss least is being shouted at by folks/bots all over the world.

This is bloody marvellous news. The WNBA players are getting better revenue sharing, pay, maternity leave etc. Yay! And yet . . . I love the @WNBA but they deserve first class. No, they deserve flying chariots drawn by magic horses.1 But this is a fabulous first step.

This is my favourite bananas bushfire season conspiracy theory. Some are claiming the fires were set deliberately to create a corridor for fast trains. I admit I snort laughed. I would love me some fast trains all over Australia, though. Think of the carbon emissions that wouldn’t happen! Trains over planes. ALWAYS.

And here we have a faux tweet that you have to click through for because I don’t have the energy to figure out how to do an image + comment faux tweet in the middle of a blog post. My spoons are too low today for any complicated stuff. Or, let’s get real, pretty basic stuff . . .

I miss fashion twitter . . . Though fashion and vintage instagram are way better. I’m learning so much on there.

Ooooh! Look at The New Yorker appreciating one of the best living writers! Go, Nora! Seriously, if you haven’t read any N. K. Jemisin yet, get on that!

Please. Even if arson was the immediate cause of most of the fires–it wasn’t–that doesn’t contradict the fact that the conditions for this season’s catastrophic fires were created by climate change. It’s not complicated. Also: you’re lying. Most fires this season were started by lightning.

Could someone please fix the tag on Rashid’s jersey? Thank you! Adelaide @StrikersBBL #BBL09

I miss cricket Twitter . . .

Just when you think this Morrison govt can’t get more ridiculous they decide the most urgent matter in Australia today is not our apocalyptic bushfire season, but enforcing a dress code for citizenship ceremonies. At my citizenship ceremony I dressed up–a McQueen jacket over a silk dress with cowboy boots–as did everyone else that day. Citizenship ceremonies are a huge deal, you ignorant twats. People dress up for them!

Mostly, people dress up for them. I remember a friend telling me years ago that a couple of tipsy Englishmen turned up for their citizenship ceremony in stubbies, singlets and thongs with cork hats because they thought it would be hilarious. Their hilarity was not shared by anyone else present and they were asked to leave. To be clear: because drunk, not because of what they were wearing.

It’s wet and falling out of the sky. I’m confused. What is?

Something amazing that has come out of these bushfires: First Nations aquatic technologies further revealed.

I mean, sure, except for the part where the Greens have never objected to hazard burning. Also did you read where multiple fireys said the hazard burns weren’t that effective this year? The monster fires just blew past them.

The upside to being a spoonie: feeling zero guilt for lying in bed reading all day, then getting up to inhale a whole season of whatever I want!

This made me cry. The wollemi pines are awe inspiring.

I love my @ABCaustralia. (Except for Counterpoint.) This bushfire season, they’ve been saving lives.

You’re welcome, world! Carbon emissions go up because of Australia’s bushfires.

I know I’ve only been off Twitter for two months but already I’m getting more writing done and feeling less anxious. No, I have no immediate plans to return to Twitter. But I do see this as a break, not a permanent exit. I don’t think I could have handled the fire hose of Twitter this bushfire season.

The benefits of not being on Twitter right now definitely balances out no longer being in contact with so many fabulous folks. Hey, I’m still alive! You can text me! Or DM on instagram! Or email me! Or leave comments here!

The Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities is still going. First Nations Australians are getting a much smaller slice of the donations to the mainstream charities. They need our support.

  1. Lower emissions that way. []

Pjs, Pockets, and Purses

I spend a great deal of my time in front of my computer in my pyjamas. Thus I wear pyjamas more than I wear any other clothing. They are my work uniform. All my novels have been written while I was wearing pjs. I think about pyjamas a lot.

I like mine to have three pockets, two on the pants, as well as a breast pocket. I like them to be soft and loose fitting, and deliciously comfortable. It’s a bonus if they can also have goofy, gorgeous or gelid1 patterns on them.

I mentioned on Twitter that most women’s pjs do not have pockets and the sadness this fills me with. How I am forced to mostly wear men’s pyjamas which typically do not have as interesting prints as women’s. Soon we were in a discussion about the paucity of pockets in women’s clothing, the awesomeness of pockets, and of pjs, and there was much bonding.

Though there was also some who made distinctions between kinds of pjs. For them pjs are what you wear to bed and lounging pjs are what you wear to write in. Okay . . . sounds very Katherine Hepburn-y, and I love her, so I’ll go with it. But I do not make such a distinction. Then there was mention of “house dresses” which I’d only ever heard of in ye olde Hollywood movies. Must be a thing of the USA.

But there was also a distinct minority who questioned the need for pockets in pjs. I admit to being bewildered by the question but it swiftly became apparent that there are people who only wear pjs to sleep in.

I know. I was shocked too.

Then it turned out that there are people who don’t like pockets. Who don’t want pockets on any of their clothing. There was talk of pockets always having holes, ruining the lines of clothing, making people look fat (!).

I must confess at that point I fainted from shock.

Where do they put their phone? Their keys? Their sekrit decoder ring (when not in the company of people where it can be worn freely)? I don’t understand!

The answer was in their bags (or purses as those from the USA call them). Don’t get me wrong. I have handbags, I have backpacks. I use them. I even have some I love dearly but in my heart of hearts I wish everything I needed when I left the house would fit into my pockets. That I could be unencumbered by bags.

For bags weigh me down, pulling on one shoulder, or the other, or both in the case of backpacks. I am always inadvertently whacking into things with bags or being whacked with them. They are little violent, destructive beasts.

Worst of all bags eat my stuff.

I know the only pen I’ve ever liked is in the bag I bought in Rome many, many years ago. The first fancy bag I ever bought myself. And Italian bag! My Italian bag. I still have that bag though it is faded and frayed and somewhat less fabulous than it once was. The pen should be in there. But can I find it? No, I cannot. That stupid Italian bag ate my favourite pen. I have never found a pen like it since. I no longer like pens. All because of that bag.

In conclusion: Pyjamas are the best WITH pockets. Purses (bags) are the devil. The end.

  1. They only need be gelid in summer. In winter I prefer warmer patterns. []

Baby Clothes

Pretty much everyone I know is having babies. Or has them. Or is about to have more. Anyways there are babies everywhere in my life right now and I am often buying presents for people with babies. This has turned out to be a problem.

I don’t know if you have noticed but the clothes available for babies and littlies are AWFUL. As one friend said, “If I see another onesie with yellow ducks or blue boats I will scream!” And they’re almost always pastel. I HATE PASTELS. Or white. Or grey. Grey? What are they? Little prisoners in a dystopia? (Maybe. Don’t answer that.) Then there’s the whole girl clothes are mostly pink and boy clothes mostly blue thing. SERIOUSLY? What century is this?

So I am begging you, my faithful readers, do you know of anywhere that sells bold coloured onesies/rompers/whatever you call those little suits for babies in your culture? Where do I find Goth baby clothes? Anarchist baby clothes? Surreal baby clothes? Fun baby clothes? Hip baby clothes? Cool baby clothes? NOT PASTEL baby clothes?

I will be eternally in your debt.

Thank you!

Girls Who Hates Girls

In yesterday’s post Roxanna mentioned her dislike of YA protags who don’t like other girls. Oh, yes. What she said, indeed.

The women I have met who proclaim their dislike of women are, well, um, not my kind of people. So every time a protag proclaims that? I’m done with that book.1

Here’s why. I have no time for anyone, who on the basis of a poor experience with a very small sample size, declares that all women are dreadful. Ditto if they say it about all men, all black people, all Japanese people. All any kind of people.

Could be the correct conclusion is that this group of people are awful. Or it could be it’s the protag who’s the awful one. I know what I’d put my money on.

These women who hate women always have a long list of how women are: they all wear make up, they all gossip too much, all they care about are boys, they all chew gum. Etc. etc.

No matter what is on that list, I’m sitting there thinking of all the women I know who don’t wear make up, who don’t gossip, are lesbians and/or asexual and/or otherwise not much interested in boys, and don’t chew gum.

Your so-called statements of fact, Stupid Protag? They are not facts!

There are very few statements that are true of all women. Yes, including biological ones. There are women without breasts, wombs, ovaries. There are women without two X chromosomes.

The last time a woman said that to me I called her on it:

Me: “Last time I checked I was a woman. Are you saying you don’t like me?”

Woman-hater: “Oh, I didn’t mean you. You’re not like that at all. I meant all those other women.”

Me: “So I’m one of the blessed, few, not-horrible women? Gosh, thanks.”

Woman-hater: *silence*

As a teenager I didn’t know that many girls who were into all those so-called feminine things. Admittedly I went to an alternative school. But the girls I did know who were closest to the boy-obsessed, clothes-obsessed, make-up-wearing, girlie-music-listening stereotype? They were absolutely lovely. So were the boys who were like that. In fact, I knew more boys who fit that stereotype than girls. C’mon anyone who doesn’t like ABBA is dead on the inside.2

Besides which gossip and make up can be fun. They are neither a marker of shallowness nor of depth. No more than liking opera, skate boarding, or drinking tea are.

I am very uninterested in reading books with such stereotyped, boring representations of the much more interesting world we all live in. Any book that draws characters so crudely is unlikely to be any good.

The girl who says she hates girls is telling us a lot more about herself than she is about other girls. So a book that begins with the protag declaring that, which then supports her contention: uggh.

But a book that then proceeds to undercut her absurd claim? Where she turns out to be a very unreliable narrator with a limited view of the world that the book skewers?3

Or where the girl who hates girls does so as part of her rejection of the rigidly enforced femininity at her school and community and learns not to blame the other girls for that but the larger culture. And learns, too, ways to subvert or, at least, escape her community?

Now those are the kind of books I can get behind.

I was going to end this post there but then I realised I hadn’t explicitly said the most important thing in all of this: women who hate women do not emerge out of nowhere. They are no accident.

Girls are taught that they are inferior to boys from day one. Once people know whether the baby in the pram is a girl the majority speak to her totally differently than they do to a little boy. They say how gorgeous she is. How sweet. How delicate. The tiny baby boy who is every bit as gorgeous, sweet and delicate as the baby girl is complimented on the strength of his grip and how active he is. Even when sound asleep.

I heard a midwife say, when told the expected baby was a girl, that the baby would be born wearing a skirt. It is to vomit.

Being “girly” is not good. “Throwing like a girl” means you’re crap at throwing. “You’re such a girl” is a widespread insult. “Be a man” on the other hand is an admonition to be strong and assertive. Boys are taught to eschew anything with even the faintest hint of girliness. They soon learn to hate pink, books by women, wearing dresses, dressing up, dancing, netball, sparkles and Taylor Swift.

Most of the boys who stubbornly stick to pink and other girlish things—gay and straight—have the crap beaten out of them. Some don’t survive adolescent. Many of my favourite men are girly. Most of them are tough as nails. You have to be to survive. Being a man and walking down the street in Australia and the USA wearing a skirt—particularly away from the major cities? Now that’s courage.

This relentless gender stereotyping hurts us all, men, women, and anyone who is uncomfortable in either of those categories.

The girls who eschew pink and Taylor Swift have a more mixed reception. Some are accused of being dykes—whether they are or not—and are likewise beaten down. Others get approval. They sometimes become “one of the boys.” They are told over and over again: “you’re not like those other girls.” They sometimes become women who hate women.

But most girls, girly or not, learn that boys are where the action is. Boys are the ones who get to be assertive, not bitchy. They’re the ones who can be strong and play sport4 without having their sexuality questioned. They’re the ones who are mostly listened to and encouraged—if they’re being proper boys that is—way more than most girls.

Is it any wonder that some women are down on their gender? Why wouldn’t they be? Everyone else is.

They’re still completely wrong, but. Let’s fill the world with a million books and movies and television shows that proves it to them.

  1. Unless people I really really really trust tell me it’s worth persevering. Maybe the book turns out to be a critique of that stance. []
  2. I’m not against judging. I’m just against inaccurate judgeiness. []
  3. Gone With The Wind is appallingly racist but one thing it does well is skewer its woman-hating protag. Scarlett is so awful she doesn’t even notice until Melanie is dying that Melanie is the one who loves Scarlett best and never does her a single wrong. Why Melanie is so loyal to such a narcissistic psychopath is a whole other question. My theory is that owning slaves breaks everyone’s brains, not just their ethics and morality. []
  4. Other than gymnastics, dressage, netball and other girly sports. []

In Which I Opine About Bubble Skirts

Because Nalo Hopkinson wants me to. What Nalo wants Nalo gets.

In principle I don’t believe any particular item of clothing is per se hideous. On the whole I don’t like one-sleeved dresses but there’s always a gorgeous example that makes me rethink that stance. I even saw a pair of formal shorts that did not make me want to gouge my eyes out. I have seen the occasional pregnant dress on a non-pregnant person that was not a complete sartorial disaster.

Bubble skirt from büdi resurrected. Some of their other dresses are lovely.

I admit that before Nalo asked I had not given the bubble skirt much thought. I wasn’t even entirely clear what it was. So my first step was to keep an open mind and goggle image the item in question.

Oh, my. Oh, no. OH, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP NOW. Aaaaaarrrrrggghhh!!!! Mine eyes! They burn! The eighties was a horrible time for fashion! DO NOT BRING ANY OF IT BACK!!!

So, um, I hate them all. How do you walk in them? What is the point of that excess of fabric? Are the wearers storing their phones and laptops and babies in the bubble? If so how do they access it? Seems awkward and uncomfortable. Wouldn’t it all start to weigh too much? Wouldn’t the fabric drag? If not fall off you completely? That would not go well.

Unless you’ve got tiny attack quokkas or squirrels or numbats or something stored under there. Ready for when the zombie apocalypse starts and you can raise your skirts and yell RELEASE THE ATTACK QUOKKAS/SQUIRRELS/NUMBATS/WHATEVERS!!! GO EAT BRAINS, MY PRETTIES!!!

That would be extremely cool.

But if they are not being used in that extremely useful way? Then, no. I condemn them. Get thee gone from this world, bubble skirts. And do it NOW.

Anyone else got any fashion queries? I am on my rest between first draft and second draft of sekrit project novel. I am ready, willing and able to weigh in on all your fashion dilemmas.

What are my qualifications, you ask? Click on the fashion category and you will see that I love clothes and am fascinated by the fashion industry. I have spent a lifetime staring at people and figuring out how to describe them and what they’re wearing. Plus I am really, really, really opinionated.

July: Blogging A Lot Month (Updated)

I have decided to put this here voice recognition software to the test in the month of July by blogging every day.1 Yes, I will blog every single day of July 2012.

Tell Me What To Blog

If there’s anything you would like me to blog about please let me know! The comments are below in the manner of most blogs.2

I’ve had a few suggestions on Twitter:

@SirTessa wants me to write a complete post without correcting any of the voice recognition software mistakes. I WILL DEFINITELY DO THAT.

@WanderinDreamr wants me to write about Australian slang “the rest of the world is confused by”. My problem with that is, well, how am I supposed to know? Australian slang does not confuse me. Though I do love many of the words that are unique to these fine shores so I may just write about my favourite ones.

@ben_rosenbaum suggested I blog tongue twisters on account of the voice recognition software. I am ignoring him.

@nalohopkinson wanted me to “opine on bubble skirts”. How could I resist writing a horrors & joys of fashion post? Oh, bubble skirt, I shall SO opine about you.

I also recently got into a discussion on twitter—inspired by this Jennifer Crusie post—about the extent to which an editor can rewrite their authors. I think NOT AT ALL. Turns out that people mean different things by “rewriting”. I spluttered about on twitter in a way that I think was mostly confusing. A post is in order to clarify my thoughts. @pmattessi requested that I “mention things like whether eds should be credited? And also your thoughts on Carver’s editor.” He comes from the tv side of the writing world, which operates very differently from novel writing. I suspect my post will be about the writer/editor relationship with a little touch of the thankless work of the copyeditor.

Another interesting discussion concerned the way English-speaking cultures are so full of hatred for children & teenagers and how that is not the case in places like Spain, Italy, and Thailand.3

Many years ago I promised a post about writing dialogue. If any of you still want such a post I may attempt to finish it. It’s just that it’s hard because I’m not really sure how I write dialogue. You know, other than I type it and make sure there are quote marks around it. (And sometimes I use italics if it’s dialogue that’s not being directly said.)

Is challenging voice recognition software the only reason for blogging every day of July?

Nope. I really miss blogging. Not blogging hardly at all for such a long time has left me with many pent up THOUGHTS and FEELINGS that do not fit on twitter. I miss sharing them with you. But mostly I miss the wonderful crew of commenters who once hung out here. I miss your wit and your wisdom and your snark and your sincerity and your sarcasm and your silliness. I am hoping some of you will return. Even though blogs are so beginning-of-this-century and everyone’s on twitter and tumblr these days. I don’t care. I’m an old-fashioned girl. I still love them.

Also my newest book, Team Human, written with Sarah Rees Brennan, will be published on 2 July in Australia and New Zealand and 3 July in Canada and the USA. This means I will be doing a fair number of interviews and the like about said book all over the internets. But while I love TH dearly and am very proud of it and over the moon with joy that the early responses to the book have been so positive the idea of talking about it non-stop for a month makes me feel a bit tired. This will be my online respite.

A Digression

It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it, that by the time a book is published and it’s time to publicise it we authors have spent so much time with the book that it’s the last thing in the world we want to talk about. When I’m really itching to talk about my books is during the drive towards the finish of the first draft—when I know I’m going to finish it and talking about it won’t jinx it and the book becomes the only thing in the world I want to talk about. And—most of all—during the first few rewrites when it has become the only thing in the world I can talk about.

Unfortunately that is when very few people have read it and they’re all bored with me asking them questions about what they thought of the world building or the main characters and whether they think I should get rid of the gilded-wings subplot or expand the diabolic-exploding-hairclip subplot. They are so over my book and, by extension me, in fact, that if I ring them they no longer pick up. And my emails to them start to bounce. Waaaaaahhhh!!!!!!!

Fortunately there’s Scott and my lovely agent Jill and my editor who are always happy to talk endlessly about my book during these times. Bless them!

In Conclusion

In July I will blog a lot.

Update: @Marrije has also requested via Twitter that I “do a post on How To Find The Good Food In Any City? Isn’t this your superpower? Can you teach us?”

@MalindaLo has requested: “I blog about twitter etiquette: the good, the bad, the ugly.”

  1. Except weekends. Cause, come on, no one is on the intramanets on the weekend. Scientific fact. []
  2. I thought about having them above but my web designer said no. []
  3. And I’m sure in many other places I’ve not been to. []

Twain Thwacks Cooper

Last night Scott read to me Mark Twain’s essay on Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it but I was not. Dear readers, I laughed. A lot.

Mr Twain, it seems, was unfond of Cooper’s writing. In one of the bits that made me laugh the hardest, Twain sets out the “nineteen rules governing literary art in the domain of romantic fiction,” and exactly how Cooper violated them. The fifth of these rules requires that

when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the “Deerslayer” tale to the end of it

Excuse me. I am rolling about laughing all over again. As it happens, I have attempted to read Copper (The Last of the Mohicans) and was completely unable to finish it and the insanely ridiculous dialogue was a big part of that. Also I just finished reading a book that violated this rule just as outrageously as Cooper did.

Bless you, Mr Twain. This almost makes up for your insane blindness on the subject of Jane Austen. Almost.

Of course, I do hope Mr Cooper was dead when the article was published. I’d feel awful if he ever read that essay. I mean, yes, I know, criticism is part of this business but still. Vicious. (Even if completely true.)

I do find this kind of savage (but accurate) criticism a pleasure to read. (When done well.) But on the other hand I always feel dreadful for the writer and/or book it’s aimed at. Because it really is mean. And yet . . .

I have a similar discomfort with Go Fug Yourself. I love that site. I adore laughing at dreadful clothes. I figure as they only take aim at celebrities it’s okay. Laughing at people with more social status is very different from the other way around.

But I also can’t help thinking that celebrities, no matter how annoying, are people too, and wondering how I’d feel having my favourite outfit so mercilessly mocked. Then I feel less good for laughing at their lime green formal pants teamed with black fishnet stockings, tan spike-heeled pumps, a pastel pink Bonds singlet and a white fedora worn backwards. But seriously, how could anyone not mock such a combination?


In the meantime, the Twain essay on Cooper is still making me laugh.

Feel Free to Hate Antelopes

Why do so many people read any statement, no matter how innocuous, as being about them? For example, I have mentioned my dislike of chocolate and people have gotten cranky. As if my chocolate hatred will somehow deprive them of it. Huh?

Every time I talk about my love of fashion someone says, “I just want comfortable clothes! Give me jeans and t-shirts!” Which always strikes me as deeply bizarre because a) no one has said a word against jeans and t-shirts, b) t-shirts and jeans are items of fashion, c) having a desire for a ballgown does not mean that person doesn’t also wear jeans and t-shirts. (For the record I am wearing jeans and a New York Liberty t-shirt as I type this. Though I wish I were in my even-more-comfortable pjs, but guests are arriving shortly.)

Colour me puzzled.

I thought everyone understood that people are not all the same. We have different tastes and interests and desires. And hallelujah for that—if we were all the same the world would be a truly boring place.

Why do people keep being affronted by other people caring about something they don’t care about? If it doesn’t interest you, don’t engage. Why the need to tell the world that you hate and/or are bored by it? Why do people read a long post in which someone sets forth their love of antelopes as saying that everyone must like antelopes. You are free to hate antelopes! Go forth and hate antelopes!1 But, you know, don’t bore the person who just spent time and energy waxing eloquent about their love of antelopes. You can take it as read that their interest in your antelope hatred is zero.

I love a good ballgown. I would never make anyone else wear a ballgown.2 I truly loathe chocolate. I have given chocolate as a present to many people. I have even made chocolate cake for a friend. I don’t get why they like it since it tastes like death to me but, you know, it seems to make them happy so good for them.

I suspect that what I’m really asking is why do so many people think everything is about them? I know the ego is a powerful thing. Hey, I’ve got one too. And yet . . .

Let me put this in terms of writing: if you’re unable to empathise or understand people who are not like you, who have different tastes and aspirations, it’s going to be really hard for you to write about anyone but yourself. Only writing about yourself is going to limit the appeal of your writing considerably.3

Thus endeth the rant.

I’d be really interested to hear your theories on this perplexing matter.4

  1. Poor antelopes. []
  2. Except for John Scalzi and only because it would make me laugh. []
  3. Though it seems to have worked out really well for a handful of writers I won’t name out of fear. []
  4. Unless you’re one of those crazy chocolate loving people. Just kidding. Some of my best friends love chocolate. I even married a chocolate lover. []

Alexander McQueen

As some of you know Alexander McQueen committed suicide earlier this year. He was one of my favourite living designers. I own a shirt, two jackets and a skirt of his. I have gotten a great deal of wear out of them and yet they still look new. They’re gorgeous, exquisitely cut, not to mention comfortable. When I wear them I feel taller and stronger and more stylish. They make me happy.

It’s hard to explain to people with zero interest in fashion why designers like McQueen have such loyal followers. Why his death made me cry. It’s even harder to explain it to people who actively hate fashion. But I want to try.

Clothes like the ones Alexander McQueen made are both something you can wear and what’s more fundamental than clothing? Food, water, shelter, clothing. Those are the basics for keeping us alive. Everyone has some kind of stake in clothing whether they give a damn about their appearance or not. Now, obviously, very few people are buying McQueen just to say warm. His clothes are expensive in the extreme. But the point is that they are wearable. Their performance as clothing is spot on.1

But McQueen’s clothes are also art.2

This is one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen.

McQueen’s clothes at their best are jaw droppingly beautiful. I have the same visceral response to them that I do to any other art that moves me: great paintings, sculpture, music, writing. It’s the same feeling that overwhelms me when I see a truly gorgeous sunset or a spectacular view.

The fact that its wearable art just makes it more extraordinary.

I love the sweep of McQueen’s clothes, the use of so many vibrant beautiful colours. I love me a designer unafraid of colour. But as you can see from the first image above and the first one below he could also rock black and white and grey. I love his attention to detail. When you see these clothes up close you see the care that’s taken at every level, the buttons, the lining, and the fabric. Like Issey Miyake, McQueen’s fabrics were right at the technological cutting edge. Many of the clothes in McQueen’s final collection are printed with digitised images from European art over several centuries. Scott has a shirt of McQueens’ which is a digitised pattern of a baroque jacket. It’s exquisite. Photos of that shirt do not do it justice. As I’m sure these photos don’t come anywhere close to showing just how beautiful McQueen’s final collection was.

I love that McQueen was greatly influenced by fashion of the twenties, thirties and forties. (My favourite fashion decades of the 20th century.) I love that his influences went broader than that. I love how truly inventive he was.

All my McQueen pieces were bought on sale. If I’d been able to, I’d have bought many many more pieces of his, but most of his work was well out of my price range (as they are well out of the reach of the vast majority of the world’s population). One of the major objections to high fashion is that it is obscenely expensive. Who can afford a $10-$1000k (or more) dress? Very few of us. But then who can afford to have an original Modigliani on the wall or have Zaha Hadid design their home?

An artist’s impact is not just in their original art. It is in the light they cast, the inspiration they give, the effect that their work’s existence has on the world. I understand clothing and textiles differently because of Alexander McQueen’s work. More to the point so do other designers and makers of clothes at every level of the fashion industry from Haute Couture through to the High Street.

His influence on my understanding of fashion was strong long before I was lucky enough to buy a few of his pieces. I loved gorgeous fashion long before I could afford to buy any. I adore the work of Vionnet. I own nothing by her. Her clothes, on the rare occasions they’re available, are prohibitevely expensive. They’re often purchased by museums, which I wholeheartedly support. If they’re in private collectors’ hands my and your odds of seeing them drop exponentially. But museums are open to everyone.3

Back to Alexander McQueen. He was a great artist and he will be missed.

I’ll leave you with the last look of his collection. Apparently it made people in the audience cry. I’m with them.

  1. Trust me, some designers do not manage that. []
  2. All the images in this post are from his final collection. []
  3. With enough money to afford the entrance fee. []

Hair Stories Redux

Thank you so much for all the wonderful, moving, scary, funny stories about hair.

I wanted to highlight this comment from Wonders of Maybe because it underlines how hair and fashion and politics and identity (self and imposed from the outside) co-exist:

Hmm — I’m multiracial (Black/Native American/White) and very, very light-skinned with extremely thick, curly hair. I’m talking spirals on “good” days and fluffy frizz on “bad” days! When I was young I wanted to straighten my hair because of how much I got hassled but once I turned 12, I was intent upon my hair staying natural. With such light skin, I feel it’s an honest indicator of what I am and who I am since I so often am mistaken for being Latino or Italian or Jewish or “something.”

Have you all heard of the “pencil test”? I learned about it as a child and it was, apparently, used in apartheid South Africa. If a pencil was stuck in your hair and it fell out, you could be counted as white (or coloured, if you were darker skinned). If it didn’t fall through, if the pencil simply stayed right in your hair, well, you were coloured or black. As a youngster, I was obsessed with learning about the various tests governments, leagues and clubs had through out history to determine someone’s background based on their hair. Interesting hobby, kid!

So for me, taking care of my natural hair is part a matter of respecting my history, as much as it is part of trying to look nice.

I remember my friend, the wonderful South African writer, Yvette Christianse, telling me about the pencil test. Like everything about Apartheid it was hard for me to get comprehend. A person’s race was reclassified, they were made to move, to lose their jobs—sometimes their lives—because of how a pencil sat in their hair.

Of course, as Susan, points out people are still being discriminated against because of their hair. Though, it’s hard not to wonder if it’s really only hair we’re talking about. How often in the US do racist commentators go after a black person’s hair and then claim they’re not being racist because they’re just talking about hair? Answer: too often.

The other thing Wonders of Maybe touches on is the “good” hair versus the “bad” hair debate. Frizz seems to be a key indication of badness. And as someone with straight hair, I can attest that sometimes the short, new, flyaway hair sticking up everywhere causes me despair. Lay flat, damn you.

So, why do we hate frizz? There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with frizz. I think we’re taught to see it as “bad” hair. I think years and years of ads and movies and tv shows full of women with “controllable” hair has shaped how we see hair and what we expect of it. It’s even worse now when the vast majority of hair product ads are photoshopped into shiny, unfrizzy, unmoving or moving-in-a-really-weird-way, impossible-to-achieve hair.

About ten years ago, an acquaintance with very tight curls left the house without doing anything to her hair as an experiment. It was a ball of frizzy fuzz haloing her head. It looked amazing. I wish I had photos to show you how great it looked. Many people commented. Most were very positive, but she abandoned the experiment because she couldn’t handle everyone staring at her and everyone commenting. Bad enough, she said, when it was in its usual state of curliness.

Her chief pleasure in straightening her hair is that, other than people who know her, it’s the only time her hair is what she thinks of as “neutral.” People don’t comment, people don’t ask to touch her hair. She isn’t seen through the lens of her hair in quite the same way.

To bring this back to writing,1 I think what goes wrong in many books is that writers give their characters traits to distinguish them, such as curly hair, without thinking about how that would shape who the character is and their experience of the world. Not to mention how long they spend doing their hair. So, you know, don’t do that.

Thanks again for all your responses.

  1. I’ve had a few complaints that I’m not devoting January to answering questions about writng like I did last year. []

Curly Versus Straight (updated)

I have always loved curly hair. I myself have straight hair so my preference for curly is usually ascribed to the fact that I don’t have it. My hairdresser says all the straight-haired girls want curly hair and all the curly-haired girls want straight hair. When I press him on this, however, he admits that it’s not entirely true. That many of his clients are quite happy with their hair. I, too, am quite happy with my hair. But I do get bored and I’m glad that I know how to make it wavy without too much effort. A change, they say, is as good as a holiday. To which I’d say depends on the change and depends on the holiday. I once went to [redacted] for a holiday and let me tell you . . . *heh hem* I digress.

I don’t actually think my love of non-straight hair—it’s not just curly hair, any kind of non-straight, textured hair fills my heart with joy: kinky, curly, wavy, nappy, twists, locs etc. all looks good to me—is because I don’t myself have such hair. I think it’s because I like curves. Aesthetically I always choose a curve over a straight line. I don’t like hard edges or Modernism, I love Art Noveau and Art Deco. I love Gaudi and Zaha Hadid.

I’m not saying straight hair is ugly. I’m just saying that when people rave about the beauty of, say, Megan Fox’s hair, I don’t see it. I mean it doesn’t look bad, it’s shiny and that, but I can’t get excited. It certainly doesn’t look beautiful to me the way that Nicole Kidman’s hair was before she straightened it and nuked it blonde, or Gina Torres’, or Tawny Cypress’. I could go on for a week listing women with gorgeous hair.

It could be that part of my curly hair love is from being a kid in the 1980s in Australia when curly was the thing. Yes, I had a disastrous perm when I was wee. I used to think all perms left you with fried hair that smelled bad for months, but then I met a rich girl in my first year of uni, who had gorgeous corkscrew hair down to the small of her back, that you would swear was natural. It was not. She got it done once a week. I had never met anyone who went to the hairdresser once a week before. Well, not other than the ladies with their weekly sets. But I’m betting those sets did not cost $200 a pop. I did mention she was rich, right?

So that might be part of my curly hair love, but I don’t think it accounts for all of it, because I have been a lover of curls and curves and waves and spirals and twists, not just in hair, but in art, in buildings, in plots, in nature, in pretty much everything my entire life. And, frankly, I’m not particularly convinced by the grass is greener argument. That’s too easy and it’s certainly not the main reason so many people with curly hair want straight hair. Most of the curly-haired women I know were taught to hate their hair. They endured a lifetime of being told that the way their hair grows out of their head is messy and out of control and somehow wrong. I have curly, kinky and nappy-haired friends who’ve been knocked back from jobs because of their hair.

Most of those women have grown to love their hair. And in their professions—writers, journalists, musicians, academics—they’re able to wear their hair however they please. But I still know plenty of women who keep their hair straight for a variety of reasons, including being taken seriously in the work place and looking “professional”. If Michelle Obama were to appear in public with natural hair many, many people would say, What has she done to her hair.1

My straight hair has never cost me anything. When I make my hair wavy it doesn’t cost me anything either.2 No one has ever commented on the professionalism of my hair.

I’ve never lost a job over my hair. I’ve never had to deal with the politics of hair per se. I’m white, with straight hair. I’m not a politician, neither is my husband. But even without those huge pressures, I have spent lots of time and money and angst (I found my first grey hair when I was fourteen & thought that was the beginning of The End) over this stuff that grows out of my head. It’s a multi-billion industry world-wide and I’m throwing my money at much product and hours-long visits to the hairdresser every four weeks. I have to admit that sometimes I do find myself wondering why?3

Care to share your hair stories?

Update: You can find some of my additional thoughts on this fascinating subject here.

  1. See the crazy responses to Malia Obama’s gorgeous twists. No, I’m not going to link, makes me too cranky. []
  2. Well, except for the product involved. []
  3. Other times I’m just giddy at the new colour and waviness of my salon hair. []

I got my blog back!

Sorry about the on-again-off-again-ness of this blog today. We were moving hosts. And now are safely ensconsed in new home. Yay! Thank you, Tempest, for all your hard work!

I discovered that a few hours without my blog turns me into a jittery mess. Thank Elvis, for Twitter. Though those who follow my Twitter feed are probably bitter about my excessive spamage today. Sorry!

In other news I saw a jewelled propeller gorget hat thingie:

Thought to be designed by Valentina from around 1950. (Was a bit tricky to photograph, being black on black, and me only having crappy phone camera. Just peer closely.)

When I get my ballgown this is what I’m wearing with it.


I still don’t have a ballgown.

My regular readers may remember that I contemplated getting one to wear when I was one of the guests of honour at ConFusion 2008. It did not happen.

Don’t get me wrong. I frocked up for ConFusion. I mean, what am I a farmer? But I didn’t ballgown up. And until I do I feel my life is not complete.

I have decided that the perfect ballgown really ought to have sleeves. Tragically that much reduces my options. But there are some choices. If by “choice” I mean that I can a) go back in time to when these collections were actually available or b) track down those who have these dresses in their collection in my size who are willing to sell c) have the gazillions of dollars necessary to make options a) or b) possible.

First one from the glorious Alexander McQueen:

I am not a pastel girl so these colours don’t work for me. But given that the idea of ever wearing this gown is entirely imaginary I believe I’m allowed to imagine it in jewel colours.

And then there are not one, not two, but THREE options from one of my fave designers of all time, the divine Vivienne Westwood via amescheng:

Here’s a closer detail:

I love the see-through sleeves.

And another:

Strictly speaking these are not long sleeves. But I figure there’s so much going on at the shoulder that it has the effect of a long sleeve. Sort of. Not that I would ever wear yellow.

Sadly, I have not been able to find a better photo anywhere of the gorgeous puce gown on the right above. *sadness* I suspect that’s the gown I want. Vivienne, call me!

What’s your pick? Or better still can you give me a link to other long-sleeved ballgowns. No, they does not have to be within realms of possibility. Please! See above.

Hair frivolity

Went shopping today with my friend Alaya who knows where to buy good, cheap hair accessories in New York City. I made out like a bandit:

Thanks, Alaya! (Happy birthday for Monday!)

2009 Project: Learn to tie a double (or full) windsor

And to tie that windsor really well. Here’s what I’m learning from:

Haven’t actually attempted it with an actual tie yet.1 I figure I’ll watch the vid several times first. Observe. Then try.

When I get it right I’ll post evidence here.2

  1. That’s too many “actually”s, isn’t it? Whatever. []
  2. You can read lack of evidence here (by the end of this year) as an admission of failure. []

Another lovely event + worst oscar dress (updated)

The event at North Melbourne library was fabulous. Lots of excellent quessies and best of all I got to tell a vomit story. Thank you for asking, Aimee! And thank you so much for organising the event. Was lovely to chat with such knowledgeable YA readers. Yes, Twilight was discussed.

So, the Oscars. What do we think was the worst dress? Please to include link to it. I’m still spluttering over Miley Cryus’s explosion.

And what did we think of Our Hugh Jackman’s effort? No expletives please!

Update: I am very much enjoying all your comments here and on the romcom/vomcom thread. I agree with those below who love Queen Latifah and Marisa Tomei‘s dresses. Not entirely sure about the colour of the Tomei dress, and I’d have preferred it to have two straps, but the structure is awesome. For those of your criticising Tilda Swinton: stop immediately! She can do no wrong. And, yes, Sarah Jessica Parker‘s dress was a mistake. Looks like her boobs are about to explode, which would be VERY painful.

Clothes question

Jenny Davidson asked:

I am not a clothes person—I see why nice ones are nice, but I hate shopping and really I just wear jeans and a cotton shirt every day. BUT your description in the opening pages of Magic or Madness of the pants that Tom makes for Reason is so good (and the pants are so much what I would like for myself!) that I cannot resist asking you—yes, I know that really they are the creation of his magic talent . . . —BUT do you think there is a store I could go to in New York where I could get an approximation of those pants?!?

Good question. Cargo pants with lots of pockets. There was a point in the 1990s/early 2000s when they were everywhere. But I have not seen them in such quantities for awhile. I had a pair that I bought online cause they were featured on boingboing (sorry can’t find link). But I wouldn’t recommend them. While I loved them, and they were way cool, they fell apart after not many wears. There was sadness. Plus those were men’s pants, which for me is often a better fit than women’s (I really hate low waists) but not so for most women.

Google cargo pants many pockets and you’ll find a range of them. Though I have to say that after going through a page I found none that I liked. There was this pair. Not many pockets, but. Not a great colour. Also way low waist. *Shudder*

That search pulled up many many pages so you might find something. Plus I am extremely fussy.

Do any of my dear readers have any suggestions? Know of a great online or NYC shop that has a tonnes of many-pocketed cargo pants?

Fashion hates

I see that I have not ranted about any of my fashion hates since the dawn of time! That is not right and must be fixed immediately.

What, you ask, am I hating on right now? Here are two words that should never go together:

“Roman” and “sandals”

They’re also known as gladiator sandals and Greek sandals. They are abominations. And I’ve been seeing them everywhere here in sunny Sydney. They are an affront to my eyes!

And, I suspect, an affront to the person who’s wearing them’s calves. Seriously, look at how many spots there are for chafing and blisters. It’s been in the high 20s and low thirties for a while now and a bit humid.1 In short, it’s the kind of weather that makes you sweat and when you sweat wearing those things? I see a world of pain in your future.

They do not make you look sexy. They make you look like a galumphing gladiator. And the constant adjustments they call for—when you lean over and rearrange and hoick and twist and push at them—also not sexy.

Please to throw your pair away immediately, or remake them into a bridle, or something, I don’t care what just get them out of my line of vision!

Thank you!

What are youse lot hating right now in the land of fashion?

  1. Yes, I know, not nearly as hot as Melbourne and Adelaide. I do not complain. This is my favourite kind of weather. []

Some questions

Why does Pat Buchanan yell all the time?

Also where does he find his ties?

How come the majority of people are incapable of replacing an empty toilet roll with a full one?

Is there anyone more charming than Rachel Maddow?

Is this election ever going to end?

And, um, what am I going to do with myself when it’s over?

Am I the only one who doesn’t think the money spent on Palin and family’s clothes, hair, and make up is that big a deal?1

I’ve been living in NYC too long, haven’t I?

Don’t answer that!

I have never spent 150k on clothes. I’d kind of like to. Yes, I know it’s wrong. I’ve just always wanted a Vivienne Westwood ballgown . . .

  1. Ask me what I think of the Alaskan governor’s policy on wolves. That I think is a VERY big deal. []

I don’t mean you!

I am getting some upset responses from people who love their shrugs/leggings/formal shorts etc. and want to know how I dare to impugn them. I’m even being sent photos of said people in said fashion atrocities to prove their non-ugliness.

Clearly, I don’t mean you! Not any of you!

You are the one person in the world who can truly rock that look. And even in the unlikely event that you aren’t rocking it, well, if it makes you happy to wear said ballet flats/ugg boots/espadrilles then by all means wear them!

I have any number of fashion atrocities that I love dearly and wear often. I know that they are ugly. I know that other people think they are ugly, but they make me happy, so wear them I will. Mock away! As you all know I will feel no compunction about mocking your ugly clothing in turn.

So what is your favourite makes-you-happy hideous thing in your wardrobe?

Some would say I’ve already shared mine. Fie! I say. They are the most beautiful boots in the world.1

Mine was my possum slippers that fell to pieces I wore them so much. Right now it’s probably this indescribably ugly con T-shirt.2 It’s the most comfortable and ugliest T-shirt on the planet. Wearing it makes me happy.

And you?

  1. Shockingly I have several friends who consider western boots to be as ugly as ugg boots! Who would have credited it? []
  2. I will not say which con. []

Gypsy skirts. C’mon, you know you hate them.

I can’t believe no one’s voted against gypsy skirts either. Mis-matched flaps of coloured cotton (or worse synthethic) piled layer on top of layer in an unholy mess. What’s to like, people?

Also the next person who writes to me defending their hideous taste in liking ballet flats/espadrilles/formal shorts/shrugs/other fashion atrocity will be hit with a bad fashion curse. That’s right I will hex you so you never look good in clothes again. EVER.

Though, come to think of it, perhaps you’re all writing to me to defend these fashion atrocities because you’ve already been hit with the bad fashion curse. Hmmm. I will have to think further on a better punishment . . .

And for those who seem unable to find the poll: It’s to your right. In the sidebar. See? Where it says “Polls”. You’re welcome.

Little round up

Firstly, the polls: I thought you all should know that the result of the poll was that Nevada is our chosen smoking state of the US of A. Closely followed by Wyoming. Hope you’re happy, Mr Williams!

The new poll is on fashion atrocities. I’m a bit cross that no one has voted for espadrilles yet. Oh, how I HATE them! Soles of shoes are not supposed to be made of rope! It’s UGLY, people! Are you all blind?! (Poll is to your right.)

Matter the second, the word count discussion has been interesting and enlightening. In fact, it made me realise more fully the why of my word count dislike. I do not care to share my day-by-day process. Don’t get me wrong I adore talking about process. But I like to talk about it overall: here’s some thoughts on rewriting, here’s a very silly set of suggestions for writing a novel, here’s how I wrote this book, here’s how I find looking at other people’s writing incredibly useful and so on and so forth.

But posting daily on my struggles or successes in the writing coal mine? Nah. Too close to the bone. I feel like I’ll come across as a massive whinger (Oh my Elvis writing this book is killing me! Why are leopard ballet sequence so bloody difficult?! What was I thinking?! I’m a hack! A talentless hack!!) or the most conceited self-satisfied writer in the universe (Wow, I am a genius! I am the Lord Barham of writing! Look at these pearls of unspeakable genius that I crafted today! How could perfection such as the crystalline words that coruscate from my fingers exist in this oh so imperfect world?! It astonishes me!). So I confine such thoughts to myself.

Oh, hang on—wooops!

Look over there: Leopards dancing! Flying giant woolly squirrels playing badminton with quokkas!

There is no matter the third.

As you were.

Time to bitch about clothes again

I see that it’s more than a year since I last ranted about clothes. That’s ridiculous! It’s well past time that I ranted again!

Except that, well, on my European travels I didn’t see many clothes that offended me. Shocking but true.

I’ll admit that I’m not wild about ballet flats or kitten heels. But I can’t really get up into a frothing rage about them.

Low riders seem to have disappeared altogether. Formal shorts are getting very rare. There are no neon or pastel coloured clothes. Though some of the clothes I’ve been seeing bore me—none of them appal me. I know! I can’t believe it either.

Fortunately last night at the opera I saw some shocking numbers. One girl was wearing a black sack with a draw-string waist that barely covered her girly bits. Coupled with black spike heels so high that every step forward was an exercise in tottery danger. And she was not as hideously attired as the woman in the skin-tight leopard print dress with the black tulle layer over the top which she matched with white pumps. I do not lie.

What clothes fill you with horror right now? Share! You know you want to.

Thing that remains a mystery

As detailed in my previous post I have learnt much on this trip, but one thing remains a mystery:

How do women get around in high heels on cobble stone streets without destroying their ankles?

Every European city we’ve visited has had much cobble-stoneage and yet almost all the women are in high heels. It is bewildering. I have gone over on my ankles wearing the most comfortable and supportive of footwear. No harm was done because my beloved boots have non-ankle-spraining super powers. Yay boots!

I saw one woman get her heel stuck between stones. She came to a sudden and whip-lash looking halt, before bouncing about, trying to extricate herself. She was promptly rescued by a kind gentleman (who unlike me didn’t stand their giggling helplessly) and tottered off on her way as if nothing had happened. But that’s the only mishap I’ve seen. I suspect there are high-heels-on-cobble-stones training camps all over Europe.

Paris continues to be fabulous. Even without cobble stone related accidents. I don’t want to go home.

Clothes in the 1930s

I’ve been toying with writing a novel set in the 1930s and without fail when I mention this I get the following response:

“Why? The clothes were so drab then! Set it in the 1920s!”

Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to think that the Depresssion meant no good clothes were made or worn for an entire decade. I blame Carnivale. My friends have visions of women in faded print dresses and men in worn suits covered in dust.

High fashion in the 1930s was the very opposite of drab. Think of the 1930s movies of Kate Hepburn, Greta Garbo and Carole Lombard. Think about the clothes they wore. Gorgeous! Insane! Over the top!

Yes, most people couldn’t afford those clothes, but that was true in the 1920s, too. Photos of NYC street scenes in the 1920s were just as grey as those of the 1930s.1 And, really, at what point in history have the majority of people worn haute couture?

One of the reasons I want to set my book in the 1930s is because of the sharp contrast between the very rich and everyone else. The clothes speak volumes.

Also the 1930s was the heyday of Madeleine Vionnet who invented the bias cut and totally shaped the look of the 1930s with her (mostly, but not always) slinky clothes. Vionnet is one of my favourite designers.2 She was a genius, who created some of the most beautiful clothes I’ve ever seen.

Photo by Ilan Rubin

This Vionnet dress is from 1938 and according to the New York Times is “made from silk tulle, panne velvet and horsehair with a silver lamé underdress and Lesage embroidery.” I’m betting it was not made in a day.

There were good clothes in the 1930s, okay?

  1. And, no, not just because they’re in black and white. []
  2. Also a really good boss who paid her workers above average wages (unlike, say, Coco Chanel) and covered their healthcare and training. []

The story of my boots

Is like this: I have always wanted cowboy boots ever since I saw my first pair on the feet of indigenous stockmen in the Northern Territory of Australia. Those boots were beaten up and weathered like you wouldn’t believe and I’d never seen such cool boots in my entire life. Want!

They were plain though. My fancy western boot lust didn’t develop until I saw my first rodeo. It wasn’t any of the performers who were wearing them but two women in the audience had on full cowgirl regalia and shiny, shiny boots. I am magpie. Shiny fills my heart with lust.

Over the years, I have tried on many pairs of fancy western boots and they have never been quite right. Not shiny enough. Not shiny in the ways I want them to be. Too high-heeled. Too pointy. Too pink. Too hurty on the feet. Or perfect and way out of my price range.

A few years back I heard that you could get cowboy boots handmade special to fit your feet and that you could have whatever design you wanted. I cannot tell you the joy in my heart when I learned of this possibility. Oh, bliss! Oh, joy! The family coat of arms on my very own boots! Want!

Then last year Penguin sent me and Scott to San Antonio for the TLA conference.1 San Antonio just happens to be the home of Little’s Boots, one of the best makers of western boots in all of the US of A. Clearly, it was time for me to have the boots my little heart pined for.

So, I set up an appointment and early last April I went in for my fitting, clutching a printout of the Larbalestier coat of arms. In Old French my surname means the crossbower, ie the one who uses a crossbow. “L” is the, “arbalest” is crossbow, and “ier” is er. Hence the great big crossbow on the coat of arms. I have no idea what the thistles are for. Because we are a prickly lot?

At the appointment I was asked a zillion questions. What kind of design did I want? I waved the printout of the crossbow. You want just that? In what colours? You don’t want any other design elements? Oh, I said. Look around the shop, they told me. I did. My eyes bugged out. I made many design decisions. Scott kept vetoing my more shiny desires.2 After about an hour the design was settled.

Then they started asking me about what kind of heel and toe I wanted. What ears? How high up my calf did I want the boots to go? What did I want the top of the boots to look like? Straight or with a little v? What kind of leather did I want? Some were out of the question—you don’t use crocodile or alligator or eel for fancy boots. So my choice was between calf and kangaroo. I tried on many different boots to make my decision. Walked around the shop feeling like a rodeo queen.3

After almost two hours of exhausting decision making, Dave Little started measuring my foot. I had not realised how many dimensions feet and calves have. This also took some time and involved Dave mocking my socks more than somewhat. (They’re cut to fit left and right feet and thus are way more comfortable than normal socks. They are also labelled with a little R and L, leaving Dave to suppose that we Australians are left and right impaired.)

Finally, we gave them a deposit of half the total. A very big total. These boots are not only the most expensive boots I have ever owned, they are the most expensive item of clothing I have ever owned. Six months later, Dave promised, my boots would arrive. And then, because he’s such a lovely bloke, he gave us a lift back to the hotel because we were running late for our next TLA appointment. Texas hospitality is no lie.

Dave was four months off on the arrival time. But the boots are even better than I imagined. They are the most comfortable footwear I’ve ever known. All other footwear are devices of torture in comparison. I may never take these boots off again. In fact, if it weren’t for Scott’s objections,4 I’d’ve slept in them last night.

I love my boots.

Now all I need is a Vivienne Westwood ballgown and my life will be complete . . .

  1. Which was the best fun ever! []
  2. Yes, the boots I wound up with are way more tasteful than they would have been had I been alone. []
  3. Justine, they name is camp. []
  4. He feared for his shins. []

The other options

Some are saying that the poll is rigged because I’m only showing pictures of dresses. So in the interests of fairness here are what the other High Voltage ConFusion clothing options look like:

The mighty zoot suit
Who can not love it’s exaggerated shoulders? The lurid colours? The delicious saxophone wail that you are sure to hear everywhere you go?

I will admit that this is not the best example of the zoot, but I am trying to get books written, you know! I have a vivid memory of Kid Creole (of Kid Creole & the Coconuts fame) attired in a lime green and black one. Exquisite!

The purple jump suit

Because what other colour could a jump suit possibly be? Plus can double as pyjamas. Who would not look adorable wearing it?

Elvis’s gold lame suit

Do I even need to explain why this is the best suit of all time? A billion Elvis fans cannot be wrong.

I do have a sneaking suspicion, however, that it only truly looks good on Elvis himself and that anyone else wearing it will be a bit trag. But then I don’t think anyone but Elvis is allowed to sing “Suspicious Minds”. Mmmm . . . Elvis.

Skirt and top

In theory, far less exciting than a ball gown, and, yet, look what Vivienne Westwood does with it! Splendificerly wondrous fabulosity! Imagine the grand entrance you’d make swishing into a con dressed in this ensemble? Those boots! Those colours! That fabric! Does anything beat silk taffeta? Westwood doesn’t think so. She says you can wear it straight from your suitcase. No need to hang it. I just question how big the suitcase would need to be . . .

How to choose between them all?

Don’t forget the dress piccies here and here.

Mmm . . . clothes.

It’s heartening that you are all so solidly behind my going out and being a conspicuous consumer. Fortunately most of these outfits are not available new and must be purchased from vintage clothing providores, or, you know, stolen from museums . . . (Not that I would do that, because stealing is wrong.) So, it’s really recycling and very environmentally sound and not conspicuous consumption at all!

What a good world citizen I am. Oh, hush!

Or this one?

The voting says I should definitely get a new dress. Take that, Scott!

The first dress is here. But how about this one:

Marc Audibet for Vionnet

Or maybe this (look! black gloves!):

John Galliano for Christian Dior

Thinking about dresses is something else that’s much much easier than writing . . .

Because Scalzi made us do it

Next weekend Scott Westerfeld and yours truly will be guests of honour at the 2008 High Voltage ConFusion science fiction convention. It’s our very first time being guests of honour and we are stoked. TOTALLY stoked. In fact I’m so very stoked I’m thinking of celebrating with the purchase of a new dress. Surely, being guest of honour requires new clothes, right? I gotta look pretty, don’t I? If you have an opinion on this Very Important Matter please to express it in the poll to your right.

I’m thinking this one, though with black gloves not white:

Vivienne Westwood’s Watteau ball gown

Here’s Scott and mine’s schedule. Because we are joint guests of honour we are doing everything together:


1900 Den 1 Interview: Author GoHs by John Scalzi
Tee hee! Mr Scalzi will ask us questions and we will plead the fifth and get away with it because we know where he buried the bodies. I suspect zombies will be mentioned.

2000 Salon FGH Opening Ceremonies
We will say a few words but there won’t be an actual speech speech. Some of my words will be “quokka”, “zombie”, and “oscillate”, or maybe not. Depends.

2100 Salon FGH Dessert Reception
Where we eat dessert and natter with folks what want to natter.

2200 Den 1 Originality is Overrated
There’s this idea that writers work entirely alone and create their work out of whole cloth. That’s rubbish. If a work were wholly original no one would be able to read it. All writers are influenced by those who came before them. Most writers talk to other writers. Many are in writers’ groups and even those that aren’t frequently read and comment on each other’s work. Let’s talk about the influence and community that writers share. Even when they don’t know each other. Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld (M), Patrick Nielsen Hayden, John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss and Doselle Young.

I confess that I wrote this description on account of it’s something that drives me crazy and I’m looking forward to talking about it with such esteemed and smart companions. Especially Doselle. Everything is better if Doselle is involved.


1100 Den 1 Fantastic Sports
Organized sports are a vital part almost every culture on the globe. But sf and fantasy novels tend to overlook this key aspect of world-building. We examine what sports are and what they tell us about a culture, and dig up some good examples in sf and fantasy. Justine Larbalestier (M), Scott Westerfeld, Steve Ainsworth, Dave Klecha and Catherine Shaffer.

Mmmm . . . sport. If I weren’t moderator I would just spend the session teaching USians cricket.

1300 Salon G Juvenilia
Writers dust off the storage trunks, turn off the shame meter, and read from their 5th- through 12th-grade works of unalloyed proto-genius. A great way for young writers in the audience to feel much better about their own efforts. Justine Larbalestier (M), Scott Westerfeld, Merrie Haskell, K. Tempest Bradford and Marcy Italiano.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that Scalzi is not on this panel. Laughing at his early writing efforts was the whole reason I agreed to go to ConFusion!

1400 Den 1 SF Is Not Dead
More sf is written and consumed these days than every before, in the form of manga, video games, rpgs, and YA lit. Yet our beloved field constantly bemoans its own demise, while ignoring those 100,000 crazy kids down the road at Comicon. How do we connect these two worlds of sf? Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld (M), Anne Harris, Jim Frenkel and Peter Halasz.

Because me and Scott are sick to death of hearing the folks in the old sf people’s home whingeing about the death of sf. It ain’t dead! It’s doing just fine, thanks.

1500 Den 1 Golden Age of Young Adult Lit
Some argue that the YA books being published now are some of the best the field has ever seen. There are more of them, the quality is better, and the authors are being paid more. Is now the Golden Age of Young Adult Literature? And if so what does that mean for the next generation of readers? Justine Larbalestier (M), Scott Westerfeld, Steve Climer, Suzanne Church and Peter Halasz.

I think it is. I also think it’s just going to get better and better and better.

1700 All-Author Autographing Session
If you have books you want strange author types to scribble on here’s your chance.

2100 Concierge Literary Beer
The only thing we’re doing that you have to sign up for. It’ll be me and Scott sitting around with a smallish group of interested folks and answering their questions while we all drink beer (or water or whatever you wish to drink. I wish to drink Krug—I hope the ConCom is on top of that!).


1100 Salon H Gluten-Free Fantasy
Most medieval cultures didn’t have chainmail, swords, horses, or wheat. Yet the overwhelming majority of medieval cultures in fantasy do. What do we stand to gain by breaking the bonds of Europe on our collective imagination? And what’s so scary about bolas, sled-dogs, and rice? Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, John Scalzi, Karl Schroeder, Jim Frenkel.

This panel is also something me and Scott came up with. It has a backstory. Way back in the dark ages we were on a panel together about fantasy where we panelists suggested that there were other settings for high fantasy other than mediaeval Europe. Scott went as far as to say that wheat is not essential to high fantasy.

The audience turned on him. “We LOVE wheat!” they proclaimed. “We hate fantasy that isn’t set in mediaevel Europe. We hate wanky literary fantasy. In fact, we hate you writers on the panel who are trying to take away our wheat!”

Scalzi was in the audience along with the wonderful Karen Meisner and they both say it was one of the most extraordinary things they have ever seen. Karen even sent Scott a Canadian license plate wth a beautiful picture of wheat on it. Scott still contends that we were caught in the wave of an Atkin’s diet backlash.

Here’s the con’s full schedule.

Hope to see some of you there! I mean if this wussy Aussie girl can brave the dead of winter in Detroit. Surely some of you can?

A queue for . . . what?!

I cannot tell you how bizarre and funny I find this:


The picture does not capture how insanely long the queue was. As I walked past I was wondering what rare and amazing thing they were lining up for. Concert tickets? The best chocolate in the world? Gold statues of quokkas?

Nope. They was in line for ugg boots. Ugg boots! Who in their right mind would queue up to buy Ugg boots?

I shake my head in disbelief.

Do-rags (updated)

I’ve been thinking about do-rags of late. Until I came to the US of A I’d never even heard the term before. I’m not even sure what I used to call them anymore.

Anyways what I’ve been thinking is how come when some people put on a do-rag they look like a gangsta, or a pirate, or a gangsta pirate, or just cool? Yes, I’m looking at you, Holly Black! And when other people put them on they look like a peasant or a cleaning lady?

I fall into the latter category, which I’ve decided is fitting as I’m definitely from peasant stock on both sides of the family, and I once worked as a cleaning lady. Twas one of my many jobs while I was an undergraduate. To be honest I liked it heaps better than being a receptionist or a waitress. It paid better too.

I comfort myself by thinking that with my do-rag on I look like a kind of cool cleaning lady, but I suspect I’m deluding myself.

Update: Thanks to Scalzi, I have just learned that Noah and the other builders of the ark all wore do-rags. I’m trying to decide if they look like gangstas, pirates, or cleaning ladies.

No, not those either, but yes to these

Now I’m being asked if formal shorts are okay. I love that you’re writing me for fashion advice! Yay! Cause I have the requisite strong opinions, but can you do a little research first? I’ve been over this one before.

Formal shorts are an abomination. They are worse even than footless tights.

You know what isn’t an abomination?

Awesome hand-made T-shirts like this one. I wish Scott had taken a photo of Liset’s face as well because she also had the coolest make up and hair, but he’s been scared off by all those schools that have no-photo policies.1 For the record: We always ask when we take photos and if it’s also okay to post them.

What other clothing are you guys loving right now? Share!

I saw a woman at Seattle airport who had gold strands woven into her hair and the whole thing was pulled up into the most amazing do. I wish I’d taken a photograph. She looked like a goddess. And her hair perfectly matched the rest of her outfit which was also black and gold. Hmmm, it prolly sounds a bit dire, but, trust me, she was turning heads in a really good way.

  1. Often for very good reasons. []

an urgent question

Kadie-Wa needs to know the answer to this question:

I’m still wondering about gathering the extra part of your shirt up at your side. would that look good, or weird? i mean, when you take your shirt, and pull it over to your side and pull if off with a rubber band/pony tail. okay, or not? thax!

Personally, I think it’s a DREADFUL idea, but I am deeply conservative about clothing that reeks in any way of the 1980s. I did it as a teen and it was not pretty.

What do the rest of you think?

Maybe, Cecil Castellucci, who actually thinks footless tights are a good idea (!) is down with it?

Footless tights

To the person who got to my site by googling “is it bad to wear a long t-shirt with footless tights”:

Yes! It is very very very bad indeed. Burn those footless tights immediately. And long T-shirts should only be worn to bed. Not out on the streets! What were you thinking?

Jacket monkey

I am a jacket monkey which totally works for me as those are two of my favourite things. I love beautiful jackets and I love monkeys. What could be better than putting them together? (If I weren’t pressed for time there would a picture of a monkey wearing a jacket here. You’ll just have to imagine it.)

Today me and Nicola from Nicola’s books in Ann Arbor opened many many copies of Extras to the signing page for Scott to scribble all over. We were his jacket monkeys. I want a Jacket Monkey t-shirt. I’ve already earned it. So many copies! So many jackets! So many pages!

In other news I am regretting that I learned on an earlier trip never to travel with manga because just before we left I read the first two volumes of Naruto and Hana-Kimi and R.O.D. and I am desperate to read more. Sadly it only takes half an hour to read one manga. To meet my reading needs on this trip I would need a truckload. They’re heavy. No more manga for almost three weeks. Waaaah!!!

Turns out that two of our writer friends are here: John Scalzi and Elizabeth Gilbert. Yay! The first we learned when Scalzi tackled Scott in the middle of a cocktail party. We authors are so well behaved . . .

It’s 12:20AM in Chicago. But that’s really 1:20AM in NYC. And past my bedtime on account of waking up before the sun rose. Erk!

I sleep now.