I’ve had my Halloween post for this year up for a couple of days. Time now for a journey back into the roots of our traditions. The thinning of the veil between our world and the spirit realm is traditionally most extreme at Samhain.
You don’t have to worship your ancestors to feel a sense of connection with them. Even if they have long since passed on. We are, as Linda Hogan has so elegantly written, “The result of the love of thousands.” For many people Samhain can be a time of reconnection. Of rediscovering our families and the cultures and traditions from which we grew.
Graveyard Visits. Once again, the Oaxacans have elevated this to a fine art form. They clean, decorate, and then settle in by their ancestors’ graves. Sometimes for days. Meals are picnics. Music and “Ancestor Stories” abound. It’s a community party. What ancestral spirit wouldn’t want to come to that reunion?
Go on a nature walk, or walk a labyrinth in a beautiful natural setting. Contemplate the year, your place in the grand scheme, or other spiritual matters. Many spiritual traditions (including Christian) find a labyrinth a deeply spirit-feeding experience. There’s a labyrinth inside Chartres Cathedral, for instance.
Fox also suggests that other forms of reflection and spiritual renewal may come through reflections on the past (perhaps via journals, photographs, etc.). Renovate or refresh some part of your home, office, or life. Or seek other guidance.
However you celebrate Samhain(or don’t), and however you experience the thinning of the veil (or don’t), I wish you a deeper connection with the most important things in life.
Halloween definitely involves our companion animals, too. A few years ago on this blog, The Artdog did a Countdown to Halloween Pet Safety. It included: #1 Food Safety; #2 Lost Pets; #3 Pet Costumes (if ever there was a sure sign that Halloween is for the adults these days, it’s the proliferation of pet costumes, especially in childless homes); #4 Pet Fire Safety (especially including cats in Jack-O-Lanterns); and #5 Electrical Safety.
Even when we involve the kids, dress up the pets, or do any of the other fun things available to do on Halloween, it’s still up to the adults in the room to keep everyone safe. So don’t go crazy, out there!
In contemporary times, people celebrate Diwali all over the world, wherever Hindus, Jains, or Sikhs have dispersed. It is an important through Southeast Asia, notably Thailand. The “epicenter,” however, remains India.
Food is another essential ingredient for the holiday–especially snacks and sweets. Recipes abound, and the variety is endless. But breaking bread together is a universal value, and an essential part of having a happy Diwali.
No matter how or where you celebrate, I hope you have a happy and prosperous Diwali.
Why do we so often think of summer and winter as “destinations,” but spring and fall as transitions? Probably because spring and fall each manifest more of a progression. In just a few short weeks of spring, we move from freezing temperatures and snow through a greening and warming of the world. We progress through a riot of flowers, fluctuating sunshine and rain.
But then we settle down into summer. Yes, summer has its phases, too. But they’re more subtle. The wild swings of temperature and plant behavior start up again in autumn.
If it seems that just a week or so ago I had a window air conditioner in my upstairs office and periodically needed it, that’s because I did. Now the AC unit is in storage. I won’t need it again until May. Meanwhile, my window is available to open for an autumn zephyr or close against a frosty night.
Transitions are fraught moments. Important moments. Defining moments. Consider the transitions from child to adult, from midlife to old age, from single to married, from childless to parenthood. Transitions are arguably the most important experiences we have.
Some of us resist change, even when refusing to change harms us. Some of us fling ourselves wholeheartedly into change, even when doing so is foolish. Our attitudes toward change are hardwired in by genetics, researchers currently think–which is not to say that a habitual conservative may never become optimistic about certain things, or vice-versa.
We are, thank goodness, more than the sum of our genetic parts (or our environment growing up). We can shoot the rapids of even dramatic changes when we find ourselves dealing with new lives.
Have you ever been asked, “What are your pronouns?” I have been, on several occasions, so far, all at sf conventions. (Mine are “She/Her”). But more and more often today, you can’t necessarily predict a person’s PGPs (preferred gender pronouns) just by looking. That’s why I’ve often seen variations on this badge ribbon in the last couple years at conventions.
Because I really want to be an ally, I have been trying to educate myself. And if the badge isn’t flipped so you can’t read the ribbons, this little “cue” really can be helpful!
I’ve had pronouns on my mind recently, especially in the wake of moderating the “LGBTQ+ Representation in Fandom” panel at Archon 43, where the topic came up. Then my friend Lucy contacted me for my thoughts after she’d been tapped to be on a panel about inclusive pronouns at Windycon 2019.
Yes, “it” is only fit for objects, and is understood correctly to be demeaning when applied to a person. But the historically-loaded tanker ships‘-worth of baggage and assumptions we attach to “him” and “her” have led many people to seek alternative pronouns.
I don’t argue with them anymore. They don’t care what my grammar teachers taught me in high school. English is a living language. Living languages, by their very nature, change. If “you” can be both singular and plural in English, then why not “they”?
Non-terrestrials, gender, and pronouns
It is perhaps not strange at all that some members of science fiction fandom want to assert non-traditional pronouns.
“Alien sex” has been a fascination of science fiction writers for-almost-ever, but understandings have evolved slowly, most likely because the field was dominated by a cisgender white “boys’ club” for a long time. Some of them weren’t above misogyny and imperialism, although others wrote brilliant, insightful works. Some have experimented with alternative pronouns.
After all, why would anyone from another planetidentify in terrestrial terms of “he” and “she”? Even if there are two genders, “he” and “she” are culturally-loaded concepts for Earth people. If non-terrestrials don’t understand the same connotations and backloadingas pertaining to them (and why would they?), then it seems to me it’s not reasonable to use “he/she” to describe them.
This type of question came up several times for me in writingWhat’s Bred in the Boneand subsequent titles in the XK9 series, because the cast of characters includes a variety of non-humans and non-terrestrials.
The system I use for Dr. SCISCO and nir siblings (who are genderless cybernetic entities) is taken from a marvelous resource, The Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog. But since 2016, when I went searching for pronoun ideas and found it, there’s been an explosion of resources online.
Readers of my books also have encountered “k’kim” and “k’kir” for ozzirikkians, the non-terrestrials who are citizens of Rana Station, along with the humans and the XK9s. Ozzirikkians may experience several gender states during their lifetimes. However, they don’t distinguish between them (at least, not with pronouns) in Pan-Ozzirikkian, the language they use for conversation and commerce with non-ozzirikkians.
What difference does fiction make?
I don’t think I can stress this enough: Representation matters. It matters in deeper ways for under-represented individuals than the over-represented members of a dominant culture can begin to imagine.
Representation of gender identity and sexual orientation. Representation of ethnicity and racial identity. Representation of the differently-abled in positive, life-affirming ways. Representation is recognition that one exists. That one matters. Representation and respect for one’s preferred gender pronouns is the antidote to erasure.
Asking “What are your pronouns?” is an affirmation of respect.
Even when the characters aren’t human, we humans relate. We relate by identifying with characters whom we may recognize as stand-ins for our identities (why do you imagine fanfics gain such followings? Not only are they authentic voices of admiration, but they’re often free to go places and explore areas where more traditionally-oriented media can’t or won’t go).
IMAGE CREDITS: The “my pronouns are” badge ribbon is mine. I think I got this one at either SoonerCon or Capricon in 2019. I took the photo, and I’d be delighted if you spread it around all over the Internet. You don’t even need to attribute this one or include a link back (although that would be nice of you).
If it seems to you that there have been a lot of Jewish holidays recently, that’s because there have been.September through October is a busy time of year for our observant Jewish friends and neighbors. Tonight at sundown begins another holiday, one that’s been in preparation since Yom Kippur ended. Happy Sukkot!
The hall costumes are always amazing at Archon, and Archon 43 was no exception. I wandered around in the halls of Archon 43 on Saturday of the convention, and I think I got some fun “crowd photos.” I apologize that, because they’re all group shots and overviews, I wasn’t able to get the names of anyone in these photos.
All of these photos were taken October 5, 2019 inside the Gateway Center in Collinsville, IL. I hope you’ve enjoyed these glimpses of the passing parade from the halls of Archon 43!
IMAGE CREDITS: Once again, I apologize for the fact that I recognize none of these costumed persons, although I am humbled by their creative prowess. Jan S. Gephardt took all the photos shared here, in this little virtual stroll in the halls of Archon 43. Repost and re-blog freely, but please cite the source and provide a link back! Thanks!