ahunter3: (Default)
[personal profile] ahunter3
Los Alamos NM is where the first third of my story takes place, covering the critical years of puberty and adolescence when questions of gender and sexual orientation emerge from a person's negotiations towards adult sexual expression.

This weekend, my high school held its 40th reunion. I had not been back to Los Alamos since my parents retired and moved elsewhere, and I hadn't been to a reunion since the 10th in 1987; so from a combination of nostalgia, a desire to see some people I hadn't seen in eons, and an opportunistic interest in promoting my book to people who were there for the events portrayed in Part One, I opted in for this one and made the journey.

Hey, it doesn't take much to get the author of an autobiographical account to start talking about themselves, we're admittedly rather self-immersed!

I made arrangements to have an author's table to receive interested visitors and discuss gender issues, growing up genderqueer in Los Alamos, and my forthcoming book specifically, to sign folks up to be alerted when it becomes available for order. And I posted to various relevant Facebook groups so the class of 77 knew about the book and were invited to drop in at the author's table.

My girlfriend A1 (one of my partners) flew out with me to Albuquerque and we hopped into a rental car. I think I would have managed the journey using the dusty rusty memories of making the drive back in the day, but I was glad to have our GPS along. Northern New Mexico, and the Jemez Mountains in particular, are still heartbreakingly beautiful. Our rental economy car chugged and gasped its way up the road, desperately trying to burn gasoline at 7200 feet; we weren't doing a whole lot better ourselves, with our six-decades-old, sea-level-acclimated lungs and hearts. I rejoiced in the dryness, mostly, but my lips and my nose were dissenters, chapping up and otherwise protesting the lack of moisture.

• There was an interestingly varied reaction on the part of my former schoolmates to my coming out + book project, but by an overwhelming margin the most common reaction was supportive and congratulatory. People said "you are doing a good thing" or "thank you for this" or "I thought I was the only person who was a gender or orientation minority in Los Alamos, no one talked about it back then". People said "I remember you and I always thought you were very brave. You were your own person and you stood up for yourself". People said "Congratulations! When is it coming out? Can I order it yet? Oh, I'm definitely going to buy a copy, I'm looking forward to reading your book".

• I received one heartfelt apology in private from someone who remembered having participated in harassing me back in the day. He said that looking back on it he viewed his behavior at the time as ignorant and hateful. I found the gesture healing and I did my best to extend the same to him, noting that I hadn't been very tolerant of masculine boys and their ways and behaviors either, at the time, and my own hostility and judgmental attitude didn't make me an entirely innocent victim.

• Another person recalled a specific incident from back in 8th grade at Cumbres Junior High: "I had a squirt gun and I came up to you in the cafeteria and squirted you in the face. You just sat there and didn't react and I wanted a reaction so I kept on squirting you. And after a moment you got up and broke your cafeteria lunch tray over the top of my head." I remembered the incident well -- I think it was a rather famous incident, in fact, as my neighbor told me when reminiscing a couple years later: "Some people even saved fragments of that lunch tray as souvenirs". Anyway, I explained to the guy that by the time of the squirt-gun incident I had been bullied and harassed so often that my reactions were pretty shut down, but when I did react it was all out of proportion because it wasn't about him, it was about the whole ongoing phenomenon, and because he wasn't stopping. We shook hands, and later he came over to hang out at our table. I hadn't included that event in the final version of the book but now I'm thinking I should reinsert it: it's a good example of the way in which all the advice to "not let them see that they're getting to you" started to show up as me not reacting when things like this happened.

• Perhaps understandably, the event organizers weren't 100% comfortable with the prospect of a bullying victim returning to the scene and attending an event that would also be attended by some of the participants in my erstwhile victimization. One person wrote, "Please consider that our committee has worked really hard to try to make this a fun reunion, and conjuring up bad feelings about high school or junior high events that were unpleasant puts our efforts in jeopardy." I had to grin to myself at the image it conjured up, of me returning to settle up 40-45 year old scores as my fellow alumni backed away in horror. "Don't worry", I said (reassuringly, I hope), "I'm not going to descend like Maleficent to point my bony finger at people and curse the proceedings. Like everyone else, I'm looking forward to seeing people I haven't seen in years; this isn't a vengeance and retribution visit, I promise!"

• People did ask me about the book, not merely at the author's table but as they came by and (re)introduced themselves. "So I hear you wrote a book?" One couple asked enough questions to get me started (hey, it doesn't take much to get the author of an autobiographical account to start talking about themselves, we're admittedly rather self-immersed); in as abbreviated and encapsulated form as I could, I summarized an early life in which I'd identified with the girls and made efforts to not be seen as one of the boys, and had protected myself from hostility and harassment by being a teacher's pet and embracing adult protection; then had come to Los Alamos in 8th grade just around the age that hormones were kicking in, and as it turned out I was attracted to the girls. "So the book really revolves around the question of how to negotiate sexual relationships with girls when I had modeled myself as someone just like them, a girlish person myself". The guy half of the couple didn't really get it: "So... would you say you're more gay, then?" Well, there's a reason I wrote a full-sized book, a representative memoir. It doesn't encapsulate easily into a quick overview that everyone can follow. In our society we see and interpret things through the lens of how we understand the world, and the world does not have an understanding of how a male person can be a feminine and yet function as a heterosexual person, a male person who would have sexual experiences with female people -- any more than I myself did.

• A majority of the people who expressed interest in the book did so in passing rather than at the author's table I'd booked, so I did not harvest their email addresses. In a separate post to the various FaceBook groups I will invite them to send me their email address and that way I can let them know when the book becomes available and include a direct link to where they can place an order for it.


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts

BOOK REVIEW — Dalí by E. M. Hamill

Sep. 18th, 2017 09:34 am
ahunter3: (Default)
[personal profile] ahunter3
Dalí is a person of the changeling sex, living in a future world within the domain of the Sol Fed government. Dalí is an ambassador for Sol Fed.

A changeling is someone whose body is neither inherently female nor male but can be either of those, changing structurally according to need and circumstance. Changelings are empathic, picking up on the emotions of people around them, and tend to morph their bodies to match desires and expectations, although they can also shift their shapes on their own whim.

Changelings are a minority and a fairly recent phenomenon, and are targets of hate crimes in this future world. Many people condemn them as unnatural freaks. Dalí's life has been upended by such violence: Dalí's two spouses, Gresh and Rasida, were murdered, and Dalí is still ripped up by it, scarcely caring whether they lives or dies.

Yes, two spouses. Dalí is poly. Polyamorous marriages are common in this future world. But they don't usually involve changelings and some folks are so creeped out by the idea of changelings marrying and consorting with normal folks that the prospect brings them to violence.

Dalí gets recruited to participate in undercover work to investigate these hate crimes. They ends up in jeopardy, a prisoner of a cosmic black market trader where, along with other captured changelings they is kept in a luxurious suite but faces the prospect of being sold as a sex slave.

Sharing those quarters are two other changelings, Dru and Kai. They have no idea that Dalí is working undercover and has allies who are working to spring them.

Holding the keys to their comfortable cage is Lord Rhix, he who rules this black-market domain. Rhix is the amoral vicious gangster feared by the traders and slavers and other denizens of the market, or so it initially seems, but when we get a closer look we discover a barbarian of principle, an evil lord whose stomach turns at some of the techniques of his predecessors. An enlightened hoodlum, he.

The person whose actions most directly got Dalí into this situation is Jon Batterson, son of the Sol Fed president and very much a spoiled powerful privileged wealthy villain, athletically powerful and arrogant. He is one of the bigoted haters and we learn pretty early that he's immersed in the kidnapping and selling of changelings, a convenient way to rid the Sol Fed system of unnatural freaks while profiting economically from their disposal.

Jon Batterson has a battered wife, or, rather, ex-wife. Tella Sharp escaped him and coincidentally happens to be the provider of nursing care when Dalí is recovering from Batterson's assault on her in the space station corridors. Tella finds Dalí enticing and returns for some steamy aftercare in Dalí's quarters.

DALÍ is a delightful gender fantasy. How totally fine, to be able to match one's body to one's gender of the moment, including a convenient neuter when you feel like it!

Yes, it does manage to echo the notion--held strongly by cisgender bigots and even loosely by some transgender folks (truscum)--that to properly be a given gender, your body must correspond. Being a changeling can be conceptualized as sex reassignment surgery on-the-fly, or, as Dalí's partner Rasida's journal article expressed it in the book, "A natural progression allowing transgenderism to correct itself".

But there's nothing in DALÍ that opposes ideas of gender variance that do not involve physical transitioning, and I just can't bring myself to be curmudgeonly enough to resent or criticize the formulation: it's just too damn deliciously cool. I don't have physical dysphoria and despite identifying as a gendered feminine I have never rejected my physical maleness, but if I could have a body that could speak either physical language? Hell yes, that would be more fun than being able to fly like Superman!

DALÍ avoids the pestersome problem of pronouns by using first person. "I walked down the corridor" instead of he, she, they, or some other formulation doing so. There are third party attributions of Dalí's gender--such as Brian, Jon Batterson's little brother down in the Rosetta Labyrinth referring to Dalí as "she"--but because they are third party designations of gender, we, the readers, may dissent.

There is hotness in this book. DALÍ gives us a sensuous and often horny changeling. I appreciated some of the departures from clichés that surround sexual shapeshifting characters in fantasy and science fiction, especially Tella Sharp directly lusting after Dalí as theirself, as opposed to seeking either a male or a female, and the scenes with Rhix in which Dalí is betwixt and between sexual morphologies and is manifesting with external tingly parts. That's seldom done: most tales featuring someone who can sexually shapeshift have the character bedding boys when shaped like a girl and doing girls when configured as a boy.

I was never very clear on the distinction the book attempts to make between "third gender" and "changeling". There are people who are described as "third gender"; and then "changeling" is either a subset of that or else a new and different (yet similar) thing. Tella Sharp, while examining and treating Dalí, says

"I studied third-gender anatomy, of course, but each person’s genitalia varies according to their dominant sex." Her fair complexion bloomed with rosy color as she discussed my genitals. "You don’t have one."

Seems to me that either a "third gender" person in this universe has physical anatomy that corresponds permanently to their "dominant sex", which differs from being cisgender only in the implication that they may also have a "non-dominant" sex (but we aren't told what a "non-dominant sex" actually is or what it does for a living); or else being "third gender" means one's physical anatomy is flexible and can change, in which case being "third" doesn't differ in any readily discernable way from being a changeling. As an atypical genderqueer person myself, far be it from me to cast aside or look askance at anyone else's gender identity just because I don't understand why the heck we need this additional category, but as a configuration within a work of fiction that doesn't explain it or utilize it more fully, I don't think it adds anything to the story.

Dru and Kai, the other two changelings in the story, don't change. Not because they can't, it just doesn't transpire that they ever do. Dru presents as female with a purseful of stereotypical femininity, while Kai is perennially male and manifests with textbook masculine traits throughout. I think it would have been more interesting to see Dalí interact with other changelings, but these are ersatz changelings, these two. They get gendered pronouns. Dru is all "she" and "her", and Kai is totally a "he" and "him" person throughout. Only Aja, a changeling who doesn't survive long enough to become conscious, is a "they".

Jon Batterson is a bit of a cardboard cutout, a bit too much unrelieved portrayal as stupid and dense, evil and deceitful; there's no individual and no allied group or contingent in the book which were ever in Batterson's personal orbit that he doesn't betray as soon as the opportunity presents.

The dynamic going on between Lord Rhis and Dalí is full-on neogothic: a brooding evil captor who turns out to be chock-full of ethical and moral concerns and is therefore worthy of the MC's love, and the MC can get through his emotional armor and cause him to love her too. I do love a well-delivered gothic romance and I liked the departure from conventional gothic trajectory too: the absence of any full reconciliation after he discovers Dalí's true identity as spy. Their departure scenes are more akin to heroic male opponents who express a grudging respect for their adversary. How appropriate! Well done.

DALÍ, by E. M. Hamill. NineStar Press.
E. M. Hamill

Echoed on Goodreads


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts


beige_alert: (Default)

January 2015


Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 26th, 2017 06:16 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios