Today I am 30

You can no longer trust me. Though I’m not entirely convinced you could before. I’ve been trying to sell out to adulthood since I was six.

I have not had a change of heart and decided that I’m desperate for marriage after all.  The extent to which my stance on marriage, as applied to me, has shifted from, “Fuck you, no,” is to acknowledge the ability to construct an elaborate hypothetical where my pragmatism would override my principals and the creep-factor.

My uterus has not staged a rebellion, taken over my brain, and left me desperate for babies. This despite me having met my sister’s offspring, an event I’ve been assured would crack my self-delusion about not wanting children. Yes, I am aware that I’m actually pretty good with kids. I’m also pretty good with strangers who ask me impertinent questions, make presumptive demands on my time, or hug me without asking. That doesn’t mean I want to be responsible for one 24/7 for 18+ years.

I have not taken over the world.  10-year-old Anaea is mildly disappointed. 12-year-old Anaea is not surprised. 15-year-old Anaea is relieved.

I have not yet decided where I want to die. Not in a literal, “I’d like to be on the steps of the White House announcing the implementation of a bright future where we are ruled by elegant spreadsheets and socialized bubble tea when the assassin’s bullet strikes,” but in the “Where is the physical community I’m going to take permanent ownership of,” sense.  I know many places it will not be.  I’m also pretty complacent with the idea that I’ll still be looking when the assassin’s bullet gets me.

I have figured out how to get paid to do whatever I want and not have a job. This was a big deal in terms of teenaged life goals. I did not expect the answer would be, “You’ll have seven jobs, some of which don’t pay particularly well, and you’ll start to feel insecure if you take more than two days off in a row.”  But hey, it works, and I didn’t expect it to.

I don’t own any pet birds. This is both astonishing and utterly obvious to me.

I am not independently wealthy. Still. This is becoming irksome. This has only been life goal number 1 since I was four.  Toddler-me is extremely disappointed.

It has been years since I was routinely the smartest person in the room.  This is awesome.  I can happily go the rest of my life without that ever being the case again. (I am, frequently, the most informed person in the room – being the informed person is usually my job – but that’s altogether different.)

I still don’t believe in unconditional love, happy endings, or that if you want it enough you can have it.  I’m making a decent writing career out of that.

I don’t think we’re in the end times. Or even close to the end times. I think the people who do are self-indulgent optimists of the worst sort.  There is so much more down to go before the bottom, folks. Use your imagination just a little.

I’m petty and spiteful, hold grudges, play favorites, and am utterly comfortable with being polite to someone I intend to dismember. I don’t think this makes me a good person, but I don’t want to be a good person. I think it makes me the right kind of person.

I have looked at my life and realized that I have everything I want and been happy with that. I’ve looked at my life and realized that’s no longer true and acted accordingly.

I’ve watched people I care about build lives without me, or grow frail, or refuse to care for themselves the way I think they deserve. I’ve been selfish and petty and immature about it and I’m not sorry.

I have gray hairs. A few. They tend to fall out but they come back. I think this is cool. I think my hair can go back to being the long, thick, straight hair I grew up with any day now and that would be even cooler. I am getting better at the curly hair thing. Slowly.

Twenty-one years ago today, I woke up, and that was the last time I felt “older.” Midnight came and went, the calendar turned, and that meant something. I was surprised, since I’d expected it to happen when I turned 10 and hit double-digits. But I made a note of it to myself, because it felt important.  “I feel like I’m a grown-up now,” I told my mom.  “Oh great. You’re starting early on the teen years,” she said.

Maybe I did.  But if I did, I’m not done with them. I pretty much knew who I was then, and everything since then has just been figuring out how to do that, and negotiating with the world to make it easier.  Thirty was the magical number where people would stop telling me I was still experimenting, still going through phases, still didn’t know enough or have enough experience or credibility to be sure. Honestly? I’m nine years old with decades of experience, and I’m really okay with that. Happy Birthday, me.

Also, I got the best birthday loot:oil painting of a gryphon that is part jaguar and macaw or parrot by Christine Mitzuk

My Pronouns/Titles Etc.

I recently ran across a reminder that it’s helpful even when straight/cis people identify their preferences because it normalizes the practice which then makes it easier for people who have a harder time with expressing their own preferences.  Then it occurred to me that while I’m not quiet about my preferences, if you don’t know me in person there’s not really any way to know what my preferences are.  So, here they are.

My preferred pronouns are she/her.  Also acceptable: She/Her, they, They.

Miss is my preferred title. I’m not married or permanently committed, have no intention of becoming so, and I like that English lets me signal that.  Ms is acceptable.  Mrs. is slightly vexing when directed at me.

That’s for English.  I vastly prefer Señora to Señorita, possibly because I was Señorita for the first time when I was 13 and knew nothing more than how to say “blue” and count to ten.  I am significantly older/more mature than that person, and her title doesn’t feel right.  That said, I’m not married, so Señorita is technically correct and I’m not going to be upset if that’s what gets used. (Also, I have a policy of not getting upset with the native speakers of languages I’m not a native speaker of over how they use their language at me)

Ma’am and Miss are interchangeable to me.

I will be Queen of the world, not King.  I will be God of the universe, not Goddess.  I am sometimes a civilized creature, but never a lady. Or a gentleman.  When I grow up and become Anander Miaanai, I will be Lord of the Radch.  I’m the Emperor, or the Imperatrix.

I am never, ever a girl.  Or a boy. I was a child, but have thankfully escaped that state.

I am female. Also, scary, spiteful, tired, organized, smug, stubborn, reasonable, and pedantic. The second list is significantly more important.

I am a woman, but only if we must make that salient and, really, I’d rather identify as God-Emperor of the Universe and change the conversation to something interesting, like books.

I’m also straight and polyamorous.  I don’t have boyfriends. Or a husband. I’m un-fond of “significant others.”  I have acquaintances, buddies, pals, friends, good friends, very good friends, best friends, family, and my sister.  You should feel free to refer to any of these people as “Anaea’s [fill in term from previous list]” should you need to define a person based on my relationship with them.  That list is not as hierarchical as it looks and categories are not exclusive.  I will tell you whether I’m sleeping with somebody if you ask. It’s also none of your business unless you’re a person I’m sleeping with.

Also, don’t assume that just because I’m straight that anyone I’m sleeping with identifies as male.  My relationship with an individual does not constrain that individual’s presentation to the rest of the world.

I think that covers everything. Let me know if I missed something and I’ll clarify.

My Dulcet Tones and The Litigatrix

The Short: I read Ken Liu’s The Litigatrix for PodCastle, and it’s up for you to listen to today.

The Long:

I mentioned last week how I’ve gone through a bit of a transition in how I perceive the value of my podcasting work to other people as time has passed.  I’m not going to lie – one of the big things that assured me I wasn’t just chatting to the ether was when other people started asking me for audio work.  There are roughly eleventy bajillion people who want to do voice work, so if I’m getting solicited, somebody likes what I’m doing.

And when I’m getting solicited to read for an author I really like?

Also, murder mystery?

Also, PodCastle.

It was super awesome the first time they asked me to narrate a Ken Liu story.  It was so awesome I went and got my first ever sinus infection and lost my voice, consequently blowing their deadline in a major, major way.  I hate blowing deadlines, but I was physically incapable of doing anything else.  Alas, I said to myself, they’ll never want anything to do with me again, feckless, voiceless wretch that I am.

Once in a while, on very rare occasions, when the fate of the world is a little bit in jeopardy, I am wrong.

As a cynical pessimist, I usually quite enjoy being wrong.

In summary – THIS WAS SUPER AWESOME I’M SO THRILLED YOU SHOULD GO LISTEN AND THEN TELL KEN HOW AWESOME HE IS.

Also, of squee note, the story was originally purchased by Ann Leckie and published in GigaNotoSaurus.  I woke up this morning to a notification that a tweet I was mentioned in was favorited by Ann Leckie.  My level of fangirling here is not at all creepy.

FogCon 2015 Schedule

This weekend I shall be at FogCon and, as is my tradition, I shall be on many panels.  Not quite all the panels, but all the best panels, certainly.  I know this, because I got teamed up with all the best panelists.  Take a look at the schedule and you’ll see what I mean.

And Then My Underwear Went OverboardFri, 9:30–10:45 pm Salon C 

Tales of traveling drama! What are some of the crazy adventures you’ve had while traveling around the world? Our panelists will tell their best stories, and talk about how to handle travel adventures that may not be what they intended.

M: Sunil Patel. Marty Halpern, Anaea Lay, Effie Seiberg

How to Intervene The Right Way: The Culture, the Federation, and the Future – Sat, 3:00–4:15 pm Salon C

If there’s intelligent life out there, and if we humans ever end up more advanced than others, we will probably need to figure out our morals and ethics for intervention in alien cultures. Our history provides us many examples of how not to do it, and our fiction presents us with many other examples, both good, and bad, and also brings up the question, “can this be done ethically at all?

M: Steven Schwartz. Darrin Barnett, Jed Hartman, Anaea Lay, Nancy Jane Moore

Embracing “The Other” – Sat, 4:30–5:45 pm Salon A/B 

Fantasy and Science Fiction have a long history of asking us to empathize with the Other — the alien, the fae, the one who Isn’t Like Us. Sometimes that “not like us”ness is done really well, and other times it’s easy to see the human culture under the rubber “alien” suit. How can we present cultures we are not part of with depth and respect? How can we avoid writing yet another *Fill In The Blank Human Culture Not the Author’s* With Purple Scales story?

M: Debbie Notkin. Nabil Hijazi, Anaea Lay, Bradford Lyau, Juliette Wade

Conventional 2015

It probably would have been better to post this a couple weeks ago, but oh well.  Here’s my convention schedule for this year.  It’s conceivable there will be additions, but as of now I think this is it.

Potlatch – Seattle WA, Feb 6-8

Or, you know, this weekend.  I’m not on any programming because, as it turns out, I continue to be rubbish at planning ahead for cons that happen in my backyard, even with the change in back yard.

Fogcon – Walnut Creek CA, March 6-8

I am on programming here.  I’ll post my programming schedule later.  I’ll also be going out a couple days early, so it’s conceivable that I might be up for some sort of shenanigans in advance of the con. I already have many shenanigans planned, though, so no promises.

Sasquan – Spokane WA, August 19-23

I will probably be on programming.  The last WorldCon I attended was very generous about putting me on programming, and that was before I was on the masthead for a (utterly fabulous, multi-Hugo nominated) magazine.  Then again, with the way WorldCons work, previous performance is no guarantee of future result in a major way.

I will not be at WisCon this year.  It’s a “maybe” for 2016.

On How Unqualified I am for Being an Aunt

Dear readers, I’ve purchased a crib mobile.

The concept was simple.  I am not my ne-creature*’s only aunt, but I am determined to be his favorite aunt.  Actually, I’m determined to be his favorite adult relative, if not his favorite adult.  I need somebody I can rely on to gently kill me in my sleep when I get old and frail, and this kid is it.  You’ve got to start on that sort of relationship early, and since the other aunts are local while I’m about as far away as I can get without leaving the contiguous 48, I have to make everything count.  Naturally, this made my choice of baby shower gift complicated.  I want something that my sister will appreciate getting and which will improve her life with baby, but which will also be loved by the kid and cherished enough to be remembered when he’s old enough to have awareness of emotional attachments.  Being the person to give the “blankie” or “teddy” object would be ideal.  But there’s no way to predict which of the blanket and stuffed animal gifts given to the kid will get the position as prime-favorite, and the locals will be better able to observe interests and target those positions more accurately.  I need a lingering adored object where there’s no competition.  I need to give the crib mobile.

This should be simple, right?  I thought so.  My first two thoughts for themes were dinosaurs and pirates.  And since I wanted to make sure my ne-creature had a mobile none of the other parasitic progeny-devices in his cohort had, I started my search on Etsy.  Very quickly I was overwhelmed by my options.  I am not the only person who thinks pirates and dinosaurs make great mobiles.  Tragically, only a subset of those people have a concept of “gender-neutral” so a number of the mobiles were out for being targeted to boys.  This needs to be a multi-use mobile, to increase the opportunities for, “Yeah, isn’t that awesome? Your super cool Aunt gave that to you,” when/if my sister decides to go in for a repeat performance.

I didn’t get this one because it’s perfect for *me* but I was very tempted

We’re all familiar with the concept of analysis paralysis, right?  Look it up if you aren’t.  I don’t usually find myself suffering crippling bouts of it outside of board games, but the mobile decision was so weighty, so important, so very vital to the success of my existence, that I was burdened by an unspeakably massive case of it.  I couldn’t even decide between my two original concepts, pirates or dinosaurs, let alone pick a specific iteration.  Then, insight!  None of the dinosaur mobiles had accurate depictions of dinosaurs.  We’ve known for years now that the visual renderings popular when I was a kid are wrong (feathers!) but the images in the mobiles didn’t reflect that.  I am not willing to win affection and adoration from the next generation on the backs of inaccurate biology training.  Dinosaurs are out, pirates win!

Relieved, I then proceeded to narrow down the pirate mobile options, settling on a custom version of this one.

I just needed to check on the colors my sister was using in the nursery so I could select card stock that would coordinate well and then….

Card. Stock.

Baby. Mobile.

Houston, we have an incompetent.

You can’t give a baby a dangling art object made of paper!  Who the hell put me in charge of this item?  Oh. Right. That’d be me.  Go me.

<Pause here for flashback>

It’s early July.  I’m in North Carolina with my entire family and Dr. Unicorn.  We’re discussing my sister’s status of “distressingly pregnant.”  I share my plot to be the favorite aunt and my burgeoning anxiety about her baby shower present created by this plot.  An unrelated conversation tangent reveals that there’s disagreement in her household about whether they should get a new deep fryer to replace one they had but which broke beyond repair.  “He says we don’t need one because we have a dutch oven, but it splatters grease everywhere and is hard to clean up,” she tells me.  “Maybe I should just get you a deep fryer for the shower,” I say.

<Back to current timeline>

I have, after an embarrassing amount of time spent mobile shopping, just now come to the realization that I should be looking for baby mobiles, not generic mobiles the likes of which might be delicate, fragile, or full of small parts ready to choke individuals with poorly developed motor control and optimistic expectations of their digestive tract.  Etsy’s not so useful for this, so I turn to Amazon.  There aren’t great hits for pirate mobiles there.  I start searching more broadly.  There are some cool star and planets ones.  Not really baby proof, though.  After a while I get fed up because while Amazon has a lot of mobiles, they’re all tacky, clunky, or cheap.  At one point I emerged from my office, shaking my fist with righteous indignation and declared, “I can’t give any of these to my ne-creature!  They all look like they’re designed for children.”  However much disgust you’re picturing in my inflection on children, ramp it up another notch.  Nope, one more notch over that.  There you go.

Then I listened to what I said.  I went back to one of the mobiles with stars.  I can’t tell whether or not it’s made of paper, but it’s so much classier than everything else, maybe I should just get it.

Exhaustion and shame at how hard this very simple task has been convince me that yes, this is what I should do.  I just need to pick out a color scheme.  I am, astonishingly, clever enough to realize that I can find out what the color scheme is by checking the registry to see what colors the things she registered for are.

What do I see on the registry, even though she’d said she didn’t plan to register for a mobile and I’d said, “Good, don’t, I’m getting it for you,” when we were talking things over?  A mobile.  A really boring, drab, clearly made for babies, mobile.  The sight of this mobile made me sad, and not just because if I’d started with this step I could have saved myself hours of idiotic internet shopping.  Nobody is going to think I’m cool or awesome or worth risking homicide charges for over this mobile.  But I’ve committed to a mobile, and this is the one my sister wants.  I am not going to be the person who decides I know what she wants better than she does.  I order the boring mobile.  I am sad about this, but there’s time.  I start plotting baby’s best Christmas present as a recovery.

Several days later, in phone conversation with my sister, she says something like, “I know you don’t like children, but it’s nice you’re being supportive of me and stuff.”  When my hysterical laughter dies down, I come clean about the rabbit hole I fell down while shopping, in part because the same is weighing heavily on me, and in part because it took me so long to get through she might not even have the mobile in time for the shower.

“Oh,” she says when I get to the bit about her being registered for a mobile.  “I forgot you’d told me not to register.  We didn’t actually want that mobile, it’s just the one that was made to go with the other bedding.  The one we want was too expensive to register for.”

I am alert.  I am attentive.  I am, dare I say it, hopeful?  But she won’t tell me which one they did want, because it’s too expensive.  “But show me the neat ones you were thinking about,” she says, since I had waxed at length about some of the cool mobiles I’d found.  I showed her inaccurate dinosaur mobiles, and the neat bird mobile that I could order with specific song birds, and the cool chandelier pirate mobile.  “Wait a minute,” she says.  “Those are expensive.  If you’re willing to spend that much, you can get me the mobile we want.”

YES DARLING SISTER, BUT WHICH ONE IS THAT?!

Baby shower came.  I was there.  I ran the logistics and made some of the food.  The mobile wasn’t, but anybody who gave something meant to dangle over the baby’s head got a death glare and threats of violence from me.  This included my 93 year old grandmother who’s never threatened anything other than a garden snake in her life.  I’m pretty sure I continued my running streak of accidentally slighting my sister’s sisters-in-law. I kept the list of who gave what to facilitate ease of gift card giving.

“I half expected the mobile thing was a ruse, and I was getting a deep fryer,” my sister said when it was all over.

I’d actually meant to do that, too, but between the analysis paralysis, remodeling a bathroom, and spending a week in Seattle getting a job and a place to live, it sorta slipped through the cracks.  But now I have a new plan.

You see, being my ne-creature’s favorite adult is super important, but it’s marginally less important than being my sister’s favorite person.  I mean, if I can’t Stockholm Syndrome somebody into adoring me when I had fifteen of their most impressionable years to work with, what kind of manipulative evil person am I?  My reputation is on the line.  So I wait, somewhat patiently, as her due date comes and goes and her first kid is showing all possible signs of turning out like his maternal Aunt, i.e. three weeks late and belligerent.  (Who was a C-section after 36 hours of labor? That’d be me!)  I start pointing out that if she crosses her legs and holds her breath, we can have a Halloween baby.  She points out that “We’re” not having anything, and they’re going to induce on the 21st.

And then I spend a day obsessing over harassing her via text because she’s in labor and I’d really like reports every five minutes of, “I’m still alive and fine,” but I know that’s unreasonable so instead I try to make an actual conversation and not come off as an obsessive paranoid person.  Followed by a day of not pointing out that while everybody keeps talking about how healthy the newborn baby is, how much he weighs, how long he is, etc. etc., and this is definitely a situation where saying nothing implies there’s nothing to say, nobody has actually said that my sister’s fine and healthy and not bleeding out or dying of infection or soaked in a morass of postpartum depression.  As soon as I hear that mom and baby have clear bills of health and will be going home from the hospital, I betake myself to the internet and enact Operation Supportive Sister.

“I just found an interesting package on my doorstep,” says a text message I receive from my sister.  “You wouldn’t know anything about it, would you?”

I wasn’t 100% sure, post birthing, she’d find it funny.  It appears she did.  She even took the hint.

NeilFryerMmmm, deep fried baby.  It was hard, to give up on my dreams of having a young relative who will do right by me in my future decrepitude, but my sister’s happiness is just more important.  Also, if I had that much trouble making decisions about gifts before he was even born, I don’t want to think about what Christmases and birthdays will do to me.

And I can attest that my brother-in-law knows his way around a deep fryer.

EatingNeilThat is one tasty baby.

*The official term for niece/nephew, coined by me before then-Erasmus had genitalia. Also note, Erasmus was the name of the ne-creature in fetal form. He’s got a new name now.  Future fetuses will also be Erasmus.

The Rhetoric of N.K. Jemisin’s Wiscon Guest of Honor Speech

It’s no secret that I’m a huge, giant, slobbery fan of N.K. Jemisin.  I’m such a huge fan that I usually get about two sentences in to describing how much I like everything she does and want more from her before a voice that sounds distressingly like Neil Gaiman pops up in the back of my head and goes, “Now, now.  Nora Jemisin is not your bitch.”  And then I whine at the voice and go, “But she’s so good!  Surely I’m entitled to demand more of the good stuff from her.”  The voice is so very polite, and so endearingly English that I bite my tongue and whoever I was talking to wonders why I started stuttering mid-sentence. This is a thing I share so you can guess at some of what was going on in my brain when I approached her the day after her guest of honor speech to ask whether she’d be okay with me analyzing her speech at the rhetorical level.  It was important to me that I ask since 1) Analyzing the rhetoric could be seen as being dismissive of the very important and worthy content 2) I know enough writers to know they trend toward neurosis and having somebody examine how their sausage is made could in some small way contribute to her writing or arguing less which is the opposite of what I’d want and 3) It’s polite and given that she was right there, was easy to do. Things I learned from asking her if she’d mind: 1) No, she doesn’t mind 2) It’s really hard to communicate coherently when you’re having loud arguments with phantom Neil Gaiman in your brain about where the line between gushing fangirl and creepy-entitled-fan is and 3) She probably actually has no idea that I’m the person who wrote a review of her book that consisted mostly of, “I want to eat her liver.”  I’m pretty sure I’m still going to have to answer for that someday. At any rate, I have her blessing, and the rhetoric in that speech is very cool, so here goes the analysis.  The whole speech is here, and you should go there to read it.  I’m going to quote it here extensively, but it’s better if you go read the whole thing on its own, first.

I’m tempted to just stop there, drop the mic, and walk offstage, point made. Chip’s a hard act to follow.

This is the first moment of rhetorical greatness in the speech.  One, it’s a really evocative image.  She doesn’t have to literally walk of the stage to borrow the impact of doing just that, which nicely lures the audience in.  We’re invested in listening to what she says from this point, because she didn’t just walk away, point made.  She’s taking the time to share more, and we want to hear what it is.  But it’s also very generous to the audience, crediting them with knowing and understanding exactly why should could just stop there and walk off.  It’s a signal that she’s assuming we’re peers.  The subtext is very “Friends, Romans, Countrymen,” in nature.  Given where the speech goes, building this relationship with the audience is critical.

Like Chip said, this stuff has always been here. It’s just more intense, and more violent, now that the bigots feel threatened.

And it is still here. I’ve come to realize just how premature I was in calling for a reconciliation in the SFF genres last year, when I gave my Guest of Honor speech at the 9th Continuum convention in Australia.

There’s a ton going on here.  One, we’re tying the current situation back to the past, while invoking the authority of somebody external.  That gives legitimacy to the points we’re making about the current situation while bolstering the authority of the peopple we’re citing.  Then we follow that bolstering of authority up with a confession of error.  This is really neat because, set up this way, admitting the error becomes a means of reclaiming a position of strength in the rhetorical space.  You’re swapping out the current, weak position for a new one which as of this moment us unknown but untainted and therefore potentially stronger.  This is what many bad apologies try to do, and they fail becuase that’s the wrong place for this technique.  In a badass call-to-arms, however, it’s great, especially since minor admissions of error are humanizing and endearing, making the speech-giver somebody the crowd is more inclined to follow.

During the month or so that it took SFWA to figure out what it wanted to do with this guy, a SFWA officer sat on the formal complaint I’d submitted because she thought I had “sent it in anger” and that I might not be aware of the consequences of sending something like that to the Board.

The whole paragraph is a beautiful bit of summary, letting the audience know context and history in case they don’t with enough commentary that it’s not a straight-up “As you know, Bob.”  That’s important since it would undermine the assumption of peer-ness established early on and risk being patronizing.  It also does a fantastic job of drawing clear lines between the us and them.  I call out this specific sentence from the whole paragraph because it strikes me as the meatiest.  Before this sentence, the facts could be read as ones of the system working: bigot misbehaves, bigot gets punished, why are y’all upset?  This line torpedoes that possible interpretation while also drawing attention to the fact that while she’s not patronizing us, they patronized her rather ferociously.  The ironic tone taken in the whole paragraph gives “sent it in anger” an extra bite.  Of course she sent it in anger – she’s angry, and behavior like this is exactly why.  That extra bit isn’t something an audience is likely to be consciously aware of, but it gives some extra depth and stimulus for them to hang on to and keeps them engaged and listening.

But I suspect every person in this room who isn’t a straight white male has been on the receiving end of something like this — aggressions micro and macro. Concerted campaigns of “you don’t belong here”.

This is straight-up “my problems are your problems, and your problems are my problems.”  Peer-group building.  “Us” reinforcement.  She just co-opted everybody who isn’t a straight white male into her cause.  The “aggressions micor and macro” part is especially critical since it gives permission to everybody who hasn’t received death and rape threats to feel like they belong in that group.  Me, I was doing the, “Er, not really?” until that line.  After that line, well, all the stories I could share are fundamentally boring, but there are plenty.

(Incidentally: Mr. Various Diseases, Mr. Civility, and Misters and Misses Free Speech At All Costs, if you represent the civilization to which I’m supposed to aspire then I am all savage, and damned proud of it. You may collectively kiss my black ass.)

And here, gentlefolk, is the line where I went, “Oh hells yes, am I need to go blog the rhetoric in this speech RIGHT THIS VERy SECOND.”  This line is brilliance laced with crack.

1) It reclaims rhetoric used against her, turns it around, and makes it a bludgeon for counter-attack. Suddenly “half-savage” is so mincing and weak.  It’s a variant on the trick used with the admission of error earlier, but with an added layer of pulling the rung out from under the “them.”  Intead of switching positions from weak to strong, it recharacterizes the position she’s in.

2) You-my constructions reinforce the us-them dynamic she’s building.  Not all speeches need an us-them dynamic, but all calls-to-arms do, and the success of said call depends on how well the lines around us and them are drawn.

3) “Kiss my black ass,” is a cultural cliche.  Everybody, including Hollywood, knows that a mouthy, defiant black American is willing to whip out this particular invitation as needed.  It’s an ethnic middle finger.  Using it here reinforces the power of “all savage.”  It’s an assertion of the ethnic and racial tones, a claiming of ownership over them, and an aggressive declaration that they are, in fact, a strength.  And since she’s drawn her us-them lines very effectively up to here, everybody in the room gets to share in the power of that assertion, whether or not they’re in posession of a black ass to be kissed.

(I don’t even need to name a specific example of this; it’s happened too often, to too many people.)

Nice reinforcement of us-them.  It gives the audience permission to not know exactly what she’s talking about after she’s gone through a long list of things that anybody following closely could tie to this or that specific event.  It’s okay that you aren’t following closely – it’s ubiquitous, we all  know that, we’re a team, let’s move along.

Yeine, the protagonist of THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, was almost a white man because I listened to some of what these people were saying.

The objective brilliance of this particular line is questionable, but it gut-punched me.  That would have ruined that book, and the thought that it nearly happened fills me with a sort of existential terror that has brain-Gaiman sighing in polite exasperation.  I suspect anybody who loves this book correctly, that is to say the way I love this book, would feel the same way.  Anybody else, this is a wasted line.  But her audience was a convention where she was Guest of Honor – it’s a pretty safe place to make a gamble like this.

For the first time in my life I was diagnosed with high blood pressure earlier this year. It’s back down to normal, now, but bigotry kills, you know.

Our second admission of weakness, a pause in the rising rhetoric of power-claiming.  We’re humanizing again, putting an intimate, tangible face on the violence and consequences of the violence referenced in summary and abstraction so far.  We’re all in this together, we’re all cheering for our speech giver, and look at the sacrifices she’s already made, the personal, specific damage already wrought.  This is critical, because it sets up the need for assistance that justifies the call to arms.

So. If they think we are a threat? Let’s give them a threat. They want to call us savages? Let’s show them exactly what that means.

And from here on we’re in a tumbling, climactic, super-empowering call-to-arms.  There’s no weakness here.  It’s all assertion and instruction. It’s a claim of ability supported by concrete guidelines for how to execute it.  This is where she cashes in on the setup of the earlier speech.  This is where she closes the loops she openened earlier, ties up her loose ends, justifies staying on the stage even though she could have just dropped the mic and walked away.

Fucking fight.

Short, sweet, to the point.  Yes, ma’am.