Over the winter holidays I read some novels. I don’t normally read fiction very often. Angus Croll says that life is too short to read anything but fiction, I’d like to agree with that but I have that thing where if I’m not actively working on something I can feel my death approaching.
Over the winter holidays, though, I made an effort to read some fiction. I got a little pink-and-white ebook reader (a rakuten kobo) and I decided to read a book.
When I was 17 or 18 I got a job in B&Q. B&Q is just like Home Depot, except it’s in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I was living in Northern Ireland at the time, in my parents house, and it was my first proper job. I saved up my pay and took a trip to America. I got a flight to Chicago and a flight home from San Francisco, and traveled on the Greyhound bus through Des Moines and Denver and Las Vegas (where I was on my 20th birthday).
The men at the Trade Desk had taken a liking to me and they asked the people at the front if I could be made the permanent checking staff at the Trade Desk. The front accepted, and I was moved to the back to the Trade Desk. It was good there, there was a little room and I had access to the Trade Door where I could escape at lunch and go to the local electronics store. It only got busy a few times a day when tradespeople would come in and buy concrete and bricks.
One day when I was at the electronics store I saw they had a netbook computer available for like £30 and I was really interested. A tiny little computer of my own. This was 2007.
The person in the store told me “you don’t want that, it’s not a real computer”,
i said, “i do want it”,
they said, “it doesn’t run windows”,
i said, “i don’t mind.”
Soon I was meeting wpa_supplicant and installing hundreds of tiny linux distributions on the netbook’s tiny flash disk and having a great time. The screen was bad, the keys sometimes snapped off the keyboard. It was the first computer I truly owned.
Up until then I’d been teaching myself to write HTML and CSS on my father’s old Dell desktop computer (he’d recently obtained an abandoned eMac from a friend who taught at a school), and also on a computer that was right there at the Trade Desk. The Trade Desk computer didn’t have an Internet connection (but I did find a lot of fun intranet pages). I’d save the web page I was making on a first generation iPod Shuffle that appeared to Windows as a removeable disk. They were all bright pages full of large block text, with different CSS on every page and quotes from books or intrusive thoughts.
A few months later, I’d settled on some tiny linux distribution or another for now and was browsing the web on the 1-degree of viewing angle the screen had. It was around this time Cory Doctorow released Little Brother under a Creative Commons license. I was hugely into Creative Commons and other licenses like it, and still to this day release nearly everything I write or make under an open license of its kind.
I downloaded the book, and I read it during the many hours when the B&Q trade desk traded nothing. I had it on my iPod shuffle too, so I could also bring it up on the computer beside the till and read it there.
I bought a DRM-free copy of Little Brother on the Kobo over winter, and I started reading it. I only got as far as the first dedication (every chapter is dedicated to a different book store) which mentions the book Little Fuzzy. I stopped and bought that.
This is a good book about the nature of sentience. An influential book, in the public domain. There are little furry people in it, the word-to-word writing is pretty good and the story is good too. I read Little Fuzzy and its sequel, the only ones released in the author’s life.
I enjoyed them but they had so much gender, implicit and explicit society gender all over them as far as the eye could see and nose could smell.
Some of the content is a little rough.
- It’s pretty pro-colonialism, kind of nostalgic for the East India Company
- The one time someone’s skin colour is mentioned, it’s pretty racist
- lots of basic gender bullshit
- lots of use of “males” and “females”
- men writing women. women walking boobily down the stairs.
After reading Little Fuzzy, I wanted to try something with less basic gender bullshit. I started looking for some fiction where I, a smol enby, could finally relax.
I opened duckduckgo and I typed “books with non-binary characters” and “sci fi non-binary character” and opened up some tabs.
On one of the lists, at the top of the list, was a series of books called “The Tensorate” by JY Yang. the description included the word “SILKPUNK” and the author was a person with whom I share pronouns. I was excited.
JY Yang is a Singaporean non-binary person who writes very nice prose about a vivid world.
The first book was The Black Tides Of Heaven. In this world, gender is not assigned at birth but is chosen later. Some people choose not to choose.
Over the next 10 days I gobbled up all 4 books in the series. The Black Tides Of Heaven, The Red Threads of Fortune, The Descent of Monsters, and Ascent to Godhood. The magic in the world, the way it is described, is so tangible. I know what it feels like to perform slackcraft.
You catch the larger story in glimpses between the faster paced stories of humanity, and you can feel and smell and taste the world. Plus, it’s gay.