Rachel Gutin Profile picture
Jul 16, 2019 18 tweets 15 min read Read on X
The first panel I attended at #Readercon this year was "Being Vague to Make Space for Horror" with Stephen Graham Jones, Sonya Taaffe, @paulGtremblay, @intelligentwat, and moderator @ShiningComic. Given that I don't write horror, I learned a surprising amount!
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic Here are some highlights. Most of these are paraphrases. If I think I have the exact words, I've put quotation marks around them, but they might not be exact.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic On having disorientation in horror: "To be able to express horrors about being a black woman in an antagonistic world, I create worlds with that disorientation. We have to put on armor, and that's disorienting." - @intelligentwat
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic "Ambiguity needs to be there for a reason." - @paulGtremblay
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic According to Sonya Taaffe, there are many kinds of ambiguity:
- What just happened?
- Why did that just happen?
- Did that really happen?
- WTF just happened?
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic Sonya also said that real life doesn't have tidy explanations for everything or give evidence to prove it happened the way you said it did.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic "Horror is a way for black women to not gaslight themselves." - @intelligentwat
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic Also from @intelligentwat (not sure whether this is a quote or a paraphrase): There's discussion within ambiguity. Being told takes away the power to think.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic And @intelligentwat pointed out that horror makes you examine yourself because anyone could be the monster - including you.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic From @paulGtremblay: Reality isn't solid. Memory and identity can change, and aren't under our control as much as we'd like. For example, parents tell us stories about our childhood that become memories for us.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic From Sonya: Everyone is neutral to themselves, but that's not what others see when they look through your eyes. And that can be dislocating.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic On the same topic, @intelligentwat noted that publishers are afraid to publish jarring, dislocating things, and lots of people are afraid to read them.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic According to Sonya, ambiguity about whether or not there's a narrative, and whether there's a pattern, works well. You can have something almost take shape, but not quite. The ambiguity lets you *almost* name something - and naming it gives it power.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic From @intelligentwat: ambiguity doesn't need an answer, but there needs to be some concrete rule.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic And @paulGtremblay talked about ensuring more than one path the reader can follow - so there's a way to get to more than one explanation. For example, it could be supernatural or not, based on what's in the story.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic On the source of ambiguity: @paulGtremblay noted that it can come from having too little information, but also from having too much.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic And Sonya pointed out that in real life, you don't know what's signal and what's noise. You can look back at a clear path and it can turn out to be all red herrings.
@paulGtremblay @intelligentwat @ShiningComic Sonya also said there are spaces in every story about which she has no information. If she knew everything about everyone in the story, she'd be doing it wrong, because she doesn't know that in real life.

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More from @Rachel_Gutin

Dec 25, 2020
For those of us who aren’t celebrating Christmas, I would like to share a story:
In a small Jewish community on an outlying planet sits a museum. At its center, a narrow plinth. Upon the plinth, a boxy container, folded from heavy white paper, its edges charred. A wire handle across its top.

The label reads: In Commemoration of the Great Christmas Alliance
There is no further explanation posted, but ask any museum staff member, and they will tell you the tale of the time when Chinese food saved the Jews from boredom and despair, on the occasion of yet another Christmas.
Read 26 tweets
Sep 22, 2020
This Rosh Hashanah, my thoughts kept returning to a single story. It’s the story of a soul, newly arrived at the gates of Heaven And while I’m not sure I believe in a literal heaven, with an actual gate where angels stand guard, a story doesn’t have to be factual to be true.
So a woman arrives at the gates of Heaven. She is small of stature, but she stands tall before the imposing gates. A simple black robe hangs from her shoulders, and a lacy white collar adorns her neck. In her eyes, there is a gleam of steely determination.
In most stories, this is when the angels would stop her. They would ask her to prove she deserves a place in Heaven. But in this story, the angels step aside.
Read 15 tweets
Aug 23, 2020
After nearly five months at my parents’ house, I am finally back in my own apartment.

The first thing I unpacked: stuff that needed refrigeration.

Next: my laptop.

After that, books.

Here are all the books that spent time at my parents’ house. 39 books in three stacks, s...
And here are the books that I read while I was at my parents’ house: 26 books in two stacks, spi...
I also purchased a total of 18 books, 17 of which were shipped to my parents' house, and one of which I picked up while traveling.
Read 4 tweets
Aug 21, 2020
The eighth panel I attended at #ConZealand this year wasn’t technically a panel. It was a dialogue between @doctorow and @Ada_Palmer entitled “Corey Doctorow and Ada Palmer Discuss Censorship and Information Control”

I learned a lot from their conversation.
This thread will include some of the things the two of them said. I’m copying this over from my handwritten notes, so assume I’ve paraphrased unless I put something in quotes.
From @Ada_Palmer: Every time there’s new media technology, people worry about the new one and forget to censor older ones. Censorship focuses on the newest saturate media - and on where people get political information from.
Read 31 tweets
Aug 14, 2020
The seventh panel I attended at #ConZealand this year was “Justice in Science Fiction and Fantasy”, with @BrentCLambert, @AdriJjy, @MMSnodgrass, and Fred Lerner, moderated by @jennlyonsauthor.

This panel gave me a lot to think about.
This thread will include some of the things the panelists said. I’m copying this over from my handwritten notes, so assume I’ve paraphrased unless I put something in quotes.
The panelists began by listing pet peeves about how justice is handled in science fiction and fantasy:

@AdriJjy: I want more about societal institutions and systemic things rather than an individual. And I hate the bad guy getting redeemed by dying.
Read 32 tweets
Aug 13, 2020
The sixth panel I attended at #ConZealand this year was “Infinite Entangled Futures - Indigenous Voices in Conversation,” with @ShiningComic, @RoanhorseBex, @understatesmen and @toniwaiaroha, moderated by @sloanesloane.

This was a fascinating and enjoyable panel.
This thread will include some of the things the panelists said. I’m copying this over from my handwritten notes, so assume I’ve paraphrased unless I put something in quotes.
First, the panelists introduced themselves. Among other things, each shared which indigenous tribe they are a part of. Because most of these tribal names were unfamiliar to me, I didn’t know how to spell them, so I looked them up afterward on author websites and twitter.
Read 49 tweets

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