Cat Drawing! Pete Curious with Wander Kitten

drawing of cat looking into distance

This is one of the images I used in Scragamuffin, the chapbook I released as October’s exclusive Patreon reward. I thought it might be fun to release the pictures with the photos that inspired them.

cat looking into distanceI drew this in an early stage of developing this white-on-brown style for cat drawings, and it was one of the pictures that encouraged me to continue because of the shock of recognition I felt when I looked “Pete” in the eye. It just really looks like him. I was also really excited by the way the paws turned out– the pattern of light shows the distribution of his weight in a way I don’t think I would have been able to capture without using a photograph as a template. He’s pondering a jump and his front paws are on the corner of a cabinet. I think getting that right helps the image feel like it’s arrested mid-motion instead of being a stiff pose.

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Help Save WisCon

As the pandemic batters our social lives and economies, it’s been particularly hard for conventions to stay afloat. WisCon, the feminist convention that happens annually in Madison WI, is making an appeal. In short:

We don’t have enough funds to pay for what happens if we don’t fill our contracted block of hotel rooms, and we can’t afford to cancel the hotel contract.

We are in a volunteer shortage crisis. It takes a LOT of people to make WisCon happen, and we lack dozens of volunteers in key positions.

–Kit Stubbs (they/them), treasurer and 2022 co-chair

I haven’t attended WisCon in a while, but it was the first convention I got attached to. For several years, Vylar Kaftan and I — along with some rotating folks like Jennifer Pelland — did a reading series called Taboo where we read stories with unexpected content. Here are a few of the stories we read:

“Even a god has human needs, if he resides in a living body.” Aki attends his incarnated god’s private functions, starting with the chamber pot.

I wrote this story as an exercise at the Iowa Writers Workshop based on the prompt “use the words: kiss dead and dog.” I decided to go for it and put all three in the first sentence. “Would you kiss a dead dog?” The story doesn’t get less intense from there. Definitely rated R or X.

Pelland’s Nebula-nominated piece tells the stories of the ghostly victims from several different New York disasters, including 9/11 and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. I think this story may feel less like a hot button now than it did, but for a long time, even touching 9/11 in the way this story does–empathetic and intelligent, but unflinching–was daring.

In their call for assistance, Stubbs lists a few things people can do to help get the convention back on track, including:

  • sign up for their newsletter
  • volunteer for the non-profit that organizes the convention, or for the convention itself
  • attend the convention, May 27-30, 2022! (and book your room at the hotel in advance)
  • spread the word

They’ve got a matching fund for the first $5,000 in donations that they receive.

I should also add: Stubbs writes that the convention is working to bring the convention into better alignment with its antiracist values, “particularly as experienced by our attendees and volunteers of color.”

Visit the WisCon website if you’re interested in reading more about how to attend the convention or help it out. (Or help it out by attending!)


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Haiku for December 2nd

Still light at waking
but pale; sun’s cheek tilts away;

we don’t face ourselves.

haiku with sky in background
Posted in haiku, Poetry | Leave a comment  

Excited to be Attending Worldcon, December 15-19

Discon III Banner Image

Wow, I can’t believe it’s so close to Worldcon already!

My husband, Mike, and I are headed to D.C. for Discon III this December. We’ll be there for the whole convention December 15-19, 2021.

It’s been a few years since we went to a Worldcon. The last one was in San Jose in 2018. Of course, last year we went hardly anywhere outside our bubble. It still feels trippy to be able to see close friends, let alone crowds at panels and dealer’s rooms. Exciting, though! I’ve got my booster shot and my comfortable mask all prepared. (It turns out that what I need to make a mask comfortable is a bit of room between my mouth and the mask so I’m not constantly breathing paper/cloth/whatever.)

After fifteen years in the biz (imagine me saying that in an exaggerated voice, dripping with ennui, perhaps as I hold a cigarette in a long holder from the 1920’s), I can get a bit laissez-faire about conventions. Since picking up a mentee a few years ago– the burgeoning P H Lee who’s published about twenty-five stories in the last two years! — I’ve had the excitement of seeing things through their eyes. I’ve been around the block at the Hugos, but Lee’s still got sparkle-eyed vigor. It makes everything that bit more fun.

I’m hoping to see lots of people I haven’t seen, and hopefully meet some new folks, too! I signed up pretty late, so I don’t think I’ll be on programming, but ping me if you’d like to get together.

Currently, I’m looking forward to going out for Uighur food with a couple of friends. I’m excited because I’ve never tried it before. Even though I may have trouble finding something that’s easy for me to eat–my spice tolerance is so low it’s abyssal–I’m excited anyway. I like trying new, delicious flavors even when I don’t have the tastebuds to appreciate them. Writing gives me a great excuse to try new things; I always have a reason to collect sensory experiences. 😀

Who else will be at Worldcon? What are you planning to do? Is this your first post-pandemic trip or are you old hat at jetting around these days? What are you looking forward to?

Posted in convention, conventions, disconIII, P H Lee, worldcon | 1 Comment  

Issue 43 of Uncanny Magazine

Picture of rose in hand with text: White Rose, Red Rose "They say the dead see the world as a nightmare. Love and shock and pain are one merged, hungry thing." a short story by Rachel Swirsky, Uncanny Magazine

How cool is it to be back in Uncanny Magazine for the second time this year?

Earlier this year, they published my (very) short story, “Thirteen of the Secrets in My Purse.” (I’ve been thrilled to see that folks are enjoying it. I think it’s a good year to read something funny and a little exciting.)

My newest short story, “White Rose, Red Rose,” is a shivery–perhaps even uncanny?–fantasy about a seamstress in a war-torn city.

That morning, there was a white rose on my windowsill, and my heart cracked.

I took it inside. I knew well the only things that mattered were that it was a rose and it was white, but I examined it anyway. It had been in full flower recently, but was quickly withering. Several petals were gone; another came off in my hand. The petals wore traces of dirt that browned them, and I wondered if that had been purposeful. A missive of death: white for the bone, earth for the grave. I was probably thinking overmuch.

I plucked the petals into a bowl and washed them, then put them to boil to make a sweet tea. As far as we knew, the armsmen didn’t know our resistance codes, but I didn’t like to leave evidence.

How? I wondered, and chastised myself for wondering. There couldn’t be another message until tomorrow; our communication process came in slow trickles, frustrating but necessary, according to the resistance leaders. I wondered anyway. Throughout the day, as I patched uniforms for the occupying armsmen, and baked bread to bring my neighbor with the broken leg, and scrubbed every floorboard in the house, I wondered: how?

Quick? Painful? Bloody? Horrible? Unlucky? Slow?

How had my brother died?

Uncanny Magazine Issue 43 CoverThe full story will be freely available online on December seventh (I’ll post a link!), but Issue 43 is already available for purchase now.

The first part of the issue is already online. There are some great writers for you to peruse now:

That Story Isn’t the Story” by John Wiswell

For Want of Milk” by Grace P. Fong

The Stop After the Last Station” by A. T. Greenblatt

I hope you enjoy the issue, and I look forward to being able to share my story online, too!

Posted in fantasy, Fiction, short story, Uncanny Magazine | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: A Concise History of Body Positivity


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This cartoon is another collaboration with Becky Hawkins.

Most cartoonists hate drawing crowd scenes; Becky, given several scripts to choose from, picked this one out immediately. I’m glad she did; this comic really shows off Becky’s ability to draw different sorts of bodies and fashions.

Of course, doing that well usually requires diving into internet image search engines; imagination is fed by research. Here are some of the photos Becky used as inspiration for this cartoon.


I think – or, anyway, I hope – that this cartoon explains itself well enough so that even people who aren’t familiar with fat politics will get it.

Tigress Osborn, writing for the BBC, sums the issue up:

Unfortunately, as more people started using hashtags like #loveyourbody and #allbodiesarebeautiful, the most marginalized bodies in society have become marginalized again within the very movement they started.

Some Body Positive believers say that weight loss talk should be included in Body Positivity messaging, as losing weight makes people feel better about themselves. Even major diet companies describe themselves as Body Positive. Some activists still embrace Body Positivity as a gateway to more radical body liberation movements. To others, the phrase has become so meaningless that they’ve either adopted variations or simply won’t use it at all.

Body Positivity is nothing without its Fat Activist grandparents of all genders. It’s also nothing without the Black women and femmes who amplified the message at the beginning of the trend.


I just paused in writing this post to go refill my water glass. When I opened the freezer to get ice, a box of corn flakes on top of the fridge came tumbling down, and I said “AAAHH!” and then caught it one-handed, without a single flake being spilled. It’s a matter of no importance, but it’s probably the greatest moment of physical competence I’ve had all month, so I wanted to tell someone about it.  :-p


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. All the panels show people standing  in a blank cartoon space and talking directly to the readers.

PANEL 1

Three women, all unambiguously fat, are smiling warmly and talking to the readers. The one on the left, who is white, is wearing cool boots, and an open red plaid shirt over a black dress. She’s wearing squarish glasses. The other two women are black. The middle woman is wearing a crop top shirt with a brightly colored blue and pink pattern, and bright blue shorts. The woman on the right is wearing a plain white tee, blue shorts, and red-and-blue sneakers.

BOOTS: Body positivity means that no one should apologize or be made to feel bad for their body.

SNEAKERS: Love the body you’re in!

PANEL 2

A white woman, thin and with carefully styled blond hair, has walked out in from of the three fat women. She’s carrying a big sign that says “Love the body you’re in” in cheerful large lettering that’s a bit nostalgic for the 1960s. Below the lettering is a picture of a tube of lotion.

Behind the new woman, Boots looks startled and distressed. Sneakers is holding up a finger like she’s trying to object. And we can’t see what Crop Top is doing, because she’s almost completely blocked from view by the woman’s sign.

THIN WOMAN: “Body positivity” sounds great! You know what this would be amazing for? Selling skin care products!

SNEAKERS: Um…

PANEL 3

Two more thin white people have entered. One is a young woman with a pony tail, wearing yoga pants and a crop top; she’s sitting on the floor, legs curled under, and is holding her smartphone high to take a selfie. The other is a salesman-looking man, wearing a blazer over a v-neck shirt, who is holding up a book for us to see. The book’s title is “Love Your THIN Self.”  Both of the newbies are talking very cheerfully.

Between these two newbies, and the blonde woman with the sign, Boots and Crop Top are almost completely blocked. (We can see Crop Top’s eyes, which look annoyed). Sneakers can be seen better, and is open-mouthed with how appalled she is.

PONYTAIL: If I bend just the right way, there’s a fat roll! Helping women like me is what body positivity is all about!

BLAZER: Diet companies are also part of the body positivity movement! Losing weight will help people love their bodies!

PANEL 4

There’s now a lot of smiling people, nearly all white, crowded into the panel. Most are thin, a couple are a bit chubby, but there’s no one here you’d describe as “obese.” Everyone is grinning and talking to the readers.

Boots and Crop Top cannot be seen at all. We can see just a bit of Sneakers, as a smiling woman in a pretty pink blouse with an open back, with string forming a spiderweb pattern over the open part, violently shoves Sneakers out of the panel.

EVERYONE IN UNISON: Remember, body positivity is for everybody!

PINK BLOUSE: Except for really fat people. We can’t glorify obesity.

CAPTION AT BOTTOM OF STRIP

A large caption under the strip says “A CONCISE HISTORY OF BODY POSITIVITY.”


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Fat, fat and more fat | 12 Comments  

More on MileHiCon: Speech and Panel Reflections

Last month, I posted a bit about my experience as a guest of honor at MileHiCon in Denver this year, including an excerpt from the “speech” I gave at the opening ceremonies and some thoughts about my panels.

On my Patreon this month, I’m sharing more of my MileHiCon materials, starting with the complete, unexcerpted text of my “speech.” Since the version I read at the convention was shortened, this is never-before-seen material for everyone except my husband (who served as my captive audience in our hotel room). 😉

I’ve also included my extensive panel notes with thoughts about things like third-sex roles in non-Western cultures and weird creatures from the Cambrian explosion with five eyes and vacuum mouths. (And this very creepy video about the hypothesis that vertebrate heads are on sideways! ) Plus, recommendations for awesome material like Beyond the Binary, an anthology about non-binary characters edited by Lee (then Brit) Mandelo, and Alien Sex, an anthology of short stories about alien… well, sex, edited by Ellen Datlow.

All of my Patreon content–including a substantial offering once a month of something like an original essay, poem or short story–is available to all my patrons, no matter how much or little they contribute. Every contribution is greatly appreciated and makes a big difference to supporting my writing career!

I hope everyone’s had a lovely November. For folks celebrating this weekend, have a great holiday! (And for those who aren’t, but get a few extra days off, have a great weekend!)
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Cartoon: Racist Bones


If you enjoy my cartoons, you could help me make more by supporting my Patreon! Lots of people making $1 and $2 pledges is how I make my living.


I admit it: This cartoon is basically a dad joke. I was just mulling over the idea of racist bones and this cartoon idea came up and made me chuckle.

But there is a real issue this strip nods at. If I say “I think that joke is kind of racist,” and someone angrily responds “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” the conversation has been diverted.

Instead of discussing what makes a joke racist, we end up discussing the moral character of someone I may not even know.  Is he evil? Does he hate Blacks? Is he rotten inside? In short, does he have racist bones?

It’s an impossible conversation. We usually have no way of knowing what someone’s hidden character is. It’s much better to discuss if things are racist – actions, institutions, rules, and even jokes. But that’s a conversation that many white people seem desperate to avoid.


“There’s not a racist bone in my body!” is an expression that goes back to at least 1967, a variation of 19th century expressions like “not a lazy bone in his body.” But, according to Christopher Petrella and Justin Gomer, the person who turned that relatively obscure expression into a cliché was Ronald Reagan.

This tactic emerged in a climate in which explicit racism was no longer openly tolerated in U.S. politics, but white Americans remained uncomfortable with and opposed to the policies necessary to ameliorate decades of racial discrimination.

As this rhetoric crept into the political arena, the “racist bone” defense rose alongside it as the default retort against allegations that opposing civil rights policies revealed a racist character. This pairing was no coincidence. While Reagan and his Justice Department brought colorblindness to the Oval Office, they also fundamentally reframed the federal government’s conception of racial discrimination from a group issue that could be addressed with policy to an individual one that required personal change.

This framing was essential to Reagan’s assault on civil rights. It raised the bar for proving invidious behavior and for justifying public policies intended to right past wrongs. And when one changed the metric from the marginalization of African Americans at a group level to individual misdeeds, the “racist bone” defense made much sense. After all, racism was a matter of body and soul, not public policy. What mattered was an individual’s personal conduct toward others.

So I guess that’s something else we can thank Ronald Reagan for.

(I initially began to draw the man in my strip with Reagan’s distinctive haircut, but decided that if he looked like Reagan that would just be confusing to readers old enough to recognize Reagan.)


In my first sketch, the bones were just… bones. Realistically drawn bones floating in space with no faces or hands, just word balloons pointing at them. It would have been neat, visually, but I just didn’t want to draw something so… lifeless. Also, the idea of bones with eyes and mouths and even teeth really amuses me.

For such a simple idea, the script took a surprising amount of work. The first version was pretty much a listicle of racist things “Sam” said. But then I realized that nothing indicated the bones, themselves, were racists, and without that what makes them racist bones? So I rewrote, with less issues touched on, and the extra space being used to make it clear that the bones agree with the racist things Sam says.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. The first three panels show three bones talking in a blank space. The three bones – a rib bone, a thigh bone, and a hip bone – are anthropomorphized, with cartoon faces, arms and legs.  They’re wearing white gloves with rolls at the wrist, like Mickey Mouse.

The fourth panel shows two human beings talking in a park.

PANEL 1

Rib Bone is talking to Thigh Bone and Hip Bone. Hip Bone, in particular, looks concerned.

RIB BONE: Thigh bone and hip bone! How’s it going?

THIGH BONE: Not good, Rib.

HIP BONE: We’ve been trying everything to get into this guy named Sam…

PANEL 2

In a closer shot, Thigh Bone leans back, laughing, and Hip Bone, still looking concerned, shrugs.

THIGH BONE: First Sam did a hilarious fake Asian accent! I love funny Asian accents, so I thought, “I’m in!”

HIP BONE: But then Sam said he was just joking, and as we all know, saying it’s a joke means it can’t be racist.

PANEL 3

A shot of the three bones. Rib Bone listens with a neutral expression and gosh darn it I just now realized, looking at the cartoon as I type the transcript, that I drew a mustache on Rib Bone in panel 1, but forgot the mustache in panel 3. Hold on, I’ll be back in a few minutes.

I’m back. Rib Bone, sporting a thick, luscious mustache, has a neutral expression as oh geez I just noticed I forgot to draw Rib Bone’s arm. Wait here, I’ll be right back.

Okay! Rib Bone, a character with both a mustache and arms, listens with a neutral expression. Thigh Bone steeples their fingers and is smiling in anticipation, and Hip Bone is grinning hugely.

THIGH BONE: Then Sam talked about how bad white men have it and how much easier it is for Blacks to find jobs.

HIP BONE: Exactly what I think! I thought for sure I was in! But then he said…

PANEL 4

Two men stand talking in a park. The first man — Sam — is white, blonde, wearing a  button-up tan shirt, brown slacks, and a nice-looking pair of sneakers. He is yelling and waving his arms, obviously angry. The other man has brown skin, black hair, and a van dyke beard. He’s wearing an orange tee with a “!” design, and is rolling his eyes.

SAM: I DON’T HAVE A RACIST BONE IN MY BODY!


This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues, Racism | 4 Comments  

Cartoon: Oil and Gas are So Cheap!


Help us make more cartoons by supporting my Patreon!


This cartoon was inspired by one of AOC’s tweets.

I read that and thought of the cartoon idea. And then pretty much immediately started work drawing it.

The Union of Concerned Scientists writes:

We’ve all paid a utility bill or purchased gasoline. Those represent the direct costs of fossil fuels; money paid out of pocket for energy from coal, natural gas, and oil.

But those expenses don’t reflect the total cost of fossil fuels to each of us individually or to society as a whole. Known as externalities, the hidden costs of fossil fuels aren’t represented in their market price, despite serious impacts to our health and environment.

And from NPR:

Fossil fuel producers should avoid extracting at least 90% of coal reserves and 60% of oil and gas reserves by 2050, according to a study published in Nature, to limit global temperature rise to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Even then, that gives the planet only a 50% chance of avoiding a climate hotter than that.

Global temperatures have already warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1800s, due in large part to the burning of fossil fuels, which releases gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. As a result of the warming, droughts, storms and heat waves are becoming more extreme, causing a cascade of disasters.

(Research for any cartoon about global warming is seriously depressing!)


I became excited about drawing this cartoon when I realized I could draw the first three panels as a single continuous image – something I’ve been wanting to incorporate into my political cartoons for months. This technique is more common in comic books than in comic strips like this one – although the earliest use of the technique I know of was in a few Sunday pages of the innovative comic strip Gasoline Alley back in the 1930s.

Working on the reprint collection over the last few weeks had reminded me that I used to do non-naturalistic, limited color palettes more often, and I really like the way they look. So I decided to go that route for this cartoon. I was trying for a muddy, grim feel for the first three panels, to contrast with bright and almost antiseptic colors for panel four.

This one took a lot of time to draw. Both the post-hurricane wreckage environment, and the private jet plane environment, took research and a bunch of time to draw. For the jet plane interior, I based my drawing very closely on some photo I found online, but for some reason recreated the perspective grid so I could draw it from scratch, rather than purely tracing. The wreckage environment isn’t based on any one picture; instead, I looked at a lot of pictures, until I felt able to draw something from imagination that would at least get the feeling across.

Then, literally as I was writing the above paragraphs, I thought “wait, what if we could see the jet plane from panel 4, in the sky in panel 1? That would link the two environments together, at least for readers who notice.” Fortunately, drawing things on computer makes changes like that pretty easy to manage, and a half-hour later a jet plane was in panel 1’s sky.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels.

The first three panels show a continuous scene of post-hurricane wreckage; house roofs lie on the ground at odd angles, all sorts of lumber and shards of unidentifiable broken objects are sticking up in the air, or litter the ground. A power line pole and a couple of streetlamps are leaning at odd angles. There are occasional identifiable objects mixed with all the litter on the ground; a hairbrush, a child’s ball, a desktop computer. All three panels are colored in greens, browns, and dim oranges that (I hope) will remind people of mud. The sky is a dull orange. A distant jet plane – incongruously colored in shades of blue – can be seen in the sky.

There are dazed-looking people standing in or looking through the wreckage.

PANEL 1

A man with dark hair, rectangular glasses and a neat van dyke beard is clutching a little pile of framed photos to his chest. A woman sits on the ground near him, her face in her hands. Nearby, a person wearing a long coat, and lifting what might be a round table top, looks back at the man with the van dyke beard.

BEARD: I rescued some family photos… everything else is gone.

LONG COAT: Me too… My business, my house…

PANEL 2

A woman wearing a hoodie, and with her hair mostly wrapped in a scarf, is talking to a child and petting her on the head.

HOODIE: Mommy’s in the hospital, so you’ll stay with me until we find Daddy.

HOODIE (thought): If we do.

PANEL 3

A man in a striped sweater stands, looking sad and dazed. Further in the foreground, an older man, bald and with glasses and wearing a vest, and a woman with a baseball cap and her hair tied in a pony tail, are looking around and talking. The woman is looking at a smart phone.

GLASSES: How much will it cost to rebuild all this?

BASEBALL CAP: Billions. Weather disasters cost us $99 billion last year.

PANEL 4

A new setting. We are aboard a private jet plane. On one side of the aisle is a long sofa; on the other side, a single airplane-style seat, with a full table (not just a fold-out tray) in front of it. There’s a vase with flowers, and an open laptop, on the table. Sitting in the seat, a man wearing a collared shirt with a striped necktie is talking on his cell phone. Nearby, a flight attendant is holding a tray, offering the man a glass of wine. This panel is colored mostly in antiseptic blues, although the people are colored in a light, bright orange.

NECKTIE: So I told the senator, “forget wind and solar! Oil and gas are so much cheaper!”


This cartoon on Patreon.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Environmental issues | Leave a comment  

Cat Drawing! Zephyr Petted by Mike

drawing of cat being petter

photo cat being pettedZephyr being petted by my husband, Mike. Zephyr likes to grab petting hands so you can’t stop petting.

Posted in artwork, Cats, Drawing, zephyr | 1 Comment