On Supporting Diversity


So as sometimes happens when something negative goes viral, bookish Twitter took action on Monday and responded to an anti-diversity rant that had gone up the night before with a powerful message—that we as a community support diverse narratives.

It began with an author asking people to raise their voices and support diversity and the marginalized in the process. The author later asked to become anonymous and people not connect them to the hashtag anymore, because the backlash against the positive hashtag that came out of it unfortunately brought loads of racists and hateful people into their mentions—another problem all on its own. The hashtag began as #IStandForDiversity, but later transitioned to #ISupportDiversity because the first hashtag was unintentional ableist, but important tweets were shared at both, so I’m going to share some here.

As Paul and Heidi said, one of the best ways to really support diverse books and marginalized authors is to buy books and request them at the library. So, of course, here are a couple book recommendation threads.

And, in conclusion:

So there you have it. Support with your voices, and more importantly with your bought and requested books. Because representation is so, so important and we’re just getting started. 

On Supporting Diversity

5 Annoying Latin “Errors” from an Ancient List That Predicted Latin’s Descendants


Arika Okrent has a great list on Mental Floss about how the languages we speak today are really just some ancient “25 Common Grammar Mistakes That Make You Look Bad” post, a few centuries later.

Sometime around the 7th century, a grammarian got fed up and started collecting all the annoying mistakes that people kept making in Latin. He wrote them up in the Appendix Probi, a straightforward list of the “say this, not that” variety. The most interesting thing about the Appendix Probi is not that it shows that people have always been making usage errors, but that the errors people made in Latin show the specific ways that Latin turned into its descendants, the Romance languages, including Spanish, French, and Italian.

The advice in the Appendix is not so different from what you might see on the same kind of lists for English today. Where our lists warn us to use “dependent not dependant” and “February not Febuary,” the Appendix tells the Late Antiquity Era Latin user that it’s “aquaeductus non aquiductus” and “Februarius non Febrarius.” Despite that advice, the syllable that Latin speakers kept leaving out of Februarius stayed left out in what eventually became Spanish (Febrero), French (Février), and Italian (Febbraio).

Read the whole thing.

Correctness is in the eye of the beholder. 

(See also this book on how Latin became the Romance languages.)


5 Annoying Latin “Errors” from an Ancient List That Predicted Latin’s Descendants

Too like the gender


Language Log has some excerpts from an interesting-looking book. I haven’t read it yet but now I’m thinking I might want to: 

Is this the future of English pronouns? Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning takes place in a world where he/she is as quaintly obsolete as thee/thou. From the book’s opening:

You will criticize me, reader, for writing in a style six hundred years removed from the events I describe, but you came to me for explanation of those days of transformation which left your world the world it is, and since it was the philosophy of the Eighteenth Century, heavy with optimism and ambition, whose abrupt revival birthed the recent revolution, so it is only in the language of the Enlightenment, rich with opinion and sentiment, that those days can be described. You must forgive me my ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s and ‘he’s and ‘she’s, my lack of modern words and modern objectivity. It will be hard at first, but whether you are my contemporary still awed by the new order, or an historian gazing back at my Twenty-Fifth Century as remotely as I gaze back on the Eighteenth, you will find yourself more fluent in the language of the past than you imagined; we all are.

Related: Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, a novel which uses “she” as an unmarked gender pronoun, and Douglas R. Hofstadter’s A Person Paper on Purity in Language, a satirical essay that imagines what it would be like if we made racial distinctions in pronouns rather than gender distinctions. 

Too like the gender

“A’ghailleann”: On Language-Learning and the Decolonisation of the Mind – The Toast


A beautiful article on The Toast by Iona Sharma about heritage language learning and decolonization. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s the beginning: 

Here are the things you need to know first. I am thirty years old. I am Indian. My parents arrived in Scotland as newly minted immigrants in the eighties, thinking they’d go home after I was born. Decades later, we’re still here.

My parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, their friends and their community, speak Hindi as a first or joint first language. I do not. I stopped being a fluent Hindi speaker at the age of six, perhaps earlier. The school didn’t like it. Too confusing to educate a bilingual child. If you don’t speak to her in English at home, she’ll never learn.

Gaelic, sometimes referred to as Scottish Gaelic to differentiate it from Irish and known to its own speakers as Gàidhlig, is a Celtic language spoken by just over 58,000 people. It has been in decline for centuries. Anglicisation, colonisation and the Highland clearances all had a role in destroying its traditional heartlands, driving it to the far northwest of Scotland and the islands. In the nineteenth century schoolchildren were forbidden to use it in the classroom; by the 1970s the last monolingual speakers were gone. To speak Gaelic now is a political act.

I am not very good at languages.

Read the whole thing

Stunningly beautiful writing from Iona Sharma about belonging, decolonization, and linguistic identity. Unquestionably worth reading the whole thing. 

“A’ghailleann”: On Language-Learning and the Decolonisation of the Mind – The Toast

Why Does A Tony-Nominated Musical Need To Raise $200K To Perform At The Tony Awards?


I’m not even that familiar with this show or production but short story:

They revamped the show to star deaf/HoH actors, who perform with sign language. They then also have additional performers who are the Voice, singing but being part of the band/musical


It’s super cool, innovative, and inclusive.

Also the show is about self-discovery, sexuality, shame, suicide, miseducation, and the ways adults can fail children trying to make sense of the world. So it was pretty cool to begin with.

Signal boost like whoa! 

This is a beautiful idea, and it sounds like the show was amazing, too. I would love to see a performance of it, but failing that, I would love to see it at the Tonys! Let’s make this happen!

Why Does A Tony-Nominated Musical Need To Raise $200K To Perform At The Tony Awards?

Translating Gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages


A really interesting article interviewing five different translators of a book that does interesting things with gender, and how each of them dealt with that: 

In Ann Leckie’s novel Ancillary Justice (Orbit Books: 2013), the imperial Radch rules over much of human-inhabited space. Its culture – and its language – does not identify people on the basis of their gender: it is irrelevant to them. In the novel, written in English, Leckie represents this linguistic reality by using the female pronoun ‘she’ throughout, regardless of any information supplied about a Radchaai (and, often, a non-Radchaai) person’s perceived gender. This pronoun choice has two effects. Firstly, it successfully erases grammatical difference in the novel and makes moot the question of the characters’ genders. But secondly, it exists in a context of continuing discussions around the gendering of science fiction, the place of men and women and people of other genders within the genre, as characters in fiction and as professional/fans, and beyond the pages of the book it is profoundly political. It is a female pronoun.

When translating Ancillary Justice into other languages, the relationship between those two effects is vital to the work.

After reading a comment by the Hungarian translator, Csilla Kleinheincz, posted on Cheryl Morgan’s blog, we wanted to know more about this. We invited the translators of the novel into Bulgarian, German, Hebrew, Hungarian and Japanese to discuss the process, with particular interest in the translation of gender. What emerges is an insight into the work of translators and the rigidity and versatility of grammatical gender in the face of non-standard demands. Where necessary, translators turned to innovative and even inventive ways to write their languages.

(Read the whole thing.)

Previously about gender in Ancillary Justice

This is SUPER COOL! I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately about the challenge of gender-neutral pronouns (and speech more generally) in languages like French or German which are just crammed with grammatical gender, and this addresses the issue in a way I never even considered. I wish my German was up to the task of reading this book in more than one language (actually, I wish I could read Bulgarian, because of all the approaches, that one seems the most exciting to me)!

Translating Gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages

baby names generated by a neural network







these baby names a neural network generated are all so good and all the people in the facebook baby names groups should let computers name their children

these range from actually great to hilarious

hello all of my npc names from now til doomsday


gundam character name generator

Thanks to list-creator Andrej Karpathy for giving me more names for space colony residents than I will ever need (but my favorites are after the jump).

Keep reading

oh my god there are infinity of them

(sticking some of my favourites after the jump too)

(kind of want to do a Spoon River Anthology kind of thing with this)

(don’t mind me)







Jaena, Meralin, Gren oh no there are too many

okay but Stephepoa and Chrristen are hilarious


abort mission there are just too many for one post to handle

baby names generated by a neural network

Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.






As someone who originally trained as a social historian of the Medieval Period, I have some things to add in support of the main point.  Most people dramatically underestimate the economic importance of Medieval women and their level of agency.  Part of the problem here is when modern people think of medieval people they are imagining the upper end of the nobility and not the rest of society. 

Your average low end farming family could not survive without women’s labour.  Yes, there was gender separation of labour.  Yes, the men did the bulk of the grain farming, outside of peak times like planting and harvest, but unless you were very well off, you generally didn’t live on that.  The women had primary responsibility for the chickens, ducks, or geese the family owned, and thus the eggs, feathers, and meat.  (Egg money is nothing to sneeze at and was often the main source of protein unless you were very well off).  They grew vegetables, and if she was lucky she might sell the excess.  Her hands were always busy, and not just with the tasks you expect like cooking, mending, child care, etc.. As she walked, as she rested, as she went about her day, if her hands would have otherwise been free, she was spinning thread with a hand distaff.  (You can see them tucked in the belts of peasant women in art of the era).  Unless her husband was a weaver, most of that thread was for sale to the folks making clothe as men didn’t spin.  Depending where she lived and the ages of her children, she might have primary responsibility for the families sheep and thus takes part in sheering and carding.  (Sheep were important and there are plenty of court cases of women stealing loose wool or even shearing other people’s sheep.)  She might gather firewood, nuts, fruit, or rushes, again depending on geography.  She might own and harvest fruit trees and thus make things out of that fruit.   She might keep bees and sell honey.  She might make and sell cheese if they had cows, sheep, or goats.  Just as her husband might have part time work as a carpenter or other skilled craft when the fields didn’t need him, she might do piece work for a craftsman or be a brewer of ale, cider, or perry (depending on geography).  Ale doesn’t keep so women in a village took it in turn to brew batches, the water not being potable on it’s own, so everyone needed some form of alcohol they could water down to drink.  The women’s labour and the money she bought in kept the family alive between the pay outs for the men as well as being utterly essential on a day to day survival level.

Something similar goes on in towns and cities.  The husband might be a craftsman or merchant, but trust me, so is his wife and she has the right to carry on the trade after his death.

Also, unless there was a lot of money, goods, lands, and/or titles involved, people generally got a say in who they married.  No really.  Keep in mind that the average age of first marriage for a yeoman was late teens or early twenties (depending when and where), but the average age of first marriage for the working poor was more like 27-29.  The average age of death for men in both those categories was 35.  with women, if you survived your first few child births you might live to see grandchildren.

Do the math there.  Odds are if your father was a small farmer, he’s been dead for some time before you gather enough goods to be marrying a man.  For sure your mother (and grandmother and/or step father if you have them) likely has opinions, but you can have a valid marriage by having sex after saying yes to a proposal or exchanging vows in the present (I thee wed), unless you live in Italy, where you likely need a notary.  You do not need clergy as church weddings don’t exist until the Reformation.  For sure, it’s better if you publish banns three Sundays running in case someone remembers you are too closely related, but it’s not a legal requirement.  Who exactly can stop you if you are both determined?

So the less money, goods, lands, and power your family has, the more likely you are to be choosing your partner.  There is an exception in that unfree folk can be required to remarry, but they are give time and plenty of warning before a partner would be picked for them.  It happened a lot less than you’d think.  If you were born free and had enough money to hire help as needed whether for farm or shop or other business, there was no requirement of remarriage at all.  You could pick a partner or choose to stay single.  Do the math again on death rates.  It’s pretty common to marry more than once.  Maybe the first wife died in childbirth.  The widower needs the work and income a wife brings in and that’s double if the baby survives.  Maybe the second wife has wide hips, but he dies from a work related injury when she’s still young.  She could sure use a man’s labour around the farm or shop.  Let’s say he dies in a fight or drowns in a ditch.  She’s been doing well.  Her children are old enough to help with the farm or shop, she picks a pretty youth for his looks instead of his economic value.  You get marriages for love and lust as well as economics just like you get now and May/December cuts both ways.

A lot of our ideas about how people lived in the past tends to get viewed through a Victorian or early Hollywood lens, but that tends to be particularly extreme as far was writing out women’s agency and contribution as well as white washing populations in our histories, films, and therefore our minds eyes.

Real life is more complicated than that.

BTW, there are plenty of women at the top end of the scale who showed plenty of agency and who wielded political and economic power.  I’ve seen people argue that the were exceptions, but I think they were part of a whole society that had a tradition of strong women living on just as they always had sermons and homilies admonishing them to be otherwise to the contrary.  There’s also a whole other thing going on with the Pope trying to centralized power from the thirteenth century on being vigorously resisted by powerful abbesses and other holy women.  Yes, they eventually mostly lost, but it took so many centuries because there were such strong traditions of those women having political power.

Boss post! To add to that, many historians have theorised that modern gender roles evolved alongside industrialisation, when there was suddenly a conceptual division between work/public spaces, and home/private spaces. The factory became the place of work, where previously work happened at home. Gender became entangled in this division, with women becoming associated with the home, and men with public spaces. It might be assumable, therefore, that women had (have?) greater freedoms in agrarian societies; or, at least, had (have?) different demands placed on them with regard to their gender.

(Please note that the above historical reading is profoundly Eurocentric, and not universally applicable. At the same time, when I say that the factory became the place of work, I mean it in conceptual sense, not a literal sense. Not everyone worked in the factory, but there is a lot of literature about how the institution of the factory, as a symbol of industrialisation, reshaped the way people thought about labour.)

I am broadly of that opinion.  You can see upper class women being encouraged to be less useful as the piecework system grows and spreads.  You can see that spread to the middle class around when the early factory system gears up.  By mid-19th century that domestic sphere vs, public sphere is full swing for everyone who can afford it and those who can’t are explicitly looked down on and treated as lesser.  You can see the class system slowly calcify from the 17th century on.

Grain of salt that I get less accurate between 1605-French Revolution or thereabouts.  I’ve periodically studied early modern stuff, but it’s more piecemeal.

I too was confining my remarks to Medieval Europe because 1. That was my specialty.  2. A lot of English language fantasy literature is based on Medieval Europe, often badly and more based on misapprehension than what real lives were like.

I am very grateful that progress is occurring and more traditions are influencing people’s writing.  I hate that so much of the fantasy writing of my childhood was so narrow.

As with POC in history, using erasure to justify erasure is lazy and inaccurate.


Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.