First Cup of Coffee – June 28, 2022

I’m exploring a topic that’s been on my mind lately: the delicate line a creator walks by including racist, misogynistic, or other kinds of hate in a work and still make it clear that they don’t agree with it.




Transcript
00:02.97
jeffekennedy
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Um, who ambrosia today is Tuesday ah June 28 almost done with June ah halfway through the year right? hope that it is um. That that feels good to you I think I’m all right with it. It seems soon. But I think I’m also all right with it. I am also all right with the fact that it is not raining which I feel bad about saying oh if you’re on video. There’s an Isabel siding behind me. She’s out here with me in the secret garden this morning. Poking around is it. She pretty. She is a blue smoke Maine coon cat and I really wanted that coloring and she has lived up to it. She’s our sixteen year old girl. So yes, um. Being grateful for the rain happy to have a sunny morning can coexist right? I can I can be both things. Ah, the rain’s been fantastic. It has also been amazingly nonstop. Um, just not like us at all. Ah yesterday I had to record inside because it was pouring rain and then I muffed up the recording so apologies for no podcast yesterday. Um, so it goes sometimes right. so um so yes it’s wonderful. Free water falling from the sky. It’s it was cold. It was downright chilly and um and yeah, no sun for it for days which is unusual for us. So. I can I can be in this happy place of happy that the sun has come out happy to be back out in the grape arbor if only temporarily because we’re to get more rain and my Tucson family is envious that we are getting these monsoons. So I will continue to be appropriately grateful. So um I had a busy few days. My friends being here visiting we had um, just some wonderful.

02:41.33
jeffekennedy
Touristy type escapades doing all the things they arrived right on time on Friday so um, everything went smoothly and I took them american shopping for. Them being canadians that’s what they wanted to do was go to a department store I took on Saturday I took them to Kohl’s so they could go American shopping which I feel like is not one of the sights of Santa Fe but they were very happy. Oh and I should say for those of you on video you may have noticed. This beautiful globe. Um, the the staff at SFWA um, Kate and Terra sent me this beautiful Mova globe with the irises in it. We should move this up so that you could see it. Oh. That’s probably a little close but give you a little if you’re on video you can see the irises isn’t that beautiful excuse me.

03:54.10
jeffekennedy
Yeah, so they gave me this beautiful globe. Um, it moves with the earth’s magnetic field makes it turn. It’s like magic. We’ve. Given them to other people like at the nebula award ceremony. We gave one to Mary Robinette Kowal in thanks for her past service as president and gave her the moon but I didn’t know that they had non-planetary ones and it’s incredibly thoughtful of Kate and Terra knowing that I don’t necessarily care about the planet ones. That they gave me this beautiful ah irises and I’m just I’m just thrilled and they also sent me a treat box full of um things from Hawaii Terra who lives there sent me that so I got things like. Macadamia nets and um, little pineapple candies and all of that and so they’re very sweet and I was I was incredibly touched. Um, excuse me still dealing with allergies I think it hasn’t helped that it’s been so cold and damp. But um, they’re finally working out of my system just getting the drainage out now. So um, things to tell you oh one thing that I did with my friends AlYx and Kelly was so on Sunday morning we went up to Ten Thousand Waves which is this gorgeous japanese spa. And we ah in Santa Fe sort of on the mountain above Santa Fe it’s a great place to go. It’s just um, the peacefulness in the air and we soaked in the hot pools we were rained on but it was still ok. I’ve been there when it was snowing being rained on in the pools is. Less romantic but it still worked and we had wonderful massages that melted our bones and it was um it was it was a lovely day very relaxing and we ended up canceling the party I was planning to have that night because rain it was just too much deluge even though it did clear up a little of that evening. It was just too wet everywhere and it was cold. You know it was like in the 50s so we um I knew everyone would want to be crowded inside.

06:32.61
jeffekennedy
And my house is too small for that. Maybe next time I have to go check Isabel be right back she did want to go back inside so that was good. Um, so what was I saying oh so at town thousand waves they you know they have the big soaking pool and they also have a sauna and so I was sitting in the sauna to dry out my sinuses and there was another gal in there. Ah, who was very um. Was the right amount of talkative not intrusively talkative but invitingly talkative and she said it was the first time that she had shared a sauna with a stranger since pandemic which you know it’s like it’s funny how we note all of these little milestones right. So but she was interesting because we were just talking about various things and she said she works at the bookstore at St John’s which is the um I think it’s a liberal arts college here in Santa Fe unusual teaching method I’ve I’ve always been very interested in what they do at St John’s but she said she um runs the bookstore there manages I’m not sure exactly but something along those lines which of course they have a bookstore there and it hadn’t occurred to me to ever go there but I was like I should go there. And she said she also runs a bookstore part-time in Berkeley seems like such a very interesting person and I said well that I approve of approve then I like bookseler type people because I’m a writer and I’ve talked about this before like how do you reply to. People who say things like as soon as they find out, you’re a writer they’ll say ask what do you write which is marginally better than have I heard of you. Um, and and I’ve learned to reply to those questions by saying are you a reader so that that way I can kind of drill down to what conversation are we having here. Um, because most people are not readers and they just want to know if they’ve met somebody famous which in my case, according to their bubble of the world. Not so yo it was funny I’ve talked some about all the really cool people that. Megan and Charlie’s wedding ah one of the gentlemen there who was really just um, delightful to talk to as soon as he found out that I was a writer that that was how I knew Megan and that I’m current president of SFWA he said so he said so you’re famous and I said.

09:22.87
jeffekennedy
Within a very narrowly determined bubble. Yes I at least am my name is recognized and you know like what is fame what is art who am I and. And he said yes, but within that bubble if I told people I was sitting here with you. They would be impressed and I was like I don’t know about impressed but they would know who you were talking about always working against the ego stuff. So this gal. Just said that that was really cool that I was writer and I said yeah that um, you know that I’m making my living doing now which is something I you know feel very blessed to be able to do. There. We go. So um, yeah, it was so a nice conversation and so then later as I was getting ready to leave the pool she was soaking again and she waved at me and she said um. What’s your name so I can look you up so I told her and I thought that’s a nice way to handle it and I don’t get that response very often. But I said to David I thought that was part of her being professional and he said no I think it’s just her being an aware human being. Was like well maybe so but I thought it was interesting. A note right? So I’ve been both reading and watching The Essex Serpent which is a 6 part mini series on Apple Tv um recommended by Megan and Charlie – Kelly and Alex had also started watching it and tapped out but after episode 3 – and they told me I would see why and I understand why they did I’ve only watched through episode 3 and I’ve been reading the book at the same time. Because I was intrigued. Um, author is Sarah Perry who’s an English author. So as an aside I’ve noticed lately that people have been saying English like um Neil Gaiman they say English author and Sarah Perry They say English author whereas I would have knee jerks said Eritish um is this a change or is this just me not being very aware before? Just curious. You know it could be that it’s a a clarification because.

11:58.63
jeffekennedy
You know like United Kingdom what does british mean maybe it’s um, you know one of those language shifts we’re saying are we not saying british anymore or are we saying british only in particular circumstances I need to ask somebody who is English. Why that is so anyway. Um I’ve been reading this book and I am conflicted I’m I’m at 62% so I like it well enough that I keep reading it but I’m also not. Exactly enjoying it. The author has made certain choices. Um that I that I do find do I want to say problematic. Um, one thing that she does because it’s set. In Victorian England is that she uses a lot of references that would have been in common use of the time and I know this is something that we debate about that we don’t want to whitewash the past and pretend that. People didn’t speak in certain ways. But for instance, she uses the phrase multiple times multiple times like it 3 at least now. Um, and I think it says something if you use a phrase more than once.

13:30.24
jeffekennedy
Well want us I was trying to spare you my coughing but I think I can spare it for you spare you from it anyway, um, she uses the phrase. Chinese whispers. So. It’s a like a game of Chinese whispers whispers which I can see that she can’t use telephone which we would say today but I feel like that that is is is racist right? You know it’s um. It’s it’s an uncomfortable phrase to use and yes, accurate to the era. But do you have to put it in a book written in 16 is when it was published and I feel like no there are other things that she does that she wants to show you know like the. Position of women. Um I saw an interview with her where she says that um feminism didn’t begin in 1970 it began in 1870 which I thought we all knew but you know maybe that’s an english perspective. Um, and I don’t know it’s so so here’s a thing and and this has been an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with some of the writer coffee people too particularly Jim Sorensen and to the point that he and I have been texting examples back and forth to each other as we encounter them that there’s a great difficulty in portraying an attitude that we do not sympathize with. Accurately or vividly while at the same time somehow communicating that we don’t agree with it and something that I’ve seen a lot of newbie writers do um and I recall one vividly from like a contest or um, critique. Where the book began with a very racist character saying really terrible things and none of the other characters called it out and and several of us tried to explain to this author that you can’t just have. Ah, character saying these things because it sounds like it’s being put out there as truth and she was saying well she’s trying to show that this is a bad person and it’s like yeah, but then you have to show that they’re not a good person and it’s it’s a delicate line to walk interestingly enough.

16:18.60
jeffekennedy
This particular author. Um I found out later is a Trump supporter and therefore I’m I’m sorry you know if you disagree with me but I feel like this goes this is a truth ah therefore is racist or at least. Believes in the supremacy of white people. So it’s like well so all of that protesting was actually just protesting and not real right? which is which is another thing right? When people. Want to put things in their work that is racist or misogynistic and pass it off as being oh that’s just what my character thinks. It’s not what I think and it’s like well then you have to show us that. So one of the things that Jim and I have been talking about in particular um and I did not know this was that the Rolling Stones song Brown Sugar is about slavery and apparently I just never listened to the lyrics I am. Ah, very very late to this party but Jim told me that and you know because basically I only listened to the chorus right? You know it’s brown sugar. Um, and it’s a Jaunty song and it’s a sexy rowdy fun song. Well apparently the Rolling Stones have taken it out of their rotation now and. Ah, Mick Jagger wrote it in the mid 90 s and it’s um, but if you look at the lyrics. They’re awful you guys it’s um I’m trying not to say you guys people they’re awful people um they are um. You know about whipping black women and white men having sex with black women who are slaves. That’s what the brown sugar is it’s not loving black women. It’s black women as slaves. Maybe you all knew this I you know one those things that song had always been in the background and not. Something I’d listened to so they’ve taken it out of their rotation Mick Jagger says he wouldn’t write it the same way today Keith Richards who co-wrote it says he doesn’t understand what the big deal is and that he thinks they should still play it I think Keith Richards is also notably an anti-vaxer It’s so weird to me how these things just March along hand in hand so we were talking about this like Mick Jagger said that it was supposed to be um.

19:04.71
jeffekennedy
Speaking against slavery against Black slavery. But there’s nothing in the song that that shows that the narrator of the song disapproves of it. Ah, and there’s nothing in as Jim pointed out nothing in the melody that it is a very jaunty happy. Sexy song so that makes it seem like the narrative is okay and we were comparing it to or I brought up the comparison jib wasn’t familiar. Um Billie Holliday’s Strange Fruit which is about Black people being lynched right? and the strange fruit hanging from the trees and so we were using that as a comparison that strange fruit makes it abundantly clear that this is a terrible awful horrible thing but the song’s written all in these minor chords and the. Lyrics make it clear that this is a terrible awful thing. So I think you have to be really careful when you want to show that something is terrible. It’s ah it’s a delicate line to walk. If you want to put a character in your books who is like a tyrant or so forth. Um, you have to make it clear that everybody recognizes that they’re a tyrant and that they’re awful and sometimes. You know, like readers might complain that it’s over the top I think I would rather go on the side of over the top than um, then let it be thought that this is okay so um. This is the thing I’m thinking about a whole lot lately when you show a society and and this is something Sarah Perry is doing a whole lot. She’s put a lot of themes into this book and she said in this interview that I read with her that she wanted to show. Um. Boundaries between faith and superstition. She has a vicar in it who is played gloriously by Tom Hiddleston in the show but that he is also a rational man. Um I’m not sure it’s working. The other thing that’s not working and I’m going to get into Spoilerville and then sign off. So if you don’t want to know now it’s a good time to sign off but they call it a romance and she’s kind of fallen into the syndrome of authors who think that they’re smarter than.

21:49.72
jeffekennedy
The bulk of the genre. So she’s said things like um oh that she doesn’t really believe in the strong female character. Ah which you know that can go either direction but she’s also said that she really wanted to write um, a female monster because there had never been a titular female villain. And I was like never really? But um, yeah, but that’s not having an awareness of what’s being done in other parts of the genre other than like literary right? and you know she’s talking about. Daphne du Maurier and Mary Shelley you know and ignoring the fact that there’s a whole lot of stuff being written out there. That’s maybe like not important enough to notice stuff that ah you all read and write. So. Where was I going with that. Oh the spoilery thing the romance the vicar is married happily married and the wife is in the book and I find the love affair between the vicar and the ah main female character. Ah very compelling and and that may be part of what’s. Ah, drawing me along is that I’m very interested in the merging of their personalities. The friendship that they’ve built. But yeah, it’s um, you know the wife is dying of consumption and it is a it’s a violation of the. Of the romance tenets. It’s walking a line that that she probably is not aware exists because she’s clearly not a romance right? or right? she’s a literary fiction person. So. That’s a lot of thoughts for today. But that’s ah all what’s been on my mind. Let me know what you think I always enjoy it when you guys let when you all let me know what you think and I will talk to you all again on Thursday you all take care bye bye.

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