Stargate Monuments


Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus

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On Twitter I posted a tweet that went mildly viral last night. It was Next time somebody tells you to "Smile!" widen your eyes, curl your upper lip and bare your front teeth. It'll nip that crap right in the bud (I fixed the typo.)

It was inspired by one of the commenters on John Scalzi's post that I linked to yesterday, who talked about a time when someone else's computer financial error caused her life to suddenly implode leaving her homeless and jobless, and the last straw was a stranger getting into her face to demand she smile. The most memorable time of the many times this happened to me was at my last full-time day job, when a young guy demanded I "Smile!" then when I didn't, he grimaced and mocked me and pointed me out to co-workers for ridicule. I wasn't smiling because my father-in-law had just died, I had been up since 4:00 am, and I was leaving work to drive to Dallas to help my husband with the funeral and other arrangements.


I cleaned half the things yesterday and am going to clean the other half today, so we'll be already for the con and houseguests etc. I also ended up power-washing (our power-washer doesn't actually have power, so this is really more "watering down") the front of the house and the porch, so it's all pretty now and much less covered in mud-dauber nests. The cool thing: We are going to see Cirque du Soleil tonight! I've never seen it and always wanted to and can't wait!


There was a really nice review of The Cloud Roads on Calico Reaction: I haven’t actually read a fantasy where the primary focus in on reptilian shape-shifters (which is the easiest way to describe the Raskura), but Wells does a wonderful job painting the picture and giving me a real sense of what it’s like to be a Raskura, what it’s like to confront one, and what it’s like to live in a world where many groundlings fear them. Moon is a rather reluctant hero, but he’s honorable as well, despite his misgivings for the story he’s been thrust into. As soon as I’m able, I’ll be picking up the sequel, The Serpent Seas, to see how Wells continues to develop this world, because it and the characters were just that enjoyable. Wells is an author I’ll definitely pay better attention to in the future.

Escapist Magazine: The Big Picture: Not Okay a great audio commentary by Bob Chipman on sexual harassment in the gaming community.

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Widen your eyes. Bare your teeth. Sounds about right to me :)
Forced cheerfulness SHOULD result in the threat of being bitten.

The oddest thing is that Cloud Roads is seen as a "fantasy". While there are fantastic elements it's at least as consistent and all as most of what passes for hard SF.

Re: Isn't that smiling?

I love your icon.

I think The Cloud Roads could probably be classified as "science fantasy" which was a lot more popular when I was growing up. I think I've always leaned toward that in all my books, even the ones that were more conventional fantasies.

The impulse to police strangers' or acquaintances'(women's) expressions is one I've never understood. Last time it happened to me, I had just gotten some upsetting medical news. People are allowed to be upset. Or even just to think without having to smile.

Anyway. I get a science fantasy feel off the Raksura books, too. The feel reminds me of the Andre Norton Witch World books. (Thank you to my school library for the shelf of those books. I hope some teenager stumbles across the Raksura books in a library and has as delightful a reading experience as I did.)

Yeah, if the person was really concerned, they wouldn't try to force you to smile, they'd say, "Are you okay?" or something similar. But "are you okay" implies an intent to offer help, and the "smile!" people don't really want to help you.

I was/am a huge Andre Norton fan, and I found her books when I was in junior high. So I'd love that to happen too. :)

I have a friend who constantly gets crap at work because she's "always scowling." Which, actually, is just her face - regardless of what kind of mood she's in, if she's not smiling brightly she apparently looks like she's scowling. Just because she doesn't have that kind of open and cutesy and effortlessly friendly set of facial features so prized in women. Or something. There's nothing she can do about it, and it upsets her that she gets called into her boss's office occasionally because there are complaints that she doesn't look friendly enough. It makes me want to go to her office and slap a lot of people.

And I'm wondering what kind of reaction I'm going to get from people when I have to start being in the office every day. Most of the time I'm settled quite comfortably in my own thoughts, and unless what I'm thinking about is hilarious, I'm not generally smiling. I'm not outgoing, either, and if I'm not thrilled to be interrupted and talked at when I'm trying to work or think, I can't hide it. So, what, am I going to be frowned upon for scowling too much and not being friendly? Probably.

People make me crazy sometimes.

I love the Cloud Roads review! And r.e. clockworkchild, the science&fantasy-ness of your books is one of the things I really really love.

Yes, I now exactly what you mean. I think it seems to happen more to people, generally women, with broad or high foreheads. A look of concentration or a focused expression gets interpreted as "angry." So frustrating!

Augh, I hope that doesn't happen to you.

And thanks!

Your first paragraph is the story of my life. My neutral expression is that: neutral. My mom and grandma were always asking me "Why are you so glum?" or "Why are you so angry?" Which I wasn't until they said that :/

This phenomenon is fascinating to me. I have the opposite type of face (unless I'm actively frowning I kinda look like I have a small smile) so I never get people commanding me to smile. However people do give me shit for smiling too much.

It's like there's no possible way to win this game...

Nice call. There are so many ways in which women's performance of femininity are policed, but for some reason I find that one particularly infuriating.

I think it's because it goes under a disguise of being friendly and well-intentioned, and it's designed to make you look bad if you resist.

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I also think it's about getting attention too. "Stop minding your own business, total stranger, and pay attention to me!" The more you think about it, the weirder it is.

"Next time somebody tells you to "Smile!" widen your eyes, curl your upper lip and bare your front teeth. It'll nip that crap right in the bud"

Don't forget to flare your nostrils; It adds that homespun touch.

the next person who asks me to smile, when I don't want to, I'm going to respond with something akin to, "So, you want me to play like I'm a female Jack Nicholson in a gender-bender retelling of Psycho"?

Actually, no one asks me anything like that, because I honestly don't go anywhere. But there is something seriously disturbing about people who want you to smile all the time. They can't deal with their own unhappy lives, so they want to make you miserable, too.

Also, smiling all the time is creepy. Did you ever watch Avatar: The Last Airbender? Not the live action movie, which the fandom community disavows (and which also tore canon to shreds in several places, but that's quite besides the point). But case in point in the smiley creepy factor is Jood Dee. She's our tour guide for Ba Sing Se, and we find out, shortly after (a few episodes later) that she, and other women, have been brainwashed to smiile all the time and maintain social order. Every single one of them gives her name as Joo Dee. Every one smiles all the time. And they've been conditioned for modifications or somesuch, the trigger is the phrase "The Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogai."

Smiling all the time, even when you don't want to, is creepy. Having it as a requirement is both brutal, and cruel.

I don't think it's about the person who does it being unhappy, I think it's a passive-aggressive control issue.

I remember that episode, that's a good example. :)

That whole thing, and with Jet, too, and his brainwashing... That was pretty scary stuff. Very 1984-ish.

Reading that last comment on your page so far, with the response about the "menstrual issues..." I wonder how they'd react to a huge, Jack Nicholson as the Joker poster, with that great big grin.

Some days I may even grok that whole passive-aggressive thing.

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That's awful, it would have scared the hell out of me!

I worked in an office where that "smile" thing seemed much more like a passive-agressive attack.

They finally let me alone when I would say (loudly enough) oh, gosh, I'm having menstrual issues.

It worked.

I think I might actually be able to understand the "Smile!" impulse, even though actually acting on it is way too douchebaggy for me.

See, when I walk down the street, I smile and nod to everybody I pass. Men usually smile back. Children and dogs usually just stare. Women usually give me a look of mingled terror and loathing, like they think I'm inclined to rape them (it should really go without saying that I am emphatically not so inclined).

It's easy to take being tacitly accused of rapiness as a rude and offensive insult. I can see how a person could consider it justification for the also offensive and rude demand for a smile (though I obviously don't actually consider it justified myself).

But that might just be my unrealistic eagerness to assume people have reasons, justified or not, for the things that they do. I could easily be wrong; these people could just all be controlling assholes. Especially if the expressions that provoke the imperatives really are more along the lines of glumness and neutrality than the terror/loathing thing.
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Women don't owe anyone crap just because some stranger smiles at them. In fact, if you encounter that reaction so frequently, why would you keep doing it?
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Because preëmpting hostility with hostility is even douchebaggier than responding to hostility with hostility?
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Not smiling at people isn't hostile.
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(Well, almost. For me to single out a gender to not smile at would be hostile, or at least sexist. And I'm not about to stop being friendly to everybody just because of a minority of reactions.

You are correct insofar as other people not smiling at me is certainly not hostile.)

The point, the very crux of what I'm saying, which seems to have eluded you, is this: that stare of terror and loathing, the tacit accusation of rapiness, is hostile, in a way that a simple non-smile is not.
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It's their fault for being wary of unfamiliar men? They should be psychic? They should automatically know that of the last ten men they passed, the one smiling at them isn't the rapist?


In your own words, "Women usually give me a look of mingled terror and loathing" when you smile at them. What you are now saying is that feeling like you're not a sexist jerk is more important to you than not making women feel scared and resentful through your unwanted, unsoliticed, attention.

I am perfectly aware that it is a hostile reaction. I just don't think that it is unwarranted.

Now I can only speak for myself here, but when men pay me unwanted attention, I don't assume they are rapists. But you know what? It sure doesn't incline me to try and find out one way or the other.
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Any world where a polite smile and nod can ever, under any circumstances, be "unwanted, unsoliticed", fear-and-resentment-inducing attention is a profoundly sad and bitter world. I now understand a little better the sort of person who tries to make it less sad and bitter by misguidedly demanding smiles.
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A Softer World (a web comic) once perfectly encapsulated the whole 'Smile' phenomenon for me:

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