This is a follow-up from my October 6 post called Girl Archetypes. The secret is I was already working on the book, and now, it's done!
Woo! From the tiny germ of an idea to a finished thing! Here's the postface from the book, including a fabulous huntress and her animals, illustrated by Kevin Nichols, who made me some beautiful illustrations. It's probably the simplest explanation of why I made this.
I love fairy tales. One evening I was reading out loud from Italo Calvino's Italian Folk Tales anthology and I started switching the gender of pronouns as an exercise. I immediately found the stories more interesting. It stretched my imagination to create a woman soldier or woman scissor-grinder in my mind.
That's all this is. Princes become princesses, huntsman hunters, kings become queens. It's not an exercise to create rebel girls, although that can be cool. It's about reading stories where women exist. Some of these tales had no female characters at all.
I've had a lot of fun over the last... six months or so, gathering stories, editing them, finding Kevin, art direction on the illustrations, laying out the book, proofreading, and finally, now, telling everyone about it.
Please do buy a copy, if you can. The stories are an interesting challenge for your imagination, and because of that, I don't think it's just for kids.
I've moved to London. Did you hear? The last few scattered posts I've written have alluded to the next massive change for young George, so, well, there you go.
It's been a long time coming, this move to London; about 12 years actually. Even before I left Australia, I'd been thinking to head for the BBC here, because that was a group which stood out on the web as doing interesting work on a bunch of big interesting questions. (They still are.)
London is huge and beautiful, "good for the eyes," I thought to myself on the bus the other day. I've been riding the bus mostly, so I can see where I'm going, instead of going all groundhog and just popping up and down from place to place via the Tube.
It's an interestingly challenging city to penetrate as a new person, and I have no idea how people without a bit of money saved up would even do it. There's a long series of barnacled systems to navigate, penetrate and then activate. I was surprised, for example, how important it was to have a proof of address; how this was the pinnacle of identity for any and all other services. Getting a bank account isn't possible without one, unless, I suspect, you have loads of money, in which case, different rules apply. It's been six weeks now, and mostly, I've taken care of just about everything. Importantly, I've landed in a lovely spot, with a nice front window, at which I've installed a cat pedestal, upon which Sixty now sits watching the world go by.
It feels like a great move, for a few different reasons. I felt like I was stagnating a bit, yes, even in lovely San Francisco. I was utterly frustrated by the dominant richman culture there now, the lack of basic manners and excess of entitlement. While I will certainly miss my good friends and the delicious food, it had begun to feel like a big small town with too much money and privilege and goldmining and vapidity for me, at least today.
So now I find myself charting this new course. My brother lives here too, which is excellent. Feels great to be close to my immediate family again, for the first time in years. There's no pressure surrounding seeing him anymore, which the whole family has suffered since we scattered. I'm enjoying starting a new business here too. Meeting with everyone I can, trying to sniff out opportunities and good people. There's a true and real sense of collaboration here which is more or less absent in San Francisco. People are willing and actively interested in actual effort-sharing and knowledge sharing. At least they are with me, now, which is helpful and heartening. More on the business later, maybe. (You could also read the Work Diary.)
Here are some pictures:
Etsy are doing good work. Apart from creating a massive, global craft and stuff marketplace, behind the scenes they're working hard and investing in women engineers with diversity as a core goal of the company. I'm proud of my friend, Kellan, Etsy's CTO, who's publicly leading a lot of this work. Now I can't find the damned thing, but, the other day on the internet, a tweet shot past me linking to Etsy’s Trying to Fix Tech’s Women Problem. Why Aren’t You? The first step is, throw out the hoodie-wearing boy-genius and build a new archetype on Medium.
I'm one of those people who love fairy tales. My library is full of them. I'm aware that there's been a lot of writing of girl-centric fairy tales and feminist fairy tales. Hey, I was -- still am -- a huge Women Who Run With The Wolves fan back in the 90s. I just ate it up.
Because I'm sitting here on my couch, bashing my hotspot -- not a euphemism -- and waiting for my new bed to arrive, I have a bit of time to try a quick exercise. I grabbed a random sample from an Irish fairy tale called The Birth of Bran from Project Gutenberg. Instead of rewriting it, all I did was switch the gender and names. I'm excited by how it reads.
+++++ ORIGINAL FAIRY TALE SAMPLE +++++
There are people who do not like dogs a bit—they are usually women—but in this story there is a man who did not like dogs. In fact, he hated them. When he saw one he used to go black in the face, and he threw rocks at it until it got out of sight. But the Power that protects all creatures had put a squint into this man's eye, so that he always threw crooked.
This gentleman's name was Fergus Fionnliath, and his stronghold was near the harbour of Galway. Whenever a dog barked he would leap out of his seat, and he would throw everything that he owned out of the window in the direction of the bark. He gave prizes to servants who disliked dogs, and when he heard that a man had drowned a litter of pups he used to visit that person and try to marry his daughter.
Now Fionn, the son of Uail, was the reverse of Fergus Fionnliath in this matter, for he delighted in dogs, and he knew everything about them from the setting of the first little white tooth to the rocking of the last long yellow one. He knew the affections and antipathies which are proper in a dog; the degree of obedience to which dogs may be trained without losing their honourable qualities or becoming servile and suspicious; he knew the hopes that animate them, the apprehensions which tingle in their blood, and all that is to be demanded from, or forgiven in, a paw, an ear, a nose, an eye, or a tooth; and he understood these things because he loved dogs, for it is by love alone that we understand anything.
Among the three hundred dogs which Fionn owned there were two to whom he gave an especial tenderness, and who were his daily and nightly companions. These two were Bran and Sceo'lan, but if a person were to guess for twenty years he would not find out why Fionn loved these two dogs and why he would never be separated from them.
Fionn's mother, Muirne, went to wide Allen of Leinster to visit her son, and she brought her young sister Tuiren with her. The mother and aunt of the great captain were well treated among the Fianna, first, because they were parents to Fionn, and second, because they were beautiful and noble women.
No words can describe how delightful Muirne was—she took the branch; and as to Tuiren, a man could not look at her without becoming angry or dejected. Her face was fresh as a spring morning; her voice more cheerful than the cuckoo calling from the branch that is highest in the hedge; and her form swayed like a reed and flowed like a river, so that each person thought she would surely flow to him.
+++++ SAME SAMPLE, GENDER FLIPPED +++++
There are people who do not like dogs a bit—they are usually men—but in this story there is a woman who did not like dogs. In fact, she hated them. When she saw one she used to go black in the face, and she threw rocks at it until it got out of sight. But the Power that protects all creatures had put a squint into this woman's eye, so that she always threw crooked.
This lady’s name was Fiona Fionnliath, and her stronghold was near the harbour of Galway. Whenever a dog barked she would leap out of her seat, and she would throw everything that she owned out of the window in the direction of the bark. She gave prizes to servants who disliked dogs, and when she heard that a woman had drowned a litter of pups she used to visit that person and try to marry her son.
Now Frances, the daughter of Uail, was the reverse of Fiona Fionnliath in this matter, for she delighted in dogs, and she knew everything about them from the setting of the first little white tooth to the rocking of the last long yellow one. She knew the affections and antipathies which are proper in a dog; the degree of obedience to which dogs may be trained without losing their honourable qualities or becoming servile and suspicious; she knew the hopes that animate them, the apprehensions which tingle in their blood, and all that is to be demanded from, or forgiven in, a paw, an ear, a nose, an eye, or a tooth; and she understood these things because she loved dogs, for it is by love alone that we understand anything.
Among the three hundred dogs which Frances owned there were two to whom she gave an especial tenderness, and who were her daily and nightly companions. These two were Bran and Sceo'lan, but if a person were to guess for twenty years she would not find out why Frances loved these two dogs and why she would never be separated from them.
Frances’ father, Michael, went to wide Allen of Leinster to visit his daughter, and he brought her young brother Tyrone with him. The father and aunt of the great captain were well treated among the Fianna, first, because they were parents to Frances, and second, because they were beautiful and noble.
No words can describe how delightful Michael was—he took the branch; and as to Tyrone, a woman could not look at him without becoming angry or dejected. His face was fresh as a spring morning; his voice more cheerful than the cuckoo calling from the branch that is highest in the hedge; and his form swayed like a reed and flowed like a river, so that each person thought he would surely flow to her.
I'm curious about this. Not that it's creating new archetypes or anything, but more that it's just interesting to read stories as if the gender roles were simply reversed. Imagine women getting angry or dejected looking at a handsome man! Yes, women can have strongholds too!
I've also consciously created an all-female advisory board for my new firm. It was really interesting to observe a male friend and more informal advisor's reaction to it. He was jealous! I said ha ha!