I would read your book, but you’re a vegan.

If this sounds like an unnecessary premise – we’re on the same page! Most of my readers are open-minded people who enjoy works written by people with different perspectives. And, truly, I have no power over you. You can still do what you want.

If you aren’t so sure, let me give you some background on my whole writing identity. When I started out, I just wanted to write fantasy. Because I love fantasy – and the escape it provides from the stresses of normal life. I quickly learned that almost no one cared.

So I started reaching out to vegan groups about my vegan characters, and then found a few more people cared. Then I got a few bad reviews from people who disliked my normalization of alternative genders or orientations. So I started being up front about that. Warning: Gays! In my book! #gay Or technically, Kick was more pan. So #pan. If you don’t know what that is, that’s ok too. But then I found that a few more people cared.

Then I started getting reviews saying that people liked my incorporation of discrimination, cultural bias and patronization, and empowerment – all these layers that I thought made the story more interesting. So I started talking about those too.

So now we are talking about all these complex things, and I really just wanted to write about dragons and wizards. And magic! ✴

Katie Cross, a wonderfully talented YA author, posted this great article in 2014:


I guess I’m trying to say something like what Katie said.

I’m a vegan. I’m passionate and unapologetic on the subject. I like it when you think about how other animals are treated by humans. And I’m also a gender equalist who likes to push boundaries. If those things bother you, you don’t have to read my stuff. But if you’re not so worried about it, darn it, just read it. There are dragons and magic and all kinds of ridiculousness you might like. In fact, that’s the entire point. It always was.

I have a diverse set of readers. They are not specific to any gender, occupation, religion, nor region. They are just cool people. People like you. ♥

If you’ve read what I’m writing, thank you!

If you haven’t, well, go for it. You can start with Spireseeker (my stand-alone future cult classic epic) or The Banished Craft, first book in my current trilogy. (Signed copies here.) Hope you enjoy!

E.D.E. Bell ~ 03 May, 2016

An Adventure for the Kids

I want to let you know about a sort of wild idea we came up with at Atthis Arts, and ask you to spread the word – we only have less than three weeks to fund it, so I’m hoping for some buzz.

Behold: The Lyric Poets Project

lpp_logo2_transparent_smallWhat is it? Kids help edit a fantasy book during the summer. Then they get the book.

Who is it for? Upper elementary kids (also known as lower middle grade), approximately 8-10 years old. Middle school kids who are interested in writing or publishing would also enjoy. Or your genius toddler. I mean, I don’t know.

Why would they enjoy this? I think being part of a book sounds sort of awesome. (Says me as I wrap up my third novel.) Anyway, there’s no pressure to participate if they decide they aren’t into it. And they’ll still get the book at the end. On the other hand, maybe they’ll love it.

What author is this? Check out the Kickstarter for details, but it’s a book by K.J. Quint. He’s a debut author who we picked for this because of his vibrant and unrestrained imagination. His characters are alive, big, and bold. I dig it.

Where did you get this idea? When we were looking at an early manuscript I asked my son, Vance, to read it and provide his thoughts. He provided these really insightful, fun edits that brought the introduction to life. My husband and I thought – wow – what if we had a whole group of kids providing these sort of big imaginative edits. So we are giving this idea a chance. We hope it succeeds, and we hope you let people know who might enjoy.

One more time! The Lyric Poets Project ! Specifically: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/atthisarts/lyric-poets-project

If you know people who might enjoy: people raising kids, people teaching kids, people who like to give presents to kids – please share the link and let them know! This project supports several artists and small businesses and we hope we’ll teach some kids some skills in the process – thanks so much.

Cheers – E

P.S. I’m still looking for dust jacket reviews for The Fettered Flame. ARCs/Galleys available 1 May – please email us at atthis@atthisarts.com if you know someone who’d be willing to review.


My First Comic Con!

I sold books at my first comic con this February, at the Great Lakes Comic Con in Warren, Michigan. I was nervous to get into comic cons, mostly because there is a lot of investment in event fees, getting there, taking time off from my other work, dealing with the kids, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sell enough books to even start to make up for that. But, my friend Lisa talked me into it – and I’m glad. It went pretty well, especially for a first try.

IMG_0237bWhen I first got there, Chris realized that, in his desire to load it at the last minute, he’d left the cover poster in Ohio. Signs are important, as they draw interest and can cause people to see what your writing (or other art) is about. So while he rushed off on a mission to print a substitute (he made it happen, super-hero style!) I set up the station.

Once I had the books out on the gorgeous new table runner my mom made me, it took about ten seconds for my first mishap. I saw a bottle and thought, “Oh, Chris got me this carbonated drink to enjoy. How nice.” And I opened it, being sure to turn the cap slowly. Not slowly enough. In a multi-directional explosion of berry-flavored water that I can’t really exaggerate, I somehow managed to spray this stuff on myself, on the floor, on the chair – with drops landing all the way up to the books. Yet, not a single book was touched. I feel like some sort of writer magic overtook me in this moment as I contorted myself to block the spray while I resealed the cap. A man was walking by, and I’m not even going to try to describe the look he gave me. So it must have been pretty dramatic. Why I didn’t snap a picture of the aftermath, I can’t explain. Shock, probably. It would have been quite a picture. When Chris returned with the sign about ten seconds before the show started, the rest of the water (after what I could do with paper towels from the restroom) had finally dried up, and we were ready to go.

I really enjoyed meeting the people. There is a real comradery at events like this (I have attended them just never been a guest before), between people that aren’t afraid to enjoy a bit of magic in their lives, and also who use that magic as an outlet to help with other challenges they face. In significant ways, these were my people, and I had a great time talking to them. Which says a lot, as those types of interactions can be difficult for me.

I have an admittedly hard time promoting my own products, but Anna’s lovely covers certainly helped. Also, I learned a new trick: offer that people can read the reviews online. I was surprised how effective that was, even in a face-to-face setting. You, my reviewers, are my best asset, as a few people even came back to buy the book after reading the reviews on their phone. I sold quite a few copies of both The Banished Craft and Spireseeker – yay! I love getting my stories into people’s hands. : )

So I’ve got the hang of this now. It’s still going to be a challenge financially and logistically, but I’ll work it out. If you like what I do, please tell people about it and encourage them to buy and gift copies of the books. And keep leaving those reviews – they appear to sell books much better than I do! If you’d like to see me this spring, please stop by Gem City Comic Con, Dayton, Ohio, 2-3 April, or Motor City Comic Con in Novi (Detroit), Michigan, 13-15 May. I would love that.

And don’t forget to follow along at http://facebook.com/epicheals – the cover for The Fettered Flame will be up very soon! The book is basically finished now, as I am in the copy editing and proofreading stages. I’m still looking for reviewers of repute for the back cover, so if you know anyone that would be interested, let us know at atthis@atthisarts.com. I’m very happy with how it turned out, and hope you’ll like it too.

Cheers – E.D.E. Bell, 19 March 2016


Waiting to Take You Away

When I thought about different mid-Winter blog themes, I started with Valentine’s Day. Love! Charm! Cutesy themes came to mind. I looked up the history of St. Valentine’s hoping to base the blog around some fun facts. Thus I saw that Valentinius—if he was even a single person—was tortured and probably beheaded, leaving a note for a woman on the day of his execution signed, “Your Valentine.” This didn’t inspire me, so I moved on to loosely-linked predecessor holidays, like Lupercalia and Februa. Apparently these involved young women asking to be whipped with strips of leather to enhance their own fertility. I gave up on this line of thought entirely.

After considering a whole series of other topics that just didn’t fit my mood, I focused on the idea of happiness. What makes me happy? What makes my readers happy? Well, I may not know you, perhaps — but I do know me. And I asked myself: what moments in life would I relive if I could? Right now? Which were the most memorable? And the answer surprised me. Of course my time with family is always my richest—both at home and on special journeys and adventures which are too numerous to recount—but when I really think about times of unique memory, it’s the time spent alone in different places that leaps to mind. Not sightseeing, visiting, or exploring—but just existing.

Sitting alone on a California beach, ignoring the unanticipated chill. Writing a chapter while sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Walking through the rain to get a personal tour of 70s warning systems from a volunteer in Colorado Springs. Watching the sun set in Waikiki with a fresh natto roll. Being the only non-native at a Catholic fiesta in Albuquerque, and having the locals insist that I stay and enjoy a cob of corn and a dance. Standing on an antique sailboat gazing at the deep blue waters of Lake Superior. And so many more. I don’t travel too often, really, and so these memories are spread over many years. But they are bright in my mind, and each can be revisited, the sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and smells clear in my memory.

My husband and I love the song, Cool Change by Little River Band. “If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing, it’s the time that I spend alone.” It reminds us that life is short and unpredictable, and we should never miss our own special moments. We should find them, wherever we are. I can’t go to those places today, not in person. But I can stare at the stars. I can sit and relax as people I’ll never meet walk past. I can watch the snow flutter past or the clouds float by. And I can breathe, even if just for a minute.

That’s why I love to read fantasy. Fantasy transports us to another land, but without the need to set an agenda or find our way. We arrive, watch, and wait, as life happens around us – surprise, intrigue, and triumph. And then we return home, another memory captured.

I hope there will be more cool change to come. Maybe, with your help, I can travel this big, beautiful world and bring my stories to you. For now, I can dream about it, from my own little nook in Centerville, Ohio. I hope you will join me, just for a bit, in my place of dragons, wizards, and the undying spark of hope.

The second book of the Shkode trilogy, The Fettered Flame is up again this month on Kickstarter. I hope you’ll give it a look and let others know who might be interested. This little project has a special magic: it holds my heart, soul, and the hope that you will enjoy it.


And that’s all from Teirrah for today. See you around. – Cheers, E.D.E. Bell, 1 February 2016

2016: The Best Year Yet

I say every year is going to be the best year yet. And I never take it back.

2016 will be the best year yet.

But don’t forget, 2015 was the best year yet. Every year I see late-year posts lamenting how tragic the year has been, and how ready people are for the next one. I don’t subscribe to this view: I view New Year’s as both a time to celebrate the last year, and also set meaningful goals for the next. Sure, the world was rough in 2015. But it was beautiful also! There were many deaths among my own friends and family in 2015, but there were as many births. This is life. Volatile. Fleeting. Raw. Breathe it in and go for it.

I remember wonderful things about 2015. I remember the cold, snowy winter to start the year, and the warm, rainy winter to end it. I remember my mother-in-law picking up a round of top shelf Grand Marnier to celebrate Chris and my wedding anniversary. I remember spending a whole day going end-to-end at Epcot Center World Showcase with my oldest son and finally getting a nice soy sauce pitcher. I remember visiting an Air and Space museum in Colorado Springs on a rainy spring morning, and getting a private tour from a veteran. I remember my grandmother giving me her own grandmother’s framed poem that I had memorized as a child. I met Weird Al for approximately 5 seconds. I wrote Chapter 11 sitting on the ledge of the Lincoln Memorial as the sun set, then got caught in a massive rainstorm on the way back to the hotel. My pants soaked past my knees, I stopped at a bar, and had an expertly crafted cocktail and some lovely conversation. I remember sitting with my mom and son and watching the patriotic parade of boats go by on Independence Day. I got Player’s autographs. I sent my youngest child to Kindergarten. I saw Peyton Manning play again. I took my kids to talk to an astronaut. I hit a Ren Fest three times in one year. I saw Garbage play their first album live just feet from the band. I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. I saw Star Wars in 3D. Then saw it again.

As for my writing: I wrote a book this year. It’s called The Fettered Flame, and I’ve poured my soul into it. I plan to release it in 2016, and I hope you will read it. If you haven’t read the first book, The Banished Craft, I’d be honored for you to give it a look. I also wrote a satirical online story: Mase the Modern Dwarf. It was all so fun and so fulfilling.

You know what? I bet if you think about it, you’ll see too – 2015 was the best year ever.

Until now.

Next year I will have more writing for you! We’ll start with a Kickstarter relaunch in February to complete The Fettered Flame. Please watch for that. I will write the final volume of the Shkode trilogy, and continue planning for my next project, The A… well, that’s for another announcement. I will debut as a comicon guest! Right now, I’m locked in for the Great Lakes Comic-Con in Warren, Michigan in February and the Gem City Comic Con in Dayton, Ohio in April. If you’re in the area of either, please stop by! And all the other fun things about life – from walks through the neighborhood to new adventures: I will do those too. There is rumor I’ll even turn 40.

I wish for each of you a beautiful 2016. I hope you enjoy your friends and family and pursue your dreams. I hope you have joy for your triumphs and comfort for your trials. Each of us is beautiful. Each of us is unique. Each of us has an adventure waiting for us to grasp it. It may be large or it may be small, but it’s there. Don’t forget. And go for it.

Cheers to 2016!

Much Love, E.D.E. Bell
31 December 2015

Follow along:


On the Soul

Today, a little cat named Vashti spent her last hours on this Earth. In tribute, I am posting this blog post I made in July 2000, when Vashti was two years old. It’s a bit indulgent, but it reminds me how much I’ve grown as well in all these great years together. Without modification, here is On the Soul:

On the Soul

Today, I was at home working on some things, and I took a break by sitting on my bed for a moment. I thought I heard my older cat, Vashti, somewhere in the room, so I called her name. (If you think you can’t tell a cat by the sounds she makes, you can.) Within a few seconds, Vashti hopped up on the bed and walked over to me. Even though I had intended to just be there for a moment, Vashti seemed to take this as an invitation for quality time. She cuddled up against my chest and rested her head comfortably on my arm, the whole time staring up at me.

I was touched by the cuteness of it all, and thought to myself what a joy it was having my two little troublemakers around. Having enjoyed the moment, I started to get up, but stopped when Vashti gave me an alarmed look, and placed her paw firmly against my face, as if she were trying to stop me. It worked. I paused, and went back to thinking, as she slowly took her paw down. (Yet continued to stare intently up at me.) I thought about just how intelligent her little eyes looked. Humans do get awfully arrogant, I thought. Just because we’re so much more intelligent than other animals, (and we are), it’s like we completely discount the consciousness and intelligence they do have. Consciousness has no value to us if it’s not our own. We kill animals, eat them, torment them, and none of it matters because they don’t have enough consciousness by our judgement. But you could hardly see that in Vashti’s eyes. In her eyes, consciousness didn’t come in levels. It was just there.

I got up to go again, but back came the little black paw, much firmer this time. I chuckled, that I was being commanded by a little cat, and I was actually obeying. I looked down at her again. She was softly purring now, and still staring back at me. I scratched her head, and she closed her eyes for a moment and purred more loudly. Then she looked back up at me so intently. I looked back. I wondered if she was thinking about me as I sat there and thought about her. What was she thinking? She didn’t have words like I did to structure her thoughts. She couldn’t have my understanding of the many differences between us. She couldn’t have much of a concept of a human, or a cat, or where she fit in. That’s it. I thought. She doesn’t. It didn’t matter to her that I was a human. She didn’t know or care that we were so different. She didn’t care about my education, or my job, or my new car. All she knew was that I was her friend, and she wanted me to stay there just a little longer to scratch her ears. So I did.

And I think the people who say that the difference between humans and other animals is that only humans have a soul… have never looked into the eyes of a little black cat.

E.D.E. – 26 July 2000

My Fantasy

There are two questions I often get about my writing:

1) Why do you write fantasy? I don’t read that stuff.

There is often this sense that by putting a dragon on the cover, the book must be for “someone else” – someone who “likes that stuff” – that nephew they have that hangs out at the gamer store. I think it’s a shame that people limit themselves that way. This buys into a restrictive, cool kid mentality that I reject. Fantasy is wonderful and magical and fantasy is for everyone. Fantasy throws out the rules and the restrictions that confine us in our normal life. It lets us discover magic, or see the future, or befriend a dragon. In fantasy, everything is more vibrant, because we are unconstrained. We are free. It is a glorious way to write and to read.

The next sculpture was so low to the ground they almost didn’t see it. It was a field of low waves, like those upon the ocean near the coast. Cor was drawn to its grace. “This is beautiful,” she whispered.

Iohn studied it a long moment. “I don’t care for it,” he said at last in a decisive manner. “It’s exactly what the water was like before it froze. It’s pretty, but it’s not art. That’s just imitating what nature already did. If I wanted to see the ocean in summer I would just wait until summer, then go to the ocean.” He winked at Cor.

– The Banished Craft, Chapter 12: Heartbloom

2) What are you genre-bending? Bending fantasy and what?

Just as fantasy isn’t constrained by the realities of our world, I believe fantasy shouldn’t be constrained in the type of storytelling it undertakes. I’ve had people tell me my dragons are not accurate! Inaccurate dragons! I think they have forgotten: Fantasy is unconstrained. I believe in this. So in many ways, what I write is contemporary fiction. It’s relationships and social themes and dilemmas our world faces today. I just want there to be dragons and magic too because it’s more fun that way. The Shkode trilogy is fantasy and contemporary fiction. It’s also ripe with satire and philosophy, has a little humor, and toys with a little mathematical fiction. It’s all of that because I think the blend is more interesting, and has something for everyone. P.S. If you misread this and still think I’m talking about gender-bending, you’re not wrong either. I love that too.

“Ok. Maybe he’s you.” Iohn’s face twitched, as if saying it out loud didn’t make it any more plausible. “Why do you make him dislike women so much?”

“People enjoy it. Keeps them reading. But really, haven’t you heard of satire? It’s actually a thing now. Very popular. I figured if most women read it long enough, it would start to tick them off. Maybe they’d finally stand up for themselves.”

– The Banished Craft, Chapter 20: Until We Meet Again

In that case, what is the Shkode trilogy, anyway. Who’s it for?

To me, it’s about passion. The word shkode means fire in Anishinaabemowin, the native language in the Lake Superior region. It is a word that speaks to me, and symbolizes passion and struggle and glory. This trilogy is about characters who struggle to see their own potential. It’s different. It’s thought-provoking, satirical, and sometimes just silly. And it’s a piece of me that I want to share with you. Who is it for? It’s written for adults, appropriate for mature young-adults, and I’ve found that it’s liked by a fairly diverse audience. Some people like the fantasy setting, others like the social themes, and others enjoy the unique world-building and rich character development.

Jwala knew she should not speak, knew she endangered herself as her mouth opened. She begged herself to stop. But her body burned with rage, and in the decision to act, she felt the weight of her burden shatter—its invisible shards flying from her, clattering to the ground. It was enough.

– The Banished Craft, Chapter 06: A Change of Plans

If any of this interests you, here are a couple things I’d be humbled for you to check out:

The Fettered Flame Project – I won’t be able to continue editing, illustrating, and printing the Shkode trilogy without your help. It’s that simple. We need all levels of backers, from $5 e-books (these get us more visibility) to larger backers (there are some cool rewards like naming a character!). Please join me.

Mase: The Modern Dwarf – I wrote this short serial on Wattpad. It’s free and it’s ridiculous. If you like it, click the ★ to give it a vote.

Cheers, E.D.E. Bell – October 2015

Book 2 Title Reveal !

Let’s do this! Here is the trailer to Shkode: Book 2, the sequel to The Banished Craft. Click this magic link to reveal the book’s title! Many thanks to a great voice actor Anthony Sardinha for his fantastic rendition of Atesh.

Bottom line / TL;DR – Follow this link to Kickstarter. Pledge an amount. Get a copy of the book (and/or other cool rewards) when the book is done.

So, we are launching a Kickstarter project to run throughout October 2015. Here are a few things I’d like you to know about it:

Book 2 is better. Book 2 is better! It’s the best thing I’ve written yet – by far, I think. The characters are developed further, the flow is better, and there is more action. Yes, still two worlds and lots of characters, but that’s part of what makes it different and interesting. I am really excited about this book and I want to give people the chance to read it.

Argh, I don’t know what any of this is! I’ll explain it! The bottom line is I’m not making enough money with my writing yet to pay for continued illustration and editing of the series. But many fans of the series love the high-quality production, including the beautiful custom covers and offset-printed hardcovers. And they are telling me to keep writing! So what I want from you is to pre-order the book through Kickstarter.com between 1 and 31 October to provide enough money to get it edited and produced. You’ll be the first to get the book, and if it’s a hardcover it’ll have a first-day signature date. Which is fab.

Why am I giving you money? You’re actually pledging for cool rewards so I have money up-front to fund the project. Think of it as pre-orders, or just being completely awesome so I can produce this book. Your pledge helps me a great deal (really!), but it’s not a donation. All the money goes into the project, and you get rewards in return. It’s like a pre-order with extra love.

Why did you raise the Kickstarter amount from last time? There is no trick here. I won an award through my company in 2014 and I invested the award money into the production of The Banished Craft. There is no award this year, nor can I continue to afford to invest the same amount I have been. I need readers as well as general supporters of my type of genre-bending fantasy. I need you! The base amount of $7500 (remember, that includes fees, reward costs, and shipping – it’s a significantly lower amount we actually get) will cover the combined illustration and editing costs. What we’d really need to reach in order to fully cover our up-front costs (including minimum print set-up and basic promotion) is about $15,000. (Again, that’s the Kickstarter total, not the amount we’d get.)

Why should I support this Kickstarter again? If any of these reasons apply (doesn’t have to be all), I’d love to have your support.
– You’re supporting my dream! I love to write!
– You’re supporting indie writing. The Shkode trilogy provides readers something different.
– You’re supporting several other small businesses including editors and artists.
– You support integrating gender themes, equality themes, or LGBTQ themes into fantasy writing.
– You support integrating vegan, animal compassion, and non-violence themes into fantasy writing.
– You like to read books! This is a story! Read the Goodreads or Amazon reviews of The Banished Craft – people have enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

Thanks for your support! I appreciate it so much, and I hope you enjoy The Banished Craft and…well, Book 2. Go watch the video!

Cheers, E.D.E. Bell, 24 September 2015

Writing Adventures

I’m really tired. So that blog title will have to do.

Fortunately the reason I’m tired is that I’ve been hard at work. Here are a few updates –

The Banished Craft: Release date of 1 September is getting closer! Ah! We’ve got some fun events lined up for release, and we are sending the hardcover to print in just a few days. If you are interested in pre-orders (we sure appreciate them) the book is on Amazon (and Amazon Smile) and can be ordered signed and personalized at atthisarts.com/shop. Have you seen the Goodreads reviews lately? They are awesome! I’m so humbled!

Shkode Book 2: I’m over half-way through writing the sequel to The Banished Craft and I am loving it so far. I hope you will too! It starts with big plot twists in each of the first three chapters. When will I tell you the title? When we release the trailer as part of a new Kickstarter campaign, probably 1 October. We’ll offer cool rewards, so please stay tuned!

Spireseeker: Hardcover editions want to be purchased. Just sayin’. So the pacing had its issues – but everyone loves the characters! Join in! Don’t forget, they can be signed and personalized at our shop and I think they make a pretty interesting gift. P.S. Genderless elves.

Atthis Arts: We have two works currently in the editing phase. One is When They Come Calling, a modern ghost story by Sarah Fleming Mountford, and the other is a surprise yet to come. A tiny preview? Tween fantasy that is big on imagination.

Wattpad: So I am going to try and release a free (all the way free) serial on Wattpad late this summer. I am already designing the story and it’s cracking me up. It will, in essence, be a comedy. For updates on this and other projects, just follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Ann Arbor Book Festival: A special thank you to the organizers of the Ann Arbor Book Festival Street Fair and Moonlight Book Crawl. I enjoyed the events, and met so many great readers, authors, and others in the business. Had some seriously good local food too – thanks to Seva Ann Arbor, Detroit Vegan Soul, The Blue Grill in Milford, and The Lunch Room in Ann Arbor.

Hope you are having a great summer (or winter) –

Much love, E.D.E. Bell, 10 July 2015


An Open Letter to Drag

I’d like to talk about the other word.

In the wake of the big RuPaul’s Drag Race finale (I was so for Violet; I admit it – she had me at that bearded runway) I had some thoughts about the topic I wanted to share. Yes, I know I’ve experienced a commercialized version of drag and am one of those Midwestern moms the queens chuckle about. Maybe I’m not cool enough to talk about it. But I think I will anyway, because that’s my realness. If you’re interested, read on.

Some of you may know that I have been a fan of RuPaul Charles since the first time I saw him on television in the mid-nineties. (For some of us, that won’t seem very long ago and for others I suspect it will.) I followed his career, bought any magazine that featured him, and listened to, “A Little Bit of Love” constantly.

I’ve never been focused on his famous drag character. Sure, she’s stunning and classic and all that. But it’s Ru himself that has fascinated me. He’s bold, interesting, and revels in a fearless androgyny far ahead of the market’s ability to support it. He’s also entertaining, witty, and uplifting. And have you read his books? They are inspirational as well as entertaining. Ru is an amazing person.

It’s quite ironic that I enjoy drag so much. I don’t wear any makeup or heels of any height. I believe in natural beauty. And velour pants. But I do appreciate art. And to me drag is a fascinating mixture of art. It’s entertainment and sometimes comedy. It’s larger than life – and it’s bold. I can’t turn away. I particularly enjoy Pandora Boxx and Jinkx Monsoon; they are so talented. My fandom has crept into my writing – Rikian (the intersex elf) quotes RuPaul in Spireseeker, and some of you might have picked up that Cor’s mother in The Banished Craft is named Ruby. Mother Ru!

You may or may not have followed last year’s controversy (much of it clearly contrived by the media) surrounding the use of certain terms on the show RuPaul’s Drag Race. The most controversial of these being what I will refer to as the t-word: an innocent or fun word for some invoking Rocky Horror or other diversions, but to others a symbol of hatred and oppression against transgendered individuals.

The drag industry seemed torn on how to respond. Should they defend a pioneer of gender-forward entertainment in the mainstream—the main reason their own careers exist? Should they risk giving the impression they are not behind the transgendered community, a community with a horrifying rate of murder and suicide? Some even got into the debate whether drag itself is a transgendered lifestyle—an argument with cause but that I’m certain is troubling to at least some of those who have lived through hell because they can’t ever “de-drag.”

I also get Ru’s argument on the subject. I’ll paraphrase here, but basically he’s said that drag is punk and censoring it only hurts it. He said people need to grow stronger and remember words are just words. He also suggested that the stir was not being caused by every-day transgender people, but basically by attention-seeking bloggers, looking to play the victim. He made some great points.

Either way, this season the show has backed off some. Their gendered play on “e-mail” has disappeared, and I have not heard the use of the t-word. I’ve noticed other subtle changes as well.

So what’s my point? Why rehash an old conversation? Because something’s been bothering me, and I’d like to talk about it. It’s the other word. The one no one has brought up.

I don’t use this word, so I’ll call it the b-word. And it’s not just the b-word that bothers me, it’s the constant misogynistic references in the drag industry. Do I think that drag queens disrespect women? No, not generally. I just think they have become desensitized to the language and imagery that they use, just as our culture is in places to terms against races, orientation, or other characteristics.

Now, time to get ready, because today I am serving tea.

Here’s my message to queens and gender-blurring entertainers everywhere: You don’t need to degrade women (any type of women) in order to be fabulous. You can be as punk, funny, and bold as you want without laughing at vaginas, or making flippant jokes about dropping babies out of them. Those jokes can be hurtful to people on a very personal subject, and in my opinion it has nothing to do with your craft. You don’t need to call yourself the b-word or cutesy variations on the c-word. You don’t need it. Those are cheap jokes; cheap gimmicks. And you just don’t need them. They lessen your art.

I think many people misunderstand the b-word. They think maybe it means someone is emotional, even affected by hormones. Some people have twisted it to mean you’re tough. Or feminist. Or awesome. Or sassy. Or gay. But maybe they don’t understand that it’s a common term in rape and slavery – against males as well as females. They don’t know that its origins are comparing a woman to a dog in heat – reducing her to an irrational sexual object without the ability to decline. Maybe they aren’t aware that in dog breeding the man often has to hold the female dog down so she is unable to escape while the male dog has his way with her. It’s really an ugly term.

I consider myself a modern woman. I detest gender rules, and love pushing boundaries. I try to be punk. But I am not a b-word, nor would I call anyone else one, even in jest. I used to say it, years ago. But I’ve stopped. And I don’t use it in my writing. Sometimes I think it might be funny, in context. You know, “b- please!” It makes people laugh. But I talk myself out of it every time; it’s never worth it.

I’m not asking for drag to be any less punk. I’m not calling for anything to be banned. But if you don’t use the n-word, you don’t need to use the t-word, the f-word, or the b-word. Be cleverer than that. Promote drag, glamour, androgyny, or just put on a great show. Be rude or x-rated if you want. Be edgy. Wear fabulous wigs, and put them on top of other wigs. But leave the misogynistic language out of your routine. You’re better than that.

What about Ru’s message to be stronger? Women are stronger. Professional women, domestic women, transwomen, women of color, all of them. They’ve put up with a lot over the centuries, and they are stronger than they’ve ever been. As are a lot of people who have been considered lesser or different. We’re really getting there, one step at a time.

So, drag community: I’m not mad, or demanding anything, I’m asking the question. Do you really need degrading language in order to be punk? My opinion: you don’t.

Just something to think about. And RuPaul – I truly adore you, at least as much as I can from what you show the world. Don’t take any of this for shade. I’m just speaking up.

Love and respect, E.D.E. Bell

June 2015

An Open Letter to Drag