Sunday, March 15, 2015

Today

Today is the Ides of March, I just realized. Yesterday was Pi Day, which friends celebrated with pies. And Terry Pratchett died 3 days ago, after suffering from a form of early dementia for several years. He was 66, too early to go.

He was a wonderful writer, someone I read for comfort, because his books are funny and charming and sane and well written, and he was the master of the fiction footnote. His footnotes don't work in e-versions of his novels, because they are put at the back of the book. They need to be at the bottom of the page, because they are part of the story. They are a great way to add information and comments that are too tangential to be in the text, except maybe enclosed in parentheses.

Anyway, a lovely writer and a loss to humanity.

Monday, March 02, 2015

MarsCON Schedule (Tate/Lyda), Reading, and Writing

MarsCON 2015 is this weakend, and I'm one of their guests of honor.  So, I hunted and pecked through the on-line programming list and I think I found everything I'm scheduled to be on:

How Come Nobody’s Heard Of Me, Dammit!!
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) -- Friday 04:00 pm
Let’s figure out all the things we did wrong!
With: Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, mod.; Rachel Gold, Michael Merriam

Fiction Reading: Lyda Morehouse
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) —Friday 08:00 pm
Come hear our Author Guest of Honor read her work.
With: Lyda Morehouse

FanFiction - Who, What, and Huh?
IV Hawk’s Ridge (Anime/YA) — Friday 09:00 pm
From the basics for the beginners to your favorite websites to share your own stories.
With: Lyda Morehouse, Rakhi Rajpal mod, Bailey Humphries-Graff, Susan Woehrle

Marvel Phase 2, on to Phase 3
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Saturday 12:00 pm
Catch up on all of Marvel films from phase 2: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and X-man Days of Future Past. Marvel One-Shots: Agent Carter, All Hail the King, on TV with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. (There will be spoilers for all listed above.) The end of phase 2 with Avengers: Age of Ultron and the start of phase 3: Ant-Man, Captain America 3, Doctor Strange, and the rest of phase 3.

With: Lyda Morehouse, Tony Artym, mod.; Aaron Grono, Bill Rod, Ruth Tjornhom

The Rise of Women Superheroes
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Saturday 01:00 pm
Let’s talk about some awesome female superheroes who have become breakout sensations in recent years! Why do we love them so much, and how can we get more?
With: Lyda Morehouse, Christopher Jones, mod.; Cynthia Booth, Catherine Lundoff, Chandra Reyer

What is Anime?
IV Hawk’s Ridge (Anime/YA) — Saturday 02:00 pm
What really is Anime? What’s the real difference between Anime and cartoons, and why do we classify them like that? Hear all the facts and argue it out yourself!
With: Lyda Morehouse, Bailey Humphries-Graff, Hojo Moriarty

Lyda Morehouse Interview
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Saturday 04:00 pm
Learn about the mind and works of our Author Guest of Honor.
With: Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, Interviewer

Mass Autographing
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Saturday 05:00 pm
The Author Guest of Honor and other interested authors sign their work.
With: Lyda Morehouse, Sammi Kat, Rachel Gold, Michael Merriam, Kathryn Sullivan, et al.

The Wyrdsmiths: Twenty Years
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) — Saturday 08:00 pm
GoH Lyda Morehouse is in a writers’ group that was founded in 1994. How does a critique group sustain itself for two decades?
With: Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, mod.; Eleanor Arnason

Hero Support: Sidekicks and Minions
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) — Saturday 09:00 pm
How does your hero go about getting a really good sidekick or a really good minion? Who are some of your favorites in literature and other kinds of storytelling? Who is the hero of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings?
With: Lyda Morehouse, Rick Gellman, mod.; P M F Johnson, Ozgur K. Sahin, Tyler Tork

Otaku Dilemma: Wait for Season Two or Read the Manga?
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) — Sunday 11:00 am
Your friends just turned you on to a hot new anime (think: “Attack on Titan” or “Yowapeda”) and you burned through the first season in one sitting. Now you’re wondering that age old question, should you jump in and read the manga or sit back and wait for season two to air? What are the pros and cons to reading “ahead”? Is there a reason that waiting is better, is there a reason NOT to wait?
With: Lyda Morehouse, mod

No Country for Old Heroes / Happily Ever After
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Sunday 12:00 pm
Topic one, No country for old heroes…. Life after heroism. How do former heroes—real or imaginary—continue to have meaningful lives? Topic two, Happily Ever After. Consider act two of Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Many if not most stories end at the moment of maximum joy for their characters. But life is more complicated. How do two people—real or imaginary—go about staying reasonably happy together for a long time? What are some good examples of this in fantasy literature?
With: Lyda Morehouse, Rick Gellman, mod.; Rachel Gold, Ozgur K. Sahin

Convoluted Quests: The Modern Writing Career
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) — Sunday 03:00 pm
Book contracts, self-publishing, short fiction, editing… writing careers these days are often made up of a patchwork of options. Join GoH Lyda Morehouse and other professional writers to talk about how they’ve dealt with current publishing realities.
With: Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, mod.; Roy C. Booth, Michael Merriam, Kathryn Sullivan

I will, of course, also be at Opening Ceremonies and Closing Ceremonies as to be expected. I may be AWOL from the con for a brief period on Saturday morning in order to take my son to his swimming class, but otherwise he and I will be around the whole weekend. Maybe, with luck, Shawn, too.

The last thing I wanted to report is that I finished reading THE GIRL IN THE ROAD and am now on to what appears to be a contemporary fantasy novel called MEMORY GARDEN.

THE GIRL IN THE ROAD is a difficult book to describe or categorize. I was talking to a friend about it and, while there were a ton of things I really enjoyed in the book (future India, future Africa, the strange journey across the wave power generator), the main character(s) were problematic in that they were not only typically unreliable, they were also, at times, hallucinatory. I can't say that necessarily got in the way of my enjoyment of a book, but I'm usually a careful enough reader that I can get to the end and have a fair idea of what happened. I'm not nearly as sure as I normally am having finished THE GIRL IN THE ROAD. Again, I'm not entirely sure that detracted from my enjoyment of the book, honestly. It was well written, engaging, science fictional and many things like that that I normally enjoy but... I don't know that I could recommend it with out the caveat of, "Okay, but this one is seriously TRIPPY."

Between THE GIRL IN THE ROAD and ELYSIUM, OR, THE WORLD THAT CAME AFTER, I have to wonder if 'trippy' is the new black. From the looks of things (so far) MEMORY GARDEN is more traditional in its narrative tropes, but we'll see. THE BOOK OF THE UNNAMED MIDWIFE had some oddities in its storytelling practices, but I wouldn't have labelled it "trippy," per se. I will say, in light of the conversations I've been having about women's writings, all of the four books I'm mentioning here are very feminine in their approach to science fiction.

I think a lot about what my friend Richard had to say when trying Margaret Atwood's HANDMAID'S TALE for the first time. The books women write are often (though obviously not always), quite intentionally, infused with the feminine. It probably does seem somewhat alien and unsettling to someone who isn't used to ever thinking about pregnancy, periods, and sex (and its corollary: death). These things all showed up in the books I've been reading--sometimes just casually, but sometimes as the point. THE BOOK OF THE UNNAMED MIDWIFE is very much a female apocalypse, both literally and figuratively. ELYSIUM less so, because the gender of our pov character constantly shifts. 

So, it's been an interesting ride so far. The library tells me that ANCILLARY SWORD is ready for me to pick up (speaking of oddities in gendering. I read a large part of ANCILLARY JUSTICE before I had to return it and the ship AIs, who are the pov characters, always identify any human they encounter as 'she' regardless. They will sometimes tell you 'she was male.' But it really f*cks with a person's perception of gender identity, gender stereotypes and other such things when everything is always female. Makes you think. Particularly when women are always told, "oh, 'he' includes you." I'm thinking, by this way this feels, that doesn't work the way we think it does.)

I'm looking forward to reading that one, too.

All this reading has also inspired me. I'm about 3,000 words into a short story that, I'm thinking, is ultimately about redemption. I saw an anthology call for "angel and demons" and so I started considering what I might write since, as you know Bob, this is directly in my areas of interest. So, fingers crossed.

I don't think I can really pull off 'trippy' though, so....

Friday, February 27, 2015

Old Venus


I have a story in this collection. I've read a review of Old Venus and the entire anthology sounds pretty nifty. I'm reasonably happy with my story, which is about the last Soviet Socialist Republic, which is surviving -- just barely -- on a Venus like the planet in the old pulps: wet and covered with jungle and full of large, dangerous, dinosaur-like animals.

Apparently a fair number of the writers picked up on the fact that the first space craft to reach Venus was Soviet and imagined the Soviet Union on a habitable planet. (We didn't know Venus was a hellhole till the first space craft reached it. What if it had found a different place?)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Good Thing My Career is Over or I Might Rage Quit

Wow, people, just wow.

So my friend and fellow Wyrdsmith, Eleanor Arnason, decided to re-post Tempest's challenge on her Facebook as a test, just to see what kind of response she'd get.

Third or fourth comment? So offensive I'm not even sure I can re-print it here.  Since I don't know how to do an "under the cut" in blogspot, let's just say he suggested that as a "reward" for reading books on this list he should get to "haz" sexual acts performed on him by women.  (The haz particularly felt... offensive, because clearly he felt this made his comment cutesy, ala a LOL cat.) Then the discussion honestly turned into a recommended list of straight, white, male, cis writers.

Similarly, yesterday I came across someone in my feed who I won't name because I don't believe in the "call out" culture, but who got very four-letter word-y about this challenge because he claimed "this sort of thing takes food off my plate."

Okay.

*takes deep breaths*

Seriously, folks, take a chill pill. Do you actually know a single person who has committed to doing this (besides, presumably, Tempest herself)? Secondly, even if twenty or a hundred people agreed to do it for a whole year, do you really think this is going to so negatively impact your sales that YOU WILL STARVE?

Seriously? Starve? HYPERBOLE MUCH?

Don't [bleeping] lie. Most published science fiction writers I know have a day job--because it's already so impossible to make a living writing. Everybody knows that. If you're one of the lucky ones who can actually afford to stay home and be a full-time writer, I am SO NOT CRYING ANY TEARS FOR YOU. Because if you're doing that well? 10 less people reading your book in the year is not going to impact your career that much.

Thus, I honestly don't understand being threatened by this. Most of us have a limited book budget. Many of us have any number of reasons why we choose to buy the books we do (leading one in our house? Nothing to do with the gender of the author. The biggest factor is: Is it on deep discount from Amazon.com??) Even though I've given myself a reading "task" this year, so far I've only BOUGHT one of the books on the list (because it randomly came up on one of those 99 cent deals on Amazon.com). All of the rest have come out of the library.

You [bleep]ers weren't getting my [bleeping] money, anyway.

I say this as someone whose career ended because of poor sales, okay? I'm not saying this out of spite. I know exactly how hard it is to make a living as a science fiction writer BECAUSE I'VE ALREADY FAILED SPECTACULARLY AT IT.

Yeah, the financial aspects of being a writer are enough to make anyone want to swear like a sailor. But this is a problem that affects ALL writers, regardless of age, race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or any other factor. I *do* tend to think that women, PoC, queer and other writers have a much harder time getting reviews and marketing budgets, but I have never seen actual figures proving this... so let's just leave that off the table for the moment. Let's just even leave off the table the fact that when a person screams about this, it's not Tempest that's making me not want to buy their books, it's they themselves. Let's also leave off the table that the most infuriating part of this is that I have to put up with sexualized abuse just because someone suggested that people consider reading outside of their comfort zone for a year.

There's a reason I don't normally get involved in these kinds of internet "discussions;" it's to protect my sanity.

And my faith in humanity.

I'm eternally grateful to *my* Facebook friends (and my friends here and elsewhere that I discussed this) that we managed, for the most part, to have reasoned discourse. We got passionate and fiery and strident, but it was all done with (apparently) a surprising amount of respect. Thank you. You all remind me that it's possible to be passionate, but remain civil.

I found out a few days ago that these call outs and fails have driven at least one promising writer from our ranks. I wouldn't be surprised if it breaks a few more. Many of those driven away by this hostility might be the women, queers, and PoC that we so desperately need in our ranks, too. But my friend was "just" a straight, white guy who got tired of being placed in the crossfire even as he was trying desperately to be an ally.

We've got to stop this.

There's something broken on the Internet. Something disgusting and horrible that we saw exploding into the light during things like #gamergate. It's something that's making people, like the one paraphrased above, go from zero to sexualized abuse in sixty seconds. It's something that's threatening women's lives (so that it's no wonder there's a similarly ugly backlash towards less-marginalized people.)

But still.

C'mon. We're better than all this.

We're supposed to be imaginers of the future. Can't we imagine a place where there is room for everyone and that one person's success does not diminish another's?

Edited to add: Eleanor has deleted the comment, if you go looking for it, it's no longer there. "Can Haz" guy? Be thankful. Eleanor just spared you some backlash, I imagine, from those who would have hunted you down (who, while I felt free to respond to it here, publicly, do not condone. It's not cool to go after people, people. Full stop. This is not a one-way message.) Also, I posted this image:



to Tumblr and a woman felt the need to private e-mail me and share her disapproval. Did I really like that? She thought I was better than that. To which I was like... ..... .... NOPE. Not today, my friend, not today.

Sheesh.

Can we just not?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Introducing a New Member: Kelly Barnhill



When I asked her what she wanted for a bio, this is what I got:



Kelly Barnhill: raised by unicorns.




I think she'll fit in perfectly....

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Disappearing Female Science Fiction Writer (Calling Fandom's Historians!)

Okay, now I kind of get it.

Yesterday I reblogged/reposted Tempest's challenge on Facebook with a little comment by me, which was basically a condensed version of my blog here. My point being: is this hard? This shouldn't be hard.

I'm not sure I've ever gotten so much traffic on a FB feed in my life.

With the exception of one person who was a bit trollish (they used the dog whistle acronym SJW, for Social Justice Warrior, to describe Tempest in what was a clearly derogative way hoping, I suspect, to trigger a fight), it was a decent enough conversation. In fact, a dear friend of mine chimed in quite sincerely to beg for recommendations because he'd been under the impression that women wrote fantasy and men wrote hard science fiction. I happily flooded him with names of women who write SF and I linked to any of them who are my Facebook friends. This prompted Kristine Katherine Rusch (who writes, among many other things, the amazing Retrieval Artist series, of which I've read several of and ADORE) to hop on and discuss the other issue that's been floating around right now, which is the disappearance of women's history in science fiction. I'd noticed when I went searching for a comprehensive list of women writing hard SF for Richard, that the Wikipedia pages were pretty sparse. She said that's a problem she's noticed, too, that if you go searching even a semi-trusted (but certainly usually starting point) like Wikipedia doesn't even have a decent list of past and active SF writing women.

That, my friends, is an actual WTF.

I was able to find a fairly comprehensive list in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, under the entry: Women SF Writers.

But, that someone hasn't gone to the trouble to add our names to Wikipedia is... downright weird. Kristine Katherine Rusch would like fandom's help. If anyone has the time and know how, this is really an excellent project to consider undertaking. I mean, we can keep publishing anthologies where women and queers destroy science fiction, but, in some ways, that only perpetuates this idea that we don't have a history of women writing SF AND that our writing it is somehow a shocking and brand-new thing.

We've always known we had a PR problem. This is why a bunch of us got together at WisCON in 2000 and formed BroadUniverse. But it's kind of amazing to think that we failed so profoundly at getting the word out that no one has heard of some of us... like we've been disappeared by some secret government agents and erased from the history books.

Because....

The only time I lost it in the FB discussion was, in fact, today. Some person came on with a very breezy, almost snotty, "Look, I read a lot. I'm not going to limit myself. Just give me a top 5."

And it was like they had unleashed the Kraken.

Seriously, I couldn't help but go all-caps, because, really? You read a LOT? How is it that you've never read a book by a woman?? I pointed out that if this person seriously could not think of a science fiction book written by a woman maybe they should consider starting with the woman who INVENTED science fiction: Mary Shelley. There's this book she wrote called FRANKENSTEIN? You've maybe heard of it? No?

I mean, I suspect what this person really wanted was a sense of who are the top 5 women writing today and I honestly couldn't tell you who they are because I'm simply not well-read enough. There are so many choices. As I keep pointing out, of the six books up for the Philip K. Dick, 4 of them are by women. You could honestly start there. How hard is that? The list is pre-made for you and you'd get 2/3rd more women writers than apparently (somehow?) you've ever had before...

Ugh.

I was just talking about this to a friend and I think the other thing that's frustrating is that sometimes when people get wound up about this stuff they use such inflammatory language that they make a person feel guilty about enjoying the things they do enjoy. As if somehow, because you DO LOVE a whole bunch of straight white male writers, their work is suddenly diminished and not wonderful and awesome and life-changing. That so not true. Not only, as I said yesterday, are there a ton of men who are allies, but, even if they never write about a single social justice issue or whatever, it doesn't mean we can't enjoy stories for what they are. I'm never going to stop being a Bleach fan, and I can honestly say that some of Kubo-sensei's stuff is problematic to trans* folks. His story still rocks my world. I will keep supporting him and other male writers, while reading women and GLBT and non-binary and trans* and PoC writers. I think we can HAVE BOTH.

This is not either or. I say, let's demand: ALL.

Because otherwise we end up divided and with NOTHING.

Monday, February 23, 2015

"Can You See? Can You See? There's a Woman Right Next to You..."

K. Tempest Bradford would like to challenge you to "Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis, Male Authors for a Year."

Let me first and foremost say, I support this idea.

Secondly, it will not be difficult.

You could easily read a book a day and only read women writers. I actually did this spontaneously when I was in my youth, probably somewhere in the mid-1980s (and continued well into the early-1990s), when it was also still very easy to find women writing SF/F. In fact, we were just coming off the great boom of the New Wave and I simply spontaneously and naturally drifted in the direction of books with women's names on the cover, This was when I read nearly everything by Anne McCaffery and Katherine Kurtz. I supplemented with Mercedes Lackey and Anne Rice and Joan Vinge and Pat Cadigan and Pat Wrede and Emma Bull and Ursula K. LeGuin and Marge Piercy and Elizabeth A. Lynn -- many of whom were also writing ABOUT gender and sexual orientation/fluidity back when most the mainstream had no idea what genderqueer was.

But, even if you limited yourself to books written in the last few years, this would also not be difficult. The largest percent of fiction written and bought in the United States published by New York publishing houses is by women for women. It's this genre you may have heard of called: Romance --which also has an ENTIRE SUB-GENRE DEVOTED TO STORIES BY AND ABOUT PoC. Yet, even if you limited yourself to science fiction and fantasy, this would not be hard.

As I've said previously, the challenge I've issued myself is to read all the books nominated for awards this year. So far I'm only just finishing the list for the PKD. Out of six nominees, 4 were by women. Just to make that clear, a THIRD of the books nominated for the 2015 Philip K. Dick award are by women (and one of the women is also in translation.) The Nebula Awards nominees, which were just announced this past week, didn't do as well. Of the six nominated novels, only 2 were obviously by women, but one of them is in translation (and, honestly, given my lack of understanding of Asian names could also be by a woman). By Tempest's criteria, that's still HALF of the nominees you could read.

So far we have seven books you could read right there. If you read a book a week, you're already deep into your second month.

That's without even really trying.

Tempest's list is a fine start and, if you've not heard of any of those writers, you really ought to go ahead and put them on your list ASAP. But, she's certainly not even scratched the surface.

I'll say again, I think this is a fine challenge. If you've never done anything like this in your life, you really should. Once you've done it, though, consider allies also. If I limited myself to these criteria my whole life, I would be fine (and would never have lacked for books), but I would have missed out on a story that blew my small town mind back in the 70s (and even more so when I discovered it was written in 1953). And that would be Theodore Sturgeon's short story, "A World Well Lost." Which is basically about bigoted assumptions people make and how wrong homophobia is. It was the first time I'd read a story where the protagonist was a gay man and it expertly played with my assumptions that everyone was straight. This is the kind of story that, even though it was written by an old (dead now) white guy who I presume is straight, EVERYONE SHOULD READ. I taught this story in class and I can say it doesn't entirely stand the test of time. The prose is very 1950s, which reads somewhat clunky to a modern ear, but the idea is still mind-blowing.

So, you know, yes, but there are diverse books EVERYWHERE these days. You just have to look around.

Do we need more diversity? Yes, always. But could you do this without breaking a sweat (even just within SF/F?)? YES.

Hell, I've got about 15 books by a queer woman just sitting here on my desktop (oh, because THEY WERE WRITTEN BY ME)... some of them are even award winners. ;-)

Edited to add: You know what would be a more interesting challenge to me? Read only comic books, graphic novels and manga written by woman/PoC (well, with manga, you'd have to close the loophole of PoC or you could read any manga you wanted.)