Description: Race and identity have been issues in science fiction for about as long as SF itself. From the whitewashing of SF settings to “the black guy dies first” phenomenon to the underrepresentation of minority authors in the genre, there’s a long way to go. What can we do as individuals and as a community to encourage progress?
Victor Raymond (m), Amber P. Knight, Kate Nepveu, Mark Oshiro, Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez
Victor skipped right to the question at the end of the description. We talked about institutional things like Con or Bust; Pablo and Mark's work with Detcon1, which involved reaching out to specific local existing groups and communities; and Arisia's recent creation of a Diversity Committee (and the danger that people decide that oh, well, there's a diversity committee therefore we don't have to think about it). In terms of con program participants: recommend people to cons, ask for recommendations of people to invite to cons, and once they come don't put them only on panels about their particular minority trait.
We talked about SFF fandom's tendency to see other (related!) genres as insufficiently ~~pure~~ and what kinds of support, lessons, and connections are being lost thereby (anime, YA, paranormal, telenovelas (where was Jane the Virgin in programming, an audience member asked? [*]) etc.), and ditto other expressions of fandom, particularly the failure to recognize that people of color have always been fans. For instance, Amber's podcast (and others like it) is super-fannish, including about SFF, but podcasts aren't talked about much in SFF fandom (edited to clarify, maybe). (Podcasting: super-low entry barriers, Amber said she was very happy to help people out!) Or the Blade movies, whose success made the MCU possible but rarely get mentioned in con panels/by white people generally.
[*] I just put a suggestion into WisCon's programming that they do a panel on this.
Individual level things: Google shit you want to learn about. (Racism School on Tumblr was particularly recommended.) But also follow people who have different identities than you on your preferred form of social media, which gives you a passive exposure to stuff you don't know you don't know about. And when you inevitably see/hear something that you instinctively do a full-body recoil at, recognize that as a possible defense mechanism, take the time to process it on your own, and evaluate it over time and without demanding a justification/explanation from whoever posted it.
Woo, hello, energy crash. Uh. Things we didn't talk about but want to next time: codes of conduct. New media. Whether Pablo and I were going to have a fight over who was the smartest person in the room (not really). Okay, seriously, I am about to fall over, but if you were there, feel free to say what I'm forgetting, and if you weren't and have questions or suggestions, please do.
First, there was ( Thrown with Great Force: Classics We Won’t Finish )
I'm putting this outside the cut because it is still the best thing I've heard all weekend:
Ken said that there is a huge genre of serial prose stories in China, and in one very popular one, two armies were literally facing each other across the battlefield when the author announced that he was stopping writing it. The author went off and wrote other things, and then years later, came back and announced he was going to finish the story. Everyone was very excited, downloaded the installment, and said " . . . wait, this is only about a thousand words long, that's nowhere near long enough to finish the story." And in the story, the armies were facing each other, but then there was this light, and they looked up, and it was a meteorite, that was getting closer, and closer, and . . .
Yes, it was LITERALLY rocks fall, everyone dies.
Next up was ( How Lord of the Rings Stunted Fantasy’s Growth )
Finally, today there was ( Everything I Say is a Lie )
I also went to a panel called "Arisia Fixes Hollywood" (not many concrete fixes that I heard, but I was really sleepy and playing a mindless tablet game to stay awake; also the moderator alas thought it was an hour panel instead of the 75 minutes it actually was); and "The Future of Disability in Literature," which was heartfelt and well-prepared and I have zero notes because again tired. (I was going to say that disability panels seem to get fail even more consistently than race panels, but on reflection it's possible that it was the same person saying something upsetting this year and the last time I was at an Arisia disability panel.)
And now it's midnight and I fall at concision. Le sigh.
Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe has been a breakout hit for Cartoon Network. The first series on the network created by a woman, it tells powerful, funny, and moving stories in tiny doses, and has dealt uncompromisingly with issues around gender, childhood, and family in ways both unexpected and delightful. It’s also telling a great long-form adventure story. We’ll talk about all elements of this show in a panel that, like the show itself, will appeal to fans of all ages.
Cassandra Lease (m), Gillian Daniels, Max Gladstone, Juliet Kahn, Cody Mattes
I'm going to say upfront that this panel made me unreasonably grumpy because (a) the room it was in had some deep thrum in the HVAC that made me feel like my brain was melting (I left a panel yesterday because of that, also because I needed a nap) and (b) my breakfast consisted of two chocolate cookies, which was nobody's fault but my own. I heard lots of people being happy as we left.
It is reasonable of me to be grumpy that, after announcing that questions were going to be held until the end, the moderator let someone who appeared to be a white dude interject a question. (Many other people had put hands up and been told by the panel to wait.)
( I also had some subjective grumps about the panel's structure )
I didn't take a lot of notes because I didn't bring a keyboard and because I've still never tidied my exhaustive notes from several Readercon panels. Also, a lot of what was said was good and true but also not new to me. Here are some non-spoiler comments:
Rebecca Sugar did fanart for a show called Ed, Edd n Eddy, plus created a comic called Pug Davis which is a space opera about a guy with the head of a pug and his gay sidekick, and which a fast Google suggests is now comprehensively unavailable.
Ian Jones-Quartey, before animation school, did a webcomic called RPG World which Max was a big fan of and which also appears to be completely lost. (Also, his grandmother was awesome.)
( And now a few spoiler comments: )
My question, that I didn't get to ask: does anyone have a theory on why it's the Crystal Gems?
Finally, today I learned that Utena is UTE-ah-na not you-TAY-na. One of these days I'll watch it, I swear.
(After the panel I had mediocre food at Rosa Mexicano—half the tortilla chips were so soggy with grease they were actually difficult to chew—and then wrote this first because I was going to write up Friday's panels to put myself in a better mood, but it's already three and I have a panel at four, so probably that should wait. I have had my SU playlist on repeat, though, which has done wonders for my mood all by itself.)
Arisia! Next weekend, wow.
Panels I am on:
5:30 pm Friday: Thrown with Great Force: Classics We Won’t Finish - Literature, Panel - 1hr 15min - Marina 2 (2E)
This is a panel for all of you who didn’t finish LotR; everyone who needed to self medicate through Infinite Jest, exiled Frankenstein to the frozen wastes, or wanted to flush the Foundation. What did you fail to finish, which ones do you feel guilty about not finishing, and which ones do not make you feel any twinge of guilt at all?
Kate Nepveu (m), Mark L Amidon, Vikki Ciaffone, Debra Doyle, Catt Kingsgrave-Ernstein, Ken Liu
7:00pm Friday: How Lord of the Rings Stunted Fantasy’s Growth - Literature, Panel - 1hr 15min - Marina 3 (2E)
LotR’s shadow looms huge over fantasy. From the moment it achieved its massive popularity, it’s had a stranglehold on the genre. The diverse and weird pre-LotR fantasy landscape was obliterated in favor of decades of Tolkien clones, and we’re only barely beginning to see the genre recover now. Why did something so stilted, mediocre, sexist, and racist capture the public’s imagination in such a fevered and intense way? What would fantasy look like today in a world where LotR never happened?
Kate Nepveu (m), Erik Amundsen, Shira Lipkin, Mark Oshiro
4:00pm Sunday: Everything I Say is a Lie - Writing, Panel - 1hr 15min - Hale (3W)
There are several works of fiction, both genre and mainstream, that rely on the unreliable narrator. Used to good effect, this can create an artful twist ending or have the reader second-guessing throughout the whole story. However, how does one create such a narrator? Does the viewpoint have to be first person, or can third person suffice? How do you keep readers following the path you’ve laid out without guessing the real story? A discussion on the making and use of an unreliable narrator.
Ken Schneyer (m), Ken Altabef, Terri Bruce, Kate Nepveu
11:30am Monday: Race and Identity Issues in SF - Communities, Panel - 1hr 15min - Marina 3 (2E)
Race and identity have been issues in science fiction for about as long as SF itself. From the whitewashing of SF settings to “the black guy dies first” phenomenon to the underrepresentation of minority authors in the genre, there’s a long way to go. What can we do as individuals and as a community to encourage progress?
Victor Raymond (m), Amber P. Knight, Kate Nepveu, Mark Oshiro, Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez
I will definitely be at the Steven Universe panel, naturally (11:30am Sunday; Burroughs (3E); Cassandra Lease (m), Gillian Daniels, Max Gladstone, Juliet Kahn, Cody Mattes). Other things to be determined.
( spoilers for last night's episode )
I'll ship free within the US. Comment by, oh, Thursday 8 a.m. EST, and in the unlikely event that more than two people want one, I'll draw random numbers.
( small picture )
I'd never stitched on dark fabric before, nor with a single strand of floss (a deliberate choice by the designer, to give it an airy feel); the latter turned out to make stitching rather unforgiving, so I gave up trying to stitch in the hand and broke out the Q-snaps, which was definitely the right choice.
(I also tried framing it myself but the foam board was too thick for the deepest ready-made frame I could find, and I didn't trust my ability to line it up properly without using pins and foam board. Oh well.)
Next up, finishing the red dragon. I am currently backstitching the body, and then I just have to fill in the wings and body and I'm done, so that's exciting.
And now the post where I dump out as many spoiler-filled burbles about Steven Universe as I can before I have to faceplant into bed. (If you don't care about spoilers, I embed my second-favorite song in this post too.)
And a poll, because why not. Let's rate songs!
Contribute whatever else you want to talk about, I want all the discussion!
Steven Universe is an animated TV show, currently a little before the halfway mark of its second season, that has slowly built a world full of complex and wonderful characters (who are also notably diverse on multiple axes), speculative-fictional goodness, joy, and really great songs. (The highest compliment I can give it is that it keeps swapping with Hamilton as my earworm.)
Note: I'm going to talk spoilers for one thing at the end of this post, because it's the kind of thing that will be an enticement for many of you; I'll cut-tag it and label it in the post, but scroll with caution if you're coming from a direct link and not reading with cut-tags.
Let's start with our main characters, the Crystal Gems (image source):
In the center is our title character, Steven Universe. Left to right are Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet. The latter three are not human; you can see Pearl's gem on her forehead and Amethyst's peeking out of the top of her tank top, and they're all holding the weapons they can summon from their gems (spear, whip, and gauntlets). Steven is half-human, half-Gem; his mom was Rose Quartz, the leader of the Crystal Gems, who decided to create a child with a human (Greg, Steven's dad) and gave up her own existence to pass her gem on to Steven. As the show opens, Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst are raising Steven and teaching him to use his gem powers (Greg is still present, too).
As I said, this is a show that does what I think of as half-length episodes, approximately 11 minutes each. Basically there's no B or C plot: every episode is just one thing. This took some getting used to for me, particularly because Steven Universe is building a web of a lot of different things: the Crystal Gems and their personalities, relationships, and powers; an entire town's worth of secondary characters; and SFF worldbuilding spanning literally thousands of years. Before I really understood that and appreciated the effect, I would sometimes get impatient with an episode that wasn't about what I wanted at the moment. Fortunately, they're 11 minutes long, so the impatience never lasted long enough to be a deterrent (with one exception I'll discuss later). But the resulting complexity works for me on both intellectual and emotional levels.
This is particularly true of the characters, who are just SO GREAT: fascinating and flawed and sympathetic and ever-more-layered. And, also, pretty darn refreshing from a "not all about the straight white dudes" perspective. Three of the four Crystal Gems are female (and while they are visibly not human, though it may not come across well in this picture, all their voice actors are women of color). Steven's best friend is Connie Maheswaran; one of the families in town is Ghanaian/Ghanaian-American; there is a canon f/f romantic relationship that is unquestionably the healthiest on the show; at least one more character is queer, and a minor character is reasonably interpreted as genderqueer. Also, all the parental issues are mommy issues instead of daddy issues, which I appreciate.
(I have seen some people comment about transphobia. Googling suggests this is based on a man-in-a-dress bit from the crossover episode "Say Uncle," which I highly recommend you skip because it is just PAINFUL—I didn't twig the image myself because I was resolutely stitching and not looking up during the entire episode—the humor is entirely incompatible and basically it's the worst. I am one million percent not the arbiter of what's transphobic and what's not, but I should note that there's a later episode in which Steven wears a dress and is really happy about it, and so is everyone around him.)
I'm being really oblique with a lot of this, for the benefit of people who enjoy watching things unfold on their own; but if I had to describe Steven Universe's topic in one sentence, I would say it is about connections: the benefits of reaching out (this is basically Steven's superpower), the strength that can be gained from healthy connections, the damage that can be caused by unhealthy ones.
Before I talk spoilers, a note on viewing order: Cartoon Network moved a few episodes from the end of season one into season two, which doesn't work super-well. "Open Book", "Shirt Club," and "Story for Steven" should all go immediately after "Rose's Scabbard," in that order. (Also, Cartoon Network airs episodes in really weird chunks; it's been on hiatus for three months at a spot that's nothing like a natural pause point. Apparently this is a thing they do.)
Oh, almost forgot: both SteelyKid and the Pip were way into this for a while—it recorded accidentally in place of a Teen Titans Go! episode—so I jumped on it and started showing them it in order, but the Pip got bored somewhere in season one, because he is four. SteelyKid is still watching intermittently, though.
Okay, here we go with the spoilers for something at the end of season one—it's not all of season one or even all of how season one ends, but it's enough context to appreciate this incredibly awesome song that I am going to embed behind the cut as well.
( SPOILERS for the end of season one, 'Jail Break' )
A spoileriffic post follows.
And the last post: crossovers and stories compatible with multiple version of canon; fairy tales and mythology; and no-canon-needed stories.
Movies, TV, games, and sequential art. One more post to come.
Somehow I ended up with 75 recs for 2014's Yuletide. I'm splitting this sucker into multiple posts. Here are the book fandoms, which are, as always, the majority. Headers/cut-tags divide up the list in roughly chunks of five, for ease of browsing.