Twitter threads: one, two, or I could just say "wrote that digustingly racist 16k meta (AO3-locked) last year", and a lot of you will know what I mean. Note that the second threads has screencap excerpts of the meta.
Twitter threads: one, two, or I could just say "wrote that digustingly racist 16k meta (AO3-locked) last year", and a lot of you will know what I mean. Note that the second threads has screencap excerpts of the meta.
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.
I have to start generating draft post link dumps as I post things to G+.
You should be reading Wesley Morris, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his movie criticism, regardless of whether you want to see the movies he's writing about. Here he is about the truly appalling Ted 2:
For people of color, some aspect of friendship with white people involves an awareness that you could be dropped through a trapdoor of racism at any moment, by a slip of the tongue, or at a campus party, or in a legislative campaign. But it’s not always anticipated. You don’t expect the young white man who’s been seated alongside you in a house of worship to take your life because you’re black. Nor do you expect that a movie about an obscene teddy bear would invoke a sexual stereotype forced upon you the way Kunta Kinte was forced to become “Toby” [in Roots].
And as a palate cleanser, his review of Magic Mike XXL.
The AV Club's Random Roles series is almost always great. Here's Diana Riggs, who I've never even seen on screen and who I now want to be when I grow up.
I also love their Expert Witness series; here's a recent one on being a second-unit director on Hollywood blockbusters and one I somehow missed on from a camera operator on the Puppy Bowl.
I don't watch Penny Dreadful but glvalentine's recaps of it are worthy of live-blogging on their own. The one about the most recent episode contains such gems as "Somehow opting not to just go full Gothic and have sex in front of the corpse" and "(He had so much trouble just facing his mother’s death that he made three more people. Then he had sex with at least one of them. The man is troubled.)"
This review of For Such a Time by Kate Breslin makes you wonder how on Earth anyone could possibly think that it was a good idea. (Content notes: Holocaust, dubcon.)
Palate cleanser: absolutely hilarious Imperial Radch AU by Rachel Swirsky.
@AcademicsSay: The Story Behind a Social-Media Experiment, an interesting look at the growth of that Twitter account and what the academic behind it decided to do with the social capital it had.
Yakhchāls: "By 400 BCE, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of storing ice in the middle of summer in the desert."
A Mostly Accurate Norse God Family Tree, in comic form, with research notes. A.K.A., "TIL that Odin's grandparent was a cow."
The Poet Laureate of Fan Fiction, an interview with someone whose work was appropriated by Supernatural fandom.
Did my boyfriend just get married? on AskMetaFilter; search the poster's username for updates.
What This Cruel War Was Over, the meaning of the Confederate flag in the plain words of those who bore it.
The National Lawyers Guild, which is providing legal support to protesters in Ferguson and elsewhere
25 Activities Black People Should Avoid Around Cops: "Don't . . . and maybe they won't kill you."
Ferguson Action, with links to rallies around the country
Tips for Planning A Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Police Brutality (disclaimer: this seems sensible and thorough to me, but I've no experience to measure it against)
12 things white people can do now because Ferguson (lots of links to history, context)
. . . there's more, but I am taking two small children on a plane tomorrow and it is irresponsible of me to be awake right now.
On the one hand, initiatives like the SF Gateway are helping to ensure the SF backlist remains accessible to today's readers, and an increasing number of "classic" SF writers are receiving the establishment seal of approval in series like the Library of America (Philip K. Dick) and the Everyman Library (Isaac Asimov). On the other hand, the SF readership is increasingly diverse, with fewer readers who have come to the field via those "classics", and many who find little of value in them in any case. In other words the traditional SF canon is no longer tenable -- but the history is still out there. So what alternative models and narratives should we be using to understand the field's past? Should we be working to expand the canon, or to describe multiple overlapping histories -- or something else?
Kate Nepveu (m), Connie Willis, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Chris Beckett, Joe Monti
I saw criticisms of my moderation from a person on Twitter, who thought I talked too much. I will not apologize for one of those instances (or for believing that I have things to contribute to the panel beyond just setting discussion in motion), but there were some points where I could have been more concise, especially since this was another 50-minute panel.
I asked by asking why we want to convey genre history: is it different for readers and writers, or between fantasy & SF? I said that I thought it was genuinely useful for fantasy readers to read _LotR_--though less so than twenty years ago--but I wasn't sure the same was true for SF, since the commercial genre can't be traced back to a single book that way.
I think the general consensus was that it was more important for writers. Connie said that when she teaches Clarion she hands out a 50-book list, because her least favorite critique is "this is a really good story that Bradbury did in 1952." Generally people agreed that writers should know the most famous plot twists/types; something of the genre conventions (insert here the thing about genre being distinguished, if not defined, by way information is conveyed to reader); and something about the major works in your topic area, otherwise you get mainstream writers thinking that they're saying something profound about robots etc. when genre readers are like, "done that back in 19-whatever."
(But tropes are different; just because someone's done "Adam & Eve in space" before, as one of the panelists, I think Chris?, had done, doesn't mean you can't. It's the gimmicks that only work once because of surprise, and even then if they're not well-known now . . . )
Somewhere pretty early people said that readers shouldn't read the canon because it's (medicine/work/homework--I forget the exact phrasing). They should read the canon because it's good (or the good bits of the canon).
I mentioned the rare works specifically in explicit dialogue with an identifiable thing: Peter Watts' "Things" (the movie _The Thing_); Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald"—which I embarrassingly called "A Study in Scarlet" until the audience corrected me, thank you, audience—the latter of which doesn't work at all if you don't know Sherlock Holmes canon. But besides those, which are pretty easy to spot, what benefit can there be for readers to know genre history?
Connie said that every work is in some way in dialogue with others, because that's what storytelling is, all the way back to its origins. When she started writing her time travel stories, she made a list of all the things she disliked about existing time travel stories. Possibly here, Joe said that Ann Leckie hadn't read _The Left Hand of Darkness_ before writing _Ancillary Justice_, which both do things with pronouns and gender, but she was aware that _Left Hand_ existed and what it did, which he found surprising, but maybe it was hard to say what reading it would have added.
In response to a question, the panelists were generally not in favor of authors making that kind of inspiration/works-being-referenced explicit to the reader, in afterwords or suchlike, because it's so much fun for readers to make those connections themselves, and if they don't, the works ought to stand on their own anyway. It's to enrich the understanding not to create it. (Somewhere prior to this I'd said that I was of the view that The Author Is Dead, and though I heard some objection to that from the authors on the panel =>, at this point I believe at least one person said okay, maybe The Author Is Dead after all, at least somewhat.)
I'm fairly sure about this point we were running very low on time, so I said, here are the other things I was hoping we'd talk about, let me rattle them off in case they spark questions from the audience. (This is the bit I won't apologize for talking.) They were: what multiple overlapping histories (mentioned in the description) might consist of: subgenres, groups of authors working together, publishers . . . ?; other ways these genre histories might get conveyed: reviews, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of SF?
I learned a lesson about myself as a mod here: because the panel was on the same level as the room, I stood up to see people and point at five people to ask questions in order. But when it was time for the next person I should have stood back up, because it turns out I rely on physical locations of people and I couldn't remember who was next, which was awkward.
Unfortunately the only question I actually remember at this point was the thing that was upsetting, a.k.a., ( In which Connie Willis and I disagree whether the historical formation of the canon excluded women and minorities )
Until that point I had been enjoying the panel quite a bit, and I do think there was fodder there for more discussion. So further thoughts would be welcome, from anyone. However, I am going to screen anon comments out of an abundance of caution: if you're new here, please review my commenting policy. I will unscreen comments as soon as possible.
Fantasy world-building sometimes comes under fire for its pedantic attention to detail at the expense of pacing or prose style. Do descriptive passages clog up the narrative needlessly, when reader imagination should be filling in the gaps? Where does that leave the landscapes and cultures that are less well represented in the Western genre: can world-building be a tool in subverting reader expectations that would otherwise default to pseudo-medieval Euro-esque? If fantasy is about defamiliarising the familiar, how important is material culture - buildings, furnishings, tools, the organisation of social and commercial space - in creating a fantasy world?
Mary Anne Mohanraj (m), Tobias Buckell, Kate Elliott, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Victoria Donnelly, Ellen Kushner
( notes; some uncomfortable bits about race )
Sofia Samatar recently suggested [*] that SF genre writers and readers have "a tendency to focus on content rather than form", even or especially when engaging with marginalised perspectives. Does our genre inevitably tend towards the form and structure of western, English-language stories, regardless of what cultural tradition(s) are reflected in the content? How can a non-western or non-Anglophone writer engage with science fiction and fantasy while also operating outside of the conventions of western-style storytelling? Is it possible for western writers to engage with non-western traditions in an authentic way and produce a story that a wider audience will recognize as science fiction or fantasy? What are some of the different forms offered by non-western cultures that need to be told?
Amal El-Mohtar, Aliette de Bodard, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, JY Yang, Nick Wood
( notes )
[*] Here's the whiteboard rec list for the African SF panel at Nine Worlds; thanks, shaded_sun!
Back when the news that Ben Affleck was going to play Batman broke, I said elsewhere,
The thing is, I don't really care about casting for Batman because Batman is fundamentally a boring character. All he is, is a vehicle for manpain and an opportunity for more interesting people to aggregate around him. (Usually people who deserve a better protagonist.)
Superman's boring too. So there.
*drops mic, walks offstage*
Know anyone starting law school or thinking about it? Recommend to them A Student's Guide to Law School, freshly-published and written by a co-worker and one of the smarter people and better attorneys I know (and I know a lot of smart people and good attorneys).
A writer at the A.V. Club is dismayed to revisit the first Xanth book (because it may not be obvious if you're not familiar with Piers Anthony's work: trigger warning for discussions of pedophilia):
Here’s how this article was supposed to go down: As a kid, I lived in Florida. Back then I loved the books of Piers Anthony . . . . For this installment of Memory Wipe, I was going to reread A Spell For Chameleon . . . . Then, in poignant prose, I would revisit the magic of my own Floridian childhood, even though that childhood was actually pretty fucked up, but maybe not quite as fucked up as it seemed at the time. The big takeaway: Thanks, Piers Anthony, for the swell book, not mention giving me a tidy epiphany about how fantasy, geography, and nostalgia overlap in the hazy mists of reminiscence.
Instead, this happened: I reread A Spell For Chameleon, and during those excruciating hours all I could think about was what a sad, misogynistic piece of shit it is.
It seems like realizing the awfulness of Piers Anthony is a rite of passage among people who read SFF when young, so I offer it to you all for the sympathetic wince/cathartic rant factor.
Also because of this:
Ultimately, Anthony is the worst kind of misogynist: one who defends his offensive views by saying, in essence, how could he possibly hate women if he’s drooling over them all the time?
I'm not convinced that that's the "worst" kind, but it is a particularly infuriating kind, and it strikes me as relevant to sexual harassment. And that is on my mind because of recent revelations of sexual harassment by Bora Zivkovic, a very prominent man in the science blogging community (context). The most recent report (with links back to others) is by Kathleen Raven. Among other things, this prompted a massive Twitter conversation of people sharing personal tales of self-doubt caused by even much milder forms of harassment (on Storify, or try #ripplesofdoubt if you hate Storify for long things the way I do). Difficult stuff, but worth reading if consistent with your well-being.
(To be clear: Bora is not, at present, using this defense, though I am morally certain that someone somewhere has offered it on his behalf. Reading these links in the same day merely made an association that seemed a useful transition.)
Fallen London players, follow this link for a tiny gift from a Rubbery Man (one not generally available since 2010, can you believe this game has been around that long?), and check out your Lodgings for some seasonal content.
I think about unfollowing Elementary's writers on Twitter every Thursday, when they live-tweet the show that I don't have time to watch. But it doesn't seem worth the effort, and they do things like last week's "feud" with the writers of Sleepy Hollow, which was adorable and hilarious. And then this afternoon they started in with the knock-knock jokes and I gave up and followed @sleepywriters too just so I didn't miss anything . . .
(I have not seen Sleepy Hollow; I appreciate the comparisons everyone's making between it and Elementary regarding the dynamics of the lead pairs, but I've given up trying to watch anything but Elementary and Face Off, and I'm also a little dubious about the mythological elements that abigail_n points out. As for SHIELD and Korra, I'm letting those scroll off the DVR, and if someone tells me they get to be worth watching, I will pick them up from that point.)
A Dark Room is a really neat minimalist web game about discovery and exploration. I hesitate to say too much about it because of those themes, but it's not too long or demanding and has a definite end, and the minimalism works very well for it. (You should run it in a browser tab that can stay open while you're away from your computer.)
ETA: now some spoilers in comments.
ETA 2013-08: apparently there are some content differences in the iOS app which sound very much not my thing.
‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin, a fascinating article at the Washington Post about the racism embedded in the very "technology and grammar of cinema and photography."
Since I asked y'all for ideas about this panel, I thought I should report back. I am tired but my memory won't get better later, so some sketchy comments.
( Read more... )
Anyone who was there remember more than me or want to talk about things further?
Oh, and someone in the audience mentioned Lee and Low Books to me after, which is "an independent children's book publisher focusing on diversity," whose catalog I shall be checking out.
So one of my Readercon panels is called "Guess Who's Coming to Fairyland" and is described thusly:
Many fantasy and SF novels struggle with an issue that, at first glance, looks downright old-fashioned: interracial marriage. The races are non-human, and some of their problems are unique; for example, in Cheryl Brooks's Cat Star Chronicles, the near-extinct Zetithians must breed with other species or die out. Others face very familiar concerns such as being rejected by their families or peers. Their risk-taking is often rewarded with the birth of children who display enhanced or unusual abilities--though those children have their own concerns about not fitting in. How do these themes reflect and interact with real-world tensions around race, marriage, and culture?
I've been meaning to ask you all to poke at my thoughts on this, and I just send the mod an e-mail, so now I can simply cut and paste:
You know, I was going to make a post about how the intersection of the news lately (particularly Trayvon Martin's murder) and the bridge of a Decemberists song nearly had my crying in my car yesterday evening, but the point would just be what the subject line says, and this gives you more time to read the links.
- 'We Have No Choice': One Woman's Ordeal with Texas' New Sonogram Law (Texas Observer). [*]
- Racial Lens Used to Cull Curriculum in Arizona (NYT).
- The White Savior Industrial Complex by Teju Cole (The Atlantic).
- What Everyone Should Know About Trayvon Martin (1995-2012) (Think Progress).
- The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained (Mother Jones).
- Untitled Elon James White post on racism's influence on perceptions of thuggishness. (Is there a way to link to Google+ posts with the comments collapsed?)
[*] Yes, I saw the doctor guest post over at Scalzi's. I actually found it more depressing than anything because of the comments, and not even the predictable derailing ones, the "for the first time I feel some hope!" remarks. Seriously? One anonymous doctor arguing for civil disobedience after one of these horrible laws has passed—the efficacy of which I have considerable doubts regarding—and suddenly everything's sunshine and roses? What-fucking-ever. (Especially given the entirely unjustified assumption by many commenters that the anonymous doctor in question was male. Yeah, we've never seen that pattern before.)
When non-winter infant and toddler girls' clothing [*] has, as a rough approximation, at least 33% less fabric than boys' clothing (because we require two and three year olds to gender-conform by showing skin!), and when I was able to find precisely two picture books, out of the thirty-odd displayed face out at my local B&N, that had female-identified humanoid-ish protagonists who weren't princesses and who did things.
(One of those was white. The other was a pig.)
Fuck systematic oppressions, I say. Fuck them with a goddamn chainsaw.
Also, recommendations for picture books, or anthology-type-things of fairy/folk tales (about 10 min./tale), that are not sporkworthy are highly welcome.
[*] Not that I am shopping for these at the moment, but it remains a massive irritant.
For instance, its review of The Help begins thusly:
The civil-rights movement might have ended segregation and beat back centuries of slavery and oppression, but let’s save a slow clap for well-meaning white folks with the moral courage to put themselves at the center of the narrative.
Mary Doria Russell has apologized.
And if anyone else is having trouble commenting without an DW/LJ/OpenID login, you can always e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org (you can look for e-mail addresses by clicking on the little gray head/body icon next to people's usernames, which brings you to the user's profile page, though not everyone lists one).
This panel took place late Saturday afternoon, after my "Vigorous Debate or Harassment?" panel, but I am posting it out of order because I will be referring to it in the set of panel reports that "Vigorous Debate" belongs to.
How do we get beyond "Her skin was the color of a delicious Coca-Cola?" What metaphors, similes, techniques, and descriptors are less problematic when describing nonwhite characters' physical bodies? (Starter link: http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2009/
M: Mary Doria Russell. K. Tempest Bradford, Moondancer Drake, Amal El-Mohtar, Sumana Harihareswara
Everyone on the panel but Mary Doria Russell was a person of color. I would estimate that K. Tempest Bradford, Amal El-Mohtar, and Sumana Harihareswara are all of roughly the same twenties-early-thirties generation; Moondancer Drake is maybe a half-generation older; and Mary Doria Russell is about sixty (per Wikipedia).
This report will be in three parts: an accuracy/nomenclature preface; notes on what was said at the panel; and follow-up thoughts.
Also, the rest of the panel was interesting and useful as well, and I hope it doesn't get overshadowed.
ETA 6/2/11: Mary Doria Russell has commented via a friend and apologized.
Chad just asked me what I thought about "Paper Tigers," by Wesley Yang, in New York Magazine, which is subtitled "What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?" and has apparently been much-linked lately. (I've been really busy.)
Having read it, well, see the subject line, but here are a couple of responses that I found useful that I dug out of a conversation elsewhere I'd previously skipped for time:
- "A Response to Wesley Yang's 'Paper Tigers,'" by Nina Shen Rastogi at Slate;
- "'Tigers' of Many Stripes: An Open Letter to Wesley Yang," by Sylvie Kim at Hyphen.
Morning ETA: upon due reflection, I think my reaction can be summarized thusly:
Racism is an institutional structure of oppression. Yang has documented one facet of that structure—a quite narrow one, as the links above discuss, but a real one. Yet Yang's response appears to be, "how can we [*] join white guys at the top of the structure," rather than, "how can we dismantle the structure"?
And that is the wrong question.
[*] Where "we" = "heterosexual males of Asian descent in America."
So one of the things I want to talk about at the WisCon "Fanfic 401" panel is marginalization of non-white characters; my principal recent example is Yusuf and Saito from Inception. [*]
And that reminds me of my response to Hawaii Five-0, specifically the fannish reaction that I've seen. I have not seen a single episode of this, though I have heard the occasional thing that makes it sound like I might like it. But, here's the thing, the principal cast consists of four people, as shown in this ridiculous promo image:
I see some fannish activity about this show from people who I keep an eye on for their fic in other fandoms. I will give you three guesses as to which two characters I see 99.95% of the energy focused on; the first two don't count.
And maybe that's not a reflection on the show (remember, haven't seen it). Maybe I'm getting a skewed view of the fandom from the random bits I happen to see. But I truly cannot motivate myself to watch this show where every goddamn reference to it makes me say to myself, "Seriously, fandom? Four team members and you pick the two white guys again?!"
(And, I admit, this isn't helped by one of them being Scott Caan (far right), because, seriously?)
Before commenting, please note: as the title says, I am ranting. If you can honestly tell me that the fandom isn't actually all about the white guys (hell, I won't even demand 50%, just a sizable chunk), go ahead and show your work. But I really don't want to hear explanations, justifications, or defenses. You, personally, reading this? Your reasons for being interested in one character/relationship more than another are your own, they're for you to be happy with or not, and I'm not going to give you a gold star or the Magical Minority Fairy seal of approval or whatever, so please keep them to yourself. I'm talking about my own reaction to the apparent aggregate fannish reaction, which is: very tired.
[*] Sadly Sherlock has only one non-white character in its principal cast, and she is not only nasty but gets slut-shamed (well done, show!), so I cannot justly blame her marginalization in fic on fandom alone. (Note, however, that I have not seen that many fics attempting to reclaim her character.) Leverage fandom, at least back when I read it, might be a little bit better about this—Hardison being a geek helps—though I continue to look very side-eyed at the prevalence of Eliot/Nate in this regard. Of course my principal comparison, as the main post suggests, is SGA . . . and that is a topic that will not fit in the bounds of this footnote.
And I'm not going to read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, but rushthatspeaks's review of Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita In Tehran, by Fatemeh Keshavarz, was nevertheless very valuable for giving me a term I needed in my life:
This short but incisive book is a critique of what Keshavarz calls the New Orientalism, as exemplified by Reading Lolita in Tehran: a set of narratives, purporting to be factual, by people who at least theoretically have inside knowledge of a culture due to upbringing or heredity, which use this insider status to reinscribe a stereotypical and two-dimensional view of the culture in question.
Yes, that. Go read it.