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.
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."
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.
In fact, she neither must be nor is.
2. Person upon being introduced to me: look of recognition followed by, "you have a stuffed Appa."
Which is not what I was expecting, but is pretty awesome all the same.
And now, bed.
In one short links dump:
- When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"? - Analysis - io9 :: "This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It's not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it's not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It's a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside. // [ . . . ] // Whites need to stop remaking the white guilt story, which is a sneaky way of turning every story about people of color into a story about being white."
- thete1: "I know it's racist, Te, but the special effects look awesome!" :: "But if you *do* believe it's racist and you're spending money on it anyway... fuck you."
[*] The "what these blue people need is a honky" one, not the live-action version of the cartoon (which is actually titled The Last Airbender). I already said (probably) all I have to say about that.
So if you haven't heard about the whitewashing of the live-action movie of Avatar: The Last Airbender, well, I have two images and one video:
The images (from racebending.com, where they used to be on the front page, now no longer hotlinked):
A post-script to this open letter:
The offensively harrassing, insulting, clueless, privileged, and generally massively FAIL-y behavior of Will Shetterly, documented by deepad here [updated link] and vom_marlowe here, and of Shetterly and Kathryn Cramer, documented by coffeeandink here?
So very much not helping.
I'm turning comments off because I don't have the time, energy, or patience to engage in discussion of this right now; but it was important to me to put my feelings about this on record. For more substantive discussion, see rydra_wong's linkspam roundups for March (2nd-4th to date, but pessimistically, I imagine there will be more because the FAIL, it just keeps coming).
You may recall, a couple of weeks ago, discussion of the repulsive behavior of William Sanders, editor of the online SFF magazine Helix. Now, Transcriptase has launched, which hosts reprints of stories and poems originally published there. If you want to read the stories and poems without giving hits to Helix—or, if you just want to read free SFF—check Transcriptase out.
Still lots of discussion going on; this is just an attempt to highlight a few different aspects.
vito_excalibur proposes the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program. One place for buttons and T-shirts is CafePress. Practical tips from kathryn_ironic in comments and shaysdays in a separate post.
A.K.A., let's revise the panel description right here.
When I first read it, this panel description:
Hidden Biases in SF
Why aren't there more blacks or Asians, Jews or Catholics or Muslims or Buddhists in even our most richly imagined futures?
Tobias Buckell, Gregory Feeley, Gregory Frost (m), Daniel Kimmel, Pamela Sargent
made me immediately say "Oh look, I could play Bingo!" Being cranky and wanting to get through the rest of the panel descriptions, I didn't think about it any further. But a comment of desdenova made me think more about why I had that reaction. While there are problems with that one sentence as it is [*] , my reaction boils down to that useful phrase from Pratchett's most recent book: this is the wrong sort of question.
[*] "Our most richly imagined futures," says who?; why is this being restricted to race and religion; what about multi-racial people; I prefer "black people" (etc.) to "blacks" (etc.); and probably more, because I have my own biases and defaults that I can't always spot on first glance.
In other words, I think that the answers this question invites are very 101-level. And maybe that's what Boskone/the proposer of the topic/the panelists intended, which would be fine. But the prospect of sitting through a 101-level debunking does not thrill.
What's the right sort of question, one that would move this past a rehash of FAQs or bingo-playing? My first thought is:
What are useful ways of identifying and addressing hidden biases in SF? What are the resulting benefits to writers, readers, and stories?
Much SF produced in the U.S. displays a lack of cultural diversity at odds with the reality of American society. Frequently, this lack can be ascribed to unconscious default assumptions made by creators. What are some effective strategies for identifying hidden biases in SF? How can doing so benefit us as readers, writers, and fans?
Which has been duly forwarded in case it's not too late to let the panelists see it and consider it.]
Thursday we went to a lecture by Kip Fulbeck, artist and creator of the Hapa Project, which is a series of photos of people who identify as of part-Asian or Pacific Island descent, accompanied by their own descriptions of their heritage and their handwritten responses to the question, "What are you?"
Note on terminology: Fulbeck's website defines "hapa" thusly:
ha•pa (hä’pä) adj. 1. Slang. of mixed ethnic heritage with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry. n. 2. Slang. a person of such ancestry. [der./Hawaiian: hapa haole. (half white)]
When subsequently looking around the Internet, I learned that this use of "hapa" is offensive to Hawaiians. "Hapa haole" does not just mean "half white," but "half/part white and half/part Hawaiian." ("Hapa" by itself means "fraction" or "part." There is a whole series of expressions for "part [ethnicity].") Therefore, using "hapa" to refer only to part Asian ancestry is erasing Hawaiians from their own language. For more information, see "Hapa: The Word of Power," by Wei Ming Dariotis; The REAL Hapa: The Hawaiian Hapa; and Wikipedia. I will refer instead to Asian-Americans of mixed ancestry or heritage (I prefer "ancestry" to "heritage" because I find it more neutral; however, the project refers to "heritage").
By far the most interesting part of this evening was the project, looking at selections from it in the accompanying exhibit and listening to Fulbeck discuss others during his lecture. There are samples online, which I recommend, and over a hundred prints in his book Part Asian, 100% Hapa. The project has three components: the portraits, the handwritten responses, and the descriptions of the participants' heritage.
The portraits: the wide variety of physical appearances fascinated me, and reminded me of a couple of things. First, in three weeks in Japan, I noticed that there was a wider range of skin colors and facial types and features than I had expected: which is just to say that even knowing that it's not true that "they all look alike," I could still be surprised at how much people of a single ancestry didn't look alike. (This being Japan, I believe the possibility that I was looking at people of mixed ancestry was very low, especially in the older generations.) And then when you add mixed ancestry, as in the pictures, the idea of stereotypical ancestry-related appearances breaks down even further or perhaps completely.
Second, the wide variety was another good reminder of how people of a multi-racial future are not inevitably all going to be the same color, because the biological and genetic processes that determine one's appearance are more complicated than just taking the average of one's parents' appearances. (Most of you have seen this already, but the easiest other example I have to hand is Toby Buckell's post on being multi-racial and Caribbean.)
On a similar note, one of my guilty pleasures is J.D. Robb's In Death series, which is set fifty years in the future but with very little rigorous thought to the worldbuilding. Something I've noticed is that Eve Dallas, the POV character, regularly identifies someone as mixed-race based on visual cues only; and I think this isn't realistic. Some large proportion of multi-racial people could be visually placed in multiple racial or ethnic categories depending on the viewer; and so even if Eve was super-extra-awesome at spotting six generations of ancestry from a glance or whatever, I think it would make more sense for her, as a police officer, to think in terms of less-ambiguous visual descriptions. Actually, what I'd really like in an SF police procedural is a set of standard skin tone descriptions, that communicate both light/dark on an absolute scale and the different tones on the lighter end. Someone create that and I'll start using it in everyday life.
The handwritten responses: as previously mentioned, these were to the question "What are you?" During the lecture, Fulbeck commented that the kids' responses (some of which are online) were interesting because they hadn't yet learned to think in racial defaults. I don't think that's true: I think they just hadn't yet learned to hear the question as one about race the way non-white adults have. It's also, of course, a hugely offensive question—I submit there is no good reason to ask anyone "what are you" outside of a costume party—and the responses reflected both of these to various degrees.
(I suspect, but do not know, that transsexual and transgender people also get this question. Anyone else?)
The participants' descriptions of their own heritage: the only thing I have to say here is that one participant listed just "Filipino," and in the accompanying response, pointed out that the history of the Phillipines means that there's a lot of Spanish ancestry in the population, among many other things.
As for the rest of the talk, I found it overly long and occasionally facile, especially in showing the video "Sex, Love, & Kung Fu" (viewable online) at the opening, but I also had a headache. I did think some about Fulbeck's descriptions of people feeling isolated by not seeing people who looked like them, and wondered why I never felt that way; I came up with no useful conclusions, however. On the whole, interesting project, and I recommend seeing it in an exhibition or browsing the book.
Edit: I meant to talk about the parts of the lecture addressing the selection process for the project and forgot. On being asked, Fulbeck said that to get picked, it helped to write something interesting and to be male (because 75% of the participants, all volunteers, were female) and not of Japanese ancestry (because some large percentage of the participants were). He was also asked about whether he was concerned about people fetishizing the portraits. He said yes; he had to cut the number of portraits by half, and as he, his editor, and someone else were going through the portraits with sticky dots, his editor stopped and said, "I have a confession. I haven't picked any hot girls." And it turned out they were all doing the same thing (so they went back and put a few in). Anyway, aware of the issue, but he said he didn't really know how to stop people. Which is okay as an answer, though a better one, IMO, would have been to say that he was attempting to portray people as people, which is one way to avoid fetishizing; but then he said shucks, no-one's ever fetishized me, I don't know how it feels. And then I was annoyed on gender grounds, especially since he'd made a few Mars-Venus comments previously.
In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, two different people asked me if I celebrated Thanksgiving.
Today, a store clerk was remarkably persisent on the where-are-you-really-from front. Was I from Indonesia? Where was I from? No, where were my ancestors from? Oh, they have a store clerk from Korea now. His name is such-and-such. [*] He's a student at the university—am I a student too? ("No, I'm a lawyer.")
[*] Because, of course, by virtue of us both being born in Korea, I was supposed to know him or to care.
Three data points make up a sweeping conclusion: the holidays seem to bring out people's unexamined defaults about race. I think it's because people feel obligated to make more small talk, which tends to be very mindless.
So, if you're not setting out to make the other person in the conversation want to pull their hair out, some suggestions:
- Avoid any assumptions about people's holiday practices. My current plan for small talk is, "so, how are you spending your Thursday / Tuesday / week?" I think this leaves open a range of answers, including "I'm having a quiet day in / going to the movies / volunteering," with the optional addition "because I'm British / a Jehovah's Witness / whatever, I don't celebrate Thanksgiving / Christmas / whatever."
- If you're white, think about the circumstances under which you'd ask another white person their ancestry. Then don't ask your non-white friends or acquaintances about their ancestry under other circumstances. This seems likely to rule out inadvertently-offensive scenarios.
I can't believe we're leaving for Japan on Saturday. And are leaving here on Friday.
. . . I only have thirteen or fourteen chapters of Genji left and yet I still don't think I'm going to manage to finish it before we leave.
Anyway. The week that was:
Dear new massage person,
When I say, "I have bursitis in both hips, and just got a cortisone shot in the right one," do not lean really hard on a tight spot in my right hip, because that? Was the inflammed bursae, and now the cortisone shot might as well never have happened.
Yours in never coming back,
She Who Will Limp Her Way Around Japan
Two movies in one weekend, which is pratically unprecedented for us. Besides Bourne, previously discussed here, we saw Stardust on Sunday with yhlee. It was pretty enjoyable: de Niro's role was, I thought, a misstep that verged on offensive, and there were a few places in the story that had been Hollywooded up, but those flaws didn't taint the entire thing. I refuse to compare it to The Princess Bride, however, because I've been watching The Princess Bride for almost all of my movie-watching life and I simply can't be objective about it.
(I really need try and make an icon of The Grandfather saying, "Yes, you're very smart. Now shut up," and possibly one of "She does not get eaten by the eels at this time." But not tonight.)
Pretty much everything else was International Blog Against Racism Week (my posts, all posts), which was enlightening and frustrating and heartening and maddening and oh so very time-consuming. My deepest thanks to everyone who took time to explain, who listened, who asked clarifying questions, and who otherwise helped make it a little easier to talk about racism. I had a lot of things to say this year, partly because I'd stored them up, waiting for the relative protection of being one of a school of fish; but I'm working on needing that less.
And on that note, I highly recommend damali ayo's I Can Fix It: Racism (PDF), which lists five things you can do to fix racism (via coffeeandink's post recommending three basic online resources; see also her recommendations of five books).