Thoughts

A #WorldCon76 Call To Action – #DiversityIs4Me

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If I don’t speak truth I can’t seek truth. — Ursula K. Le Guin, The Eye of Huron 

So much about the world these days leaves me feeling impotent. It seems like terrible things happen in a fire and windstorm that no amount of compassion can put out. For me, it can feel like a physical ache. It hurts in my heart and I feel it in my shortened, rage-filled breath. And yet, I often feel like this anger mounts and mounts and would burst in any other vessel. A firework locked in a safe, no place to let the pressure out.

When all of the #WorldCon76 controversy started and then came to a head, I felt so low.

To WorldCon’s credit, they’ve brought on a fantastic programmer in Mary Robinette Kowal to help fix the programming issues. But, still. Things like this shouldn’t happen.

But the truth is, not doing something is going to do the same thing that safe might do to a firework–pull out all the oxygen so the fire dies. That’s unacceptable.

The only thing to do is fight. And I need your help.

I can’t actually slap people (something, something pacifism), and I don’t know how effective writing my congressperson will be at effecting broader social change.

BUT

If there’s one thing I can trust to get a change started, it’s the internet.

(after all, if the internet can make rickrolling someone and the tide pod challenge a thing, we can also use those powers for good.)

What I need from you.

I’m still planning some outings for WorldCon and for those of you who show up, please make the effort to find me so I can feature you and your favorite underrated author on Instagram, but …

I want everyone to be able to work together for positive, community-wide change.

So, email me.

I’ll be posting video clips and text snippets from you. Email me some text or a video clip of you (30 seconds-1 minute) about your favorite authors. Include the authors you love who are persons of color, neuro-atypical, queer or who have a disability.

I want you and I to shout their names to the internet. Together.

Feel free to do your own posts using #diversityis4me

Message me on twitter or reach out to me at Bree.LowTea@gmail.com.

Keep an eye out for tweets, youtube videos, and instagram posts all about this topic over the next few weeks.

Let’s fight.

 

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A Big Fucking Hugo Sigh

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Well, I know it makes me naive and ignores a lot of fandom’s history, but damn if I don’t want it to be a haven. Science fiction and fantasy espouses some of what is best in humanity, and so I always hope that the people who love it will continue to espouse acceptance, love, and hope as well.

And so I made the best of the puppies.

And I forgave people who were internet jerks.

And people just keep giving me more and more strife.

Probably you’ve heard by now that there’s another dumpster fire in science fiction fandom. I wish this were less surprising.

TL;DR – Nothing that has come to light is great. I’m going to work to make it better. Here’s a plan, albeit limited by time, space and assistance.

https://giphy.com/embed/1wXeLxuTVBZe0Ht7Zu

I turned off my phone to sleep, and I woke up to news that the WorldCon 76 team had:

  1. Changed a person’s gender neutral pronoun bio to using the wrong pronouns
  2. Not put new Hugo finalists, largely persons of color and younger authors onto panels
  3. Sent dress codes to some individuals but not others “asking” that they dress professionally

Because, hey, it’s 2018 and why not?

I get it.

Conference running is really tough. Like on a scale of 1-10, probably an 8 or 9. I know; I’ve helped host thousands of people for academic events. Even in a place where you’re not coordinating dozens of panels and participants on top of booths, celebrities, vendors, and guests, you’re doing a lot of work.

But that doesn’t excuse shitty behavior

https://giphy.com/embed/wYyTHMm50f4Dm

So, let’s talk about this.

Shitty thing #1 – Screwing with bios and using personal pictures on programming

Well, this is easily one of the things that makes me the most mad. Program creators requested bios and photos from authors and other hugo-nominees and panel participants. +1 for having people explain themselves. Except they didn’t.

Bios were edited, including switching someone’s gender pronouns.

People’s professional pictures were skipped and personal facebook pictures (listed on private accounts) were used instead.

I cannot even fathom why this was considered ok.

Guess what, if you ask for a bio, as long as it isn’t wildly unprofessional or lewd, you should stick with that bio. In particular, you should NEVER change someone’s own pronouns. If someone tells you their pronouns, you accept those pronouns and move on. You aren’t the arbiter of pronouns and I promise you don’t know someone’s gender better than that person knows their own.

Using someone’s personal photos rather than a supplied professional one is a weird and invasive combination of ignoring privacy and not presenting your organization professionally. Just…What?

Shitty Thing #2 – Dress Codes

Rather than going on and on about this. I’ll just say, sending dress codes to some but not others isn’t ok. Hugo award nominees have enough on their plates, if a sparkly unicorn dress is their preference, it’s their damn night. Do what you will. I don’t care if someone is a man in a kilt, a woman in a miniskirt, or someone in a gender non-conforming outfit you don’t think is “pulling it off.” The nature of dress codes, in particular those espousing professionalism are both sexist and classist. I’m not here for that and I’m not here for it not being universally applied.

For a much more intricate look at the relationship between sexism and dress codes, here’s a fantastic piece by Everyday Feminism.

And this series of tweets shows a lot more at stake than who wears what type of heels.

 

Shitty Thing #3 – Not Including Members On Panels Because They Aren’t “Popular” or “Well-Known” Enough

https://giphy.com/embed/96jP5ZSpYxtwQ

Hugo nominees, in particular many of the younger nominees and those who have diverse backgrounds weren’t put on panels. Some of them have been receiving emails saying that they aren’t well-known enough to be placed on them.

This is ridiculous on two fronts:

1- Hugo nominees are definitionally well-known. To be nominated, you MUST have a not inconsequential presence and respect within science fiction and fantasy. PLUS, in theory at least, over the last five or so months, people have been reading those works and watching those movies and looking at that fan art. They have been a highlight in the community.

2- There is no way to make our fandom last without incorporating new voices. New voices are important to science fiction and fantasy. Without them, there will be no growth, and, frankly, growth is exactly what SFF needs.

At the very least, I’m glad I’m not living in a world limited to Heinlein and LeGuin. I want innovation and new perspectives, because this genre set needs that to maintain its lifeblood. And I want SFF to be around for a long, long time.

Fine, Bree, But What Are You Doing About It?

Right now, I’m talking to folks about setting up some outtings in San Jose. I understand this isn’t the same as at-con participation, but at the very least we can be a community that accepts one another. I’ll be working to get us accessible transit and will announce any outing plans soon, both here and on YouTube.

I’m bringing a fuck ton of pronoun stickers. I want to normalize inclusivity. The only way to do that is to make people realize that their world doesn’t have the rigid limits they think ought to be there and to call folks out on their incivility. If you show up at WorldCon, hunt me down. You can have a pronoun sticker for your badge.

I’ll be wandering with my Instagram stories going on throughout WorldCon. I want to talk to people about their favorite works, especially those that are debuts, new to you authors, #ownvoices, and that feature intersectionality. I’ll be posting frequently throughout the week.

Other things. Right now I’m open to suggestions. I want to help build community in places where community should be. Let me know your thoughts about what events or other activities you think should take place. Tweet me, comment, plaster my insta and YouTube with suggestions. Let’s make it happen.

 

 

Featured image photo credit: Facepalm Glax by Mattia Basaglia © 2017-2018 CC BY-SA

To the Dude Who Cut Me Off in the Comics Shop

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Hi.

I guess you didn’t see me here, just three feet away from the shelf, browsing comics with titles C-H. Sup?

I know. You didn’t realize I was browsing. Why would I be? You saw me come in with my boyfriend or maybe you didn’t. But regardless, I am an anathema here. Or at least to you. A woman doesn’t belong a comics and games shop.

Here’s some fun trivia for you. I was born into nerddom, a little baby princess ready to inherit. I was playing Magic: the Gathering before I ever considered playing Pokemon, and I knew by age ten that I loved Punk Rock!Storm way more any other version of her. I grew up in a comics shop and can slide boards into bags so fast, I’m a goddamned comics ninja.

But sure, stand in front of me so I can’t see the shelves anymore.

I get so sick of people like you.

There are so many people who don’t think I get to exist, or who cry “fake” when I talk nerdy. It will never matter how many times I’ve seen BSG or that I spent my childhood running around gaming conventions. To these, let’s face it, men, I’m an invader, taking up space and taking enjoyment from things to which I have no right.

Fuck. That. Noise.

Let’s not bother talking about the fact that just standing in front of someone or talking to the man next to them like they’re somehow not there is just plain fucking rude. Let’s just get to the root of this problem.

You don’t think women belong here. And you’re wrong. To paraphrase the great Kameron Hurley, women have always geeked. Hell, you wouldn’t have science fiction as a genre without the late, great Mary Shelley.

(This is my cat. She is named after Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary W. Shelley)

 

The part that’s always got to me is that you should be so damn excited I’m here. That I’m a real person. After all, relatively attractive young woman who’s into the same things you are?! That’s supposed to be what you cry on the internet about, isn’t it? That no one will love you because you like to recite L5R deep lore a little too much?

Huge eyeroll. Here’s the truth.

You don’t actually want to be around geeky women. You identify yourself with a class of “rejects” because (1) you have based your identity and self-narrative and the idea that you are a persecuted, sad lonely person, (2) you like to feel like a self-important gatekeeper in a world that doesn’t actually use you as a gatekeeper, and (3) you think women are incompetent and tasteless walking vaginas who just flat out can’t keep up with the smart man-brain powers that let you play five hour tabletop games based off of scary stories written by a dead racist.

The fact that so much of this male geek rage is based in a sense of self-righteousness and persecution is ungodly frustrating. After all, the easiest thing to be in America is a straight middle class white dude (+1 modifier for educated). And also, you’re just being fucking petty. You had a crush or an unrequited whatever and they shot you down, made you feel like you didn’t belong. So you’re taking the first chance to do that to someone else, because to you, cruelty is how you regain your wounded pride.

The worst part, though, is all the shit you ruin. Just by being a jerk. Like, ya know, video games and Comic-Con and the Hugos.

1
Yeah. There are easier ways to get laid.

Fun fact: no one spends hundreds of hours and tons of cash to dress up as a seriously perfect replication of a character just to get on your weasley dick. But instead of recognizing that, let’s ostracise all the hot ladies.

Let’s deep dive, though.

Why having women (and diversity) in a comics shop is only ever a good thing

Culture. It’s kind of awesome. And the more people who contribute, the cooler your culture gets.

Comics and nerddom are known for being insular spaces, but what they really ought to be known for is being *STORYTELLING* spaces. The best comics and movies and games all center around storytelling and world creation. When you add women and other diverse people into your spaces you get a much wider world of stories.

You get to finally hear about the Miles Morales and Moon Girls of the world. And those stories are fucking amazing.

I love Stan Lee as much as the next nerd, but let’s be honest there are only so many man stories a person can take before it gets old.

There’s also significant evidence that shows workplaces and social areas only benefit from different perspectives and a diverse culture. You think more creatively and work harder. Diversity literally makes you a better person.

Why not every nerdy space is your sacred hidey hole from reality

You don’t own Marvel or DC or Star Wars. Even if you did, the nature of stories and creation means that YOU DON’T CONTROL who consumes a work. Once you put something out into the world, the world will spread that as it wills. You don’t get to choose who likes something and who doesn’t.

If you really want to cloister yourself off into a space where no one else can enjoy something, you should stick to your basement or a password-protected limited access blog or something.

Until then, people get to enjoy whatever it is they want. That’s part of freedom (or whatever).

And just because someone does or doesn’t like something doesn’t give you the right to try to destroy it. Chances are good you can’t. The world is resilient and people, generally speaking, don’t like bullies. *coughVoxDaycough*

It’s cool though. I can’t stop you from being a tool.

Plus, my comics collection is bigger than yours.

Bree

Star Wars the Last Jedi, Shitty “Fans,” and Enough of this Bullshit

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By Jacob P. Torres

Buckle up I have some words. To say that I am disgusted by the amount of offensive nonsense going on in America right now is an understatement so massive it has its own gravity. And while this isn’t the forum to discuss all the many things that are keeping me up at night, this is the forum to discuss Star Wars. As was pointed out in the excellent article on SyFy by the same title, Star Wars has a White Male Fandom Problem. I’d put off making many comments about The Last Jedi or these basement-dwelling nutters because I’ve got more significant things to spend my moral outrage on, but ultimately, I was reminded recently that failing to speak out against racism, against misogyny, against intolerance, any time you see it is tacitly supporting that sentiment, especially if you’re born into a position of relative privilege that being white and male affords you. So, at the risk of having my twitter feed flooded with a bunch of sexist, racist manbabies butthurt that the movie they “love” no longer reflects the white-washed worldview that dominates their dark and empty skulls, here we go.

Read the rest of this entry »

Voting, Popularity, and Awards

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It’s been a long week, made longer by world events.

Needless to say, I turned to my books to keep me company while I’ve been riding out the storm. Books don’t want to talk about the merits of Trump v. Clinton, at least, not in explicit terms.

Yet, a different kind of electoral strife hits the bookternet at the end of the year: awards season.

The past three or four years in particular have had a lot of upheaval in the bookish world. In particular, the Sad Puppies’ impact on science fiction fandom has been controversial. But, all of the upset, the fighting over popular opinion versus panel awards, the debates over cannon, and the push for more diversity in publishing have left us wanting more and talking more. To me this has always been the upside of these “culture wars.”

That being said, it’s easy to be disappointed.

I woke up this morning to a flurry of messages. The Goodreads Choice Award finalists have been announced. After the initial shock of “Wow. This is a lot of stuff I haven’t read” and the following “These are not the best in XYZ category,” I think it’s worth while to revisit the idea of awards and their merit.

The Goodreads Choice Awards get the same general complaint every year: the books are too populist and not representative of the really great works in their genres or categories.

I’m inclined to feel the same way. Because of the open-forum nature of the Goodreads Awards and the ways that the awards nominees are selected, they wind up being much more of a “what was the best airport read of the year?” kind of award.

There’s a time and place for this, but it falls into all of the weaknesses of the publishing industry. Underrepresentation; promoting lighter reads over those that make you think; difficulty in getting recognition for works that are truly fantastic, but don’t get the same marketing budget.

I don’t know that there’s a way around this unless Goodreads users really start using the write in.

Bright Point! Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution was a write-in and has made it to the final round!

On the Brightside, there are hundreds of other awards that strive to be inclusive and promote more obscure or substantive works. It’s why we have genre awards. So, bummer, but we can all take this for what it is: an algorithm meant to promote increased amazon purchasing.

I’ll wait for the Booktubesff Awards instead.

 

The Ladies Who Could Have Been…

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My shelves are filled with ladies. I’m a fan of Leia and Rey; I adore Xena and Gabrielle; Buffy and Charmed are my sick day go-tos. I have feminist SFF coming out of my ears. But I spend a lot of time wondering if it’s really THEM that I like. Something about the Strong Female Protagonist is always going to grab me, but sometimes it seems like the Chinese takeout of the speculative fiction world: tasty and fun, but not always satisfying.

What I really want in my female characters has never been strength for strength’s sake. I want them to be rivers that run deep even when they look shallow. When I think about my favorite ladies, they tend to fit that mold. It’s not hard to see the complexity in Buffy’s character as the seasons go along.

I think what may be odder are the female characters I like who aren’t in the typical mold. I like many characters set up to be side characters and many of the main SFPs I can’t stand. It’s an interesting thing I’ve been thinking about lately. Read the rest of this entry »

Woof.

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Image result for Bored dogs

 

 

I haven’t been overly concerned with the Sad Puppies this year. I’ve talked about this before, but the general level of vehemence and craze among the more moderate puppy group had seemed to die down a lot with the turn of a new Hugos cycle.

 

A few tweets went up regarding the Puppies list. I more or less ignored it. Lists happen, particularly with awards. It was a few days later that I noticed what was actually happening.

The Sad Puppies list was up.

Twitter basically exploded, albeit quietly compared to last time.

The Sad Puppies list this year is considerably different from their past years’ lists, including in some cases more recommendations that nominating slots on a ballot. Note that though the original intent claim was to post ten works per category this didn’t happen, with more or less believability depending on category. It includes the usual suspects (Jeffro Johnson, the expected over-representation of Baen and Castillia House), but also includes Okorafor, Leckie, and Scalzi. If the Scalzi thing doesn’t raise your eyebrows, you haven’t been paying attention.

In truth, the Sad Puppies list includes some authors really worthy of awards and beloved genre-wide.

Unsurprisingly, authors have been requesting removal and posting objections to association with the Puppy Slate, including Alastair Reynolds, Cat Valente, and Peter Newman.

Should the authors have been asked if they would like to be included?

This  is an interesting question. Normally, I would say no.

But, the Sad Puppies aren’t just any old blog. Affiliated with the Rabid Puppies, Vox Day, and GamerGate, and the epicenter of last year’s fiasco, I think they should have.

The Puppies’ lists and base are rooted in controversy. They know that. Last year’s slate led to withdrawal of nominees from the Hugo Awards ballot for the first time in decades. The desire to avoid affiliation with the Puppies runs strong and not without reason. While the Sad Puppies calmed their rhetoric a bit, it’s clear that the self-positioning as interlopers to SFF being kept out by “SJW” cliques is being maintained.

Frankly, a good faith effort should have been made to contact every author listed on the SP recommendation list, regardless of past affiliation, leanings, or talk. There’s too much controversy for that not to be a minimum consideration.

What was the response to those who asked to be removed?

Generally sarcasm and overreaction.

I understand that the admins are frustrated. I understand that there was some genuine effort to back off the rhetoric and open up the Puppies to more varied selection. And, some of the anti-Puppy folks can compete with Vox Day for vitriolic anger. But, you don’t become the Puppy ringleader without knowing that people don’t like what you’re doing or who you’re affiliated with.

So, let’s not pretend that people requesting to be removed from the list are the “special snowflakes” and “delusional” types that Sarah Hoyt has called them on her blog. Hoyt is one of the Sad Puppy 4 coordinators\admins. She’s compared anti-Puppy folks to the Third Reich.

The objectors have been noted with asterisk (leading to some laughter about revenge for the asterisk awards at the previous ceremony)

Frankly, she would have been MUCH better served by putting an editors note that there’s a list of people who have been removed, posting the raw data from the forums, and then highlighting those who have been removed on the raw data file.

Let’s have a quick caveat

I do think she has made a good, significantly more insightful point that people are giving her credit for. It’s hard to get past the anger and resentment in her post-reaction blog to see it, but she makes it clear: who’s really keeping women and minorities out of SFF? Publishers.

It’s true. If everyone who spent the energy to tweet Sarah, Vox, or the other vehement sector of the Puppies on Twitter had spent the time to tweet Harper Collins, St. Martin’s Press, or Simon and Schuster about the lack of diversity in SFF, we may eventually see a more substantive change in the genre.

By and large, the puppy ship is sinking. Maybe it’s time to focus on the people who control the genre more directly.

 

Post-Script Note: I’m not discussing the Rabid Puppy slate today. Mostly because it lacks a sense of taste and appropriateness.

Additional Note: The original post pointed to Nnedi Okorafor for having tweeted about the list. I was in error. My sincerest apologies.