By Jacob P. Torres
@WORLDCON2018 is currently the largest dumpster fire on my twitter feed. This is impressive because I know and follow more than a few people who are heavily invested in national security and/or state department, and over the weekend the Trumpster Fire in Chief threatened war on a country we out-GDP 31 times over because he was having a moody day.
That the behaviour of the organizing members of WorldCon has been reprehensible is both shockingly obvious and by this point also expressed significantly better than I can manage at the moment by people all over the internet. Read Mary Robinette Kowal or Bogi Takács or JY Yang or John Scalzi. Scalzi also has a great piece on his blog from 2013 about what a goddamn harassment policy should look like and how not to be a bucket of failure in that regard. Brianne also wrote about this and I agree with every word she said.
Over the weekend we’ve seen three big problems emerge like someone has been summoning Lovecraftian horrors.
- A dress code sent to some but not all award finalists and award presenters.
- Shockingly re-writing the bio of a prominent member of the SFF community that wreaks of transphobia.
- The lack of new voices, specifically new voices that are younger, or who represent sexual, gender, or national minorities.
All of these problems are equally bad. All of them stem from discrimination. And it’s frustrating to find yet another community that fails to be as inclusive and as welcoming as we thought it was.
We look to science fiction– we look to speculative fiction– to show us some of the best of humanity. It’s born out of a desire to see a better, more inclusive tomorrow. In 2018, it’s certainly disappointing, but no longer shocking, to see the worst of us reflected in towering, rage-filled voices in the communities we have sought belonging in.
It is another reminder that we can do better. That we always must do better. And better isn’t something that happens in a vacuum. We have to work at it, fight for, clamor for it in numbers and voices that are impossible to ignore. And we have so, so far to go. I wasn’t going to be able to attend this year’s WorldCon because of scheduling conflicts, but it wasn’t until this weekend that this wasn’t something that upset me. I’m not going to rant about the big three problems, but I did have a couple sentences about the Dress Code nonsense.
The Unforgivable Shit About Dress Codes.
Some events, some places require dress codes. It’s an unfortunate reality for many, especially genderqueer or genderfluid. Because dress codes are inherently sexist. They’re almost always harsher on women than they are on men. Failure to meet dress codes is often used to excuse deplorable behaviour. Dress codes at award ceremonies are also prejudiced against people who may struggle financially. Today, Dress Codes mostly cater to people who want the sexist and classist institutions we are forced to work and live in to continue. They‘re more toxic today because the communities dress codes discriminate against have voices, and organization, and we ignore them still.
Bree and I both volunteer for another organization that has to have a dress code. It’s always a long and thorough discussion on setting that policy and making certain that it’s as inclusive as possible. That’s something that WorldCon appears to have failed profoundly at.
What Should I Do?
Well you should’ve voted for NOLA. When your options are silicon valley, known bastion of sexist nonsense or the place that has Mardi Gras, chose fucking wisely. N.K Jemison, Nielsen Haydens, JY Yang, Mary Robinette Kowal, and John Scalzi are all, as of this posting withdrawing from the panels at WorldCon76. If I was going to WorldCon to hear legends in the field, I’d have zero incentive to do so now.
I’ve struggled with this post to find something different to say than what has already been expressed by other, better people. But I realized it doesn’t fucking matter if I have something new to add. Nonsense like this, hurtful, spiteful nonsense like this, should always be called out. In the light of day, this kind of hate can’t live forever. Let’s not give it shadows to hide.
What we can all do is let your voices be heard. Go to @WorldCon2018 and tell them they’re being a dumpster fire. Then tell them you’re not going. There is plenty to do in San Jose, California that doesn’t involve helping these shitbags be a success. Get online and start tweeting about books you love from new, exciting voices, and make certain that you never shut up about them.
And finally go HERE, right the fuck now, and volunteer for World Con 77 in Dublin next year.
I really, really hope that anyone working on WorldCon 77 are watching Mary Robinette Kowal’s twitter feed today, she’s going on an epic rant about how to actually empanel a diverse, inclusive, and excellent set of programming. Let’s make certain that the planning group is full of people clamoring to be heard and guaranteeing that the inclusivity that’s present in actually nominating our Hugo Nominees is present in the planning of the events to celebrate them and the excellent work they’ve done.
And next time, unless if you’re given the option between NOLA and anywhere else, you know the right choice to make.
By Jacob P. Torres
Cover Description: “Two engineers hijack a spaceship to join some space pirates—only to discover the pirates are hiding from a malevolent AI. Now they have to outwit the AI if they want to join the pirate crew—and survive long enough to enjoy it.
Adda and Iridian are newly minted engineers, but aren’t able to find any work in a solar system ruined by economic collapse after an interplanetary war. Desperate for employment, they hijack a colony ship and plan to join a famed pirate crew living in luxury at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.
But when they arrive there, nothing is as expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury—they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents and shooting down any ship that attempts to leave—so there’s no way out.
Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the AI met an untimely end, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.
There’s a glorious future in piracy…if only they can survive long enough.”
By Jacob P. Torres
Find my spoiler-free review of The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso, book two in her Swords and Fire series.
Cover Description: “Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war.
But before an invasion can begin, the seventeen Witch Lords must convene at a rare gathering to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to smother the growing flames of war, and she is prepared to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction.
Amalia and her bound fire warlock, Zaira, must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war.
If they fail, it will all come down to swords and fire.”
By Jacob P. Torres
Any day is a good day to start a new book, but if you’re looking for something appropriate to start on Earth Day, here are five recommendations you might enjoy.
|The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin|
|For everything else in this book that is utterly and mind-bendingly magnificent, from the characters to the magic to excellently built world, Jemisin’s first book in her Broken Earth series is also a story of surviving ecological disasters and tangentially why the moon is important to all life on Earth. If you haven’t already read this book you may have been living under a rock. 5 out of 5 Cups of Tea.|
|The Terror by Dan Simmons|
|If you’re looking for a different kind of chilling, I’d recommend Simmons’ The Terror. Simmons takes the real-life disappearance of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in their attempt to find a Northwest passage in the mid-1800s and rewrites it as a gripping horror novel as the survivors of the expedition have to fight to survive each other, mythic monsters, and the harsh, unforgiving terrain of the arctic circle. Be warned that while the setting is frigid, the book itself is a real slow burn. 4 out of 5 Cups of Tea.|
|Clade by James Bradley|
|Clade is a look at how quickly everything can get out of control, how climate change isn’t just one day oceans will be a lot higher but it’s hundreds of connected smaller disasters that quickly turn everything to ruin. The personal drama that takes the center of this story feels genuine and raw. The ecological tragedies in the background, a hauntingly realistic picture of what could come. 4 out of 5 Cups of Tea.|
|Seveneves by Neal Stephenson|
|Stephenson creates a very different picture of what would happen if the moon went away. Hint: absolutely nothing good. While the science fiction and the character drama demands most of your attention, Stephenson does an excellent job of illustrating just how complicated, and damn near impossible to live anywhere but earth it would be for humans. 4.5 out of 5 Cups of Tea.|
|The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart|
|I realized that an underlying theme to these was “oh, look, the earth is proper fucked,” and thought I should put a nice, uplifting non-fiction book on this list. Stewart’s book covers the plants and processes that make the alcohols and additives we use for drinks. Her love of both booze and botany shines through in this book and the stories about how the plants became the key ingredients to the drinks we love will remind you of the importance of biodiversity and exploring the natural world. 5 out of 5 Cups of Tea.|
By Jacob P. Torres
I’m re-reading Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire novels before I read and review my ARC of his third novel, Revenant Gun. Spoilers abound in this review of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. Ninefox Gambit was nominated for a Hugo and Nebula Award for best novel and won the 2017 Locus Award for best new novel.
Cover Description: “To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.
Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.
Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.
The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao—because she might be his next victim..”
By Jacob P. Torres
Spoilers abound in this review of Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.
Cover Description: “Discover a shifting history of adventure as humanity clashes over whether to repair their ruined planet or luxuriate in a less tainted past.
In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity’s ancestral habitat. She’s spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.”
Han King’s The Vegetarian has been awarded the Man Booker Prize and while I can see the appeal, it left me wanting, not in a good way.
The story revolves around a family in which the daughter becomes a vegetarian after a nightmare. She’s compulsive about it, not eating anything that came from animals and getting to the point where instead of avoiding touching meat, she avoids touching people as well. The smell of sweat bothers her.
The story is short, with three different perspectives: the woman’s husband, her sister, and her brother-in-law.
To be honest, it’s pretty manic pixie dream girl. There’s some hand waving at magical realism, but it doesn’t follow through and the story’s structure feels stunted. The characters are mysoginists and flat. The pacing is meandering, and I didn’t find the story compelling. If it had followed through on some of its more magical and dream-related elements I would have found it more interesting.
Overall, it wasn’t for me. Maybe my tastes just aren’t literary enough.
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s Forest of Memory is a new Tor.com novella that (according to my .pdf reader) is about 50 pages. It also happens to be great to read while you soak your feet (which may or may not be how I read it). It chronicles the mysterious and unconfirmed week of a young woman who had gone missing.
The story is told from a first person perspective. The narrator, Katya, is a young woman who deals in antiquities, artifacts from previous years that show their wear. She goes up to look at a fairly rare find, a manual typewriter and dictionary, and is waylaid on her way home by a stranger who appears to be shooting—poaching? meddling with?— deer in the forest. She almost runs into the deer, but when the stranger notices her, he kidnaps her.
The story is fun for a number of reasons. The narrator is unreliable; it’s filled with intrigue; and you find yourself just wanting to know what in the world is going on.
It’s set in a future where people are constantly in touch with one another. People live stream everything. The narrator is particularly well known for this, because the authenticity and story that goes along with the items is as valuable, if not more, than the item itself. The very idea that someone could go missing and show up on the other side of the country without anyone knowing is basically unfathomable.
This brings into question a lot of different topics, like whether you can count on an individual’s memory, how interconnected we are, whether you can really have something be valid and authentic without “proof.” Kowal takes an, at times, round about way of talking about these issues, but the overall impact is no less effective.
The story is suspenseful and entertaining. There are moments where it can be slow, but this is often a good change of pace from the more tense moments of the book. The narrator is likeable, if unbelievable.
This was a pretty perfect evening-in book. Kowal managed to make an interesting world with a captivating plot that leaves you just wanting more. Better yet, she did it all in a story you can read in a sitting.
A big thanks to Tor.com for providing me with a copy of Forest of Memories in exchange for an honest review.