Archive | March 2016

Heading off to camp!

CNW_Participant_TwitterOnce again, I’m going to participate in Camp Nanowrimo. Camp is similar to the full-fledged National Novel Writing Month, except they’re much looser on the rules (not that the full rules are that restrictive). Camp Nanowrimo is for doing things such as editing/revising a novel (which you may have written during a previous NaNoWriMo, for instance), or working on a smaller project as perhaps a way to practice for trying to write a full 50,000+ word story in 30 days at a subsequent NaNoWriMo.

I’ve used it in the past to do editing, plotting, and revising. Currently, I’m planning to finish off an editing project, which I have described rather facetiously. Though I’ve been so unproductive working on my novel in progress, that I’ve also been thinking of knocking out a few very short stories I’ve been noodling on for a long time first. We’ll see how I feel after work tomorrow!

Why do this as part of Camp Nanowrimo? It’s helpful to me to have a defined goal, with a clear end date and some mechanism for measuring progress. More importantly, a mechanism for reporting progress so I have motivation not to goof off. In most of my previous Camps and Nanos, I’ve managed to remain focused and accomplish at least most of my goal more quickly than when I’m just trying to meet my own monthly tasks.

I enjoy bantering with my writing buddies, including cheering them on when they make progress, or racing with someone to see who can hit a higher word count on a particular day.

So, I’ve invited a bunch of my past writing buddies to be cabin mates (a cabin is a group of participants who share a private message forum and can easily keep track of each others’ progress on the cabin web page). I think we’ve got a good group.

It’s going to be a fun April!

Life, Death, and Unanswerable Questions

Logan L. Masterson, author of Ravencroft Springs.

Logan L. Masterson, author of Ravencroft Springs.

I had another post I was going to finish today, but then I got the news that Logan Masterson, an author I passed in the halls just a few days ago at NorWesCon, took his own life last night.

To be clear, I didn’t know Logan. I had seen him at least once before, and I had read a guest post or two of his on some of the myriad sf/f themed blogs and sites that I read, but I don’t believe I’ve ever even sat in a panel that he was participating in. Nor had I read any of his books, so it’s a little weird that hearing through my social media stream that he had died struck me the way it did.

Seriously, when I passed him in the hall this last weekend, it took me several seconds to remember why he seemed familiar. His name didn’t come to mind right way.

So why did the news upset me so? Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of how much fun I had at NorWesCon; and how—for me—a good convention experience leaves me feeling a renewed sense of purpose and a new appreciation for what a wonderful, messy, diverse, and strange variety of humans make up what I think of as “my peeps?” Maybe also a little bit of guilt that I could be having such a great time while another human I was (however briefly) sharing space with was apparently in great pain?

Someone who does know Logan personally has written about it: Silence or Violence: Logan, Suicide, and the Culture of Masculine Silence. And I think this part is spot on:

We need to be more compassionate, and more aware that we don’t know what’s going on in one another’s heads and hearts.

We seriously need to STOP MAKING A FUCKING SPORT out of shredding one another in public for fun.

We must stop holding each other to, and stop teaching our children to expect, impossible standards with unhealthy results.

And when someone cries out – regardless of their gender and our thoughts of how they “should” be acting in that time of crisis – we goddamned well should fucking LISTEN. And not make it about ourselves.

I know I’m guilty of failing to listen. All of that socialization about being strong and handling problems makes us say things we think are encouraging, but don’t sound that way to the person who needs a little compassion. If I read a post or an article by someone talking about feeling unattractive or undesirable, my first instinct is to argue with them. If I hear someone lamenting a bad situation, my first instinct is to tell them what I think they ought to be doing (or have already done) to fix the problem.

Instead, our first instinct should be to listen, to ask whether they want anything from us before we start outlining a plan to fix their lives, and offer hugs if we think they’re comfortable with it.

Hugs can’t fix everything. Listening can’t fix everything. But most of the time we don’t need to be fixed, we just need to know we’re not alone.

Onion arguments and thorny questions

"When you talk like that, I'm tempted to ring for Nanny and have you put to bed with no supper."

“When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for Nanny and have you put to bed with no supper.” (Click to embiggen)

I almost put a link to this fun post from Rachael Acks in last week’s Friday Links, but I also wanted to say some more about it, so I hung onto it. Which is silly, because I can put something in Friday Links and write about it either afterward or before, obviously. Anyway, first the link:

Reasons why I will not be replying to your argument

At the top of the post she says, “This post has been made for my own later use. Others are welcome to use it as well.” The idea being rather than argue with certain types of comments, remarks, concern-trolling, et cetera, just send a link to this post. If you want to give the person a bit more of a clue, reference one of the numbered paragraphs by number.

The last several days I’ve encountered several situations where number 2 and 2i apply:

2. Something you have said indicates to me that you lack the necessary factual grounding in order to have this argument, and I am completely uninterested in doing the background research for you.
i. If you are interested in paying me to do the research for you, for example by way of writing an annotated bibliography that you can peruse at your convenience, we can discuss my hourly rates.

Which reminded me of Foz Meadow’s excellent description of a “onion arguments” which she has referenced a few times, including in her post last year, Hugos & Puppies: Peeling The Onion:

When it comes to debating strangers with radically different perspectives, you sometimes encounter what I refer to as Onion Arguments: seemingly simple questions that can’t possibly be answered to either your satisfaction or your interlocutor’s because their ignorance of concepts vital to whatever you might say is so lacking, so fundamentally incorrect, that there’s no way to answer the first point without first explaining eight other things in detail. There are layers to what’s being misunderstood, to what’s missing from the conversation, and unless you’ve got the time and inclination to dig down to the onion-core of where your perspectives ultimately diverge, there’s precious little chance of the conversation progressing peacefully.

And it isn’t just in arguments. I had recent exchange in social media about my current bout of illness, which I had summed up by saying that I was on my third round of antibiotics, and I really hoped they worked because I was tired of all the blood tests, x-rays, et cetera. The other person said maybe I should see a doctor. Which made me reply, “Who do you think prescribed each round of antibiotics and all the blood tests?” Which they still didn’t understand why I couldn’t say exactly what I had and when I would be well. Which led me to assume that this person has had the great luck of never having an illness which wasn’t quickly diagnosed, and didn’t completely grasp how prescription drugs are sold, et cetera.

Foz also explains the reasons why this sort of situation can be so frustrating:

[Y]our interlocutor thinks they’ve asked a reasonable, easy question, your inability to answer it plainly is likely to make them think they’ve scored a point. It’s like a cocky first-year student asking a 101 question and feeling smug when their professor can’t condense the four years of study needed to understand why it’s a 101 question into a three-sentence answer. The problem is one as much of attitude as ignorance: having anticipated a quick response, your interlocutor has to be both willing and interested enough to want to hear what might, at least initially, sound like an explanation of a wholly unrelated issue – and that’s assuming you’re able to intuit the real sticking point straight off the bat.

And that’s how we get drawn into endless spirals. Which aren’t usually worth our time. Unfortunately, sometimes it happens with people we actually know and love (or at least like a great deal and would like to keep in our lives), and it can be difficult to figure out how to navigate the situation without everyone getting upset.

Particularly if when either you or the other person suggests some variant of, “Maybe we can agree to disagree on this?” but it is met with, “Thanks for invalidating my feelings!” or something similar.

When it’s a friend, unfortunately, we can’t just hand them a link to Rachel’s post referenced at the beginning of the message. The really sobering part is realizing how many times someone should probably have referred me to said post…

Stark raving nerd

I didn't manage to collect many badge ribbons this year, alas. But then, I forgot to bring my ribbons to hand out, and trading is where I usually get half my ribbons!

I didn’t manage to collect many badge ribbons this year, alas. But then, I forgot to bring my ribbons to hand out, and trading is where I usually get half my ribbons!

My previous NorWesCon post covered Thursday and most of Friday, but there was a lot more to the convention. My husband had had to work the first two days of the con, and didn’t get to the hotel until Friday evening just before we gathered for dinner. He hasn’t been feeling well since his trip to Missouri last week, so he wound up back in the room trying to sleep while I hung out in the bar with Matt kibbitzing on writing until it was time to meet Sheryl and Jon for the Burlesque show. It’s been several years. The last time I attended one at NorWesCon, a friend of mine was friends with several of the performers and had been the seamstress for at least one performers’ costume. I think that might have been more than 10 years ago.

The burlesque show is essentially a series of strip tease acts, often with sci fi/fantasy themes. And usually most of the performers are women, so you might understand why I, as a queer man, don’t attend often.

But they are fun shows, and more about performance and comedy than sex, so I probably ought to go more often. Matt was carded at the door, which was amusing. Jared, who was not attending, happened to text me having just realized I was at NorWesCon and asked me to take pictures. So I teased him about the fact that I was about to watch a strip show where they didn’t allow photography and too bad he wasn’t with us. There was more teasing, of course.

After that I headed back to the room to collapse into bed. Michael was asleep when I got there, but a few hours later when I woke up with a painfully stuffed head because of allergies he was awake. Not voluntarily, by any means. He was feeling even less well. He took another shower, and we commiserated about our various symptoms. After letting some fresh air into the room and waiting for more meds to kick in, I was able to get back to sleep, but apparently Michael didn’t. Before going to breakfast we discussed how to proceed since he was feeling so sick, couldn’t get comfortable in the hotel bed, and the small shower stall wasn’t conducive to soaking (which would have helped his knee which is still recovering for the recent injury).

The upshot was that he headed back home on the train. I tracked him until he was home. He had planned, when he left, to do a long soak in the tub, but he said by the time he was back he just collapsed into bed and sleep the rest of the day.

Auntie, Kehf (as Aunt Baru), Keith, Juli-sans-e, me, Jeff, and Geojlc at dinner.

l to r: Auntie, Kehf (as Aunt Baru), Keith, Juli-sans-e, me, Jeff, and Geojlc at dinner. (Click to embiggen)

So he wasn’t there when a big bunch of us had dinner and Julie and Jeff teamed up to take these panaramic pictures of us.

Geojlc, Mike M, Julie avec e, Mark trying to hide behind his hand, Auntie dressed as a Tatoinne Animal Control Officer, Kehf (still as Aunt Baru), Keith, Juli-san-e, and me again.

l to r: Geojlc, Mike M, Julie avec e, Mark trying to hide behind his hand, Auntie dressed as a Tatoinne Animal Control Officer, Kehf (still as Aunt Baru), Keith, Juli-san-e, and me again. (Click to embiggen)

After thoroughly confusing the wait staff multiple times with our orders and requests, I was sent off to my room to get my box of games and meet up and Juli and Keith’s room. We wound up playing four games of Give Me the Brain, none of which I won before deciding to call it a night.

Sunday morning I was a little slow getting up. I always have a hard time packing up the room on my own. It’s not just that two of us pack faster and can carry more per trip, it’s mostly that my husband is really efficient at this sort of thing, and keeps me focused. I have a number of friends who describe their distractabiliy as a super-power (to the point of at least one calling herself Distract-a-Girl!), but I think my brain is an entire horde of distract-a-minions. So even though I had a lot fewer things to pack than usual, it took me about three times as long to get everything out into the car and confirm I hadn’t left anything in the room.

Which made me a couple minutes late for the Why Representation Matters panel. But I’m glad I made it, not just because it was the third or fourth excellent panel that I got to see the fabulous Lisa Bolekaja in, but also because Paul Constant, whose book reviews I have been reading for many, many years was on it, and I finally got to hear his voice to place to the reviews. And it was an excellent panel.

I went to a lot of good panels, and really enjoyed all of them. Our last NorWesCon, a couple of years ago, had been less than fabulous for a variety of reasons, one of them being that, other than Auntie’s Seattle Opera Costume Department Trunk Show panel, none of the panels I went to felt worth my time (which is why I walked out of a couple). This year there were many hours where I had to choose between several panels that looked really interesting. I know the concom has been making efforts the last few years to shake thing up in programming, bring in some new blood, and so on. So that seems to have paid off. It also doesn’t hurt my perspective that I skipped two years. And this year I wasn’t a panelist, I wasn’t running a fan table, nor helping run someone else’s fan table, and otherwise had no obligations at all.

I didn’t even do my usual trick of stealth covering a volunteer shift or two in a department that is run by one of my friends.

I did hang out with my friends, though some of them less often than I would have liked. I introduced Keith to a new cocktail. I had buffalo wings just about every night. I got nicely squiffy at least one night. I did a pretty good job on my blood sugar all weekend. I picked up a pony plush, a set of pony key right charms, a sonic screwdriver earring, an Ash vs Evil Dead t-shirt, and birthday presents for two friends. I was given a Grumpy Cat as Dungeon Master t-shirt.

I met some cool new people, wrote down a lot of links to interesting web sites and have added a bunch of books to my “need to get this” list. Not to mention several new authors to follow.

For many, many years I would always buy our memberships for the next convention before we left. Three years ago, at the end of the con neither of us was certain we wanted to attend the next year, which is what led to us skipping in 2014 and ’15. I had a good time this year, but I had forgotten to ask Michael before he left Saturday what he thought. So Sunday morning I sent him a text (not certain whether he was awake or not). He replied about 20 minutes later that yes, we want to come back next year. So I’ve purchased our memberships for NorWesCon 40, and look forward to attending next year!

This, by the way, was the most awesome thing shown at the Movies and Previews panel Friday morning at the con:

It's a Mad Mad Mad Max Fury Road – Trailer from Monkey Blood on Vimeo.

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

It’s a nerd, nerd, nerd, nerd world!

NorWesCon 39

NorWesCon 39

So I’m at NorWesCon. I really missed this con last year.

My plan had been to pack Wednesday night so I could load the car and leave relatively early in the morning. But I was so tired when I got home from work that I had to take a nap. I slept for several hours, woke up with a nightmare (a really nasty one, too; I was frankly surprised that I hadn’t woken my husband, since it was the sort where I often start talking loudly in my sleep). So I got up and tried to write for a bit, then went back to sleep. And had another nightmare. Then woke up to hear my husband in the shower (he’s working Thursday and Friday and isn’t joining me at the con until Friday evening). I said goodbye to him as he left for work at his usual oh-god-o-clock in the morning, fell asleep, and had yet another nightmare.

All different nightmares, none of them anything to do with anything that I can think of. The important part is that while technically I was mostly asleep for a total of about 13 hours, I didn’t really feel fully rested. So I hadn’t packed and I wasn’t at my best, mentally.

Then I had a weird problem with backing trying to back up the laptop before I left. The upshot was, I didn’t leave the house to head to the convention until almost noon. Still, I got to the con hotel while there were still parking spots available. I managed to get one very close to the wing where my room turned out to be totally by luck.

I found Kehf fairly quickly, got the room keys squared away, then went to get in line to pick up my badge and only when I got up to the cashier did I learn of the new-ish (since I haven’t been here for two years) policy about bringing your signed statement with a bar code, so I had to go get in another line to get that printed out, then get back in the original line. And I wouldn’t have been grousing when I got to the second line if I hadn’t gotten to witness a con staffer essentially yelling at another attendee for the horrible sin of having not seen the email telling them to bring the signed statement.

Having been a con staff member at several different-sized conventions, who once unloaded on a particularly bothersome attendee, I know that I live in a glass house–and therefore should not hurl stones. (In my defense, that incident happened when I came down very sick at the con, and it turned out I was running around doing my programming director job while running a 104º fever, but it still means I was less than professional while being staff, so I get it.)

Anyway, Matt and Sheryl commiserated in line with me, and invited me to meet them for some lunch when I got out of line. I think my grousing was at least as much due to a less-than perfect blood sugar situation as anything.

We ate, then went off to panels. Sheryl and I had picked the same panel at 5, while Matt and I had picked the same one at 6. One was on “Any Tool Can Be a Weapon” which was a good discussion. The other was a writing panel, specifically ways to figure out your own methods to be productive. Also a good panel.

I had accidentally said yes to two different people for dinner (I thought I was agreeing to Friday night in one). I wound up hanging in the bar with Keith, Juli sans-e, and Mark. We saw Edd and waved him over, then saw Kehf and Auntie and waved them over. I also got to visit with Julie avec-e and Mike. Amy dropped over for a bit and introduced me to “Adult Wednesday Addams” and how did I not know about this before!

After we had hung out for a while, I went back to the room intending to get some writing done, but mostly wound up catching up on social media and taking care of some of the Camp NaNoWriMo prep. Speaking of which, if you have a creative project that you would like to work on in April, you should look into Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s a little bit more low key than National Novel Writing Month. Unless you want it to be a competition. In which case, we can do that, too.

Friday was mostly about running to panels, though I did wander the dealer’s den with Mark. I picked up some cool sonic screwdriver earrings and also found birthday presents for two friends. Woo!

Most of the panels I went to during the day were writing related. I still think the most interesting new thing I learned was at the weapons panel Thursday afternoon. But I got useful and intriguing stuff at all of Friday’s panels, too.

My husband took the train from Seattle after he got off work Friday, so I feel a bit less disjointed. It is weird; we’ve only spent a few minutes alone at the con, but knowing he’s here at the hotel with me makes me feel less incomplete. It is weird being one of two introverts (who are learned extroverts) in a relationship. There’s probably several blog posts in there, now that I think about it.

The upshot is, I am really glad to be back at NorWesCon after skipping a few years. And there are still two days of awesomeness to go!

Friday Links (doppelgängers and drug lies edition)

Just as the "Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer" meme died down, others suggested that he was once the lead singer of Christian Heavy Metal Band, Stryper.

Just as the “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer” meme died down, others suggested that he was once the lead singer of Christian Heavy Metal Band, Stryper. (Click to embiggen)

Thank goodness it’s Friday. Except I’m queuing this post up earlier than usual because once I left the office Wednesday night, I was on vacation. When this posts, I will be in the middle of my second day at NorWesCon 39. I had attended this convention faithfully for 26 years, until we decided to give it a pass a couple of years ago for various reasons. Then we skipped it again last year. It was kind of traumatic skipping the con, even though we had good reasons. I met my husband 20 years ago at a NorWesCon! Anyway, we’re going again this year, and I hope to spend a lot of quality time with some of my nerdiest friends!

Meanwhile, here are links to some of the interesting things I read on the web this week, sorted into various topic areas.

Links of the Week

33 And Never Been Kissed.

Ted Cruz and heavy metal rocker: Separated at birth?

This week in Privacy

Michael Wolff on Hulk Hogan’s $115M Verdict and Why Gawker Should Settle the Case.

Report: Apple developing at least 6 cloud infrastructure projects incl. servers to prevent snooping. “Apple has long suspected that servers it ordered from the traditional supply chain were intercepted during shipping, with additional chips and firmware added to them by unknown third parties in order to make them vulnerable to infiltration, according to a person familiar with the matter. At one point, Apple even assigned people to take photographs of motherboards and annotate the function of each chip, explaining why it was supposed to be there. Building its own servers with motherboards it designed would be the most surefire way for Apple to prevent unauthorized snooping via extra chips.”

FBI Vacates Today’s Apple Hearing.

Apple wasn’t ‘flouting’ iPhone order, judge says.

Apple’s Security Debate is Everyone’s Problem (Including Yours).

This Week in Diversity

All That Isn’t Said: Kaye M. talks Islamophobia in YA.

Reader Request Week 2016 #5: Pronouns.

This week in awful news

Everything is destroyed’: witnesses at Zaventen airport and Maelbeek metro on the bombings.

Militant Kurds claim Ankara bomb, German missions shut in Turkey.

Deadly fighting spreads in southeast Turkey after Ankara bomb.

Suicide bomber kills four, wounds 36 in Istanbul.

Brussels attacks: Two brothers behind Belgium bombings.

Since Paris, there have been hundreds of terrorist attacks — many that have gone unnoticed.

Mob trash university in hunt for ‘gay’ man.

This week in Difficult to Classify

When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?

What’s the largest number you can represent with 3 digits? Nope. It’s not 999.

This week in Evil People

An Anti-LGBT Hate Group Is Calling Themselves “Pediatricians” To Attack Transgender Youth.

News for queers and our allies:

The Pace of Queer Time.

LGBT NONDISCRIMINATION AND ANTI-LGBT BILLS ACROSS THE COUNTRY – Updated every Wednesday.

How Does It Feel? The Question I Wish You’d Ask Me as a Queer Man With Disabilities.

How a straight born-again Christian sports fan learned to love gay people.

This Tech Billionaire Is Going to War for Gay Rights.

The fascinating thing that happened when Apple CEO Tim Cook stood up for gay rights.

Science!

Lots of people like kinky sex psychologists call abnormal.

Cuba’s Had A Lung Cancer Vaccine For Years, And Now It’s Coming To The U.S..

Scientists have removed HIV from human immune cells using a new gene-editing technique.

Scientists just discovered a black hole that’s blasting the fastest ‘space wind’ in the known Universe.

The problem with a technology revolution designed primarily for men.

More ancient viruses lurk in our DNA than we thought.

Earth’s moon wandered off axis billions of years ago, study finds.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

Shameful Secrets of Comics Retailing: The Lingerie Connection.

This is Not a Wardrobe Door.

Regarding Tea and Jeopardy being included on a certain list.

Nineteen Puppy Four.

sad puppies 4: the… better behaving?

E Pluribus Hugo

Hugo Season 2016: The Return of the Puppies

This week in Writing

WHAT THE VICTORIANS DID TO ENGLISH GRAMMAR.

Culture war news:

Nixon Policy Advisor Admits He Invented War On Drugs to Suppress ‘Anti-War Left and Black People’.

“Ex-gay” or “conversion” therapy is harmful, and there is no scientific proof that it can change someone’s sexual orientation, says the World Psychiactric Association.

New Movie Incorporates Homophobic Stereotypes to Tell Anti-Gay Adoption Story.

POLITICS Supreme Court Rejects Attempt By Broke Red States To Kill Colorado’s Legal Pot, End Tax Windfall.

Arkansas City Councilor accused of asking restaurant server her gender identity and threatening to show her his genitals.

High school coach resigns amid ‘No Gay Thursday’ hazing.

North Carolina Enacts Law To Allow LGBT Discrimination.

NFL Wants to Sack Anti-Gay Bill in Georgia.

This guy thinks Safe Schools ‘turns kids gay’.

Ark Encounters is refusing to hire LGBT employees, and they’re asking taxpayers to foot the bill for discrimination..

Brownback signs bill allowing campus religious groups to restrict membership.

New Study Connects Suicide Rates of Transgender Teens to Bathroom Restrictions.

Mormon Lesbian Teen Was Forced to Carry Backpack of Stones to “Feel the Burden of Being Gay”.

This Week in the Clown Car

The Real Reason Republicans Won’t Rally Around Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz Might Not Be The Zodiac Killer, But He Could Very Well Be The Lead Singer From 80s Christian Metal Band Stryper.

Let’s be honest – Donald Trump is a loser.

Ted Cruz: Police need to ‘patrol and secure’ Muslim neighborhoods.

Donald Trump Isn’t the Only One in His Campaign Interested in What White Supremacists on Twitter Have to Say.

Kasich Hits Back at Cruz Over Call to Police Muslims.

Trump threatens Cruz’s wife during Utah caucus, stirs feud.

Police officer: Trump protesters were ‘the most hateful, evil people I’ve ever seen’.

This week in Other Politics:

Melissa Gilbert won hearts as a child star. Can she win a seat in Congress?

Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs.

Republican Elite’s Reign of Disdain.

Privilege is what allows Sanders supporters to say they’ll “never” vote for Clinton.

Farewells:

Guido Westerwelle: A man who loved freedom.

Things I wrote:

Keymasters and Gatekeepers?

Invisible or tragically dead… reflections on representation.

Confessions of a nerd.

Videos!

Time Travel Subway Car:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

GoGo Penguin – All Res (Official):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Federico Albanese – Stellify {live from The Blue Hour}:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Confessions of a nerd

I had taken this test before, but recently found a link to it and took it again:


I am nerdier than 73% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

I was struck by how dated some of the questions were, then I found the Nerd Test 2.0 on the same site and took it, and it was a bit better:


NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool Nerd God.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and talk to others on the nerd forum!

But still terribly dated. For instance, the second test mentions owning computers with more than a gig of memory. Really? Smart phones have that much memory, now. Therefore, all sorts of non-nerds own at least one computing-type device that falls into that category. I get that when the test was written, that threshold was a big deal, but what sort of nerd doesn’t think about how quickly technology becomes obsolete, and therefore would try to design a test so that it could still be relevant in a year or three?

In the sketch, four Yorkshiremen tell ever more ludicrous tales of how poor and disadvantaged they were as children, then another insists that was luxury compared to theirs...

In the sketch, four Yorkshiremen tell ever more ludicrous tales of how poor and disadvantaged they were as children, then another insists that was luxury compared to theirs… (click to embiggen)

The tests also mention owning computers with less than 512K of memory, which would imply that one owned a computer some years ago when home computers were less ubiquitous. But my first thought when reading the question was, “512K? Luxury!” (And yes, I am alluding to the old Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen sketch)

Seriously, the first computer I ever owned only had 1K of memory… and no persistent storage.

But I have nerdy/geek friends who weren’t even alive in 1983 when the Timex Sinclair was a thing, so using it (or even the 512K range) as a means to measure one’s nerdiness smacks more of ageism than actual nerdiness. It’s true that I have sometimes bragged about the fact that the only programming class I ever took involved writing our programs with punch cards. Hey! Fortran was cutting edge at one time!

But most of my point about that is: my whole adult life I have made a living in the computer industry and at different times my job has included coding or scripting (which aren’t the same thing, but they both involve algorithmic thinking), but I’ve done it all without taking formal classes in any of the languages that I have ever been required to use on the job. I’m not really bragging about how early I got into computers, because that is simply a product of how old I am. Since I had no control over when I would be born, that’s out of my control. I usually bring it up to say that the important thing about any skill is your ability to learn new stuff as you go and don’t be afraid to try something just because you’ve never done it before.

While things like a Nerd Test can be fun, there’s an awful lot of gatekeeping implied in many (most) of the questions (and we’ve had more than enough gatekeeping going on around here!). That doesn’t even get into the whole conflation of nerd and geek and dork!

I’m a nerd. I get really enthusiastic and pedantic about the things I love. And a lot of those things have to do with math, science, technology, science fiction, and fantasy. But you can be nerdy about words, or knitting, or art supplies, or bow hunting, or vintage cars, or—well, anything! One of my friends has been nerding out the last year or so on cocktail making, for instance. I have friends who nerd-out about cellos. It’s all good, and we don’t need to keep score.

I’m attending NorWesCon this weekend. We skipped the last couple of years, and I’ve really missed it. I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time hanging out with many different kinds of nerds, and being a big ol’ nerd myself.

It’ll be fun!

Invisible or tragically dead… reflections on representation

lovingmemoryI was catching up on some podcasts last week, specifically going back through episodes that I had started but not finished. I was listening to Cabbages & Kings, which is a sci fi/fantasy podcast that focuses on books and other written stories, with a focus on the things readers love about the experience of reading. In that specific episode the host, Jonah Sutton-Moore, was discussing queer romance in sf/f with Carl Engle-Laird who is an editor at Tor Books and is bisexual. It was a good episode, but I was shocked when Engle-Laird said that he had only recently learned about the Tragic Queer Trope/Cliché, and specifically that he had learned about it after he had already selected two books for publication in which the only queer character in the story dies. He says something along the lines, “I had just learned about this cliché and the pain it causes so many people, and I was about to publish two books that fit it and realize there’s trouble coming my way.”

The host of the podcast shared a similar story, about how he had reviewed a book in which the two main characters, who happen to be lesbian, overcome the obstacles of the plot and apparently live happily ever after. In the review he had expressed some surprise at how many rave reviews he’d read of the book before reading it himself. Not because the book wasn’t good, he didn’t see that it was a breakout book as so many reviews described. People reading his blog had to tell him that what felt groundbreaking about the book was the fact that the queer characters not only lived to the end of the book, but actually got a happy ending.

I’m not shocked that the straight host of a sci fi podcast was unaware of the prevalence of the phenomena described at TV Tropes as Bury Your Gays and Gayngst, or a bit more honestly explicitly at places like Another Dead Lesbian or The Curse of the Tragic Lesbian Ending and so on. I was disappointed, but not shocked.

It was the queer editor not knowing about this cliché that shocked me.

And I want to be clear, this isn’t meant to be a slam at either the podcast host nor his interviewee. I’ve been listening to this podcast for months, I like it (heck, I nominated it in the fancast category for the Hugos this year!), I listened to several more episodes after the shocking moment (and I’m all caught up again!), and will continue to recommend it.

But I’m still always disappointed when people in the business are unaware of just how unwelcoming to queer people most pop culture is in general, and sci fi/fantasy is in particular.

I realize that it is hard for non-queer people to grasp this, since they are so used to seeing themselves reflected in every show. Any time I’ve talked about a specific instance of “Bury Your Gays” with non-queer friends, their first reaction is always to explain to me that other people die in the book/movie/series. It isn’t that queer characters should never die. The problem is that nearly every queer character depicted in a relationship in pop culture either dies, or is left alone, bereft, and grieving over the death of the only other queer character in the story at the end.

All. The. Time.

That’s on the rare occasions that queer characters in relationships are included at all. Most often, queer characters simply aren’t in the stories. In those rare cases where queers are included, they are unattached romantically without any plot line other than to be the funny/eccentric sidekick to a straight character, or they die. And quite often it is a senseless death that exists for no reason other than to shock the viewer and give one of the surviving characters a reason to grieve and motivation to accomplish their goal.

One of several infographics at jcwelker.com/post/141225630214/vandelrio-nonadraws-this-is-my-final-project

One of several infographics at jcwelker.com/post/141225630214/vandelrio-nonadraws-this-is-my-final-project

If you think I’m exaggerating, here’s a couple of statistics for you. According to GLAAD, out of the 881 regular characters appearing in all of the primetime network shows during the fall of 2015, 35 of them were lesbian or bisexual women. We are now just a bit over 80 days into 2016, and since January 1, eight of those fictional women who love women have been killed on screen. That’s nearly one quarter (22.85%) of all the women who love women that have been allowed to appear on television screens this year killed.

Imagine, for a moment, if in the last three months 22% of all the regular characters on every single show on network TV had been killed off on screen. That’s 194 characters, almost 2.5 a night. Seriously, if regular characters were being killed off on every television show at that rate, people would be up in arms. They would be sending angry messages to networks executives asking why there is so much more violence in every show. The Daily Show and/or John Oliver would have some epic comedic rants about the murderous spree that all of the network producers had gone on, and those rants would be viral on Youtube.

Right?

If one quarter of all regular characters on network television shows were killed off every 80 days, then every show would have effectively a complete cast turnover every television season. And that makes no sense for a continuing story over multiple seasons, so no show-runners in their right minds would do that.

Fictional murders, senseless deaths on screen, et cetera are not random acts of violence. They are decisions that show runners and writers and network executives make. People are making the decision to kill off queer characters at a much higher rate than any other category of fictional character. Just as a lot of us have called bullshit on writers, producers, and executives who claim they can’t add a queer character to an existing series or franchise until the “right story” comes along, it is at best self-delusion when the decision-makers try to claim that it is just a coincidence that they kill off queer characters at such a high rate.

It is sometimes argued that the only reason that we notice when queer characters are killed off is because there are so few of them to begin with, therefore each loss is especially keenly felt. But that ignores the disproportionate rate of the deaths. Yes, if a quarter of all characters appearing in regular recurring roles in all shows were killed every 80 days, we could argue that the only problem is how few queer characters there are. Even if that were the only reason, the lack of representation itself would still be a problem, as I’ve argued before: Invisible no more: rooting out exclusion as a storyteller.

The truth is that both the lack of representation, and the excessive rate of disposal of the few examples of representation we ever get are symptoms of a deeper problem. Author Junot Diaz summed up the real issue best:

You guys know about vampires? You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?”

There is an agenda to deny us representation—to pretend we don’t exist at all if possible, or to make certain we are perceived as monsters, freaks, or tragedies if we must be acknowledged. Whether a particular storyteller consciously agrees with that agenda or not, whenever you leave us out, or kill us off without thinking about the message it sends, or sit by silently while someone else does those things, you are serving that agenda.

Maybe you should think about that for a bit.

Keymasters and Gatekeepers?

Puppies in tin foil hats

Puppies in tin foil hats (Click to embiggen)

So the Sad Puppies have officially released their recommendation list. Yes, I said list, not slate. Last year’s Sad/Rabid slates were coordinated and encouraged bloc-voting. This year different people are in charge of the Sad Puppy campaign, and they gathered a big list after taking recommendations for months. In all of the fiction categories, at least, there are more than five recommendations, so you can’t slate vote it.

A few other people have written about this year’s list. In sad puppies 4: the… better behaving?, Dara Korra’ti says a lot of what I was thinking when I saw the list. I’m glad that the Sad Puppies have taken a more transparent approach. I’m glad that the list isn’t dominated by stories published in only one very small publication house owned by one of the organizers. I’m really glad that three of the recommendations in a single category are not by the same author. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that the people running it this year are sincerely trying to do no more than get more of the works they like on the ballot, rather than push a political agenda. I’ve never objected to recommendation lists no matter who makes those recommendations. As Dara explains:

What I object to is their conspiracy-theory paranoia, their Not Real Fan bullshittery, their political propaganda, their insistence that people voting for things other than their list has nothing to do with actual enjoyment or quality but a cartoonish parody of a political standard they made up, and – most of all – their ballot-stuffing last year. But I do not object to them making recommendations lists.

I am also still a firm believer that at this year’s World Science Fiction Society business meeting we must ratify E Pluribus Hugo so that the particular hack that the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies exploited last year won’t easily happen again. And I remain slightly worried that the only reason the current leaders are being reasonable this time (and the more noxious folks are being quieter) is because they hope the rules change won’t be adopted, so they can do what they did last year again, since any rules change has to be approved in two consecutive annual meetings to take effect. I really hope that isn’t what they’re doing.

Unfortunately, since last year they were crowing that there was no way they could lose because they had taken over a couple of whole categories, then threw a hissy fit when it was pointed out that Hugo voters could No Award those categories, and then they tried to claim that’s what they wanted all along, et cetera, I have no confidence that this isn’t just a tactic to lull some voters into a sense of false security.

Alexandra Erin also shared some thoughts on the topic I found myself nodding in agreement to in Hugo Stuff: Just taking a moment to acknowledge…. The most important bit, I think is:

The fact that a small, self-entitled clique that sought to wrestle control of the award away from fandom at large was able to game the ballot formation so effectively last year came down to how low participation in the nominations historically has been. The fact that this same clique was given a thorough drubbing by fandom at large in the actual awards came down to how high participation was.

Meanwhile, in Sad Puppies Are Up + My Hugo Recs Cisrova wonders:

It may have been a mistake to post a recommended reading list with probably over a million words of content two weeks before nominations close. Unless it was a clever trick to say “aha! Sad Puppies was about the discussion, not the final list!” in which case, well played. That means that those who came over from places like File770 to leave comments and votes are now Sad Puppies.

And Cora Buhlert rounds up a few more comments and facts at Hugo Season 2016: The Return of the Puppies, and asks:

…if your followers heap abuse on everybody who dares to disagree with you, is it any surprise that a lot of people want nothing to do with you?

All that said, I am still happy about a few of the silver linings of last year’s Affair of the Melancholy Canines: lots of fans and small press writers who never participated in the Hugo voting before have joined; I met several cool people (particularly several very interesting queer and feminist writers) because of the discussions surrounding the affair; and the nominees for Dramatic Presentation, Short Form finally had some diversity.

I don’t think enough people give the Puppies credit for that last bit. In the previous nine years, at least two of the options in this category each time were episodes of Doctor Who (or a related show). The last few years the category has been three or four Doctor Who eps and a Game of Thrones episode, and maybe one other show. But last year, five different television series were represented. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the biggest Doctor Who fans out there, but there are and have been other shows that deserved a nod. Last year the ballot consisted of five different shows, one episode each. Which I think was great.

I have been reluctant to post my list of Hugo recommendations because, as Cisrova observes, with only a few weeks left until the deadline, there isn’t much time for people to actually read all the things I might recommend, and I think you ought only to recommend things you’ve actually read/watched/listened to et cetera. I’ve spent most of my spare time the last two months reading books I bought that were published last year, and reading short stories in on-line zines in order to have more things to nominate. But I figure there is nothing wrong with sharing recommendations, as long as one is clear that it is just a recommendation for things I think you ought to read or check out:

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
(I decided in the spirit of choices, to limit myself to one episode for each series I nominated)

  • Ash vs Evil Dead: El Jefe
  • Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
  • Orphan Black: Certain Agony of the Battlefield
  • The Expanse: The Big Empty
  • Person of Interest: If. Then. Else.

Novel

  • The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Shepherd’s Crown, by Terry Pratchett (in case the series as a whole doesn’t make it)
  • The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard
  • The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin
  • Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear

Novella
(I’m still working on this… lots of stories I’ve read and liked are shorter than novella length)

  • The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • The Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell
  • Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

Novelette

  • “The New Mother,” by Eugene Fischer

Short Story

  • “How My Father Became a God” by Dilman Dila
  • “Ashfall,” by Edd Vick and Manny Frisberg
  • “In Libris,” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “The Ways of Walls and Words,” by Sabrina Vourvoulias

Fancast

  • Cabbages & Kings
  • Galactic Suburbia
  • The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast
  • The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Flame On!

Fan Writer

  • Vajra Chandrasekera
  • Leslie Light
  • Mark Oshiro
  • Cora Buhlert
  • Alexandra Erin

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Ant-Man
  • The Rocky Horror Show Live

Related Work

  • Geek Knits, by Toni Carr
  • Bone Walker, by Crime and the Forces of Evil

Next, I need to go through all the online zines I read and figure out which editors to nominate in short form, and figure out what fan sites (in addition to File 770) that I read regularly count as fanzines.

I’m nominating only things I’ve read/watched/listened to myself. And I plan, just as I did last year, to read everything that makes it to the ballot, no matter who wrote it or who included it on a slate or list. If I don’t like the piece, it goes below No Award; if I like it, it’ll rank above No Award—again regardless of who wrote it or recommended it.

Friday Links (this is not great edition)

great2Thank goodness it’s Friday. The crazy in life continues apace. There’s so much WTF-worthy stuff happening that I just can’t keep up with all the news.

Anyway, here are links to some of the interesting things I read on the web this week, sorted into various topic areas.

Links of the Week

The dirty secret of conservative journalism is that little of it constitutes journalism. Except it was a secret to no one who wasn’t a conservative “journalist” apparently.

Happy News!

Coffee Company Gives Ex-Cons a Lift Toward Law-Abiding Life.

This week in security

Why Are We Fighting the Crypto Wars Again? The iPhone Crisis reignited a conflict that should have been settled in the 90s. The loser is our national security.

Lockpickers 3-D Print TSA Master Luggage Keys From Leaked Photos.

The $8 key that can open New York City to terrorists.

This week in I can’t believe people are arguing about this

Study finds that 3 laws could reduce firearm deaths by 90%. Three simple, non-draconian measures: 1) background checks to purchase firearms, 2) background checks to purchase ammunition, 3) individual firearm identification.

And other news:

The Numbers Are Shocking: Over a Third of Killings by Police Are of Disabled People.

Restaurant Manager Shoots Down A Customer Complaint With This Brilliant Logic. Wow.

Let’s make Twitter a better place by ridding it of trolls.

Customer shoots, kills hatchet-wielding man in Burien convenience store.

This Week in Diversity

LUMOS BLACK GIRL MAGIC: MY LETTER TO HERMIONE GRANGER.

All 142 Dead Lesbian and Bisexual Characters On TV, And How They Died.

J. K. Rowling and #MagicInNorthAmerica.

DIVERSITY WITHIN DIVERSITY: MOVING BEYOND OPPRESSION.

LGBT Women in scripted television are almost always killed off in deaths that serve no purpose.

News for queers and our allies:

What’s It Like To Be Young, Gay And Disabled In The Age Of Grindr? (Hint: It Can Be Awesome!).

Grandpa’s gay: Explaining my dad’s new husband to my kids.

Gay former officer in Royal Canadian Navy claims he was forced out.

Justin Trudeau Sends Bullied Gay Employee Heartwarming Message of Support.

Gay Cardinals Minor League player quit baseball when teammates said gays should be killed.

Kris Anka And Kevin Wada Help LGBTQ+ Superheroes Show Some Pride On Kickstarter.

Science!

Negative outcomes evoke cyclic irrational decisions in Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Orson Welles Hosted a NASA Documentary About Aliens in the ’70s and It Is Amazing.

Dinosaur find resolves T. rex mystery.

Report: LGBT Climate in Physics.

400,000-year-old fossils from Spain provide earliest genetic evidence of Neandertals.

Researchers turn carbon dioxide into sustainable concrete.

Pregnant T. rex Found, May Contain DNA.

Physics of ribbon curling unravelled.

Doctor’s Orders: Understand the Science of Weight Loss.

What Is The Most Beautiful Equation Known To Mankind?

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.

Unpicking a Pupspiracy: Part 1 [Updated].

Unpicking a Pupspiracy: Part 2.

How to make “Indiana Jones 5″ the best of the series: Kill off the racist, sexist tropes the series is steeped in.

Magic in North America Part 1: Ugh.

This week in Writing

Why We Shouldn’t Hunt The Trope To Extinction.

kindness is a virtue: why stories need happiness.

Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors.

Indigenous People Aren’t A Fantasy Race: On #MagicInNorthAmerica and Writing Other Cultures in Fantasy Fiction.

Why Publishing Is So White.

Deploying the monomyth in Space Opera.

Planet Of The Titans: the Star Trek movie that never was.

Forbidden Planet is Still Essential and Subversive Sci-Fi.

GAY COMIC GEEK: FALLING IN LOVE WITH COMICS AND COSPLAY.

Culture war news:

California Barber Cites Religious Beliefs to Refuse Transgender Army Veteran a Haircut.

How Trump Happened – It’s not just anger over jobs and immigration. White voters hope Trump will restore the racial hierarchy upended by Barack Obama.

Let’s Squash the Myth That the Irish Were Ever American Slaves.

Gay Wyoming Young Man Takes His Life After Relentless Bullying.

While America is distracted by the Trump freakshow, Indiana just passed one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the nation.

‘You guys got to go’: Milwaukee man kills 3 after complaining neighbor doesn’t speak English.

Sent Home From Middle School After Reporting A Rape.

Breitbart’s meltdown wasn’t shocking at all: Why we shouldn’t be surprised by this dumpster fire of a scandal.

Police: Man pours boiling water on gay Atlanta couple in bed.

This Week in the Clown Car

Trump Chickens Out of Rally at U of Illinois

Reminder: John Kasich Is Also Evil.

Marco Rubio neglected the basics.

Ted Cruz: Donald Trump is ‘scared to debate’.

What Are Trump Fans Really ‘Afraid’ to Say?

Noam Chomsky: “I have never seen such lunatics in the political system”.

White Students Keep Using Anti-Latino ‘Trump’ Chants at High School Basketball Games.

Muslim student at Wichita State reports attack by man shouting ‘Trump, Trump, Trump’.

Northwestern University students charged with hate crime, vandalizing chapel chapel with racist, homophobic, and pro-trump messages.

This week in Other Politics:

Sorry, media: The GOP is not imploding.

Watch the Bernie Sanders Speech the Networks Won’t Show You.

Rallying To Ted Cruz To Lose The Election.

The First Time Party Bigwigs Tried to Stop a Front-Runner From Becoming President It Backfired—Big-time – What the GOP can learn from the story of Andrew Jackson in 1824.

It’s not just Trump. Authoritarian populism is rising across the West. Here’s why.

North Carolina’s Voter ID Law Could Block 218,000 Registered Voters From the Polls.

Blackout Tuesday: The Bernie Sanders Speech Corporate Media Chose Not To Air.

On The President’s Ultra-Qualified Supreme Court Nominee: Merrick Garland.

Farewells:

Illuminating the Legacy of the Late, Great Ernestine Anderson, Seattle Jazz Singer, Who Died Last Friday at 87.

Sylvia Anderson, Co-Creator of U.K. Kids Series ‘Thunderbirds,’ Dies at 88.

Things I wrote:

Blood stains on their hands.

Weekend Update 3/12/2016 – there’s always silence.

Sunday Funnies, part 16.

The Incredibly Slowly Shrinking Writer.

Names, labels, deadnames, signs, and portents.

Videos!

This rendition of “By Myself” was slated to be the final number of the last episode of Judy Garland’s variety TV show in 1964. Producers are rumored to have nixed the song because they felt it was too dark. Personally, I think it explodes with affirmation in the second half. Judy Garland – By Myself [deleted] (The Judy Garland Show):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Jean-Michel Jarre, Peaches – What You Want:

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Stephen Amell and John Barrowman sing/kiss at HVFF January 23 2016:

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Cruz 101 | Full Frontal with Samantha Bee | TBS:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Marco Rubio: “GOP DROPOUT” – Song Parody by RANDY RAINBOW:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

X-Men: Apocalypse | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Marvel’s Daredevil Season 2 – Final Trailer – Netflix [HD]:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

John Oliver Never Thought He’d Have To Care About Trump:

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Lucy Rose – Nebraska:

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