Monthly Archives: September 2016

Friday Links (brave 12-year-old edition)

This photo of a kid single-handedly trying to keep 11,000 antigay protesters from marching went viral this week.
This photo of a kid single-handedly trying to keep 11,000 antigay protesters from marching went viral this week.
It’s already the third Friday in September?! How did that happen? Oh, well! Don’t forget: September babies are superior!

This week has not been a productive week. We both came down sick. Each of us missed a day of work (but not the same day). And I’m not feeling rested and recovered yet. We also got news last week which almost certainly means that we’ll have to move next spring when our lease is up or shortly thereafter. I’ve been living here for 21 years, and I’m not looking forward to the hunting, the packing, or the moving.

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

9/11 Survivor Schandra Singh on Painting Everyone Who Died That Day.

My Lost Mother’s Last Receipt.

Ketchup sandwiches and other things stupid poor people eat. Or, what clueless people misunderstand about what many people have to do to survive.

Happy News!

Evolution of the 007 logo.

This week in stupid

The Oregon wildlife refuge takeover ended seven months ago. The trial is now getting underway.

This week in awful news

US teens often forced to trade sex work for food, study finds.

Suspected Rapist Told Authorities the Bible Gave Him the Right to Have Sex with Anyone.

‘It was a bloodbath’: Petting-zoo animals killed in overnight dog attack.

This week in the environment

Joint Statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

News for queers and our allies:

My Junior High Had a Burn Book, and I Was Outed in It.

Moonlight is a beautifully nuanced gay coming-of-age tale.

92-year-old mom has carried “Proud of my lesbian daughters” at NYC Pride Parade for 30 Years.

This is the moment a 12-year-old boy tried to stop 11,000 marching homophobe.

Science!

My favorite weather scientist has a podcast!

Behind the sugar industry’s 50-year mission to axe its link to heart disease.

NEW EVIDENCE SHOWS THE MOON FORMED FROM MELTED BITS OF EARTH.

A Timeline of the Earth’s Average Temperature Since the Last Ice Age Glaciation. One of the best graphics ever!

Royal Society Photo Contest Winners Capture Breathtaking Details of Our Rapidly Changing World.

X-Rays From Pluto, Charon’s Weird Red Spot Examined In New Studies.

Children are twice as likely to get their intelligence from mom.

George Price’s research into evolution cost him everything: He helped us understand how selflessness could evolve, but his work would have dire personal consequences.

Science Museum row: Ditching this sexist brain quiz ain’t rocket science.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

More 2016 Dragon Awards Reactions.

Biased Opinion – 2016 Hugo Awards Post Mortem.

Ursula K. LeGuin told her blog readers about a recent medical problem. Here’s wishing her a speedy recovery.

STAR WARS SUPER FANS RESTORE UNMOLESTED 1977 PRINT, DISTRIBUTE ILLEGALLY ONLINE.

The Three Fractions of Speculative Fiction.

And other news:

45,000 Pounds of Would-Be Pennies Coat Highway After Delaware Crash .

This week in Writing

STORYTELLERS ARE HACKERS. THE SYSTEM WE’RE BREAKING INTO IS HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS.

This week in Words

How ‘budgie smuggler’ finally found its way into the Oxford English dictionary.

The Complete List of Lewd-Sounding Town Names in America.

This Week in Tech

How a Twitter Troll Was Revealed to Be a 13-Year-Old Boy (Who’s Now Totally Grounded).

This Week in Police Problems

DOJ report spurs police LGBT Advisory Council.

13-year-old African American boy killed by police in Columbus, Ohio.

Culture war news:

This one quote shows what angry white guys mean when they talk about government overreach.

Fox News Commentator Tells Conservative Christians They Must Support Anti-Gay Hate Groups (Video).

Can Christians Learn from Colin Kaepernick?

After a Youth Pastor Raped a Girl, Their Church Asked the Victim to Apologize to the Pastor’s Wife.

Marine drill instructor accused of running a clothes dryer with a Muslim recruit inside.

NC feeling the heat of boycotts because of HB2.

NC Republican who voted for ‘bathroom bill’ panics as poll numbers plunge.

South Africa ​bans anti-gay Arizona pastor from entering the country.

This Week Regarding the Lying Liar:

Donald Trump Flat Out Lied About Use Of 9/11 Funds.

Donald Trump fans have been sending me racist, hateful messages for months. Here’s a sampling.

Trump Says Janet Yellen Is Keeping Interest Rates Low So President Obama Can Play Golf.

VIDEO: 176 Reasons Donald Trump Shouldn’t Be President. Wow. So concise!

The Time Donald Trump Dismissed Half of America as Losers.

This week in Politics:

This Is Critical: Hillary Can’t Back Down.

Who will Hillary Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’ comment actually alienate?

Hillary Clinton Says True Thing About Trump Supporters, Everybody Horrified Or Something.

Colin Powell Called Benghazi A “Stupid Witch Hunt” — And Condi Rice Agreed.

This Week in Racism

AND DO YOU BELONG? I DO.

Author Lionel Shriver dons a sombrero to lament the rise of identity politics in fiction. Racist author is racist…

Identity & Narrative: A Response to Lionel Shriver.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 9/10/2016: Paused pipeline, cease fire, and a tortured metaphor.

Sunday Funnies, part 20.

Three months later, Pulse shooting still a gut punch.

Wishing on 9/13….

The myth of live and let live.

Longing, Loathing, and Locution — how you love in sf/f isn’t the only way.

Videos!

The ‘Magic Mike Live’ Dancers Perform:

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

Dads for Transgender Equality: Joe:

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

Feast Your Eyes on The Full Trailer for Russell Tovey’s Gay Footballer Movie ‘The Pass:

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

Longing, Loathing, and Locution — how you love in sf/f isn’t the only way

Cora Buhlert argued very convincingly this week that there are Three Fractions of Speculative Fiction. She identifies them as the Traditionalists, the Anti-Nostalgics, and the Character Driven1.

Traditionalist fans want sci fi that is heavy on the engineering and explosions and light on the characterization. Rightwing politics in space is all right, but they’d prefer the stories not focus on issues that matter to women, people of colour, or LGBT people. Literary fiction is right out.

Anti-Nostalgic fans want speculative fiction that is sophisticated, literary, and eschews old paradigms. They vehemently reject anything nostalgic. They think the only worthwhile stories are the ones which break new ground and redefine the genre. Many of them give lip service to wanting diversity, but they heap condescension on all non-white, non-male, non-straight writers except one or two favored tokens.

Character Driven fans want sf/f that is heavy on characterization. They aren’t opposed to Big Ideas, but emotional arcs, moral dilemmas, and the effects of technology on human lives should drive the plot, to the point that sci fi tropes can exist as mere set dressing. They are especially fond of protagonists and settings which have previously been neglected in classic sf (women, characters of color, LGBT characters, disabled characters, non-western european settings, non-Anglo cultures).

I think these are fairly good definitions of three of the big categories of science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. Though there will be some overlap, and of course no classification system is going to neatly encompass everyone. For instance, I have emphatically argued that Babylon Five (which I loved) is not science fiction at all, but rather techno-fantasy. It is an epic fantasy which wraps itself in all of the trappings of space opera, but gets some extremely basic science that is fundamental to its main plot laughably and embarrassingly wrong. When I was in the heat of such an argument, I’m sure that I looked to all outside observers like a pure Traditionalist there. Whereas anyone who has read my fiction would likely place me in the Character Driven group.

I also agree with Buhlert that the struggle between the Traditionalist and Anti-Nostalgics has been raging in various incarnations since at least the 1930s. Her examples are: the Campbellian SF versus Pulp Adventure SF, the exclusion of the Futurians from the ’39 WorldCon, the New Wave versus the Campbellians (which had become the old guard by then), the rise of and resistance to Cyberpunk. With each wave, elements that had been new and different and championed by the Anti-Nostalgics were co-opted by the Traditionalist (along with some of their fans), until some other upstarts came along.

There are at least two other fan wars that were primarily Traditionalist vs Anti-Nostalgics that I’d like to throw into the mix. In the early 70s fans who had subscribed to (and later contributed to) magazines for years looked with disdain on fans who never read the monthly ‘zines, and only read novels and anthologies (which were reprints of selected works from the ‘zines). In the later 70s, when comic book fans started coming to sci fi conventions, there was another backlash against these newbies and their “picture books.”2

But not all of the upstarts have been Anti-Nostalgics. When Star Trek fandom blossomed spontaneously, rather than from within existing sf/f fandom, there was a strong backlash, with elements of both the Traditionalist and Anti-Nostalgics looking down on these Trekkies, who weren’t just newbies unfamiliar with classic sf and traditional fandom, but were far more likely to be women! Trek was just the first of many waves of Media Fans (new fans brought into the fold primarily by movies and television)—Doctor Who, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica3, anime, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight—that have each faced resistance and rejection from established fandom when they first arrived.

A lot of these Media Fans fall into the Character Driven category. And just like the Anti-Nostalgic waves before them, most of them have, after being resisted by Traditionalists, su sequently been at least partially assimilated—to the point that the stereotypical attacker of a Fake Geek Girl is a guy who speaks Klingon, has a collection of Star Wars figurines, and will attempt to exclude the girl by asking super obscure comic book questions.

But even more than that, each new wave of the Media Fans tends to have more women, particularly young women and girls, more people of color, more queers, and other marginalized groups than the existing fandom as a whole. I believe the reasons for that is that movies, television, and hit young adult books4 are readily available to more demographic segments of society, and find enthusiasts from all of those walks of life. Established fandom isn’t very welcoming of the newbies, especially non-male, non-white, non-straight newbies. The subsets of the previous waves that have assimilated into existing fandom winds up skewing male, straight, and white. Which perpetuates the problem.

The queers, women, and people of color continue to be fans of sf/f, but more and more they find welcoming communities on the web and outside the established fandom, some times creating their own conventions and meet-ups.

And it’s not just because the existing fandom is all actively racist, misogynist, and homophobic. It’s a combination of lots of subtle things. When the vast majority of the staff of a convention is white, and you’re not, you don’t feel welcome. When the vast majority of existing fans keep telling you that you must read certain classics, which are full of straight white male protagonists, with plots that are full of misogynist and colonial subtext, you don’t feel that this fandom is for you. Heck, when the existing fans won’t talk about anything published less than thirty years ago, and you’re younger than the books they keep talking about, you don’t feel invited7.

The most recent fannish dust-up, the Affair of the Melancholy Canines, is mostly a subset of the Traditionalist reacting to the kind of fiction the Character Driven fans like getting more than token representation in certain awards short lists, as well as the inclusion of non-white, non-male, non-straight writers and editors on those lists in more than small token numbers. The Melancholy Canines also claim that they’re pushing back against the sort of literary fiction the Anti-Nostalgics want, but the funny thing is that the Anti-Nostalgics hate all the same books and authors as the Canines. And if you read some of the posts that Buhlert links to, you’ll notice that they heap rather a lot of condescension on the writers who happen to be women or people of color.

I’m hopeful that this time, maybe, the section of fandom that welcomes (and is eager to both create and consume) sf/f that’s inclusive of all genders, gender identities, races, abilities, et cetera continues to grow and make inroads throughout fandom. It isn’t guaranteed. Previous waves haven’t been successful in changing the complexion of established fandom, after all.

But I’m not giving up. This queer fan is staying right here. I’m going to keep writing the kinds of characters and stories I like. I’m going to keep reading the good stuff I can find. I’m going to try to do a better job of promoting all of the interesting newer stuff I’m reading, as well.

“I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards. In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.”
― Philip K. Dick


Footnotes:

1. I am attempting to paraphrase Buhlert here, but my own perceptions may be skewing her point. If you don’t like anything I say here, blame me.

2. The current incarnation of the Anti-Nostalgics is very snobbish and literary, whereas the primary argument against both the non-magazine subscribers and the comic book fans were that they weren’t perceived as reading as broadly nor as seriously as the Traditional fans. Both sides have been snobbish in various ways. The comic fans argued that graphic stories (even though comics had been around for decades) were a new and more experimental art form than the unillustrated word on paper, for instance.

3. Original series. By the time the reboot series had happened, enough fans of the old series had been incorporated into the fandom community that the new series was embraced by most, and their fans tolerated by the rest.

4. It seems to me that Young Adult series have become the new gateway books. Back in the 50s and even still in the 60s5, the Heinlein juveniles were the introduction to sf for many. Though certain older fogies6 still insist on panels at conventions that Heinlein’s works are great gateways, the truth is most of his work (the juveniles in particular) have not aged well.

5. Which is when I was a child finding Heinlein books in school libraries.

6. By which I mean, older than me.

7. I’ve published on this blog a series of “why I love sf/f” posts that focus on books, short stories, shows, writers, and magazines I read as a kid and teen-ager and how they influenced me as a fan (and a writer). So I’m not saying that nothing printed more then a decade ago is worth anyone’s time. I haven’t written about everything I read back then, because not all of it was good. Even for the works I really loved, sometimes had problems I didn’t recognize back then, which I’ve commented on (the children’s book that had two antisemitic scenes which flew right over my head as a child, and shocked the heck out of me when I rediscovered the book in my thirties, for instance). The issue is that when established members of the community tell you (explicitly or not) that only people who love those particular books can be part of the community, well, when the young fan finds themselves cringing at the blatant homophobia, the racism, the misogyny (or at least total lack of any portrayal of many types of people who live in the real world), the message seems clear that we aren’t welcome in the community.

The myth of live and let live

We’ve all heard it before when certain topics come up:

“I don’t see color. I see people.”

“I don’t care how you pray. All religions lead to god.”

“I don’t like labels like ‘gay’ or ‘straight.’ We’re all human.”

“When I look at you I don’t see a man or a woman. I see a friend.”

“It doesn’t matter who you vote for. The important thing is to participate.”

They are usually intended as a statement of support for marginalized people. It’s a way to say, “I’m not intolerant!” It sounds so warm, fuzzy, and affirming, right? Obviously if we don’t perceive a person as different, we must perceive them as equal? Right?

Well, not really. I suspect that most everyone reading this felt at least a little bit uncomfortable reading one of those statements. Or at the very least wanted to quibble with one. Which one rubs you the wrong way and why it does will be different from person to person, but the truth is that each of the statements is just as problematic. Even the ones you agree with.

First, let’s talk about labels. The person who ordered blood tests and prescribed medicine for me when I was sick is a doctor. The person who gives me assignments at work is my boss. The man I stood beside and said “I do” about when the officiant asked is my husband. The woman who gave birth to me is my mom. The man who adopted and raised my mother and her sister was my grandpa. We don’t have trouble with labels 99% of the time. Labels are how we communicate and make sense of just about everything in the world.

We only notice labels when those labels are perceived to promote or impede an agenda that we have a vested interest in. We only want to ignore labels when acknowledging them makes us uncomfortable. If, for instance, we benefit from a particular societal preference, acknowledging that difference implies that maybe our success isn’t solely due to our individual merits.

Ignoring labels is an act of denial or dismissal. Race, gender, religion, socio-economic status, sexual orientation are essential ingredients in our identity, whether we acknowledge it or not. Because we are confronted with and shaped by societal expectations from the day we are born. Just look at how outraged a lot of people got a few years ago when one couple tried to raise their baby genderless and refused to tell strangers the child’s sex. Or the many, many studies that have shown are very differently people interact with a baby depending on what gender they’ve been told the child is.

“To overcome racism, one must first take race into account.”
—Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun

The truth is that society discriminates against people based on race, gender, sexual identity, socio-economic status, religion, and many other factors that the people who are most likely to claim they don’t care about labels would agree shouldn’t make one unequal in the eyes of the law. We can’t make society more equitable if we don’t acknowledge both the inequalities and the things which trigger the unequal treatment.

So trying to ignore these labels—specifically either saying or implying that ignoring them is a better idea than using them—is a way to try to silence members of marginalized groups. It’s telling them that their lived experience of being discriminated against is less important than your comfort. And quite often it is often a way to say that you’re perfectly okay with the inequality as long as it doesn’t affect you.

Second, claiming that you don’t care. The more often someone repeats a statement that they don’t care about something, the harder it is to believe them. If they really didn’t care, they wouldn’t say anything. This has been demonstrated most clearly recently by people who get defensive about video games, claiming that the games aren’t sexist; besides, if you don’t like them, don’t play them. Then the same people threw a hissy fit and called for boycotts when someone cast four women to play the leads in the new Ghostbusters movie. If sexism and representation didn’t matter to them, they wouldn’t have gotten upset.

Now, I’ve had people claim that the only reason they say anything is because we keep talking about it (whichever category it is). This has happened to me personally most often in relationship to sexual orientation. The cliché that I have heard millions of time is, “why do you have to keep shoving your sexually in my face?” Most ironically it came from the co-worker who had plastered an entire wall of his office with pictures of himself, his wife, and their five children—and he was objecting to a single picture of my late first husband (in an ugly Christmas sweater, no less) that I had discretely tucked in a frame on my desk where most of the time no one but me could see it.

Humans are social animals. We often are defined by our relationships to other people. People mention spouses, children, parents, friends, niece and nephews, and so forth all the time, without thinking about it. Studies have shown that if people we work with are reluctant to share these sorts of real life details, that they are perceived as stand-offish and not team players. It affects the likelihood that they will get raises, get promotions, and even the likelihood that they will be the person chosen to be let go if there are layoffs. So queer people are caught in no-win situation. If they are honest and open about who they are, they get accused of shoving their sexuality on people. If they evade the topics, they’re not team players.

If labels really don’t matter, then you shouldn’t mind hearing about them.

Third, claiming that you don’t want to take sides, you just want to live and let live. Why does this have to be a conflict, you may ask? Or “being intolerant of bigotry isn’t very tolerant,” you may say. This is a false equivalency. It is logically identical to saying that the person who reports a theft to the authorities is making a victim of the thief.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
—Bishop Desmond Tutu

When inequalities exist, live and let live just perpetuates injustice. You aren’t being tolerant or neutral or impartial, you are actively supporting the side of the bigot. You are aiding in the oppression. You aren’t helping the oppressed, you are doing quite the opposite.

“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” —Marin Luther King, Jr.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” —Marin Luther King, Jr.
Stop telling me what you don’t care about or don’t see. Show me what you’re doing to make the world a better place.

Wishing on 9/13…

Cover of the Sept 21, 2001 edition of the Village Voice.
Cover of the Sept 25, 2001 edition of the Village Voice. (click to embiggen)
Jim Wright, an author who is also a navy veteran, posted some comments about the 15th anniversary of 9/11 on Facebook on Sunday which upset a lot of people. They called him a traitor and other nasty names, and reported him to Facebook for violating community standards (which the post didn’t). Subsequently Facebook (as they always do) gave in to the loud voices of rightwing people who claim to love Freedom and Liberty, but only for people who agree with them. These folks also often yell a lot about how much they love Jesus, and then they call people like me faggots, lead prayers saying we deserve death, and call for people who have committed no crimes to be executed. So they neither understand what freedom means, nor do they understand any of the teachings of Jesus.

Mr. Wright’s post was blunt, and not at all a feel-good statement. But it also contained a lot of truth:

“You’re expecting some kind of obligatory 9-11 post, aren’t you?

Here it is, but you’re not gonna like it.

15 years ago today 19 shitheads attacked America.

They killed 3000 of us.

And then … America got its revenge for 9-11.

Yes we did. Many times over. We killed them. We killed them all. We killed their families. We killed their wives and their kids and all their neighbors. We killed whole nations that weren’t even involved just to make goddamned sure. We bombed their cities into rubble. We burned down their countries.

They killed 3000 of us, we killed 300,000 of them or more.

8000 of us came home in body bags, but we got our revenge. Yes we did.

We’re still here. They aren’t.

We win. USA! USA! USA!

Right?

You goddamned right. We. Win.

Except…

Every year on this day we bathe in the blood of that day yet again. We watch the towers fall over and over. It’s been 15 goddamned years, but we just can’t get enough. We’ve just got to watch it again and again.

It’s funny how we never show those videos of the bombs falling on Baghdad today. Or the dead in the streets of Afghanistan. We got our revenge, but we never talk about that today. No, we just sit and watch the towers fall yet again.

Somewhere out there on the bottom of the sea are the rotting remains of the evil son of bitch who masterminded the attack. It took a decade, but we hunted him down and put a bullet in his brain. Sure. We got him. Right? That’s what we wanted. that’s what our leaders promised us, 15 years ago today.

And today those howling the loudest for revenge shrug and say, well, yeah, that. That doesn’t matter, because, um, yeah, the guy in the White House, um, see, well, he’s not an American, he’s the enemy see? He’s not doing enough. So, whatever. What about that over there? And that? And…

Yeah.

15 years ago our leaders, left and right, stood on the steps of the Capitol and gave us their solemn promise to work together, to stand as one, for all Americans.

How’d that promise work out?

How much are their words worth? Today, 15 years later?

It’s 15 years later and we’re STILL afraid. We’re still terrorized. Still wallowing in conspiracy theories and peering suspiciously out of our bunkers at our neighbors. Sure we won. Sure we did. We became a nation that tortures our enemies — and our own citizens for that matter. We’re a nation of warrantless wiretaps and rendition and we’ve gotten used to being strip searched in our own airports. And how is the world a better place for it all?

And now we’re talking about more war, more blood.

But, yeah, we won. Sure. You bet.

Frankly, I have had enough of 9-11. Fuck 9-11. I’m not going to watch the shows. I’m not going to any of the memorials. I’m not going to the 9-11 sales at Wal-Mart. I don’t want to hear about 9-11. I for damned sure am not interested in watching politicians of either party try to out 9-11 each other. I’m tired of this national 9-11 PTSD. I did my bit for revenge, I went to war, I’ll remember the dead in my own time in my own way.

I’m not going to shed a damned tear today.

We got our revenge. Many times over, for whatever good it did us.

I’m going to go to a picnic and enjoy my day. Enjoy this victory we’ve won.

I suggest you do the same.”

—Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

I almost never write about 9/11. On the first anniversary, I made a post on my old blog called “Living for 9/12.” And I reposted it on this blog around the eleventh anniversary. I didn’t express the same sentiment as Wright either of those times, but I’m getting to a similar emotional space.

It’s not that I think we should forget the deaths that happened that day. But could we try using that grief to accomplish some good in the world? I mean, my goodness, it took us 14 years to pass a bill to help the fireman and paramedics and police who responded that day, survived, but have suffered longer term health issues. And yes, we killed the mastermind of that plot, but along the way we’ve bombed countries that weren’t involved, and have used the original tragedy to justify all sorts of violations of our own civil liberties, assassinating at least one of our own citizens without due process, not to mention developing a disturbing habit of killing civilians with drones!

Every year about 11,000 U.S. citizens are murdered with firearms, sometimes in mass shootings like Orlando or Sandy Hook, most in incidents that barely make it to the local news. That’s nearly four 9/11s every single year. Maybe we should actually do something to prevent some of those? Or at least let the National Institutes of Health research into whether we could do anything to reduce that number?

Why are we unable to work up any determination over any of the tens of thousands of deaths that have happened since that day?

I need to stop ranting. There was one other 9/11 post I saw on the day that I think is worth looking at. It isn’t like Wright’s at all, but it also doesn’t wrap itself in the flag to push an agenda. Tricia Romano is currently the Editor in Chief of a Seattle weekly newspaper, the Stranger. But in 2001 she worked in New York City, writing for another weekly newspaper, the Village Voice: I Was In New York City During 9/11. I’ll Never Forget.

Three months later, Pulse shooting still a gut punch

“Can you put your finger on the common denominator?” © Matt Wuerker, Politico cartoonist http://www.universaluclick.com/editorial/mattwuerker
“Can you put your finger on the common denominator?” © Matt Wuerker, Politico cartoonist http://www.universaluclick.com/editorial/mattwuerker

Three months ago, an angry homophobe walked into an Orlando, Florida gay night club and murdered 49 people, wounding 53 more. It was a Saturday night during Queer Pride month, and it was specifically Latinx Night at that club. The homophobe had spent time in the days before the massacre staking out the location. He had created a fake profile on a gay hook up app before that for the express purpose (based on the recovered chats) of finding out what the busiest gay nightclubs were in his community1. It was a planned hate crime.

The homophobe decided to buy an assault rifle to kill as many queers as he could after seeing two men kissing in public. The shooter’s own father was shocked at how angry his son had become when he saw that.

Three months later, reading about this still feels like a punch in my gut. I’m an out queer man who grew up in redneck communities during the 60s and 70s. I have always had the moment of fear any time I am out in public with my husband any time we show any affection. I have a specific incident where I know my husband was threatened with violence after we exchanged a quick kiss when I dropped him off at a bus stop years ago. It’s a dread calculation I find myself making whenever we are out with friends: is it all right if I call him “honey,” or will we get harassed? Can I safely say, “I love you,” or will we get threatened?

Thanks to this shooting, there’s now a new layer of fear and anxiety on that. Not just that I and my husband might be in danger, but that our actions might set off another bigot who will go murder a bunch of queer people.

Some people will ask, “It’s been three months; are you still upset about this?” And yes, people will actually ask. I know this because the day after the massacre happened people who I used to think were my friends were angry at me for being upset about the shooting.

Other people have much more immediate reasons not to forget: Last hospitalized survivor of Pulse nightclub shooting discharged. And now that he’s finally able to leave the hospital, Pulse nightclub shooting survivor plans return to New Orleans for recovery. Even though he’s out of the hospital, he’s got more recovery to do. As many of the other survivors are still going through physical therapy and otherwise trying to recover health and mobility that was taken from them.

There’s other kinds of fall-out still happening: State slaps $150,000 fine on security firm that employed Orlando Pulse shooter. The company isn’t being fined for anything directly related to the massacre. No, while authorities (and journalists) were investigating, the psychological evaluation he had undergone to get his security job was publicized. And people tried to contact the doctor whose name was on the evaluation. The problem was, she had stopped practicing more than a decade ago, had moved out of state, and hadn’t performed any evaluations for the employer since. At least 1500 employees were incorrectly listed has having been examined by the retired doctor during those ten years.

The state agency that investigated believes that all of those people were evaluated and passed, just that the wrong doctor was listed on their records. Over a thousand times. Over the course of ten years. Isn’t that reassuring?

I mean, a single psych eval doesn’t guarantee anything, particularly one done years before. And if I’m going to be disturbed about problems in the case, it would be the shooter’s history of domestic violence. One might ask how people get jobs where they are given badges and weapons and put in charge of security at places like courthouses when they have a history of domestic violence. I’m reminded of a chilling op-ed piece I read years ago that pointed out if having been arrested for domestic violence (or admitting in divorce proceedings to abuse) disqualified people from being cops, prison guards, and the like, we’d have a very hard time staffing departments, prisons, and so forth3.

A FELONY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CONVICTION IS THE SINGLE GREATEST PREDICTOR OF FUTURE VIOLENT CRIME AMONG MEN.”
—according to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s analysis of The Offender Accountability Act

Let’s not forget that all the societal forces and institutions that encouraged the shooter to hate queer people, and that afterward blames the victims for bring this thing on themselves just by being who they are, are still active in this country. Some of them are even running for high political office. Others are merely preaching in churches around the country. Though some are finding themselves less welcome with their co-religionists: Baptist Union distances itself from anti-gay pastor.

The pastor in question, Steven Anderson, is one of many who said (from his pulpit) the Pulse massacre victims deserved to be murdered. He’s not the pastor who said that who has since been arrested for molesting a young boy. But since this guy also often goes off on homophobic rants, it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets caught doing something similar. But right now he’s just trying to go to South Africa and preach. He might not get to spread his hate there, however: SOUTH AFRICA CONSIDERS BANNING U.S. ANTI-GAY PREACHER.

Not that banning one pastor from one country is going to make much of a dent in the hate: Fox News Commentator Tells Conservative Christians They Must Support Anti-Gay Hate Groups.

But enough about the hateful people. What can we do to help love to win? Well, the first thing is not to forget the previous victims of hate:

Victims killed in Pulse in Orlando three months ago.
Victims killed in Pulse in Orlando three months ago. (Click to embiggen) (Facebook/AP/Reuters/Rex)

Footnotes:

1. The political cartoon I link to above refers to the Orlando shooter as a “gay homophobe” which was widely reported, but later debunked by the FBI2. The shooter installed a gay hookup app on his phone and set up his account around the same time that he bought the weapon that he later used in the massacre. And as I mentioned, his conversations never turned into meetings. He would ask gays what the busiest club was, and if they didn’t know, stop talking to him. If they mentioned any clubs, he would ask questions about the nightclubs, and then deflect any attempts by the person he was talking to to actually meet. A few people who spoke to the press in the aftermath of the shootings, claiming to have been flirted with by him or have even had sex with the shooter. But the FBI determined that none of them had actually met the shooter.

2. I still run into people who believe that the shooter was a self-loathing gay man, and that this fact means it wasn’t actually a hate crime. First, he wasn’t gay. Second, lots of hate crimes against queer people have been committed by self-loathing or in-denial queer people. Doesn’t make it any less of a hate crime.

3. I wish I could find that specific article, but I haven’t been able to track it down. There are numerous other sources of that data, however: Research suggests that family violence is two to four times higher in the law-enforcement community than in the general population. So where’s the public outrage? for instance. Or: 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence.

Sunday Funnies, part 20

Another in my series of posts recommending web comics that I think more people should read:

© Brian Gordon
© Brian Gordon
Fowl Language by Brian Gordon is a fun strip about parenting, tech, science, and other geeky things. I’m a bit late to come to the Fowl Language party. I first leaned about the strip a couple of years ago, shortly after the artist posted the strip called Princess Costume. People were sharing it on twitter and on their blogs and it was funny and wonderful and sweet. I also like that fact that on the one year anniversary of this particular strip, the artist reposted a like to it saying, “This made a bunch of folks mad last year when I posted it…so here it is again. 😉” The strips are funny, and he also has a bonus panel link to click on under the day’s strip. You should check it out!

And if you like his work and want to support him (and his kids), he has t-shirts and other goodies for sale and a book available at many online sellers.


Some of the comics I’ve previously recommended:

mr_cow_logo
“Mr. Cow,” by Chuck Melville tells the tale of a clueless cow with Walter Cronkite dreams. If the twice-weekly gags about a barnyard of a newsroom aren’t enough excitement for you the same artist also writes and draws (and colors!) some awesome fantasy series: Champions of Katara and Felicia, Sorceress of Katara. If you like Mr. Cow, Felicia, or Flagstaff (the hero of Champions of Katara) you can support the artist by going to his Patreon Page. Also, can I interest you in a Mr. Cow Mug?

dm100x80“Deer Me,” by Sheryl Schopfer tells the tales from the lives of three friends (and former roommates) who couldn’t be more dissimilar while being surprisingly compatible. If you enjoy Deer Me, you can support the artist by going to her Patreon Page!

The logo for Scurry, a web comic by Mac SmithScurry by Mac Smith is the story of a colony of mice trying to survive a long, strange winter in a world where humans have mysteriously vanished, and food is becoming ever more scarce.

title
And I love this impish girl thief with a tail and her reluctant undead sorcerer/bodyguard: “Unsounded,” by Ashley Cope.

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 3.18.45 PMCheck, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu is the story of Eric “Bitty” Biddle, a former junior figure skating champion from a southern state who is attending fictitious Samwell College in Massachusetts, where he plays on the men’s hockey team. Bitty is the smallest guy on the team, and in the early comics is dealing with a phobia of being body-checked in the games. He’s an enthusiastic baker, and a die hard Beyoncé fan.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 5.36.43 PMMuddler’s Beat by Tony Breed is the fun, expanded cast sequel to Finn and Charlie Are Hitched.

The_Young_Protectors_HALF_BANNER_OUTSIDE_234x601The Young Protectors by Alex Wolfson begins when a young, closeted teen-age superhero who has just snuck into a gay bar for the first time is seen exiting said bar by a not-so-young, very experienced, very powerful, super-villain. Trouble, of course, ensues.

Caterwall by Spain FischerCaterwall by Spain Fischer is the story of Pax (the orphaned son of a knight who was the hero of the kingdom) and his best friend Gavin (the descendant of a line of seers). Pax is a young man who has a reputation for pulling pranks and telling lies, who gets exiled from the kingdom.

3Tripping Over You by Suzana Harcum and Owen White is a strip about a pair of friends in school who just happen to fall in love… which eventually necessitates one of them coming out of the closet. Tripping Over You has several books, comics, and prints available for purchase.

The Junior Science Power Hour by Abby Howard logo.The Junior Science Power Hour by Abby Howard. is frequently autobiographical take on the artist’s journey to creating the crazy strip about science, science nerds, why girls are just as good at being science nerds as boys, and so much more. It will definitely appeal to dinosaur nerds, anyone who has ever been enthusiastic about any science topic, and especially to people who has ever felt like a square peg being forced into round holes by society.

12191040If you want to read a nice, long graphic-novel style story which recently published its conclusion, check-out the not quite accurately named, The Less Than Epic Adventures of T.J. and Amal by E.K. Weaver. I say inaccurate because I found their story quite epic (not to mention engaging, moving, surprising, fulfilling… I could go on). Some sections of the tale are Not Safe For Work, as they say, though she marks them clearly. The complete graphic novels are available for sale in both ebook and paper versions, by the way.

NsfwOglaf, by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne is a Not Safe For Work web comic about… well, it’s sort a generic “medieval” high fantasy universe, but with adult themes, often sexual. Jokes are based on fantasy story and movie clichés, gaming tropes, and the like. And let me repeat, since I got a startled message from someone in response to a previous posting of this recommendation: Oglaf is Not Safe For Work (NSFW)!

Weekend Update 9/10/2016: Paused pipeline, cease fire, and a tortured metaphor

Muppet News Flash!
Muppet News Flash!
Time for some updates on some of the stories included in yesterday’s Friday Links! So, just moments after a federal judge denied the request of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe for an stay against construction on the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the U.S. Department of Justice and Deparment of the Army, and the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that they were halting the project pending further review: Joint Statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This is a big deal, and came as very welcome news to the growing crowd of protestors who have been camped out near the Standing Rock reservation: Federal government halts work on part of pipeline project.

It’s a temporary pause, and the feds have asked the construction company to voluntarily stop. But the agencies in question have the ability to make it mandatory if necessary. Also, it’s worth noting the judge was only ruling on whether an immediate injunction was warranted. His ruling doesn’t stop the lawsuit the tribe filed against the construction companies. They may well prevail in court, yet. That’s assuming the meeting that the government agencies are convening with the tribes and other interested parties doesn’t result in another resolution to the dispute.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Russia have brokered a cease fire in Syria: Syria Rivals Sign Up To US-Russian Peace Plan. Previous truces in this conflict haven’t held, so I don’t know how much hope people are holding out that this will lead to a resolution. But I think we have to keep trying. And we can at least hope that during the ceasefire aid is able to get to those who need it.

Meanwhile, things have turned predictably deplorable at the so-called Value Voters Summit: Gary Bauer At Hate Summit: Christians Are Like The Flight 93 Passengers Trying To Stop A Hijacking. I get it, tomorrow is the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the anti-gay, racist, misogynist, sectarian jerks have to maintain their delusion that they are under attack. They are probably sincere in their claims that any time they aren’t allowed to oppress (preferably with the full force of the law) people who believe differently than they do that they’re the ones being victimized.

“Like being a woman—like being a racial, religious, or ethnic minority—being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
“Like being a woman—like being a racial, religious, or ethnic minority—being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
But the steady march of America toward liberty and justice for all is not a hijacking. It’s what the country has claimed to be the goal since our founding! It’s particularly irritating when the person making this tortured metaphor is also someone doing it in the name of the religion that teaches: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

Friday Links (pipeline protest edition)

“What would happen if a for-profit construction company bulldozed a Christian cemetery?...” (Click to embiggen)
“What would happen if a for-profit construction company bulldozed a Christian cemetery?…” (Click to embiggen)
It’s already the second Friday in September?! How did that happen? Oh, well! Don’t forget: September babies are superior!

I’ve done very little writing and a lot of revising this week.

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

On Peace Between Christians and GBLT People.

This week in Seahawks

Building a New Beast Mode: It Will Take a Small Army to Replace Marshawn Lynch.

This week in Food

How Americans pretend to love ‘ethnic food’.

So what exactly could be wrong with having taco trucks on every corner?

Don’t Fuck with Librarians

Stage Play Spotlights Alabama Librarian’s 1959 Defense of Children’s Book.

This week in awful news

Syrian government ‘drops chlorine gas’ on rebel-held part of Aleppo.

Wells Fargo Fined for Fraudulently Opening Accounts for Customers.

National Guard put on alert as protesters await decision on North Dakota pipeline.

Dakota Access Pipeline Protests: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.

The Latest: Large Crowds in 3 States Protest Pipeline.

Aleppo: Key battleground in Syria’s civil war.

Camerawoman Who Kicked Refugees in Hungary Is Charged With ‘Breach of Peace’.

Rights Group: Refugee Children Still in Greek Police Cells.

This week in the environment

Dakota Access Pipeline Company Attacks Native American Protesters with Dogs and Pepper Spray.

News for queers and our allies:

‘LGBT’ is Not a Synonym for ‘Gay’.

Sleepless in Seattle: The Chef, the Quarterback and Transgender Rights.

The first openly lesbian contestant will take part in this year’s Miss America pageant.

19 LGBT Hindu Gods that Defied the Gender Binary.

Letter From a Greek Activist Fighting the Binary.

I WAS TAUGHT TO HATE MY LESBIAN NEIGHBORS. THEY TOOK ME IN ANYWAY.

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters. Alvin had been fighting the good fight!

Science!

Freddie Mercury has an asteroid named after him.

Bizarre ant colony discovered in an abandoned Polish nuclear weapons bunker.

Philae lander found on comet 67P as Rosetta mission draws to a close.

Why Canadians drink more coffee than most people in the world.

The giant panda is no longer an endangered species.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

A Bleary-Eyed (And Slightly Furious) Post World Con Recap.

N.K. Jemisin and the Politics of Prose.

March of the living dead lit mag submissions.

A related post by the same author: A personal rejection letter, sent to the literary journal which took 6 years to reject my story.

Here’s what I saw from the front row of the “State of Short Fiction” panel.

The Hugos, the Sad Puppies and 1970s science fiction paperback covers, which were ridiculous.

The 2016 Dragon Awards or Participation Trophies for Puppies.

World Fantasy tries again with programming.

Even More Hugo and Clarke Awards Reactions.

And other news:

New York’s Attorney General Just Announced a Major Investigation into Makers of EpiPen.

Pacific Northwest College of Art Cancels an MA Program Days Before Classes.

This week in Writing

WRITE BETTER SCI-FI STORIES WITH THIS SIMPLE IDEA.

This Week in History

Naming Demons: The Aramaic Incantation Bowls and Gittin.

This Week in Tech

Warner Brothers reports own site as illegal.

This Week in Covering the News

You Failed, Chumps.

Hillary Clinton Gets Gored.

This Week in Inclusion

If We Don’t Exist We Don’t Exist.

This Week in Police Problems

When Police Unions Impede Justice.

Culture war news:

The Women Who Challenged Sweet Cakes on the Cost of Their Battle. “We’re not political people, never wanted this attention, and only filed a claim with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries after six months of relentless media attention and harassment. Meanwhile, the Kleins quickly became media darlings of the right wing. Conservative groups flew them out to appear at events, Ted Cruz featured them in a campaign video, and their fundraising page raised over $600,000. In contrast, we became the target of hateful, violent threats and a daily onslaught of negative calls and emails from around the world. Over the past three years, we have received several thousand Facebook messages calling us fat, evil, and dumb — some with threats so violent that we have sincerely feared for our lives, moved houses, and lived in hiding in hopes of protecting our family.”

Mere Months After Orlando, Evangelicals Declare New Commitment To Rejecting LGBT People.

New Jersey GOPer Tells Female Reporter He Hopes She Gets ‘Raped’.

What Phyllis Schlafly Might Have Been, if It Weren’t for Women Like Phyllis Schlafly.

Donald Trump’s Extremist Allies: Who’s Who At The Values Voter Summit 2016.

Gays Who Lived Through Anne-Imelda Radice’s Tenure as NEA “Decency Czar” Aren’t Celebrating Her Gay Wedding.

This Week in Hate Crimes

Double Murder a Likely Anti-LGBT Hate Crime in Missouri.

This Week Regarding the Lying Liar:

Donald Trump still hasn’t paid most of his top staffers, and some of them aren’t happy about it.

Trump policy staffers quit after not being paid.

Donald Trump upstaged when Mexican taco truck arrives in protest and proves more popular than him.

At Least 110 Republican Leaders Won’t Vote for Donald Trump. Here’s When They Reached Their Breaking Point.

Trump Time Capsule #92: ‘How the Media Undermine American Democracy’.

Fox News Turns On Trump And Busts Him For Lying About Black Poverty Statistics.

Donald Trump Is Playing the Religious Right for Rubes.

Donald Trump Does Detroit: after weeks of preaching his sinister sermon of black pathology to mostly white audiences as part of his utterly fake “black outreach” — which is in fact the effort of a bigot to disguise his bigotry — Donald Trump finally brought his message before a few mostly black audiences.

Did Trump Happen Because Liberals Are Too Mean?

This week in Politics:

Hillary conversed with Colin Powell two days after becoming Secretary of State, not “a year later,” as Powell has claimed. Second, Powell essentially told her that he had just gone ahead and broken the law by “not using systems that captured the data.” Hillary, by contrast, chose instead to retain everything as the law required.

The 7 Biggest Deadbeat States Who Mooch Off Taxpayers All Vote Republican.

Gallup: Life got better for pretty much everyone under Obama.

Democrats Troll Donald Trump With a Taco Truck in Colorado.

The New York Times Screws Up Its Clinton Coverage, Part Infinity.

Why Hillary Clinton’s perceived corruption seems to echo louder than Donald Trump’s actual corruption.

Save the Republican Party: Vote for Clinton.

5 worst right-wing moments this week: Michele Bachmann’s apocalypse now.

Farewells:

Savannah drag legend Lady Chablis dies at 59.

Jon Polito Dies: Coen Brothers Actor & ‘Homicide’ Original Was 65.

Dabney Montgomery dies; Tuskegee Airman was 93.

In Unmourned Departures:

Anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly’s philosophy perfectly captured in 15 disturbing quotes.

Conservative Phyllis Schlafly, Foe Of Equal Rights Amendment And Founder Of Eagle Forum, Dies At 92.

Phyllis Schlafly, One of History’s Worst Homophobes, Dies at 92.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 9/2/2016: cute otters and delicious tacos.

The first draft is always… well, a draft.

Wrestling the bear: getting to the end of your novel.

No one likes change before and while it’s happening….

Videos!

An Emotional Surprise for an Orlando Survivor:

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

Australian | Aussie Shirtless Men Answer Boxers or Briefs in Los Angeles | 2016 Mens Fashion:

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

Saade – Wide Awake ft. Gustaf Norén (Official Music Video):

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

Sia – The Greatest:

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

No one likes change before and while it’s happening…

“Remember when floppy disks could save/destroy the world?”
“Remember when floppy disks could save/destroy the world?” (click to embiggen)
Several years ago I went on a rant about what a horrible idea it was to switch to digital music. I had a whole slew of reasons why keeping my music library on disc was a better idea. I liked my portable music player and headphones. I could carry a bunch of albums with me, and I could be sure that those discs would play in either my computer, or in the stereo or most stereo music players that most people had. I didn’t have to worry that they would get erased, or that a new player I had would have compatible software.

So it was ridiculous that people where carrying around iPods! Or any other digital music player, for that matter! What if the digital format in question was abandoned or obsoleted? How would you play your music on another player when this one wore out? Did owning music even mean anything when it was just a file on your computer?

Now, to be fair, I had converted a small number of my music discs to digital to play on my computer1, so I didn’t have to walk across the room while I was in the middle of writing something to change music. That was all right, but it was an alternative. It would never replace my real music library.

Then my husband bought me a pretty pink iPod Nano for my birthday.

And I became quickly addicted as I realized I could convert dozens of big heavy discs to files on the tiny iPod… Continue reading No one likes change before and while it’s happening…

Wrestling the bear: getting to the end of your novel

“Writing a book is like wrestling a bear. Some days you're on top. Some days the bear's on top. And some days the bear is on top, dancing around the room, ordering lattes.”—Neil Gaiman
“Writing a book is like wrestling a bear. Some days you’re on top. Some days the bear’s on top. And some days the bear is on top, dancing around the room, ordering lattes.”—Neil Gaiman
Writers approach writing in different ways. When I’m on writing panels at conventions, I try to slip in the disclaimer that no one can tell you how to write. All I (or anyone else) can do is tell you how I write. What works for me might not work for you. I can also give encouragement, share some tricks and techniques that other writers have shared, I can share certain abstracted observations about technique or perception, or I can be a sounding board when you’re trying to sort a scene or story out. But everything I say (even though I may sometimes say it very emphatically) is ultimately a suggestion. If it works for you or helps, great. If not, I’m sorry.

The way your brain works will not be precisely the same as mine. What motivates you will be different than what motivates me. The problems and plotholes and stalling points in your story will be different than in mine.

In short, each of us is wrestling a different bear. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help each other out… Continue reading Wrestling the bear: getting to the end of your novel