Instead, he pointed to my magazine and said, “I didn’t know you were into science fiction! Who are you reading right now?”
I had met another fan. Which was a very rare thing through most of my childhood.
Those years were weird in so many ways. I usually use the shorthand description of “ten elementary schools across four states.” That is an accurate description of what my father’s petroleum industry job did to our life. It elides over that fact that almost all of those elementary schools were in tiny, redneck towns where most people listened to country music, watched Gunsmoke and Hee Haw every week, and went to church every Sunday morning no matter what. In such communities, my mother and an occasional librarian were often the only other people I met who even knew what sf/f was.
It wasn’t just that science fiction and fantasy weren’t popular, there was also that fact that our time in many of those towns was very short. It was complicated! For instance, it was late in fourth grade that we moved to the tenth of those elementary schools, where we remained through the end of sixth grade. Similarly, all of kindergarten, all of first grade, and a couple months of second grade had been at the first elementary school I attended. So eight of those elementary schools were scattered over second, third, and fourth grades.
Anyway, there is another weirdness to that tenth elementary school: the last of fourth, all of fifth, and all of sixth grade were spent living in a small town in Utah that was very close to the Colorado border, and less than an hour drive away from the small Colorado town where I was born—the town where my parents met and married as teen-agers; the town where my paternal grandparents and one set of maternal great-grandparents lived. The same town that we would finally move back to in time for me to attend 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. But the flip side of that is that at many random intervals during my 4th, 5th, and 6th grades (and especially the summers between each) we were visiting said town—which included attending church services at the church my grandparents had been attending for longer than I had been alive.
That two plus years nearish to the town I’d been born contained a number of important turning points in my life. My paternal grandmother bought me a subscription to Galaxy Science Fiction — which she graciously renewed as part of my birthday presents for the next few years. My maternal grandmother a year later got me a subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction which she also renewed for the next few years. The older brother of one of my classmates realized that I and said younger brother didn’t know what the word “boner” meant, and thus he decided to give us a very unauthorized (and not completely accurate) education in human sexuality. And then puberty hit and that last bit became more relevant (but also mostly useless) than I’d expected.
All of those things will become important to this story eventually, I promise.
My paternal grandmother had “accidentally” set up my subscription so my magazines arrived at her house, so I couldn’t actually read them until I came to visit. Mom had driven herself, my sister, and I over to my grandparents during midday on a particular Saturday, and I had only got a short period of time Saturday night to start reading my latest copy of Galaxy. Which is how I came to be sitting in my grandparents’ car in a church parking lot trying to read my science fiction magazine when Donny tapped on the car window.
Donny was the youngest son of Mr & Mr. G. Mr G had been my Grandpa’s best friend since WWII, and after the war they had both ended up moving their families to the same small town in Colorado. Mr & Mrs G were essentially my dad’s godparents. Southern Baptists absolutely do not believe in baptizing babies, so that don’t have christening ceremonies and they don’t have godparents. But many Southern Baptist churches do “Dedication Services” for newborn babies, and at those services non-family members who are also members of the church agree to be sponsors of the child—which is just godparents and christening with different names, but we won’t worry about that.
Mr & Mrs G were slightly older than my grandparents. Mrs G had been a school teacher in the local school district for many years, and in addition to being my father’s godmother, had also been his teacher for one grade. They had three children who were similar ages as my parents. Their eldest, a daughter, was the Secretary who ran the administrative office at the Middle School. Their middle child, also a daughter, taught at the elementary school. And their youngest, their only son, Donny, was a bus driver and maintenance person for the school district.
Donny was about ten years older than me, so he was 20 or 21 years old at the time of this meeting and therefore an adult. But he was also someone that I had more or less known my entire life. But he had been someone at the outskirts of church events and the few social occasions we’d both attended. I had a vague notion that he had completed some course of study at a nearby Junior College sort of recently, and when he’d come back, he had moved out of his parents’ home and gotten his own place.
I remember that the conversation was quite fun, with him being a fan of several writers I had never heard of, as well as some that I had barely heard of. I specifically remember that he wasn’t much of a Heinlein fan, but understanding why lots of people were. Our mutual nerding out went on until the after service coffee meet broke up and everyone drifted out of church and to their cars.
It was probably two months later that I saw Donny again, since most Sundays we stayed in the small town in Utah and attended church there. We had another conversation, that time on the steps of the church about sf/f books we were each currently reading.
My family was gearing up to move to that town. My folks had bought some property. We started coming over to spend almost every weekend with my grandparents, as Dad, Grandpa, and I would work on various aspects of the plot to get it ready. My tasks over those weeks ranged from things like digging the ditch that the natural gas pipe from the newly installed meter to the house would go, or pulling weeds, or painting pipe pieces with protective sealant. At some point a decision was made to bring my bicycle from home to my grandparents’ place, because Dad and Grandpa found it useful to be able to send me on errands while they continued to work to get the property ready for us to move in.
There came an afternoon during this time when I didn’t have any construction related tasks to do nor errands to run. I was free to goof-off if I wanted. So I got on my bicycle and rode to Donny’s house. Because we were in town almost every weekend at that point, I had been having enthusiastic conversations with Donny about whatever book or story had most recently caught my interest. At some point I had looked Donny up in the local phone book and found his address. I don’t know what I expected, it’s just that Donny was at that point the closest thing I had to a local friend, and we both loved the same kinds of books. He was clearly surprised to find me on his doorstep. He didn’t invite me in. We had a conversation on his front porch where I enthused about some story I had read recently, while he nodded and made the occasional comment.
It was awkward and I wasn’t sure why.
I think it was two Sundays later when Donny came up to me at church and told me that he thought I should try to make some friends my own age. “It’s fun to talk to you about books, but you I think you’d be better off spending more time doing normal things for a boy your age.” And he walked away.
He was certainly not the first adult I had known who had suggested that I should spend less time reading and more time playing with other kids. But I hadn’t thought of Donny as one of those kinds of adults. And it never feels good to have someone tell you that they do not want to be your friend.
As it happened, I had become friends with a couple of guys my age who attended the same church. And when school started that fall, I made a few more friends (but also acquired new bullies). One of the friends I met became a bit more than a friend, as we frequently found ways to fool around together.
When I saw Donny at church, he always seemed to be turning away to talk to someone else or simply walking out of the room. When I saw him at school it was different. Donny greeted and joked with all of the kids. If he saw me, he would call out my name, and make a comment like “Hope you’re reading good stuff!” It wasn’t any different than he acted with any other students, but it was infinitely more friendly than he acted at church.
One day, well more than a year after that “find friends your own age” conversation, as I was walking to school, I saw Mr G backing his truck out of his driveway, turning rapidly with a squeal of tire, and heading up the road. It so happened that Donny’s parents, Mr and Mrs G, lived in a house that was right next to the middle school. You could see their front yard and driveway from the windows in the Science classroom, for instance. Mr G didn’t normally drive that like that, so it stuck out as weird.
Minutes later, as I was talking to some of my classmates before going inside, I learned that there was a problem with one of the school bus routes. A driver hadn’t shown up for work, and the substitute hadn’t known the route. So one of the buses was somewhere out in sticks half loaded with kids while the other drivers on the CB radio attempted to talk him through the route.
Classes got underway, but there was more weirdness. While the guys in my grade were in gym class, the girls were all in social studies, and they had noticed from the social studies room’s windows a county sheriff’s deputy car driving into town much more rapidly than usual (the highway was visible from the school as well), and that he had flashed his lights before driving through a stop light and then turned uphill. Before that class was over, the girls also saw an ambulance, without its lights on, turn up the same road.
As us boys were coming out of gym class, we saw Miss G, Donny’s eldest sister who was the school secretary, hurrying out the main doors. She seemed upset. None of us had ever seen Miss G leave the school grounds while school was in session before that. And when we joined the girls in our next class we heard about the police car and ambulance.
Two class periods later the Principal announced over the PA system that Donny had died in his sleep the night before. Miss G would be taking a few days leave of absence, so some administrative things might not run as smoothly as usual for the next few days.
My memories of the funeral service (held at our church some days later): the family opted for a closed casket service; after the service Mrs G had draped herself over the casket sobbing uncontrollably, with Mr G, her daughters, and a number of others trying to offer condolences; at the reception in the church’s social hall a lot of the adults kept exchanging meaningful looks; there was whispering.
The whispering between the adults continued for some weeks. Any time adults were talking about Donny and noticed me, they would quickly change the subject. I remember several times hearing specific references to the fact that during the previous several summers, he had gone to a town known as a tourist hub elsewhere in state where he worked as a bartender. Lots of school district employees had a summer gig, usually in another town some distance away. At the time I figured that, given Southern Baptists’ feelings about alcohol, the bartending was considered something of a scandal.
The official cause of death eventually announced was a previously undiagnosed heart condition. I had concluded that the reason for all the whispering was some people in town thought Donny had committed suicide, and that the family was trying to cover it up. The whispering died down, eventually.Then one day I walked into the public library and at the spot where they usually displayed new arrivals, there was a poster thanking Mr and Mrs G for donating Donny’s entire collection of books to the library. The library staff was still processing the books, but some were available for check out at that point. His collection leaned heavily into fantasy. There were some books that I had read before, and many that I hadn’t. But the thing that really jumped out at me was the collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs books, all in hardback, including all 24 Tarzan novels that Burroughs wrote.
Most of Donny’s books had a book plate (one of those adhesive stickers that says something like, “From the Library of _______”) with Donny’s name written in his own handwriting. The Librarians chose to leave the plates visible, gluing the pocket that held the book’s checkout card to another page. They did stamp “Property of R—— Public Library” underneath each plate.
The Tarzan books stuck out for me because I had only ever managed to find one or two of the books from the middle of the series. I was far more familiar with the movie and television versions of the character. But because Donny had the complete set, I was able to start at the beginning and read them all the way through. Based on the handwriting on the bookplates and the publication dates of the set, Donny had been at most in his early teens when he’d first read those books.
And he occasionally made notes in the margins. The notes were always in pencil and always stayed clear of obscuring any text. It was usually comments and questions about the plot. It made me feel almost as if I was finally having a conversation with Donny about some books he loved with which I was only now becoming familiar.
The Tarzan books are not great literature, but they usually delivered a rousing adventure. They are a good example of early 20th Century pulp adventures. The plots get rather repetitive, especially when one is reading them one after another. For some of the latter books in the series, I think sometimes I was turning the pages more to see if there were more notes from Donny, rather than wondering what would happen in the plot, next.
There were two other things that happened in relationship to Donny’s death which at the time should have given me pause.
The first happened very shortly after Donny’s death. I had a secret boyfriend. A guy my age who I regularly fooled around with (all very furtive with the constant fear of being caught). There was an abandoned shed in the woods where we often met to do what we did (which was actually pretty tame, but you know, guys raised in Bible thumping churches in redneck towns doing any sort of sexual thing together was pretty out there). During one of the classes we had together, I quietly asked him if we were still on for later that day, after each of us finished our sports practice (he was on the basketball team, I was on the wrestling team). He shook his head emphatcally and said. “Nope. Not for a while. No.”
I didn’t get a chance to talk to him more privately for a couple of days. He told me that on the evening after Donny’s funeral, his father had taken him aside and asked him a lot of questions about Donny, and guys at school. Including something along the line of, “You know, boys can get up to a lot of trouble with each other. Sometimes their curiosity and hormones make them do things they oughtn’t with each other. Do you know if any boys at your school are doing that?”
Being asked that freaked him out. So for a couple months he avoided being seen with me at school and just didn’t want to meet up to fool around. Eventually we started doing things again. And his dad never said or asked either of us anything about such topics again.
The other incident happened several months after Mr and Mrs G donated all of Donny’s books to the library. I was at the church potluck, and one of the church ladies that I never got along with (I think she hated children in general, and teen-age boys in particular), so I was a little surprised she walked up to me and started a conversation.
She began with, “I understand you spend a lot of time at the library.” I agreed that I did, and started to explain how much I loved books. But she interrupted to observe what a tragedy Donny’s death had been. Which I could only agree with. Then she said, “I understand that they donated a lot of books he owned to the library. And I hear that you have been reading them. A lot.” I started to explain that his collecting included lots of books I’d heard about, but never been able to read before. But she interrupted to say, “You shouldn’t fill your head with unrealistic fables and superstitious nonsense. You’d be better off reading your Bible than reading all those questionable books!”
I don’t know what I would have said if we hadn’t been interrupted by the pastor’s wife (who also happened to be a librarian at the aforementioned public library). She sort of swooped in and talked about what a serious student I was and managed to mention that a year before when a bunch of church members pledged to read the Bible together in a year, I was one of the few people who came to all 52 weekly meetings and always had interesting things to say about the section we were reading that week.
I don’t know why it wasn’t until literally decades later, when I was telling a friend about how I had wound up reading all 24 Tarzan books over the period of about a month, that I finally put all the pieces together and realized that at least some people in our church thought that Donny was gay. I mean, I knew everyone was always calling me various slurs, but I had never heard anyone refer to him that way.
So it didn’t occur to me back then that maybe the reason Donny suddenly put an end to our conversations at church was because he realized people were speculating about whether he was planning to molest me (since they believed that all gays were also pedophiles). I didn’t realize that the reason my secret boyfriend’s father had talked to him (in veiled terms) about whether any boys at school were engaging in homosexual activity wasn’t because he had suspicions about his son, but because suddenly everyone was whispering about Donny after his death. And why I chalked up the weird church lady’s conversation about fantasy books as merely attack on my personal reading habits, rather than some suspicion that someone thought Donny’s Tarzan collection (or his Jules Verne books, or the Wells, or Bradburys) were recruitment tools for the Secret Homosexual Army™.
It’s probably an extremely good thing I never got a chance to tell the church lady about how I enjoyed finding Donny’s notes in the margins of the books. She probably would have stormed the library and tried to organize a book burning!
While I don’t know why 13-year-old me didn’t connect those dots, I’m glad I didn’t. Because if I had, I would have probably become so self-conscious about what I was reading and who I talked to about what I was reading that I would have missed out of a lot of the wonderful books I read over the next few years.
I’ll never know if Donny actually was gay, or if people just assumed he was. I just know that while he was alive, he loved books that took the reader on flights of fancy about daring adventures in impossible places. And I know that for a little while, he helped me feel a little less alone in the land of the mere, mundanely possible.
So, today is the Autumnal Equinox, the official beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.
Which usually feels much more momentous to me, but time has become a fog since the pandemic. I’ve been working from home full time since mid-February, and I have a very difficult time remembering what day of the week it is. The year seems to be whizzing by at breakneck speed, while individual workweeks drag like molasses in a Winnipeg winter storm.
Seriously, every Tuesday or Wednesday by midday I feel mentally exhausted as if I’d enduring ten days of overtime with no days off. It’s just weird.
Autumn (also known as Fall) has long been my favorite time of year. The coming of Autumn always makes me think of new projects or breathing new life into old projects. I assume the pattern was set by my years as a kid where Autumn meant the beginning of a new school year. But it might also be the fact that I have never been comfortable in warm weather, and the coming of cooler (but not yet cold) days after a sometimes grueling summer felt like another kind of renewal.
I had Monday off again (work has made changes to vacation policy forcing many of us to use some of it up or lose it). I had intended to use the day to sweep and tidy up the veranda, finally plant the spot color flowers I picked up just as the air quality was taking a turn for the worse, and try to get some writing done. I did basic sweeping, got the flowers planted, and working on this blog post. Only a subset of the goals, but progress is progress, right?
Now the smoke has cleared and it is raining again, I hope that it will start feeling like Autumn to me and will trigger some creative energy, because it’s been very difficult to muster any for some time now.
Meanwhile, only a few hundred miles south of us (where some friends and relatives live) the air quality was frequently “too bad for the sensors to measure.” So I was also feeling a lot of anxiety about their safety.
Despite closing up the house and changing the hepa filters in the air cleaners, I started coughing eight days ago (and had almost constant headaches and itchy eyes). After calling my doctor to verify that the inhaler he has me keep around for when I get bronchitis was okay to try to use for this, I began using it. I’m only supposed to use it four times a day, and each time it gave me relief from the coughing for about an hour at a time. Which isn’t much out of the day, but better than nothing.
My husband had headaches and a little bit of coughing during the same period, but nowhere near as bad as the symptoms I had. I blame past me. While I quit smoking 27 years ago, I did smoke for a number of years (which is why I tend to get bronchitis so often), whereas he never did. So I suspect part of the reason I reacted so badly is the damage done to my lungs back when I was a smoker.
It was not fun keeping all the doors and windows closed as much as possible, as things got uncomfortably warm and stuff on several days.
The good news is that we finally got real rain over both our state and Oregon for the last two and a half days. The Air Quality Index starting Saturday morning was all the way down in the Good range! I still have a bit of a cough but things are definitely improving.
Unfortunately, wildfires are still burning in Washington, Oregon, and California (not to mention many other parts of the world), so I’m not sure how long we’ll keep having good air quality.
In other news, I have a significant birthday coming up, and we have toyed with trying to do a virtual party, Unfortunately I don’t have a guarantee at this point that I won’t be called in to work despite having requested time off months ago because I’m the only Tech Writer that hasn’t quit, been laid off, or retired over the last few years in the entire division, and we have software releases this week.
I’m also still reeling from the news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That has really done a number on my mood.
Still, we have to keep resisting, right?
It is once more time for a post in which I link to stories that either didn’t make the cut for this week’s Friday Five, or broke after I composed the Friday Five, or are an update to a story I’ve linked to and
We’re going to start with sad (and for me, devastating) news first. I’ve already cried a few times over it: ‘Devastating loss’: Bay Area, state leaders react to Ginsburg’s death.
I know your first impulse is to despair. To say we’re fucked. To feel desperate and hopeless. I feel it. We all feel it.
But Notorious RBG would not have wanted us to lie down and accept defeat.
She’d have wanted us to fight like hell. And that’s what we’re going to do.
Call your house rep: Find them by Zipcode.
Script: “Hi, my name is ____ I am one of your constituents. I am calling to ask Congressperson ______ to go on the record saying they will respect Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wishes as well as the precedent set in 2016 to not nominate a new Justice until after a new president is installed. Thanks for your time.”
Call your senator: (202) 224-3121 Capitol Switchboard
Don’t know who your senator is? Find your senator.
Script: “Hi, my name is ________ and I live in (STATE). I am calling to ask Senator ______ to go on the record saying the Senate will not hold hearings on any potential replacement for Justice Ginsburg until after a new president is installed, per Justice Ginsburg’s last wishes and the precedent set in 2016. Thank you for your time.”
McConnell Vows Quick Vote on Trump Pick to Fill Ginsburg Seat. Because of course the ghoulish bastards are going to try.
Let’s move on…
I have been trapped in the house since last weekend, thanks to the Air Quality Index ranging from Unhealthy for Everyone, Very Unhealthy, and not very far south of us sometimes Hazardous. When the haze first came in more than a week ago and they started forecasting worse to come, I replaced the Hepa filters and Charcoal filters in both of our air cleaners. Even so, by Saturday night I was coughing. We did our best to keep everything closed. I converted our two box fans to air cleaners (take a 20 inch Merv-13 rated furnace filter, bungy it to the back of the box fan, set up the fan somewhere in the middle of the room and let it run. Do not put the fan in a window. Keep the windows closed.).
I’ve been coughing all week. I started using an inhaler a few days ago and that helped a bit. But yesterday, finally, we got rain: Seattle Weekend Forecast: Less Smoke, More Rain – Rain showers this weekend should be enough to push out the rest of the smoke and keep it from returning. Here’s a look at what’s in store.
They had originally predicted thing would get better on Monday, but that was wrong for a variety of reasons: What makes smoke forecasts so hard to predict — and how tech could help. The fires themselves are not probabilistic, for one. Another is that the smoke itself changes the weather in ways that break our forecasting models.
We finally got enough rain over a wide enough part of the region to clean things out. I was so happy, after checking the Air Quality Index, to open our windows. It was too warm and stuffy inside!
And now to an old, old adversary...
911 Call From Intoxicated Jerry Falwell Jr.’s House Last Month Describes ‘A Lot Of Blood’ – Becki Falwell told the operator that her husband had cuts on his face from falling after he’d been drinking.
In case you need a reminder, I’ll just drop this hand sum-up I’ve referred to before:
Sometimes when a man and a woman love each other, and the man is the president of an evangelical Christian clown college and is friends with the pussy-grabbing authoritarian president of America, they get married and then they meet a 20-year-old pool boy named “Giancarlo” and they are like “Oh hey, Giancarlo, is that the Holy Bible in your pocket, or is it your boner?” and he is like “Oh it’s just my boner” and they are like “Good, we really aren’t into that Holy Bible shit when we aren’t profiting financially from it” and the pool boy is like “cool” and they are like “cool” and so they start having a sexual affair with the pool boy for years and years, where the lady does nakeds with the pool boy while the clown college Christian leader husband plays shadows puppets with his weener and watches in the corner, and they end up giving the pool boy SWEET business deals that kinda sorta look like payoffs, and fly him all over the country in their jet, and maybe there’s a similar arrangement with the hot jacked personal trainer, but we’re not sure yet, but anyway then everybody finds out and the man has to quit being a clown college Christian leader, WOMP WOMP.
And there are continuing developments:
When Falwell Junior finally was forced to resign and the university opened investigations into possible financial improprieties, certain commenters out there opined that this was either part of Falwell’s kink (the pool boy and the other pool boy situations seeming to be on the cuckold fetish spectrum) because many cucks like being humiliated publicly, or that he was slamming his fist on the self-destruct button because he is tired of pretending to be an evangelical leader.
I didn’t buy either of those scenarios at the time for a variety of reasons. Only one of them being that first drunk call Junior made to a conservative radio show a few days after the Instagram post with his arm around a woman who wasn’t his wife, with his pants on done and a glass of what he later claimed wasn’t alcohol, but “black water” in his other hand.
No, the reason why is because I’ve known men like Junior before. White straight men, often from a conservative southern background (though not required) who are used to “getting away with it” over and over. They think they are invincible. They think the rules don’t apply to them. They have always been able to lie their way out of it before, and they are confident that they will continue to do so.
Let me give a very personal example. Content Warning: I’m going to be discussing my dad’s physical abuse of more than one family member and the death of a pet.
There are no further news links, so if you want to stop reading, now’s the time.
Okay, mind the content warning…
I was nine years old, my alcoholic and abusive father was hung over, and he had yelled at my four-year-old sister several times to keep it quiet. But she was in a hyper mood (many years later when she was diagnosed as, among other thing, bipolar, we would refer to these days as one of her manic periods). Eventually, Dad snapped and he beat her viciously… and left her lying apparently unconscious on the floor of her bedroom.
When she roused it was clear that something was seriously wrong. On the drive to the hospital, Dad drilled us with the cover story that we were all to stick to: she was being rowdy and won’t settle down and she fell down the stairs.
Among her injuries was a fractured skull. At some point during her medical treatment, she apparently told the nurse that “after the third time Dad hit me everything went blurry, so I don’t remember what happened.”
About a week later a state patrol officer or a county deputy (I don’t remember which) and a man from Child Protective Services showed up at our house. The tiny town we were in didn’t have any state agency offices, and the guy had had to come out from a city somewhere.
Each of us was taken by the guy from CPS individually to a nearby park to tell our version of events. I had learned my lesson about never contradicting Dad’s version years ago, so I dutifully repeated that Dad had told her to settle down several times, but she kept running around singing and then fell down the stairs.
I assume that Mom, my sister, and Dad all told the same story.
There was a glaring problem with our story.
There were no stairs.
We lived in a three-bedroom mobile home. It was a fancy mobile home, with an Extandal (as they called it at the time) which made our living room twice as wide as the rest of the trailer. But it was a single-story home with no stairs.
The CPS guy never asked any of us to show him the stairs.
The CPS guy and the officer left. Dad was angry for days afterward, but also on his best behavior even when no one was around. Eventually he learned that there would be no charges and the investigation was closed. Dad was still angry about my sister breaking the rule and contradicting his story, but because he was afraid people were still watching, he couldn’t do his usual thing of punishing one of us and explaining to my sister that he was hurting me or Mom because sister had screwed up.
So, instead Dad killed the family cat in order the punish my sister for telling the truth.
He got away with it. And his job had us move a few months later, and there was an incident where I was the one who wound up in the hospital… and he got away with that. And continued to with each of my younger half siblings and the only time he ever faced consequences was when he slapped one of the grandkids hard enough that she wound up in urgent care… but even then, the only consequence was that for a time all of my younger siblings had restraining orders on him that he couldn’t be around his grandkids without supervision.
Anyway, to get back to Falwell Junior…
I don’t have any knowledge that Falwell Junior was ever abusive of his kids or his wife, and I’m not claiming that he is that kind of abuser. But we know that for the last several years he has done other things that should have had consequences (talking repeatedly at work about his personal sex life, sending pictures of his wife in fetish gear to a number of university employees who didn’t ask to see them, attending nightclubs and consuming alcohol in direct violation of the university rules which are supposed to apply to employees, the shady real estate deals that some former employees started talking about last year, the pool boy’s shady real estate deal that reporters contacted the university about years ago, et cetera). And I’m pretty sure that Junior has been getting away with various things like that his entire life.
I know I’m bringing some of my personal baggage into this, but every time I have seen Junior speak, I have recognized that cocky smirk and the look in his eyes that say he knows the rules don’t apply to him. Because I spent 15 years of my life being raised by a man who had that some smirk and the same glint in his eyes.
Now Junior’s finally facing consequences, and he doesn’t know how to handle that. Self-medicating by drinking heavily constantly is only the tip of the iceberg, I suspect.
I linked previously to Cora Buhlert’s excellent account from the viewpoint of a finalist nervously waiting to find out if they had to give an acceptance speech while George R.R. Martin went on and on. There are many other excellent posts about what it was like to sit through it: GEORGE R.R. MARTIN CAN FUCK OFF INTO THE SUN, OR: THE 2020 HUGO AWARDS CEREMONY (RAGEBLOG EDITION) is pretty cathartic. When Dinosaurs Roamed The Earth goes with sarcasm rather than rage, but also includes an excellent list (with sources) of why the people George wanted to talk about instead of the actual nominees (and also the full text of the Rebecca F. Kuang’s acceptance speech for the Astounding Award). Then there’s Jason Sanford’s post on Patreon (but available to non-supporters) in which he explains why he’s tired of modern SF/F and its creators being endlessly compared unfavorably to what the genre was like 50 years ago. He also has links to several good twitter threads on the topic. Robert J. Sawyer raises another issue about Martin’s remarks in the ceremony. Meanwhile, Doris V. Sutherland puts the issue in context with the themes of the winning works. And let’s not forget the every pithy and point Ursula Vernon managing to chastise him while remaining as respectful as can be.
And, of course, there’s Martin’s non-apology apology. Which he posted in the comments of someone else’s sci fi blog (File 770 is a fanzine/news site and I rely on it for news about the genre, yes, but it is still technically Mike Glyer’s blog). He hasn’t posted it on his one platform or anything.
I collected many, many, many more links to other people writing about their experiences as a nominee waiting to find out whether they won or lost, or from some of the presents, or as a former nominee watching, et cetera. But I think the collection above covers the majority of the issues (and lots of the linked posts include more links to other posts, so…)
I wanted to write about this not to repeat what others have said, but to comment on a couple aspects of it that I found personally astonishing. I listened to the livestream as it happened. I unfortunately was stuck in an interminable work day, so had the livestream playing on my personal laptop and listening on my airpods while I was working and occasionally looking over at the feed. So it took me at least 45 minutes before I thought, “My god, George, shut up!” because he hadn’t announced any nominees or any winners, yet!
In his non-apology Martin first justifies the extremely long walks down a very specific part of memory lane because New Zealand had never hosted a WorldCon before, therefore most of the local fans probably knew nothing about WorldCons, their history, of the history of the Hugo Awards.
My eyes bugged out. WorldCon didn’t come to New Zealand on its own like an alien invasion! Fans who live in New Zealand and host their own local science fiction conventions organized a bid committee, doing the years of work necessary to make a bid to host a WorldCon. They made a compelling enough case to garner enough votes and got it. They would not have organized a bid committee to try to host WorldCon if they didn’t bloody already know what WorldCon is! And even if somehow they didn’t know, I’m pretty sure all the sci fi fans in New Zealand know how to do a Google search.
What a baffling, patronizing, and condescending thing to say! But if he really thinks that way, that says more about his own hubris and lack of awareness than anything.
Moving on. He also says that all those anecdotes he told are tried and true stories that have always previously managed to get a laugh. I have a few issues with that…
Before I can explain my first objection, I need to give a little background. The purpose of this background is not to pile on GRRM even more, but to provide context. There have been a few times over the course of my life where I have decided that I wanted to have nothing to do with George or his writing. The first was in the mid-80s when I washed my hands of the Wild Cards series. A bit over a decade later some friends tried to get me to read A Song of Ice and Fire, and enough time had passed that I had actually forgotten the name of the guy who organized Wild Cards… but very quickly the same issues that had bounced me out before came up, and I noped-out again. Then there was last year’s Hugo Losers Party and his very tone deaf, whiny, defensive non-apology. The point is, that for 35 years I have actively avoided him. If he’s at conventions I’m attending, I don’t go to his panels. I only ever read his blog if someone I trust links to a specific entry and says it’s worth looking at, and so forth. Not because I hate him, but because I don’t care for his writing or his use of particularly objectionable tropes (and what that says about his personal values).
For 35 years I have actively avoided him, and yet, I have heard nearly every one of the anecdotes he shared at this ceremony several times. I’ve heard the one that includes his head being covered with whipped cream so many times, that I think I could recite it from memory—including all of his pauses and the points where for whatever reason he puts the emphasis on a different syllable than normal.
If I (who tries to avoid him) have heard most of these before, then I can’t help but think a lot of other people in sf/f circles have heard them before, too.
These anecdotes do contain interesting nuggets of information, and they would be appropriate in a panel about the history of sci fi fandom (or at least the part of fandom that attended WorldCons) in the 1970s and 1980s. The anecdotes about the earlier years of the Hugos and the banquet and such would be fine as part of a panel about the history of the awards. But they shouldn’t all be shared during an awards ceremony!
For my third objection, I need to mention that in college I competed in debate and speech competitions, and several times I won trophies in the Toastmaster/After Dinner Speaking Category. One year I was the Western U.S. Regional Champion in that category.
So as someone with some experience in this area, I have to say that all of Martin’s anecdotes are too long and plodding. There is a lot of filler material, so that the punchline, when it arrives, feels more like a band-aid being painfully and torturously peeled off a partially healed wound instead of a sharp delightful surprise. I’m not saying they aren’t completely unfunny at all, it’s just that they could really do with a bit of workshopping and trimming, okay?
The period of WorldCon and sf/f and fandom history he focused on was a fraction—less than 30 years out of the 81 years since the very first WorldCon. And the people he focuses on in those years were a very specific subset of all the authors, artists, and editors contributing to the genre during those years. Yes, he name-checked a couple of women of that era, but there were no stories that any of them figured in. How many times did he refer to Heinlein as the Dean of Science Fiction? Did he even once mention the Queen of Space Opera, Leigh Brackett?
No. He did not. Based on who appears in his anecdotes—and which of the past greats of the genre he feels compelled to lionize—we can safely infer that he thinks they are the only ones who mattered. It’s a very small circle that (to paraphrase Jeanette Ng) was mostly sterile, white, male, and heterosexual.
I’m only 11 years younger that George. I grew up reading all of those same stories by those very writers. They are what made me a fan. They are an important part of why I went on to write sf/f myself, to publish a zine, and to continue writing now. But they weren’t the only ones making science fiction and fantasy at the time, nor were they the only ones reading it.
And we are long past the time when we should be pretending they are the only ones that matter.
The Reading Outlaw has done a super-cut of the ceremony, removing the long rambling stories and including all of the wonderful, heartfelt acceptance speeches. You should take a look: When The Toastmaster Talks Less:
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Make sure you’re registered. Don’t let them prevent you from voting!
Lots of other people have written about U.S. Representative John Lewis. He was one of many fighting in the civil rights movement from the Nashville Student Movement in 1960, through the Freedom Rides and beyond. He was one of the “Big Six” organizers of the 1963 March On Washington (and until his death last week, he was the last survivor of the Big Six). He was beaten by police, arrested, had dog set on him, received countless death threats, but he never backed down. And eventually, he became not just an activist, but a member of Congress.
He was an American Hero from early on.
But he became one of my personal heroes in 1996. Bill Clinton had run for President on a promise to bring equal rights to the LGBT community, but instead he caved to pressure from the Republicans, conservative Democrats, and (even more problematic) timid Democrats. Instead of equality, he created the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for the armed services, which instead of making it easier for queer people to serve, significantly increased the number of discharges for being gay. And he also ultimately signed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which made it illegal for the federal government to recognized marriages of same-sex couples if states decided to extend those rights, and also exempted states from recognizing those marriages from other states (a clear violation of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution).
John Lewis was not one of the timid Democrats. He rose in opposition to the act. He spoke passionately about why he would vote against it.
“This bill is a slap in the face of the Declaration of Independence. It denies gay men and women the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Marriage is a basic human right.”
—Rep. John Lewis, explaining why he was voting against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 1996
Unfortunately, the law passed. And we would have to wait for the Supreme Court to finally rule it unconstitutional in 2012.
That wasn’t the only time that John Lewis—a straight Black man, raised in the south, and an ordained Southern Baptist preacher—fought for LGBT rights.
“I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.”
—Rep. John Lewis, in an op-ed he wrote for the Boston Globe in 2003
“As a nation, we cannot say we are committed to equality, if we do not mandate equality for every citizen. You cannot have equality for some in America and not equality for all. This is another major step down a very long road toward the realization of a fair and just society. We should embrace the decision of the United States Supreme Court. It is now the law of the land.”
—Rep. John Lewis, commenting after the Supreme Court legalized Marriage Equality in 2015
I had really hoped that Rep. Lewis would live long enough to see us oust the fascist from the White House. I guess we’ll have to do in on our own.
Every time I see another headline about Lewis’s death, tears come to my eyes. We have lost a giant.
Rise in glory, John Lewis.
Rest in power, sir.
Last year the festival put all the booths that were gaming stores, comics shops, and two publishers that specialize in queer comics and such inside one of the air conditioned buildings. It was almost as if there were a mini queer sci fi convention going on within the Pride festival!
When I was much younger, 4pm wouldn’t have been late enough to have free parking on Pride Day, but my knees aren’t what the used to be. Plus, I’ve always had problems when being out in the sun too long, so the 4pm deadline has been fine the last few years.
The in-person version of Locus Awards Weekend, as well as the majority of Pride events everywhere, being canceled due to the pandemic, that didn’t happen this year. I did sign up for the virtual Locus Weekend this time. There were more readings, but they were streamed recordings, so there wasn’t any audience reaction, which I found I missed a lot more than I thought. The panels were as fun as ever, even it was a little weird not to hear and feel the crowd of other fans around you during the con. On the other hand, because the panels were live streamed on Zoom, we did have a text chat to do some interacting with other audience members.
If we wanted to participate in the traditional Donut Salon, we had to provide our own donuts. And there wasn’t a banquet for the awards, obviously. Connie Willis, the MC, was wonderful, as always. There weren’t any acceptance speeches (which would have been very difficult to arrange virtually, I understand). I thought all of the winners were good choices, though in every category there were a bunch of other entries which I would have been just as pleased had they won instead. To see the winners: 2020 Locus Awards Winners.
I was particularly pleased that “This is How You Lose a Time War” won Best Novella, because at this point it is also at number one on my Hugo ballot in that category. I was also extremely happy that Nisi Shawl’s anthology, Different Suns: won Best Anthology.
I’m not the most extroverted person in the world, but I did miss chatting with people that I regularly see at this event, an seeing faces both familiar and new.
One of the things I love about the Locus Awards is that they have several different Novel categories. So three of the books that are on the short list for Best Novel Hugo walked away with Locus Awards this weekend.
Virtual Con was fun. It was certainly better than moping at home sad that I had missed it. And there are some things that we better, IMHO, with the virtual venue:
- I didn’t have to contend with not always being able to get a seat close enough nor on the side of my fully functional ear in order to hear as well as clearly see faces and facial expressions of the panelists or readers
- I sincerely doubt that Karen Lord has ever unsheathed that fancy sword in the middle of a panel before
- CLOSED CAPTIONING – now, I’m pretty sure it was on-the-fly AI closed captioning, so much less accurate that others, but still, YES PLEASE
- I enjoyed the adorable two-year-old twins and the puppy that all escaped Djèlí Clark’s spouse and briefly joined us in one of the panels
- You can join the text chat without feeling like you’re disturbing others listening to the panels.
- No con crud (which is the whole reason we’re virtual now, but y’know, even when there isn’t a deadly pandemic, con crud is no fun!)
- People who can’t travel to the con (whether because they can’t afford it, or health issues, or other issues) can participate in the events.
There are also disadvantages, of course:
- Spontaneous hall/bar/room party conversations don’t work in the virtual tools that facilitate the panels and readings and such
- No dealer’s den (which at Locus Weekend is ALL BOOKS, NOTHING BUT BOOKS, the biggest vendor is University Book Store bringing books by authors nominated for the awards [not just the books/collections nominated—also other stuff they have in stock by said authors]), and while I don’t always buy stuff at the den, it’s fun to browse.
- While we’re on the subject of books: normally there are piles and piles of books on every table at the banquet and the organizers urge you to take these free books home. I missed coming home with a huge pile of books.
- You don’t get that amplification of enthusiasm/joy/amusement that happens when other people in the audience laugh, or applaud, or otherwise signal they also agreeing with/laughing at/et cetera something a panelist or audience member said
It was a decent substitute for the in-person event. And I hope that now that we’re doing this for some conventions (WorldCon is going to be all virtual this year, as well), I hope that conventions find ways to make more content available to stream like this for at least supporting members going forward.The rest of the weekend I spent sampling various streamed Pride events, or watching some queer movies that have been in my to-watch list on various streaming platforms for a while. I also took some time to take some selfies (and play some more with the tripod and related things which I have acquired with the eventual intention to make some more videos to post) so I could have a suitable new rainbow picture to put on yesterday’s post.
I missed the in-person aspects of the convention. And I missed not seeing the fabulousness of the Pride Parade, and hanging out at the festival.
But it’s better than getting sick!
But it is still Pride Day, even if we’re all social distancing and meeting virtually. It’s a day to commemorate the time that a bunch of queers got fed up with police brutality and decided to fight back.It was the night that Marsha P. Johnson hurled a shot glass at a cop when they began their usual routine of lining up everyone in the gay bar, then singling out all the trans and gender-non-conforming people to arrest. Marsha wasn’t the only trans person of color to fight back that night, and she wasn’t the only one to keep fighting for queer rights, helping to found several of the organizations who took the fight to both the streets and the halls of government. When you hoist that rainbow flag, remember to thank those trans women of color who started it all.
Pride Day Links:
Every year Joe Jervis at Joe.My.God.com reposted the complete text of the very condescending story that the New York Daily News ran shortly after the original Stonewall uprising. I think it’s good to remember how people saw (and many still do) our community and concerns: LGBTQ History: “The Foot Wore A Spiked Heel”.
President Barack Obama Celebrates LGBTQ+ Equality (Clip) | Logo TV:
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Black Trans Lives Matter | Full Frontal on TBS:
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The Kinsey Sicks: The Sound of Sirens (Simon & Garfunkel Parody):
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Show Me Your Pride – By Miss Coco Peru – OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO:
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This Is Me | Boston Gay Men’s Chorus:
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I had several ideas for today’s post, but the craziness of fitting a week’s worth of work into four days so I could take Friday off got in the way.
So I decided maybe I should just repost this, originally posted on 21 June, 2018.
Pride means love and survival—confessions of a joyful fairy
I’ve been to a lot of Pride parades and festivals since attending my first in 1990. One year I participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade one weekend, flew back home to Seattle where I marched in our parade the following week, and then in August I found myself in Vancouver, British Columbia where I hadn’t realized it was going to be their Pride Parade. San Francisco’s was like so gigantically larger and brasher than any other I had ever seen, while Vancouver’s was small but very enthusiastic.
The reason for the parade, ultimately, is to declare our existence–our survival in a society that is less than welcoming. We’re here. We’re your daughters, your neighbors, your sons, your co-workers, your friends, your siblings, or your parents. We’re not mysterious creatures lurking in seedy clubs–we’re the guy sitting across from you on the bus reading a book, or the two gals sitting in that next pew at church, or the pair of guys in the grocery store discussing how many hot dogs to buy for the cookout, or the grey-haired guy trying to read a label on a bottle of cold tablets in the pharmacy, or that kid on the skateboard going past your bus stop, or that guy sipping a coffee at Starbucks, or that gal a couple table over at the same coffee shop laughing at something on her computer.
We’re real, we’re everywhere, and we have hopes and dreams and worries just like you. We’re not asking for special rights, we’re asking for the same rights you take for granted. We’re asking to live our lives as openly as you live yours.
I enjoy watching the parade to acknowledge that survival. I cheer while watching the parade to express my admiration, support, and love for all of these survivors.
I cheer for people who are being brave and marching in their first parade; we see you and welcome you to the tribe.
I cheer and applaud so that those whose families rejected them and told them never to come back will know they have another family, and we’re clapping for them right now.
I cheer so that group of teen-agers (half of them straight and there to support their bi, gay, lesbian, and trans friends) will get the recognition they deserve.
I cheer the older couples walking together holding hands; we see your love and we celebrate how long you and your love had endured.
I cheer the younger couples walking hand in hand; I wish I had felt free to do that at their age, but I hope they have a bright future.
I applaud and cheer so that the trans* gals and trans* men know they are seen for who they are and we think they’re beautiful, wonderful, and I am proud to call them brothers and sisters.
I cry when I see those who are carrying a photo or wearing the name of a deceased loved one; we see your loved one and share your grief.
I cheer for PFLAG so that straight parents who have spent countless hours explaining to friends and relatives that their queer kids have nothing to be ashamed of, and yes they are very happy, and no those things you’ve heard or read about their health and lifespan are all myths will know their efforts are appreciated by the whole community.
I clap and cheer and laugh and cry as the parade goes on and on showing how big and wonderful and diverse and amazing our community is.
The very first Liberation Day Parade in New York City, was a protest march on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (the first Pride was a riot). People were afraid of what would happen at the first march. Only a couple dozen people showed up at the starting point, with their protest signs. But they marched. And all along the announced route of the march, the sidewalks were lined with people. Street queens, and trans people, and gay men and lesbians and queers of many other stripes.
And then completely unplanned thing happened. As the small group of marchers went by, queer people and supporters started stepping off the curb and joining. By the time the marchers reached the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park, the crowd numbered in the thousands.
It has been a tradition of Pride Parades ever since, that spectators step off the curb and join the march.
So when I march, there comes a point where I do that. I have cheered and applauded and made sure that others were seen. I have witnessed their love and courage and unique style. Until it is my turn to join the march. To be visible. To declare by my presence in that throng that I am queer. I’m here. And I will never go back into the closet.