Archive for the ‘Issues’ Category

Putting Ferguson Into Perspective

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Yes, what’s going on in Ferguson is awful, and is causing hardship for a lot of people, most of them black. Yes, it would be better for everyone if they’d go home and get on with their lives, as Michael Brown’s family has asked. But at least in this case, the people rioting have a significant reason to be angry — a pretty clear miscarriage of justice, with an obvious racial motive. All the white people looking down their noses and crying shame on those violent black rioters for being so violent (salted with racist epithets, because of course all this violence is because that’s what people of their race do) should perhaps remember all the So Much More Worthy [cough] reasons for which white people have violently rioted.

Thanks to Jason for sending me a link to this. Very telling.

Angie

Homophobia Taken to Ridiculous Extremes

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

So Tim Torkildson was hired to do social media for the Nomen Global Language Center, a school that serves primarily people learning English as a foreign language. Part of his job was writing the school’s language blog. He did a post about homophones, and was fired.

Seriously.

Torkildson’s boss, Clarke Woodger, who owns the school, called him in and fired him.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune:

When the social-media specialist for a private Provo-based English language learning center wrote a blog explaining homophones, he was let go for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.

As Torkildson tells it, Woodger said he could not trust him and that the blog about homophones was the last straw.

“Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained, according to Torkildson, who posted the exchange on his Facebook page.

I have to ask, how ignorant does someone have to be to think homophones have anything at all to do with homosexuality? And how ignorant about language can you be and still own a language school? I think the answer to both questions is, pretty darned ignorant.

Techdirt says:

Torkildson’s account includes some eyebrow-raising quotes of Woodger claiming not to know what homophones were, claiming that they don’t teach that kind of “advanced” language study to their English language students, and worrying that the post would associate the school with homosexuality for reasons uknown to this writer.

So the difference between “there” and “their,” or “to,” “too” and “two” is an advanced concept? Umm, sure. ‘Cause I totally didn’t get that in first grade. Since a lot of simple, basic words are homophones, I would expect this to be taught to foreign students very early in their English studies, because it’s going to be darned confusing if it’s not explained.

About the only positive thing I can say here is that this isn’t a public school — they get enough bad press, and usually deserve it. But the private side apparently isn’t immune to idiocy either.

Hopefully Mr. Torkildson will find another job soon, working for someone who has a functional brain. Best of luck, Mr. Torkildson.

Angie

Because Telling Teenagers “No” Always Works

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

The principal of Booker T Washington High has stepped in to cancel one of their school’s summer reading programs rather than let the students read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, which is all about teenagers challenging wrongheaded authority. (Seriously, read it — it rocks.) An English teacher and a librarian had set up the One-Book-One-School program, which exists side-by-side with a more standard Summer Reading program, developing a study guide/brochure for students and parents. It explains the program, and gives questions the students should answer after they read. Notice that it also encourages the parents to read the book so they can discuss it with their kids, and allows parents who object to the book to contact the coordinating English teacher to get an alternate book for their kid to read.

Apparently giving the parents final authority over what their kids read isn’t enough for the BTW principal, though. When the program coordinators refused to choose a different book, the principal cancelled the whole program.

It was pointed out in comments to the Techdirt article, multiple times, that the principal could’ve done nothing to more effectively encourage all the students to eagerly read this book. [wry smile] A few people suggested that this might’ve been the hidden purpose behind the cancellation, but I think that’s giving too much credit where it’s probably not due.

In response, Cory Doctorow and his publisher, Tor, have donated 200 copies of the book to the school. I’d be interested in hearing what the school does with them, considering the principal’s actions so far.

Oh, and note that the school’s more standard summer reading program already includes Little Brother. o_O So apparently the principal is okay with the eleventh graders reading the book, but thinks it would be harmful for the ninth, tenth and twelfth graders…?

If you’re interested in reading Little Brother, which I highly recommend, Cory offers the e-book on his site for free, in pretty much any file format you might want. Check it out.

Angie

Follow-Up on the Libel of Quoting

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

I’m ridiculously busy right now so this is going to be short, but Mr. Sean Fodera, referenced in my previous post, has hired a lawyer to tell him that linking to an article that quotes him saying something stupid is not, in fact, a libelous action for which one can be sued. He’s posted a very thorough apology to Mary Robinette Kowal in which he also points out that he does not represent his employer (MacMillan) in any way when he says stupid things in public.

There are a few interesting roundaboutations and caveats in said apology, but whatever. I only hope he’s learned something, and is planning to duck out of sight for a while.

Angie, who still has about 90 stories to get through by Saturday

Quoting Now Equals Libel?

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

So apparently linking to an article where someone is quoted — with links to the original sources — as saying something that makes him look like a sexist asshat is now libel. That sounds like fun, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon.

Mr. Sean Fodera apparently thinks that any woman who wears attractive clothing can’t possibly be a feminist, because (I guess?) in order to qualify for the feminist club, you’re required to have nothing but army fatigues three sizes too big, or similar, in your closet. Okay then.

It just occurred to me that MRK seems to be deeply involved in this whole anti-sexism matter. I remember seeing her posing with Hines and Scalzi on one of their very scary cover parodies, and I know she chimed in with a snipe at the petition signers on the Radish thread.

I find it very funny and ironic that she would jump on this bandwagon. For a long time, her website featured an array of photos of her in a diaphanous white outfit, posing on a beach. No metal bikinis or such, but they were not innocuous writer headshots either. One of them, with her recumbent on the sand with legs exposed, made her somewhat attractive. I also recall she’s fond of wearing tight-fitting gowns and plunging necklines when she attends cons and award ceremonies.

I’ll have to add “phony” to “incompetent” and “arrogant” in the mental tags I’ve assigned her.

The Daily Dot has a screen grab of this bit from SFF.net, in case it gets deleted.

The whole Dot article is about the latest wave of sexist, racist crap coming out of the old guard SFWA types. It’s depressing, but at this point it’s really not surprising. What’s particularly eyerolly here is Mr. Fodera’s belief that this is actionable libel. John Scalzi commented on this, and I see it as a public service to spread it around. Not only to point out the sexist gluteal haberdashery, but to spread the word that no, this is not libel, and threatening to treat it as such just makes one look even more ignorant than the original commentary.

Also, note the Streisand effect in action here. I’ve never heard of Mr. Fodera before, and I’d wager most folks who read my blog haven’t either. Now we’ve heard of him, and the impression left isn’t exactly positive. Good job, Mr. Fodera!

Angie

But What About Readers and Reviewers?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

There’s a discussion over at Jessewave’s that evolved into a thread with wider interest to fiction writers in general, so I brought one of my comments (and a bit of what I responded to) back here. Rick Reed wrote the original post, talking about women in m/m romances, and of course the conversation strayed over to the question of m/f sex in m/m books. For those of you who aren’t into romance, or aren’t into m/m, there’s a fairly sturdy divide between readers who are willing to follow a character’s story wherever it leads, and readers who, in their own words, don’t want anyone getting “girl cooties” in their m/m romance. You can probably tell what side of the debate I’m on. [cough]

Anyway, Carolyne wondered in comments whether it wouldn’t be practical to just avoid story elements that readers have said they dislike, in the name of maximizing sales and reviews, then said:

I don’t say all the above in a cranky way, but in asking myself whether it simply makes much more sense to make a reasonable compromise in one’s writing, to be practical and give a story its best chances in the world.

My response got kind of long, as is often the case. I posted it there, but thought I’d put it here too, because it has a larger application than just romance:

This is a question each writer has to answer for her/himself. My answer is no. I won’t compromise my work because a few people are loud about what they dislike. They’re entitled to their opinions, but my writing is mine.

Another way to think about it is that every subgenre, and quite a few full-blown genres, started out as a writer here or there writing something completely different, something that nobody had ever written before, despite the fact that there was no sign or clue that the readers of whatever the closest genre was “wanted” that kind of work. Paranormal romance started back in the 70s, and IIRC wasn’t even considered romance half the time — you don’t find Yarbro’s Saint Germain books in the Romance shelves even now, and that’s the first I recall. “Weird” romances snuck into the mainstream through the occasional one-off — anyone remember The Elsingham Portrait? — and then in the 80s, time travel romance were huge for a few years. There were a bunch of books on the shelf with pocket watches on their spines, so TT fans could find them, while people who preferred “normal” romances just thought they were weird and dumb. Fantasy romances and SF romances (oh, excuse me — “futuristic” romances) appeared in the late 80s as subgenres, when there had been little or nothing like them before in romance. Enough people glommed on to keep them going, which people who preferred “real” romances about doctors and secretaries and cake bakers and decorators made snarky comments. As late as 2008 a columnist at a major romance blog (now defunct) was griping about how there were “too many” of those weird romances around, about how they were pushing out the “normal” contemporary romances. She was kind enough to allow that there should be “a few” of the weird romances published, but only the very best. (Nice of her to allow people like me a few of The Very Best of the subgenres I like most — maybe she’d be the one to vet them for me?)

What would romance — het or GLBT — look like now if writers who love writing about vampires and aliens and mages and interstellar ambassadors and shifters had read the gripes and snarks of people who only want contemporary romances, and thought, “Gee, if I write this stuff I really love, nobody will read or review it! I’d better toe the line and write about doctors and secretaries and dog walkers, because I want my books to sell and be reviewed!”

Will writing what you love yourself limit your market? Sure. That’s always true. If you write mystery romances, there are people who don’t like those. If you write about shifters, there are people who’ll eyeroll and move on. If you write about cross-dressing main characters, there are people who aren’t into that. If you write BDSM romances, plenty of people will avoid them. That’s their choice to make, and always has been. I know that no matter what I write, I’ll never capture 100% of the market. Not even the biggest, most popular NYT bestsellers capture 100% of their target market, no matter how many marketing weasels call something “the must-read book of the year.”

Will writing certain things limit your reviews? Sure. Again, that’s always true. If I put a m/f sex scene in a book, Wave won’t review it. She pays the hosting fees, so the site runs by her rules. That’s not a limitation on what I can or should write, though, and I doubt very much that even Wave thinks it should be.

I’ll write what I want to write, and let each book find its audience. Some audiences are going to be bigger than others — that’s how the business works. Trying to guess ahead of time what’s going to be huge or what’s going to be smaller, and then writing only what you think will be huge, is a fool’s game, though. Coincidentally, Dean Wesley Smith posted about something like this just a day or two ago — The Myth: To sell either to editors or readers, you must write what is hot. Dean’s answer to this question is, “Kick all the editor and agent and online board voices out of your writing office and write what makes you passionate or angry or excited.” That, right there — do that, or IMO there’s no point in being a writer. We’re certainly not here to get rich, right? If your number one goal is making money, there are a lot of easier, less chancy ways of going about it. [wry smile] If I’m not having fun, if I’m not writing what I want and what I love, then I have no reason to be here.

Angie

Dear Dudebro

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

This is why John Scalzi pretty much owns the Internet.

Some months ago, Scalzi said that if his Twitter followers could raise $500 for Clarion within the next half hour, he’d have someone take a picture of him wearing a very nice Regency frock, and post it to his web site. They did, and he did. Much more recently, some misogynistic little boy whose insult quotient is about at the level of “Neener neener!” took the picture and memeized it, in a way he clearly thought would be distressing to Mr. Scalzi. [smirk]

Click through to see the picture, and enjoy seeing Scalzi hand it all back to this guy with a dumptruck. Seriously, this is awesome. :D

Angie

Literary Segregation

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Hal Duncan wrote an awesome post on segregation in our fictional culture, and everyone who writes or reads (or watches TV or movies, or makes or consumes any other kind of fictional media) should read it. Powerful stuff.

The status quo in the media, in our narratives, is segregation. It’s a state in which members of abject groups–black, queer, whatever–are deemed to not belong as main characters. This is the segregation of not being able to sit at the front of the bus. The abject may be allowed in as an exception if this “serves the plot” if there’s a reason for the character’s gayness. This is the segregation of being stopped in a white neighborhood and challenged on your purpose in being there. The abject may be allowed in as Gay Best Friends or Magic Negros in service of the straight, white protagonist. This is the segregation of travelling into a white neighbourhood to work as a cleaner in someone’s house.

Yes, this. This is what’s going on whenever someone says they don’t want to read a story about a woman, because they’re not into all that shoes-dating-mommy stuff, as if any narrative about a woman must be about “woman things.” Or when someone else says they don’t want to watch a movie about a black character, because “I don’t want someone preaching at me about racism.” As if any narrative about a black character must feature racism as the driving force of the plot.* Or when someone protests watching a TV show about a gay character, because “homophobia, blah-blah-blah, and besides I don’t wanna see two guys doing it.” As though every narrative about gay people has to be blatantly sexual, and must focus on homophobia.**

Those stereotyped cliches are the uniforms Duncan talks about, the special roles people who aren’t white/straight/able-bodied/male/Christian/and-so-on have to wear to justify their place in a “normal” narrative. A story can have a black protag only if the story is about Black Problems. A story can have a gay protag only if the plot is centered on Gay Issues. A story can have a female protag only if it focuses on Women’s Stuff. The idea that a mystery could have a black detective, or that a war story could have be about a female officer, or that a thriller could be about a gay spy — without the protag’s blackness or femaleness or gayness being a key to the situation or conflict — well, that just doesn’t occur to very many people. The default protag is the straight, able-bodied, Christian white man, and it takes deliberate thought for most writers to reach for someone else, unless they’re writing that Black Story, or Woman’s Story, or Gay Story, or Blind Story, or Autistic Story, or Jewish Story, or whatever other “special” narrative they’re crafting, aimed at a “special” (meaning small, niche, specialty) audience.

Only by recognising that system for what it is can we deal with it, as we must and as we can. If we can desegregate the buses, we can desegregate narrative. When it comes to fictional representation of the abject, if we can understand what we are striving for as desegregation, articulate it as such, there is no argument against this. Otherwise? Simply demand better treatment for queer characters, and they’ll say we’re demanding special treatment; they’ll call it political correctness. They’ll say we want leather armchairs at the back of the bus. Simply demand more queer protagonists, and they’ll say we’re demanding quotas. They’ll say we want seats set aside for us at the front, even at the expense of some poor old white fart called Art.

Demand desegregation, and all this straw man bullshit is exposed for what it is.

This. It’s not about quotas or “special rights” or political correctness. It’s about being allowed to sit in front of the bus, about being allowed to be the protagonist, to save the world and solve the mystery and find love and win the competition, and anything else that straight white guys have been doing in fiction for centuries.

Read the whole thing, because Hal Duncan has a powerful voice, and a clear perspective that sees past the crap that’s been there so long it’s become invisible.

Angie

*I won’t even get into how someone who reacts that strongly against hearing about racism is probably the exact sort of person who needs to hear about it.

**See previous note about people who recoil from hearing about bigotry being the ones who need to hear about it.

DOMA and Prop 8 Unconstitutional

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

When you wake up in the morning (hey, it was still morning) and your in-box is full of joyful announcements that the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 [both PDF links] have both been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, that’s a damn fine way to start a day.

My usual demeanor is pretty cynical, I’ll be the first to admit — the things people do to one another, around the world and particularly here in the US, have contributed to that throughout my life. One of the most ridiculous, hateful, fearmongering trends in recent years has been the insistence by so many social conservatives that same-sex marriage is bad, wrong, evil, unnatural, and a threat to “traditional” marriage. The people who support this vile drivel have been masking their hate and fear and general negativity about the issue by insisting that they’re trying to “defend” marriage. Even with many thousands of gay and lesbian people getting married in the US in states where it’s been legal, even with the hundreds of thousands (maybe millions?) of gay and lesbian people getting married in countries around the world where it’s legal — including Canada, right next door — fearful, scowling folks keep insisting that gay marriage is somehow dangerous, that it threatens traditional man-woman marriage.

You know what? My traditional marriage doesn’t need defending, certainly not by people like them. When Jim and I were living in California, about 40,000 gay couples got married during the five months that it was legal, if I remember the numbers correctly, and hey, we’re still married! Imagine that! All those people, men marrying men and women marrying women, and there was never a morning when either Jim or I woke up and said, “Hey, damn, I feel this overwhelming need to divorce you and marry someone of my own sex!” We have a great marriage, it’s as strong as ever, and all those gay people joyfully marrying each other did nothing whatsoever to damage our marriage. Heck, we got a double dose of this dangerous threat to our union when our new home state of Washington legalized gay marriage last year — you’ll be happy to know I’ve still felt no impulse to divorce my husband.

One of my favorite sayings to come out of this situation is, “The only threat to traditional marriage is traditional divorce.” Halle-freaking-luiah.

If you want to defend the institution of marriage, how about taking all the money and energy and other resources that’ve been poured into trying to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying and instead use it to, I don’t know, offer free counseling to couples whose marriages are actually in trouble? That’d be a constructive focus for the beliefs of the social conservatives, one that’d help a lot of people while hurting nobody, unlike DOMA and Prop 8 and related efforts, which are purely destructive and have caused a lot of hardship and misery.

Just a suggestion for any defenders of marriage who are trying to figure out what their next move should be.

So, the Feds now recognize any legal marriage, no matter what the plumbing of the married people looks like. And gay people are free to marry once more in California, which is awesome.

This news actually chips away a tiny bit at my natural cynicism. If the other 37 states ever get with the 21st century and let gay couples marry, I might actually turn into a complete optimist! Let’s work toward that, shall we?

Angie

The Perfect Metaphor

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Still on the Resnick/Malzberg thing. I’ve been trying to figure out how to model what could possibly have been going on in these guys’ heads, because they’re not stupid, whatever they might’ve been displaying recently. Ferret Steinmetz hit it perfectly.

When you do something very difficult in an Xbox game, you get an Achievement. It’s a fizzy little thrill, not unlike winning a scratch-off lottery ticket: you vanquish a difficult boss and there’s a blip noise, then an alert at the bottom of the screen: ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.

You’re told the name of your special Achievement. It is added to your profile, and is yours forevermore.

There appear to be a lot of feisty old dudes who think they’re awesome at this equality thing.

Here’s the thing: by 1970s standards? I’m sure all of these gentlemen were enlightened. Compared to the treatment women, gays, and blacks got from mainstream society at the time, these dudes were well ahead of the curve. And at the time, they deserved all the credit for going above and beyond ordinary treatment. Still do, in a certain sense.

The problem is, in their heads, they Achievement Unlocked. They became Good To Girls, or Friend To The Negro, or Comfortable With Homos. And that badge could never be removed. Once they’d proven their magnificent tolerance in the crucible of the Issues of the Day, they never had to question their position again.

That’s it, right there. Steinmetz nailed it completely. Click through to read the whole thing. I hope Resnick and Malzberg do, and that it makes a lightbulb go off in their heads.

Angie