About Jim Hines

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Posts by Jim Hines:

The Nice Guy Myth

There’s no such thing as a Nice Guy.

Not because all guys are monstrous, evil, puppy-kicking scum, but because we’re all human. We have moments of kindness and generosity, and we also have asshole moments. The ratio varies from one person to the next, but the mixture’s there in all of us.

What a bunch of a-holes

I bring this up because it’s relevant to the ongoing conversation about sexual harassment in Hollywood, in SF/F, and pretty much everywhere. More than a million people spoke up this week with the #MeToo hashtag, talking about their own experiences being harassed. According to a 2011 United Nations report:

  • Between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace.
  • In the United States, 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 experience some for of sexual harassment in public schools.

It would be a lot easier if the harassers were all mustache-twirling villains, heartless evildoers with zero redeeming qualities.

You know. Bad Guys.

Skeletor

The trouble is, most harassers and rapists and abusers are just…people. They’re friends and family members and coworkers and colleagues. A lot of the time, they’re perfectly pleasant. Maybe they have a great sense of humor. Maybe they always shovel their neighbor’s driveway after it snows. Maybe they donate money to animal rescue every month.

This is the first part of the Nice Guy problem. Because when someone speaks out and names their harasser, we look at them and think, How can he be a harasser? He’s such a nice guy. Nice guys don’t harass people. Ergo, this so-called victim must be lying or exaggerating or overreacting or misunderstanding or whatever. Because logic!

I remember the first time I sat in, learning how to facilitate a domestic violence intervention group. The man to my right had been sentenced to participate after a conviction for abusing his wife. He was friendly and charismatic. It would have been easy to like him. There was almost nothing to distinguish him from anyone else.*

Nice Guys can harass others. Nice Guys can be stalkers. Nice Guys can be rapists and abusers. Our belief in that false Nice Guy/Bad Guy dichotomy helps those abusers. It provides another shield against accusations, a first line of defense against any consequences for their actions.

Some of these guys know exactly how to play up that defense, using it to protect themselves and punish any accusers. Some abusers deliberately craft a Nice Guy persona in order to better harass their victims.

And we let them. We see someone crossing the line, but we rationalize it in our heads because we know they’re a Nice Guy. We hear the stories, but refuse to accept them. We allow the behavior to continue.

Just like the Myth of the Nice Guy makes us likely to excuse other people’s problematic behavior, it also gets in the way of us recognizing and being accountable for our own.

I believe harassers and abusers can learn to change their behavior. (Though many choose not to.) Better yet would be for them to have recognized the harm they were causing and learned to do better before it reached the point of chronic harassment or assault or abuse.

It’s hard to step back and realize you’ve done something abusive. It’s harder if you’ve built yourself up in your head as a Nice Guy. It’s called cognitive dissonance. Someone points out that you’ve been being creepy and inappropriate. That contradicts your self-image as a Nice Guy. So your mind searches for a way to safely resolve the contradiction: She’s wrong. She’s lying. She’s misremembering.

Even if you bring yourself to acknowledge you did something wrong, you recount the story in a way that preserves you as the Nice Guy. You minimize your actions. You obfuscate the details. You mention reasons the accuser might not be giving a fully truthful or reliable account. And you stress what a nice person you are, how you’d never intentionally hurt anyone, how the guilt is tearing you apart, and so on.

What you don’t do — what we don’t do — is own our shit. We don’t dig deep to look at where our own behaviors come from.

We grew up in a society that treats women as lesser. That teaches men to be “strong” and to take what we want. We learn about the “friend zone” and the idea that women owe us sex and companionship. We hear our peers boasting about groping a girl between classes. We see them passing around nude pics of their girlfriends, because girls are things to be shared and used.

You can’t grow up like that without some of it rubbing off.** It takes active, conscious work to change those attitudes, and to do better. And you can’t do better if you’re so fixated on being a Nice Guy that you won’t even acknowledge your shit.

And now, a few disclaimers…

  • I’ve referred to men as harassers and women as victims in this post, because that’s the most common dynamic. But it’s absolutely not the only dynamic. People of all genders can be victims, and people of all genders can be harassers.
  • “But what if she’s lying?” Why is that the first response from so many people — almost always guys? Yeah, false accusations are a thing. A rare thing. You know what’s a hell of a lot more common? Sexual harassment. Sexual assault.
  • I believe there are good people out there. I believe there are assholes out there. But nobody is 100% lawful good or chaotic evil.

We need to stop letting predators off the hook because they’re Nice Guys. We need to stop excusing ourselves, too. The goal isn’t to be a mythical Nice Guy. The goal is to be accountable for our behavior, and to strive to do better.

Ms. Marvel: Good is a thing you do.


*I say “almost” because I did pick up an undertone of attempted manipulation from him a few times. It was subtle, but it was there. That said, I don’t know if I would have caught it if I hadn’t been looking for it.

**Yes, I’m including myself here. I’ve spent decades trying to uproot the messed-up assumptions I grew up with. I’m still working on it. I suspect I always will be.

Continuum Schedule

Tomorrow morning, I’m off to Continuum in Romulus, Michigan, to do Guest of Honor stuff. I’ll be joining gaming GoH John Wick and Musical GoH Tom Smith.

This is the rebirth/rebranding of the old ConClave convention. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes!

If you’re looking to find me, here’s the most current schedule I’ve seen:

Fri 1700, Grand River, Opening Ceremonies
Fri 1730, Grand River, Supporting Diversity
Fri 2000, Grand River, Unlikely Heroes
Fri 2100, Grand River, Why Be A Writer?
Fri 2200, De La III, Adventurers Club Party

Sat 1000, Grand River, GOH Reading, Signing, Q&A
Sat 1300, Grand River, First Impressions: Get Your Writing Noticed
Sat 1700, Grand River, World Building
Sat 1800, De La IV, The Power of Fandom
Sat 2400, Salon A, Secret Pirate Party

Sun 1000, Grand River, Raising Nerd Kids: War Stories & Triumphs
Sun 1400, Grand River, Lit That Blew My Mind
Sun 1500, Grand River, Closing Ceremonies

I’m not sure about the late-night parties. Midnight is definitely too late for me in my old age. We’ll see how tired I am tomorrow night for the Adventurers Club Party, though.

The First Impressions panel required pre-registration, so that’s not one folks can just drop in on.

So, who else is planning to attend?

A Plea to Conventions About Name Badges

I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read.

I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.

Most of the time, it’s not that I forget the people — just the names. (Sorry, Darla!) Especially if it’s been a while (folks I see once a year at a given convention, for example) or the context is different. Even when my brain retains a tentative grasp on a name, I tend to not trust myself, and still try to check badges to make sure.

Compare these two badges. The one on the left is from Convergence. The one on the right I made up as an example, but it’s pretty close to some I’ve seen at various conventions.

Convergence Badge Fake Convention Badge

Convergence’s badge is relatively easy to read, with clear black text on white. Even my old eyes should be able to read that at a distance. Whereas the other example uses small type in a non-standard font, and is hard to distinguish from the background.

(This will also give me a better chance of spelling your name correctly if I’m signing a book!)

I know folks like cool artwork on the badges. I know a lot of people are better at remembering names than I am. But please take pity on those of us with older eyes and leaky brains.

Thank you,
Jim and the Society of People Who Suck at Remembering Names

Misc. Catching Up

ICON was, as always, a great deal of fun. Thanks to everyone who work so hard putting the convention together every year. For those who are interested, I’ve got some pictures from the event posted over on Facebook. (If my FB settings are set up right, these should be public for anyone to see.)

Here’s one of my favorite shots:

ICON TARDIS

Since getting home, I’ve been trying to catch up on writing, housework, processing photos, and everything else. Here are a few quick news items…

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UFO6 Cover ArtUnidentified Funny Objects 6 is now out! This anthology of humorous SF/F stories leads off with “A Game of Goblins,” my send-up of Game of Thrones, staring Golaka the goblin chef. Here’s the opening paragraph to whet your appetite:

Golaka never intended to marry. She certainly never intended to marry a human.

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Terminal Alliance comes out in one month. I am equal parts excited and anxious. Happily, my agent pointed me to a bit of good news. Namely, that the book will be getting a starred review in Library Journal.

I haven’t actually seen the review, mind you. But I do like stars 🙂

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Imprinted, the Magic ex Libris novelette set after the events of Revisionary, should be going up for pre-order in the next week or so. It comes out the second week in January.

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I…I think there’s more, but I can’t remember right now. And I need to get back to writing an escape scene. With bees.

ICON 42 Schedule

Assuming I got everything set up right, I should be on a plane, on my way to ICON 42, when this post goes live. I’m delighted to once again be serving as Toastmaster for the convention, introducing and interviewing guests of honor Wesley Chu, H. Russ Brown, Sheril Harper, and ICON Mama and Papa Gay and Joe Haldeman.

Here’s my full schedule, for anyone who wants to come by and say hello. You can also check the programming grid or download the program book on the ICON website.

Thursday

  • 6:30 – 8 p.m. Group booksigning at the Cedar Rapids Barnes & Noble (Northland Square).

Friday

  • 1 – 5 p.m. Student Writing Workshop. Every year, the convention does a workshop for local students. I’ll be doing a quick talk and a couple of panels.
  • 7 p.m. Opening Ceremonies.

Saturday

  • 10 a.m Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone. (Part of Paradise Icon)
  • 1 p.m. Blogging Roundtable.
  • 2 p.m. Author/Artist Meet and Greet.
  • 4 p.m. Guest of Honor Interviews.

Sunday

  • 9 a.m. Benefactors Brunch.
  • 1 p.m. Promoting Yourself on Social Media.

In addition, I’ll once again be doing headshots for folks who need or want them. It’s all free, with a tip jar that will go toward the Rusty Hevelin Collection at the University of Iowa Special Collections. There are still seven slots available. (Or there were when I wrote this.)

All in all, I expect it to be a very busy weekend, but also a great deal of fun!

When Tinker Met Bell – An Interview with Alethea Kontis

I wrote a blurb for one of Alethea Kontis‘ books a while back. As I recall, it said simply, “Alethea Kontis is fairy tales.” Having met her, I’m 99% sure she’s a genuine fairy princess slumming in the human world. I mean, just look at this video of her reading from When Tinker Met Bell.

Cover: When Tinker Met BellWhich brings us to the point of this post: she has a new book out this week called When Tinker Met Bell [Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks]. A book that brings together fairies and goblins. Unlike my own attempt at bringing these two species together, Alethea’s goblins don’t end up eating the fairies. Here’s the official summary:

Bellamy Merriweather Larousse isn’t like the other fairies at Harmswood Academy, with her giant wings and their magical dust. “Southern Bell” works as a barista at The Hallowed Bean to help pay her tuition and remains active on the cheering squad, despite her insistence on associating with the unpopular crowd. Every day is sunny in Bellamy’s world and every cloud has a silver lining. The only way to upset Bell’s stalwart optimism is to threaten one of her misfit friends…or try to take one of them from her.

Unbeknownst to everyone–including him–outcast Ranulf “Tinker” Tinkerton is about to be named heir to the throne of the Goblin King, making him ruler of his fellow Lost Boys and the labyrinthine city they inhabit. Now that the time has come for Tinker to leave Harmswood behind, will he be brave enough to share his feelings for Bellamy? It’s no secret that he’s held a torch for her since the fourth grade, but no matter how long they’ve been friends, goblins will always be allergic to fairies.

Or will they?

I invited Alethea to answer a few questions about the story…

When I was writing my goblin books, I considered trying to write a romantic plot thread. It…didn’t work. At all. How did you manage to make goblin romance work?

You and I are so very similarly minded…and yet backwards! You wrote goblins before princesses—I wrote fairy tales and ended up falling in love with goblins. I suspect the way I managed to make a goblin romance work is also because I came at it from the opposite end.

I knew two things when I started writing this book: That it would be a humorous romance (like all the Nocturne Falls books), and that the title would be When Tinker Met Bell. “Bell” was Bellamy Larousse, my optimistic cheerleader fairy barista. Tinker needed to be her opposite, of course…to me that meant goblins. And yet, despite their many differences, Tinker and Bell still manage to be the best of friends.

When Tinker Met Bell ended up being a little When Harry Met Sally, a little Romeo and Juliet, and a little Labyrinth, with a lot of my high school experience thrown in. Because of that, it may very well be my favorite book I’ve ever written (just don’t tell the Woodcutters!).

Why do you think goblins get such a bad rap?

In my goblin mythology, it is orphaned boys (mostly humans) that become goblins. Incorporating Peter Pan’s Lost Boys threw me down a fascinating rabbit hole of research that led to the Lost Boys of the Sudan and Spain. But I also did traditional “fairy tale” goblin research. Hans Christian Andersen has two goblin tales of note, “The Goblin and the Grocer” and “The Goblin and the Woman.” I have a complete HCA in my library, translated from the Danish by a man from Denmark (Erik C. Haugaard). I was surprised to find that, in this translation, the stories were “The Pixy and the Grocer” and “The Pixy and the Gardner’s Wife.”

This variation on the word made me consider the very question you’re asking. I think “goblin” or “hobgoblin” was particularly used to refer to a pixie/sprite who was mischievous/bad/greedy in nature. There are fine lines when trying to define the fae—most are impish and tricksy and will cause trouble if they don’t get their bowl of milk at the end of the day. But “goblin” does seem to always be used as a pejorative term. That bothered me quite a bit, on behalf of goblinkind.

I’d like to explore this more in the Goblin City novel I plan on writing soon… It’s up to authors like you and me to set the record straight!

How much of Bellamy’s personality and background are based on your own experience as a fairy princess?

I’m very glad that you asked this question, for it gives me the opportunity to confess: I am not the original Princess! My Obi-Wan Kenobi is Dr. Casey Cothran, Associate Professor of English at Winthrop University…and my editor.

Casey and I met when we were eleven, in the summer right before seventh grade. She was a tiny blonde cheerleader, a bright ball of sunshine beloved by everyone. I was a washed up former child actress with no friends—a poetry-loving closet-Goth. And yet, Casey and I were kindred spirits from that first moment. We were both avid readers of fantasy, loved the same books and movies, and we both dreamed of one day being writers. One of my very first novels was an epic fantasy starring a young girl named Princess Casey (I was Llogan, the Queen of Thieves). Without Casey’s optimistic influence, I might have succumbed to the darkness. I had some particularly difficult teenage years. I honestly don’t know if I would have survived without her.

I have gone by many other names in my life. I was a sprite named Crescent. I was the Queen of Thieves. I was the Goddess of Most Things. I was a Fairy-Godmother-In-Training who earned her wings and grew into a Fairy Godmother For Real. “Princess Alethea” originated almost a decade ago as a joke on a name tag at a childhood friend’s rehearsal dinner, and then a handle on Livejournal. But the nickname spread like wildfire across the genres, and even into my own family. It seemed that the world needed a true Princess, and I knew exactly how to fill that role. Because I had been raised by one.

Everything I know about being optimistic, inspirational, loving, selfless, and kind, I learned from Casey. She is 100% Bellamy Larousse, complete with Southern accent and everything. I am…everyone else in the misfit D&D party: Natalie, Hubble, and Tinker. Even Sam. But definitely Tinker. In so many ways, When Tinker Met Bell is our story.

What’s your favorite thing you had to cut from this book?

Right around Chapter Nine, I could feel that something was wrong, so I sent the book to Casey. She read it and emailed me back to say, “Can you really quick write an entirely new book about two characters named Tinker and Bell? Because this book is too good and you need to keep it for yourself.”

On the one hand, that’s a fantastic comment to hear. On the other, I am not a fast writer, and deadlines were looming. The revision of those nine chapters was incredibly difficult for me to do. I had to cut a lot of worldbuilding, and one of my favorite characters. The only reason it didn’t break my heart completely was that I promised myself that after I finished my third Nocturne Falls book (Besphinxed, January), I would go back and write a Goblin City book that included all the storylines I had to omit.

I hesitate to tell you anything because I hate spoilers, but I will tell you a little about Crook, because he was my favorite character that I had to cut. Crook is a young goblin, one of the Lost Boys. He has two club feet, an affliction that might have been corrected had he not been given up on as a baby. He also has an affinity for slight-of-hand tricks, and imagination the size of the moon. Crook somehow figures out how to manipulate the massive store of magic that lies beneath the Goblin City—a talent that, until then, only ever belonged to the Goblin King. And…that’s all I can tell you right now!

Finally, and most importantly: are there any fire-spiders?

I am happy to report that there are NO fire spiders in this adventure. But it does contain a Midwinter Masquerade, a magic mirror, and a wayward troll named Crunch. You are going to LOVE Crunch!

This Week in Nazi-Punching

A video of a Nazi in Seattle getting punched and knocked out has been making the rounds. Responses range from satisfaction and celebration to the predictable cries of “So much for the tolerant left” and the related “Violence makes us as bad as them and plays right into their hands.”

A few things to consider…

1. According to one witness, the punch happened after the Nazi called a man an “ape” and threw a banana at him. With the disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer, that sounds like assault to me. I’m guessing Assault in the Fourth Degree. In other words, the punching was a response to an assault by the Nazi.

The witness who talks about the banana-throwing also says he was high on THC. I haven’t seen anyone disputing his account, but I haven’t seen corroboration, either.

2.Remember when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, and people like Geraldo Rivera said it was because Martin was wearing a hoodie, and that made Martin a potentially dangerous “suspicious character”? Utter bullshit, I know. But if our legal system let Zimmerman plead self-defense, saying he was afraid because Martin was wearing a hoodie, doesn’t that same argument apply against someone wearing a fucking swastika?

We’re talking about a symbol that announces, “I support genocide of those who aren’t white, aren’t straight, aren’t able-bodied…”

3. Buzzfeed presents this as anti-fascists tracking a Neo-Nazi to beat him up. While antifa Twitter appears to have been talking about this guy, there’s no evidence that the punch was thrown by someone who’s part of that movement. And even if he was, the guy didn’t throw a punch until after the Nazi committed assault (see point #1).

Those Tweets quoted on Buzzfeed also suggest the Nazi was armed, which could add to the self-defense argument in point #2.

Is Nazi-punching right? Is it legal? As any role-player will tell you, there’s a difference between whether something is lawful and whether it’s good.

The “victim” has every right to press charges. But for some reason, he didn’t want to talk to police about the incident.

Was punching this guy a good thing? I mean, there’s a difference between comic books and real life. The Nazi was standing in front of some sort of tile wall. He could have struck his head on the corner after being punched, or when he fell to the ground. In other words, there’s a chance–albeit probably a slim one–that this could have killed him.

My country and culture glorify violence. I’d much rather avoid violence when possible. I think most rational people would. But there are times it’s necessary to fight, to choose to defend yourself and others. I think it’s important to understand the potential consequences of that choice.

Multiple accounts agree this man was harassing people on the bus, and later on the street. He was a self-proclaimed Nazi. Police say they received calls that he was instigating fights, and it sounds like he escalated from verbal harassment to physical assault … at which point another man put him down, halting any further escalation.

I don’t know exactly what I would have done in that situation, but I see nothing to make me condemn or second-guess this man’s choice in the face of a dangerous Nazi.

Jim C. Hines