Invisible 3 Update

Invisible 3 is running a little behind the schedule I’d hoped to meet. It turns out that coordinating between two editors takes more time than one editor doing it all himself. Who’d have guessed?

Mary Anne and I have 13 essays and 3 poems contracted thus far. We’ve got one revision to look over, and two rewrites we’re waiting to receive. We’re also missing a few author bios I need to follow up about.

Cover art is mostly done, but I need to confirm those last few names before we can finalize that.

We’ve sent the contents off to the person who will be writing the introduction for this volume.

My hope is that when I get back from Buenos Aires and have had a day or two to recover, we’ll be able to announce a tentative release date (I’m guessing May or June, but I reserve the right to be wrong in that guess) and move forward with the cover reveal.

I’m very happy with what we have so far, and I can’t wait until we’re able to share it with you.

Buenos Aires Book Fair Schedule

I’m mostly recovered from Minicon…which is good, because on Tuesday, I leave for the Buenos Aires Book Fair!

Wednesday will be a day of recovery and looking around. Thursday afternoon I’ll be doing some press interviews at El Ateneo, one of the most gorgeous bookstores in the world.

Assuming they can pry me out of there, I’ll be doing an interview Saturday afternoon at the Book Fair, followed by a book signing. Later that evening I’ll be participating in the Bloggers Meeting as well.

Sunday, there’s a meet and greet at the bookstore, and then it’s back to the hotel to pack and prepare for the flight home on Monday.

It should be an exciting week. I’m looking forward to meeting my Latin American publisher, and I love that my official schedule has notes like “Embassy driver will pick you up from the airport.” And of course, it will be awesome to meet readers and fans from Argentina!

Blogging and email and such will probably be pretty light, but I should have plenty of pictures to share when I get back. Don’t break the internet while I’m gone, okay?

Minicon Pics

I’m back from Minicon 52 in Minneapolis. It was a fun con, and I’m hoping to write up some thoughts and reactions and talk about various cool stuff, but for now I’m still wiped and low on coherent wordage.

So instead, here’s a link to my Flickr album of Minicon pictures.

A few of my favorites…

Science Guest of Honor Brother Guy Consolmagno

Science Guest of Honor Brother Guy Consolmagno

David Perry prepares to interview me...TO THE DEATH!

David Perry prepares to interview me…TO THE DEATH!

Me and my liaison, Anton Petersen

Receiving tribute from my guest liaison Anton Petersen

Sexism and Second Chances, by Brianna Wu

As we continue to see discussion and fallout surrounding Odyssey Con, it’s important to remember that these things don’t happen in isolation. While I wish it weren’t necessary, I’m happy to share this guest essay from software developer and Congressional candidate Brianna Wu, talking about some of the reasons we keep seeing this kind of mess with sexism and sexual harassers.

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I want to tell you a heartwarming story about second chances. Last year, Google welcomed a developer named Chris onto their team. Chris is like a lot of men I know in the tech industry. He’s super geeky, white, male, just 28 — and has an incredibly irreverent sense of humor. He’s the kind of guy that would fit right in a Google — or really any other large tech corporation.

Just one catch. Chris had a bit of a misadventure as a teenager, launching a well-trafficked internet site where some pretty unsavory things happened. An encyclopedic list would take too long, but here are the highlights:

  • The site was a haven for child pornography.
  • A member murdered a woman violently, and posted picture of her strangled to death on the site.
  • A transgender woman was outed and then bullied until she committed suicide.
  • A breach of iCloud resulted in non-consensual sexual imagery of celebrity women to be spread through his site, most notably Jennifer Lawrence, who called it a “sex crime.”
  • Prominent women in the game industry were relentlessly harassed through his site, resulting is several careers being destroyed — and unmeasurable personal harm.

I’m speaking, of course, of 4chan founder Chris Poole. Last year, after not being able to make money from his site, he decided to take a job with one of the most powerful corporations on earth. As I was one of the women who had been repeatedly targeted by 4chan, I was fairly incredulous, as were my fellow women colleagues.

Unsurprisingly, the white men in tech I know felt differently.

I’m not going to name names, but I had at least 10 conversations with colleagues in tech about Poole’s hiring. They felt it would be unfair to deny him a fresh start at a career. They didn’t want his past to haunt him forever. They saw 4chan as just a silly teenage hijink, something all in good fun. It’s hard to imagine, they saw parts of Chris Poole in themselves — and by giving him a second chance — they could give themselves a chance to clean up their own mistakes.

America loves second chances. But it’s hard to not notice that the main people that seem to get them are straight, white, and male.

This brings us Odyssey Con.

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow, which has been written up here. But, long story short, the con had decided to let an extreme sexual harasser onto the programming committee. When guest of honor Monica Valentinelli was put on programming with him, she asked the con to step in. They wrote an amazingly condescending email back to her, at which point she withdrew from the con.

What stands out to me the most in the whole harmful affair was a single line by Gregory G.H. Rihn, writing about “what would be fair.” He suggested a compromise between Monica and Jim Frenkel, the known serial harasser. In a world where sexual harassers are on one side, and women wanting to be treated with respect are on the other — women can never win. Rihn saw himself as an impartial observer, but he’s part of the problem in a way he can’t understand.

And he’s far from alone. Or even, a particularly egregious example.

As a prominent woman in the game industry, I’m also married to four-time Hugo award winner Frank Wu — so I feel uniquely positioned between the tech industry and science fiction fandom. And while, I know it would shock some of you to think about this, the structural sexism is practically the same. Consider the following.

  • Like the game industry, I am regularly asked to do programming at cons on my gender rather than my professional expertise.
  • Like the game industry, I am regularly talked over by men on programming.
  • Like the game industry, men generally talk to my husband and not me when we are in groups.
  • Like the game industry, it’s the men in the field getting big career opportunities – and not the equally talented women.
  • Like the game industry, no men I know will admit they are part of the problem.
  • Like the game industry, the men in science fiction consider themselves impartial judges of structural sexism – rather than influenced by motivated reasoning.
  • Like the game industry, there’s a lot of window dressing and very little examination of bias.
  • Like the game industry, I regularly hear sexist, racist and transphobic jokes that make me blanch.
  • Like the game industry, men that speak out about sexism are heroes — while women are put in a career box as a known feminist.
  • Like the game industry, you have a hate group rooted in white supremacy — hellbent on establishing a golden age without diversity.

If the tech industry gets a D- for sexism, science fiction doesn’t deserve much better than a C-. Maybe a C+ on the good days.

This brings us to Jim Frenkel. His situation is no different than Chris Poole’s, albeit a lot less extreme. The men of Odyssey Con (and one woman is a position of power) were reluctant to exile him from fandom because if he were held to high standards, that would mean they or someone like them might be one day as well. So, he will get an ample supply of second chances, just like most white straight men in science fiction.

There are so many times in science fiction I hold my tongue because I don’t think anyone on programming would listen. Recently, I was on a panel with a rather prominent man in the game industry that made a wildly sexist remark about “banging whores.” I sat there for the panel, stewing, feeling like this inappropriate statement needed to be called out. I asked male friends about it later, who all told me to, “let it go.”

I realized it wouldn’t be worth it to fight that battle with programming, and it could burn a bridge with someone powerful in my field. Like most women, I fight these internal battles daily — and I lose a piece of my soul every time. I have to imagine Monica Valentinelli was fighting this same internal battle before withdrawing as guest of honor. Her comment about wanting to be known for her work rang so true for me. It’s the same fear all women feel when deciding to speak out, being shoved into a box that says loud feminist.

Our political system trains people to root for one side like a football team- everyone points fingers and no one feels accountability. For science fiction, there are plenty of men that vote Democrat and believe intellectually in the equality of women. They think that’s the end of the story. It is not.

You can either have a community where the Jim Frenkels are thrown out, or you can just admit all the talk about gender equality is window dressing.

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Brianna Wu is a software engineer and a candidate for US congress in Massachusetts district 8. You can follow her on Twitter at @spacekatgal or on Facebook at Facebook.com/developerBriannaWu.

Minicon Schedule

This weekend, I’ll be the author guest of honor at Minicon in Minneapolis, along with science GoH “The Pope’s Astronomer,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, and fan GoH Mark Oshiro.

They’ve posted the preliminary schedule. Here’s where I think I’ll be for most of the weekend:

Friday

  • 5:30 p.m. – We Suck: The Importance of Failure
  • 7 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies
  • 8:30 p.m. – Internet Presence

Saturday

  • 10 a.m. – Exploring Creativity
  • 11:30 a.m. – Koffeeklatch
  • 1 p.m. – Interview with Jim C. Hines
  • 5 p.m. – Costume Contest
  • 8:30 p.m. – Reading
  • 9:30 p.m. – Autographing

Sunday

  • 10 a.m. – The Business of Writing
  • 1 p.m. – Progressive Story
  • 2:30 p.m. – Feet of Clay
  • 4 p.m. – Closing Ceremonies

And then at a little after 8 that night, I’ll fly back home to Lansing.

It should be a fun time! Looking forward to seeing folks!

Odyssey Con, Frenkel, and Harassment

Odyssey Con is a Madison, Wisconsin convention scheduled to take place later this month. I want to share two tidbits from their website.

From their harassment policy:

“It is the intention of Odyssey Con to create a safe, friendly, welcoming environment…”

From their Who is Odyssey Con? page:

James Frenkel, Guest Liaison

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I’ve talked about Frenkel on the blog before.

As have others.

As is the nature of these things, there’s a lot more that isn’t written about publicly. I’ve spoken with other people harassed by Frenkel who chose not to post about it online, or to file complaints. Given the way we tend to treat victims of harassment and assault — demanding details and proof, blaming them, excusing the harassment, telling them why they’re wrong or overreacting, and so on — I can’t and won’t blame anyone for making that choice.

Even so, knowledge of Frenkel’s history is widespread in the SF/F field. He lost his job with Tor Books shortly after the 2013 incident. He was banned for life from Wiscon. Hell, some of this stuff is on his freaking Wikipedia page.

In other words, there’s no way Odyssey Con was unaware of this history. But they still chose to allow Frenkel to serve as their Guest Liaison.

That’s their right. It’s their convention, and if they want to put a known repeat harasser on staff, they can do so. But that choice has consequences. Consequences like their Guest of Honor withdrawing from the convention. Or having other guests and companies withdraw because the con prioritized a harasser over the safety of their guests.

ETA: Or then having another guest of honor withdraw…

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I haven’t seen a public response from the convention yet, but I’m bracing myself for the typical refrain:

“But he’s such a nice guy. I never saw him harass anyone!”

He was a nice guy to me, too. He was genuinely kind and supportive when I was a nobody starting out in this business, and I hated learning about this other side of him. But the fact that he was nice to me doesn’t mean he’s nice to everyone. Harassers can be quite charming, and they learn to isolate their victims.

It would be like saying, “But Hannibal Lecter never tried to eat me, so how can you say he’s a cannibal?”

“He has a long history with the convention.”

Yes…he also has a long history of harassing women. What’s your point?

ETA: Called it! From the Odyssey Con program chair:

I have been personally acquainted with both Richard and Jim for many years, and, as program chair, I am 100% certain that they will both conduct themselves in responsible and appropriate fashions. Both Jim and Richard have made valuable contributions to Odyssey Con for years and I expect that they will, given the opportunity, continue to do so for years to come.

“He hasn’t done anything wrong since Wiscon 2013. Doesn’t he deserve another chance?”

Some things aren’t mine to share, but I question the assumption behind that statement. As for deserving another chance…personally, I think it depends. What work has he done to try to earn another chance? I do believe that everyone deserves the chance to learn and grow…but not at the expense of their victims. In other words, why is giving Frenkel yet another chance more important than giving your convention attendees a safe, welcoming event?

“It’s a witch hunt!”

Oh yes, of course. I’m sure it’s a big old conspiracy between Matthesen, Kowal, Priest, Kendall, Wiscon, Tor Books, and everyone else who’s spoken out about their experiences with Frenkel…

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You can try to create a convention that’s safe and welcoming and friendly. Or you can put a man with a long, public history of harassment in a position of authority, with access to your guests.

You can’t do both.

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ETA: Odyssey Con has posted a statement on Facebook (now removed, but screencapped by Natalie Luhrs), which includes this gem: “Odyssey Con is now, always has been, and always will be, open and welcoming to all. We do not allow anyone, not even a guest of honor, to dictate that someone else must be excluded from it.” (Read the full statement for context.)

ETA2: As of 4/12, Odyssey Con has posted a new statement on Facebook. This one notes, “Frenkel is no longer a member of our ConCom in any capacity, he has no position of authority in the convention proper, and he is not a panelist or lecturer. He has the right to purchase a badge and attend the convention, but as of this writing, I do not know if he is planning to do that.”

Borderline, by Mishell Baker

Borderline: Cover ArtJust finished reading Borderline [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Mishell Baker. This is a Nebula award finalist, and having raced through the book, can see why. Here’s the official description:

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

That description sells the book short, in that it ignores a huge part of the book. Those “inner demons” are a reference to the fact that Millie has borderline personality disorder. In fact, everyone who works for the Arcadia Project has some form of mental illness, for reasons that are gradually explained and explored throughout the book.

I don’t know enough about BPD to judge how true Baker’s portrayal is, but it’s clear she’s done her research. Some of Millie’s comments about therapy and the techniques she’s learned to manage it ring very true to techniques my wife (a mental health therapist) has talked about. It feels respectfully written, which shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve read some of Baker’s posts and essays about mental health.

The central idea of fey serving as muses for big Hollywood names, and the effects and consequences of that magic, sets up a good story. But it’s the characters that really elevate the story. (I think Caryl was my favorite by the end.) They’re all portrayed with a sense of honesty and respect. BPD affects a lot of how Millie processes and reacts to things, for example, and sometimes that goes pretty badly. The story doesn’t try to justify or excuse Millie’s actions in those cases, nor does it condemn her as a horrible person. It’s presented as part of who she is, and we see her awareness and her struggles to manage being borderline.

The same holds true with Millie’s physical disability. Baker clearly did a lot of research about Millie’s prosthetics and the other effects of her disastrous attempted suicide. The metal in Millie’s body disrupts fey magic, but it isn’t played as just a clever way of giving her an advantage over the fey. I don’t have first-hand experience here, but it’s handled and written in a way that feels true to me.

The ending felt a little bit rushed, and got a little darker than I’d expected, but it worked well both to wrap up the story and lay some groundwork for the sequel, Phantom Pains, which just came out a few weeks ago. I’ve already added it to my reading list.

You can read an excerpt on Baker’s website.

For those of you who’ve read it, what did you think?

Dave Freer’s Dropped Book

Author Dave Freer has a post at the Mad Genius Club talking about the mass market edition of his book CHANGELING’S ISLAND…which was supposed to be available in February…

…except that the mass market was cancelled in fall of 2016.

From what Freer describes, there were multiple major communication failures. Starting with the failure to notify the author that the mass market edition had been cancelled.

The fact that Freer received page proofs in December — for a book cancelled months earlier — suggests internal communication failures as well. The book was listed for pre-orders on Amazon. It was posted on the Baen website. Freer had promoted the release in good faith.

This is prime author nightmare material.

Freer at one point compares his distributor to Hitler, which seems a bit much, but I can understand his frustration and disappointment. Reading about his experience with this book, it stuck with me enough to inspire blogging. I hate being reminded that other people’s mistakes can have such an impact on my career and success. The fact that yes, things can go very wrong through no fault of your own…it’s scary.

I should note that in my experience, and from authors I’ve spoken with, this is not normal.

Freer mentions never being told the release dates for his books. I sympathize — I usually find out when my books are coming out when they pop up for pre-order on Amazon. Overall though, most of my releases so far have been thankfully drama-free.

So what’s the takeaway here? What should authors do to protect ourselves?

The short answer: Hell if I know.

The longer answers: I’m not sure we can. One suggestion in the comments on Freer’s piece was to go indie, which obviously gives the author much more control, and eliminates much of the potential for miscommunication and other people dropping the ball. With indie publishing, you pretty much hold your own balls.

I should probably rephrase that, but I’m not going to.

Realistically though, self-publishing isn’t for everyone, and isn’t going to work for everyone. With my writing pace and day-to-day schedule, it’s not an option for me, and I know that. If it works for Freer, then I wish him all the best on that road.

I also find myself thinking about Baen and my own publisher, DAW. Both are in some respects small, family-type companies. They’re distributed through larger companies, but they have a little more of the control and freedom you’d find in a smaller business. In some ways, this is an advantage. I love the relationship I have with DAW. I love the loyalty they have for their authors — and I’ve seen some of that with Baen and their authors, too.

At the same time, I know there are times when DAW gets crunched. Having fewer people seems like it could increase the possibility for things to fall through the cracks.

Not really an answer at all: Publishing can be a rocky business. Sooner or later, things go wrong. I don’t believe this is generally out of malice, or even incompetence. (Easy for me to say, when I’m not the one dealing with the fallout.)

There’s no lesson here, really. Nothing I can point to and say, “Hey authors, if we avoid doing ______, we’ll be safe!”

…but maybe that is the lesson.

Jim C. Hines