Codex Born Paperback, and Link Roundup

My theme for 2014 seems to be a year-long scramble to keep up on everything. As evidenced by the fact that I HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT IN SIX DAYS!

Codex Born CoverOkay, it’s not a brand new book, but it is the mass market release of Codex Born, coming on August 5. And with that release, the ebook price should also be dropping very soon.

If you’ve been waiting for this, here’s a convenient set of links:

Amazon | B&N | BAMM | Mysterious Galaxy | Schuler Books | Indiebound

The paperback also includes the first few pages of Unbound, which comes out in January of next year.

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Other stuff I’ve been meaning to talk about, or at least link to:

Encouraging Everyday Diversity (Guest Post by Rose Lemberg)

Rose Lemberg was born in Ukraine, and lived in subarctic Russia and Israel before immigrating to the US. Her prose and poetry have appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Daily Science Fiction, and other venues. She edits Stone Telling with Shweta Narayan. Rose has also edited two anthologies: Here, We Cross, a collection of queer and genderfluid poetry from Stone Telling (Stone Bird Press, 2012) and The Moment of Change, an anthology of feminist speculative poetry (Aqueduct Press 2012). Rose can be found at roselemberg.net, Livejournal, and Twitter.

Her newest project, An Alphabet of Embers, will be a professional-paying anthology of “unclassifiables – lyrical, surreal, magical, experimental pieces that straddle the border between poetry and prose.” As of today, it’s within a few hundred dollars of being fully funded.

I’m happy to welcome Rose to the blog to talk about diversity and what looks like a beautiful project.

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An Alphabet of Embers - Kickstarter ImageI am very grateful to Jim Hines, who invited me to write about everyday diversity in connection with my new editorial project, An Alphabet of Embers.

Fundraising for diverse anthologies has become something of a trend in SFF, with wonderful, successful projects such as Long Hidden and Kaleidoscope, and painful failures such as Spellbound/Spindles. In the best case scenarios, editors are clueful about encouraging a truly diverse pool of submitters, and choose brilliant stories to challenge and inspire readers; worst case scenarios leave behind them disappointment and bitterness. Since I am currently fundraising for a new fiction project, An Alphabet of Embers, this topic has been much on my mind.

An Alphabet of Embers does not have the word “diverse” in its subtitle. I have envisioned the project as an anthology of very short, surrealist, magical, lyrical pieces that would delight their readers with beauty and meaning. I did, however, end up talking about diversity a lot in conjunction with this project – everyday diversity, which is the topic of my blog post today.

I co-edit Stone Telling, a magazine of boundary-crossing poetry, with Shweta Narayan. When I founded Stone Telling in 2010, I did not envision the magazine as specifically a diversity venue – but I wanted personal, emotional, experimental poetry that pushed the boundaries of genre. I also knew from the get-go that I wanted diversity of both voice and theme – I wanted to work with more PoC poets, more LGBTQIA poets, and others; I wanted to encourage new poets and discover published voices unknown to me, alongside those already established. So, from the very first issue, diversity became a cornerstone of Stone Telling. Not only did we encourage, and continue to encourage, new voices, but we also showcased voices of people who’ve been in genre for a very long time and deserve much greater recognition; e.g., it baffles me why JT Stewart is not more widely known – her work is so powerful.

An Alphabet of Embers is my first prose project. While it is not a diversity-themed anthology, I strongly feel that every project of mine must be diverse (c.f. not only Stone Telling, but The Moment of Change and Here, We Cross), showcasing a range of marginalized as well as non-marginalized voices. While I strongly believe in the power of special issues, I feel that everyday diversity is extremely important.

Here are some thoughts of how to cultivate everyday diversity:

Trust. The more marginalized an author is, the harder this trust is to come by. Even the most well-meaning editors don’t always get your marginalizations; every diverse author I talked to has a horror story of a personal rejection that perpetuated oppressions, of a lack of understanding of harmful clichés, of dismissiveness.

Earning your readers’ and submitters’ trust doesn’t mean that you don’t fuck up. It’s impossible to never fuck up, or at least, I don’t think it is a worthwhile aspiration. It’s the reaction to being called out that matters. My advice to editors is this: don’t get defensive, don’t try to explain/justify what you did. Instead – listen. Consider. Go for some empathy. Talk to others – especially people from demographics different from you. Educate yourself about issues that matter to people different from yourself.

Trust is built through your work – your work with submitters, whether you accept or reject them, and the finished products you put out into the world. Your finished products will speak to your principles and your editorial aesthetic. Your body of work – as an editor, writer, speaker – keeps building up. Trust is organic and evolving.

Accept that diversity is not a zero-sum game. This applies to readers, writers, and editors alike. We benefit from a greater variety of voices, writing, publications, venues – and this growth in the field challenges us as editors and writers to do better. (I am hoping to write more about this topic soon).

Consider issues of power. Who benefits from your editorial work? Whose voices are you showcasing? Whose voices are missing from your work? What are you missing, as a reader as well as an editor? Do you stick to comfortable and/or hegemonic narratives, or are you willing to challenge yourself?

Make an effort to include diversity of voice and theme. Diversity of voice is about including authors from different demographics – authors of color and white authors, authors who identify as LGBTQIA and those who do not, neuroatypical and neurotypical authors, etc. Diversity of theme is about showcasing characters who belong to different demographics, as well as different cultural settings. When we limit ourselves to diversity of theme alone, we may get things like all-man panels on feminism in genre. When we limit ourselves to diversity of voice alone, we run the risk of making marginalized people write only about non-marginalized perspectives; e.g. a queer author would make it into a ToC, but only if they write about straight people. A mix between theme and voice also helps to avoid tokenization.

I have written two more entries on this topic:

The submission guidelines for An Alphabet of Embers are here. We have some fabulous rewards, like custom essays and poetry, an additional chapbook of science poetry featuring forgotten figures of science and technology, custom treasure boxes, songs, and more; and we will soon unveil stretch goals with letterpress-printed broadsides, illustrations, a song by the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours, and  a joke issue of Stone Telling! If you’re looking for beauty and wonder, An Alphabet of Embers is for you.

Wickedly Dangerous, by Deborah Blake

Wickedly Dangerous CoverWickedly Dangerous [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the first book in a new paranormal romance series from debut novelist Deborah Blake, coming out in five weeks on September 2, and it’s a lot of fun. From the publisher:

Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.

But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.

Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…

As some of you might know, I have a bit of a weakness for updated/retold fairy and folk tales, so seeing Baba Yaga brought into the 21st century with an enchanted Airstream trailer (complete with a fridge that at any given time might contain anything from baked chicken to an endless supply of cherry pie), a dragon disguised as a big old pit bull, and a load of magic, was pretty much guaranteed to draw me in.

Barbara is a great protagonist, powerful and compassionate, but also a bit out-of-touch with her human side. That happens when you spend most of your life moving about, hanging out with the supernatural, and never building any long-term relationships with mortals. Her love interest, Liam, was engaging as well, being a small-town sheriff with a good heart and some romantic/emotional scars, dealing with the double-barreled crap gun of corrupt politics and a case he’s not equipped to understand. They make a good team, and Blake definitely creates some good chemistry between them.

I winced a little at the treatment of Liam’s ex-wife. She’s quite broken, and at times it felt like she was there more as a plot device than as an actual character.

It looks like each book in the series will follow a different Baba Yaga, which I like. It means the book has a satisfying ending and a full plot arc, but also promises more to come. The epilogue sets up the next book, Wickedly Wonderful, which comes out in December 2014 and tells the story of Beka Yancy.

Wickedly Dangerous is a fun, fast-paced read with heroic protagonists, a clear battle of Good vs. Evil, love and romance, a happy ending, and a lot of nice little details. And also a dog-dragon. (Yes, I really like Chudo-Yudo.)

More info is available on Blake’s website.

Writer’s Ink: Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor - TattooWhile I was at Detcon1, I noticed how many of my writing buddies had tattoos, and an idea was born…

Introducing Writer’s Ink, a feature I’ll be running more or less weekly for a while, until such time as I stop doing it. (How’s that for specific?)

I’m going to start with Nnedi Okorafor, who was the YA Guest of Honor at Detcon1. Her novels include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award). Her short story collection Kabu Kabu was released in October, and her science fiction novel Lagoon was released in April, 2014. Her young adult novel Akata Witch 2: Breaking Kola is scheduled for release in 2015. She has a daughter named Anyaugo and is an associate professor at the University at Buffalo, New York.

I asked Nnedi to tell us a little about her tattoo:

It’s an illustration from my first novel Zahrah the Windseeker [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] (found on page 63 of the paperback). My character Nsibidi was a windseeker (a person who can fly) who worked with fortune-telling baboons. She had this drawing tattooed on her chest; it means “storyteller.” The drawing combines the Nigerian writing script called nsibidi and the creative ideas that I gave the book’s spot artist. My tattoo artist was Chicago-based artist Ryan Henry. I learned about him in a documentary about Black tattoo artists called Color Outside the Lines. It was screened at a conference to which I was also and invited guest. I love how everything is connected.

Thank you, Nnedi, for letting me show off your art! Click the photo to embiggen and get a better look at the tattoo. I also snapped a pic of page 63 for comparison, since I just happened to have the book sitting on my shelf…

Zahrah the Windseeker, Page 63

The only danger I see with this series is that by the time I’m done, I may need to get a tattoo of my own. Because there are some writers out there with seriously cool ink.

Sexual Harassment in Comics and Video Games

Related to the ongoing conversation about sexual harassment in SF/F…

From Bitch Magazine, survey data about sexual harassment in comics:

As a comics editor, writer, and fan myself, I got interested in how often people at conventions experience harassment. So earlier this year I conducted a survey on sexual harassment in comics, receiving 3,600 responses from people that varied from fans to professionals. The survey was distributed and conducted online, with people sharing it via Twitter, Facebook, and especially Tumblr and self-reporting all information. Of the people taking the survey, 55 percent of respondents were female, 39 percent were male, and six percent were non-binary (see the raw survey data here).

Out of all respondents, 59 percent said they felt sexual harassment was a problem in comics and 25 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the industry. The harassment varied: while in the workplace or at work events, respondents were more likely to suffer disparaging comments about their gender, sexual orientation, or race. At conventions, respondents were more likely to be photographed against their wishes. Thirteen percent reported having unwanted comments of a sexual nature made about them at conventions—and eight percent of people of all genders reported they had been groped, assaulted, or raped at a comic convention.

The one weakness of the study that I can see is that respondents were self-selected, as opposed to this being a truly random sampling. It’s the same issue I ran into with my survey of first novel sales a few years back. But even taking that into consideration, if you can take 3600 fans and pros, and a quarter of them have experienced sexual harassment in the industry, then we have a huge problem here.

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Game designer Brianna Wu wrote an article called “No Skin Thick Enough” about the daily harassment of women in video gaming. Warning: some of the examples and quotes in this article are truly abhorrent.

My name is Brianna Wu. I lead a development studio that makes games. Sometimes, I write about issues in the games industry that relate to the equality of women. My reward is that I regularly have men threatening to rape and commit acts of violence against me.

Wu provides four case studies illustrating the types of harassment women experience, and examining myths and realities about the gaming industry. Their stories are powerful, important, and eye-opening.

I strongly recommend reading both articles.

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Related: Sexual Harassment in the Scientific Community

WisCon, Harassment, and Rehabilitation

On Friday, WisCon posted a statement that read in part:

The WisCon committee has completed our harassment review process with regard to Jim Frenkel, who engaged in two reported violations of WisCon’s general and harassment policies at WisCon 37, in 2013 … WisCon will (provisionally) not allow Jim Frenkel to return for a period of four years (until after WisCon 42 in 2018). This is “provisional” because if Jim Frenkel chooses to present substantive, grounded evidence of behavioral and attitude improvement between the end of WisCon 39 in 2015 and the end of the four-year provisional period, WisCon will entertain that evidence. We will also take into account any reports of continued problematic behavior.

Natalie Luhrs has posted a roundup of some reactions. There’s a great deal of anger and frustration over poor communications, procedural failures, and more. I’m still reading, but my initial reaction is that the whole thing has been a mess that went rolling down a hill of mistakes, snowballing into a giant boulder of crap.

I’m still catching up on the conversation, and a lot of people have weighed in more thoughtfully and eloquently than I could. (See Natalie’s roundup for links.) One thing I wanted to talk about, however, was the “provisional” aspect of WisCon’s statement. Because my initial gut-level reaction was that it seemed reasonable to allow for the possibility of growth and change.

A little while back, I responded to an article titled, “The Naive Idiocy of Teaching Rapists Not to Rape.” The thing is, rapists can learn not to rape. People can and do change, especially when they’re confronted with consequences and forced to look at their own actions.

I’ve worked with college students, mostly men, in an early intervention program where we tried to help people recognize and change their own aggressive, boundary-crossing, harassing behaviors. I’ve sat in on batterer’s groups. I’ve spoken with pedophiles after their release from jail. My wife has designed and run domestic violence groups. My father spent much of his life working with juvenile offenders who had committed assault, robbery, rape, and more.

People can change. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Our behavior changes throughout our lifetime. We learn new habits, new values, and new choices. I’ve said and done things in the past that I wouldn’t dream of doing today, because I’ve learned better. We all have.

Does that mean all rapists and harassers will come to see the error of their ways if we only give them another chance? Of course not. Some people go right back to the same pattern of hostile behavior. But others can and do come to recognize the harm they’ve done to others, and find a new path.

I believe very strongly that there should be consequences for our actions. But I also believe in education and rehabilitation.

I don’t know if Jim Frenkel will ever truly accept responsibility for what he’s done, or if he’ll change a pattern of harassing behavior that goes back decades. He seemed genuinely remorseful when he spoke to me about this several years ago, but his behaviors didn’t change.

I hope this time is different. I hope the consequences of his loss of employment and being banned from his local convention force him to confront his choices, and that he comes out a better man.

The problem is when we choose to make his growth and change more important than the safety and security of his victims and potential victims.

When you’ve wronged someone and they throw you out of their life, you don’t get to force your way back in to prove that you’ve changed. You don’t get to violate their boundaries because you want to apologize. If the wronged party chooses to forgive and to allow you back into their lives, that’s one thing. If they choose not to, then you need to accept that loss as a consequence of your actions.

WisCon banned a known serial harasser on a relatively short-term “provisional” basis. While I share the same philosophical hope and belief for change, they’ve taken the choice away from his victims.

WisCon is not a judicial body. They are not a rehabilitation program. In my opinion, they are not qualified to judge the sincerity of serial harassers, many of whom have spent years or decades learning to hide their behavior behind the mask of the “nice guy.” Their job is to investigate complaints, and when those complaints are found to be valid, to take steps to protect their membership.

Protection for Frenkel came in the form of WisCon’s investigation process. I believe every complaint should be investigated and decided based on evidence and testimony. In this case, there have been multiple people reporting incidents, with multiple witnesses backing them up. According to the WisCon Harassment Policy, Frenkel also has the right to appeal the decision. Again, I think that’s reasonable.

But throughout this process, despite what I believe to be the best of intentions in a difficult and ugly situation, WisCon has failed to protect its members.

Detcon1 Pics

Detcon1 was tremendous fun. The volunteers who spent the past two years working to make this happen have a lot to be proud of.

I hope to have some thoughts and write-up once my brain wakes up, but in the meantime, I’ve posted some of my photos from the weekend. I was lugging the camera around pretty much everywhere, and while not all of my shots turned out, I’m rather happy with some of them.

Folks who were on the other end of my lens — that sounds odd — might note that I haven’t posted a certain set of pics yet. I’m hoping to do something a little different with those.

Detcon 1 Photos on Flickr

Here are a few of my favorites:

I took a selfie at opening ceremonies. Author GoH Steven Barnes YA Author GoH Nnedi Okorafor Tobias Buckell and I were having a moment. Detroit at night, viewed from my hotel room.

Radio Interview, Newsletter, and Generally Frazzled Jim

I was interviewed about Detcon1 for Michigan Radio’s Stateside program. The interview aired yesterday. I haven’t listened to it myself, but I’m told it sounded pretty good. Mostly, I just tried to talk about how awesome I think the convention is going to be, and how much I’m looking forward to it.

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I’ve created a newsletter for announcing new books and stories, author appearances, and similar stuff. I’m planning to send it out quarterly, i.e., once every three months. If you’re interested, you can go here to sign up, or you can send an email to goblin-updates+subscribe@googlegroups.com.

This was inspired from discussion on an author group that got me thinking. I’ve got some decent outreach on the internet, but a newsletter would let me put out a sign-up sheet at signings and such, and keep in touch with fans who might not spend a lot of time online. Not to mention that people might miss an announcement on a blog or Twitter or such. Basically, it just seemed like a good thing to try.

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I am officially brain-fried. Work deadlines and trying to get everything done with a significantly reduced staff, revising the Secret Project, working with my co-Toastmaster on the Detcon1 Opening Ceremonies, heading over to the hospital so they can ultrasound my thyroid … interesting times.

(The ultrasound is almost certainly nothing serious, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with that weird monster starfish-like thing that hugged my face for a day and a half while I was up north last week…)