ICON Schedule

I’m off to Cedar Rapids again this coming weekend, where I’ll be Toastmaster at ICON 43. That means I get to introduce this year’s guests of honor, Mike Mullin, Daniel Mohr, Mike Miller, Wolfie B. Bad, and Joe and Gay Haldeman.

Here’s my schedule, for anyone who might be there and wants to say hi.

Thursday

Friday

  • 7 p.m. Opening Ceremonies
  • 9 p.m. GoH Challenge: Silent Film Narration

Saturday

  • 9 a.m. Representation in SF/F
  • 10 a.m. Author/Artist meet and greet
  • 1 p.m. Speaking to Paradise ICON writers
  • 4 p.m. GoH Interviews
  • 9 p.m. Round Robin Storytelling

Sunday

  • 9 a.m. GoH/Benefactors Brunch

I’ll also be doing author photos again this year. I believe there should be sign-up information at registration/check-in. (And you’re allowed to sign up even if you’re not an author.)

The Dragon Prince

The Dragon PrinceMy son and I watched the first (and only, so far) season of THE DRAGON PRINCE last week. Co-creator Aaron Ehasz was the head writer and director of Avatar: The Last Airbender, so I was really excited for this.

Of course, Avatar was an amazing show, and it’s going to be hard for anything to live up to that standard. The Dragon Prince might not be as amazing as Avatar, but I still enjoyed it.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING

The show is set in a more “traditional” fantasy world of kings and magic and elves and dragons. It’s a well-developed world, with a lot of history and detail, but there was a lot in the first episode that felt like variations on themes I’d read and watched a lot already. It didn’t feel new.

It picks up more with the second and third episodes, as human princes Callum and Ezran join up with the moon elf assassin Rayla to try to save a dragon egg. We also get more character development in general, which is one of the show’s strengths.

It doesn’t feel as diverse as the world of Avatar, which was disappointing. I mean, making a black man king was pretty sweet…until the show immediately killed him off. Seeing General Amaya, a deaf woman, leading troops and kicking ass, was wonderful, and I hope she gets more screen time in season two. (I loved her interpreter, too.)

There’s a lot of humor and banter and fun, but also some genuinely touching emotional moments. I particularly love Rayla’s struggles and conflicts, and moments like when she casually tells Ezran he’s worth losing a hand for.

Several people said they thought this was intended for a younger audience than Avatar, but I’m not sure. Avatar had some deep and powerful themes, but at its heart were a trio of young kids. The Dragon Prince doesn’t feel as deep, but it still deals with war and death and corruption and torture.

My son spent a fair amount of time drawing parallels between the two shows. (He was asking when the Appa-analogue would show up. Then we got the episode with Ava the wolf.) If you’re a fan of Avatar, some of the humor and characters and conflicts will feel familiar. I think that’s mostly a good thing. But Callum was a little too Sokka-like for me — they’re not only written with a similar voice, they’re played by the same voice actor.

My biggest complaint is that it’s too short. The season ends on a nice moment, but with plenty of conflict building on the horizon. Literally. And there’s obviously so much more world building and history to get into. In a lot of ways, season one was just laying out the groundwork and establishing the world and characters.

The animation style was a little annoying at times — a bit choppy. It could be striking and beautiful too, but not as much as the artwork in Avatar.

Netflix hasn’t officially announced a second season yet, but I’m hoping and assuming they will, and I’m looking forward to watching it.

Anyone else seen it yet? What did you think?

Lessons from a Viral #MeToo Tweet

I posted the following on Twitter yesterday, and it kind of exploded on me.

Now that the responses are beginning to die down, here are nine Very Important Lessons I learned from Very Helpful Men.

1. “Harassment” is just too vague, and men will end up shunning women altogether to protect themselves!

This is an actual thing Tweeted by, I assume, an actual man. I think he meant this to be a negative outcome of the #MeToo movement. But pretty much all the women I’ve spoken with and listened to would love it if guys who can’t distinguish flirting or friendly interaction from harassment would just leave them the hell alone. So, win-win?

2. Apparently, I’m bald.

A number of people made a point of mentioning this. As you can imagine, I was quite shocked. Bald? Me? When did this happen? Why didn’t anyone tell me sooner? (Many of these same men wanted me to know I’m unattractive as well. Which is a shame, given all the work I’ve done to appeal to the toxic male troll demographic.)

3. Women who don’t want to be harassed should stop dressing up and putting on makeup, since this is something women do only to get men’s attention. (Which is why men never wear makeup!)

This came as shocking news to the many women who wear makeup because, you know, they like the way it makes them look. And to women who dress up because it’s required for their job. And to men who wear makeup. And to the countless women who were harassed and assaulted no matter what they were or weren’t wearing.

Multiple guys jumped in with this victim-blaming bullshit. I’m happy to say they were thoroughly mocked and blocked.

4. A single accusation from the #MeToo witch-hunters is enough to destroy a man’s life and career.

I know, right? I mean, look what happened to this poor man who was accused of harassment by well over a dozen women. The only job he could find after that was President of the United States.

5. But men can be victims too, and women can be perpetrators!

I’m not sure what about my tweet made people think they needed to make this point, but yes. Absolutely. Men can and are often victims of sexual harassment and assault, and while the majority of perpetrators are men, there’s no gender restriction here.

Shoutout to Terry Crews in particular, who has done heroic work speaking out as a survivor of sexual assault, and helping to raise awareness for male victims.

6. I guess I pee sitting down?

Of all the trolling Tweets telling me I wasn’t a “real man,” this was my favorite. I mean, this guy has such a toxic, rigid, fragile sense of masculinity that his go-to insult was, “Oh yeah? Well, you pee sitting down!” Makes me wonder if this is one of those guys who’s so insecure he won’t even use the toilet seat to poop.

And the underlying assertion that supporting #MeToo and being against sexual harassment makes you less of a man? Just…wow.

7. This Tweet will not get me laid.

I’m so glad to hear this. I mean, that Tweet has had almost 700,000 impressions so far. If I had to have sex with even a fraction of those people… Look, I’m 44 years old, all right? I’m in pretty good shape, but that’s just ridiculous.

Also, does anyone else find it pitiful that, for some guys, the only reason they can conceive of for speaking out against sexual harassment is to try to get laid?

8. The #MeToo movement didn’t care about Bill Clinton’s sexual predation!

That’s right, this movement that didn’t exist during Clinton’s time as president had no impact on his sexual behavior. Alas, if only someone would invent a time-traveling hashtag.

9. Catcalls and sexual harassment are compliments!

Cool, cool. Please take this steel-toed boot to your nethers as a compliment as well.

So You’ve Been Called Out for Something Problematic…

This began with a pattern I saw of white people who’d been accused of racism asking for and getting reassurance from their white friends that they weren’t really racist. It’s not a new phenomenon, but I saw a lot of it earlier in the month, and talked about it on Facebook.

During the ensuing conversation, someone asked how I’d respond if someone accused me of being racist or sexist or bigoted or whatever. Another friend said they’d never seen anyone accuse me of such things, and that I was a feminist and a good person.

I genuinely appreciate this person’s faith in me, but … no. Whether or not they’ve seen such things, I can assure you that I’ve screwed up many times, and that in many of those instances, people called me on it.

  • One of the more memorable examples was a woman who came up to me after a panel to criticize my portrayal of a particular character in the Princess series. (She was right, and her comments led to a small addition in the final book.)
  • Another example that still makes me cringe is from almost twenty years ago, making a joke to my officemate that was so not okay. (I want to go back in time and smack younger Jim upside the head.)
  • Several people called me on a joke about mansplaining a few years back, because the joke erased transgender people.
  • I was asked to do an impromptu talk about men and rape at a Take Back the Night rally in college. A woman came up afterward to thank me, but also to point out that one of the phrases I’d used was sexist.

I could go on, but the point is, it happens. We grow up in a world steeped in systemic inequality, in racism and sexism and discrimination and bigotry. Do you really think it’s possible to grow up in such a world and not have these things affect you? That you’re somehow magically immune to these things?

None of us are perfect. The question is, what do we do about our imperfections? Do we work to be better, or do we lash out against anyone who dares suggest we might be flawed? That we might be … human?

It’s not pleasant. I still tense up when someone confronts me. I feel defensive. My mind runs through the whole, “But I’m a good person!” script.

The thing is, when someone confronts me on this stuff, they’re not saying I’m a horrible person. Those examples I gave earlier? For the most part, I’m friends with the people who called me out. (In one case, it’s so long ago I don’t even remember who it was that came up to me.) These people didn’t write me out of their lives or proclaim me Lord Evil McEvilson of Evil Manor.

And as unpleasant as it is to be confronted about this stuff? It’s usually hard for the person doing the confronting, too. They’re probably tense and anxious and bracing themselves for anger and defensiveness and mockery and attack.

“But I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic/etc!”

It’s not a binary thing. Humanity isn’t split into two groups, one of which is 100% pure and never says or does anything problematic, while the other is all-bigotry, all-the-time.

Foot-stepping is a useful metaphor here. If someone says you stepped on their foot, they’re not accusing you of being an Evil Foot-Stomper. They’re not saying you deliberately tried to break their metatarsals and phalanges and minotaurs and whatever other bones make up the foot. (I’m not a bone specialist.) They’re just pointing out that you stepped on their foot, and asking you to remove your foot and be a little more careful in the future.

It’s not an all-or-nothing thing. (See also, “Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.”)

“But I didn’t step on their foot!”

I hear this one a lot, in comments like, “People play the race card so often it’s lost all meaning!” Often, it’s because people are clinging to that binary all-or-nothing view. Racism has to be full-blown, intentional and deliberate, with KKK robes and nooses and burning crosses. Anything less is just people looking to be offended.

Yeah, no. Maybe I didn’t stomp on your foot while wearing cleats, causing compound fractures and the eventual amputation of your lower leg. Maybe it was just a small bruise, utterly unintentional. Maybe I didn’t even notice when I did it.

But it still hurt. Especially if that foot is tender from being stepped on so often.

That last part is key. People who are constantly being trod on are a lot more aware of when it happens. If someone tells me I stepped on them, I really need to listen.

“But what if they’re wrong?”

All right, sure. There are exceptions. There’s a troll in SF/F and comics who likes to claim everyone’s racist against him. Kicked out of Worldcon? It’s because he’s Hispanic. A big name author doesn’t like him? Accuse that BNA of being racist against Hispanics!  I’m pretty sure we can all recognize this kind of blatant and unimaginative trolling for what it is.

There’s another author who occasionally writes angry blog posts about how I’m a racist because I wouldn’t publish his essay in one of my Invisible anthologies. The fact is, that essay was a one-sided hit piece on an individual editor, and was inappropriate for the anthology. I definitely made mistakes in my handling of the situation. Was I racist in making those mistakes? I don’t believe so, no.

These are outliers. Exceptions.

They’re not an excuse to dismiss any and all accusations anyone might make in my direction.

#

None of us are perfect. We all screw up. It’s not the end of the world, and nobody’s asking or expecting you to be perfect. Just listen and try to be better.

Stuff I Did or am Doing

Stuff #1: I’m the guest/interviewee person on Kevin Sonney’s latest Productivity Alchemy Podcast. We chat about the struggle to stay productive, useful tools like Habitica, and … I’ll be honest, I don’t remember exactly what else we chatted about. I guess you’ll just have to click and find out!

Stuff #2: Klud the goblin will be sending out my next author newsletter soon, probably by the end of this week. In addition to giving away a free signed book to one subscriber, he might give folks a sneak peak at Terminal Uprising and/or spill the beans about Secret Project K. Or maybe he’ll just grumble about the lack of goblins in The Good Place. Here’s where to subscribe, if you’re interested.

Stuff #3: On Saturday, September 8 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, I’ll be part of a Google hangout discussion about “Trashing The Rape Trope: Writing Violence Against Women in Fantasy.” I’ll be joining authors Martha Wells and Kate Elliott. We’ll also have a live Q&A portion. This is hosted by The Pixel Project as part of the Read for Pixels campaign to end violence against women.

Stuff #4: Only two months until Terminal Alliance comes out in paperwork, which should also bring down the price of the e-book. The publisher reworked the title font a bit for the cover, if you want to take a look.

Jim C. Hines