Uncategorized

Another Day, Another Mansplainer

A friend of mine posted something about catcalling and street harassment. To the absolute shock of … well, pretty much nobody, the very first comment on her post was a guy explaining why women shouldn’t be afraid of catcalling, and isn’t it funny how the women complaining aren’t the ones experiencing the “privilege” of being catcalled in the first place? Also, women wouldn’t be afraid if they carried guns, and the real threat are guys “in a dark van with no windows parked next to your car in the Walmart parking lot.”

His suggestion? “Now what would happen if a woman who’s the center of the cat call took the power back, walked up to the offending rake and asked for his number and told him to show a little respect and maybe if he was lucky she’d let him earn the opportunity to do some real cat calling?”

This is the point where I facepalmed so hard I gave myself a concussion.

Guys, is it really that hard to shut the hell up and listen instead of immediately trying to tell women why they’re wrong about their own lives and experiences?

It’s pathetically predictable.

  1. Woman complains about harassment.
  2. Dudebro feels uncomfortable.
  3. Dudebro tells woman why she’s wrong to feel that way.

Because Dudebro’s discomfort at women complaining about harassment is somehow more important and valid than women’s discomfort about actually being harassed.

The CDC put out a report this year about sexual violence, after completing more than 12,000 interviews. They found that one in five women have been raped in their lifetimes, and 99% of those rapes were committed by men. (The report states that about two percent of men were raped as well, which I strongly suspect is an underestimate. They also found that approximately 80% of those rapes were also committed by men.)

“But I’m not like those other men,” says Dudebro, waving the “Not All Men” flag with righteous pride.

Then stop acting like them.

  • When a woman says she’s uncomfortable with something and wants you to knock it off, stop arguing. Stop telling her she’s wrong, and stop making excuses to keep doing it.
  • Stop pretending it’s about complimenting women. (Here’s a tip: Compliments don’t go from, “Hey baby” to “Fuck you, you stuck-up bitch” in the blink of an eye.)
  • Stop treating women as objects you’re entitled to instead of people.

You seriously want women to believe you’re not an asshole and a potential threat? Start by shutting up for a minute and actually listening to what women are saying.

Spider Goddess Giveaway

Look what came in Friday’s mail:

Spider Goddess ARC

I only have a few print ARCs for Rise of the Spider Goddess, but I’ve managed to set up a Goodreads giveaway for one of them. Click here to enter.

This one is U.S. only, but I plan on doing something else soon for a worldwide giveaway.

In the meantime, I spent some time Friday afternoon chatting with the cover artist about ideas, and he’s planning to have a few sketches for me by the end of this week. I also went through the book to note and correct any problems. There weren’t too many — a handful of typesetting and kerning glitches, and I needed a better dagger graphic. I also had a typo with the release date on the back cover. But so far, I think we’re well on track for that December 2 release date.

I guess I’ll have a novel out this year after all :-)

Saying Goodbye to Eugie Foster

Author Eugie Foster passed away earlier today.

I never had the chance to meet her in person, but we had known one another online for a long time. I thought of her as part of my cohort, the group of authors who all started writing and breaking in together.

Eugie was an excellent writer. I had the honor of publishing her story “Honor is a Game Mortals Play” in Heroes in Training back in 2007. I remember how excited she was to get into her very first DAW anthology (but it certainly wasn’t her last). I’ve still got her email about that, which included a literal “Squee!” :-)   In her 42 years, she had more than a hundred short stories published, and won a Nebula Award for her writing. She was that good.

She also devoted a lot of time and energy to reviewing and helping to promote short fiction in the genre, and to working as a director at DragonCon.

I remember her departure from Tangent Online. Without dredging up the details, I admired the honesty and determination she showed throughout an ugly situation. And I cheered when she launched The Fix, which swiftly became a strong and important new short fiction review site for the genre.

Eugie + HobkinAnd then of course there was her pet skunk Hobkin. Her blog posts about Hobkin were some of the earliest things I remember reading from her, and I always thought it was awesome that she had a pet skunk. I grew up with an interesting menagerie, thanks to my mother, but that’s one kind of pet we never had.

When Eugie announced last year that she had cancer, I was convinced she would recover. It wasn’t a rational belief. I just … I guess I just refused to believe there was any chance of her leaving us.

I hate the fact that we never managed to be at the same event at the same time so I could meet her in person, but I’m glad to have known and worked with her over the years, and the SF/F field was incredibly lucky to have her.

Her husband Matthew wrote today:

We do not need flowers. In lieu of flowers, please buy her books and read them. Buy them for others to read until everyone on the planet knows how amazing she was.

Eugie’s bibliography is here.

We’ll miss you, Eugie.

Reddit AMA

Back in mid-2012, I cancelled an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over on Reddit. That was an interesting few weeks. Basically, at the time, Reddit was hosting a discussion inviting rapists to tell their side of the story. My feeling was that as long as that discussion was going on, I wasn’t comfortable participating over there.

This generated a large number of comments, from people calling me an free-speech hater and an idiot who doesn’t understand how Reddit works to others thanking me for drawing attention to some of the nastiness over there. It also generated my first rape threat, though it was a rather pathetic one on the scale of things.

For that reason, I was rather torn when earlier this year, Redditor and generally awesome person Steve Drew invited me to do a Fantasy AMA again. I know there are a lot of great people at Reddit, and a lot of wonderful conversations. Steve has been wonderfully positive to work with, and he clearly loves the genre. But I wasn’t about to go back on the position I had taken two years ago…assuming I was even still welcome.

So Steve and I chatted a bit. It turns out that the rapist discussion had been taken down, though I’m not sure exactly when. And then Steve put me in touch with Reddit’s Director of Communications, Victoria Taylor. She and I exchanged a few emails, and then talked on the phone so she could listen to and respond to some of my concerns.

I was very impressed with both of these individuals. While they might not have agreed with 100% of what I thought (who does?), they were both eager to listen to those concerns, to talk about what they’d been doing over the past few years to try to improve Reddit.

Some of the things Victoria talked about were:

  • Reddit has a larger team of people monitoring and moderating the communities. They’ve also added additional reporting options for inappropriate content.
  • They’re actively working toward inclusiveness and diversity. One example she pointed to was the growth in women’s topics on Reddit, including many that focus on building support.
  • She also pointed me to a study showing the decline of hate speech at Reddit.

This doesn’t mean Reddit is perfect. You had people posting stolen celebrity nudes in a Reddit topic called “The Fappening,” which apparently earned Reddit enough money to pay for their servers for a month. On the other hand, Reddit did try to remove the individual postings, and eventually took down the entire “Fappening” topic when that failed. Was it handled perfectly? Probably not. But I believe it was handled better than it would have been 2-3 years ago.

After thinking it over, I’ve gone ahead and accepted Steve’s invite to do another AMA. I imagine there are still people who are pissed at me for what happened in 2012, and that’s fine. There may be people who think I’m caving or compromising my principles to try to sell books, and that’s fine too.

But the specific board I was objecting to is gone. A lot of people have been working to try to make Reddit a better place. And I think that’s awesome.

So we’ll see what happens, and I’ll post details once everything gets sorted and scheduled.

Spider-Butts

Some of you have already seen Milo Manara’s cover art for Spider-Woman #1, which generated a great deal of unhappiness across the internet. As io9 pointed out, she basically looks like she’s wearing body paint. One of many complaints raised was that a male superhero would never have been drawn like this.

Au contraire, says some dude on the internet, who heroically stood up to defy the “Social Police,” those “preachy, bloviating, pharisaic shit-heads,” and to explain why everyone who was upset about this cover was wrong, and it’s really a non-issue.

What his point seems to mostly come down to is the fact that J. Scott Campbell did a Spider-Man cover just like Manara’s, and you didn’t hear the Social Police converging on Tumblr for an outrage-fest then! Total double-standard and made-up non-controversy. So there!

Let’s take a look at both covers, shall we?

Spider-Butts

You can click to enlarge the comparison, and yes, there are some superficial similarities here in that…well, they’re both crawling. But where Spider-Man is clinging to a spherical mass of webbing and bad guys, Spider-Woman is perched on the edge of a rooftop, thrusting her ass at the city skyline for no particular reason.

There are some issues with Spider-Man’s artwork. For starters, what the heck is going on with his fingers? And his costume is almost as tight as Spider-Woman’s. You can see a few small wrinkles in his suit, which is a step up from hers, but they’re both wearing some serious butt-huggers.

Internet-dude’s whole rant sounds vaguely similar to the, “What about the Romance Covers?” response I got for pointing out the oversexualization of women on SF/F cover art.

So let’s take another look at these two covers.

Point 1: One of the basic rules of climbing is to keep your body/hips close to the wall. Or if you’re a superhero, to whatever surface you happen to be climbing. Which is exactly what Spider-Man is doing. He’s hugging his climbing surface. Spider-Woman, on the other hand…she’s not climbing. She’s posing.

Point 2: Look at how the two characters are drawn. Both are in skintight costumes. Spider-Man’s costume highlights his muscles. We’re seeing a physically strong character with extra finger joints. Spider-Woman, on the other hand, is drawn to highlight the curves of her body, sans muscle. It’s not about drawing a character who looks strong or powerful; it’s about drawing boner-bait for young teen boys.

Point 3: Even if both characters were equally sexualized (they aren’t), you have to consider the larger context. I have nothing against sexuality, or against characters being portrayed in sexual ways. But when we’re consistently reducing female characters to sexually appealing/inviting caricatures, regardless of whether or not it’s appropriate to the character or the story, then we have a problem. When women are being drawn time and again in ways that prioritize exaggerated sexuality at the expense of all else, we have a problem.

The problem here isn’t one cover. The problem is one more cover. One more woman reduced to a sexual object. One more woman portrayed in a way that de-emphasizes any strength she might have — because women can only be strong up to a certain point, and only if they’re also sexually submissive to the male reader/viewer.

Are there exceptions? Of course. Are guys sometimes sexualized? Absolutely. But don’t try to pretend that the sexualization of men occurs on the same scale as that of women, or that men are sexualized in ways that rob them of strength and agency the way women so often are.

Or to put it another way? Double standard my ass.

Related:

Writer’s Ink: Sean Williams

Today’s episode of Writer’s Ink features Sean Williams, an Australian author with a Whole Lot of published fiction, including the #1 New York Times bestselling The Force Unleashed. One of his latest books is Twinmaker [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], “set in a future where “d-mat” technology, which allows for cheap teleportation and item replication, has created a seeming utopia of plenty.”

Here’s Sean showing off his ink:

WI-Williams2

In his words:

My plan is to get one tattoo for every book I have published. Unfortunately, because I’ve had trouble coming up with designs, I’ve fallen a bit behind. I currently have one tattoo. My forty-seventh book comes out in November.

I didn’t get my one and only tattoo until I turned thirty, after a string of failed romances. I was feeling pretty glum and needed to do something for myself, something defining and privately declarative, and eventually I came up with the perfect design for a place that normally only someone close to me would ever see. This was way back in the dawn of time, before everyone had a Chinese character on their upper shoulder.

The design comes from the I Ching. Hexagram 23, “Splitting Apart”, is usually associated with disintegration and decay, which seemed appropriate after all that heartbreak. It has a deeper meaning, though, as all hexagrams do, and it is this meaning that I wanted to be permanently etched into me. It goes something like this:

You have a cherry tree. It’s diseased and dying, which is obviously bad. But as long as there’s one cherry left on it with a viable seed, you can start over. You can grow a new, healthy tree from scratch to replace the old tree.

Repeat.

My tattoo is the character associated with that hexagram, since hexagrams themselves are hard to tattoo well and tend to warp with age. I may have got it wrong, it may mean “massive prat” if you say it the wrong way, but the story behind it has got me through some very difficult times in my personal and professional life. I’m glad it’s there.

My next two tattoos will be an infinity symbol and the outline of Mr Mischievous’s grin. All I have to do now is figure out where to put them. Decisions, decisions.

I told him that if he decided to catch up on those 46 other tattoos all at once, I’d be happy to have him back for a special edition of Writer’s Ink. But in the meantime, here’s a close-up of his tattoo:

Sean Williams Tatto

Spider Goddess Update

I tend to get a bit obsessed with new projects sometimes. On the bright side, I’ve decided to go ahead and do a print edition of Rise of the Spider Goddess, to go along with the ebook. Yay! I’ve also been looking into cover art options, finishing up the annotations, and thinking about the best way to publish and promote this sucker.

This is what I think the text of the print version will look like:

Sample Page

I’ve also been messing around with cover font possibilities:

Font Ideas

None of this is final yet. (And that particular color combination is giving me a weird Law & Order vibe…) But I’m having a great deal of fun.

It will probably be at least December before this is available, but I’ll keep y’all updated :-)

Writer’s Ink: Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear is the award-winning author of a whole bunch of stuff! How’s that for specific? Her most recent book is One-Eyed Jack [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], one of her Promethean Age novels. She’s part of SF Squeecast, co-created the Shadow Unit web serial, and has taught at a number of different SF/F writing programs and workshops.

She also has a spider on her arm, which she explains thusly:

As you can see, my body doesn’t have much use for colored ink, especially red. So much for permanence!

I got this after I moved back to New England. The spider is a local wall-crawler: I’ve always had a fondness for spiders, and they’re a bit totemic for rock climbers, which happens to be my sport. And the sugar maple leaf is a reminder of home: this is the place I have always been happiest, and autumn is my favorite season. I actually brought in a particularly spectacular maple leaf for the tattoo artist, Steve Gabriel of Guide Line Tattoo in East Hartford, CT, to copy.

WI-Bear

I definitely recommend clicking to enlarge the picture and see the details. The one on the left is when the tattoo was brand new. The one on the right was taken a few days ago for this post. My theory is that the spider has been waking up at night and feeding on the red ink. Makes me wonder what it will eat when it runs out…