Thinking About Freedom of Speech

So this is International Blog Against Racism Week, which seems like a perfect time to point to the Open Letter from the Carl Brandon Society on racial/gender discourse.

I’m hopeful that, as in previous years, I’ll learn some things and get to read and participate in some good discussions this week.  But reading that letter, I found myself wondering how long it would be before I came across the first “Oh noes, the PC Nazis are Censorin’ our Free Speech!” response.  (Answer: not long at all, as it turns out.)

Let’s start with the PC part.  I’m not sure when “Politically Correct” turned into such a ridiculous phrase.  The belief seems to be that, in order to be truly politically correct, I must immediately go through my goblin books, rewriting the goblins as hygienically impaired, height challenged creatures with alternative dietary habits.  (Actually, now I want to write a story about Veka demanding that the rest of the world describe her as a goblyn, but that’s a tangent.)  The point is, people have waved their wands and cast reductio ad absurdium on the whole concept.  We’ve turned it into a joke (perhaps because then it’s easier to ignore it, and we don’t have to actually do anything?)

I keep thinking about the first time someone told me what “politically correct” meant to them.  She said, “I want to be able to choose what label people use to describe me.”  Why is that such a ridiculous premise?  It is really so absurd to think that an individual should have the right to say “I prefer to be called ________”?  To choose to be addressed by a label that isn’t demeaning, insulting, or simply not what that person wants to be called?  People don’t seem to mind that I prefer to be called Jim rather than James, but if the Carl Brandon Society tells Harlan Ellison not to use the term NWA, suddenly it’s a massive inconvenience and political correctness is censoring our freedom.

It annoys me how easily we toss the word “censorship” around.  Spend 30 seconds reading the comment threads for just about any news article that touches on race (the Gates/Crowley stories should provide plenty of reading).  Trust me, there ain’t no PC Censors working in this country.

Complaining because someone censored your comment on his/her blog not only misses the meaning of the word, it’s also rather insulting to those people who have actually had to deal with censorship.

  • People disagreeing with you is not censorship.
  • People stating that they don’t like your cover art and think its racist, sexist, or whatever, is not censorship.
  • People banning you from their blogs is not censorship.
  • For the writers out there, an editor rejecting your story for his/her publication is not censorship.
  • People saying they don’t like something you said is not censorship.
  • People telling you racial slurs are unacceptable is not censorship.
  • People criticising, mocking, or insulting you for choosing to use racial slurs is not censorship.

The nice thing about my country is that you’re free to say just about anything you like.  I don’t have any obligation to provide a platform for your words, but you can certainly go out and create your own.  The very fact that people are writing 1000+ word rants on their blogs about being censored tends to undermine their point.

But freedom of speech does not equal freedom from criticism.  If you say something offensive, you’re probably going to get challenged on it.  If that’s a problem for you, you might want to examine your words more carefully.  Either that or move somewhere that censorship actually exists — that way you can start suppressing those who disagree with you.

We talk about freedom of speech, but I hear very little about responsibility for speech.  You choose your words.  You’re responsible for what you say.  If you say something offensive or insulting, that’s on you.  You might disagree over whether something is offensive, but now we’re getting back to political correctness.  Tell me, who has the right to say whether the word “nigger” is insulting?  Do I as a white man get to tell black people that they’re overreacting and shouldn’t be offended if I use that term?

To put it another way, Freedom of speech does not protect you from the consequences of saying stupid shit.

Busy and Mildly Burnt Out

1.  Shout-out to Rhonda Parrish, who won the Mermaid’s Madness ARC Auction.  The winning bid was $105, so I was surprised to find a PayPal e-mail which read, “$125 was the highest I was going to allow myself to bid. Since I was willing to spend that much, I don’t see why I shouldn’t send that much — it’s going to a great cause.”  Rhonda — you win at awesome.  Thank you!

2.  You know, I like this book.  I think Red Hood’s Revenge has a lot going for it.  There’s a revelation about Talia’s past that kicks ass, nifty ideas about Arathean society, some development of events from Mermaid’s Madness, a bit of romance, and of course, Red Riding Hood: Badass Assassin.  That said, I’m still at the point where I’m counting down the days until I can turn the damn thing in and be done with it for a while.  72000 words and counting.

3.  It’s International Blog Against Racism Week.  I find the timing fortuitous, given recent online events in SF/Fdom.

4.  My department has determined that we should have five full-time employees doing customer support.  Today there were two of us.  This is not unusual.  Thus the mild burn-out.  I’m still grateful for the stable job with benefits.  But some days I’m more grateful than others.

Change of Plans

Originally, the plan was to mow the lawn, then try to get some more work done on the Red Hood’s Revenge rewrite before heading off to the RPG.  The past two days have been quite productive from a writing standpoint: two more chapters finished, and I crossed the 70,000 word mark yesterday.

Plans change.

The glasses were four years old, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Wish me luck finding a decent pair that doesn’t break the budget.

Anyone know that Oculus Reparo spell from Harry Potter?

Fundraising for NCADV and BARCC

Today is the last day to bid in the Mermaid’s Madness Auction for NCADV.  Bidding is currently at $105, which means the winner not only gets an autographed ARC, but s/he will also receive another of my books as a bonus.  (Winner’s choice.)

shadesong is doing a blogathon to raise money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.  Details here.  Also see the sponsorship link and auctions.

And just to provide a break from the intensity of the past few days, have a LEGO zombie uprising, courtesy of Steam Pirate (check out the entire set on Flicker):

Fantasy Covers: Doin’ it Right?

My thanks to everyone who’s been contributing to the fantasy cover discussion, both here and elsewhere.

One of the things that came up in comment discussion was that in addition to talking about covers which are problematic, it’s just as important if not more so to look at covers that work.  Many of the following links and images come out of yesterday’s comments.  Thanks again to everyone who suggested them.

ETA: The fact that I picked these covers does not mean they’re Good And Right, or that everyone must approve.  My taste is my own, and I have blind spots like anyone else, so please feel free to disagree.

oldcharliebrown pointed to a gallery of old Realms covers.  While a lot of the old covers are frankly painful, there are some good ones as well. I really like the first cover below, though it doesn’t necessarily feel like fantasy. But I think it’s a great image on many levels, and very evocative. As for the second, well, you can’t go wrong with Xena, right? Realms has always had a bit of a media focus, but given some of the more feminist stories within the magazine, I think Xena was a very good choice.

Another commenter brought up Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress books, which have done a great job of … well, actually clothing our heroines for more than 25 years.  To me, a lot of these covers portray women who are strong and beautiful without the need for the helpless half-naked damsel trope.

The Chicks in Chainmail series from Esther Friesner is an interesting one.  Instead of trying to avoid the bikini warrior women, these books take the whole concept and completely invert the power and dynamics.  Of the five books in the series, these two are my favorite covers.


dirigibletrance pointed to this cover from Psychology Today, which earned a number of “I’d buy that magazine!” comments.

I debated posting one of my own covers, then decided the heck with it.  Personally, I really like the way Scott Fischer captured the characters.  I could have done without Talia’s cleavage, but overall, I like the aura of competence and confidence he put into this.

I liked the cover of Jade Dragon, by Jenn Reese.  No clothes at all, but it doesn’t feel exploitative to me.  It’s not that nudity per se is necessarily bad or sexist or anything like that.  This feels appropriate for the book (fantasy/romance), and I thought it was a good cover.

As a reader, which of these would make you pick up the magazine/book?  What works, what would you like to see more of, and what other examples are out there that I’ve missed?  (This was only a sampling.  I know there are a lot of other good covers.)

Sexism is Not About Your Ego

I linked yesterday to Tempest’s post about the disproportionate number of scantily-clad females on Realms of Fantasy’s covers, and the mermaid gracing the new issue of the relaunched ‘zine.  Last night, Doug Cohen posted a response.

Doug is the new art director for Realms, as well as being the long time editorial assistant for the magazine.  I’ve worked with him a few times, and he struck me as a generally nice guy, one who cared a lot about the magazine and was always willing to go the extra mile, reading and commenting on my stories even when they were getting an automatic pass up to the editor.

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the nicest guys who fail the hardest when it comes to discussions of sexism, racism, and so on.  “I’m a nice guy!  How dare you call me sexist!”  [Insert image of face-melting fury at the injustice of such a horrific accusation here.]  We then get to hear all about how these accusations are utter nonsense, and don’t you dare judge me, and the accuser is unfair and angry and mean. More

Open Link Thread

A little brain-fried this morning.  I did another 6000+ words on the rewrite over the weekend, which left little time for coming up with brilliant blog ideas.  (On the bright side, after a year on the book and with less than a month until deadline, I’m getting closer to actually figuring out Red Riding Hood’s character…)

So today, ya get links:

The anthology Gamer Fantastic came out while I was on vacation.  This one includes my story “Mightier than the Sword,” which marks Smudge’s triumphant return to a SF convention.

My Facebook buddy Pablo Ramos has created one of the most entertaining costumes I’ve seen in a while.  He had already put together a delightful Big Boy costume.  Now he’s created something even better: the Big Boy Jedi.  (I copied the thumbnail over, but you’ll probably need a Facebook account to see the details.)

The NCADV/Mermaid’s Madness auction is up to $105, which means in addition to the Mermaid ARC, the winner will also receive another of my books.  (Winner’s choice.)

Tempest challenges a long-standing and frustrating trend at Realms of Fantasy. (Alternate title: Tempest demands more man-butt.) Add my voice to those who are tired of the boob/cleavage emphasis. Realms is a good ‘zine and deserves better.

And … um … that’s all I’ve got.  So I’ll make this an open thread.  If you’ve got a project or link you’d like to share, here’s your chance.

Diabetes Details 1

This is one of those blog posts where I have no idea if anyone else will be interested, but it’s something I felt like talking about.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been diabetic (type 1) for a little over ten years.  My father was diagnosed with the same thing back when I was born, so in a way, I’ve been living with this thing for my whole life.

What fascinated me when I was diagnosed was how much I had never noticed before.  I knew in a vague way what diabetes was and how it could affect you.  I knew about keeping insulin in the fridge and daily shots and blood sugar checks and your spouse shoving Peppermint Patties into your mouth at two in the morning because you miscalculated the dosage for lasagna.

But I didn’t notice the smaller things. 


Roundup & Potentially Obnoxious Publicity

1. In less than 24 hours, the Mermaid’s Madness auction for NCADV is up to $65.  Y’all are awesome.  That is all.

2. My friend Pearl North has a new YA novel out from Tor Teen called Libyrinth [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy].  I think I want to live in this world:

For as long as she can remember, Haly has heard the voices of the books.  Growing up in the Libyrinth, a library so large that people sometimes get lost in it and never come out, she has been surrounded by words and stories her entire life.

3. I’m not happy, but I’ve asked for and received a two-week extension on Red Hood’s Revenge.  In the larger scheme of things, this shouldn’t make much of a difference.  Sometimes it’s more than two weeks before the editor has a chance to read the manuscript anyway.  And given how lousy the writing is going this week, I think it’s better to have the cushion.  It still makes me grumpy, though.

Potentially Obnoxious Publicity Questions:Yesterday I posted a graphic for the Mermaid auction, along with the code for folks to copy and repost.  Partly I did this just because it amused me to stick purple ribbons onto my characters, but the real goal was obviously to get some links back to the auction and spread the word.  (Huge thanks to those of you who did so, by the way!)

At what point does this sort of thing become annoying to you personally?  Reading through my own friends list, I saw where several entries in a row with my own graphic.  When does “effective word of mouth” become too much and turn into “if I see this crap one more time I’m gonna drive to Michigan and crotchpunch this guy!”

It’s tricky.  Someone with a large blogroll will tend to see the same promo a lot, whereas less obsessive blog readers might only come across it once.  From my standpoint, I want to reach as many people as I can, but I don’t want to piss them off in the process.

Ideally, when Mermaid comes out, I think the ENTIRE INTERNET should be talking about it.  Realistically, I’m working on ideas that would hopefully generate some buzz and links, but would also provide unique content as opposed to simply repeating the same graphic, interview, or link 100+ times.  Even so, there’s still an oversaturation risk, and I want to be aware of that.

What do you think?  What works, what doesn’t, and where is the line?

Mermaid’s Madness Auction to Benefit NCADV

Last year, I auctioned off an autographed Advance Review Copy of The Stepsister Scheme to raise money for National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  With ARCs in hand for The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], I’m doing the same thing.  The themes of the series in general and this book in particular make NCADV a perfect recipient for this fundraiser.

Rather than using eBay again (and letting them take a portion of the funds), I’m going to try hosting the auction on my own site.  Please post your bid in the comments at http://www.jimchines.com/2009/07/mermaid-auction/ no later than midnight EST on July 23. 

The rules:

  1. Starting bid is $5.
  2. Bids need to be in at least $1 increments (though you’re welcome to go higher).  No penny ante $5.01 bidding wars, please.
  3. Make sure you include a valid e-mail address (which won’t be published).
  4. Bids must be placed at the jimchines.com address.  Bids at LJ, Facebook, Dreamwidth, or anywhere else the blog is syndicated won’t count, ’cause that gets way too confusing.
  5. I’ll mail the ARC to the winner within 2 business days of receiving payment.

I’ll mail the winner an autographed ARC of the book.  If bidding exceeds $100, I’ll throw in an autographed copy of another of my books (your choice) to go with it.

If you don’t want to bid but still feel like donating, the NCADV donations page is at http://www.ncadv.org/donate.php

Please feel free to spread the word, either by copying and pasting the code below, or simply mentioning the auction on your blog.  Thanks in advance, everyone!

Jim C. Hines