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Newsletter and New Book Title

Klud the goblin will be sending out my next newsletter soon, and will be revealing the title of my next book. And possibly a few plot details to go with it.

I’ll also be giving away an autographed book to one subscriber at random, as usual.

If you want to sign up, now’s your chance. If you’re already signed up, you should be seeing something within the next week. And if you have zero interest in newslettery type things, that’s okay too!

World Fantasy Con Programming Mess

World Fantasy Con 2016 Programming has been announced.

On the bright side, after some internet backlash, it looks like they’ve renamed the “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories” panel. So, um, yay for that? But that particular panel name was a symptom of a bigger problem.

I first found out about this from Sarah Pinsker’s series of Tweets. Some of the problems she points out include:

  • A panel about “perversely alluring” freaks. (Panel description has since been slightly tweaked.)
  • “More mentions of Lovecraft in the program than all women or works by women COMBINED.”
  • Heavy programming emphasis on white men, particularly old/dead white men, to the exclusion of others.

Foz Meadows writes more about this mess. File770 also has a roundup of reactions.

I don’t know what was going on in the mind of Darrell Schweitzer and anyone else involved in putting this program together. But I can’t help thinking about the announcement late last year that the World Fantasy Award trophy would no longer feature the bust of H. P. Lovecraft.

And now we have five different panels that focus either directly or indirectly on Lovecraft.

It’s possible this is a coincidence. I believe Schweitzer is a strong Lovecraft fan, so his focus might just be indicative of his own narrow interests. But whether it was deliberate or not, it feels like backlash. A slap in the face of those who talked about how hurtful the Lovecraft trophy was, and all the reasons they wanted to see the award become more inclusive and welcoming to a broader range of fantasy and creators.

Wouldn’t it be great to see the World Fantasy Convention become equally welcoming instead of what feels like petulant doubling down?

It’s not something that just happens all by itself. If WFC wants to become more relevant, there needs to be conscious and deliberate effort to change direction. To look not just at fantasy from decades ago, but the brilliant, creative, exciting work being produced today.

I love the idea of a World Fantasy Convention. I’m utterly bored by another Whitedude Fantasy Convention.

Schweitzer allegedly said “there was no quota system or affirmative action in place” when asked about his programming choices. I get what he’s trying to say, but he’s wrong. Schweitzer’s own quota system is pretty obvious. It might not have been a conscious or deliberate quota, but the programming certainly meets its 90% works by men quota, and its 96% works by white people quota, and so on.

Gods, I’m so tired of the defensive “quota” bullshit. Nobody’s asking for quotas. But it would be nice if people would at least try to recognize their own biases. Sometimes that means yes, you need to actually step back and count. Count the number of women you’ve included in your programming, the number of people of color, and so on. Not because you’re supposed to include an arbitrary number of people from any given category, but to recognize whether your own unconscious choices are narrower than you realized.

While you’re at it, maybe reach out to ask others to look over your proposed program, and maybe help you catch whether what you think is a “harmless in-joke” is going to piss off and hurt a lot of people, making it very clear you don’t really want them as part of your convention.

It just seems better and easier to do that kind of work beforehand, you know?

SF/F Being Awesome: The Harry Potter Alliance

A reader named Romy alerted me to the Harry Potter Alliance, bringing fans together for good causes. Here are just a few of their accomplishments over the past decade or so, from their website:

  • A partnership with Walk Free that engaged over 400,000 fans and resulted in Warner Bros. changing the sourcing of their Harry Potter chocolate to be 100% UTZ or Fairtrade.
  • Raising over $123,000 for Partners In Health and sending five cargo planes of life-saving supplies to Haiti.
  • Donations of over 250,000 books across the world through HPA’s Accio Books campaign.

I’m particularly enchanted by the annual Accio Books campaign. And I love that the different houses compete to see which can collect the most books. (Ravenclaw was the winner last year, which seems appropriate somehow.) The whole thing just sounds like fun, collaborative work to make the world a better place.

If you’re interested, you can donate, join a chapter, or volunteer.

J. K. Rowling herself has spoken about the group, saying, “I am honoured and humbled that Harry’s name has been given to such an extraordinary campaign, which really does exemplify the values for which Dumbledore’s Army fought in the books.”

I love seeing fans come together like this. I love the hope and the optimism … and I’m always happy to see how stories can inspire people to change the world for the better.

Goblin: Keep Being Awesome!!!

 

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Another Pointless Police Shooting

“Just be more respectful to the police!”
“Comply and cooperate!”
“Black people wouldn’t keep getting shot if they stopped acting like criminals!”

A behavioral therapist and an autistic man. The therapist (black) was on the ground with his hands in the air. He identified himself to the police. He told them the other man was playing with a toy truck.

The police fired three shots. They hit the therapist in the leg. They handcuffed both men, and left the therapist bleeding in the street for 20 minutes.

When the therapist asked why he’d been shot, the officer allegedly said, “I don’t know.”

Later, he said he’d been aiming for the autistic man, but missed. (Three times.)

To those blaming unarmed black men for being shot by the police, how will you justify this one?

Yes, being a police officer is a difficult job. There are times when you have to shoot to stop the bad guy, to protect your life and the life of others. Apparently the police had received a call about a suicidal man with a gun earlier that day.

But if you can mistake a black man on the ground with his hands up and an autistic man playing with a truck for an immediate and deadly threat, maybe you shouldn’t be a police officer.

What will it take for this country to realize so many of these police shootings are unnecessary? To realize how many people are dead for no good reason. For no reason except our learned fear of black men?

And the fact that they’re trying to *justify* this by saying the officer was shooting at the autistic man? Horrifying. Frightening. Disgusting. And another example of our abysmal handling of psychological and mental health issues, both as a society in general, and in law enforcement specifically.

There are individual police departments working to do better. There are a lot of good cops out there. But it’s not enough. We need to do better as a nation. More training, accountability, and less-lethal options from the people we have empowered to enforce the law. (Better laws would help as well, in many cases.) We need to demand better from our elected leaders, and vote out those who refuse to push for changes that would help everyone, including the police.

Until we do, innocent people will continue to be shot. They will continue to die. And for what? The crime of being black? Of being mentally ill?

Stop making excuses. Stop letting people die while we look the other way. Stop pretending everything’s fine because acknowledging anything else might make you uncomfortable. Stop enabling a culture and a system that steals the lives of innocent people.

Did the officer consciously and deliberately set out to shoot an innocent, unarmed black man? I highly doubt it. He may be telling the truth when he says he was intending to save the therapist from an (imagined) threat.

But intentions don’t stop gunshots. They don’t heal bullet holes. They don’t bring back the dead.

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North Miami Police Shoot Black Man Who Said His Hands Were Raised While He Tried to Help an Autistic Patient

Hugo Voting Ends July 31

As you know, Bob, voting for the Hugo Awards closes at the end of the month.

I’m still working my way through the nominated material from the voters packet and online. Some thoughts on various categories…

Best Fanzine: I’ve been saying for about a year now that I think Mike Glyer’s File 770 earned this one, both for the ongoing coverage of last year’s Hugo mess — with links to a range of opinions — and for the sheer amount of fandom-related information the man manages to curate and present every day.

Best Professional Editor (Long Form): My own editor, Sheila Gilbert, is once again up for this one. I’m obviously biased here. Sheila has been wonderful to work with for the past ten years, and she’s made every one of my own books better.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): I struggled a bit with this one, but ultimately decided to go with The Martian for my number one spot. I love the pro-science, pro-intelligence, and generally optimistic and hopeful tone of the story. Plus, you know, poop potatoes and lines like “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.” Mad Max: Fury Road was a close second.

Best Related Work: I haven’t finished reading the nominees yet, but so far I’ve yet to read one that isn’t crap.

Best Short Story: Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures, Please” is my favorite so far, but I’m not done reading this category yet either. “If You Were An Award, My Love,” goes below No Award, but is interesting if only because it shows how obsessed the Rabid Puppies have been with pissing all over anything they don’t understand or personally approve of, to the point of including a threat against the author at the end. I love Chuck Tingle’s persona and his ongoing counter-trolling of Vox Day and the Rabid puppies, but “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” is also going below No Award. (Though it will be ranked above “If You Were An Award, My Love.”)

Best Fan Artist: This may be another No Award category. Thus far, I’ve got Kukuruyo at the very bottom, thanks in part to his penchant for drawing naked/sexual cartoons of underage SF/F girls.

Best Novella: Right now, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti is at the top of my list. (It’s also the only work that wasn’t on the Rabid Puppy slate. Coincidence?)

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For those of you reading and voting, any particular stand-outs you’d like to recommend from this year’s nominees?

Michigamme Fireworks Crew

I was snapping pictures of the fireworks in Michigamme, Michigan earlier this month, when I decided to zoom in on the crew setting them off.

Holy crap. I have a whole new respect for the folks who don protective gear, light their flares, and make sure everything goes off safely and according to plan.

Click for larger images.

Thoughts and Links on Black Lives Matter

I’ve been getting into a number of discussions and arguments lately, and wanted to put my thoughts and some links together in one place to refer back to.

Black Lives Matter was created by three queer Black women: Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza after the killing of Trayvon Martin. From the BLM website, “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.” BLM’s principles include diversity, empathy, and the affirmation of black women, black trans folks, and black families.

11 Major Misconceptions About the Black Lives Matter Movement. Including misconceptions like “The movement hates police officers,” “The movement hates white people,” and “The movement doesn’t care about black-on-black crime.”

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But Don’t All Lives Matter?

Sure. And nobody has suggested otherwise. It seems like when (mostly white) people hear “Black Lives Matter,” they imagine a silent “Only” at the beginning. Or maybe they’re imagining a silent “More Than Others” at the end, I’m not sure. But these sentiments are imaginary. Perhaps they’re a projection. Perhaps it’s simple fear. Perhaps it’s just a lack of understanding.

When I say fundraising and research for diabetes matters, I’m not suggesting that other diseases don’t deserve research and funding. But as a diabetic and the son of a diabetic, one who’s seen diabetic friends suffer severe complications from the disease, this is something I think it’s important to work on.

The problem with “All Lives Matter” — one of the problems, at any rate — is that it came about as a response to Black Lives Matter. Here’s a Google Trends search showing the popularity of the phrases “Black Lives Matter” (in blue), “All Lives Matter” (in red), and “Blue Lives Matter” (in yellow):

* Lives Matter Google TrendsThere’s no Google traffic on “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” until after the BLM movement began gaining popularity. In other words, the evolution of “All Lives Matter” hasn’t been as a simple affirmation that yes, all lives do matter — something nobody has been arguing. Instead, it’s a direct response to the BLM movement.

To be blunt, it’s people who hear someone saying, “Black lives matter!” and rather than agreeing that yes, this is a true statement, people try to change the focus of the conversation. I don’t know where this knee-jerk attempt comes from, but the effect is to make it harder to talk about the problems facing black people. In other words, you are making yourself one more obstacle to progress.

Because right now, in our society? All lives don’t matter. We don’t treat all lives as equally important. Hell, even our judicial system is more likely to execute a black defendant than a white one, when all else is equal.

If you really want all lives to matter, then you need to join the effort to make black lives matter too. Otherwise, your cry of “all lives matter” is just empty words.

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What About the Police? Blue Lives Matter Too!

Again, nothing about the Black Lives Matter movement states or suggests that police lives don’t matter. From BLM’s official statement after the shooting of Dallas police officers, “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it.”

There’s a narrative that we have a war on the police here in the U.S., but the data don’t seem to back that up.

Data on Police Deaths

Preliminary data show that we’ve seen the exact same number of police deaths in 2016 as we had by this point last year.

None of this means those deaths are acceptable, or that they shouldn’t be mourned. None of it means police lives don’t matter. They do, and Black Lives Matter isn’t saying or suggesting otherwise.

There’s a great deal of fear, distrust, and anger toward the police in this country. That’s not equivalent to a war on police. Nor is it a suggestion that police lives don’t matter.

To be a good police officer is a difficult, stressful, and at times dangerous job. I think it’s possible to acknowledge this, and to mourn those officers lost in the line of duty, without coopting or undercutting another movement.

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But Racism is Over!

2015 Data on Police Killing of Blacks. “Whites make up a disproportionally smaller portion of those killed by law enforcement compared to their portion of the general population – 11.3% less. Blacks on the other hand make up a disproportionally larger portion of those killed (26.5%) compared to the general population (13.2%) – 13.3% more or double!”

Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014. “The results provide evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average … the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.”

Two Thoughts on Ferguson. A blog post I did two years ago, gathering data to show that the percentage of people killed by police in the U.S. is significantly higher than in other countries, and that from 1999 to 2011, the statistical likelihood of being killed by a police officer in the U.S. was about three times higher for black people than for whites.

Black and White in the U.S. Another blog post with additional data. Here are some highlights:

These problems aren’t new. It’s just getting harder for us to shut our eyes and plug our ears and pretend it’s not happening.

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Misc:

All Houses Matter: The Extended Version – This comic by Kris Straub does a nice job (in my opinion) of creating an analogy to help people understand why the “All Lives Matter” response can be so frustrating.

BLM

BLM Tweet

I obviously don’t know first hand what it’s like to be black in America today. I’ve been working to read and better understand, but that understanding is always going to be imperfect and second-hand. There’s a lot I didn’t get into here, and there are doubtless many things I’ve simply missed or overlooked.

I reserve the right to come back and add and update this post as my understanding evolves, or as I discover new data and resources.

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Jim C. Hines