Between sick kids, writing-related work, and a few other things, I haven’t gotten the chance to do much original blog content this week. So it’s rerun time! This is something I wrote back in 2009, to the beat of Green Eggs and Ham. It’s dedicated to all of my long-suffering editor friends…
Slush I Read
(Apologies to Seuss)
I read slush.
That slush I read.
Do you like fanfic with vamps?
I do not like them Mary Sue.
Here’s a tale from D & D!
I do not want your D & D.
Would you like a hot sex scene?
I do not like your pervy tale.
That evil font we do not want!
Would you read this in the loo?
I would not, could not, while I poo!
You just hate me ’cause I’m new!
Too original you say?
I do not like your Marty Stus.
Just one more story for today.
So I will read the slush again.
The mass market paperback edition of Codex Born [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] comes out on August 5, 2014. I’m going through the page proofs now, which means I have the chance to fix any errors that might have slipped through in the hardcover release.
If you are one of those wonderful people who have already picked up a copy of the book (thank you!), and if you’ve stumbled across a typo or mistake, could you please let me know? As a way to say thank you, everyone who emails me about a typo they’ve found will be entered to win an autographed copy of Heroes in Training, the anthology I edited for DAW a while back.
DAW adjusted the cover a little bit for the paperback. And looking at the page proofs, if you add in the excerpt from Unbound in the back, the book comes to almost 400 pages.
And that reminds me, I need to email my editor about cover art ideas for Unbound. I’m thinking Isaac and Smudge riding a cyborg T. Rex over the Mackinac Bridge to battle an axe-wielding kaiju rising out of Lake Michigan. What do you think?
2/2: The response to this post has been great, thank you! Unfortunately, that means I’m having to pick and choose. I’m doing my best to get a wide range of topics and writers. I’m keeping a few spots open to see what else comes in, but I think the roster is mostly full at this point.
This is a call for a handful of guest bloggers to talk about representation in fiction. Because it’s one thing for me to talk about this stuff, but let’s face it, it’s not exactly difficult for me to find characters like me in books, TV, movies, advertising, video games, etc. And there’s a painful irony when conversations about representation end up spotlighting some guy whose part of the most overrepresented group in the country.
I’d be looking for personal stories about what it’s like to not see yourself in stories, how powerful it is the first time you do, things like that. There’s no length requirement, though 400-1000 words is a pretty good range for blog posts. (I’m still amazed anyone read that 6000-word monster from earlier this week.)
As an example of what I’m hoping to help spotlight, here’s an excerpt from an interview with Nichelle Nichols talking about Whoopi Goldberg:
Whoopi Goldberg, she’s just marvelous. I had no way of knowing that she was a Star Trek fan. When I finally met her it was her first year on the Next Generation.
She loved the show so much and she told her agent she wants a role on Star Trek. Well agents go “Big screen, little screen, no, you can’t do that.” Well you can’t tell Whoopi “You can’t do that.”
And so they finally asked, and they had the same reaction at Star Trek office, specifically Gene. And she said, “I want to meet him and I want him to tell me to my face. If he tells me he doesn’t want me and why, I’ll be fine.”
Knowing Gene he had to take that challenge, and so he met with her. She said, “I just wanted you to tell me why you don’t want me in Star Trek.”
Gene said, “Well, I’ll just ask you one question and I’ll make my decision on that. You’re a big screen star, why do you want to be on a little screen, why do you want to be in Star Trek?”
And she looked at him and she said, “Well, it’s all Nichelle Nichols’ fault.”
That threw him, he said, “What do you mean?”
She said, “Well when I was nine years old Star Trek came on,” and she said, “I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’” And she said, “I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be, and I want to be on Star Trek.”
And he said, “I’ll write you a role.”
ETA: It gets better.
Please let me know if you’re interested. Give me a sense of what you’d want to write about. I want to showcase a range of different stories. I’ll be happy to include a bio and link to you online if you’d like, and if not, that’s fine too.
I’ve never done an open call like this, and I have no idea what the response will be like, so I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to publish everyone. But I’ll do the best I can.
If you have questions, please post them in the comments or send them to me directly.
Hello, Friday. What took you so long?
1/30: Comments are back on, in case there are points you feel you need to make that haven’t already been covered in the ~350 posted comments from yesterday. The goblins (and fire-spider) stayed away yesterday, but will be munching comments today as needed.
Hint: if you demean a human being’s gender or sexual preference by equating it to an attraction to animals or furniture? If you question the mental health of an individual who doesn’t fit into your narrow worldview? The goblins will eat your comment.
While we’re at it, I’ve noticed a few people responding to arguments from both me and Correia by basically saying, “Well, his books suck!” Can we not do that? Unless it’s directly relevant to the argument, it feels like a cheap shot, and doesn’t actually address what’s being discussed. So yeah, the goblins will be munching on off-topic book-bashing, too.
1/31: I don’t believe I actually have to say this, but telling someone that they, or people just like them, made Naziism what it was, will also get your comments fed to the goblins.
This is gonna be a long one.
The backstory: Author Alex Dally MacFarlane wrote an article called Post-Binary Gender in SF: An Introduction over at Tor.com, calling for “an end to the default of binary gender in science fiction stories.”
One week later, author Larry Correia wrote a response to MacFarlane’s piece, called Ending Binary Gender in Fiction, or How to Murder Your Writing Career. (Side note: you’ll probably want to avoid the comments on that one.)
I tried to ignore it. There’s no way I’m going to change Correia’s mind about this stuff, any more than his post changed my thinking. But of course, there are a lot of other people lurking and participating in the conversation, and while I know this is going to do bad things to my blood pressure, I think it’s a conversation worth having.
I’m following Correia’s general style here. My responses will be italicized. His original content is indented.
This was sent to me on Facebook the other day. I made some comments there, but then I got to thinking about it and decided this thing was such a good example of how modern sci-fi publishing has its head stuck up its ass that it really deserved its own blog post. My response is really directed toward the aspiring writers in the crowd who want to make a living as writers, but really it works for anybody who likes to read, or who is just tired of angsty emo bullshit.
I wonder which is more angsty … an author calling for our genre to move beyond binary gender, or another author spending 4000+ words about how people like MacFarlane are symbolic of everything that’s wrong with the genre, and are destroying fun.
Okay, aspiring author types, you will see lots of things like this, and part of you may think you need to incorporate these helpful suggestions into your work. After all, this is on Tor.com so it must be legit. Just don’t. When you write with the goal of checking off boxes, it is usually crap. This article is great advice for writers who want to win awards but never actually be read by anyone.
I agree that if you’re writing a story with the kind of checklist Correia describes, you’re probably going to get a bad story. But what exactly are the suggestions Correia objects to? MacFarlane never says all writers must now include at least one non-binary character. She says only that she wants readers to be aware of non-binary texts, and wants writers to stop defaulting to them. Not that authors should never write cismale or cisfemale characters. Just be aware that there are other choices, and make conscious choices about your writing.
Now do yourself a favor and read the comments… I’ll wait… Yeah… You know how when my Sad Puppies posts talk about the “typical WorldCon voter”? Those comments are a good snapshot of one subtype right there.
From the comments to Correia’s piece:
Do we really want to start arguing about what one’s commenters say about one’s audience?
I also know from that Facebook thread that a lot of people tried to comment and disagree for various reasons, but their posts were deleted. (and some of them even swore that they were polite!). But like most modern lefty crusades, disagreement, in fact, anything less than cheerleading, is “intolerance” and won’t be tolerated. Meanwhile, my FB thread had lots of comments and an actual intelligent discussion of the pros and cons from both sides (and even transsexual communists who actually like to enjoy their fiction thought this Tor.com post was silly), so remember that the next time a snooty troll calls my fans a “right wing echo chamber.”
If Tor.com is deleting comments for disagreement, then that’s a serious problem. But skimming through the 100+ comments on the article, I find plenty that disagree with MacFarlane, or argue with what she’s saying. Tor.com does have a moderation policy, so I’d expect comments that violated that policy to get booted. Beyond that, I don’t know the details of the allegedly polite commenters who claim to have been booted for not cheerleading enough, so there’s not much more for me to say about this one.
ETA: I’m told one comment was deleted for stating that non-binary people are mentally ill, which would seem to violate #1, #2, and #4 on Tor.com’s moderation policy. There may have been other deletions, but this is the only one I’m aware of.
ETA2: One of the Tor.com moderators comments on the deletions here.
If you can’t stomach the comments long enough to hear what a typical WorldCon voter sounds like, let me paraphrase: “Fantastic! I’m so sick of people actually enjoying books that are fun! Let’s shove more message fiction down their throats! My cause comes before their enjoyment! Diversity! Gay polar bears are being murdered by greedy corporations! Only smart people who think correct thoughts like I do should read books and I won’t be happy until my genre dies a horrible death! Yay!” (and if there is beeping noise in the background, that’s because they’re backing up their mobility scooter).
So let’s break this pile of Gender Studies 101 mush down into its component bits and see just why some sci-fi writers won’t be happy until their genre dies completely. Like my usual Fisking, the original article is in italics and my comments are in bold.
Because calling for an awareness that not all people fit into a simple binary gender system = KILL ALL THE SCIENCE FICTION!!!
In other news, I believe we should do something about racism in this country, which actually means I WANT TO DESTROY AMERICA!1!!!1!
I’ve recovered — more or less — from my Guest of Honor gig at MarsCon. This was my first time at MarsCon, and it was a great deal of fun. The fact that Virginia is significantly warmer than Michigan right now was a nice bonus. The hotel is located on an actual Civil War battle field, which was interesting, though I didn’t get the chance to get out and look around. I did go for a little walking tour of Colonial Williamsburg on Friday with the con’s YA Guest of Honor Carrie Ryan. (Who was delightful, by the way.)
Interesting note: Within 24 hours of arriving in Virginia, I had been called “sweetie” more times than in the rest of my life combined.
The convention was very well run, in my opinion. I had program info well in advance. Panels all had designated moderators. They turned the con suite into a castle/fairy forest to put all other con suites to shame. Everything I saw ran pretty smoothly, aside from one or two scheduling delays. Big props to the concom and the volunteers.
Friday morning, I hooked up the laptop and did an interview with the folks at Sword & Laser, which was interesting. Challenge #1: Trying to get a decent signal at the hotel. I may end up looking like an old 8-bit video game character. The second challenge was finding an angle that gave us a relatively neutral background while still letting me keep the laptop plugged into the network jack. I think I looked relatively normal on the screen. What you don’t see is the twisted angle of my lower body as I tried to contort myself into a position that wouldn’t yank cables free. (Fortunately, all of that cover posing has prepared me for JUST SUCH A CRISIS!) It was a lot of fun, despite a certain person trolling me with werejaguar questions, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
For the rest of the weekend, I got to MODERATE ALL THE PANELS! We talked about fairy tales (spoiler: Alethea Kontis IS fairy tales), humor (weasels!), writing female characters, and more. I also read most of my Frosty the snowman fanfic, which seemed to go over well. (If you were at the reading and wanted to know how the story ends, or you just want a copy of your own with which to traumatize small children, go here.)
There was a good-sized contingent of costumers, which was awesome. Stormtroopers and Mandalorians and Jareth & Sarah and lots of Doctors and much more, not to mention a steampunk Dalek and Marso the Martian. Yes, that’s right, MarsCon has its own mascot.
When is Penguicon going to get a life-sized penguin costume in SF uniform for the con?
The convention was also working to raise money for the humane society, which meant there were cats and dogs at the con along with humans and aliens. I approve. The charity auction shattered last year’s record, partly because they auctioned off a Dalek, but I prefer to think that the presence of Carrie and myself brought out everyone’s generosity and inspired ALL THE DONATIONS! She and I both donated books to the auction. Carrie’s set sold for $70. So when it was my turn, I stood up and told the crowd that I had to beat Carrie Ryan’s total!
My goblin trilogy sold for $69. Because MarsCon is full of smart-asses. (But seriously, that was a lot of fun, and I’m happy to see so much money come in for the puppies and kitties.)
And then before I knew it, it was time to come home.
All in all, a most excellent weekend. I got to meet and hang out with lots of cool people, and had a great time. Thank you, MarsCon!
Hello, Friday. Nice to see you again. What took you so long?
I’m writing this in part so that I can try to sort out for myself what happened, or at least as much as is known.
“A senior Westin employee referred to our staff, attendees, and guests as “freaks,” and hotel staff expressed their disapproval of our anti-harassment policy … By mutual decision, we agreed to part ways with the hotel. We wish to make clear that these views were expressed by staff of the Westin Chicago River North and do not reflect the opinions of the Westin brand or Starwood Hotels.”
Dobbs provides what he remembers of the hotel manager’s “freaks” quote in another article, saying, “My recollection is that she actually said that ‘Costumed freaks are not in keeping with the reputation’ [of the hotel].”
The hotel posts a brief statement about the cancellation on their Facebook page, expressing disappointment about the “false claims” being spread by Chi-Fi.
“Our team worked diligently to accommodate this group booking, and we never objected to the organization, its attendees or the anti-harassment policy. After much discussion, Chi-Fi Con asked to be allowed out of their contract when it became clear that mutual needs could not be met, and we agreed.”
January 15: Chicago-area fan Michi Trota writes a reaction post, including links to the anger spreading through certain circles of SF/F social media. The story was also picked up by several media outlets, including My Fox Chicago, which interviewed both Dobbs and Trota.
January 16: Anne Elliot, Chi-Fi convention vice-chair, comments on a Skepchick blog post about hotel concerns over the convention’s harassment policy.
“I was present in the meeting with hotel senior staff who expressed concern over our No Harassment Policy. The hotel staff seemed to believe that the fact that we had a policy was an indication that there was something wrong with our attendees and/or guests … This was only one more piece of evidence that led us to believe that the culture of this hotel was not a good fit for our event.”
January 18: Steve Davidson posts an article at Amazing Stories called Pushing Fannish Buttons: Chi Fi vs The Westin River North Hotel of Chicago that notes a lack of “solid, verifiable information” and describes the fallout as, “what is perhaps the greatest demonstration of Geek Power in the history of fandom.” Davidson has done a lot of work on this article, and there’s much more than I can summarize, so I recommend reading the whole thing. Davidson presents two possible narratives:
“The Chi-Fi narrative lays the blame squarely on the hotel for non-cooperation, disparagement of the fan community and the questioning of their anti-harassment policy.
“The other, less vocal narrative comes as speculation on the part of experienced con-runners and it suggests that the real story is that Chi-Fi’s attendance and hotel booking numbers were well below what was needed to float a successful convention.”
Davidson provides documentation from M. Menozzi, the Account Director for the Westin Hotel, which states in part that:
“…it was not about any claimed disparagement, which didn’t happen, or about their anti-harassment policy, which we never objected to in any way only asked whether there was history of problems that necessitated it. It was about economics and a straightforward contract issue. With a short time until the event, very few guest rooms had been booked and we do not allow any group to use the suites as party rooms.”
In response to the low booking, James Dobbs notes that “We began telling everyone to hold of on booking hotel rooms” in response to various difficulties and miscommunications with the hotel.
January 20: Michi Trota writes a follow-up post, Further Thoughts on Chi-Fi Con, Transparency, and Con Culture. She acknowledges that inexperience and low booking numbers may have been a factor, but questions why this needs to be an “either/or” situation.
“It’s entirely possible Chi-Fi Con bit off more than they could chew and the hotel, seeing the lower than expected numbers, decided it would be beneficial to release the con from their contract in order to open up the venue for another event. None of this means that a negative attitude from the hotel toward the con wasn’t a problem that factored into the decision.”
John Scalzi notes that while he doesn’t “know about the details of the Chi-Fi ruckus,” he does have a general comment about harassment policies.
“A harassment policy should not be used as a shield to deflect attention or legitimate questions with regard to the organization of a convention. Aside from any other problematic issue with such a maneuver, doing so has the potential to make it harder for other conventions who wish to implement harassment policies to do so, or for other conventions to work with hotels at all…”
To summarize, what I’m seeing is…
What really happened? Which claims are true and which aren’t? I don’t know. I’m not aware of anyone who does, aside from the people who were there. What I am seeing is people trying to push for one interpretation or another.
Davidson concludes that claims about the hotel’s derogatory comments and concerns over the harassment policy seem to have been “designed to obscure … the more likely scenario” that the con was simply unable to meet their obligations, by pushing “two of the hottest buttons in fandom.” I’ve seen similar conclusions from individuals in various conrunning groups.
When I first heard about this story, I took Chi-Fi’s claims at face value and Tweeted a link to their statement. And I admit that in a clash of geeks vs. corporations, my inclination is to stand with my fellow geeks.
After following the story, my conclusion is that I don’t know what happened. Any or all of the claims from both sides could be true or false or — perhaps more likely, given human nature — somewhere in between. But I don’t know, and without further facts, I don’t expect that to change.
Full disclosure: I was asked a while back to be a guest at Chi-Fi 2014, but declined due to scheduling issues.
At least, I hope it was funny. From my Twitter stream on Thursday:
And that’s as much as I could Tweet before the flight attendant told us to turn off our toys.
Real blog posts coming soon, once I’ve recovered. I had a great time this weekend, but it will take a little while for my brain to reboot.
In addition, I’m Guest of Honor at MarsCon in Virginia this weekend, which is also excellent! My schedule looks like so: