Saturday, September 17, 2011

Link Stuff -- Writing and GLBT Issues

So for quite a while now I've been clicking on the "Share" button on my Google blog reader whenever I came across something there that I thought other people would enjoy, but they don't make it clear how to follow someone's shared posts, and in fact I don't remember what I did to sign up to follow the two people whose shares I'm following, nor did poking around the reader window enlighten me, nor have I heard anyone else mention following someone else's shared posts -- mine or anyone's -- in the last couple of years. I'm therefore assuming that's not something any great number of folks are doing. (Please let me know if I'm wrong.) I've been posting with commentary about things I wanted to comment on extensively, or occasionally things I ran across outside of the blog reader where sharing wasn't an option, and just sharing the rest, but earlier this month I started bookmarking links in a special folder so I could do linkspam posts with greater or lesser amounts of commentary on each item, with the idea that some people might actually, you know, see them that way. Then of course I was sick for a while (again [sigh] but luckily just a stomach flu) and a few more things have piled up than I'd planned to let accumulate, so I'm going to try to get through all of them in a somewhat orderly way. After this, I'll try to keep these shorter.

Things specifically of interest to writers first:

Mike Lombardo brilliantly refutes some gentleman who thinks people shouldn't ever get paid for their IP -- thanks to Colleen Doran for posting this. I don't watch many videos online, but I'm glad I watched this one. It's a point-by-point refutation of a blog post that's basically a regurgitation of every whiny excuse you ever heard a pirate give for why it's right and proper for them to steal whatever they want, and why you're a greedy bastard (blogger's words, quoted by Mike) for wanting to be paid for your work. About ten minutes, entertaining, lots of snickers.

That Awesome Time I Was Sued for Two Billion Dollars -- Another video, just to be all organized. This is Jason Scott, who runs, among other things. (He's also the guy who founded the Archive Team, the group that goes around rescuing terabytes of user-uploaded content (basically the internet's history) from sites like Geocities when they got shut down, and whatever all Yahoo is deleting this week. He gets legal harassment mail pretty regularly, and this is a talk he gave at the DefCon 17 conference about one of those times, when a guy who decided that anyone who might've downloaded a free copy of his book (which he'd originally given away for free himself, and which he was stell giving away for free from his web site even as he was suing people who had free copies -- seriously, you have to hear the story) took it all the way to a court case. Writers get sued sometimes, and so do bloggers, so I figured this might be interesting. At the very least, it's entertaining. (Note that I'm assuming nobody who reads me regularly has to be told not to act like this particular writer. [cough])

Important Versus Urgent -- novelist Camille Laguire talks about setting priorities, and the difference between important and urgent. A lot of common sense, with clear examples.

A Word or Two to Aspiring Writers -- Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff uses examples from an unnamed book by a "Nationally Bestselling Author" (I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds like someone who should know better) to discuss the ever-popular What Not To Do. Even if you're not an aspiring writer, this is worth a read, if only for the bogglement factor.

I knew the book had problems when I found myself reading the same dialogue over and over . . . at different locations and in different scenes.

There was a repeated dream sequence that, at each recap consumed at least half a page, often more. If that had been the only repeated element, I’d have been fine with it, but it wasn’t. The hero and heroine literally fled from place to place and re-enacted the same “push-me-pull-you” dialogue at each new stop. Sometimes a new piece of information would be brought forth or an epiphany would occur (to be promptly forgotten), but most often, the dialogue was simply repeated in its essentials.

It went something like this (broadly paraphrased):

“Trust me,” he says. “I’m here. I won’t leave you.”
“I can’t trust you,” she says. “I can’t let anyone in. I’m crazy!”
“No, your sister’s crazy. You’re wonderful. And I’m going to help you.”
“Really?” Can I trust him? I want to trust him. I don’t want to trust him. I …
“Trust me! I’ll protect you!”
“Good. Let’s get out of here.”
“No! I can’t trust you!”
(Repeat as needed, with varying degrees of mild physical violence.)

Ooookay.... [blink] You know, if I knew you could do that and still be a bestseller, I could've saved myself a whole lot of work trying to hit wordcount targets. [Angie macros COPY and PASTE commands]

My favorite piece of advice is the last one, though:

No matter what genre you’re writing, strive to make your characters self-consistent. Don’t make a brilliant cryptographer suddenly unable to crack the Sunday Crypto-Quote. Don’t have your Oxford don talking like Eliza Doolittle pre-‘enry ‘iggins. And don’t have to women who’ve shown Darth Vader-like abilities when threatened, suddenly helpless in the face of a confrontation they’ve been prepping for throughout your whole book.

Hallelujah! Seriously, if the only way you can create tension is to give your character(s) a lobotomy, you're doing it wrong. Really. I've seen this a lot and it's always good for a few eyerolls. And why aren't editors catching this? [sigh]


What Happens When an Author Dies? -- this is an excellent planning on death, wills and writers. Definitely read this if you're a writer, or any other creative producer.

Indie Author Goes Traditional – A Cautionary Tale -- in case you haven't heard, Kiana Davenport was a writer who signed with a Big Six publisher back in January of last year for a novel, after having what sounds to me like considerable success publishing short stories. She had the rights to the stories, after they'd appeared in various places, so she e-pubbed a couple of collections of these previously published shorts. Then:

In January, 2010, I signed a contract with one of the Big 6 publishers in New York for my next novel. I understood then that I, like every writer in the business, was being coerced into giving up more than 75% of the profits from electronic sales of that novel, for the life of the novel. But I was debt-ridden and needed upfront money that an advance would provide. The book was scheduled for hardback publication in August, 2012, and paperback publication a year later. Recently that publisher discovered I had self-published two of my story collections as electronic books. To coin the Fanboys, they went ballistic. The editor shouted at me repeatedly on the phone. I was accused of breaching my contract (which I did not) but worse, of 'blatantly betraying them with Amazon,' their biggest and most intimidating competitor. I was not trustworthy. I was sleeping with the enemy.

Wow. Everyone else is figuring out that having more product available in the marketplace stirs up more interest in one's work. If anything, Kiana's publication of those two anthologies would generate more interest in the novel, not less. And the stories were already out there -- "Most of the stories in both collections had each been published several times before, first in Story Magazine, then again in The O’HENRY AWARDS PRIZE STORIES anthologies, the PUSHCART PRIZE stories anthologies, and THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, 2000, anthology" -- so chances are it wouldn't be too hard to get most of those stories from libraries anyway, right? All the publisher could see was that they were competition, and apparently the fact that they were competing on Amazon made a rather large difference.

So, here is what the publisher demanded. That I immediately and totally delete CANNIBAL NIGHTS from Amazon, iNook, iPad, and all other e-platforms. Plus, that I delete all Google hits mentioning me and CANNIBAL NIGHTS. Currently, that's about 600,000 hits. (How does one even do that?) Plus that I guarantee in writing I would not self-publish another ebook of any of my backlog of works until my novel with them was published in hardback and paperback.

Not only is that outrageous, it's impossible. And seriously, do you want a publisher that thinks it's even possible for an individual to delete "all Google hits mentioning" her and a book from the internet to be responsible for doing your marketing? Because I wouldn't have any faith at all in the ability of a publisher with that little understanding of the internet and of Google to do any kind of effective marketing online, where a lot of the current book buzz resides.

The publisher declared Kiana to be in breach of her contract -- although Kiana says she wasn't; it depends on the exact phrasing of the noncompete clause -- and demanded their advance back. Kiana has decided that it's worth $20,000 to be out of that mess, and to know who the enemy actually is. I have to agree. Wow. And as Passive Guy comments, this situation is a great example of why a writer might need a lawyer, even if she has an agent. Click through to Kiana's blog for more details.

And a follow-up to the previous post, with PG commenting on comments from Brian DeFiore, a publishing insider, on why Kiana "obviously" made a huge mistake in publishing her anthologies, and how if they were print books, "we would understand in a flash that publishing two books prior to a contracted-for work would constitute a breach of contract." Really? You know, unless Mr. DeFiore has seen Kiana's publishing contract, and knows the exact wording of her noncompete clause, I have no clue where he's getting this. PG can't figure it out either.

The reason an author understands publishing competitive books is a breach of contract is if it’s actually written in the contract. Passive Guy knows this is a shocking idea in the publishing business, but, alas, that’s the law.

Exactly. You know something is contractually required or forbidden because it's in the contract. If it's not, then it's just a publisher (or whatever party to any given contract) using hand-waving and intimidation and scary-sounding language to try to bully the other party into compliance.

Passive Guy is brilliantly snarky (and informative in his point-by-point demolition) in response to Mr. DeFiore's rather condescending comments. Definitely click through and read the whole thing.

Jutoh -- TPG linked to this software product that's supposed to help you format your manuscript for various e-book file types. I haven't tried it myself, but if it does what it says it does, it should be a great help to anyone self-pubbing electronically. There's a free demo, too.

What's going on with #yesGayYA -- as is often the case when a major issue goes nuclear, Cleolinda has a great summary and set of links. In case you haven't heard, Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith guest posted on the Genreville blog on Publisher's Weekly.

Our novel, Stranger, has five viewpoint characters; one, Yuki Nakamura, is gay and has a boyfriend. Yuki’s romance, like the heterosexual ones in the novel, involves nothing more explicit than kissing.

An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us.

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.

Rachel replied, “Making a gay character straight is a line in the sand which I will not cross. That is a moral issue. I work with teenagers, and some of them are gay. They never get to read fantasy novels where people like them are the heroes, and that’s not right.”

The agent suggested that perhaps, if the book was very popular and sequels were demanded, Yuki could be revealed to be gay in later books, when readers were already invested in the series.

You can guess how well that went over. There were discussions, mostly pretty angry, on various blogs and sites.

A few days later, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, an agent who works for the same agency as the agent referred to above (who was not named by Brown and Smith, nor was the agency named) posted a refutation on another blog, essentially calling Brown and Smith liars, only slightly more diplomatically. More fireworks, including a bunch of people who decided that Brown and Smith must have lied since Stampfel-Volpe said they did, and anyone who took Brown and Smith's word was stupid because clearly Stempfel-Volpe's word was... wait, what?

What it seems to come down to is that there are people who are outraged and offended that Brown and Smith called them or their friends or their coworkers evil homophobes, even though Brown and Smith didn't do that. They went public not to talk abou their specific case -- which couldn't be done anyway, since they hadn't said which agent had made them the straightwashing offer, so there was no one specific for anyone to be angry with until Stempfel-Volpe outed her agency by responding -- but rather to discuss the institutional barriers to GLBT characters, or characters with other diversity characteristics, in YA fiction.

I've seen the same thing happen in race discussions, where someone says, "You know, this particular statement/action is kind of racist," and twelve people slam them with variations of "OMG how dare you call me/my friend a racist, you evil #$%&@!" and it's all mushroom clouds from there on. People don't get that an action is not a person. A statement is not a person. That it's possible for an action or a statement to be homophobic or racist without the person who did or said it being deliberately or even knowingly racist. That's not the point. If you take a step backward and land on someone's bare foot with your bootheel, you've hurt them; the fact that you didn't mean to doesn't make their broken toes hurt any less. When they say "Ouch!" the proper response is "Oh, I'm so sorry!" not "How dare you say I assaulted you!" There's a too-common disconnect between what's said and what's heard when it comes to bigotry issues; too many people assume that they always must be personal attacks, when often they're not.

Brown and Smith said in the PW post:

This isn’t about one agent’s personal feelings about gay people. We don’t know their feelings; they may well be sympathetic in their private life, but regard the removal of gay characters as a marketing issue. The conversation made it clear that the agent thought our book would be an easy sale if we just made that change. [bolding mine] But it doesn’t matter if the agent rejected the character because of personal feelings or because of assumptions about the market. What matters is that a gay character would be quite literally written out of his own story.

We are avoiding names because we don’t want this story to be about one agent who spoke more bluntly than others whose objections were more indirectly expressed. Naming names can make it too easy to target a lone “villain,” who can be blamed and scolded until everyone feels that the matter has been satisfactorily dealt with.

Colleen Lindsay, who hosted Stempfel-Volpe's response post, said, "I later discovered that not only did I know the agent in question, but that this person was actually a dear friend of mine, someone who most certainly wasn't homophobic." She's clearly taking this personally on behalf of her friend. The bolded passage above shows that Brown and Smith weren't attacking the agent for homophobia; they were addressing an issue with the YA fiction business as a whole, wherein there's a perception -- whether true or not -- that books with GLBT characters are harder to sell. Because that's all it takes, some number of agents or editors saying "No" because they think a book might not sell, or might be more difficult to sell, or might sell in lesser numbers. No one in the business has to be personally homophobic for that behavior to exist.

Some people came out and insisted that this never happened, that they'd be shocked if it happened, that nobody in the YA fiction business would ever ask for something like that and they should know because they know a lot of people in the business, or that they published a YA book with a GLBT character and no one had a problem with it therefore there isn't a problem. Uh huh. (That's like saying "But we have a black president now, so there can't be any racism in the US." [sigh] One person, or even a bunch of people succeeding, doesn't mean there aren't barriers. If there's a twenty-foot wall around the supermarket, some people will still get groceries. That won't stop me and my arthritis -- and a whole lot of other people who just don't happen to own grappling hooks or really long ladders -- from going hungry.)

Does it happen? Apparently so. A lot of people commented on the Publisher's Weekly article with their own experiences, and quite a few of them said the same thing happened to them. Cleolinda quotes quite a few of them, toward the end of her post.

Malinda Lo has numbers on GLBT characters in YA since 1969. The good news is that the numbers have gone up quite a lot. The bad news is that "up quite a lot" means that 0.2% of YA books published in 2010 had GLBT characters. Some generous estimates put the 2011 figure at about 1%, which is better, but still ridiculously low for a group of people who comprise 10-15% of the general population.

John Scalzi is wonderfully succinct, which is obviously not one of my skills:

My particular take on it is that the authors did the right thing by saying “thanks, no,” and that in general there should be gay characters in YA because a) surprise, there are gay folks everywhere and b) in my opinion as a father, there’s not a damn thing wrong with my child encountering gay folks in her literature, because see point a).

I hadn't meant to write quite so much about this issue, but this is important. There's more in Cleolinda's post, and I encourage you to click through.

Segueing into a Couple More GLBT Interest Links:

Why Can't You Just Butch Up? -- an article by Bret Hartinger about effeminate men and why they can't (or shouldn't have to) just behave more like macho dudes.

Gotta Love Clint Eastwood -- Clint's not the most liberal of guys, but I was mentally applauding while reading this article. In a nutshell:

"These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage?" Eastwood opined. "I don't give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We're making a big deal out of things we shouldn't be making a deal out of."

Go Clint!

The first chunk of comments is actually sane and rational, which is pretty amazing. Soon enough the homophobes and trolls show up, though. You have to love the people who can say with a straight typeface that if we legalize gay marriage, everyone will marry someone of the same sex, no more babies will be born, and the human race will die out. Wow. Logic -- get yourself some.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blogger Issues

So, I figured out what's up with Blogger, or at least how to work around the crazy, as is probably clear from the fact that the anthology post went up last night. For anyone else using Blogger, here's what I figured out:

The closest I've found to an announcement about the change is a Blogger Buzz piece about Blogger's Fresh New Look from 31 August. That's all about the changes to the layout of the interface; there's nothing there about messing with the functionality. Or maybe that's implied in:

We’ve rewritten the entire editing and management experience from scratch so it’s faster and more efficient for you

although that's not how I'd have described it. [cough]

Speaking of speed, everything about Blogger has slowed way down; it's been frustratingly slow since yesterday. I don't know if that's inherent in the new interface, or if it's because all the users (like me) who didn't opt in earlier were pitched head-first into all this fresh newness and have been clicking around the system trying to figure out how to turn it off. I'm hoping the latter, because that implies things will speed up again once folks figure out how to manage in the new environment.

Oh, and there's this bit:

Starting today, we’ll gradually let all bloggers choose to turn on the new UI, so your Blogger experience won’t be updated until you enable it.

Wow, that lasted a whole ten days! :/ Or maybe nine -- Charles said his Novel Spaces post was messed up enough that it failed to auto-post as it'd been set to do the night of the 9th/10th.

The good news is there's a fix, although in keeping with the whole WTFishness of the situation, it's not spelled out anywhere and it's not where you might expect it to be. It's simple, but not immediately obvious (even after you've done what you need to do), which makes it more frustrating than it should've been.

If you click on New Post and get the edit window, on the right is a gear icon labelled Options. Click on that, and the third and last option is "Line breaks" with two radio buttons. One is "Use [BREAK] tag" and the other is "Press 'Enter' for line breaks." Click on the second one, and you can type or paste in your post the same way you did before.

There's no blog-level option that I found to change this universally, and when I tested it last night by starting a second new post after the anthology post went up, the default was still set to BREAK tags. I could change it to use Enter, but I had to change it; at that point I assumed that the BREAK tag option was hard-coded as the default and that I'd have to reset the option every time I created a new post. Also, when I went back into Edit mode on some of my old posts last night, they were still full of BREAK tags, which reinforced my conclusion that we were being strongly herded toward that mode for... whatever reason.

When I came back this morning to write up this what-I've-found post, though, the option had changed. Starting a new post automatically came up with the Enter option, and when I went into edit on an old post, it had been converted back to the Enter format. I don't know whether a change went in overnight, or whether it just takes the system that long to notice the last mode you used, update your New Post default option, and convert your old posts. Although if it's converting all your old posts whenever you switch, that might be another factor in the slowdowns, which would also be good news because that would mean that once everyone is settled into their preferred option, the system should speed up again. [crossed fingers]

So the bottom line is that there's this Fresh New Interface to deal with, but once you've told the system which edit option you prefer, it'll eventually remember and it's business as usual from that point on.

I still have no clue why the BREAK option was set as the initial default. If I wanted to have to deal with ridiculous defaults whenever the system upgraded, I'd have joined Facebook, seriously. Whoever's responsible for that one needs a smack upside the head to jar a few brain cells loose, but at least it's not a permanent option the way it seemed to be last night.

Oh, and one good thing about the change, to be fair. When you hit Preview now, you get a separate window. You can look over the preview, go back to the edit window to change something, then go right back to the preview window without losing your place there. Previously, hitting Preview brought up the preview in the same window, and if you saw something you wanted to fix, you had to scroll up and hit Hide Preview to get back to edit, then hit Preview again and scroll to find your place to continue proofreading; this is something that's been annoying for a long time, particularly for the anthology market posts, which tend to be very long. So the development team gets a cookie for this particular improvement.

Back to business.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Anthology Markets

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Blogger "Upgrade?"

Has anyone else tried posting on Blogger this morning? I came on to do my anthology post, and found that some brainiac at Google (I'm assuming, since Google owns Blogger, that someone at that level at least approved this crap) decided that Blogger wasn't working well enough the way it was, that it needed an overhaul. Now you have to manually insert a BREAK tag wherever you want to force a carriage return, like when you end a paragraph, or want a blank line, or a line with a *** on it, or whatever. Basically, unless you're in the middle of a paragraph you want to auto-wrap, you need a BREAK tag at the beginning of every freaking line. Going into edit on an old anthology post, the left hand column is a stream of BREAK tags. Posting without them -- you know, like we used to do -- results in all your text collapsing into an unreadable monoblock. Inserting them where they now need to be is a major pain, and even this short post is annoying to compose; the thought of having to use them in something the length of the anthology posts has me seeing red.

I'm not at all happy about this. I'm feeling a strong desire to thwap whoever was responsible for this with a two-by-four. This is a classic case of, "Don't fix what isn't broken, stupid!"

Angie, incredibly pissed off this morning

PS -- the Anthology post will be delayed while I sit here fuming and hoping that the idiot who did this experiences a sudden rush of brains to the cranium and rolls it back the way it was. Apologies, folks, but please give it a day or two. If they decide to leave it like this, I'll figure out what to do then. [sigh]

Sunday, September 4, 2011

WorldCon Part 4

Okay, I'm going to wrap up this time, promise. :) No more panels I want to talk about, so this'll be more random stuff I remember that seemed cool or interesting.

For Game of Thrones fans, they had the actual TV series iron throne, which is made out of swords and looks very uncomfortable, in the display area. It was right out in the open and anyone who wanted to sit in it could do so. Every day I saw lots of people taking pictures of the throne, of their friends in the throne, of their friends standing next to George R. R. Martin in the throne, and having other people take their picture in the throne or their picture next to George R. R. Martin in the throne. Once he's done with the series I'll read the books -- a lot of people seem to think they're pretty awesome. :)

The dealer's room (which was actually a cordoned off section of the trade-show-sized hall it shared with the art show and the display area and the small stage and a bunch of other stuff) was kind of smallish for a WorldCon, or maybe I've just been spoiled. Lots of book dealers, although I was able to restrain myself. :) I found a few books I'd had on my wish list on one table for half off, which was pretty awesome. One was Arab Folktales by Inea Bushnaq (you find all sorts of cool stuff at SF cons) which I recommend highly. It's not only a great collection of stories, if you're into folk/fairy tales, but also there's an introduction to the book as a whole and to each section talking about characters and culture and custom and such, so I learned at least as much about traditional Arab culture from reading this as I have from any of the Early Arab History type books I've read. And it was a lot more fun; I read the whole thing over three or four days and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You know, I think the rise in online shopping, and particularly places like Amazon, has made it easier to restrain myself in a convention dealer's room. Even small press books are easily available online; it used to be it was hard to even know what was around, much less actually buy it, unless you were at a convention with a lot of dealers and publishers gathered in one place.

I also caught up on the bound editions of Schlock Mercenary (which was up for a Hugo for Best Graphic Story but didn't win :( ). If you buy the books at a convention, Howard Taylor, the writer/artist, will use a blank page in the back (included for this purpose) to draw you the character of your choice. He was very nice, especially considering I'm awful with names and asked for "Dr. Bunny" (actually her name -- she's one of the regulars so I remember what she's called), "the ex-special forces spy chick in her baggy stolen combat suit" and "the AI girl doing her Bambi-eyes thing 'cause she rocks at that." [hides under keyboard] Howard was completely cool about my verbal mangling of his characters, and I am grateful. :)

I also got a pair of T-shirts (one for me and one for spousal unit) that say "Harrington Treecats" with graphics to make it look like a baseball team fan shirt. This is awesome if you're a fan of David Weber's Honor Harrington series. If you're not, you're probably going "Huh?" which was the reaction of two of my friends to whom I displayed a shirt shortly after buying them. [heavy, theatrical sigh] I have to start giving my friends books for Christmas.

Other than that, I didn't spend any money in the dealer's room. I exercised quite a bit of restraint, although actually, it's easier than it used to be. There are fewer cool-thingy dealers at cons these days; you used to be able to find multiple dealers selling 8x10 photos, replica weapons (both replicas of TV/movie stuff and replicas of historical blades, plus some very cool battery powered light/laser guns from no particular source), buttons with great sayings on them (I used to spend like $20 on buttons at every con -- I had a couple of shoeboxes full by the time I stopped), fanzines, replica patches and insignia and trim and other stuff you needed to make your own Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica or whichever uniform, etc. Cons nowadays have little or none of this stuff, and it's depressing. I'm thinking the economy probably drove most of the more marginal dealers out of business, but whatever the reason, it sucks. [sigh]

I went through the art show with a couple of friends in about an hour or so. It was very small for a WorldCon, or it seemed like it. There were some Ken Macklin originals, which were cool to see; I haven't seen anything by him in an art show in at least a decade or so. A friend of mine, Stuart Shepherd, sold some pieces, which is very cool. Stu does fantasy art and also aviation/military art. It's funny, he and I went to high school together, and I saw him at a BayCon like ten or fifteen years later. He wasn't really an SF con sort of person, but he'd dropped by to look around. He told me he was an artist now and I said, "Hey, we've got a couple of spaces left in the art show! If you have any SFish stuff you could go get, maybe you'll sell something." It was only like $5 a panel back then, so it made a great impulse buy, especially if you happened to be an artist. :) Turned out Stu had some framed paintings in his trunk, so he signed up, went out to get them and hung them up there and then. I don't remember whether anything sold that year, but he's been a regular at the BayCon art show since, and has done more fantasy art. At the time he'd mostly been doing box art for aviation model kits -- gorgeous stuff, and I'm not even into planes. He's also combined the genres; one new piece has a dragon fighting a tank and a military helicopter, and another has some SFish looking fighter planes (from Atlantis, according to the title) buzzing around a modern aircraft carrier.

One of the days, I forget whether it was Thursday or Friday, there was an art demo in the big room near the displays. A young woman in a bikini-ish sort of outfit posed for a number of artists, including the Artist Guest of Honor, Boris Vallejo. Boris was one of the first artists whose work I learned to recognize by style when I was a teenager. I got Boris calendars as part of my Christmas loot every year for like fifteen or twenty years, plus I have a book of prints floating around somewhere. I was on my way somewhere else and didn't get a chance to watch him (or the others) work, but it must've been pretty cool for the baby artists in the crowd to get to watch such a well known pro.

The masquerade is always one of my favorite events; I've seen the masquerade at all but a couple of conventions I've attended, and usually if I've missed it, it was because I was working the con and was stuck behind a desk or something during that time. Phil and Kaja Foglio MCed (properly dressed for the occasion) and did a wonderful job. They're both obviously comfortable in front of a huge crowd (either that or they fake it really well) and managed just the right mix of jokes and getting on with business. There were only twenty-eight entries this year (another effect of the economy, I'm pretty sure; costuming is an expensive hobby if you're going all out) but there were some great ones.

My friend Karen McWilliams (who went to high school with me and Stu) went as the Undine, based on Anderson's mermaid, who died after being betrayed by her prince. Karen is a master costumer, and she won Best Use of Dyes (a workmanship award), for obvious reasons, but she also got a presentation award. She's been studying movement for over thirty years, and can move and dance in a costume on stage in a way many other costumers can't. I linked to a series of photos, but you really had to be there to get the full effect. That's true of a lot of costumes, especially the funny ones; they look kind of okay-whatever if you can't see the presentation.

Princess Pacman was one of those -- it's kind of okay-whatever if you just look at the costume itself, but the presentation was hilarious, all about how Princess Peach (from the Super Mario games) discovered that her love, Mario, was leaving her for some other floozy, and how she set out to find her true love, someone who'd love her and appreciate her. She ended up with Pacman. Trust me, it worked. :D She won a presentation award, Most Humorous.

Lance Ikegawa came as a Blue Meanie from the Yellow Submarine movie, and it's awesome. :D He got a workmanship award too, if I recall correctly; the blue fur is some ridiculous number of blue clown wigs, cut up and sewn into the body part of the costume. Definitely click through and take a look, especially if you remember the movie. :)

Another nostalgic kind of costume was the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater, by Susan Scheufele. This one was in exhibition only; usually that means the costume has won an award at a convention the same size or larger than the current one. At WorldCon, that probably means either another WorldCon or a CostumeCon.

One of my favorite costumes was a large group who came out as Semi-Precious, each one representing a semi-precious stone. Costumers have been doing this sort of thing for years -- putting together group costumes based on the seasons or the zodiac or the continents or the elements or whatever they think they can do cool wearable representations of. So okay, someone thought the semi-precious stones would work, and the costumes weren't bad, in all the different colors. Each one carried a banner with the name of the stone they were portraying, so you could tell which was what. Okay, that was cool -- they're all spread across the stage with their serious processional-type music playing, when suddenly the music stopped, and started up again, and everyone flipped their banners. The person with the first banner dashed over to stand just before the second, then the third, then the fourth, etc., keeping the lyrics going. It was great -- everyone was laughing and clapping and groaning. :D They won a presentation award, "Worst Internet Meme."

Another one of my favorites was Night at the Sci-Fi Museum. They did sort of a parody of the Night at the Museum movies; when the lights came up, the bug-alien and the space-lady were up on boxes, frozen like exhibits. The night watchman guy came wandering on stage and they played with him for a bit, only moving when he wasn't watching, with him between them. The space-lady got his keys and she and the bug were able to escape. It was done all tongue-in-cheek and it was very funny, and the costumes themselves were great too. They won Best In Show for Original Presentation.

There were a bunch more, including some more really good ones, but you can see for yourself -- here's the "masquerade worldcon reno" Flickr collection, and the "worldcon 2011 masquerade" Flickr collection. Currently it's three people's worth of photos between the two of them; hopefully more will be added over time.

The Hugos was your basic award show. Jim and I always go when we're at WorldCon, and it's fun to watch the results and see how many I voted for actually won. (Usually not many. [duck]) My second favorite part of the evening was when Chris Garcia and James Bacon won the Best Fanzine award for their zine Drink Tank. Chris pretty much melted down on stage. :) It was great -- he ended up sitting on the stage cuddling his statue while James was taking his turn to thank everybody at the microphone, hee!

My favorite part was when Robert Silverberg got up to award the Best Novella Hugo. He and Connie Willis have been taking humorous shots back and forth at each other at the Hugos for however many years, often with a theme of stretching out their speech or presentation intro or whatever while the other is sitting somewhere waiting to find out whether he/she has won something. Because no one is in a hurry at moments like that, right? Silverberg is a brilliant presenter, a wonderful speaker, and has a talent for being dryly hilarious. He managed to stretch his introduction out for several minutes, and whenever it seemed like he was going to get on with it and read the nominees, he'd start up again and keep going with the rambling. It was awesome, and a privilege to watch a master at work. :D

Unfortunately my least favorite part of the Hugos contrasted strongly with Silverberg's presentation. The two guys MCing the ceremony spent a lot of time stretching things out in various places (I'm not sure why), and tried very hard to be funny, but usually failed. I don't know, I'm sure there were other people who thought they were wonderful from beginning to end, but before very long I was whispering "Why don't they get ON with it!" to myself and/or my husband every few minutes. They tried hard, and neither one is a professional performer or anything, so I'm sure they did their best. I wish we could just have Robert Silverberg MC the Hugos, all of them, forever. That'd be very cool.

Oh, my other favorite part -- Phil and Kaja Foglio won the Best Graphic Story Hugo for their excellent steampunk web comic Girl Genius. Best Graphic Story is a new category, and the award has only been given three times, including this year. Girl Genius has won all three times. After accepting the award, Phil announced that he was removing Girl Genius from consideration for the award in the future. I thought this was incredibly cool, a very gracious move by someone who already has a nice collection of Hugos. You see, before Phil was a professional artist, he was a fan artist, and back in the late '70s he won the Hugo for that twice in a row before removing himself from consideration. I remember hearing people snark and sneer at him for that, trying to frame it as a demonstration of huge ego. I think someone with a huge ego would be more likely to want to win as many awards as possible, and I admire him for doing it, both times. Especially this time; since the Graphic Story category is still so new, it's not really cemented into the roster. Fans could still decide that it's not needed, or that it's silly, or that it's just a vehicle for giving one guy (or rather, one group of people -- Kaja Foglio and their colorist Cheyenne Wright are part of the comic team and also got statues) a Hugo every year, and vote to eliminate the category. Pulling Girl Genius out gives the category a chance to grow and show its viability by demonstrating that there are enough really good graphic stories every year for a Hugo category to be worthwhile. Props to Phil for doing it, and to Kaja and Cheyenne for agreeing.

Let's see, what else? I put a twenty into a slot machine (a Wizard of Oz machine -- three are ganged together and the special minigame affects all three, whoever triggered it; it's lots of fun) and got almost ninety dollars out, so that was An Excellent Thing.

My mom and brother (who live in Reno) came to the hotel to eat with us a couple of times, and it was great seeing them. My brother's in retail management, and he just moved to a new store; he looks much less stressed, and I'm very happy for him. {{}}

One of the restaurants at the Atlantis (I forget the name -- it's the gelato place next to the buffet) has awesome pizza. I had to watch Jim eating it for days while I had pasta or something similarly soft; I had my temporary crowns in and I couldn't bite anything hard or chewy or thick for fear they'd break while I was a thousand miles away from my dentist. :( I finally said "Frack it!" and got a pizza anyway, which I ate with a knife and fork. I don't care if I looked like a doofus, it was wonderful -- bacon and spinach with white sauce -- and all the moreso because I'd been eating pasta and omelets (and mashed potatoes and apple sauce at home) for days and days. Pizza, yum!

Oh, another friend of mine drove out from Sacramento just for Thursday with her son. He's a major George R. R. Martin fan and he wanted to get his Kindle signed. :D I only see Laurie once or twice a year, so this was great; we spent the day together being fannish, which is appropriate because we met at an SF con when we were both teenagers.

I think that about wraps it. Definitely click through on the masquerade photo collections -- they're very cool, especially if you've never seen an SF convention masquerade before. [wave]


Friday, September 2, 2011

August Stuff and Some Links

Writing: 9204 -- 3 pts.
Editing: 4380 -- 1 pt.
Submissions: 5 -- 5 pts.
TOTAL: 9 pts.

Koala Challenge 9

Still not where I want to be on writing, but it's more than July, and July was more than June, so hopefully I can keep up the trend.

Some Links:

Fantasy Art -- Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor -- This Tumblr thread collects artwork of female fighters wearing armor that might actually protect more than 5% of their bodies in a fight. There's some great art here, so check it out. I particularly like this one, a cartoon that comments on the issue. :)

Iowa Student Dies After Brutal Beating in which Attackers Shouted Gay Slurs -- The media's attention has drifted away from the issue of anti-gay bullying and bashing, but kids are still dying. Marcellus Andrews, 19, was a college student and member of his church's drill team when some guys in a truck stopped and attacked him on the porch of a friend's house. They called him a faggot while beating on him, and one of these jerkwads kicked him in the face when he was down. He had severe head trauma and died in the hospital. This crap might not be making big headlines the way it was earlier in the year, but it's still happening and it still needs to stop. :(

CHRONICLES OF MANSPLAINING: Professor Feminism and the Deleted Comments of Doom -- I just ran into this one today. It's framed by a discussion of a particular incident, but in general this is absolutely the best explanation of what "mansplaining" is and why it's offensive that I've ever run into.

Then the blogger, Sady Doyle, explains how this springs from and feeds into the larger issues:

Here’s where we appeal to that “lived experience” thing. Because: Have you ever had a guy come up to you — on the street, in a bar, whatever — and just straight-up say, “hey, I wanna talk to you?” Happens all the time, right? Happens to women, all the time. But have you ever just straight-up said, “no?” Not “no, I have a boyfriend,” or “no, I’m busy,” or “no, I have to race to save the city from the Joker’s diabolical machinations, for I am the Batman,” or any other excuse: Just the word “no,” by itself?

Yeah. So you know what happens next, after you say “no.” The guy always keeps talking. He tries wheedling, or begging, sometimes. But if you say “no” firmly enough, or often enough that he gets the point, the dude just starts yelling. He tells you that you’re not that hot. He tells you what a bitch you are. (“You bitch, I have a Rolls Royce,” was my favorite of these.) Sometimes he follows you down the street, yelling at you; sometimes, he follows you in his car. These dudes are always so fucking certain that they’re entitled to your time and attention that they will harass you until you give it, or at least until you’re scared and sorry for not giving it. You do not have the right not to interact, as far as these guys are concerned.


That’s the real problem behind Mansplaining, and all the rest of it: We live in a culture where men are taught that, if they want women’s time and attention, they are entitled to it. They simply cannot grasp that a woman has the right to say “no.” You bitch, I have a Rolls Royce or you coward, I have more blog traffic than you: Whatever it is, it’s a guy insisting that he’s entitled to a form of attention a woman doesn’t want to give him, and lashing out at the woman for not giving it. From hence springs Mansplaining, sexual harassment, rape culture, and everything else we don’t like about how men treat women, from the tiniest violation to the most violent. All of it, ALL of it, springs from the idea that women should be ignored or punished when we say "no." Which is the idea Professor Feminism is reinforcing with his actions, as we speak.

The guys who comment here are cool, and actually see women as human beings. There are some guys in the comments at Tiger Beatdown who likewise Get It and aren't part of the problem. So many men are, though, that a majority of women in our culture treat all men they don't know well carefully, fearfully, because they have no idea which guy is cool and which guy might start with the "Who do you think you are to say 'no' to me, bitch?!" drill. Back to Sady: "That’s what it’s actually like, being a woman: Playing nice with every random asshole, because this random asshole might be the one who hurts you. And then, if he hurts you anyway, they’ll tell you that you led him on."

This relates back to my post last year on how women are socialized to be victims, and men are socialized to believe that anger is the proper response whenever a woman denies them something they want.

And to wrap up on a couple of positives:

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich -- Warren Buffett This is an NYT op-ed piece by one of the richest people in the country who thinks it's time America's super-rich paid a bit more tax. Nice to know not all the super-wealthy are scrambling for every shelter and loophole they can find. Props to Mr. Buffett -- I wish the Republican bigwigs would listen to him.

School Superintendent Gives up $800,000 in Pay -- Massive kudos and applause to Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell. His area has been hit with some of the highest unemployment in the country and his schools were suffering along with everyone else. Powell effectively retired, then let them hire him back for $31,000 per year, which is $10K less than a starting teacher makes.

"A part of me has chaffed at what they did in Bell," Powell said, recalling the corrupt Southern California city officials who secretly boosted their salaries by hundreds of thousands of dollars. "It's hard to believe that someone in the public trust would do that to the public. My wife and I asked ourselves 'What can we do that might restore confidence in government?'"

He also said, "How much do we need to keep accumulating? There's no reason for me to keep stockpiling money."

Another rich (or at least very well off) guy who deserves major props.