Thursday, May 21, 2015

CONvergence

I have picked up another panel at CONvergence from Lyda Morehouse, who wanted to drop off it. It's on writing career setbacks and how you deal with them. I used to do a panel at Minicon titled "Psychological Survival for Science Fiction Writers," but gave it up after a couple of people told me they had left the room in tears. No one wants to hear how difficult a writing career can be. So I actually have an idea of the things I want to say.

Mostly, decide what you want out of writing, and then use that as a measure. Do you want self-satisfaction, pro sales, critical acclaim, a cult following, vast fame, pots of money,? If you discover you can't get what you want, consider modifying your goals. Goals should be a stretch, but they shouldn't be impossible.

Take care of yourself: exercise, eat well, avoid illegal drugs and large amounts of alcohol. If you feel depressed, see a doctor. There are medications that can help.

Find good friends and readers and listen to them. People who don't listen rarely become good writers. (Emily Dickinson did, but she is a special case.) Join a writing group. Most important of all, celebrate every good thing that happens: a good panel, a sale, a good review, a person coming up to you and mumbling, "I liked your story." One of the the best things about the Wydsmiths, my writing group, is that every time something good happens in your writing career, you have to buy coffee for the rest of the group. This forces even dour people like me to celebrate.

Life is short, and writing is often difficult. Celebrate everything you can.

Find things in your life that give you pleasure other than being on the New York Times bestseller list. You shouldn't rely on a single thing for happiness.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Upcoming Cons

I'm doing only three events at Wiscon (which is Memorial Day weekend) : one panel on writing, a reading and the signout. There are two events I want to attend: Pat Murphy's midlife crisis for writers discussion and Naomi's Kritzer's nuts and bolts for midcareer writers. Otherwise, I plan to hang out on the 12th floor and talk to friends.

I am on only one panel at CONvergence (which is the weekend of the Fourth) : a panel on Georgette Heyer on Saturday afternoon. I think that's enough. I ought to kill that panel. I have Heyer close to memorized.

Speaking of age, I think I have reached the age when I don't have to self promote a lot. I yam what I yam.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Black Widow

An essay on Age of Ultron.

I didn't like either of the Avengers movies, and the essay here nails the problem, as I see it: too many characters, too much action. However I just finished writing an essay about Guardians, which I like a lot; and I enjoy all the Marvel movies, even the ones I don't really like. Something is going on with them. I think it's the combination of action, humor and something else -- morality? Enough complexity to keep me interested? The weird over-the-top characters? I don't respond the same way to DC movies or the Marvel character movies not done by Marvel.

The humor is not only the jokes, but also the playing against superhero cliches. As Lyda Morehouse remarked, all the Avengers in Age of Ultron talk about being monsters -- except Tony Stark, who is a monster, the superhero as sociopath. Stark really plays against the Superman or Captain America trope.

Many of the objections in this essay are because the writer doesn't get things. She doesn't know about the Odinsleep, which is part of Marvel's backstory for Thor, and dismisses it as stupid. She doesn't catch the fact that Cap's dislike of rough language, and the jokes made about this, are (a) a joke and (b) a sign that Cap really is 75 years out of his time.

This brings me to the Black Widow. It's possible that Joss Whedon actually believes that women who can't have children are monsters, or actually believes Natasha thinks this. However, there is another way to look at this scene and line.

Natasha and Bruce are in Hawkeye's safe house -- his home, where his wife and children live. It's a very domestic, familial place. Natasha is interested in Bruce, and Bruce is getting tense, which is never good. When he gets upset, he turns into the Hulk, who is rage incarnate.

Bruce says he can't have children. He's a monster. (I didn't catch this line, but Lyda Morehouse said it was there.) Obviously, it would not be safe to have kids and the Hulk in the same house. It's also possible that Bruce means he's sterile, because it was radiation that turned him into the Hulk. In any case, he's very aware -- in this family home -- that he can't have a family.

Natasha tells him that she has been sterilized, and that she is a monster too. So what does she mean? That a sterile woman is a monster or that (a) she is like Bruce and (b) they don't have to worry about having children and (c) she also is a monster. She is a monster, a woman trained from childhood to murder people and very aware of way too much blood in her past. She also must be aware that Bruce needs calming down.

Anyway, I tend to see two separate statements, rather than a "if a, then b." One of the movie's problems is, it's very fast moving and character development, such as there is, happens in snippets.

Another Anthology Out


This just came out, and I have a story in it. It looks like an impressive collection. At some point, I will have to read it. But right now I have to proof the hwarhath collection manuscript.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

New Anthology


I have a story in this...

Sunday, May 03, 2015

More on Privilege

I have an opera today, and need to start getting ready in half an hour. But I can begin another post...

As I mentioned previously, I got a really nasty note from Wiscon programming, after suggesting an admittedly explosive panel topic. I wanted to discuss whether identity politics was the best way to talk about social injustice.

The note started with my privilege as a white woman and went on to give me a kindergarten lecture on prejudice and the suffering of minorities. It's so nice when contemporary white people discover this is a racist society. I knew it in 1950.

Anyway, I sat on the nasty note for several months, too shocked to act. I finally complained to Wiscon and got an apology and a plan of action: the person who wrote the note would be Talked To and told to stay away from me. Other people would handle my Wiscon programming. That made me mostly happy. So I went to the Wiscon website and picked out several panel ideas, including two on aging. I then mentioned on facebook that I was not going to do political panels at Wiscon, except two on aging. Elders were the only group that didn't have advocates in fandom, so this left room for me.

I then got a comment from a member of Wiscon's Con Comm, who is a facebook friend of mine:
BL: Are you not in the fan community?

EA: Yes, of course I am. I meant I hadn't noticed anyone else, which leaves me room.
I then listed a few facts about aging -- one third of retired folks rely on Social Secuity for 90% + of their income, and the average Social Security payment is around $13,000 a year. And I added that elders were the only group about whom pundits said: die and get out of the way.

BL: No, This is also said to the disabled.

EA: Yes, of course you are right. The line between elders and the disabled is fuzzy, because the elderly are often disabled.
BL then pointed out that GLBT are also told to die and get out of the way, which is true -- but not usually by pundits, who are columnists in the Washington Post and the New York Times and people with cushy jobs at think tanks. Pundits focus their dislike on the poor.

A former governor of Colorado famously told the old to die and get out of the way. I don't think he would have said the same to people of color or GLBT people.

Another facebook friend, also a member of the Wiscon Con Comm, said her experience was that fandom overvalued the elderly, to the detriment of young people.

So the way I read this is: I am trying to say that elders have problems, and my argument is being cut down. Granted, I may not have expressed myself well.

The main problem with getting old is -- no matter how healthy you are, you are facing sickness and death in the comparatively near future. If you are a typical elder in the US, you don't have a hell of a lot of money, and your family network is likely to be weak. Since I have no children, my network is weaker than many. I consider this a serious problem, and reminding me that other people have problems is no help.

I really do not like hierarchies of suffering. As Patrick just said, people don't show up at cancer websites saying, "There are other diseases."

The Avengers

Well, I have now seen The Age of Ultron. It was like the first Avengers movie: crash, bang, ka-boom, rattle, thud, thud, thud. However, my companions really enjoyed it. It was true to Marvel canon and had the feel of comic books, according to Lyda Morehouse. (I also suffered the embarrassment of being unable to operate the soft drink machine in the movie lobby. It was too high-tech for me. All I could get was ice and more ice and more ice. Finally, with the help of Sean Murphy, I got a diet coke with a lot of ice.)

The Avengers destroyed a city in Africa, a city in Europe and part of Seoul.

The problem with the Avengers is too many characters plus lots of action, so you don't have room for character development. Also, I had trouble following the movie. Lyda, the Marvel expert, had to explain things to me after.

Even when I'm not crazy about a Marvel movie, I'm always energized and made happy by it. I'm not sure why. It's not simply the action. The humor is also important, and the larger than life characters. In a difficult and grim world, the idea of people who can actually act and win -- and joke -- is appealing. Though Thor doesn't joke much. The joke is usually on him, and that's true to Norse mythology.

Privilege

I like this essay in Jacobin a lot. I have trouble with the word privilege as it's used today, when people tell me about my white privilege. Yes, I have a somewhat blotchy white skin, and this saves me trouble. I also have a household income below the median, I am female, and I am aging in a society that is not friendly to the aging. We are seen as parasites, no longer useful, to be thrown away in the time honored way of capitalism.

This is Dictionary.com's first definition of privilege.
1.a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most:
the privileges of the very rich.
Merriam-Webster gives us this:
: a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others

: a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud

: the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society
To me the word signals wealth and power. It doesn't mean I have a slightly better life than my neighbor.

We should be focusing on the fact that a tiny -- microscopic -- group of people have collected immense wealth and power. They are a threat to democracy, decent lives for the rest of us and the survival of the planet.

We should be looking at a world system that creates this tiny group of power people and disempowers the rest of us.

This is not an argument against struggling for social justice. The Ferguson demonstrations -- and now the Baltimore demonstrations -- are great. The fast food and big box labor demonstrations are also great. However, this is an argument against guilting. It's a lousy organizational tool.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spring

We are having spring here. The grass is green. The trees are leafing out. I have seen flowers, and I am hearing new bird calls. Migratory birds are back, birds that warble and trill rather than going "chirp, chirp, chirp" like English sparrows.

It snowed a couple of days ago, but there was no accumulation.

The reading at Dreamhaven went well. All the chairs were filled, and I sold some books. Ruth Berman gave me a ride home, which was wonderful, and I am very grateful.

More About the Hugo Hooroosh

From facebook:

I was reading George Martin's Not a Blog and noticed something. Larry Correia was up for a Campbell Award for best new writer in 2011. He didn't get it and -- per him -- at a bad time at Worldcon. Brad Torgerson was up for a Campbell and a Hugo in 2012 and got neither. But you are only eligible for a Campbell for two years after you first publish. It looks as if both these guys had fast and very promising starts to their careers. (A Campbell is not chopped liver. Being up for a Hugo a year or two after you first publish is not so bad. In addition, Correia was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2011.) This is Puppy # 3 this year, which means Puppy #1 was in 2013. Okay, two years after not getting the Campbell, Correia began an attack on the Hugos, because he felt the selection process was unfair. I don't know if Torgerson joined Puppydom in its first year or a year later. In either case, he was campaigning against the Hugo a year or two after he was first up for the Campbell and Hugo. This seems to show a huge impatience. It wasn't as if these guys watched the Hugo process for ten or twenty years and decided it was unfair. They decided this almost as soon as they were published.

I have been a Hugo nominee once, 25 years after I was first published. When I got the Tiptree Award, almost 20 years after I was first published, people assumed it was for my first novel. No, I'd had three novels previously published, but they more or less sank like stones. It was frustrating and angering and depressing to work for 20 years before I got much attention. Did I think the award system was fixed? Not that I can remember. I thought life was unfair. Looking back, I think I didn't write enough and my writing wasn't a kind that got quick attention. Point is, Correia and Torgerson came into the field, were noticed at once, and decided this notice was not enough, because they didn't win the Campbell and (in Torgerson's case) the Hugo. The award system must be crooked.

I realize my description of my career sounds like a whine. Whining is not bad, now and then. Trying to destroy the Hugos is not good.

What I notice is how hard people work in order to succeed, and I also notice that many people work equally hard and write well and don't pile up money and awards. I think someone should have taken Correia and Torgerson aside and told them writing is a very difficult line of work and maybe they should get MBAs.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Facebook Comment

I am mining facebook again, since I make a lot of comments there. This is in response to post-apocalypse stories that seem overly cozy. The one being discussed (one I don't know) was described as so beautifully crafted that it made the ruined world seem tidy.
I read SF as a kid, because it was about the real world, which included nuclear holocaust and McCarthyite witch hunts. I guess one of the appeals of good SF is horror and despair, and the roughness of SF, the lack of polished style, may have contributed to a sense of reality. Would you polish your sentences, if you were dying of radiation sickness? --I don't like genre horror, maybe because the horrors in horror are not usually real ones. But since I don't like genre horror, I haven't read enough to be sure why I dislike it.

Affirmative Action

I got ticked off at a facebook comment that said white writers don't write about PoC. This made me write a rant about how I have been writing about PoC, GLBT people and women for something like 40-50 years. I am an effing affirmative action policy with a keyboard. However, this essay is better than the rant.

I don't mind white writers blaming themselves for not being diverse enough. I don't mind white readers blaming themselves for not searching out diverse writing, which does exist and is not that hard to find. I mind people making sweeping generalizations that blame ME. No. I've been doing my part. Now you do yours. Less blame. More action.