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.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

READING


I am doing a reading at Dreamhaven books on Wednesday, April 22nd. The time is 6:30 pm. The address is 2301 East 38th Street, Minneapolis. I wouldn't mind some company.

I'll be reading from the new collection, Hidden Folk, of course. I plan to read "The Puffin Hunter," which is my current favorite of the stories. It really is nifty.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Hugos (Of Course)

I spent the past weekend at Minicon. I had four panels spread over four days, so I stayed at the con hotel, which is in the middle of a suburban wasteland. Since I did not have a car, that meant I was trapped. It was too long a period. I alternated between being hyper, due to a lot of input, and crashing in my hotel room thinking dark thoughts about life.

This is the problem with going to a 1,000 person con if you are an introvert.

I got back home exhausted and discovered the Hugo Award nominations had been gamed. In case you don't know, two groups of right-wing writers (the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies) put together slates and organized their followers to (a) buy supporting memberships to the World Science Fiction Convention and (b) nominate only the names on the slates. This gave each of the Puppy candidates a block, and they won many places on the final Hugo ballot.

(The Hugo is selected by members of the World Science Fiction Convention. It's the fan award for SFF. Many readers of SFF don't to Worldcon and don't buy supporting memberships, but the Hugo is the best we have as a popular award given by readers. As a rule, only a few of the Worldcon's members nominate, which makes the nomination process easy to game. Many more people vote on the final ballot.)

It is not against the Hugo rules to block vote, but it's against tradition and unfair to the writers actually liked by the con attendees. Some good writing did not make the final ballot, kept off the Sad and Rabid Puppies.

The Rabid Puppies apparently solicited GamerGate folk to help in this process. If you recall, the GamerGaters are the people who threaten to rape and murder women in order to drive them out of gaming. One female game designer moved out of her house on the advice of the police.

For more details, see this. In addition, here is a post by long-time SFF editor Patrick Neilsen Hayden. And here is writer Charles Stross's take on the situation.

John Scalzi, among many others, has suggested a response: the rest of us should get supporting memberships and vote for the people on the ballot who are not Puppies, then vote "No Award." The Hugo use an Australian ballot or instant runoff. If enough people do not list the Puppy candidates at all, then the non-Puppies or No Award will win. A lot of people are buying Worldcon supporting memberships at the moment.

I figure this is the best solution for this year. The Worldcon con committee will have to figure out how to handle the awards ceremony, and the Worldcon rules committee will have to take a look at nominating and voting rules. But I am on neither.

While I put together this informational post, I did some Googling. There are some really nasty people on the Internet, and some of them are Puppies. I think this is a serious situation. People who threaten to throw acid, rape and kill should not be ignored.

Anyway, I am back from Minicon.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weather

It's overcast today, but the last few days have been clear and warm, with a cloudless blue sky. This is April weather a month early.

Today

Today is the Ides of March, I just realized. Yesterday was Pi Day, which friends celebrated with pies. And Terry Pratchett died 3 days ago, after suffering from a form of early dementia for several years. He was 66, too early to go.

He was a wonderful writer, someone I read for comfort, because his books are funny and charming and sane and well written, and he was the master of the fiction footnote. His footnotes don't work in e-versions of his novels, because they are put at the back of the book. They need to be at the bottom of the page, because they are part of the story. They are a great way to add information and comments that are too tangential to be in the text, except maybe enclosed in parentheses.

Anyway, a lovely writer and a loss to humanity.

SFF and LIterary Writing

The following is in response to an essay in Esquire, "How Genre Fiction Became More Important Than Literary Fiction."

First, a passage from the essay:
"The landscape of realism has narrowed. If you think of the straight literary novels of the past decade—The Marriage Plot, The Interestings, The Art of Fielding, Freedom—they often deal with stories and characters from a very particular economic and social position. Realism, as a literary project, has taken as its principle subject the minute social struggles of people who have graduated mainly from Ivy League schools."

Then my comments:
Decades ago I was reading the novels of Alice Adams and Laurie Colwin. They are both good writers in a New Yorker way. At a certain point, I think while reading Colwin, I realized I was reading about the emotional problems of people with trust funds. So I went back to science fiction.

I suppose I could see the current literary situation as the triumph of science fiction, with all these elite literary writers pillaging SFF for ideas. I don't like it, though I have no trouble with the triumph of SFF in popular culture. I suppose I ought to see a therapist re my dislike of the American upper middle class and their art. I want them to keep their sticky fingers off my beloved space ships and trolls.

What I remember about Adams at this distance in time was -- her writing had some tics that bothered me. She began too many sentences and paragraphs with 'and.' If the 'and' is actually needed, use a semi-colon instead of beginning a new sentence. Most of the time, it wasn't needed. It was there to make the style sound smoother. No. Never use words that are not needed.

Come to think of it, my ideas of style are probably shaped -- at least in part -- by the Icelandic sagas, which have a very spare style. Though they have a couple of interesting tics of their own. The sagas love prepositions, as do Minnesotans. Why say 'take hold' when you can say 'take hold of?' And like Minnesotans, the saga writers use a lot of pointer words. I don't know what the right term for these are. Words like 'there' and'then.' 'That's a nice car (or sword) you have there.' 'So how did you like the concert (or battle) then?'
I need to set myself a test. How long can I go without mentioning Iceland or the Icelandic sagas? How long can I go without mentioning my own writing?