Tag Archives: links

A Public Service

Samuel R. Delany will be reading from his new novel and signing copies at St. Mark’s Books on Monday night. I sent the info to a friend, who wrote back that he’d gone to Amazon to buy the Kindle edition of the book and seen a review saying it was missing a chapter and contained a number of other small errors. Fortunately a devoted fan, Kevin Donaker-Ring, bought both the Kindle and the print editions and not only noticed the discrepancies but–with Delany’s permission–put a PDF of the missing chapter and a list of corrections on his website (which hosts a number of other errata pages for Delany’s works). Hopefully the publisher will get a corrected edition up on Amazon soon.

Reading Between the Lines

A friend pointed me to this sale page on the Night Shade Books website (emphasis mine):

It’s not a secret to anyone that publishing, and the book biz in general, has been pretty rough over the last year. Borders going out of business, plus them selling off their existing inventory at huge discounts, has really put a pinch on everyone. More so on those of us who don’t have huge international conglomerates to back us up.

So it’s time to turn to that old chestnut, the 50% off sale. But this is a little different. In the past when we did this, it was more about clearing out inventory and making space for new books… it’s still kind of like that, but it’s also about getting caught up after the Publishing Apocalypse of 2011.

If you’ve ever thought that Night Shade does nice work, or want to support independent publishing that brings you new voices, stories, and ideas you wouldn’t run across otherwise, now is the time to show your support! Know that every book you buy in this sale is putting money directly into the pockets of authors, artists, designers, and all the other fantastic people that allow us to put out great books each and every month. Pass the word, mention it on your website/Facebook/Twitter/whatever your social media of choice is.

In addition, we will be adding a few new things. We’ll be opening up a very limited number of lifetime subscriptions again, as well as holding daily raffles. Each day, we’ll pick a winner from people who placed an order that day, and there are some very nifty prizes, as well as a final raffle that we’ll find the winner for from anyone who placed an order during the entire sale.

Make no mistake, Night Shade isn’t going anywhere. The future looks bright, and some huge changes are coming. But the last year hurt, and we could really use a little help getting caught back up.

Those bolded lines are particularly interesting in light of the SFWA probation period that ended recently. I’m curious about those “huge changes” in store, too. If I were a Night Shade author, I’d be ever so slightly nervous that my publisher felt the need to reassure people that it aten’t dead–and that it’s really definitely for sure going to pay its contributors. I hope the sale has its intended effect.

Eastercon Followup

  • BSFA apologizes to everyone regarding the recent unpleasantness.
  • John Meaney doesn’t seem to feel the need to apologize to anyone but Lavie Tidhar.
  • Nicholas Whyte on the best parts of Eastercon.
  • Alex Dally MacFarlane on the less nice parts of Eastercon. Mirrored from her blog; the two links have quite different sets of comments.
  • …and a follow-up post regarding some of the criticism she got for daring to say that Eastercon was not 100% perfect. In the comments: “I’m willing to apologise for not caring about racism today, in favour of caring about the the way the criticism of the event comes across. I’m willing to care about racism tomorrow though.” I… wow.
    • Tangentially related: Tori Truslow on the word “exotic”, including some very good discussion in comments. A while back I adopted a policy of excising that word from any prose I edit, pretty much for the reasons given there. If you can’t replace “exotic” with “foreign” and keep the sentence’s meaning intact, then the sentence is almost certainly laden with unpleasant cultural baggage and needs to be reworked entirely or omitted altogether.
    • And tangentially related to that, Charles Tan on “World SF”. Quite long, and worth reading in its entirety.
    • And in case you missed it, Saladin Ahmed on Game of Thrones‘s blinding whiteness. Do not read the comments. (h/t Aliette de Bodard for most of these links)

In a World Where…

Congratulations to the fine folks at the Golden Bough, who were (as far as I know) the only ones to spot my little April Fool’s Day joke in PW‘s April 2 issue: all nine SF/F/H reviews began with the phrase “In a world where…”. This is, of course, an homage to the late, great Don LaFontaine, whose voice graced countless SF/F movie trailers. PW reviews, like trailers, have to very quickly set the scene, summarizing an often complicated background and setting in just a few words. LaFontaine had a real genius for this. The “In a world where…” construction has become a cliché, but it really is very efficient and effective, and it respects how important worldbuilding and scene-setting are in SF/F. I was delighted to have this opportunity to honor LaFontaine and his work while giving PW‘s readers a little extra fun.

All the News That Isn’t Fit to Print

Here are the SF/F/H-related April Fool’s Day posts I’ve seen so far:

Got any others to add to the list?

A Palate Cleanser

On a lighter note, some great links have been coming my way:

  • Stone Telling‘s long-awaited QUILTBAG speculative poetry issue is live!
  • Tales of the Emerald Serpent, a mosaic anthology with some great authors lined up, is almost halfway to its Kickstarter goal.
  • Laura Anne Gilman is Kickstarting a pair of novellas that tie in to her popular Cosa Nostradamus/PSI series.
  • Helen Keller describes the view from the top of the Empire State Building. Do not miss this. Just gorgeous!
  • There’s going to be a steampunk festival in Waltham, MA in May, with a bunch of free events. I happen to know most of the people in the banner on the top of the page, and I can vouch that they know how to have a good time. Also, the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation sounds like approximately the best museum ever and I can’t believe I’ve never even heard of it before. Must go the next time I’m in Boston.
  • Jennifer Pelland defends unhappy endings.
  • After reading the Scientology/Writers of the Future piece in the Village Voice, WotF winner Carl Frederick has backed out of association with the contest.
  • Brian Keene starts an interesting discussion by talking about why there weren’t any women on his list of his 25 favorite authors, and how such lists can be strongly influenced by what’s available to read when one is growing up. There’s some gender essentialism in the post that had me rolling my eyes a bit, but the conclusion is strong, and the ensuing conversation is pretty good.
  • I just found out about this and I’m sorry I couldn’t link to it sooner! In honor of Women’s History Month, Cambridge University Press is offering free access for the month of March to Orlando, their electronic database that relates to British women’s writing from the earliest times to the present. It is searchable and is a valuable resource for scholars, writers and anyone interested in literary and cultural history. To access it, go to http://orlando.cambridge.org/ . In the upper right click Login. For username, enter womenshistory; for password, orlando.
  • The 2012 Million Writers Award nominations are now open.
  • Finalists have been announced for the RITA (romance) and Clarke (U.K. SF) awards.

The Content of Their Characters

NOTE: If you’re already up on racism and The Hunger Games and kind of exhausted by the thought of reading another post about it, you may be interested in reading about sexism and The Hunger Games instead.

Everyone’s buzzing about Hunger Games Tweets, a Tumblr that collects and discusses tweets from people who are shocked and upset that Rue, a character described in Suzanne Collins’s book The Hunger Games as having dark skin, is played by an African-American actress in the film. The link started making the rounds a couple of days ago, and after Jezebel picked it up, the hits went through the roof. Cue a great deal of head-shaking.

But why is everyone so surprised that some of Collins’s fans are having indisputably racist reactions to her books? When the movies were first cast, the excellent Racebending site covered the controversy over white, blonde Jennifer Lawrence being cast as olive-skinned, dark-haired Katniss. That led to a pointed question in an Entertainment Weekly interview with Collins and director Gary Ross, and an interesting response:

EW: In the books, Katniss is described as being olive-skinned, dark-haired, possibly biracial. Did you discuss with Suzanne the implications of casting a blond, caucasian girl?

GR: Suzanne and I talked about that as well. There are certain things that are very clear in the book. Rue is African-American. Thresh is African-American.

“Very clear” to Ross and Collins, perhaps, but not to all of their fans. A blog post that went up on EW about six months before the interview took place asked whether Rue was black, and–as a separate question–whether she should be played by a black actress. The comments immediately, inevitably, filled up with exclamations like “RUE IS NOT BLACK NEATER IS THRESH READ THE BOOK AGAIN!” and the slightly more considered “I feel like a jerk for not noticing she was black in the book”. And when African-American actors were cast for the parts of Rue, Thresh, and Cinna, Racialicious reported that the Hunger Games Facebook page was inundated with exclamations of surprise and dismay; those comments sound exactly like the recent tweets about the movie.

So I’m surprised that anyone’s surprised about the latest round of complaints. Sure, not everyone reads Racialicious and Racebending, but Jezebel covered the casting controversy back in 2011 too. More broadly, I’m trying to figure out how insulated one has to be from the wider world to be shocked! shocked! that racism is pervasive in American culture, and among American teens. Those wide-eyed tweets about Rue’s death being less sad because she’s black clearly come straight from the brains of adolescents (nearly all of them white, presumably) who have bathed in subtly and overtly racist culture since birth, absorbed far too much of it, and not yet learned to second-guess or even censor themselves when they parrot its tenets. They’re surprising only if you haven’t noticed that when real people of color are killed, there’s always an immediate attempt to justify or downplay the deaths. Art imitates life; reactions to art likewise imitate life.

On the bright side–and I am trying mightily to find a bright side here–this many surprised people might mean that more of those people are starting to pay attention, and will keep paying attention even after the latest furor dies down.

Link Roundup

I have a cold that’s turned my brain to mush, hence the dust gathering in the corners around here, but have some links to tide you over until I remember how to have opinions again.

Link Roundup

  • Congratulations to Andrea Hairston on winning the 2011 Tiptree Award! There are some great works on the honor list and long list as well.
  • M. Christian and Marilyn J. Lewis have launched the Black Marks Literary Award for unpublished SF, which will give $500 and an offer of publication to the author of the winning manuscript. No word on how they’re defining “science fiction”.
  • Speaking of awards, I’m going to the Nebula Awards Weekend! Are you? And now that the Hugo nomination ballots are in, what was on yours?
  • The Other Change of Hobbit has received a loan that will let it stay open for a short time. If you want to help them stay open beyond that, stop by their fundraiser on March 18th.
  • Francesca Lia Block is facing foreclosure despite never having missed a payment on her mortgage. She’s asking her fans to sign a petition urging Bank of America to help her renegotiate the mortgage and keep her home.
  • Cabinet des Fées has released a chapbook of Cinderella jump rope rhymes, with 50% of profits going to charity.
  • London in 2014 is the only 2014 Worldcon bid to file by the deadline, so now would be a great time to become a supporter and lock in the lowest possible rate. Josh and I have been pre-supporters since Arisia 2011 and just upgraded; we’re really looking forward to it.

Men Read Men and Women Read Everyone, Still

March 8 is International Women’s Day! In honor of the occasion, have some interesting statistics on SF/F book review blogs:

In the beginning, I was fairly sure of what I was going to find: men discussing mostly men, and women discussing both either equally or more. Does the data follow?… Men still dominate the literary conversation, but women are in there, too. I was initially surprised by this result, because my gut back in 2011 had said it was not this even. However, if you start rearranging the data a bit, things change. There are women being reviewed by men, yes, but there are also women being reviewed by women. My initial instinct was correct…. the 40/60 is an average, and that average is the way it is because the women reviewing women drive it up.

The more I think about it, the more I think this industry is really poisoned by the marketing-driven self-fulfilling prophecy that boys will only ever read books (watch movies, watch TV shows, read comics) about boys, but girls will read anything about anyone. It reminds me of Harry Connolly’s recent post about fans arguing over which author’s books are better:

Here’s a general guideline I would like people to follow: If you like a particular author’s books and someone unfamiliar with them suggests that the description so far makes them sound kind of dull? Please PLEASE do not start the “… displays an ignorance and shallow judgment that frankly says you’re not worth [author]‘s time as a reader anyway” stuff.

If you like a book or book series, do not try to drive away readers you consider unworthy.

Given all the blather about the death of the industry, why are we still essentially driving men away from books by and about women? If we like these books enough to write and publish them, why aren’t we trying to give them the widest possible audience? You’d think this would make sense purely from a marketing and financial standpoint, in addition to being a step toward real equality.

As more books by and about girls and women become available, there are two types of equality we could end up with: the sort where most people only read books about people who resemble them (that is, girls stop reading about boys because they no longer have to), and the sort where most people are omnivoracious readers (that is, books about girls are marketed to boys and girls alike, the way books about boys are now, and we make it culturally more comfortable for boys to read and enjoy them). I think we would all do well to encourage the latter.

(I’d also love to see more clearly intersex and genderqueer characters and writers, but that’s a topic for a separate post.)

It’s Not Racist, It’s Just… Racist

Regarding the recent Belgian court decision that the indisputably racist Tintin in the Congo should be published without warning or introduction, China Miéville writes a deliciously scathing takedown of pretty much every pro-racism argument out there. There are an astounding number of ways people defend racism or attempt to dismiss it as irrelevant, as he notes:

(This – It’s Not Racist It’s Just Not Very Good – is a sort of evil-twin variant of the more common How Can Little Black Sambo Be Racist I Read It As A Child & I Loved It & What’s More I Understood Sambo Was The Hero (cf also How Can I Be A Sexist I Love Women In Fact I Prefer Them To Men aka How Is That Racist Having Natural Rhythm Is A Good Thing) position.)

He also dismantles claims of censorship and suppression (“Quick, conjure images of book burning!”), attempts to shift the focus to the author’s intent or the book’s historical context (“The question here is whether or not Tintin au Congo is racist. Which it is. That may perhaps in part be because white supremacism was less contested back then – just as well we’re not back then, then, isn’t it?”), and more. Read the whole thing. It’s good. I just wish it weren’t necessary.

Link Roundup

Link Roundup

Some very good and very sad news today.

  • A couple of years ago, I wrote, “If I could subscribe to a publisher like a magazine or a book club—one flat annual fee to get everything they publish—I would subscribe to CZP.” Today ChiZine publisher Brett Savory wrote to me to say that I (and you) can do just that: they now offer e-book only, trade paper + e-book, and limited hardcover + e-book annual subscriptions, all with heavy discounts. Details here.
  • Author Spider Robinson’s daughter has been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Spider’s wife and longtime collaborator, Jeanne, died in 2010 after her own battle with cancer. I hope that family catches a break very soon. (h/t to James Nicoll)
  • Over on PWxyz, Peter Brantley smacks Penguin into the middle of next week with a brilliant essay on the importance of e-book lending.
  • Paul Cornell pledges to evict himself from any convention panels he’s on where men outnumber women, and to invite a female audience member to replace him. Reactions predictably vary. (h/t to Graham Sleight)

Link Roundup

Lots of interesting news tidbits hitting the inbox today:

You Implicitly Know Stories

At long last, FILM CRIT HULK has come out with his amazing Screenwriting 101 piece! (It’s actually two pieces because you can’t fit that much awesome in one blog post.) It starts like this:

A GOOD NARRATIVE IS COMPELLING TO THE AUDIENCE, ECONOMICALLY TOLD, FEELS REAL EITHER IN TERMS OF EMOTION, DETAIL, OR TEXTURE, AND SPEAKS TO SOME THEMATIC TRUTH THAT YOU RECOGNIZE IN YOURSELF OR THE WORLD AT LARGE.

And it goes on like this:

HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT YOU IMPLICITLY KNOW STORIES. YOU KNOW THEM IN YOUR BONES. YOU’VE SEEN / READ / HEARD THOUSANDS. YOU, NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, INSTINCTIVELY KNOW WHAT MAKES STORIES GOOD AND HOW THEY WORK.

THE KEY IS BECOMING AWARE OF WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW.

And then it gets better. Even the casual asides are brilliant insights:

BASICALLY YOU WANT TO HAVE THIS VERY RELATE-ABLE TEXTURE OR CONTEXT WHICH LETS THE AUDIENCE SAY “I TOTALLY RECOGNIZE AND SYMPATHIZE WITH THAT INCLINATION!” (NOTICE HULK SAID INCLINATION AND NOT “SITUATION” BECAUSE PEOPLE MAKE THAT MISTAKE. IT’S THE EMOTIONS WE IDENTIFY WITH, NOT THE PREDICAMENT.)

If you work with stories in any capacity–including as a member of the audience–set aside some time to read these posts. They are a serious master class in how to get it right, from inspiration to perspiration to exasperation to culmination, and not to be missed.

I do have one quibble, though, with this:

IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS WRITING CHARACTERS OF DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS? HERE’S A TIP: IF YOU’RE WHITE AND YOU’RE WRITING A BUNCH OF WHITE PEOPLE. TRY JUST SUDDENLY CHANGING THE RACE OF ONE OR MORE OF THE CHARACTERS. THEN CHANGE NOTHING ELSE… PROBLEM SOLVED.

Problem not at all solved! “Just changing the race” is the equivalent of blackface, or saying “I don’t see race because we’re all the same really”. An adult character who has benefited from white privilege is going to think and speak and act differently from an adult character who has not. If you turn your white male Ivy League student into a black female Ivy League student or a Chinese–Jewish trans Ivy League student or a Lenape two-spirit Ivy League student, they may still take the same classes, but they bring along an entirely different set of memories and expectations and emotional baggage.

Casting people of color in traditionally white roles, or women in traditionally male roles, is interesting precisely because we know this, because the same dialogue is really not at all the same when it comes out of a different mouth. (cf. Jo Walton’s Among Others and the brief discussion of a production of “The Tempest” with a woman playing Prospero.) I agree that if you have already written a bunch of white characters, and then you go through and make them nonwhite and reread what you’ve written, it’s a great way to challenge your own preconceptions and get yourself thinking about what makes a character well-rounded and how to avoid stereotypes and so on–but that makes it a useful exercise, which is not at all the same as being a good method.

HULK has promised to write a whole column about this. I hope it’s a good deal more nuanced.

Women and Men, and Cover Art

Take a moment to look through two posts by author Jim Hines and book blogger Anna. Both attempt to replicate poses from SF/F jacket art, with mixed success. I found the contrast between Jim attempting some of the women’s poses and Anna attempting some of the men’s poses to be particularly instructive. Jim looks painfully contorted, because anyone would look painfully contorted in this pose:

jacket and pose #1

And Anna looks confident and strong, because anyone would look confident and strong in this pose:

jacket #2pose #2

Anna also points out that this isn’t about her appearing masculine; it’s not buying into the idea that the only way for women to have or display strength is for them to do things associated with men. She just looks comfortable, which in no way diminishes her femaleness or femininity.

It’s easy to think that because men look absurd in “women’s poses”, women would look absurd in “men’s poses”. Instead, these comparisons make it clear that there are absurd poses and reasonable poses, and we need to ditch the absurd ones altogether and use the reasonable ones for everyone. As a bonus, I expect the chiropractic bills for those poor cover models will go way, way down.

Speaking of chiropractic bills, don’t miss this take on comic book poses and a follow-up post from a contortionist and black-belt martial artist.

Link Roundup

This week’s roundup has surprisingly little to do with SF/F/H fiction per se. I think that’s a sign of how scattered my brain is while I get ready to move house.

  • Angry Robot is hiring an editor—for a brand new crime fiction imprint set to launch in 2013! Quoth the press release: “The imprint will be a standalone line, with its own name and presence, but will employ the same fresh and distinctly modern approach that AR has in the SF/F world. The editor will play a key role in building the personality of the imprint, and telling the world about its brilliant books, especially online.” I can’t tell you how glad I am to see publishers committed to doing new things with mystery, which is the most resistant to change of any genre I know (possibly excepting literary fiction).
  • Are you an aspiring comic creator? The magnificent Kate Beaton will answer your questions.
  • There’s a nerd bar in Brooklyn with a TARDIS bathroom. Apparently I am the last person in New York to find out about this. Fortunately I found out about it because I’m about to live around the corner from it.
  • Recent successful genre fiction Kickstarters: Fireside Magazine issue 1 and Laura Anne Gilman’s From Whence You Came. Also noteworthy: Melissa Gira Grant’s Take This Book: The People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street, the cyberpunk RPG Always/Never/Now, and a statue of Harvey Pekar. Nerds got funds!

A Great SF Blog That Isn’t a Blog

A while ago I tried adding io9 to my daily reading list. It was overwhelming. Charlie Jane and Annalee and the rest of their crew make dozens of posts a day (or at least that’s how it feels). I decided to sign up for their mailing list instead, figuring I’d get a digest of headlines and could choose which ones to follow back to the site.

Instead, I started getting one post a day, sent directly to my mailbox. As far as I can tell, each day the readers rate and comment on posts, and the top-rated one gets sent to subscribers. Not surprisingly, these emails are consistently awesome, full of weird science and cutting-edge technology. They feel like a daily reminder that we’re living in the future and the future, for all its flaws, is pretty damn cool.

I’ve come to think of the daily io9 email as one of my favorite blogs. There’s plenty on io9 as a whole that doesn’t really do it for me (like all the pop culture stuff) but that single top-rated post is almost always to my tastes. And it’s not overwhelming at all. So if you think io9 is pretty nifty but also huge and all over the place, try hitting that subscribe button. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Tesla vs. Edison, Via Yugoslavia, in English, with Orson Welles

My magnificent mother-in-law sent me a link to this 97-minute film from 1980, Tajna Nikole Tesle (The Secret of Nikola Tesla). It was filmed in Yugoslavia, but it’s all in English, and rather improbably co-stars Orson Welles as J.P. Morgan. Petar Bozovic, who just received a lifetime achievement award for his work in Yugoslav cinema, takes the title role.

Genreville’s Borders are Porous

A lot of people have pointed me toward Daniel Abraham’s letter from genre to literature. Some think it’s brilliant and dead-on. Some think it sounds creepy or pathetic. My favorite responses are the other letters in the comments, especially this one:

Dear Genre,

Good luck. You two make a good couple when you aren’t at each others’ throats.

Sincerely,

A paying fan of Genre and Literature and the amazing things that happen when they come together.

Every week, I spend a significant amount of time talking with the other fiction reviews editors about whether a given book is romantic mystery or mystery, near-future SF or near-future thriller, women’s fiction or romance. Sometimes the imprint or the author’s history decides us (Tobias Buckell’s Arctic Rising is a thriller, but it’s reviewed under SF because it’s coming out from Tor and Toby’s fans will look for him in the SF section) and sometimes we hunt for a particular genre’s hallmarks (my rule of thumb is that if it ends with a kiss, a wedding, or a baby, it’s romance) and sometimes we just do our best to figure it out. Genres and subgenres are Venn diagram circles, not discrete entities.

The way I see it, genre and literature are twin siblings, not lovers (or stalkers), and they have side-by-side rooms in Mama Fiction’s house. They play with the same toys, and they clearly do each other’s homework every once in a while, and sometimes even their parents can’t tell them apart, which can be hilarious or annoying depending on the day. Sure, it’d be nice if they spent less time bickering and more time collaborating, but I think the most important thing is to remember that we’re all family.