Tag Archives: race

A Dream Come True

Some kids dreamed of growing up to be dancers or doctors. I dreamed of being an anthology editor. (Not even kidding. I practically had an altar to Terry Carr and Judith Merril.) Now that dream might come true.

The anthology in question is Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. As we all know, history is written by the victors, and that includes historical fiction. The goal of this project is to focus on and amplify the voices of people who have been pushed to the margins. What was it like to be a Mayan laborer when the conquistadors showed up? to be a newly freed slave trying to start a business after the U.S. Civil War? to be transgender in Elizabethan England? Stories like these will be told in Long Hidden, each with a speculative twist. We have an incredible group of authors lined up to send us stories, including Beverly Jenkins, Victor LaValle, Tananarive Due, Ken Liu, and Amal El-Mohtar. We’ll also be open to submissions, so if you’re a writer, start thinking about sending us a story!

The publisher is Crossed Genres, a fabulous small press that’s known for taking chances on unclassifiable and niche books that would otherwise never see the light of day. They do this by raising money through Kickstarter; advance fundraising means we can pay the authors well and be confident that there’s a market for the book. Here’s the Kickstarter page for Long Hidden. We’re over two-thirds funded already, which is tremendous for our first weekend and has me really hoping we make a few of our stretch goals, like interior illustrations or an audiobook edition. I’m obsessively refreshing the page like an author checking their Amazon ranking on launch day (which I’m sure I’ll do too when the book is actually published next year).

When I was a kid, people who knew my parents (both novelists) would ask me when–not whether–I was going to write a novel. Many of the PW staff have written books, and a year or two back, someone asked when–not whether–I would do one. But really, I will probably never write a novel. I’m not a writer; I’m an editor. So I’m pleased as punch to find my own editorial way to get my name on a book jacket, especially in service to such a great cause and in the company of such a great people. I really, really, really hope we can make this happen as splendidly as the subject matter deserves.

2012 Nebula Award Finalists

Congratulations to this year’s Nebula Award finalists! Summary of my impressions:

I think this is a very strong ballot overall. I’ve only read a small fraction of the nominated works, but I really liked all the ones I’ve read. I definitely don’t have any immediate “What is THAT doing on an award shortlist?” reactions, which is always nice.

There’s an impressive diversity of sex, race, and sexuality on all the ballots, especially compared to, say, ten years ago. (Warning on that link for a very bright yellow-and-red color scheme.)

Having one’s short fiction available online for free unsurprisingly appears to broaden one’s audience, and the folks at Clarkesworld and Tor.com clearly have their fingers on the pulse of the Nebula-nominating short-fiction-reading crowd. There is not a single story from Analog, ouch. I note that GigaNotoSaurus is the only webzine with a story on the novella ballot; are webzines not publishing novellas, or are they not publishing the sorts of novellas that get award nods, or do readers enjoy or appreciate novellas more in print than online?

Self-published works and small-press novels are nowhere to be found. I’d love to see a small-press, digital-first, and self-publishing revolution on the novel ballot comparable to the recent ascent of webzines on the short fiction ballots. I would be heartened by the appearance of a few stories from small-press anthologies and collections if there were such a thing as a large-press anthology or collection, but there basically isn’t, so I will settle for being heartened that anyone still publishes or reads anthologies and collections.

And now, the list. Linked short fiction titles are shamelessly stolen from John DeNardo’s post at SF Signal (thanks, John!). Book titles link to the PW reviews, where available. Statistics in my notes are to the best of my knowledge, and please do correct me if I’ve gotten anything wrong.


Rose’s notes: Four women. One queer person. One trans person. Two people of color. Four books that got starred PW reviews. Zero self-published books. Zero small-press books. Zero digital-only books.


Rose’s notes: Two women. Two people of color. Two stand-alone titles, both from small presses. One webzine story. One story from a small-press anthology, reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.


Rose’s notes: Five women. One person of color. Three queer people. Four webzine stories. Two stories from small-press compilations (if you count the “Mammoth” books as small press, which I think I do), one reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.


Rose’s notes: Five women. Two people of color. Five webzine stories. One story from a small-press collection, reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

Books for the Long Weekend

Many of us have four consecutive days off work coming up, and will want to spend some of that time reading. Consider this an open recommendation thread, with an emphasis on books by and about Native Americans and indigenous peoples. I’ll start by recommending Grace Dillon’s Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, which was on my shortlist of books to consider for this year’s Best Books. PW‘s review calls it “superb”. Check it out!

Back from Chicago

And boy are our arms tired: Josh transcribed 6500 words of interview and I wrote 3500 words of article and blog post on Monday (holiday, shmoliday) and we’re still recovering! But it will be worth it when the SF/F focus issue comes out this coming Monday, September 10, and you can read the profile of Seanan McGuire, the feature article on genre-blending, and the nifty little sidebar on Christian inspirational epic fantasy, plus a Q&A with Iain M. Banks. PW subscribers get instant access; the rest of you will have to wait three weeks.

In the meantime, some links to tide you over:

  • Justine Larbalestier is brilliant on “Racism in the Books We Write”. If there’s been a theme for this year in my part of the world, it’s taking responsibility; Justine’s post is a great example of how to do that without defensiveness.
  • Aliette de Bodard is equally brilliant on the scale and scope of engineering projects.
  • ChiZine is launching a YA imprint, ChiTeen. Agented subs only at this time. First books will come out in 2014.
  • There are some complaints that Worldcon could have done a better job with accessibility, even given a convention center that was an absolute maze (and probably not ADA-compliant).
  • Ustream apologizes for cutting off the Hugo ceremony; apparently once the automatic ban went into effect, they couldn’t turn it off, but it could all have been avoided if the Hugo administrators had just paid for the service. Apparently that post got a number of angry comments before commenting was turned off altogether.
  • PW reviewer John Ottinger III is part of the movement to make September 7 (today!) National Buy a Book Day in the U.S. Will you #buyabook today?

Weird Tales Goes Back in Time

This editorial by Weird Tales editor Marvin Kaye, defending Victoria Foyt’s widely criticized novel Saving the Pearls: Revealing Eden and promising to print the first chapter of it in the magazine, has a lot of people up in arms. It’s a tragic turn for a magazine that’s up for a Hugo this year thanks in great part to the leadership of Ann VanderMeer, who was ousted by Kaye & co. when they purchased WT almost exactly a year ago. (VanderMeer remained on board as a contributing senior editor; she announced her resignation today following the publication of Kaye’s editorial and the subsequent outcry.)

Foyt’s “discrimiflip” novel, in which dark-skinned Coals oppress light-skinned Pearls and a white woman who wears blackface falls in love with a black man who is literally described as bestial, has been widely criticized for both its extensive use of racist stereotypes and the poor quality of the writing. Foyt’s response to the criticism has been defensive and often contradictory. And as Kaye notes, it’s SF–not fantasy, not horror, not New Weird or slipstream, not the sort of work that has always given Weird Tales its name. Given that Revealing Eden would not generally fall under WT‘s genre purview and that the prose and story are hardly so transcendant as to justify making an exception, it’s impossible to read Kaye’s decision to reprint the first chapter as anything other than a defense of racist writing. It is just barely possible that Foyt may have had the best of intentions and been genuinely taken aback when her book was called out for displaying her unconscious racism. Kaye, however, has no such excuse. This is a calculated statement of scorn for non-white authors and readers and their allies, and it stinks.

WT turns 90 next year. As Andrew Ti of “Yo, Is This Racist?” is so fond of pointing out, 90-year-olds shouldn’t get a pass on espousing racist nonsense just because they grew up thinking it was perfectly fine. VanderMeer did a wonderful job of bringing WT into the 21st century; it’s tragic to see Kaye (who already had a dubious reputation for publishing bigoted trash) dragging it back down.


EDIT: Welp, that was quick. In a new editorial, WT publisher John Harlacher says that the book excerpt will not be published in WT and that he personally found several elements of the book (which he has not read) “goddamned ridiculous and offensive”. He adds:

Marvin [Kaye] says if you read the whole book, she explains her use of this imagery, and it ends up as a plea for tolerance. I say, so what. And that is the position of Weird Tales — and upon reviewing the video and other materials, Marvin is in full agreement.

I deeply apologize to all who were offended by our association with this book. I am offended by it. I fully respect those who have been writing negative things about us today. You are correct.

Harlacher has taken down Kaye’s statement, which is unfortunate; I firmly believe that such things should be allowed to stand, with appropriate addenda, especially since taking down the statement also takes down all the comments that were left on the page. Fortunately Google cached it (thanks to Aishwarya Subramanian for that link) and Nick Tramdack has screencaps.

In a comment, Harlacher adds, “Marvin changed his mind after I showed him the video and other marketing materials. He only read the novel, and did not see how it was presented. I will let him respond further in his own statement.” So apparently Kaye is still willing to support an offensive novel but not offensive marketing materials. Glad to know that’s cleared up.

In response to the original WT announcement, Shimmer has announced that it is now paying pro rates (underwritten by Mary Robinette Kowal, a former staffer for both Shimmer and WT), specifically so that authors who are no longer willing to submit to WT will have another pro-rate magazine to send stories to.


EDIT 2: Jeff VanderMeer reports on a conversation he and Ann had with Kaye and Harlacher back in June, wherein the book was described and Ann said unequivocally that it sounded terrible and shouldn’t be published in WT. That makes Harlacher’s “it didn’t occur to me to read it” defense look even weaker than it already did.

Anyone who subscribes to WT through Weightless Books and wants to cancel their subscription can transfer the value of their remaining issues to any other magazine subscription that Weightless carries.

Crowdsourcing Recommended Reading

One of my mentees is thinking of majoring in Asian-American literature studies and asked if I knew of any Asian-American SF/F authors. “Definitely!” I said, and with the help of my Twitter friends–especially the intrepid Nisi Shawl and Charles A. Tan–I compiled a list. As I wrote to her, I’m not sure all of these writers are Asian-American (or describe themselves that way), but they are of Asian descent and writing in English, and I’d rather err on the side of giving too many names than risk leaving someone off.

The list so far:

  • Alec Austin
  • Kendare Blake
  • Ted Chiang
  • Charles Q. Choi
  • Brenda Clough
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Susan Ee
  • S. Evans
  • Eugie Foster
  • Isamu Fukui
  • Jaymee Goh
  • Lily Hoang
  • Erin Hoffman
  • Julie Kagawa
  • Minsoo Kang
  • Kazu Kibuishi
  • Yoji Kondo
  • Stephanie Lai
  • Yoon Ha Lee
  • Shelly Li
  • Claire Light
  • Ken Liu
  • Marjorie M. Liu
  • Malinda Lo
  • Marie Lu
  • Anil Menon
  • Mary Anne Mohanraj
  • E.C. Myers
  • Shweta Narayan
  • Cindy Pon
  • Vandana Singh
  • Trinity Tam
  • Cecilia Tan
  • Evonne Tsang
  • Greg van Eekhout
  • Marianne Villanueva
  • William F. Wu
  • Gene Luen Yang
  • Laurence Yep
  • Charles Yu
  • E. Lily Yu

Authors of Asian descent who are, according to my memory or comments received from others, probably not American or American-identified:

  • Joyce Chng
  • Eric Choi
  • Amitav Ghosh
  • Hiromi Goto
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Hari Kunzru
  • Larissa Lai
  • Karin Lowachee
  • Derwin Mak
  • Haruki Murakami
  • Tony Pi
  • Salman Rushdie
  • Michelle Sagara [West]
  • S.P. Somtow aka Somtow Sucharitkul
  • most of the authors published by Haikasoru

Who else should I add to either list, or move from one list to the other? And am I erroneously including anyone? A tip of the hat to Ellen Datlow for correcting my initial inclusion of Dean Ing, who I had always pictured as Chinese but is apparently white (serves me right for making assumptions based on a name!).

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)

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.

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.

PW Talks with N.K. Jemisin, Cont.

James Davis Nicoll did a really terrific interview with N.K. Jemisin for us. Three of the Qs and As are in the magazine this week; for your reading pleasure, here’s what didn’t fit on the page.

JDN: Your debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, was nominated for the Nebula, the Hugo and the World Fantasy Award. Any novel being nominated for all three is rare. Having a debut novel achieve this is even almost unheard of; the only other examples I can think of are Tea with a Black Dragon and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. What was your reaction when you discovered you had this nearly unheard of hat-trick in nominations?

NKJ: Lots of screaming and jumping up and down, mostly.  There was individual screaming and jumping up and down with each nomination, and then exponentially greater screaming and jumping up and down once trifecta was achieved.

JDN: What are you going to do with your Hugo nominee pin?

NKJ: I have two so far, since I got nominated last year too for my short story “Non-Zero Probabilities”.  Thinking about making earrings.

JDN: How did you come to be published by Orbit Books?

NKJ: I started the way all the “how to break in” books say you’re supposed to start.  I wrote for a long time—terrible stuff at first, but it got better.  I did a search-by-mail for an agent, using Locus as a research tool, and that netted me representation by Lucienne Diver.  Because of that, when The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was ready to send out to publishers, it was remarkably easy from my end:  I sent her the manuscript and waited. Magical things happened.  (Specifically, she sent it to several publishers, there was an auction, I screamed and jumped up and down some more, then I accepted Orbit’s offer.)  Then suddenly (two years later) I was published.

JDN: What works influenced the Inheritance Trilogy?

NKJ: Too many to count, honestly.  But off the top of my head:  Louise Cooper’s The Time Master trilogy; C. S. Friedman’s Coldfire trilogy; Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth stories; Stephen King’s Dark Tower; half a dozen shoujo manga series; bits of Tolkien, James Joyce, and Storm Constantine; life in New York City from the 80s to today;  several obscure video games; a couple of drum n’ bass bands; and a lot of nonfiction about the development of large and complex social systems.

JDN: One of the defining elements in the Inheritance Trilogy was obsessive and often destructive love. Another was a political structure notable for its brutality and authoritarian aspects. The two elements are linked in that one of the most obsessive romantics also was responsible for the political situation in the first; were you trying to make a more general point by featuring both so prominently and so inextricably intertwined?

NKJ: I’m guessing you’re leaving the identity of the obsessive romantic unmentioned because there are so many of them in the story!  But honestly, I wasn’t trying to make a point about that.  I don’t think that oppressive, authoritarian political systems have anything to do with love.  Control is not a part of love.

With respect to the political structure, I wasn’t trying to make a point about that, either, or at least not consciously.  I was trying to hold up a mirror to our own society, I suppose.  After all, in the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms every child born grows up with a good education, good nutrition, a very slim chance of dying in war or poverty, and a very good chance of living to a venerable age.  In real life we make the same rationalizations that the Arameri do, for far less benefit.  So which world is truly brutal?

JDN: Why, Oree Shoth aside, was your focus in the Inheritance Trilogy on the travails of Gods, godlings and aristocrats rather than those of persons of more humble origin?

NKJ: In the Inheritance Trilogy I’m trying to emulate the epics of old: all those stories in which the gods get bored and start playing with mortals’ lives for kicks, or in which mortals get caught in the crossfire when one god does a drive-by on another, or in which the odd lucky mortal gets a chance to count coup on a god and lives to tell the tale.  The characters in those tales—gods aside—are kings, tailors, princesses, priests, mighty warriors, goose girls, housewives, and random wanderers. They come from all walks of life.  The only constant in the tales are the gods themselves—who are often as human and fallible as mortals, for all their power.

JDN: Your blog’s About Page says you are “a political/feminist/anti-racist blogger”;  elsewhere on the same blog you mention that you are somewhere to the left of the Democratic Party. Speculative fiction is a genre not noted for its embrace of progressive politics, feminism or, as shown in 2009′s epic RaceFail flamewar, diversity; in light of that, what attracted you to this particular genre?

NKJ: Actually, before I got into the creative side of speculative fiction, I thought of it as the most progressive genre.  Friends and family members who knew of my interest helped to steer me towards writers like Anne McCaffrey, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein.  I saw science fiction and fantasy writers imagining amazing futures that ordinary people seemed to think were unattainable, or not worth striving for.  The first speculative novels I read were full of badass “liberated” women, kids from poor families who changed the world, black guys who witnessed the dawn of a new humanity, Muslims in space.  I grew up on shows like Star Trek, watching people of color go into space and even flirt with Spock.  But back then I lived with so much inequity and exclusion in the real world that the tiny, grudging steps toward progress that I saw in speculative fiction seemed like the strides of a giant.

As I grew older, I began to realize just how small those early steps I’d seen were, mostly because I started reading speculative fiction that took much bigger steps.  I read works like Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, which taught me there are no utopias—and that the people who don’t see the ugliness in the world are making a choice to ignore it, on however subconscious a level.  I began to learn more about how the real world works, and it finally hit me that speculative fiction reflects all the same limitations and prejudices as reality—they’re just hidden better.  There’s a reason it’s easier to find blue people in this genre than black people.  There’s a reason we’re still so surprised to see people like me—for whatever value of “like me” you choose to focus on—reading and writing and thriving in these futures and myths that we create.

So I started writing speculative fiction because at first I didn’t know any better.  I kept writing it because I got pissed off that it wasn’t what I thought it should be.  Anger’s a great motivator, but it’s fun, too, so I guess I’ll keep writing this stuff for awhile longer.

More Deep Thoughts

Josh and I were idly chatting over the weekend about someday running a Worldcon; he wants to have one in Atlantic City in ’21 (very appropriate) and I said we could call it Ace of Cons. After some thought, we came up with a dream team of guests of honor: author N.K. Jemisin, editors Devi Pillai and DongWon Song, and artist Kinuko Y. Craft, with K. Tempest Bradford as toastmistress. By 2021 I expect Nora, Devi, and DongWon will have cemented their reputations as genre stars; Kinuko Craft is already legendary; and Tempest, the Wanda Sykes of fandom, would run the world’s most hilarious Hugo ceremony. It would be awesome. It would also be a statement that you can have a major genre event where all the deservedly honored guests are people of color and most of them are women. Links like the ones above are the reason I think such statements need to be made, repeatedly and with emphasis.

California and Nevada, Here I Come

Josh and I are heading to San Francisco tomorrow for a week of vacation before we go to Worldcon. I would like to pretend that Worldcon is a vacation, but at this point it’s as much of a professional event for me as it is a way to see friends and steal panel ideas for Readercon attend interesting program items.

If you’d like to meet me in person and tell me how awesome Genreville is, here’s where I’ll be before Worldcon:

Aug. 13, 7 p.m.: SF in SF

Aug. 16, 6:30 p.m.: The mp3 Experiment San Francisco (Josh and I will be among the blue shirts)

And at Worldcon:

Aug. 18, 2 p.m.: Kaffeeklatsch, room KK1

Come hang out, drink tea, and chat with me about books and reviewing and anything else you like!

Aug. 18, 8 p.m.: Fannish Origami Workshop, room KK1

Have some experience with origami? Come learn advanced origami patterns for aliens, spaceships, mythological creatures and more! Paper will be provided.

If you know a mountain from a valley and a squash from a sink, origamically speaking, please do come to this so I can feel justified in having spent Worldcon’s money on lots of pretty paper.

Aug. 19, 11 a.m.: Social Media for Writers (with Tee Morris, Tom Negrino, Cory Doctorow, and Brenda Cooper), room A03

Writers know the Internet, but not all writers take advantage of its full potential. With the evolution of Social Media, potential readers are only a click away. But what exactly is Social Media? At this panel, you will pick up the vocabulary and background of exactly what Social Media is, what it can do, and what it cannot do.

Every time Cory says “DRM” or “free”, take a drink. Every time I say “Don’t argue with reviews”, chug. If you know Tee, Tom, or Brenda, feel free to suggest more drinking game rules in the comments.

Aug. 20, 3 p.m.: The Paranormal as Metaphor (with Naamen Tilahun, Lucienne Diver, Carrie Vaughn, and Patricia Briggs), room A16

Paranormal fantasy, including urban fantasy and paranormal romance, is among the most popular genres within speculative fiction. One intriguing aspect of this type of fantasy is its role as a stealth route toward social commentary and change. What are the issues being examined and how effectively are the experiences of various groups presented?

Remember that post from a few months ago on why white men should refuse to be on panels of all white men? This panel as originally convened–a panel on paranormal metaphors for social issues!–was all white women. I emailed the Renovation program staff and said I wouldn’t be on it unless they made it more diverse. Somewhat to my surprise, this was actually effective, and I’m delighted that Naamen will be joining us. (I’m equally delighted that I didn’t have to make good on my threat, as I think I’m the token queer on the panel and diversity in that direction is important too.) The program item description has also been much improved. Kudos to the Renovation program staff for taking positive steps quickly and without defensiveness. And if you find yourself on a similarly un-diverse panel, I hope my positive experiences here will encourage you to speak up.

In addition to my official schedule, I expect to be at the Regency Tea Dance, at which PW reviewer and dance historian Susan de Guardiola will be teaching, and possibly at the Regency ball as well. (Incidentally, if you write anything set anywhere near the Victorian era, you should hire Susan to fact-check your work, because she is brilliant and eagle-eyed and ruthless.) I will also probably spend a lot of time in the bar because that’s where all the good convention stuff happens. Look for the white chick with fuzzy hair drinking her own weight in ginger ale and knitting baby clothes (all my friends are having babies all at once!).

Speaking of Worldcon, I just got a press release saying that the Hugo voter turnout set a record this year: “A record total of 2100 valid final ballots were cast, a 46.1% turnout, from voters in 33 countries. (The previous record set in 1980 was 1788 ballots cast.) Renovation also broke a record earlier this year when it received 1006 valid nominating ballots.” Well done, everyone who nominated and voted! Even those of you who voted for things I didn’t like.

With that, I’m signing off until August 24th, with two exceptions: next Monday I’ll be posting the extended version of our Q&A with the magnificent Maureen McHugh, and the following Saturday I’ll be liveblogging the Hugos (assuming I can get internet access from the convention center ballroom). I hope the coming weeks treat you kindly. See you on the flip side.

Catching Up

Cool things that have hit my inbox in the past week:

I have fought both my personal and my work inboxes down from hundreds to dozens of messages, so this should be the last linkdump for a while. Of course, people do keep posting interesting things…

In Threes

Good things come in threes! Have some good writing advice:

  1. Kelley Eskridge: “Today I am thinking about exposition and voice. There is the voice of the character, and the deeper voice of the writer: if you spend time with the pieces I’m writing every day, I am sure you will notice certain patterns of my writer’s voice, especially since they are not yet smoothed fully into effective stories. But today I am thinking about character voice as a tool for, well, everything.”
  2. David Hines: “When I’m reading, I often play a game called, ‘Who the fuck are these people, and why the fuck do I care?’ The term ‘game’ is something of a misnomer, because it’s not conscious, or hasn’t been until I noticed my brain was doing something and tried to figure out just what that something was. It actually happens pretty deeply, on an instinctual level. ‘Who the fuck are these people, and why the fuck do I care?’ is the best name I’ve come up with to describe what’s happening, and the reason I came up with it is that a while back I realized that I’ve been playing this game when I find that a story has made me confused, or angry, or really fucking bored.”

(Hat-tip to Harry Connolly for the first two links.)

I realize FILM CRIT HULK’s style may not be for everyone, but trust me, if you write stories of any kind and especially if you have ever tried to write in the “classic” three-act structure, go read that post.

Unfortunately, bad things come in threes too. These bloggers explain how not to write:

  1. Shweta Narayan on “The Green Reich”: “So, Star*Line published yet another majorly racefailtastic thing, this time with extra added homophobia, transphobia, and pick-your-bigotry. And that’s the fourth in what, a year? (ETA: more like two years, my bad, the illness has screwed with my time sense. Still not good.) Of course, there’s been the predictable ‘but you’re CENSORING the poor wee bigot by OBJECTING!’ rhetoric. Again. And, of course, if only a few people speak up, they don’t count and nobody’s really objecting, but if multiple people speak up, then they’re a mob. Again. There is simply no original thought involved in the pro-bigotry rhetoric here.”
  2. badparsiqueer on the Dresden Files: “Did you walk along 53rd St and decide that this was ‘the worst a large city had to offer’? What made you think that? Was it the Starbucks on the corner? Or the farmers market that happens every Thursday morning in the summer? The Aveda salon? Treasure Island, the expensive ‘European food market’? Or was it the back door Latino club that sells empenadas and Latinoamericano magazines out of the back door every afternoon? The smoke shop with the cheap weaves on Styrofoam heads in the window? The crappy Mexican food shop that sells huge burritos for a buck? The 24 hour cheap grocery by the bus stop, where I bought my yogurt from because I couldn’t afford to shell out 5 dollars on fucking yogurt? Was it the Black people, Jim Butcher? Did they make you feel unsafe?”
  3. moniquill on “Household Spirits”: “STORIES LIKE THIS HURT ME. They hurt PEOPLE LIKE ME. The especially hurt CHILDEN LIKE ME. They hurt me because they are part of a cultural narrative that erases the reality of my existence. That claims that This is what NDNs were and Now they Are Gone isn’t it Sad? But if our good readers had been there, OH IF ONLY THEY HAD BEEN THERE, they would have been some of the Good White People and would have Joined The Natives. Yes they would. Which neatly absolves them from having to think about the fact that their ancestors didn’t and the lasting ramifications that has on native people living today. Everyone weeps cathartic tears and insistst that they’d have helped the Na’vi fight to keep out the unobtamium miners, but precious few of them then go home and help the REAL FUCKING LIVE Dineh (Navajo, to those playing the white name game) fight the uranium miners TODAY in the REAL WORLD. And why should they? The story already absolved them.”

For extra credit, compare Jim Butcher’s outraged response to #2 with the apologies from Strange Horizons and C.S.E. Cooney in response to #3, and identify which should be filed under “how to” and which under “how not to”.

High-Quality Fun

Marissa Lingen:

When you’re defending SF, you don’t have to use that one time that totally reputable writer wrote one book that’s sort of SF except totally not in conversation with the rest of the genre. You can say, “Here’s what’s lyrical in this book,” or, “Here’s what I found interesting,” or relaxing, or touching, or fun. Some of us have fun with dark stories. Some of us have fun with a particular genre type of love stories. Some of us have fun with books that are intensely focused on language or theme. Fun is okay. Do not concede the fun. It doesn’t have to be everybody’s fun, but it can be yours.

Heidi MacDonald, after I linked to N.K. Jemisin’s critique of how X-Men: First Class handles race:

Yeah. I hate to use the Green Lantern/Green Arrow metaphor but it was a fun fantasy film about the blue skins not civil rights

I juxtapose these comments (noting that both should be read in context: the complete blog post in the case of the former and the complete conversation in the case of the latter) because I think Heidi’s tweet makes clear a corollary to Marissa’s stipulation that fun and quality are not mutually exclusive: It is reasonable to want–indeed, to demand–entertainment that is both extremely fun and high-quality.

I don’t think fun should be a blanket excuse any more than it should be a blanket condemnation. As a connoisseuse of escapist genre literature, I want high-quality fun. I want smart fun. I want large-scale and small-scale fun. I want writers to write it and publishers to publish it. I want fun that isn’t predicated on members of a certain group of people doing stupid things, or being the first to die, or otherwise being the butt of the joke or casual collateral damage. I want fun that isn’t set in a place where everyone looks and acts the same, unless that’s meant to be completely unrealistic (as Farah Mendlesohn notes, “If you have to carry out a diversity audit you haven’t been paying attention to your world lately”) and maybe even then. I want fun where there’s someone I can identify with who isn’t a villain and gets a happy ending. It doesn’t have to be good clean fun, but I want good fun.

I want fun that doesn’t put me in the position of saying “but it’s fun!”.

Is that really so much to ask?

Con or Bust Fall Convention Deadline is Today!

As posted on the con_or_bust LiveJournal community:

Con or Bust is pleased to announce that as of this very moment, and through May 31, fans of color/non-white fans may request assistance to attend SFF cons in July, August, and September 2011.

Because there was no advance notice that we’d be taking requests, please repost and link to this post far and wide so that people know that assistance is possible. I will announce the precise amount after WisCon, but a minimum of $700 will be available to help fans of color attend cons for the next three months, plus two memberships to Renovation and memberships to Think Galacticon (one full, two half-price).

These cons are taking place in July-September and are supporting Con or Bust:

  • Renovation, the 2011 WorldCon, August 17-21, Reno, Nevada, USA (donated memberships);
  • Readercon, July 14-17, Burlington, Massachusetts, USA (donated money).
  • Think Galacticon, July 8-10, Chicago, USA (donated memberships).

Read this post for how to request assistance. Donate con memberships by e-mailing knepveu@steelypips.org. Donate money with a PayPal account or credit card with this button:

Or learn more about Con or Bust generally. And thank you for your help in spreading the word!

Con or Bust is awesome; I’m very proud that Readercon supports it. I believe there’s still one free membership to Worldcon available, and today is the deadline for fall convention assistance, so please spread the word and help to desegregate fandom!

More Book Recs: Diverse Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy

Reader A.A. asks:

Is there a chance that you could highlight multicultural UF or Paranormal Romance? A lot of the heroes and heroines I read are pretty white-bread, and I feel like there’s got to be more out there that I’m missing. Nalini Singh and Meljean Brooke tend to have diverse casts (and mixed race couples semi-frequently, something completely neglected by the cover artists, to my unsurprised frustration). I know of the Mercy Thompson (Patricia Briggs) series and the Jane Yellowrock (Faith Hunter) series as well. The Allie Beckstrom (Devon Monk) books have a mixed-race main couple, but the heroine is (by all appearances) white. Much to my shame, I seem to completely miss African-American writers/heroes/heroines in F/SF overall, so I know I must be missing them in UF/ParaRom as well. Anyway, I’d love to have more good non-white-centric UF/ParaRom pointed out to me (and I’m sure I’m not the only one!), and you must see some of it cross your desk.

There’s not as much of it as I’d like to see, but it’s out there! Alaya Johnson’s Moonshine and Terrance Taylor’s Bite Marks and Blood Pressure have a lot of fun with non-white supernatural entities in historical New York. I’ve heard great things about L.A. Banks’s Vampire Huntress books (and their emphatically non-whitewashed covers; kudos to St. Martin’s). S.J. Day’s urban fantasy Eve series has a Japanese-American protagonist. Jane Lindskold’s Thirteen Orphans et seq. are Chinese-influenced UF, and Eileen Rendahl’s Don’t Kill the Messenger is Chinese-influenced PR. Mario Acevedo’s Felix Gomez and Marta Acosta’s Milagro de Los Santos are Hispanic vampires, and Laura Anne Gilman’s Hard Magic et seq. feature Hispanic forensic magician Bonita Torres (who first appeared in the Retrievers series). Charles de Lint, the original urban fantasist, has a ton of Native American characters.

Some other resources for you: Dear Author has a post of multicultural romance recs that includes lots of paranormal romance; search the comments for “paranormal” or “PR”. It’s from a year ago, so most of what’s recommended there should still be findable in stores or online. This great essay on race in urban fantasy gets lots of recs and some disrecs from readers, and it was republished on Racialicious to even more comments.

O Genreville readers, you were so awesome with suggestions for my young friend. (She says, “After reading that post I don’t think I’ll ever run out of books!”) So I turn to you once again: Got any recommendations for A.A.?