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Author Photos Proposal

As some of you know, I’m a bit of a photography hobbyist — that is to say, very much not a professional. But it’s something I enjoy, and something I’d like to get better at.

It occurred to me as I was looking at my mostly-outdated press kit pics that authors need author photos.

Some authors pay professional photographers for their author photos, and that’s great. Others go through shots their friends have taken and try to find the best ones. And sometimes we just panic and snap a bunch of selfies and hope for the best, because the editor wants it right now and I can’t find anything and I’m panicking and why can’t I just send a picture of my cat instead?

Anyway, as an idea, what would you think of me offering to do photo sessions at future conventions for authors? I’m not sure exactly how this would work, but it would be good practice and experience for me, and I’d send the authors their pics and rights to use them however they need.

While I’m not a pro, I like to think I don’t completely suck. Here are some of the pics I’ve taken over the past couple of years that people seemed to like. (Keep in mind, these were generally snapped in the spur of the moment, so I didn’t always have time to move for better lighting or background and such.)

Wesley Chu

Wesley Chu

John Scalzi

John Scalzi, with Tor Ring

Terri LeBlanc and Ann Leckie

Terri LeBlanc and Ann Leckie

Michelle Clark

Michelle Clark

Tierany Seriflame.

Tierany Seriflame

Doselle Young

Doselle Young

Anthony Hendon

Anthony Hendon

What do you think? What are the downsides I’m missing? I figure I’d need to be clear up front that I can’t guarantee perfection. On the other hand, I can probably promise that you’ll get your money’s worth. Ideally, folks get decent photos they can use, and I get to have fun practicing and getting better at something I enjoy.

I figure I could either do it informally, with folks emailing me ahead of time to set something up at a convention, or else talk to the con about maybe getting an hour or two on the schedule to either shoot outside or in a program room or…well, it would probably be best to scout locations beforehand, to be honest.

Anyway, feedback welcome and appreciated.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Anyone in the Southfield Area?

I’ll be at the Southfield (Michigan) Public Library tomorrow, May 4, at 6:30. I’ll be reading something still-to-be-decided, talking a bit about writing and my own process, answering questions, and then selling and signing some books.

All I know for certain is that I need to remember to wear one of my Star Wars shirts…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

SF/F Being Awesome: Books for Kids

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many SF/F Being Awesome posts.

Charity Auction FlyerFor close to 20 years, Balticon and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society have been raising money to provide books to kids — particularly kids who might not otherwise be able to afford them — and to school libraries as well.

I spoke with Kelly Pierce, who’s been coordinating the Bobby Gear Memorial Charity Auction at Balticon since about 2002. The auction raises the bulk of the money for Books for Kids each year.

In the beginning, BSFS Books for Kids worked with RIF (Reading is Fundamental) to buy and hand out the books. When RIF stopped operating in Maryland, BSFS Books for Kids chose to continue, and to distribute the books themselves.

The auction is named in honor of Bobby Gear, who was a BSFS volunteer and teacher at Buck Lodge Middle School, one of the first schools to benefit from the generosity of BSFS Books for Kids.

Since it all began, Balticon and BSFS has probably raised around $50,000 to provide books to libraries and kids in need, with the bulk of that money comes from the annual auction.

Think about that for a moment. Think about how many books this group of fans has passed out. Think about how much that means to kids who might not be able to afford books of their own.

This is what I love about fandom. People don’t just get together to celebrate the stories we love. They pour in hundreds and thousands of hours of work to help others, to share those stories and books with others. To share that love.

For more information:

Thank you Kelly for taking the time to talk to me, and thanks to everyone who’s volunteered and donated and supported BSFS Books for Kids over the years.

Goblin: Keep Being Awesome!!!

Do you have a suggestion for a group, organization, or event to be featured on the blog for general awesomeness? Email me at jchines -at- sff.net, or through my Contact Form.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday just splurged on a late birthday present that should show up by the end of next week…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


A Few Hugo Requests

As we go through this strange sensation of Déjà Hugo, I had a few requests to put out there.

1. Don’t tell me, or anyone else, how to vote.

If you want to talk about deciding how you’re going to vote, great. If you want to put forth an argument for No Award or for avoiding the No Award option or for how to treat blatantly rabid nominees vs. trolling nominees vs. human shields or whatever else, fine. But I’m already starting to see people doing the, “If you vote this way (or don’t vote this way), you’re an asshole” thing.

Let me put it this way. The rabid puppies were able to make this year’s mess by lining up and following their voting orders (a tactic which hopefully won’t work very well in the future). Do you really want to follow that guy’s strategy of trying to tell people how to vote?

Some people will probably choose to No Award the whole slate. Others will try to evaluate every work on its own merit. Me, I’ll try to read and evaluate them all, though I’ll probably be more skeptical of most of the rabid works.

I’m not complaining about discussion/debate on how to respond to the rabid puppies this year. I just don’t appreciate people trying to dicktate how I should vote.

2. No asterisks, please.

I did make a crack about asterisks and the Hugo last year after the trophy was released. And I think a lot of people had a mental asterisk over the whole thing, because let’s be honest, last year was anything but normal for the Hugo awards. So yeah, I definitely get it.

But at last year’s Hugo award ceremony, they handed out wooden asterisk plaques, and later sold additional wooden asterisks.

I don’t believe this was done with malicious intent (though I obviously can’t read anyone’s minds). Maybe it was an attempt at humor, and/or to acknowledge the elephant in the room. I appreciate that the sale of the asterisks raised several thousand dollars for a good cause.

Whatever the intentions, it resulted in a lot of people feeling hurt and attacked. I know from experience how nerve-wracking a Hugo ceremony can be in a normal year. Last year, and this year, tensions and anxieties and fears are exponentially higher. And for many of the people in attendance, the asterisks felt like a big old slap in the face.

Like I said, I don’t think that was the intention. (Others will disagree, and have gleefully pointed to the asterisks as “proof” that “the other side” is evil and nasty.) In this case, I don’t think intention matters so much as the impact it had, including hurting some good, talented people.

3. Don’t be an abusive doucheweasel.

For example, here’s a conversation from last year where Moshe Feder had to delete someone’s comment calling for the Sad Puppies to kill themselves. WTF, people?

Screenshot - Puppies Should Kill Themselves

Or here’s someone suggesting the Sad and Rabid Puppies be rounded up and dropped into Daesh territory.


Then there’s the vitriol directed at the nominees themselves. Particularly at the women on the ballot. (I’m sure we’re all shocked to hear that women tended to get the most and the nastiest of the attacks.)

As one nominee noted last year, “We have been called assholes, bitches, mongrels, yapping curs, talentless hacks and so many more things that I can’t even name them all. I have seen at least one suggestion that all of us should be euthanized.” Another talked about the “helpful” emails they received, saying things like, “If you don’t reject the nomination, you will be forever linked with those people. Always hated.”

And whatever choice the nominees made about withdrawing or staying on the ballot, there were people who would attack them for it, calling them gutless, comparing them to Nazi sympathizers, and worse.



I’m not trying to say anyone can’t or shouldn’t be angry, or trying to stop anyone from expressing that anger. But there’s a difference between expressing anger and harassing people. There’s a difference between criticizing people who are actively trying to “burn the Hugos down,” and attacking everyone and anyone who might in any way be connected with — or being used by — those people.

I’m also not interested in debating whether one “side” was worse than the other. I’m simply pointing out that this shit happened. These are some of the public comments. Some of the emails/messages sent directly to folks were far worse.

Finally, I know there are people who delight in being abusive doucheweasels, and nothing I write here is going to change that. I guess I’m just asking the rest of us, myself included, to be careful, and to remember Wheaton’s Law.

Thanks for listening.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Help Me Share the Awesome Side of SF/F

I’m thinking about trying to do a weekly blog post highlighting some of the positive and amazing things being done by various folks in the SF/F community. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how many wonderful, kind-hearted, generous people there are in our geeked-out slice of the world.

Take Pat Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders fundraiser. Pat has poured so much time and energy into Worldbuilders. (Yes, I know some of you would rather he poured all of that time into writing, but none of us can write all the time.) In the past seven years, Worldbuilders has raised more than $3.5 million for Heifer International, helping to reduce hunger and poverty in the world.

Or look at conventions like Windycon, where fans worked to raise $753 for the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter.

So I need your help. Email me at jchines -at- sff.net (or use the Contact Form) and tell me about people or groups in fandom doing good stuff. I’ll do my best to research and write them up, with links and pics and maybe even a quick interview or quote or something. And we can try at least once a week to recognize that yeah, at its worst, SF/F fandom can be a hot, flaming mess … but at our best, we are Frakking Awesome.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Hugos and Such

As I said on Twitter, congratulations to the Hugo nominees — particularly those who earned their spot on the ballot. And thank you to certain individuals for making sure the anti-slate legislation gets passed this year.

The Sad Puppies this year opted for a recommendations list as opposed to a formal slate. The Rabid Puppies, to nobody’s shock, continued their efforts to slate-shit all over the ballot. I’d been guessing and hoping that the puppy influence would be lessened this year. I figured the Rabids would get some nominees through slate-voting, but that we’d also see more viable candidates on the final ballot.

File 770 has posted an analysis of the puppy effectiveness, and the impact varies a lot from one category to the next.

Comparing this year’s results to last, it looks like once again the Rabid Puppy slate had the greatest impact. I was mistaken in guessing their influence would be diminished this year. They appear to have gotten roughly the same number of candidates onto the final ballot, if not slightly moreso. Though this year’s ballot is completely free of John Wright’s work, which surprises me a little.

It’s also clear that Beale and the Rabid Pups were trying to play a slightly different game this year. In addition to the nominees that were Beale’s own ego-stroking (Vox Day for Best Editor, work from his publisher’s blog for Best Related Work, etc.), and blatant “crap-on-the-Hugo” nominees, there were also a handful of nominees presumably chosen to make poor SJW brains explode, like File 770 for Best Fanzine. Or nominees that would almost certainly have made the ballot without the slate, like Andy Weir for the Campbell.

I assume this is designed to make people say, “Oh, woe is me, I can’t vote for anything on a slate, and therefore must vote against File 770 and Andy Weir even though I might consider them deserving,” after which the Rabid puppies will proclaim victory. Or else people will vote for File 770 and Weir, and they’ll win, and the Rabid puppies will proclaim victory.

My, what a brilliant stratagem that absolutely no one could have foreseen. What ever shall we do? Alas, how we are trapped by the cleverness of their clever trap.

Wile E. Coyote, Genius

A lot of the stuff on the ballot is, just like last year, utter crap. I suspect most people are fully capable of reading for themselves and deciding what’s worthy of winning, what deserved a place on the ballot, and what should come below No Award. Just like last year.

All in all, my sense is that the Rabid Puppies had pretty much the same level of influence as last year, and the Sad Puppies had a minimal impact. Like last year, my biggest disappointment is for the worthy individuals and works that got knocked off the ballot by a relatively small group’s coordinated poo-flinging.

The results, along with lists of non-rabid nominees and my notes comparing this year to last, are below. As before, I’d encourage people to read and to vote. And if you’ll be at Worldcon, please try to get to the business meeting.


Best Novel has three nominees that weren’t on the Rabid slate. (All three were on the “raw” Sad Puppy recommendation list, and two were on the final, “official” Sad Puppy list.) This is similar to last year’s final Best Novel ballot, which also had three puppy-free nominees.

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Best Novella had one Rabid-free nominee. Given that Binti is also a Nebula finalist, I think it’s safe to say this one very much earned its spot. All four others were from the Rabid slate and the Sad list both. This is similar to last year’s final ballot.

  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Best Novelette is pretty much a repeat of Novella, with one Rabid-free nominee that was on the Sad list. All four other nominees were on the Rabid slate. Once again, pretty close to last year’s ballot results.

  • “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander

Best Short Story was swept by the Rabid slate, just like last year.

Best Related Work was another Rabid sweep. Once again, effectively the same as last year.

Best Graphic Story is yet another Rabid sweep. The Rabid puppies were actually more effective in this category this year.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form had three Rabid-free finalists. All three were on the Sad list, but come on. Is there any way these weren’t going to make the ballot in a normal year? This is roughly the same as last year’s results.

  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form had two Rabid-free nominees. Again pretty much equivalent to last year.

  • Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent”
  • Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile”

Best Editor – Short Form only had one nominee from the Rabid slate, and that nominee made the ballot. This is much cleaner than last year, when it was another slate-dominated category.

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form sees two Rabid slate nominees, once again an improvement over last year’s slate-sweep.

  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Jim Minz

Best Professional Artist was swept by the Rabid slate this year. Last year saw only a single slate-free nominee in the category.

Best Semiprozine has a single nominee that wasn’t on the Rabid slate, a step down from last year, when we had three slate-free nominees.

  • Uncanny Magazine

Best Fanzine is another Rabid sweep, similar to last year when we had only one slate-free nominee.

Best Fancast: swept by Rabid slate. (Last year saw two slate-free nominees.)

Best Fan Writer sees one non-Rabid nominee. Last year saw only a single non-slate nominee.

  • Mike Glyer

Best Fan Artist has a single non-Rabid nominee, compared to last year, when the Rabid Puppies forgot or neglected to include this category on their slate.

  • Steve Stiles

Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo) sees one non-Rabid nominee, just like last year’s one non-slate nominee.

  • Alyssa Wong

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Shield Theory

My son and I both had rough days yesterday, and right before bedtime, my wife and I were talking to him about good days and bad days, limits, and why at a certain point we all start to feel overwhelmed and fall apart. I considered bringing up spoon theory, but thought it would be a bit too abstract for him. So instead, I started talking about about Captain America’s shield.

Captain America"s Shield

Because in general, every day has good stuff and bad stuff. And just like Cap, we all have a shield we can use to deflect some of the bad stuff and keep it from getting to us. But sometimes there’s too much stuff to block it all, and Cap gets hurt. We all have bad days like that sometimes, where there’s just too much.

What makes life trickier is that your shield can change size. If you’re hungry or overtired, your shield might shrink down to the size of a saucer, which makes it harder to deflect anything. On the other hand, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, gotten some good exercise, and had fun with your friends, you could end up with a super-shield that’s as big as you are. (Or even a full suit of Iron Man armor. We went off on a tangent at this point, wondering why Tony doesn’t go to Wakanda and make an Iron Man suit out of vibranium.)

As a metaphor, Cap’s shield worked well. We talked about why something might not bother you one day, but the same thing might really get to you on another, depending on how big your shield is that day, and how much else you’ve been trying to deflect. It also seemed to be a good way of talking about self-care, and ways to strengthen your shield so it wouldn’t shrink or crack.

Don’t know if it will be helpful to anyone else, but it was a good conversation with my son, so I figured I’d put it out there.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

RIP, Philip Edward Kaldon

I learned earlier today that Philip Edward Kaldon, aka Dr. Phil, had passed away.

Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon - ConFusion 2015I don’t remember exactly when he and I met, but it’s been years. I knew him both as an author and as a fan, a constant presence at most Michigan conventions. We played dueling photographers at ConFusion back in 2015.

As an author, he was published in Writers of the Future XXIV, Analog, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Abyss & Apex, and more. At least two of his stories are available online:

He was also a physicist, and taught at Western Michigan University. (Which, personally, I think gave him an unfair advantage in writing science fiction!)

I knew he’d been having health troubles for a while, but I’d thought — hoped — he was on the path to recovery. I’d been looking forward to joking with him about his new bionic leg at next year’s ConFusion.

He always struck me as positive and pleasant and generally just enjoying himself. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say a bad word about him (which is especially impressive in this community).

He was a regular at many of my book launch events here in Michigan, going back almost ten years, which…it meant a lot.

I’m sorry we won’t get to see more of his work, but I’m even sorrier that I won’t get to hang out and joke around and talk writing and photography and whatever else again.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cat Pics

I have nothing deep or profound or hilarious to blog about today, so I’m posting cat pics instead. Because that’s what the internet is really for anyway, right?

And yeah, I was playing around and trying to get all artistic with the cat photography… I think the first one of Taz is my favorite.

(Side note: I spent well over an hour fighting with Flickr and browsers and connection issues to get the dang things uploaded. So y’all better like them!)




Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is thinking of celebrating his birthday at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


I guess this is Jim Talks About Triggers and Content Warnings and Censorship and Stuff Week. Here are the previous two blog posts:

I want to talk next about the fear that trigger warnings could be abused, or that they could be used as a tactic to silence others and infringe on free speech.

As a general rule, almost anything can be taken to extremes and misused. Hypothetically, I could proclaim the color green was triggering me, and demand Michigan State University change their colors. At which point MSU would presumably, and rightfully, ignore me.

A fair number of the concerns I’ve seen raised were, like that example, hypothetical. “But what if…?”

It’s good to consider unintended consequences. We should also consider how likely those consequences are. How widespread. Have we seen incidents to suggest the potential harm outweighs the potential benefit? Are we more worried about hypothetical pain than actual pain?

Are those concerns worth thinking about? Sure. Are they justification to immediately cease and desist all Trigger Warnings and label anyone who protests an oversensitive whiner? Not so much.

Moving on from the hypothetical, what about all those real-world examples of people using “triggers” to attack others, and to shut down free speech?

Sexually Graphic Questions Appear in Cambridge Law Exam: One commenter pointed to this article, saying “Cambridge law students objected to an exam question on various forms of rape and sexual offenses.” But the article says only that students were shocked — not that they objected.

Sebastian Salek, a third-year from Clare College … told the Independent that questions on sexual offences are ‘always going to be quite graphic’, but that ‘this was on another level from previous years’.

He insisted that questions like this are ‘necessary’, however. “The criminal law isn’t pretty and law students have to be able to deal with the offences that were raised.”

The article says nothing about removing those questions. It doesn’t reference censorship, or students calling for changes to the exam. It simply notes that the questions were apparently more graphic than in prior years.

The Trouble with Teaching Rape Law: This article is by Jeannie Suk, and was referenced in that Atlantic piece about the “coddling” of American minds. The Atlantic article argued, “A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.” But what does Suk’s piece actually say?

Student organizations representing women’s interests now routinely advise students that they should not feel pressured to attend or participate in class sessions that focus on the law of sexual violence, and which might therefore be traumatic. These organizations also ask criminal-law teachers to warn their classes that the rape-law unit might “trigger” traumatic memories. Individual students often ask teachers not to include the law of rape on exams for fear that the material would cause them to perform less well. One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word “violate” in class—as in “Does this conduct violate the law?”—because the word was triggering. Some students have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress.

You’ve got several things going on here. One is the request that professors let students know when they’re going to be discussing rape law, particularly when — like Suk — they’re going to be assigning students to argue hypothetical cases, to prosecute or defend accused rapists in “ambiguous” situations. I tend to agree that a content warning would be a Good Thing.

Should students be able to skip classes that deal with specific, potentially traumatic topics? Well, skipping class isn’t generally good for your education. On the other hand, neither is breaking down in class or afterward. Skipping the occasional class didn’t interfere with me getting my degree or making the honors lists. (Sorry, mom and dad!) This feels like an area where each student should make whatever choice is best for them. Isn’t that what we want students to be learning? To be independent and make their own informed choices? And keep in mind, trigger warnings don’t automatically mean students will skip that class. Often, it just gives students a warning so they can mentally and emotionally prepare themselves.

As for individual students allegedly asking teachers to remove questions about rape law from an exam, or to avoid using the word “violate” in class?

The key word here is asking. If professors are being forced to remove those questions, I think that’s a problem, yes. The legal system in this country is messed up enough already when it comes to rape; the last thing we need is to graduate a crop of students who are even more ignorant about how those laws work. But Suk doesn’t say she’s actually changed her curriculum, or been forced to do so.

She does say, “About a dozen new teachers of criminal law at multiple institutions have told me that they are not including rape law in their courses, arguing that it’s not worth the risk of complaints of discomfort by students.”

Yeah, that’s a problem. But is it a realistic fear? Is the problem students and others pressuring the professors, or is the problem professors giving in to baseless fears? We all know students will complain about stuff. But are universities actually disciplining or censoring professors for teaching rape law in law school? Suk’s article talks about fear, but is noticeably lacking in examples.

My Trigger-warning Disaster: This is another article linked to by a commenter as an example of trigger warnings being taken to ridiculous extremes. Rani Neutill writes about teaching a class about the evolution of sex in movies, and also filling in at the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention Services.

Before I screened [Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song], I gave a warning, indicating that it was one of the disturbing scenes to which Williams refers. The scene shows a young Sweetback … having sex with a 30-year old woman. She finds him irresistible and thus starts the hyper-sexual evolution of Sweetback — every woman on earth wants to fuck him, including a whole bunch of white women. This, of course, is statutory rape.  When the lights went on and the scene was over, two students left the room in tears. I was perplexed.

Wait, she was perplexed? She’s working in the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention Services, and she doesn’t understand how a scene of statutory rape might upset two of her students? The problem, in my reading, is that Neutill made the mistaken assumption that a trigger warning was a silver bullet, a cure-all that would ensure nobody got angry or upset or overwhelmed.

Neutill continues:

For the rest of the semester, I gave trigger warnings before every scene I screened. Every. Single. One. This wasn’t enough. A student came to me and asked that I start sending emails before class outlining exactly which disturbing scenes I would be showing so that I wouldn’t “out” survivors if they had to walk out of class when hearing what I was about to show. This took all the free form and off the cuff ability to teach. It stifled the teaching process … Nevertheless, I did it. (Emphasis added)

Why did she do it? Reading the article, it wasn’t because she feared complaints or disciplinary action. It was because students were upset, and she kept trying to “fix” that. Which isn’t how it works.

That"s Not How This Works

Also, most teachers I’ve known have to plan their lessons, and showing film clips seems like something you’d have to set up in advance, so I’m not sure how letting students know in advance what they’d be looking at would stifle her freedom and process.

One final excerpt from her piece:

I don’t know about trigger warnings outside classes that deal with race, gender and sexuality, but I do know that if you promote trigger warnings in subjects that are supposed to make people feel uncomfortable, you’re basically promoting a culture of extreme privilege, cause I’m pretty sure that the trans women who are being murdered weekly, the black men who are victims of police brutality daily, and the neighborhoods in America that are plagued by everyday violence, aren’t given any trigger warnings.

Shall we play a game of “Find the Messed-up Logical Fallacies in This Paragraph”?

My takeaway on this article isn’t that we’re promoting a culture of extreme privilege and runaway coddling of American minds. It’s that this professor did not know how to handle her class, and made mistakes as a teacher.

Northwestern’s Kipnis Cleared in Title IX Investigation: This is another article referenced (indirectly) by the Atlantic piece. Two Title IX complaints were filed against Laura Kipnis following an article she wrote about “sexual paranoia,” and a Tweet she posted. Of the examples I’ve discussed here, this is the first one with larger external consequences. Kipnis voiced opinions some people didn’t like, and two official complaints were made against her.

Kipnis’ article is available to subscribers only, but the opening sentence is…troubling:

You have to feel a little sorry these days for professors married to their former students. They used to be respectable citizens — leaders in their fields, department chairs, maybe even a dean or two — and now they’re abusers of power…

It sounds like Kipnis was attacking rules that prohibited romantic relationships between faculty and students, complaining that students are, “so committed to their own vulnerability, conditioned to imagine they have no agency, and protected from unequal power arrangements in romantic life…”

The Tweet in question said, “It’s a problem that ‘trauma’ is now deployed re any bad experience. And dating is not the same as rape!”

The problem? Kipnis was allegedly responding to a specific case on campus, an accusation of rape by a student against a professor. She denies this, but whether intentional or not, that was the context in which she was speaking out in support of those poor professors who only wanted to rape have sex with a student or two.

Does this justify a Title IX complaint? I honestly don’t know enough about Title IX law to say. I will note that Kipnis was cleared. I don’t want to minimize the anxiety and hassle of having to deal with those complaints, but she was not punished, nor was she censored by the university.


I’m sure there are examples of trigger warnings being abused and misused. But most of the examples being brought up, if you look into them, don’t suggest a widespread attack on free speech. The fear and the backlash against trigger/content warnings, etc., comes off as completely disproportionate to any real-world problems.

I’m not saying we ignore those real-world problems, or claiming no such problems exist. I’m just suggesting that many of the things being pointed to as “proof” we’re over-coddling minds and destroying academic freedom in the process don’t actually prove that at all.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

So much conversation and debate after yesterday’s post about trigger warnings.

Most of the commenters here and elsewhere seemed to agree that:

  1. No, trigger warnings are not, by themselves, censorship.
  2. Stephen Fry was being a complete turd cabbage in his article.

But there was discussion of whether the concept of triggers and content warnings can go too far, and if we can reach a point where it all becomes damaging. One individual pointed to an article in the Atlantic as an example that was “better informed”: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Trigger Warnings are Hurting Mental Health on Campus, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

I started trying to respond to some of the points in that article, and after 1000 words, had only gotten through the first few paragraphs. So I’m trying a different approach, and zooming in on just one of their arguments:

[T]here is a deeper problem with trigger warnings. According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, the very idea of helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided. A person who is trapped in an elevator during a power outage may panic and think she is going to die. That frightening experience can change neural connections in her amygdala, leading to an elevator phobia. If you want this woman to retain her fear for life, you should help her avoid elevators.

But if you want to help her return to normalcy, you should take your cues from Ivan Pavlov and guide her through a process known as exposure therapy.


(If you are a trained and licensed therapist, please replace the previous statement with, NO YOU SHOULD NOT, BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT HER THERAPIST!!!)

Exposure Therapy and Systematic Desensitization are processes. They’re done in a controlled environment, with preparation and planning, which includes letting the patient know what’s coming. I.e., giving them a warning.

You might as well say, “Hey, Electroconvulsive Therapy is still sometimes used to treat depression, and you’ve been feeling down, so I’m gonna plug in this toaster and drop it into the bath with you!”
Lucy: Psychiatric HelpAs someone who earned a degree in psychology, has been a rape counselor, has been in counseling, and married a license therapist, do me a favor and knock it off with the armchair psychologist crap before you seriously hurt someone.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

ETA 1: Stephen Fry has posted an apology for his remarks about abuse.

TW for references to rape/incest.

A friend on Facebook linked to this article: Stephen Fry hits out at ‘infantile’ culture of trigger words and safe spaces.

There’s just too much ignorance for me to address it all in one blog post, so I want to focus on triggers, trigger words, and trigger warnings: what they are, what they aren’t, and what Fry seems to think they are.

“There are many great plays which contain rapes, and the word rape now is even considered a rape. They’re terrible things and they have to be thought about, clearly, but if you say you can’t watch this play, you can’t watch Titus Andronicus, you can’t read it in an English class, or you can’t watch Macbeth because it’s got children being killed in it, it might trigger something when you were young that upset you once, because uncle touched you in a nasty place, well I’m sorry.”

First of all — and I say this as someone who’s written multiple books that deal with rape — fuck you. Fuck you for belittling people’s trauma with that last line.

Second, to your claim that the word rape is considered a rape? Yeah, I’m gonna just take this screenshot from xkcd and leave it right here.

xkcd: citation needed

(If you don’t get it, that’s basically a more polite way of calling you on your bullshit.)

Tumblr user Marija095 used Wreck-It Ralph as a way of demonstrating what people mean by the word “Trigger.” If you’ve seen the movie, do you remember Sergeant Calhoun’s reaction when Felix called her “a dynamite gal”? The phrase triggered a visceral reaction of grief and horror, a flashback to seeing her fiance killed in front of her.

Felix never uses that phrase in front of her again. Not because he’s coddling Calhoun’s “infantile self-pity,” but out of basic human decency, the desire to avoid twisting a knife in an open wound.

We don’t always know what might be a trigger for a trauma survivor. It could be a phrase, a smell, a sound… Many veterans have pushed for regulation and restriction of when fireworks can be set off, because the explosions trigger their PTSD.

Go ahead, Fry. Stand up and tell those combat vets they’re being infantile. I’ll be over here selling tickets and popcorn.

Getting back on track, what’s the point of trigger warnings if we can’t know everyone’s individual triggers.

It’s true, we can’t. But we have more than enough information and research to know about common traumas in our society. PTSD in combat vets is one. Rape is another. Child abuse. Domestic violence. All are obscenely common. If you’re speaking to a group of more than a handful of people, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll have survivors of rape or abuse.

“But that doesn’t mean we should censor everything!”

I agree. Fortunately — now listen closely, please — trigger warnings have nothing to do with censorship!

A trigger warning is a way of telling people about the content so they can make their own informed choice about what to do. They might choose to walk out. They might choose to stay. That warning might be all they need to brace themselves.

We do this all the time! We put content warnings and ratings on movies. We write summaries on the backs of our books so people know what they’re getting. Convention programs note “Adult only” programming.

None of this is censorship. It’s just giving people a heads-up about what to expect.

Fanfiction tends to be very good about this, tagging stories to warn readers what they’re getting without spoiling or ruining the story.

But what if people who aren’t personally traumatized use trigger warnings to decide what to watch or read?

So what? How does that hurt anyone or anything? Heck, I’ve read so many poorly-written stories dealing with rape, I might take advantage of a trigger warning to reconsider whether this is a book I want to read.

Why the hell are people up in arms about giving others more information so they can decide what to read, what to watch, and so on?

There’s a lot more I want to talk about from that article, but I’ll end up with a 3000-word blog post if I do, so I’m going to keep the focus on trigger warnings for now, post this as is, and go get dinner.

Comments welcome, as always. (And as always, don’t be a dick.)

ETA 2: Follow-up post, talking about the idea that trigger warnings interfere with mental health, and if you really want to help someone who’s been traumatized, you have to expose them to the source of that trauma.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday would like to know the best way to celebrate one’s 42nd birthday.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Writing Update

Right around April Fool’s Day, I realized I’d spent the past two months writing the wrong book.

Loki Facepalm

That whole plan to get the first draft done during the month of March? Yeah, not so much. The house came down with the plague, I spent three days at a convention, and oh yes, I was writing the wrong book!

That’s a hard call to make. Every time I write a book, there are parts where I feel frustrated and stuck. I wonder whether I’ve gone off the rails. Am I going to reach the end of this manuscript and realize I’ve finally lost whatever writing ability I once had? Etc., and so on. It’s normal. Unpleasant, but normal.

This was different. This was the gradual realization that the setup I’d created would not work for the kind of story I wanted to tell. Both the characters and the plot were wrong for the humor and tone I wanted.

MiB Writing

So I scrapped it.

Yeah, it hurt.

I’m trying to tell myself I haven’t wasted two months of work. I can reuse some parts and pieces from those two months: worldbuilding, character ideas, bits of description, and so on. And I did check a couple of other things off my To Do list, like an essay for FenCon, or adding a Speaking Engagements page to my website. That’s gotta count for something, right?

Ah well. So I’m back to square one. Again. But I think I’m getting closer to what this book needs to be. Hopefully it will all pay off late next year when it comes out.

In the meantime, I’ve got a chapter to finish…

Aragorn - Let"s Do This (gif)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Working For Exposure

Like most working writers I’ve met, I’m not too excited about the idea of writing for exposure…

…he wrote, on his blog, which pays a total of nothing.

Let me try that again. I’m not too excited about the idea of writing for other people for exposure. If you want me to write something — if you want me to work for you — it seems reasonable to expect to be paid.

There are exceptions, of course. I’ve written free content for projects I believe in, for friends and people I like, and for the pure fun of it. But if all you’re offering is exposure, I get plenty of that here on the blog. And to be blunt, my time is valuable, and I only have a limited amount. Writing for you takes time that could otherwise go to other projects, or to hanging out with my family, or even to raking up the leaves and sticks in the back yard.

I’m pretty comfortable at this point with the idea that as a writer, I deserve to be paid. (Though I still struggle with interviews sometimes, depending on where the interview is supposed to appear and how much time will be involved.)

ETA: My apologies. That parenthetical was unclear. I wouldn’t dream of charging for a newspaper or TV or radio interview. On the other hand, if you’re asking me to answer 30 questions for a small, personal blog? At that point, it can start to feel more like I’m writing content for your site, which tips more toward the “pay me” side of things.

Peggy Carter - I Know My Value, by Oh, Man! Homan! Design

Art by Alyssa of Oh, Man! Homan!

But what about non-writing stuff? I’m sometimes asked to speak at schools, or to present at libraries, or do talk about writing at a workshop. What about a half-hour Skype chat with a book club? Or speaking at the local NaNoWriMo kickoff event?

Often these invitations come with the understanding that I’ll be able to sell books. And I do love it when people buy my stuff. But the royalties from those sales almost certainly won’t cover the cost in time and travel.

On the other hand, I love libraries. I love talking to students about this stuff. I believe in paying it forward and helping new writers.

So what’s fair? In general, it depends on a number of things.

  • What kind of budget does the group in question have? I look at an all-volunteer thing like NaNoWriMo differently than I’d look at a dues-charging writing organization, for example.
  • How much time will be involved in the talk/presentation, including planning, travel, and the event itself.
  • How much open time do I have on my schedule?
  • How much fun will I have doing the event?
  • Do I know the people involved?

I still have a hard time saying no. Some of it is probably a midwestern thing. A lot of it likely comes from being a struggling writer and having so many editors say no to me, to the point where I was desperate for any sort of opportunity.

It’s harder still to say, “Maybe. How much will you pay me?”

But as writers, I believe we have a right to ask to be paid for our work, and that’s not limited just to writing. Some places have a budget for speakers, and are happy to pay. Sometimes they offer up front, which is nice, and much less awkward.

But regardless, it’s okay to ask. It’s okay to say, “This is what my time is worth.” Some people might not be willing to pay what you want, and that’s okay too. This is business, and as long you’re not a jerk about it, there shouldn’t be any hard feelings.

It’s also okay to make exceptions. My daughter’s fourth grade teacher was a wonderful person, and I ended up doing presentations to her class for several years in a row, because I liked her and I had a lot of fun. (Plus, they did things like make me cakes.) But there’s a distinction between doing something for free because you want to, and doing it because you feel uncomfortable saying no or asking to be paid.

Your knowledge and experience and time are all valuable. So are mine.

(As you may have guessed, I wrote this as much for myself as for the rest of you…)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Interview at The Write Stuff

Raymond Bolton of The Write Stuff posted an interview with me, talking about Revisionary and writing and cats and stuff.


Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Jim C. Hines

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