DemiCon

Tomorrow I leave for DemiCon in Des Moines, Iowa. I’m author guest of honor, along with artist GoH Megan Lara, Fan GoH Michelle Clark, and wizard GoH Harry Dresden. (I’m not sure whether that last will be showing up in person… I kind of hope not, given the kind of trouble that tends to follow him around.)

The convention doesn’t officially start until Friday, but tomorrow I’ve got a pre-convention signing at Barnes & Noble. That’s from 6-8 p.m. at 4550 University Avenue in West Des Moines.

My con schedule looks more-or-less like this:

Friday

  • 7-9: Opening Ceremonies (Main Stage)

Saturday

  • 10-11: Writing Media Tie-Ins (Nebraska Room)
  • 11-12: GoH & Pro Signings (Main Stage)
  • 4-5: GoH Discussions (Main Stage)
  • 5-6: Diversity and Inclusiveness (Kansas Room)
  • 8-9: Designing a Magic System (Nebraska Room)

Sunday

  • 10-11: The Flash (Kansas Room)
  • 12-1: Reading (Missouri Room)

You can check the DemiCon site for the full programming grid.

This should be fun! It looks like I may even get a little downtime to relax and wander about during the day on Friday, which is a nice bonus.

Any suggestions on what I should read on Sunday? My current default is the fairy tale princess biker gang story coming out in the next Chicks anthology, but if there’s something else people would prefer to hear, I’m open to ideas.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Book Reviews: Lord & Brennan

The Best of All Possible WorldsTwo more book reviews, starting with The Best of All Possible Worlds [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Karen Lord. I received a copy of this one, along with The Galaxy Game, at ConFusion earlier this year. I loved Lord’s debut novel, so I was very much looking forward to what she did next.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team — one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive — just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.

This is not whiz-bang, robots-and-lasers-and-spaceships-and-explosions science fiction. It’s a very thoughtful and well-written story of cultural displacement, interplanetary refugees, and the struggle between compromise and preservation of culture.

The Sadiri are described as “the epitome of morality and tradition, savants too absorbed in their mental exercises to succumb to base urges.” They arrive on the colony of Cygnus Beta after their homeworld is attacked and destroyed. Here, they set out to find settlements of genetically and culturally compatible humans, hoping to preserve as much of their ways as possible.

The narrator is Grace Delarua, part of the diplomatic party helping the Sadiri on their search. This sets up a somewhat episodic framework where we see different settlements and cultures, while at the same time learning more about the larger world and events, as well as getting a gradual romantic storyline between Grace and one of the Sadiri.

It’s a powerful book, exploring so many “what if” ideas — mental powers, time travel, planetary settlement — while at the same time being intensely relevant to our own world. It’s not a quick read, but it’s well worth reading.

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Voyage of the BasiliskI also recently read the second and third of Marie Brennan‘s Lady Trent books: The Tropic of Serpents [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound] and Voyage of the Basilisk [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound]. In some respects, these are similar to Lord’s book. They aren’t action-heavy sword-fighting quests, but thoughtful explorations of culture and science, presented as memoirs by Isabella (Lady Trent), who became the world’s foremost expert on dragons.

From the publisher:

The Tropic of Serpents: Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

Voyage of the Basilisk: Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

One of the things I love about this series is the protagonist’s passion for science and knowledge. We talk about sense of wonder, and Isabella conveys that wonder, not about big flashy magic or fancy special effects (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but about discovery. She repeatedly risks her life, her reputation, and more for the chance to learn. She’s wonderfully and at times foolishly driven.

Like Lord, Brennan has developed a rich world. Brennan’s is based more closely on our own, drawing on cultures and countries from Europe, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and more. (Brennan’s background in anthropology helps a great deal, as does her intense research habits.) Over the course of the three books, we’ve seen much of that world and its people, but we also see a larger story about the progression of science and knowledge, and ongoing political conflicts.

One such story arc involves the preservation of dragon bones. Like birds, dragons have very light bones, but those bones are incredibly strong — so long as the dragon survives. Upon the animal’s death, the bones become fragile and crumble away into dust. Back in book one, Isabella and her companions discovered a way to preserve those bones, a process with many potential implications and uses … and one that has serious impacts on the hunting of dragons, not to mention the political fallout. Watching that knowledge spread, seeing the technological changes and Isabella’s struggle, is one of several wonderful storylines.

And of course, the books have great covers as well as internal illustrations, ostensibly by Lady Trent herself (with help from artist Todd Lockwood).

I look forward to the next!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Choosing “Sides”

“I am not doing it because I was pressured by anyone either way or on any ‘side.’” -[Author]

“[Author] is everything any good leftist could ever want in a Hugo nominee, and they got hounded off the ballot by the LEFT.” -Brad Torgersen

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I’m conflicted about starting this post with those particular quotes. A handful of people have withdrawn their names from the Hugo ballot, and have asked to be left out of the anger and arguments, which I can certainly understand. I removed the name of the author in question because I don’t want them getting dragged into my rant here. But at the same time, this pair of quotes is one of the best illustrations of something I’ve been frustrated with for years.

I am so damn tired of the insistence on shoving everyone and everything into an artificial “Us vs. Them” framework. The Puppies thing is just the latest example. The only clearly defined “side” in this mess is the puppies themselves, and even that’s a slippery argument. Is Theodore Beale of the Rabid Puppies on the same side as Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia? Correia suggests they are: “Look at it like this. I’m Churchill. Brad is FDR. We wound up on the same side as Stalin.” But what about the commenters? Can people support some of what the puppies said they wanted — say, greater awareness of tie-in work in Hugo nominations — without having to swear allegiance to all things rabid?

What about the people on the respective puppy ballots? Is Sheila Gilbert of DAW on the puppies’ “side”? (Given that she has basically zero online presence, and that I’ve chatted with her about this, I can state for a fact that she was not contacted about being on any slate, nor did she know anything about it.) What about the creators of The Flash? Mike Resnick was on the slate, but has spoken out against the kind of bloc voting the puppies represented. (I’m unable to find the link where I read his comments on this, however.) Does choosing not to remove yourself from the slate or ballot mean you’re in lockstep agreement with Beale, Torgersen, and Correia?

I keep coming across commentary and arguments that assume you have to be either pro-puppy or anti-puppy. In broader discussions, you’re either us or you’re the enemy. Left or Right. Puppy or CHORF. Lately, I’m seeing more accusations of blacklists and gatekeepers and people’s careers being hurt because of their politics or beliefs or whatever, because some publishers are for Us and some are for Them, and you can’t succeed in this business without swearing allegiance to the Evil Gun Nuts of Baen or the Evil Tree-hugging Lib’ruls of Tor.

To be honest, that last bit is funny as hell. Baen publishes folks like Eric Flint and Lois McMaster Bujold. Jim Baen wanted to buy my very first book, and Baen continues to buy my shorter work for some of their anthologies. Then there’s Tor, which publishes Rabid Puppy darling John C. Wright, as well as Hugo award-winning author Orson Scott Card.

The “Us vs. Them” framework does nobody any favors. It’s simplistic, childish thinking. Pointing out that a particular author is a homophobic bigot based on things he’s said? Fair enough. Accusing anyone who likes said author’s work of being a homophobic bigot? Sorry, no. Torgersen and Correia have gotten a lot of ugliness hurled their way in all this — some of it has been truthful, and right on par with what they’ve been hurling, but some has been absolutely over-the-line and unacceptable.

I’ve talked to conservative friends who’ve described various microaggressions and flat-out attacks toward them and/or their religious beliefs. I’ve been attacked for beliefs I don’t have, simply because someone assumed I was on the other side. More recently, when I criticized the Sad Puppy slate on Twitter, I had someone accuse me of being a child molester. I spoke out against GamerGate and got a doxxing threat in my email within the hour. Then there’s the editor on the Sad Puppy ballot who publicly blacklisted and badmouthed me and a few other authors for not being on his “side”…

And I don’t get a fraction of the abuse, harassment, threats, and worse that people in more marginalized groups do, simply for daring to exist and speak out. Simply because people decided they were “Them,” and therefore fair targets for abuse and hate.

I know some of the Sad Puppies desperately want there to be some kind of Social Justice Warrior Conspiracy that’s been manipulating the Hugos and persecuting them for years, because that creates a simple narrative with them as the feisty rebels striking a blow against the Evil Empire. But there’s been zero evidence for it. Correia himself said he’d audited the Hugos a few years back and found no sign of anything suspect.

Are there systemic problems that permeate the genre, and our cultures in general? Of course. Malinda Lo has done a tremendous amount of work and analysis of diversity in fiction and the overall lack thereof. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be drafted into one of two like-minded armies of Pro-Diversity and Anti-Diversity warriors.

Some of the problems are linguistic. Hugo-nominated author Eric James Stone said recently, “In my opinion, accusing someone of racism is one of the severest charges one can make against someone’s moral character.” I disagree. I’ve absorbed the racism, sexism, and homophobia of my culture for almost as long as I’ve existed. I blogged about that a bit back in 2010. It took me years to recognize my own problematic attitudes, and to start actively working to change them. If I say I believe someone is being racist, I don’t see it as the severest charge against their character; I see it as recognizing we’re all imperfect beings who should be working to do better. (I recommend reading Stone’s entire post. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has some good and valid points.)

MCA Hogarth talks about fear of being attacked for being one of Them, of deprecation and insults and criticism that generalize from “This individual is a nasty, bigoted human being” to “Christians and Republicans are the Enemy.” Once again, I don’t agree with everything she says — I’m particularly skeptical that anyone has the power to destroy a career with one Tweet — but I also think the fears she talks about are real and valid and worth thinking about. In many contexts in the U.S., to be Christian or Republican is to be the majority. To have power. But contexts vary, and this isn’t always the case in SF/F and fandom.

Part of my anger at Torgersen and Correia is because I feel like they deliberately encouraged this Us vs. Them mentality in order to win support and votes. They invented an evil cabal of “Them,” then rallied people to join their side against this fictitious enemy. Which only increases the abuse and the hatred. And please note: I’m angry at them as individuals, not because they’re conservative, or because of their views on gun control, or because they might have a different religious belief than I do. I’m angry because whatever problems were out there, these two individuals actively made them worse, and they hurt a great many people in the process. Themselves included.

Fandom is not two distinct sides. It’s a bunch of people who like things in a really big genre, a genre that has guns and spaceships and dinosaurs and dragons and magic and manly men and genderfluid protagonists and grittiness and erotica and humor and hard-core feminism and sexism and racism and hope and stereotypes and anger and messages and politics and fluff and were-jaguars and superheroes and so much more.

Criticism is not war. Choosing not to read or support things you don’t like isn’t censorship. Liking something problematic doesn’t make you a bad person.

We’re not perfect. And we’re going to keep arguing and fighting amongst ourselves. It’s part of being human. It’s part of being a fan. We’re really freaking passionate about the things we love. (If you diss Season Four of Legend of Korra, then hell yeah I’m gonna argue with you!)

But I swear, the next time I see someone arguing not against what someone said or did, but against their own imagined cardboard caricature of “Them,” I swear by Asimov’s Mighty Muttonchops I’m gonna feed that person to a goblin.

As always, I’ll be moderating comments if necessary — not based on what imaginary “side” you’re on, but based on whether or not you’re acting like an asshole in my space.

ETA: I’ve made several minor edits for clarity since this post went live.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday wants more Black Widow merchandise…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Saturday Author Event in Grand Ledge

This coming Saturday, I’ll be part of Michigan Authors on the Grand from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Main Branch of the Grand Ledge Area District Library. It looks like there will be at least sixteen of us hanging out to chat and network and sign books and so on.

Michigan Authors on the Grand

I’ve never done this one before, so I don’t know exactly what to expect. There could be giant mutant badgers battling bionic warrior squirrels from the twenty-eighth dimension! And also raffles! Definitely one of those…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Sword, by Amy Bai

Sword, by Amy BaiI am so far behind on posting reviews. Let’s start with Sword [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Amy Bai. I believe this is Bai’s first novel, and it’s an impressive debut. Sword is a YA fantasy with swords (duh) and magic and kingdoms and betrayal and all that good stuff. From the publisher’s description:

For over a thousand years, the kingdom of Lardan has been at peace: isolated from the world, slowly forgetting the wild and deadly magic of its origins. Now the deepest truths of the past and the darkest predictions for the future survive only in the verses of nursery rhymes. And prophecies are just nursery rhymes for gullible fools. Right?

So thinks Kyali Corwynall, daughter of the Lord General and the court’s only sword-wielding girl. She’s never bothered believing in faery stories. But one day, an old nursery rhyme she’s heard since childhood begins to come true, naming her as Sword and her brother and best friend as Song and Crown, saviors of the kingdom. When that ancient magic wakes, the future changes for everyone. In the space of a single night, her life unravels into violence and chaos.

The opening few chapters felt a little slow to me, mostly because what I was reading seemed familiar. We’re introduced to Kyali and her skill with fighting and swordplay, her brother Devin and his bardic magic, and their close friend the Princess Taireasa. But once the plot picked up, I was hooked hard. Much of the book made me feel like a kid again, getting caught up in the excitement and the battles and the prophecies and the characters and their relationships. It hits many of the notes of a good page-turning fantasy.

That brings up my other stumbling point, because while I love the tropes of fantasy and I’m generally thrilled to revisit them, there are a few I could do without. Early on, Kyali finds herself holding a room against multiple enemies while the princess escapes. They ask where the princess has gone, and naturally she refuses, which leads to this exchange.

“I think you will tell us eventually, general’s daughter.”

His meaning was plain.

Oh, gods, she thought — death, she had braced herself for. This possibility had never occurred to her.

She would just have to find a way to die, then. After she killed as many of these as came near her.

I almost stopped reading here. Not because the scene was bad or badly written, nor did it feel gratuitous. It’s simply not something I wanted to read.

But I kept reading, and I’m glad I did. The consequences to Kyali are intense, and shape her character for the rest of the book. But her internal struggle isn’t solely from the implied sexual assault (it’s never explicitly spelled out). There’s another kind of trauma related to her magic, and that turns her into…not a stone cold warrior, but a woman trying desperately to project that coldness in order to protect the people closest to her.

I enjoyed the use of prophecy. It’s another trope, but something about the way Bai wrote the story brought new energy to the idea. Prophecy isn’t a mysterious riddle. It’s not a set of plot coupons to be collected. Its a burden. It’s as much a mystery to be unraveled and understood as the political machinations and the clashes between armies. And it puts Kyali in the role of warrior, with her brother as the bard, which was a nice reversal.

The secondary characters were interesting and engaging. (For those who’ve read it, am I the only one who was shipping Devin and Prince Kinsey?) There’s a lot going on in this book, and all of the players fit the story, and were people I wanted to read about.

There’s an energy to the story that’s hard to describe. It might be a first novel thing. You should take this bit with a grain of salt, because I’m pretending to read the author’s mind, and that often ends badly…but reading the book, I could almost feel how excited the author was to share the story and these characters. That excitement and love and affects my own reading, which is a good thing.

Sword is book one in what I’m guessing will be a trilogy, so the end of the book isn’t the end of the story. No cliffhanger ending though, which I appreciate.

Overall, I think it’s a good book. I also recognize that some elements may not be to everyone’s taste.

The first twenty-four pages are available online, if you’d like to check it out.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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It’s Alive!

My web host, SFF.net, has been down for close to a week while they wait for Verizon to fix … I don’t even know anymore. SFF.net has been posting updates over on Twitter, and it sounds like things still aren’t completely fixed yet, but they’ve hotwired some servers or duct taped some fiber optics together to get most of their services working.

So, some stuff to catch up on…

Transformers: Age of Extinction: I said I’d livetweet this movie if y’all raised at least $500 for RAINN and other rape crisis centers. So far, people have contributed closer to $600, so I sat down and subjected myself to almost three hours of Michael Bay’s vision on Saturday. The results are all collected on Storify. Note to self: next time, ask for more money…

Book Stuff: I’ve signed and returned contracts for a Spanish edition of all four Magic ex Libris books, to be published in Latin America. Which is pretty darn cool!

Invisible 2: Page proofs will be going out to contributors soon. I’ve also seen a draft of the cover art, and I’m quite happy with it. So far, so good!

Hugo Awards: I started up a #HugoProposal tag on Twitter the other day, trying to create a bit of humor in the midst of this mess. Here’s one of my favorites:

Three Hugos for Mil-SF and their space marines;
Seven for the grimdark-lords in their halls of blood;
Nine for mortal fans doomed to blog;
One for Neil Gaiman on his dark throne
In the Land of Worldcon where the Shadows lie.

There’s more, including a bunch of book reviews I need to do, but I’m gonna go ahead and click “Publish” to make sure this goes up before Verizon breaks anything else.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

My web host has been down for several days now. Apparently sff.net is waiting on Verizon to fix a router, and Verizon is waiting for the stars to align before they bother sending someone out. It's getting rather annoying, but I'm hopeful it will be resolved soon.

In the meantime, have some links!
And tune in tomorrow, when I'm planning to do my livetweeting of Transformers: Age of Extinction. I'll be using #TransformersAoE as the hashtag on Twitter, and will post a summary on the blog afterward...hopefully even on my main site, assuming it's up by then.

Have a great weekend, all!

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Happy Birthday To Me!

Today’s my birthday.

If you’re so inclined, share something cool, amusing, hopeful, or nifty in the comments :-)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Guest Post Roundup

My thanks to everyone who contributed to this year’s series of guest posts about representation in SF/F — both the authors of the essays and the commenters who joined the conversation. Between the seventeen posts and two bonus reprints I’ll be announcing later, it looks like Invisible 2 will have significantly more content than its predecessor, which is sweet. I’ve got contracts back from almost everyone involved, and I’m still hoping for a mid-May release.

In the meantime, here’s a roundup of all the guest posts from this year:

I received more than 60 pitches this year, which means I had to turn down a lot of good and important potential essays. Here are links to several of those essays that people went ahead and posted on their own sites.

Thanks again. These are important conversations, and speaking for myself, I continue to learn a great deal from all of you.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Back from Chicago

The kids had spring break last week, so we took a few days to drive down to Chicago and visit the Legoland Discovery Center, Shedd Aquarium, and Brookfield Zoo. It was fun to get away from work and various genre/internet wars for a little while.

Pictures are on Flickr, for those who care. Here are some of my favorites:

LEGO R2D2 Baby gorilla! Giraffes: Not so good at hide-and-seek.

Dolphin close-up Parrot kisses Bear hug!

Got home late Friday night, and spent the weekend working on page proof corrections for Fable: Blood of Heroes, doing an interview about the Sad/Rabid Puppies Hugo thing, putting together the rough ebook file for Invisible 2, drafting a new book to pitch to my editor at DAW, and getting through a few thousand more words of Revisionary.

And now I kind of want another vacation…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Rape Center Fundraising Update

Amount Raised So Far: $530

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This week is spring break for my kids, so I’ll mostly be away from the internet doing spring break stuff . Or, you know, as much spring break stuff as a 40-year-old geek is likely to do…

In the meantime, an update on the Bad Movie Fundraiser for Rape Crisis Centers. The goal is to raise at least $500 for RAINN or your local rape crisis center. So far, there have been a handful of donations, and we’re closing in on $100. (With two people who told me they donated, but didn’t provide an amount.)

If you want to get in on this, just email me at jim -at- jimchines.com letting me know how much you donated.

Once we get to $500, I shall subject myself to Transformers: Age of Extinction, and livetweet my thoughts for your amusement and entertainment. And possibly your sympathy.

Making that goal would be a lovely thing to come back to at the end of the week. I’m just saying…

Prime and Grimlock

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Welcome to what I believe will be the final guest blog post on representation in SF/F. In addition to working on Invisible 2, I also plan to put together a round-up of links to all of the guest articles, and if I can make the time, to pull together a reading list as well, based on comments and conversation around the posts.

In the meantime, my thanks to Kat Tanaka Okopnik for bringing us to a close with her personal and powerful piece about seeing your own children shaped by problematic tropes and stereotypes, and the urgent need to do better.


Before you read further, indulge me please. Picture, if you will, a young (East) Asian American protagonist. If you can, do a color drawing, or write down your description. If you feel ambitious, please do the same with White, Black, Latin@ friends for them.

What made that character seem plausibly East Asian to you?

Was it the golden skin, and the tilted eyes?

Where do they live? What do they eat? Where did their parents grow up?

I hate writing this essay.

I wish there wasn’t such urgent need to write it.

I wish I were writing about it in the past tense, rather than as a pressing need that I’m finding exhausting. I have two young children who are surrounded by media that are leading them to perform the very same problematic tropes about (East) Asians that I grew up around. It’s 2015. Aren’t we supposed to be done with this?

I wish all the blithe pronouncements of our colorblind, postracial society were real. I wish there were actually enough mention, by other people, of the issues facing Asian America so that I could write sense of wonder stories instead—but my child has said to me, “Mommy, my skin is ugly!” Further discussion reveals that he’s come to think of lighter and darker skin than his own as beautiful, but his light olive is unacceptable in his mind. I spend months working even harder to make sure that people who look like him are presented as attractive, too.

It’s a rare week when I don’t see yet another case of yellowface and exoticization of East Asians dismissed as a non-issue. The excuses are predictable: it’s historic, it’s satirical, it’s humorous, it’s tribute, it’s realistic, why do we complain when there’s representation? it’s not just East Asians! actually it’s punching up, hey my Asian friend said it was okay, oh it’s someone East Asian doing it.

I’m known to have an interest in finding non-problematic media, and so I’m offered a pretty steady stream of recommendations. The majority of “diverse” stories and shows that are offered to my children come in two categories: East Asian kid as a member of the tokenized team of sidekicks to the white protagonist, or stories of East Asia or the recent diaspora. Often, the indicators of East Asian identity for the team player are an East Asian-language name and “golden skin and straight black hair and slanted eyes.” There’s a parent or grandmother who speaks in fortune cookie Wise Oriental proverbs. Unfamiliar words are dropped into the conversation, with an echoed translation into English immediately afterward.

The rest of the stories happen long ago or far away. They’re just as much unreal fantasy as dragons or turtle ninjas. Actually, my son seems to want to become a ninja partly because that’s the expected pipeline for “an Asian kid”. (His peers mostly want to be turtle ninjas because that would be cool.)

They’ve been taught by the culture around them that “Chinesey” is a performance based on wearing cultural artifacts, and that East Asians are defined by accents and tinkly background music. There’s a continuum from Tikki Tikki Tembo through The Runaway Wok and The Mikado that portrays Asia as a place of silly sounding names and illogical people. And yet these are the things that well-meaning educators are presenting to them and their peers.

My children don’t see themselves in these stories. They know that people from all sorts of backgrounds have small or slanted or “slitty” eyes, because they’ve grown up in a diverse community—they’ve seen living examples in peers whose family heritage is from Africa, or Europe, or more southern parts of Asia. They see the range of skin color in the families around them, including the ones they are most closely tied to by genetics and history. But they are getting a persistent message that’s showing through in their expectations and in the behavior of their peers: skinny blonde girls are the heroes, except when the hero is some sort of white boy. Asians speak funny and are from far away. Sometimes there’s a character who’s black, and the world is divided into black and white. My children have no context for Asian American protagonists. They resort to identifying themselves as white, and my daughter wants her hair to be “yellow.”

I can work hard to give my children a healthy sense of belonging and potential, but I can’t change the world they’re interacting with on my own. It’s their peers’ sense that Asianness is defined by otherness that causes me the greatest concern.

Now that they are reading fluently, I wish I could just hand them an age-appropriate book. Where’s the “Heather Has Two Mommies” of cultural etiquette for the single digit set? It may be out there, but it’s buried under the pile I review and reject for my children. I know we can do better as a society.


​​Kat Tanaka Okopnik started writing about Japanese American history at age 13 and has gone on to write about geek culture, food, parenting, social justice, and stepping outside the confines of narrow social expectations.

She’s pleased to note that she has an essay forthcoming in WisCon Chronicles 9. Her current big project is the Dictionary of Social Justice. 

She’s available as an editor, copy editor, and writer, and offers private consultations and group encounters on facilitating difficult discussions on social justice topics. She also does cultural consultation for writers, editors, and others on East Asian representation, with a focus on Japanese diaspora history and contemporary issues as well as for general social justice pitfalls.

​​Kat Tanaka Okopnik

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

10 Hugo Thoughts

The 2015 Hugo nominees were announced yesterday. As much of the internet has noted, the vast majority of the nominees come from the Sad and/or Rabid Puppies slates. Most reactions seem to fall into either anger/grief or gloating/triumph, with very little in between. Personally, I’m happy about a few of the nominees, intrigued by a couple, and rolling my eyes at others.

Some thoughts before I get back to writing…

1. The puppies broke the rules! Well, no. Putting forth an organized slate, recruiting GamerGaters and others who buy into the “War Against the SJWs, for FREEDOM!” nonsense is perfectly legal. Tacky and at times dishonest? Sure. But not against the rules.

2. The puppies are only doing what the Other Side did first! Some folks blame John Scalzi for starting this, but try as I might, I can’t find anything about his Bacon Kittens campaign to take the Hugos back from…I don’t even know. I’ve seen references to SJW conspiracies and secret meetings in smoke-filled rooms, again with no evidence whatsoever. Some people try to point to voting numbers as “proof” of organized campaigns, which…just no. (Kevin Standlee dismantles this one in the follow-up comment.) As far as I can tell, there’s a widespread assumption that the “other side” was somehow organizing secret campaigns and block-voting, and that assumption is being used to justify the puppies organizing a campaign and block-voting.

3. They’re destroying the genre! Whatever “they” you’re thinking of, I don’t buy it. The genre is so much bigger than the Hugos, Worldcon, GamerGate, and the rest. The majority of SF/F fans have only the vaguest awareness of what the Hugo is, let alone the in-fighting and politics and such. Don’t worry, the genre will be just fine.

4. They’re destroying the Hugos! There were claims that the Hugos could be gamed and manipulated, and I think the puppies have effectively proven that’s true, at least for the short list. Does this mean the Hugos are broken? Not necessarily. Does it mean the rules should be changed to make it more difficult to game the system? I don’t really have an opinion on that yet, though I’m sure there will be plenty of discussion in the near future…

5. People should read the works and judge based on quality/People should rank all puppy-related works below No Award. My thinking is that people should read and vote however they want to. If you prefer to read everything, go for it. But I’m not going to tell someone they should force themselves to read the work of someone who publicly denounces a prominent black author as an “ignorant half-savage,” or an author who refers to bisexuality as “sexual aberration.” And if organizing a slate is within the rules, so is choosing to put every item on that slate below No Award on the final ballot.

6. They’re just trying to expand the ballot and make it more inclusive/representative/diverse. I can see a little of that, if I squint. The puppies pushed to get a successful self-published author onto the ballot, for example. They talked about getting tie-in works nominated, but didn’t actually include any on their slate. They did give tie-in author Kevin J. Anderson his first Hugo nom for one of his original books. But if your campaign ends up putting the same author on the ballot in six different spots, then no, you weren’t looking very broadly for nominees. And far more of the comments and rhetoric seemed to be about sticking it to SJWs…

7. The people who asked to be removed from the puppy ballots did so out of fear of SJW attacks. That certainly plays well into the wag-the-dog-style “War Against the SJWs” rhetoric. If you’re interested in people’s actual reasons, Matthew David Surridge has a long and thoughtful post about why he declined to be on the slate. Dave Creek’s reasons for declining are on File770.

8. What about that one story about the dinosaur? Holy crap, some people are so fixated on the fact that Rachel Swirsky’s If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love got on the Hugo ballot last year. (It did not win.) That one story keeps getting pointed out as proof of everything that’s wrong with the Hugos/liberals/the genre/feminism/society/the universe. The amusing part is when the folks saying they want to tear down the mythical gatekeepers are simultaneously losing their shit because they don’t think a story counts as real SF/F.

9. Conservatives are evil! Liberals are evil! SJWs are narrowminded bigots! Right-wingers are narrowminded bigots! Look, all groups have their share of assholes. I do think the Sad Puppy clique has a disproportionate number of assholes, but sweeping generalizations are just…annoying. Can we not, please?

10. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. Bullshit. Nobody should be required to cough up a minimum of $40 in order to have an opinion.

And that’s already more time than I wanted to spend on this today. I’m gonna go back to work on Revisionary now. Enjoy what’s left of your weekend, folks!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Reviewing a Bad Movie for a Good Cause

So we had a few days of movie channels last week, on of those preview things where they try to get you to increase the size of your television package. One of the movies was Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Now, I loved Transformers as a kid. I’ve watched the other Michael Bay movies, despite their badness, because they had Peter Cullen back as the voice of Optimus Prime. Also, they had Leonard Nimoy in the last one, and he made a Spock quote, which was cool.

I started watching Age of Extinction. Reader, this one was even worse.

After walking away, I got to thinking it could be fun* to livetweet a watching of this movie. And then someone suggested turning it into a fundraiser…

Did you know April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

I’ve reported on rape and sexual assault statistics before. The bottom line is that rape is too damn common, and our society still tends to be stuck on rape myths and victim-blaming, not to mention putting the burden on women to solve a crime committed primarily by men.

There are some good people and organizations out there working to educate the public about rape, and to support survivors.

So here’s the deal. If y’all donate at least $500 total to your local rape crisis centers, I’ll subject myself to this movie and livetweet the experience for your entertainment. I’ll post the tweets on the blog as well.

If you don’t have a local crisis center, you can also donate to RAINN or another national organization working to support survivors.

Just email me at jim -at- jimchines.com and let me know how much you donated. If you give more than $100, I’ll ask you to include a copy of the receipt or acknowledgements. Given the number of awesome people who read and hang out here, I’m pretty sure we can hit that $500 mark and then some.

If we go ridiculously over that goal, I’ll throw something else in. Maybe let the highest donor pick another horrible movie for me to review or something like that.

Any questions?


*Fun for you. Not so much for me…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Well, this has been quite the week.

On Wednesday, I posted an essay from Dennis Upkins titled “The Double Standards of Diversity,” as part of my guest blog series on representation in SF/F. Shortly thereafter, I began receiving comments and emails from people who were uncomfortable with Upkins’ history of violent rhetoric, particularly against women.

I haven’t made a habit of doing background checks on potential contributors. But as the complaints, links, and screenshots came out, I started looking into them. I also emailed Mr. Upkins about the concerns and asked him for his thoughts. He posted a response on his own blog yesterday.

For myself, there were several things I needed to sort out.

1. Complaints about Upkins’ tone. Some individuals were upset about the angry, aggressive tone of Upkins’ post. I’ve received similar comments on a few other posts. This isn’t a concern I’m worried about. Sometimes people get angry. Get over it. People have every right to be angry, resentful, bitter, and so on, especially when they’re dealing with systemic imbalances and prejudices.

2. Violent threats/rhetoric. Where’s the line between the tone argument and harassment/threats/abusiveness? That’s something people have been struggling with for a long time. Is a comment about visiting heterosexist women “with a lead pipe in tow” an actual threat or just blowing off steam? What about choking female slash authors with piano wire? Forcing birth control down a woman’s throat? In this case, the comments I was seeing from Upkins definitely crossed the line.

That said, while there was a pattern of this sort of comment, most of the links and screenshots were from 3-4 years ago. Upkins said he’d apologized, though I haven’t seen that link. He also said two friends pulled him aside and explained why that sort of comment was f**ked up. His New Year’s resolution of 2011 was to be more thoughtful and do better.

I think it’s important to be open to the possibility of growth and change. We all screw up sometimes. Some of us worse than others. Recognizing mistakes and trying to do better is both difficult and important.

3. Personal issues with Steve Berman. Part of Upkins’ post involved criticism of Lethe Press/Steve Berman as homophobic and bigoted, based on an interaction over a story Upkins submitted to a Civil War anthology  Berman was editing for Prime Books. I don’t know what actually happened here, and I think it’s totally valid to complain about being asked to “remove the gay” from a story. At the same time, multiple others who were involved with the same project have said what happened was more along the lines of the publisher deciding they already had several stories with gay protagonists, and didn’t want to add more. While I think that’s still worth discussing, that expectation came from the publisher–Prime Books, not Lethe Press–and Berman was simply working within the publisher’s guidelines. It also sounds like there are personal issues between Berman and Upkins that go beyond this anthology.

4. Upkins’ response to these concerns. When Upkins blogged about these things, he said, “It’s one thing to dislike someone. It’s one thing to have issues or concerns with an individual. It is more than fair to voice said concerns. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.” So far, so good. But he also characterized complaints as coming from white trolls who were afraid of the Big Scary Black Man. He referred to them as losers, sociopaths, and thugs.

The people voicing their concerns and discomfort are not all white, as it turns out. Nor is it just a handful of “stalkers” following Upkins around to harass him.

I get that it’s hard when you’ve got a lot of people posting negative comments calling you out for your behavior. It’s not fun. In fact, it sucks. If people have, as he claims, stalked his blog looking for dirt on his loved ones, then yeah, those people have crossed the line. But while Upkins did seem willing to listen to his friends and change his behavior at least somewhat back in 2011, he seems unwilling to acknowledge that there could be any validity or anything worth listening to from these comments.

#

I emailed Upkins to say that while I didn’t plan to pull his guest blog post, I wasn’t comfortable including it in Invisible 2. (I had held off sending a contract to him while I tried to sort through this mess.) In response, he asked me to immediately remove his post from my site, which I’ve done.

I’m disappointed in all of this, to say the least. I still believe Upkins brought up some excellent points about double-standards, and the expectations more marginalized writers are held to compared to their less marginalized peers. However, at least part of that essay seemed motivated by personal vendetta, and others with first-hand experience with the same project contradicted Upkins’ account. To my mind, that–combined with a tendency toward derogatory dismissal of criticism–significantly weakens the essay as a whole.

I’m sure I’ve made mistakes in my handling of all this. I’m still working to figure out where those mistakes were, and how to best avoid them in the future. I apologize to everyone who got hurt with all of this, including both Mr. Upkins and Mr. Berman.

I do have one more guest post coming, after which I’ll turn to putting Invisible 2 together, hopefully for a mid-May release. In the meantime, however, I think I’m gonna walk away from the internet for a little while and go play some Mario Kart.

My thanks to everyone for their patience while I worked through this.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

This post has been removed per the author’s request. -Jim

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cat Rambo, in addition to having the coolest name ever, has been an active part of SF/F for about as long as I can remember. She’s served in SFWA, and is currently running for president of the organization. She edited Fantasy Magazine. She’s a prolific author. And she has the best hair! I’m happy to welcome her to the blog to talk about her experiences as an “older” female writer in the genre.

You can check out her new book Beasts of Tabat on Amazon or Wordfire, or read more about it on her website.


A year or so ago, I celebrated my 50th birthday. I did it wonderfully, with food and friends and all sorts of festivities, but at the same time, my inner teen kept eying that number and going OMGWTFBBQ.

If you are beyond your teenage years, you know what I mean, because all of us are, to one extent or another, significantly younger in our heads than our exteriors may indicate. My mother confirms that it’s just as true in one’s 70s.

I do find my reading habits changed a little. My stance on romance nowadays has shifted. It sometimes makes me a little impatient, a little get-on-with-it when it’s not interesting, and when it is badly written. I find simplistic stuff unsatisfying unless it is absolutely, beautifully wrought. I don’t mind unhappy endings as long as they resonate and I can tell.

But it’s when I write that I sometimes feel my age, not in a bad way. Not in a bad way at all. But rather I understand things better than I used to. I have more grasp of how to flip oneself into the opposing perspective, so I can better understand what’s on the other side of a debate. I hate to call it wisdom, but yes, I have learned a few things, and because I’ve read deeply and also worked in some people-skills-intensive position, I’ve got enough of it to know I am not wise at all, and that’s farther along than some people have gotten.

Beasts of TabatI’ve come to the point where I understand something of why I write, and a little of what I want to say. I like that. And I know people better now, and that helps me create interesting characters. The novel that’s coming out, Beasts of Tabat, features a middle-aged female gladiator and a teenage shapeshifter. That’s a pair of protagonists a bit outside the norm, and I think that it’s experience that let me come up with Bella Kanto and Teo.

At the same time, as an older female writer, I’m also conscious that I’m part of a demographic traditionally dismissed, particularly in writing. I am one of that mob of dammed scribbling women that Nathaniel Hawthorne deplored. And I am aware that much of that mob has been allowed to fade from historical memory, something I see happening to some of the women in the speculative field before me right now. Something that I worry will happen to me.

There’s been lots of sturm und drang about an idea Tempest Bradford proposed, that people try one year of reading outside the standard category, and I will take it one step further: if you are an adventurous reader who likes challenging yourself, spend a year reading from outside that category, but only books that are 30+ years old, preferably even older. You’ll find the chase illuminating. You’ll find influences. You’ll find writers talking to each other, an endless call and answer throughout literature that every writer takes part in, and sometimes those conversations will startle you in their modernity. You’ll find people that maybe other people tried to erase, or maybe the hegemony just wasn’t set up to perpetuate their name — it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the renewal of energy in their names. Read in other cultures, other times.

Younger writers will find inspiration there, older writers comfort as well. And the fuel to keep going — at least that’s one of the ways I feed my own fires.

I do hope you’ll read my own new novel before embarking on the course I advise :-)

Good writing/reading to you all.


Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com as well as three collections and her latest work, the novel Beasts of Tabat. Her short story, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see http://www.kittywumpus.net.

Cat Rambo

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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The Advice Checklist

Clippy-Advice

This rant list has been brought to you by a few comments on this blog post, and by observations about the internet in general. Before jumping in to immediately offer advice on all the things, please consider asking yourself the following questions. Thank you.

And yeah, I get the potential irony of giving advice about asking questions before giving advice. I also think there’s a huge difference between sharing my thoughts in a blog post and jumping into other conversations to tell an individual what you think they should do.

Did this person ask for advice?

Hint: Posting about something on the internet is not the same as asking for advice. Requests for advice usually involve phrases like “What do you think I should do?” or “I need advice.”

Do you think your advice is something this person hasn’t already heard?

Hint: I’ve been diabetic for 16 years. If you’re neither diabetic nor a doctor, I probably know more about my disease than you do. I’ve read the books, heard the advice, followed the online discussions, talked to the doctors, and so on. On a similar note, someone who’s overweight has probably already heard your advice to exercise more. Someone with depression has already heard your advice to “just think positive!”

Do you know enough about this person’s situation to give useful advice?

Hint: Telling someone with financial problems to get rid of their credit cards isn’t going to cut it if they’re currently paying legal fees following a divorce, are underwater in their mortgage, and just got laid off from work.

Are you more concerned with helping or with fixing the person so they’ll stop making you uncomfortable?

Hint: People talk about their problems for a range of reasons. To vent, to process their own feelings, to connect with others and know they’re not alone… If you genuinely want to help, great—but in many cases, giving advice isn’t the way to do that.

Are you more concerned with helping or with looking clever? Are you willing to be told your advice is unwanted?

Hint: If the person in question says they’re not interested in your advice and you respond by getting huffy or defensive or going Full Asshole, then this isn’t about the other person. This is about you and your ego. Take your ego out for ice cream, and stop adding to other people’s problems.

Are you sharing what worked for you or telling the person what they should do?

Hint: There’s a difference between “This is something that helped me,” “This is something you might try,” and “This is what you should do.” For me personally, the first option is easier to hear than the second, and the third usually just pisses me off. But also be prepared to hear that the person doesn’t want your advice, no matter how you phrase it.

Do you know what “giving advice” looks like?

Hint: I wouldn’t have thought this one was necessary. Then I got the commenter responding to one of my posts on depression by telling me, “Listen to your inner self and make it your outer self” and insisting he wasn’t giving me advice. He was just “stating an opinion.” Dude, if you’re telling someone what to do, you’re giving advice. If you’re getting huffy about it just being your opinion, you may also be acting like an asshole.

Have you asked whether the person wants your advice?

Hint: If you’re not sure what someone wants, asking is a pretty safe way to go.

#

I’m not saying you should never offer advice. A few days ago, I left a comment on someone’s Facebook post where she was questioning whether she should bother trying to get her book published. I offered my experience, disagreed with a writing-related myth she referenced, pointed to several options that had worked for myself or other writers, and acknowledged that my advice might or might not be helpful for her particular situation.

But I have zero patience these days for the useless, knee-jerk advice that comes from a place of ego and cluelessnes.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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