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World Fantasy Con Guest of Honor Policies

A little while back, author and editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia contacted the World Fantasy Convention about the lack of diversity in their Guest of Honor line-up. Their response said, in part:

“Convention committees select Special Guests and especially Guests of Honor in order to recognize and pay tribute to their body of work within the genre over a significant period of time, usually consisting of decades in the field. Currently we find ourselves in the position of having a limited number of non-white/male authors, artists, agents, and editors to call on to balance the slates. However much we all wish it were different, and however glad we are to see things changing, the fact remains that only recently have a significant number of diverse writers, artists, agents, and editors entered the field.” (Emphasis added)

There’s a lot to unpack in the full letter, but I wanted to focus on this particular idea, that guests of honor had to have decades of experience in the field. So I went through the list of WFC guests of honor and pulled together the year of the con and the year of the guest’s first published book. It’s not a perfect way to measure years in the field, but I think it works pretty well.

Disclaimers:

I’ve posted the spreadsheet for anyone to review. Feedback and corrections are welcome.

I tried to eliminate all but the author guests of honor. Also, some conventions had both guests of honor and “special guests.” In these cases, I did not include the special guests.

There are a handful where I’m not sure about the first novel. All total, I ended up with 93 author guests, from 1975 to 2018.

Data:

ETA: Data and spreadsheet have been updated with corrections.

With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s take a look at the data.

  • Average Number of Years in the Field: 24
  • Median Number of Years in the Field: 22
  • Least Years in the Field: 4 5
  • Most Years in the Field: 73
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with less than 10 years in the field: 7 5
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with 10-19 years in the field: 29 30
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with 20-29 years in the field: 34 35
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with 30+ years in the field: 23

Conclusions:

The WFC Board said, “Convention committees select Special Guests and especially Guests of Honor in order to recognize and pay tribute to their body of work within the genre over a significant period of time, usually consisting of decades in the field.” I’ve seen others, people not necessarily affiliated with the con, argue that WFC author guests of honor should have at least 30 years in the field.

The latter is obviously untrue. Only a quarter of all guests have been active SF/F professionals for three decades or more.

As for the Board’s statement, it’s true that most guests of honor have had between one and two decades of professional SF/F experience. Most, but not all. WFC has repeatedly shown a willingness to have newer authors as guests or honor as well.

So any argument that WFC has to choose guests with a longer history in the SF/F field is demonstrably untrue.

Other Comments:

1. That excuse also falls flat since we’ve had diverse authors in the field for more than just the past 10 years. Authors of color, for example, were not invented in 2008.

2. Even if that weren’t the case, if you have a screening policy that results in the exclusion of minorities? You change the damn policy.

3. Three authors have been WFC author guests of honor twice. While all three of these authors have impressive careers and are very much deserving of honor and respect, this is another sign we need to look a little more broadly for guests.

4. As for the Board’s statement that, “only recently have a significant number of diverse writers, artists, agents, and editors entered the field,” here are just a few authors off the top of my head who — surprise! — have been around for a while now…

  • Samuel R. Delaney (The Jewels of Aptor, 1962)
  • Octavia Butler (Patternmaster, 1976)
  • Haruki Murakami, (Hear the Wind Sing, 1979)
  • Steven Barnes (Dream Park, 1981)
  • Ted Chiang (First Nebula Award in 1991)
  • Michelle Sagara (Into the Dark Lands, 1991)
  • Tananarive Due (The Between, 1995)
  • Stephen Graham Jones (The Fast Red Road: A Plainsong, 2000)
  • David Anthony Durham (Gabriel’s Story, 2001)
  • L. A. Banks, (Minion, 2003)

There are a heck of a lot more — my list is mostly limited to American authors, but shouldn’t the World Fantasy Convention welcome fantasy author guests from, well, the whole world? The idea that diverse authors and other SF/F professionals are somehow a new, recent thing is just utterly absurd and asinine.

Do better, WFC.


Errors/Corrections

  • The WFC History site listed Mary Robinette Kowal as a 2014 Guest of Honor. She was actually the Toastmaster, and as such, should not have been included in the dataset.
  • The WFC History site omitted Tananarive Due, who was a Guest or Honor at the 2017 WFC.
  • Jeff VanderMeer’s first book has been corrected to Dradin, In Love, first published in 1996.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Obligatory Awards Post, Nebula Edition

I only had two original pieces out in 2018. (Which is making me feel all sorts of unproductive, but I have to remind myself I finished writing Terminal Uprising, wrote another complete novel in Project K, and started on Terminal Peace, so it’s not like I was slacking…)

Anyway, my two awards-eligible stories are:

Short Story: “Second to the Left, and Straight On”

This 5300-word story was first published in Robots vs. Fairies. It’s one of the fairy stories, about broken families and Tinkerbell as a very angry cult leader. SFWA members can find this one in the Forums.

Novelette: Imprinted

This is a Magic ex Libris story set after the events of Revisionary, and follows Jeneta as she works on her own special research project. To be honest, I don’t expect this one to get much attention, being a) the fifth part of a series, and b) self-published. But y’all are welcome to prove me wrong.

So, there you go. What stuff have you read in 2018 that you think deserves some potential awards attention?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Utopiales

I realized I’d never posted about my time at Les Utopiales earlier this month. It took me a few days to recover from the jet lag, and then I was diving into revisions on Project K, and everything else just kind of slipped away.

So anyway, I’m back, and it was delightful. This was my second event in France, and it was quite different from Les Imaginales last year. Whereas Les Imaginales felt like a cross between a book festival and a renaissance fair, Utopiales had more of a familiar industry event vibe, taking place in a convention center in Nantes.

Utopiales Convention Center

They put most of the authors up in a hotel that’s literally just past the left edge of that photo, which was convenient. The first day there, I discovered my role for the week would be to play the White Night to Robert Jackson Bennett‘s damsel in distress, helping him find his way to registration, providing pens for his signings, and so on. I may have also snuck a photo of him while he was deep in Serious Author Interview mode. Or maybe playing Pokemon Go on his phone, I’m not sure…

Robert Bennett and interpreter

It was great (and a little overwhelming at times) getting to see and meet everyone. I didn’t get as much time as I wanted with people. Except for John Scalzi. That guy was everywhere, man! We got to talk author finances and beard gossip and all the ways we were messing up French dining etiquette.

There were only a few panels at a time, which meant you had a much larger audience. I really appreciated the panel on diversity and harassment and inclusion with Sabrina Calvo and John Scalzi. My other two panels were with hard-core scientist types, which left me feeling a little out of my league, but made for fascinating conversations. I wasn’t sure why I’d been added to those two at first, then I took a closer look at my bio in the program.

My website bio mentions that I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Michigan State University. Apparently somewhere along the line, this got mistranslated, and the Utopiales program book said I was a Doctor of Psychology. Oops!

I also got to catch up with my French publisher, l’Atalante. They had a lovely sign up advertising my Magic ex Libris books. This was my second time meeting most of the l’Atalante folks, and they continue to be lovely people.

Magie ex Libris sign

Utopiales kept me pretty busy with several panels, a lot of signings, and some interviews. But I managed to sneak away to explore a little of Nantes, including the castle, cathedral, and mechanical elephant. I also got out for some delicious galettes and crepes. (Thanks, Stephanie!)

Just like last year, I was reminded that three years of French during high school in the early 90s is not enough to survive. This didn’t stop me from trying. I couldn’t understand most of what people were saying, but I could sometimes put together a sentence or two. I also learned to answer some common questions at book signings, like which book is the first in the series. I know I screwed up sometimes, but it was fun anyway.

Thanks so much for Utopiales for inviting me, and thank you to all the readers and fans who came up during my signings.

You can see the rest of my pictures on Facebook or Flickr, if you’re so inclined.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is slowly recovering from jet-lag and the impulse to spout random bits of French.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Sexual Assault: Facts and Research

Major content warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault.

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Earlier this week, my daughter got into a conversation with someone who seemed to believe a lot of the myths and misinformation about rape. That it was rare … that rapists are generally caught and jailed … that there’s no real research into the prevalence of rape and sexual assault.

So I’m putting this together as a reference for my daughter, and for anyone else interested in the research and facts about sexual assault. (The emphasis here is on U.S. statistics.)

Prevalence

We don’t know exactly how frequent rape is, in part because it’s one of the most underreported crimes. A U.S. Bureau of Justice study from 2002 found that only “36% of rapes, 34% of attempted rapes, and 26% of sexual assaults were reported to police.” A 2016 study from the Medical University of South Carolina National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center found that “Only 16 percent of all rapes were reported to law enforcement.

So take, for example, the 2017 FBI report that found:

  • There were an estimated 135,755 rapes (revised definition) reported to law enforcement in 2017.

That’s about 0.04% of the population. Based on what we know of underreporting, we recognize that the true number was significantly higher. But even using these numbers, remember this is for a single year. If we take an 80-year lifespan, you end up with 3.3% of the population. And that’s just the reported numbers.

In 2010, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This was a nationwide survey of randomly-selected subjects. Results are based on 16,507 completed and 1,542 partially completed interviews.

Some of their results:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%).
  • Approximately 1 in 71 men in the United States (1.4%) reported having been raped in his lifetime, which translates to almost 1.6 million men.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 women (44.6%) and 1 in 5 men (22.2%) experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.

A 2000 U.S. Department of Justice study focused on The Sexual Victimization of College Women. From a national sample of 4,446 women, they concluded:

  • Nearly five percent (4.9%) of college women are victimized in any given calendar year.

This study also highlighted another problem with collecting and reporting statistics about rape. Namely, that many people are unclear on the definition of rape. The study notes:

In each incident report, respondents were asked, “Do you consider this incident to be a rape?” For the 86 incidents categorized as a completed rape, 46.5 percent (n=40) of the women answered “yes,” 48.8 percent (n=42) answered “no,” and 4.7 percent (n=4) answered “don’t know.”

The 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study, prepared for the National institute of Justice, found that:

  • 26.1% of college senior women reported experiencing attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.
  • 3.7% of college men reported being victims of completed sexual assault since entering college.

False Reports

Ever since I started working with rape survivors and talking about the research, people — mostly men — have been asking, “But what about all of the false reports?” It feels like that particular response has gotten more common in recent years, and it’s frustrating as hell.

To be clear, false reports of rape and sexual assault can and do happen. But the research shows such cases to be rare.

Let’s start with False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault, published in 2009, which includes an extensive literature review that finds:

  • When more methodologically rigorous research has been conducted, estimates for the percentage of false reports begin to converge around 2-8%.

They conclude, “this realistic and evidence-based estimate of 2-8% thus suggests that the American public dramatically overestimates the percentage of sexual assault reports that are false.”

Going back a bit farther, a 1996 FBI report found that “Eight percent of forcible rape complaints in 1996 were ‘unfounded’.” But this includes complaints found to be “false or baseless,” and therein lies a problem. What qualifies as an unfounded report? Many reported rapes aren’t prosecuted because prosecutors don’t feel there’s sufficient evidence. “Baseless” and “false” aren’t the same thing.

In 2017, Sandra Newman gathered additional research on false accusations and found, among other things:

  • False rape accusations almost never have serious consequences.
  • In the most detailed study ever conducted of sexual assault reports to police, undertaken for the British Home Office in the early 2000s, out of 216 complaints that were classified as false, only 126 had even gotten to the stage where the accuser lodged a formal complaint. Only 39 complainants named a suspect. Only six cases led to an arrest, and only two led to charges being brought before they were ultimately deemed false.

Who Are All These Rapists?

There’s a common myth that rapists are creepy strangers lurking in bushes, and while this does happen, rapists are far more likely to be someone the victim knows.

Research finds some patterns among rapists. “These men begin early, studies find. They may associate with others who also commit sexual violence. They usually deny that they have raped women even as they admit to nonconsensual sex.”

Cross-campus studies of rape identify the following factors as contributors to sexual violence: sex-role socialization, rape myths, lack of sanctions for abuse, male peer group support, pornography, adversarial sexual beliefs, lack of empathy, and all-male membership groups such as fraternities and sports teams.”

Why Aren’t All the Rapists in Jail?

Another myth is that, since rape is a crime, shouldn’t rapists all end up in jail?

I 100% support jail time for rapists, but the reality is, our legal system does a poor job of prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing rapists.

There are a number of reasons for this. Take, for example, the nationwide problem of rape kits (evidence collected from a rape victim) being left to gather dust on shelves.

While things are starting to change here, and there’s more attention and push to process the backlog of rape kits, it’s obvious these cases weren’t a priority for many police departments.

Even when a victim reports a rape, the perpetrator is less likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted when compared to other crimes.

If a rapist is convicted, they often receive a lenient sentence. One notorious example is that of convicted rapist Brock Turner, who was “convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault and sentenced to six months in county jail, three years probation and a requirement that he register as a sex offender.” Why only six months? In part, because the judge said a longer sentence “would have ‘a severe impact’ and ‘adverse collateral consequences’ on Turner.”

That’s far from the only example.

Given how often rapists receive these slap-on-the-wrist sentences, is it any wonder rape is so underreported? And that’s before you get into other reasons for not reporting, like one study that found 1 in 5 rape victims who didn’t report said it was because of a fear of reprisal. Or shame, denial, minimization, fear, or lack of information. Or victim-blaming. Or because when they do tell someone, they’re not believed.

Resources

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Cool Stuff Vendredi

Vendredi est à Utopiales aujourd’hui!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Happy Space Janitors Day!

Terminal Alliance - Papberback Cover ArtI’m gonna be spending half of today on a plane, and the rest of the time either at work or getting ready to spend half of today on a plane, so this is gonna be pretty quick.

Today is the official release of the paperback edition of Terminal Alliance. Yay! This means you can now pick up your mass market copy for only $7.99. It also means the e-book price has dropped to match the mass market. Yay again!

Feel free to pick up a copy in the format of your choosing:

You can also read the first chapter in whatever format you’d like, as long as it’s one of these three: PDF, EPUB, MOBI

The sequel, Terminal Uprising, will be out on February 12, 2019.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Doggie Surgery and Travel Preparations

Zoey is in the cone of shame, following ACL surgery on Friday. Zoey does not like the cone of shame, but it’s the only way to keep her from taking more of her staples out overnight.

Zoey in her cone

It turns out ACL surgery is pretty pricey. We’re okay financially, but if anyone feels like this is a good time to pick up a book or two, I certainly won’t ‘t object.

The surgery went well. We’re looking at a long recovery process, though. A process made more challenging because Zoey really likes to run and chase squirrels and generally be a ball of barely-contained doggy-energy. (Which is part of what led to the problem in the first place — she not only sprinted after the squirrel, she hurled herself bodily against the fence trying to get to the little thing.)

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I’ll be leaving tomorrow for Utopiales, in Nantes, France. This should be a lot of fun, but I’m currently in pre-travel stress mode, trying to make sure everything’s packed, all the info I need is printed out (and translated, where necessary), and double-checking I’ve got various panels, meetings, and meals entered in my schedule — and set to the proper time zone.

Blogging will be light to none until I get back next week, but I’ll try to post a few pics and updates on the other social media.

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Terminal Alliance - Papberback Cover ArtThe timing for this trip is a little awkward, since tomorrow is also the release date for the paperback edition of Terminal Alliance. This means the ebook price has dropped to $7.99.

My copies showed up today, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a newsletter sent out tomorrow before I leave, with one subscriber winning a signed copy.

In the meantime, I’ll just leave these links here…

Terminal Alliance

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Fake News and Lies: Caravan Edition

Lying Cat

“The caravan of migrants and refugees is burning American flags!”

This came up in the comments on a friend’s Facebook post. Here’s Snopes doing some fact-checking.

“Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with the caravan!

This comes from an October 22 Trump Tweet. I’m not sure why “Middle Easterners” is supposed to be so scary. (That’s a lie — we all know why Trump thinks it’s scary.) Regardless, this claim is completely baseless.

“The’re attacking, beating police officers!”

This is another widely-shared social media claim, complete with a photo of bloodied police. Among those sharing this lie was Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas. Politico debunks this one.

“Soros and/or Democrats are behind the caravan, paying refugees to storm the U.S. border!”

This claim comes, among other sources, from a U.S. Congressman: Matt Gaetz of Florida, who Tweeted video on October 17, suggesting it was, “Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs?”

  • Snopes describes the Tweet as being, “replete with factual inaccuracies and baseless accusations.” The Footage isn’t from the Honduras, there’s zero evidence or support for Soros or US-backed NGOs having any involvement … you know what? Just check the Snopes page. There’s too much wrongness in this one to summarize it all here.

“Why don’t these people try marching in their own streets and fixing their own country instead of coming to the U.S. to demand handouts and charity?”

This is a question, not a lie, but it’s one I’ve seen come up in a number of conversations. It’s a question that suggests a lack of empathy and understanding as to why people would uproot their families and flee their homes, abandoning everything they know.

Here are a few of the reasons.

  • “People in the caravan cited widespread poverty and gang violence in Honduras, one of the world’s deadliest nations by homicide rate, as their reasons for fleeing. Juan Carlos Mercado, 20, from Santa Barbara, said corruption and a lack of jobs in Honduras had stymied him. ‘We just want to move ahead with our lives,’ he said, adding that he would do any kind of work.” (Source)
  • “One migrant, a 20-year-old Honduran named William, told CNN he crossed into Mexico via a float that carried him across the muddy Suchiate River on Saturday. He left home looking for work, he said, and was ultimately bound for either Mexico or the United States, wherever he could land a job. ‘There is no work back home,” he said. ‘No future.'” (Source)
  • “The migrants told the AP they fleeing a corrupt government, poverty and violence in Honduras. Cristian, a 34-year-old cell phone repairman from San Pedro Sula, said he left Honduras because gang members had demanded protection payments of $83 a month, a fifth of his income.” (Source)
  • And then, of course, there are news items like these: U.N. Blames Honduras Security Forces for Killing Electoral Protesters. Honduras post-election killings: families wait in vain for justice.

In other words, they’re not coming for handouts. They’re fleeing violence. They’re fleeing oppression. They’re fleeing corruption. They’re fleeing poverty, hoping for the chance to work and support their families.

You ask why they don’t march in the streets at home? Maybe it’s because they’re afraid of what a corrupt government will do to them and their family. Because they’re trying to protect their loved ones. Because every day they stay puts themselves and their family at risk.

Whatever your opinions and political beliefs, let’s try to do a better job of pushing back against ignorance and lies.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is adamantly pro-library.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Upcoming Events

Terminal Alliance - Papberback Cover ArtIt’s going to be a busy few weeks. In addition to the October 30 paperback release of Terminal Alliance, I’ve got three different events coming up: two in-state, and one out-of-country.

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October 20, 2 – 6 p.m.
Unreality Fest. Battle Creek Barnes & Noble. Battle Creek, Michigan.

“This is a festival celebrating science fantasy, science fiction, horror, and paranormal authors and their work. This year’s authors include Jim C. Hines, Danica Davidsion, J. Gabriel Gates, Lindsay Mead, Patricia Arnold, Curtis S. Arnold, Steve Copling, Thomas H. Picard, Corbin Dailey, and Sandy Carlson.”

October 24, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
“Prep-Tober” Writing Workshop/Q&A at East Lansing Public Library. East Lansing, Michigan.

“Attention all current and would-be writers! Thinking about tackling National Novel Writing Month this year? Not sure how to get started? Jim C. Hines, SFF author of the Magic Ex Libris, Princess, Jig the Goblin, and new Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series is hosting a Prep-Tober writing workshop Wednesday, October 24, 6:30-8pm. He’ll talk about the writing process, how he got started, and answer any questions you may have. A book signing will take place at the end.”

October 31 – November 5
Les Utopiales. Nantes, France.

“Fortes du patrimoine laissé par Jules Verne et du passé surréaliste de Nantes, les Utopiales se sont installées dans le paysage culturel nantais au tout début du nouveau siècle, en l’an 2000.”

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Unfortunately, this means I’ll be spending much of Terminal Alliance day on planes, but you know what? For a trip to France, I’m okay with that.

This also means I’m trying to get everything ready and/or finished now, because the next few weeks are going to be hectic. But once I get back home, that’s it for me until ConFusion in January. Nothing to do but sit around and relax while I finish page proofs for Terminal Uprising, work on the third Janitors book, write those other pieces, like an anthology introduction and a solicited non-fiction piece… Not to mention getting ready for the holidays. And my wife’s birthday. Plus the dog needs knee surgery. And we have to finish clearing stuff out of the garage.

…and if I keep listing things, I’m going to end up running away from the computer and hiding in my Protective Blanket of Fear.

Happy Wednesday, all!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Content warning for discussion of a teacher arrested for sexual touching of students.

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Earlier this month, as I was sitting in the airport getting ready to go to ICON, an email popped up from our school district superintendent. He was writing to let parents know that a fifth grade teacher had been arrested on five counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of assault with intent to commit second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

This was my son’s teacher a few years ago.

My wife spoke with my son while I was gone. He says Mr. Daley never did anything like that to him, which was a relief. He also talked about how disappointed he was in his teacher.

You and me both, kiddo.

My son is in eighth grade this year. If you’d asked me who his best teacher was in the decade he’s been going to school? I would have said Mr. Daley. He was patient, supportive, encouraging, and seemed to genuinely care about his students.

And now, every good thing he did is tainted by the question, Did he really care about his students? Or was it all some sort of grooming behavior, laying the groundwork to see what he could get away with, and with whom?

I trust and believe my son when he says nothing happened. I know fifth grade was a good year for him in many ways, and a relief after a rough time in fourth grade. Mr. Daley was a big part of that. But I also know at least four boys have come forward with these accusations — accusations the news reports claim are corroborated — accusations that were enough to justify an arrest and formal charges.

I’ve worked with rape and abuse survivors. I’ve observed groups with convicted abusers. My wife is a licensed therapist, and has way more experience than I do working with both survivors and abusers. Mr. Daley was one of our favorite teachers for either of our children. Neither one of us had the slightest inkling.

And I start thinking about other, more publicized accusations of harassment and assault, and the denials that follow. People coming out to proclaim the accuser must be lying because the accused is a “very fine man,” and they’ve never seen anything to suggest he (or she) would do such a thing.

Well, yeah. Predators don’t have neon forehead tattoos labeling them rapists and harassers and abusers. The soundtrack doesn’t shift to a minor key when they enter a room.

I understand feeling shocked. I understand not wanting to believe. I was so much happier thinking of this guy as just a great teacher instead of an alleged sexual predator.

I understand wanting to bury your head in denial. But every time someone proclaims, “The victim must be lying, because the accused is such a good man and he’d never do that,” not only are you hurting the victim — not only are you calling them a liar and adding to the burden and pain of speaking up — you’re also providing cover for predators. You’re saying all they have to do is act like a good person around you, and you’ll actively support them and help them to discredit their victims.

Sometimes it’s people you never would have expected. Sometimes it’s people on your “side.” Sometimes it’s people you really liked.

The next hearing in this case is scheduled for late November. Daley will have his time in court, and is legally innocent until proven guilty. It’s possible he is innocent. But given that false accusations are statistically unlikely, given that there are multiple, corroborated accusations, given that enough evidence exists for multiple charges to have been filed, I find that very unlikely.

No matter how much I might want to believe otherwise.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday has mixed feelings about this whole exercise routine thing.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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October 10 is Mental Health Awareness Day. If you’re a regular reader, you probably already know I’ve been dealing with depression for a while now. Got the official diagnosis back in April of 2012. Started on antidepressants the next month. Began seeing a counselor shortly after that.

The depression had been there a lot longer. I remember feeling suicidal as a kid, and getting close enough to scare myself at least twice. Looking back, I can see stretches where the brain weasels got the best of me in college too, and they had a good old time messing with my head the year I spent living in Nevada.

Lucy: Psychiatric HelpThe pills helped to stabilize my mood and get me back to a healthier baseline. The counselor helped me make some changes with my life. Neither of these things actually fixed or cured the depression. Like my diabetes, it’s still there — I’m just doing a better job of managing it.

Unlike the diabetes, I can’t take a drop of blood and measure how Depressed I am today. Wouldn’t that be nice? “My Depression Level is 193. Better watch a half hour of kitten videos.”

A big difference in my pre- and post-diagnosis life is that I now know the brain weasels are there. I’m better at recognizing when I’m just having a lousy day vs. when the Depression is getting the upper hand. Being able to identify the problem, knowing it’s real, helps a lot.

But it doesn’t make the problem go away. I know it’s there, and I know there are cracks in my mental health the brain weasels can sneak through. To choose a totally hypothetical example, say a book I’m working on is going a lot more slowly than I want…

One of the best things I’ve learned over the past six years is that I’m not alone. Since I started talking about the depression, I’ve spoken with a lot of people who are fighting the same disease. Others are battling different mental illnesses. And none of us are alone in that fight, even though the brain weasels will totally lie and try to make you think you are.

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Lesson One: Depression lies. It says you’re alone, you’re unworthy of love, your failures are deserved and your successes are flukes, your happiness is fleeting but sadness is eternal, your problems are inescapable, and things will never get better. It’s all lies.

Lesson Two: Mental illness is real. You know, I had zero problem going to the hospital for my diabetes back when I was diagnosed. My blood sugar was over 600 at one point. It didn’t matter how strong or determined or optimistic I was if my pancreas was taking early retirement.

Mental illness is just as real and valid as any other. Willpower won’t make my pancreas start working. Willpower also won’t rebalance the chemical makeup of my brain. There are things I can do to help — exercise can be a useful tool for both diseases — but it won’t cure the problems.

People get sick. That doesn’t make you a failure, and it’s not your fault.

Lesson Three: Getting help is … helpful. Going to the doctor and the counselor was hard. Really hard. But it made a huge difference. It may have saved my marriage. It helped my relationship with my kids, and with the other people in my life. It helped my writing.

It may take time to find a doctor and/or therapist who’s the right fit. If you go on medication, it may take time to find the right dosage and the right med or combination of meds. And some health insurance plans can be a nightmare.

But if you can, it’s worth reaching out for help.

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For those in the U.S., Mental Health America has what looks like a good set of tools for getting started, including screening tools and steps to find help. MentalHealth.gov has some resources as well.

Be kind to yourself. You deserve health and happiness.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Back from ICON 43

Got home around midnight last night, collapsed into bed, and was immediately pounced upon by one of the cats. I guess Chewie felt I owed him four days’ worth of scritches, and he meant to collect RIGHT NOW. Cats, you know?

ICON was a great deal of fun, as always. We had a delightful set of guests this year: Mike Mullin, Daniel Mohr and his hetero life mate Wolfie B. Bad, Mike Miller, and Joe and Gay Haldeman. I love that my Toastmaster duties give me the chance to hang out with and get to know our guests each year.

And of course, I got to spend time with so many other great ICON friends. I emceed a silent film narration challenge for the first time, and also joined in the round robin storytelling, which I’d never done before. I won’t even try to recap the two stories we came up with, but the fire-spider erotica subplot was all Mike Mullin’s fault!

I ended up taking a lot of pics this year. I’ve got most of the good ones posted in their own Facebook album. If you’re Facebook-averse, you can also check the Flickr album.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Joe Haldeman and Gene Wolfe Wolfie B. Bad gives CPR to Mike Miller Author Mike Mullin Batgirl and Bane

And now, having pet the cat enough for him to leave me alone, I’m off to catch up on everything else from the past few days…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is ICON day!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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ICON Schedule

I’m off to Cedar Rapids again this coming weekend, where I’ll be Toastmaster at ICON 43. That means I get to introduce this year’s guests of honor, Mike Mullin, Daniel Mohr, Mike Miller, Wolfie B. Bad, and Joe and Gay Haldeman.

Here’s my schedule, for anyone who might be there and wants to say hi.

Thursday

Friday

  • 7 p.m. Opening Ceremonies
  • 9 p.m. GoH Challenge: Silent Film Narration

Saturday

  • 9 a.m. Representation in SF/F
  • 10 a.m. Author/Artist meet and greet
  • 1 p.m. Speaking to Paradise ICON writers
  • 4 p.m. GoH Interviews
  • 9 p.m. Round Robin Storytelling

Sunday

  • 9 a.m. GoH/Benefactors Brunch

I’ll also be doing author photos again this year. I believe there should be sign-up information at registration/check-in. (And you’re allowed to sign up even if you’re not an author.)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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