I’m in the soup, but this weekend, I thought this article by Julie Zeilinger for Identities.Mic on female directors of color who are doing and will be doing interesting work was worth bringing to attention. Looking forward to the film adaptation of On Beauty by Zadie Smith.
In a very short bit of time, my blog, The Open Window, will be having a five year anniversary. This blog was an experiment for me, a lab in which I could try things out and figure out how I wanted to do certain things, in which I got to say some things I wanted to say, and bring attention to some books and artists I liked. There were periods of time that it was neglected, because life got in the way, mostly in a good way. I got a little better at using the formatting devices of Word Press. There were various decorating changes over the years. Now that I’ve entered a new phase of my life, I’m not entirely sure what this blog is going to turn into, but I am going to keep going with it and see.
As I was looking through the stuff I had backlogged from last year, one thing that was clear was that 2014 was a very busy year for issues of diversity, civil rights and social equality, in SFF and book publishing and in many areas outside of those things. And that stuff is important to me, to my family, I’m going to write about it, link to articles I find interesting. But, it’s not primarily what I want this particular blog to be focused on. And so I’m expanding the blog a little, in part to make things easier to find as I did with the Books to Read page. I’ve added a separate page called Social Equality.
I’m still going to do pieces on those subjects on the main page, like the Women in Film review, which will be coming shortly, but those pieces will also be copied on the Social Equality page. Other entries and collections of links to others’ writing on diversity and civil rights issues may be only on the Social Equality page, however, with a link to them on the main page. If you are following me mainly for my talking about those issues or to learn about interesting articles and stories on those issues, you’ll be able to just go to the Social Equality page if you want. (Older pieces on those subjects are available in the blog archives.) So it’s kind of three little blogs together, and I’ll see how that works for me. I may end up changing it; hey, I may get a website at some point. I really don’t know what’s going to happen this year. But we are well into our shiny new century millennium, and while the electricity is still on, we might as well keep talking.
It’s time again for articles concerning diversity and discrimination that I found interesting last year.
Vikram Chandra wrote an interesting article for Wired about sexism factors in Silicon Valley, U.S. versus sexism factors in India’s tech industry. It shows how notions of gender are cultural and can create different forms of discrimination and inequality.
Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story looks at the ludicrous freakout by some over California’s policy change to a standard of sexual consent at its state universities and colleges. It again looks at how hard it is for people to wrap their heads around the idea that human beings own their own bodies and therefore get to give permission for who touches them sexually and how, especially when it comes to women. When there is progress made on this and other basic civil rights in law and society, the immediate claim is that the people whose rights are being supported will be vindictive, threatening destructors who will rend the very nature of society, democracy, free speech, take your pick. So put that discrimination back right this minute! As always, the fact that some people might have to alter their behavior a little bit to give others equal rights is considered way more important a problem than the actual equal rights.
McSweeney’s offers up a satiric bit called “The Open Letter to the Tiny White Man the Republican Party Has Sent to Live in My Pants.” Which also touches on the topic of women actually owning their own bodies, and getting to decide what is done to it sexually and medically and how they will live their lives.
Attorney Mary Adkins at Slate.com looks at the sexual harassment and assault of naked photos of women and girls being posted on Twitter (and elsewhere on the Net,) without their consent, and the problem with Twitter’s inability to properly enact policy on its large and contentious network.
And speaking of Twitter, Miri Mogilevsky at The Daily Dot did a nice piece talking about how This Week in Blackness‘ Elon James White created a very funny Twitter hashtag called #DudesGreetingDudes. The hashtag campaign is to point out the hypocrisy of those whining over complaints about catcalling and sexual harassment on the street. It proposes that if guys just want to say hi to others and be friendly, that they greet guys on the street the same way they are greeting women on the street. There’s also a nice videotape made re the hashtag, showing this in action:
Chris Sims at Comics Alliance looked at the problem with giant San Diego Comic Con’s attempt to hide on the issue of con harassment, in the belief that this will keep people from thinking that harassment ever happens there, versus cons that deal with the issue realistically. SDCC is so big now that it is in many ways insulated from worrying about audience desertion, as long as Hollywood still loves it. But one serious mishap and lawsuits is an ever present threat at that sort of pretense. With other big cons like New York Comic Con stepping up to have a workable, prominent and advocated harassment policy to its betterment, San Diego is going to have to change its stance soon. But this article shows h0w hard it is to root out institutionalized discrimination at these events so that practical policies can be enacted and enforced.
Also regarding conventions, author K. Tempest Bradford talked about some of the not-fun discriminations that came up at Readercon last year and at other cons for non-white, straight, etc. authors. It shows how this stuff crops up all the time in many different ways that create discrimination.
And further on that theme, Hannah Giorgis at The Soapbox talks about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag campaign and why diversity issues are so critical in children’s publishing.
And last for now, a podcast at Latino USA in which authors N.K. Jemisin, Daniel José Older, and Nalo Hopkinson discuss diversity in geekdom and diversity issues in fiction publishing.
Still cleaning out my closets, and here are some lovely and strange artworks and links to more.
Artist Carl Jara does amazing things with sand sculptures:
I unfortunately couldn’t find out whose photo graphic art this is, so if anybody knows, let me know, but I utterly love it, with the ocean as a pup tent:
Then there’s the amazing cardboard sculpture art of Kai-Xiang Xhong:
And because I love them, more 3-D chalk art!
Some stuff left over from last year, but interesting and likely to be related to interesting developments in publishing coming up:
In 2014, during the height of negotiations with Amazon and other e-vendors, HarperCollins set up selling e-books of their titles directly to readers. Now, this isn’t exactly a new thing. “Direct mail,” as it used to be called, has always been available from publishers, where readers could order books directly from publishers, usually at a discount because of shipping costs. In the 1960’s-1980’s, it was a sizable, though not central, market for paperbacks, with book order forms printed in the back pages of paperbacks, and some publishers setting up subscription services that operated sort of like book clubs, not to mention actual book clubs run by publishers or working with publishers. (The romance publishers had it down to an art form.)
In the 90’s, when the wholesale and paperback markets collapsed, direct mail became considerably less important but still existed. With the Internet developing, publishers set up buy options on their websites, however, that increased overall direct sales. For the last several years, publishers have been setting up selling e-books directly. This is, though, HarperCollins’ formalized, larger effort. Whether that’s going to help with the lack of breadth in the e-vendors market is anybody’s guess, but publishers have definitely amped up more of their book-selling efforts as the market has changed.
To that end, Mills & Boon publishers in the U.K. has also set up not only e-book selling, but doing so to mobile phones easily through an app. This is again a re-adjustment of the romance publishers’ practice of making subscription easy for buyers who will read lots of titles each month.
Related to these developments of publishers are the continual battles going on in the music industry. YouTube is getting serious about trying to compete with various streaming services, and so threatened to ban indie labels that didn’t sign up for its new music service. Likewise, Amazon and other big e-vendors have been pressing smaller houses on terms and marketing fees and signing up for various service programs. We’re going to see a lot more of these kinds of battles in most of the arts.
Other links: an interesting author interview on io9.com with Kelly Thompson, author of illustrated superpower novel, The Girl Who Would Be King, which just got a movie deal. Thompson ended up self-publishing the novel after not being able to sell it, and funded it with a Kickstarter campaign. This is becoming more and more common the last few years — the funding that authors could get from partner publishing by selling a license to a publisher and getting an advance against their royalties, they are now obtaining in a donations model, allowing them to act more effectively as writers and go bigger in production and marketing. It doesn’t work out for all authors, but in the begging electronic economy, it’s a solid model for raising capital support.
Chris Sims of the Comics Alliance wrote an interesting piece on Business Insider about DC and its relationship to Marvel, regarding moves both companies have made regarding their comics, films and other projects.
And lastly, fantasy author N.K. Jemisin offers authors some advice about dealing with reviews of their published work, “Author Strength Training”.
Back last summer, Lightspeed Magazine did a very cool issue of the magazine called “Women Destroy Science Fiction!” featuring stories from women SF writers and a lot of articles about women in science fiction and the issues female writers and fans face in the field. I meant to feature it at the time, but life happened. You can still check it out at the link above. There’s also a lovely Twitter feed “article” — becoming a new art form that — from SFF writer Seanan McGuire about what the issue of the magazine means to her as writer and fan.
Of course not everybody was able to get into the spirit of the thing. Old fashioned sexist Dave Truesdale, who apparently runs a site called Tangent Online, whined about the issue’s existence and assembled panels of others to “review” the issue’s non-fiction articles by whining about their existence. This irked a number of people into writing very fun articles about the issue and that critiquing site’s usual sexist commentary on the very idea of it, the kind of rhetoric heard all the way back by Mary Shelley when she published Frankenstein. Amal El Mohtar, E. Catherine Tobler, John O’Neill of Black Gate Magazine, and Rachel Acks were the ones I found the most astute and Natalie Luhrs was both astute and offers up interesting related links.
On a similar front of encouragement and documenting discrimination, Gail Simone did a great piece for women creators in comics and women creators in general. My favorite quote from it:
“I have many times seen advice given to women that essentially equals, “smile and don’t upset anyone.” This is the world’s worst advice, and the people who say that to you? Make no mistake. They are the enemy, regardless of gender. Don’t even bother to engage them, just go around them as they try to grab your legs and pull you down.”
Bestselling fantasy author Carrie Vaughn also does a great piece about writing “tough” female characters and the stereotypes we socially hold about them.
And at Vox.com, Susannah Locke did a fascinating interview with scientist Sarah Richardson, author of the book Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome. The book tackles the actual facts about our biological sex regarding our DNA and Richardson talks about the social biases about gender that have skewed biological research and had to be deconstructed:
“Our biological theories of sex are deeply intertwined with our cultural theories of sex and gender.”
Good stuff, so check out what interests you.
Michael Pollack first came to wide attention when Billy Joel did a concert and talk at Vanderbilt University, where Pollack is a student, and Pollack convinced Joel to let him come up and play the piano during it, impressing Joel when he did so. Since then, Pollack has done some high profile gigs and has released an EP. This is a single from the EP called “Chances Are”, and it’s pretty good. (Audio file only.)
Walk Off the Earth, in addition to their really good original work, continues to do cover versions of songs that I like better than the originals. They did a great a capella one of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” and they now have tackled her new pop single, “Shake It Off” with a low key, beachy rendition that utilizes actual rattles.
So successful has OK Go been in making terrific music videos for their quirky synth tunes, that they’ve gotten corporate sponsorship to make even bigger ones. For the newest single off their new album Hungry Ghosts, “I Won’t Let You Down,” the boys go all out with crane shots and one of the wildest synchronized performances around. I also like the song, though maybe not quite as much as the first single off the album, “The Writing’s On the Wall,” in the video for which, OK Go upped their Rube Goldberg machine concept. But visually, the video below is pretty impressive.