Tag Archives: John Scalzi

Catching Up on Links

Some links on pieces about writing and related matters I had collected but not passed on:

 

Fonda Lee, who is making waves with her new novel, Jade City (more on my impressions of that book later,) did a good, practical Twitter thread essay on awards versus sales when it comes to marketing buzz.

Tim Pratt did an interesting piece on the process of writing his alien creatures in his SF novel, The Wrong Stars.

John Scalzi did a piece about attempts to tabulate authors’ sales from limited sources and the markets for fiction in general.

Anaea Lay recounts the story of her glamorous author travels to WorldCon in 2017, useful for those who may be doing convention traveling.

Chuck Wendig didn’t particularly like a piece of writing advice someone gave on Twitter and so did a comic riff on it followed by some useful writing advice as a Twitter thread essay.

Ineke Chen-Meyer points out an interesting difference between our fictional characters and the real world.

Leave a comment

Filed under book publishing, Humor, Writing

The World is Heating Like an Oven — Have Some Humor!

Oh my warping white dwarfs, are we burning up over here! So instead of substance, you get humor, another thing that the Internet is for:

John Scalzi posted a picture of his giant former farm front yard on Twitter — and his pals started playing with it.

Delightful humorists introduce today’s kids to old computers and today’s teens to 1990’s Internet, with predictable but funny results. Guaranteed to make anyone over the age of 25 feel ancient.

Wil Wheaton launched a new t.v/web show and on it, he got Talking Dead talk show host Chris Hardwick to help him revamp the Walking Dead theme song as if the gothic zombie apocalypse show was done in the 1980’s:

I must now go in search of ice. Because that world ending in ice or fire thing? It’s apparently going to be fire. (Hope the lower equator territories are enjoying a nice winter.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, Movies/TV

Links & Misc. — Spring Cleaning! Part 1

So I had a lot of stuff pile up in the first part of the year that was like, “that’s interesting, I’ll look at it more closely later in the blog maybe,” and of course, that didn’t happen. Now that it’s finally spring in my part of the world, I’m just going to present the things I collected in blocks, and you all can see if there’s anything that interests you enough to click on.

Publishing & Writing Stuff:

Kathleen Sharp gives a full and factual accounting in Salon.com of what actually happened with Apple, Amazon and the development of the e-book market.

Jim C. Hines explains why chasing trends in writing fiction is a fool’s errand. (Authors do these pieces from time to time; many new authors are just absolutely sure it can’t be true. But it’s true; this is how fiction publishing works.)

Charlie Stross expands with more facts and thoughts on Jim’s article.

At Tor.com, Emily Asher-Perrin does an interesting analysis of how Ron Weasley’s character in the Harry Potter series is changed and negated in the film adaptations.

Kameron Hurley guest-blogged at Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds, earlier in the year about “On Persistence and the Long Con of Being a Successful Writer”.

Michael J. Sullivan has useful marketing tips for fiction authors.

John Scalzi looks at reality involving award winning books.

Leave a comment

Filed under book publishing

Some April Fool’s Humor

There are things in the hopper, but it’s April 1st and I’m dealing with zombie and cannibal invasions and the devastating How I Met Your Mother t.v. series finish, so here are a few mild funnies that people did today:

— Over at SF Signal, author Tom O’Donnell writes a funny piece in which he refutes SF Signal‘s supposedly negative review of his barbarian fantasy novel.

— Author Ada Hoffmann gives her conference schedule for the non-existent but should totally exist Dinosaurcon 2014.

— Every year, John Scalzi does something elaborate for April Fool’s Day, usually involving his friends, and at one point, scoring Hugo nominations for it. This year, his pal author Mary Robinette Kowal does the honors. Yeah, fine, but we know that Young Man’s War: First Contact is totally going to happen.

— And just because photos from of our planet are cool, here’s NASA‘s warm-hearted joke for the day.

1 Comment

Filed under Humor

SFWA Ripples

So last year, the Bulletin, the official magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) writers organization, got into a scandal that was complicated and disenheartening and sexist. Members called for changes that would keep the Bulletin to the standards and policies of the SFWA towards all members. The editor resigned, the Bulletin was suspended, and a large overhaul got underway, starting with a task force to work out new procedures. One of those, after lots of discussion and input from members, was an advisory review committee, which would be formed with volunteers who then would advise the SFWA President, the person in oversight of the Bulletin, about material that broke the standards.

A really horrible petition that presented a false characterization of this committee — which isn’t even formed yet — recently was floated, written by a guy who seems to me to be a reactionary kook, and unfortunately a lot of prominent authors signed their names to the thing, including several prominent female authors. This led to several other incidents/conversations, such as one on SFF.net, where a contracts administrator at Macmillan went after his house’s own author, Mary Robinette Kowal, former VP of SFWA, for feminist activism. 

John Scalzi was President of SFWA when the Bulletin put out its controversial issues, which did upset a lot of people, particularly because Scalzi has been a strong supporter of diversity and civil rights values, and of making the organization more professional. He admitted he’d messed up by not doing enough oversight, ap0logized and pledged to support in-coming President Steven Gould in fixing the issue and making SFWA more professional, particularly by staying out of the way so that others could speak up. But he nonetheless couldn’t help talking about free speech issues when the petition popped up, and he’s thrown himself more into the ring after a number of really awful comments were springing up on the Net, by proposing in comic support that those fighting discrimination and under-representation, those wanting the industry and SFWA particularly to treat female authors and others more professionally, should form an Insect Army. This was in direct reaction to a particular comment on SFF.net that called those speaking up for equal treatment “insects.” This call to arms has gotten terribly silly, but the impetus behind it is sincere. Discrimination doesn’t end unless people speak up, unfortunately, and that speech is the one good thing that comes out of these conflicts. 

On this particular thread at his blog Whatever, I did a post comment, one of several, looking at the chain of history of discrimination on this issue and the recent conflicts. You can read it on that thread, but some folk asked me to also post it here, so I will. I was responding to a commenter named Bruce, who was wondering about the intent of the person who went after Kowal and who I quote at the beginning in italics. (The cricket references are because I chose to be a cricket in Scalzi and Kowal’s mock Insect Army.) Warning: as always, it is long. 

Bruce:

“I can’t say that this anger is warranted, but I think what he wrote is more about his anger at MRK and not so much about sexism and/or censorship at SFWA.”

But he didn’t talk about his anger at MRK blocking his efforts. He talked about her body, about how she supposedly flaunted her body, about how her speech about sexism was therefore false, and he derided her credibility as someone anyone should listen to because she was a nobody writer, despite her books, awards, etc. He deliberately went after her on the basis of her gender and the issue of sexism. So it is actually very related. And it is also related because the people who objected to the sexism in the Bulletin, were doing so because they also want the SFWA to be a professional organization and focus on digital rights, copyright, etc.for all members, rather than write about how sexy some women writers are and how they shouldn’t criticize men ever, the little tyrants.

Let me see if I can cricket this for you:

Long way back, a handful of decades ago, women writers of SFF were told that it would be better if they wrote under a male pseudonym because fans (all of whom were erroneously assumed to be men,) didn’t want to read women’s writings.The threat was that they could have free speech (use their real names and show that they are women,) or they could have a successful career, hiding as men among men. You could do that back then, write anonymously under a pen name and not promote and still make a living, because of the wholesale market. And that was what was politically correct. So it was U.K. Le Guin, C.J. Cherryh, Andre Norton, James Tiptree Jr., etc., and they stayed silent under the threat.

But you can make a better living if you do promote your work, go to conventions, stand up for awards, etc., so women started to partially or fully decloak and risk their careers for a better, more equal one with the men by promoting as themselves. They used their free speech. And the new women authors who came in, having that as role models, then sold their work as themselves. They came out of the shadows and refused to be scared by the light of the threat. And what was politically correct, changed and became more equal (and professional.) Although the discrimination didn’t totally go away.

But women writers were still frequently told that they shouldn’t write about certain subjects in certain ways. They shouldn’t write about sexism in society or issues related to their lives, nobody wanted to hear it from women and it wasn’t reasonable or fair. The threat was, you could have free speech (write about sexism or whatever you wanted,) or you could have a career. That was what was politically correct. But some women wrote about it anyway, fiction and non-fiction, and formed a movement called feminist SF that sold both in the field and in academia where they were sort of starting to realize it might actually be worth studying more female writers. And other women writers coming into the field also felt free to write about those subjects or to write about different subjects that had previously been declared men’s territory. And what was politically correct, changed and became more equal (and professional.) Although the discrimination didn’t totally go away.

But women writers and publishing folk and fans were still frequently told that they weren’t very important in the field or society, and that they should not object to men patting their bottoms or groping them at conventions or propositioning them or talking about their bodies and sneering that they were nonentities. It was unreasonable and exaggerated as a problem. The threat was, you could have free speech to object to the treatment, (and the assault,) or you could have a career. And that was what was politically correct. But some women spoke out anyway and objected, and allies objected. And new women writers coming in, seeing that their fellows had made things safer for their free speech, also spoke up and objected. And standards of professionalism towards women in the field slowly developed. And what was politically correct, changed and became more equal (and professional.) Although the discrimination didn’t totally go away.

I mean, it doesn’t entirely go away, even with women at the helm. So a woman editor okayed and designed, and a male president, who was JS, signed off on and didn’t catch/think about, threats in four issues of the Bulletin, the professional trade journal, threats that violated SFWA’s standards and policies. The threats were best expressed by Mr. Henderson, the Barbie guy, who told women members that the key to career success was to be like Barbie and never blame Ken for discrimination effecting her career. In other words, you can have free speech or you can stay silent and have a career. But women writers and their allies did speak up and object that this wasn’t professional, or equal, or what they needed from SFWA — nor what SFWA was allowed by its policies to do.

I doubt Mr. Henderson would feel that he made a threat, any more than Resnick and Malzberg did — he would probably characterize it as advice, but that particular type of “advice” — a threat against free speech, happens all the time. It’s happened to me here on Whatever, for instance, when a person I’m talking to brings up the advice that unless you are really, really nice and mostly quiet in talking to men about sexism, they won’t listen or help improve equality.

JS could have threatened defensively. Instead he apologized for having okayed threats to free speech. He helped set up a task force to work towards more equality and professionalism in the Bulletin and no threats to women and other vulnerable members. Some people still can’t forgive him for letting the threats go through and have gone away and aren’t coming back, as is their right. Others decided that he had understood the objections and worked to get back on track. And most are waiting to see how Mr. Gould does.

Then came the petition, which was a fairly blatant threat — give up free speech and stop being offended by sexist speech and unprofessional treatment, or everybody’s careers will be tanked and the field ruined. Tell us who is on the advisory committee so we can stop them. Tell us the standards even though we already know the standards because SFWA already has the standards, etc. Women should behave. Feminism ruins everything. Vigorous debate should happen as long as women know their place in the comments section.

Mr. Fedora didn’t threaten MRK with sexist speech. Mr. Fedora threatened incoming women writers who might see MRK as a role model. Since she was an influence as a former VP of SFWA, he declared her an unreasonable and hypercritical radical who had no real influence and sexualized her body — she’s not worth professionalism because she’s female. Because her career is successful despite her free speech, he argued that her career wasn’t successful. If you asked Fedora if that’s what he intended to do, I’m sure he’d say no, and he would honestly believe it to be so. After all, it was a casual conversation; he wasn’t pushing the petition. But that’s because these sorts of threats — free speech or your career, your family, your life, are so ingrained and ubiquitous towards women and disadvantaged groups, they’re habit.

So even though it was completely unprofessional to trash one of his house’s authors, he did it. Because women need to know their place, just like when J.K. Rowling was told, still, in the 1990′s, to pretend to be a man so that boys’ parents would buy her books, (nobody caring about the girl readers because they are girls.) Should she not have decloaked and used her free speech, do you think? She’s had a horrible, unprofessional career, having done so, and really should be given no respect. Because even if you are the most successful author on the planet, possibly ever, the threat gets made — your free speech or we talk about you in a bikini.

If the people on SFF.net in that thread really do care about having a trade organization tackle professionally digital rights, copyright issues, royalties, marketing, etc. — and representation and encouraging diversity which benefits the field and its profits — then they should have totally supported the outcry over the Bulletin about those very things, and the formation of a task force and an advisory committee, and upholding the standards SFWA already has. Instead, they are making threats to discourage free speech.

The insect commentator, who may be a woman, is quite open about that. Women writers are cockroaches, insects to be crushed if they make noise, who should be silent and hiding in the shadows and scared. But instead, they and their allies come out of hiding and speak up. And this isn’t new, despite what the commentator claims — it’s always happening. Because the threats don’t make things better, more equal, more professional, more full of choices and increasing reading audiences, etc. for women or male authors. They are just threats that cause a lot of damage and stagnation, that keep women authors from, say, getting as good royalty rates, marketing and digital rights deals as men. It’s the next frontier, and they’re swarming in. Chirp.

As you can see from that comment post, I’m pedantic and overly detailed when it comes to paper trails in negotiations and conflicts. It comes from my days as an agent doing book contracts, where the difference between “legal expenses” and “reasonable legal expenses” is all important, and from working as an editor where the job is to catch every problem, inconsistency and hole and go over them with authors. I truly believe the ripples from this thing are going in a positive direction. I just wish that all the turmoil didn’t have to come with them. 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under SFFH, Women

You Be Ladies Now, Ya Hear! — The SFWA Bulletin Dust-up

Just when I was planning to move on from “lady” stuff, apparently a bomb of controversy exploded at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) concerning the organization’s newsletter, the Bulletin. It had been a slow brew of exasperation that bubbled over just before SFWA President John Scalzi was safely able to exit and pass his post over to in-coming President Steven Gould. A fairly good summary of events with commentary that I think is fairly apt is offered by Trisha Lynn.

Back in the day, the Bulletin, the main newsletter of the organization, was basically a bulletin. It was published in plain print on 16-20 double-sided pages on thick, stiff paper usually colored vanilla or an office memo pastel shade. It had a few small ads of only print and graphics, and it was filled mostly with announcements — publication opportunities, the movement of editors, agents and imprints, member author book deals and publications, convention and conference schedules, SFWA news, services and legal campaigns. There might be a few brief articles on sales and other trends in SFFH, or a brief author interview. It looked like a dull brochure and you could subscribe to it if you weren’t a member of SFWA. It was something of little interest to most people, but had useful information if you were in the field or trying to break in.

Over time, SFWA tightened up its membership regs and the Bulletin itself morphed into a semi-glossy magazine with cover art and more articles. Somebody running it got the idea to have prominent SFF author Mike Resnick and writer/editor/former agent Barry Malzberg do a regular column in which they have a conversation about various topics. And with the Bulletin approaching 200 issues, Jean Rabe, the current editor, asked the two to talk about women writers and editors in the past for issues #199 and #200. Which they did, by talking about lady writers and lady editors, bathing suits, and how one editor’s main contribution was that she was a dish, and, well, you get the idea. Two older guys talking about the old days of the 1960’s and 1970’s when the “ladies” were around and working hard, but didn’t mind the comments and a slap on the rear — because it could tank their career if they didn’t put up with it. (This is not just an age thing, as plenty of younger people unfortunately also have these views.) What caused more than minor grumbling about this was that issue #200 with Part 2 of the guys’ dialogue was accompanied by a cover image that seems to be a Red Sonja reprint or tribute picture — Sonja in her traditional metal string bikini and cape in the snow standing over a dead giant. There are a lot of 1980’s or earlier art images they could have picked from SFF history, but in an issue that was supposed to be supporting women’s contributions in the field, that one was more than a bit out of place.

So there were a lot of complaints by men and women in the membership. And then the next issue, #201, came out and might have been unremarkable except that comics and horror writer C.J. Henderson, in an otherwise innocuous article about lasting in your career, decided to school the “lady” authors about how to behave if they wanted to keep their careers — like Barbie. An imaginary Barbie who was ladylike, neatly dressed, nice to people, had her career without demanding that Ken was blocking her from it, etc. Of course, the only reason that Barbie ended up having “careers” is because women got demanding and un-ladylike towards real-life Kens about not blocking them from the workplace and advancement with artificial sexist barriers. Mattel saw the change in society and what little girls wanted to emulate, and went with it. They also took rivals (Bratz) to court in a not very nice manner.

Issue #202 saw the Bulletin’s attempt to respond to the complaints about the cover of  issue #200 with an article by Jim C. Hines about women in cover art, related to his previous, hilarious cover art flips and writing that won him a Hugo. But they also figured they’d let Resnick and Malzberg respond to their critics about the previous ladies in publishing articles. And their response was, well, chiefly to declare that long ago women used to keep quiet if they had a problem with anything — because they never heard a complaint — and women should keep being quiet or they were liberal fascists trying to censor the two gentlemen by disagreeing with them and not liking what they said. You can imagine how this went over with men and women author members. They were angry and took the anger to the Net, because Resnick and Malzberg are right — it’s no longer the past when the ladies “don’t say anything about it.”

Scalzi apologized for dropping the ball on really understanding what had happened with the Bulletin and appointed a committee to review procedures on SFWA publications and help Gould out for future policies. So yet another incident yields a bright spot for improved dialogue about discriminatory problems and diversity in the field. But we are left with the knowledge that these incidents will likely continue because both men and women (Rabe is a woman,) unthinkingly say women are and should behave like docile dolls, and then get confused and upset when others angrily point out that they aren’t.

Overall, SFWA has been a smart organization run by sturdy volunteers and has changed and adapted to the needs of its membership in shifting market conditions, and it will probably do so again. And voices like Resnick, Malzberg and Henderson are not ignored, nor evil, nor do they have nothing to contribute as members and authors to the field. But because their viewpoints on women are so exclusionary, they can’t be the main voices speaking for the Bulletin or SFWA, nor can images of Red Sonja, groundbreaking though she was in her time. And neither can Barbie. Instead, SFWA and the field itself will have to put up with loud-mouthed, unladylike female authors and their allies, because in a conversation about women, women are going to keep talking.

Some links of possible and related interest:

http://www.jimchines.com/2013/06/roundup-of-some-anonymous-protesters-sfwa-bulletin-links/

http://jesshaines.com/blog/2013/06/01/sfwa-sexism-misogyny-and-a-call-for-change/

http://www.vidaweb.org/the-count-2012

http://www.thenation.com/article/173743/my-so-called-post-feminist-life-arts-and-letters#

http://aidanmoher.com/blog/featured-article/2013/05/we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative-by-kameron-hurley/

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/05/22/the-underserved-population-of-readers/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/coverflip-maureen-johnson_n_3231935.html#slide=more296089

http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2013/05/understanding-the-sexism-of-fantasy/

2 Comments

Filed under book publishing, SFFH, Women

April Fools Humor

I spent April 1st in a chocolate chip cookie coma after a crazy weekend, but others were busy making really silly April Fool’s Day jokes. Top of the list in SFFH was John Scalzi and his publisher Tor. Two years ago, Scalzi created a book cover mock-up for an imaginary epic fantasy trilogy he was supposedly writing called Shadow War of the Night Dragons. This was such a success that he wrote an imaginary prologue for the imaginary first book of the imaginary trilogy, published on Tor.com and it got nominated for a Hugo for Best Short Story. Last year, Tor paid a cover artist to do three mockups of the imaginary manga comics editions of the imaginary trilogy.  So this year, they had to top themselves. Enter the runaway trainwreck of Shadow War of the Night Dragons — the Broadway musical, complete with an audio expose of the fall-out between Scalzi and his musical collaborators, Paul and Storm, a situation exposed by an article from Tor.com that Scalzi threatens to sue them over. You can check out the fun with these links:

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/04/shadow-war-musical-john-scalzi

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/04/01/addressing-the-rumors/

http://www.paulandstorm.com/songs/#shadowwar

Also:

Amazon Announces Purchase of English:

http://www.themillions.com/2013/04/amazon-announces-purchase-of-english.html

Brent Weeks is doing children’s books:

http://www.brentweeks.com/2013/03/brents-new-childrens-book/

And the Star Wars universe has a new series:

http://star-wars.suvudu.com/2013/04/star-wars-fiction-goes-full-tilt-del-rey-to-adapt-boba-fett-pinball.html

Hope everyone had a lovely day of humor and laughter!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, SFFH

Seriously, No One Dusted In Here?

You leave something for a few weeks and look at it! Anyway, many weird, not all bad things have been going on, limiting my Internet activities to occasional spews at my usual hangouts, if at all. I got to swim with sea turtles, which was something I’d always wanted to do, did not expect to be doing and am very aware that most people will never get to do (although that is probably a good thing for the sea turtles overall.) I had to do a lot of work stuff, and say goodbye to things and people, I got sick, yada, yada. The New Year turned, as artificially created new years do, and I got to have mine with fireworks.

While I was dealing with all that, the world of people who like SFFH and talk to each other about it hummed along. One of the things it hummed with was a return by fantasy author Jim C. Hines to recreating ridiculous SFF book covers of women, only this time in a very huge way. Jim decided, after people kept pestering him to do more of them, to make a fundraiser out of it for the Aicardi Syndrome Foundation. Aicardi Syndrome is a rare, very nasty and deadly  childhood condition and so Jim set a number of financial goalposts and as each one was met, he would do another cover pose (a couple of them were comic book covers cause people had specially asked.) The poses included two pose-off contests with fellow author John Scalzi (both of which Jim won,) and a group photo staged at ConFusion of Jim, Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss, Charles Stross and Mary Robinette Kowal recreating a truly horrendous Baen Books cover. Jim, I think, seriously underestimated the interest in this endeavor — he raised just over $15,000 for the Foundation and had to risk his back in many cover poses. You can see the whole thing here (warning: it’s not for the faint of heart,) including the pose-offs and the group shot which is one of the most coolest, horriblest things I’ve ever seen.  Jim is still arranging some of the poses promised and there will be a 2014 calendar that you can buy down the road, raising further funds for the Foundation.

Another fundraiser that’s still going on for another week or so is the medical fundraiser for SFF author Jay Lake, who has been fighting cancer for some time. The fundraiser was to raise money so Lake could have a gene sequencing procedure to give him a better chance and to help pay for all the wonderful medical expenses incurred in the U.S. medical system. The gene sequencing goal was reached and right quickly, but the family is hurting and further contributions are most welcome.

And one more now on-going, and this is a fun one because you simply can use some of your charitable giving that you might have been planning to do anyway. John Scalzi has been having gnat-irritation visits from pals of a fellow SFWA member to whom he’d once given a promotional break, long ago, without knowing the person was troubled, shall we say. This author and his friends are white male power enthusiasts, I guess you could call it, and they come over to troll the comment threads in Scalzi’s Whatever blog.  Scalzi has developed various clean-up methods for this intrusion into his lair, including recently kittening, a method he borrowed from his friend The Bloggess, which is spreading out virally. This author is a bit obsessed with Scalzi and talks about him a lot on his blog, whereupon his pals then descend on Whatever to thump their chests and misunderstand wolf biology.  (We only get to see the “polite” ones, which are sad enough.) So Scalzi decided to make a fundraiser out of it. Every time this author mentions Scalzi on his blog, Scalzi will be giving money to charities that help people who this author hates, $5 a mention, up to a max of $1,000. Scalzi is going with four organizations, and you can also chime in and give directly to those groups or ones of your own choosing, preferably groups helping women, non-whites, educational funding and scholarship, religious tolerance, etc. You can do it on the mention scale up to a set amount or just go ahead and give a set amount if you want. I’m going to be doing a .25 a mention up to $50 donation to Kiva.org, which is a non-profit group that, as I’ve mentioned here before, funds micro-loans to entrepreneurs trying to feed their families all over the world. You can pick who you loan the money to through Kiva and then when that person pays it back, you can loan it out again to another person. The organization basically stands for everything these people hate. So that’s a good one that some people are doing. Already the pledge count is pretty high, but the higher it gets, the better the fun of turning one of the most negative things about the Internet into a positive that helps people. If you can’t afford to give any money — and many cannot — you can still help out if you like by volunteering for charity groups like homeless shelters, women’s groups and the like. It’s a really nice way to start the year.

Stuff on books and movies and whatnot to come. Hope the shortest month finds you all happy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life, SFFH

We Now Return You to Your Irregularly Scheduled Program

(Oh that’s an old one.) Due to technical difficulties, I was unable to access my blog for a bit. And currently, there are alligators snapping around my ankles:

So, instead, have some fun with author John Scalzi, who keeps saying foolish things on Twitter, like if he got 40,000 followers on Twitter, he would allow himself to be covered in buttercream icing. So author Neil Gaiman took him up on it and bleeted the call far and wide, and so Scalzi got himself covered in buttercream icing by roller derby skaters in Neil Gaiman’s front yard. Enjoy the video and you can buy the professional horror movie spoof poster, the proceeds for which go to help starving authors with medical bills and fluffy kittens. No really, fluffy kittens. And enjoy Gaiman’s house, which is annoyingly beautiful.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, SFFH

The Invisible Woman — Sometimes Attrition Is Mindnumbingly Slow

The pieces that I did on female movie stars and attrition towards better female placement in movies keep coming back to haunt me lately. That attrition is of course too slow, as all removal of prejudices is, but at least it is understandable that the movie studios, however much we disagree with many of their choices, are the “gatekeepers” for their own projects on which they are spending millions of dollars. There is another kind of gatekeeper who works very hard against attrition, however, who has no justification at all for what they do — the self-appointed guardians of the flames of culture. These people mistakenly believe that culture exists to keep people out of it and appoint themselves the wise folk of the culture and volunteer to man the imaginary fortress doors. Of course, this is useless. They aren’t keeping anyone out of anything and they have no authority to their prejudices, but they do get to throw boiling oil and venom down on their targets and sometimes create obstacles for some of them or at least a hostile social climate. Their targets are inevitably people who are not like them.

Obviously, the really big, systemic problems in society, the big battles of attrition in the world, are far more serious and life and death power struggles than cultural battles of arts and entertainment, but the cultural battles reflect those bigger battles, contribute to them, and often require some extra attention, precisely because people often think they aren’t terribly serious. One of the most pervasive in the world of SFFH creative expressions, in all media forms, is the invisible woman. Women — and girls — have been involved in SFFH during its whole existence in human history. They are fans, scholars, organize conventions, create SFFH or help produce and promote it. And yet, despite this, there is a persistent, non-factual belief that the women are not there. Why? For the same reason the movie studios drag their heels on women in film and filmmaking — it means sharing power, credit and money with more people and having less control thereby. Of course, again, the movie studios actually have power and control over something. The culture guardians most of the time do not. (Yes, the same can be said for other groups in SFFH, such as non-whites, but we’re going to concentrate on women here for a particular reason below.)

Attrition nonetheless does its work. The women refuse to leave, and as they have more equality in general society, more openly express themselves and their roles in SFFH, no longer following rules by self-appointed guardians, no longer hiding under male pseudonyms or attributing credit to males, with young women joining them in their turn. This causes the self-appointed guardians (not always male,) to suddenly notice that some of the women are there, where they’ve been all along. These women, however, are declared rare, exceptions, and usually not particularly welcome but grudgingly over time accepted as existing and occasionally interesting. The women continue to assert themselves openly, to carry over to generations, to climb over obstacles put in their way by the self-appointed guardians. Attrition does its work and the guardians have to admit the existence of more women, so they immediately divide them into good girls and bad girls — girls we allow to do things and be with us and girls we still think are not allowed in.

The good girl and the bad girl is one of the oldest, hoariest chestnuts of attempts to control women and reduce them to objects. The madonna and the whore, Eve and Lilith, Mary and Mary Magdalene, the virgin and the femme fatale — the woman who behaves in an approved manner for women and the woman who does not. It’s a way, in culture, to attempt to keep some control and power, to keep the myth of the invisible woman going just a bit longer, to keep women there but not important. Attrition has to chip, chip, chip away at this, but it’s terribly hard to get rid of it completely because the dichotomy is far too attractive.

We were given a spectacularly awful example of this in a column for CNN’s website by Joe Peacock, a self-appointed guardian of the flame, or as John Scalzi termed it, self-appointed Speaker for the Geeks. Peacock is apparently involved with video games, and, despite the fact that women have been involved with video games from the beginning, the gaming world is certainly well behind on the attrition front compared to other SFFH media, and in fact really likes to fling the venom around when it comes to women in a desperate belief that they can keep them out. Mr. Peacock’s piece is chockful of good girl-bad girl ideology. He goes after teenage girls dressing in costume and professional models doing a job and gives them what-for, while praising good girls for recently entering a world in which they’ve actually been all along. He even divides up actresses he doesn’t know into helpful good girl and bad girl categories. Mr. Peacock has finally recognized that the invisible women are there, and unless they follow his orders exactly, he’s desperate to get them out. He even thinks up handy thought processes for them to have to establish that the teenage girls are in fact evil, which instead sort of make you wonder about Peacock’s sex life.

It’s an astonishing bit of open sexism by a guy who quite clearly thinks he’s defending good girls and his beloved supposedly male culture that he will share with only those who are worthy. Many annoyed rebuttals have been made on the Net on bigger blogs than mine that you can check out. I particularly recommend Nick Mamatas’ pointing out that not only have women not been invisible in SFFH, but that the idea that SFFH geekery is an outcast subculture is a ridiculous myth (and his earlier geek pride essay on the damage of self-appointed guardians.) Jezebel‘s response wasn’t bad either, though it does accede a bit to the geekery wasn’t popular before and women weren’t there a lot myths.

I do actually see Peacock’s piece — and most of the responses to it — as a good sign that attrition is working in SFFH when it comes to women. If it wasn’t, Peacock would have seen no need to defend the culture he has no actual say in. He would not have bothered to couch it as a defense of women while he attacked them. But given the venom in it, it is unfortunately also a sign that attrition is going very slowly, too slowly, that backlashes against women on the Net are getting nasty, and that news sources like CNN are now so used to bashing women and their behavior as women that they thought nothing of putting this piece up and getting the controversy hits.

It’s very, very tiring to have to continually tap guys — and unfortunately also some women as well — on the shoulder and say, “we’re here, we’ve always been here and you are not actually in charge of us” over and over. Luckily, that herd of teenage girls in sexy costumes whom Peacock so despises are very good at it. They’re going to run right over the man and right past him. Because the one who is really invisible in SFFH is Peacock. Maybe one day he’ll figure that out.

Below are some related articles on this subject of invisible women (cause I happened to have them saved up):

http://www.salon.com/2012/06/14/lara_croft_battles_male_jerks/

http://yuki-onna.livejournal.com/675153.html

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/08/31/the-sort-of-crap-i-dont-get/

http://www.jimchines.com/2012/05/questions-i-never-get-asked

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/laurie-penny-a-womans-opinion-is-the-miniskirt-of-the-internet-6256946.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/tribeca-film-festival-women-starring_n_1430917.html

http://www.hugoschwyzer.net/2010/07/09/words-are-not-fists-on-male-strategies-to-defuse-feminist-anger/ 

http://www.kateelliott.com/wordpress/?p=571

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/tribeca-film-festival-women-starring_n_1430917.html

Leave a comment

Filed under book publishing, SFFH, Women