The World in the Satin Bag has moved to my new website.  If you want to see what I'm up to, head on over there!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SandF #85 (Interview w/ Myke Cole) is Live!

The latest episode of The Skiffy and Fanty Show is yet another reason why we're totally awesome.  No, we don't have an ego.  Promise.

#85 should be fairly obvious based on the title.  Myke Cole comes on the show to talk about Shadow Ops:  Control Point, his latest novel, and topics such as:  the military, the fantasy genre, sexy romances, random pop-culture references, and much more!

Here it is.  Listen or nothing bad will happen to you.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Video Found: Muppets Respond to FOX News (Hilarious)

I'm not even going to preface this with anything on than this sentence, which is a sort of preface.  Just watch:

Possibly the clever take-down of FOX News ever.  Even Jon Stewart could not have reached the wonder that is this moment, and that's saying a lot...because Stewart is a real person.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Genre Walking 2012: Results from 2011 and the New Goal

You remember that walking/jogging pledge I made with Jason Sanford and other authors?  It's on again.  If you want to walk with me, all you have to do is enter your miles do the form located here.

As for last year's results:  I got a little lazy in recording my miles, but I'm pretty sure I met my 200-mile goal, or thereabouts.  The last month or two of the semester were so busy that I didn't get as much walking done as I wanted to.  But that's okay.  2012 is a new year, right?

That brings my to this year's pledge!

I will not only walk 300 miles this year (an easy enough goal, I think), but I am also going to lose 25 lbs. at the minimum.  I will weigh myself tomorrow so you all know where I'm starting from.

The more of you who join and urge me on, the better.  You should set your goals too.  Blog about it and put a link in the comments.  I'll add it to this post!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review: After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh

Collections of short stories are still the hardest thing for me to review, which invariably means the following review will be flawed both methodologically and stylistically.  But perhaps I can move past this by way of the  interconnected-ness of the stories in Maureen F. McHugh's After the Apocalypse.  Unlike most collections, McHugh's stories revolve around the same premise in the same world:  something has gone terribly wrong with our world; the nine stories in After the Apocalypse are about those who have survived, or are surviving.

That's essentially what this collection is about:  how human beings respond to catastrophe.  But, mostly, the collection about survival, without all the exotic images our post-apocalyptic movies show us.  There are no grand heroes here, nor an assurance that "things are turning around."  These are stories caught in the middle between the moment of catastrophe, the moment

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crying "Censorship": Why Getting Banned Isn't Censorship

You'll probably have noticed that a lot of crazy nonsense took place here and then migrated over here when Jen and I put our feet in piranha-infested waters.  This isn't the first time Jen and I have played emotional bees and frolicked in the convoluted mess of gender politics.  But that's not really the point of this post.  Rather, I'd like to use the aforementioned links as illustrative examples of my central point:
Deleting a comment or banning a commenter on a private website is not censorship.
Since Liz Bourke's original post, a number of people have almost joyously proclaimed they have been censored when they were banned from (or would be banned from The Skiffy and Fanty Show -- one individual on Baen assumed we would delete anything he wrote simply because he would disagree with us; the comment is still there).

Neither of these things, however, constitute censorship, in part because private spaces have specialized rules which determine what can and cannot be said.  If someone waltzes into your house and starts babbling at you about why Obama is a bad choice for President or Gingrich will repeal child labor laws, you have every right to remove that person from your home and prevent them from entering again.  This act is defended by the U.S. Constitution, by our laws, and by our social codes.  Few would call that censorship.  A house is a private space, inside which you make the rules for interaction (provided they follow the rules from the outside -- no murdering in your house).

The same concept applies to websites that are privately owned or run.*  Much like the privacy guaranteed in your home, you equally are guaranteed privacy on your website.  That means that you are able to determine who can and cannot see your posts, who can and cannot comment, and so on.  In fact, Google does much of this on its own by snagging spam comments from the aether and casting them to the dark abyss (the same with Wordpress, etc.).  None of these acts are censorship, since nothing has been done to prevent you from being able to speak on the Internet.  Provided you still have a place to speak, your rights have not been violated.  You are entitled to your opinion and your voice, but not to a listening audience.

Censorship on the web, thus, is rather tricky.  At what point does the removal of content become censorship?  I'm not sure there are any easy answers to this question.  Because the Internet is vast, if not nearly infinite, there are few boundaries to free speech in the U.S.  The tables turn when you go to a place like China, where hackers serve as police officers against online dissent, where content from main sources are removed from Google's search database, and so on.  Is that censorship?

I would argue that the distinction between personal space and censorship seems to follow this logic:  so long as the avenues of discussion remain open, your rights have not been infringed; so long as websites themselves are subject to removal without reasonable cause,** you're looking at censorship.

This seems like a relatively simple concept to understand, but plenty of people cry "censorship" anyway.  Perhaps they do so as an emotional reaction, or because they really believe that the 1st Amendment means you can say whatever you want wherever you want.  The truth is that private spaces come with limitations and rules, many of them unspoken.  Many websites don't have comment policies, running instead on the tolerance levels of the owners.  Those tolerance levels will vary considerably.

In other words, think of your website as a digital house.  If you have no problem letting anyone come in and say whatever they want, then good for you.  But if you want to limit discussions or focus them, doing so in your own space means you're simply taking control of your house.  And if we're being honest, most of us have house rules that we expect others to follow (and house rules we set for ourselves when we visit other people's homes).  The difference between a house and the Internet, however, is that the Internet guarantees anonymity and/or distance.  Bravery is necessarily an attending element.


*I don't know whether censorship applies to government websites, though there aren't many government websites with comment threads, as far as I can remember.

**For example, I wouldn't consider the removal of a website that shares pirated files (not links, but files) as censorship, since free speech does not extend to violating the law.

Monday, January 23, 2012

SandF #84 (Women in Military SF (or The Kratman Rule is B.S.)) is Live!

I don't think we've had a potentially controversial episode on The Skiffy and Fanty Show in a while.  But I think we've just solved that with #84.  Here's the description:
Our first hard-hitting episode of the year is finally here. This week, we talk about the recent controversy at over Liz Bourke's post about women in military SF, sexism, Joe Haldeman, David Weber, how science fiction might look at the "gender" question in the military, and much more. We're a little less PC, a whole lot more opinionated, and altogether our cheery selves.
Feel free to give it a listen and leave a comment with your thoughts.  Really.  Even if it's hate mail...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Video Found: Star Wars Uncut

I have no idea how I didn't know about the following video before now.  Apparently a bunch of Star Wars nuts decided it would be hilarious to re-film Star Wars: A New Hope from start to finish.  But they didn't stop there.  No.  Instead of the same group of people playing all the roles like those kids who did that shot-by-shot copy of Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, these folks got dozens and dozens of people to film 15-second sections.  And the segments aren't all live action either.  There are cats (obviously), vacuum cleaners, legos, action figures, cartoons, and all kinds of other weird things, living or otherwise.

To put it bluntly:  this is the greatest fan film ever made.  And you must spend two hours of your life watching it...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA and Piracy: A Brief and Random Afterthought

Google, Wikipedia, and all manner of folks have taken up the protest gauntlet against SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), a bill that, if passed, would hand over an extraordinary amount of power to the Federal government, restrict freedom of expression (the 1st Amendment), and make life for website creators and owners difficult at best.  As the co-owner of a website for young writers, these things concern me greatly, as SOPA would make me responsible for what a member posts.  That's not to say that Young Writers Online is a haven for plagiarized material, but it is an open website and things sneak through.  The idea that the entire site should be taken down because I didn't find out soon enough is absurd.  But SOPA makes that possible.

I won't proclaim to be an expert in this area.  If you're looking for an expert, Cory Doctorow is probably the best choice.  But I do find the direction the media empires behind laws like SOPA are trying to take us worrisome.  I don't doubt that piracy is a financial problem, but I'm not convinced that the figures thrown at us by SOPA supporters are accurate or necessarily relevant.

What doesn't make sense to me is this:  if piracy really is a problem to the extent that we're told (i.e., that if we don't stop it, the creative industry will go belly up), then clearly the pirates are doing something really well.  Maybe instead of wasting millions trying to create and pass abusive laws like SOPA or crack down on pirates and websites, the media empires could take that money to do the following:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SandF Ep. 83 (An Interview w/ James L. Sutter) is Live!

You'll notice that the darned numbers changed again.  This is the last time.  Seriously.  From this point on, the bloody numbers will only get bigger.  No more decimals.  No more starting over.  Just...growth.

In any case, this episode is obviously an interview with James L. Sutter, author of Death's Heretic and editor at Paizo Publishing.  We cover a wide range of topics, some of them of interest to you writer-ly types, and others of interest to those who appreciate our "digging to the heart" method for interviews.

Feel free to give the episode a listen here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Bad Bully Review(er) Manifesto (or, Why Negative Reviews Are Good)

If you haven't heard or seen it yet, the proverbial shit hit the SF/F-community-fan today on this Strange Horizons review of Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords.*  Not just any shit, mind you, but a rather familiar kind of excrement that makes the SF/F world an amusing and altogether strange place.  The short version:
Liz Bourke wrote a scathing review of Sullivan's novel (technically two novels packed into one), in which she derided the book for weak prose, inaccurate use of Early Modern English, plot and character inequities, and the frequency of weak female characters.  In response, a number of people left comments assaulting Bourke in one of two ways:  1) rejecting Bourke's criticism as patently bunk, and 2) launching accusations at Bourke herself.  (There were other reactions too, but you should read the comments to get the full picture.)
The result?  A long dialogue about the value of negative reviews, what constitutes "being mean," and similar themes we've seen before.
The review/comments also inspired this post by Adrian Faulkner about why bullying reviews are bad news indeed, from which the following gem-of-a-quote comes from:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Haul of Books 2012: Books Received Vol. 1 (Post-Christmas Edition)

Everything you see below are books (and a movie) I got over Christmas, whether as presents or through spending my Christmas money.  Needless to say, I bought a lot of stuff.

Before you check out the books, though, I've got a few questions:
  1. What did you get for Christmas (or your particular winter holiday)?
  2. Which of the following books sound interesting to you?
Feel free to leave a comment with your answers.

Here goes (warning:  there's a lot of stuff in this post):

SandF Episode 3 (Torture Cinema Meets Twilight) is Live!

(We're playing catch-up right now, which should explain why there have been two episodes this week.  There was no episode last week.  Regular schedule shall resume next week!)

The newest episode over at The Skiffy and Fanty Show is a little obvious from the tile:  a long and intoxicated review of one of the worst films ever made -- Twilight.

If you're up for hearing Jen and I babble about the good and the bad of the "vampire epic," then you should stream or download the episode here.

Ponce de Leon vs. Native Americans: Who is happier?

I recently came across this announcement of the University of Miami's 500th Anniversary commemoration for Ponce de Leon's voyages to Florida.  Since I am currently teaching a course entitled "Writing About Postcolonialism and Genre Fiction" (which I'll have to discuss in detail later), the event caught my attention.  Why?  Because the language used to describe the event seems, in my view, offensive towards those who were inevitable victims of Spanish, British, French, and American colonialism (in de Leon's case, we're obviously talking about the first).

Those victims -- we call them Native Americans, which is a pathetic term to describe the enormous variety of tribes/groups that used to live freely in the U.S. hundreds of years ago -- were stripped of their lands, destroyed by colonial hands or disease, and otherwise decimated by the colonial system.  So to talk about Ponce de Leon, an understandably famous explorer, within the language of celebration ("A public conference commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of the landing of Juan Ponce de León on Florida shores" -- commemoration associated, more often

Monday, January 09, 2012

SandF Season Three, Ep. 1 (Anticipating 2012 in Our Rockets of Doom) is Live!

The first episode of the third season takes us back to a normal numbering system and a long and arduous discussion of our most anticipated 2012 SF/F/H movies, TV shows, and books.

You can check out the episode here, and you're more than welcome to leave a comment below or at The Skiffy and Fanty Show webpage with your 2012 selections too!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Black Santa Chronicles (or, Why Size Really Matters)

This is the story of Black Santa and his wife, Black Santa's Wife.  They also go by Black Father Christmas and Black Father Christmas' Wife (I assume the missus has a proper name or title of her own, but I can't find it).
Don't they look like a happy couple?  Well, perhaps not, but that may have more to do with my brother's photography skills and subject placement than anything else.  Still, with that bushy beard and the beautiful purples and pinks and those adorable gold wings, you'd think they'd be a happy couple (unless, of course, that additional statue in the background is there to imply that Black Santa is, in fact, an unfaithful jerk; but that would be too easy a stereotype, now wouldn't it?).

Now let's bring White Santa into the picture, shall we?

Friday, January 06, 2012

Fantasy and Moral Ambiguity: Repetition Rears Its Ugly Head

Author Bryan Thomas Schmidt has taken a stab at author/editor James L. Sutter's Suvudu post on why moral ambiguity in fantasy is a good thing.  In said stabbing, Schmidt makes some well-worn arguments about why moral ambiguous fantasy presents problems for society, but the bulk of his argument -- in my mind -- rests on a bed of false assumptions.

For example, Schmidt argues that our world is one beset with nihilism and moral ambiguities fermented by the entertainment industry.  He suggests that
We are bombarded with images of violence, sex, language, etc. which of things, people, places being torn apart. We are shown these as motivated by impurities and negative motives more often than pure motives. And we are told that’s because human beings will always go that way by nature. While I do believe in the depravity of man, I also believe man has the capacity to grow and reach beyond natural tendencies and become so much better than that. And that’s what I want from my heroes. While I don’t want unflawed, perfect heroes—who can relate to those either—at the same time, I do want to know who should win; who is on the right side. 
Underlying this argument are two problems:  1) the assumption that the media overwhelming fails to provide us with morally ambiguous or questionable heroes who we can root for, and 2) the

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Reminder: the 2011 Holiday Logo Design Contest -- 3 Days to Go!

If you haven't entered already, you should!  Free t-shirts and book money are hard to come by, after all.

The rules are located here.  Read them, do some drawing, and enter!