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!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Addendum to the Redemption Post: A Set of Apologies and Conclusions

As some of you are aware by now, I wrote a post entitled "On Forgiveness and Redemption (Storify)."  The post contained (obviously) a Storify of a series of tweets I made some time ago.  I received some pushback to this at the time, some of it public and some of it privately.  At the time, I didn't quite understand the degree to which privilege, power, and so on were involved in the situation (especially my own), which is one of the many reasons I chose not to respond to Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and others who felt it important to speak to me about what I had written.  This issue again cropped up yesterday (and this morning) when I became involved in spreading misinformation about a related concern (more on that below).  I am now in a position where I both feel I am not quite able to disentangle my own emotional investment from what is going on, but yet feel compelled to issue a statement, several apologies, and a declaration of future intent.*

All of these posts will be left online unless requested otherwise.  I generally disagree with deleting Tweets or posts solely because I may have been wrong or criticized -- except in cases where I have been specifically asked to do so by an individual who feels that the continued existence of such materials does more harm than good (or where keeping them there might have a detrimental effect on my person).  As such, I will leave these things as they are.  If you are someone who has been harmed by something I have written and you would like that thing removed, I will respect your wishes and delete it -- emails requesting as much will be kept confidential.

First, some apologies:
  1. I must reiterate my apology to Kari Sperring for my behavior on 4/29/15.  In brief, I spread misinformation about what occurred at a panel at Eastercon because I believed the account to be accurate.  I then proceeded to report that incident to the Eastercon chair.  At the time, I did not know who had made the alleged statement, but it was revealed late last night that the accused was Kari Sperring.  This morning, I came to the conclusion that the incident report was not accurate and that my actions (speaking about banning whoever said it and sending a response to Eastercon's chair) was inappropriate.  I have apologized to both Eastercon's chair and Kari for everything I have done.  I should not have assumed the account of the "incident" at Eastercon was wholly accurate, nor should I, as someone who did not attend Eastercon, have reported the "incident" to Eastercon.  Hearsay is insufficient grounds for doing either of these things.  I also should not have stated that anyone should be banned from a convention I did not attend and who had not even had a chance to respond to an allegation.  I assumed, and I leaped.  For all of this, I apologize.

    That I know I should not have done these things does not absolve me of guilt for doing so.  My actions have caused someone harm, and it was clear that my intent was to do so from the start, albeit of a professional sort.  That harm, however, extended beyond the professional to unintended personal harms on the part of Kari (which I won't discuss because that is not my place).  For that, I also apologize.
  2. I must apologize to those who felt my previous post on redemption diminished or devalued the real pain many still feel as a result of past interactions with Requires Hate.  Though it was not my intention to devalue those experiences, the net affect amounted, I suspect, to the same, and that is not something I want my words to produce for anyone.  I apologize for doing so and for opening or throwing salt in any wounds.  I should have understood that even given time, many people still have legitimate pain that may not ever go away, and that writing even from my own experience the value of redemption and its necessity for this community could only worsen those feelings.  I cannot speak for everyone, and I should not try.  In essence, I think my comments have done more harm than good.  For that, I also apologize.
  3. I must apologize that it has taken me so long to issue a response.  I realize that this may have given the impression that I was either walking away or not interested, but I assure you that I stepped back and took so much time because some people both public and private spoke candidly with me about what I wrote and impressed upon me, perhaps unintentionally, the importance of not leaping in again.  That I then leaped indicates that they were right from the start.  It would be wrong of me to send off another stream of tweets when I am certain that doing so would not come from a position of near-objectivity.  It would also be unfair for me to do so when so many people expressed their concerns to me personally under the assumption that I would actually listen.  Their assumptions were correct, and so I must come to this response with respect for them, as they gave their respect to me.
Lastly, a few thank yous:
  • Thank you to every single person who has called me out, publicly or privately, for my various failures over the years, but especially now.  That so many of you have felt comfortable enough telling me why I was wrong is a complement I suspect you didn't intend to give.  I often feel that I don't deserve the respect that so many of you have offered, and yet you continue to offer it.  Thank you for that vote of confidence, even as I flounder and shove my foot far down my own throat.
  • Thank you also to those who have pointed out to me that my privilege extends beyond the nature of my birth, that indeed what I say in public can have an affect on many people by dint of my being a figure of some authority in this community.  It is something I have struggled to understand because I too often think that I am not important enough to have that kind of impact, but it is clear that I was mistaken.  I suspect most people don't like being told they are privileged, and that may have been the subconscious reasoning for my refusal to accept it, but I am glad that it has been pointed out to me so I can make better use of that privilege for, well, good things.
Having written everything I have written here, I have come to the conclusion that I need to do a few things.  

First, I need to back away from the conversation.  I am no less prone to kneejerk reactions and instinctual leaps than anyone else, and my connection to many different conversations within sf/f and my own emotional investments have led me to a range of bad decisions, responses, and opinions.  It is clear to me that I need to do my best to "detox," to remove the impulses that lead me to accept things that confirm what I already believe and reject what I don't already believe (specifically, to the issues found in this post).  I also need to do a better job of understanding myself, my privilege(s), and the ways in which I mobilize these things towards intended or unintended goals.

Second, it is clear to me that so much of what I have been writing and discussing in the past month or more has been overtly negative.  It seems to me that this is a terrible use of my time and a contributor to the problems noted in the previous paragraph.  It is also clear to me that I should be doing more to positively contribute to the sf/f community.  Running a podcast isn't enough.  How I conduct myself online also matters.  And my conduct online has been, at times, poor.

I hope that people who have come to know me over the past few years will still feel inclined to tell me when I have crossed a line.  This is very much a learning process, and I am thankful that I have earned enough goodwill in this community to warrant respectful disagreements and criticism from so many.  My intention is to do better.  To be better.  I can't promise I will always succeed, but I can promise that I will try.


*One of the other reasons I did not respond at the time was the fact that I came down with a chest cold that lasted for two weeks, and from which I am still recovering.  This coupled with my emotional investments (if you read the Storify, that will make sense) led me to believe that it would be wrong of me to leap into response without reconsidering my own position in relation to what others had said.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On Legitimacy, Academia, and the Hugos (or, Someone Needs to Take a Class)

If you've been following the Hugo Awards fiasco, you might have come across Philip Sandifer's fascinating analysis of Theodore Beale / Vox Day, his followers, and the Hugos.  Sandifer has since become a minor target within the Sad / Rabid Puppies discussion, but not so much for what he actually said as for who he declares himself to be:  an educated man.  Why would this matter in a conversation about the Hugo Awards?  What is so offensive about being a PhD in English (or any other individual with a PhD in the humanities)?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Why I Don't Shop at Chain Bookstores (Often)

I live in a town which has very little in the way of independent bookstores.  There's one very tiny feminist bookshop, which is nifty, and a handful of comic shops, but there's little else.  If I want to shop somewhere that isn't a chain, department store, or Internet store, I have to wait for one of the two massive Friends of the Library events (one in the fall; one in the spring), which is always a zoo and hardly conducive to calm browsing.  Basically, I have few options.

None of this would be a problem if I still had access to a Borders or a good independent bookstore.  Back in the old days of living in Santa Cruz (pre-2009), Borders was my go-to-chain.  It had a decent enough selection and little of the stresses that other chains often created.  Their membership club was free (and for a time offered "points" for purchases, which you could add up to discounts later on), too.  It wasn't the only bookstore I went to, of course.  There was a great used bookstore in the part of town (called Logo's) and a wonderful independent bookshop with superb selection.  Basically, downtown Santa Cruz was the ultimate bookshopping spot for me.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Non-US SF/F Fandom Survey: Perspectives on the Hugo Awards

As you might have heard, I've been working on a survey for non-US sf/f fans to get their perspective on the Hugo Awards (as the title suggests).  That survey went live yesterday.  If you are a non-US sf/f fan, please consider taking the survey to give your thoughts!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Future Blogging Game Plan Thing: Opinions Welcome

As I mentioned on Twitter the other day, I've started putting together a new structure for my online writing.  Today, I offer up one possible restructuring effort.  Your opinions are always welcome, even if you fundamentally disagree with the whole endeavor.

On a side note:  I do plan to move this blog to its own website soon (to coincide with my own personal site).  I don't know if I will keep the World in the Satin Bag name, though I probably should.

Here is the structure I'm considering:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

For someone who considers themselves a fan of Elizabeth Bear's work, I sure haven't talked about her work all that much on this blog.  Two of my favorite science fiction novels -- Carnival and Dust -- were written by Bear, so it should come as no surprised that her latest novel, Karen Memory, would entice me equally as much as her much earlier work.  This novel, of course, is not the same kind of thing as Carnival and Dust, both more connected to a long and storied tradition of science fictional writing.  Karen Memory is delicious late 19th-century pulp pastiche steampunk!

Monday, April 20, 2015

5 Lesser Known SF/F Cold War Films

It seems Ian Sales and I are playing a list challenge game, and this list is sure to disappoint him this round.  Why?  Because I'm pretty sure two of the options on my list don't actually qualify except in my head.  But we do what we can, no?

This time around, I was challenged to come up with a list of 5 lesser known Cold War films that fit roughly in the sf/f genre.  The rules were as follows:
  • The film must be sf/f-ish (duh)
  • The film must be set in the historical period called the Cold War OR
  • The film must directly engage with the Cold War via alternate or future history (metaphors and obscure allegories do not count)
  • The film must be "lesser known" based on my interpretation of that phrase
Now for the list:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Shaun's Terrible Book Covers: With Great Power by @_terri_jones

In case you missed it on Twitter, I playfully suggested that I would draw the cover art for someone's book if they sent me a description for a scene.  And I promised the art would be bad, because I'm no artist.

One brave victim responded to my call:  Terri Jones.

And this is what I came out with:

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Long List of Writing/Blogging Projects I Want to Do

As you may recall, I mentioned that I had started to reconsider the future of this blog and my various blogging/podcasting/writing projects.  The conversation preceding and surrounding that post have led me here:  a post about the things I would like to do.

Obviously, I cannot do all of these things, but I know these are projects I want to complete or pursue at some point in my life.  Your opinions on anything listed here is greatly appreciated.  If anything leaps out at you as something you'd really be interested in, let me know in the comments.  You're also welcome to suggest things, as it's possible I've forgotten something.

In the Duke's Sights: Danielewski, Carroll, Butcher, and Helgadóttir

In the Duke's Sights is a regular column where I talk about the various books and movies that grabbed my interest in the last week.

Destroying the Novel So Your TV Will Make Sense!

I won't pretend to fully understand all of Danielewski's work, but I own all of it and find his refusal to participate in normal novel writing fascinating.  His latest novel, The Familiar Vol. 1, is apparently a deconstruction of the television series.  io9 has some great shots of the weird formats in the book, which are, as Danielewski is known for, just plain weird.

The book doesn't come out until next month, so you'll have plenty of time to pre-order.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On Forgiveness and Redemption (Storify)

[Update:  since a number of people are reaching my blog via this page, please see this addendum post, which includes an apology and other things related to this post.]

You'll need to click the "read more" because the darn Storify is so long that it floods my main page.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

On the Future of This Blog and My Bid for World Domination

Earlier today, I had a rather revealing conversation with Jay Garmon, Fred Kiesche, and Paul Weimer about Patreon, blogging, and being successful at both (Patrick Hester was also there, but he just wanted to talk about donuts...).  As you know, I have a Patreon page.  Over the last week or so, I've been wondering why it hasn't been more successful given that this blog does have a few hundred readers and that I think I'm providing good content for sf/f-minded folks.  Granted, I never expected anything nearly as successful as Kameron Hurley's $800-and-climbing Patreon page for obvious reasons:  she's selling fiction (I'm not, though I wish I were); she's sf/f famous (I'm kinda not really); and she has enough follows to drown a human being in a pool of bodies (I don't).  But I thought it might be a little more successful.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Adventures in Teaching: Space Opera Course Recommendations?

In the upcoming fall semester, I will be teaching an upper division modern science fiction course on American space opera.  That's right.  A whole entire course just on American space opera.  Though I have a few ideas for texts to teach, I realize that space opera is a massive field and that I would be remiss not to poke the infinite knowledge of other science fiction fans for works I might otherwise have missed or which might serve my needs better than the things in my head.

With that in mind, I'm looking for space opera recommendations!  As of right now, I'm strongly considering teaching E.E. "Doc" Smith, Joe Haldeman, Tobias Buckell, Alfred Bester, Samuel R. Delany, Lois McMaster Bujold, and C.J. Cherryh.  I have a lot of titles, but I'm not sure what I will choose to focus on just yet.  Given the scope of the course, I may be limited in how much I can actually explore.

So what am I looking for?

Thursday, April 09, 2015

In the Duke's Sights: Speakeasies, the Brooding Octavias, Tax Kings, Sorrows, and Machines!

It's time to create a new semi-regular column where I talk about things that I'm eyeing for whatever reason and things that I'm currently enjoying (also for whatever reason).  Because what could you want more than anything else in the world than my haphazard thoughts about random pieces of upcoming (or old) sf/f literature, film, and so on?  Assume you can't have pie as an alternative, because I can't compete with pie.

So here we are:  on the cusp of discussing exciting new and old and time-indeterminate things!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

5 Reasons I Won't Read Your Work

Having reviewed books somewhat spottily for over half a decade, I've developed a mental checklist to use when deciding whether I will read or review a book.  Most often, I just don't have the time to read 159,997 novels in a year, so I turn down a lot of reviews because I know I won't be able to get to it.  Otherwise, I usually reject a novel for one of the follow reasons:

My #HugoAwards Final Ballot (To Be Submitted in the Future)

Over the weekend, I explained why I intended to use No Award and Blank Spacing as a response to the Sad Puppies / Rabid Puppies campaign to manipulate and take over the Hugo Awards.  Since I am fundamentally opposed to slate-based voting measures, I can't in good conscience support works which appear on this year's ballot as a result of the SP/RP slates.  And so I won't.

Others, of course, may have different views.  TheG intends to give most things on the ballot a fair shake under the guise that voting No Award would unfairly punish those that are on the ballot but are otherwise not really part of the SP/RP world.  He admits, though, that this is hardly a strong response.  Where we do agree, however, is that there are some problematic cases here.  Some folks are on the ballot who didn't know they were included in the SP/RP slate and would have declined if they had known.  However, I'm of the mindset that support for anything on the ballot may be perceived as tacit support for the entire campaign -- a point on which Abigail Nussbaum and I agree.

With that said, voting will be rather easy for me, since the SP/RP folks have taken almost every slot on this year's ballot.  Here's what my ballot will look like when I'm allowed to submit it (feel free to lob your disagreements or what have you in the comments):

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

10 Reasons I'm a Feminist

What's that?  I'm a feminist?!  Yup.  A wicked awesome feminist who wears Feminist Cannons on his shoulders and shoots Holy Feminist Balls at sexism.  Or something like that.

Something I've never done before is provide some kind of explanation for why I am a feminist.  Hence this post.

Here are the ten reasons I am a feminist.  Feel free to list yours in the comments!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

"No Award" and "Blank Spacing" the #HugoAwards -- The Only Response I Can Make to What is to Come

The Hugo Award ballot has been announced, and if you've been paying attention to Twitter, it's certainly controversial.  Not controversial because a novel everybody loved didn't make it.  Not controversial because a novel a whole lot of people didn't love did make it.  Controversial because some people have taken it upon themselves to game the system in order to create and relish in political chaos.

That last sentence would certainly sound melodramatic if not for the fact that the proponents of a certain ballot-to-be-copied hadn't already publicly stated that one of their guiding purposes for last year's rendition of this political fiasco was as follows:
"We got in [7 or 8] Hugo nominees [out of 10 or 11 that we pushed]...and ah man, all hell broke loose.  It was the end of the world.  So we had a lot of fun with that.  We made our point.  I said that if people who are not politically acceptable to these clicks are nominated for an award, the other side will have a come apart...and then, they pretty much did exactly what I said in a very public manner.  And we had fun with it."
In short:  they sought to create chaos and unrest in order to make a political point.  And when they succeeded, they relished in it.  Perhaps this is all facetious dribbling, but it does illustrate a clear contradiction:  this whole thing has never been about the quality of the work.  If it were, the intent would not be so blatantly political and so blatantly at odds with the spirit of the awards.  That any of these folks can utter something like the above in one breath and claim to respect the Hugo voter and the Hugo nomination process in another is a supreme sort of cognitive dissonance.  That some involved in this campaign can also claim that the act is not capital-P political is like courting madness with Cthulu.

As a result, the ballot has been flooded by Sad Puppies.

If this whole thing had begun simply as people sharing their love of X, I would not have to write this post.  I would not have to think of my ballot as a political tool, either.  I could look at what was there and make a judgment about the works, not the intent behind their inclusion.  Voting is already political enough, even in something as seemingly innocuous as the Hugo Awards.  I don't appreciate being put into a position where "intent" actually matters, since the only thing that should matter is the work.

But that's not how this began.  It was and remains a political campaign to game the system for personal and political gain.  It's not the same as Wheel of Time fans realizing they can all nominate their favorite fantasy series and then doing so.  It's not the same as fans who love X nominating X.  It's people with a political ax to grind taking advantage of that system to make a point.  This action shifts the voting process from small-p political, whereby one's everyday politics organically produces certain taste values or perspectives, to cap-P Political, whereby voting itself is treated as a political act separate from the preservation of small-P political interests.  That's the difference between "I love this thing because it's about the kind of stuff I enjoy" and "I'm nominating this thing to make a point to people with whom I disagree."

I take the Hugo Awards seriously as an award and as a process, and so I can't offer my support for any campaign of this type, whether it comes from liberals, conservatives, anarchists, socialists, feminists, capitalists, etc.  I don't care about the particulars of the politics.  I do not believe the Hugos should be a battleground for sf/f's infighting.  For that reason, I believe that if your intent is to use the Hugos to make a political point first and foremost, then I am obligated and justified to use my ballot to make a clear statement about the works which will be nominated as a result.  In this respect, I view the Hugos in much the same way as Abi Sutherland:
My Hugo nominations and votes are reactions to that broadening-out of my mental universe. As such, they’re intimately, intensely personal. And that’s part of the visceral reaction that some fans are having to the Sad Puppies’ slate: it looks like the institutionalization of a private, particular process in the service of an external goal. It comes across as a coarsening and a standardizing of something that should be fine-grained, unpredictable, and unique to each person participating. It seems like denial of variety and spontaneity, like choreographed sex.
As such, I suspect I will leave a good number of items off of my ballot in protest.  Since the Hugo Awards use a preferential voting system, any item which appears on your ballot will receive a vote of some kind when the ballots are counted.  Putting No Award as the last item on your ranked list means anything left off the ballot doesn't get any "points."  This is not preferable, since the "No Award" should be used to say "I don't actually think this is good enough."  Last year, I mostly used the "No Award" for its intended purpose; in fact, some of the works on last year's ballot from people who I'm sure are part of the "evil liberal conspiracy to destroy science fiction" didn't make it far on my ballot because I just didn't enjoy them.  Because that's how I normally vote:  based on my subjective sense of the quality of the work, which is, to varying degrees, influenced by my small-P political values.

This year, however, it is clear that there is no reasonable way to treat the ballot as a reflection of what people loved in the sf/f field.  It is a manipulated ballot.  A broken ballot.  And I suspect that it will result in a lot of bad blood within sf/f for years to come.  Nobody should relish in this projected future; unfortunately, I suspect a few might.

None of this is preferable.  I don't want to do any of this.  There are people who are on the slate who I actually like as people (and think are decent writes, too).  But I don't feel as if I have any other reasonable choice.  In my mind, preserving the Hugos as a worthwhile award means preserving its spirit.  Bloc-voting, etc. does not serve that interest regardless of its origins.

So that's how I intend to proceed from this point on.  If your intent is to manipulate the ballot for political gain, I will "blank space" the ballot in response.

Nominate what you love.  Leave your political agendas at the door.  That is all.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A Story Out of Time and Place and the Escape Hatch of Fantasy: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) -- Retro Nostalgia

With the monumental success of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (dir. Chris Columbus; 2001), Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (dir. Peter Jackson; 2001), and their immediate sequels, Hollywood perhaps hoped to capitalize on the epic fantasy feel of Tolkien's narrative and the young adult/children's audience that so fervently devoured the Harry Potter books.  Naturally, they turned to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

If I'm honest, I'm quite a fan of the Narnia films even as I'm critical of their structure.  There's something deliciously joyous about portal fantasies wherein children are whisked away to save the world, hanging out with talking beavers and every fantasy creature under the sun.  Narnia was wish fulfillment for me in so many ways.  Adventure?  Check.  Epic scale?  Check.  Kids becoming greater than themselves?  Check.  It is a deeply hopeful series of films (and novels -- though I suppose The Last Battle might be perceived as rather "doomsday-ish" today).  Sometimes, one needs a little optimistic, no?  The first of these films, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (dir. Andrew Adamson; 2005), is perhaps the strongest as a narrative, but it also has its problems.  Granted, these are problems which make more sense in a certain perspective, even if they don't quite work in film.