last call for the secret blog discount, but first call for…

Last call for the Secret Blog Discount sale! All pay things on Bandcamp – meaning all music, and both Free Court of Seattle novels in paperback – are 25% off with this checkout code which expires TODAY!


But! There’s a surprise sale on Amazon for author Angela Highland’s other books. Carina Press didn’t notify her, they just did it. So if you’re interested in her other series – the Rebels of Adalonia novels – Valor of the Healer is a staggering 99¢ right now. G’wan, get it – at 99¢, it’s not even really splurging.

new raptor

With a new Raptor-class shuttle comes new landing tolerances. I didn’t have the traditional tennis ball, so I just used a bit of old muppet pelt.

I sure could use some help counting to four!

And if you’re in the Seattle area, the surplus one’s up for sale.

some things which leapt out at me

A couple of impressions leapt out at me from the Norwescon 38 panel photos posted on Facebook on Friday. It’s only a small number of photos – eight pictures, representing seven panels. One of those panels was one of my nwcMUSIC panels; “What the Frak is Filk?” if I remember correctly.

First, let’s get one big thing said up front; I don’t want to make undue guesses about race, but at least in photos, this looks like Mighty Whitey Incorporated. That’s a problem.

But also, let’s talk about this:

        men          women      recognisably gender-variant
         1             0                   0
         3             1                   0
         5             0                   0
         3             0                   0
         2             2                   0 **
         1             2                   0
         0             1                   0
        15             6                   0

**: One of mine; I actively work to gender-balance nwcMUSIC panels.

Now, I work this con. I’ve worked it for years. I know the last couple of heads of programming. I know they’re trying not to do this – moreover, they’re trying specifically not to do this. And Programming Head has told me that the list of attending pros and performers actually is roughly equal. So in reality: they aren’t doing this.

And yet, despite all those facts, here are the numbers we see represented in these photos:

Excluding single-person panels (one reading, one workshop):
          Male panelists: 14
          Female panelists: 5
          Women are 26.3% of panelists.

Including single-person panels:
          Male panelists: 15
          Female panelists: 6
          Women are 28.6% of panelists

Multiperson panels, majority male: 3
Multiperson panels, majority women: 1
Panels gender-balanced: 1
          Women are a majority in 20% of panels;
          Men are a majority in 60%.

In majority-female panels, 33% of panelists are men.
In majority-male panels, 8% of panelists are women.

Excluding single-person presentations/workshops:
          Panels without men: 0
          Panels without women: 2

Including single-person:
          Panels without men: 1
          Panels without women: 3

Sure, it’s a small number of photos, of a small number of panels. But it’s what’s posted. It’s what’s online right now.

And remember all those things I’ve talked about, how 17% women is representationally balanced and 33% women is seen as kind of being ‘mostly women’? Well…

Again, and I really want to stress this, these are not representative. But that’s kind of the point: they aren’t representative, but you can’t tell that from the photos. The reality doesn’t show up here.

What does show up here are the choices made about which panels to photograph and which photographs to post. From a record-of-events standpoint, a perceived history standpoint, those choices override the reality.

And that’s called erasure. Not in a big way; in a very small way, in fact. A grain of sand, striking a mural on a wall. But one grain of oh so many.

I do not believe or even suspect for a second that the photographers or the social media group did this shifting on purpose. I truly, genuinely, do not. Do not go after them.

But the numbers say that it happened nonetheless. I didn’t go looking for it; it leapt out at me, and then I did the numbers to see whether I was making it up. I wasn’t. And so it proceeds.

This comes in a context. I was just reading about studies showing that two and three year old children play with gender-assigned toys when adults are around, but that they play freely across toy gender boundaries when they think adults aren’t watching.

That’s how ingrained this is, that’s how deep it runs, and how early. Two-year-olds get it. You don’t need conscious sexism, or even adult- or teen-acquired sexism. It’s taught so early that the erasure is unconscious and automatic.

But still taught. Not instinctive, as the shift in playing habits shows. Taught. And learned.

An interview at Norwescon

Hey, the good folks at Wyldstyle Radio interviewed me about participatory culture and geekmusic at Norwescon during nwcMUSIC 2015, and they’ve let me know that they’ll be airing it Saturday evening! It’s scheduled for 5pm Cascadian/Pacific (6p Mountain, 7p Central, 8p Eastern). I haven’t heard it yet, so somebody listen in and let me know how I sounded, ok? (⌒▽⌒)

Saturday April 25th, 5pm Cascadian/Pacific

secret blog sale (sticky post)

There are a lot of new visitors here over the last week, and almost all of you are here for the Hugo Awards gaming/Sad Puppies articles. And that’s great – welcome!

But I am a musician, after all, so how about a welcome present. First: all pay things on Bandcamp are 25% off with this checkout code:


That includes all music, and both Free Court of Seattle novels in paperback, which I can stock and sell via arrangement with the author.

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i bet you didn’t see this coming

Let’s talk about ZARDOZ.

No, really. I mean it. ZARDOZ. More-infamous-than-famous John Boorman 1970s SF movie, a miscast Sean Connery, a wardrobe director presumably still on the run from Fashion Interpol, a giant flying stone head, ZARDOZ.

I’ve seen ZARDOZ a few times, as a bad film fan. And like most everyone who sees it, I laughed like a hyena. But… after seeing it a couple of times, I began to realise that underneath a lot of garbage… it’s not that bad a film. Yes, the wardrobe designer committed a great many sins; the decision to throw Sean Connery into safety-orange bandoliers certainly makes a statement, and that statement is, “you cannot stop laughing at Sean Connery in safety-orange bandoliers.” And yes, even aside from that, there’s a lot of 70s bullshit floating around.

But underneath all that, there are some interesting sciffy concepts being played with here, many but not all having to do with a society of immortals who survived the apocalypse but were forced to watch it and can’t deal with the combination of survivor’s guilt and boredom, and, along the way, what they then do with the survivors around them.

You can start to pick out that there’s a plan, in other words – both by characters and director – and you can start to pick at some of the weird philosophy being thrown around. There’s still a lot of affectation, and the ending is pretty incoherent, but you can see the bones of something in that wreckage.

Then Minion Paul dug out this, and gave it to me:

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what in the depths…

…of your stupidity do you Puppies want from me? Clear warning labels on anything which might have Teh Gay, apparently. Or on anything with deviation from Puppy Gender Roles, or, maybe, on anything they might find philosophically discomforting. (But wait, I thought “SJW”s being “too sensitive” was part of the problem? Oh, right, that’s other people, they don’t count.)

From a February discussion of what’s wrong wrong wrong with SF, on Puppy leader Brad Torgersen’s blog:

Stephen J. says:

“I for one would find it helpful if you would cite a specific novel that you see as having been deceptively packaged.”

The first example that comes to mind is Mercedes Lackey’s The Last Herald-Mage trilogy. Now this may perhaps not convince, as it is (a) quite old at this point — the books having been published in 1989, 1990 and 1991 — and (b) the “deception” is mostly a matter of omission rather than active misrepresentation, and furthermore an omission that is not necessary for people who had read Lackey’s first Heralds trilogy and recognized the protagonist Vanyel Ashkevron from that first series’ backstory. Nonetheless, I think it is significant that neither the books’ covers, nor any of the back-of-the-book summaries — the stuff, in short, that usually gets the browsing reader to pick up a paperback and buy it — mentions what is usually considered the most “important” aspect of Vanyel’s life story: the fact that he is gay. And it is not until the reader is at least 40% into the first book, and hopefully already well-engaged by the story, that this revelation is made not only about the character but to the character; in other words, the story is structured to draw readers in and then surprise them with that element, in such a way that I cannot help but think (though this is admittedly unproveable) it was deliberately designed to reach audiences who would not have bought the book if they had known about the hero’s sexuality right up front. It also seems plausible, to me at least, that given the high proportion of teenage readers of SF/F in any given decade, books which did not alert people who glanced at them on a desktop or shelf about content that might upset parents were also appreciated.

Screen capture here, in case somebody thinks I’m making this shit up.

Thanks to Nick Mamatas for finding and pointing this out.

You also have John C. Wright saying, as far as I can tell, that having a transgendered character exist at all in Magic: The Gathering counts as deceptive. (Here’s the story about her.) Also, you have “BikerDad” saying that he was mislead by a cover and a blurb he missed part of when skimming, so, I guess, if you have to read all the words in the blurb, that’s deceptive too?

Here’s another one from the first commenter. I don’t really want to pick on one person, but he’s just got it all. Damn those trixy, trixy authors, writing about things that aren’t obvious in the first chapter!

Stephen J. says:

For another more recent series which might be accused of concealing a message until the reader is hopefully too entangled in the story to turn away, I’d suggest Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. What begins as initially a cool young-adult peregrination adventure through a steampunk world, and later various multiple worlds, winds up culminating in an author tract against religion in general and Christianity in the specific, to such a degree that several people I’ve read who had no disagreement with the content of that message nonetheless felt Pullman’s heavy-handedness about it had spoiled the story. And as with Lackey above, the fact that this thematic and philosophical message is (in hindsight) clearly intentional all along, yet not explicitly manifested until the reader is well drawn in, suggests a certain degree of deliberate disingenuousness on the author’s part designed to “catch” readers who might not normally have been drawn by that story.

(Screencapture, as before.)

It’s worth nothing that these (and there are more) all come from Brad’s semi-infamous “Unreliable packaging” post, where one of the great Puppy complaints is quite literally that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Take it, Brad:

A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.

These days, you can’t be sure.

I’m not the first to talk about this; I won’t be the last. But I haven’t just gone out and posted about it before, because normally, when I post, I want to provide some analysis. But I can’t. It’s just so damned stupid.

Except for one thing.

To my mind, what they’re really saying here, in these comments, is that they don’t want to have to consider the possibility that works about people and ideas they don’t like even exist. That in and of itself is too great a burden to bear, and constitutes SJW’s Destroying SF.

They’re complaining about needing to filter works in order to avoid stories that include us, and that this filtering process is just too difficult, and by god, they’re mad as hell about it, and aren’t going to take it anymore.

Arguably, I already said that, when I said it’s “just so damned stupid.” But it’s also lazy. And, I think, most of all – it’s deeply, profoundly, petulant.

Way to live down to antique stereotypes, guys. Well done.

This is part of a series of posts on the “Sad Puppy” gaming of 2015 Hugo Award nominations.

eta: Welcome, Arthur Chu fans! Despite all the Puppies posts lately, I’m actually a geek musician. You can listen to our new neo-Celtic fantasy novel soundtrack album by hitting play on the gadget in the upper left, or pick individual tracks on Bandcamp.

Also, we’re having a Welcome All Zerg Rushers discount as a welcome present. Thanks for stopping by, and, again, welcome!

some evolving strategies

Before getting to it – welcome, Freethought, Making Light, and John Scalzi readers! I don’t think I’ve ever had so busy a Sunday before, and suddenly Monday is getting quite lively as well. I’ve got a new album on the left; you can hit play while you read, if you like.

I’ve seen some possible evolution of strategy from a few of the major Puppies over the last few days. One is pretty minor: letter-writing campaigns against writers who write about Puppies in ways they dislike. A second involves the use of endorsements and/or slates as sabotage. The third… well, we’ll get there.

First, John C. Wright has reposted the contents of his original hate-post about Legend of Korra and Korrasami. You remember, the one about worshipping the filthy phallic idol of sodomy, and all that.

Now that’s interesting, because at the same time, he’s tripling-down on the quoting-me-is-libel shtick that he threw at me, demanding this time that Popular Science fire a writer for talking about his post in ways Mr. Wright doesn’t like.

His main complaint seems to be that Mike VanHelder said Mr. Wright called LBGT people and allies “disgusting, limp, soulless sacks of filth,” when he only meant two people in particular, those being DiMartino and Konietzko, who… happen to be allies. As Mr. Wright proceeds to document. That would mean they are therefore part of that set of people, a.k.a. allies.

Apparently, this distinction – subset vs. set – is libel in Mr. Wright’s mind. Accordingly, he’s rallying his troops to write both Popular Science and their parent corporation, and demand Mr. VanHelder be dismissed.

Mr. Wright, this is not how libel works either. But by invoking libel in campaigns against other writers, we’re seeing a shift. GamerGate activists have done a lot of the same sorts of things: write about our movement in ways we don’t like, no matter how truthfully, and we will declare “libel” and retaliate. Fortunately, it’s not the same degree of retaliation – no rape-and-death-threats that I know of – but it’s still an interesting parallel.

And hey, look, everyone’s favourite racist Vox Day is targeting the same writer, for different but similar reasons. He, too, is crying libel, and he, too, has a letter-writing campaign started against Mr. VanHelder.

Is this coordinated? I don’t know, but the timing is noteworthy. Vox’s assertions include, and I quote, “Gamergate is not anti-feminist” – a comment too laughable to answer, given that it has been virulently so from the start – and “neither Sad Puppies nor Rabid Puppies courted any assistance from GamerGate.” This is demonstrably false, as has been noted many times.

Either way, it’s a strategy; co-ordinated “independent” complaint campaigns look larger than single campaigns, and targeting specific writers could be effective. Make an example or two, maybe people don’t want to write about you in ways you dislike anymore.

Vox also comment-posted an endorsement of The Three-Body Problem on File 770, saying it would’ve been on his Puppies slate had he known about it in time. (The Three-Body Problem was added to the Hugo shortlist after a previous Puppies nominee withdrew over the slate balloting, joining several others who have withdrawn.)

I can’t help but see this as a possible test of strategy, too: one of sabotage. “Oh, a non-Puppy work got elevated to the shortlist. I’ll endorse it and quasi-assign it to my ballot, retroactively, and see what happens.”

I still assert that voting NO AWARD above all slate nominations is the best strategy this year, because all slates must be refuted, regardless of origin. But we know from several sources that the Puppies tend to repeat this insanity again next year, again for political reasons. Vox has also promised that he do his best to make sure no Hugos get awarded if NO AWARDs win. We can’t really do much to fix this until at least 2017.

So given all that, I’m rather wondering if part of the Puppy plan next year will be to nominate works they want to see lose. Their slates have always been explicitly political, but they have generally been at least for works; now perhaps they will be against works.

That’s bad, too, and a more difficult problem. This year, quashing those sorts of experiments isn’t difficult; simply ignore these retroactive assignments and endorsements.

But next year, it will be much more difficult, and the system-gaming will be more intense. It may be so intense that it collapses, but I’m not that much of an optimist. I’m very much afraid that the 2016 awards will be a disaster of competing political slates, and that many of them will be sabotage slates.

I’m still also worried about the WSFS business meeting, particularly after GamerGate-affiliated Men’s Rights Activists lied about their affiliation to get a dealer booth at Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo. They were claiming to be with the webcomic Xenospora, but were actually with themselves and with A Voice for Men, one of the more virulent MRA groups. The Mary Sue has photos of the GamerGate banner at their booth, taken before they were asked to leave the convention for violation of terms of participation.

Their goal was to disrupt, and they succeeded to some degree before leaving. This now having been tried – albeit less than successfully – Sasquan needs to expect this sort of thing in Spokane. That’s not the only thing they need to worry about – I’ve alerted people on their concom of other issues they may need to expect which I will not detail here – but it’s yet another potentiality for their plate.

So. A bunch of possible testings-of-water, strategy-wise. Am I reading too much into this? Possibly. But given that some of them actively enjoy this whole destructive process – and in my experience, it’s actually many who do – I don’t think I’m over-reading here.

Finally, I don’t want to post without noting that we’re down another nominee – Black Gate has declined their Best Fanzine nomination, as had staff member Matthew David Surridge declined his before the original shortlist was even announced. It’s too late for Black Gate to be removed from the ballot, however; should they win despite withdrawing, I understand that’s the same as NO AWARD.

PS: Bryke “turned on” by “lesbian oriental teenagers,” John? Really? Really?

PPS: A reminder of what Bryan Konietzko had to say about the ending of The Legend of Korra.

a sense of scale

Oh no, you fuckers do not get to make me care about Star Wars again. You have no right.

But I am going to say a thing nonetheless, about storytelling with cinematography.

J.J. Abrams was always the wrong choice for Star Trek. Always. He never got it, and really, said so, in that infamous Daily Show clip everyone’s seen, and that failure to get it reverberated throughout his choices.

But I hoped, just hoped, that he might be a good choice for Star Wars. And that opening trailer shot says a lot about him getting it. At least some of it.

See, the first, opening shot in the original Star Wars? The Star Destroyer sequence? That’s about scale. It’s about setting a very, very large scope, without ever saying HAY LOOK HOW HUGE THIS IS. It’s about dropping you in there and just letting it happen… in a way you don’t expect. There’s that little misdirection with the kind of a little ship that was in SF films before Star Wars… and then things change, and you know the scales have moved.

And that’s exactly what this trailer does. Right out the gate. A little landspeeder going across a desert; a little ship, crashed, like you’ve seen before…

…and then things change, and the scales are moved. It does so more successfully than either of the prequel films I saw managed at any point. The prequels mostly just looked busy and overly-concerned with minutia and, as a result, kind of… small.

There is more sense of largeness in this one shot opening the trailer than both of the prequel films I saw managed to achieve, combined.

And unlike with Star Trek‘s early promotional shots, this isn’t about just duplicating previous material effectively. Those looked good too – but they were duplications, re-creations. The same shots, staged with new actors.

This isn’t that. This isn’t just repeating but bigger. This is showing how to parallel, without duplicating.

You can’t take very much from a teaser-trailer. People have noted that Phantom Menace‘s teaser trailers looked pretty good too. But for J.J. Abrams to get this right, so very effectively… maybe there’s hope it won’t be the only thing he gets right.

nominees bowing out; a variety of puppies and responses

On top of everything below, I’m mad that this Puppies slate-voting/nominations-gaming stunt happened this year in particular.

I know that’s selfish, but we don’t get a lot of Cascadian Worldcons; I know, I’ve been involved (at low levels) with a few failed bids. But more, a friend of mine won the competition to do the Hugo Award base. I was really happy for him, and now he gets to deal with this.

I mean, the whole mess is overtly political bullshit, done for overtly political reasons, mostly – when it comes right down to it – for spite, to Show Those People What. And while plenty of people have been hurt by this – to the distinct pleasure of some on the Puppy side, since after all, that’s kind of the point – it’s a little more personal when it’s people you know.

Anyway. I’ve assembled a bunch of links off to other people talking about the Puppies, including – talking of people being hurt by it – Annie Bellet removing her story from the ballot, and Marko Kloos removing his novel. I had most of these already yesterday, but I wanted to keep one day clear of it.

Here are all of my posts on the topic so far; they’ve also all been added to the Sexism and Racism in Geek Culture masterpost, which is on the left in “Collections.” Or, you know, right here.

  • On Buying some Hugo Awardstm, and voting No Award
  • We’d Better All Be Ready To Go To The Business Meeting, on gaming the rules change process itself
  • On Brad Torgersen and Crocodile Tears, and the Correia/Torgersen attempts to distance themselves from the white supremacist they invited into their campaign
  • A Predicable? Doubling Down, wherein I respond to Brad Torgersen’s assertion that anyone opposing the Puppy slate are Leninist Communists
  • Some Puppies Are Deleting Things, wherein I repost and/or link to caches of material various Puppies – mostly John C. Wright – have tried to hide via deletion or just pretend never happened. Too bad that’s not how the internet works, guys. Also wherein I get accused of libel by John C. Wright for quoting John C. Wright. That’s not how libel works, either. Possibly to be followed by John C. Wright coming over here and yelling at me for this, too, because wow, John C. Wright vanity searches a lot, and this will totally come up in John C. Wright’s John C. Wright search results. Hi John!

eta: I am adding to this list as I find more things today, some of which are kind of hilarious, some of which are kind of pathetic, some of which are both. Enjoy?

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