Steampunk without POC is so 1899

Saw the other day that Hullaballoo, a new steampunk animation project by former Disney animators, reached it’s funding goal on IndieGoGo. Good for the project. It looks like a worthy one. The animators involved want to prove that hand-drawn, 2D animation is still where it’s at. I’m down. The story takes place in a cool steampunk world and has two female leads. More down. The animators themselves are not all white dudes. Very down.

But then we come to the characters. All of them are white.

hullabaloo poster

Seriously??

When I pointed this out to Mary Robinette Kowal, one of the voice actors, she pinged the producer to bring up this point. The answer she got was that the team didn’t have time to make changes to the trailer and concept art before the IndieGoGo campaign, but that there would be a “diverse cast.” Mary also suggested that raising this question in the comments on the IndieGoGo page would not be a bad idea.

I agree. But that shouldn’t be the limit to where we raise that question. It needs to go on the Facebook page, mentioned in YouTube comments, brought up via the contact form on the website, and raised wherever you see someone posting about this project.

Because while I do really want to see this succeed, it would be ridiculous to make a steampunk film with only white characters. There’s no justifiable reason for this cast not to be racially diverse. Even if we’re sticking with Victoriana, it would not break the world to make one of the protagonists Indian, Black, or Asian, just to name three obvious choices among many. And let’s not stop there–diversity among secondary and background characters is just as important as it is for the leads. Hullabaloo could be a great opportunity to show what a racially and culturally diverse steampunk world could be like.

So my challenge to you is this: make that happen. Tweet, post on Facebook, leave a comment on the IndieGoGo page, write blog posts about this. Advocate for positive change. The time to do so is now when the project is still in a nascent form.

Does Food As A Racial Metaphor Have Roots In Fiction?

oreos

Over on the Code Switch blog they are contemplating why food items are so often used as a race metaphor when putting down “white-acting” POC. Black folks get called Oreos, Asian folks get called Twinkies or bananas, Native Americans get called apples. The post asks “Why are foods the stand-ins for all this racial ostracism?”

My theory is that it might have something to do with how food is used as a metaphor for describing a POC’s physical characteristics in fiction. We’ve had this conversation a lot about all the brown girls in fiction with skin the color of various coffee drinks or delicious chocolate, and that’s just mentioning the brown folks.

It’s been pointed out that very often POC skin, hair, and other attributes are described not just in food-based metaphors but specifically commodity-based metaphors. Coffee, chocolate, ivory, porcelain, almonds. It all ties into the idea that the people being described are themselves commodities of a sort. And that’s a degradation, even if unintentional.

Calling a person a Twinkie or an Oreo is also about degradation, even though it’s an epithet hurled by people in the oppressed group instead of from outside of it. Wouldn’t be the first time marginalized folks mimicked the very oppressive structures they suffer under when dealing with people in-group. Where do you think colorism amongst Black folks comes from?

That’s my theory. What’s yours?

31 Days of Jewelry – Week 1 Roundup

Despite the lack of posts, I have been making jewelry every day. I just haven’t had the will to post about them one by one. So I made a strategic decision: for the rest of this project I will post pictures daily on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and G+ (links to my profiles there are on the sidebars) with the hashtag #31daysofjewelry. At the end of the week I’ll post pictures of everything here on the blog.

Each piece will have a price. If you see a piece you like, leave a comment or reply to say you want it. I’ll go by timestmp to determine who claimed it first, and then you’ll have 24 hours to confirm and arrange for payment. After that, next person on the list gets dibs.

I’ll call out any unsold pieces on the weekend roundup. Maybe they’ll even be a bit discounted!

With that business out of the way, onto the jewelry!

Turquoise Statement Necklace

Turquoise Statement Necklace — approx 20″

Used the last of my turquoise beads to make this statement necklace[1]. It’s got a copper clasp in the back.

Price: $20.

How Does Your Garden Grow

How Does Your Garden Grow? approx 23″

I made several versions of this necklace a few years ago. I discovered a bag of all the beads and realized I’d planned to make another at some point, so I got that done. I love the rose beads — and, as you’ll see, I still have quite a few. Trying to do them justice is the hard part.

Price: $20.

Blooming Rose

Blooming Rose

See? Lots of rose beads. I bought that leaf chain a long time ago and have tried valiantly to find the perfect use for it. When I finally hit on this I was extra pleased.

I’ll put the final hooks on before I ship them out. If you need sterling silver, let me know. I have some lovely shepherd’s hooks.

I also have enough roses to make at least one more pair of these, so if more than one person wants, I can accommodate.

Price: $10 ($12 with sterling silver hooks)

Green-Eyed Pendant

Green-Eyed Pendant

I actually don’t have a good name for this…

Thought a simple pendant would be nice. I’m going to put a nicer loop at the top before shipping it out. It works with the brown leather but will look just as nice on a silver chain. If you want a length of leather to go with, it’s an extra $1.

Price: $7

If you want any of these, just say so in the comments. First dibs gets it. I’ll email you (so leave a real email in the comment form). However, if you don’t respond to my email within 24 hours I’ll have to go on to the next person. So even if someone calls dibs first, if you want a chance to grab it go ahead and call second, third, etc. in comments.

Footnotes

  1. Not sure why giant and/or chunky necklaces are called “statement”. Don’t all necklaces make a statement?[]

31 Days of Jewelry – Day 4 “Rose Garden”

A few years ago I made a set of earrings called “Inwood Hill” wherein I tried to capture the essence of one of my favorite places in Manhattan. I still had some of the materials left over from that project, so I thought I’d tackle something similar. This is the result:

Rose Garden

Rose Garden

I’m a fan of asymmetrical earrings and long danglies. The one on the left is a bit heavy because of all the beads. But it’s easily made into a pendant — just run a chain or a leather strip through the top loop. If you’re into asymmetry then I bet wearing one earring and a matching necklace would suit you fine.

Rose Garden is $20 + shipping. I have some leather that will work for turning it into a necklace, which I’ll throw in for $3.

31 Days of Jewelry – Day 3

Finally had a stroke of inspiration and reworked the design of the necklace with the turquoise and jet beads. It’s now a really long necklace that’s meant to wrap around two or three times depending on the wearer’s preference. Here’s the final design:

Turquoise Cross

click to embiggen

I haven’t finalized the wire yet. I still need to find the right way to attach the cross so the wire isn’t going though the center. Also haven’t decided if this necklace needs a clasp or if it’s better off without one. Suggestions in the comments are welcome.

I had some beads left over–just enough for a matching bracelet.

Turquoise Cross bracelet

This one I won’t finalize until I sell it. Want to size it correctly for the wrist of the wearer.

Price for the necklace… I haven’t decided. It’s been a long time since I sold anything. What’s a good price? The bracelet I’ll sell for $10. If interested, holla!

31 Days of Jewelry – Day 2

Fall Earrings #1

I’m still working on re-designing that other necklace, so I went with something simple for my second day. They’re earrings in fall colors. Don’t ask what the stones are. I once knew, really I did. That knowledge is lost to me.

The hooks I’ll put on the final will be sterling silver. Here’s a more detailed closeup.

Fall Earrings #1 detail

Selling for $6 + shipping. If interested, drop a line in the comments.

Just Say No to One Planet, One Language

One of the things I find a wee bit annoying about this Slate piece on science fictional languages is that it heavily references Star Trek (not even real Trek but that JJ Abrams thing from 2009) yet keeps talking about all science fiction writers like we all do it this way. Granted, there are some literary examples given, but they are very few and not the focus the way Star Trek is.

Darmok and Jelad at Tenagra

Dathon is having none of your linguistic simplicity, no sir.

First, let’s talk about Trek and alien language and culture. The thing all TV and movie iterations of Trek have done is treat each planet like it has one culture and one language. This is why Uhura’s line about three dialects makes some small sense in the world of Trek because Romulus, Star Empire it may be, metaphorically represents one country. A country that is probably small in comparison to Vulcan or Earth since it’s made up of the descendants of refugees.

It’s the same with every Trek culture. Only the ones we see multiple times ever move away from homogeny. How many years and new series had to go by before we saw a non-white Vulcan? There was once an “albino” Klingon, but otherwise they’re generally dark-skinned in TNG-era Trek. They do have different head ridges as time goes on. Did we ever see a Cardassian that didn’t have the very same coloring, bone structure, and facial markings as the first one we saw?

Even the humanoid species that looked exactly human on the outside lacked variation: with few exceptions they were all white people. If we got wild there might be a green person or a blue person with funny horns, but always the same blue or green or whatever.

To go along with the thing where everyone on the planet looks the same (even the same haircut. Do Romulans even have barbers? They would have the most boring jobs ever) the cultures were always the same across the planet. Everyone would talk about how to deal with the Bajoran people or Trills or whatever as if there was only one way to do so. One culture, one society.

The only time I remember TNG-era addressing this was an episode in season 7 when 2/3rds of a planet applied to join the Federation while the other third wanted nothing to do with it. Still though, that’s just two societies on one planet.

I realize that this is part of the utopian vision of Star Trek. That as people of different planets evolved and mass/instant communication became possible, soon they would all become one global society. That’s certainly the way Earth is presented. In the 24th century we’re all one culture: American culture. You can pretend Picard is French all you like, even with his strangely British accent, but you cannot tell me he acts in any way specifically French or even in any way specifically like a man who grew up three centuries from now.

That’s not the point, of course. Because science fiction is about us, right now, and always has been. And I have no beef with that, theoretically.

However, my story in Federations was written specifically in response to TV science fiction ideas about homogeneous alien cultures. I reject them. And I believe a lot of good science fiction novel and short story writers do as well. Because we’re not constrained the way TV writers are.

As much as I’d love more alien cultural diversity in Star Trek, I recognize that it’s mostly metaphor. I also recognize that if we were going to be super realistic, TV episodes would be boring as hell. Can you imagine the tediousness of having to deal with multiple governments and cultures on every single planet? It’s hard enough to deal with just one.

If Star Trek can’t do more than one culture per planet, how do you expect more than three dialects of Romulan? Even if you adhere to the thinking of a planet = a country, most countries have more than three dialects going on. But in every episode we’d be figuring out how to talk to new aliens or even some the Federation has already met because they’re not in the Federation yet. The universal translator takes care of that for us and we can move on to the story.

For the sake of the narrative and simplicity you have to be willing to put up with some handwave.

That doesn’t mean the same applies to science fiction literature. It shouldn’t, at any rate. I wouldn’t assume that it does.

I’m not as up on my space opera as I probably should be, but I know for my own works I try to be careful about falling into planet = one culture thing. Same as I try not to fall into the Planet With A Universal Climate trope. The SF I’ve read using that is also usually more on the metaphorical side and I’m down as long as the author clearly knows what she’s about. It’s when authors get lazy that this becomes a problem.

It seems like an awful lot of work to have to come up with multiple cultures and societies and mention multiple languages and dialects when you write stories dealing with alien worlds or even colonized ones, right? That’s because it is. This is what makes fiction rich and complex. And no, it doesn’t mean having to work out every single detail, it just means not falling back on what’s easy. That’s okay for TV, not so much for literature.

Even though the Slate article is at pains to try and paint the single language thing as scientifically valid, I don’t see that as the way to go. From an alien perspective all of Earth’s languages might seem, at the core, to be all one. And on a certain level that might be right. That doesn’t mean it’s a universal truth, does it? The way different cultures use language has huge effects on how the people in those cultures think, and dealing with those differences has a huge impact on how we Earthlings deal with each other and how we’d deal with alien cultures.

I’m just sayin': leave the one language, one culture, one planet simplicity to TV. Because it’s TV.

31 Days of Jewelry – Day 1

I’m moving out of my apartment at the end of the year (lease is up, management company sucks) and so I’m taking the opportunity to divest myself of most of my stuff. I’ve been selling off bits of technology all summer[1], and now that it’s fall I’m ramping up my efforts. I have a ton of beads leftover from when I made jewelry semi-regularly.

my stash

My Stash!

I’m not taking all these beads with me, thus I need to make jewelry!

Every day for 31 days I’m going to make a new piece of jewelry and sell them here on the blog. Most of what I make will likely be small–bracelets, earrings–but I will make some necklaces, too. Whatever inspires me.

That said, my inspiration is a little rusty. I made my first piece today and while I guess it looks all right, it’s not what I think I envisioned when I bought the beads. here it is:

Turquoise and Jet Necklace draft

I haven’t quite figured out what I want to do with the cross at the center. This is just a draft–I’ll take it apart tomorrow and see how I feel about it.

Footnotes

  1. If you’re interested in the tech, just follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I post up stuff every week.[]

Short Stories: We Need More Venues For Discovery, Recs, and Discussion

John Chu Hugo Speech

John Chu accepting his Hugo Award, courtesy Scott Edelman on Instagram.

If you’re interested in the Hugo awards or just SFF awards in general, Justin Landon does an excellent job of breaking down the Hugo votes over at his blog. It’s fascinating to see how the instant run-off ballot affects who wins and provides insight into what voters are thinking (a little). It’s a long read but well worth it.

In the section discussing the short story ballot, this caught my attention:

Given the number of short fiction venues today, the Short Story category is becoming increasingly scattered, making it harder and harder to have a digestible slate of stories to choose from. Hopefully, the Hugo Awards can get a handle on this challenge and ensure a full nomination ballot in future years.

I’m not convinced that this is something that the Hugos or Hugo voters as a group can really change. There will continue to be a ton of great markets and plenty for people to read. There’s about to be an all-new magazine (Uncanny) that could, down the road, complicate the matter further.

What’s needed are more short story reviews and recommendations.

Locus reviews short fiction, of course. But Locus is for people involved in the business of writing and publishing and not so much for the average SFF reader and fan. Tangent still exists but I have no idea how relevant it is. The Fix is long gone. And I just plain don’t hear about most other short fiction review outlets, and I can’t be the only one.

This is one of the reasons why I started my favorite fiction posts. I read a lot of great fiction over the course of a year but might not be able to recall all my favorites once it came time to nominate. And I wanted a way to share stories I thought deserved attention and award consideration in a compact yet concrete way.

I’m really glad I have a high profile venue for those posts now in the form of io9[1]. This is the easily digestible list of recommendations Landon is looking for, I think. I would love for there to be more of them.

I wish that it was possible to have a Goodreads for short fiction so that people could rate, discover, and recommend with the same energy as novels get. I know there are some shorts with their own entries on Goodreads, but the last time I poked around it didn’t seem like the platform wanted that and there’s not a big community push behind it. I’d love to be wrong about that.

Is Goodreads itself the best place for this kind of thing? It’s a site and community that already exists, and I’m sure plenty of people who love novels are also down with shorts. Since I don’t spend much time on the site I honestly don’t know if it would work.

Is there a place to create such a community easily? As in not having to build something from scratch (who has time for that–no one)?

The short story/novelette categories in all our major awards could benefit from more discussion and engagement, I agree[2]. I just wouldn’t leave it up to the Hugos to figure that out.

Footnotes

  1. Don’t forget to head over today and look for the new post![]
  2. Don’t get me wrong: I love the story that won and agree that it deserves the honor.[]

A New Year’s Best Gives Me Thinky Thoughts About Existing Year’s Bests

Nisi Shawl

Yesterday a bit of news I’ve been sitting on excitedly finally went public. Aqueduct Press is going to start publishing a Year’s Best volume titled The Year’s Illustrious Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy! Nisi Shawl will edit, and I’m among a handful of fabulous volunteers who will help her by reading everything I can and suggesting stories for Nisi to consider. It’s like slush reading except I’m slushing through published stuff.

This dovetails nicely with my gig at io9 (new post up today!) since I’m already reading all the short fiction I can get my hands on. Any story I like that I also consider feminist will go on the recommended list.

If you have a story you think is feminist that was (or will be) published in 2014 and you want it considered for this year’s best, you can submit it for consideration using this form.

Before you ask me to define a feminist story, know that this is an ongoing discussion amongst the folks working on this project. Likely there will be a definition or idea included in the call for submissions, coming out in a little bit. For now I say: if you think your story is feminist, fill out the form.

I’m so excited that Nisi is editing this volume as I don’t think there are enough female Year’s Best editors, especially for science fiction. You find prominent women amongst the horror and fantasy editors, but guys dominate volumes that include SF. And while many of those guys are good editors, this situation just feeds into the idea that science fiction isn’t for women. You know how I feel about that stupid idea.

Nisi may also be the only POC editor of a current English language Year’s Best–please do correct me if I’m wrong. The fact that I can’t think of any says volumes. The Year’s Bests have been edited by mostly male (all likely cis), maybe all-white editors for years and years. Giving a black woman the editing gig for a new one is a great first step.

It’s shouldn’t be the last step, though.

I’d be really interested to see what would happen if Dozois or Horton decided to turn over or share editing duties for a year or two to someone like An Owomoyela or Andrea Hairston or Amal El-Mohtar or Nalo Hopkinson or Saladin Ahmed? How different in sensibility would those volumes look?

Some of the story choices might be the same as there are always ones that stand out and get near universal praise. I imagine that there would also be many stories in the books that wouldn’t even have been considered by the traditional editors.

It doesn’t end at Year’s Best volumes–of the few outlets that review short stories professionally, how many of the reviewers are women or people of color?

So much of the conversation around which stories are best is dominated by white guys. But the genre is changing via both the writers of stories and readers of them. I’d like to see that change reflected in the editors and reviewers, too. As I said, Nisi Shawl editing this Year’s Best is a great first step. Let’s make sure it’s not the last.

Do you subscribe to magazines?

stack of magazines

My io9 weekly fiction roundup continues apace. I decided that at the beginning of every month I would remind people that magazines need subscribers, and subscribing is awesome. Go, team! In searching for all the subscription links I took note of all the ways one can subscribe to the many and various SF zines. Where just a few years ago I complained about the lack of choices, now there are many. This makes me happy.

Side Note: Strange Horizons, what is up! There’s no way to subscribe in eBook format. The people are clamoring :)

I note that Amazon and Barnes & Noble are still not as helpful as they could be with subscriptions. Looks like many small press mags are in their systems, just not as subscribable entities. And certainly not with the fancy layout that the glossy magazines get (not that this is needed).

All this leads me to wonder how many people do subscribe to these zines, why, and what their experience is like. I’m just curious. We’ve moved into a time where tons of people can get content digitally, easily, for not too much money. How do lit mags fit into the stream of information coming at you?

And if you don’t subscribe to the magazines you read online: why?

“Why I Don’t Drink Anymore”

If you’ve been to my website recently you may have noticed that I changed the theme dramatically. Along with that I’ve been cleaning up some of the pages and making this place a more useful calling card for myself.

Right now I’m working on the Fiction page. It’ll probably be done by the time you read this. In the process of checking links I discovered that a story I published long, long ago at Abyss & Apex no longer exists on the website. That’s not a huge surprise. I think the archives got pruned long ago. And none of the editors working there now were working there back then.

I dug the page out of the Wayback Machine to reclaim the story, which I remembered as being rather short. I was right. Here it be:

Why I Don’t Drink Anymore

by not-K Tempest Bradford because I had a different pen name then

I’m sitting at my favorite café drinking absinthe when this guy comes up to me.

You’re a writer, aren’t you? he says.

Yeah, I says. How did you know?

You have that Hemingway thing going on, he says. Sitting around in a café all day. Drinking absinthe. Scribbling in your little notebook.

At this point I’m starting to get offended.

This isn’t Paris, you know, he says. This is Oregon. And you’re drinking in the middle of the day. Do you know what we call you types where I come from? Drunks. Damn drunks.

Then he walks away.

Oh, did I mention that this guy was a big scary eight foot tall monster with six arms? What a loser.

Moar Translations Please: A Rough Idea For SFF Magazines

 

Lost in Translation by Alfonso on Flickr

In the introduction to the SFWA European Hall of Fame anthology, editor James Morrow told the story of how this book came to be. It involved meeting up with a translator friend and discovering that translating fiction from one language to another involved more than just translating the words or even the concepts behind the words accurately, it also required the keen eye of an editor who could further shape and prod the prose so that it conveyed the original meaning and read well in the translated language. This is part of why works in translation don’t often make it into genre magazines. This process is time-intensive and, I imagine, expensive in magazine monetary metrics. However, it’s more important now than ever for Anglophone readers to read speculative fiction from outside the English speaking world, as this piece by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz proves.

How to address this dilemma? Some are doing so by offering their own translation services, free of charge, to authors. I love this, but also feel that the burden shouldn’t all be on them. I have an idea that’s been kicking around in my head for a while that I offer freely to anyone who wants to take it up and even improve upon. I do hope this is a workable idea, because I want to see more SFF from around the world on a regular basis.

From what I understand, students who are studying for a Bachelor or Masters degree in translation must do a certain amount of real world translation in order to get said degree[1]. Thus an internship that involves real translation work is a useful one to have, even if just for a few credits. This is what SFF magazine editors should do.

Obviously you wouldn’t have just any student as an intern for this. They’d have to be familiar with the genre and have a sensibility similar to the editor’s, or someone who can learn said sensibilities. I recognize that this is an important criterion; I don’t think it’s an impossible one.

There are two models I’ve worked out, one where interns work for one semester and another where they work fr two. In the one semester model, once you know which language(s) your intern(s) can translate, you have them read Best Of compilations and award-winning works from authors in that language going back two to four years or so. This might require a bit of research and reaching out on their part. They provide a short synopsis/overview of each one, and the editor picks a few that sound like they would work for their magazine. The interns then provide a first draft translation. If the story looks like it will work for that editor, they reach out to the author with an offer to publish, translated. If the author accepts, then the editor, translator, and author work together to fine tune the translation.

This will probably result in one or two translated stories in a 6 month period. Not a lot, but more than we see in most magazines. And if four magazines decide to do this, then that’s maybe 16 stories a year.

The two semester model starts out almost the same except the intern also spends the first semester reading every issue of the magazine put out in the last year and maybe reading the slushpile for a month or two. If, at the end of the first semester, the editor feels the intern understands what they look for in stories then the second semester can be about finding new stories to translate. You create a limited submission period for the language the intern can translate and solicit stories. The intern then reads slush, picks out the stories they think will work, and again provides the editor with a first draft translation for consideration. If it looks like it will work, the intern and editor work together on it with an eye toward final acceptance.

Again, this may only result in a couple of stories in that period. I think that’s fine and could be well worth the effort.

The interns get translation experience for school credit that’s directly applicable in the real world, magazines get to widen their horizons, and readers get to read awesome stories that they might not have, otherwise. Win!

I’m sure there are probably some flaws in this idea. Please do help me work them out in the comments. If even part of this seems workable to the editors out there, please give it a try.

Footnotes

  1. If I’m wrong about this or fuzzy on the details, please do correct in the comments.[]

Story Art – Highlights from July’s short fiction illustrations

My first month doing a weekly short fiction roundup at io9 is over and I’m really glad to be back in the groove of reading consistently. As I read more and more I’m newly struck by how many magazines are commissioning original art for stories and how wonderful that art is on the whole. I thought it would be nice to call out the pieces I liked best at the end of each month.

Here are my favorite story arts for July:

Richie Pope illustration for Sleepwalking Now And Then

Richie Pope’s illustration for “Sleepwalking Now And Then” by Richard Bowes.

Pope does a lot of work for Tor.com and has many other great pieces on display at his website.

Depot/Station by Albert Urmanov

Clarkesworld’s July cover art comes from Depot/Station by Albert Urmanov

Urmanov is a German artist who does a lot of amazing SFF illustration. See his other works at Art Station.

Rebecca Huston Grooming

Rebecca Huston’s “Grooming” for “Witch, Beast, Saint: an Erotic Fairy Tale” by C. S. E. Cooney

I couldn’t find a gallery of Huston’s art but did find out she inks tattoos for a living. Can you see getting a picture like that over your whole back?

Wesley Allsbrook illustration for A Short History of the Twentieth Century

Wesley Allsbrook’s illustration for “A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star” by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Another frequent Tor.com artist, Allsbrook has a really striking style that gives me the feeling that all the people and objects in his works are threads held together by a very tenuous connection to each other and will fly apart at any second. Check out his gallery.

Erasure Comes In Many Forms – A ReaderCon Report

Erasure Comes In Many Forms - A ReaderCon Report

The other weekend ReaderCon happened and, on the whole, I had a great time. I am sad I had to leave early to go to a wedding in the city, but that’s way better than missing everything. ReaderCon is usually a good time, even as much as we snark about multiple references to Proust.

There were a couple of things that marred my enjoyment of the con and I’d been trying all last week to write about them. Instead of trying to temper my anger and aim for tact, I’m just going to be blunt.

The fact that none of Andrea Hairston’s books were in the dealer’s room is bullshit of the highest order. Andrea was a Guest of Honor. You don’t fucking NOT stock the book of a guest of honor at a con where you are a book vendor. How is this not con vending 101?

Andrea Hairston is not here for your bullshit

 

The ReaderCon dealer’s room is called The Bookshop for a reason: almost 100% of the stuff for sale is there are books. Every now and then there might be a T-shirt vendor or maybe a flash of jewelry. But it’s ReaderCon, so it’s all about the books. This makes sense.

Some of the booksellers are publishers who are pushing their own books and maybe the occasional extras by smaller presses who can’t afford a table. Those dealers not carrying Andrea’s books makes sense–they are not her publisher.

Some of the booksellers deal in used books or rare books. They also have some excuse for not selling Andrea’s books.

But to the several vendors who sold current, regular books? You all need to have your asses kicked.

Throughout the con attendees asked these sellers if they had any of Andrea’s books. I know for a fact that one of them, Larry Smith Booksellers, told people that her books are out of print. Which is a lie. When I asked, a guy I can only assume was Larry Smith himself yelled this at me. He was angry–really angry–that I had dared to ask him about this and proclaimed loudly that he only sells new books. Meanwhile, Andrea’s most recent book came out weeks ago. Guess that’s not new enough for him.

As an aside, the selection of books on offer by Larry Smith and the other general book vendors is hardly any better than what I can find in the Barnes & Noble. So what value are they adding to ReaderCon, exactly?

If you can’t be bothered to order the books of a guest of honor at the con and you’re rude as hell to con attendees? You shouldn’t get to vend at ReaderCon. And I’m filing a report with the con chair to that effect this week.

In addition to that indignity, the newest issue of Locus contains this:

Alaya Dawn Johnson wasn't even there

That’s from their article on WisCon. There’s a picture of Andrea (with correct attribution) to the right of these words. So it’s a real mystery why the 2011 Tiptree award winner is identified as Alaya Dawn Johnson, who has not won any Tiptree nor was she at the con at all. Seriously, not at all.

Alaya Dawn Johnson wants you to stop saying she was at WisCon

Ever since I started going to cons I’ve joked about how (mostly) white folks can’t tell the POC at the con apart from each other. I don’t even mean just mistaking one black person for another black person or one Asian person from another. I mean mistaking an Asian-American for a Latino dude (this happened at WisCon).

This happens all the time. ReaderCon was no exception. I watched a guy come up to John Chu at the Meet The Pro(se) party and ask him to sign the issue of F&SF with Ken Liu’s The Glass Menagerie. John was very polite when he said “I’m not Ken Liu.” That was, apparently, only one of the times that people mistook him for Ken Liu at ReaderCon this year. I heard that someone congratulated Sofia Samatar on being the guest of honor. I heard that someone started up a conversation with Mikki Kendall and then continued that conversation with a different black woman later on, not realizing that the shorter, lighter woman looked absolutely nothing like Mikki.

Here’s the thing: at cons, we are all wearing name badges. Thus, it is not at all shameful for you to look at said badge to confirm that you are, indeed, addressing the person of color you think you are. Especially if you have not ever met said person of color. It’s okay. But assuming that the Asian man standing in the room must be the Asian man you’ve heard of and asking him to sign a thing? No, people. No.

Over the years I’ve often joked about this. In fact, in my introduction of N. K. Jemisin at WisCon I referenced this phenomenon for the purpose of making folks laugh. I do sometimes find it funny.

Very often I do not. Because this is a form of erasure. It’s a microaggression with a subtext that says: I do not care to figure out the difference between one non-white person and another. And it makes us feel like you don’t eve think of us as people, but interchangeable entities.

And it needs to end.

Stop erasing our humanity by assuming that any brown person might be any other. Learn how to tell non-white people apart. Check name badges. If in doubt, ask us: “What’s your name, again? I’m good with faces but not names.” Don’t ask us: “Are you [other person]?” Stop erasing our accomplishments by assigning them to other people. Check your facts. And for the love of Seshet, stock our books in the damn dealer’s room!