compilation of images from Sirens

I Spent Two Weeks Attending Two Women-Focused Geek Cons And It Was Pretty Awesome [Repost]

Five years ago I attended my first Sirens conference. The theme: Reunion. In a couple of weeks I’ll be back at Sirens teaching and sitting on a panel. The theme this year? Reunion. <3

I love the fact that when I started going to SFF conventions there was one prominent and overtly feminist convention (WisCon) and now there are multiple conventions that center women SFF writers and women readers. This is why I was excited to go to Sirens the first time and even more excited to go to GeekGirlCon that same month. On the very next weekend, even.

My feelings about GeekGirlCon are more complicated, five years on. Sirens has just gotten better. Both cons give women and people of all genders the chance to experience what it’s like when a con centers women and their voices and their contributions. Both help make the space for other conventions and gatherings to do so. And after the past month? Hell, past three years? This is needed.

Earlier this week I found out that the media company that owned xoJane deleted the entire website. I went and saved all my posts, and in doing so re-read the piece below. It was my first for xoJane, and I’m still proud of it and also still find it relevant for the commentary on Sirens, GeekGirlCon, New York Comicon, PAX, and other SFF conventions. So I’m republishing it here on my blog.


I Spent Two Weeks Attending Two Women-Focused Geek Cons And It Was Pretty Awesome

When I found out that these two women-centric cons took place on consecutive weekends in cities just four hours apart, I knew it was time for a lady geek excursion.

compilation of images from Sirens

I love going to science fiction/fantasy conventions. It’s one of the biggest drains on my wallet throughout the year and I regret nothing. I love talking about SF/F media and literature with other people who love it the way I do.

When I first started attending the WisCon Feminist Science Fiction Convention, it was the only women-centric SF/F con I’d heard of. Over the years, I got wind of others and friends encouraged me to attend two in particular: Sirens, an academic conference and retreat on women in fantasy literature, and GeekGirlCon, a convention celebrating women in media, science, and technology. When I found out that these cons took place on consecutive weekends in cities just four hours apart, I knew it was time for a lady geek excursion.

Avoiding the Rocks

I started my female-centric con experience with the Sirens conference, which took place at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA. It’s a 40-minute drive from Portland, OR through the Columbia River Gorge. Driving along roads that cut through forests laden with turning leaves and close-clinging clouds that occasionally parted to reveal stunning waterfalls is the perfect way to get into the retreat mindset. By the time we crossed the Bridge of the Gods I knew I was heading to the perfect setting for a weekend of discussing fantasy literature.

Sirens is a very small conference with a narrow focus and only about a hundred women in attendance this year. This intimacy, combined with it being a conference and not a convention, gives Sirens a different vibe than most cons I’ve attended. There’s an emphasis on group discussions (not just panels), meals together, and individual keynotes each day. The narrow focus on academic discussions of women and fantasy literature gets even more specific in the keynotes and sessions that take on the yearly themes: warriors, faeries, monsters, retelling, and, in 2013, reunion.

Another thing affecting the vibe: a nearly complete lack of men. There were only three or four attending, so the conference space was almost exclusively women. (There may have been trans, non-binary people, and other folks whose gender I did not know, as well.) This might not seem unusual for a con that boldly announces the high presence of girl cooties up front. And if you’re familiar with academic conferences that focus on women’s issues, this won’t surprise you. It might if, like me, you’re from the world of SF conventions where even the most girl-cootie-filled among them (WisCon, for example) can still attract a decent number of guys.

Each of these elements contributes to the idea of Sirens as a “Safe Space” for women. Over and over conference organizers and attendees emphasized that point, and there is obvious pride in Sirens being the type of gathering where people can disagree yet still sit down to dinner together. Still, there are varying ideas of what makes a space safe.

As a woman of color, I don’t always find spaces created by white women or white feminists to be safe. Same with geeky or fandom spaces. Navigating the con scene means quickly assessing if a space is actually safe for me regardless of the label on the tin. It’s not often that someone sets out to make me uncomfortable or unwelcome at a con. Instead, I’ll encounter an unwitting microagression. Or, a person with no concept of their privilege, let alone how to check it, says or does something upsetting. That wasn’t my experience here.

I ended up pleasantly surprised at the depth of the attendees’ knowledge and interest in fantasy literature that goes beyond the white/white-washed epic tomes so often held up as great examples of the genre. Everyone I met was eager to understand different points of view and experiences of the world beyond their own. Nowhere was this clearer to me than in the Q&A sessions after the guest of honor keynotes by Alaya Dawn Johnson and Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Both women of color gave deeply personal speeches full of intersectional ideas, and the understanding and solidarity they received back from the room impressed and bolstered me. This is the kind of space I feel safe in.

Meanwhile, At New York Comic Con

That same weekend my friends back home went to New York Comic Con. Each time I hopped on Twitter or Facebook to see how things were going, I discovered some new instance of harassment. It made me glad I was on the other side of the country.

There had been concerns prior to the con that one or more groups of dudes looking to entertain their fellow dudebros on YouTube might come to NYCC for the express purpose of harassing women there. Between the self-styled Referees of Cosplay who intended to call out women “too fat” to dress up as their favorite characters, the guys kissing women without permission so they could film their reaction, and the horrid SiriusFM-affiliated Man Banter dudes engaging in both sexist and racist harassment, the weekend was chock full of fail.

The good aspects of the con didn’t always balance out the fail for some people, especially women targeted for harassment. The swift action of the NYCC organizers to address the harassment is praise-worthy; it still doesn’t address the underlying problem. Even though Mike Babchik is banned, there are plenty of other men ready to take his place. And these men feel that New York Comic Con is an appropriate venue for their activities.

Thinking about why that might be, and the contrast between my friends’ NYCC experience and my Sirens experience, got me thinking about the kind of conventions I attend and why. I only go to NYCC because I live in NYC, and even then only if I get a free press pass. I used to wish I could go to San Diego Comic-Con, but I prioritize my budget toward attending WisCon, World Fantasy, ReaderCon, or DragonCon. I stopped going WorldCon regularly several years ago. I would rather clean toilets than attend either PAX.

All of these cons cater to what I love — though the focus, vibe, and general purpose differ — and are ostensibly safe spaces to be a giant geek. Yet I do not feel that my geek self is welcome or wanted at SDCC, NYCC, PAX, or WorldCon.

Women Are Ambassadors

After San Diego Comic-Con I saw this quote, attributed to Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller, popping up around Tumblr:

“What was really great about Comic-Con, it shows that the core demographic is young women… It’s all young ladies. Women love genre, they’re more open to genre in a strange way. … Women are the ambassadors.”

This is not new information. It’s also not just anecdotal. When Networked Insights measured social media response and engagement around the media being discussed at SDCC in 2013, women made up the majority. Brett Schenker’s compilation of statistics from Facebook show that 40% of the people who Like comic-related things are women. Facebook’s Doctor Who fandom is mostly female, according to this data. Women make most tech buying decisions, download more movies and TV shows than men, and play more games on certain platforms.

In his book “Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture,” Rob Salkowitz points out that “women today are the loudest and most compelling voices in fandom.” Yet the average media, comic, or science fiction convention is generally dismissive of, if not hostile to, the non-cis, het male population.

I could bring up a mountain of examples, but here are three:

SDCC 2011: Batgirl vs. DC Comics

ReaderCon and WorldCon 2012: Renee Walling vs People Who Don’t Want To Be Sexually Harassed 

PAX 2013: Dickwolves vs All Common Sense 

This crap is flying at women from all quarters: con attendees, con runners, con guests, con sponsors. It’s not surprising that more conventions and conferences now exist to offer respite from the nastiness. Sirens is one approach, GeekGirlCon is another.

Re-Centering The Focus

GeekGirlCon, now in it’s third year, is a more varied convention. It’s similar in style and scope to media and comic cons, though throws the net wider than most by including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) alongside literature, games, comics, TV, movies, and more. For such a young con I’m impressed with how ambitious GGC is in terms of providing a space for everything from tabletop gaming to professional networking, all with a focus on women.

That said, GeekGirlCon is a work in progress. The con’s track record on intersectionality is muddy, starting with the first year. A friend of mine warned me off this con because she got a strong vibe that she is not the “right type of geek girl” due to being a person of color. That was more about the attendees than the con itself, though this year a swell of anger rose up when people learned that problematic career feminist Amanda Marcotte was invited to participate in programming. As I said, work in progress. After talking to members of the staff and geeks involved in the community around GGC, it seems the con is worth the work and is also important on a larger scale.

At the Changing Culture in Mainstream and Alternative Spaces panel, I and my fellow panelists talked about the value of cons that focus on sub-sections of the geek community, such as women or LGBT people, and whether it’s better to create our own safer spaces or to try and make the mainstream conventions a better place for all geeks to be. Ben Williams, a founder of GaymerX/GaymerCon, spoke about how separating from a larger, less inviting culture has big benefits in helping people feel like they really belong.

However, Jo Jo Stiletto pointed out that even creating your own thing — in her case, roller derby — for your in-group doesn’t mean that it won’t grow and change into something that no longer feels right for you. Game designer Shoshana Kessock advocated for changing cons from the inside because she feels that if we completely withdraw, then the mainstream will only see geeks as the stereotypes we leave behind.

I can understand that point of view and I am often an advocate of changing instead of abandoning the cons I love. It can work; just look at how WisCon and ReaderCon have shifted in the past five years. However, there’s a big difference between those cons and PAX or SDCC, entities that aren’t as susceptible to big changes enacted by dedicated volunteers. I say the only way to force a change in that type of con is to starve them of their lifeblood: geek money and attention.

There Are A Lot Of Men Here

That’s where cons like GeekGirlCon come in. Here you have all the same kinds of events and panels and activities as other cons but with women at the center of the conversation. In this environment women hopefully feel like their voices and experiences and way of geeking out are celebrated and appreciated. If you listened to the common wisdom about centering women, you’d think that this type of con would result in a low male turnout. Not as low as Sirens, of course. But guys wouldn’t flock to this type of environment, would they?

Uh, yeah, they would.

There were far more men at GeekGirlCon than I expected and they participated at every level: on staff, on panels, and as attendees. And yet GGC people also spoke of the con as a Safe Space. Again, the idea of what is safe differs depending on what type of woman you are, yet I was pretty confident that there wouldn’t be anyone there saying that they “want to buy an umbrella [that comes] with an Asian girl,” no matter the gender. It’s not about banning or even discouraging guys from coming to the con, it’s about making it clear what is and is not valued that leads to a con women can feel safe attending.

So forget any ridiculousness you hear about how cons that cater to specific or marginalized groups are all about self-segregation. They’re not — not completely. Because if the con has all the elements geeks flock to cons for, it will attract all the geeks. And if these cons can attract geeks away from events that foster a hostile environment, then those other cons (and the media entities that support them) will either have to change or die.

There Are A Lot Of Women Here, Too

I’m torn on which option I want: Change or Die. The cons that represent the most problematic environments — NYCC, SDCC, PAX — aren’t the kind that I like to attend, anyway. I much prefer cons that are for the people attending and not media companies and sponsors looking to sell and market to us. Cons where fans and creators can share panel space and where attendees are treated with respect and not like cattle to be herded. And, after my two-week women-centric con adventure, I’m more reluctant than ever to go to cons that center the 18-49 year old, white, heterosexual male, explicitly or not.

Neither Sirens nor GeekGirlCon are perfect events and could benefit from a little change themselves. And I want to be part of that change. Because making a con better for me and women like me means making cons that are better for everyone.

Guess I’d better start saving up now.

Gods of Egypt hatewatch image showing a picture of scott woods next to images of the actors from the movie next to an image of tempest

Going for the Stretch Goals with a Gods of Egypt Hate Watch – UPDATED

Things have been a bit whirlwindy in my life and thus I did not post here when I hit my initial funding goal for my trip to Egypt. BUT I DID, I DID, I AM GOING TO EGYPT! This all happened fast. One day I hit $3,000 and started preparing for the Gods of Egypt hatewatch and then BOOM, shortly after I was over $5,000. I have some amazing friends and family.

And, because I hit my initial funding, I am reaching for my first stretch goal: $6,000. This will give me enough extra money to stay in Cairo a few days after the tour ends and take a day trip to the Valley of the Kings so I can spend one full day at Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple taking pictures. I’m quite close to this second goal. Right now the fundraiser is at $5,666[1], so I need just $334 more.

How to encourage a few more donations? I still owe my supporters this hatewatch…

At 12PM Eastern today I will watch Gods of Egypt with Scott Woods and we will give you our impressions of this mess in real time on Twitter. We’re using the hashtag #WhitesOfEgypt. Keep an eye on that to follow along.

As we watch you will start to feel sorry for us, because this movie is so racist it hurts. Every time you feel that pang of sympathy, consider dropping a few bucks in the tip jar.

I will Storify the tweets once we’re done for those of you who miss it (I’ll add to this post). And afterward Scott and I will do a video of our final reactions. Which will also be hilarious.

And after that I will no longer have to watch bad movies set in ancient Egypt and go back to reading good books about Egypt, instead.

…unless I don’t hit my stretch goal…

UPDATE! We did it and we survived. Click here for the Wakelet of all the tweets. And you can watch our reaction video below.

Got closer to my stretch goal but still looking for a few more dollars!

Footnotes

  1. The number of the Beast! Ahhhhhh![]
Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Physicists Might Be Jerks and Other Things I Learned While Researching Egypt

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been holed up in the library at Rosicrucian Park, a magnificent place that is also home to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, one of my favorite museums in the country. I needed to do some deep research for the novel I’m writing, and I figured this particular research library would be an excellent place to do just that. I was not disappointed.

One of the great things about researching there is that they have several older Egyptology books, some dating to the early 1900s (oh man… I typed that like it was some old timey century ago but that’s literally the century I was born in… ack). One of the interesting things I discovered as I went through some of these older books is that the paradigms of Egyptology that I’m used to encountering in books written in the past 40 years or so are not the paradigms that have always existed. Some scholars at the beginning of everything had different–and sometimes more interesting–ideas about ancient Egyptian culture that have fallen away. Some have fallen away due to more finds and better understanding of the language. But some seem to have dissipated for no good reason. I find it all fascinating.

One aspect of the shifting paradigms is shifting ideas about how advanced or primitive the ancient Egyptians were compared to the ancient Greeks or Romans or even modern peoples, for whatever value of modern one is talking about. I found varying views on the types of tools and simple machines the Egyptians must have had for them to have built massive monuments and temples of multi-ton granite stones, varying views on how sophisticated their knowledge of astronomy was, and varying views on the meaning of their mythologies. So much to take in!

One particular aspect of this caught my eye while researching, which I wanted to share with you. That is the supposed mystery of how Egyptians were able to move such large stones.

A few years ago some physicists published a paper called “Sliding Friction on Wet and Dry Sand,” which proved that one needed less force to pull a heavy object over wet sand than dry sand. The way science journalists got everyone’s attention when reporting on this somewhat boring topic is with headlines like “The surprisingly simple way Egyptians moved massive pyramid stones without modern technology” and “Solved! How Ancient Egyptians Moved Massive Pyramid Stones.” First of all, nothing in this research paper proves anything about pyramid stones, but clickbait headlines gotta clickbait, right?

Anyway, the reason why most people remember these articles is because of this:

It has long been believed that Egyptians used wooden sleds to haul the stone, but until now it hasn’t been entirely understood how they overcame the problem of friction. … “The Egyptians… placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand. Research … revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet.”

Adding more evidence to the conclusion that Egyptians used water is a wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep. A splash of orange and gray, it appears to show a person standing at the front of a massive sledge, pouring water onto the sand just in front of the progressing sled. What this man was doing has been a matter of great debate and discussion.

Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Bonn [one of the researchers] wrote in an e-mail to The Post. “In fact, Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation…”

When I first read this my thought was: Ugh, typical Egyptologists/archaeologists, assuming something practical is ritualistic. Cuz, well, this happens often.

But then.

As I was going through older books, I came across that picture of the pulling of the giant stone statue several times, and every single time I did, the author explained the picture or captioned it with something along the lines of: Workers pulling granite statue of the pharaoh while someone pours water on the sand to help make moving it easier.

Um. But wait. I thought that “Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation.”

HMM.

Either the early Egyptologists were smarter than the ones that came later about these things or maybe, just maybe, the physicist who gave that quote doesn’t know what the hell he’s fucking talking about and/or made it seem like the people in a different scientific discipline than he is were being stupid.

Quite honestly, it could be either or both.

I want to run over all those articles about this thing with a giant CITATION NEEDED stamp.

Science journalism has so much to answer for.

At any rate, I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend time reading these older books and widening my understanding of ancient Egyptian culture as well as some of the people who were formative to Egyptology. This research trip was made possible by the folks who support me via Patreon, and I am so, so appreciative of them! They’ve put up with a lot of lag from me, but next month I’ll be able to get back on track and start sending them chapters again.

If you would like to read more about my research finds, I’ve been blogging about them on Patreon for all patrons. I have a few more research posts coming this week. If you’re interested in seeing them, click on over!

A graphic showing multiple stop signs with white hand icons depicting STOP imposed on them and the F facebook logo imposed on the hands

An Open Letter To My Facebook Followers

Dear folks who follow me on Facebook,

I am super done with this bullshit social network.

The other day I got put into 24 hour FB jail because of a thing I shared. I can’t remember if it was an article or a status with pictures, but the thing was about a dude who messaged a woman via OKCupid and became abusive because the woman did not respond to him or, when she did, did not respond in the manner he wanted. So she created a post with screenshots of his words and his profile. Facebook says this is against their community guidelines and cut me off.

There may be a conversation to be had about whether that post or the guidelines around it are appropriate. But what strikes me is that time and again I’ve seen how FB doesn’t protect marginalized or minority folks from cishet white dudes when they attack, but have punished women and POC when they share screenshots of those same attacks. The way their community guidelines are set up means they will readily punish stuff like I posted but pages that literally say all Jews are evil and part of a global conspiracy continue on even though they’ve been repeatedly reported. I also notice that Facebook continues with the ridiculous Real Name policy even though it specifically hurts vulnerable groups, such as trans people, political dissidents, activists, people escaping abusive situations, and more[1].

Plus there’s all the crap that goes on with fake news, how they refuse to address this in a meaningful way, how the algorithm works against creators and folks who want to share their personal projects, and overall just keeps people from seeing all the folks they want to see.

It’s just become a cesspool in here. A cesspool with some very lovely pool partiers around, mind.

By that I mean you.

I connect with so many of you through Facebook. I truly enjoy the conversations, and keeping up with your lives, and seeing your thoughtful shares of links. And if that was 90% of my experience on Facebook I would stay. But it’s not. So, I am slowly edging toward the EXIT.

I’m not leaving completely. For one, I know I will be cut off from many people if I do that. I also know that easing people over to new platforms will take some time. And I will have to wean myself from my habitual checking of FB every time I have a moment of boredom or procrastination.

I am going to make a major change to how I use Facebook.

Step 1: I will no longer post much on my regular profile/wall. I’ll auto-post links to new stuff going on with my projects, and I will sometimes share something or make an original post, but I’m mostly leaving the traditional way of interacting via Facebook behind.

Step 2: I’m going to use my Group more. For those who don’t know, I have a Group on FB called Tempest in a Teapot. It started as a way for people who wanted to be sure they saw posts about my podcast and Patreon and other projects to do so. Groups have a few extra abilities in FB, such as sending notifications for EVERY post, so you don’t miss them. I’m now going to use the Group as my primary way to interact on Facebook. That is where I’ll share things, post statuses, all that. So if you want to keep following me on Facebook, join the group. Right now I am letting anyone in who asks. Which leads to…

Step 3: I’m going to aggressively protect and moderate my space. This is a thing missing from Facebook that we used to have when we were mostly on blogs and such. Groups give admins the ability to moderate posts and comments, if need be. I will not be shy about booting people from the group if they act out. It’ll be harder for them to stalk my posts if they’re booted and blocked. And there will be far fewer drive-by comments from people unconnected to me.

Step 4: I’m going to spend more time posting in spaces that are less toxic. More blog posts here (and linkspams, cuz I do love sharing), more journaling with friends over on Dreamwidth, more having conversations in Google Hangouts, in Slack, via text[2]. I’ll also shift most of my general social networking over to Twitter. Yes, Twitter is also a problem for different reasons. However, it doesn’t have all the same problems (the algorithm deciding what you see, some news sources given priority, real name policies, etc.), and so I’m willing to shift my energy there for now.

There are other steps after this, but I’ll talk about them later. What’s the bottom line for you, my follower on Facebook? I’ll break it down for you.

If you want to keep following me and seeing my social media shares, join the Tempest in a Teapot Group or follow me on Twitter.

Follow my blog posts. Yes, there’s about to be more of them. I have an RSS feed or you can subscribe to alerts for new posts via email (check the right sidebar).

Follow me on Patreon. If you’re already a member of that platform, you can follow my posts even if you don’t pledge. You’ll just see the public ones.

Every week for the next little while I will remind people about this post and these bullet points.

And if you’d like to join me in leaving Facebook in the dust, I’m posting several how to guides on that process on Medium.

Footnotes

  1. I’ve chronicled a bunch of what I’ve seen an read about in a post with the extremely apropos title It’s Time To Abandon Facebook.[]
  2. P. S. Friends, close friends, those I love dearly: Please, please, please slide opn over and tell me your most preferred method of communicating either one-on-one or in small groups. I’m bad at communication but I want so badly to just spend time talking with y’all and having great conversation. So tell me how to make that happen. Invite me to your Slacks. Add me to your hangout groups. I am ready.[]
comic titled How People Are On the Internet. First panel shows two young men against a blue background. the man on the right is pointing off panel and says I love the work of that guy. Second panel, the man on the right says So tell him. The man on the left says Oh there's no need for that. Third panel, the man on the left has an angry face, again pointing off panel, and says The work of that guy though I don't like. Forth panel, the man on the left yells Hey! You suck and I hate you! while the man on the right looks shocked.

#FriendlyFriday and #IHeartThisThursday

Earlier this year my friend Alethea shared the comic above on her Facebook.

Around that time I’d also seen another graphic or post or something with a similar sentiment: People don’t tell the creators of the things they love that they love said things nearly as much as they yell at creators of things they have a problem with.

I don’t completely agree. As I said in response to the first comic: Saying “I Love This!” doesn’t get the same amount of attention as saying “I don’t like this!” coupled with “because it’s a problem.” The real issue here isn’t that people don’t talk about what they love. The problem is that people don’t give attention and signal boosts to the people talking about what they love.

In the time between me first saying this and now, things haven’t changed. In thinking about the kinds of links I see shared multiple times on Facebook or Twitter, they are more of the “Do you see this awful/problematic thing?” variety than “Do you see this amazingness?” People DO post the latter stuff, but it’s not shared and boosted as many times.

This is not only the fault of All Of Us, I know. Facebook’s horrendous algorithm seems designed to suppress squee unless it comes from very specific sites (who I can only suppose are advertisers) and boost things that get us riled up. Or, if that’s not the design, then perhaps it’s just that Facebook is not here to help you spread the word about that book or that musician or that artist unless they are huge, mainstream creators with corporate backing who, again, are likely paying Facebook some money in advertising dollars.

And with Twitter… well, it’s hard to get anything noticed on Twitter unless you share it forty million times.

Whatever the reasons and the back-end machinations, I do think that us individual users of these platforms have a major role in this as well. How often are you moved to share, retweet, reblog a post that’s just about someone loving on a thing they love? How often compared to boosting stuff that isn’t these things?

Don’t worry, I am not judging you cuz I do this, too. And I aim to be better about it. Thus this post.

A few months ago the aforementioned Alethea Kontis started doing a thing on her Patreon called #FriendlyFriday: “where I tell you all about my fabulous friends and what brilliant things that they are up to.” I decided to follow suit on my Patreon (the posts are public). I know so, so, so many talented creators involved in a plethora of projects that deserve more attention that I will never be at a loss for people to write about. I’m sure this is true for a bunch of the people reading this. So, I’m challenging you: join us for the #FriendlyFriday party.

Every week create a blog post, a Facebook status, a Tumblr blog, or some other public thing wherein you talk about a creative friend, their current project, and why you like them. Doesn’t have to be long, complex, or even erudite. A simple “XXX is an amazing artist and you should click through her gallery and also support her on Patreon” is just fine. The point is for you to show your friend some love and maybe expose them to some folks who’ve never seen their stuff before. Oh, and be sure to tag it #FriendlyFriday.

Now that’s all well and good, but there’s a next step to this. When you see a post on the #FriendlyFriday tag, share it. Just do it. Unless you look at the art or book or or whatever and think “Dear Zu’ul, that is horrendous!” You don’t have to share things you don’t like. But if you do like it, even a little, share. Seek out #FriendlyFriday on Twitter or Tumblr and wherever else. If you leave it up to the social networks, they’re not going to show you. Now is the time to be proactive.

Continuing in this theme, sometimes there is art and music and dance and writing that you love that isn’t created by a friend. In that sense, the #FriendlyFriday tag might not be the best fit. I have a solution for that, too: #IHeartThisThursday.

This is for sharing links to stuff you love that you don’t have a personal connection to (other than how it speaks to you!). For my part, I plan to put together a short weekly linkspam with #IHeartThisThursday stuff. You can also just tag a single tweet or FB status with it. Make it a regular thing over on Tumblr. Don’t forget to tag the creator, if possible, when you do. They want to know how much you love them as much as everyone else does.

Just as with the #FriendlyFriday tag, seek out #IHeartThisThursday posts and share them. Widely. Be proactive in boosting the good work and amazing creations that exist in the world.

We have to do both in order for this to work.

Who’s in?

Surel's Place

I’ll Be The Artist In Residence at Surel’s Place This November!

Some exciting news! A week and a half ago I found out I’ve been accepted to be an Artist-In-Residence at Surel’s Place in Boise, Idaho. I am beyond thrilled at this opportunity and so, so grateful to the jury for choosing me.

I’ll be there for the month of November and, per the residency requirements, I will spend that time writing and writing and writing. I’ll also give a workshop to the Boise writer’s community and probably do a reading. November is a fitting month (even though it is cold!) as it’ll also be NaNoWriMo–as good a time as any to concentrate solely on writing.

My hope is that I’ll be done with this draft of the Steampunk Egypt book by then, but if not that’s when I’ll get it done. If I am, then it’s on to Book 2 and/or finally pumping out the YA novel about the girl turning into a dragon. Either way, it’s a whole month to write without having to worry about anything else, including food and travel. GLORIOUS.

This could not have happened without the support of my friends who read my submission stuff and advised me, the folks who gave me recommendations (Claire, Nisi, Mary, you rock!), and the community of residency Binders who inspired me to keep submitting even after many rejections. Many thanks to all y’all.

OdysseyCon banner

OdysseyCon and Why Serial Harassers Are Safe In Our Community

This post is long, and will have to dip back into history a bit before returning to the present. But this context is important.

A couple of years ago the WisCon concom went through some rough times due to both individual and group responses to the harassment experienced by one of WisCon’s attendees perpetrated by another of WisCon’s attendees. If you’re not familiar, please read about the incident and some of the ways it affected the person harassed. The fallout from this was widespread in our community and long ongoing.

One of the things that happened because of the discussion around what should have been done and what didn’t get done after the harassment was reported is that a long time member of WisCon’s concom, a man named Richard Russell, was removed from the concom via a vote by members of that body. Why was he removed? Because it was decided by WisCon’s governing body that the statement of principles and code of conduct WisCon had for its members during the convention should also be applied to the concom throughout the year. If someone on the concom is being abusive, or harassing, or any other such behavior, they should not get to remain on the concom. Makes sense, right?

Well. Some folks didn’t feel like it did.

Enough folks agreed that this was a proper way to handle things, and so that became a rule. Under the terms of that rule, Richard Russell’s behavior, stretching back literal years, was brought up. Multiple people pointed out instances where they felt Richard was abusive and, even when called on this directly, continued his abusive behavior. Due to this no longer being acceptable[1], Richard was forced to leave the concom.

Mind you, not banned from WisCon. Removed from the concom. That’s important.

Richard set about telling everyone who would listen[2] that he had been treated unfairly, that no one had ever told him what he did wrong, that he was banned, that everyone was a big meanie. How do I know this? (Aside from the thing mentioned in footnotes.) Because someone publicly defended him on these points.

Fast forward to WisCon that year. We had a panel called WisCon: What Happened Last Summer?[3] To talk through the stuff that went down around FrenkelFail and then Richard being removed and all of Richard’s dear friends leaving the concom because of this. One of those dear friends, who also defended him on the concom mailing list to the rest of us many times, was on the panel: Jeanne Gomoll. But I’ve already told that story.

Here’s something I apparently did not mention in my post, but did tweet at the time: A man got up during the part of the panel where the audience was invited to comment and stated that he was there to defend Richard Russell and began to chide us all for the terrible manner in which we had treated him. In my memory, Mikki Kendall, who was one of that year’s con chairs and also on the panel, let him go on for a bit before she informed him that everything he was saying was wrong.

The paraphrased memories I have go something like:

Guy: Instead of banning him–

Mikki: We didn’t ban him. He was removed from the concom but not banned.

Guy: Well but before doing that you should have _______.

Mikki: We did do _______.

Guy: But you didn’t _______.

Mikki: Yes, we did.

Guy: But what about _______.

Mikki: We did.

Guy: Oh.

Mikki then informed him that if he thought that we had banned Richard, never warned him, didn’t explain to him and whatever else he had come there to tell us we should have done, that was because Richard had lied to him. She then reiterated that Richard was removed from the concom because he was abusive. She used that word.

I remember this part clearly because I had a very deep and sudden anxiety attack just hearing these words.

The guy said: “Well, yes, Richard can be an asshole sometimes, sure. But–“

I don’t know if I can adequately express how painful it was to hear someone dismiss the words “he abused” with “he can be an asshole, sure.” I had not been very emotional during the whole of that very emotional panel until that moment. I almost got up and left.

Except the immediate reaction in the room was multiple voices rising up to say NO. NO, YOU DO NOT GET TO DISMISS THAT. NO. Mikki had a mic, so her voice is loudest in my memory. She said the same. She did not let him get away with that. It’s the only thing that kept me calm. The slapping back of that all too common narrative by many voices in the room. I didn’t even realize how much trauma I had around that narrative until that moment.

Shortly after that, the guy finally stopped talking, made some mumbling about how maybe he needed to rethink things, and sat down.

Okay, I told you all of that story in order to tell you this one.

Today, Monica Valentinelli, who was slated to be one of the Guests of Honor at OdyessyCon, another local Madison convention, publicly stated she would not attend or be guest because of the presence of a person who had previously harassed her and she did not feel comfortable around[4]. You can read her statement explaining this. Here’s some information that wasn’t included in this initial statement because Monica was still attempting to be a professional about all of this. The reason why she posted that statement this morning is because, after sending an email to the concom raising concerns about Frenkel’s involvement in the con, which she had not been aware of, she got this email[5]:

Monica,

While I understand your position, I hope that I can encourage you to reconsider. Jim Frenkel is, and has been for a long time, a member of the Odyssey Con concom, so he is very involved with the convention. As such, he is very concerned that nothing happen that will reflect badly on it. Having attended every prior OddCon myself, I can assure you that he has always behaved in a correct manner there. He does “yeoman duty” for the con every year, and is respected for his contributions.

I have known Jim personally for more than thirty years. Although there have been unfortunate events in the past, I do not now believe, nor have I ever, that Jim is dangerous to any one, in any way. I believe that the lamentably widely disseminated idea that he is, is exaggerated and grows from a lack of knowledge of the facts in his case. His reputation since the WisCon incident has been spotless.

I will, if you wish, take Jim off any panel that presently features both of you, which I hope you would find a reasonable compromise. Banning Jim entirely would be unfair to him, and, in refusing to attend if he is working the con at all, you are being unfair to yourself. Why let other people make your decisions for you? Come and see the man for yourself. You will see that he is a decent man, and not a monster.

Don’t take my word alone. I would urge you to reach out to some of our past guests. I’m sure you know Margaret Weis–she was a guest at last OddCon, why not get her opinion?

Thank you for your consideration,
Gregory G.H. Rihn
Odyssey Con 2017 Programming

Yes. That was said.

Today I looked up Gregory G.H. Rihn on Facebook and discovered that he is the Guy who stood up and defended Richard Russell at that panel. In almost this exact same disgusting language.

And guess who else is on the OddCon concom? Richard Russell[6].

So we’ve got Greg Rihn, serial apologist for serial harassers and abusers, responding to a guest of honor in this manner. When said guest of honor responds to that by withdrawing from the con, Richard Russell, who has a history of abusive communications, signs his name to a statement that essentially says “Well she brought all this up awfully late! And also Frenkel has never harassed anyone at OddCon, so we have no grounds to ban him. Plus, we don’t let guests of honor dictate who can come to our safe space. Also, this is a safe space[7].”

I’ve seen a bunch of people commenting on this wondering how it is that Jim Frenkel is in any way involved with any convention at this point in time given everything that’s happened. Well. This. This is why. It’s multiple people[8] who knew full well the problems before this came up yesterday[9] who know Jim and are real sure he didn’t ever do anything wrong, despite those third hard reports from the Internet (who trusts that?? Pish) continuing to allow him to be in official roles because we wouldn’t want to lose all his knowledge and experience.

This is how fandom has worked for decades.

So quit being shocked by it, or ignoring it, and start connecting the dots. Hold these people accountable.

And support the people who take the incredibly difficult step of being public about this stuff. Monica could have quietly withdrawn, made up some innocuous public reason for doing so, and not rocked the boat. Might have been easier on her because she lives in Madison and is in nominal community with these people. Maybe she won’t experience massive blowback because of this, but history tells us that she will. How about we not let that slide. How about we stand by her side, swords drawn, ready to cut down the waves of sexist assholery already coming her way.

ETA: OddCon issued a new statement/apology. I have thoughts about this in comments.

Footnotes

  1. And yeah, it’s a whole conversation about this never having been acceptable, but there are reasons motions had to be made and votes taken and rules put firmly in place by governing bodies to make this happen. They are all annoying reasons.[]
  2. Including a post I remember being on File770 but I now cannot find, making me wonder if I mis-remembered or if they took it down because it was super one-sided and awful.[]
  3. That link goes to a Storify that covers quite a bit of what was said.[]
  4. She does not name him, but in the ensuing conversation it became clear she was talking about Jim Frenkel[]
  5. I am only posting this email publicly because OdysseyCon already did so on their Facebook page[]
  6. Who, by the by, had his name as a signer at the bottom of OddCon’s first official statement about all of this, which was completely unprofessional and gross, and is just of a piece with all this fuckery.[]
  7. There is a screenshot of this statement here.[]
  8. See how many folks are listed on this concom ETA: This page is not working right now. But there are about a dozen people who were listed on the concom.[]
  9. Sigrid Ellis brought it up a year ago and they ignored it. They wanna act like this is new and it’s not.[]
February Tempest Challenge Day 5

Eartha Kitt’s Biographies | Tempest Challenge BHM

It’s hard to speak truth to power and to stand up to folk who seem like the most powerful folk around. Doing so often leads to severe consequences. And yet it remains one of the most important things an individual can do.

Eartha Kitt knew this well:

Kitt became a leading light in the civil rights movement in the 1960s but when she condemned the Vietnam war on a visit to the White House her career in the US ended and the CIA branded her “a sadistic nymphomaniac”. —The Guardian

The CIA, people.

If you don’t know about this incident, here’s a short video on the subject.

The fallout from this lasted years and drove Kitt to Europe for decades. And all she did was ask a simple question that amounted to “Do Black lives matter as much as white ones?”

If you don’t know much about Eartha Kitt beyond Batman and Santa Baby, then it’s really worth tracking down one of her biographies. It looks like they’re all out of print, but many are available on Amazon. She wrote several over her long life and career, and some of the later ones are more easily obtained for reasonable prices.

Read about her life in her own words, about that incident with the Johnsons, about the backlash that ensued and how it felt to be targeted for being Black and having the nerve to speak your mind. And then do what’s in your power to follow Kitt’s example. Hathor knows we need more people like her right now.

Hugo Award

4 Reasons Why You (Yeah, You) Are Qualified To Nominate for the Hugos

The Hugo Award nomination period closes in just a few days. You’ve seen my recs, and over the weekend the #hugoeligible hashtag showcased so many more. But I know some of you are still thinking that you aren’t qualified to nominate because:

  1. You haven’t read/watched/listened widely enough (according to you).
  2. You don’t have enough nominations in every category to fill ever slot you’re allotted.
  3. You don’t have time to read all the cool stuff recommended here and elsewhere and on the tag.
  4. You’re “just a fan” and not anyone fancy.

I’m here to tell you that none of those things disqualifies you from nominating for the Hugos. None. Zip. Let’s break it down.

I Haven’t Read/Watched/Listened Widely Enough

Have you read/watched/listened to eligible media at all? Then you’ve done so widely enough. I’m serious. No one can read, watch, or listen to every single thing, and very few people can even consume all the stuff that gets floated as good by reviewers, friends, and the folks you follow on social media. Even as a person whose job it is to read and review short fiction I have not read every single piece of short fiction out there.

How do you know what stuff is best, then? It’s all relative. If you read just 4 novels last year and one of them wowed or moved you, then you nominate that one. It was the best of what you read.

I Don’t Have Enough Nominations To Fill Every Slot

This is fine as well. Like I said, if of the novels you read you only loved one, then you nominate one. Only two good movies, only one podcast, and no particular thoughts on Fan Writer? That is all fine. You are not required to fill out all the slots in every category nor are you required to nominate in every category.

I Saw All The Recs But Didn’t Have Time To Assess Them All

That’s fine. You’re not a bad person for not having gone through every single recommendation.

Do you know what you can do? Keep track of the people who made all those recs, because they probably share a lot of stuff they love throughout the year, not just at award nominating time. That way, you’ll have more time to check out stuff you might like for next year.

I’m Not Anyone Fancy, Why Should I Nominate When Better Read/More Engaged/Highly Connected People Are More Qualified To Do So?

I’m going to loop back to: did you read, watch, and listen to things? You are eminently qualified. Also, the Hugo is a fan award, driven by fans and what they like. It is absolutely not a requirement to be anything other than a person who loves SFF stuff and wants to see the stuff they like recognized for its awesomeness. That is all.

Your voice matters. What you love matters. It matters to the award even if the stuff you nominate doesn’t get on the ballot. After all, the people who create the fiction and movies and TV shows and podcasts and fan writing and art you love look at the list of what was nominated but didn’t make the final and go: oh hey, this many people thought my story was award-worthy! That’s the best.

In Summary

Nominate what you think is best of what you’ve read, watched, and listened to, no matter the number of overall things. Don’t worry about filling every slot if you can’t. Don’t worry about not getting to every recommendation. Your voice matters.

Got it? Excellent. Go fill out your ballot.

Tempest is on Patreon! (And Looking For Your Support)

As of this month, I’m officially on Patreon and looking for patrons! You can support me creating cool stuff for $1 per month on up to $500 per month if you have deep pockets like that.

If you listened to my interview on the Less Than Or Equal podcast[1], you might be wondering why I said I was going to launch my Patreon page last year (wow, six months ago…) when I only just did so this month. There are a few reasons, but the biggest one can probably be summed up with the words Impostor Syndrome.

What’s so insidious about Impostor Syndrome is that even though I can identify it in other people and always attempt to beat it back with the “You’re awesome and your voice is needed and I’m glad you’re alive and loud and sharing your talent with the world” stick, I cannot always turn that on myself. Luckily, I do have friends to do so for me. After finally wrestling my brain weasels into a bag, I put my page together and even made a video.

Because I know that people think the Tempest Challenge and the video series that goes with it are valuable. I know that the Write Gear podcast has already helped some writers. I know that my writing on this blog and over at Medium and the other places I publish has added more signal than noise to discussions about genre and race and gender and writing. And I know that you all want to talk about Jem and the Holograms endlessly, just like I do! (And sing the songs, right? RIGHT?) That’s why I finally launched the Patreon, and I hope you’ll click and pledge and support.

Right now the support is for making vids and podcasts and writing non-fiction and not directly for me writing fiction. Why? Because I am a s.l.o.w. writer of fiction. And deadlines do not change that one iota. But I find that my own creative projects are much less draining than my freelance assignments. The opposite, actually: they energize and inform my fiction writing. So by pledging money to me for making vids and podcasts and writing essays and columns, you’re supporting me writing fiction as well.

Plus, you know you wanna see more You Done Fucked Up vids.

You can Make It So[2].

Footnotes

  1. You really should! It’s a great interview, if I say so myself.[]
  2. To all those who click and pledge: Thanks![]