You’re Excluding Stories By Straight, White, Cis Men? J’accuse! J’accuse!

You're Excluding Stories By Straight, White, Cis Men? J'accuse! J'accuse!

A year or so ago some dude (whose name I’ve forgotten) who writes reviews of SF/F books noticed that in the year or two (or longer) previous he had not read or reviewed any books by women. This caused him to pause and go: “Huh….” and noodle on in some surface way about how he really should make an effort to read more women.

I suggested that, since he was now aware of the issue, he should do something more “radical” and spend an entire year reading books by nothing but women.

“But I can’t do that!” book review dude exclaimed. “That would be tipping the scale too far. That would be BIAS. That would be excluding men for arbitrary reasons! That would be wrong![1]

I knew, of course, when I made the suggestion he wouldn’t accept it. Because it’s just too much of a hardship to read only women. He even said some shit about how he’d miss out on too many good books by limiting himself that way. There was not enough side-eye in the universe for that conversation.

If you’ve spent most of your adult life reading mostly men without consciously thinking about the fact that you mostly choose books written by men or mostly have books written by men recommended to you or shoved at you as Good, then a year of reading only women is not even enough to balance the scales.

Reading only women for a year takes some thought and effort. And if you do that, people hardly ever assume that it happened Just Because or On Accident or because you were Just Reading The Best Books Regardless Of The Identity Of The Author.

Unlike if you just happen to read only men for 10 years at a stretch.

Funny that.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

The first comment on my latest io9 post pointed out that all the stories I featured are by women, and asked if that was a coincidence. I’ve been running this column regularly since July 2014. It took until February 2015 for someone to notice that. Or, I should probably say, it took until now for someone to ask me about it.

A few hours later another dude came by to confront me about this in more detail. His comment is still “pending,” so it’s not initially visible when you look at the page.

In all seriousness, not trying to be a dick here, but you do seem to be purposefully excluding white men from these roundups, correct? I mean you post almost entirely women writers, and the small handful of male authors you do include are either AOC or queer authors. If you have a criteria other than quality to select or filter authors, then shouldn’t you state so somewhere in these posts? I mean at least be straight up about it. At this point there seem to be far more opportunities, in the short fiction marketplace at least, for authors of color/LGBT authors, since there are magazines who won’t accept submissions from white men altogether. And then you have magazines like Lightspeed who were recently only accepting submissions from LGBT authors for the “Queers Destroy Science Fiction” anthology. I guess I’m seeing a lot of editors/magazines making an effort to increase their magazine’s diversity, when it actually seems like there isn’t a bias against minority authors at all? If I’m wrong then please tell me how so. But if only certain types of people are eligible for these “Best Stories” posts, and if many magazines are refusing submissions from white or straight or male authors, while many others explicitly state they’re looking for diverse voices (Shimmer, Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, Lightspeed, et al), then where exactly is the bias? Is it possible this preoccupation with identity politics has gone too far? I guess I’m just saying, if these “Best Stories” posts really mean “Best Stories By Women, LGBT, or AOC” then shouldn’t you say so?

I am certain that this person is not such a regular reader of my column that they know off the top of their heads the makeup of the authors featured. This person went back through all my posts and tallied this info up before coming back with his observations. And in the process assumed not that I just happen to like stories by women, people of color, and LGBT folks better than that of straight, white, cis men, but that I am actively excluding that last category and should be up front about it.

Funny that.

Sunil Patel, who reviews books for Lightspeed, recently tweeted:

Promoting diversity is about boosting underrepresented voices. It is about leveling the playing field. It is no coincidence that my book review column features no white male authors. They can have EVERYWHERE ELSE. Do I feel like I’m discriminating against white male authors? I kind of do. But I also know that women and POC are reviewed less. Those with privilege are getting by just fine on their own. We need to use what privilege we have to boost marginalized voices.

What I do in my column isn’t precisely reviewing. It’s more signal-boosting of the fiction I read that I liked or loved. That’s why it’s called “The Best Stories from…” and not “Stories out this week” or whatever. When I did this on my own I called it Favorite Fiction. It’s a link, an excerpt, and a short paragraph, maybe two, about what struck me about the story, why I liked or loved it, what elements I appreciated. I rarely do anything that looks like a full-on critical analysis–that’s not what the column is for. I also don’t include stories I don’t like in order to explain why I don’t like them.

Still though, I am very aware that my signal-boosting carries meaning. I’m also aware of which kinds of authors often get more boosts in what venues. That kind of thing matters to me.

I will say this plainly: If I read a story and I like it a lot, I would never not include it in my column based on the identity and background of the writer. Because the whole basis of this is what I read and liked.

I’ll also say this plainly: A reviewer who makes the choice to focus exclusively on marginalized voices is making a good choice. There are plenty of places for the privileged to get and gain attention. Making a space for everyone else is not bias, it’s a step towards balance.

Footnotes

  1. I am paraphrasing.[]

Calling Out, Collecting Receipts, And The Line Between Creepy and Conscientious

Receipts

In the midst of the discussion around Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s outing as Requires Hate, I had several conversations about the Internet “community” Fail Fandom Anon (FFA). I had to explain to people why I didn’t trust any of the anonymous commenters in the threads even though my default position is to believe the victim, even if the victim won’t reveal their name or full identity. I’m unfortunately too familiar with the tactics of the anons that hang out in FFA and the people like them. Tactics that include pretending to be a person from a specific identity in order to add more credibility to what they have to say and discredit their mortal enemy, the SJW.

FFA isn’t just about the community/meme, they also have a wiki where they collect receipts on the people they hate most in order to catalog all the reasons why they are The Worst. Requires Hate has an entry there, as do several other writers and fans in our community.[1] I’ve glanced through several of them and even went through the Cat Valente one in detail, clicking on every link. And there are a lot of links.

Why did I do such a soul-crushing thing? I wanted to know whether or not any of their grievances had a basis in fact.

I have a surprise for you: most don’t.

Claims are made about a lot of bad behavior and unnecessary whining and evil appropriation and just plain wrongness. But when I clicked through to the original sources I either didn’t see what the anons saw at all, saw the situation distorted, or saw people desperately trying to fit words or actions into a pre-determined narrative based on an existing hatred. There were some situations represented fairly (by my own view), but they were far outweighed by the other stuff.

That was a couple of years ago. I had a deja vu moment earlier this year when I did the same thing with a call-out post about the blogger behind MedievalPOC. Once again, there were several accusations of lying and appropriation and bullying and terribleness, all allegedly backed up by a list of receipts. I started clicking and, lo, I did not see a lot of evidence to back up these assertions. What I did see was people engaging in grudgewank, uncharitable and distorted readings of situations and words and intentions, and statements of “She did X” when I very clearly saw her doing Y.

The call-out post and the entries on the FFA wiki come across to me as disingenuous in a generous reading and creepy and terrible if I’m not being generous. It’s not the collection of links and context that bothers me, because that’s never all it is. The MPOC post included deep speculation on the woman’s racial and ethnic background based on pictures and amateur analysis of skin tone plus invasion of privacy-style sleuthing into family history. The folks who contributed to Cat Valente’s wiki entry spent time going back through something like 10 years worth of LJ posts in the hunt for evidence of her awfulness. I’m sure some of them just remembered things they found irritating, but there’s a level detail there that smacks of creepiness.

These aren’t the only examples of this. They’re just the ones that have come to mind of late. I’m sure plenty of you have examples of your own. It’s not as if this stuff is uncommon.

As much as I am against the kind of nasty, mean-spirited, stuff that goes on in the FFA Wiki, I can’t outright dismiss the need for comprehensive receipt collection[2]. Two recent occurrences have prompted me to ponder the validity of doing so.

A little over a year ago I became aware that a woman I’ve known for several years (I’ll refer to her as SL) was dating two other people I know (a married couple — this is a poly thing)[3]. Based on some things said on social media, I had a gut feeling that this relationship would not last long and when it ended, it would end badly. SL has a pattern that repeats regularly and she was about due. This spring things went boom in a very public way. I and others who’ve known SL as long or longer expressed little surprise. We’d seen it all before.

At the time and in the months since, I’ve had people ask “Why didn’t you/others say anything?” and “People should have warned us about her!” Part of the reason is assumptions — folks in this community tend to assume that the dramas and flareups that consume their corner of things is also known to the wider group. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

How many people outside of Harry Potter fandom knew about the Cassandra Clare/Claire plagiarism thing before the long expose/explanation showed up on Bad Penny and angry fans valiantly tried to ensure all the pro writers knew about it? How many people reading this still have no clue what I’m talking about? But to the people embroiled in it, and the people who knew the people embroiled in it, that shit was major. It tore whole communities apart. They are genuinely surprised when others don’t know.

Same with SL’s behavior. In certain corners of the community her pattern is well known and even documented. I’m sure there are people who would be surprised that the couple SL hooked up with didn’t know about her long history in various fandom and poly communities.

For my part, I didn’t feel it was my business or my place to say anything. The couple involved are folks I’m friendly with, though not close to. People don’t always react favorably when you point out that someone they like or even love is a problem. And anyway, it wasn’t MY relationship.

Then I wonder: what if there had been an FFA Wiki-style post detailing all of SL’s past public behaviors with links to LJ posts and screencaps and emails and chat logs? What if, whenever I or someone else saw that SL was integrating herself into a pocket of the community or starting a relationship, that link magically appeared in an inbox, or a social media post, or an IM? Is that being creepy or protecting the people you care about? Maybe it’s And.

How about a less personal example:

The other day Karnythia tweeted this Storify pointing out how Gamer Gate harassers are the same people who harassed Fem Frequency years ago. Same names, same tactics popping up over and over.

It’s not so surprising, right? If you’re spending your time saying ridiculous and hurtful things and engaging in harassing behavior and you didn’t just log onto the Internet for the first time yesterday, chances are you’ve been involved in this kind of thing before.

The same names tend to pop up when you poke your head into RaceFail, GropeGate, SFWA Fail, MammothFail, and other related terribleness. But that’s not always evident unless you remember or someone keeps track.

It’s almost to a point where one might want to put together a dossier so that when the same old assholes pop up to spew the same old shit in all new places you can immediately dismiss or call them out or warn other people. Because it’s really easy to forget.

However, it takes a certain kind of stamina to do this work. Crawling back through post after post of triggering, upsetting, harmful, hurtful material and compiling it is rough work. As someone pointed out to me not long ago, there’s a reason why Racefail historians and link gatherers burned out and stepped back for their own mental health.

There are those who would take glee in doing such a thing. You can find a lot of them in Fail Fandom Anon. There are those who would claim that they don’t take glee in it, but in their heart of hearts they know the task energizes them. If I found that to be true, I’d be worried about myself in such a case.

There has to be a balance between ensuring that important information is not forgotten or swept away or allowed to fade. The recent resurgence in interest around the case against Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley illustrates this well. There is a website with all the publicly available information about Breen’s predatory behavior toward young people and Bradley’s complicity in it. Yet it was a super surprise to many when this came up again. Maybe it matters less because both of them are dead. Or maybe it doesn’t–a question Moira Greyland might have an answer to.

Figuring out where to draw the line between creepy and conscientious is not easy. I’m sure there are many who struggle to navigate those waters all the time. I don’t know how to do it, for sure. I just know what side of the line I want to be on.

Footnotes

  1. If you decide to go look this wiki up, take note of how many people who have dedicated entries are women. Curious that….[]
  2. For the uninitiated, Collecting Receipts and Showing Receipts is the colloquial for citing your sources with screencaps and links and such.[]
  3. You’re probably wondering at this point why I am not just naming the people involved. There’s no need to. Also, there are already too many posts linking the three people’s names together in a way intended to cause harm. I’m not in the mood to add to the Google juice.[]

31 Days of Jewelry – Big Roundup

It’s been more than 31 days, I know. I still have beads. I gotta keep going until there are no more beads! To that end, this week I made a ton of jewelry and much of it is still available.

All the prices are in the description (hover or click to see). If you’d like to buy, say so in the comments[1]. Be sure to leave your real email address.

If someone else claims a thing before you do and you really want it, say so. The first person might drop out.

Now, on to the jewelry!

Necklaces

Earrings

Bracelets

Prayer Beads

I started out beading by making prayer bead sets and rosaries aimed at less mainstream spiritual paths. With several of these I have a note in there about how the beads were chosen for their properties and not their looks. Some of these beads are not of the highest quality in terms of being free of inclusions, perfectly round, etc. None of those things change the benefits of the stone, though, making them better suited to prayer beads than jewelry.

My suggestions on how to use the Pagan/Goddess Rosaries can be found on my Tumblr. And if you want ideas on how to pray with any of the others I am happy to offer them up.

Please share this post widely! As I get close to the end of my project I am eager to get these all out the door.

Footnotes

  1. FYI – if you’re a first time commenter yours may end up in moderation. Don’t worry if it does not show up at first. Dibs go to the first person according to the time stamp.[]

31 Days of Jewelry – Reader’s Choice

I’ve gotten an amazingly positive response to all my jewelry making. Thank you! It’s reminding me why I did this regularly once upon a time. If I weren’t planning to go traveling for the next couple of years it might even inspire me to take it back up again.

So I’m sorry I’ve been silent for two weeks! Lots of deadlines at work. But I did make some jewelry and almost kept up with doing one piece a week. Until this past week, at least.  I guess I’ll just have to make a ton this coming week. And on that note, I’m going to need some help.

I still have a ton of beads that I need to work through but I’m not sure how I want to use them all. It’s part of the reason some of these have been sitting in a craft chest for years. Back then I used to do a thing called Reader’s Choice where I put up pictures of beads and a poll to see which ones I should use to make my next piece. I want to do something similar here.

Below is a collection of some of the beads I have available and what type they are.

See some beads you like and want me to make a piece of jewelry using them? Make a request in the comments! I can’t promise I’ll be able to come up with something that suits you, but I will try. Want to increase your chances? Check out all the jewelry I’ve made so far–if there’s a piece you like but want it with different beads, I can probably do that. The price will be similar, too.

You can also request a piece of jewelry similar to something you’ve seen elsewhere. Again, can’t promise that I’ll be able to make that happen, but I will try.

Any questions? Ask!

31 Days of Jewelry – A Blast From The Past

When looking for something else I found a cache of jewelry I made long ago for myself that I never wear (I didn’t even miss them!). I’m having trouble letting go of some pieces, but others really do deserve a better home than the back of my closet. So here they are.

Click the images to see a larger version and full description. As always, comment on the post if you want to purchase.

EDIT: Someone just bought all of the earrings. Yes, all of them at once :)

I may yet find more older jewelry. If I do, I’ll post here first!

31 Days of Jewelry – Week 2 Roundup

I’ve been a busy jewelry making bee this week! Several of the items got snapped up right away, but there are a few still available and some new ones from this weekend. See something you like? Say something in the comments.

Available/new stuff first.

The Dangling Moon

The Dangling Moon earrings – $20

Moonstone and leaf chain danglies. If you want sterling silver earhooks it’ll cost $2 extra.

I have a lot of moonstone, so expect to see some variations on this theme. Sadly, I’m almost out of that leaf chain. I quite like it and keep finding new uses for it.

Madame X's Tears - earrings

Madame X’s Tears – earrings – SOLD!

The only stone I know for sure is the carnelian. The blue tears are a stone, I just can’t remember which. The black rectangle might be jet. The pendant I made to go with these went right away, leaving the poor earrings to exist on their own. I have copper earhooks to match but can swap in sterling silver if you need (again for $2 extra).

tipt with autumn's pencil

Tipt With Autumn’s Pencil bracelet – $20

Made this with jasper, agate, and a ceramic center piece strung on a stretchy string (no clasp, yay!). This particular one is sized to my wrist — about 7.5 – 8 inches — but I have enough of these beads to make at least two more. If you have a smaller wrist I can make a smaller version.

Tipt With Autumn's Data

Tipt With Autumn’s Data bracelet – $30

Tipt With Autumn's Data

4GB flash drive

Same basic design but with a couple of twists. First, I linked up the beads instead of stringing them. Also, the clasp on this one is a 4GB flash drive. Wear your backups! And yes, I have enough material to make a couple more of these. This one is about 8 inches around, but I can modify to fit smaller or larger wrists.

Turquoise Statement Necklace

Turquoise Statement Necklace — approx 20″ — SOLD!

This one is still available!

Complimentary Colors

Complimentary Colors – SOLD!

As is this one: amethyst, Chinese turquoise, silver chain, magnetic clasp.

If you’re interested in any of these, call dibs in the comments!

Here are the other pieces I made this week, which have already sold. If you want to see stuff as I make it each day, follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, or Facebook.


Click on the pictures for descriptions and names. If you see something you like and want e to make something similar, ask. I may have the materials to do so. General comments on the jewelry also very welcome!

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.