Con or Bust Auction Begins Today!

It’s that time of year again. The Con or Bust auction is on, and you can bid to win some seriously fabulous stuff ranging from awesome books to fiction critiques to swag of the highest order. All proceeds benefit the Con or Bust fund which “helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions” by providing financial assistance. If you don’t know why this an important and worthy thing, ask me and i’ll explain it.

Before I get into the links to the stuff you should definitely bid on, I also want to say that if you are a person of color who really wants to attend a specific convention this year but cannot, please do request assistance. You do not have to be financially destitute to ask for or receive assistance. I bolded that because I want to make sure everyone pays attention. There are many reasons why you may not be able to attend a con (including that you are budgeting for other, less expensive for you cons) but really want to because it could be supremely beneficial for whatever reason. You are totally allowed to request money, so please do. The whole reason Con or Bust exists is so that the community benefits from your presence at cons as attendees, audience members, programming participants, and volunteers.

With that out of the way, I wish to call your attention to the following awesome auction lots that you should totally bid on!

Fancy Fan Signed by Star Trek’s Garrett Wang

Garrett Wang Signed This

 

Fancy Fan Signed by BSG’s Edward James Olmos

Edward James Olmos so totally signed this

Yes, that is the type of fan I usually carry. It has the dragon design on the other side, but what you really should care about is that these fans were actually touched by Olmos and Wang. The DNA is still on them!

I also put up collections of magazine back issues that I no longer need (but are too good to just toss) that includes some very pretty issues of Weird Tales and all of the print issues of Fantasy Magazine. Check them out here.

Here are some other great auctions not submitted by me:

 

Pearls Before Swine – Or, Why I Bother

Pearls Before Swine - Or, Why I Bother

Just read this really excellent post at Mother Jones by Phil Plait answering the asinine questions put forth by some of the Creationists who attended the Bill Bye debate at the Creation Museum. In the comments you right away get people saying “Good on you for doing this, but why bother? Those people are so stupid and it’s a waste of time to explain things to them.”

This immediately brought to mind a comment on my post from yesterday about making an POC scholarship FAQ wherein Saira basically said the same thing –“Pearls before swine”–and said she’d rather focus on other things. I totally respect that and I say do what you have to do for self care and where you can be most effective. But I get that a lot of from people, the Why Do You Even Bother, about issues ranging from racism in the genre community to sexism in tech. My reasons are probably similar to Phil’s.

Reading through his post I learned things I didn’t know before, and that’s awesome. Any time someone wants to educate me about science I am there. Even if I don’t specifically go looking for it.

Also, I’m fairly sure that the reason the creationists in the Buzzfeed article asked such ragingly stupid questions is because no one has ever bothered to answer them seriously before. I know why that might be. Like I said, the questions are really stupid.

stupidquestion

So stupid they can inspire rage. Or stupid enough that it makes people shake their heads and think This Person is Not Even Worth It. Not everyone has the spoons to deal with crap like that.

If one does have the patience to answer and explain in a real way it helps both the person asking the stupid question and it helps people who have to deal with the kind of people who ask those stupid questions. They can either offer up the knowledge as they understand it thanks to the helpful answers and info behind those links or they can say: “This post over here answers all of that and more, go read it and stop talking to me.” Drop that link and mambo, people!

That article will not change every mind. It may not change more than a tiny fraction of minds right away. It will help some people to think, though. And perhaps if they get more information from other people, the new thinking will start to sink in. I know this can happen because I’ve seen it.

At the beginning of my post yesterday I mentioned my friend who was appalled at the Butler scholarship when he first heard about it and then came around later? That didn’t happen magically. It happened because I took the time to explain things to him and argue and challenge him. And I wrote about issues of race on a regular basis, which he saw. And it wasn’t the next day or week or month that he came to me saying “You were right and I am sorry for how I reacted,” it was long after. I didn’t change his mind right away or even all by myself. I helped.

Other people have come to me over the years, usually at conventions, and told me how they, at first, thought I was SO WRONG about race and the community and so angry and every other thing I’ve heard said about me over the years[1]. But then their anger and defensiveness went away they and they pondered and listened and read other people saying the same things and finally came to a better understanding. They usually thank me or apologize or both. Doesn’t happen super often, but it happens enough that I keep doing this.

Even if Phil Plait only changes a handful of minds, I still say that his effort is worth it. I’m going to the comments section of Mother Jones to say so right after writing this. And then I’m going to go bookmark every single thing on the Con or Bust auction site I want to bid on. Because I also agree that there are many ways in which to make a better world, and I try not to get mired in just one of them.

Footnotes

  1. I know for a fact that people say some pretty shitty things about me behind my back. A lot of it worse than what they say to my face, if you can believe it. What those people might not know is that many of the nice white people and chummy men they think they have such a rapport with are actually my friends, too, and often inform me of these conversations so I can laugh and laugh.[]

This Is Why White People Can’t Have Nice Things

This Is Why White People Can't Have Nice Things

Years ago when the Carl Brandon Society first announced the formation of the Octavia E Butler Scholarship for Clarion and Clarion West, I got into a heated argument with a white, male friend over the need for such a thing to exist in the world. At the time, I was surprised–shocked, actually–at his vehement objection to this scholarship. It wasn’t right, wasn’t fair, excluded people like him, and was likely some reverse racism. We argued, got nowhere, and stopped talking for a while[1]. It was my first time engaging with a person on an issue like this, it was not my last.

Just last month I found myself in the position of explaining the need for a scholarship specifically for People of Color yet again after the announcement of the Writing Excuses/Carl Brandon Society retreat scholarship. If you scroll down to the bottom you can see my very long response to several comments, most of which boil down to:

This isn’t right, it isn’t fair, it excludes white people like me, reverse racism!

And then today I looked at the comments[2] of the io9 post about the Con or Bust auction to see yet more white people complaining that such a thing exists. Giving people money to go to a con based on skin color! What about all the white people like me who can’t afford to go! I haven’t noticed a lack of diversity at the one con I go to! Reverse racism!

It makes me want to facepalm and headdesk at the same time.

Since it seems that this is going to keep happening over and over until the aliens arrive to solve all our problems or take a select few of us off to an otherworldly paradise, I wondered if it would be useful to put together a general FAQ. Instead of battling the seven-headed hydra that is the comments section on any post of this nature, why not crowdsource answers to the most common questions/complaints/ridiculous screeds? Then when someone is Wrong on the Internet, you can drop the link to it and mambo away DJ Older style.

FAQ topics could include:

  • Rebuttal to any comment about how it’s about “skin color”
  • Reverse Racism!
  • I’ve never noticed a need for this, therefore there is no need for this
  • I’m poor and white, how come no one is offering to give me money to attend cons/workshops/retreats?
  • What about women/LGBT/people from outside the US/any other group I can name? Why doesn’t your scholarship/grant cover these groups? Aren’t they minorities, too?
  • Not everything is for you, white people

Please do add any others you can think of. Suggest a FAQ topic, answer, or both in the comments. Your answer can be a condensed version of an existing blog post you wrote or found to be useful. Be sure to include a link for further reading.

Oh, and: get ready for the Con or Bust auction! There are so many awesome things!

Footnotes

  1. That particular friend later on realized his error and apologized to me and we resumed our friendship.[]
  2. I heard tell that Will S showed up in the comments but don’t see him now. He might have gotten moderated into oblivion, but be aware that he may return.[]

It’s sort of like an Exquisite Corpse…

It's sort of like an Exquisite Corpse...

There’s a long-term project I want to do with the Interstitial Arts Foundation, but it will require quite a bit of coordination and people power, so I’m not entirely sure how to get it started. However, I know I have about 7 million intelligent and creative friends who might be able to help out or point me in the right direction or give advice, so I decided to post my idea here.

So far the IAF has done several great projects to support interstitial fiction and writing about interstitiality. There are the anthologies, Interfictions and Interfictions 2, and the magazine Interfictions online. We’ve done two auctions where we asked visual artists and crafters to create art based on the fiction, but we’ve never done the reverse and not a lot with interstitial art outside of literature. This isn’t because the IAF is only concerned with lit, it’s more to do with who is doing most of the volunteering and driving the projects–i.e. artists whose focus is mainly writing.

This project will eventually grow to involve artists from all the different disciplines and will start with musicians. The idea is to invite musicians, singers, and songwriters to create songs, symphonies, sounds, or whatever else they’re moved to do based on interstitial fiction. Just as with the last auction, we can provide copies of stories from the Interfictions anthologies. Plus, there are now several available online for free. This time, we won’t limit it to interstitial writing published by the IAF — musicians can base their music on any piece of writing they see as interstitial. I know there’s a list of interstitial fiction around somewhere that we can dig up.

Once all the musicians involved are done and the music available to all, we can move on to the next artist group. My thinking is that we ask dancers and other movement-based artists to create a short performance or dance based on the music. Then, once those are complete, maybe visual artists create art based on the dances or textile artists create clothing for the dancers. And on and on until we hit multiple artistic disciplines and perhaps, way down the line, bring it back around to writers.

This could turn into quite a big project, thus the need for excellent project management. We’d need at least two people to coordinate who are musicians themselves and have contacts in that community. One of these people should be familiar with how rights work and help us craft the best way to present the idea to musicians. The IAF wouldn’t want exclusive rights to publish the music, but would like the ability to include the song on a compilation album of our own. Plus, we want other artists to be able to freely build upon the music for the next step in the project.

There are probably other considerations I haven’t thought of–please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Does this seem like a doable idea?

Wiscon 38 Panel Brainstorming Post

Wiscon 38 Panel Brainstorming Post

NOTE: If you’re coming for the first time, here are the panels that still need work:

—————-

Panel submissions for WisCon 38 close soon, and I have many ideas! I know many of my friends have ideas too, but might need some help brainstorming or fleshing them out. Thus, I have created this post.

Anyone who has an idea can put it in the comments, not just me! Let us know what you need, such as: making a kernel of an idea into a full-fleshed panel, help crafting an effective description, coming up with a punchy title, or finding fellow panelists so you can submit a pre-populated idea.

It will make discussions easier if you put one panel idea per comment (make as many as you want) and then folks can reply below each in the thread.

That’s it, let’s have fun!

 

Writer Fears About Writing The Other: Here’s How To Get Over It

Writer Fears About Writing The Other: Here's How To Get Over It

Here’s one of the great circular conundrums of our time:

We need more characters of color/LGBT characters/characters with disabilities/characters that aren’t the default white, able-bodied cis male in speculative literature.

I, a speculative fiction author, am afraid of writing characters of color/ LGBT characters/characters with disabilities/characters that aren’t like me or from my cultural and social understanding because I might get it wrong, and if I get it wrong people will be angry at me and yell and also ruin my career.

I’ve seen and heard writers (mostly white) express some version of that at least a hundred times since RaceFail 09. They point to that discussion or any number of other public Fails since then and go: SEE?! You see? That’s what happens when we try!

There are a few things about this that need addressing. First, large, public Fails actually happen when authors don’t try. Second, the problem is rarely that the author tried and didn’t get it exactly, 100% right. It’s that they failed and then acted like an ass when someone pointed it out to them. Third, avoiding author Fail isn’t as hard as some people make it out to be.

Most importantly, the consequence of being ruled by that fear is that you aren’t helping with the first problem. And if I may be so bold, I think the issue of representation is far, far more important than individual fears of getting it wrong. I also know that it’s hard to tackle that first issue without also addressing the second. Luckily, I have the solution.

Next summer I’m teaching at the Writing the Other workshop/retreat alongside Nisi Shawl, Cynthia Ward, David Anthony Durham, and Mary Robinette Kowal. Tomorrow, registration for this workshop opens up. If you are the type of author who has been held back from addressing the issue of representation in SF by fear that you’ll get it wrong, this workshop will give you tools to help you get it right. There’s no guarantee that you will always, 100% get it right if you attend this workshop. I am confident that at the end of it you won’t be 100% ruled by fear.

Registration opens tomorrow, October 13th, at 12pm Eastern. The workshop fee is $500 and includes meals but does not include accommodations. Click over to the Eventbrite page to see all the details.

How many of you will I see there?

Update: That workshop is over, but online classes are available! Click over to the Writing the Other Tumblr to find the latest one.

Inspiration | Resonance: The Art of El Anatsui

Peak (2010) by El Anatsui

A couple of weeks ago I saw an amazing exhibition of works by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui at the Brooklyn Museum. Anatsui takes found materials like metal and wood — considered trash by most — and turns them into amazingly flowy pieces of art that evoke cloth and drapery and alien landscapes. The intricacy of the works and the amount of time he clearly puts into them brings to mind intricate beadwork and quilt-making. Thinking about the time involved in connecting all those old tin can lids or aluminum bottle caps or metal strips from liquor bottles together by hand almost overwhelms me, but then I remember how I feel when I’m stringing beads together or working on an art project that requires tedious repetition. In the moment I’m not really thinking about that, I’m more focused on the end result. Working on projects as big as Anatsui’s would require getting into a meditative state in order to not drive yourself nuts, but it’s not hard to imagine doing so.

The way the exhibition is set up, the pieces get more and more flowy as you go along. In the last room I found my favorite piece: Peak. I immediately saw this as a post-apocalyptic or alien landscape and spent a good amount of time trying to imagine how it would look from eye-level. A bunch of the pictures I took were from as close to that perspective as I could get.

 I also took this video in an effort to get a sense of how it would be on the inside of this sculpture and also how it would look to someone approaching it at eye-level.

Inspiration | Resonance: Cellist Zoe Keating

Zoe Keating at the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival

A recent conversation with N. K. Jemisin made me realize that I have not been vocal enough about my love for musician Zoe Keating even though I’ve been a big fan for over four years. She’s one of my go-to artists when I need writing music that sets a mood or fades into the background just enough to let me work but not enough that I don’t actively enjoy it. Other than just loving the sound, I also geekily enjoy how Zeating makes music. It’s very techie.

The first time I heard Zeating’s music was on the RadioLab podcast titled The Quantum Cello, and that’s how I think of her stuff: quantum music. Using MIDI recording tools and a laptop, Zeating overlaps repeating phrases to create multilayered music all from the same instrument. It’s hard to grasp how awesome this is when listening to a recording because it’s easy to create layered music in a studio. Keating does it live. She records each phrase as she plays it, then the laptop repeats it back (controlled with a petal) while she plays and records another bit. The layers build and build into ever more complex interactions. Watching this happen in real time is more amazing than I can recount.

The other thing I love about Zeating’s music is the wide variation of sound she gets out of a cello. There are several tracks where, if I didn’t know better, I would swear a piano or a whistle or a flute was involved.

The only sadness with being a Zoe fan is that she doesn’t produce new albums all the time. Her last one, Into the Trees, came out in 2010. Before that she put out two EPs in 2004 and 2005. I can’t very well complain since she’s a label-less indie artist and thus can’t just spend all of her time composing new stuff for me (uh, I mean, for all her fans…). I am pleased to see her music getting attention all over the place. I started hearing it as interstitial music between news segments on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered a few years ago. The Elementary staff and producers love her stuff, too, and so her tracks are all over that show.

You can buy her EPs and album from her website or on iTunes. I suggest buying them all, but if you start with One Cello x 16: Natoma you’ll get a good feel for her overall style. If you listen to the EPs and album in order you’ll note that her music gets more and more complex as she goes on. It makes me excited for what she’ll produce next.

Another kind of backup

Viggo Mortensen's Journal

New post over on the tech blog that will be of interest to you writer types:

“As I was in the process of moving from one house to another… someone broke into the passenger side window of my car and grabbed the backpack containing several notebooks I’d filled, since early 2001, with handwritten stories and poems. The backpack also contained a couple of journals, two screenplays, my passport, and two half-read books. The hardest losses were the stories and poems in the notebooks. I had been looking forward, in particular, to reviewing and fine-tuning hundreds of pages of, for me, uncharacteristically long and unguarded poetry that had been written during a series of very quiet nights spent in the Sahara Desert in late 2002.  

“…I spent a lot of time and effort in the following weeks scouring my part of town, looking through trash cans and alleyways, offering no-questions-asked rewards, doing anything I could think of to find what was irreplaceable for me and probably completely useless to whoever had stolen it. Finally, I let most of it go…”

–Viggo Mortensen

The specific thing that made me recall that story was testing Evernote’s Page Capture feature. … The idea of scanning a paper journal to a digital file isn’t exactly new. But with smartphones being so wide-spread and the cameras in them getting better and better, I wonder if it’s now just convenient enough that writers would spend a couple of minutes every day adding their journals to Evernote and if that would end up being an effective backup system?

Click here for the full post & discussion.