Mental Noodling About Color, Ancient Peoples, and Alien Races

Mental Noodling About Color, Ancient Peoples, and Alien Races

Do any of you out there ever listen to RadioLab, a radio show that broadcasts on NPR stations? It’s a really fabulous show and podcast that’s best described as similar to This American Life but with stories about science and cool stuff instead of just about people’s inner lives. Except the explorations of science and geeky stuff often also includes stories of people’s inner lives. It’s a pretty sweet show.

The most recent episode is called Colors and is an exploration about a bunch of stuff about color. I know, what a surprise. My favorite section is the last one called “Why Isn’t The Sky Blue?” and delves into why the descriptions of color in Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey are so… off. The basic explanation is that ancient people saw fewer colors than we see even though they had the physical ability to see more[1].

When I first listened to this show I geeked out a bit because I remember hearing this same thing in class back at NYU. How it starts with a long-ago British prime minister noticing that Homer never describes the sky as blue and snowballs into an exploration of how colors come into the human consciousness. My teacher at the time, Scott McPartland, said that the ancient Greeks didn’t see all colors, even though they existed, because they didn’t yet have the imagination to see them. The scientists interviewed on RadioLab have different explanations, but I like Scott’s better.

Scott also stated that two of the traditional rainbow colors are completely made up. That would be Indigo and Orange. These in-between colors were invented to make 7 colors, as 7 is a more perfect or spiritual number.

Yes, this assertion is probably arguable. I remember we argued about it in class a lot. Especially about orange. Apparently before oranges were orange (which they’re bred to be), they were yellow. So we invented oranges to justify orange as a legit color. Fascinating.

Anyway, I bring all this up not just because you should listen to RadioLab or argue with me about the realness of Orange and Indigo, but because I think this is an interesting bit of knowledge to keep in mind if you’re writing about an ancient people. How does your writing change if you can’t use the entire rainbow of colors? Not being able to describe the sky as blue? Or a berry as red or purple? Or the grass and leaves as green? How does that change how your characters see the world and relate to it?

Another cool thing mentioned earlier in the show is that some animals and insects have the ability to see thousands and millions more colors than we can. I’m toying with the idea of an alien race that can see far more colors than we can and how that affects how they relate to us. There is always an assumption that humanoid races pretty much see how we see, but even on our own planet there is a wide range of color seeing ability, thus it’s less likely to be homogeneous across worlds.

Footnotes

  1. Listen to the entire show for an explanation of how our eyes see color.[]

My Favorite Fiction From May 2012

I came home from WisCon 36 with a big to-read pile (though these days it’s less of a pile and more of a list on my Nook) and so June’s favorite fiction list may include less short stories and more novels. Also, I don’t think I scooped every new May story into Readability, so I’ll probably a have few more published last month in the next list.

One last thing — I notice that Rahul Kanakia keeps popping up everywhere and I must say I’m super pleased about that. I’ve liked everything I’ve read by him so far. If he’s as prolific as he seems, I will have plenty to catch up on over the next few months.

Visit my Favorite Fiction stack to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

Interstitial Arts Foundation Salons Reborn!

Interstitial Arts Foundation Salons Reborn!

Just posted this on Facebook, but I know not everyone is on Facebook (or wants to be) so I’m posting it here as well. Feel free to link to this, tweet, share, tumble or copy the text of this post to your own blog.

You don’t have to RSVP to the Facebook event in order to attend. Just show up :)


You are cordially invited to the Interstitial Arts Foundation’s first monthly salon to be held in New York City on June 26th and every 4th Tuesday thereafter.

What is a Salon?

Literary and artistic salons started back in 17th century France, when inspiring hosts and hostesses gathered “stimulating people of quality” together to refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation. Today there may be fewer wealthy patrons willing to host an event in their townhouses, but there is always a need for artists to meet other artists, to explore other circles of creative influence, to cross borders.

Our salon aims to bring together writers, visual artists, musicians, performance artists, crafters, academics and other people of quality in New York City for a relaxed evening of conversation.

Who Are The Hosts?

The Interstitial Arts Foundation is a not–for–profit organization dedicated to the study, support, and promotion of interstitial art: literature, music, visual and performance art found in between categories and genres — art that crosses borders.

IAF members will wear Host badges, so if you have any questions about the salon or the organization or you just need someone to safely begin a conversation with, you can find us easily.

Where & When?

The Vagabond Café @ 7 Cornelia Street, Tuesday June 26, 7pm to 10pm – drop in any time.

Vagabond is the kind of café one would expect to find in the West Village, especially if you’re a writer, student or musician, but rarely seen these days due to the proliferation of Starbucks-like entities. It’s a cozy spot where one can find live music Wednesday – Saturday evenings, beer, wine and mead every evening, and a long list of excellent crepes at all times.

Should I Bring Anything?

Calling cards, business cards, postcards, CDs or other things you can hand people to remind them that they met you and where they can find your work.

If you’re a musician, bring your MP3 player/iPod or a USB key with your music and we’ll play it during the salon.

If you’re a visual artist, bring digital images of your work on a USB key and we’ll add it to the slideshow that plays during the salon.

What If I Can’t Make It This Time?

No worries! We’ll be hosting a salon every month on the 4th Tuesday, usually at Vagabond. To get reminders, please join our Facebook group or subscribe to the IAF Salons in NYC mailing list.

Social Media Resources for Sipping From The Firehose #WisCon36

Social Media Resources for Sipping From The Firehose #WisCon36

Just about to head into my next panel, “Sipping From the Firehose: Managing Writing and Social Media,” and wanted to get this list of resources up for those attending and those who are following along via Twitter. The hashtag for this panel is: #SocialMediaSFF.

This post will change slightly as the discussion goes along, and hopefully there will be a panel report or two from the audience I’ll link to.

Social Networks That Are Useful For Writers

These are in a roughly most useful to least useful configuration, but the relative usefulness also depends on what kind of writing and promoting you do. This is not a prescriptive list — every writer does not need to be on every network. This is just a list to consider. After the panel I’ll try to add context for which networks are good for what kinds of activities.

  • Facebook
  • GoodReads
  • LibraryThing
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • Dreamwidth
  • LinkedIn
  • LiveJournal
  • Delicious
  • Flickr
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • DeviantArt
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Vimeo
  • YouTube

Social Networking Tools

These are services, apps, and plugins that make dealing with social media a bit easier, especially if you have multiple accounts.

  • Hootsuite — A social media dashboard that puts several social networks in one place. See updates from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Ping.fm and FourSquare from one window. Update multiple accounts at once. Schedule updates for the future. Accessible from any browser and via apps for Android, iPhone and iPad.
  • Tweetchat — Tool that lets you focus on one hashtag at a time. Good for participating in Twitter chats.
  • TweetBot — The best iPhone/iPad Twitter client.
  • TweetCaster — One of the better Twitter clients for Android.
  • RSS Graffiti — Facebook app that posts a status update whenever you update your blog.
  • JournalPress — A WordPress plugin that crossposts to LiveJournal and DreamWidth.

WisCon 36 POC Dinner – Friday

WisCon 36 POC Dinner - Friday

Just an FYI: there will be a POC dinner at WisCon again this year. The reason I haven’t announced it officially yet is that we’re still nailing down a venue. We’re trying to find a place that can accept 50+ people, is close enough to the hotel that people will walk to it, and is inexpensive. Triangulating this has proved very complex :)

However, the general plan is for the event to happen during the sinner space in programming and before the opening ceremonies. We hope to get GOH Andrea Hairston and Mary Anne Mohanraj to attend, even if just for the beginning since they’ll need to leave early.

After the dinner, those of you who do not want to go to the opening ceremonies can join me in the POC Safer Space to talk about how folks can and should use the room during the con.

My Favorite Fiction From April 2012

My Favorite Fiction From April 2012

Lately I’ve been making an effort to read more short fiction since I’ve been on an almost exclusively novel diet for a couple of years. But now that online magazines are making it easy for me to read them on my eReader or phone or tablet, I will do my bit by actually reading them.

Last month I started in earnest, so here’s a list of the stories I read and loved in April.

  • An Early Adoption by Rahul Kanakia
    • I really enjoyed the descriptions of the impossible, unreal things in the virtual world. I don’t know that I identify with the main character’s reaction to them, but then I’ve always wanted to live in a holodeck.
  • The Second Card of the Major Arcana By Thoraiya Dyer
    • Interesting interpretation of the Sphinx. I like the clash between ancient and modern and the unrelenting nature of the main character.
  • Electric Rains by Kathleen Ann Goonan
    • Due to the setting and a sort-of similar theme, this reminded me a lot of The Drowned Cities, except I like it a lot more. Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, very personal and close and sad.
  • Mother Ship by Caroline M. Yoachim
    • I’m not such a big fan of stories that offer resonance and not a real resolution, but the pull of the character in this one really grabbed me.
  • Sunlight Society by Margaret Ronald
    • Very interesting read, especially when juxtaposed with the new Avengers movie. It’s not actually about superheroes. Not really…
  • My She by Mary Rosenblum
    • Really liked this story when I read it in Federations. Quiet and affecting meditation on technology and humanity.

Visit my Favorite Fiction stack to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.

Also of note: just finished N. K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon and it’s amazingly good. You’ll love it if you liked her Inheritance trilogy. I also got hooked into E. C. Myers Fair Coin even though I already read that book long ago. Yet somehow it completely sucked me in. I guess this is why io9 called it pure, awesome crack ;)

Writing and the Art of Provocation

Writing and the Art of Provocation

At last year’s Readercon I participated in a panel called Myth, Midrash, and Misappropriation (actually, I was the leader/moderator) with an interesting group of writers and Claude Lalumière. The panel was supposed to be about the appeals and challenges of creating fiction from a religious source and how to avoid or deal with the dangers of cultural appropriation and/or offending people.

I won’t recap the entire discussion for you, but the major highlight of the panel (for me) was when, in his introduction, Claude announced that the purpose of art is to be offensive or to offend people I can’t remember if he initially said offensive or to offend, but this was definitely the core of his argument. Art should offend! He said more than once until he started to backpedal pretty hard in the middle of the panel.

Not knowing much about Claude before that moment, I was unprepared for the douchewankery he brought to the discussion[1]. He was unprepared for how hard I would not allow him to get away with that statement or how prepared I was to challenge him on it. And he was super unprepared for how much the audience was not on his side when question time came. That’s when the backpedaling started.

We spent a good deal of time on the panel unpacking that initial statement and talking about all the ways in which it’s completely problematic (along with all the other problematic stuff he said such as how it’s okay for him to use any religious or spiritual trappings from any culture because he’s an atheist, anyway, and doesn’t believe in them oh and also he is from French Canada so he understands what it means to come from an oppressed, occupied culture). I believe it was Jack Haringa who, after initially agreeing with his understanding of what Claude meant, actually came around to something more like: artists may hope to offend if their message is aimed at a group or idea that they find offensive. Writing with an eye toward pointing out a horrible injustice, say. The ones perpetrating that injustice may be offended — good.

I sort of agreed with that as well, but still didn’t feel it was quite the right way to think about art. In the many months since I’ve poked at the idea more and more, but still hadn’t come up with a better way to think about what Jack was getting at. Then last month someone else came along and nailed it.

NPR’s Weekend Edition interviewed National Book Award-winning poet Nikki Finney, and toward the end of that interview she said this:

Art is about being provocative; art is also about beauty and if you leave the latter out, the former doesn’t matter.

I immediately thought: YES, THAT. That is what we were reaching for around the 600 pound gorilla of Claude’s initial statement.

There is no beauty in being offensive. Offending someone, especially when you’re coming from a place of privilege and oppression, is not the basis for great art, for beautiful art, even if the beauty you’re reaching for is terrible and tragic and real.

Consider the context in which Finney made this statement:

As a young poet, I grew up in the ’60s and early ’70s, when difficult things were being said and shouted and screamed,” Finney says. “I remember saying to myself, those things are very, very important to hear, but there must be another way to say them so that they will truly be heard. I mean, that’s what art is. Art is about being provocative; art is also about beauty and if you leave the latter out, the former doesn’t matter.

I haven’t read any of this woman’s poetry yet, but I want to. I feel like she can teach me the art of saying difficult things. I am often among those who say and shout and scream because that’s important, too. And I know for a fact that engaging in this mode of discourse does result in being heard, because I often have conversations with people who listened and appreciate it. But I’d also like to be adept at that other way she speaks of.

Footnotes

  1. Later, when I related the goings on to others, several people said “Oh, you didn’t know? Claude Lalumiere is a total douchecanoe.” No one warned me![]

WisCon 36: POC Safer Space

WisCon 36: POC Safer Space

I am once again the WisCon concom liaison and organizer for the POC Safer Space. This year I am joined in organizing and fabulousness by Jayme Goh. Huzzah!

We will once again be in the Solitaire Room since it affords us an out of the way space with no Gawkers. Last year we had the hotel push the conference room up against the wall which made the space a lot more inviting. I will also ask if more comfy chairs can find a way in there. If any locals are willing to donate comfy chairs, please let me know.

Last year we pre-scheduled some break out sessions and alternate panels in the room, but what seemed to work better was spontaneous stuff.I encourage any POC attending WisCon to come to that space if they need to discuss something that went down on a panel, continue a discussion that started at a panel, or if they just need a space to vent and calm down. I actually had some of the most enlightening conversations in that room during after-panel venting and I’m sure that will happen again,

However, if anyone wants to pre-schedule something please feel free. I just suspect mostly it will be spontaneous stuff.

The one thing I would like to schedule is a post Opening Ceremonies trip to the space so that people know where it is and how it will be set up and how they can use the space. This will come on the heels of the POC dinner earlier that evening. And then, of course, it’s party time.

Just as with last year, there will be coffee and tea service in the room throughout the day and a laptop for those who need to check email or Tumblr. Just don’t leave any Tumblr porn on the screen for those of us who are innocent ;)

Any questions, requests, comments, suggestions? Leave them in the comments or ping me via email or on Twitter or Facebook.

Tempest’s WisCon 36 Panel and Party Schedule

Tempest's WisCon 36 Panel and Party Schedule

WisCon 36 is almost upon us. Here’s where I’ll be!

Parties

Riots of Bloom | Sat, 9:00 pm Room 607

I’m the DJ.

Join us for spicy samosas and wine as we dance the night away to world beats! Riots of Bloom is a party to celebrate the speculative fiction of authors of color who have books and stories releasing this year. (N. K. Jemisin, Neesha Meminger, Kiini Salaam, Ibi Zoboi, Alaya Dawn Johnson) We are especially honored to celebrate WisCon 36 Guest of Honor and Tiptree winner, Andrea Hairston! So put on your most riotous colors and come prepared to boogie on down to the rhythmic beats of reggae, calypso, salsa, bhangra, and other world music!

Unnamed, not on the schedule shenanigans | Friday 11:00 pm room TBD

So there has been talk for a while about doing a party wherein we watch and heavily criticize Jem! and My Little Pony and some other beloved cartoons of our child and adulthood while eating gummi bears soaked in rum, vodka flavored with Skittles, and a number of other ridiculous, not safe for kids foods. Given the nature of the foods in question, it was suggested to me that we NOT make this an official party. So we’re going to find a suitable space and have it semi-privately.

Panels

From Sherlock to Sheldon: Asexuality and Asexual Characters in SF/F
Fri, 4:00–5:15 pm | Senate B

K. Tempest Bradford (mod), Liz Argall, Dawn Ash, L J Geoffrion, Jed Hartman

We’re all familiar by now with the sexual orientations homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual. Much less discussed are asexuals, persons who do not experience sexual attraction. This panel discusses what asexuality is and is not, and proposes ways for authors to explore this overlooked orientation in their characters. Is it enough that a character has no on-page sex life, or should asexuality be more positively portrayed? Asexuality in real-time fandom and asexual characters in fiction and media may also be discussed as time allows.

Feminist Blogging: What Is It and What Role Can It Play in Creating Social Change?
Sat, 10:00–11:15 am | Caucus

K. Tempest Bradford (mod), Brit Mandelo, Andrea Chandler, Michelle Kendall, Rachel Virginia Swirsky

The internet has seen an upsurge in feminist blogs, with those words returning millions of results in search engines. What are feminist blogs? How can feminist blogs help create positive change? In what ways can these spaces model an inclusive, non-hierarchical environment? What are the downsides to feminist blogging? Join us as we discuss new ways the internet can help further the discourse around issues of social and economic justice, feminism, and anti-oppression.

Sipping From the Firehose: Managing Writing and Social Media
Sat, 1:00–2:15 pm | Senate A

K. Tempest Bradford (mod), Barth Anderson, Kimberly Gonzalez, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, David J. Schwartz

FaceBook, Google+, LiveJournal, Tumblr, Twitter, blog, traditional website: Does a writer need them all? How do they help with self-promotion? How do they help with the isolation of writing? If you participate in social media, how do you keep it all up-to-date and still find time to write?

Creating Your Own Religion
Sun, 10:00–11:15 pm | Conference 4

K. Tempest Bradford (mod), Ann Leckie, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Deirdre M. Murphy, Larissa N. Niec

Which SF authors create interesting, believable religions, and which get religion wrong? (What does it mean to “get religion wrong” anyway?) Do made-up religions with intervening gods work better than those without? How can we as writers avoid making mistakes when creating and writing about fictional religions?

Not Everyone Lives in the Future
Mon, 10:00–11:15 am | Room 623

Carrie L. Ferguson (mod), K. Tempest Bradford, Ruthanna Emrys, Jesse the K, Na’amen Gobert Tilahun

Technology has an undeniably transformative effect on our lives and it is worth examining who has access to those effects. Geeks are generally very engaged with technology and it is easy to assume that the Internet, cell phones, computers, etc. are a given in everyone’s lives. However, there are large communities where technological access is not at the level that geeks take for granted. How does lack of access to technology impede communities’ ability to prosper? How can geeks help to make technology more available to communities that may benefit from them? Are these transformative effects even desirable? What are good examples of SF that highlight or problematize this issue?

Reading

Title TBA
Sun, 4:00–5:15 pm | Michelangelos

Group reading: K. Tempest Bradford, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Jackie Mierzwa, Larissa N. Niec

10 Better Choices For The Next Doctor Who Companion

10 Better Choices For The Next Doctor Who Companion

Yesterday the Doctor Who crew announced that they’d chosen the new Doctor Who companion that will take over from Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill: Jenna-Louise Coleman. Moffat has heaped much praise upon Miss Coleman and said that her energy matches and even exceeds that of Matt Smith, so we should all rejoice.

Yet my first thought upon seeing her was: another young, white female? Really? That’s the best we can do?

I know nothing about Coleman and I have no reason to believe she’s not a good actress. So, nothing against her personally and all. This is more about the general banality of choice here. I shouldn’t expect much from Mr. Moffat given his track record — he did choose Matt Smith, after all — but is it so much to ask that a TV show about an 1100 year old time traveling alien be more than just the same old tired stuff all TV is about? Do we really need another young, white cis woman to compliment the young, white cis man at the center of the show?

Say what you will about Russell T. Davies (and I have said plenty in my time), he at least had the balls to change it up a bit when it came to companions. There were two companions of color on his watch, plus an omnisexual man, plus a woman with some years and experience on her.

Given the show’s penchant for picking actors and actresses from past episodes, I can think of 10 really good choices for companion that each bring things to the table we haven’t seen in a while and break the young, white, human female mold in different and interesting ways.

Madame Vastra and Jenny

Madame Vastra and Jenny

I’m starting with these two because I know so many people will agree. Moffat introduced them in “A Good Man Goes To War” and I’m pretty sure the entire fandom went nuts for them right away. They’re clearly lesbian, clearly in love, and would clearly bring some welcome snark and spark to the TARDIS. Especially because Vastra is all about not putting up with the Doctor’s bullshit. Yes, Jenny is a young, white female, I know. But this combo works so well. Plus she’s from our past and it’s been a while since the Doctor pulled a companion from sometime other than contemporary Earth. Vastra is non-human; again, something the show used to do and hasn’t yet since it came back. And with the whole lesbian thing we can finally leave behind the whole Girl Moons Over Doctor thing.

Canton Everett Delaware III

Canton Everett Delaware III

Any excuse to allow Mark Sheppard to take up more screen time on my TV is a good one, right? Beyond that, it seemed clear to me that when older Canton shows up in “The Impossible Astronaut” he had been through many more adventures with the Doctor than we saw. Why not add him to the TARDIS crew for a season? Let him bring the man he loves along (a gay black man from the 50’s in space? YES. Call Idris Elba).

Amara Karan

Amara Karan

When “The God Complex” first aired I remember a bunch of people said that they wished Rita hadn’t died because she’d make a fantastic companion. I wholeheartedly agreed. Just because Rita is dead doesn’t mean that Amara Karan can’t be a companion. It’s what happened with Freema, after all. She’s such a fantastic actress, just give her another great character and she’d be fabulous. Plus, she’s a woman of color. Honestly, the show needs to prove that Martha wasn’t just a token by being a little less white for no good reason.

Alonso Frame / Russell Tovey

Russell Tovey

Since we’ve seen Alonso twice now, I think he’s a good candidate to be a companion, but I’m not wedded to the character from “Voyage of the Damned”. Russell has a nice wide range and does crazy flustered really well. Maybe even better than Matt Smith. I don’t think he’d make a good solo companion, but perhaps teamed up with Amara or Lenora in a non-romantic way it could work. He’d also make a great alien with those big ears.

Lenora Crichlow

Lenora Crichlow

Ever since I saw Lenora in “Gridlock” I have loved her. I definitely don’t want to see her play the character from that episode as a companion, but someone new. As a Being Human fan it would give me no end of squeezing to see her and Russell Tovey as companions together, but that might just be too Brit-TV incestuous. Pair her up with Canton, maybe? Then you have a nice triad. An older guy to be sort of steady and reasonable, Matt being all muppety, and a younger woman to be the balance between them. Though, honestly, I’d love to see Lenora play someone 180 degrees from the roles I’ve seen her in so far.

Naoko Mori

Naoko Mori

I’ll say this up front: there’s no good reason why Torchwood’s Toshiko Sato is dead. Though I wouldn’t be down with them bringing that character back for Doctor Who, Naoko Mori should definitely get another chance at the Whoniverse. She’ll be the first Asian companion since the dude in the American movie. My only fear with her is that, once again, the writers will go for the easy stereotypes – shy, good at maths, bad at interpersonal relationships, computer wiz. Ugh. Naoko is so much better than all of that, as the show should be.

Clyde Langer (Daniel Anthony)

Clyde Langer

Bringing in someone from The Sarah Jane Adventures would tie the Whoniverse together even more. I like Luke, though I don’t think the whole innocent super genius thing would work all that well on Who, especially up against 11. Clyde is a different sort of person, and his personality would compliment Matt’s manicness well, I think. Plus you get the benefit of a person of color and someone who won’t be over-wowed by all the strangeness yet remain grounded.

Dichen Lachman

Dichen Lachman

Dichen slips in as a Whoniverse alum just barely since she had a small part in Torchwood: Miracle Day. However, my recommendation is not based on that. I had to watch every episode of Dollhouse so I could write about it. Despite the absolute torture of such a thing, I did notice that Dichen outdid most of her co-stars on a regular. One of the few good things about Dollhouse was watching her and Enver Gjokaj school everyone on how the whole new character every episode/scene thing was done. Not that most of them learned. I see her as a companion with a lot of mad energy. Or maybe even a Time Lady. Let’s rescue Romana from E-Space and revive her as a mixed-race woman of color!

Gina Torres

Gina Torres

This entrant right here is just some wish fulfillment. I’ve watched Gina Torres be a badass awesome lady through many a TV show, both good and bad. I say let’s bring that to the TARDIS’ doorstep and see what comes of it. She’s a woman comfortably above tweenage with some gravitas to her, has the body to do all the running necessary, won’t let the Doctor walk all over her or fall in love with him, and is probably comfortable destroying whole galaxies if you get in her way.

There you go: 10 awesome choices that aren’t the same old banal young, white female we’ve already been there and done.

Who would you add to the list?

Co-Signed: An open letter to Washington from Artists and Creators

From Stop The Wall:

As creative professionals, we experience copyright infringement on a very personal level. Commercial piracy is deeply unfair and pervasive leaks of unreleased films and music regularly interfere with the integrity of our creations. We are grateful for the measures policymakers have enacted to protect our works.

We, along with the rest of society, have benefited immensely from a free and open Internet. It allows us to connect with our fans and reach new audiences. Using social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we can communicate directly with millions of fans and interact with them in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result.

Read the whole thing.

As a writer and creator I wholeheartedly co-sign this statement.

Stop piracy, not freedom.

Pictures. Of me. In 2012.

Pictures. Of me. In 2012.

I’m doing this thing wherein I take a picture of myself every day in 2012. I started doing this back in April when I turned 33 thinkign I would take a picture of myself every day of my 33rd year, but then I kept forgetting. Perhaps this will encourage me to keep going.

There’s no big reason why I’m doing this. I just thought it would be interesting. Right now all of the pictures are of my face, but I suppose some full body shots will be ion there, too, especially since i am attempting to get in better shape. I can’t real measure my success by weight since I’m building muscle. I do hope to lose some inches, though.

This morning I was supposed to do a workout but didn’t because I read an article that basically said: if you’re going to the gym and getting on an eliptical or a weight machine, you’re not getting any benefit. So I was like: UM, that’s what i was going to do!

I am encouraged by the suggestion of an awesome weightlifting book, but I’m a little afraid to start doing the lifting without a coach for fear of breaking everything.

This got pretty rambly all of the sudden. Ah well, have a picture of me today:

2012 Resolutions

2012 Resolutions

All the cool kids are doing it.

1. Write fiction every day.

2. Write a non-work, non-Tumblr blog post every day. I have 10 blogs. I should, like, post on them.

3. Manage my time. At all.

4. Get in better shape by exercising regularly and switching up my daily habits so I move more and spend more time outside (weather permitting).

5. Be strict about my budget.

6. Tackle all of the non-work, non-fiction writing projects I wish to participate in, but one at a time instead of all at once.

7. Read more fiction. I now have the ability to save stories on the web to read later on my eReader. I should, like, do that.

8. Spend more time with friends both virtually and in real life. I should be Google Hanging Out far more than I do, and I should be seeing my friends out in the world far more than I do.

9. Learn a new skill. I’m thinking about something to do with programming/coding. Perhaps I will learn how to make Android apps, or something to do with Linux.

10. Complete my home improvement projects. I want track shelving in the living room and Moroccan-style decor in my bedroom.

ETA: 11. Learn something new every month. A recipe, a nugget of knowledge, a skill, something.

Let’s Talk About Human Nature

Let's Talk About Human Nature

Specifically, the Doctor Who series 3 episodes “Human Nature/The Family of Blood”.

Those of you who read my Chicks Dig Time Lords essay know a bit about how I feel about this episode, specifically Martha in this episode, but I’ll give a small bit of explanation and background for those who don’t.

In this two-parter, the Doctor runs away from the Family because they want to capture him and feed off of his Time Lord essence. So he hides the Time Lord bit of him in a watch (aided by the TARDIS) and hen goes to live as a normal human for a bit so that they can’t find him. The species the Family belongs to apparently have a short lifespan, so the Doctor knows if he can just wait them out in hiding, they will eventually die.

So the Doctor becomes human and hides out in pre-WWI Britain as a teacher in a rich boys school. Martha is his companion, so she has to hide out, too. So she gets to be his maid. Since he brought her along with him to this job as a teacher (I think the explanation was that she was his family’s maid) she focuses most of her energy on caring for him, but is also made to do work around the school. At one point we see her cleaning floors with another maid she’s become friends with.

Then, of course, the Family shows up, stuff happens, big adventure[1].

I have a lot of problems with this episode.

  • For a long time I wondered what possible justification the Doctor had for taking Martha to this time period and this place on earth when he had, oh all of time and space to choose from?
  • People have pointed out that the Doctor did not choose the time and place, the TARDIS dd. Well, TARDIS: wtf? Still not okay[2].
  • It’s yet another example in a long list of examples where Martha is put into the Mammy role. I might have let it slide except it happens so often it’s a damn theme, and that’s really problematic.

There are a lot of different strings tying this all together. To start, this episode was based on a Doctor Who novel written by the dude who also wrote the script: Paul Cornell. Apparently RTD liked the book so much he asked Cornell to make an episode of it. But the book was written some time ago starring a different incarnation of the Doctor with a different (white) companion. And thus the companion’s role was very different in the book.

By doing this episode during season 3 Cornell and the creative team introduced a tricky element that wasn’t in the original. They did address race more than once, and that’s good. But they only addressed race in the more surface, basic ways while letting other deeper issues stand.

This is more complicated by the fact that I really like the episode overall. It’s well-written and the story itself is interesting and the dilemma the Doctor faces in the end is crunchy and thought-provoking. I’ve found myself wishing many times since watching it that they’d done this episode with a different companion, because obviously there just wasn’t enough deep thought about race to do it the way they did without being super problematic. Or, that’s the way it seems from the result.

So what precipitated this post? Over on Tumblr I reblogged something from Karnythia about this ep where people expressed their frustration with it. It’s the part where the nurse that the Human!Doctor has fallen in love with is talking to Martha, who reveals she is a (medical) doctor. The woman then says: “Women might train to be doctors, but hardly a scivvy and hardly one of your colour.”  Karnythia points out:

“Black women had been training to be doctors in the UK & the US for almost 40 years at this point. Were there a lot of them? No. But there was a lot of coverage of the ones who did succeed. If she knew women were training to be doctors, then she knew some of them were women of color.”

Perhaps she would have, but the writer and the creative team apparently did not[3].

That gives me a whole other reason to be mad at this episode.

As I said in my Chicks piece, I don’t think anyone was being intentionally racist here and it’s clear that some thought was given to race when they decided to do these episodes with Martha. That’s a good thing. But when you’re dealing with something as thorny as this, you can’t just put some thought into race. And as many people have pointed out, there is all kinds of just on the surface or just under the surface problems with race in the new Doctor Who[4].

These episodes are a source of great rage because of the lack of deep thought about race. For me, the rage is informed by that and by the knowledge that it could be such a good episode if not for this stuff.

And it all makes me realize I need top hop on getting this book started with Karnythia.

Footnotes

  1. If you want a full synopsis, check Wikipedia.[]
  2. In the world of the show that is bad enough. But I find it to be handwavy and bull on the part of the writer/creators/whoever came up with this idea. It looks like they’re trying to absolve the Doctor of responsibility here, and that’s a dick way to do so. Plus, it doesn’t fly for the TARDIS, either, as it’s been well established by this point that it has a consciousness, too.[]
  3. Or there’s another explanation. I think we may find out.[]
  4. The classic episodes, too, of course.[]

My Thoughts On The Latest #YesGayYA Developments

My Thoughts On The Latest #YesGayYA Developments

I meant to post this yesterday, but work things got in the way. Then the ever-wonderful Cleolinda posted the long, long post I was going to write and said everything I was going to say. So I’ll keep mine short. I suggest you click over to Cleolinda’s blog for the full story. Seriously.

A few days ago Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith wrote a guest post for the Genreville blog over at Publisher’s Weekly about their experience with an unnamed agent who asked them to make changes to their YA manuscript to erase the fact that a main POV character was gay. At least for the first book in the series. The pair went on to say that they’d heard that this thing with erasing gay characters in YA was something other authors experienced and thus they felt the need to write about it and bring the overall issue to light.

They did not name the agent or agency. They moved on from their specific example to the broader issue. They pointed out that this seemed to come from a concern over market forces rather than labeling anyone Homophobic or Gay Hating. If you don’t believe me, go read the original.

The post sparked a big conversation about the issue and I saw in the comments and on blogs and social networks that several other authors, published and not, talk their stories of having agents and/or editors tell them to remove gay characters from their YA.

Then Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, an agent with Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation, posted on Colleen Lindsay’s blog, The Swivet, outing her agency as the one in question (though claims she is not the specific agent in question) and essentially called Rachel and Sherwood liars. Under the guest post part, Colleen added this:

FACT: Both these writers already have their own agents. At least one of those agents reps YA books. So what does it say when the respective agents for both these well-established writers advise them to find a different agent for the book in question because neither of them wanted to rep it themselves?

It tells me that homophobia was most likely not the reason that this book has thus far not found representation.

And that made me see red because that just looks like a personal attack and an attempt to dismiss what Rachel and Sherwood said by saying that their book is no good. Further, on my Facebook page, Colleen claimed that she knew other agents who turned the book down because it had structural issues.

I like and respect Colleen a lot, but I’m calling bullshit on this. Though she says she didn’t mean for the above words to be an attack, that’s what it looks like. And, even if other agents passed on the book for structural reasons, that does not mean that the conversation as represented by Rachel and Sherwood didn’t happen. One does not preclude the other.

Putting that aside, at this point we’ve reached He Said/She Said, and it comes down to which side you believe. Stampfel-Volpe said that at no time did they say they wanted make the character not gay or take away references that he was gay in the book in question[1]. Rachel and Sherwood maintain that this is indeed what was said.

For my part, I believe Rachel and Sherwood. My main criteria being that my interactions with Rachel online and the interactions and friendships she has with people I know and trust do not lead me to believe she would lie in this way. I don’t know Sherwood well, but nothing I have ever heard from her good friends leads me to believe she would perpetuate a hoax for publicity or lie for profit.

Rose Fox of Genreville apparently felt the same way. Colleen mentions something about how the piece wasn’t fact checked, but how was that supposed to happen? The agency wasn’t named. And even though there are claims that the gossip identified the agency, the majority of us wouldn’t know without their self-outing. These are not the kind of “facts” that can be easily checked because the other party can say “That didn’t happen” and they could be lying just as easily as the authors. Rose used her judgment based on what she knows about the two women and, so far, I haven’t seen any reason for her to have doubted that.

Additionally, Stampfel-Volpe’s post is filled with the kind of red flags I see every day as an anti-prejudice activist. The tone is too defensive[2] and unconvincing. Plus, what exactly do you expect the agency to say? “Yes, we did that”? No. Hell no.

Think about it. If they did request the changes Rachel and Sherwood claim and did so because of market forces and such, they wouldn’t admit to it especially if they aren’t homophobic themselves. It’s just like the whole cover controversy with Justine Larbalestier’s Liar. I’m sure that her publishers are not racist people, but they put a non-black person on the cover of her book at first because they assumed that systemic racist attitudes would hurt sales. That is not something you want to admit in public, because it’s gross. It happens, though. We all know it happens. And thanks to #YesGayYA we know that the erasure of gay characters in YA happens, too. And it’s still gross.

No one wants to admit when they give in to prejudiced bullshit.

The other reason I just don’t believe Stampfel-Volpe is that she made this whole thing personal:

One of our agents is being used as a springboard for these authors to gain attention for their project. She is being exploited. But even worse, by basing their entire article on untruths, these authors have exploited the topic.

Someone explain to me how the agent in question is being exploited when he/she wasn’t named. Also, bringing a topic to light is not exploitative. The kind of people I see using language like that are the folks who try to tell me that by bringing up racism or “inventing” it when it’s not there, I am the one being racist. This is a classic defense. It may even be on the BINGO card. When I see people using this kind of language, I immediately distrust what they have to say. I’ve been on the receiving end of this too often to not recognize it.

I suggest you read the original Genreville post and the other excellent links at Cleolinda’s blog before you come down on one side or the other, especially if you don’t know any of the people involved. The readiness of some people to immediate jump to HOAX! based on absolutely nothing but one person’s word would astonish me if I didn’t already have plenty of experience watching people readily dismiss real prejudice that exists right in front of them as not-prejudice. It’s so much more comforting to think that someone is just a lying liar than that there’s a serious problem to tackle.

Tackling problems requires thought, effort, and often sacrifice. Who wants to deal with that?

Footnotes

  1. Edited to make things clearer. I didn’t read my original sentence a second time and should have. Thanks Helen.[]
  2. Especially the parts added by Colleen, who emphatically claims that the agent is a good friend and not homophobic, even though Rachel and Sherwood didn’t say he/she was. A person might not be personally homophobic, but still perpetuate the idea that mainstream readers are too homophobic to deal with gay charcaters. It’s a systemic problem, and one need not be personally prejudiced in order to bow to the system.[]